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Identify and explain the meaning of American national symbols

Image from the National Park Service
Image from the National Park Service

Topics on the Page
The American Flag
  • The Rainbow Flag
  • The Juneteenth Flag
The Bald Eagle
The White House
The Statue of Liberty

The Great Seal of the United States
More Memorials and Monuments in the United States
  • National September 11 Memorial
  • The Crazy Horse Memorial
    • Geronimo Surrender Monument
  • Cesar E. Chavez National Monument
  • Tui Manu' a Graves Monument, American Samoa

The American flag

external image Flag_of_the_United_States.svg

  • The 50 stars on the flag represent the 50 states of the United States of America.

  • The blue square is officially known at the "union," as all of the states are bound in unionThe 13 stripes represent the original 13 British colonies that declared independence from the Great Britain. Nicknames for the flag are "The Stars and Stripes," "Old Glory," and the "Star Spangled Banner."

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  • Click here for resources for teaching about Flag Day (June 14).

  • Click here for lesson plans about the American flag from PBS.

Female_Rose.pngThe Truth about Betsy Ross from Colonial Williamsburg reveals that there is little historical evidence to indicate who actually created the first flag.

timeline2_rus.svg.pngClick here for a timeline of the American Flag

Screen Shot 2017-08-11 at 1.14.11 PM.pngLong May She Wave: The True Story of Caroline Pickersgill and her Star-Spangled Creation. Kristen Fulton. Illustrated by Holly Berry. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2017
  • Two 13-year-olds (one white and one an African American indentured servant) along with adults sewed the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the Star-Spangled Banner

The Rainbow Flag

external image Gay_flag.svgWho Made the Rainbow Flag?

The Juneteenth Flag

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Juneteenth: Our Other Independence Day

The Bald Eagle

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"It is said the eagle was used as a national emblem because, at one of the first battles of the Revolution (which occurred early in the morning) the noise of the struggle awoke the sleeping eagles on the heights and they flew from their nests and circled about over the heads of the fighting men, all the while giving vent to their raucous cries. 'They are shrieking for Freedom,' said the patriots.

Thus the eagle, full of the boundless spirit of freedom, living above the valleys, strong and powerful in his might, has become the national emblem of a country that offers freedom in word and thought and an opportunity for a full and free expansion into the boundless space of the future."

--Maude M. Grant

Many believe that the eagle represents strength, courage, and a long life. These are traits that the founding fathers hoped America would have.

The White House

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  • For over 200 years, the White House has been more than just the home of the Presidents and their families. Throughout the world, it is recognized as the symbol of the President, of the President's administration, and of the United States.

-George Washington chose the location of the White House

The design was chosen in a contest

-The White House has: 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, 6 floors, 412 doors, 147 windows, 28 fireplaces, 8 staircases, and 3 elevators.

-The White House has also been called "The People's House", 'President's Palace", "President's House", and "The Executive Mansion"

Click here for an interactive tour of the White House.

lessonplan.jpgClick here for activities and resources about the White House.

WhiteHouseSouthFacade.JPGFor more, go to the official White House website

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The Statue of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty is located near Ellis Island, NY. This is where many immigrants (about 12 million) came to America, so the Statue of Liberty would be one of the first things they saw. It welcomed them into the United States.

It was a gift from France in 1884. It took France 21 years to raise money and create.

The torch she is holding represents liberty for all Americans. The tablet she is holding says "July 4, 1776" in Roman numerals, Independence Day. The 7 spikes on her crown represent the 7 continents and the 7 seas.

June 17, 1885: The Statue of Liberty Came to America from the WhiteHouse

Statue of Liberty, 1884: A Primary Source from U. S. Grant


"Her Right Foot." Dave Eggers. Illustrated by Shawn Harris, Chronicle, 2017

external image Red_apple.jpgThe Statute of Liberty: The Meaning and Use of a National Symbol

"We will not forget that Liberty has here made her home; nor shall her chosen altar be neglected."

— President Grover Cleveland accepting the Statue of Liberty on behalf of the U.S., October 28th, 1886

For more, see the Statute of Liberty website maintained by the National Park Service,

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Sojourner Truth statute, Florence Massachusetts

Multimedia.pngMultimedia Resources

  • See also the Denver Post Photo Blog for the 125th Anniversary in 2011.
  • Click here for a virtual tour of the Statue of Liberty from the National Parks Service.

Female_Rose.pngWomen on Pedestals lists places in the United States where there are statutes honoring important women in history

Helping Hands Jane Addams Memorial

external image Great_Seal_of_the_United_States_%28obverse%29.svg

The Great Seal of the United States

-The shield has 13 red and white stripes to represent the original 13 colonies

-The eagle is the national symbol of America

-The arrows represent war, while the olive branch represents peace

-The moto "E Pluribus Unum" is Latin for "From one, many" representing the fact that 13 colonies came together as one

For background on the Great Seal and its history:

primary_sources.PNGOriginal Design for the Great Seal from the Our Documents Collection of the National Archives.


  • Classroom Activity: Ask the students if they think these are good symbols for America. Have them design their own flags, White Houses, Great Seal, and pick their own animal to represent America.

  • Click here for a lesson plans about America's national symbols.

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National September 11 Memorial

rotating gif.gifLink to World History II.48 for more on the September 11 Attacks and America's Response

Screen Shot 2017-03-23 at 1.58.11 PM.pngCrazy Horse Memorial

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The Slow Carving of the Crazy Horse Monument

Multimedia.pngCrazy Horse Memorial is Bigger Than Mount Rushmore

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The Geronimo Surrender Monument

Honoring an Apache Warrior

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Cesar E. Chavez National Monument

Visit the Cesar E. Chavez National Monument

Tui Manu' a Graves Monument, American Samoa

Visit the Monument

Other resources: