From the Source

I’m a sucker for primary sources. Ever since we spent six weeks on Lexington and Concord in high school, I’ve loved looking at the actual documents and artificats from history’s particpants. By examining the actual sources, and considering the points of view of their authors, one may paint a more realistic picture of the time, event, or situation than can be found in an interpreted digest.

Take, for example, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. While it’s widely touted as the document that freed the slaves, a careful reading will reveal that it is more a political document than a civil rights one. A closer look at how the document was viewed its time reveals… No. You don’t want to read my summary of it. Go make up your own mind.

The American Memory Project is one of the best sources of primary documents related to American history. In addition to the wealth of primary source documents, they also have a site called the Learning Page which provides resources for teachers, including featured collections, lesson plans, activities, and professional development resources.

Another great site is the National Archives Site. They have more resources than I thought they did. In their Teachers & Students section, they’re currently featuring the arrest records of Rosa Parks. In addition to the documents themselves, they have standards correlations, guiding questions, and document analysis worksheets.

The primary sources are here. We don’t have to rely on the textbook as the sole, unquestionable source of "correct" information. Teach your students to be smart information consumers, and to question their sources.

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Author: John Schinker

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