We the Teachers

Second Roots of Liberty National Essay Contest is Underway!

TAH.org is once again excited to support the Roots of Liberty National Essay Contest. This is an excellent opportunity for a high school teacher to sponsor an outstanding student essay. The contest asks student to build a thoughtful essay about the following:

“In To Make Their Interests Coincide With Their Duty: How the Constitution Leads Public Officials to Make Good Decisions, law professor Robert T. Miller argues that the brilliance of the American Constitution is that it “creates a system of procedures for selecting public officials and ordering how they make decisions that are in the best interests of society.” Analyze one consequential presidential decision to determine to what extent, if any, the Constitution leads presidents to make good decisions.

The winning student essay will received a grand prize of $5,000, plus a trip to D.C. for 2. The teacher who sponsors the winning student will receive a prize of $1,000. Additional cash prizes are available. Find prize and rule details here. The essay contest deadline is Friday, December 15, 2016.

Saturday Webinar 2016-17 Season: Landmark Supreme Court Cases

Announcing the 10 LANDMARK SUPREME COURT CASES Webinar Series

Building on the success of our last two years of Saturday WebinarsAmerican Controversies and American Presidents – we invite you to join our 10 Landmark Supreme Court Cases webinar series during the 2016-2017 academic year.

Drawing from our list of 50 Core Documents and related sources, TAH.org’s Saturday Webinar series is designed to help teachers develop a deeper understanding of the historical, political, constitutional, and social dimensions of 10 of America’s most important Supreme Court cases. Each month a different panel of scholars – experts in their fields –discuss the topic at hand, with Dr. Chris Burkett of Ashland University as moderator, and a live online audience of teachers.

Document links will be updated throughout the season, at least a month in advance of each episode.

Register for the 2016-17 season

Plessy v. Ferguson: May 18th, 1896

May 18th is the anniversary Plessy v. Ferguson, in which the doctrine of “equal, but separate” was affirmed by the United States Supreme Court. This landmark case helped to cement the Jim Crow laws already prevalent throughout the South, and paved the way for another 60 years of legal segregation before it was overturned by Brown v. Board of Education (1954). Learn more about the details and historical context of this case at TeachingAmericanHistory.org, where it’s one of our 50 Core Documents. The case, with Justice Harlan’s dissenting opinion that the “Constitution is color-blind,” is also accompanied by a summary, guiding questions, links to related documents, and a search tool to help you find state academic standards relevant to the case.

Our 2016-17 Saturday Webinars will focus on developing a deeper understanding of Landmark Supreme Court Cases, including Plessy v. Ferguson. Registration details will be published soon. In the meantime, you can access all our archived webinars, and subscribe to our iTunes podcast, too.

United States Colored Troops Lesson Plan

Paul LaRue, 4th-usct-weba teacher at Washington High School in Washington Court House, Ohio and the 2010 Ohio History Teacher of the Year, shares with us a lesson plan he contributed to the Civil War Trust’s web exhibit on the United States Color Troops.  Highlighting the unique contributions of African-American soldiers to the Union’s cause, the unit is appropriate for middle grades American history classrooms. It is just one part of the Civil War Trust’s complete series of curricula available for all grade bands.

Session 30 pt2: The Reagan Era and the New Deal Legacy; George W. Bush’s Founding Faith

Prof. Kesler:  

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Focus

Reagan seemed to campaign against Roosevelt’s legacy, but delighted in pointing out that he voted for him four times. Yet, he seemed to be interested in cutting back the size of the federal government and making its programs less ambitious. What were his purposes in doing so? Was his failure to cut back the size of government due primarily to Reagan’s policies during an era of “divided government,” or rather more a reflection of FDR’s success?
President Bush seems intent on arguing that his policies, both domestic and foreign, derive directly from the principles of the founding. He argues that self-government needs to be re-invigorated and places emphasis on the obligations of citizenship, and sometimes public spiritedness is difficult. He reminds us that citizenship is not a matter of birth and blood, but rather, “we are bound by ideals,” and those ideals have to be learned. Is he right? Are his arguments about the philosophical and historical heritage he appeals to persuasive?


Readings:
George W. Bush:

Session 30 pt1: Martin Luther King, Jr; Malcolm X

Dr. Lucas Morel:  

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Focus

Does King’s proposal for a “Bill of Rights for the Disadvantaged” indicate a shift from his earlier vision of the American dream? Does King’s advocacy of “compensatory or preferential treatment” look more to race or poverty as its justification? Is the G.I. Bill of Rights a good analogy for King’s promotion of a federal, economic program to help blacks and the disadvantaged, generally? What does “black power” mean to King?
How does Malcolm X’s theology inform his political thinking? Malcolm X insists that there is no legitimate intermediate position between “the ballot” and “the bullet.” He is highly critical of King’s reliance on “civil” disobedience. Is he correct? How does his understanding of political action, and particularly the justification for violence, compare to the right of revolution as articulated by John Locke and enshrined in the Declaration of Independence? Why did Malcolm X reject integration as an aim of the civil rights struggle? Why must Black Nationalism be an internationalist movement?
Readings:
    Martin Luther King, Jr.:

  • King, Why We Can’t Wait (1964)
    • Chap. 8, “The Days to Come,” 116-143
  • King, I Have a Dream: Writings and Speeches
    • “Black Power Defined” (June 11, 1967), 153-65
    • “I See the Promised Land” (April 3, 1968), 193-203
  • Fairclough, Better Day Coming, chap. 11-12
Malcolm X:

Session 29: Brown v. Board of Education; Martin Luther King, Jr., Non-Violent Resistance, and the American Dream

Dr. Lucas Morel:  

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Focus

In Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the Supreme Court briefly traces the history of public schools in America. How does this help the Court argue against racially segregated schools? What role do legal precedents play in the Court’s argument against “separate but equal” schools? What is meant by “intangible considerations” and how does this help the Court establish that the mere act of separating school children by race produces an unequal education? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Court’s opinion in Brown? If segregated schools did not produce “a feeling of inferiority” on the part of black children, would these schools be unconstitutional according to Brown?
Why does King reject force as a response to oppression? What is the major concern of the white clergymen who counsel King to stay away from Birmingham? What are the four stages of civil disobedience? How does King’s nonviolent resistance against a particular law actually support obedience to the government and laws? Why does King blame white moderates more than fringe elements like the Ku Klux Klan for lack of progress in securing civil rights for black Americans?
Readings

Brown v. Board of Education

Martin Luther King, Jr.:
Supplemental/Optional Readings
  • W.E.B. Du Bois: Writings–The Crisis, “Marcus Garvey” (Dec. 1920/Jan. 1921), 969-979
  • Klarman, From Jim Crow to Civil Rights, “Brown’s Backlash,” 385-440
  • Fairclough, Better Day Coming, chaps. 6-8

Session 28: Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP

Juan Williams:  

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Focus

What role did Thurgood Marshall play in the Civil Rights Movement? What was his view of the American founding? What was his opinion of contemporary activists for civil rights, like Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X?
Readings

Session 27: Franklin D. Roosevelt and Democratic Leadership

Prof. Kesler:  

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Focus

The political and constitutional legacy of Franklin D. Roosevelt is impressive. What was his extraordinary achievement? In what ways did he improve upon Jefferson’s, Lincoln’s, and the Progressives’ understanding of democratic life and political structures? How did his New Deal envision a powerful, active, and programmatically ambitious national government? How was this related to the possibility of self-government? What is his legacy?

Session 26: The Progressive Reform and Self-Government

Prof. Kesler:  

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Focus

The Progressives fought for reform at the turn of the century. What principled form did their criticism take of the Declaration, the Constitution, and political decentralization take? They revered Lincoln, yet did not emulate his devotion to the Declaration of Independence, but invoked the preamble to the Constitution to make democracy more active. Jefferson’s and Hamilton’s views became living arguments again, but with interesting shifts. Self-government was in need of some assistance. What effect did their reforms—for example, direct primaries, initiative, referendum—have on federalism, separation of powers, and political parties? What legacy did the Progressives, Woodrow Wilson in particular, leave the nation?

Session 25: Booker T. Washington; W.E.B. Du Bois

Dr. Lucas Morel:  

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Focus

What did Washington believe were the most urgent priorities for blacks at the close of the 19th century? On what issues was Washington prepared to compromise and why? What were the goals of Washington’s program and how did these differ from the recommendations of W.E.B. Du Bois? Why does Du Bois seek to “conserve” the races? How would “the conservation of the races” help the future of the Negro race as well as the future of world civilization? What principles of the American regime appear to run counter to Du Bois’s emphasis on “race organizations” and “race solidarity”? What does Du Bois mean by the “talented tenth”? Compare Washington and Du Bois on the purpose of education.
Readings:
Du Bois:
Supplemental/Optional Readings:
    Booker T. Washington:

  • Washington, Up From Slavery (1901), chap. 3, “The Struggle for an Education”
  • Washington, “Address on Abraham Lincoln,” (February 12, 1909)
  • Louis Harlan, “Booker T. Washington in Biographical Perspective” (October 1970), 1581-1599
  • Fairclough, Better Day Coming, chap. 3
W.E.B. Du Bois:

Session 24: The Modern Era Confronts the American Founding

Profs. Morel and Kesler:  

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Focus

What did the American founding and Civil War look like to politicians and public intellectuals at the start of the 20th century?
Readings:

Presidential Academy: MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech and Modern America

TeachingAmericanHistory.org is proud to offer the third and final part of our Presidential Academy documents-based survey course of American history and American political thought through iTunesU, iTunes, and this blog.

This segment of the course, consisting of 7 sessions, focuses on the Modern America, with the ideas expressed in Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the foundation of study. The first session in this part of the course will be posted on Tuesday, 5 January 2016.

Presidential Academy was a grant-funded program that TAH.org presented to groups of teachers who met and studied in three cities over two weeks, with discussions rooted in three separate documents. The first days were in Philadelphia, beginning with the American Founding, through the Declaration of Independence. Additional documents and ideas were addressed and analyzed throughout the several sessions there before the group moved on to Gettysburg and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Finally, the group moved to Washington, D.C., and study of modern America, with Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech as the focal point.

Each session is made up of a set of readings, all linked from its blog post, and usually one lecture. Guiding questions and focus issues are at the foundation of each week’s study. A list of the session titles for Part 3 of the course is below, along with the dates on which each will be published on this blog, and the audio made available through iTunes. You can subscribe to our iTunes Podcast feed by clicking here. The entire course, divided into the three major sections – Philadelphia, Gettysburg, and Washington – is already available on iTunesU.

Session 24:  The Modern Era Confronts the American Founding, 5 JAN 16
Session 25: Booker T. Washington; W.E.B. Du Bois, 12 JAN
Session 26: The Progressive Reform and Self-Government, 19 JAN
Session 27: Franklin D. Roosevelt and Democratic Leadership, 26 JAN
Session 28: Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP, 2 FEB
Session 29: Brown v. Board of Education; Martin Luther King, Jr., Non-Violent Resistance, and the American Dream, 9 FEB
Session 30 pt1: Martin Luther King, Jr; Malcolm X, 16 FEB
Session 30 pt2: The Reagan Era and the New Deal Legacy; George W. Bush’s Founding Faith, 23 FEB

We invite you to deepen your knowledge of American history through this series, and use these materials in any way that will benefit you and your students, and we hope that you have enjoyed this course series.

Session 23: Frederick Douglass – Reconstruction and the Future of Black Americans

Dr. Lucas Morel:  

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Focus

How did Douglass answer the question, “What Country Have I?” What was his critique of the emigrationist position? What was the basis for his greater optimism about race relations in America? Just as Douglass was the leading figure in the fight to secure the natural right to liberty for blacks in America, he was the leading figure in the post-war struggle to secure civil rights for African-Americans. Why does Douglass favor justice (“fair play”) over charity (“benevolence”) for black Americans? Why does Douglass counsel black Americans against “race pride”? Why does Douglass consider “the Negro problem” a misnomer for “the nation’s problem” and how does this affect the kind of solutions proposed to help black Americans? What was his critique of the emigrationist position? Does he believe in black reparations? If color prejudice is the bane of black Americans, what principles and policies does Douglass propose to eliminate it from American society?

Session 22: “A New Birth of Freedom” and Lincoln’s Re-Election

Dr. Lucas Morel:  

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Focus

Why does Lincoln call “all men are created equal” a “proposition” instead of a “self-evident truth”? How does he see the Civil War as a test? What does he define “dedication” and why does Lincoln depreciate what was said at the Gettysburg dedication? What is “the great task” that remains for the American people? What is the “new birth of freedom” he calls the nation to experience?
What are Lincoln’s objectives as the newly re-elected president? Why emphasize that both sides tried to avoid war? Why is there no explicit mention of the South as the cause of rebellion in the Second Inaugural Address? According to Lincoln, who or what was the cause of the Civil War? Why does he appeal to God’s judgment to discern the meaning of the Civil War? How does the Second Inaugural Address forge a connection between America’s past and America’s future? In other words, why does Lincoln use his Second Inaugural Address to explain the meaning of the preceding four years?
Readings:

50 Documents That Tell America’s Story

Required reading for students, teachers, and citizens.

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