US History Bellworks

Please see my previous post here on the importance of bellworks at the beginning of class.  It helps establish a routine and expectations as well as spark interesting discussions.  Some get the students forming their own opinions before we begin a unit or topic, and others review information letting us as teachers know where they are in their thinking.  Below are a few examples from my first grading period broken down by topic.

First Question at the Beginning of the Year or For a New Student

Write a paragraph about yourself, including anything you believe I should know about you.

Civil War

How can disagreements be settled so that they do not lead to arguments/war?

What do you believe to be the most significant technology invention that impacted the Civil War and why?  How did it impact the War?

If you were a freed black slave, would you run towards the North, stay in the south and try to get a house and a paying job, or join the Union army?  Why?

If you were a rich, white southern plantation owner, what would be your reaction to the Emancipation Proclamation?  How do you know?

How do you think the attacks on September 11, 2001 and December 7, 1941 (to bring the US into World War II) compare to each other?

Imagine you are President Lincoln and have just accepted the surrender of the Confederate army.  What would be your punishment for the southern states that seceded?

How does the Civil War still affect us today?  Please write 3 or more sentences.

Industrial Revolution

What does it mean for a country to industrialize?  What does it mean for a country to go through a revolution?

If you had the money and power to own your own factory, how would you treat your workers?  How would you determine their pay?  Would you rather be a railroad, oil, or steel owner? Why?

Which of the Robber Barons that we studied yesterday would you rather work for?  Why?

Progressivism and Social Change

How would you handle a work situation where you felt that you were being paid unfairly and working too many hours?  What if the conditions you were working in were dangerous?  Who could you contact?

Imagine you are moving to a new country.  What feelings would you have?  What would you expect the process to be like?  Do you think it would be easy or difficult to find a place to live and work?

What might be the benefits and drawbacks of having a political machine?  Who do these types of systems hurt?  Who do they help?  Do you think a political machine and/or “pay to play” systems always lead to corruption?  Why or why not?

Describe the working conditions of the average worker during the early 1900s.  Was this treatment fair?  How do you think they could correct this treatment?

Do you know of any organizations today that help people find housing and jobs?  What are some of those organizations?  How do you go about finding a place to live and work today?

Come up with a list of how you can determine the importance of a person or industry (such as railroads or steel).  How would you determine the impact that person or industry had on Florida?

Imperialism

What would be the benefit for the United States in owning property all around the world?  What would be a disadvantage?

What makes you read a story or a news article?  Which type of article or story grabs your attention? (studying yellow journalism)

Why would countries welcome the United States’ influence into their lands?  What would be their motivation? What could be their motivation to not want the US involved?

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Women and Prohibition Powerpoint

Women and Prohibition Powerpoint

I’m sharing one of my favorite powerpoints that I have created for a lecture on women and the prohibition movement.  It touches on the Women’s Temperance movement in the 1800s and leads up into Prohibition and the emergence of the “new woman” of the 1920s.  Please feel free to use this presentation to your liking.  Download it, change it, use it as you wish!  Click the link above to view it on SlideShare.  From there you can download it.  If you have problems, just email or post a comment below and I’d be happy to email it or dropbox it to you.

Immigration Timeline

So for the past few months, off and on because of personal events that have thrown me off course, I have been working on a timeline of immigration and citizenship laws in the United States.  Please let me know if I have missed any as I most likely have.  I hope this is helpful!  I know I will definitely be using this in a classroom.  I had limited space for extended information and references, so if you’re curious, just send me an email and I will get you what you need.

You can view it here, since I can’t figure out how to embed it into this post…

If you’d like to create your own timeline, I highly recommend TimeToast.  It is an easy to use (and free!) website.

Immigration

Political_Cartoon_-_Every_Dog_Has_His_Day

Immigration is not a new issue in the United States. Every half century, there is a new perceived foreign threat to our status quo. From the natives (that’s a whole other discussion regarding the definition of ‘foreign’), to the African slaves, Chinese, Italians, Irish… the list goes on. The United States has an ugly history of xenophobia. Sadly, it never seems to truly go away in some portions of the country, with ethnic slurs still muttered either intentionally or unintentionally insulting. I eagerly await more news on the “immigration reform” that the President and Congress is supposedly coming up with, especially regarding these new threats.  Hopefully this chapter in our history will close soon, but I know better than to expect that this will be the last immigration issue we hear about.  Look for a future post regarding a brief overview of our history of ugly immigration policy and some teaching tips very soon.  I thought I’d post this political cartoon from 1879 in advance just as a bit of a teaser 😉 (click on the picture to make it bigger so you can read the text)

 

Book Review: Foul Means: The Formation of a Slave Society in Virginia, 1660-1740

foul-means-formation-slave-society-in-virginia-1660-anthony-s-parent-paperback-cover-artAnthony S. Parent, Foul Means: The Formation of a Slave Society in Virginia, 1660-1740 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003). Pp. 291.

            In Foul Means: The Formation of a Slave Society in Virginia, 1660-1740, Anthony Parent weaves a masterful account of the reasons behind the rise of slavery in Virginia between 1660 and 1740.  He counters popular claims of the institution of slavery developing in early Virginia due to the tobacco production and lack of cheap labor.  Instead, Parent argues that “during a brief period in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century, a small but powerful planter class, acting in their short-term interest, gave American its racial dilemma.”[1]  He claims that this emerging elite planter class conspired together to maintain and grow their power through “their decision to enslave blacks” and “establish a coercive state.”[2]  As a historian of African America and Colonial America, Parent artfully responds to a collection of historians, most notably Winthrop Jordan in his work White Over Black, across time that have contended that slavery in Virginia was an “unthinking decision” creating a well defended and supported alternate viewpoint.[3]

Foul Means is outlined in three chronological and slightly overlapping sections: Origins, Conflicts, and Reactions.  In the Origins section, Parent creates a character profile of what he deems the elite planter class through a social science and economic perspectives.  This profile is developed through an examination of how these immigrants came to own such a large amount of land stealing and ‘buying’ it from the Native Americans, and an almost scheister group of newcomers that married into land or wealth with an eye for mercantilism.  His research and graphs provide a quantitative view of his argument, allowing for a deeper understanding and a pictorial demonstration of the abuses of the colonial administration and the headright system that allowed the officials to claim slaves to gain more land.

Though Parent’s economic argument surrounding the labor shortage of indentured servants in conjunction with the rise and fall of the price of tobacco is fascinating, claiming that African enslavement quickly replaced them as a cheaper source it is merely a different perspective on an old story.  The economic points Parent makes seem to wander around his main argument before coming back to center, detracting from his thesis.  Shrouded in his character profile of the elite planter class, Parent discusses the initial stages of racism in America. The white indentured servants were protesting against being made ‘slaves’ which suggests that they considered slavery to be morally wrong but only when applied to themselves.[4]  Thus, King Charles II “promoted the [African] slave trade” … “by protecting one labor group from exploitation”, the white English.[5]  William Fitzhugh, a member of this elite planter class, discussed his notions of breeding his slaves, creating a Virginia stock, “not unlike cattle,” that could sustain their supply to meet their demand to prevent the previous labor shortage because of issues with the trading companies.[6]  However, in the 1680s, the primary labor source became African slaves through various means of transport, including the black market.

The most powerful section, Conflicts, spawns from the racism laid out in Origins. The Slave Codes and laws began emerging as early as 1640, when very few Africans and free blacks lived in Virginia.[7]  These Codes intended to emphasize the racism, purposely digging a valley between the whites and blacks of society, putting into law that the blacks needed to be controlled and the potential consequences if they broke these laws.  Here, Parent could have demonstrated the elite planters’ knowledge of their treatment of these enslaved Africans as morally wrong, but instead he imprints the idea that the planters saw them as separate and intentionally wrote these laws to continue this separation.  It is possible that these planters used this view of separateness as an excuse for their inhumane acts.  The elite planters feared that the poorer whites would band together with the Africans, forming an alliance for freedom and insurgency.  Interracial uprisings confirmed their fears, leading to more desperate attempts to emphasize the class difference between the two groups, such as making the slaves wear the color blue.[8]  Parent details numerous revolts and attempted revolts and the quelling of their insurgency by the white elite class as a means for degradation and to prove to the rest of those planning such attempts that they would be, in effect, brought to justice.  Yet these class differences were not only made apparent between lower class whites and Africans but also between the elite planters, middling and lesser planters, who some eventually were able to procure slaves for themselves.  Arguments arose between the upper and lower planters and merchants over taxes imposed on the enslaved that the owners must pay.  This tax would regulate the slave trade and only make elite planters financially eligible to maintain enough slaves to work the fields, thus keeping the class structure in tact with no upward movement available.  However, the crown rejected the slave duty acts, much to the chagrin of the elites.

With the growing insurgency among the slaves, the poor, and other who they saw as their dependents, their loss of power with the crown in England, and their growing dependence on merchants for trade, the elite planter class devised an ideology of patriarchy to make themselves distinctive from the other classes while quelling the uprisings, as Parent explores in his final section, Reactions.  Thus, as the patriarchs, these elite planters saw themselves as the top of society who provided “order, the pastoral, provincialism, and providence.”[9]  As devote Anglicans, these planters founded their ideology on their faith and saw it as “divine providence” that they were the masters of the land and all the others were dutiful servants.[10]  Christianity itself became an issue among the enslaved, as they saw it as a ticket for freedom; however the English saw their conversion as a means “to reduce them to greater docility.”[11]  Parent discusses the corruption of the clergy and their unwillingness to usurp these patriarchal planters.  An entire book could be written on the use of Christianity in slave culture by both the slaves and the white owners so the information presented is minimal but impactful.

Overall, Parent’s work is an interesting perspective on slavery and class development in early Virginia.  He supports and proves his arguments both that an elite planter class emerged through coercion and illegal landing dealings via political standings and connections and also that this elite planter class conspired to switch labor sources from indentured servants to African slaves.  Parent’s research into statistics of the landholdings and headright patents as well as his use of journals and letters only strengthen this argument. His differing perspectives surrounding this ethnohistory are a welcome change from the standard cultural and social perspectives surrounding the investigation into slavery.  In spite of sporadic moments where Parent digresses slightly the organization of the book allows for an easy reading flow, from reviewing and understanding base information, such as the slave code, and then analyzing interaction and reaction to this information, such as the uprisings and conflicts.

However, the information that Parent presents is hardly new to the field.  The contribution Foul Means makes to the historiographic conversation is the viewpoint of the argument.  Even if other historians do not agree with his conclusions, Parent expands the conversation to include this elite planter class that cannot be denied based upon his research and presentation.


[1] Anthony S. Parent, Foul Means: The Formation of a Slave Society in Virginia, 1660-1740 (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2003), pp. 2.

[2] Parent, pp. 105.

[3] Winthrop D. Jordan, White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812 (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1968), pp. 44-98; Parent, pp. 2.

[4] Parent, pp. 56.

[5] Parent, pp. 60.

[6] Parent, pp. 72.

[7] Parent, pp. 109.

[8] Parent, 147.

[9] Parent, 200.

[10] Parent, 236, 201.

[11] Parent, 237-8.

History Harvest: Community Collectives

New York TimesThe January 2013 issue of the Perspectives on History highlighted a project of the students and faculty of the University of Nebraska, Lincoln called History Harvest.  The article called to me about a way to collect the information that is most often lost- that of the community in which we all live.  Everyone has those personal historical documents tucked away in a closet, attic, or basement that we think about rarely (or sometimes often).  These documents have a personal value, but also a historical value regarding culture and social of our given communities.  It’s a shame to let those documents sit, forgotten, tucked away when they could be digitized for use by historians and students.

The co-directors William G. Thomas and Patrick D. Jones started this project “to create a popular movement to democratize and open American history by utilizing digital technologies to share the experiences and artifacts of everyday people and local historical institutions.”  People from the community are invited to these harvest gatherings with their personal items and histories to have them digitized with photographs and digital stories.  Local organizations, museums, and others are also welcome to bring items to be digitized.

Students are heavily involved, creating, planning, and advertising for their harvest.  Its an excellent hands on experience for the students to learn what history means to people in their community and how everyone can contribute in some way.  It’s a fascinating project that begs for duplication in communities across the United States and the world.

Needless to say, I would be highly interested in starting my own “History Harvest” in my community with students.  If you would be too, you can contact the co-directors via the links on their names above or contacting them through their website at: http://historyharvest.unl.edu/