American Presidents

andrew johnson American Presidents Teacher Guide

Andrew Johnson's presidency
July 9, 1999 on C-SPAN
Recommended Use:
Secondary Level

This Teacher Guide was developed by C-SPAN Teacher Fellow Steven Vetter who teaches at West Hernando Middle School in Brooksville, FL. C-SPAN is provided to his area by Time Warner.

1. To understand how President Johnson's background influenced his presidency.
2. To evaluate President Johnson's ability to persuade the American public and the Congress.
3. To evaluate the presidency of Andrew Johnson.


  • C-SPAN's American Presidents programming featuring President Andrew Johnson
  • C-SPAN's American Presidents web site

    Before Viewing American Presidents
    Discuss the following with students:
    1. President Johnson had no formal education. What obstacles might he have faced in his political career as a result?

    2. How have individuals in America been able to educate themselves or overcome obstacles in early life such as poverty or family background? Students may wish to compare and contrast the early lives of Andrew Johnson and Abraham Lincoln. What obstacles did each have to overcome in their early lives?

    3. How might a lack of education hinder a person's ability to be elected to public office? How might it help?

    While Viewing American Presidents
    Part 1
    Directions: While watching the American Presidents segment on Andrew Johnson, watch for details to answer the following questions.

    a. What role did Andrew Johnson's wife, Elizabeth, have in preparing him to run for public office?

    b. What role did Andrew Johnson's job as a tailor have in honing his persuasive skills and his ability to influence the public? In what ways did his tailor shop serve as an early campaign office?

    c. What role did President Johnson's humble beginnings have in convincing the public to vote for him? How did Johnson use his background to convince the public that he was a worthy candidate for public office?

    d. How did President Johnson's enemies use his background in an attempt to discredit him? In what ways was this background a political asset?

    Part Two
    Directions: Review the questions below to focus your thinking. Then, fill out the chart below with examples of Andrew Johnson's successes and failures in persuading various audiences.

    a. How successful was President Johnson in influencing both the American public and the Congress?

    b. Was President Johnson successful in implementing his Reconstruction policies and legislation?

    c. What led to President Johnson's impeachment before the House of Representatives? What point was President Johnson attempting to make about presidential power? What role did President Johnson play in defending himself against impeachment and removal from office?

    Attempts to Persuade Chart

    Successes Audience



    After Viewing American Presidents
    Have each student write an extended paragraph based on the information from their charts. Students should include details and information when answering the following question: How would you assess President Johnson's ability to persuade both the American public and the Congress?

    After students have written their extended paragraphs, review and expand their thinking by considering the following elements in President Johnson's public life:

    a. Gaining public office without a formal education

    b. His ability to reunite the nation after the Civil War

    c. The Impeachment proceedings in the Senate

    d. His inability to be nominated for a second term

    e. His election to the Congress after leaving the White House

    After the discussion of these elements of Andrew Johnson's presidency, have students revise extended paragraphs to include some of these ideas.

    Review together by drawing conclusions:

    • What lessons can we learn from President Johnson's ability to achieve the presidency despite the fact that he grew up in poverty and had no early education?

    • What advice might President Johnson give a young person who is considering running for public office?

    • What qualities would President Johnson consider important in having a successful presidency?

    • Do you think that President Johnson would consider himself an influential and persuasive person? Why or why not?

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