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How one piece of legislation divided a nation - Ben Labaree, Jr.

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You may think that things are heated in Washington today, but the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 had members of Congress so angry they pulled out their weapons -- and formed the Republican Party. The issues? Slavery and states' rights, which led the divided nation straight into the Civil War. Ben Labaree, Jr. explains how Abraham Lincoln's party emerged amidst the madness.

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  • Educator Ben Labaree, Jr.
  • Animator Qa'ed Mai
  • Narrator Addison Anderson

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Additional Resources for you to Explore
This lesson was inspired by one of Ben Labaree, Jr.'s students, Aidan Gray.
There are numerous good web resources with more information about the sectional crisis of the 1850s and the Kansas-Nebraska Act in particular. National Archives and Library of Congress sites are a good place to start. For example, you can view images of the text of the legislation here.
The Library of Congress provides not only detailed information about the Kansas-Nebraska Act, but also links to related material in their American Memory Collections here.
For an excellent grades 9-12 lesson plan on Douglas' legislation and its consequences, see this site from the National Endowment of the Humanities.
To learn more about how Abraham Lincoln's views on slavery evolved over time, listen to this NPR interview with Columbia University professor Eric Foner.
For an animated map showing the balance between free and slave states and the status of slavery in western territories see here.
Some of the best books on this period in American history are:
Foner, Eric. Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party before the Civil War (1970)
Levine, Bruce. Half Slave and Half Free: The Roots of the American Civil War (1992)
Potter, David M. The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861 (1976)
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TED-Ed
Lesson Creator
New York, NY
With regard to the Kansas-Nebraska Act, one historian has written, "It is difficult to think of a piece of legislation in American history that had a more profound impact on national life."
02/11/2014 • 
 46 Responses
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TED-Ed Original lessons feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed original? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Ben Labaree, Jr.
  • Animator Qa'ed Mai
  • Narrator Addison Anderson

Share

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