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APRIL 2, 2012


Trial by Jury

In this article, James Breig explains that the right to a trial by jury was very important to the founders. In 1774, John Jay drafted a letter which said in part that Parliament was "depriving the american Subjects of the invaluable Trial by Jury" and taking colonists "in chains 3000 miles from their native country without evidence or Assistance of friends to be tried by a Jury of strangers." When Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence, he borrowed from George Mason's Virginia Declaration of Rights. Its sixteen clauses included: "That in all capital or criminal prosecutions a man has a right . . . to a speedy trial by an impartial jury of twelve men of his vicinage." "Vicinage" meant "a neighborhood." Today, in the law, it means a court's district or circuit.

Primary Source of the Month

Jury for the Emmett Till Trial, 1955
"Jury for the Emmett Till Trial", 1955.

In 1955 an all-white, all-male Mississippi jury acquitted two white men of murdering Emmett Till, a African American boy of 14 who had been brutally beaten, shot, and dumped in the river. The accused men, protected by double jeopardy, later told a magazine that they had murdered Till.

The Rights of Youth EFT
The Next Electronic Field Trip
is The Rights of Youth
April 19, 2012

Find sources of federal funding for EFTs in this PDF.

Teacher Community

Teaching News

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Restoring Civic Purpose in Schools

The future of our republic depends on an informed and engaged citizenry, writes Dr. William E. White in this article in Education Week. White and coauthors Davis, Hartoonian, and Van Scotter, discuss the importance of civic education in our nation's schools and present suggestions for integrating discussion and debate of the nation's history and ideals into existing curricula. They present America is a continual struggle between competing values. By viewing American history and current events from within this framework, students can become informed and civil participants in our democratic republic. Read the article in PDF format.

April Podcasts
04/02: Heroes and Villians–Benedict Arnold
Vodcast: Colonial Dance
04/09: CONNECT
04/16: Thomas Jefferson on Religion
04/23: Patrick Henry on Religion
04/30: Meet the Carpenter

The Idea of America
The Idea of America
A digital American history program that inspires and prepares high school students for active citizenship, developed by Colonial Williamsburg and distributed by Pearson Education.

Downloadable American History
Lesson Plans from ABC-CLIO
and Colonial Williamsburg


Colonial Williamsburg CONNECT

Learn more about juries and connect with others on Connect's The Courts page!

Join us April 14 from 3–4 p.m. Eastern time online or in the Colonial Williamsburg Historic Area for our LIVE event! Enjoy scenes from our Revolutionary City program, live Q&A with our actor-interpreters, and discussion moderated by radio personality Cathy Lewis.

Teaching Strategy: Exploring the Right to a Trial by Jury

Trial by jury is one of many key concepts of American's freedoms assured by the Bill of the Rights in the United States Constitution. In this lesson, students will explore the importance of fair trials and the difficulties inherent in maintaining impartiality in a trial by jury system. In small groups, students will discuss key concepts of our judicial system. Then they will determine if our system is fair and impartial.

Colonial Williamsburg Teaching Resources for Your Classroom

2012–2013 Teaching Resources Catalog

Colonial Williamsburg offers a variety of quality American history instructional materials, including:

  • Virtual Republic and Current Eventswebsite at
  • Primary Sources CD-ROM

Kids Zone: History, Games & Fun

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Registration opens April 11!

Quotation of the Month

"I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution."

—Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Paine, 1789. ME 7:408, Papers 15:269.

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Colonial Williamsburg for Teachers

2010 Distance Learning Award
21st Century Award
for Best Practices in Distance Learning,
United States Distance Learning Association, 2010

2011 AEP Finalist
Distinguished Achievement Award Finalist 2011
Association of Educational Publishers

The Colonial Williamsburg Electronic Field Trip Series is supported in part
by the William and Gretchen Kimball Young Patriots Fund.

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