Primary Sources, Student Activities, Teacher Reference Materials

How did different people shape the American Revolution?

Grade Level:
High School: Ninth Grade through Twelfth Grade
Social Studies
Common Core Standards:
9-10.RH.1, 9-10.RH.2, 9-10.RH.7, 9-10.RH.9, 9-10.RH.10, 11-12.RH.1, 11-12.RH.2, 11-12.RH.5, 11-12.RH.7, 11-12.RH.9, 11-12.RH.10, 9-10.WHST.1, 9-10.WHST.1.a, 9-10.WHST.1.b, 11-12.WHST.1, 11-12.WHST.1.a, 11-12.WHST.1.b
State Standards:
Massachusetts Curriculum Framework for History and Social Science
US History I: Topic 1 (USI.T1) #1, #3, #4, #5
Learning for Justice: Teaching Hard History Framework
Key Concepts #1, 2, 4, & 5
Summary Objectives #4 & 5

Students use two 18th century primary source documents to explore revolutionary protests by free colonists and enslaved Africans in Salem. 

This activity may be used alone or with other primary source activities examining Salem merchant, Richard Derby's, connections to slavery and the slave economy. Consider pairing with the primary source activity that asks: How did Salem's slavery economy contribute to the American Revolution?


1. Introduce students to essential question and background information (see student materials below). 
2. Students examine two primary source documents.
3. Students use background information and primary source documents to complete graphic organizer.
Introduce supplemental primary source documents to give students further context. Supplemental documents include illustration of a tarring and feathering.  

Note on Language

Over the course of American history, the language used to describe Black people has changed and most likely will continue to change. Be sure to discuss with students that some of the primary sources use outdated terms as well as racist and offensive language to describe Black people. We recommend developing a plan or guidelines to ensure a respectful, reflective classroom discussion.

A Note on Transcriptions

The primary source transcriptions included in "Student Materials" are heavily modified for length and clarity. We have worked to keep the documents representative of their original versions. You can find original transcriptions below. 


Student Materials: background information, primary source documents, and a graphic organizer.

Download Student Materials

Supplemental primary sources: for further context and to support essential question.

Download supplemental primary sources

Teacher Materials: expanded version of background information for further context.

Download Teacher Materials

Original transcriptions of primary source documents

Download original transcriptions

Last updated: March 6, 2023