Skip to content

Posts from the ‘slavery’ Category

4 things I learned during my #civilwarsupertour

Maybe it’s there.

Maybe it’s not.

But we had to go either way, just to say we did. Because it’s not very often that you get the chance to view the burial site of someone’s arm.

So we followed a dirt road off the main highway down to Ellwood Manor near the Chancellorsville battlefield. We had a great tour of the house, discussed why Union general Sheridan hated his fellow general Sedgwick, and examined the cannon balls embedded in a preserved tree trunk.

And then . . . the arm cemetery.

On May 2, 1863, during an evening scouting ride, Confederate general Stonewall Jackson was shot multiple times by his own troops. His left arm was amputated and he died days later from pneumonia. But military chaplain Tucker Lacy didn’t think that the arm of such a Confederate rock star should end up in a pile of limbs of lesser men. So he wrapped the arm in a blanket and took it to the family cemetery at Ellwood. The chaplain gave the limb a standard Christian burial and placed a marker above the site.

The arm is still there. At least the marker is. Urban legends suggest multiple attempts at reburials including one by a Marine Corps general in the 1920s. After conversations and research, the National Park Service staff there aren’t so sure.

But it was an interesting side trip as a part of the larger Wiebe family Civil War Battlefield Extravaganza. Inspired by Tony Horowitz’s book Confederates in the Attic, three of us spent ten days last month exploring multiple sites, battlefields, and that one cemetery with the arm.

It’s was awesome.

As a self-described history nerd, what better way to spend part of May tramping around places like Gettysburg, Antietam, Chancellorsville, Harpers Ferry, and Corydon, Indiana? I’ve got pictures. Lots and lots of pictures.

But how about four things I learned instead? Read more

A framework for teaching American slavery – from Teaching Tolerance

After a quick six hour visit to the the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture yesterday, it just made sense to stop in at the #NCHE2019 session by Maureen Costello, director of Teaching Tolerance. Maureen shared Teaching Tolerance resources that can help you effectively teach issues surrounding the history of slavery in the United States.

“History is not the past. It is the present. We carry our history with us. We are our history.”

James Baldwin
Black English: A Dishonest Argument

Maureen started by sharing that most of our students leave high school without an adequate understanding of the role slavery played in the development of the United States – or how its legacies still influence us today.

Slavery’s long reach continues into the present day. The persistent and wide socioeconomic and legal disparities that African Americans face today and the backlash that seems to follow every African-American advancement trace their roots to slavery and its aftermath. If we are to understand the United State and the world today, we must understand slavery’s history and continuing impact.

Unfortunately, research conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2017 shows that our schools are failing to teach the hard history of African enslavement. They surveyed U.S. high school seniors and social studies teachers, analyzed a selection of state content standards, and reviewed 10 popular U.S. history textbooks. The research indicates that: Read more

Tip of the Week: 12 Months Worth of Black History Resources

The beauty of studying history is that you can never learn it all. There’s always something new to discover. A fresh piece of evidence. Another interpretation. A person or event or idea that has always been there . . . just waiting to be uncovered.

Maybe it’s a small discovery that changes how you personally understand the world. This week I learned that Paul Revere was an amateur dentist. (And if you’re like me, there’s now an image in your head of Revere on a horse – “The cavities are coming! The cavities are coming!”)

Not earth-shattering. But still cool.

And then there are those people and events that are just a bit bigger and should change how we all see the world. The movie and book Hidden Figures are like that.

Seriously? How did that slip by?

African American women calculating aeronautical and astronomical math, helping push the United States into space? In the Jim Crow South? Now that’s cool. And powerful. And part of the American story. But up until the last few years, the story of people like Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson was relatively unknown and certainly not mentioned in any of the history classes I ever took.

Which brings us to February.

And Black History Month.

I’m always a bit conflicted about the idea. The concept of a month specifically set aside for the study of Black History started back in 1926 when historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History announced the second week of February to be “Negro History Week.” That particular week was chosen because it marked the birthday of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

In 1976, the federal government followed the lead of the Black United Students at Kent State and established the entire month as Black History Month. President Ford urged Americans, and especially teachers and schools, to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

The hope was that Black History Month would provide a very intentional time for all of us to remember together the struggles of African Americans to obtain the basic civil rights afforded to others, the challenges African Americans have faced for centuries, and the contributions of African Americans to who we are. But . . . the real hope was Read more

History Nerdfest 2016 Day Two: Integrating Critical Race Theory into the US History Curriculum

Last night I had the opportunity to listen to John Stokes recount his experience as an early civil rights activist. Long story short?

In 1951, John was a high school senior at Moton High School in Prince Edward County, Virginia. Upset with the unequal educational facilities that existed as part of Jim Crow, he and other students staged a walkout and strike that later became part of the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court case. His account of that period and the connections Mr. Stokes made to the present was amazing, frightening, engaging, and compelling all at the same time.

march-book-three-coverAnd this afternoon, I had the chance to sit together with about 2000 other social studies teachers listening to Georgia Representative John Lewis talk about the events described in his graphic novel March.

So it’s very appropriate after hearing from these two Civil Rights heroes to participate in a conversation about Critical Race Theory and how we can use it to support class discussions of race / racism. Lauren Meyer from Yale is sharing “little nuggets” that teachers can use to integrate the topic as part of their instruction.

What is Critical Race Theory? Read more

Re-mastered The Civil War is going live

Most of us who channel surf – you know who you are – have a list. On that list is what some have called Shawshank movies. Named for The Shawshank Redemption, a Shawshank movie is any video that is so good that if encountered during surfing, it must be viewed to the end.

The Civil War by Ken Burns is that sort of video event. So good that if encountered by any self-respecting social studies teacher, it must be watched until the final minute. Forty million people watched the nine-part series when it first aired on PBS in 1990 and the Ken Burns love helped spark a Civil War craze. Millions purchased VHS copies of the series and the spin-off book. The film also made a star of Ken Burns.

The Civil War will be rebroadcast over five consecutive nights this week. The broadcast, which coincides with the 25th anniversary of the series’ initial broadcast in September 1990, will present for the first time a newly restored, high-definition version. This is also the first time the film will be seen with the same fidelity and framing as the negative that Burns and his co-cinematographers Allen Moore and Buddy Squires shot more than 25 years ago.

So. Read more

Get 12 Years a Slave teaching resources for free

I just got an email from a teaching buddy (Thanks Theresa!) letting me know about a great deal going on right now. For a limited time, you can receive a free teaching toolkit for use with the movie 12 Years a Slave. It’s a difficult video to watch but an incredibly important video to watch. And the free kit gives you some handy resources to help make the instruction as useful as possible.

Educator’s Toolkit Includes:

  • Full Length DVD copy of the movie (edited version, parental approval suggested)
  • Copy of the Penguin Paperback Book
  • Printed study guide
  • Letter from director Steve McQueen

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) has partnered with New Regency, Fox Searchlight, Penguin Books, and the filmmakers to make copies of the acclaimed film, book, and study guide “12 Years a Slave” available to America’s public high schools. This nationwide educational initiative was the brainchild of director Steve McQueen and Montel Williams, and now “12 Years a Slave” educator toolkits are available to all public high school teachers timed to the 2014-15 school year.

The movie is based on an incredible true story of one man’s fight for survival and freedom. In the pre-Civil War United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. Facing cruelty (personified by a malevolent slave owner as well as unexpected kindnesses, Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity. In the twelfth year of his unforgettable odyssey, Solomon’s chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist will forever alter his life.

Get the toolkit here.

You can also get just the study guide here.