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Human Rights Close to Home

Commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the Roosevelt sites in Hyde Park, New York will host a Human Rights Day Expo on December 10, 2023.

Special Document on Exhibit

On special public exhibit in the FDR Presidential Library & Museum – available December 7-29 only -- is Eleanor Roosevelt's two-page draft preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, showing her many handwritten revisions.

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The Universal Declaration of Human Rights defines and enumerates principles first mentioned in the United Nations Charter. It promises equality and freedom for everyone everywhere. 

With Eleanor Roosevelt as its driving force, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration with Resolution 217 A (III) on December 10, 1948, by a vote of 48-0 (8 abstaining). 

Many people worked for this remarkable outcome, but most observers believe that the UN Commission on Human Rights – whose work began during an especially bitter phase of the Cold War – would not have reached agreement without the leadership of the Commission’s chair: Eleanor Roosevelt. 

Roosevelt herself regarded her role in drafting and securing adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as her greatest achievement. As she readily admitted, she had no legal training or expert knowledge of parliamentary procedure, but she brought to her job as chair the skills she had acquired as political activist, reformer, and advocate for those excluded from power and an understanding of the meaning of freedom earned through a deep engagement in the struggle in her own country for social and economic justice, civil rights, and women’s rights. She possessed not only a passionate commitment to human rights, but a hard-earned knowledge of the political and cultural obstacles to securing them in a divided world. 

Eleanor Roosevelt’s draft preamble, with its numerous penciled suggestions and edits, reflects her deep involvement in the Declaration’s development; her efforts to engender and promote a lasting, international commitment to universal human rights; and her goal to secure enduring freedoms in a more peaceful world.

Read the full text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Educational Activities

Activity Pages (PDF)

Activity #1)
Animated Video Series Mini Film Festival of our Pare Lorentz cartoons (and a tie into human rights) – These short, animated films focus on Eleanor Roosevelt’s work in creating the UDHR and on racial discrimination and food insecurity.

Activity #2)
Thirty-two UDHR Writing Prompts – This activity is designed to familiarize students with the key themes and concepts contained in the UDHR by engaging them in a series of 32 thought provoking and reflective questions.

Activity #3)
The 30 Articles of the UDHR and Some to Things to Think About – This activity introduces students to the 30 articles of the UDHR and the principles set forth in its preamble through a series of questions related to each one.

Activity #4)
Human Rights Word of the Week/Day for Morning Announcements at Schools – this activity asks schools to introduce and adopt one human rights related words as a theme for a week in their morning announcements, and to challenge their students to mirror and exemplify it throughout the week/day.

Activity #5)
"My Day" Excerpts with Prompt Questions - This activity uses excerpts from five of ER’s "My Day" columns related to the United Nations and asks students for their respond to Mrs. Roosevelt’s remarks and observations.

Activity #6)
Human Rights Champions Biography Cards – the struggles and contributions of 24 Human Rights Champions are examined and highlighted with set of questions for students to consider and respond to.

Activity #7)
Service-Learning Projects Tied to the Articles – this is a list of ideas that classes/schools could take on as partnership projects to advance care and kindness in their communities.

Activity #8)
Political/Editorial Cartoons/Propaganda Posters that Speak to Human Rights Issues – this activity is designed to get students to consider various themes regarding human rights by analyzing contemporary political cartoons and propaganda posters from WWII.

Activity #9) 
Word Searches, Crosswords, etc. – Fun activities to introduce and familiarize students with vocabulary associated with human rights.

Activity # 10) 
Human Rights Acrostic (written down the side of a page) Poem – In this activity students create original poetry with key words associated with human rights.

More on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights