Pre-Civil-War Conflicts

  • The fugitive slave Act which allows salve owners to catch any black fugitive for themselves.
  • That promotes abolotionists, so the slaves were smuggled into Louisiana.
  • In the 1850s the slave prices increades and some white southeners were prompted for repeal of the African slave ban. But that was unsuccesful.
  • The conflict between the antislavery acticists and the slaveholding interests was growing.
  • Therefore the Congress negotiated the Compromise of 1850s.
  • In many northern cities military units were formed in anticipation of the Civil War.

1. What religious and philosophical background led to anti-slavery sentiments?

  • Christian religious principles
  • egalitarian philosophy

2. Where was slavery first abolished? In the North or in the South?

  • In the Norther states

3. What does THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD refer to?

  • a secret system of hiding places in the homes of abolitionists

4. Name a very famous black abolitionist and say how he felt about the progress of the movement.

  • Frederick Douglass
  • he was impatient with the slow progress

5. Why did the FUGITIVE SLAVE ACT make life even harder for slaves?

  • because if they escaped they still were in danger of other slave owners

6. Why were military units formed in the Northern cities in the 1850s?

  • because the conflict between Souther slaveholding interests and Northern antislavery activists was growing. In anticipation of the Civil War they formed miltary units.

7. What economic reasons prompted white Northerners to be suspicious of an expansion of slavery?

  • slaves meant a cheaper competition for jobs

8. What position did Southerns take regarding slavery?

  • they feared that reducing slavery would cause its abolition

9. How many Southern states broke away from the union as a result of the conflict?

  • 11

10. In July 1862 President Lincoln had the chance to use new troops. Who were they and what did they fight for?

  • they were black and fought for the abolition of slavery

11. Name and explain the important event which took place on 1st January 1863.

  • the president issued his Emancipation Proclamation which initiated the abolition of slavery

12. Who won the Civil War?

  • the Northern antislavery activists

13. Did Lincoln manage to enjoy his triumph?

  • No, he was assassinated in April,1865.

14. When was the 13th Amendment issued and what was its content?

  • In December 1865 the slavery was formally abolished

15. Name the steps comprising the RECONSTRUCTION between 1865 and 1877 and point out which new rights the blacks were awarded as a consequence.

  • 13th Amendment: slavery was abolished formally
  • 14th Amendment: all states were required to revise their constructions and to ensure that Blacks had ctizenship rights, including the right to vote. Also the Southern states had to ratify the 14th Amendment.
  • 15th Amendment: forbade the denial of right to vote based on race
  • Civil Rights Act of 1875: forbade racial discrimination

16. How did Southern democrats try to undermine the process of granting blacks more rights?

  • they used violence

17. What role did the KLU KLUX KLAN play in this scenario?

  • groups conducted terrorist attacks and lynchings on African Americans and their allies to limit Republican political power and restrict black opportunities.

18. Sketch the development in the South after 1877.

  • black rights still taken away in different ways
  1. laws that force the separation of races
  2. systems that kept blacks economically dependent on Whites
  3. increased incapacitation of blacks

19. What changes did the Jim Crow Laws bring along for black citizens?

20. What Supreme Court verdict must have been particularly depressing for all those in favour of equality?

21. Explain the role terrorist attacks against black Americans played in the Jim Crow era.

22. Sketch Booker T. Washington`s view on what should be done to achieve more equality.

23. What position did W.E.B. DuBois advocate?

24. What problems did the Great Migration cause in the North?

25. Name some examples of Race Rioting which took place in 1917.

26. What black behaviour was new during the RED SUMMER of 1919?

27. What different approaches did Malcolm X on the one hand and Martin Luther King on the other take towards black protest?

28. How were black soldiers treated after WWI ?

29. What attitude did a new type of black person, the NEW NEGRO take towards whites and the struggle for black equality?

30. What courageous action has ROSA PARKS become famous for?

31.  Imagine you had been on the committee selecting Dr. M.L. King for the Nobel Peace Prize. What reasons could you present that would confirm your decision?

32. What effect did the 2nd Civil Rights Act have on the lives of African Americans? Check the website below for more information

33. What new aspects did the AFFIRMATIVE ACTION LAWS from 1972 bring along?

34. Comment on the significance of the joint observance of MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. Day in all US states.

35. Name some influential black politicians from the late 20th and early 21st century and point out their significance for the FACE OF AMERICA.

36. Speculate on the road ahead for African Americans on the backdrop of the rough economic climate.

10 quiz questions:

1. Where is Grant living?- At his Tante’s house

2. Jefferson is in jail because ??- he was in a bar where a shooting take place and he was the alone survivor.

3. How does the judge call Jefferson?- a hog

4. Who wants Grant to talk to Jefferson, and why? – Miss Emma, because she wants Jefferson to die as a man.

5. How does Jefferson call his godmother?- He calls her Nannan.

6. What is the name and profession of Grant’s girlfriend?- Vivian is a teacher.

7. Where do Grant and Vivian meet each other?-  At the Rainbow club in Bayonne.

8. What does Grant buy for Jefferson?- a radio and a notebook with a pencil

9. Where does Jefferson work? – In the church of Reverend Ambrose.

Connect words to A LESSON BEFORE DYING.

  • dignity
  • In the novel Jefferson is called a hog. His dignity is wounded. He feels totally down, he doesn’t want to eat, doesn’t want to talk, he doesn’t want to do anything dignified people do. He is loss and wants to die as a hog.

    However Grants visits change Jefferson. Grant wants to be his friend and talk to him. The talk about the situation and that Jefferson can be a hero for the black society.Finally Jefferson wins his dignity back and died as a strong man.


    The visits

    Please explore Grant’s visit at the prison by focusing on both Grant’s and Jefferson’s behaviour and posture. Besides, you should pay attention to the contact they have with each other. Find suitable quotations for both characters.


  • Please note where to find the 10 visits: visit 1: chapter 9, 66ff.; visits 2 / 3: chapter 100, 77ff.; visit 4: chapter 11: 75ff.; visit 5: chapter 17, 112ff.; visit 6: chapter 18, 121ff.; visit7: chapter 22, 148ff; visit 8: chapter 23, 160ff.; visit 9: chapter 24, 165ff; visit 10: chapter 28, 192ff.
  • visit in between without Grant: chapter 23, 156ff.
    • language
    • everywhere, really, easy to understand in general
    • imigrated people were hard to understand
    • food, etc.
    • supermarkets; take-away-shops; pret-à-manger; coffee chains (e.g. STARBUCKS)
    • most of the people had bags of take away shops
    • we drink lots and lots of frappuchinos
    • use of mobile phones / smart phones
    • everywhere, really!
    • tube stations, in shopping centres, on the street.
    • they are always in hurry and talking to s.o on the telephone
    • Weather talk
    • bus stops; benches in the park and probably everywhere else too
    • haven’t marked sth. like that
    • being polite in public places
    • public transport; queues of every kind; crowds, e.g. at the theatre
    • “excuse me” is the most used sentence in the tube. Even if you smash into so. they fell sorry
    • newspapers and magazines
    • newsagent
    • free for everyone
    • get it at tube stations,
    • CCTV (close circuit television)
    • Well, have a look!
    • you feel guilty anytime you see one of the cameras
    • police; security
    • very present
    • money matters
    • prices
    • use of credit cards

    The novel “a lesson before dying” is written by Ernest J. Gaines and deals with the blacks in the society of the 1940. The main character is a black teacher who is visiting Jefferson, a young black man, in prison who is sent to death. He should teach him pride and dignity before his death.

    Miss Emma, the grandma of Jefferson, is a friend of Grant’s  Tante Lou. She wants Grant to visit Jefferson, because the judgeman names him a hog and she doesn’t want Jefferson to die as a “hog”. Primarily Grant doesn’t want to teach Jefferson because he doesn’t know how he should deal with it.

    Advantageously Grant is a teacher and should fing ways to deal with it. But that isn’t the cause that changes  Grant mind  . He dreams about going away and be free. But his girlfriend wants to stay because of her job and her children.  Consequently he begins to visit Jefferson. 

    First he thinks his visits are absurd. Jefferson doesn’t want to talk with him. But after a while they get friends and talked about the situation. After a while they trust each other. 

    Grant learns that he has the chance to change something. If Jefferson is going to death and is behaving like a hog that would be the normal procedure. No one would talk about it and Jefferson will be forgotten soon. But if he’s sitting there, behaving like a real man, strong, big, masculine man, he will stay in minds.

    Pre-reading activity

    Once again focusing on the word LESSON (cf. previous task), please note down what comes to your mind.  Take things a little further by considering the effect the various lessons might have.

    • learning something you still don’t know
    • school, vocational education
    • concentration on something
    • strategy
    • to convey knowledge and skills
    • driving lesson

    Post-reading activity

    The results from your pre-reading activity should serve you well when analysing the following LESSON-related issues in the actual novel

    • the lessons Grant teaches at school

    Grant taught the children in writing and reading. He also tries to  get them across the respect of adults and the right behaviour. He wants them to be disciplined.

    • and the lesson he learns when confronted with the task Tante Lou and Miss Emma ask him to do

    First he thought that he couldn’t achieve anything. He doesn’t want to “work” with Jefferson but he wants to change something in his life. He wants to get out of the town. But because of his girlfriend he stays. So he begans to visit Jefferson and at the end he realises that he can change something. He learns that he can achieve something if he tries to.

    • the lesson Jefferson learns

    At the beginning of Grants visits Jefferson calls himself a hog. He doesn’t want to life anymore. But during the time with Grant he realizes that he has to fight for himself, that he is no hog and could be a man. He has to show that the blacks generally are no hogs.

    • the lesson Paul learns

    Read the excerpt from Uncle Tom`s Cabin (THE SENATOR AND HIS WIFE) once again and try to contrast Mr and Mrs Bird`s attitude towards slavery and the Fugitive Slave Act in particular.

    Mrs. Bird

    • she wants to help them
    • she think the law isn’t right, cruel and unchristian
    • slaves are poor,homeless creatures and have been abused  all their lives

    Mr. Bird

    • the law is necessary to quiet the excitement of the “reckless Abolitionists” in Kentucky
    • he thinks of the public interests
    • he suspends his private feelings

    As a second step, examine the effect reading this passage might have had on readers from both the South and the North. Don`t forget that the book was banned very quickly in the South.

    They realize that they don’t really have the chance to help because of the judgement. And that they have to keep together.