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.

  • Resource Type: Essays, Primary Sources
  • Subject: Rights and Responsibilities
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

Do I Have a Right?: Bill of Rights Edition (Game and Teacher Guide)

In the Bill of Rights edition of Do I Have a Right? your students run a law firm that specializes in constitutional law, specifically the rights protected in the Bill of Rights. Clients bring various complaints, and students must identify if they “have a right.” As students successfully resolve cases by matching them with the correct attorneys, their law firm grows along with the skills of their lawyers.

  • Resource Type: Games, Interactives
  • Subject: Rights and Responsibilities
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8

Bill of Rights

The Bill of Rights is on permanent display at the National Archives in Washington, DC. This original joint resolution of Congress proposed 12 amendments to the United States Constitution, but only 10 were ratified. Added to the Constitution in 1791 as the first 10 amendments, the Bill of Rights explicitly protected freedom of speech, of the press, of religion, and of assembly, among many other rights.

  • Resource Type: Primary Sources
  • Subject: Rights and Responsibilities
  • Grades: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Why Should We Care? Understanding Rights and Responsibilities as Citizens

Students will identify some of the rights they enjoy as a citizen, and what responsibilities accompany those rights. They will reflect on whether or not they have a responsibility to protect the rights of others as well as their own.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Rights and Responsibilities
  • Grades: K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

James Madison and the Bill of Rights

This short video traces the evolution of James Madison’s thinking about the necessity of a Bill of Rights. While originally opposed to both a bill of rights and conditional ratification, Madison came to appreciate the political and the practical efficacy of both. Professor Jack Rakove notes that, unlike many bills of rights which use the phrase “the government ought not”, the American Bill of Rights says “the government shall not”, thus creating a set of legal commands to limit government.

  • Resource Type: Video
  • Subject: Rights and Responsibilities
  • Grades: 11, 12

César Chávez Collection

On March 31, we celebrate César Chávez Day. Chávez, a civil rights and labor activist, co-founded the United Farm Workers Union and used nonviolent protests to fight for the rights of laborers. The Share My Lesson team has identified lesson plans and resources you can use in your classes to help teach your students about César Chávez.

  • Resource Type: Audio, Essays, Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit), Research (Digests of Primary Sources)
  • Subject: Rights and Responsibilities
  • Grades: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Fundamental Freedoms

This lesson uses three Supreme Court cases to illustrate the difficulty in balancing our rights as citizens with the authority of a governmental body. Students will learn what our rights are, where they come from, and how far they extend.

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

Creation of the Bill of Rights: “Retouching the Canvas”

This lesson will focus on the arguments either for or against the addition of a Bill of Rights between 1787 and 1789. By examining the views of prominent Americans in original documents, students will see that the issue at the heart of the debate was whether a Bill of Rights was necessary to secure and fulfill the objects of the American Revolution and the principles of the Declaration of Independence. Students will also gain an understanding of the origins of the Bill of Rights and how it came to be part of what Thomas Jefferson called “the American mind,” as well as a greater awareness of the difficulties that proponents had to overcome in order to add the first ten Amendments to the Constitution.

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

Bill of Rights: Hypothetical Cases

“No unreasonable search and seizure, free speech, no cruel and unusual punishment.” These phrases from the Bill of Rights are often seen by students as just more information to memorize. To truly understand the importance of the protections in the Bill of Rights, students must be asked to apply and discuss the amendments. This activity is designed to help them do just that— apply the amendments to hypothetical situations and discuss their importance.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Rights and Responsibilities
  • Grades: 5, 6, 7, 8