Joe Foss Institute

Civics Education Initiative

by JoeFossInstitute on October 17, 2014

The Civics Education Initiative (CEI), an affiliate of the Joe Foss Institute, was recently announced and met with rave reviews. The CEI would require high students, as a condition for graduation, to pass a test on 100 basic facts of U.S. history and civics from the United States Citizenship Civics Test – the test all new U.S. citizens must pass. Announced September 2012, the legislation is currentlyunderway in six states. For more information, visit



Teachers – Suggested Readings and Activities

by JoeFossInstitute on July 31, 2014

Next August, a landmark piece of legislation turns 50. The Voting Act of 1965, signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson, prohibits racial discrimination in voting. This month’s installment of the National Constitution Center’s Civics in Literature initiative features suggested readings and activities designed to teach students about the struggles faced by African Americans and women in particular to earn the right to become active participants in American democracy.

Featured Book

Granddaddy-s-Gift-Granddaddy’s Gift by Margaree King Mitchell

In this book, students learn about Little Joe and her granddaddy, who lived in a small town in Mississippi during segregation. Granddaddy, through his courage and pride, became the first black man to register to vote in his town. Through his actions, he taught his granddaughter about the importance, determination and self-respect.

Featured Activity

Little Joe asked her granddaddy why she had to go to school. Granddaddy responded, “I want you to learn as much as you can so when you grow up you can choose what you want to do.” If you had to choose today what career to pursue when you grow up, what would you choose to do? Why was education so important to Little Joe’s granddaddy?

Download the full lesson here!

Check back for more lessons and activities.

Thanks to our friends at the National Constitution Center.

Afghan vet receives Medal of Honor

by JoeFossInstitute on July 22, 2014

Ryan M. Pitts, a former Army staff sergeant from New Hampshire, is the ninth living veteran of America’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to receive the nation’s highest honor for battlefield valor.

Pitt’s mission that day in June 2008 was to be his last before returning home from his second tour of Afghanistan. For the complete story and to hear him describe the ordeal in his own words, click here. Pitts

Liberty Bell Fascinating Facts

by JoeFossInstitute on July 9, 2014

On July 8, 1776, popular legend says the Liberty Bell rang to symbolize America’s independence from Great Britain. But many “facts” about the Bell, such as the 1776 ringing,  are shrouded in mystery.

For example, how did the Liberty Bell get its famous crack? Did it really ring on July 4, 1776? And where was the Bell hidden from the British?
Here are some of the facts we do know about the Liberty Bell, and some theories to answer the other big questions about the Bell’s travels.

1. The Liberty Bell pre-dates the Revolution. The Pennsylvania Assembly had the Liberty Bell made in 1751 to mark the 50-year anniversary of William Penn’s 1701 Charter of Privileges, which served as Pennsylvania’s original Constitution.

2. What is written on the Bell? The following Bible verse is on the Bell: “”Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.” Also included is information about the Assembly and the Bell’s maker.

3. No one knows today when the Bell was cracked. The crack is a big subject of debate among historians. One theory is the Bell had its first crack in 1752 when it was tested on its arrival in Philadelphia.

4. The last big crack happened on Washington’s Birthday. The Liberty Bell cracked up, literally, in February 1846, when it was rung on the holiday and then stopped ringing because of damage from a major crack.

5. The Liberty Bell rang a lot during its functional lifetime. Between 1753 and 1846, the Bell tolled for many people and occasions. It rang to mark the signing of the Constitution, and the deaths of Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson.

6. The Liberty Bell wasn’t the first name of this icon. The bell was originally known as the State House Bell. In the late 1830s, it acquired the name of the Liberty Bell when it became a symbol of the anti-slavery movement.

7. The bell probably didn’t ring on July 4, 1776. A magazine writer in 1847 made up the story of the bell ringing on the first Independence Day.

8. The bell may also not have rung on July 8, 1776. It is known that bells in the city of Philadelphia were ringing to celebrate the public announcement of the Declaration of Independence. According to the Independence Hall Association, the state house steeple was under repair at the time, making it unlikely for the Liberty Bell to be in use. But with no contemporary accounts, we just don’t know.

9. The Bell did go a Revolutionary road trip. In 1777, the Bell was removed from Philadelphia under armed guard and taken to Allentown, Pa., where it was hidden in a church. The fear was the British would melt the Bell and use it to make cannons. It back to Philadelphia the following year.

10. The Liberty Bell last hit the road in 1915. Back in the day, the Bell went on tour around the United States, but in the days before World War I it became clear the Bell had condition issues. Today, it resides at the Liberty Bell Center in Philadelphia, where it is occasionally tapped to mark special occasions.

Post courtesy of the National Constitution Center.

Juneteenth: A Reason to Celebrate

by JoeFossInstitute on June 19, 2014

emancipation-proclamationEditor’s note: This blog post, in part, was first posted by the National Constitution Center and the African American Museum in Philadelphia.

The dates, June 18th and 19th have a poignant meaning that reaches back in history.

It was on these days in 1865 that the Union Army brought news of emancipation to African Americans in one of the farthest corners of the Confederate States, Galveston, Texas, effectively marking the death-knell of slavery in the United States.

Many of us were taught in school that the American Civil War was fought solely to end slavery in the United States. In truth, while this may have been the case for some sympathetic whites in the North, and was certainly the case for many African Americans, enslaved and free, who foresaw the implications of this conflict on their status within the nation, it wasn’t until the middle years of the war that ending slavery took on any real sense of urgency for the federal government and its troops.

In September 1862, watching his Union Army suffer heavy casualties in conflict, unsure of the outcome of the war, and coming to understand that the South was greatly benefiting from its enslaved labor force, Lincoln penned a warning to the rebel states: Lay down your arms by January 1, 1863, or federal forces will emancipate your slaves.

Enslaved Africans and African Americans had long been agents of their own freedom. Some were able to purchase their freedom and that of their families. Others simply stole away, using the complex network of the Underground Railroad to reach safety, or, during the Civil War, traveled to Union camps where they sought both shelter and ways to aid the Union cause. Others were lucky enough to be manumitted, through state actions or directly by the individuals who claimed ownership of them.

But prior to the ratification of the 13th Amendment in 1865 – which banned slavery and involuntary servitude except as punishment for a crime – there was no greater enforceable demand for freedom than that given by the president when he followed through on his threat by issuing the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863.

The proclamation did not free all enslaved people. Rather, it freed slaves in only those areas of the country that Lincoln identified as being in rebellion. The status of those enslaved in slave-owning Union states – Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware, Missouri – remained unchanged. Still, as Union troops pushed south and west, enforcing Lincoln’s edict as they traveled, they further weakened the institution of slavery in every corner of the country.

It took over two years for the news of emancipation to officially reach Galveston, Texas. When it arrived on June 19th, it was a time of celebration for the African Americans who had longed for this day to arrive, and who remembered those who had not lived to see it come. While there would be a world of change awaiting them, this day – remembered each year as Juneteenth – was and continues to be a day for celebrating the end of slavery, the beginning of a new chance at life, and the remembrance of all those who made it happen.

Joe Foss Institute Makes the News!

by JoeFossInstitute on June 17, 2014

arizona_horizonHere is a clip of our CEO & President Lucian Spataro, Jr., Ph.D. and JFI board member Karrin Taylor on a recent program discussing the Institute and our 2014 Stars in Service event.


2014 Fall Video Scholarship Contest Open

June 6, 2014

 Get ready to channel your inner film maker and earn up to $5,000 for college! The Joe Foss Institute’s 2014 Fall Video Scholarship Contest is now accepting entries. Good news – you (or someone you know) have until October 19, 2014 to enter. The assignment is simple really. Using the theme – Keepers of the […]

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Flag Day Literature Connections

May 27, 2014

As we look to celebrate Flag Day (and the birthday of the U.S. Army) on June 14, here are some suggested books and activities for teaching students about the American flag and the Army. FEATURED BOOK This is the Rope by Jacqueline Woodson The American flag plays a central role in our country’s history.  In […]

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