Teach PA History
Pennsylvania Boxing : Living the American Dream
What to Know
Teaching Time
2 50-minute sessions
Grade Level
High School
  • Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening
  • History
Historical Period
  • Development of the Industrial Pennsylvania - 1877-1900
  • The Emergence of Modern Pennsylvania - 1901-1928
  • The Great Depression and World War II - 1929-1945
  • Post-WWII Pennsylvania - 1946-1974
  • Contemporary Pennsylvania - 1975 to Present
Joe Palooka, Bernard Hopkins, Joe Frazier, Tommy Loughran, and Rocky Balboa. What do these names have in common? These are boxers, both fictional and real, that have been tied to the Keystone State. Your students will have a chance to learn more about these boxers in this lesson. At first glance, it might seem that Pennsylvania is the only thing these boxers have in common. After all, they fought at different times throughout the twentieth century, they fought in different weight categories, and they represent different ethnicities. Some are real. Some live only in our imaginations. But students are asked to consider these boxers as different examples of "the American Dream." What is the American Dream? Is it the idea of America as "the land of milk and honey."? Is it the opportunity to rise out of your class to obtain wealth and happiness? At different times in our history could it have taken on variations of meanings? Our founding documents articulate the American Dream as the freedom to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. After World War II many people felt the American Dream was the ability to own a home in suburbia and obtain a good education through the GI Bill. During the Civil Rights movement, Martin Luther King famously announces his dream – "that [his] four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." Students will have a chance to explore the concept of the American Dream in this lesson first by brainstorming their ideas, then by using historical documents–excerpts from The Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address, and "I Have a Dream" speech–that contain different ideas of the American Dream. As a culminating activity, students select one of the Pennsylvania boxers mentioned above and write an essay examining how this boxer exemplifies a version of the American Dream.


Students will be able to: 1. Recognize historically important boxers from Pennsylvania, factual and fictional. 2. Select three significant facts about a boxer from informational reading. 3. Identify, analyze, and comprehend different interpretations of the American Dream. 4. Apply their knowledge of the American Dream to a boxer's life they have studied.

Standards Alignment

  • History

    8.1.12. C. Evaluate historical interpretation of events.
    8.2.12. A. Evaluate the political and cultural contributions of individuals and groups to Pennsylvania history from 1890 to Present.
    8.2.12. B. Identify and evaluate primary documents, material artifacts, and historic sites important in Pennsylvania history from 1890 to Present.
    8.3.9. C. Analyze how continuity and change has influenced United States history from 1787 to 1914.

  • Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening

    1.1.11. D. Identify, describe, evaluate and synthesize the essential ideas in text.
    1.1.11 G. Demonstrate after reading understanding and interpretation of both fiction and nonfiction text, including public documents.
    1.5.11. B. Write using well-developed content appropriate for the topic.
    1.5.11. D. Write with a command of the stylistic aspects of composition
    1.6.11. A. Listen to others.
    1.6.11. D. Contribute to discussions.
    1.6.11. E. Participate in small and large group discussions and presentations.

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