The Bill of Rights and Expanding Rights in America

December 15 is Bill of Rights Day, which commemorates the ratification of the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution. We’re sharing documents and activities related to protecting and expanding rights in America ahead of Bill of Rights Day next week.

On DocsTeach.org, the online tool for teaching with documents from the National Archives, we have primary sources and teaching activities related to freedom of speech, the right to petition, protests and demonstrations, and more.

Explore our Rights in America page.

Rights in America. Explore the ways Americans have fought for, attained, and protected their rights. Text overlaid on image of people lined up to vote.

Primary source sets on our Rights in America page include:

A few examples of teaching activities on the page are:

You and your students can also explore online exhibits related to the Bill of Rights and rights in America. In Amending America: Why a Bill of Rights?, learn how the omission of a bill of rights was a mistake almost fatal to ratification of the Constitution. Or explore Records of Rights, where documents from the holdings of the National Archives illustrate how Americans have endeavored to define, secure, and protect their rights.

Two eBooks, created by us at the National Archives, are useful for teaching about the creation of the Bill of Rights and for how the protections afforded by the first 10 amendments have been put to the test over the course of our nation’s history:

Putting the Bill of Rights to the Test
Putting the Bill of Rights to the Test is a student workbook providing opportunities to explore some of the core concepts, or protections, found in the Bill of Rights, and how they’ve been tested throughout American history.
Congress Creates the Bill of Rights eBook
Congress Creates the Bill of Rights focuses on James Madison’s leadership role in creating the Bill of Rights, effectively completing the U.S. Constitution. The reader goes inside the First Congress to experience the debates.

You can also explore the impact of the Bill of Rights through past blog posts. Topics include limits to freedom of the press, suspending due process and Japanese internment, the death penalty and cruel and unusual punishment, freedom of the press and the 14th amendment, freedom of religion, and more.

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