We the Teachers

When ‘I Have a Dream’ Is Your Textbook: How Teaching Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Actual Speech Changes the Way Your Students Learn

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.” The opening of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech reminds us that these words grew out of a major event, not a textbook. It is August of 1963, and hundreds of thousands of Americans are crowded before the Lincoln Memorial as part of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Near the end of the day, Dr. King addresses the hot, tired, but invigorated crowd with some of the most resonant words in our nation’s history. Shouldn’t the words themselves receive the greatest attention?

Digging Deeper

While virtually all U.S. history curricula cover Martin Luther King Jr.’s accomplishments, they often give no more than a glance to the speeches themselves. Most students learn that “I Have a Dream” is one of the most famous speeches in history. But what do they learn about the speech itself? What can they recite aside from the title’s refrain, the ending reference to the Negro spiritual, or perhaps “they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character”?

As important as these lines are, they represent just a fraction of the orator’s richness of thought. By digging into his words, rather than a textbook summary of his ideas, students can appreciate King’s rhetorical strategies:

  • Different modes of persuasion (ethos, pathos, and logos)
  • Figurative language
  • Historical and religious allusions
  • Sentence structure and punctuation
  • Diction
  • Tone

Practicing What King Preached

Because Martin Luther King Jr. was a preacher who believed in the power of the written and spoken word, communicating was not just a means to an end. The words themselves were art and truth, meant to inspire just as much as his actions. As students will learn by studying his speech, King refers to numerous other speeches, songs, religious texts, and political documents, understanding the weight and influence of these original sources.

Without studying the entirety of King’s speech, students miss on his truly indelible mark on America’s Civil Rights movement and intellectual history. Bring Martin Luther King Jr. to life in your classroom this year by living among his very words.

Access “I Have a Dream,” lesson plans, and other core documents today at TAH.org.

 

Great American Debates: Lincoln vs. Douglas

 

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TAH.org’s last Saturday Webinar for 2018 took place on 1 December, and featured another Great American Debate: Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas, in their famous ‘Lincoln-Douglas Debates’ of 1858. Our panel of scholars, with the assistance of great questions submitted by our live audience of teachers addressed the ideas and issues, rhetoric and reasoning, and immediate and long-term impact and meaning of these singular debates in American history.

Access the full archive page here.

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Documents in Detail: Bill of Rights

 

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Our Documents in Detail episode for 14 NOV 18 focused on the Bill of Rights: the politics behind its proposal and adoption; interpretations over time; and place in our history, government, and society. Among the many questions asked during the lively 58-minute program included those about James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, and why they initially did not support an enumeration of rights, but in Madison’s case, eventually went on to promote the legislation that led to the Bill of Rights. Also considered was the notion that to understand the Bill of Rights today, one must understand the original arguments against it.

Access the full archive page here.

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Saturday Webinar: Frederick Douglass vs. William Lloyd Garrison

 

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Program Archive Page

TAH.org’s Saturday Webinar for 10 NOV 2018 focused on the debate between Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison, and their divergent views on the Constitution, solutions to slavery, and the future of America as they saw it. Suggested additional readings include:

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U.S. History Lesson Plans on the Great Depression and the New Deal

The Great Depression and the New Deal impacted a generation and forever changed the role of federal government in people’s lives to this day. For today’s high school students, the time may conjure up black-and-white images of people standing in soup lines or traversing the Dust Bowl. Iconic pictures and texts such as Grapes of Wrath have certainly helped people remember one of our nation’s most challenging times. But how did the government, including Presidents Hoover and Roosevelt, respond with specific policies and institutions that continue to shape the United States?

Core Documents Collection

The collection of documents on the Great Depression and the New Deal makes clear the reasons why and the degree to which Franklin Roosevelt intended the New Deal to be a re-founding of the American republic after Hoover’s struggle to pull the country out of financial despair. The collection presents the arguments of those who opposed the New Deal — Democrats as well as Republicans — and those who thought it did not go far enough. Taken together, these documents bring immediacy to this consequential period of American history, shedding light on the origins of Social Security, minimum wage, and other institutions that have become a part of the fabric of our daily lives.

The Great Depression and the New Deal Core American Document volume contains the following:

  • Key documents on the period, from Hoover’s speeches to Roosevelt’s fireside chats, to dozens of other statements and letters, selected by an expert and reviewed by an editorial board
  • An introduction highlighting key documents and themes
  • A thematic table of contents, showing the connections between various documents
  • Study questions for each document, as well as questions that refer to other documents in the collection
  • Notes on each document to identify people, events, movements, or ideas to improve understanding of the document’s historical context

You can use some or all of the core documents, tailoring them to your curriculum, schedule, and students’ needs. When you plan a lesson around Core Documents rather than a textbook, you will start to see your students making connections that bring the Great Depression and New Deal to life. Studied in conjunction with the Great Recession of 2008, these documents will also help your students understand patterns and themes that cross the eras.

Accessing the Great Depression and the New Deal Core Documents is easy. Just click on the link below and find everything you need to bring this era into your classroom today!  

Access the Core Documents: The Great Depression and the New Deal 

Documents in Detail: Brutus I

 

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The 24 OCT 18 episode of Documents in Detail took a look at Brutus I, one of the essential Antifederalist writings, dated 18 OCT 1787. The program opened with a question from the moderator about why it’s worth reading an argument for one of the “losers” of the ratification debate that waged from 1787-88. Most of the program dug into and drew conclusions and observations based on the root of Brutus’ argument, which was about his concerns over consolidation, and the creation of a single, large republic that would eventually trample the rights of individuals and would be distant and separate from the people it existed to represent.

We experienced a software glitch while recording this program, resulting in the last 12 minutes being muted. We are working to recover this block of audio, and will replace the current, incomplete audio file with the full one if we are able to do that.

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TAH One-Day Seminars in the Southwest

With a few months of the 2018-2019 school year under your belt, you may be starting to hit that fall/winter fatigue. Don’t lose the spark! Now is the perfect time to infuse new life into your teaching by exploring fresh ideas with like-minded history teachers. We have several one-day seminars scheduled this fall and spring across 5 states in the Southwest.

Teaching American History offers seminars at no charge for you and your fellow teachers, who will dive right into original historical documents, from the Bill of Rights to landmark Supreme Court cases, under the teaching of university scholars who are experts in their respective fields. Getting to the roots of our country’s exciting and complicated history will help you inspire your students for second semester and beyond.

Arizona

Robber Barons or Captains of Industry – the Gilded Age Revisited, hosted by AZ Dept. Education

November 5 @ 8:00 am – 5:00 pm

The Bill of Rights, hosted by Sahuarita High School (Tucson area, AZ)

November 7 @ 8:00 am – 3:00 pm

Landmark Supreme Court Cases, hosted by Phoenix Union HSD (Phoenix, AZ)

November 29 @ 8:00 am – 3:00 pm

The New Deal and Great Society Compared, hosted by Phoenix Union HSD (Phoenix, AZ)

February 7, 2019 @ 8:00 am – 3:00 pm

The Legislative Branch, hosted by Phoenix Union HSD (Phoenix, AZ)

March 28, 2019 @ 8:00 am – 3:00 pm

New Mexico

Civil Rights – Speeches and Leaders – hosted by Sandia Preparatory School (Albuquerque, NM)

November 8 @ 8:20 am – 2:45 pm

Oklahoma

World War 2 hosted by the Oklahoma Council for the Social Studies (Norman, OK)

November 2 @ 8:00 am – 3:00 pm

The American Founding hosted by the Oklahoma Council for the Social Studies (Norman, OK)

November 2 @ 8:00 am – 3:00 pm

Social Reform – 1790 to 1850, hosted by Broken Arrow Schools (Tulsa, OK)

March 4, 2019 @ 8:00 am – 3:00 pm

Causes of the Civil War, hosted by OK CSS (Oklahoma City, OK)

March 5, 2019 @ 8:00 am – 3:00 pm

Modern Social Movements, hosted by OK CSS (Oklahoma City, OK)

March 6, 2019 @ 8:00 am – 3:00 pm

Texas

Lincoln and the Problem of Reconstruction, hosted by St. Thomas High School (Houston, TX)

November 13 @ 8:00 am – 3:00 pm

LBJ and Vietnam, hosted by St. Thomas High School (Houston, TX)

February 11, 2019 @ 8:00 am – 3:00 pm

Lincoln and Reconstruction, hosted by Austin ISD (Austin, TX)

February 12, 2019 @ 8:00 am – 3:00 pm

American Foreign Policy, hosted by St. Thomas High School (Houston, TX)

April 11, 2019 @ 8:00 am – 3:00 pm

Utah

American Foreign Policy, hosted by Alta High School (Sandy, UT)

December 14 @ 8:00 am – 3:00 pm

Congress, hosted by Alta High School (Sandy, UT)

February 8, 2019 @ 8:00 am – 3:00 pm

The American Presidency, hosted by Alta High School (Sandy, UT)

April 12, 2019 @ 8:00 am – 3:00 pm

 

TAH’s Southwest seminars are just some of the free resources available to you as a teacher of American History. For information on Core Documents, online programs, Teacher Toolkits and more, visit us at www.teachingamericanhistory.org.

Also, we’d love to connect with you on social media – follow @teachamhistory!

Saturday Webinars: Jefferson vs. Hamilton

 

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The Saturday Webinar for October 2018 featured a discussion of the political and personal split between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, with a focus on how their differences contributed to the development of the first political parties, and how their ideas informed the first decades of American economic policy.

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Core American Documents: The Executive Branch

 

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“[The concept of executive power]…in our system of government, which subscribes to the rule of law, is very hard to come to terms with…”

The latest volume of the American History and Government Core Documents Collections – the Executive Branch – is available on Kindle, iTunes and PDF. Hard copies are also available for $10 each – email dmitchell@tah.org if you would like a copy. You can also buy it as print-on-demand on Amazon!

Sign up for early access to each volume!

This collection of documents on the Executive Branch is part of our extended series of document collections covering major periods, themes, and institutions in American history and government. This is the first of our Political Science/Government-focused volumes, especially appropriate for use in Government and Civics courses.

Consider taking a look at these books by Professor Bailey mentioned in the interview:

See a list of all titles in TAH.org’s Core Documents series.

Constitution Day Lecture: “The Least Dangerous Branch”

 

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Professor Gordon Lloyd gave the attached address at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library as part of the commemoration of the 231st anniversary of the signing of the Constitution. Professor Lloyd shared his vast knowledge of and keen insights on the American Founding, particularly the Constitutional Convention. In addition to using TAH.org’s Constitutional Convention online exhibit, created by Prof. Lloyd, he also used the famous Howard Chandler Christy painting depicting the signing of the Constitution as a focus for his talk.

Professor Lloyd also referred to the “Issues Debated” page within the Federalist-Antifederalist Debates exhibit, where the primary issues over which the two sides debated are compared and the most essential documents linked, and the origins of the Bill of Rights.

Questions and answers begin at the 40-minute mark, and the primary program, therefore, ends at that point. The Q&A portion did include some very interesting questions, with some making connections between history and contemporary politics.

You can watch the video of the presentation, with additional opening remarks , as well.

Documents in Detail: Madison’s Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787

 

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Today’s episode of Documents in Detail focused on excerpts from James Madison’s Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 – the Constitutional Convention. James Madison was the only delegate to attend every day of the convention, and to take notes of all the proceedings, to include summaries of speeches and vote tallies throughout the proceedings. The Debates, published after his death, provide scholars, students, and those interested in American constitutional government an insider’s view of the process by which the Constitution was considered, debated, and eventually signed, and then released to the states for ratification.

An authoritative, contemporary edition of the Debates, edited and prefaced by Professor Gordon Lloyd, is available electronically and in print from Amazon.

Access the full program archive here.

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Core American Documents: Reconstruction

 

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Reconstruction is one of these times in American History where you can learn the limits of what law can accomplish.”

TAH.org’s latest Core American Documents volume, on Reconstruction, is now available. Composed of 31 documents, study questions, an introduction to the topic by Professor Scott Yenor, a thematic table of contents, and a list of suggested additional readings, this volume will greatly expand your understanding of this watershed moment in American History. Yenor’s collection looks at the beginning, middle, and end of Reconstruction, going back to policies and plans implemented by the Lincoln administration during the early years of the war, and concluding with a speech by Frederick Douglass, the great abolitionist, as he looked back, decades later, on what had – and hadn’t – been accomplished.

The volume is available for free in PDF or iTunes eBook formats, or for $.99 on your Amazon Kindle, or $10 for paperback on Amazon.

Washington’s letter to the Hebrew Congregation at Newport: Full Reading

 

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…to bigotry no sanction…” 

After receiving congratulations from people and groups from across America upon becoming the first president, George Washington took the time to respond to many of them, personally. In this letter to the Hebrew Congregation at Newport, RI, Washington not only expresses his personal thanks for the group’s letter, but then goes on to present his thoughts on the centrality of freedom of conscience and religion in America, and why those liberties are so essential to a free people working within a republican-style government. This concise document presents a powerful defense of the American core value, that of the freedom of religion.

Saturday Webinar: Federalists vs. Antifederalists

 

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Why read Federalist writings, and perhaps of even more interest, why read Antifederalist writings?

The second of TAH.org’s Great American Debates webinar series took place on Saturday, 8 September. Our episode focused on the Federalist-Antifederalist Debates that took place most obviously from late 1787 through 1788, when the Constitution was being considered for ratification throughout the 13 states. Our program took a serious look at the ideas of both sides, considering them as ideas expressed and debated at the time, and looking at how some of these issues have been alive as points of contention throughout American history. For more information about the “out of doors” debates over the Constitution, take a look at our Ratification of the Constitution exhibit.

See the full archive page here.

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50 Documents That Tell America’s Story

Required reading for students, teachers, and citizens.

Access Now

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