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In celebration, the National Archives has teamed up with other federal agencies and cultural institutions to provide digital content, including resources for teachers.

Along with the Library of Congress, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution, and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, we pay tribute to the generations of women whose commitment to nature and the planet have proved invaluable to society on http://www.womenshistorymonth.gov/. The site includes teaching resources, exhibits and collections, images, audio and video, and a list of upcoming events.

Specifically for teachers, we share several online learning activities from our DocsTeach site:

Photograph of Suffrage Parade, 1913

Photograph of Suffrage Parade, 1913, Records of the Office of War Information, 1926 – 1951

Many related primary sources can be found on DocsTeach relating to Women Throughout American History and Women in Wartime.

Teachers  can access our special DocsTeach page with activities and primary source documents on 1970s America on DocsTeach, with primary sources on Women’s Rights.

The National Archives also highlights:

Our partner organizations share valuable resources too, like Nineteenth Century Activism: How a Small Group of Dedicated Citizens Changed the World from the National Park Service and Women’s History Month at the Movies from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

You can find these resources and more at http://www.womenshistorymonth.gov.



In a recently created learning activity on DocsTeach.org, students can analyze the Zimmermann telegram to evaluate whether, based on its information and implications, the United States should have entered World War I.

By completing the activity, they will learn that this message helped draw the United States into the war and thus changed the course of history, that: The British presented the telegram to President Woodrow Wilson, the American press published the news, and Congress declared war on Germany and its allies.

Zimmermann Telegram activity

The Zimmermann Telegram activity challenges students to examine the encoded Zimmermann Telegram and the decode worksheet, looking for clues and details about the documents that may help explain their meaning. After they discuss their findings, they will read, analyze, and summarize the decoded Zimmermann telegram—identifying its author, audience, and purpose.

They will discover that in January of 1917, British codebreakers deciphered this telegram from German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmermann to the German Minister to Mexico, offering United States territory to Mexico in return for joining the German cause.

To conclude the activity, students will vote on whether or not the United States should have declared war on Germany based solely on the Zimmermann Telegram, explaining their pro- or anti-war rationale.

We suggest teaching with this activity during a unit on U.S. involvement in World War I. Students in grades 6-12 may work individually or in small groups, with breaks for class discussion. Approximate time needed is 30 minutes.

The activity can be found under The Emergence of Modern America era or directly at http://docsteach.org/activities/14716/detail.



Today’s post comes from Monica Reardon and Lauren Vick, interns in the Education and Public Programs division.

On Saturday, January 25, 2014, the National Archives in Washington, D.C. and the Foundation for the National Archives held the first-ever sleepover for children ages 8 to 12 years old in the home of the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. The theme for the night was History, Heroes, & Treasures. Participants had a chance to explore the Rotunda, the Public Vaults, and the Boeing Learning Center through various activities related to the theme. Participants also had the opportunity to meet authors Cokie Roberts and Brad Meltzer as well as Abraham Lincoln, Phillis Wheatley, and Amelia Earhart, historical figures from their books.

Wondering where everyone slept? Check out this time-lapse video for a glimpse of sleep preparations in the Rotunda.

Would you like to see what’s held in the Rotunda yourself? Examine the Charters of Freedom (the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights) in our digital archive.

Some of Our Most Popular Activities from the Sleepover Can Be Done in Your Classroom:

  1. Create Your Own Campaign Materials
    You don’t have to be of voting age to support a candidate or issue that matters to you. Anyone can create their own campaign materials including buttons, posters, and stickers that champion a fight they care about. Students can channel their creativity into a political cause they care about, be it from the past or the present, a person or a cause. For some examples of some our favorite presidential campaign swag, check out these posts from our Tumblr sites:

  2. Write a Letter to the President
    Write a letter to the President of the United States, either as a class or an individual (and really send it!). Here at the National Archives we love the letters students have written to U.S. Presidents over the years. Check out some examples of these student letters from our holdings.

    Here some of our sleepover attendees experiment writing with quill pens, just like our earliest presidents!

    Sleepover attendees experiment writing with quill pens, just like our earliest Presidents!

Interested in joining us for our next sleepover at the National Archives? Take a glimpse of the fun on our Flickr page, and keep-up with the latest developments by signing up for the Foundation for the National Archives newsletter or e-mail the sleepover team directly through sleepover@archivesfoundation.org.

Ready For More? Explore Our Student-Friendly Resources Available Online:

This program was supported by the Foundation for the National Archives; Mars, Incorporated; American Heritage Chocolate; Ridgewells Catering; Penguin Young Readers Group; HarperCollins; The Coca-Cola Company; Minute Maid; and DASANI.



In this new activity on DocsTeach.org—our online tool for teaching with documents from the National Archives—students will read, analyze, and summarize Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, that established the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Civil Rights Act 1964 DocsTeach Activity

We suggest teaching with this activity during a unit on civil rights in grades 9–12. Approximate time needed is 45–60 minutes. The activity can be found under Postwar United States (1945 to early 1970s), in a search for activities related to civil rights, or directly at http://docsteach.org/activities/14011/detail.

Ask students to define the term “affirmative action” in their own words. Then ask them to explain, if they are aware, of any controversy associated with this term.

After discussing students’ definitions, share the fact that the first use of the phrase “affirmative action” in an executive order appeared in March 1961, when President John F. Kennedy signed E.O. 10925. Explain how his successor, President Lyndon B. Johnson, ordered all executive agencies to require federal contractors to “take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed and that employees are treated during employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” Explain how later presidents and the courts interpreted (and continue to interpret) “affirmative action.”

Divide students into 5 small groups and assign each group one page of the Civil Rights Act, Title VII—”Equal Employment Opportunity” (pages 13–17 of the law) as part of a “jigsaw activity.” Direct students to open the activity, click on the magnifying glass and scroll to their group’s page. Once students have read and summarized the main points of their page, regroup them so that there is one expert for each page in each new group. Ask students to share what they each learned.

After completing the jigsaw activity, lead a class discussion on the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Ask students the questions posed in the “I’m Done” section of the activity:

  • What did the act do and what provisions were included for its enforcement?
  • In your opinion, was Congress overly careful in defining terms? Why did Section 702 included specific definitions?

This DocsTeach activity was adapted from an article formerly published on www.archives.gov/education, written by Linda Simmons, associate professor at Northern Virginia Community College in Manassas, VA.



During Black History Month, many teachers will highlight the compelling story of Harriet Tubman. While Tubman is most famous for her participation in the Underground Railroad, she should also be recognized for her work for the Union during the Civil War as a nurse, cook, and spy.

In 1898, Tubman again petitioned Congress for a pension for her services to the federal government, after earlier efforts were unsuccessful. The outcome of her petition exposes attitudes towards African Americans at the end of the century. A lesson using primary source documents from the Center for Legislative Archives can help your students understand Tubman’s federal service and the degree to which it was acknowledged by Congress.

H.R. 4982, a bill granting a pension to Harriet Tubman Davis, January 19, 1899, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives. National Archives Identifier 306578.

H.R. 4982, a bill granting a pension to Harriet Tubman Davis, January 19, 1899, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives. National Archives Identifier 306578.

Tubman’s thick pension file is filled with affidavits, letters of support, and correspondence that document the nature of her work in hospitals and kitchens and her scouting trips behind enemy lines. These records were collected to justify her claim for compensation since she had received only $200 for her services during the War.

On January 27, 1899, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 4982, which increased Tubman’s pension from $8 to $25 a month. Previously in 1890, she had been granted a pension of $8 a month as the widow of veteran Nelson Davis, who she married after the War. The House bill based the proposed increase on Tubman’s own service, separate from her status as a widow.

S. Rpt. 1619 to accompany a bill granting a pension to Harriet Tubman Davis, February 7, 1899; Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives Identifier 7330232

S. Rpt. 1619 to accompany a bill granting a pension to Harriet Tubman Davis, February 7, 1899; Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives Identifier 7330232

H.R. 4982 was then sent to the Senate, which referred the matter to Committee on Pensions. After consideration, the committee made its recommendation in Senate Report #1619. This report includes the text of the report of the House Committee on Invalid Pensions, which cited several people who worked directly with Tubman during the War. Support for Tubman’s claim came from one of the highest possible sources—Secretary of State William Seward. Seward said, “I have known her long as a noble high spirit, as true as seldom dwells in the human form.” The House report concluded, “These testimonials sufficiently show the character and value of the service rendered by Mrs. Davis during the war.”

The Senate committee, however, came to a different conclusion. Referring to her “alleged services to the government,” the Senate noted that very few nurses earned a pension of $20 per month. Ignoring her work as a cook and spy, the Senate stated that “there are no valid reasons why this claimant should receive a pension of $25 per month as a nurse, thus opening a new avenue for pension increases.” The report ended with the recommendation that the Senate amend the House bill to lower the pension amount to $20.

Using a document analysis worksheet, your students can analyze these documents and others in the lesson. The worksheet can help students construct the case for and against Tubman’s claim, and to answer the lesson’s guiding question—to what extent, and for what services, did Congress officially acknowledge Harriet Tubman’s Civil War service to her country?

An Act Granting and Increase in Pension to Harriet Tubman Davis, February 28, 1899; 30 Stat 1539, Records of the General Government.

An Act Granting and Increase in Pension to Harriet Tubman Davis, February 28, 1899; 30 Stat 1539, Records of the General Government.

During a full class discussion, the students will see that the final act signed by President William McKinley shows that Congress did grant Tubman an increase in pension, but the Act did not acknowledge that the increase was for Tubman’s own service. The title of the original bill H.R. 4982 which referred to Tubman as “late a nurse in the United States Army” had been amended so that the nursing reference was removed. Instead, the Act only referred to Tubman as a veteran’s widow. Students can consider the state of race relations in 1899, and compare it to 2000, when Congress passed the Harriet Tubman Special Resource Study Act, which is available from the Government Printing Office. How has the interpretation of Tubman’s legacy changed?

See the full lesson at http://www.archives.gov/legislative/resources/education/tubman/

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