Huckleberry Finn Webquest
Huckleberry Finn is an American Classic revolving around the adventures of a boy named Huck and a runaway slave named Jim, who travel down the Mississippi River on a raft. A study of the character of Huck Finn will provide insight into understanding American literature as well as American social and political views of the past and present.
In 1860 America is in turmoil. Slavery is the controversy. Northerners believe that slavery should be brought to an end and Southerners believe that slavery should be kept, even expanded.
Although slavery was abolished but a few years later in the U.S., it still exists today in many countries. Slavery was one of the major causes of the one of the most deadly wars in U.S. history, the Civil War. Thousands would die before this disagreement would be put to rest.
The period of rebuilding in the South after the Civil War was called Reconstruction. This era had a profound impact on Afro-Americans and race relations, which impacts our society to this day.
In this Webquest you will explore, analyze, construct and evaluate important events that have occurred during the Reconstruction Period, which followed the Civil War. You will focus on The Jim Crow Laws, Minstrel Shows, Slavery, Carpetbaggers, use of the “N” word and how it has affected society then and now.
The class will be divided into groups of four to five students. Each member of the group will pick a role from the list of scenarios below.
Once you have chosen your role, look at the websites that have been assigned to your scenario.
Once you feel that you have gathered enough information about your role proceed to work with your group on your presentation to the class.
From the time the novel was published it has been very controversial. When it was first published, many people opposed its progressive view of slavery and the depiction of a young boy helping a slave escape from the bonds of slavery. Although views of slavery have dramatically changed since this novel was first written, it continues to be considered controversial and it is banned from some public schools. Today, many people oppose the novel because of the use of the word “nigger” and the degrading images of African Americans in slavery. Although the novel is controversial, it is widely considered an American classic.
You will take on the role of parents who are opposed to find The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as part of the 11th grade curriculum and are also bothered by it even being on the school’s library shelf. You will prepare a presentation to the Board of Education that will enable the Board to make a decision regarding banning the book from the 11th grade curriculum for the next school year.
You will take on the role of newspaper reporters covering the responses by critics and the public to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn when it was first published in 1884. You will interview people from different walks of life and write about their reactions to the book in the local newspaper.
Questions to address for your project
Why is the teaching and reading of Huck Finn so controversial?
How have criticisms of the book changed from its 1885 publication to now?
What is racism and is Huck Finn racist?
Should Huck Finn remain required core literature in American Literature classes?
When, if ever, is censorship justified?
Censorship Then and Now
Slavery in Mark Twains books
Mark Twain in his Time
Reviews of Huckleberry Finn
Reconstruction was a difficult time in America for political leaders as well as ordinary people. Newly freed slaves held great hopes. They were emancipated and were ready to sing freedom's song. Defeated southern farmers held bitter resentment. During this period of Reconstruction, the Republican Party, which was based in the North, extended its organization to the South. The party gained control of the Southern States and granted civil rights to blacks, including the right to vote. It also worked to establish public schools and to increase opportunities for ordinary Southern whites. Carpetbaggers was a term of scorn and hostility used by Southerners to describe Northerners active in the Republican Party in the South. Some of the carpetbaggers were unprincipled and corrupt seeking private gain. However, many came to the South for honorable reasons.
You are a Radical Republican Carpetbagger who has just arrived in the South. You are looking for political and financial opportunities. You will be writing in a diary about your daily experiences dealing with hostile Southern Democrats.
Questions to address for your project
1. What is the Radical Republicans’ plan to readmit the south into the Union?
2. How did this differ from President Johnson’s plan?
3. Why did Radical Republicans want to make it difficult for Southern States to be readmitted into the Union?
You are a Democratic Southern Politician dealing with newly arrived Carpetbaggers from the North. You are preparing a speech about the evils of the Republican Party and the newly arrived Carpetbaggers.
Questions to address in your speech
1. What was the south like when Radical Republicans moved there to become politicians?
2. What were conditions like for Freedmen?
3. What did Radical Republicans do to help Freedmen?
4. Who were the Radical Republicans?
5. What is remarkable/special/ or reprehensible about them?
6. What was their life like?
7. What obstacles did they face? Why?
8. Where were they born?
9. Why did these people act or behave in a certain way?
10. How did these people think the south should be readmitted into the Union?
The term Jim Crow is believed to have originated around 1830 when a white, minstrel show performer, Thomas "Daddy" Rice, blackened his face with charcoal paste or burnt cork and danced a ridiculous jig while singing the lyrics to the song, "Jump Jim Crow." Rice created this character after seeing (while traveling in the South) a crippled, elderly black man (or some say a young black boy) dancing and singing a song ending with these chorus words:
"Weel about and turn about and do jis so,
Eb'ry time I weel about I jump Jim Crow."
The word Jim Crow became a racial slur synonymous with black, colored, or Negro in the vocabulary of many whites; and by the end of the century acts of racial discrimination toward blacks were often referred to as Jim Crow laws and practices.
The rise of the minstrel show coincided with the growing abolitionist movement in the North. Northerners were concerned for the oppressed blacks of the South, but most of them had no idea how these slaves lived day-to-day. The minstrels provided the North with a kind of knowledge of the blacks, albeit a greatly romanticized and exaggerated one. Slaves were shown as happy, cheerful simpletons, always ready to sing and dance and to please their master. The message to Northern audiences was clear: don't worry about the slaves; they are happy with their lot in life.
You are a political satirist during the Reconstruction Period creating cartoons for a museum display. You are presently doing a series on Minstrel Shows and the Jim Crow Era.
When creating your cartoons the following questions should be addressed:
1. What is the event or issue that inspired this political cartoon?
2. Are there symbols in the cartoon? What do they represent?
3. What kinds of ideas are included in political cartoons?
4. Are there people in the cartoon? Who are they, and what do they represent?
5. What is the subject of the cartoon?
6. What is the cartoonist's opinion on the subject?
7. What is the objective of a political cartoon?
Your role as a museum curator is to give the class a tour of the museum and be prepared to explain to the class the meaning of each cartoon.
When showing the exhibit to the class the above questions should be addressed.
This Webquest has offered you an opportunity to examine issues of censorship, racism, and education in American history, as you deepen your understanding of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the Reconstruction Era, and ultimately consider the price we pay for freedom of expression and freedom from segregation.