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Sectionalism, Popular Sovereignty, and Secession


The effect various attempts to control slavery had on Kansas.

Grade Level:

Middle and High school


This lesson connects with the lesson plan “Sectionalism and the Kansas-Nebraska Act.” This activity retraces the steps of federal policies and a Supreme Court decision that triggered sectionalism, popular sovereignty, secession of the Southern states, and ultimately the Civil War.

Standards addressed:

Kansas history:

  • KH8B3I3 describe the influence of pro- and antislavery ideas on territorial Kansas



  • Understand the sequence of national events that resulted in the Civil War.


  • Using primary sources (federal documents)
  • Timeline
  • Mapmaking

Essential Questions:

  • Why did the Civil War begin in 1861?
  • If the Kansas-Nebraska Act had not been passed, what affect would that have had on sectionalism?


  • Students will retrace the events that led from sectionalism to secession and briefly describe how the events affected the people of Kansas Territory.


  • Distribute lesson packets to groups of students. Students need to read the Background Information pages and the primary source documents before proceeding with this lesson.
  • Working as groups, have students map the regions affected by the Missouri Compromise, the Compromise of 1850, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and the Dred Scott Decision.
  • Lead a class discussion on how history would have been different if any of these legislative or legal issues had been different. Students will then write their own essays on this topic.
  • Using the Background Information pages, the primary source documents, and the Mapping Activity pages, student groups will create a historical timeline for events from 1820 to 1861.

Download the Complete Lesson Plan

This lesson plan was originally prepared by the Education and Outreach Division, Kansas State Historical Society for Territorial Kansas Online. The standards cited in the pdf form of the lesson plan were those from the 1999 Kansas State Standards. On this preview of the lesson we have made every attempt to match them to the 2013 Kansas History, Government, and Social Studies Standards and Kansas College and Career Ready Literacy Standards.