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“A Different Drummer” 19th Century Social Reform Henry David Thoreau & Ralph Waldo Emerson.

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Presentation on theme: "“A Different Drummer” 19th Century Social Reform Henry David Thoreau & Ralph Waldo Emerson."— Presentation transcript:

1 “A Different Drummer” 19th Century Social Reform Henry David Thoreau & Ralph Waldo Emerson

2 Standard Identify common themes in American art as well as transcendentalism and individualism (e.g., writings about and by Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.

3 Who were the transcend- entalists and what did they believe? transcendentalists –writers and thinkers in New England who believed the most important truths in life transcend or go beyond human reason transcendentalism –stressed emotion over reason –believed that an individual has control over his or her life the beliefs of transcendentalists led them to support social reform as a way of improving America in the mid-1800s two important transcendentalists were Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau Ralph Waldo Emerson

4 What ideas did Emerson express in his writings and speeches? Ralph Waldo Emerson popular essayist & lecturer –spoke and wrote about self reliance and character Emerson believed: –the human sprit was reflected in nature –nature held higher values that came from God –in the importance of the individual Emerson urged people to use their “inner light” to guide their lives and improve society “A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within.” The Inner Light

5 “ Nature always wears the color of the spirit.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

6 Simplify!

7 What ideas did Thoreau express in his writings? Henry David Thoreau Emerson’s friends and neighbor Thoreau believed that the growth of industry and the rise of cities were ruining the nation Thoreau urged people to live as simply as possible –his best known work is Walden the book describes spending a year alone in a cabin on Walden Pond in Massachusetts Thoreau believed that an individual must decide what is right and wrong –Thoreau’s ideas and actions were part of a mounting wave of reform activism that had begun in the 1840s

8 “The law will never make men free, it is men who have got to make the law free.”

9 “A lake is the landscape's most beautiful and expressive feature. It is Earth's eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.” Thoreau on Nature & Self Examination

10 In what ways did Thoreau’s beliefs contribute to social reform? Civil Disobedience Thoreau argued that people had a right and a duty to disobey unjust laws if their consciences demanded it –went to jail for refusing to pay taxes to support the Mexican War which he felt promoted slavery Thoreau’s beliefs told him slavery was wrong and he took direct action to end it –delivered several lectures in opposition to the enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law –as an abolitionist he worked as a conductor on the Underground Railroad helping escaped slaves reach freedom

11 Nonviolent Protest Thoreau’s writings and actions influenced people both during his life and after his death In the 20th century, Mohandas K. Gandhi (India) and both Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez (America) are all examples of people extending Thoreau's individual model onto huge scales of mass action Why are Emerson’s and Thoreau’s ideas important today?

12 Review Answer the following questions using the information you learned from the presentation. 1.According to Emerson and Thoreau, how does a single individual recognize what is wrong and what is right? 2.At what point, and by what right, does a person's conscience carry more authority than the law? 3.List some examples of what can be accomplished by acts of civil disobedience? 4.What is important about the idea of civil disobedience in our own time?

13 Group Activity - Create a Chart Pretend that Henry David Thoreau is returning to look at today’s society. He will spend a week in your community. Make a two-column chart. In the left column, list things, places, activities, or ideas that he would most likely criticize. On the right, list things, places, activities, or ideas that he would most likely appreciate. Be prepared to explain your chart to the class.

14 Sources Castillo, Davidson, Stoff, The American Nation, Prentice Hall, 2000, p


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