Bill of Rights Overview

The Bill of Rights is the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution. These amendments guarantee essential rights and civil liberties, such as the freedom of religion, the right to free speech, the right to bear arms, trial by jury, and more, as well as reserving rights to the people and the states. After the Constitutional Convention, the absence of a bill of rights emerged as a central part of the ratification debates. Anti-Federalists, who opposed ratification, pointed to the missing bill of rights as a fatal flaw. Several states ratified the Constitution on the condition that a bill of rights be promptly added. Pop over to the National Constitution Center’s learning module to discover more!

The American Founding: The Bill of Rights

This comprehensive, multimedia online exhibit features a trove of resources on the Bill of Rights. Part I contains the English, Colonial, State, and Continental origins of the Bill of Rights; Part II features the Federalist/Antifederalist Debate over the Bill of Rights; and Part III explains the politics of the Bill of Rights in the First Congress through its adoption.

Grades 9-12
Foundations of Democracy
Audio

The Bill of Rights in Modern Times

In this lesson, students will learn about the individual rights that are included in the Bill of Rights and current issues relating to them. Students will use C-SPAN Classroom’s Constitution Clips to explore what each of these rights mean and determine how these rights apply to current events in America. This lesson works well with classes with one-to-one devices or in flipped classrooms.

Grades 7-12
Rights and Responsibilities
Interactives

Competing Voices of the Civil Rights Movement

When most people think of the Civil Rights Movement in America, they think of Martin Luther King, Jr. delivering his “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963 and receiving the Nobel Peace Prize the following year. But “the Movement” achieved its greatest results — the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act — due to the competing strategies and agendas of diverse individuals. Even black Americans, the primary beneficiaries of this landmark legislation, did not agree on the tactics that should be used to secure the equal protection of their rights. This unit presents the views of several important black leaders who shaped the debate over how to achieve freedom and equality in a nation that had long denied a portion of the American citizenry the full protection of their rights.

Civil Rights

While the Reconstruction Amendments were an important step in ensuring equal rights for all people, regardless of race, racial injustices throughout the United States continued into the late 19th and 20th centuries, leading to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, and the passages of Supreme Court decisions and legislation, including Brown v. Board of Education, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Visit the National Constitution Center’s learning module to learn more about the freedom struggle and civil rights.

Comparing the Magna Carta and English Bill of Rights with the U.S. Bill of Rights

In this activity students will examine the influences of the Magna Carta and the English Bill of Rights on the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution. By the end of the activity students should be able to cite clear examples of the influence of English legal traditions in the U.S. Bill of Rights; they should also be able to give examples of how the American document is unique in offering even further expanded rights.

Rights in America

This DocsTeach page includes a variety of primary sources and teaching activities exploring the ways Americans, including African Americans and others, have fought for, attained, and protected their rights. Many documents at the National Archives illustrate how individuals and groups asserted their rights as Americans. Use this site to find teaching activities to explore the topics such as slavery, racism, citizenship, women’s independence, immigration, and more.

Grades 4, 5, 6-12
Citizenship

Natural Rights, Citizenship Rights, State Rights, and Black Rights: Another Look at Lincoln and Race

In the real world, the ability of free blacks to enjoy their natural rights and exercise the privileges and immunities of citizenship depended on the states where they actually lived. When those states imposed a raft of legal discriminations on free blacks they cheapened the meaning of freedom and discounted the value of citizenship. I suspect this bothered Lincoln, but it wasn’t his issue. It would take other men and women, and another century of struggle, before “states rights” was abolished.

March on Washington: Lesson Plans & Resources

On August 28, 1963, approximately 250,000 people participated in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which is considered to be one of the largest peaceful political rallies for human rights in history. Among other events, the march participants gathered at the Lincoln Memorial to hear Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech. Many consider The Great March on Washington to be the event that encouraged the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Share My Lesson team has created this collection of free lessons and classroom materials to help middle and high school educators teach their students about this historic event.

Grades 6-12
Rights and Responsibilities
Lesson Plans

Teach Human Rights: Lesson Plans & Resources

The historical struggle for human rights is something that affects us, our children, and future generations as we fight for equity and inclusion in an increasingly torn society. It can also be difficult to speak with students about sensitive subjects, which is why this Share My Lesson collection provides expertly curated lesson plans, resources, and activities that define these rights, develop a global awareness, and teach how we can all make a difference when we act together.

Grades K-12
Rights and Responsibilities
Lesson Plans