Teacher’s Guide to Work for Freedom


Welcome to the teacher’s guide to the Tennessee History for Kids booklet called Work for Freedom. Rather than buying a single classroom set, please consider buying one for every student. We sell these booklets for $2.50 and print them on non-glossy paper because we want students to write in their booklets and keep them.

Please do NOT copy the booklets. That is a violation of our copyright and makes it difficult for us to continue to exist. The reason we sell them for only $2 is so teachers will not be tempted to copy the booklets.

If you would like the answers to the quiz questions in the booklet, please email bill@tnhistoryforkids.org and tell him your name and the school at which you teach.


Library of Congress photo

Chapter One


The photo on page 2, and to the right, is remarkable in every way. It you click on it and study it for a while you will learn quite a bit about what conditions were REALLY like for U.S. Army soldiers by the end of the Civil War.

First of all, can you really call these uniforms? Secondly, what types of shelters were men sleeping in? I should also point out that we aren’t sure exactly where this photo was taken. My best guess is that this is the present day area of I-65, just south of the downtown “loop,” in the area of Fort Negley.

The editorial on the left is the one referred to on page 3. It was published in Nashville, in 1861, by the Southern Methodist Publishing House. Although there were Unionists in Tennessee, we can safely say that many government and business leaders in Nashville shared the opinion of the author of the editorial (who turned out to be Holland McTyeire, later the founder of Vanderbilt University.)


Chapter Two

Click here for a virtual tour of Fort Donelson and here for a tour of Shiloh.

Click here to read a column published in 2006 about the Battle of Shiloh.


Sidebar: Old Glory

THFK photo

Click here to read more about William Driver’s flag. Driver and his flag have been (understandably) the subject of many articles in newspapers, magazines and documentaries. Click here to see a Smithsonian Institute website devoted to it.

THFK photo

I recommend all Americans visit Fort McHenry, in Baltimore Harbor. Since I realize all Tennessee students can’t do that, I will at least refer you to the photos on the left and right. One of the things that the national park rangers invite people to do is take part in the lowering and folding of a very large American flag.

These are all Americans who have never seen each other before — Americans from different states, different races, men and women, young and old. It’s a pretty neat thing to do, and it got me wondering about why public schools don’t require just about every student to raise, lower and fold the flag at least once during the course of the year.



THFK photo

Chapter Three


Click here to take a virtual tour of Fort Pillow and here to take one of Stone’s River Battlefield.

Click here for the Henderson County history page.

Regarding the Emancipation Proclamation and how it did NOT apply in Tennessee: In 1863 and through much of 1864, slavery was still being enforced in parts of Tennessee (the process under which slavery ended was a very complicated one; it didn’t just happen in a day or a week.)

If you want more proof of how slavery remained in Tennessee after the Emancipation Proclamation, check out the newspaper clipping on the left (click on it to make it larger). These three ads were published by the Athens Post newspaper, on April 17, 1863–four months after the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect. The place referred to as the “Mouse Creek Depot,” in the bottom ad, still stands. Today it is known as the Niota train station.


Chapter Four


Look at the photo on the top of page 16. Now take a look at the photo to the right (click on it to make it larger.) These photographs, both taken during the Civil War, show the SAME BRIDGE–the one across Running Water Creek in Marion County. Perhaps we can all marvel at how good the Union Army’s engineers were to rebuild the bridge with the speed that they did!

Click here to learn more about this bridge and its reconstruction during the war.

Also… Running Water Creek was mentioned on page 47 of Long March to Tennessee. Only 70 years before this photo was taken, a Chickamaugan village lay along the banks of Running Water Creek! (Today, the creek is underwater because of Nickajack Dam.)

On another subject, click here to be taken on a virtual tour of the Carnton Plantation/Carter House and here to go on a tour “In Search of the Battle of Nashville.”

This is a very good time to point out that fifth grade is a really good time to take students on a Civil War field trip. The good news is that Civil War battlefields are all over, and many of them have education staff ready for field trips. If possible, please make this happen for the students!


Chapter Five


Click here for a virtual tour of the Andrew Johnson Historic Site.

The Memphis National Cemetery
(THFK photo)

It is not mentioned in the social studies standards and not covered in the booklet, but in April 1865, a ship called the Sultana exploded on the Mississippi River, just upstream from Memphis. About 1,800 men were killed in the deadliest maritime accident in American history. Many of the dead bodies floated ashore in Memphis, and many of those bodies are buried in graves marked “Unknown U.S. Soldier” at the Memphis National Cemetery.

Click here to take a tour “In Search of the Sultana.”


Chapter Six


Tennessee State Law requires the Tennessee constitutions of 1834 and 1870 be included in the social studies curriculum. This is, however, pretty difficult stuff for fifth graders. Lewis Laska’s book is written at a scholarly level, and I did my best to pull out of it material that teachers and kids might find fairly simple and interesting.


Chapter Seven


TN State Library and Archives photo

A lot of supplemental material:

* Click here for the Shelby County history page.

* Click here for a virtual tour of the Memphis Cotton Exchange and here for a cool video in which “History Bill” walks all the way to Memphis with some cotton to sell.

* Click here to read a sobering column about the Memphis yellow fever epidemic.


Chapter Eight


Some of you may recognize this material as “left over” from the previous fifth grade booklet called He That Hath No Sword. We considered deleting this material in this booklet, but over the years we have had a lot of very positive feedback about it.

Click on the photo to the left to blow it up. (One thing you might try is asking your students to look at the photograph and write about it before they read Chapter 8.)

For more content related to the themes of this chapter, click here for a virtual tour of the Ducktown Basin, here for a tour of the Dunlap Coke Ovens, and here for a tour of the Tennessee Central Railway.


TN State Library and Archives photo

Chapter Nine


Thanks to the Tennessee State Library and Archives TEVA website, you can see the famous article that made Alvin York famous. Click here to see it.

Click here and here to read two columns that I wrote about the 100th anniversary of World War I.


Chapter 10


Click here to read a column I wrote about the passage of the suffrage amendment.

A very interesting part of the Smoky Mountain story concerns the Little River Lumber Company. Visitors to the national park today would be surprised to learn that many of the trails and roads in the park were first created by a company which clear cut the place! Click here for a virtual tour “In Search of the Little River Lumber Company.”


Chapter 11


Click here for a virtual tour of the Cumberland Homesteads; here for a tour of Norris Dam State Park; and here for a tour of the Butler Museum.


Chapter 12


PHOTO: Family of John Willis

It bothers me a lot that we don’t talk much about war heroes from Tennessee very much in public schools, which is why I started Chapter 12 with content about John Willis. I have also written a column about this subject, which you can read here.

Also, the National Medal of Honor Heritage Center happens to be located in Chattanooga. Click here to be taken to its website.


Chapter 13


You can find supplemental information for this chapter on the Cumberland County history site, as well as the many museums in Oak Ridge, here.

In 2015, I wrote a column about Gerhard Hennes, a German prisoner of war at Camp Crossville who later became a US citizen, and who wrote a book about his experiences in the camp many years later. I have written more than 160 of these Tennessee Magazine columns, and this one received more in the way of reader responses than any of them. Click here to read it.

THFK photo

We have done many inservices about Oak Ridge and the Manhattan project and will continue to do them in the future. The reason these events are successful is because of Oak Ridge historian Ray Smith, who volunteers his time to help teachers and students understand this story. Here (on the right) is a photo of Ray Smith speaking to teachers at a Tennessee History for Kids event in Oak Ridge in July 2021.

Chapter 14


You can find information that goes along with this chapter on the Shelby, Davidson, Union and Hickman County history sites.

Library of Congress photo of the king with some president

Meanwhile the best way to teach about the music of Tennessee is to PLAY the music of Tennessee, and a lot of this music can be found on the Internet. Here are some examples:

Dr. Humphrey Bate and the Possum Hunters

The Carter Family

Elvis Presley

Chapter 15


Knoxville News Sentinel, Dec. 4, 1956

Click here for a virtual tour of “In Search of Highlander Folk School.” This has been the subject of many Tennessee History for Kids inservices; please keep track of those and another one will come around!

In the fall and winter of 1956, the front page of the Knoxville News Sentinel was frequently dominated by news of the Clinton High School desegregation. Click on the image on the right to see what I mean.

In July 2017 I interviewed Bobby Cain on stage at the Tennessee History for Kids tent revival. Here is a column about what he said and here is a story about the event that was produced by Nashville’s public radio station.

Chapter 16


The best resource in terms of covering the Nashville Sit Ins is a 1960 documentary produced by Robert M. Young. Parts of this documentary may not be considered to be appropriate for fifth graders, but parts of it are. I suggest teachers watch the whole thing because it tells the story very well:



Chapter 17


In 2018, Tennessee History for Kids produced a series of 23 trading cards that feature famous heroes in Tennessee history–including Wilma Rudolph, Dolly Parton, John Sevier, Bobby Cain, Cornelia Fort and many others.

These trading cards cost only $5 a set and make a wonderful teaching supplement.

Click here to see how you can get a set.

Chapter 18


If your students still haven’t seen History Bill’s “Trek Across Tennessee video, click here to show it to them.

Click here and check out our GEOGRAPHY section, which contains BASIC and ADVANCED content and even a Tennessee highway map scavenger section.