Students watch a short video about Alexander Clark, and learn the role he played in establishing Iowa’s first African-American army unit. They then write a persuasive letter, from Clark’s perspective, to an African-American family in Iowa, recruiting their eldest son to fight in the Civil War.
This lesson is part of "Great States: Iowa | Unit 4: Civil War and Statehood." In this unit, students will survey the role of Iowans in the Civil War and the crucial era of Iowa gaining statehood.
BS.SS.3.8: Describe the effects, opportunities, and conflicts that happened when people from different social groups came into contact with each other.
BS.SS.3.9: Compare and contrast the treatment of a variety of demographic groups in the past and present.
BS.SS.4.7: Explain causes of conflict or collaboration among different social groups.
- Video: Alexander Clark Organizes African Americans in Iowa to Fight in the Civil War
- An interactive whiteboard, projector, or another type of screen to show videos to the class
- Class set of Alexander Clark Letter handout
- Distribute the Alexander Clark Letter handout to students.
- Tell students that they will be watching a video that briefly talks about Alexander Clark’s role in establishing Iowa’s first all-volunteer, all-African American army unit, to fight in the Civil War. Explain that Alexander Clark was the first African American diplomat for the US. He is also famous for going to court to get his daughter admitted to a “white” school before desegregation ever occurred. He is from Iowa.
- Play the video, Alexander Clark Organizes African Americans in Iowa to Fight in the Civil War. [1:45]
- Discuss some of the advantages of the Union having African American soldiers (e.g., more people to fight, shows equal opportunity, and furthers the cause of freedom for African Americans).
- On the handout, have students draft a letter from Clark’s perspective to an African American family in Iowa, recruiting their eldest son to fight for the North in the Civil War. Remind students to keep in mind the advantages you’ve discussed.