Purest Sons-Into the Archives

Into the Archives: “Purest Sons” (60+ Minutes)

“Into the Archives” activities are open inquiries into the historical record that ask students to generate their own questions about the stories presented in the Basic Plan, then find, comprehend, and use historical documents to answer them.


This activity asks students to discuss the institution of slavery. Please be sure to inform students of this content prior to viewing and remind students of the respect and rigor required to study this history. This is hard history, but it is necessary history to study.


  • Apply critical thinking skills to initiate and thoroughly conduct an inquiry, such as being able to:
  • Construct compelling questions that reflect an enduring issue in the field;
  • Determine the kinds of sources that will be helpful in answering compelling and supporting questions, taking into consideration multiple points of views represented in the sources;
  • Gather sources and evaluate them for appropriateness based on their origin, purpose, context, content, and corroborative value.
  • Explore the experiences of Black Americans during the Revolutionary War and different approaches to seeking liberation.


1. Developing focused questions:

  • Option 1: Students can all address a question chosen by the teacher. Consider:
    • [Comparison] What were different approaches Black Americans used to seek liberation for themselves, their families, and their communities during the time of the Revolutionary War?
    • [Comparison] What are some similarities and differences between the experiences of Black Patriots and Black Loyalists?
    • [Causation] How did Black soldiers help shape the Revolutionary War?
  • Option 2: Students formulate their own compelling and supporting questions using a question formulation protocol:
    • Students work in groups of 2-4 and have 3-5 minutes to ask as many questions as they can that arise. At this stage, there are no bad questions, and we are not answering them. We are simply writing down all of the questions we come up with and numbering them.
    • Students should categorize their questions as closed (i.e. questions that result in one short, “right” answer) and open (i.e. questions that require longer deliberation and explanation). Students may turn closed questions into open questions.
    • Students should individually prioritize the three best questions and discuss why they made these choices with their small group. If your course is organized around themes or organizing frameworks, this would be a time students can connect back to those.
    • Students or groups each choose their focus inquiry question to investigate and discuss strategies.

2. Preparing for research:

  • Ask students to select or formulate new closed questions that will enable them to answer their focus inquiry question.
  • In small groups, students should discuss what sort of sources would help them answer their questions. Students should consider: primary vs. secondary sources, source format (textual, visual, etc.), purpose, perspective, and context.
  • Share with students the following research starting points. If needed, consider modeling search tips or source evaluation.

Research Starting Points

General Sources:

Acts, Proclamations, and Petitions (Primary Sources):

Sources on Black Patriots:

Sources on Black Loyalists:

3. Organizing, evaluating, and interpreting research.:

  • Have students organize their findings using the table in this document or another method. This table will help ensure that students are:
    • Analyzing the context, purpose, and point of view of each source.
    • Identifying the arguments made in each source.
    • Evaluating the credibility, accuracy, and relevance of each source (and detecting possible limitations).
    • Comparing the point of view of various sources that treat the same topic.
  • Ask students to pay attention to themes or organizing frameworks. This will help them begin to synthesize information across sources.

4. Communicating conclusions:

  • Guide students towards creating a written or oral presentation of their conclusions. This may take the format of a paragraph or short essay, a slidedeck and accompanying presentation, a poster, or something else. The key components are:
    1. Their focus inquiry question
    2. A clear, concise conclusion or argument that answers their focus inquiry question.
    3. Integration of at least three direct references to information gathered through the research process, properly cited and analyzed.
    4. Discussion of the stakes or significance of these conclusions.

Have students share their written or oral presentations, either in small groups or in a whole class setting.

Written by Precious Musa, Hannah Barr, Zeynep Ertugay, and Michael Lawrence-Riddell, © Self-Evident Education, 2022