81 pages 2 hours read

Jim Murphy

An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793

Nonfiction | Book | Middle Grade | Published in 2014

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Discussion/Analysis Prompt

Compare Murphy’s descriptions of late 18th-century life in Philadelphia with present-day life in your town or city. What public services does your city have now that did not exist in the late 18th century? How might the handling of a public health crisis be different in modern times as compared to the historical setting in the text?

Teaching Suggestion: Students should be encouraged to relate their answers from the Personal Connection Prompt to this prompt. Depending on the level of the class, students may be surprised at the lack of amenities that the majority of late 18th-century Philadelphians had access to. This prompt works well as an in-class discussion, as it can be paired with drawings of some historical amenities, such as interiors of common houses. You might also extend the discussion by asking students to make comparisons to their own experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic: What was it like at the beginning, when little was known about the virus? What could people do to stay safe? How did the guidelines change as scientists learned more?