We the Teachers

Philadelphia Travel Resource

Are you planning on visiting historic Philadelphia, either yourself or with students? Our Constitutional Convention exhibit has resources about the Convention itself, and also an interactive map of 1787 Philadelphia, with information about sites related to the Convention and those who attended it. You can also download a PDF copy of the map and the entries on it and carry it on a tablet or some other device while walking around the city.

Another great resource to consider as you put together lessons about the Founding is our American History Toolkits, specifically the section about the American Founding. Our Toolkits will help you transition from relying on textbooks to using original documents and documents-based resources only.

Documents in Detail Webinar Archives

TAH.org has completed the pilot season of Documents in Detail, with five episodes now available in our archives. Teachers, students, and citizens from around the country have downloaded podcasts or watched the YouTube videos from these five episodes a combined total of over 1200 times since January. Consider looking back at this last season and listening to or watching some of the programs you missed, or even ones you attended. Think about how you could use the documents for each with your students. Many teachers from around the country are using archived webinars with their students, in some cases flipping their classrooms by having students read some of the documents and watch the programs themselves outside of class, reserving class time for Socratic discussions and other activities.

We will begin our 17-18 season of Documents in Detail on 30 August, with the Declaration of Independence.

Register for the 2017-18 Season

New Resource on TAH.org

Incorporating the Federalist Papers into American Government and American History courses is both important and challenging, given the complexity of the language. Doing the same with Anti-Federalist writings is compounded by the vast and varied collection of essays, speeches, and articles that can be categorized as fitting under that heading. This is further complicated bythe fact that most Antifederalist writings are barely mentioned by name in contemporary history and government texts.

TAH.org has added a resource to the Federalist-Antifederalist Debates exhibit that aims to make it easier for teachers to use the words of the Federalists and Antifederalists to help get to the root of the major differences between those broad camps: those who supported the Constitution and those, for whatever reasons, did not.

Take a look at the Purpose, Structure, and Powers of government and you’ll find a list of key issues from 1787-1788, with essential Federalist and Antifederalist writings chosen for each. For example, if you would like to learn about the two sides’ positions on the role of the executive, it is suggested that you read Federalist 71 and An Olde Whig V.

Use this new resource to help your students read Founding era documents for a purpose, and to help them understand the ideas that animated the debates between Americans at the Founding, and how many of these issues are still being debated today.

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.

New TAH.org Site Feature: Enhanced Sitewide Search

TeachingAmericanHistory.org has a new feature: a simple, enhanced search tool embedded on every page of the site. If you look in the upper-right corner of any page you’ll see the Search box that’s always been there – but now you have the ability to select whether you want the search term to be applied to whole site, or just our Documents Library. If you select Documents, you’ll be able to search the titles and contents of our 2300+ primary documents, providing easier, faster access to the information you want.

search

Liberty vs. Freedom

 

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Historian David Hackett Fischer discusses the related, yet distinct concepts of liberty and freedom in this archived lecture. Expanding on his 2004 book, Liberty and Freedom: A Visual History of America’s Foundinghe describes the different meanings of the words at the Founding, and how their meanings have evolved and been applied by Americans since.

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.

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:

50 Documents That Tell America’s Story

Required reading for students, teachers, and citizens.

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