Teaching Guide: Exploring Manifest Destiny

This teaching guide helps instructors use a specific primary source set, Manifest Destiny, in the classroom. It offers discussion questions, classroom activities, and primary source analysis tools. It is intended to spark pedagogical creativity by giving a sample approach to the material. Please feel free to share, reuse, and adapt the resources in this guide for your teaching purposes.

Discussion questions

  1. Does the South Central Los Angeles mural represent a positive or negative portrayal of manifest destiny? Explain.
  2. Compare and contrast the South Central Los Angeles mural and the Leutze painting.
  3. How do the memories and experiences of Mr. Longclaws represent some of the negative consequences of manifest destiny?
  4. Are there stereotypes of Mexicans or Mexican-Americans represented in the mannequin figure?
  5. What were some of the accomplishments of Jane Cazneau, as seen in the excerpt from her biography? How did those accomplishments reflect manifest destiny?
  6. How are Native Americans depicted in the excerpt from Esther? In what ways does that depiction represent some of the ideals of manifest destiny?
  7. Using the letter from A.D. Covin and the photograph of the Salt Lake City monument, discuss how ideas of manifest destiny can represent the whitewashing of history.

Classroom activities

Ask students to compare the map in the poster and the ornamental map. Ask students to create a new map of the US representing the diverse immigrant groups of the country. Ask students to review the thirty-seven maps on the following website ( and use one of the maps to serve as a model for a new map representing the diverse immigrant groups of the US. Ask students to consider how immigration patterns have changed since the heyday of manifest destiny.

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