The ap u. S. History Curriculum Framework Key Concepts and Learning Objectives



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PERIOD 5: 1844–1877



As the nation expanded and its population grew, regional tensions, especially over slavery, led to a civil war — the course and aftermath of which transformed American society.
Key Concept 5.1: The United States became more connected with the world as it pursued an expansionist foreign policy in the Western Hemisphere and emerged as the destination for many migrants from other countries.
I. Enthusiasm for U.S. territorial expansion, fueled by economic and national security interests and supported by claims of U.S. racial and cultural superiority, resulted in war, the opening of new markets, acquisition of new territory, and increased ideological conflicts.
A. The idea of Manifest Destiny, which asserted U.S. power in the Western Hemisphere and supported U.S. expansion westward, was built on a belief in white racial superiority and a sense of American cultural superiority, and helped to shape the era’s political debates.
B. The acquisition of new territory in the West and the U.S. victory in the Mexican-American War were accompanied by a heated controversy over allowing or forbidding slavery in newly acquired territories.
C. The desire for access to western resources led to the environmental transformation of the region, new economic activities, and increased settlement in areas forcibly taken from American Indians.
D. U.S. interest in expanding trade led to economic, diplomatic, and cultural initiatives westward to Asia.

Examples: clipper ships, Commodore Matthew Perry’s expedition to Japan, missionaries, etc.

Learning Objectives (5.1.I)

ID-2 Assess the impact of Manifest Destiny, territorial expansion, the Civil War, and industrialization on popular beliefs about progress and the national destiny of the United States in the 19th century.

WXT-2 Analyze how innovations in markets, transportation, and technology affected the economy and the different regions of North America from the colonial period through the end of the Civil War.

WOR-5 Analyze the motives behind, and results of, economic, military, and diplomatic initiatives aimed at expanding U.S. power and territory in the Western Hemisphere in the years between independence and the Civil War.

WOR-6 Analyze the major aspects of domestic debates over U.S. expansionism in the 19th century and the early 20th century.

ENV-3 Analyze the role of environmental factors in contributing to regional economic and political identities in the 19th century and how they affected conflicts such as the American Revolution and the Civil War.

ENV-4 Analyze how the search for economic resources affected social and political developments from the colonial period through Reconstruction.


II. Westward expansion, migration to and within the United States, and the end of slavery reshaped North American boundaries and caused conflicts over American cultural identities, citizenship, and the question of extending and protecting rights for various groups of U.S. inhabitants.


A. Substantial numbers of new international migrants—who often lived in ethnic communities and retained their religion, language, and customs—entered the country prior to the Civil War, giving rise to a major, often violent nativist movement that was strongly anti-Catholic and aimed at limiting immigrants’ cultural influence and political and economic power.

Examples: parochial schools, Know-Nothings, etc.
B. Asian, African American, and white peoples sought new economic opportunities or religious refuge in the West, efforts that were boosted during and after the Civil War with the passage of new legislation promoting national economic development.

Examples: Mormons, the gold rush, the Homestead Act, etc.
C. As the territorial boundaries of the United States expanded and the migrant population increased, U.S. government interaction and conflict with Hispanics and American Indians increased, altering these groups’ cultures and ways of life and raising questions about their status and legal rights.

Examples: Mariano Vallejo, Sand Creek Massacre, Little Big Horn, etc.


Learning Objectives (5.1.II)

ID-6 Analyze how migration patterns to, and migration within, the United States have influenced the growth of racial and ethnic identities and conflicts over ethnic assimilation and distinctiveness.

WXT-6 Explain how arguments about market capitalism, the growth of corporate power, and government policies influenced economic policies from the late 18th century through the early 20th century.

PEO-2 Explain how changes in the numbers and sources of international migrants in the 19th and 20th centuries altered the ethnic and social makeup of the U.S. population

PEO-5 Explain how free and forced migration to and within different parts of North America caused regional development, cultural diversity and blending, and political and social conflicts through the 19th century.

PEO-6 Analyze the role of both internal and international migration on changes to urban life, cultural developments, labor issues, and reform movements from the mid-19th century through the mid-20th century.

POL-6 Analyze how debates over political values (such as democracy, freedom, and citizenship) and the extension of American ideals abroad contributed to the ideological clashes and military conf icts of the 19th century and the early 20th century.


Key Concept 5.2: Intensified by expansion and deepening regional divisions, debates over slavery and other economic, cultural, and political issues led the nation into civil war.
I. The institution of slavery and its attendant ideological debates, along with regional economic and demographic changes, territorial expansion in the 1840s and 1850s, and cultural differences between the North and the South, all intensified sectionalism.
A. The North’s expanding economy and its increasing reliance on a free-labor manufacturing economy contrasted with the South’s dependence on an economic system characterized by slave-based agriculture and slow population growth.
B. Abolitionists, although a minority in the North, mounted a highly visible campaign against slavery, adopting strategies of resistance ranging from fierce arguments against the institution and assistance in helping slaves escape to willingness to use violence to achieve their goals.


  1. States’ rights, nullification, and racist stereotyping provided the foundation for the Southern defense of slavery as a positive good.


Learning Objectives (5.2.I)

ID-5 Analyze the role of economic, political, social, and ethnic factors on the regional identities in what would become the United States from the colonial period through the 19th century.

POL-3 Explain how activist groups and reform movements, such as antebellum reformers, civil rights activists, and social conservatives, have caused changes to state institutions and U.S. society.

POL-5 Analyze how arguments over the meaning and interpretation of the Constitution have affected U.S. politics since 1787.

POL-6 Analyze how debates over political values (such as democracy, freedom, and citizenship) and the extension of American ideals abroad contributed to the ideological clashes and military conf icts of the 19th century and the early 20th century.

CUL-2 Analyze how emerging conceptions of national identity and democratic ideals shaped value systems, gender roles, and cultural movements in the late 18th century and the 19th century.

CUL-6 Analyze the role of culture and the arts in 19th- and 20th-century movements for social and political change.

Examples: John C. Calhoun, minstrel shows, etc.

II. Repeated attempts at political compromise failed to calm tensions over slavery and often made sectional tensions worse, breaking down the trust between sectional leaders and culminating in the bitter election of 1860, followed by the secession of southern states.


A. National leaders made a variety of proposals to resolve the issue of slavery in the territories, including the Compromise of 1850, the Kansas–Nebraska Act, and the Dred Scott decision, but these ultimately failed to reduce sectional conflict.
B. The second party system ended when the issues of slavery and anti-immigrant nativism weakened loyalties to the two major parties and fostered the emergence of sectional parties, most notably the Republican Party in the North and the Midwest.
C. Lincoln’s election on a free soil platform in the election of 1860 led various

Southern leaders to conclude that their states must secede from the Union, precipitating civil war.




Learning Objectives (5.2.II)

POL-2 Explain how and why major party systems and political alignments arose and have changed from the early Republic through the end of the 20th century.

POL-6 Analyze how debates over political values (such as democracy, freedom, and citizenship) and the extension of American ideals abroad contributed to the ideological clashes and military conf icts of the 19th century and the early 20th century.

PEO-5 Explain how free and forced migration to and within different parts of North America caused regional development, cultural diversity and blending, and political and social conflicts through the 19th century.

ID-5 Analyze the role of economic, political, social, and ethnic factors on the regional identities in what would become the United States from the colonial period through the 19th century.




Key Concept 5.3: The Union victory in the Civil War and the contested Reconstruction of the South settled the issues of slavery and secession, but left unresolved many questions about the power of the federal government and citizenship rights.
I. The North’s greater manpower and industrial resources, its leadership, and the decision for emancipation eventually led to the Union military victory over the Confederacy in the devastating Civil War.
A. Both the Union and the Confederacy mobilized their economies and societies to wage the war even while facing considerable home front opposition.
B. Lincoln’s decision to issue the Emancipation Proclamation changed the purpose of the war, enabling many African Americans to fight in the Union Army, and helping prevent the Confederacy from gaining full diplomatic support from European powers.
C. Although Confederate leadership showed initiative and daring early in the war, the Union ultimately succeeded due to improved military leadership, more effective strategies, key victories, greater resources, and the wartime destruction of the South’s environment and infrastructure.

Examples: Gettysburg, March to the Sea

Learning Objectives (5.3.I)

POL-5 Analyze how arguments over the meaning and interpretation of the Constitution have affected U.S. politics since 1787.

CUL-2 Analyze how emerging conceptions of national identity and democratic ideals shaped value systems, gender roles, and cultural movements in the late 18th century and the 19th century.

ENV-3 Analyze the role of environmental factors in contributing to regional economic and political identities in the 19th century and how they affected conflicts such as the American Revolution and the Civil War.



II. The Civil War and Reconstruction altered power relationships between the states and the federal government and among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches, ending slavery and the notion of a divisible union, but leaving unresolved questions of relative power and largely unchanged social and economic patterns.


A. The 13th Amendment abolished slavery, bringing about the war’s most dramatic social and economic change, but the exploitative and soil-intensive sharecropping system endured for several generations.
B. Efforts by radical and moderate Republicans to reconstruct the defeated South changed the balance of power between Congress and the presidency and yielded some short-term successes, reuniting the union, opening up political opportunities and other leadership roles to former slaves, and temporarily rearranging the relationships between white and black people in the South.

Examples: Hiram Revels, Blanche K. Bruce, Robert Smalls, etc.
C. Radical Republicans’ efforts to change southern racial attitudes and culture and establish a base for their party in the South ultimately failed, due both to determined southern resistance and to the North’s waning resolve.

Learning Objectives (5.3.II)

POL-5 Analyze how arguments over the meaning and interpretation of the Constitution have affected U.S. politics since 1787.

POL-6 Analyze how debates over political values (such as democracy, freedom, and citizenship) and the extension of American ideals abroad contributed to the ideological clashes and military conf icts of the 19th century and the early 20th century.

ID-5 Analyze the role of economic, political, social, and ethnic factors on the regional identities in what would become the United States from the colonial period through the 19th century.




III. The constitutional changes of the Reconstruction period embodied a Northern idea of American identity and national purpose and led to conflicts over new definitions of citizenship, particularly regarding the rights of African Americans, women, and other minorities.


A. Although citizenship, equal protection of the laws, and voting rights were granted to African Americans in the 14th and 15th Amendments, these rights were progressively stripped away through segregation, violence, Supreme Court decisions, and local political tactics.
B. The women’s rights movement was both emboldened and divided over the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution.
C. The Civil War Amendments established judicial principles that were stalled for many decades but eventually became the basis for court decisions upholding civil rights.


Learning Objectives (5.3.III)

ID-2 Assess the impact of Manifest Destiny, territorial expansion, the Civil War, and industrialization on popular beliefs about progress and the national destiny of the United States in the 19th century

POL-6 Analyze how debates over political values (such as democracy, freedom, and citizenship) and the extension of American ideals abroad contributed to the ideological clashes and military conf icts of the 19th century and the early 20th century.



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