Juneteenth (June 19) commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers led by Major General Gordon Granger landed at Galveston, Texas, with news that the Civil War was over and that enslaved people were free. While the day has been celebrated ever since, it was only recognized as a federal holiday in 2021. This resource page includes a video of a conversation with Annette Gordon-Reed about her book “On Juneteenth,” primary sources from the Gilder Lehrman Collection, and a lesson plan “Juneteenth and Emancipation.”
Over the course of four lessons, students will analyze primary source documents that convey the realities of slavery in the United States, represent various viewpoints on emancipation, and provide context for the federal holiday of Juneteenth, which is the most widely recognized commemoration of slavery’s end. Students will read and assess different types of documents not only to comprehend the language of the text but also to infer meaning and integrate historical context. They will use textual evidence to draw conclusions and present arguments as directed in each lesson, including debating whether Juneteenth is the date that should be celebrated as the end of slavery in the United States.
This four-minute video provides students with an introduction to the election of 1912 and the emergence of the progressive Bull Moose party, named for Theodore Roosevelt’s saying after an assassination attempt that he was “fit as a bull moose” to become president again. Focusing on Theodore Roosevelt’s decision to challenge President William Taft for the 1912 Republican Party nomination, the video shows students how the newly created system of direct primaries affected the race, and how Roosevelt’s failure to wrest the nomination from Taft resulted in the formation of the short-lived Bull Moose party. The video is useful for lessons focused on the election of 1912, or for lessons focused on the political reforms of the progressive era.
This 6-minute video explores how the Cold War was an ideological, and sometimes military, struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union. In general, the Soviet Union supported the expansion of communist governments around the globe, and the United States supported anti-communist regimes, including both democracies and dictatorships. By the 1950s, these tensions were seen in Latin America, and revolutions, coups, and uprisings became commonplace throughout most of the latter half of the twentieth century.
This 12-minute video clarifies the connections between the New York Times Co. v. United States Supreme Court case and the recent battles that Presidents Obama and Trump have fought to contain national security leaks. Focusing on the broader issues of freedom of the press in a democracy, the video helps students draw a line between the New York Times decision from 1971 and the ongoing disputes between the public’s right to know and the president’s right to secrecy. Useful for examining the First Amendment and the role of the press in a democratic society, the video also provides students with the historical context surrounding the Pentagon Papers, and the Vietnam War and consequences of the New York Times court decision.
This lesson and its accompanying seven-minute video introduce students to a professional fact-checker, who describes the methods and processes he employs to verify information that appears in news stories. The video explains which claims can be fact-checked, and why some sources are more reliable than others. How do fact-checkers engage in analysis of contemporary and historical claims? How do we distinguish between “bad facts” and “bad narratives” when critiquing media sources? Examine the tools that fact-checkers use to identify and interrogate claims, and put those skills into practice.
Find lesson plans generated by teachers who completed the Cultures of Independence workshop at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. The lessons illustrate how local and national history can be taught through a focus on a physical place and primary sources. Criteria for selecting lessons also included the teaching of historiography and, when appropriate, connections to the founding principles of the United States. Use a lesson from your region, or become inspired to create your own.
The 150th anniversary of the District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act of 1862
occurred in 2012. This bill was introduced to Congress to end slavery in the District of
Columbia. Many citizens and members of Congress alike noted that the legality of slavery in
the District of Columbia was inconsistent with the ideals and aspirations of the nation. Congress
approved the bill, and President Abraham Lincoln signed the act.
This activity features the District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act of 1862 and
other primary and secondary sources that tell the story of Congress’s role in this first major step
toward the freeing of enslaved African Americans. While intended for 8th grade students, the
lesson can be adapted for other grade levels.
In the Constitution, Congress is charged with providing for the general welfare of the country’s
citizens. Historically, this has meant improving transportation, promoting agriculture
and industry, protecting health and the environment and seeking ways to solve social and
economic problems. In 1956, Congress passed the Federal-Aid Highway Act, popularly known as the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act, authorizing federal funding for the extension and
construction of a robust network of interstate highways. This project was one of the largest public
works in U.S. history establishing key transportation infrastructure that impacted lives of all
Americans — changing communities, access and economic possibilities and also providing key
routes for evacuating urban centers — a critical national defense issue in the Cold War era.
Analyzing primary source material, students discuss the origins and reasons for the National
Interstate and Defense Highways Act. Then, they work with historical and contemporary maps
as they consider the impact this important congressionally funded project. While intended for 8th
grade students, the lesson can be adapted for other grade levels.
September 17 is Constitution Day! We have created different writing prompts along with the writing space for students. These writing prompts can be used as individual assignments, at writing stations, or even for group discussions!