American Icons

Thomas Edison | Inventor and Entrepreneur Video

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Thomas Edison, a leader of American innovation, was responsible for developing many modern devices. He created the first organized industrial research laboratory where he and a team of scientists and innovators brought to life home electricity, the light bulb, car batteries, movies, music players, and thousands of other innovations. Through a video and primary source activities, students will learn about Edison’s remarkable business of innovation and some of his 1,093 patented devices. 

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Alexander Hamilton | Lawyer, Writer, and Founding Father Video

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Founding Father Alexander Hamilton fought at General George Washington’s side in the American Revolution, aided in the passage of the Constitution, and helped save the United States from financial ruin. A great leader, writer, soldier, and lawyer, Hamilton did not let his poor birthright stop him from achieving greatness. Through a short video and an analysis of two primary sources, students will examine the life of this important military and political leader.

Amelia Earhart | Aviator, Record-breaker, and Activist Video

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Amelia Earhart was a pioneer of early aviation, courageously flying airplanes at a time when the risks were high. Equally bold was her pursuit of a career as a woman in a non-traditional field. Through two primary source activities and a short video, students will learn about Earhart’s passion for flying and determination to succeed as a female aviator.

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Harriet Beecher Stowe | Author and Abolitionist Video

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Harriet Beecher Stowe used the emotional power of words to express her conscious belief in racial equality. She wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin to point out the atrocities of slavery, an issue that divided the nation and eventually led to the start of the Civil War. Throughout her life, she continued writing against injustice wherever she saw it. Through two primary source activities and a short biographical video, students will examine the content and impact of Stowe’s Uncle Tom's Cabin, one of the most influential books in American history.

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Elizabeth Cady Stanton | Orator, Author, and Activist Video

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Powerful orator and author Elizabeth Cady Stanton, along with Susan B. Anthony, co-founded the National Woman Suffrage Association, an organization dedicated to obtaining equal rights for women. Stanton’s ideas about religion, divorce, and labor were radical for her time. By watching a short video and engaging in two primary source activities, students will explore the need for social change, as well as its inherent challenges.

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Helen Keller | Author, Advocate, and Activist Video

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Through viewing a video about Helen Keller’s life, examining a 1904 photograph of Keller, and reading excerpts of her autobiography, students will learn about Helen Keller’s commitment to advocating for equal treatment for people with disabilities. The lesson concludes with students choosing a quotation that best represents Keller’s challenges and successes.

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Malcolm X | Minister and Civil Rights Activist Video

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During the struggle for civil rights, several leaders rose to prominence, seeking the best solution to the longstanding marginalization and disenfranchisement of the black population in the United States. Malcolm X became a powerful voice in this movement, especially for the poor and victims of racial violence, bringing pride and power to his people. By watching a short video and engaging with two primary sources, students will examine the life of this inspiring, controversial, and dynamic leader.

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Sojourner Truth | Abolitionist and Women’s Rights Activist Video

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An abolitionist and feminist during the nineteenth century, Sojourner Truth demanded not less discrimination, but no discrimination. Truth escaped enslavement and, despite being unable to read or write, rose to be a leader in the fight for equality and fair treatment for both women and African Americans. Through two primary source activities and a short biographical video, students will understand the remarkable career of this persevering woman who lived up to her self-chosen name.

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Cesar Chavez | Labor Leader and Civil Rights Activist Video

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Migrant farm workers in the United States were exploited routinely by the agricultural industry, which forced them to work in unsafe conditions for little pay. They had no political representation or advocates until Cesar Chavez established the United Farm Workers, the first successful union for farm laborers. Students will watch a short video and examine two primary sources in order to understand how Chavez was able to successfully organize a movement among some of America’s poorest and most oppressed workers.

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Alexander Graham Bell | Scientist, Inventor, and Teacher Video

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Alexander Graham Bell devoted his life to helping people—deaf and hearing—communicate. Working tirelessly to integrate the deaf into society—like his pupil Helen Keller—Bell was also an avid inventor. He created numerous communication devices, including the telephone. Using a short video and two primary sources, students will learn about Bell’s inventions and his work with the deaf community.

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