Three Resources for Teaching Key Moments in U.S. History

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PBS LearningMedia has a wealth of free media resources for engaging students. Here are 3 resources for teaching about critical moments  in United States history.

The president we now refer to as “The Great Emancipator” was not always so steadfast in his opposition to the institution of slavery. His views on the issue evolved dramatically during the course of the Civil War, and by the time Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation and fought for the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, his stance had undergone significant transformation.


Lincoln’s Growth and Change Video: Grades 5-12

This lesson is an excellent way of examining instances in which political leaders have dramatically shifted their positions on major issues – for either moral or political reasons – and in doing so, have altered the course of history.


Suggestions for classroom use:

  1. Discuss: What are the major factors that led to Lincoln’s change in position on slavery?
  2. Current connections: Are there any major issues that President Obama or other recent presidents/lawmakers have changed their positions on? What led to them doing so?
  3. Reflect: If you were elected to public office, do you think there any major issues that you could be convinced to shift your position on (i.e. same-sex marriage, death penalty, etc.)?


Brown: A Landmark Case Video: Grades 6-12

The effort to achieve racial integration in the nation’s public schools was a long, hard-fought battle. Although legally, the issue was decided by the Supreme Court in its landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, the fight to actually implement the law on the ground, particularly in areas of the South most opposed to it, raged on for years afterwards. This video and lesson is an excellent way of studying this period of conflict opened the door to America’s Civil Rights Era.

Suggestions for classroom use:

  1. Discuss: On what Constitutional grounds did the Supreme Court overturn the concept of “separate but equal?"
  2. Current connections:  What are some issues in the news today that Americans are deeply and passionately divided on?
  3. Reflect: What is the legacy of Brown v. Board of Education? Has the battle to defeat school segregation been successful, or does it still exist today?


Ten Years Later: Immigration Since 9/11 Video: Grades 8-13+

The tragedy of September 11 had a significant impact on U.S. immigration policies. The tragedy sparked fears of foreign enemies causing harm to Americans, and led to stricter immigration enforcement, tightened border security, and increased incidences of deportations. May of these impacts are still felt today. Some say these changes were justified and have increased the nation’s security. Opponents, however,  argue that the stricter policies have led to major civil rights violations and done little to make America any safer. This lesson is a good lens through which to study how major events in history have caused dramatic shifts in America’s attitude towards its immigrant population.

Suggestions for classroom use:

  1. Discuss: What were some of the major changes in immigration policy that went into effect following 9/11?
  2. Historical connections: What are examples of other incidents in America’s history that resulted in dramatic changes to immigration policy?
  3. Reflect: What is the best way for America to protect its borders while also treating immigrants fairly and respecting their rights?