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The document project on which this lesson plan is based is available by subscription only from Alexander Street Press.



During and after the Civil War northern women who had been active in the anti-slavery movement before the war often formed organizations to help former slaves become free members of American society. They sent clothing, money, and books to the South. In freedmen's aid societies women also raised money to send teachers to the South, most of whom were young white women. Women in the freedmen's aid movement faced many problems. Many in Northern society were not yet ready for women to become prominent in public life or to assume leadership in national organizations. And, although most Northerners supported the end of slavery, many feared social equality between the races and subscribed to many racist stereotypes of African Americans. Lastly, because most men in the movement feared that former slaves would become dependent on charity, they opposed women's efforts to provide adequate resources to former slaves.


To explore the differences in opinion between women active in the freedmen's aid movement and male officials in the Freedman's Aid Commission; to discuss differing approaches to Reconstruction.

Lesson Ideas

Have students read "Appeal on Behalf of the Freedmen of Washington, D.C.," 1865; Jacob R. Shipherd to O.O. Howard, 30 October 1865. What was the conflict between Josephine Griffing and male reformers? Why did male reformers claim to oppose Griffing's efforts on behalf of freedpeople? What does the author of the project argue lay behind their opposition? What do you think of that argument?

Have students read the following exchange between Horace Greeley and Griffing five years later: Horace Greeley to Josephine Griffing, 7 September 1870; Josephine Griffing to Horace Greeley, 12 September 1870. Why did Greeley believe Griffing's work with freedpeople was harmful? What were the biases that informed his opinion? How are the opinions of Greeley and Shipherd similar? How did Griffing respond to Greeley's charges? How did she use examples of other groups in American society to counter Greeley's racism?

Class activity: Have students prepare a debate between two woman reformers and two officials in the Freedman's Aid Commission. Give each team 5-7 minutes for opening statements, and then 3-minute intervals for rebuttals. Divide the rest of the class in two, and have students prepare 1-2 minute arguments for their side. Emphasize to them that in order for them to have an effective debate, they must know the arguments of their opponents as well as their own. Optional written assignment: Have each student prepare written notes for the debate, to be handed in at the end of the class.

Have students choose one of the following questions and write a 1-2 page essay answering the question using the document given:

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