The Commonwealth
March 2011

Featured Lesson Plan: Perspectives on the Fugitive Slave Law

This issue's Featured Lesson Plan was developed in conjunction with the latest Library of Virginia exhibition, Union or Secession: Virginians Decide. This lesson plan is one of many that deal with different aspects of life for Virginians before and during the secession crisis of 1860–1861. The collection of lesson plans can be found at the Union or Secession portal of our Online Classroom: (

Perspectives on the Fugitive Slave Law investigates the questions "What was the Fugitive Slave Act?" and "How did Sara Lucy Bagby's situation serve as a test case for the Fugitive Slave Act?" The Fugitive Slave Act is an important element in the sectional divisions leading up to the Civil War, and this lesson plan shows the complexities of the act. It uses four different perspectives to present varying viewpoints on the law through the case of Sara Lucy Bagby and sets the stage for understanding the growing tensions that were not resolved by the Great Compromise of 1850. The plan is also useful in teaching US1.9 and VUS.6, both of which deal with the importance of slavery as a cause of the Civil War.

The law is often subjective and open to interpretation. Investigating a combination of primary sources and biographies of William Lloyd Garrison, Abraham Lincoln, Sara Lucy Bagby (a fugitive slave from Virginia), and James Coles Bruce (a slave owner and delegate to the Virginia Convention of 1861), students will compare varying views on enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850.

The lesson plan can be found at the Virginia Memory Online Classroom, in the Union or Secession Portal. (

The student will demonstrate knowledge of the causes, major events, and effects of the Civil War by

The student will demonstrate knowledge of the major events during the first half of the nineteenth century by

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Union or Secession: Virginians Decide Exhibition Now Open, Tours and Educational Programs Available

Henry, John, (1704 or 1705–1773). <em>A New and Accurate Map of Virginia Wherein Most of the Counties Are Laid Down from Actual Surveys: With a Concise Account of the Number of Inhabitants, the Trade, Soil, and Produce of that Province</em> 1770. G3880 1770 .H4 Voorhees Collection. Library of Virginia.

As a complement to the Union or Secession exhibition at the Library of Virginia, the Virginia State Capitol Visitor Center is hosting the exhibition The Struggle to Decide: Virginia’s Secession Crisis. Focusing on the Virginia Convention of 1861, the exhibition will introduce some of the key participants in the debates over whether Virginia should remain in the Union or join the Confederacy. Visitors can also take a tour of the Virginia State Capitol Building, where the fateful vote for secession was cast, and which later became the home of the government of the Confederate States of America. To schedule a tour of the Capitol Visitors Center and Virginia State Capitol, call 804.698.1788.

Both exhibitions feature elements created with young visitors and educators in mind. Special labels throughout the exhibition summarize the key points of the text so that school-aged children can follow the discussion. Visitors may also pick up activity sheets to guide their exploration of the museum. For a list of correlations between the exhibitions and the Virginia Standards of Learning, click here.

The exhibition is free and open to the public during regular Library business hours. Group tours and related educational programs are available for groups by appointment. To schedule a tour of the Library of Virginia’s exhibition, call our Tour Request Line at 804.692.3901 or use our Online Tour Request Form.

Educational Programs

Union or Secession

In addition to tours, the Library will offer Union or Secession educational programs that allow students to investigate primary source documents detailing the viewpoints of various Virginians about secession. These activities correlate to the Virginia Standards of Learning for history and social science, government, and civics.

“Perspectives on the Fugitive Slave Law”
VSOL: USI.1 (a, b, e), USI.9 (a, b), CE.1 (a, c, f, g), CE.2 (a), CE.6 (a), VUS.1 (a–c, h, i), VUS.7 (a), GOVT.1 (a, c, e–g), GOVT.4 (c), GOVT.5 (a, d)
Sectional disputes over the enforcement of fugitive slave laws increased tensions between the North and South preceding the Civil War. The case of Sara Lucy Bagby involved an enslaved African American woman, her owner in Virginia, the abolitionist community in Cleveland, Ohio, and the enforcement of federal law. Investigating a combination of primary sources and biographies of William Lloyd Garrison, Abraham Lincoln, Sara Lucy Bagby (a fugitive slave from Virginia), and Miers Fisher (a slave owner and delegate to the Virginia Convention of 1861), students will compare varying views on enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850.

“Election of 1860: Dividing Virginia”
VSOL: USI.1 (a–c), USI.9 (b), CE.5 (g), VUS.7 (a)
It was one of the most important elections in American history. But why, exactly? What was at stake in the election? Who were the candidates and which parties did they represent? After reviewing the presidential candidates and their party platforms, students are asked to predict how citizens in three Virginia communities—Richmond, Alexandria, and Winchester—voted. Newspaper editorials, articles, and other statistics help students to understand what was valued by these communities, as well as the limits of liberty during this volatile time in American history. During this program, students will review the history of the election, the results of the voting in Virginia, and the aftermath of the election. The activity includes a participatory reenactment of viva voce voting, as practiced during the antebellum period.

“The Struggle to Decide: Union or Secession?”
VSOL: USI.9 (a, b, c), VUS.6 (e), VUS.7 (a)
What were Virginians thinking and writing after Abraham Lincoln’s victory in the election of 1860? Why didn’t Virginia leave the Union when states in the lower South did? What unique conditions factored into Virginia’s hesitance to leave the Union? Using primary sources, including excerpts from the Virginia Secession Debates, students will exercise their critical thinking skills to analyze Virginia’s path to the Confederacy.

Each of these programs is 40 minutes in length, and tours of the exhibition can be incorporated with additional time. There is no charge for the programs, but they are limited by staff availability and must be scheduled at least three weeks in advance. For more information contact

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To Collect, Protect, and Serve Book Release

Thursday, March 17, 2011
Time: 4:00–7:30 pm
Place: The Virginia Shop
Tameka Hobbs will sign copies of To Collect, Protect, and Serve: Behind the Scenes at the Library of Virginia. The Library of Virginia is the oldest cultural institution in the state and the official archive (a place where history is kept) and library of the Commonwealth. In the book, Archie the Archivist, Libby the Librarian, and Connie the Conservator guide young readers through a visit to the Library of Virginia. The book lets children explore some of the Library's most important holdings—an early copy of the Declaration of Independence, the Statute for Religious Freedom, and documents connected to famous Virginians like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, George Mason, and Edgar Allan Poe. They will learn how archivists, librarians, and conservators battle against the threats to historical documents like the Archival Enemies—Mildred Mold, Bartholomew B. Bug, and Liquid Lenny—to keep Virginia's history safe for the future. The first 50 elementary teachers will receive a FREE copy of the book. The Virginia Shop will offer a special discount to educators throughout the evening.

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Applications for the 2011 Brown Teacher Research Fellowship Due May 6

The Library of Virginia is pleased to announce the Anne and Ryland Brown Teacher Research Fellowship. The goal of the program is to enhance knowledge and training in history and social science instruction in the commonwealth of Virginia by providing educators with an opportunity for in-depth study and the development of teaching materials in collaboration with both teaching colleagues and members of the Library of Virginia’s professional staff. Under the program, Virginia educators research and study a specific aspect of Virginia history and produce educational materials such as lesson plans and curriculum guides based on the results of their findings. The Brown Teacher Research Fellowship award includes a stipend of $2,000 for each recipient and up to $500 reimbursement for travel to an approved conference as a presenter.

For more information on how to apply, click here.

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Check out the Library of Virginia's Newest Guides to Our Digital Resources

Please find our newest guides to the Library’s digital and educational resources, designed with the educator in mind! On the Guide for Educators page in our Online Classroom, we've posted links to our material as it correlates with the Virginia Standards of Learning. Each of these frameworks, arranged by grade, includes the specific SOL, the Essential Understandings, the Essential Knowledge, and links to Library resources available that correlate to each. These links may lead to primary sources, classroom activities, or fully developed lesson plans. Keep your eye on these guides—they'll be updated as new material is developed and made available!

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Library's Online Educational Resources Reviewed

Recently, took at look at the Library of Virginia’s Virginia Memory Web site, and our newest digital addition, Union or Secession. To read their reviews, follow the links below:

Virginia Memory:

Union or Secession:

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This Day in Virginia History: In the Classroom

Legislative Petition for James, Slave Belonging to William Armistead, 30 November 1786, Box 179, Folder 10, Library of Virginia, Richmond Virginia.

April 17, 1861

The Virginia Convention Voted For Secession

In February 1861 Virginia's General Assembly called for a special convention to decide its position on secession. On April 4, 1861, the convention voted eighty-eight to forty-five against seceding from the United States. After the firing on Fort Sumter and President Abraham Lincoln's call for 75,000 volunteers to put down the rebellion, the delegates on April 17 voted eighty-eight to fifty-five to secede. On May 23, 1861, Virginia voters ratified the Ordinance of Secession repealing the state's ratification of the United States Constitution. Virginia subsequently joined the Confederate States of America, and Richmond became the capital city of the new nation.

Help your students investigate the Virginia Ordinance of Secession using the transcription. Use a resource analysis sheet ( to facilitate the exploration. More lesson plans and classroom activities can be found at Virginia Memory’s Online Classroom (

For more background information on this document and Virginia’s vote for secession, please see our online portal “Union or Secession: Virginians Decide,” particularly Unit 9

Standards of Learning Addressed
USI.1, USI.9, VS.1, VS.7, VUS.1, VUS.7