Videos for teaching early US history

I’ve always integrated video clips into my lectures in the US survey–I like bringing other voices and historical visualizations into the classroom and the students enjoy it. For online teaching, some best practice guides suggest that video instruction should be in 6-8 minute segments, so these videos can be interspersed with your own lecture clips.


To start with, a few good sites with lots of options:
SmartHistory (uses art to do history)

American Battlefield Trust (videos and virtual experiences)

National Constitution Center

Mount Vernon

C-SPAN classroom (create a free account; tons of great virtual field trips)

Click through to see a full list of the videos I use

Colonial Period

Opening scene of the movie The New World–shows students how foreign Virginia would have felt to English colonists, as well as showing that native people already lived there (4 min)

Short documentary on Cahokia–a bit outdated but works well (14 min)
Alternative: video on Mississippian object by Smart History (7 min)

Virtual reality tour of 17th century London (3:30)

History Channel segment on Middle Passage with historian interviews (2:30)
Note: I usually give a trigger warning for upsetting imagery

Explanation of mercantilism & Navigation Acts–a little dry but clear (5 min)

Excavations at Jamestown (4 min)

Hilarious Helmets summary of Salem Witchcraft Trials–I step in and tweak a bit of what he says but students like the goofiness (7 min)

17thc cupboard owned by Pilgrims from Smart History (5 min)

Analysis of painting Death of General Wolfe (6 min)

American Revolution

Explanation of the Townshend Acts from History Channel (3 min)

Animated graphic novel on Boston Massacre by American Battlefield Trust (2:40)

Battles of Lexington and Concord by American Battlefield Trust (5 min)

Revolutionary War animated battle map by American Battlefield Trust (19 min)–a bit long and goes quickly, but helpful for students interested in military history

Washington Crossing the Delaware by Mount Vernon (2 min)

Founding Era

Summary of the Bill of Rights from TED-Ed (3 min)

First Bank of the US from the Philadelphia Fed (4 min)

Cabinet battles from the Hamilton musical: Battle 1 and Battle 2 (music & lyrics only)

Revolution of 1800 from Hamilton musical (4 min)

Marbury vs Madison from History Channel (3:30 min)

War of 1812 movie trailer from College Humor (2:30)

Antebellum Era

Election of 1824 student-produced video (2 min)

Trail of Tears from PBS documentary (5 min)

Virtual tour of a slave cabin from Encyclopedia Virginia

Reenactment of slave sale (4:30); trigger warning

Excerpt from David Walker’s Appeal (4 min)

Abolitionism & Henry Box Brown by Teaching Tolerance (5 min)

Mexican-American War thru the painting War News from Mexico from Smart History (6:30 min)

Thoreau and Civil Disobedience (5:30)

Civil War & Reconstruction

Bleeding Kansas clip from History Channel (3:30 min)

Civil War animated map from American Battlefield Trust (24 min)–long and quick, but excellent overview

Playlist of short videos on Reconstruction from South Carolina Public Television (1:30-5 min)

Black Codes from PBS’s Reconstruction documentary (4 min)

If you have found other sites, please share in the comments!

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