Freedom to Cover the World Series

This post is part of our series on the Bill of RightsWe’re highlighting primary sources from our student workbook Putting the Bill of Rights to the Test, that helps 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 broke 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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Permission to “Take it to the Streets”

This is the first post in our new series on the Bill of RightsWe’re highlighting primary sources from our student workbook Putting the Bill of Rights to the Test, that helps 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. Today’s post comes from Kris Jarosik, former education specialist at the National Archives at Chicago.


The right of the people to peaceably assemble is guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, in the first amendment to the Constitution. But what happens when a city requires a group to obtain a permit to do so?

A permit application from the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam (MOBE) to march and assemble in the public way during the 1968 Democratic National Convention can be used to explore the American right to peaceably assemble with your students.

rennieparkapplication_a

The National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam (MOBE) submitted this permit application, one of several, to the City of Chicago for approval to march on public streets during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. (Exhibit from criminal case 69CR180, United States v. Dellinger, et al., 7/25/1968. From the Records of District Courts of the United States. National Archives Identifier 6210764.)

Scenes of the violent clashes between anti-war protestors and the Chicago police officers are synonymous with the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Yet MOBE’s application for a permit highlights the protestors’ desire to abide by municipal regulations while exercising their first amendment rights. This document can not only help students gain additional understanding of Chicago in 1968, but also provide a means to explore the regulation of the right to peaceably assemble by local government.

Ask students to examine the application, carefully noting:

  • Who submitted the application?
  • When was it submitted?
  • How many participants were expected?
  • How many different departments needed to approve a permit application?

Then have your students head to a mapping site like Google Maps to see the proposed locations for staging, marching, and assembling in the application. Encourage students to view the route via StreetView as well. As a group, talk about what protestors in 1968 would see along the route. (Preview the route ahead of time to figure out which landmarks and buildings would have been built before 1968.)

Thousands of protestors gathered in Grant Park for the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam (MOBE) rally on August 28, 1968

Thousands of protestors gathered in Grant Park for the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam (MOBE) rally on August 28, 1968. National Archives Identifier: 6210766

You can also explore our 1968 Democratic National Convention tour on Historypin, that leads you from President Johnson’s announcement that he would not seek the Democratic nomination for President, to confrontation in the streets of Chicago, to Hubert H. Humphrey’s nomination. You’ll see not only changes in the landscape, but a progression of historic events culminating in violence involving the police and protestors.

Conclude with a discussion about municipalities and the granting of permits to assemble:

  • Why would the City of Chicago be opposed to granting a permit to MOBE for Wednesday, August 28, 1968?
  • If the City of Chicago denied MOBE a permit to assemble, what should MOBE Project Director Rennie Davis do?
  • Do you think obtaining a permit hinders one’s right to peaceably assemble?

Additional primary sources about this topic, including correspondence between MOBE and local officials in Chicago, can be found on DocsTeach.org.

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Gardening to Victory

As part of our document spotlight series, today we bring you victory garden propaganda posters.

To keep a war going you need to keep the soldiers fighting fit, and for that, you need food.  Agriculture Secretary Claude Wickard understood this when he told the press in 1943 that “Food will win the war and write the peace.”

Uncle Sam Says, Garden to Cut Food Costs, 1917. From the Publications of the U.S. Government. National Archives Identifier: 5711623

Uncle Sam Says, Garden to Cut Food Costs, 1917. From the Publications of the U.S. Government.
National Archives Identifier: 5711623

During both World War I and II, food supplies on the home front and abroad were tight. To alleviate the rationing problem, the Office of Civil Defense and other government agencies released multiple propaganda pieces hoping to inspire non-farming Americans to do their part and produce their own vegetables, herbs, and fruit.  These posters were displayed across the nation, and like these examples, showed hard work and patriotism; Uncle Sam, America, and whole families were depicted toiling in the dirt of victory gardens.

Plant A Victory Garden. Our Food Is Fighting, 1941-1945. From the Records of the Office of Government Reports. National Archives Identifier: 513818

Plant A Victory Garden. Our Food Is Fighting, 1941-1945. From the Records of the Office of Government Reports.
National Archives Identifier: 513818

These war gardens, though, were advertised for more than just fighting the enemy from the home front.  They were a way to grow food, and therefore, lessen the pressure on public food supply and make rations last longer for everyone—soldiers and citizens.

The importance and patriotic fervor of this homegrown initiative caused victory gardens to spring up around the country in both farmland and cities alike.  In the end, the backyard food production of everyday Americans made up an estimated 40% of World War II’s fresh fruits and vegetables.  Victory gardens made a real impact during wartime, and helped America and her allies achieve peace.

You can find WWI and WWII posters, as well as WWI and WWII teaching activities, on DocsTeach, our online tool for teaching with documents.

 

Today’s post came from Holly Chisholm, former social media intern in the Education and Public Programs division.

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Reorganizing the Executive Branch: Distance Learning with the Hoover Library

Registration is open for two free interactive distance learning programs from The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library on Digital Learning Day, February 17th — “Reorganizing the Executive Branch: Hoover and the Federal Government.” Times are 11-11:50 a.m. ET/10-10:50a.m. CT and 2-2:50 p.m. ET/1-1:50 p.m. CT. You may also watch the live stream, for which no registration is necessary.

Herbert HooverThe President of the United States is responsible for implementing and enforcing the laws written by Congress and, to that end, appoints the heads of the federal agencies, including the Cabinet. The Cabinet and independent federal agencies are responsible for the day-to-day enforcement and administration of federal laws.

Herbert Hoover was a champion of government efficiency for over 40 years, before, during, and after his Presidency. He was an engineer and geologist by training, and sought to apply the scientific principles of the Efficiency Movement to make the Federal government more responsive and cost effective, and to avoid duplication and waste. As Secretary of Commerce, he reorganized the Commerce Department to better serve American business and industry in a rapidly changing world. As President, Hoover created the Veterans Administration (VA) to unify all veterans services, which accounted for 25% of all Federal expenditures at the time, into one agency.

As former-President, Hoover was appointed by Presidents Truman and Eisenhower to chair two Commissions on the Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government — known as the Hoover Commissions — to find ways to streamline the Federal Government. Many of the ideas proposed by the Commissions were implemented by Congress, such as combining the Departments of War and the Navy into a single Department of Defense (DoD), and creating the General Services Administration (GSA) to centralize responsibility for Federal office space, transportation and other basic services vital to government operations.


The Presidential Primary Sources Project

We present “Reorganizing the Executive Branch: Hoover and the Federal Government” as part of the Presidential Primary Sources Project (PPSP), a collaboration between the National Archives and Presidential Libraries, the National Park Service, the Internet2 community, and cultural and historic organizations nationwide.

Through March 2016, PPSP is offering free, standards-aligned, 45-minute interactive videoconferencing programs aimed at students in grades 5-12. This year’s theme is “Presidential Powers and the Constitution,” exploring how different presidents in different eras have interpreted and exercised presidential powers. Each program will also be live streamed (no registration necessary) and recorded for free on-demand viewing.

Register now for any of the programs.

2016 Program Schedule

“Woodrow Wilson and the Consolidation of Presidential Executive Power”

President Woodrow Wilson House
Thursday, February 11: 10-10:50am and 1-1:50pm CT
Grades 9-12
Register

“Reorganizing the Executive Branch: Hoover and the Federal Government”

Herbert Hoover Presidential Library
(Digital Learning Day) Wednesday, February 17: 10-10:50am CT and 1-1:50pm CT
Grades 7-12
Register

“TR: Setting a Precedent for the President”

Theodore Roosevelt Center
Tuesday, February 22: 10-10:50am and 1-1:50pm CT
Grades 6-12
Register

Franklin D. Roosevelt

The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum
Wednesday, February 24: 10-10:50am and 1-1:50pm CT
Register

“Abraham Lincoln: Presidential Power in “A House Divided”

Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park
Thursday, March 3: 10-10:50am and 1-1:50pm CT
Grades 6-8
Register

“Washington’s Monument: The Tradition of Presidential Powers”

The National Park Service
Tuesday, March 8: 10-10:50am and 1-1:50pm CT
Grades 6-12
Register

“President Ulysses S. Grant and Civil Rights”

Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site
Thursday, March 10: 10-10:50am and 1-1:50pm CT
Grades 5-12
Register

“President Truman and the Steel Crisis”

Harry S. Truman Presidential Library
Tuesday, March 29: 10-10:50am and 1-1:50pm CT
Grades 8-12
Register

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Prohibition and Its Consequences: A New DocsTeach Activity

Prohibition and its Consequences invites students to explore the consequences of the Eighteenth Amendment, that prohibited “the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors for beverage purposes.”

The activity poses a dilemma for students. Prohibition was enacted in January 1919 to protect individuals and families from the “scourge of drunkenness.” However, it had unintended consequences, including: a rise in organized crime associated with the illegal production and sale of alcohol, an increase in smuggling, and a decline in tax revenue from the sale and distribution of alcohol.

Prohibition and its Consequences

Prohibition and its Consequences uses the activity tool “Weighing the Evidence” to engage students in historical thinking, as it requires students to interpret evidence in order to arrive at conclusions that they must support. Students place the available evidence — documents, photographs and images — on a scale according to the interpretation they best support. In so doing, they tip the scale in favor of one of two conclusions: Prohibition was a necessary move in order to protect individuals and families or Prohibition was an unwarranted overreach into citizens’ private lives by the U.S. Government.

Excerpt of letter from Mrs. Hillyer

Some of the primary source documents that students encounter show evidence of the illegal production and sale of liquor. For example, in the Letter from Mrs. Hillyer Concerning Her Husband’s Drinking Activities to the Bureau of Prohibition, Mrs. Hillyer reported that, in 1931, her husband bought a “quart of whisky every other day” from the local bootlegger. She described the financial loss to her family as she requested the authorities to “please have his place raided….If you make the raid at 9:30 any morning you will be sure to get the goods.”

Speaking of Superfluous Starlings Cartoon

Speaking of Superfluous Starlings by Clifford Berryman, 1/10/1930. From the Records of the U.S. Senate. National Archives Identifier: 6012008.

Clifford Berryman’s political cartoon Speaking of Superfluous Starlings depicts the Federal Law Enforcement Commission as helpless in stopping crime. The Prescription for Whiskey for I.F. Johnson is an example of a loophole that stymied the enforcement of the Eighteenth Amendment even further.

Prescription for Whiskey for I. F. Johnson

Prescription for Whiskey for I. F. Johnson, 1/3/1924. From the Records of the Internal Revenue Service. National Archives Identifier: 16647176

By the 1920s, calls for repeal became louder. In 1933 President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued a Presidential Proclamation Announcing the Repeal of Prohibition.

Teaching about Prohibition, which goes back more than 80 years, may seem like ancient history to today’s students. However, the discussion of the role of government in the private lives of citizens is relevant to today’s national debate on legalizing marijuana. Calls for legalization reference personal choice and privacy in their arguments to overturn laws that criminalize possession, trafficking and use of marijuana. They also cite black market trafficking, high rates of incarceration, and ways in which arrests and prosecution of “criminals” affect the future of otherwise law-abiding citizens. Others believe that marijuana has a negative impact on society and should not be legal to grow, possess, or distribute.

Raising the issue of the legalization of marijuana with students enables them to extend the debate on Prohibition to concepts in which they may have a vested interest. Further, students have the opportunity to develop critical thinking skills which are so necessary to the understanding of historical events such as Prohibition.

Today’s post came from National Archives volunteer Cynthia Peterman.

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Presidential Powers Distance Learning Programs

Registration is now open for two programs on February 9th: “Presidential Powers with Documents from the National Archives” at 10–10:50 a.m., and again at 1–1:50 p.m. CT.

President George H. W. Bush Eating with Troops and Message of President Adams Nominating John Marshall to the Supreme Court

Top: President George H. W. Bush Enjoying Thanksgiving Dinner with Troops, 11/22/1990. From the Records of the White House Photograph Office. National Archives Identifier: 186423.
Bottom: Message of President John Adams nominating John Marshall to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, 1/20/1801. Records of the U.S. Senate. National Archives Identifier: 306290.

Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution defines the executive branch and specifically states the powers of the President. Students in grades 5-12 will explore and examine primary sources including: presidential appointments, pardons, treaties, and others from the National Archives that illustrate these powers.

Participants will:

  • engage in a discussion about the powers and responsibilities of the President gained from Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution,
  • explore and analyze primary source documents that illustrate the powers of the President, and
  • develop an understanding of the powers and responsibilities of the President.

The Presidential Primary Sources Project

We present “Presidential Powers with Documents from the National Archives” as part of the Presidential Primary Sources Project (PPSP), a collaboration between the National Archives and Presidential Libraries, the National Park Service, the Internet2 community, and cultural and historic organizations nationwide.

From January to March 2016, PPSP is offering free, standards-aligned, 45-minute interactive videoconferencing programs aimed at students in grades 5-12. This year’s theme is “Presidential Powers and the Constitution,” exploring how different presidents in different eras have interpreted and exercised presidential powers. Each program will also be live streamed (no registration necessary) and recorded for free on-demand viewing.

Register now for any of the programs.

2016 Program Schedule

“Presidential Roles and Responsibilities”

The White House Historical Association
Wednesday, January 20: 10-10:50am and 1-1:50pm CT
Grades 5-8
Register

“Presidential Powers with Documents from the National Archives”

The National Archives
Tuesday, February 9: 10-10:50am and 1-1:50pm CT
Grades 5-12
Register

“Woodrow Wilson and the Consolidation of Presidential Executive Power”

President Woodrow Wilson House
Thursday, February 11: 10-10:50am and 1-1:50pm CT
Grades 9-12
Register

“Reorganizing the Executive Branch: Hoover and the Federal Government”

Herbert Hoover Presidential Library
(Digital Learning Day) Wednesday, February 17: 10-10:50am CT and 1-1:50pm CT
Grades 7-12
Register

“TR: Setting a Precedent for the President”

Theodore Roosevelt Center
Tuesday, February 22: 10-10:50am and 1-1:50pm CT
Grades 6-12
Register

Franklin D. Roosevelt

The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum
Wednesday, February 24: 10-10:50am and 1-1:50pm CT
Register

“Abraham Lincoln: Presidential Power in “A House Divided”

Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park
Thursday, March 3: 10-10:50am and 1-1:50pm CT
Grades 6-8
Register

“Washington’s Monument: The Tradition of Presidential Powers”

The National Park Service
Tuesday, March 8: 10-10:50am and 1-1:50pm CT
Grades 6-12
Register

“President Ulysses S. Grant and Civil Rights”

Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site
Thursday, March 10: 10-10:50am and 1-1:50pm CT
Grades 5-12
Register

“President Truman and the Steel Crisis”

Harry S. Truman Presidential Library
Tuesday, March 29: 10-10:50am and 1-1:50pm CT
Grades 8-12
Register

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The Great Seal of the United States

The Great Seal of the United States is a symbol of our independent nation and its power.  The obverse—or front—pictures the coat of arms of America, and is used for everything from authenticating official documents like treaties and presidential proclamations, to decorating military uniform buttons.  Both the obverse and reverse are depicted on the one-dollar bill.

For today’s spotlight document, we have the 1782 original design of our Great Seal.  Hours after adopting the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress appointed a committee to design the nation’s seal.  The first attempt was proposed by Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams, but was quickly tabled by Congress due to its complexity.  One key feature, though, still remains a part of our Great Seal: E Pluribus Unum, or, “Out of Many, One.”

Great Seal

Design for the Verso of the Great Seal of the United States, 1782. From the Records of the Continental and Confederation Congresses and the Constitutional Convention. National Archives Identifier: 595257

It was not until two more committees were created and six years had passed, that Congress’ Secretary Charles Thomson combined elements from the three previous designs and created the final seal.  On it, the American bald eagle is the focal point and the sole supporter of the blue shield displaying 13 red and white chevrons.  A bundle of olive branches are held in one of the eagle’s talons, and 13 arrows in the other.  Above the bird, sits a constellation of 13 stars.

Congress approved the design on June 20, 1782—and apart from slight alterations made by Philadelphian William Barton, and appearance updates every few decades—the Great Seal of the United States remains largely unchanged.

You can see more documents from the founding of the United States on DocsTeach, our online tool for teaching with documents.

Today’s post came from Holly Chisholm, former social media intern in the Education and Public Programs division.

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Habeas Corpus and a Marriage Photo: Immigration Case Files

Today’s post comes from former education intern Natalie Charamut. She helped research, prepare for, and facilitate our 2015 Primarily Teaching summer institute in Washington, DC.

Back in July, teachers from across the country attended the Primarily Teaching summer institute in Washington, DC, and did original research into the topic of Chinese immigration. They digitized nearly 100 documents to be uploaded onto the National Archives online catalog and DocsTeach.org, our online tool for teaching with documents.

Although all of the documents scanned hold potential for teaching, a couple of the documents really stand out to me.

Page of Habeas Corpus Brief

Page of Habeas Corpus Brief Enclosed with Letter from U.S. Attorney Curtiss to Commissioner-General of Immigration Frank A. Sargeant, 1/5/1904. Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. National Archives Identifier: 23835774

A letter from U.S. Attorney Curtiss to Commissioner-General of Immigration Frank A. Sargeant conveys a brief of a U.S. Circuit Court case regarding habeas corpus. The Chinese immigrants in question claimed they were wrongfully held by immigration inspectors.

This document can be used in many different classes for many different things. Teachers can use this document to study not only Chinese immigration but also to study the Constitution and law and how the two work together, since habeas corpus is covered in the Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution.

A letter from the Inspector in Charge at El Paso, Texas, to the Commissioner-General of Immigration conveying records on appeal is from the immigration case files of Lew Bong and Lue Ark Goon, two men who were trying to bring women who they described as their wives into the United States. However, their entrance was denied because the inspector in charge believed the women were prostitutes.

Marriage Photo Enclosed with Letter from Inspector to the Commissioner-General of Immigration

Marriage Photograph Enclosed with Letter from the Inspector in Charge at El Paso, Texas, to the Commissioner-General of Immigration Conveying Records on Appeal in the Cases of Lew Bong and Lue Ark Goon, 11/5/1906. From the Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. National Archives Identifier: 23835509. A scan of the original photo is on the left; a restoration created with Photoshop is on the right. (Thank you to Ed Autry at the Truman Presidential Library for his work on this photograph.)

This document would be interesting to use in a classroom with older students because it shows discrimination against the Chinese, but also against women. Chinese women had a more difficult time getting into the United States because of a widespread belief within the immigration service that many were prostitutes. Another reason this case stands out is because there is a marriage photo included of one of the men with his wife, making the document that much more memorable for students.

I enjoyed preparing for and working with teachers during the Primarily Teaching summer institute. I learned a lot about the research process as well as Chinese immigration. It was great to watch the progress from beginning to end, and to see the online activities that the teachers created based on these primary sources published on DocsTeach. (Log in or register for a free DocsTeach account, then follow this link to the activities.)

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James Madison Debates a Bill of Rights

Today is Bill of Rights Day! We celebrate the 224th anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights. Check out our Congress Creates the Bill of Rights eBook and app too!

What doubts, concerns, and misgivings arose during the development of the Bill of Rights?

That’s the framing question in a new lesson plan from the National Humanities Center. Students can explore the debates over the addition of a bill of rights to the Constitution.

The centerpiece of the lesson is a letter James Madison wrote to Thomas Jefferson on October 17, 1788, in which Madison discussed the pros and cons of a bill of rights. It’s one of several letters these men exchanged on the topic. It comes from Founders Online — our searchable archive of the correspondence and other writings of six of the Founding Fathers.

Letter from James Madison to Thomas Jefferson on October 17, 1788

Students will interact with three excerpts of the letter, each accompanied by a series of close-reading analytical questions: The first explains the context of the debate, including reasons why a bill of rights might not be necessary. The second explores Madison’s reasons for supporting a bill of rights, and the third discusses how he believed such a list of rights, if written, should be structured.

In two interactive exercises, students will review vocabulary from Madison’s letter and review the central points of textual analysis.

The lesson plan includes teaching instructions, background information, questions for textual analysis and close reading, a follow-up assignment, a vocabulary list, and a student-version PDF.

James Madison Debates a Bill of Rights” is one of several lesson plans created by the the National Humanities Center based on documents available on Founders OnlineItalicized text comes directly from “James Madison Debates a Bill of Rights.”

Founders Online is our searchable archive of the correspondence and other writings of six of the Founding Fathers. Madison’s letter is just one of thousands of transcriptions of documents from George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison. You and your students can access the written record of the original thoughts, ideas, debates, and principles of our democracy.

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