“A Different Drummer”. 19th Century Social Reform Henry David Thoreau & Ralph Waldo Emerson. Standard 8.6.7. 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. Who were the transcend-
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19th Century Social Reform
Henry David Thoreau & Ralph Waldo Emerson
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.
entalists and what did
writers and thinkers in New England who believed the most important truths in life transcend or go beyond human reason
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
express in his writings
Ralph Waldo Emerson
popular essayist & lecturer
spoke and wrote about self reliance and character
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
Ralph Waldo Emerson
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
“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.”
beliefs contribute to social
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
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
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?
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.
Castillo, Davidson, Stoff, The American Nation, Prentice Hall, 2000, p. 341-343