Colored drawing of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth. Booth stands next to Abraham Lincoln in a theatre box and shoots a derringer at his head. In his other hand he holds a dagger. A man in a union army uniform stands to try to stop him.
Library of Congress, LC-USZC4-1155

Student Activity: Did Everyone Cry at the Assassination of President Lincoln?

In this lesson, use first-person, primary-source documents to understand how differently people around the country responded to the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

In this activity, you will:

  1. Follow the events of the Lincoln assassination on a timeline. What events might have influenced the events of the assassination? What might have a direct affect versus an indirect effect on Booth’s decision to kill Lincoln?
  2. Read excerpts from John Wilkes Booth’s diary to try to understand his motivations. You’ll use the S.O.A.P.S.Tone chart to help you try to make sense of his words.
  3. Explore four first-person accounts from people learning about the assassination of the President. Using the annotation guide, mark up the accounts to analyze them.
  4. With the primary sources you just read as inspiration, use the Brainstorming Worksheet to imagine you are a young person living in 1865. Then, write a diary entry or letter describing how you learned about the assassination and your feelings about it.

Teachers: You may give the entirety of this lesson to students, or do any of the activities separately.

Teacher Guide

Suggestions for teachers on using this activity, whether in the classroom or in distance learning.

Printable PDF version

Students, teachers, and caregivers can print the activity, or use a separate sheet of paper to fill out.