What was the meaning of liberty in 1776?
First edition. March 2016.
PREVIEW THIS UNIT. The preview includes the table of contents, a student reading excerpt, and one lesson plan. PREVIEW ALL UNITS. Additional unit descriptions for the U.S. History Series that summarize key events, people, and terms, underrepresented voices, and skill development are available, along with a timeline, on this MIRO BOARD.
Teachers: Are you still using A More Perfect Union: American Independence and the Constitution? We retired that unit in 2016 and recommend that you no longer use it. This unit serves as an updated and improved replacement. Please contact our office at choices@brown.edu if you have any questions.

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. The unit is divided into three parts. Each part includes:

  • Student readings
  • Accompanying study guides, graphic organizers, and key terms
  • Lessons aligned with the readings that develop analytical skills and can be completed in one or more periods
  • Videos that feature leading experts

This unit also includes an Options Role Play as the key lesson. You do not need to use the entire unit; feel free to select what suits your classroom needs.

“I love the moments of decision in the role play activities in the different units. In this unit, I like that the individuals discussing independence are real people with real viewpoints from the time period and the curriculum returns to many of these same people in a later lesson.” – Anonymous, High School History Teacher, MN

Part I: English Colonization of North America

Part I of the reading reviews the colonization of British North America and the roles of colonists, enslaved people, and Native groups. There is one lesson aligned with Part I: Interpreting a Native Map.

Part II: The Widening Split: 1763-1775

Part II readings examine the sources of tension between colonists and the British government as well as the increasing push for political representation. There are two lessons aligned with Part II: 1) Revolutionary People, and 2) Art History and the American Revolution.

Part III: The War of Independence: 1776-1783

The Part III readings explore how ideas of independence erupted into war and what the Revolutionary War did, and did not, accomplish for different groups of people. There is one lesson aligned with Part III: The Declaration of Independence.


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

The Options Role Play is the key lesson in the unit. 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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