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On July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress approved a resolution declaring colonial independence from Great Britain. Two days later, Congress approved the Declaration of Independence, a document listing the colonies' reasons for declaring independence. More than 200 years later, the U.S. celebrates Independence Day on the fourth of July, not the second.
Explore the resources on Teachinghistory.org's Independence Day spotlight page for the answer to this question and others. You'll find website reviews, teaching strategies, lesson plans, quizzes, and more. Though Independence Day falls outside of the school year for many teachers and students, you can use these resources whenever you teach about the holiday or the Declaration of Independence and the American Revolution. (If you're looking for resources on other founding documents, try our spotlight page on Constitution Day.)
With the advent of digital archives, anyone with an Internet connection now has access to an embarrassment of historical riches, including hundreds of primary sources from the American Revolution. After browsing our spotlight page, explore some of these resources:
- A letter on July 3, 1776, to Abigail Adams, in which John Adams writes that he believes the second of July will become a national holiday (from the Massachusetts Historical Society).
- The original and engraved versions of the Declaration of Independence, accompanied by a transcript, explanatory articles, and the Virginia Declaration of Rights (from the National Archives and Records Administration).
- A second letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, written July 5, 1777, in which Adams describes a celebration on the first anniversary of independence (from the Library of Congress; check out other primary sources on later Independence Day celebrations, too).
- George Washington's general orders from July 9, 1776, describing the reading of the Declaration to troops (from the Library of Congress; click "Transcription" at the top of the page).
- Fragments from drafts of the Declaration, original printed copies, prints of both contemporary and later visions of the Continental Congress, and more (from the Library of Congress).
- Fragments of Thomas Jefferson's autobiography related to the Declaration of Independence (from the Library of Congress).
- An 1823 letter from Thomas Jefferson to James Madison on memories of the drafting of the Declaration (from the Library of Congress; no transcript available).
- An interactive version of Thomas Jefferson's rough draft of the Declaration (from the Library of Congress; Silverlight required to view).
- The back of the original copy of the Declaration (from the National Archives and Records Administration).