All Men Are Created Equal

Subject: Social Studies

Grade Level: 9 through 12


Sunshine State Standards: View all Sunshine State Standards



Abraham Lincoln wrote the following in 1855:

As a nation, we began by declaring that "all men are created equal." We now practically read it, "all men are created equal except Negroes." When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read "all men are created equal except Negroes and foreigners and Catholics." When it comes to this, I shall prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty.


Hand out copies of Lincoln's 1855 speech. Do NOT tell students who wrote it. Let them brainstorm who might have written it and ask them questions about how they can support their answer (language, style etc.) Can they pinpoint the time by the vocabulary, etc.?

  1. Ask students what document states, "All men are created equal." Have a copy of the Declaration of Independence for them to read. Put that on the bulletin board as a focal point. Then analyze the above speech as a response to the Declaration of Independence.
  2. Ask students to determine who might have written/given Lincoln's 1855 speech. What vocabulary is used that could give one clues to the time in history it was written? Brainstorm who, what, where, when, and why questions about the quote. Discuss where one would look to discover the author of the speech and the answers to the questions.
  3. Once students have determined Lincoln to be the author of the above speech, analyze the speech in light of the authorship and discuss relevant issues such as Lincoln's role in the emancipation of the slaves, human rights issues, etc. In the same manner, research other quotes to put on the bulletin board.
  4. Have students research similar quotes to put on the bulletin board. Analyze the quotes and respond to the quotes in the same manner as above. Research other quotes to put in an "All Men are Created Equal" (all women?) multimedia presentation. Who wrote them, why, where, when, etc. Have students respond to the quotes that relate to this theme. Have the class decide how these quotes and responses could be illustrated or made into a multimedia presentation.
  5. Look for newspaper stories that might illustrate some of the themes in the quotes. Ask students to respond to the stories. Incorporate the stories and the student responses into the multimedia presentation. Give students an opportunity to find the relevance of these quotes to their everyday life. How well have these societies and our societies practiced what we preached? How do these quotes relate to the Holocaust? This activity is very open ended.

    Suggestions for quotations and speeches:

    Martin Niemöller: "First they came . . ." JFK's inauguration speech, other Lincoln speeches and some of the transcripts of the Lincoln Douglas debates, Mark Twain's works, Martin Luther King's speeches, works of Greek philosophers, Magna Carta, Gandhi, Shakespeare, U.S. Constitution, Declaration of Independence, Suffragette speeches.


    This activity can be adjusted for various age and ability levels. Make sure students know what your expectations for the grading of such projects will be. Let them assess themselves as well.

    A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust
    Produced by the Florida Center for Instructional Technology,
    College of Education, University of South Florida © 2005.

Timeline People Arts Activities Resources