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Back to FREEDOM: A History of US Educational Support Materials

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Educational Support Materials for the exhibit...

Freedom: A History of US


MARCH 13, 2003 THROUGH APRIL 18, 2003



The current exhibit is Freedom: The History of US, sponsored by G.E. In a letter informing schools about the exhibit, Gus Serra, Manager of Community Relations and Communication at G.E., wrote:

“History can play an important part in helping young people understand events of the day.”

The exhibit is based on the book, Freedom: A History of US by Joy Hakim, and was made into a landmark series of 16 TV documentaries that aired on PBS for eight weeks beginning in January, 2003. The videos are available from PBS and study guides and activities are available at www.pbs.org. When students come for the Freedom Tour, they may see excerpts from the PBS series. The following is from the introduction to the PBS guide:

“Freedom is an exciting, even dangerous idea. It means independence – the ability to act without being coerced by others. Freedom requires risk taking, courage and a willingness to struggle for the possibility of a better future. Freedom is one of the founding principles of the United States. The United States has offered hope for people seeking freedom. At the same time, many Americans have been denied freedom. When the Bill of Rights was written, slavery was an accepted institution and married women were considered their husbands’ property. The freedoms that today offer us protection and opportunities for change should not be taken for granted.”

There couldn’t be a better time for you to see this exhibit, because the issues it covers are very alive at this moment in our nation as issues of democracy and our constitutional freedoms are being hotly debated in Congress and all across the United States.

The exhibit reproduces revolutionary documents – primary sources - of our history that proclaimed our rights to self-government and freedom. It shows evidence – letters, photographs, art work - of the work of courageous men and women who took great risks as concepts of freedom evolved.

As preparation for the exhibit and, as a follow-up, we encourage your students to conduct research and engage in discussions and debate on their views about the past and present state of our freedoms. This is not a mere academic exercise, but the results of the research and the actions taken can affect the students and the future history of our great country.


After viewing the exhibit and participating in dialogue, students will:

  • Learn or review important facts from our history
  • Gain insight from history that helps us understand the present
  • Understand more about the process of history – analyzing and interpreting primary sources: letters, photographs, drawings, paintings, and documents, such as
    • The Declaration of Independence,
    • The U.S. Constitution
  • Engage in critical thinking on the following:
    • Freedom is a concept that is evolving
    • Compromises were made in our past history

    There is an ongoing tension that continues today between freedom and security, the ideal and the rea,l and citizens and governments.

The exhibit was developed by Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and the Meserve-Kunhardt Collection and is presented by PictureHistory

Educational Materials Prepared by Janet Luongo, Educational Consultant