Students – This is where you will post your completed projects. First, click “Register” at the menu bar at the top of the page and follow its instructions, using the same email address you gave me. After you’re registered, click on “add me” in the sidebar and then enter the password I gave you in the Blackboard announcement.  You should then see a “+” in the menu bar – click that and then “post” to add your project to the blog. Remember to also add categories and tags from the menu boxes on the right. Add the category for the appropriate project number and any others that match your subject matter. Add a tag with your first and last name OR your Twitter handle if you prefer, and any other tags that make sense to you. Click “Publish” when you’re done!

If you have difficulties navigating the site, check out the qwriting help first – it answers a lot of questions. If you can’t get your post up by the deadline, email it to me and I’ll do it.

In the Holt Social Studies “United States History” textbook intended for use by 11th graders there is of course a chapter on World War II. Chapter 26, or the World War II chapter covers the years between 1938-1946 and is broken into 5 sections. Those sections are “The War Begins,” “The Home Front,” “War in Europe and North America,” “War in the Pacific,” and “Victory and Consequences.” In the section “The Home Front” five paragraphs are dedicated to the internment of Japanese citizens during World War II. These paragraphs very briefly describe how Japanese Americans were evacuated from their homes and lost everything during this period.  In the margins of the textbook there is information included for teachers. This information includes potential classroom activities that can be used to accompany the text.

The textbook explains that in 1943 Roosevelt reversed the ban of Japanese people serving in the military that was enforced after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Following this sentence a passage is included by a Japanese American veteran about the response to this news by himself and his peers. His response to the news is overwhelmingly positive and he describes him and his friends excitement at the news of being able to join the army. There is no other quotes from veterans or Japanese Americans who may have had a different reactions to the news. The book than uses this one reaction to make the point that this was the majority or typical reaction from Japanese Americans. This leaves out much of the conversation. It does not acknowledge any reactions from people who were conflicted or the social consequences that accompanied this groups decision to serve or not serve. The text does not include the discrimination that those who decided not to join faced from both their peers and other Americans. Or the consequences going to war against your parents country had on the family unit. It also does not go into why so many were eager to serve in the army of  a country that had just put themselves and their families in internment camps. The way it is framed makes the action seem purely patriotic. One question in the margins of the text for teachers to ask their students about the reading is, “What do you think about the service of the all Nisei combat team?” A possible answer they give for this is amazement that people whose families were interned were excited to fight for their country. It does not encourage teachers to go deeper past this point. Or to pose the question of why these people were willing to fight. Again this leaves out much of the conversation in a place where a valuable teaching moment could be.

Sam Hurley

History Engages the Public
Dr. Katherine Antonova

28 November 2018

Educational Racism

Texas…

Well, one does not get further to the Mexican border as Texas. Even saying Texas one can only think the South. The South is known for BBQ’s, good weather in the summer along with heat waves. But historically it has a lot of bad reps for discrimination, segregation, racism, Jim Crow, and most importantly slavery. Most recently school shootings have taken place in many areas in the South. Among the list of things that can be rectified immediately is Education.

Texas history is strong, but just like most of America it was stolen, borrowed, taken, or won from the Mexican culture and history—depending on who is reading history. The Battle of San Jacinto gave Texas its own independence from 1836 to 1845, before the United States stepped in and made it its 28th on December 29, 1845. That was a time slavery was still much in place and Texans and the state of Texas made a substantial amount of funds from that inhumane institution of practice. Not only was business in order, but people (White) morals also agreed with discrimination, segregation, and racism for this state to flourish.

Welcome to the 21st century and those ideals have not left a state whose success and history was built on those characteristics. Education, however, has become affected for youth seeking to learn and understand the most accurate history. Manipulating math is difficult because someone cannot successfully tell people 5 plus 5 is 39. Science has some theories that can be argued, but there are still facts like humans need trees to breathe that is factual science. Literature and the English language still has flaws, but grammar is always being bettered daily through the dictionaries and the development of vocabularies. History has one side to it: ‘The Truth.’ The only ways to not have the truth is to either lie about it or hold some information to complete the story.

“The Social Studies are distinctive in the American public school curriculum because they are the courses in which civic values, norms, and behaviors are most directly addressed. The political nature of social studies courses like civics, government, economics, and history makes divorcing the curriculum from the external forces of conservative and liberal politics difficult. A majority of the social studies curriculum is consistent nationwide with a heavy emphasis placed on the Founding Era, the branches of government, and general U.S. history.”

[Much Ado About Texas: Civics in the Social Studies Curriculum, J. Kelton Williams and Christie L. Maloyed]

Texas schooling has been recorded as missing details and information primarily in the History department, which can be suspicious understanding their part in the Civil War and fighting against the Mexicans. Numerous articles written on Jstor and NPR news have been provided exposing the approach Texas has taken concerning topics relating to Slavery and Mexico’s relation to Texas. Even at the collegiate level of education, they are questioning what the schools for K-12 are providing in their curriculum. It is simple how students should be taught—with the most accurate and clear information for all subjects especially history as it involves every other discipline.

Texas needs to accept the flaws that the state has accumulated over the years in its discrimination, segregation, racism, Jim Crow, and most importantly slavery acts. There is no need to play the innocent victim. Bobby Finger reviewing the controversy within Texas Public schools says: “the textbooks, though flawed, were far from an affront to the study of history. But, after examining copies of the 7th grade, 8th grade, and high school-level books obtained by Jezebel, it was clear that this curriculum is riddled with omissions, making frequent use of convenient, deceptive juxtapositions of slaveholder violence and the slave resilience.”

One of the largest flaws are the factual errors that are presented in some of these books. Whether it was done on purpose or by “accident,” it is clear that these are professionals making mistakes for young minds to read. Also, the mistakes present racist characteristics that are problematic to ignore. “Scholars on the subject say that the textbook, “Mexican American Heritage,” is riddled with factual errors, is missing content and promotes racism and culturally offensive stereotypes, such as Mexicans being lazy, not valuing hard work and bringing crime and drugs into the United States.” (NPR news)

Minorities in Historical Fiction: A Brief How-To

Representation and diversity in historical works have recently been a hotly debated topic. This is a quick overview of some ways to incorporate minority characters in a way that is both sensitive and reasonably accurate. Obviously, writers can set their story in a non-European context: the Aztec Empire, Japan’s isolationist era, the Haudenosaunee (Five Nations/Iroquois) etc. etc. but for the ones in a Euro-centric setting the following may be helpful.

People of Color:

To begin with racial dynamics are different in Europe, than in Asia, than in North America. In the United States people often substitute African American for Person of Color in historical works which becomes problematic, and not only because of the underlying assumption that people become fill in the blanks.  In Europe a person of African descent would usually be found in a major urban center or a port city. European ethnic minorities include, Roma, Jews, Irish, Catalan, and Basque.

Sexualities:

Sexual mores vary by culture. In some cultures, erotic love between an older man and a younger boy was not only accepted but admired, at least until the boy grew facial hair. For the Vikings acceptable sex meant that the man was the dominant partner. Lesbians were generally ignored unless they were also political activists.  Upper-class men could get away with more than a lower-class man could.

Trans-people historically looked different than they do today. Gender reassignment surgery is fairly recent, not only because of changing values but because of advances in medical science. Use of anesthesia for surgery and other medical procedures was first standardized in the mid-19th century, sanitation by Joseph Lister in the 1870s, and finally antibiotics in the 1930s with sulfa. Surgery without the above components was extremely risky and was typically necessity based by responsible physicians.

While there are many documented cases in history of women expressing the desire to be a man, of women saying they have a man’s mind in a woman’s body, etc. these statements need to be looked at in the context of historical attitudes towards women. If a woman was constantly told she was the weaker sex, that her mind was more fragile than a man’s, that she was less fit for a position of authority than a man why would she want to be a woman? Transmen existed. Internalized misogyny did to.

Physical or Mental Disabilities:

Perceptions of a disabled person were usually based on what society thinks a disabled person is worth. This is an area where a previously healthy man would be more negatively affected than a woman would because of how society defined being a man. If being a man meant being strong, meant being a provider, meant being emotionally controlled, a man who couldn’t would face discrimination.

Example:

My protagonist is from a well-off family in Britain and is in her early twenties, so she’s pretty sheltered before she joins the VAD. Her knowledge of other sexualities is mostly academic such as Oscar Wilde’s trial, although her sympathies are entirely with Constance as Constance’s fate of a wife whose husband openly sought other company and humiliated her would be something she would be afraid of for herself. She’s not from a large city, so she’s familiar with people of lower socioeconomic backgrounds rather than ethnic minorities. Meeting minorities/ POC is a new experience and is something she’s curious about, but cautious. She does think of them as exotic others because it is all very new to her.

 

“Why aren’t I sick?” she shrieks in a whisper, mindful of the ward full of sleeping patients. “I’ve been over men dying day in and day out for over a week, my hands are covered with blood and God knows what else, and I’m not sick! Violet was here for a day and she’s dead, and, and what’s wrong with me?”

“When did you sleep last?” the question throws her.

“Uh,” A day? Two? She can’t remember.

“Bed. Now.” Dr. Travers orders in a tone that brooks no resistance, and years of ingrained compliance have her obeying. Then too, there’s the hope that things will better when she wakes up.

It isn’t better. If anything it’s worse. The patient load doubles, then climbs until there are no more beds and people just lie on the floor where they collapse.

The circumstances don’t change, but Julia does. She’s robotic, moving like an automaton through her duties, keeping most of herself locked away from what she sees. She looks at her wheezing patients and mentally notes which beds will most likely be available next, wraps the bodies of anyone whose face is the distinctive deep blue that marks a lost cause while they’re still alive. With men lying on the floor due to the lack of beds, sympathy is meaningless even if she’s appalled at her own callousness in the brief moments when she’s Julia the woman, not Julia the pragmatic nurse who eventually takes her dead friends’ uniforms because there isn’t any time to launder her own.

When this is over, if it’s ever over she thinks she’ll never wear blue again.

It’s a nightmare world she inhabits, worse than any battle even the Somme which she thought was hell on earth. Sometimes she thinks she’s always been in these rooms, that any life before this was the dream. There’s only the crisp-crackle-crisp of air bubbles under the patients’ skin as she turns them over in a futile attempt to clean them.

For the first time she can remember none of their patients have war wounds, and there’s a dark humor in that, that they’ve all done their level best to kill each other for four years only to die of natural causes in a few weeks. All the strategies, all the weapons, all the digging and nature effortlessly surpasses them all.

This is hell, nor are they out of it.

Thomas Fangmann

 

Teaching the Civil War in High School and College Classrooms

 

For this project I have selected three articles from the journal The History Teacher on the theme of Civil War education. I chose this theme because memory of the Civil War and the Confederacy are salient themes within current political debates in the US. The representative sample of articles addresses different topics related to teaching the Civil War at the K-12 and college levels. The articles evaluate common resources used in education at the K-12 level including the movie “Glory”, the Ken Burns documentary “The Civil War”, and secondary sources. These articles discuss the intersection of scholarly knowledge about the Civil War and the common resources used which are largely in the popular history genre. Although the articles identity several issues with the common resources, they still recommend their use. I believe this information is very important to educators who use these resources because an understanding of their drawbacks can enhance opportunities to teach critical thinking.

The first article explores the conclusions of a study from 2008 that attempts to collect a representative sample of readings assigned in undergraduate history courses in the US on the topic of the Civil War. The study found that forty percent of courses used a book that focused on the experiences of ordinary soldiers in the war while only twenty-one percent used a book that dealt with topics of conventional military strategy. The study revealed that Gettysburg was the most commonly studied battle while Abraham Lincoln was the most popular individual to study. James McPherson’s works were popular for books on the experience of soldiers, including African-American soldiers, as well as an overall text book for the courses. The study found that in the college classes few books were assigned discussing the causes of the Civil War or the Reconstruction period. According to the authors, William B. Rogers and Terese Martyn, the lack of focus on causes was attributed to a consensus about the war’s causes revolving around the issue of slavery. The study shows that there is a substantial focus both on individual contributions as well as large events like Gettysburg and influential figures like Lincoln. The other two articles will show that the focus on individual contributions and bottom-up change is not always emphasized.

The second article is an assessment of the movie “Glory” by Joseph T. Glatthar about the 54th Massachusetts (Colored) Infantry and how it can be used in the classroom. This film is a popular movie shown in high school classrooms to explore the experiences and contributions of African-American soldiers. The author identifies several issues with the film. First, while the commander of the 54th Massachusetts (Colored) Infantry is depicted simply as a staunch abolitionist in the film (which is mostly true), letters that he wrote show that he still harbored many of the racial prejudices of his day. A more balanced account could also explore these less than ideal elements of his character.

Secondly, the film portrays the regimental sergeant major as a white man, while is reality the unit had an African-American sergeant major who was Fredrick Douglas’s son. Also, another African-American sergeant from the regiment who does not appear in the film was the first black medal of honor recipient. The author laments that the film opted to focus more on fictional African-American figures than the no less extraordinary ones of history. Thirdly, the author points out that while the unit in the film is shown as consisting of mostly former slaves, the actual unit composition was seventy-five percent African-American men who were born in free states. While this is a historical inaccuracy for the 54th, overall many former slaves did fight for the Union in general.

The last historical inaccuracy in the film that the author identifies is the lack of portraying African-American soldiers as possessing active agency to stand up for their rights such as equal pay, proper supplies, and equal disciplinary treatment. In the film the white officers are the heroes who secure supplies and lobby for equal pay Also, there is a scene in the movie where an African-American is whipped by the unit for desertion when the actual crime would have been considered absent without leave. The author asserts that whipping as a punishment for soldiers was banned in 1861 and that there is only one documented instance of it occurring in colored units. Furthermore, the author writes that African-American soldiers routinely stood up for their comrades when they received disciplinary punishment and even mutinied on “numerous occasions” when they thought that they were being treated unjustly. The author, however, still recommends the film but identifies crucial areas that a teacher could identify for further discussion.

The third article is by high school teacher Kevin M. Lavin who explores his use of the Ken Burns documentary “The Civil War”. One issue with the documentary that Lavin identifies, like the criticism of “Glory, is that it does not highlight the agency displayed by African-Americans in securing their freedom. The decision to issue the Emancipation Proclamation is depicted in the documentary as a decision made solely by Abraham Lincoln as the “great emancipator”. In his classroom, Lavin provides students with additional primary and secondary sources about the Emancipation Proclamation and the role that slaves and activists played in bringing about their emancipation.

Overall these articles show different ways that the Civil War is taught in college and high school classrooms. In both settings there is an emphasis on the decision of powerful individuals, but also an effort to highlight the contributions of ordinary people. What these articles show is that in both cases a better effort could be done to properly show the contributions of African-Americans to the Union and emancipation, and not just through their service, but also through their agency and activism in the army as well as in society.

REFERENCES

Kevin M. Levin, “Using Ken Burns’s ‘The Civil War’ in the Classroom”. The History Teacher, Vol. 44, No. 1 (November 2010), pp. 9-17

William B. Rogers and Terese Martyn. “A Consensus at Last: American Civil War Texts and the Topics That Dominate the College Classroom”. The History Teacher, Vol. 41, No. 4 (Aug., 2008), pp. 519-530

Joseph T. Glatthar. “’Glory,’ the 54th Massachusetts Infantry, and Black Soldiers in the Civil War”. The History Teacher, Vol. 24, No. 4 (Aug., 1991), pp. 475-485

History as subject has always been something that I enjoyed greatly, but this would not be cultivated as a serious passion of mine until I became an undergraduate student at SUNY Cortland. It has been argued for years now that the way history is taught to k-12 students is in need of restructuring. History teachers today continue to fight for reform in regards to their curriculum, proper funding, and for textbooks that accurately reflect the realities of controversial topics in history. During my time as a high school student, I thought nothing of these difficulties and absorbed the information as it was given to me. In retrospect, I feel like it was not only a difficult task to navigate topics like the Civil War both in accordance to the curriculum and ethically, but a herculean task to get any of us to care. To this day I am unsure whether my flippant attitude in history classes was because my teachers were so exhausted by the system that it showed, or if it was just a serious case of rebellious teenage attitude problem. Either way, It wouldn’t be until I became a history student at SUNY Cortland that I saw how my dual degree History and Education friends would grapple with these issues that I really understood the difficulties behind teaching history in public schools.

As a freshman in college, like most, I was completely lost and had zero idea what direction I wanted to take my life in. I had to pick a job that was stable and could pay off my loans, but with a mix of teen angst, existential despair, and some homesickness for seasoning, I had fallen into ambivalence towards my education. Attend class, do homework, go out, go to bed. Wash, rinse, and repeat. It would be at a Halloween party that I ended up making a decision that would completely change both my academic and career path for the better. A boy who lived in the dorm across the street from me would mention at this party that he was a history major, that he loved it, and that I should “Just do whatever you want. You’re paying for this degree anyway.” This moved me. He was right. I WAS paying for this degree anyway. My fickle heart had been persuaded. The following Monday I walked into the history department, got a slip signed by Lou Ann the secretary, and handed it to the dean. I didn’t know it at the time, but this action done truly without any thought whatsoever would shake up the way in which I viewed history academia forever. Thanks Andrew!

There are not words that can convey the praise I wish to give to the history department at SUNY Cortland. Well-rounded, well read, and diverse in personality with one mission to truly providing a quality education, this history department would be absolutely instrumental to my career in academia and how I would understand the methodology of teaching history. The one thing that I felt was most influential to this internal paradigm shift of mine is the way my professors applied context and primary source documents to a historical person of event, and then allowed us as students to reach our own thoughtful and informed conclusions. This felt so foreign, as the material I learned as a k-12 student in a public school did not provide me the same amount of leniency in how I digested the material that was taught to me. For so long I had taken part in the rote memorization of tertiary textbook information that it was difficult to adjust. This new concept was a wonderful thing, but in turn I would see my friends who were taking the dual degree Education and History path struggle to find a medium between teaching the materials required in way that allowed their students to gain full marks the Regents or AP exams and giving them the freedom to absorb the material in a way that was meaningful to them.

With these thoughts in mind, I got in touch with my closest undergrad friends, a group affectionately referred to as “Dr. Professor Gathagan Squad” as homage to a professor we adored and whose classes we took together religiously. These three hooligans from college are now all history teachers across the east coast in public high schools. As I reflected on my time as a history student both k-12 and in higher education, I wanted to hear how our undergraduate degree affected the way that they teach in their classrooms. All three of them agreed that our undergraduate education impacted the way that they taught greatly, but the flexibility to teach in a manner that allowed for the level of freedom and openness that exists in higher education just is not there in their mandated public school curriculum. Almost every hour of teaching had to be directly in line with administrative directives. However, they do their best to make sure their students are taught ethically, and provided with as accurate of information as possible, textbook be damned.

I cannot speak for every history teacher, heck, for ANY history teacher, but I am sure that much like my friends, most understand that importance of the task they are given and to the best of their abilities give the next generation of students as good of a foundation as they can to think critically about history, and create informed opinions about the significance of our past. If young professionals are working so hard to genuinely engage the youth now, imagine if they had the ability to teach topics and core educational values beyond what for-profit exam companies require.

Michael Savoca

HIST-799

Project 5

Why is it so easy to be drawn to something that is always just out of reach? For as long as I can remember, there has always been an innate appeal to the past and all those who inhabited a world that only now exists in memory and the materials left behind. My relationship with history is one which has defined my life in many ways. While I feel like I was born with this passion, my love of history probably comes from many of the fantastic teachers I have had along the way. My path to and through the MA/MLS program at Queens College has been a long one, but it has been a most meaningful journey for me.

My history emersion began long before I ever entered a classroom. The first history teacher I ever had was my Dad. Although not a classically trained historian, Dad made history approachable and interesting, and taught me to ask questions and examine things in greater detail. A world-class story teller with a cinematic approach to detail, he could make every part of history burst with vitality. I can remember him naming all of the presidents in order (which amazed a six or seven year old me), and his vivid description of Zachery Taylor’s death (the dangers of iced milk and cherries in the summer) are just a couple of examples of his ability to pull me into another world. Our vacations were not complete without a stop at some kind of historical site or activity. Boston came alive to me in the cemeteries, walking the tight paths weaved between weathered slate and sandstone. Cemeteries have played a large part in my historical journey, but more on that at another time.

In terms of my official education, my history teachers were always excellent. I can close my eyes and still hear the voices of two of my high school teachers in particular. Both, like my dad, had a way of elevating the material beyond simply names and dates. They provided additional nuance to the curriculum which made it feel like you were in an Athenian piazza, or walking through Jazz Age New York. These great teachers made history personal, and even those who hated history were engaged in the process. The classes weren’t always easy, but they were highly impactful. I have, of course, sat through the history classes that everyone hates. Monotone droning, textbook reading, and note copying; there is nothing worse.

History in college has been an interesting experience, with the most meaningful parts coming in the last couple of years here at Queens College. Classes on Oral History, the Formation of Modern American Culture, and the History of Privacy being particularly satisfying. Much of the reason for this is simply because these professors relied heavily on primary source materials, and led discussions with an abundance of knowledge which allowed students to walk away with a rich understanding of the topics at hand. Having reflected on all of this, however, I must say that my love for history cannot be uncoupled from an absolute passion for genealogy.

I was nine years old when my grandfather died, and it was a major moment in my life.  As I listened, I was blown away by the simple facts I did not know about a man that I was so close to. It was never mentioned that his first language was Italian or that he only learned English when he entered school. How could I have not known such a simple fact about my grandfather? There were so many questions I wanted to know about those who came before me and so I began to interview, collect pictures, and call my relatives. My work with genealogy has helped me to reunite an adoptee with members of his birth family, tell long forgotten stories, get involved in local historical societies, and become a better thinker and analyst of historic data. It pushed me to enter a degree program which would allow me to both research history and work to protect the materials that make this research possible in archives.

Having spent the last eighteen years researching and sourcing information has deeply colored my ideas on history education. I believe that history is all about inclusion, and sometimes that means understanding the exclusion of large groups of people. People, both young and old, complain of how meaningless history education is, but they all listen when the story is good enough. The stories are there, we just have to teach our students how to access them, place them in the wider historical context, and retell them for others. It is nice to know what Reconstruction is, but to understand the era is of much greater importance. Today, we are inundated with potential sources which students can interact with in a variety of ways. Rather than just read a chapter or look at Regents DBQs, let’s access actual labor contracts online at Familysearch.org to understand the roots of the sharecropping system in Jim Crow America. Let’s examine a slave schedule of the 1860 US Census to see how humanity was stripped away from enslaved people as they were counted with mere tick marks instead of by name. Open a class discussion by examining a ship manifest from Ellis Island to understand the process immigrants went through on arrival to compare with modern immigration practices today. The focus should be on learning how to analyze, contextualize, and explain the information. I can promise, it will be impossible to forget many of the facts if they are linked to stories.

Based on my experience, meaningful history education can and should be focused on the tools of genealogy and the story. History should not be the benign act of regurgitating dates and facts for a test, but teaching students to focus on the aspects of research, critical thinking and context building. Having spent so much time digging through genealogy databases and records, I am always amazed by the amount of digitized historical content available online. Students can only benefit from learning how to traverse this data which shows not simply the “great men” of history or some statistical sweep, but the realities of particular individuals or communities. What do the records show? What do the records not show? Why? While these concepts are being done in classrooms all over, I would suggest that they should be made even more central to the routines of a high school classroom, and should be introduced even younger where possible. If the student has a particular link to an event or era, even better! They can find their own family’s connection to history and begin to understand the complexity of our collective past.

Perhaps the use of a history lab period would be beneficial to students. Interactive approaches to history are key to the ultimate goal of meaningful learning. Teach students how to practice history in a meaningful way through research. Have them understand local or social history through the practice of oral history by interviewing elders. Allow students to create an archive, even if it is simply putting together a collection of school photos, yearbooks, and documents into a small collection with a finding aid. Vitally, we must teach students how to tell the stories of history. I maintain that my Dad was a history teacher regardless of his lacking in a degree because he was the first to make it approachable; this is absolutely essential in trying to get young audiences involved in history. While he didn’t teach me how to analyze sources, Dad inspired me to learn more; the crux of any meaningful educational experience. If we can inspire, guide, and challenge our students to take different approaches to learning, it is possible to showcase all that history education has to offer.

The Tragedy in Tennessee: Exploring the Fort Pillow MasThe troubling legacy of the Civil War has created a mass riff on American history. After all, it wasn’t terribly long ago when America became enflamed over controversies surrounding the Southern Confederate memorials, and whether their goal was remembrance or veneration. However, monuments are not the only subject of vitriol in the ongoing Civil War debates, and in many cases the coverage of history has itself garnered attention. One prime example of the controversy surrounds the events of the Fort Pillow Massacre and its aftermath. 

Largely considered one of the bleakest moments of the Civil War, the Fort Pillow Massacre highlights the issues and mentality of the actors of the time. Fort Pillow, built over a bluff on the Mississippi River in Henning, Tennessee had served as a strategic location for both the Confederate and Union armies throughout the course of the war. At the time of the event, April. 12th, 1864, Fort Pillow was Union-held and garrisoned by a relatively small force, including the 6th U.S. Regimented Colored Heavy Artillery, a company recruited from African Americans. Fort Pillow had come under assault from Confederate forces, led by General Nathan Bedford Forrest. With a much larger army and a few key advantages, Forrest’s attack quickly overwhelmed the Union forces. 

What came next has generated decades of controversy. With their defenses broken, the Union garrison surrendered to the Confederate forces. The rules of conduct at the time dictated that the Northern soldiers should have been taken as prisoners of war. However, even after surrendering the Confederates continued to fire upon Union soldiers. Survivors of the massacre reported a grim tale, depicting images of soldiers pleading for their lives before being shot or bayoneted by Confederates. For all intents and purposes, the attacks were racially motivated, as black soldiers bore the brunt of the Confederate aggressions. At the closing of the battle, estimates state that several hundred black Union soldiers were killed. 

The results of the Fort Pillow Massacre were undoubtedly horrifying, but nonetheless have garnered controversy. In the immediate aftermath of the Fort Pillow Massacre, Union newspapers reacted with horror on the news of the event, and many commented on the barbarity of the Confederate forces. In the South, reports of the massacre took a very different tone, and claims were made that many of the Union soldiers had continued to fire on the Confederate soldiers, and were killed in self-defense. In the recent century, the issue of indiscriminate killing took place was put to bed thanks to archeological evidence (the answer is yes), but even that has done little to ease the conflict. With the question of whether or not it happened settled, the tone of the debates have shifted to whether or not Forrest organized the killing, facilitated it, or simply lost control of his own soldiers. This debate is complicated by the fact that, like many of the other Southern generals, Forrest has grown a following among Confederate apologists and as such many are quick to come to the defense of his legacy. 

In it’s entirety, the Fort Pillow Massacre is an extremely complicated matter. That being said, it is an important chapter in Civil War and racial history, and as such it should be given its due attention in school. The question remains then, how best to cover this topic. The best coverage I feel is best exemplified through an article by Paul Horton in the History Teacher titled “A Model for Teaching History: The Case of Fort Pillow.” In the article, Horton describes how he teaches the controversy to his students over the course of several days. During that time, he exposes students to the racial realities of the nation at the time before moving on to the profiles of the actors, then describing the battle, and finally comparing the conflicting reports of the battle from survivors. By doing this, Horton is able to expose his students to the complexity of the situation and encourages them to think critically about the sources and accounts. 

The Fort Pillow Massacre is a horrifying episode in American history, but it is possible to learn from it. Despite the efforts of some to downplay the significance of the event, many schools are pushing to understand rather than shy away from the Fort Pillow Massacre. Hopefully by acknowledging and understanding the ugly truth of our past, we can move forward as a more unified nation. 

In the attached document, I explore a possible path to teaching the history of the American LGBTQ Rights movement as if it were focused towards a 11th Grade U.S. History class.  While the topic of LGBTQ history should not be considered controversial in the sense that human rights and their histories should not be troubling topics to view from a modern lens, there are still several state laws across the country prohibiting their discussion.  Information on these (“No Promo Homo”) laws can be found on this GLSEN page.  These laws only serve as a detriment to society, stymieing important discussion about diverse people and their cultures, and continue to oppress a minority population because a group of people refuse to consider other human beings as equals.  Although this lesson plan does not offer suggestions for countering the No Promo Homo laws, the cause for its creation emerged from a frustration that some students may never receive the opportunity to learn about the history of people very much like themselves, who have experienced similar harassments.  A conscious education in History should function to inform people of the abuses of the past so that they may be prevented or at the very least recognized, before the next round begins.  This lesson plan involves watching several online videos (including a review of news coverage from the beginnings of the Homophile Movement) and interpreting information from a journal article.  Prior to giving the lesson, teachers should take the appropriate steps to inform the class of the sensitive subject they will be covering and offer alternatives to accommodate individuals requesting a sensitive approach to the subject  – note that this lesson is intended to discuss the history of the movement and not impart a particular view of morality, though conversations of differing morals will necessarily arise due to the nature of the subject.

 

The State Standards used to create this lesson are from New York and are detailed in the plan.

 

As this topic is outside of my current area of study, and it has been a while since I received any training in education practices, I welcome any and all criticisms/critiques of the methods I have presented.  Rejection/threats of the LGBTQ community and their history will not be tolerated and any suggestions of the sort will be scorned.

 

 

Project 5 - LGBTQ Rights Lesson Plan

The myth of ‘white genocide’

In the wake of a week of violent, racialized shootings in the United States at the end of October 2018, much attention has been given to the spurious beliefs held by white nationalists and neo-Nazis like Robert Gregory Bowers, who opened fire in a synagogue in Pittsburgh, killing 11 people. The crux of these beliefs, espoused by many of these domestic terrorists, is “white genocide,” which posits that white people, being a pure race, are in danger of being overrun by savage, brown immigrants who will destroy European culture in the name of ‘diversity’ and ‘open borders.’ Supporters of this conspiracy claim that the masterminds of this plot against white people are none other than the Jews, who control the media and the governments that push for increased immigration and tolerance of refugees. The powers that be being against white people, they believe, there is no other recourse than to defend themselves through violent action, leading to arson, assault, and murder of those who would seek to act against them. These beliefs, while reinterpreted for contemporary fears, are not new, nor are they based in historical fact. There has not been any concerted effort to commit genocide against white people by Jews, Blacks, or any other group, contrary to the theories peddled by racists and other bigots.

The fear of ‘civilization’ being overrun by foreign hordes is centuries-old, but as a historical fear its racialized origins can be more firmly seen in the rhetoric surrounding the perpetuation of colonial regimes in the Americas, particularly in slave societies. These fears became exacerbated in the wake of the Haitian Revolution, which saw an army Black and free people of color rising against the European colonizers who kept them oppressed and enslaved; the war was seen as a war on whiteness and its survival in the plantation societies that surrounded what would become Haiti. Thus stories about the so-called “horrors of St. Domingo” circulated throughout the Atlantic, warning of the dangers of free Blacks bent on exterminating the whites that oppressed them. Thomas Jefferson, writing to Aaron burr, expressed his revulsion of the idea of Blacks emancipating themselves, calling them “cannibals of the terrible republic,” who may very well be “eaten by a more civilized enemy,” their French oppressors. These fears omit the desire for freedom that galvanized the revolutions in North America, France, and beyond, and the hatred for enslavement and oppressive systems that led to slave revolts. Nonetheless, the brutality of the Haitian Revolution served as a catalyst for stricter laws impeding the rights of Blacks across the Americas, as well as an argument against the abolition of slavery, which would not be legally ended in the hemisphere until Brazil ended its stake in the slave trade in 1888.

The idea of hordes of foreign aliens overrunning the ‘civilized’ white race did not catch on however, until the end of the nineteenth century, when large groups of immigrants were arriving to the United States from Southern and Eastern Europe. These people were often outside of what would become the ‘White Anglo-Saxon Protestant’ milieu, comprising of, among other groups, Ashkenazi Jews, and Catholics from Ireland, Italy, Bavaria. These groups were not members of the first waves of colonization and settlement of North America, and thus had not assimilated to the mores of the United States elites. Their cultures were seen as superstitious, indulgent, and barbaric, and were often caricatured in political cartoons as being infantile and needing of civilization. With the advent of social Darwinism, which attached ideas of evolutionary theory and (Herbert) Spencerian “survival of the fittest” to groups of people: a pseudo-scientific spin was put on the fears of the immigrant wave. In this mode of thought, the ‘superior races,’ being from Northern, ‘Nordic,’ countries had been able to achieve a high level of civilization and advancement, which was threatened by the incapacities of ‘inferior’ races from Southern Europe, Africa, and Asia. The impoverished state of many immigrants not from ‘Nordic’ countries was seen as empirical proof of their inferiority, and so scientific racists such as Madison Grant in his The Passing of the Great Race, or the Basis of European History (1916) and Lothrop Stoddard’s The Rising Tide of Color Against White World Supremacy (1920) speciously solidified such ideas in public thought. It was thought that these ‘inferior races’ actively sought to infiltrate and displace white people out of sheer jealousy and maliciousness. This was the base of eugenics theories, laws of ethnic exclusion, segregation, and immigration quotas that enforced white supremacy in the United States and other countries.

Perhaps the most influential book in this vein has been the discredited anti-Semitic The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which proposed a world Jewish conspiracy to usurp and dominate white Christian civilization for their own greed and benefit. This book seemed to handily ignore the centuries of discrimination experienced by Jews across Europe, but how else were the conspiracy theorists to describe their thriving in the few trades they were allowed to ply by Christian authorities but through unholy malice? While heavily plagiarized and not based in fact (many investigations have revealed it to be a complete hoax), the book has been translated into many languages and would go on to influence the racial theories of, among others, Nazi Germany, which would amalgamate the racial theories of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries into a deadly mix. The Nazis would go on to claim that ‘inferior,’ ‘degenerate’ races, such as Jews, Blacks, Slavs, and Roma, sought to destroy German society and pollute their pure blood; a racially pure society would need to deport or exterminate them. In Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler would write words that encapsulated the goals of white supremacy:

What we must fight for is to safeguard the existence and reproduction of our race and our people, the sustenance of our children and the purity of our blood, the freedom and independence of the fatherland, so that our people may mature for the fulfillment of the mission allotted it by the creator of the universe. Every thought and every idea, every doctrine and all knowledge, must serve this purpose. And everything must be examined from this point of view and used or rejected according to its utility.

This phrase would be synthesized into the infamous “Fourteen Words” repeated by white supremacists the world over: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for our white children.” This is often represented in white supremacist jargon as “14” and combined with “88,” which represents the eighth letter of the alphabet, H, for “Heil Hitler:” the dog-whistle “1488” is often found in the online profiles of white supremacists and similarly-influenced racists. The phraseology and sentiment have reached even to the federal government: on February 15, 2018 the Department of Homeland Security published a press release titled as “We Must Secure the Border and Build the Wall to Make America Safe Again,” which eerily comprises exactly fourteen words. Nazism was seen as defending a ‘pure’ German homeland from outside influences such as Bolshevism, Judaism, and jazz, which would degenerate and destroy a valiant and powerful people. A look at Nazi propaganda reveals a well-curated vision of healthy, physically fit, blonde-haired people, Greco-Roman architecture, crisp uniforms, strict discipline, and undying love and loyalty to the Fatherland and the Führer; on the inside, it was built with secret police, concentration camps, ideological rigidity, and indoctrination. To an outside, white supremacist world reeling from economic uncertainty and new ideas and influences, the seeming order, prosperity, and happiness of this ‘Aryan nation’ seemed to promise a way forward– for white people only. In Germany, this led to the mass slaughter of 11 million people deemed unworthy of life in the Holocaust; 6 million of them alone were Jews. However, there are those who deny that the Holocaust ever happened, that it was a concoction to destroy the Germans’ reputations in favor of the Jews and their agenda to supposedly enact the same on the white world; the recorded and physical evidence speaks otherwise.

White nationalism and supremacy, based on the fear of ‘white genocide,’ has been spurred by economic uncertainty and a quickly-changing society, and the fear of losing the privilege and power long associated with whiteness. That the United States, along with most European nations, owes its existence and prosperity to white supremacist laws and actions at home and abroad, oppressing and exploiting masses of people in the ‘Global South’ should stand to contradict the notion of ‘white genocide’ itself. The genocide of indigenous peoples around the world allowed for the establishment of nation-states on those lands and the exploitation of its natural resources for the benefit of the colonizers; no such actions have ever occurred to a majority-white people in any recorded histories. In fact, the whole notion of ‘whiteness,’ along with other ‘races’ is a social fiction created to cement dominance through categorizing and separating groups of people, thus creating hierarchies of difference that values certain peoples’ lives over others. The current upheaval caused by economic recession and the accumulation of capital and power in the hands of a wealthy few is leading to a collapse of traditional, secure, full-time work and economic depression outside of the coastal centers of economic might. Combined with this, an increasingly diverse society in terms of ethnic, cultural, sexual, and gender identity is rending long-held notions of what consists a ‘normal’ or ‘correct’ way of being that has been repeated ad nauseam in mainstream media for decades.

For many whites, the world as they knew it is degenerating, and instead of pinning their increased insecurity on the wealthy and powerful who perpetrate harmful policies at the workplace, the boardroom, and government buildings, they are led to blame and blame the foreigners, who are often attempting to escape the instabilities wrought by certain powerful nations and their political and economic agents. The mass of refugees from war-torn, economically-exploited, environmentally-precarious, and increasingly-authoritarian countries are seen as an invading horde intent on destroying national values and the integrity of white, European culture. There is increased talk of “Homeland Security,” “strengthening the borders,” “extreme vetting,” ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’ immigration, “anchor babies,” and the drugs, crime, and rapacity brought by foreign, often darker-than-white, immigrants. To allow these people in is to actively participate in ‘white genocide,’ and so it must be stopped. The Pittsburgh shooter, Robert Bowers, saw the Tree of Life synagogue as a threat due to its open participation in the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), which has actively helped refugees from around the world resettle in the United States, where they would ostensibly be safer. This was proof enough that ‘the Jews’ were responsible for the continued push for the annihilation of the white race for many white nationalists by making them the national minority; this merely affirmed what others of their ilk had feared for decades now.

In the seemingly-anonymous world of internet blogs and chat rooms, white supremacists and their views have found ample ground to share their views with others and develop ‘nuance’ to their expression through memes; for example, the use of the (((parenthesis))) around a name serves as an anti-Semitic dog-whistle to express that ‘the Jews’’ actions “echo throughout history.” Bowers, who has the numbers “1488” tattooed to his body, echoed these conspiracies in his last Twitter post: “HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.” He, along Gregory Allen Bush, who killed two Black customers at a grocery store in Kentucky, are symptomatic of the fear-mongering stoked by demagogues–from the media to the president himself–in response to an increasingly alienating and changing world. As white nationalism increasingly holds sway with disenfranchised whites and others (there are also people of color in such milieus), the dog-whistles and open expressions of white supremacist ideology often neglects the historical contexts of colonial oppression that led to the creation and institutionalization of these ideas and led (and continue to lead) to the social, economic, and political situations that make them seem appealing in the first place. The danger of those afraid of losing power and privilege has repeatedly proven more deadly than those who would rid themselves of the yoke that maintains such inequalities, and the actions taken by believers in ‘white genocide’ are but proof of that fact.

 

SOURCES

Calgary Anti-Racist Education, University of Calgary. 2018. Retrieved from https://www.ucalgary.ca/cared/.

Gross, Terry. “< Eli Saslow Traces ‘Straight Line’ From White Nationalism to Alleged Synagogue Shooter.” NPR. October 29, 2018. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=661633763.

Guess, Teresa J. “The Social Construction of Whiteness: Racism by Intent, Racism by Consequence.” Critical Sociology 32, 4 (2006): 649-673.

Hassal, Mary. “From Secret History; or the Horrors of St. Domingo.” From Slave Revolution in the Caribbean, 1789-1804: A Brief History with Documents, edited by Laurent Dubois and John D. Garrigus. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2017.

Jefferson, Thomas. “Letters, 1792-1802.” From Slave Revolution in the Caribbean, 1789-1804: A Brief History with Documents, edited by Laurent Dubois and John D. Garrigus. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2017.

Lyster, Rose. “The creeping specter of ‘white genocide.’” The Outline. (May 9, 2018). Retrieved from https://theoutline.com/post/4486/the-creeping-spectre-of-white-genocide?zd=1&zi=v3lbz5sk.

Renshaw, Jarrett. “Who is Robert Bowers, the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting suspect?” Reuters. October 28, 2018. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-pennsylvania-shooting-suspect/who-is-robert-bowers-the-pittsburgh-synagogue-shooting-suspect-idUSKCN1N10S6.

Sankin, Aaron & Will Carless. “President Trump is pushing white nationalist ideas into the mainstream.” The Washington Post. August 24, 2018. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2018/08/24/president-trump-is-pushing-white-nationalist-ideas-into-mainstream/?utm_term=.17601bc14da8

Tseng-Putterman, Mark. “A Century of U.S. Intervention Created the Immigrant Crisis.” Medium. June 20, 2018. Retrieved from https://medium.com/s/story/timeline-us-intervention-central-america-a9bea9ebc148?fbclid=IwAR2G57iprbAF8JdbXy8wWdbd4CnQs_7IGAW4icB2ILXqFjJKVB7pYFe00i0.

“We Must Secure The Border And Build The Wall To Make America Safe Again” (Press release). United States Department of Homeland Security. 15 February 2018. Retrieved from https://www.dhs.gov/news/2018/02/15/we-must-secure-border-and-build-wall-make-america-safe-again


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