“What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?”

Frederick Douglass earned wide renown as an outspoken and eloquent critic of the institution of slavery. In this speech before a sizeable audience of New York abolitionists, Douglass reminds them that the Fourth of July, though a day of celebration for white Americans, was still a day of mourning for slaves and former slaves like himself, because they were reminded of the unfulfilled promise of equal liberty for all in the Declaration of Independence.

  • Resource Type: Primary Sources
  • Subject: Citizenship
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12

What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?

Students are guided through a careful reading of Frederick Douglass’ greatest speech in which he both praises the founders and their principles, yet condemns the continued existence of slavery. The Constitution is presented as a “glorious liberty document” which, if properly interpreted, is completely anti-slavery. Douglass delivered this speech on July 5, 1852 at the height of the controversy over the Fugitive Slave law. The speech is generally considered his greatest and one of the greatest speeches of the 19th century. Before you read the speech you can follow links to learn more about Douglass’s life and the evolution of his thought in this period.

  • Resource Type: Essays, Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Citizenship
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

Fourth of July: Grades 3-5

This lesson is designed to be used in conjunction with the National Constitution Center’s Fourth of July show, which is available as part of themed museum packages for groups and the Traveling History & Civics Program for schools.

Together, they encourage students to explore the history and meaning of the Declaration of Independence and Independence Day.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 3, 4, 5

Fourth of July: Grades 6-8

This lesson is designed to be used in conjunction with the National Constitution Center’s Fourth of July show, which is available as part of themed museum packages for groups and the Traveling History & Civics Program for schools.

Together, they encourage students to explore the history and meaning of the Declaration of Independence and Independence Day.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8

Fourth of July: Grades 9-12

This lesson is designed to be used in conjunction with the National Constitution Center’s Fourth of July show, which is available as part of themed museum packages for groups and the Traveling History & Civics Program for schools.

Together, they encourage students to explore the history and meaning of the Declaration of Independence and Independence Day.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

What Does July 4th Mean to You?

July 4th brings to mind fireworks, parades, and picnics but what are we celebrating when we remember the signing of the Declaration of Independence? What does July 4th mean to you? This lesson plan lets students make connections between the birthday of America and its significance in today’s world.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Rights and Responsibilities
  • Grades: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Celebrating the Founders

This short video explores why Americans celebrate the Founding generation. Americans point to a “founding moment” and, from the country’s earliest days, celebrated this “moment” on July 4. The first individuals to be honored were military leaders like George Washington; later, individuals who created the nation’s government were celebrated. Professor Daniel Dreisbach draws parallels between the commemoration of Washington as “Father” of the country and Moses as “Father” of the Hebrew nation.

  • Resource Type: Video
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 10, 11, 12

Constitution of the United States with Index and the Declaration of Independence, Pocket Edition

This is the 25th pocket edition of the complete text of two core documents of American democracy, the Constitution of the United States (with amendments) and the Declaration of Independence. The resolution calling for the ratification of Constitutional Convention is also included. A topical index to the Constitution is provided. (House Document 112-29, 2012)

  • Resource Type: Books, Primary Sources
  • Subject: Federal Government
  • Grades: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

The Meaning of Independence Day

What is the legacy of the Declaration of Independence and its self-evident truths of equal and unalienable rights? Our ebook, “The Meaning of Independence Day,” explores the ideas behind the American Founding and their significance for our present personal freedoms and national flourishing. Each selection includes a brief introduction by the editors with guiding questions for discussion. Includes readings by Thomas Paine, Samuel Adams, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Frederick Douglass, and more.

  • Resource Type: Primary Sources
  • Subject: Citizenship
  • Grades: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Independence Day Lesson Plans & Resources

On July 4 each year, the United States celebrates Independence Day. This day commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, in which citizens of the thirteen American colonies announced their break from the British Empire and their intention to form a new nation: the United States of America. This Share My Lesson collection provides educators with free preK-12 lesson plans, activities, and materials to use to teach their students about Independence Day.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12