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Lincoln, King and the Emancipation Proclamation

The New York State Education Department is highlighting primary sources from the Office of Cultural Education's collections including the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation and Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1962 Centennial Civil War Commission speech.  This project connects educators with a wide variety of rich resources, including primary sources to support learning around these pivotal movements in history. Students are invited to analyze the primary sources and further investigate themes of freedom, equality, and inclusion.

Connection to the Learning Standards

The New York State K-12 Social Studies Framework requires instruction of Black history,  the Civil War, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, Civil Rights, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at specific grade levels. While instruction on these topics is discussed and taught throughout K-12, these are more explicitly taught in the K, 1st, 5th, 7th, 8th, and 11th grades. 

Resources for Educators

This section highlights some of the educational resources, including primary resources, available through the Office of Cultural Education to support learning around the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation and Dr. King’s speech delivered in NYC in 1962 for the Proclamation’s centennial. 

Utilization of  NYSED’s resources to support curriculum development and instruction is optional; all instructional decisions are made at the local level. The sites below are provided as options and sources for ideas and inspiration only. The list is also not exhaustive; there are many quality resources and learning activities available online.

Consider the Source

Consider the Source New York is a FREE online community that connects educators across New York State to the valuable primary sources materials found in the churches, museums, historical organizations, libraries, and state and local governments with a series of highly-engaging learning activities designed to guide and encourage students at all grade levels to make discoveries using critical thinking skills.

Highlighted Resources

Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Speech to the New York State Civil War Centennial Commission(Including educator guide)

Teachers will engage students in a chronological reasoning and causation activity using a photograph of Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking in 1962 and an address by Dr. King. Teachers can facilitate a comprehensive learning activity using a 1962 photograph of Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking and an analysis of one of his addresses, supported by guided questions. This structured approach encourages students to critically examine visual and textual sources, fostering historical understanding and analytical skills. The combination of the photograph and guided questions provides a nuanced exploration of Dr. King's impactful speeches, allowing students to engage with the context and significance of his activism in the Civil Rights Movement. Through this activity, students gain insights into the impact of Dr. King's words and actions on the Civil Rights Movement.

Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation 1862

This activity provides insight into pages 3 and 4 of the original draft of the Emancipation Proclamation from 1863. It explains the historical context surrounding President Lincoln's decision to issue the proclamation after the Battle of Antietam in 1862. Despite challenges and pressure to retract the proclamation, Lincoln upheld it, leading to the abolition of slavery in America on January 1, 1863. The document highlights the role of President Lincoln, the Federal Army, and the freedmen in bringing about this significant change in U.S. history. The activity provides an essential question, check for understanding, and additional questions for observation, analysis, and synthesis.  This can be used for upper elementary, middle, and high school students and includes ideas for interdisciplinary connections.

Understanding the Significance of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation Today

Teachers will guide students in analyzing the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s speech celebrating its centennial. This activity provides a unique opportunity for students to explore historical documents and connect them to Dr. King's perspective on the proclamation's significance. By delving into these primary sources, students gain a deeper understanding of the historical context and its relevance to the ongoing struggle for civil rights. Includes connections to the CR-SE Framework and the NYS Social Studies Framework.


NYS Museum

On September 12, 1962, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered a speech in New York City to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the issuance of Abraham Lincoln’s Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. In a measured but passionate tone, Dr. King reviewed the history of human rights in America, noting that the Declaration of Independence and the Emancipation Proclamation had fallen far short of achieving equality for all of its citizens.

A recent discovery at the New York State Museum has revealed the only known audio recording of the Civil War Centennial program, which includes Dr. King’s 26-minute speech honoring Lincoln’s document. This online presentation allows the viewer to experience an occasion of immense importance in New York State’s and the nation’s history. The recording in the State Museum’s collection is paired with the original speech document in the collection of the State Archives, so that one can hear and read the speech at the same time. The program of the September 12, 1962 commemoration dinner and an article about the speech in the context of the New York Civil War Centennial Commission’s activities is also available. Finally, teachers will find information on how to use this speech in the classroom to enhance their knowledge of this important part of our heritage.

Highlighted Resource

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Address to the New York State Civil Was Centennial Commission Educator's Guide

An Educator's Guide to this online exhibition is a collaborative effort among Museum educators, teachers and archivists designed to provide strategies and resources for teaching about the Civil Rights movement and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. By using the online exhibition and the lessons provided here, students will gain insight into Dr. King's ideas and views of the Civil Rights movement. This was produced by the New York State Museum for use in grades 8-12. The guide includes an introduction and four exercises that may be downloaded as separate documents.

PBS Broadcasting

WMHT and PBS have curated FREE, curriculum-aligned videos, interactives, lesson plans, and more for New York teachers.

Highlighted Resource

Civil War and Reconstruction, 1850 - 1896 

The site features interactive lessons on pivotal historical topics on the Causes of the Civil War, Military Events and Government Policy, The Homefront, and Reconstruction with the Rise of Jim Crow. Designed for Grades 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12, the interactive site also provides comprehensive support materials for teachers and students, offering multiple engaging activities and thought-provoking discussion question to enhance learning at every level.

Connection to Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education

NYSED’s Culturally Responsive-Sustaining (CR-S) Education Framework is intended to help education stakeholders create student-centered learning environments that affirm cultural identities; foster positive academic outcomes; develop students’ abilities to connect across lines of difference; elevate historically marginalized voices; empower students as agents of social change; and contribute to individual student engagement, learning, growth, and achievement through the cultivation of critical thinking. The framework was designed to support education stakeholders in developing and implementing policies that educate all students effectively and equitably, as well as provide appropriate supports and services to promote positive student outcomes. 

The following guidelines from the CR-S Education Framework are just some examples of the way the resources on this page and through the Office of Cultural Education can be used to achieve a more culturally responsive sustaining education system:

  • Collaborate with teachers, peers, and administrators to create opportunities for meaningful long-term projects, project based learning activities, and field visits that allow all students to demonstrate their knowledge and growth over time, and align to the varied learning styles and interests of those in the class community.
  • Feature and highlight resources written and developed by traditionally marginalized voices that offer diverse perspectives on race, culture, language, gender, sexual identity, ability, religion, nationality, migrant/refugee status, socioeconomic status, housing status, and other identities traditionally silenced or omitted from curriculum.
  • Pair traditional curricular content with digital and other media platforms that provide current and relevant context from youth culture.
Connection to the Seal of Civic Readiness

New York’s Seal of Civic Readiness is a formal recognition that a student has attained a high level of proficiency in terms of civic knowledge, civic skills, civic mindset, and civic experiences.  In order to obtain the Seal of Civic Readiness, a student must complete all requirements for a New York State local or Regents diploma and earn a total of six points with at least two points in Civic Knowledge and at least two points in Civic Participation.  Below are some examples from The New York State Seal of Civic Readiness Handbook of ways that the resources on this page and through the Office of Cultural Education could be used to help earn points for the Seal of Civic Readiness.

Civic Knowledge Research Project

  • Choose a particular amendment to the Constitution (either a successful amendment or an unsuccessful attempt at an amendment), and research how that change was advocated for, organized, and voted on in this example. Students can also research the implications of this amendment through the lens of civics and how it impacts their lives or communities today. (Possible Resource: the Fifteenth Amendment: Educational Activities)
  • Throughout American history, citizens, organizations, and movements have been the driving force behind the most significant social, political, and economic changes that have occurred. Research an individual and/or organization, as well as the movement they represented and the issues they sought to change. Analyze and explain the historical circumstances from which the movement arose, background information on the activist or organization, strategies and tactics used by the individual/organization/movement to achieve its goals, any successes and setbacks that were experienced, and/or the legacy of the activist and/or the movement. (Possible Resource: Audio Recording: DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR: Address to the New York State Civil War Centennial Commission

High School Civic Project

  • Within a class, students chose civic issues that were important to them and worthy of investigation. (Possible Resource: Civil Rights: Then and Now)
    • Using the Question Formulation Technique, students arrived at civic issues they wanted to investigate.
    • Students used primary and secondary sources to analyze the historical and current backgrounds of their issues. Students evaluated current policies to determine impacts, strengths, and gaps. Students analyzed evidence and data to determine the impact of the issue on their local community including locally developed surveys and interviews.
    • Students recommended/argued for specific strategies to address the issue or problem.
    • Students reflected on how the project influenced their civic knowledge, skills, and mindsets.
    • Students worked both individually and in groups and communicated their project using written and visual presentations.