July 4th is Independence Day in the United States. Most schools aren’t in session during this time, but since I’ll be teaching English Language Learners during summer school, I thought developing a short “The Best…” list would be useful to my students, other teachers, and me.
In addition to the sites on this list, you might also find the The Best Websites For Learning About Civic Participation & Citizenship list helpful.
Here are my choices for The Best Websites For Learning About The Fourth of July (and are accessible to English Language Learners). They are not listed in any particular order of preference:
EL Civics has an ESL Fourth Of July Lesson.
The History Channel has a good Fourth of July site.
The New York Times has a slideshow showing how people celebrate the Fourth Of July. It has another one highlighting July Fourth “cookouts.”
Fun On The Fourth is a slideshow from The New York Times.
Fireworks Over The Hudson is a panorama by the New York Times.
Here’s another slideshow of July 4th celebrations.
7 Spectacular Fireworks Shows on YouTube can be used in schools that have YouTube blocked by tools in The Best Ways To Access Educational YouTube Videos At School list.
Thanks to Michelle Henry’s fabulous website, I’ve learned about three good listening exercises for July 4th:
The Big Bang is a similar infographic.
Independence Day Around The World is an interactive map.
ESL Holiday Lessons has a lesson on the holiday specifically for English Language Learners.
Fourth of July Fireworks is a New York Times slideshow.
Martin Luther King gave a sermon on July 4, 1965 at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. His topic was “The American Dream.”
You can read his entire sermon at the Martin Luther King Papers at Stanford. In fact, you can hear it, as well, though his spoken sermon is somewhat different than the written transcript.
Here is a lengthy excerpt, though I’d encourage you to read or listen to it in its entirety:
This is why we must join the war against poverty (Yes, sir) and believe in the dignity of all work. What makes a job menial? I’m tired of this stuff about menial labor. What makes it menial is that we don’t pay folk anything. (Yes, sir) Give somebody a job and pay them some money so they can live and educate their children and buy a home and have the basic necessities of life. And no matter what the job is it takes on dignity.
I submit to you when I took off on that plane this morning, I saw men go out there in their overalls. (Yes, sir, Every time) I saw them working on things here and there, and saw some more going out there to put the breakfast on there so that we could eat on our way to Atlanta. (Make it plain) And I said to myself that these people who constitute the ground crew are just as significant as the pilot, because this plane couldn’t move if you didn’t have the ground crew. (Amen) I submit to you that in Hugh Spaulding or Grady Hospital, (Preach it) the woman or the man who goes in there to sweep the floor is just as significant as the doctor, (Yes) because if he doesn’t get that dust off the floor germs will begin to circulate. And those same germs can do injury and harm to the human being. I submit to you this morning (Yes) that there is dignity in all work (Have mercy) when we learn to pay people decent wages. Whoever cooks in your house, whoever sweeps the floor in your house is just as significant as anybody who lives in that house. (Amen) And everybody that we call a maid is serving God in a significant way. (Preach it) And I love the maids, I love the people who have been ignored, and I want to see them get the kind of wages that they need. And their job is no longer a menial job, (No, sir) for you come to see its worth and its dignity.
Are we really taking this thing seriously? “All men are created equal.” (Amen) And that means that every man who lives in a slum today (Preach it) is just as significant as John D., Nelson, or any other Rockefeller. Every man who lives in the slum is just as significant as Henry Ford. All men are created equal, and they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, rights that can’t be separated from you. [clap] Go down and tell them, (No) “You may take my life, but you can’t take my right to life. You may take liberty from me, but you can’t take my right to liberty. You may take from me the desire, you may take from me the propensity to pursue happiness, but you can’t take from me my right to pursue happiness.” (Yes) “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights and among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” (Yes, sir)
Now there’s another thing that we must never forget. If we are going to make the American dream a reality, (Yes) we are challenged to work in an action program to get rid of the last vestiges of segregation and discrimination. This problem isn’t going to solve itself, however much [word inaudible] people tell us this. However much the Uncle Toms and Nervous Nellies in the Negro communities tell us this, this problem isn’t just going to work itself out. (No, sir) History is the long story of the fact (Yes) that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges without strong resistance, and they seldom do it voluntarily. And so if the American dream is to be a reality, we must work to make it a reality and realize the urgency of the moment.
Frederick Douglass also gave a famous speech on a July 4th, titled “What Is The Slave To The 4th of July?”
What do you get when you strap a tiny video recorder to firecrackers?
Top 5 myths about July 4 is from The Washington Post.
Small-Town Traditions, Night-Sky Explosions is a New York Times slideshow.
Independence Day Around the World is a very cool interactive map.
Rethinking The Fourth Of July is from the Zinn Education Project.
You might also be interested in The Best Sites For Learning About Flag Day.
Celebrating Many Years of Fireworks and Parades is a photo gallery from The New York Times.
President Obama gave a great speech at a July 4th Naturalization Ceremony. You can read the speech transcript here and I’ve embedded the video below. You can also read about it at this New York Times article, Obama Marks Fourth of July With New Citizens.
All Over, Celebrating the Fourth is a New York Times slideshow.
10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Fourth of July is a TIME slideshow.
Rethinking the 4th of July is by Bill Bigelow at The Zinn Education Project.
I already have a link on the list to Frederick Douglass’ famous speech on July Fourth, but here’s a video of Danny Glover reading it:
Little Known Facts About July 4th is a NY Times video:
When countries earned their independence, and celebrate it is a chart from The Economist.
The Fourth of July—in 9 Graphs is from The Atlantic.
Fireworks, parades and family fun: Glorious photographs of how Americans marked Independence Day over the last two centuries is from The Mail Online.
Fifty For the Fourth: Our Patriotic Playlist is from TIME.
‘Impudent Huzzy!’: How to Speak Like a Founding Father is also from TIME.
Here’s a nice TED-Ed video and lesson:
The Night Before the Fourth is from The Atlantic.
— Zinn Ed Project (@ZinnEdProject) July 2, 2015
Teaching Independence Day: A list of lessons to download and take to your picnic. http://t.co/rYRdVXgnJN
— EdWeek Teacher (@EdWeekTeacher) July 3, 2015
My Mom, a Mexican Immigrant, Taught Me to Love America is from TIME.
Each state’s Fourth of July song, in one map is from Vox.
Listen. But also remember Jefferson removed the part castigating slavery in order to get necessary signatures. https://t.co/ZAXDKCOP24
— Ida Bae Wells (@nhannahjones) July 4, 2016
— Annette Gordon-Reed (@agordonreed) July 4, 2016
How Fireworks Became a Fourth of July Tradition is from TIME.
— Larry Ferlazzo (@Larryferlazzo) July 5, 2017
When the Fourth of July Was a Black Holiday is from The Atlantic.
How to Protest the Fourth of July is from The NY Times.
As some deservedly enjoy a day off work, it’s not a bad thing to be aware of context. The Declaration of Independence, the bedrock of today’s celebration, calls Native Americans “merciless Indian savages.” This history is worthy of acknowledgment. https://t.co/qyZAZ0JRfL
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) July 4, 2018
Seven Americans on patriotism, protest and the president is from The Washington Post.
Do American Indians Celebrate the 4th of July? is from Smithsonian Magazine.
— Jennifer Binis (@JennBinis) July 4, 2021
I’d certainly be interested in hearing other suggestions, so please feel free to leave them in the comments section.
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