Lesson Plan

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Lesson Plan: Overview


The following lesson plan is designed as an educational component of the Documented Rights Online Exhibit. It is designed to be a unit plan that requires students to research, analyze, and create a finished product using documents from the exhibit.

Essential Questions

What are our unalienable rights as humans?

Topic Specific Essential Questions

How have people struggled to have their rights recognized?
How has the federal government responded to these struggles?

Enduring Understanding

A variety of different individuals and social groups have used different legal methods to have their unalienable rights recognized by the Federal government. The success of protecting these rights has depended on a variety of outside factors.


Since the signing of the Declaration of Independence, our rights as citizens of the United States have been debated, contested, amended, and documented. While the Bill of Rights established our basic civil rights, it took later amendments, Presidential proclamations, court decisions, and direct civic action over periods of time to more fully define our human rights.

The struggles for freedom and equality throughout our history have occurred with Americans of all walks of life. From larger than life figures of world renown to the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, our national story is very much a story of seemingly insurmountable odds.

These endeavors cross all racial, social, ethnic, gender and ideological borders. From runaway slaves taking emancipation into their own hands to women defying both law and convention by illegally executing their right to vote, the recognition and growth of personal rights to more people is a constant theme in American history. The efforts of the disenfranchised cross all geographic and time boundaries as well. During both times of war and peace, in the deepest South to the extreme reaches of the Aleutian islands and the expanses of the Great Plains between, from the Revolutionary era until today, activists have fought to achieve social justice.

This growth of personal liberty did not go uncontested, however. Whether its opponents were intolerant others, local governments, or the federal government itself, Americans fighting for their fair share had to use a variety of methods to achieve their goals. Some used words as weapons while others took direct action to the streets or brought their fight to the legal corridors of power.

The story of America in many ways is the story of the expansion of rights to ever expanding spheres of people. In this learning experience, you will have the opportunity to become a part of this story in order to continue America’s promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to all people.