3a, The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere. Grant Wood (American, 1892–1942), The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, 1931, Oil on Masonite; H. 30, W. 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm): Arthur Hoppock Hearn Fund, 1950 (50.117).
Credit: Photograph © 1988 The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Art © Estate of Grant Wood / Licensed by VAGA, New York.
An interdisciplinary lesson focusing on Paul Revere's Midnight Ride. While many students know this historical event, this lesson allows them to explore the true story of Paul Revere and his journey through primary source readings as well as to compare artist Grant Wood's and poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's interpretations of it.
Grant Wood painted American scenes and subjects during the first half of the 20th century in a simplified style reminiscent of American folk art. Like poet Henry Wordsworth Longfellow, Wood wished to tell and preserve stories of the American Revolution. Longfellow wrote his poem 88 years after the event when he found letters belonging to his grandfather, who had known Revere. Only a few people who had been children during the Revolution were still alive in 1860 when he wrote Paul Revere's Ride. Wood based his 1931 painting on Longfellow's heroic poem with no attempt to make it historically accurate.
This lesson encourages close study of Wood's painting, American Revolution primary sources, and Longfellow's poem to understand the significance of this historical ride in America's struggle for freedom. By reading primary sources, students learn how Paul Revere and his Midnight Ride became an American story of patriotism.
On the Picturing America website, click on the image of The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere to get basic biographical and contextual information about Wood and his painting. Go to the Educators Resource Books page and open the individual chapter page for 3-A, The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere. 1933, where you will also find activities and questions to help students begin their study of Wood's painting of Revere's ride. For more information see links at the end of the lesson.
Paul Revere was the American Revolutionary Boston craftsman and patriot made famous in William Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, Paul Revere's Ride. Today he is best known as one of the horseback messengers who rode from Boston to Lexington to warn colonists of the approaching British army. The setting (on the Picturing America website) As Revere and others galloped along the twisting, hilly road from Boston to Lexington, they passed farms, small villages, rivers, and lakes. Follow their route through the New England countryside on an interactive map.
The true story of Paul Revere's ride is on the Paul Revere's House website.
Longfellow's Hidden Message
Paul Revere’s Ride is by far the most popular “version” of Revere’s ride, yet when it is taught in classrooms, students are often not asked to place the poem within the historical context in which it was written.
Many people do not know that Longfellow was an abolitionist who fervently disapproved of slavery. Before publishing the most famous of his poems in 1861, he published a volume of anti-slavery poetry in 1842 called “Poems on Slavery.” While Paul Revevere's Ride is about an event that happened during the American Revolution, Longfellow may have quietly intended for the poem to pursuade the nation to join in a new battle for freedom by supporting the end of American Slavery.
For more on how Longfellow's anti-slavery views may have influenced his writing about Paul Revere, read Paul Revere's Ride Against Slavery by Jill Lepore.
Before students discuss or read about this painting, ask them to quietly look at it for a few minutes. Ask what words came to mind when they first see it? What does it remind them of?
Discuss their Worksheet 1 answers.
Discuss this “Think About It” question: The colonists have been called from the warm safety of their homes into a cold night with the possibility of fighting and dying for a cause. Encourage students to discuss why and how they might make a decision to fight or not.
Read primary source accounts from the April 1775 evening. Students should be in small groups to read an eyewitness account. Have each student group become "expert" in one person's testimony. Once all students have read one person's account, have the students "jigsaw" to hear other accounts. These jigsaw groups include an "expert" for each primary account. Students can complete the graphic organizer, Worksheet 2 or LaunchPad, when they jigsaw or after they have heard all accounts, as a review activity.
All primary source documents, with the exception of an EDSITEment excerpt from the Library of Congress of Paul Revere's own account of his ride, are on the National Park Service's Minuteman National Historic Park's website
These accounts provide a variety of perspectives from that evening:
Have students synthesize what they have learned by creating first person accounts of the night in April 1775. Students should complete all three journals on Worksheet 3 or LaunchPad so that they have a rounded picture of the three perspectives presented.
Art/History/Language Arts/Social Studies (Teachers' Guide)
History/Language Arts/Social Studies (Teachers' Guide)
History/Social Studies (Teachers' Guide)
History/ Social Studies (Teachers' Guide)
History/Social Studies (Teachers' Guide)
3 class periods