Monday, December 16, 2013

Teaching the Boston Tea Party

Today marks the 240th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. This historical event is often credited as being the spark that set off the American Revolution. This evening many Bostonians will participate in the annual re-enactment of the Tea Party starting at the Old South Meeting House and ending up at Griffin's Wharf (we can talk about historical accuracies of the new Boston Tea Party Museum some other time).

Due to its connection to the principles of freedom and liberty, the Boston Tea Party has often been co-opted by social movements that believe they have a philosophical connection. This has included abolitionism, women's rights movements, civil rights movements, pro-war movements (especially during World War I and II), anti-war movements (especially during the Vietnam War), anti-abortion movements, immigration reform movements, anti-immigration movements (such as the Minutemen Project), anti-corporate movements (such as Occupy Wall Street), and, of course, the recent conservative Tea Party movement. Sometimes these movements are rightful heirs and sometimes they are not. For example, the naming of the conservative Tea Party movement, a modern-day libertarian movement for small government, is built on a false premise that the Boston colonists were protesting against higher taxes. In fact, the colonists were protesting against Britain's financial support for the East India Tea Company that affected their local trade and the lack of colonial representation in Parliament (remember "no taxation without representation" from your history textbooks?).

When creating social studies lesson plans around the Boston Tea Party, it is important to teach not only the event in historical context, but also about current movements that claim to be descendents of the original movement. It would be helpful to spend a couple class periods using primary sources to answer the inquiry question, "Were the Boston colonists justified in their acts during the Boston Tea Party?" This could be followed with a debate or a mock trial. Afterward, the students should learn about the Parliament's reaction to the Tea Party and the ensuing Coercive Acts or Intolerable Acts (as some of the people in the colonies called them). Finally, students can be asked to examine modern movements claiming to be rooted in the Boston Tea Party and assess if those groups live up to the spirit and the philosophies of the Boston Tea Party of 1773. For some excellent resources in teaching the Tea Party, see the links below:

Resources for teaching the original Boston Tea Party (and the woman-led Edenton Tea Party that followed):

Boston Tea Party: Lesson Plan (Secondary)

Boston Tea Party: Lesson Plan (Elementary)

Boston Tea Party: Video Game: From Crown or Colony?

Boston Tea Party: National History Education Clearinghouse

Boston Tea Party: Massachusetts Historical Society [Set 1]

Boston Tea Party: Massachusetts Historical Society [Set 2]

Boston Tea Party: National Archives

Boston Tea Party: The Smithsonian

Boston Tea Party: Public Broadcasting Service (PBS)

Boston Tea Party: The History Channel

Boston Tea Party: University of Houston's Digital History (Account of George Robert Twelve Hewes)

The Shoemaker and the Tea Party by: Memory and the American Revolution by Alfred Young

Edenton Tea Party: North Carolina History Project

Edenton Tea Party: Learn NC

Boston and Edenton Tea Parties: University of North Carolina

Resources for teaching about modern day movements linked to the Boston Tea Party:

Lesson Plan: The Tea Party

Lesson Plan: Occupy Wall Street

Lesson Plan: Immigration Reform

Lesson Plan: Gay Marriage

No comments:

Post a Comment