Through primary source analysis, this new resource from the Bill of Rights Institute explores the efforts to realize the Founding principles of liberty, equality, and justice by exploring key periods in African American history. Students of history know that there is no substitute for being there - but primary sources come close!
For over twenty years the Bill of Rights Institute has developed resources rooted in primary sources that put you in conversation with historical actors as they debate the most significant issues of our past.
Soon, the Bill of Rights Institute will be releasing its latest primary source-based collection, The Plainest Demands of Justice: Documents for Dialogue on the African American Experience. This curriculum is designed to put teachers and students in conversation with those who strove and continue to strive for a greater realization of the promises of liberty and equality as outlined in the Declaration of Independence. We hope you’ll join the conversation.
The resource begins with a foundational introduction to natural rights through the Declaration of Independence. Three chronological primary source sets covering the colonial era to the present day allow students to consider how the efforts of law- and policy-makers, the courts, and “We the People” – individuals and groups – have worked to ensure a society faithful to the ideals of the Declaration of Independence. A culminating assessment has students choose a topic to research and present to make connections to how the work to ensure a society aligned with Founding principles continues in the present day.
Frequently Asked Questions
“The Plainest Demands of Justice” is divided into three parts:
- A foundational primer on natural rights and the promise of liberty and equality in the Founding documents.
- Three chronological primary source document sets covering the colonial era to the present day.
- A final capstone project where students research and present on how the work to ensure a society faithful to the ideals of the Declaration of Independence continues.
“The Plainest Demands of Justice” is a primary source collection and discussion based lessons. The primary sources have been curated by the Bill of Rights Institute staff and the discussion based lessons have been reviewed by scholars with expertise in political science, history, and education. In addition, experienced history and government teachers have piloted and reviewed the resource.
“The Plainest Demands of Justice” is a comprehensive, primary source driven examination of African American history that uses the principles of the Declaration of Independence as its foundation. Over 90 primary sources allow students to consider the complex and painstaking work to ensure a society faithful to Founding principles of liberty, equality, and justice.
This resource is entirely free and will be available to any educator on mybri.org.
“Students were able to reflect upon and think critically about liberty, equality, justice, and consent. The Declaration of Independence was particularly helpful for my students, who were 8th graders, not 9th. They enjoyed the reference to Mum Bett, who we had discussed earlier in the year. There was a variety of sources to allow them to see the big picture.” ~ Grace S., Teacher from Utah
“The final analysis helped me better understand the different ways that people tried to challenge slavery and point out the conflict between the founding principles and slavery. This helped me understand the rising conflicts over slavery, even during the founding period.” ~ Pilot Student
”I really liked the way that the documents guided students toward the complex differences between different leaders from different geographic areas. In a word, I love the complexity.” ~ Michael S., Teacher from Iowa