Attitudes about Slavery in Franklin County, Pennsylvania

Students will read transcriptions of articles from two Franklin County, Pennsylvania, newspapers in order to compare the county's Republican and Democratic Parties' positions on slavery.

Instructional Objectives
Materials, Equipment, and Student Background Required
Historical Background
Follow-up, Extension, and Assessment

Instructional Objectives

National History Standards

Virginia Standards of Learning

National Council for the Social Studies

Materials, setting, and student background required

This lesson is designed for a traditional (non-computer) classroom setting. Teachers may, however, choose to have students use the newspaper search page for the Franklin Repository and Valley Spririt to search for articles on slavery themselves. Teachers who do so should be prepared for students' coming across extremely derogatory racial terms that may be upsetting or confusing.

Unless you plan to have students conduct their own newspaper search, print and copy Student Worksheet One in advance. This worksheet contains: 1) an article from the Franklin Repository and Transcript, the Republican newspaper, 2) an article from the Valley Spirit, the Democratic newspaper, and 3) questions for the students to answer after they have read the article(s). Student Worksheet Two contains more articles and a follow-up essay assignment.

Students should be familiar with the material in the "Historical Background" section below.

Historical Background

The new Republican Party was formed largely around opposition to the westward expansion of slavery. Many prominent Republicans, such as William Seward and Abraham Lincoln, had publicly expressed their moral opposition to slavery.Taking advantage of the Republican Party's association with anti-slavery sentiment, Democrats charged the Republicans with advocating racial equality. Republican leaders knew that the party could never win a majority if it were associated with such radical ideas, so it frequently couched its opposition to the expansion of slavery in terms of a commitment to the welfare of white workers.

In response, the Democratic Party argued that the welfare of white workers depended not upon the limitation but upon the preservation of slavery. Any moves to weaken slavery would result in a decrease of white workers' economic and political power, because it would bring free black workers into wage competition with whites. This position allowed Democrats to appeal to both northerners and southerners, and thus allowed it to remain a strong political force.

Students will be reading articles from the Franklin Repository & Transcript, the county's Republican newspaper, and the Valley Spirit, the county's Democratic newspaper.


Brief students on as much of the background material that you think that they need to complete the exercise.

Students can work in teams of two to three or on their own.

Hand out Student Worksheet One.

Instruct students to read one or both of the articles, take notes and underline to help with comprehension, and answer questions on worksheet.

When students have completed their task, reconvene whole group to share findings.
Questions for whole class discussion (after they have shared the answers on their worksheet):

Follow-up, Assessment, and Extension Suggestions

Read the articles and answer the essay question in Student Worksheet Two.

Use the articles in Student Worksheet One and Student Worksheet Two., as well as your textbook and other material in the Valley Archives to write an essay on the causes of the Civil War.

Go back to "Valley of the Shadow in the Classroom" homepage.

This material was developed by Alice Carter for the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education.