An Invitation to Test a New WWI App

Update, 2/9/17: Sign-ups to test the WWI app are now closed due to your enthusiastic response. You can still download the beta version — and look for the release in the coming month!

Our app developer Historypin is looking for teachers who actively teach World War I in the classroom to test out a new Remembering WWI app before its launch in the next month.

Bear on Soldier's Shoulders

From the app’s Mascots collection: Photograph 165-WW-472A-061; Regimental Mascot; American Unofficial Collection of World War I Photographs; Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs, Record Group 165; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.

If you’re a classroom teacher interested in testing the beta version and participating in a 25-30 minute call, please sign up with Historypin via the user-testing sign-up form.

Intended in part for classroom instruction, the app provides educators with the digital sources and narrative-building tools to help foster an understanding of the Great War.

The app is currently available for iOS and will be available for Android very soon. For those interested, please download the app in advance of a confirmed user-testing session.

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New Webinar on Teaching the Civil Rights Movement

Join us for “Records of Change: Teaching the Civil Rights Movement with Primary Sources from the National Archives” on February 8 at 4:30 pm ET.

Register for this free webinar now.

For God sakes help those poor innocent people in Selma Alabama.

Excerpt from “Letter from Mrs. E. Jackson in Favor of Voting Rights,” 3/8/1965. From the Records of the U.S. House of Representatives. https://catalog.archives.gov/id/2173239

Bring the Civil Rights Movement into your classroom with primary sources from the National Archives. During this interactive webinar, examine the Federal Government’s role in advancing the Civil Rights Movement.

Books saying Ruling, Readin', 'ritin', 'Rithmetic

“Fourth ‘R’ in Public Schools,” by Jim Berryman. From the Records of the U.S. Senate. https://catalog.archives.gov/id/5743271

Explore how the holdings of the NationalArchives reveal the voices of those who advocated for and those who resisted change in this transformative era in American history. Practice techniques for analyzing primary sources and learn about additional resources, including DocsTeach.org and lesson plans from the Center for Legislative Archives.

This free webinar from our Center for Legislative Archives is hosted by our friends at the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship. It will last approximately one hour. Register now. Connection information will be emailed to registrants the week of the webinar.

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Eyewitness Accounts of Anti-Jewish Persecution in Russia in the Early 20th Century: The Cowen Report

A newly digitized immigration file can help students learn about persecution against Jewish people in Russia in the early 1900s, and how it caused a spike in Jewish immigration to the United States.


plunder and murder were the order of the dayToday’s post comes from classroom teacher Amanda Hatch, writing about the Cowen Report that she digitized and described as a National Archives intern. Please note that this primary source document contains descriptions of disturbing events.

What at first boded to be a lengthy, dry immigration report, soon revealed itself as one of the hidden treasures of the National Archives. Writing in a gripping, first-person narrative, immigration inspector Philip Cowen gives an eyewitness report of anti-Jewish persecution in Russia at the dawn of the 20th century.

Sent by the U.S. Government on an undercover mission, Cowen traveled to the Pale of Settlement in Russia (St. Petersburg, Kief, and Odessa) in order to discover the cause of increased Jewish immigration from Russia to the United States. His findings revealed appalling and unremitting persecution of Russian Jews.

Through a tale of political intrigue, radical revolutionaries, and rampant corruption, Cowen tells of the Russian government’s persecution of Jews. Since 1882, the May Laws forced Jews out of their homes and required them all to live in the Pale of Settlement.

Diagram of HomeCrowded into such a small area, the Jews struggled to find jobs and pay rising rent prices. In poignant pictures and narration, Cowen tells of when he saw eight Jews living in one small room with children sleeping on top of the stove in order to stay warm. Speaking with one such family, Cowen thought he heard the wife say her husband earned 3 roubles a week:

‘What!’ cried she, ‘3 roubles? No, 2 roubles. How happy would we be if he earned three.’…Never in my life did a half dollar seem so large to me.

Yet most tragic of all is Cowen’s description of the 637 pogroms, targeted attacks on Jews, committed against Jewish communities in Russia. During these pogroms, entire Jewish cities were ransacked and destroyed while hundreds of Jews were brutally murdered.

Cowen Report ExcerptCowen writes of these attacks through the stories of eyewitnesses who survived the pogroms. He writes of the Bialystok pogrom: “It lasted from 11 to 6:30PM. The police stood by but sought not to check the awful work, rather encouraging it… The killing was barbarous; nails were driven into the heads of people, their bones were broken in their hands and bodies, and then they were clubbed to death with rifles.”

Photos of homes riddled with gun shots provide a further insight into these terrible events. “The houses looked as if an enemy had gone through the town, its way fought step by step. Scarcely a house occupied by a Jew escaped riddling…”

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In order to escape such persecution, Jews sought to immigrate to America. But by accompanying Jewish immigrants on their journey to escape Russia, Cowen was able to report that Jewish persecution did not end with their departure. Jews were repeatedly charged double or triple the cost of passports and boat tickets to America. Cowen’s report includes details of the immigrants’ voyage as well as photos of Jewish immigrants and a luggage tag.

Luggage tag and immigrants

Cowen’s immigration report truly creates a window into history for students and teachers alike. Through an intriguing first-person narrative, eyewitness accounts and photographs, this document helps students understand the anti-Jewish persecution that existed at the beginning of the 20th century, and explains the spike in Jewish immigration to the United States at that time.

You can read and teach with excerpts of the Cowen Report on DocsTeach, our online tool for teaching with documents from the National Archives.

Find the entire Cowen Report in our main online catalog. Parts of the report were originally digitized by teachers in our Primarily Teaching 2014 summer workshop in Washington, DC.

All images in this post come from the Cowen Report. The full citation is:

Cowen Report – European Investigation Entry No. 9; 1906 – 1907; File No. 51411/056; Subject and Policy Files, 1893 – 1957; Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Record Group 85; National Archives Building, Washington, DC.

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Putting the Bill of Rights to the Test: A New Student Workbook

This primary source-based workbook helps students explore concepts found in the Bill of Rights.

Today is Bill of Rights Day — and this year we celebrate the 225th anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights!

Putting the Bill of Rights to the TestOur brand new primary source-based workbook—Putting the Bill of Rights to the Test—helps students explore some of the core concepts, or protections, found in the Bill of Rights, and how they’ve been tested throughout American history.

It’s free and available for download now:

  • iTunes – Download with iBooks on your iPad, iPhone, or Mac; and with iTunes on your computer.
  • ePub File (20.5MB) – This standard eBook format works with eBook apps on your phone or tablet, your eReader device, or with an ePub reader for your computer or web browser.
  • PDF File  (9.5MB) – View the PDF on your computer or mobile device, or print it out for students. This version includes blank spaces for student responses.

Each chapter leads students to consider the implications of one core concept and includes:

  • Background Information
  • A key question or questions to frame students’ thinking
  • Questions to help them analyze the document
  • A primary source document or documents
  • Discussion questions to help students consider the impact or importance of the concept

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The concepts covered include:

  • No Law Respecting an Establishment of Religion, or Prohibiting the Free Exercise Thereof (First Amendment)
  • Freedom of Speech (First Amendment)
  • Freedom of the Press (First Amendment)
  • Right of the People Peaceably to Assemble (First Amendment)
  • Right to Petition the Government for a Redress of Grievances (First Amendment)
  • Right of the People to Keep and Bear Arms (Second Amendment)
  • Unreasonable Searches and Seizures (Fourth Amendment)
  • Deprived of Life, Liberty, or Property, Without Due Process (Fifth Amendment)
  • The Right to Counsel (Sixth Amendment)
  • Cruel and Unusual Punishments (Eighth Amendment)

We hope you find this to be a useful addition to your curricular materials!

Other Bill of Rights-related resources:

You can find additional eBooks at: http://www.archives.gov/publications/ebooks

The year 2016 marked the 225th anniversary of the ratification of the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights. The National Archives commemorated the occasion with exhibits, educational resources, and national conversations examining the amendment process and struggles for rights in the United States. The initiative was presented in part by AT&T, Seedlings Foundation, and the National Archives Foundation.

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New Bill of Rights Distance Learning Programs

Bill of Rights day is this Thursday, December 15. To celebrate the 225th anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights, we’re offering brand new free distance learning programs for the K-12 classroom.

Eagle puppet with staff member, Cartoon of people exercising rights

(Cartoon “The Bill of Rights and Beyond,” National Archives Identifier 24520428)

A National Archives facilitator will connect with your class for a fun and interactive experience via traditional videoconferencing equipment or through a web-based platform.

Each program has been designed to enhance content knowledge of the Bill of Rights and strengthen critical thinking skills by analyzing primary sources from the holdings of the National Archives.

Programs are available Tuesday-Thursday and must be scheduled at least two weeks in advance.

For more information or to schedule your free program please email us at distancelearning@nara.gov.

Our Classroom Bill of Rights! for Lower Elementary

  • For grades K-2
  • 30-45 minutes

Guiding Question: What are rights and why are they important?

Students will be introduced to the concept of rights, discuss why rights are important, and learn about the Bill of Rights with the help of Sammy the American Bald Eagle puppet. As a class, students will create their own classroom Bill of Rights.

Superhero Bill of Rights! for Upper Elementary

  • For grades 3-5
  • 45 minutes

Guiding Question: What are rights and what would the world look like without them? How is the Bill of Rights like a superhero?

Focusing on the five freedoms of the First Amendment, students will learn how the Bill of Rights is like a superhero. Students will analyze primary source documents and photographs and determine which freedom the primary source illustrates from the Bill of Rights. Like a superhero, the Bill of Rights saves the day by providing rights for citizens.

The Bill of Rights in Real Life for Middle School

  • For grades 6-8
  • 45-60 minutes

Guiding Question: Why should we care about the Bill of Rights?

Students will focus on the rights and limitations within the Bill of Rights. They will identify Bill of Rights issues using historical scenarios from the holdings of the National Archives and learn why it is important for citizens to know their rights.

Know Your Rights! for High School

  • Grades 9-12
  • 45-60 minutes

Guiding Question: How can understanding the Bill of Rights empower civic engagement?

Students will examine three historical case studies in preparation for a roundtable discussion with a facilitator from the National Archives. Each case study will serve as an example of how the government has made decisions that violated the Bill of Rights and how everyday citizens took action to hold the government accountable and retain their rights. During the roundtable discussion, students will use their case studies to answer questions such as “Is it ever okay for the government to overstep the Bill of Rights?” and “How can a piece of parchment safeguard individual rights?”


Email us at distancelearning@nara.gov or go to our distance learning page to learn more about these programs.

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Teaching about Pearl Harbor

Tomorrow our country remembers, and reflects 75 years later, on the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941.

Our online tool for teaching with documents, DocsTeach, lets students work with primary sources as historical evidence to understand the country at the time and the U.S. entrance into World War II.Pearl Harbor Radar Plot Activity Image

You can get students thinking about where information comes from, how it is presented, how its presentation affects understanding, and how information is used with the activity Analyzing Evidence of the Pearl Harbor Attack.

Students will use the interpretation tools available in the activity to analyze evidence collected during the Congressional investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack. It is the Radar Plot from Detector Station Opana in Hawaii, recorded on December 7, 1941. It will remind students of the surprise nature, as well as the scale, of the attack.

Day of Infamy Activity ImageThe activity Two Versions of FDR’s Infamy Speech presents students with drafts of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famous speech following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor: an earlier typewritten draft and the final Senate copy of the address. Students can read, analyze, and contrast these two versions to see the impact of his changes to the overall message and tone of the speech.

You can find additional primary sources related to Pearl Harbor on DocsTeach.

The National Archives holds historical materials such as photos, video footage, and military records, that chronicle this occasion and the military’s history and battles. Find more resources at www.archives.gov/calendar/pearl-harbor-75.

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Find the National Archives at NCSS!

Teachers at the National Archives at NYCFor those of you attending, we’ll see you at the National Council for the Social Studies Annual Conference in Washington, DC, next month!

Please join us at any of our sessions, workshops, or special events.


Thursday, December 1

“Civil Rights, the Constitution and the National Archives” Pre-Conference Clinic

A few spaces remain! Join us for an engaging and fun-filled day exploring exhibits, learning about programs, and discovering primary sources!

Time: 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Location: The National Archives Building in Washington, DC


Friday, December 2

“DocsTeach: A Primary Source-Based Teaching Tool from the National Archives”

Discover DocsTeach.org and its new features. Learn to find, customize, and create primary source-based student activities that promote historical thinking and build inquiry skills.

Time: 8:45 – 9:45 am
Room: 147A

Primary-Source Lessons for U.S. Government or History Classes

Learn powerful ways to use primary sources in your U.S. government or history class and gain access to free, short, primary source lessons online.

Time: 10:00 – 10:30 am
Room: 209C

29 Sure-Fire Ideas for Teaching Civics

Get new ideas for transforming civics education in the classroom, presented by our partners in the Civics Renewal Network and featuring National Archives resources.

Time: 1:00 – 2:00 pm
Room: 145B


Saturday, December 3

“Why a Bill of Rights? National Archives App and Resources”

Learn about the National Archives’s app, videoconference, and other resources that can help your students understand why and how we have a Bill of Rights. Includes hands-on analysis.

Time: 5:00 – 6:00 pm
Room: 203B

National Archives Evening Reception

Visit the National Archives for this special evening reception. Participants will be invited to view the Charters of Freedom, explore the museum’s latest temporary exhibit, Amending America, as well as the permanent exhibit spaces, and participate in demonstrations of new education resources available from across the agency. This is a ticketed event.

Time: 6:00 – 8:00 pm
Location: The National Archives Building in Washington, DC


Sunday, December 4

“Engage Your Students in Decision-Making Role Play Simulations Using Documents”

Engage in a documents-based decision making simulation using and evaluating multiple sources. Discuss the theoretical context for learning through simulations. A How to Read Government Documents resource and other materials are provided.

Time: 8:00 – 10:00 am
Room: 149A

“Bringing Authentic Native American Voices into Your Classroom”

Learn simple principles, approaches and authentic methods of honoring tribal legacies in your own community and classroom no matter where you are in the United States.

Time: 8:00 – 10:00 am
Room 140A

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What is the Freedom of Information Act?

You can see this post as it originally appeared on our sister blog The FOIA Ombudsman.

FOIA InfographicEarlier this year, we told you that we’re developing teaching activities about the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that can be easily integrated into the history and social studies curricula.

The tools will draw upon real-world examples that foster democracy and explain how the public can use FOIA to learn more about the Government’s actions.

Our colleagues in the Office of Government Information Services at the National Archives developed this infographic to explain basic facts about the public’s rights under FOIA and what to expect during the FOIA process.

Plain language and graphics are intended to help students easily understand the basic concepts of FOIA and where they can find more information about how to ask for copies of agency records.

You can use the infographic in your teaching toolbox right now (here’s the PDF). But you can also expect to see it integrated into forthcoming teaching activities on DocsTeach.org, our online tool for teaching with documents from the National Archives.

The first activity using the infographic will explore the public’s response to the civil rights marches beginning in Selma, Alabama, in 1965. In response to FOIA requests, the Federal Bureau of Investigation released a number of records detailing the events that occurred in Selma.

If you have other suggestions of records from the holdings of the National Archives that could help students understand the role of records in improving understanding of the government’s actions, please comment here or join our conversation on History Hub, the National Archives’ online community for researchers, citizen historians, archival professionals, and open government advocates.

We look forward to hearing from you, and to announcing release of our first activity incorporating FOIA!

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Free Bill of Rights Exhibit for Your School

Our high-resolution The Bill of Rights and You posters are now available for download! Find the PDF files at www.archives.gov/amending-america/visit/bill-of-rights-pop-up.

Update: Due to the high level of interest, we have no more Bill of Rights and You exhibits to distribute. Thousands will be on display in schools, libraries, museums and other community organizations soon!

We’re offering a free pop-up exhibit called The Bill of Rights and You to schools nationwide. It contains simple messages conveying the importance of the Bill of Rights, its history and implementation, and its impact today.

Bill of Rights Exhibit

Display Details:

  • Lightweight, easy to set up, and versatile
  • Use this pop-up unit in any public area—no walls necessary
  • Total assembled size is 66 1/2″ high by 32″ wide
  • Total footprint is approximately 45″ sq.
  • Includes digital educational materials
  • Delivered to your school between December 1 and 15, 2016

The Bill of Rights and You was developed by The National Archives Traveling Exhibits Services (NATES) as part of our commemoration of the 225th anniversary of the Bill of Rights

Download our flyer with more information here (PDF).

Presented in part by AT&T, Seedlings Foundation, and the National Archives Foundation. Distributed in collaboration with the Federation of State Humanities Councils.

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How Are You Persuaded? – Historical Election Memorabilia

Which would persuade you to vote for the candidate?

Multiple Choices with Campaign Memorabilia

A. Campaign Pin
B. Car with Children
C. Family Decoupage Plaque
D. Let’s Make America Great Again T-shirt

This question comes from our fun quiz: “How Are You Persuaded?” at www.docsteach.org/ask

We designed this “personality quiz” as a quick class warm-up activity — and to provide a way to bring historical campaigns and memorabilia into this election season. You can guide your students through the six questions to find out how political campaigns appeal to them. Take a class poll and cast your vote. Then see which type of campaigning you collectively lean toward. Do you like gadgets and technology? Humor? Constant reminders? Or maybe that personal touch?

If your students are intrigued, you can continue to share historical campaign memorabilia with them from our Election Collection page. Topics highlight political memorabilia from Presidential campaigns from the 1850s through the 1990s and include buttons, posters, novelty items, campaign trail photos, and more!

Campaign Buttons

These pieces of campaign history come from the collections of our Presidential Libraries and were identified as part of our #ElectionCollection challenge.

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