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Encouraging Student Exploration of Historic Newspapers with an Article Celebrating North Carolina’s Ratification of the U.S. Constitution

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This post is written by Lee Ann Potter, Director of Learning and Innovation at the Library of Congress.

Two hundred and thirty-three years ago this week, on September 28, 1787 — eleven days after the delegates to the federal convention in Philadelphia had drafted the Constitution and submitted it to Congress for consideration — Congress voted to transmit it to the states for ratification.  By late June 1788, nine states had ratified the document, making it the official framework for the United States government.  A little more than a month later, both Virginia and New York had ratified it, and the new Constitution went into effect on March 4, 1789.

And yet two states, North Carolina and Rhode Island, still had not ratified the document.

“Twelfth Federal Pillar: North Carolina.” Gazette of the United States, Wednesday, December 23, 1789

In the September 2020 issue of Social Education, the journal of the National Council for the Social Studies, our “Sources and Strategies” feature told the rest of this story with the help of historic newspaper articles.  Specifically, it included:

Encourage your students to read The Gazette articles describing North Carolina’s and Rhode Island’s ratification and lead a class discussion contrasting the two.

These two articles might serve as a good introduction for your students to The Gazette of the United States, which was published during the very early federal period, between 1789 and 1818.  You might brainstorm with students the significant events that took place in the United States and abroad, as well as the names of individuals who played a role in government activities during those years.  Then, allow the generated lists to serve as search terms, and challenge students to find and share news coverage of those events and people.

Feel free to share the articles they find with us, too!


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