Presidential inaugurations are one of the United States of America’s oldest traditions. They are a founding ceremony of our democracy. Studying inaugurations through a primary source lens is an engaging and at times fascinating classroom activity.
General resources for inaugural primary sources abound. The Library of Congress contains a wealth of resources on every presidential inauguration from George Washington to the incoming president, Joe Biden. Their resources range from articles that contain primary sources to curated lists of resources. The White House list of inauguration resources also contains many primary resources.
You can bring specific topics within the realm of inaugurations alive with primary sources. Varied resources exist about the inaugural locations, including those outside of Washington, DC. The site of the first inauguration in New York City is a primary source in itself and is now a national memorial. Examining videos of inaugurations can be a captivating exercise for both elementary and secondary students. There are many videos – from historical documentation, to highlight reels, to recordings of individual speeches – available about a variety of inaugural topics. Primary sources even exist from the first inauguration!
You can teach the inauguration with primary sources by making lessons using resources like DocsTeach, primary source analysis worksheets, or the inaugural quiz. Lesson plans exist for all levels, whether you teach elementary, middle school, or high school. You can also find lesson plans for each of the presidents’ individual inaugurations by doing a simple Google search. However you choose to study inaugurations, it can be a valuable teaching tool to incorporate primary sources! As always TeachersFirst® offers valuable resources for teaching about the inauguration, you can find those by accessing our special topics collection.