Examining the Second Amendment Using Plain Writing and Historical Context

This post is part of our series on the Bill of Rights. We’re highlighting primary sources selected to help students explore core concepts found within the Bill of Rights, and how they’ve impacted American history. This year marks the 225th anniversary of the ratification of the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights. The National Archives is commemorating the occasion with exhibits, educational resources, and national conversations that examine the amendment process and struggles for rights in the United States.


Gen. Storms, N.Y. State Militia

Gen. Storms, N.Y. State Militia, from Mathew Brady Photographs of Civil War-Era Personalities and Scenes in the Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer. National Archives Identifier 528370

Teachers often use hot topics in the forefront of today’s news to motivate student learning and exploration. The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, because of its controversial nature and ability to polarize large groups in today’s news, might be used effectively as motivation to teach topics such as the importance of plain writing, understanding historical context, and using fundamental research skills in primary sources.

One classroom approach might begin with a class discussion using two primary sources that help illustrate how long the modern controversy surrounding the 2nd Amendment has been going on.

 

After comparing these documents, display for students the text of the 2nd Amendment: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a Free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Ask students to answer: Do we really know the exact meaning of the 2nd amendment? Why or why not? (Note: Many court battles have been fought and won on both sides of the gun-control controversy and the arguments on both sides rage on. See the Cornell Legal Information Institute’s analysis, including some specific court cases.)

Illustrating the Importance of Plain Writing

Instruct students to rewrite the amendment so it is clearer and more applicable to their lives in modern society. Save this to compare to later examples. You might want to discuss the concept of preconceived ideas and personal bias in writing at this time as well.

Then ask: Why does the amendment begin with the concept of a “militia?” What is a militia?

A quick look at a dictionary will reveal something like (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/):

Militia:
A group of people who are not part of the armed forces of a country but are trained like soldiers.

  1. a part of the organized armed forces of a country liable to call only in emergency
  2. a body of citizens organized for military service
  3. The whole body of able-bodied male citizens declared by law as being subject to military service

Have students read and compare the following two primary sources: what later became the Kansas State Constitution (1859) and New York’s proposed amendments to the U.S. Constitution (1788). Point out the wording about the right to bear arms and the need for a militia.

See section 4 of the Kansas Territory Wyandotte Constitution:

The people have the right to bear arms for their defense and security, but standing armies, in time of peace, are dangerous to liberty, and shall not be tolerated, and the military shall be in strict subordination to the civil power.

Wyandotte Constitution

Wyandotte Constitution (Kansas Territory), 7/29/1859, available at http://docsteach.org/documents/6721634/detail

See page 3 of New York’s Ratification of the Constitution with Proposed Amendments:

That the People have the right to keep and bear arms; that a well-regulated Militia, including the body of the People capable of bearing arms, is the proper, natural and safe defense of a Free State; that the Militia should not be subject to martial law, except in times of War, Rebellion, and Insurrection.

That standing Armies in time of peace are dangerous to Liberty, and ought not to be kept up, except in Cases of necessity; and that at all times the Military should be under strict subordination to the civil Power.

New York’s Ratification of the Constitution with Proposed Amendments (page 3)

New York’s Ratification of the Constitution with Proposed Amendments (page 3), 1788, available at https://catalog.archives.gov/id/24278854

Placing Primary Sources in Historical Context

Share with students text from the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence:

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

Direct them to the Founders Online, a National Archives website of correspondence between George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams (and family), Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison before, during, and after the creation of the Bill of Rights.

Share some relevant examples of results for searches on “militia,” “standing army,” and other terms gathered from the example documents. (Explain that a “standing Army” is nearly the opposite of a “militia;” it is a professional military, active in peacetime as well as during time of war, with little or no civilian control.)

John Adams’ “Essay on Man’s Lust for Power” (29 August 1763) with Author’s Comment in 1807:

Power is a Thing of infinite Danger and Delicacy, and was never yet confided to any Man or any Body of Men without turning their Heads.—Was there ever, in any Nation or Country, since the fall, a standing Army that was not carefully watched and contrould by the State so as to keep them impotent, that did not, ravish, plunder, Massacre and ruin, and at last inextricably inslave the People…

Letter to Benjamin Franklin from the Massachusetts House of Representatives, 6 November 1770

… So wretched is the State of this Province, not only to be subjected to absolute Instructions given to the Governor to be the Rule of his Administration, whereby some of the most essential Clauses of our Charter vesting in him Powers to be exercised for the Good of the People are totally rescinded, which is in reality a State of Despotism; but also to a Standing Army, which being uncontrouled by any Authority in the Province, must soon tear up the very Foundation of civil Government.

Letter from Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, Secretary of State, during the Constitutional Convention, 20 Dec 1787

…I will now add what I do not like. First the omission of a bill of rights providing clearly and without the aid of sophisms for freedom of religion, freedom of the press, protection against standing armies, restriction against monopolies, the eternal and unremitting force of the habeas corpus laws, and trials by jury in all matters of fact triable by the laws of the land and not by the law of Nations…

Ask students to search Founders Online themselves for more evidence of colonial discussions centered on the militia, standing armies, and the right to bear arms written in the mid to late 1700s. Discuss how day-to-day life differed in 1787 from today. Have them decide what the reasons might be for having the right to keep and bear arms in that time period. After gathering more evidence, ask them to rewrite the 2nd Amendment again in their own words as if they were living in 1787 and then compare the three versions:

  • the actual 2nd Amendment,
  • their first rewritten modern version, and
  • their rewritten version from the viewpoint of a citizen in 1787.

 

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New eBook and Lesson: Representing Congress

Representing Congress: Clifford K. Berryman Political CartoonsThe new eBook Representing Congress: Clifford K. Berryman’s Political Cartoons presents a selection of cartoons to engage students in a discussion of what Congress is, how it works, and what it does. It features the masterful work of one of America’s preeminent political cartoonists and showcases his ability to use portraits, representative symbols and figures, and iconic personifications to convey thought-provoking insights into the institutions and issues of civic life.

In addition to the eBook, we’ve created an accompanying lesson to use with your students.

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Freedom of the Press Under Stress

This post is part of our series on the Bill of Rights. We’re highlighting primary sources selected to help students explore core concepts found within the Bill of Rights, and how they’ve impacted American history. This year marks the 225th anniversary of the ratification of the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights. The National Archives is commemorating the occasion with exhibits, educational resources, and national conversations that examine the amendment process and struggles for rights in the United States.

Though freedom of the press was enshrined in the Bill of Rights in 1789, its application would be tested early in our nation’s history. When editor William Durell reprinted an article that compared President John Adams to infamous traitor Benedict Arnold in his rural New York newspaper the Mount Pleasant Register, he was the first person arrested under the Sedition Act.

Indictment of William Durell, United States vs. William Durell

Indictment of William Durell, United States vs. William Durell National Archives Identifier 1067894

Through documents of United States v. William Durell, including this indictment, students can see how the Sedition Act passed by Congress on July 14, 1798 aimed to limit freedom of the press.  The seditious paragraph (originally printed in the New Windsor Gazette) was in response to a recent quote from John Adams that stated independence was not his initial goal, but that it grew to be an “indispensible necessity” to preserve liberty.  For this belief, the article likened him to Benedict Arnold about to betray or sell the US to Britain.  That after the United States was once again “made an appendage to the British Monarchy,” Adams would hold “the first office under his Brittanic Majesty.”

Indictment of William Durell, United States vs. William Durell

Indictment of William Durell, United States vs. William Durell, National Archives Identifier 1067894

Though clearly a controversial act, the article was criminal due to the recent passing of the Sedition Act.  Passed at a time when the Adams administration and its Federalist allies feared both war abroad with France and dissension at home, the Sedition Act made it a crime for anyone to “print, utter, or publish . . . any false, scandalous, and malicious writing” against any part of the government.  If the intent was to defame, bring them into contempt, or “excite against them…the hatred of the good people of the United States,” it was seditious and punishable by up to 2 years in jail and a $2,000 fine.

Twenty five people were arrested for violating for violating the act, and all ten brought to trial were found guilty, including William Durell.  After delays, Durell was found guilty and sentenced to four months in jail, a $50 fine, and a $2,000 bond guaranteeing good behavior for 2 years.  In addition to the verdict, the long delay and seizure of his property by the local sheriff led to Durell to seek clemency from the court to help support his wife and five children.  He would receive a partial pardon from John Adams (he was still on the hook for the bond for good behavior) making him the only person convicted of violating the Sedition Act to be pardoned.

Ask your students to carefully analyze the indictment.  Model careful document analysis.

Focus particular attention to the specific language used to describe William Durell and his crime (page 1 of indictment). Terms such as “wicked, malicious, seditious and ill-disposed person” and “wickedly, maliciously, and unlawfully did print and publish” should jump out at students. Then, focus attention on the selection that is quoted from the Mount Pleasant Register that compares John Adams to Benedict Arnold(page 2 of indictment).

Ask students to answer the following, citing specific evidence from the text:

  • How does the indictment describe William Durell and his crime?
  • What was William Durell accused of doing to John Adams? Be specific.
  • Reading the Section 2 of the Sedition Act, did William Durell violate the law?  Why or why not?

After analyzing the document itself, lead a class discussion focused on one of the following questions:

  • Do you think the Sedition Act was constitutional? Explain.
  • How would our nation be different if the Sedition act was still in effect? Explain the consequences.

Additional Resources:

Explore related writings from John Adams via Founder’s Online, an online resource that has put transcripts from thousands of documents from the Founding Fathers.

To read the address that led to John Adams being compared to Benedict Arnold:

To read the text of John Adams pardon of William Durell:

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“Freedom of” or “Freedom From” Religion?

This post is part of our series on the Bill of Rights. We’re highlighting primary sources selected to help students explore core concepts found within the Bill of Rights, and how they’ve impacted American history. This year marks the 225th anniversary of the ratification of the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights. The National Archives is commemorating the occasion with exhibits, educational resources, and national conversations that examine the amendment process and struggles for rights in the United States.


For hundreds of years before even the passage of the Bill of Rights, individuals came to our shores seeking the opportunity to worship freely and without persecution. These ideals were solidified in the passage of the First Amendment. It defends an individual’s right to worship, but also protects individuals from the government supporting a particular religion:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

But what if these two issues come into conflict? How does the First Amendment find balance between the establishment clause and free exercise clause?

The memorandum opinion of U.S. District Judge Jack Roberts in the Madalyn Murray O’Hair et al. v. Thomas O. Paine, et al. case allows students to examine these issues more closely.

In a nationally televised event on Christmas Eve 1968, Apollo 8 astronauts Bill Anders, Jim Lovell, and Frank Borman read the first 10 verses from the book of Genesis in the Bible.

25.3

The Apollo 8 crew saw the horizon vertically, with the lunar surface to the right. (Rising Earth Greets Apollo VIII Astronauts, 12/29/1968. From the Records of the U.S. Information Agency. National Archives Identifier: 2641570)

Feeling her First Amendment rights had been violated, American Atheists founder Madalyn Murray O’Hair filed suit against Thomas O. Paine, the administrator of NASA, and the space agency. O’Hair is best known for her role in Murray v. Curlett, that was consolidated with Abington School District v. Schempp, and led to the Supreme Court’s 1963 ruling that school-sponsored Bible reading in public schools was unconstitutional.

She believed that because the Apollo 8 crew read from the scripture, her rights were infringed upon as an atheist. O’Hair claimed that NASA, a federal agency, instructed the astronauts to read from the Bible and this was a direct violation of separation of church and state. She further alleged that NASA was trying to establish Christianity as the official religion of the United States. As a tax payer, O’Hair argued that federal funds which supported the space program should not be used to accommodate a Bible on board the space capsule. She also claimed that the date of the Apollo 8 flight was chosen because of religious reasons.

Judge Roberts dismissed the suit, writing that the complaint failed to state a cause of action for which relief could be granted. He argued that the plaintiffs were not coerced to watch the televised event, and if the astronauts had been forced to read from the Bible then the personal rights of the astronauts would have been violated, not those of the plaintiffs. Roberts stated carrying the Bible aboard the space capsule neither advanced nor inhibited religion, and therefore did not violate the establishment clause. Roberts concluded that the scheduling of the Apollo 8 flight to coincide with the Christmas season was “approaching the absurd,” and “The First Amendment does not require the State to be hostile to religion, but only neutral.”

Begin a discussion with your students by asking the following questions to explore this topic:

  • What does freedom of religion mean?
  • What is the establishment clause? What does it do?
  • Does the First Amendment protect someone who is an atheist from being exposed to religion?

Ask students to explore the memorandum opinion of Judge Roberts, carefully noting:

  • What claims does O’Hair base her suit on?
  • What reasons does Judge Roberts give to dismiss the suit?

Conclude with a class discussion and ask students to share:

  • Do you believe O’Hair’s rights were violated? Why or why not?
  • Do you agree with the judge’s opinion? Why or why not?

For a possible follow-up activity, you can engage students in a conversation about other newsworthy cases — for instance, whether or not the placement of a statue of the Ten Commandments inside a federal courthouse, “In God We Trust” printed on money, or “Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance violates the First Amendment.

You can find additional primary sources related to religious freedom, as well as teaching activities about struggles for rights and amending the Constitution, on our special Amending America DocsTeach page.


The full citation of Judge Roberts’s opinion is: Memorandum Opinion in Madalyn Murray O’Hair, et. al. vs. Thomas O. Paine, et. al. (A-69-CA-109), 12/1/1969. Civil Case Files, 1938-1997 (48W030A); Records of the U.S. District Court Western District of Texas (Austin), Record Group 21, National Archives at Fort Worth.

Download the PDF file.

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WWI Posters and Home Cards

Today’s post comes from former education intern Amanda Hatch. She added newly digitized primary sources, found during our 2015 Primarily Teaching institutes, to DocsTeach. Information and applications for our 2016 workshops are available now.

United States Food Administration Additional Directions to First Home Card

This card details the reasons that food sacrifices were necessary as the war moved into 1918. U.S. Food Administration Additional Directions to First Home Card, 12/1/1917. From the Records of the U.S. Food Administration. National Archives Identifier: 20762194

“In this winter of 1918 lies the period when there will be tested in this great free country of ours the question as to whether or not our people are capable of voluntary individual self-sacrifice to save the world,” wrote Herbert Hoover, then head administrator of the newly created U.S. Food Administration.

Because of decreased crop production in Europe and restricted shipping curtailed by German submarines, many of the Allied nations and troops during World War I desperately needed food.

Hoover set in motion a campaign of voluntary food conservation: “Food will win the war.” Posters and home cards encouraging Americans to conserve food became essential to the success of the campaign.

These posters and cards — some of which were digitized by teachers in our Primarily Teaching summer institute at the National Archives at Chicago — provide an engaging way to introduce students to World War I.

Food conservation directions

The other side of the card has additional directions. National Archives Identifier: 20762194

Although war, especially on foreign soil, can be a hard concept to fully visualize and comprehend, these documents help students understand how the war affected individuals and families just like themselves. By examining World War I through the sacrifices made on the homefront as illustrated by these documents, students can better grasp what it was like for Americans being asked to bear the cost of freedom, and the sacrifices made to preserve “this great free country of ours.”

Students can relate to children who had to sacrifice things like macaroni and cheese and sugary sweets in order to feed the starving soldiers and civilians fighting overseas. In a 1917 handout sent to American homes, Hoover outlined the necessity of having at least one wheatless and meatless meal a day. He instituted “Wheatless Wednesdays” and “Meatless Mondays” while encouraging Americans to cut out as much wheat, meat, and sugar from their diet as possible. For many, this meant incorporating a new style of cooking and foregoing favorite items like pasta, cereals, and pastries.

The Wisconsin Food Administration’s list of food substitutions for meatless and wheatless meals

The Wisconsin Food Administration’s list of food substitutions for meatless and wheatless meals, including menu suggestions for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, 12/18/1917. From the Records of the U.S. Food Administration. National Archives Identifier: 20737679

To help with this new diet, the Wisconsin Food Administration offered a list of “substitutions” in place of wheat. Students can have fun analyzing this document because it contains discouraged items they’ll recognize: Graham Crackers, Aunt Jemima pancakes, Triscuits, Vanilla Wafers, and Shredded Wheat. You can ask: What do you think of the substitutions for these items? Would you be willing to give them, or something similar, up for the war effort?

Pamphlets and home cards like those shown below also circulated among American families reminding them that such a sacrifice was done “in freedom’s name.” Though not everyone experienced the horrors of war and faced bullets like those in Europe, men, women, and children on the homefront played a crucial wartime role by conserving food. A 1918 pamphlet reminded people: “Now is the hour of our testing. Let us make it the hour of our victory—victory over the enemy of freedom.”

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Such documents provide a great segue into a classroom discussion about sacrifice. You can ask: Though not asked to conserve food now, does the government ask you to do anything to protect and promote liberty in America? What is the cost of freedom today?

 

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Oppressed Women Ask the Government to “Make Amends”

This post is part of our series on the Bill of Rights. We’re highlighting primary sources selected to help students explore core concepts found within the Bill of Rights, and how they’ve impacted American history. This year marks the 225th anniversary of the ratification of the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights. The National Archives is commemorating the occasion with exhibits, educational resources, and national conversations that examine the amendment process and struggles for rights in the United States.


The right of the people to “petition for redress of grievances” is guaranteed by the Bill of Rights and is part of the rather complex first amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” 

Native women and cannery building

Native women near Copper Center, Alaska, and Old Cannery, Metlakahtla, Alaska, 2/1926. From the Sir Henry Wellcome Collection, 1856 – 1936, National Archives Identifiers 297808 and 297418.

Several essential questions might accompany an investigation into the process of petitioning the Government.

  • What does an historic petition look like?
  • What happens after a petition is submitted?
  • How does one petition a governmental body today?

A petition created by a group of Alaska Native women for themselves and their children on October 10, 1942 during World War II can, in part, answer these and other questions.

Prior to June 13–16, 1942, these families had lived for many generations on St. George and St. Paul Islands of Alaska, in the Bering Sea north of the Aleutian Chain as well as in the Pribilof Islands themselves.  However, as World War II heated up in the Pacific, Japanese forces attacked both Midway Island in the Pacific and Dutch Harbor, Alaska, between June 3 and 6, 1942.  As a result the Japanese occupied the islands of Attu, and Kiska in the Aleutian Chain (Alaska) for nearly a year.

In reaction to fear of capture, the U.S. Government forcibly evacuated all Alaska Native families from both St. Paul and St. George Islands a few days later.  Families were given two hours to pack one suitcase each.  Some watched as their homes, livestock, and remaining possessions were destroyed by the U.S. military while they sailed away.  The ships took them to Funter Bay, Alaska — several thousand miles east of their homes — to spend most of the balance of the war in old fish cannery buildings.  Some of the men of the community joined the Army or were taken back to the islands to conduct the seal harvest, leaving a large number of women and children alone in the cannery buildings at Funter Bay for months on end.

The following petition shows their dismay and concern.

Sect3wAleutsPetitionNRIA-prib-doc-5_a

Aleut Women’s Petition, 10/10/1942. From the Records of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. National Archives Identifier: 2641505

Ask your students the following questions as they read the petition:

  • What conditions prompted them to draft a petition to try to gain assistance?
  • What were they asking for?
  • How many women signed the petition?

The administrator of the regional U.S. Fish and Wildlife Administration received the petition and took it to his superiors in Washington D.C., threatening to quit his job if the housing situation was not improved.  Unfortunately, nothing was done and he left his job as promised.

Much later, in 1988, President Reagan signed a bill into law making restitution to both Japanese-Americans who had been held in Japanese Relocation camps and the Aleut Natives who had been sent to the canneries during World War II.

You can continue your classroom discussion by reviewing additional primary sources relating to the Aleut relocation, such as:

In 1988, in his remarks when signing the Japanese Relocation Reparations Bill, President Reagan said, “I’d like to note that the bill I’m about to sign also provides funds for members of the Aleut community who were evacuated from the Aleutian and Pribilof Islands after a Japanese attack in 1942. This action was taken for the Aleuts’ own protection, but property was lost or damaged that has never been replaced.”

Today, there is a new process for submitting petitions for both the Executive and Legislative branches of the Federal government online. See:

You could also use this Aleut Women’s Petition when teaching about:

  • The Bill of Rights, the Third Amendment: Quartering Soldiers
  • Women in History
  • Native Alaskans

You can find hundreds of examples of petitions to the government about other subjects on DocsTeach.

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Summer Professional Development Opportunities

Join us for summer PD!


Primarily Teaching

A teacher presents the online DocsTeach activity she created using National Archives documents.

Primarily Teaching is our summer institute for educators on using historical documents in the classroom. At each location, we’ll explore a specific topic using original documents in our archival holdings:

  • The National Archives at Atlanta (Morrow, GA): Equal Opportunity on the WWII Homefront: The Commission on Fair Employment Practices and the South, June 27–July 1
  • The National Archives in Washington, DC: Native American History, July 25–29
  • The Harry S. Truman Library and Museum: Truman and Civil Rights: The Desegregation of the Military, August 1–5

A teacher scans a document during Primarily Teaching.

Digitization is our priority. Each participant will identify between 3 and 5 items (documents, photos, maps, etc.) to scan and describe. We will add these to DocsTeach.org —our online tool for teaching with documents — during the workshop. Participants will produce a DocsTeach learning activity using these digitized primary sources.

After guided research in the case study, participants will have the opportunity to continue researching that topic, or to go on to independently research a more specific topic.

Participation in each session is limited to 10. The fee is $100, which includes all materials. Participants will receive a stipend upon successful completion of the course. Graduate credit is available for an additional fee.

Learn more and apply online.

Primarily Teaching workshops are made possible in part by the National Archives Foundation, through the support of Texas Instruments.


Primarily Teaching Online

Primarily Teaching participants in Seattle in 2015.In the online version of our summer institute for educators, participants will learn tools and techniques to identify primary sources related to the theme Taking a Stand in History in the main online catalog of the National Archives. We’ll add discoveries to DocsTeach.org and participants will create a DocsTeach learning activity for their final exam.

Eight live webinars using GoToMeeting (accessible on most computer and hand-held devices and phones) will be held on Thursdays (8–10 p.m. ET) and Saturdays (12 noon–2 p.m. ET) from July 21 through August 13. Participants may choose to attend the whole series or just a few classes (please note that the July 21st webinar is required for admittance to all others).

This is a free course. One graduate credit hour is available for a fee. Professional development clock-hour certificates are available upon request.

Learn more and apply online.


The White House History Teacher Institute

The White House History Teacher Institute, July 25–28, 2016

For more than 215 years, the White House has been intrinsically tied to American history, serving the roles of home, office, museum, and stage for each president and first lady who lived there. It also serves as a symbol, representing the nation and our democracy. Article 2 of the U.S. Constitution grants the president many powers and responsibilities that carry large and sometimes difficult implications for the country, and many momentous decisions and events have taken place within the walls of the President’s House.

Join the White House Historical Association, the Herbert Hoover Presidential Museum, the National Archives, the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, and National History Day for a four-day teacher institute from July 25–28 that will evaluate the history of the White House and its occupants. Teachers will participate in interactive workshops, visit historic sites throughout Washington, D.C., and learn from experts about White House history, presidential history, and the presidency of Herbert Hoover. Using primary sources, historic sites, and artifacts, teachers will explore many ways that the White House can be utilized in the classroom within the core and C3 curriculum. Each teacher will receive a professional development certificate for 25 hours of professional development.

Participation is limited to 30 junior high and high school teachers. Applications will be accepted through April 30, 2016.

Apply online.

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St. Patrick’s Day Primary Sources

Just for fun — we’ve got a lineup of St. Patrick’s Day-themed primary sources to bring a little shamrock spirit into your classroom this March 17th.

The Original Federal Order

Page 1 of George Washington's General Order of March 16, 1780, granting Saint Patrick's Day as a holiday to the troopsOn 3/16/1780 George Washington’s General Order granted Saint Patrick’s Day as a holiday to the troops.


Cartoons

A determined Uncle Sam rolls up his sleeves and preparing to use a large club to deal with the many German propagandist snakes slithering in the grass around him3/17/1918 – On Saint Patrick’s Day, cartoonist Clifford Berryman showed a determined Uncle Sam rolling up his sleeves and preparing to use a large club to deal with the many German propagandist snakes slithering in the grass around him. Teddy bear is by his side wielding a smaller stick. Throughout World War I the U.S. Government was forced to divert substantial resources to counter skilled German propaganda aimed at weakening the resolve of the American people to continue the war effort. Berryman used the Saint Patrick’s Day theme of driving the snakes out of Ireland as a model for driving out the German propagandists.

Mr. DC is in great need of St. Patrick

3/17/1922 – Cartoonist Clifford Berryman’s familiar character Mr. DC is in great need of St. Patrick. Evil snakes representing major problems with Prohibition frighten him. Poison liquor and bootlegging were a direct result of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which prohibited the manufacture, sale or transportation of intoxicating liquors. In celebration of the famed St. Patrick who allegedly drove the snakes from Ireland, Mr. DC could use some of St. Patrick’s secrets to rid the District of Columbia of its problems.

A man representing Congress being squeezed by "investigation" serpents3/17/1924 – On St. Patrick’s Day, Cartoonist Clifford Berryman highlighted the main issue of the day – congressional investigations of scandal and bribery in both the executive and legislative branches over oil leases and other issues. He showed a man representing Congress being squeezed by “investigation” serpents, preventing other legislative activities from moving forward.


Parades


Food in the Military


Presidents and their families

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Freedom to Cover the World Series

This post is part of our series on the Bill of Rights. We’re highlighting primary sources selected to help students explore core concepts found within the Bill of Rights, and how they’ve impacted American history. This year marks the 225th anniversary of the ratification of the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights. The National Archives is commemorating the occasion with exhibits, educational resources, and national conversations that examine the amendment process and struggles for rights in the United States.


Baseball and social change have been linked since Jackie Robinson broke the color line in 1947. Thirty years later, Sports Illustrated reporter Melissa Ludtke broken another line when she sued Commissioner of Baseball Bowie Kuhn to gain access to the locker room.  This “gender line” in the reporting of sports calls out 1st amendment-guaranteed freedom of the press and the 14th amendment’s equal protection clause.

While Ludtke enjoyed access to the locker room for basketball and hockey games for over two years, the NY Yankees barred her from the locker room.  Through the complaint filed by Melissa Ludtke against Bowie Kuhn, students can see the limitations placed on female journalists into the late 1970s.

Selection from Complaint, Melissa Ludtke and Time, Incorporated v. Bowie Kuhn

Selection from Complaint, Melissa Ludtke and Time, Incorporated v. Bowie Kuhn, Commissioner of Baseball, et al. From the Records of District Courts of the United States. National Archives Identifier: 7329663.

The complaint itself outlines the chain of events that led to the suit. After rising through the ranks as a junior reporter, Melissa Ludtke was assigned to cover the baseball playoffs and World Series.  

During Game 1 of the World Series, though the LA Dodgers had granted her access to their visitor’s locker room, Ludtke was told by Director of Information Robert Wirze that she would not be allowed to visit the locker room to respect the privacy of the players.

Ludtke was denied entry again after Game 6, which included perhaps one of the best individual performances in baseball history.  During that game, NY Yankees star Reggie Jackson earned the nickname “Mr. October” by hitting three straight home runs on three straight pitches (from three different pitchers, no less).  The Yankees would win their first World Series in over a decade; but Ludtke would not be allowed to interview Reggie or others about it in the locker room.  

With the 1978 baseball season approaching, Ludtke and Time, Inc. (the parent company of Sports Illustrated) filed a suit against Bowie Kuhn, the New York Yankees, Mayor of New York City Abraham Beame, and other officials.  In the complaint, they alleged discrimination on 14th amendment grounds since she was being deprived of the “opportunity to cover baseball in the same manner and to the same extent as her male colleagues and competitors.”  Her 1st amendment rights were infringed, they alleged, when she was denied “fair access to a source of news.”

In the judgment, the court ordered the New York Yankees to allow Melissa Ludtke and all female accredited sports reporters access to the clubhouse locker rooms.  And while Ludtke’s case opened baseball locker-room doors to female reporters (growing at that time to about 50% of journalists) with an equal access policy for accredited reporters, Ludtke herself left sports journalism and began reporting on social issues.

Photo and diagram of the locker roomTo introduce this topic with your students, begin a conversation by sharing a photo and diagram of the New York Yankees Locker Room.  Ask students to analyze the primary sources for understanding.  Discuss the layout and activities that would occur in this space after a baseball game.

Then, ask your students to carefully analyze the complaint.  Model careful document analysis.  Focus attention on the basic questions: who, what, where, when, how, and why. Ask students to track the chronology of events to summarize the events that lead to the complaint. Ask students to note the specific arguments and reasoning that Ludtke and her lawyers made for access to the locker room. 

After reading the complaint, ask students to imagine the response provided by Major League Baseball.  What arguments would they make to deny entry to the locker room?  Are any of those arguments valid?

Finally, introduce the Order and Judgment.  What did the judge decide?

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Ready. Set. Transcribe!

Images across erasOur goal is to transcribe 2,000 pages next week! We invite teachers, students, and all “citizen archivists” to help us make the primary source documents in our holdings more accessible by transcribing them.

Not only will these new transcriptions enhance searches in our catalog, but they will be included on DocsTeach — our online tool for teaching with documents!

Are you ready to accept the challenge? Go to our transcription missions page and find the mission of the day. Then Ready. Set. Transcribe!

Sunday, March 13: Revolution and the New Nation (1754-1820s) and Expansion and Reform (1801-1861)
Monday March 14: Civil War and Reconstruction (1850-1877)
Tuesday, March 15: The Development of the Industrial United States (1870-1900 )
Wednesday, March 16: The Emergence of Modern American (1890-1930)
Thursday, March 17: The Great Depression and World War II (1929-1945)
Friday, March 18: Postwar United States (1945 to early 1970s)
Saturday, March 19: Contemporary United States (1968-Present)

If you’re new to transcription, learn how it works on our getting started page.

All of these primary sources are available on DocsTeach. And we’ll incorporate all transcriptions into the new and improved version of DocsTeach that launches in a few months, complete with a new transcription feature!

This transcription challenge is part of Sunshine Week — promoting public access to government information.

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