Curriculum & Resource Guides: Court of History: Using the Tool
Like all of the tools on the Young American Heroes web site, the Court of History tool springs from a constructivist learning philosophy. It encourages and enables student engagement and creation. Court of History is a tool that allows students to argue for or against a particular position about a decision that a young hero made in his or her life. For example, young Frederick Douglass ran away from his slave master in spite of the fact that to do so was against the law at the time. So the question might arise: Should we consider young Frederick a “fugitive from justice” and therefore a criminal, or as a “person seeking civil liberty”? In Court of History, students can argue for one side of the question or the other by supporting their positions with primary historical sources.
Court of History is designed to fit easily into a variety of curriculum activities either on an individual or on a group level, although it is particularly well suited for group research projects. Students can choose from the sample cases provided on the web site, or can choose to introduce their own “case” and support it either with provided sources or with sources they find elsewhere and upload to the Court of History. 

For information on how the Court of History tool works, see the Court of History section on the FAQ page, and/or view short  "How-to" Videos (below)  that cover the key functions available in the Court of History.


  • School—Suburban high-income 
  • Technology—Desktop computers in well-equipped Media Lab with IT support professional
  • Computer literacy—High, fluent readers
  • Teacher—very experienced in teaching with primary documents and helping students think historically, i.e., suspending presentist thinking), but not experienced using computers in classroom.
The teacher, who described himself as “not a tech-using teacher,” adapted the Court of History activity to illustrate how point of view affects reporting of an issue. Rather than having the students work online as lawyers building a case, the students were divided into two large teams representing two different television news programs—one reporting on Frederick Douglass’s escape to freedom from the Abolitionist point of view and one reporting the Southerners’ point of view. Using print outs of the primary source documents, as well as other documents provided by the teacher, the students wrote and reported two very different nightly news programs! While they did this “live” by taking turns in front of the class, it would have been easy to videotape their reports and present them “on TV.”

Court of History Tutorials:


If you are more comfortable reading text, the same information in the videos is available in print form on the FAQ page.


How To Use the Young American Heroes Website


How To Create an Educator Account and Classroom


How To Use the Timeline

Court of History-How to Begin a Case in the Court of History


Court of History-Adding Evidence to Support a Case


Court of History-Reviewing and Saving Your Case

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