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Declaration of Independence

Explore ways to learn more about the Declaration of Independence, including primary and secondary resources, and teaching tools.


undefinedEach year, around July 4th, we commemorate the founding of the United States of America and celebrate one of our most important documents: The Declaration of Independence. The copy of the document on display in Olin Library has been the cornerstone of our Independence Day programming since its installation in 2018. Given the nature of our current moment, dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and the domestic (and international) responses to police brutality that has many exercising of their First Amendment rights, we will be having a virtual program this year that we hope you will view, participate in, and enjoy. 

2020 marks the centennials of the 19th Amendment (women’s right to vote) and the centennial of the founding of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). We will celebrate these two important anniversaries in the history of fighting for equality and freedom. The virtual event will feature an abridged reading of the speech “The Declaration of the Rights of the Women of the United States” (July 4, 1876) and a panel discussion on women’s suffrage and the ACLU. The event is free and open to all, but requires registration.

Use the tabs below to explore different activities and programming related to the Declaration of Independence, and explore the rest of the LibGuide to view past talks, learn more about the Declaration of Independence, and check out the virtual exhibit!

July 2, 2020
1:00-3:00pm CST
(Once registered, you will receive a link to view the virtual event.)

1:00pm (CST) Welcome and Reading
Welcome from Denise Stephens, University Librarian and Vice Provost
Declaration of Rights of the Women of the United States (July 4, 1876), read by Lee Anne Mathews
1:30pm (CST) Panel discussion
Elizabeth Katz, Professor of Law
Miranda Rectenwald, Curator of Local History
Moderated by Vernon Mitchell, Academic Engagement Manager for Special Collections
The panel discussion will feature short presentations from the panelists, followed by a discussion led by the moderator and Q&A from the audience. 
The 19th Amendment and the Right to Hold Office
This year we are marking the centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment, which requires that the right to vote “not be denied or abridged… on account of sex.” Professor Elizabeth Katz will discuss an often overlooked aspect of the movement for women's suffrage. Women did not only demand to become voters—they also wanted to be voted for. In her remarks, Professor Katz will focus on how the nationwide effort to secure women's officeholding rights unfolded specifically in Missouri. Her recent publication on women's officeholding history is available here.
Founding the ACLU
Since its founding in 1920, the history of the ACLU has been interwoven with St. Louis history.  In this presentation, Miranda Rectenwald, will explore how ACLU founder Roger Baldwin found inspiration in St. Louis where he met activists Emma Goldman and Margaret Sanger, and faced the issue of racism and police harassment head on. Learn more about the history of the ACLU through a series of blog posts inspired by the exhibit “Liberty and Justice for All: ACLU of Missouri, 1920 – 2020”.
Reading of "The Declaration of Rights of the Women of the United States (July 4, 1876)"
Performed by Lee Anne Mathews with historical context provided by Cassie Brand, Curator of Rare Books
Lee Anne Mathews has a lifelong career as a theatre artist, and has worked all over the world both on stage and off. In St. Louis, she has been an actor, director, producer and teaching artist for many organizations including The Muny, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis, Playhouse at Westport, Ferguson Show Me Arts Academy, Prison Performing Arts, and more. For eight years, she was head of the theatre department at Crossroads College Prep School in the Central West End, and in 2014 she received the Maryville University Shakespeare Teacher of the Year Award. Currently she works for the Center of Creative Arts (COCA) as a facilitator and coordinator for it's successful COCAbiz program, bringing much needed arts and creativity training to the business community.  She is the Associate Artistic Director for the Playhouse at Westport Plaza, and is a proud member of Actors Equity Association. 
Children’s Story Time 

Join us on our Instagram page at the times listed below to view a live reading of the story, or catch the recording on Instagram afterward!

For more readings for children please check out We Stories.

undefinedTuesday, June 30, 10:00am (CST)
Apple Pie 4th of July, by Janet S. Wong (Author) and Margaret Chodos-Irvine (Illustrator)
Read by: Jason Bengston, Head of Library Technology Services

Shocked that her parents are cooking Chinese food to sell in the family store on an all-American holiday, a feisty Chinese American girl tries to tell her mother and father how things really are. But as the parade passes by and fireworks light the sky, she learns a surprising lesson.


undefinedWednesday, July 1, 10:00am (CST) 
What is America?, by Michelle Medlock Adams (Author) and Amy Wummer (Illustrator)
Read by: Rudolph Clay, Head of Library Diversity Initiatives and Outreach & Subject Librarian for African and African American Studies and Urban Studies Librarian

In this engaging look at America, Michelle Medlock Adams introduces little ones to the beliefs and ideals that make America unique. Heartfelt and humorous questions ponder all of the things that America might be about-the flag, the Fourth of July, the Statue of Liberty. Readers quickly learn that America is about more than symbols and monuments. It's a land of freedom and democracy where dreams come true. Whimsical artwork and rhyming verse will capture children's imaginations as they explore what America means to them.


undefinedThursday, July 2, 10:00am (CST)
Of Thee I Sing, by Barack Obama (Author) and Loren Long (Illustrator)
​Read by: Micah Zeller, Head of Scholarly Communication Services

This beautiful book celebrates the characteristics that unite all Americans, from our nation’s founders to generations to come. It is about the potential within each of us to pursue our dreams and forge our own paths. It is a treasure to cherish with your family forever.


The Declaration of Independence states "all men are created equal," but it has only been through hard work, perseverance, and advocacy that American have made strides toward making equality a reality. In this activity, kids and adults are asked to think about the declarations made, but also about what inequalities still exist today. Think about what civil rights still need to be declared and made law and create your own Declaration!

We have made this activity virtual for 2020 and have created an online town square where you can post your declarations to be shared with the community. We hope you will share your thoughts and declare your rights with us!

View the activity with instructions and resources here.

Information for Missouri Voters

Upcoming election: Tuesday, August 4

New: All Missouri voters are eligible to vote by mail in the August election. To request an absentee or mail-in ballot, go to, fill out the form, and send it by mail or email to your county Board of Elections office by July 22.

The deadline to register to vote before this election is July 8. To register to vote, visit

Information for All Voters


Questions? Email

Brought to you by the Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement

Upcoming Engage Democracy events