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.

 

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.

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.

Teaching America’s Founding

How do you make a country from scratch? Leaders during the American Founding, the  period from 1776 through 1789, would dedicate themselves to pursuing the answer until bringing their plan to fruition with Washington’s inauguration. Along the way, they would wrestle with defining, expressing, and applying what Jefferson would call “The American Mind” to their goals.

For today’s students, it’s hard to imagine America as a new idea, as a radical experiment in democracy. But for the people fighting a revolution, attempting to govern  a group of disparate states, and finally creating the Constitution, it was uncharted territory. By transporting students to that era with original documents, American history teachers can begin to help them understand the incomparable drama of this exhilarating time.

Transform Your Classroom Experience with the Teaching American History American Founding Toolkit

The Teaching American History American Founding Toolkit, centered on original documents, is designed to bring you and your classroom into lively conversation with the Founding Fathers.

You can use some or all of these Toolkit resources, tailoring them to your curriculum, schedule, and students’ needs. When you plan a lesson around a Core Document or corresponding resource, you will start to see your students making connections that bring the Colonial era to life.

Accessing the American Founding Toolkit is easy. Just click on the link below and find everything you need to bring the Colonial Era into your classroom today!

Access the American Founding Toolkit

SYNOPSIS: Add original documents, speeches, and dynamic lesson plans into your high school American history with this Founding era curriculum.

The Declaration of Independence: Full Reading

 

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TAH.org is doing a trial run of making recorded readings of essential original documents available online. These documents, selected from our library and various documents collections, are read verbatim from our collection, meaning that students can follow along, word-for-word. Each document will be preceded by a short introduction identifying the author, and providing some background information to help contextualize the piece.

This first recording is of the Declaration of Independence, among the most important documents of the American Founding, but also of American political principles. Be sure to read Thomas Jefferson’s original draft, from which several sections were deleted before it was accepted, most notable of which were Jefferson’s comments on African slavery.

Feel free to use this audio in any way you see fit, and let us know what you think by taking a moment to answer three survey questions.

Teaching the Civil War and Reconstruction

The country was divided. A “nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal” was struggling to define that equality in light of slavery and calls for emancipation. Questions stalked the minds of political leaders and citizens alike: What was the nature of the federal union and Constitution in relation to state sovereignty? How would the war progress and end, and how would the nation rebuild? As a teacher of American History, you know there is nothing remotely boring about the Civil War and Reconstruction.

But for students in the 21st century, the era conjures up images of muskets and southern belles–if any images at all–making it difficult for them to connect with the real human emotions and events experienced during the time. The Teaching American History Civil War and Reconstruction Toolkit, centered on original documents, is designed to bring you and your classroom face to face with the realities:

You can use some or all of these Toolkit resources, tailoring them to your curriculum, schedule, and students’ needs. When you plan a lesson around a Core Document or corresponding resource, you will start to see your students making connections that bring the Civil War to life.

Accessing the Civil War & Reconstruction Toolkit is easy. Just click on the link below and find everything you need to bring the drama, voices, and complexities of the Civil War into your classroom today!  

Access the Civil War & Reconstruction Toolkit

SYNOPSIS: Add original documents, letters, and dynamic lesson plans into your high school American history Civil War era curriculum.

Core Documents Collection: Religion in American History and Politics

 

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“You can’t understand American History without understanding the role of religion in our history and politics…”

TAH.org’s Core American Documents collection on Religion in American History and Politics is now available on Kindle, iTunes eBook, PDF, and print on demand.

This volume, the companion to TAH.org’s Religion in America site, includes 25 documents with summaries and annotations, an introduction to the theme of religion as a part of American history and politics, appendices with additional information, study questions for each document, and suggested further readings.

Sign up for early access to each upcoming volume!

As in the other volumes, each Core Documents volume will contain the following:

  • Key documents on the period, theme, or institution, 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.

When complete, the series will be comprehensive and authoritative, and will present America’s story in the words of those who wrote it – all united in their commitment to equality and liberty, yet so often divided by their different understandings of these most fundamental American ideas.

In sum, our intent is that the documents and their supporting material provide unique access to the richness of the American story. We hope that you will find this resource to be intriguing and helpful for your classroom.

Please contact Daniel Mitchell if you have any questions or would like more information about using the Core Documents Curriculum in your classroom.

Thank you for all that you do!

Core American Documents: The Constitutional Convention

 

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The best way to study the advantages and disadvantages of compromise is to study the Constitutional Convention – through documents.

The third volume of the American History and Government Core Documents Collections – the Constitutional Convention – is available on KindleiTunes 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 on Amazon!

Sign up for early access to each volume!

This collection of documents on the Constitutional Convention is part of our extended series of document collections covering major periods, themes, and institutions in American history and government. This is the second of four volumes that will cover the Founding of the United States. The American Founding, already published, is the capstone of the four. The others – this collection, and volumes on the ratification of the constitution and the Bill of Rights, which will follow it – tell aspects of the founding story in more detail.

The documents in this collection explain why the constitutional convention was held and illustrate the ideas of government and politics that the delegates carried with them to Philadelphia, ideas wrung from their reading and, more important, from the extensive experience of self-government the colonists had enjoyed. Its pages recount the Convention’s critical debates over the purpose and powers of government, the nature of representation, and the relation between the states and the central government. They recount as well the way that slavery and the interests of the various states shaped those debates. Together, the four volumes on the Founding provide the essentials for understanding the Founding as the Founders understood it.

See a list of all titles in TAH.org’s Core Documents series, and access our online exhibit on the Constitutional Convention, mentioned by Professor Lloyd.

Teaching the American Founding and the Constitutional Convention

Over the course of 100 days in 1787, American history would be made in a boisterous and sweltering Independence Hall. While the 55 delegates who showed up thought they were “just” going to revise the Articles of the Confederation, they ended up delving into so much more, eventually arguing for, and writing a final draft of, the U.S. Constitution.

These are the basics, of course, but they can seem so far removed from your students’ daily lives. In order to help them understand the intellectual and political depths of that historic summer, you need to help them see, hear, and feel the lively drama of the Founding of the United States. By exploring the core documents of that time, you can bring the Convention to life.

The TAH American Founding and Constitutional Convention Core Document Volume and Toolkit is designed to bring you and your classroom into Independence Hall alongside the spirited voices of those delegates. Imagine your students experiencing the Convention through these engaging resources:

  • Educational background, Continental experience, economic interests, and personal details of each delegate
  • The Convention organized as a four-act drama to help students understand how the story of the Founding unfolded
  • Correspondence among delegates and family members, linked to specific days throughout the “script”
  • Charts and tables, including an interactive Attendance Record that helps students visualize daily events and delegate attendance throughout the Convention
  • Menus, entertainment, and other fascinating “non-political” details that bring personality to the historical
  • Interactive maps and artwork
  • Multimedia resources, including videos corresponding with each of the acts.

You can use some or all of these Toolkit resources, tailoring them to your curriculum, schedule, and students’ needs. When you plan a lesson around a Core Document or corresponding resource, you will start to see your students making connections, light bulbs going off as the Convention, in a way, teaches itself.

Accessing the Core Documents and Toolkit is easy. Just click on the link below and find everything you need to bring Philadelphia, 1787, into your classroom today!

American Founding & Constitutional Convention Core Document Volume and Toolkit

 

Core American Documents: The American Founding

 

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The American Founding, which took place from 1776-1791, is book-ended by the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.

The first volume of the American History and Government Core Documents Collection – the American Founding – is now available on iTunes, Kindle, and PDFHard copies are also available for $10 each – email dmitchell@tah.org if you would like a copy. You can also buy it on Amazon!

Each Core American Documents volume will contain the following:

  • Key documents on the period, theme, or institution, 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.

When complete, the series will be comprehensive and authoritative, and will present America’s story in the words of those who wrote it – America’s presidents, labor leaders, farmers, philosophers, industrialists, politicians, workers, explorers, religious leaders, judges, soldiers; its slaveholders and abolitionists; its expansionists and isolationists; its reformers and stand-patters; its strict and broad constructionists; its hard-eyed realists and visionary utopians – all united in their commitment to equality and liberty, yet so often divided by their different understandings of these most fundamental American ideas.

The documents are all about this – the still unfinished American experiment with self-government. There is no better place to begin to understand that experiment than with these documents from the American founding.

Core Documents: The Great Depression and New Deal

 

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The Great Depression and New Deal can be more easily understood by thinking of it as a story in six parts.

Today’s interview is with Dr. John Moser, Professor of History at Ashland University and editor of the Core Documents volume on the Great Depression and New Deal. A complex and multi-faceted event that played out over a more than a decade, it can be understood by thinking of it as having taken place in six parts, chronologically:

  1. Hoover and the Great Depression
  2. Hoover vs. Roosevelt: The Election of 1932
  3. Roosevelt First New Deal, 1932-1934
  4. Criticism of the New Deal
  5. Roosevelt’s Second New Deal, 1934-1936
  6. The New Deal in Decline, 1936-1938

John talks about how he went about selecting documents to fit this model, how the documents fit together, and how using these documents can greatly improve the quality and interest level in a unit on the Great Depression and New Deal.

The second volume of the American History and Government Core Document Collections – the Great Depression and the New Deal – is available on iTunes, Kindle, and PDFHard copies are also available for $10 each, which can be accessed through our Facebook store. Email dmitchell@tah.org for more information.

Sign up for early access to each volume!

Core American Documents: World War 2

 

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Today’s podcast includes and interview with Dr. Jennifer Keene, of Chapman University and president of the Society for Military History. Dr. Keene is the volume editor for our new World War 2 Core American Documents volume, and has some interesting things to say about how she went about selecting documents, trying to keep the number and length manageable, while trying to do such an enormous event as WW2, from multiple perspectives, the justice it deserves.

This volume of  our Core American Documents Collections – World War 2 – is now available!

Get your copy on iTunesKindle, and PDFHard copies are also available for $10 each – email dmitchell@tah.org if you would like a copy. You can also buy it on Amazon!

Sign up for early access to each upcoming volume!

As in the other volumes, each Core Documents volume will contain the following:

  • Key documents on the period, theme, or institution, 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.

When complete, the series will be comprehensive and authoritative, and will present America’s story in the words of those who wrote it – all united in their commitment to equality and liberty, yet so often divided by their different understandings of these most fundamental American ideas.

In sum, our intent is that the documents and their supporting material provide unique access to the richness of the American story. We hope that you will find this resource to be intriguing and helpful for your classroom.

Please contact Daniel Mitchell if you have any questions or would like more information about using the Core Documents Curriculum in your classroom.

Thank you for all that you do!

TAH.org Podcasts Now Available on Stitcher!

The TAH.org podcast, already available through iTunes and our RSS feed, and now with over 120 separate programs as of today, is now available through Stitcher, an outstanding podcast directory and app. We will continue to find new, easy ways to bring our content to you, in the apps and on the devices you’re using.

During June and July of 2018 we will be publishing two podcasts each month, on the 6th and 20th, featuring interviews with selected editors of our new Core American Documents Collections readers. The first of these will be on 6 June, the 74th anniversary of D-Day, and will be with Jennifer Keene, editor of our recently-released World War II volume.

50 Documents That Tell America’s Story

Required reading for students, teachers, and citizens.

Access Now

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