As the United States entered World War I in 1917, the nation stood divided on the country’s entry. Even within our own state, public opinion was divided. As political turmoil brewed in the state over the U.S. war effort, many men answered the call of duty while others opposed the country’s war effort. The viewpoints of Mississippians can best be seen in the actions and through the words of Mississippi’s two U.S. senators, John Sharp Williams and James K. Vardaman. Both of these men had very different perspectives about the country’s entry into what was once known as the Great War.
Mississippi Studies Framework: Competencies 1, 3, and 4.
Grades 9 through 12.
MATERIALS AND EQUIPMENT
- Mississippi History Now article
- Whiteboard and marker
- Markers/colored pencils
- Unlined paper
- compare and contrast the political views of Senator John Sharp Williams and Senator James Kimble Vardaman.
- determine the social and political implications of the state’s war effort.
- create a political cartoon.
OPENING THE LESSON
- The teacher will ask for student volunteers to answer the following questions and to clarify any incomplete responses:
- When and where did World War I take place?
- Which nations fought in the war?
- Who has the authority in this country to declare war? (may need to clarify military actions in which declarations of war were not necessary)
- Does the public always support declarations of war? (current events can be used to illustrate this point)
- Why do you think it is important that you, as a citizen, know issues concerning preparation for war?
- After a class discussion concerning the questions listed above, the teacher will tell the students that they will have an opportunity to learn about the public opinion of Mississippi’s citizens and leaders during World War I.
DEVELOPING THE LESSON
- Students will be asked to read the Mississippi History Now article. As the students read the article they will be instructed to complete a Venn diagram that shows the contrasts and comparisons of Senator John Sharp Williams and Senator James K. Vardaman. Students can work independently on this portion of the lesson or they can work with a partner.
- After the students have completed their Venn diagram, the teacher will ask for student volunteers to share their responses with the class. The teacher can record the responses on the board.
- While still working with a partner or independently, the students will be instructed to copy the following generalizations from the board. Instruct the students to use the Mississippi History Now article to find three supporting details for each generalization. The students should list the supporting details in complete sentences.
- Race and social class became an issue in the drafting of soldiers during World War I.
- Not all Mississippians supported the war effort.
- National and state leaders did not share the same viewpoints about U.S. entry into World War I.
- U.S. entry into World War I greatly affected the state of Mississippi.
- For this portion of the lesson, the teacher may want to review the elements of a political cartoon with their students. Political cartoons about current events, found on the editorial pages of newspapers, can be used as examples. After this review, students should create a political cartoon about one of the political issues from the Mississippi History NOW article. The cartoons can be used to create a bulletin board display.
CONCLUDING THE LESSON
The students will write a short essay about the contrasts and comparisons of Senator John Sharp Williams and Senator James K. Vardaman. Allow students to move into groups of four and share their paragraphs with their group members. Ask the groups to choose one member’s paragraph to be read to the class.
ASSESSING STUDENT LEARNING
- Venn diagrams
- Political cartoons
- Class participation
EXTENDING THE LESSON
- Allow students to research the causes for World War I.
- Allow students to research the lives of Senator John Sharp Williams and James K. Vardaman.
- Allow students to research the Sedition Act of 1918 and the Espionage Act of 1917.
- Allow students to debate one of the political issues addressed in the Mississippi History NOW article.
- Allow students to write an editorial on one of the political issues addressed in the Mississippi History Now article.