American Portraits

I WILL BE HEARD: William Lloyd Garrison, Abolitionism, Colonization, and Identity

In this lesson, students will explore the life of William Lloyd Garrison and follow the development of his identity. Through his example, students will understand how they can develop and refine their identity in their own lives, and how through this refinement help advance freedom for themselves and others.

Founding Principles

Individual Responsibility image

Individual Responsibility

Individuals must take care of themselves and their families and be vigilant to preserve their liberty.

Liberty image

Liberty

Except where authorized by citizens through the Constitution, the government does not have the authority to limit freedom.

Private Virtue image

Private Virtue

The idea that only a knowledgeable and virtuous citizenry can sustain liberty.

Narrative

In March 1828, Garrison, then a 23-year-old newspaper editor, had dinner at Reverend William Collier’s boardinghouse with a guest, Benjamin Lundy. During their conversation, Lundy thundered, “I shall not hesitate to call things by their proper names, nor yet refrain from speaking the truth.” These words, among other ideals that Lundy stated, made deep impressions on Garrison, and would change the young man’s life….

Narrative PDF

Compelling Question

How can the development of William Lloyd Garrison’s views and life help you develop your own identity?

Virtue Defined

Identity answers the question, “Who am I?”

Lesson Overview

In this lesson, students will explore the life of William Lloyd Garrison and follow the development of his identity. Through his example, students will understand how they can develop and refine their identity in their own lives, and how through this refinement help advance freedom for themselves and others.

Objectives

  • Students will analyze William Lloyd Garrison’s life and actions and how they reflect his identity
  • Students will understand how they can develop and refine their own identity
  • Students will apply this knowledge to focus and refine their own identity

Background

The Second Great Awakening of the early 1800s, a Protestant religious movement, helped to create several reform movements that included temperance, women’s rights, and abolitionism. Many early abolitionists supported the private freeing or the gradual emancipation of slaves in the states. In 1817, the American Colonization Society was formed to further these goals and return freed slaves back to Africa in the hopes that they would be happier in their ancestors’ homeland. Supporters included James Madison, John Marshall, Henry Clay, and Daniel Webster, who all backed the society for humanitarian reasons.

In the 1820s and 1830s, several individuals began to argue for the immediate emancipation of American slaves. They were motivated by evangelical Christianity, the Enlightenment, and the Founding ideals of liberty, equality, and natural rights as espoused in the Declaration of Independence. William Lloyd Garrison became one of the leaders of the abolitionist movement, which sought to immediately free all slaves. He gave speeches around the country, sent petitions to Congress, and published newspapers and pamphlets. The movement fought against slavery for more than three decades until the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, which freed all slaves at the end of the Civil War.

Vocabulary

  • Second Great Awakening
  • Temperance
  • Abolition
  • Emancipation
  • Humanitarian
  • Enlightenment
  • Instrumental
  • Indictment
  • Shackles
  • Unequivocal
  • Recantation

Introduce Text

Have students read the background and narrative, keeping the Compelling Question in mind as they read. Then have them answer the remaining questions below.

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Questions

Walk-In-The-Shoes Questions
As you read, imagine you are the protagonist.

  • What challenges are you facing?
  • What fears or concerns might you have?
  • What may prevent you from acting in the way you ought?

Observation Questions

  • Who was William Lloyd Garrison?
  • What was the purpose of William Lloyd Garrison’s writing?
  • How does William Lloyd Garrison’s work as an editor shape his identity?

Discussion Questions
Discuss the following questions with your students.

  • What is the historical context of the narrative?
  • What historical circumstances presented a challenge to the protagonist?
  • How and why did the individual exhibit a moral and/or civic virtue in facing and overcoming the challenge?
  • How did the exercise of the virtue benefit civil society?
  • How might exercise of the virtue benefit the protagonist?
  • What might the exercise of the virtue cost the protagonist?
  • Would you react the same under similar circumstances? Why or why not?
  • How can you act similarly in your own life? What obstacles must you overcome in order to do so?

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