The Boston Massacre is perhaps the single most examined event in the road to the American Revolution. From Revere’s masterful piece of propaganda, the creation of the Revolution’s first martyr, and the elevation of John Adams to stardom, these few seconds of terror on the streets of Boston marked a turning point in the colonial relationship with the mother country. Once blood had been spilled, there was no turning back. Yet what of the trial itself? Often lost in the common understanding of the “Massacre” is the courtroom drama upon which the lives of Captain Preston and his men depended, and the masterful job Adams played in sowing enough doubt among the jury – a jury of Boston men – to save his clients from the noose.
This activity engages students in analyzing the actual witness testimony from that trial and acting as prosecution and defense lawyers in arguing for the conviction or acquittal of Captain Preston on the charge of murder. Using those witness statements, students will prepare and present closing arguments for the jury and a rebuttal argument of the opposing side. This activity will not only give students an understanding of what the actual witnesses heard and saw, but also provide an appreciation of how witnesses will often see and hear the same event very differently, and how lawyers must deal with those disparities on a daily basis.
*4 pages of original informative and interesting text on the Boston Massacre, taken from my textbook, We Take Nothing by Conquest;
*teacher’s guide with instructions on how to use the materials and run the activity;
*excerpts of the transcripts of the trial testimony of four prosecution and four defense witnesses;
*a grading sheet for the teacher’s use.
Materials are provided in one zip file.
This activity is part of a complete and comprehensive unit on the Road to Revolution also available at my store - Ye Olde History Emporium
I’ve used this activity with my 8th grade class for years, and it never fails to engage and interest students.