When National Security Trumps Individual Rights

On December 18, 1944, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down one of its most controversial decisions when it upheld the government’s decision to intern all persons of Japanese ancestry (both alien and nonalien) on the grounds of national security. Over two-thirds of the Japanese in America were citizens and the internment took away their constitutional rights. In this lesson, students evaluate the consequences of past events and decisions related to the Supreme Court case Korematsu v. United States (1944). They consider the challenges involved when trying to balance civil liberties and national security during threatening times and reflect on the lessons learned about civil liberties from the justices in the Korematsu case.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

Habeas Corpus: The Guantanamo Cases

One of our oldest human rights, habeas corpus safeguards individual freedom by preventing unlawful or arbitrary imprisonment. This documentary examines habeas corpus and the separation of powers in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks as the Supreme Court tried to strike a balance between the president’s duty to protect the nation and the constitutional protection of civil liberties in four major Guantanamo Bay cases: Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, Rasul v. Bush, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld and Boumediene v. Bush.

Closed captions available in English and Spanish.

  • Resource Type: Media, Video
  • Subject: History, Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Rights at Risk in Wartime

The terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, stunned the nation. As commander-in-chief, President George W. Bush responded quickly but soon all three branches of government would be embroiled in the struggle to balance national security with the protection of individual liberties amid a war on terror. This lesson plan is based on the Annenberg Classroom video “Habeas Corpus: The Guantanamo Cases.” The four cases are examples of how the Supreme Court, the president and Congress fought to balance national security and civil liberties during the war on terror. At the heart of each case was the constitutional right of habeas corpus, the right to have one’s detention or imprisonment reviewed in court.

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

Korematsu and Civil Liberties

This documentary explores the landmark case Korematsu v. U.S. (1944) concerning the constitutionality of presidential executive order 9066 during World War II that gave the U.S. military the power to ban thousands of American citizens of Japanese ancestry from areas considered important to national security. A PDF lesson plan accompanies this video.

  • Resource Type: Closed Captions, Video
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Fight for Your Rights! SMARTboard Resource

Informative and fun social studies game for teaching the Constitution and the Bill of Rights designed for your SMARTboard. Use with large or small groups, as a warm-up or refresher, on our government, rights, and liberties. Your students are sure to love this resource. Download now so you don’t have to have an internet connection in your classroom!

  • Resource Type: Games, Quizzes, Video
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

The Core Documents Collection – Documents and Debates 1865-2009

The Core Documents Collection – Documents and Debates is structured around a series of topics, each based on a question for debate. For each topic, there is a collection of documents that, together, form the basis of argument over that topic – from those who debated it at a given point in American history. Volume One covers 1865-2009.
The goal is to explore a series of critical moments in American history by asking questions for which there are not simple yes/no answers, but instead call for informed discussion and rational debate. The Documents and Debates readers also include appendices of additional documents, and together are a perfect fit for any American History survey course, including AP U.S. History.

  • Resource Type: Primary Sources
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy, Rights and Responsibilities
  • Grades: 10, 11, 12

The Constitution in Action – Origin of the Bill of Rights: Madison’s Amendments

History is the chronicle of choices made by actors/agents/protagonists in specific contexts. This lesson places students at the First Federal Congress and asks them to respond to the amendments James Madison proposed on June 8, 1789. Which of Madison’s proposals should they amend to the Constitution? Should they consider amendments proposed at state ratifying conventions as well? Whatever they decide, should amendments be placed at the end of the Constitution or woven into the body of the text, as Madison preferred?

  • Resource Type: Interactives, Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit), Primary Sources
  • Subject: Rights and Responsibilities
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

The Constitution in Action – Origin of the Bill of Rights: State Amendments

History is the chronicle of choices made by actors/agents/protagonists in specific contexts. This lesson places students at a critical moment in our nation’s founding, when Americans considered whether to ratify the Constitution. Should they agree to the document as-is, without making any changes? Students will examine and evaluate numerous amendments proposed at state ratifying conventions. Only by looking at the full sweep of amendments offered by the states can students understand the historical context of the Bill of Rights.

  • Resource Type: Interactives, Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit), Primary Sources
  • Subject: Rights and Responsibilities
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

Japanese American Internment

On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which gave the military broad powers to ban any citizen from a coastal area stretching from Washington state to California and extending inland into southern Arizona. For the next four years, more than 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry—77,000 of them American citizens—were removed from this area and incarcerated indefinitely without criminal charges or trial. Forty-six years and eight presidents later, on August 10, 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 into law.

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

A Conversation on the Importance of the Japanese Internment Cases

Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony M. Kennedy discuss two landmark cases, Korematsu v. U.S. and Hirabayashi v. U.S., in which the Supreme Court tried to strike a balance between individual rights and national security during wartime. The cases stem from President Franklin Roosevelt’s 1942 executive order that mandated the relocation of Japanese and Japanese Americans to internment camps. This video complements the documentary Korematsu and Civil Liberties.

  • Resource Type: Closed Captions, Video
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12