America in Class® Lessons are tailored to meet Common Core and state curriculum standards. The Lessons present challenging primary resources in a classroom-ready format, with background information and strategies that enable teachers and students to subject texts and images to analysis through close reading. Read more »
“To Build a Fire”: An Environmentalist Interpretation
How can we read “To Build a Fire” as a cautionary tale about the exploitation of nature?
Hester’s A: The Red Badge of Wisdom
What does the scarlet A do for Hester Prynne?
NSC 68: America’s Cold War Blueprint
Why did the United States believe it had a responsibility to engage the Soviet Union in a cold war, and why was that war a global conflict?
Jefferson and the Louisiana Purchase
Why did President Thomas Jefferson negotiate the Louisiana Purchase?
The Underground Railroad
As the Underground Railroad helped guide fugitive slaves to freedom, what dangers and challenges confronted the fugitives and supportive agents?
The Revolution of 1800
How did Thomas Jefferson use his first inaugural address to bridge the political divide generated by his election and redirect presidential policy?
America, the Creeks, and Other Southeastern Tribes
What challenges faced the United States in 1789 as it sought to negotiate with the Creeks and other Native American nations of the Southeast?
Patrick Henry and “Give Me Liberty!”
What arguments, appeals, and rhetorical strategies did Patrick Henry use in 1775 to persuade reluctant members of the Second Virginia Convention to develop a military response to British aggression?
De Las Casas and the Conquistadors
What arguments did Bartolome de Las Casas make in favor of more humane treatment of Native Americans as he exposed the atrocities of the Spanish conquistadors in Hispaniola?
America and the Six Nations: Native Americans after the Revolution
Through his 1790 speech, how does Seneca Chief Cornplanter reflect the shifting political landscape Native Americans faced following the American Revolution?
A Model of Christian Charity
What did John Winthrop mean when, in his sermon “A Model of Christian Charity,” he told his Puritan followers that their colony would be “as a city upon a hill”?
After Shays’ Rebellion
How did the aftermath of Shays’ Rebellion reflect the republican nature of the American government, especially the right to vote?
The Moral Vision of Atticus Finch
In To Kill a Mockingbird what does Atticus Finch’s relationship with the minor but important character Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose suggest about the quality of his moral vision?
The Columbian Exchange
In what ways did the arrival of Europeans to America bring about unforeseen and unintended consequences for the people and environments of both the New World and the Old?
Abigail Adams and “Remember the Ladies”
How does Abigail Adams’s famous appeal to “Remember the Ladies” reflect the status of women in eighteenth-century America?
James Madison Debates a Bill of Rights
What doubts, concerns, and misgivings arose during the development of the Bill of Rights?
“The Chinese Question from a Chinese Standpoint,” 1873
How did the Chinese in California confront anti-Chinese discrimination in the late 1800s?
Thoreau’s Critique of Democracy in “Civil Disobedience”
What criticisms of representative democracy does Thoreau raise in “Civil Disobedience”?
Aylmer’s Motivation in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Birthmark”
In “The Birthmark” how does Nathaniel Hawthorne use symbolism to reveal the motivation of Aylmer, the story’s protagonist?
Individualism in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self-Reliance”
In his essay “Self-Reliance,” how does Ralph Waldo Emerson define individualism, and how, in his view, can it affect society?
Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, 1776
How did Thomas Paine’s pamphlet Common Sense convince reluctant Americans to abandon the goal of reconciliation with Britain and accept that separation from Britain — independence — was the only option for preserving their liberty?
Citizen Leadership in the Young Republic
What qualities of citizen leadership did John Adams consider essential to sustain and nurture the new republic?
Benjamin Franklin’s Satire of Witch Hunting
How does Benjamin Franklin’s satire of a witch trial argue that human affairs should be guided by reason?
The Marshall Plan Speech: Rhetoric and Diplomacy
What challenges, both rhetorical and diplomatic, did Secretary of State George Marshall face when, on June 5, 1947, he delivered his speech, calling for a massive aid program to restore the economies of Europe that had been ravaged by World War II?
“What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?”
What arguments and rhetorical strategies did Frederick Douglass use to persuade a northern, white audience to oppose slavery and favor abolition?
The Radio: Blessing or Curse? A 1929 Debate
How did the debate over commercial radio reflect American attitudes toward technological change in the 1920s?
The Airplane as a Symbol of Modernism
How did the airplane — with its marvel and mystery — symbolize modernism in the Twenties?
Progressivism in the Factory
How did Americans define progress during the Progressive Era?
Progressivism in the Home
How did Progressive reforms affect the domestic lives of Americans?
The “Phenomenon of Lindbergh”
How did the instant celebrity of Charles Lindbergh after his 1927 transatlantic flight reflect Americans’ values in the Twenties?
The Enslaved and the Civil War
How did African Americans enslaved in the Confederacy undermine the Southern cause during the Civil War?
A Pro-Slavery Argument, 1857
How did proponents of slavery in antebellum America defend it as a positive good?
REVISED AND UPDATED
Women, Temperance, and Domesticity
How does women’s role in the campaign against alcohol consumption in antebellum America reflect the strengths and limitations of the cult of domesticity?
The Religious Roots of Abolition
How did American Christians in the nineteenth century come to see slavery as something that needed to be abolished?
The Expansion of Democracy during the Jacksonian Era
How did the character of American politics change between the 1820s and the 1850s as a result of growing popular participation?
The Cult of Domesticity
How did the cult of domesticity oppress and empower women in the nineteenth century?
Successful European Colonies in the New World
Why did some European attempts to establish colonies in the New World succeed while most failed?
Lexington and Concord: Tipping Point of the Revolution
How did the Battles of Lexington and Concord change the character of American resistance to British rule?
Failed European Colonies in the New World
Why did some European attempts to establish colonies in the New World fail?
Early Visual Representations of the New World
How did Europeans interpret the New World through some of their earliest visual depictions?
The Family Life of the Enslaved
How did slavery shape the family life of the enslaved in the American South?
The American Revolution as Civil War
How did the American Revolution manifest itself as a civil war, turning neighbors into enemies?