teacher’s guide grades 5 to 12 freedom’s irony: trails of tears and manifest destiny america’s quest for freedom series subject a
Grades 5 to 12
Freedom’s Irony: Trails of Tears and Manifest Destiny
America’s Quest for Freedom Series
Subject Area: Social Studies, US History, Government/Citizenship
Synopsis: Tracing the events of the 1830’s, we see how slavery was
re-invented by the growth of the cotton industry, dooming generations
of African Americans to servitude. At the same time, European
Americans began the Western Movement, increasing their own freedoms,
often at the expense of those of Native Americans.
Objective 1) Students should be able to analyze the ways in which the
rapid growth of the cotton industry affected life in the
cotton-producing states of the south, as well as exploring theoretical
outcomes if the growth of the cotton industry remained steady.
Objective 2) Students should be able to summarize the circumstances
and effects of the Indian Removal Act.
Objective 3) Students should be able to compare the way of life in the
1830’s of the Cherokee Republic to that of the United States.
Objective 4) Students should be able to give examples of how Andrew
Jackson’s life and character symbolized the spirit of a “new America.”
Objective 5) Students should be able to discuss why Texans wanted
their own Republic, and the significance of The Alamo.
Objective 6) Students should be able to explain the meaning of
“Manifest Destiny” and summarize the changes in United States
territory and composition of the population as a result of this
Objective 7) Students should be able to discuss the immediate and
long-term cause and effect of the Gold Rush on the growth and
population of the United States.
Pre-viewing Discussion or Activities:
1) Using a United States map (historical and topographical maps, if
possible), locate the southern slave states and the Mississippi River.
Point out the movement of settlers across the United States from east
to west. Trace the Cherokee “Trail of Tears” from Georgia, eastern
Tennessee, and the western Carolinas to northeast Oklahoma. Using a
world map, trace the slave route from Africa to Brazil or the
Caribbean (the Middle Passage) and then to the United States; also
show the routes traveled by the immigrants from China, Germany,
Sweden, Ireland, etc. to the United States.
2) Define: plantation, rebellion, rampage, militia, prophet,
migration, immigrant speculation, irony, manifest, and destiny.
3) Ask students to talk about how and why they think Americans moved
from the colonies to settle what is now United States.
1) In what ways did the great and rapid growth of the cotton industry
change the way of life in the South’s cotton-producing states? How
might things have been different if the cotton industry remained as it
2) Who was Nat Turner? What was the Nat Turner Rebellion? What effect
did Nat Turner’s Rebellion have on the issue of slavery in the United
States? How would you compare Nat Turner to Dr. Martin Luther King,
Jr.?; to Rosa Parks?; to another you may suggest?
3) What was the “Indian Removal Act”? Why was it put into effect? How
did its enactment affect the Cherokee? Why was the forced migration of
the Cherokee called the “Trail of Tears”?
4) In the film, the Cherokee Republic is referred to as “a creative
imitation of what the United States had made of itself.” How would you
interpret this? Include specific details in your explanation.
5) During the exciting times of rapid westward expansion, the country
believed in the spirit and freedom of a “new America” to grow and
succeed. In what ways does Andrew Jackson’s life and character
represent the “new America”?
6) Why did Texans want to create their own Republic? What was the
result? What happened at The Alamo? What is the significance of the
rallying cry, “Remember the Alamo”?
7) Explain the principle of Manifest Destiny? What new lands became
part of the United States and how were the people living on these
lands effected as Americans carried out their “destiny”?
8) What happened at Sutter’s Mill, California? How did this discovery
affect many Americans living east of California? Why did so many
Chinese immigrate to California? What major restriction was put upon
them? What other groups of immigrants came to the United States? Where
did they settle? What were some of their jobs as new Americans?
1) Why is this film entitled “Freedom’s Irony: Trails of Tears and
Manifest Destiny”? (Emphasize plural aspect of “Trails.”) How does the
concept of irony apply to so many of the relationships we’ve seen in
this film? Discuss the connection between the loss of freedoms by one
group of people and the resulting freedoms gained by another.
2) Ask students to talk about their ancestors coming to the United
States. Have the class generate a list of questions to use when
interviewing an older relative to learn the story of how their family
came to the United States. Have students conduct their interviews and
give written or oral reports on their findings. As an optional
activity, use a world map to mark their countries of origin. (Be sure
to include your own story!)
3) Have students research other conflicts or rebellions throughout
history in the United States and worldwide (e.g. Mexico, France,
Russia, Hungary, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, China, etc.).
Have students develop a list of goals, motives, and/or beliefs central
to each these conflicts. Do they see a pattern or thread of common
principle between them? Have students discuss their conclusions.
Related New Dimension Media Titles:
Our Presidents in American History Series
Great Campaigns of the Civil War Series
Colonial Life Series
African American History Series
The Constitution Series
Native Americans Before Columbus Series
Lewis & Clark: Tools of Discovery
The Oregon Trail: One Family’s Journey
Without Due Process: Japanese Americans & World War II
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