We the Teachers

September 17th, 2017: the Constitution’s 230th Anniversary

Constitution Day in 2017 marks 230 years since the Founders signed the Constitution and released it to the Congress, states, and people of America for consideration, and eventual ratification. TeachingAmericanHistory.org has assembled a collection of some of our best Constitution-related resources, from exhibits to lessons to archived programs, and has created a new interactive timeline to help you celebrate the day with your students.

Access the 230th Anniversary resources here.

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.

LBJ’s Birthday: 27 August

27 August of 2017 marks the 109th birthday of Lyndon Baynes Johnson, our 34th president. Below are some resources worth using to learn more about the president behind the Great Society, and saddled with much of the legacy of the Vietnam War.

Summer Podcast: Re-examining Hoover and FDR

 

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Hoover and FDR, presidents during the Great Depression, are often fit neatly into nearly-stereotypical categories: the do-nothing and the man of action; the old, ineffective approach and new, successful perspectives. Dr. John Moser of Ashland University discusses where and how these images of the two presidents are accurate, misleading, and in some places incorrect.

TAH.org’s new seasons of live Webinars will begin on 26 August, with the first Saturday Webinar, focused on the Intolerable Acts.

Summer Podcast: Jefferson and Hamilton – Opposed in Death as in Life, pt2

 

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Originally recorded in March, 2005, Dr. Stephen Knott addressed a group of teachers in a two-session program, discussing the often-clashing views and personalities of Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. Both programs address the following points, and together lay a solid foundation on the two men, their ideas, and their legacies.

How do you explain the cult of Thomas Jefferson that emerged in the 20th century? Why did New Deal advocates of a strong central government embrace Jefferson over Hamilton? 20th Century progressives were fond of advocating “Hamiltonian means to achieve Jeffersonian ends” — what did they mean by that statement? Jefferson, it is alleged, conducted his Presidency in a Hamiltonian fashion — what evidence is there to support this contention, and what impact did that have on Jefferson’s successors? Throughout much of the nation’s history, American politicians turned to Jefferson or Hamilton and embraced their principles and practices to bolster their cause — why was this done and is this still the case? What role has race played in influencing both men’s reputations among scholars and the public? Abraham Lincoln often invoked Jefferson’s name and Jeffersonian rhetoric throughout his political career and seldom invoked Hamilton’s name or principles. Yet, one could argue that his policies were decidedly Hamiltonian. How does one explain this apparent discrepancy? It is said that Americans “honor Jefferson but live in Hamilton’s country” — is this true? Is it accurate to claim, as many Hamiltonians argue, that Thomas Jefferson’s world is a thing of the past, and that Hamilton is the “man who made modern America”? If Jefferson’s world is a lost world, then what have we lost?

Summer Podcast: Causes of the Civil War pt.2

 

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ew other questions in American history have generated more controversy than “What Caused the Civil War?” That conflict preserved the United States as one nation, indivisible and abolished the institution of slavery that for more than four score years had made a mockery of American claims to stand as a republic of liberty, a beacon of freedom for oppressed peoples in the Old Word. But these achievements came at the great cost of more than 629,000 lives and vast destruction of property that left large parts of the South a wasteland. Could this terrible war have been avoided? Who was responsible for the events that led to war? Could the positive results of the war (Union and Freedom) have been achieved without war? How have participants in the war and historians answered these questions over the five generations since the war ended?

James M. McPherson is the George Henry Davis ’86 Professor of History at Princeton University and 2003 president of the American Historical Association. Widely acclaimed as the leading historian of the Civil War, he is the author of Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam (a New York Times bestseller), For Cause and Comrades (winner of the Lincoln Prize), and many other books on Lincoln and the Civil War era.

McPherson, a pre-eminent Civil War scholar, is widely known for his ability to take American history out of the confines of the academy and make it accessible to the general reading public. His best-selling book Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era won the Pulitzer Prize in history in 1989. He also has written and edited many other books about abolition, the war and Lincoln, and he has written essays and reviews for several national publications.

McPherson is the George Henry Davis ’86 Professor of History at Princeton University. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Gustavus Adolphus College and his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University.

Session Two

Focus: Nearly four months elapsed from the secession of South Carolina to the firing on Fort Sumter that started the war. During this period there were many efforts to fashion a compromise to forestall the secession of Southern states, or to bring them back into the Union, or in the last resort to avoid an incident that would spark a shooting war. All failed, and the war came. Why? Why didn’t the Lincoln refuse to surrender the fort? Why did Jefferson Davis decide to fire on the fort? Why did both sides prefer war to compromise?

Readings:

  • McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, 202-275
  • Charles B. Dew, “Apostles of Secession,” North and South, IV (April 2001), 24-38
  • Hans L. Trefousse, ed., The Causes of the Civil War, 91-125 (excerpts from Ramsdell, Potter, and Current)
  • Perman, ed., Coming of the American Civil War, 300-314 (excerpt from Paludan)
  • “Official Explanations of the Causes of the Civil War,” from the Causes of the Civil War, 28-47 (Messages of Davis and Lincoln)

Summer Podcast: Jefferson and Hamilton – Opposed in Death as in Life, pt1

 

| Open Player in New Window

Originally recorded in March, 2005, Dr. Stephen Knott addressed a group of teachers in a two-session program, discussing the often-clashing views and personalities of Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. Both programs address the following points, and together lay a solid foundation on the two men, their ideas, and their legacies. Part 2 will be published on 24 July 2017.

How do you explain the cult of Thomas Jefferson that emerged in the 20th century? Why did New Deal advocates of a strong central government embrace Jefferson over Hamilton? 20th Century progressives were fond of advocating “Hamiltonian means to achieve Jeffersonian ends” — what did they mean by that statement? Jefferson, it is alleged, conducted his Presidency in a Hamiltonian fashion — what evidence is there to support this contention, and what impact did that have on Jefferson’s successors? Throughout much of the nation’s history, American politicians turned to Jefferson or Hamilton and embraced their principles and practices to bolster their cause — why was this done and is this still the case? What role has race played in influencing both men’s reputations among scholars and the public? Abraham Lincoln often invoked Jefferson’s name and Jeffersonian rhetoric throughout his political career and seldom invoked Hamilton’s name or principles. Yet, one could argue that his policies were decidedly Hamiltonian. How does one explain this apparent discrepancy? It is said that Americans “honor Jefferson but live in Hamilton’s country” — is this true? Is it accurate to claim, as many Hamiltonians argue, that Thomas Jefferson’s world is a thing of the past, and that Hamilton is the “man who made modern America”? If Jefferson’s world is a lost world, then what have we lost?

Summer Podcast: Causes of the Civil War, pt.1

 

| Open Player in New Window

Few other questions in American history have generated more controversy than “What Caused the Civil War?” That conflict preserved the United States as one nation, indivisible and abolished the institution of slavery that for more than four score years had made a mockery of American claims to stand as a republic of liberty, a beacon of freedom for oppressed peoples in the Old Word. But these achievements came at the great cost of more than 629,000 lives and vast destruction of property that left large parts of the South a wasteland. Could this terrible war have been avoided? Who was responsible for the events that led to war? Could the positive results of the war (Union and Freedom) have been achieved without war? How have participants in the war and historians answered these questions over the five generations since the war ended?

James M. McPherson is the George Henry Davis ’86 Professor of History at Princeton University and 2003 president of the American Historical Association. Widely acclaimed as the leading historian of the Civil War, he is the author of Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam (a New York Times bestseller), For Cause and Comrades (winner of the Lincoln Prize), and many other books on Lincoln and the Civil War era.

McPherson, a pre-eminent Civil War scholar, is widely known for his ability to take American history out of the confines of the academy and make it accessible to the general reading public. His best-selling book Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era won the Pulitzer Prize in history in 1989. He also has written and edited many other books about abolition, the war and Lincoln, and he has written essays and reviews for several national publications.

McPherson is the George Henry Davis ’86 Professor of History at Princeton University. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Gustavus Adolphus College and his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University. This program was originally recorded at Princeton University on 12 February 2005.

Part 2 of this two-part series will be published on 5 August 2017.

Session One

Focus: The question of what caused the Civil War is really two questions. The first is “Why did the South secede?” The second is “Why did secession lead to war?” This seminar will analyze the roots of secession. At the beginning of the American Revolution all thirteen of the states that formed the United States had slavery. By the first decade of the nineteenth century, however, states north of the Mason-Dixon line and Ohio River had abolished the institution while slavery flourished more than ever south of those lines. A definite “North” and “South” with increasingly disparate socioeconomic institutions and distinctive ideologies had begun to develop. Yet for a half century these contrasting sections coexisted politically in the same nation. Why and how did that national structure fall apart in the 1850s? Was this breakdown inevitable, or could wiser political leadership have prevented it? Why did the election of Abraham Lincoln as president precipitate the secession of seven lower-South states?

Readings:

  • James M. McPherson, “What Caused the Civil War?” North and South, IV (Nov. 2000), 12-22, and responses to this article in subsequent issues of North and South
  • Michael Perman, ed., The Coming of the American Civil War, 23-53, 90-113, 169-88, (excerpts from writing by Beard, Owsley, Craven, Randall, Holt, and Foner)
  • James M. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, 78-116, (or any other chapter of your choice among chaps. 2, 4, 5, or 6)
  • “Premonitory Explanations of the Sectional Crisis,” from The Causes of the American Civil War, 1-27 (excerpts from Calhoun, Seward, Douglas, and Lincoln)

Summer Podcast: Frederick Douglass on Lincoln

 

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Dr. Peter Myers, of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, gave this 74-minute presentation about Frederick Douglass, and his views on Abraham Lincoln. Introduced by Dr. Peter Schramm, Myers discusses Douglass’ views on slavery, early Civil Rights, Reconstruction, and what he thought of Lincoln’s handling of the same.

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

Landmark Supreme Court Cases Webinars Archives

TAH.org’s 2016-17 school year Saturday Webinar series, Landmark Supreme Court Cases, has finished its run, ending the year on 13 May 2017 with New Jersey v. T.L.O. You can access all the archives to these programs in three ways, depending on your needs and preferences.

We maintain videos of all our webinars on our YouTube channel, with each season of our programs organized as separate playlists. You can access all 10 of our Landmark Supreme Court Cases videos there.

Additionally, if you’re interested in a podcast of any program, you can find all of our web programs at our iTunes Podcast site, or subscribe directly to the podcast feed if you don’t use iTunes.

Finally, all of our individual episode pages, with document links and scholar bios, are found on our Webinars Archives page.

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.

Webinars for 2017-18

TAH.org is excited to announce two 10-episode webinars series for the 2017-18 school year. Both series are free to attend, feature live, documents-based discussions between scholars with questions taken from a national audience of teachers, and all attendees to the live shows will receive a downloadable certificate worth 2 hours of continuing education time.

Saturday Webinars: Our flagship series, going into its fourth full season, these 75-minute programs each focus on a single topic, event, person, or idea. For the 17-18 school year, TAH.org presents “Moments of Crisis” – 10 events in American history and politics that challenged our people, systems, and traditions. All episodes air at 11am EST on their show date. Register for Saturday Webinars here.

Documents in Detail: Our new series, going into its first full season, these 60-minute programs take place typically on the third Wednesday of each month, at 7pm EST. Each episode will focus on one document, this year drawn from our collection of 50 Core American Documents. Spanning American history from 1776 to 1964, each episode is a deep-dive into a single document, exploring its historical context, ideas, language, and impact on politics, law, and culture. Register for Documents in Detail here.

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.

50 Documents That Tell America’s Story

Required reading for students, teachers, and citizens.

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