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The Conspirator in the Classroom

No, I haven’t seen it yet. But the trailers look good, the reviews aren’t bad for a Civil War period piece and it seems like a great way to end a unit on the Civil War or begin one on Reconstruction.

A quick review:

After Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, seven men and one woman are arrested and charged with conspiring to kill the President, the Vice-President and the Secretary of State. The only woman, Mary Surratt, owned a boarding house where John Wilkes Booth and others met and planned the simultaneous attacks. Against the back-drop of post-Civil War Washington DC, with conspiracy theories running rampant, a  reluctant lawyer agrees to defend Surratt before a military tribunal. The lawyer begins to think that Surratt may be innocent and is being used as bait in order to capture her son, the only conspirator to have escaped.

To help, there are some handy teaching resources out there.

Teaching History has some awesome resources including a link to University of Missouri at Kansas City’s the Trail of the Lincoln Conspirators that includes images, newspaper articles, and excerpts from the trial transcripts. Use these original documents with your students to compare the actual material related to the trial to the movie’s version of events.

Teaching History has its own set of materials and guiding questions plus direct links to other primary sources, lesson plans and exhibits.

The group responsible for the movie, American Film Company, has put together a great Teacher’s Guide and a list of books, lesson plans and teaching resources. I especially like their Party Like It’s 1865 document – a list of period food recipes and quiz questions.

I’m curious what others who have seen the movie think about the historical accuracy, story line and possible uses in the classroom.

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