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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » Calling Lyrhawn (and other American history types) *Update*

   
Author Topic: Calling Lyrhawn (and other American history types) *Update*
Dr Strangelove
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So. After all these years of curling my lip in disdain at American history, I now have to come crawling in repentance.

A little backstory: I am a European historian (well, still technically a graduate student in the throes of dissertation writing, but close enough). I took my required American history classes as an undergraduate, but my love has always been Europe. Not just that though - I really don't especially care for American history period. When choosing minor fields as a graduate student, instead of going the traditional route and having an American history minor, I chose History of Science and History of South Asia.

Now that I'm done with classes and researching (I spent last year mostly in Europe) and am writing the terrible beast that is my dissertation, I went looking for some adjunct classes to pay the bills. I was offered two European history classes at a localish state college (formerly a community college), one of which was cancelled due to low enrollment. But I was happy to be teaching at least, though I would've liked more classes. Then last week my boss emailed me saying that he had a professor leave for emergency reasons and needed someone to pick up two of her classes. "Great!" I thought. Then I saw the two classes. American History, 1865 - Present (last time I took this class I was 14 years old) and US Women's History (I got nothin).

I grabbed them of course, as they will look great on my CV and triple my paycheck. But they are, shall we say, far afield. I've been getting help from a friend on the US Women's History, though any suggestions there would be welcome. But what the heck do I teach about for US History, 1865 to Present? Though given we're three weeks into the semester, basically call it 20th Century American History. I can read the textbook and get the facts easy enough, but what I'm missing, and what taking graduate courses would have taught me (or I could've learned independently given, you know, more than 3 days to prepare), is the thread of history, the actual story. What are the main themes I need to hit on, and what are some ways to communicate them to students?

Overall I consider myself a good teacher, so I'm not worried. I had my first class Wednesday and it went well. But I also want to use any and all resources available to me, and actually being able to dialogue about ideas on here is going to be very helpful over just reading about them in texts.

So come one, come all! I don't care if you're not a professional historian, though if there's any more than Lyr and me hiding in the woodwork, please do help me out. But if you have great memories from a US history class and can remember how it was portrayed, or if you've just made a habit of reading Howard Zinn, I very much welcome your input.

[ January 31, 2013, 11:41 AM: Message edited by: Dr Strangelove ]

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AchillesHeel
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Certainly the modernization of twentieth century is a strong piece of American history, and of course the various civil liberties movements. Henry Ford and Martin Luther King Jr. should be able to fill a lot of time.

If you're looking for some less common lesson plans you could always use the Japanese internment camps of WWII or concentrate on American scientific culture heroes like Carl Sagan and how the effect they had and continue to have (Carl Sagan -> Bill Nye -> Niel Degrasse Tyson.)

I really have no clue about Women's Studies either but these spectacular people could be worth some class time.
Marie Curie (first female nobel prize winner)
Ada Lovelace (wrote the first computer program)
Mary Shelly (one of the most famous authors ever)
Donna Noble (for one brief, shining moment she was the most important person in the universe)

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Itsame
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I'll be the one to say it, I guess. Why did you agree to teach these courses? If you know as little as you're indicating, I feel bad for your students.


Edit: This isn't to say that you *can't* teach them, but it's really not fair to the students.

[ January 26, 2013, 11:32 AM: Message edited by: JonHecht ]

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theamazeeaz
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In college, I took a history class covering that period (actually, it might have started at 1877). I took the class because in AP US History, we spent so long on the revolution and boring stuff that we've covered, that we barely got to the 1920s, and our whole class got screwed on the DBQ, which was about the 1930s.

So the college course I took, we spent 3/4 the semester on 1877 to 1920 and glossed over everything later. I was really bummed, because I took the class to get an understanding on stuff from 1930 to 1990.

Please fix my crappy history education through your students and discuss events after 1950 for more than a few classes, okay.

Thanks!

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theamazeeaz
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quote:
Originally posted by AchillesHeel:

I really have no clue about Women's Studies either but these spectacular people could be worth some class time.
Marie Curie (first female nobel prize winner)
Ada Lovelace (wrote the first computer program)
Mary Shelly (one of the most famous authors ever)
Donna Noble (for one brief, shining moment she was the most important person in the universe)

None of these women are American.
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Sylphiae
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I second what theamazeeaz said: don't teach any of those women in your US Women Studies class! Instead, research women's suffrage figures such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton. You could do a tie in to civil rights in the 60s and 70s, the struggle over the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment), maybe mention Roe v. Wade. The only name I really know for the 60s and 70s would be Simone de Beauvoir. You could also tie in social causes, like Dorothea Dix in the early 20th century and Rachel Carson for environmentalism.
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Darth_Mauve
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This was the American Century and a quarter. A main theme would be the transformation of a isolationist rural country into the modern sole super power. Try comparing the rise of President Obama from the recently freed slaves of 1865 to the rise of Putin from the serf's of Czarist Russia--what Russia did wrong, and what the US did right, and how the US influenced--good and bad--the rest of the world during that time.

You have the Spanish American war that has modern ties to our relationship with Cuba, the Phillippines, Latin American and especially Puerto Rico

You have WWI which has ties to our policies in the Mid East and Eastern Europe.

You have WWII and all the Cold War. Lots of history.

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theamazeeaz
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As for the 1960s, you should include the album "That was the Year That Was" by Tom Lehrer, which is a run-up of some news stories in 1965. A lot of the songs and commentary describe some of the fear that permeated the US in the cold war, and the incredulity about events that did come to pass. Namely the race to the moon, and Ronald Reagan's involvement in politics.

In addition to being funny, listening to the album, aside from being funny, makes me think that people in 1965 must have thought the world was going crazy.

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Sylphiae
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I took a 20th Century US History course about 3 years ago and I've taken AP US History in high school, so here are my suggestions for the American History 1865-Present:

1.) I know the course has already started but it would be nice to focus a bit on post-Civil War Reconstruction period. That ties in nicely with the Civil Rights movement later, and you can link Supreme Court cases again like Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) and Brown v Board of Education (1954).

2.) My college history course focused heavily on the Great Depression--it's a good tie in to WWII and makes a nice contrast with the prosperity of the late 40s and 50s. There are obviously many connections to be drawn to the Great Recession as well and current events.

3.) Skipping around a bit, it's nice to tie the Red Scare of the 20s and post WWI era to the McCarthyism of the 50s and the Cold War.

4.) If you want to continue with the economic theme, don't forget guns and butter during LBJ's Presidency, stagflation during Carter, the opening of China and Reaganomics in the 80s, and globalization during/pre-Clinton.

5.) The post war prosperity programs of Eisenhower and LBJ's Great Society can be contrasted greatly with the late 60s unrest and race riots in the 70s, crime and drug problems in the 80s.

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Sylphiae
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theamazeeaz: Hmm, I think 1963 and 1968 were both more momentous than 1965, but pick your faves. Have you ever heard "We Didn't Start the Fire" by Billy Joel? I know that was one commonly recited before exams. Aside from mentioning pop culture, it also mentions various Vietnam terms.
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theamazeeaz
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Adding into women's stuff-- suffragettes, Margaret Sanger, Betty Friedan, and the fact that women weren't allowed to serve on juries for the longest time. Also the ERA and how it failed. Given that people opposing used women in combat as a counter argument, and that decision has been recently over-turned, a history of women in the military might be super interesting.

If you just want to highlight specific interesting people, how about Lillian Gilbreth?

My sister took a history class that featured the book, "The Way We Never Were" which talks about gender roles, and how they screwed over both men and women. People forget that while feminism took a lot of women out of the home, it brought men back into it.

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Rakeesh
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Well, I mean it was an emergency situation, so it's probably not as though the choice were between DrS and a different instructor with a deep, abiding and passionate love for American history. And he (she?) certainly seems to wish to do well at it, which is more than can be said of many people in many jobs.

As for an idea, well for American History if you're looking for a piece of history to snabble up for instruction, late 19th early 20th has a lot of modern interest with respect to trust busting, monopolies, some of the earliest environmental/conservation, basically hit up Teddy, but that might just be my own interest showing itself:)

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Sylphiae
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I second the late 19th and early 20th history suggestions as well!
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theamazeeaz
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quote:
Originally posted by Sylphiae:
theamazeeaz: Hmm, I think 1963 and 1968 were both more momentous than 1965, but pick your faves. Have you ever heard "We Didn't Start the Fire" by Billy Joel? I know that was one commonly recited before exams. Aside from mentioning pop culture, it also mentions various Vietnam terms.

Of course I have.

Sadly, Tom Lehrer only did an album for 1965. I wish he did more, but he joked that he stopped writing songs because the ultimate piece of political satire was Henry Kissinger winning the Nobel Piece prize.

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Sylphiae
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Heh, oh sorry I was actually suggesting the song for the OP. I haven't heard the song by Tom Lehrer yet.
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Lyrhawn
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I've designed a history class for the period in question, and I'm currently TAing in that class.

I actually greatly prefer 1865 to the present as opposed to 1877 to the present, which a lot of schools do. That way I get to teach Reconstruction.

It's a huge topic and you have to decide how you want to come at it, knowing as with every history class that you're going to have to leave vast swaths of information out. The class I'm currently TAing in discusses history entirely through the lens of presidential politics. Class is 50 min long every day, she does a mixture of lecture and class discussion on every election, talks about some major events and controversies, and then we're off to the next president. I'll be guest lecturing on Eisenhower later in the semester.

My personal approach is almost a 180 from that. In the class I designed, I use the textbook to give a brief overview of what's happening in mainstream America, and then I use my lecture time an supplemental readings to talk about subordinate America. So, in the Gilded Age I'd lecture about the rise of organized labor and various aspects of the repression of women (Nellie Bly in the insane asylums is one students like, and I have them read "The Yellow Wallpaper") because that's an aspect of history most students aren't readily familiar with. Then I teach a lot of race stuff in the 20th century (since that's my specialty).

I also mix a lot of pop culture in. For example, when teaching labor history, I show students "Dirty Hands," the episode of Battlestar Galactica where Tyrol forms a union and goes on strike. I have them read some short stories from science fiction authors in the 50s to explain Cold War hysteria. Various primary source documents I've assembled, that sort of thing.

There's no right or wrong way to teach it, it just depends on what you want them to get out of it. If you want same ole same ole white history, and old textbook will give you the mainstream version. If you dig, you can find a good textbook that will give you the hidden history as well. But if you figure all that really does is rehash what they learned in high school, and will likely forget again within six months, you might want to spend your time exposing them to material they likely haven't heard in American history.

You can email me if you want to talk more about it, or if you want to see some of the syllabi I have. Or I'm happy to respond here.

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scholarette
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Something I have only recently started to read about is the conflict between women's rights and civil rights. I would love to read more but he first time I really heard anything about it was Clinton vs Obama and bros before hoes and how in the suffrage movement the women decided to leave out the black women because they figured they would never win with them.
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Lyrhawn
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quote:
Originally posted by scholarette:
Something I have only recently started to read about is the conflict between women's rights and civil rights. I would love to read more but he first time I really heard anything about it was Clinton vs Obama and bros before hoes and how in the suffrage movement the women decided to leave out the black women because they figured they would never win with them.

Well in fairness, the suffrage movement was lockstep with early civil rights leaders in the period right after the Civil War. It was those early civil rights leaders who decided to leave women in the dust because they thought the country wouldn't stomach change from two large groups like that on such a fundamental and massive level. So they threw women under the bus.

So after that it was Sharks and the Jets for a few decades.

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AchillesHeel
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quote:
Originally posted by theamazeeaz:
quote:
Originally posted by AchillesHeel:

I really have no clue about Women's Studies either but these spectacular people could be worth some class time.
Marie Curie (first female nobel prize winner)
Ada Lovelace (wrote the first computer program)
Mary Shelly (one of the most famous authors ever)
Donna Noble (for one brief, shining moment she was the most important person in the universe)

None of these women are American.
Ah, I glossed over the US part of Women's Studies. They still are some impressive people though.
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scholarette
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Like I said, that is an are I feel uninformed and would be interested in learning more. In an American women's history class that conflict would be worth covering.
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Teshi
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quote:
what Russia did wrong, and what the US did right
Lols. Fantastic history. My professor's heads would explode.

I'm presently doing an MSc in the History of Science, so all I know about the US is mid-20th century science and technology history, particularly post-WWII, but I feel that could be a very interesting class, depending on what kind of level you are teaching at.

You could look at:
-Big science during WWII and its expansion following the war.
- The Manhattan (Engineering District) Project and similar war big science projects.
- Science policy following the war.
- The Space Race (I know least about this because I attend a school that staunchly avoids obviousness, btu I would have htought this is probably the best choice for a lower level class because it's Cool).

I could even give you some references for (your) reading if you wanted.

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Dr Strangelove
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quote:
Originally posted by JonHecht:
I'll be the one to say it, I guess. Why did you agree to teach these courses? If you know as little as you're indicating, I feel bad for your students.


Edit: This isn't to say that you *can't* teach them, but it's really not fair to the students.

Definitely don't get the wrong impression - given an hour to prepare, I could teach a good class where students would learn and some would probably even enjoy it. I know the chronology and the major themes and have enough experience in the classroom to be able to weave a compelling narrative. Heck, it would be simple enough to focus entirely around the wars, which I know quite well from a variety of angles. But like Lyr says, in all likelihood the students would just forget it in six months, unless my deep voice has certain magical melodious qualities (I'm a he, Rakeesh). Which, to be fair, it might [Wink] .

But I want to teach a great class, and I haven't spent years preparing like I have with my other areas of specialty. So I'm hoping that I can piggyback off of other peoples ideas and experiences instead of going through all of the material and building exciting themes and strands with quirks and anecdotes myself (which I just don't have the time to do). If that makes sense. I know the stuff, but part of what makes the art of history so beautiful to me is the fact that it is so much more than just the chronology of events, people, places and dates. And while I don't have a passion for American history, I do have a great deal of passion for history and for teaching and I'm confident I can find aspects of American history to be passionate about, and impart that passion to my students. I just need some pointers in the right direction.

Which I'm definitely getting here! Keep it coming, I'm taking notes!

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Dr Strangelove
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quote:
Originally posted by Teshi:
quote:
what Russia did wrong, and what the US did right
Lols. Fantastic history. My professor's heads would explode.

I'm presently doing an MSc in the History of Science, so all I know about the US is mid-20th century science and technology history, particularly post-WWII, but I feel that could be a very interesting class, depending on what kind of level you are teaching at.

You could look at:
-Big science during WWII and its expansion following the war.
- The Manhattan (Engineering District) Project and similar war big science projects.
- Science policy following the war.
- The Space Race (I know least about this because I attend a school that staunchly avoids obviousness, btu I would have htought this is probably the best choice for a lower level class because it's Cool).

I could even give you some references for (your) reading if you wanted.

Teshi, that's actually probably the area I'm most comfortable in, given my teaching History of Science. If you don't mind me asking, where are you studying and under who? I'm doing some work right now for one of my old profs that has me knee deep in Cold War science documents.
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Lyrhawn
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Out of curiosity, what syllabus are you currently working with?
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Teshi
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Oh I totally missed that you did the History of Science. Never mind!

I'm in a Taught Masters program (actually in its last year before it splits into two MAs) jointly run by two big London universities.

This guy is probably somewhat relevent to you, although primarily his field is British 20th Century. I'm currently taking a Science in the 20th Century class from him.

This guy is also probably relevent.

EDIT: It occurred to me that in fact you might have encountered other people through the Europe-History of Science connection. There are obviously more whose research interests run earlier. Both programs are unbounded in their chronological interests.

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BlackBlade
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Yeah. I'd begin with reconstruction, and extend that into Jim Crow. You can then easily move into the civil rights movement as one narrative. From there it neatly ties into Barack Obama as a concluding chapter.

You can then as Lyrhawn suggested, also go through The Guilded Age, the rise of Big Business and Big Government, the start of socialism and the American worker. Women's suffrage, WWI (briefly), WWII and the making of modern America, the military-industrial complex and Eisenhower, Nixon and the "silent majority", the resurgence of Conservatism with the election of Reagan and the legislature under Clinton. Post 9/11 America, and again Obama if you can get there.

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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by theamazeeaz:
As for the 1960s, you should include the album "That was the Year That Was" by Tom Lehrer, which is a run-up of some news stories in 1965.

I second this, and also "We Didn't Start" (with some caveats, such as the chronology isn't strictly correct). One of my favorite history classes of all time was US Political History: 1865 to Present (which was 1994, and we ended with the Whoosh to Bush, back when there was only one). One of the details that made it a great class was the instructor played a piece of music for the 5 minutes preceding class (and about 1-2 minutes into the official start time). Not only did this encourage people to show up on time, without unduly penalizing those of us racing across campus, the piece was always connected to the era we were covering that day, and often served as a good introduction.

It was definitely Lehrer for the 60s. "Pollution", I think.

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Itsame
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quote:
Originally posted by Dr Strangelove:
quote:
Originally posted by JonHecht:
I'll be the one to say it, I guess. Why did you agree to teach these courses? If you know as little as you're indicating, I feel bad for your students.


Edit: This isn't to say that you *can't* teach them, but it's really not fair to the students.

Definitely don't get the wrong impression - given an hour to prepare, I could teach a good class where students would learn and some would probably even enjoy it. I know the chronology and the major themes and have enough experience in the classroom to be able to weave a compelling narrative. Heck, it would be simple enough to focus entirely around the wars, which I know quite well from a variety of angles. But like Lyr says, in all likelihood the students would just forget it in six months, unless my deep voice has certain magical melodious qualities (I'm a he, Rakeesh). Which, to be fair, it might [Wink] .

But I want to teach a great class, and I haven't spent years preparing like I have with my other areas of specialty.

Ight, cool. I retract my [No No] .
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Dr Strangelove
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Thanks again everyone! I'm prepping a Powerpoint as we speak and will update tonight or tomorrow when I get home.
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Lyrhawn
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If you want to borrow a powerpoint, I have a great one already created on Gilded Age race issues and the proto-civil rights movement of the late 19th C.

It was originally created to point out the historical context of a Mark Twain novel (Pudd'nhead Wilson), but I've since modified it to work as a brief history of racial classification, and basically how blacks went from slaves to separate but equal post-Plessy after the Civil War. So it does William Graham Sumner and a lot of his famous (or infamous) maxims like "stateways cannot make folkways," and into What the Social Classes Owe Each Other, which is a pretty big deal to teach during the Gilded Age anyway since you hear that echoed for the next 130 years. It goes into some of the court cases, the idea of dual-citizenship and early readings of the 14th amendment pre-incorporation. Then it ends with Plessy and a quick look at where the CRM heads after Frederick Douglass dies and the movement is handed off to DuBois and Booker T Washington, and that controversy.

DuBois and BTW also make for a great teachable moment if you want to introduce students to primary source documents. Washington's "Atlanta Exposition" and some of DuBois' Souls of Black Folk make for great contrasting arguments that dig into the issue in their actual words. It's also a little easier to digest than some of the longer and more dense texts you often get from the time period.

Anyway, I have a PP and lecture notes to go with it that I'd be happy to share if you'd like to detour a bit into race.

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BlackBlade
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quote:
DuBois and BTW also make for a great teachable moment if you want to introduce students to primary source documents. Washington's "Atlanta Exposition" and some of DuBois' Souls of Black Folk make for great contrasting arguments that dig into the issue in their actual words. It's also a little easier to digest than some of the longer and more dense texts you often get from the time period.

Oh, definitely. You can also sorta tie the disagreement there to Malcolm X and Martin Luther King having two competing schools of thought on desegregating the country in the 50's-60's.
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Lyrhawn
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Yes. Though that's considerably more complicated because of the evolution that both King and X went through from the time they began their activities until they were killed.

Neither was advocating exactly the same thing when they died that they did at the beginning, and neither were they as far apart as they were later portrayed. If you're going to try to teach that controversy, you're going to have to do a bit more reading than Wikipedia can provide.

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BlackBlade
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Please, Lyrhawn. These are just high-schoolers. All they need to know is the date of the 1 Million Man March, and that the cotton gin was invented by Eli Whitney.

That should more or less cover race relations in the United States. [Wink]

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The Rabbit
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If you are looking for an overarching theme for the course, consider looking at how events of the 20th century relate to the current political/cultural divide in America. It's a great umbrella theme for everything from the hay market affair to the Reagan revolution.
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Dr Strangelove
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Yeah, I definitely should have looked closer at this thread and that offer for a PowerPoint. I just finished my week on the Gilded Age! Got anything on the Progressive Era?

So far things are going really well. I'm actually surprised how well its going. Who knew American history could be so fun?

I do have a further question though: One of their assignments is going to be to analyze a piece of media (song, movie, or book. Possibly piece of art, but I don't think anyone in this class would choose it) that relates to the course. There have already been a few suggestions, but if anyone has any more I would definitely be grateful.

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Sphinx
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quote:
One of their assignments is going to be to analyze a piece of media (song, movie, or book. Possibly piece of art, but I don't think anyone in this class would choose it) that relates to the course. There have already been a few suggestions, but if anyone has any more I would definitely be grateful.
My thoughts, trying to highlight several different eras. I tried to think of ones where the content of the media and its own history could be topics of discussion.

Songs:
"This Land is Your Land" -- Woody Guthrie (highlights the Great Depression, and could involve some interesting discussion of socialism/communism)
"Strange Fruit" -- Billie Holliday (highlights race relations and the rise of jazz)
"Sixteen Tons" -- Merle Travis (highlights the debt bondage system that existed after slavery and the strong urban/rural dichotomy)
"War" -- Edwin Starr / "Ball of Confusion" -- The Temptations (highlights the Vietnam War and the protest movement, along with psychedelic culture)

Movies:
"Spartacus"/"The Crucible" -- maybe not the best for this purpose, but I was trying to find a good one to work in McCarthyism and HUAC, and Spartacus brings in the Hollywood blacklist
"Wall Street" -- highlights the excesses of the 1980's, which could be paralleled to the current financial crisis

Whatever you use, I'd recommend asking your students to avoid deliberately historical stuff like Billy Joel's "We Didn't Light the Fire."

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Lyrhawn
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quote:
Originally posted by Dr Strangelove:
Yeah, I definitely should have looked closer at this thread and that offer for a PowerPoint. I just finished my week on the Gilded Age! Got anything on the Progressive Era?

So far things are going really well. I'm actually surprised how well its going. Who knew American history could be so fun?

I do have a further question though: One of their assignments is going to be to analyze a piece of media (song, movie, or book. Possibly piece of art, but I don't think anyone in this class would choose it) that relates to the course. There have already been a few suggestions, but if anyone has any more I would definitely be grateful.

I'm afraid I'm out of relevant powerpoints. We're about to move into the Progressive Era in my TA class as well, so you're right on the mark.

And I'm glad to see the cult of American history is slowly sucking you in. [Smile]

As for media sources on the Progressive Era, my suggestion, as always, is to try and stick to primary sources rather than modern sources that sing about something old.

So, pursuant to that, if you want something to show the class, I suggest St. Louis Blues and Black and Tan. I don't think either of those links are to the full "movies" (they're both like 8 or 9 minutes long since they're like 90 years old), but you can find them online. I think they're both very accessible for average audiences, and you can do a lot of analysis with them, especially comparing and contrasting. Even looking at the movie posters for both of them (as art) can work wonders for analysis (they take very different approaches).

Louis Armstrong - Black and Blue is a great song. It's a cover, but I think he's most famous for it. The lyrics say a lot about the condition of African-Americans in the 1920s.

There's also a ton of reading, poetry, short stories, novels, and art from the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s that I could point out to you if you were interested. Some of it touches on gender and class as well as race.

There's also stuff like "How the Other Half Lives" by Jacob Riis, which is photographs of poor living conditions in slums of NYC in the late 1880s.

Upton Sinclair also has a lot of interesting short books that are easy to get through that teach a lot about the period. Boston is about the Sacco and Vanzetti trial, which is a great time to talk about nativism during this period (and also how racial classifications of "whiteness" changed dramatically in the early 20th century). Oil! is the inspiration for There Will Be Blood. Of course there's The Jungle, which was originally written to promote labor struggles but has since been lionized as a novel about government regulation and food safety standards. Sinclair was more concerned about the worker who fell into the vat of grinding meat than he was about you eating it. The Flivver King is a tiny bit after the Progressive Era, it was published in 1939 about Ford workers' struggles to get unionized and presents I think a fairly even handed account of how difficult it was for unions even after 1935.

WWI from the American perspective almost isn't worth delving into all that much since we got into the war so late and it ended so quickly after we did. But the Paris Peace Conference sets the tone for decades afterwards. We're still living with its consequences today. Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World is a book you might be familiar with. It's not from the American perspective, it's an overview of the process, but it does a good job with Wilson. One of my professors last semester is basically the nation's leading expert on Wilson, and he loves the book. It might be worth your perusing.

Just some ideas.

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sndrake
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(delurking)

Count me as another person "sucked in" to American History - although I'm reading as recreation. My latest focus came about as a result of reading "Team of Rivals," when I came across a passage describing an important speech by Henry Seward (meant to kick off his presidential bid) given at a Republican convention in Rochester, NY - my hometown. I thought what was Seward doing giving a major anti-slavery speech in *Rochester*?

Then it hit me. Almost everyone knows Frederick Douglass lived here for years - and it was only after reading that passage in TOR that I realized he didn't move to Rochester because he liked the weather.

That's led me to looking at the development of the abolitionist movement in Rochester and Central NY. Aside from Douglass, some narratives from former slaves who lived in Rochester (at least for a time) are still in print.

My reading tends to self-direct - part of the reading has involved understanding the evangelical movement that swept through central NY in the 1830s that was crucial in the development of the abolitionist and womens rights movements in the area.

Until a few months ago, I hadn't heard of Charles Finney or the "Burned-over District" - fascinating reading.

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Lyrhawn
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Central New York was huge in the 19th century for a lot of reasons, the abolitionist movement chief among them. Charles Finney, the Second Great Awakening and the "burned over district," as you mentioned. There's the Oneida Community in the midcentury.

There are a number of interesting documentaries about Rochester in the closer to modern era regarding post-war racism and the civil rights movement as well.

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sndrake
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A favorite quote from one of my readings:

quote:
"Generally the makers of case studies claim that the subject of their work is somehow representative of communities that experienced whatever phenomena they are trying to explain. That is not the case with Rochester. The sequence of rapid urbanization, religious revival, and political and social reorganization struck that community with uncommon force. Rochester was the first of the inland cities created after 1815 by the commercialization of agriculture. In 1812 the site of Rochester was unbroken wilderness. By 1830 the forest had given way to a city of 10,000, the marketing and manufacturing center for a broad and prosperous agricultural hinterland. Rochester was the capital of western New York's revival-seared "Burned-over District," and a clearinghouse for religious enthusiasms throughout the 1820s and 1830s. The city holds a special place in the history of revivals, for Charles Finney's triumph there in 1830-31 was the most spectacular event within the national revival of that year. In short, Rochester was the most thoroughly evangelized of American cities."
--A Shopkeeper's Millennium: Society and Revivals in Rochester, New York, 1815-1837
Paul E. Johnson

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sndrake
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quote:
Central New York was huge in the 19th century for a lot of reasons, the abolitionist movement chief among them. Charles Finney, the Second Great Awakening and the "burned over district," as you mentioned. There's the Oneida Community in the midcentury.
Central New York was crucial in terms of the Underground Railroad - escaped slaves often made for Canada to ensure their freedom. In terms of the Railroad, I think the consensus is that Syracuse was the busiest stop.

I plan to work my way through to the present, history-wise. My modest goal is to become knowledgeable about Rochester and Central NY history - not an expert by any means. But at least I'd have some good questions to ask experts and to understand the answers if I have a decent knowledge base.

quote:
There are a number of interesting documentaries about Rochester in the closer to modern era regarding post-war racism and the civil rights movement as well.
Eventually, I'd be interested in seeing those. I was nine or ten when the Rochester had major riots and I remember Saul Alinsky coming to town to help organize FIGHT, Inc. I'm on my fourth copy of Rules for Radicals - my first one was given to me by a minister when I was a teenager.
(African-American studies-wise, the documentary I really want to see made is one that covers the history of Covert, MI. Back when I was in Illinois, the guy who owned the craft shop next to where I worked - about my age - grew up in Covert, which led me to seek out the book.)

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T:man
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quote:
Originally posted by Lyrhawn:

Washington's "Atlanta Exposition" and some of DuBois' Souls of Black Folk make for great contrasting arguments that dig into the issue in their actual words.

I'll second this. Souls is an quick and beautiful read, and I'm a huge fan of primary sources.
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