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Eighteenth-Century and Twentieth-Century Forms of Resistance

When unpopular laws are enacted or when unfavorable actions are taken on the part of a group or a government, there is often open resistance to the laws or actions. Resistance is demonstrated in many different forms, including written objections, words to songs, prints and political cartoons, mob violence, and even war. All of these forms of resistance have been in existence since before the time of the American colonies. In this lesson, students will discuss the various types of resistance used in colonial times and compare them with the forms of resistance that take place in the twentieth century.


As a result of this lesson, students will be able to:

  1. Recognize and define the term resistance and identify its various forms of expression.
  2. Discuss the types of resistance that were used by North American colonists in the 1760s and 1770s.
  3. Compare eighteenth- and twentieth-century forms of resistance.



  1. Review the material from the previous lesson, Colonial Reaction to the Stamp Act.
  2. Discuss the idea of resistance. What is resistance? Why do people sometimes resist unpopular laws, actions, and events? In what ways do people show resistance? What types of resistance can be seen in the prints and the song? [Note: The types of resistance students may identify include verbal protest, such as the debates in the Virginia House of Burgesses; written protest, such as the Virginia Stamp Act Resolves; protest-style songs, such as The Glorious Seventy Four; and mob or group actions.]
  3. Using the information from the Virginia Time Line, 1760–1776, discuss the events that took place in the colonies from 1765 to 1775. Ask the students to identify all the acts of resistance that took place during those years. [Note: The types of resistance students may identify include formation of the committees of correspondence, public protest meetings and demonstrations, refusal to follow instructions or laws (such as refusing to quarter troops), the Boston Tea Party, and armed resistance at Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill.]
  4. Ask students to provide examples of twentieth-century resistance. [Examples may include, but are not limited to, Vietnam War protests, sit-ins, hunger strikes, Martin Luther King Jr., demonstration marches, Ghandi, political cartoons, or letters to the editor.] Ask students to compare these twentieth-century forms of resistance with those practiced in the eighteenth century. Are the forms of resistance the same in both centuries? Is there a pattern to the way in which people protest what they feel is wrong? [i.e., starting with nonviolent forms of protest first, with more violent forms of protest being used when nonviolent forms of protest do not have the intended effect.]