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What Makes You Say That?: Civil War Photograph

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Social Studies +1 Age Level Middle School (13 to 15 years old)

Using the Project Zero Visible Thinking routine "What makes you say that?," students will investigate a photograph from the Civil War taken by the studio of Mathew Brady, one of the most prominent American photographers of the 19th century.  The Civil War was the first major war captured on camera and photographs, like this one, played a pivotal role in shaping public perceptions of the conflict.

This activity can be used as an entry point into studying soldiers' experiences during the Civil War, photography's effect on public perspectives about war, and more.  Resources to extend this activity include: a Smithsonian American Art Museum lesson plan investigating this and other photographs from the Civil War, a blog post discussing connections between Civil War photography and President Abraham Lincoln, a Smithsonian Magazine article about Civil War photographer Alexander Gardner, a Learning Lab collection on Alexander Gardner's Photographic Sketchbook of the War, and an article discussing the National Portrait Gallery's recent exhibition The Face of Battle: Americans at War, 9/11 to Now.

Keywords: photo, battlefield, inquiry strategy