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American Revolution

The American Revolution: Experiences of Rebellion

First edition. March 2016.

Overview

In 1776, colonists in North America declared independence from Britain. But, both before and after the Declaration, independence for the United States was not a given. Amid growing dissatisfaction with British rule, members of colonial society had to decide what their future would be, how they would relate to Britain, and how much blood they would be willing to shed for their demands. Different people had different stakes and interests—freedom did not always mean the same thing to colonial patriots, loyalist Tories, enslaved Africans, or native people facing complex questions about their rights, their identities, and their futures.

The American Revolution: Experiences of Rebellion draws students into the promise and uncertainty of this era. Considering the perspectives of various stakeholders—European colonists, enslaved Africans, and native peoples—students explore the factors that led to rebellion, war, and, ultimately, the independence of the United States.

Readings

Part I of the reading reviews the colonization of British North America and the roles of colonists, enslaved people, and native groups. Part II examines the sources of tension between colonists and the British government as well as the increasing push for political representation. Part III explores how ideas of independence erupted into war and what the Revolutionary War did, and did not, accomplish for different groups of people.

The Choices Role Play

This activity is a simulation in which students step into the shoes of people in British North America to examine three options for the future of the colonies in 1776. By exploring this spectrum of alternatives, students gain a deeper understanding of the values and beliefs that influenced how people in British North America thought about their futures. Each option draws on primary sources and incorporates the views of colonists, enslaved people, and native groups. The role play helps students clarify their thoughts and articulate their own views on how ideas of independence played out in the American Revolution.

Lessons

Interpreting a Native Map
Students interpret an eighteenth century Catawba map and consider the complexities of relations between native people and colonists.

Revolutionary People
Taking on the roles of a range of people present at the time of the American Revolution, students gain familiarity with the ideas and values of individual actors in a broader historical context.

Art History and the American Revolution
Students analyze a print's portrayal of colonial rebellion to consider how art can provide insight into different historical perspectives.

The Options Role Play
Working collaboratively, students take on the roles of people in British North America and explore three different options for the colonies' future in a role-play activity set in 1776.

The Declaration of Independence
Using primary sources from various moments in U.S. history, students examine how the principles of the Declaration of Independence have been interpreted and invoked.

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