We the Teachers

Program Report: “Civil Disobedience” Seminar in Asheville, NC

Last Saturday teachers from four states gathered in Asheville, North Carolina for one of the final TAH.org seminars of 2015. They discussed “Civil Disobedience” with Dr. David Alvis, an interesting topic that explored America’s founding and it’s roots in civil disobedience. What does civil disobedience mean? How far can a person or group act upon their convictions before it deemed not civil?


This seminar’s three sessions began with John Locke’s Two Treatises and the Declaration of Independence. Was the American Revolution “revolutionary” or merely a “war for independence” when compared to the French or Russian Revolutions. The second session considered Henry David Thoreau’s idea of conscientious disobedience, that a person is morally obligated to act upon any repugnant injustice or law, regardless of the outcome. However, with that idea come events like John Brown acting on his own moral authority who murders in the name of justice. Juxtapose Thoreau’s writings with Abraham Lincoln’s Lyceum address and he warns of the dangers with “mobocracy” and the need for rule of law at all times. Our third session compared Dr. King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail writings to Malcolm X “The Ballot of the Bullet”.  All in all, it was a very thought provoking day.

We hope to meet you at one of our programs in 2016.


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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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?

Program Report: “American Founding” Seminar in Charleston, SC

TAH.org was delighted to hold our first South Carolina seminars in the historic town of Charleston at the Charleston History Museum this past weekend. Surrounded by historical artifacts and a replica of the Hunley submarine, Dr. David Alvis and Dr. Eric Sands chaired two separate seminars on the American Founding.


Participants opened the session entitle “A New World of the Ages” with Lincoln’s “Fragment on the Constitution”, that asks readers to ponder the Declaration of Independence as the Apple of Gold encased by the Frame of Silver, that being the Constitution. Conversation centered on causes for Independence, British Taxation and the second paragraph of the Declaration. Session Two focused on the “Frame of Silver – Republicanism and Separation of Powers”. To what degree did the Articles of Confederation fail and what improvements in the “science of politics” did Publius think necessary to make this new form of republicanism? Readings and consideration focused on Federalist Papers #10 and #51. The final session centered on the Judiciary and Protection of Rights, which we – as a Nation – deem essential. Participants discussed Federalist #78, Brutus – The Anti-Federalist, and Marbury vs. Madison.

We look forward to adding more programs in South Carolina and hope to see many new attendees.

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

Dr. Lucas Morel:  

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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?

American Presidents Webinar: Richard Nixon


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On Tuesday, 1 December 2015, TeachingAmericanHistory.org presented a bonus webinar in its American Presidents series. Put on in conjunction with NCSS, this one-hour episode was a bonus program for NCSS members who had attended other TAH.org webinars this year. Dr. Chris Burkett, of Ashland University, moderated the lively discussion between Drs. Eric Pullin and John Moser, who emphasized Nixon’s foreign policy decisions and policies throughout most of the program. The documents used for the program can be downloaded here.

Session 21: Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation

Prof. Allen Guelzo:  

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The Emancipation Proclamation did not free a single slave under the authority of the Federal government, e.g., the border states of Maryland, Kentucky, Delaware, or Missouri. What did it accomplish? What did Frederick Douglass think about the Emancipation Proclamation at the time and then in retrospect? On emancipation, Lincoln moved too slowly for the radicals and abolitionists and too fast for the Democrats. How would you assess Lincoln’s actions?
Supplemental/Optional Readings:
  • Lucas E. Morel, “Forced into Gory Lincoln Revisionism”
  • Don E. Fehrenbacher, “Only His Stepchildren: Lincoln & the Negro”
  • James M. McPherson, “The ‘Glory’ Story”

Session 20: Lincoln and Civil Liberties

Dr. Lucas Morel:  

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Lincoln claimed to be fighting a war that would lead to “a new birth of freedom,” yet some claim he violated civil liberties on an unprecedented scale. How can a war for liberty be reconciled with such violations of civil liberties? Were the steps he took during the war constitutional? Why or why not? Compare and contrast Taney’s opinion in ex parte Merryman and Lincoln’s apologia in his letter to Erastus Corning and the New York Democrats.

Program Report: Cold War Weekend Colloquium in Green Valley, AZ



Our teachers, from CA to NY and many parts in between

From November 20-22, 17 teachers from across the country gathered in Green Valley, Arizona, to discuss the Cold War with Dr. John Moser of Ashland University. Discussion sessions focused on the origins of the Cold War, Truman and Containment, Eisenhower’s ‘New Look,’ and the Cuban Missile Crisis. The weekend also included a visit to the Titan Missile Museum, the only place in the world where the public can tour a Titan II missile silo. Teachers took part in a special 2-hour tour that included stops in the command center, crew quarters, and silo itself – to include viewing the missile from beneath, at over 120 feet underground – all the while learning about how the complex operated, the crew worked, and the system functioned as part of America’s defense strategy from the 1960s through the 80s. Tour docents included a former Titan II missile complex commander.


Titan II ICBM, from 120 underground

Session 19: Lincoln’s Election, Secession, and the Civil War

Prof. Allen Guelzo:  

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As Lincoln recounts the early history of the federal government, what authority did it exercise over slavery? What problems do southerners have with the Republican Party, and how does Lincoln respond to their charges? Why does Lincoln claim that the southern disposition during the 1860 election year was to “rule or ruin in all events”? What is his advice to Republicans as they face opposition over the slavery controversy? In his address to the New Jersey Senate, why does Lincoln call the American citizenry God’s “almost chosen people”? What is Lincoln’s declared agenda as the incoming president? Why does he think secession unjustified and illegitimate? What is Lincoln’s view of the authority of the Supreme Court? What does Lincoln mean by “the better angels of our nature”? How does Lincoln think the country can avoid civil war?

Program Report: “The Great Depression” Seminar in Knoxville, TN

This past weekend TAH.org hosted a seminar at the Museum of Appalachia on the Great Depression to Knoxville, Tennessee. Teachers from as far away as Asheville, North Carolina sat with Dr. John Moser in front of a blazing fireplace to discuss Presidents Hoover and Roosevelt policies on this economic tragedy.


Our first session focused on what caused the Great Depression and Hoover’s response. Participants read Hoover’s Statement on the Economic Recovery Program, his message to State Governor’s, and Special Message to the Congress on the Economic Recovery program to name a few. Contrary to common belief, Dr. Moser provided data that President Hoover spent more investment dollars than Roosevelt in the first few years of the crisis. In the second session, the discussion centered on the Election of 1932 and how Hoover’s assessment of the causes and course of the Great Depression differed from Roosevelt’s. Readings included Hoover Analyzes the Development of the Depression and Roosevelt’s Commonwealth Club Address. In the third, and final session, Teachers discussed several of Roosevelt’s Fireside Chats, the Legislation to Create the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the lasting legacy of the New Deal and it’s program.

Program Report: Andrew Jackson Weekend Colloquium in Nashville, TN

The Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, Tennessee hosted teachers for a weekend colloquia on Andrew Jackson chaired by Dr. Dan Monroe from Milliken University. Dr. Monroe led conversations that discussed Jackson’s military career, heroism in the Battle of New Orleans, Presidency, political reform and his lasting legacy. Participants analyzed Jackson’s Inaugural Address to Congress, Bank Veto Message, Force Bill, and Nullification writings. Dr. Monroe also compared several of Lincoln’s writings (and policies) to Jackson’s policies when dealing with South Carolina and secession. Participants also enjoyed a private tour of the Hermitage, grounds, graveyard and museum.

One program participant stated, “I feel very fortunate to have gotten to learn about Jackson in Nashville. The location, information, and resources provided will enhance my lessons on Jackson. Thank you for this opportunity.”



Session 18: The Rights and Wrongs of Secession

Dr. Lucas Morel:  

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What reasons did Southern secession commissioners give for seceding from the Union? What reasons did Alexander Stephens give in defense of the Southern Confederacy?
Supplemental/Optional Readings
  • McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, chap. 8
  • Mackubin Thomas Owens, “The Case Against Secession”

Saturday Webinar: James K. Polk


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TAH.org hosted the fifth in this school year’s American Presidents webinar series, this time focusing on the single term presidency of James K. Polk. The 72-minute discussion between scholars was attended by a live teacher audience of 69 from across the country, and touched on topics from Polk’s role in Manifest Destiny to the Mexican War, and his impact on America of his times and afterward.

Session 17: The Causes of the Civil War

Dr. James M. McPherson:  

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Why did the South secede? Why did secession lead to war? For a half century the northern, free states coexisted politically in the same nation with southern, slaveholding states. 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? Why did both sides prefer war to compromise? Could this terrible war have been avoided? Could the positive results of the war (Union and freedom) have been achieved without war?
  • James M. McPherson, “What Caused the Civil War?,” North and South, IV (Nov. 2000), 12-22, and response to this article in subsequent issues of North and South.
  • Hans L. Terfousse, The Causes of the Civil War, 91-125 (excerpts from Ramsdell, Potter and Current).
  • Charles B. Dew, “Apostles of Secession,” North and South, IV (April 2001), 24-38.

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