All teaching guides

Help your students explore works of art as primary documents.

Mississippian shell gorget, c. 1250–1350

Teaching guide<br>Mississippian shell gorget

By Smarthistory

Found marking the grave of an important individual, this gorget was worn as a neck ornament during life. Mississippian culture was one of the most cosmopolitan Native American cultures prior to the arrival of Europeans. The city of Cahokia was an important hub for trade networks.
APUSH: KC 1.1.I.C

Learn more

Six portraits of the Levy-Franks family, c. 1735

Teaching guide<br>Six Portraits of the Levy-Franks family

By Smarthistory

The Levy-Franks were a prosperous Jewish family in early 18th century New York. Their portraits help to reveal a closely-connected British Empire spanning the Atlantic. The Levy-Franks supplied the British during the Seven Years' War, carried goods on Caribbean trade routes, and possibly brought enslaved people to the Americas.
APUSH: KC-2.2.I.A, KC-2.2.I.B

Learn more

Covered sugar bowl, 1745

Teaching guide<br>Covered sugar bowl

By Smarthistory

This sugar bowl recalls the transatlantic trade network that developed around sugar in the early American colonial era, bolstered by the growing popularity of tea, coffee, chocolate, and punch in Europe. Its expanded production depended on the labor of enslaved people, many of whom were abducted from Africa, to harvest and process sugar cane in the Caribbean.
APUSH: KC-2.1.III.A, KC-2.2.II.A

Learn more

Benjamin West, Penn's Treaty with the Indians, 1771

Teaching guide<br>Benjamin West, <em>Penn’s Treaty with the Indians</em>

By Smarthistory

Between the Seven Years' War and the Revolutionary War, conflict between Indigenous people, American colonists, and British imperial officials intensified as American colonists encroached on Indigenous land. Benjamin West's painting of a popular myth helps to illustrate the changes in this period.
APUSH: KC-2.1.I.C

Learn more

Francisco Clapera, set of sixteen casta paintings, 1775

Teaching guide<br>Constructing identity in the Spanish colonies in America

By Smarthistory

In New Spain, Indigenous people, Africans, Spaniards, and their descendants mixed together. Casta paintings show one way Spaniards attempted to place these mixed-race families and their children into a hierarchy, although the realities of race and status in Spanish colonial society were much more complex.
APUSH: KC-2.1.I.A

Learn more

Edward Hicks, The Peaceable Kingdom, 1826

Teaching guide<br>Hicks, ​<em>The Peaceable Kingdom​</em>

By Smarthistory

In his Peaceable Kingdom series, Hicks depicts a visionary scene of peace on earth that extends back to include William Penn and the founding of Pennsylvania. Hicks captures the greater religious diversity and tolerance of the Middle Colonies, but the determination of English settlers to take Native American land would undermine the racial harmony he imagined.
APUSH: KC-2.1.II.C

Learn more

Thomas Cole, The Hunter's Return, 1845

Teaching guide<br>Thomas Cole, <em>The Hunter’s Return</em>

By Smarthistory

Thomas Cole's painting reflects both the hopes and the anxieties brought on by the Market Revolution and Manifest Destiny. As the United States expanded westward, displacing Indigenous communities, was its drive to industrialize destined to destroy the landscape's sublime beauty?
APUSH: KC-4.1.II.C, KC-4.2.III.A, KC-5.1.I.A

Learn more

Eastman Johnson, A Ride for Liberty , 1862

Teaching guide: Eastman Johnson, <em>A Ride for Liberty — The Fugitive Slaves</em>

By Smarthistory

Eastman Johnson depicts a family emancipating themselves from slavery at great risk during the Civil War. Compared to abolitionist images of kneeling slaves and historical narratives crediting Abraham Lincoln or the U.S. government with ending slavery, this is a radical image that centers Black agency in emancipation.
APUSH: KC-5.3.I.B

Learn more

Thomas Moran, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, 1872

Teaching guide<br>Thomas Moran, <em>Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone</em>

By Smarthistory

Thomas Moran's painting of Yellowstone exemplifies the complex factors that characterized U.S. westward expansion and economic development after the Civil War. Railroads, government policies, and violence against Native American communities were all intertwined with the creation of the first national park.
APUSH: KC-6.2.II.A, KC-6.2.II.D

Learn more

Thomas Hovenden, The Last Moments of John Brown, 1884

Teaching guide<br>Thomas Hovenden, <em>The Last Moments of John Brown</em>

By Smarthistory

John Brown was a radical abolitionist who believed in using violence to destroy the violent institution of slavery. Thomas Hovenden's painting of a popular story about Brown's last moments, created 25 years after Brown's execution, promoted the righteousness of his cause at a time when state governments were stripping away the political gains made by African Americans during Reconstruction.
APUSH: KC-5.2.I.B, KC-5.3.II.C
TEKS: 113.41.(3)(C)

Learn more

Aaron Douglas, Aspiration, 1936

Teaching guide<br>Aaron Douglas, <em>Aspiration</em>

By Smarthistory

Aaron Douglas's paintings at the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition focused on how the rich African past inspired a bright future for African Americans, even in the midst of Jim Crow and the Great Depression.
APUSH: KC-7.2.I.B
TEKS: 113.41.(24)(B)

Learn more

Horace Pippin, Mr. Prejudice, 1943

Teaching guide<br>Horace Pippin, <em>Mr. Prejudice</em>

By Smarthistory

Pippin fought bravely in World War I, but he and other African American soldiers did not receive a hero's welcome when they returned to the United States. Incorporating this history into his 1943 painting, Pippin places racism and segregation among the forces aligned against Allied victory in World War II.
APUSH: KC-7.2.II.C, KC-7.3.III.C.i
TEKS: 113.41.(7)(F)

Learn more

Norman Rockwell, Rosie the Riveter, 1943

Teaching guide<br>Norman Rockwell, <em>Rosie the Riveter</em>

By Smarthistory

Rockwell's painting of Rosie the Riveter captured the power felt by the unprecedented number of women in the workforce during World War II. But how accurately did it depict the experiences of the diverse women who contributed to the war effort?
APUSH: KC-7.3.III.C.i
TEKS: 113.41.(17)(A)

Learn more

Benny Andrews, Flag Day, 1966

Teaching guide<br>Benny Andrews, <em>Flag Day</em>

By Smarthistory

In the midst of the Civil Rights Movement, Benny Andrews protested the exclusion of Black artists from museums. Flag Day captures a complex sense of being both imprisoned by and liberated by the American flag as efforts to combat racial discrimination were slowed by continuing resistance from white institutions.
APUSH: KC-8.2.1.C
TEKS: 113.41.(9)(B)

Learn more

Explore the diverse history of the United States through its art. Seeing America is funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art and the Alice L. Walton Foundation.