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.
Documents and Debates in American History and Government – Vol. 2, 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.
American Indian Sovereignty
In this lesson, students will learn about how the U.S. Constitution defined relations between the United States and Native nations; important events in the history of American Indians’ sovereignty in the United States; and the 2020 landmark Supreme Court decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma in which the Court affirmed the federal government’s responsibility to honor treaty obligations.
Bill of Rights in Action: The Kennewick Controversies
This case study asks students to delve in to the complicated issues surrounding repatriation and ownership of ancient human remains.
Voting and Elections in Early America
Google Cultural Institute exhibit by Constitutional Rights Foundation & Barat Education Foundation’s Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources Program. Long before the pilgrims landed, voting and elections were taking place in America. For example, the Five Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, a powerful alliance of Native American tribes who inhabited territory west of the Colonies, had established a system of representative government sometime around 1500 that lasted until the Revolutionary War. Women played a prominent role in choosing its political leaders.
60-Second Civics Podcasts
60-Second Civics is a podcast that provides a quick and convenient way for listeners to learn about our nation’s government, the Constitution, and our history. The podcast explores themes related to civics and government, the constitutional issues behind the headlines, and the people and ideas that formed our nation’s history and government. The show’s content is primarily derived from the Center for Civic Education’s education for democracy curricula, including We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution, Foundations of Democracy, and Elements of Democracy. It’s easy to subscribe! Listen on iTunes or Stitcher or subscribe via RSS.
American Indian Reservation Controversies
Reservation Controversies covers historic issues dealing with American Indian Reservations in the 1870s. This experience uses problem based learning (PBL), in which the student is confronted or faced with a real world problem which has no preconceived right or wrong answers. This scenario puts the student as prospective Indian Agent for the Comanche Indian reservation in 1873. Using various teaching/learning strategies, which include brainstorming, role playing, and oral presentations, the students access primary sources and other background sources to arrive at a recommendation, based on the information. The teacher, librarian, and other support staff act as guides or advisors through most of the process.
A Deep Stain on the American Character: John Marshall and Justice for Native Americans
In this lesson, students will learn about the actions of John Marshall concerning the Cherokee nation. They will explore how his actions helped to advance justice and, through his example, learn how they can advance justice in their own lives.
Civic Action and Change (Lesson Plan and Powerpoint)
Students explore examples of civic action and change by looking at the efforts in four movements in the 20th century; women’s rights, disability awareness, Native American rights, and migrant worker rights. Through these examples, student will describe the process of civic action through the I AM chart (Inform, Act, Maintain).
The 19th Amendment and the Road to Universal Suffrage
In this activity, students will explore the struggle for universal suffrage long after both men and women constitutionally had the right to vote. Following a progressive timeline, primary sources highlight voting problems that arose for minority groups throughout the 20th century. Students will answer questions as they work through the documents to reflect on if and when universal suffrage was ultimately achieved.