Justice in America
Class Length: 2-4
Students will be able to:
Compose a one-page response explaining their understanding of “justice.”
Use and analyze primary sources for evidence of intent and purpose.
Apply their understanding of justice to various hypothetical situations.
Apply the concept of “justice” to early American dissatisfaction to
- Image of “Lady Justice” (cited reference #1)
- The Pledge of Allegiance (cited reference #2)
- The Bill of Rights – Sixth
Amendment (cited reference #4)
Excerpts from The Declaration of Independence (cited reference #5)
- The Preamble to the
Constitution (cited reference #6)
- Quotes on Justice
(cited reference 9)
- Overhead projector
Students are given a list of quotes about “justice.” Ask students to respond to the following
prompt in a quick write: “What does it
mean for a society to be just?” After
students have completed this work, facilitate a guided discussion.
Use this discussion to generate a list of ideas on the board. Then help students determine whether their
ideas math with the ideals of justice established by the founders of the U.S.
Divide students into five groups. Then distribute one excerpt
from a primary document, referenced below, to each group. In addition, distribute accompanying
questions to each group. In groups students will discuss the meaning of
“justice” as it is intended in the document, and answer the accompanying
questions on a separate piece of paper.
From Primary Sources
The Declaration of Independence:
The Virginia Declaration of Rights:
The Preamble to the
The Pledge of
The Bill of Rights –
Sixth Amendment (discussion can include the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh,
and Eighth Amendments and the kinds of rights the Founding Fathers wanted to
After students have completed this group work, ask each
group to present their answers to the class.
Facilitate a discussion on the meaning of justice, according to these
Now ask students to imagine that they were living in the
British in the 1770s. Was their
community just? Why/why not? Do students think that it’s possible that
different people had different perspectives on this question? Why/why not?
Students will imagine they are one of the founding fathers
sleeping in his bed. Consider reading
the following script: “You have a vivid dream influenced by the primary source documents
about independence from Britain. You wake up in the middle of the night from
your dream and record it in your journal.
Write the record of your dream.
Consider the following:
Was your dream a nightmare or pleasant?
Of the documents noted, which influenced your
dream the most? How?
What other people were in your dream, and how
did you interact with them? If you were
alone, analyze how that symbolizes your mindset about independence.
Students will now take the role of dream interpreter. Students will place their dream records in a
bag, and pick at random a dream (not their own) to analyze and pinpoint
pertinent themes. Students will share
their interpretation of the dream they chose with the writer.
Through this activity, students critique each other’s
work. Dream interpreters should
determine whether or not the dreamer correctly understood the primary source
document to which he/she refers.
(2007). Image of lady justice. Neustra Voice: La Mera Verdad. Targeted Communications.
Retrieved October 24th, 2007 from http://nuestravoice.com/?m=200703
Dalka, M., Streufert,
D. Ed. (2005). The pledge of allegiance. Retrieved October 24th, 2007 from
Halsall, P. Ed.
(1998). William penn (1644-1718): Some fruits of solitude in reflections and
maxims, 1682. Internet Modern
History Sourcebook, Fordham
2007 from http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1682penn-solitude.html
Keefer, S. (2006). The significance of the bill
of rights: How ten amendments solidified our
nation. The Official Site of the
Bill of Rights. Retrieved
2007 from http://www.billofrights.com/
Kindig, T. (1995). The Declaration
of Independence: When in the course of human events….
U.S. History.org: We Hold These Truths. Retrieved
2007 from http://www.ushistory.org/Declaration/
Mount, S. Ed.
(2007). The preamble. The U.S.
Constitution Online. Retrieved October 17th, 2007
Murphy, G. (1996). Virginia Declaration
of rights. The Avalon Project at Yale Law
Retrieved October 24th, 2007 from http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/virginia.htm
National Constitution Center (2007). Justice in america.
Explore the Constitution: Educational
Resources. Retrieved October 24th, 2007 from
ThinkExist.com (2006). Justice quotes. ThinkExist.com: You Think,
therefore You Exist.
Novemember 2nd, 2007 from