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 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 have for centuries been rumored to 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. Their 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 as the European oppressors knew it 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,” (Jefferson) 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 immigrants 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– which needed to be conquered and civilized. 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 of exclusion theory has been the discredited anti-Semitic The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which proposed an international 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. While heavily plagiarized and not based in fact (many investigations have revealed The Protocols 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.” Interestingly, 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, all the while resting on a system that relied on secret police, concentration camps, ideological rigidity, and indoctrination. To an outsider, this 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; 6 million of whom 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 ‘Third World’ 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 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 mentioning 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. For those in power, allowing these people in is to actively participate in their own downfall – their ‘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 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 with 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 sitting president himself–in response to an increasingly alienating and changing world. As white nationalism increasingly holds sway with disenfranchised whites and others who feel slighted by the powers that be (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. These historical moments have that led to the creation and institutionalization of these ideas and have led (and continue to lead) to the social, economic, and political situations that make them seem appealing in the first place.




Calgary Anti-Racist Education, University of Calgary. 2018. Retrieved from


Gross, Terry. “< Eli Saslow Traces ‘Straight Line’ From White Nationalism to Alleged Synagogue Shooter.” NPR. October 29, 2018. Retrieved from


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


Renshaw, Jarrett. “Who is Robert Bowers, the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting suspect?” Reuters. October 28, 2018. Retrieved from


Sankin, Aaron & Will Carless. “President Trump is pushing white nationalist ideas into the mainstream.” The Washington Post. August 24, 2018. Retrieved from


Tseng-Putterman, Mark. “A Century of U.S. Intervention Created the Immigrant Crisis.” Medium. June 20, 2018. Retrieved from


“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




#Twitterstorians take on trolls: the case of Kevin Kruse and Dinesh D’Souza


That the Internet can be a hive of disinformation and echo chambers is news to few, but the existence of Twitter has only exacerbated the issue. Whereas once one would have to write op-eds and Letters to the Editor in newspapers or magazines, now all one has to do is dash off a pithy 140-280 character message that your followers can read, share, and respond to within seconds of posting. The confluence of quick writing and mass exposure leads to bad facts spreading faster than ever with little to no consequence and millions of people taking that as their basis of opinion. This could lead to debate, but more often leads to venomous mudslinging and attacks, leading nowhere. As well, this public exposure of ‘dirty laundry’ also lends itself to corrections by users more knowledgeable on the topic, to either shut down the misinformation being spread, or better inform the online public regarding the spurious content.


The ‘Twitter war’ between historian Kevin Kruse and conservative pundit Dinesh D’Souza has been one for the ages, wherein Kruse tries to use his skills as a historian to address the patently false and self-serving ‘history’ that D’Souza tries to peddle to the public. D’Souza’s presence in the media zeitgeist has been stoking the fires of U.S. nationalism and xenophobia through his repeated claim that U.S. society is the apogee of civilization, and the reason for so much discord and resentment is the ‘liberal agenda,’ as he has explained in his books and documentaries. In recent years, D’Souza has become a pundit for the Trump administration, which he believes works in favor of the working class, as much as the Roosevelt administration did during the Great Depression; in fact, Trump has so admired his work that he pardoned D’Souza from a conviction he was serving for breaking federal laws regarding campaign finances. In a recent documentary, Death of a Nation: Can We Save America a Second Time?, D’Souza likens Trump to Abraham Lincoln and Democrats to the Nazis, which earned him a premiere hosted by Donald Trump, Jr., who commented: “You see the Nazi platform in the early 1930s and what was actually put out there … and you look at it compared to, like, the DNC platform of today, and you’re saying, man, those things are awfully similar, to a point where it’s actually scary.” (Frum) It is this faith in the documentary, so inculcated by television-based documentary programs and the belief in their truth telling, that D’Souza is banking on when he makes bold, non-factual statements that he is somehow able to pass off as veracious history.


On Twitter, D’Souza uses his pop cultural clout to comment speciously on any ‘social’ topic, his favorite being the racist past of the Democratic Party and how they remain such in the present day, ignoring the mid-twentieth century shift in light of the civil rights movement, when the Democrats supported civil rights while Republican politicians baited racist reaction for their base of support. On 2 July, 2018, D’Souza posted the following challenge on Twitter: “Okay let’s see a list of the 200 or so racist Dixiecrats who switched parties and became Republicans. Put up or shut up.” Kruse took up the offer by pithily explaining the history of the Democrats’ stance on race issues, and deftly revealed that, in fact, Democratic politicians switched to the Republican Party in reaction to popular (that is, voters) Democratic shifts in favor of civil rights. D’Souza, as is his manner, reacted not by engaging in debate with counter-evidence or even questions, but by deriding Kruse’s work as “obscure quibbles,” claiming that he is “too wimpy to publicly debate which is the party of fascism and racism.” The rest of their argument goes on as such, with D’Souza offering diversionary tweets with insults and spurious claims (without much supporting evidence), while Kruse seeks to give D’Souza factual details based on actual quotations, video, documents, and secondary works by experts in the field. There is not much budging or conciliation between them, so the work would seem more or less futile. Kruse explains that his Twitter corrections “aren’t aimed at him or his followers,” but at people who “don’t have the actual facts at hand and have to encounter this nonsense from friends or family members in the real world, and, of course random partisans here on the internet.” While D’Souza’s approach to their back-and-forth on Twitter is more akin to a battle, with shows of force and bombast, Kruse seeks to let the facts speak for themselves when D’Souza makes an over-the-top claim. When D’Souza claims to speak on history with authority, but no evidence, Kruse feels that it is his job as a historian to intervene and show people like D’Souza and his ilk where their conclusions are inaccurate. In taking to Twitter and offering nuggets of information to casual users and historians alike, Kruse’s work makes history and a basic understanding of the discipline and its reliance on evidence and research available to members of the general public.

It is telling that Kruse has little hope in D’Souza and his followers changing their minds based on his presentation of evidence and authoritative opinion. He believes them resigned to their long-held ‘conclusions’ on the matter, which allow them to speak with authority; these are beliefs that they learnt from school, television, family, and to hear them repeated on Twitter gives some semblance of validation, even ‘proof’ that they were right. For people like Kruse to intrude with ‘facts’ is to disturb the comfort of their ‘truth,’ and so it can be nothing but falsehood. Such intrusions call for irascible trolling with pithy, counterfactual claims that sound as if they were but common sense. These sorts of responses seek to call out the debaters, the ‘explainers,’ who think themselves smarter than others, and so are elitists bent on making others look stupid. This is an anti-intellectual strain of ‘discourse’ that is all too common in mass media, from television and radio punditry, social media, and, as of late, the federal government, that refuses to engage in debate and find out the facts based on evidence and cooperation in their revelation. It is perhaps telling that D’Souza’s Twitter profile has 1.09 million followers, while Kruse’s has a mere 225 thousand– D’Souza, after all, is a well-known figure in the media and a conservative darling, while Kruse is known among his colleagues, readers, and followers on social media. D’Souza has the advantage of using pop culture, such as his schlocky documentaries and books (with such titles as America: Imagine the World Without Her and The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the American Left) to reach a wider audience and tap into their anxieties, hopes, and fears at the click of a button. The ease of access to a D’Souza documentary compared with a book by Kruse is a key issue that historians face (and they must) in order to allay the misconceptions and misinformation peddled as historical facts. Kruse is attempting to use Twitter as his approachable net to cast in hopes of catching interested readers and users to history, as well as to answer their historical queries and address topics of popular conversation with the evidence itself. It is yet to be seen if this interface will bear any fruit, as a casual scroll down D’Souza’s Twitter page shows effusive praise for his work and the belief that he is presenting factual information. Perhaps it will, but pseudo-historians like D’Souza still command attention on the television and computer screens– historians dedicated to their craft and the pursuit of historical truths will need to find a way into that space in order to reach the audiences who would otherwise be turning elsewhere for their information. D’Souza and figures like him must be challenged, but done in a manner that is not elitist, paternalistic, or dull: in this, taking a few cues from D’Souza himself could aid historians seeking a wider audience. For now, books, articles, Twitter debates, and the odd appearance in a documentary are the weapons in the historian’s arsenal, and they are behooved to use them in the most efficient and edifying manner possible.






Frum, David. “Dinesh D’Souza and the Decline of Conservatism.” The Atlantic. (Aug 12, 2018). Retrieved from


Heer, Jeet. “Dinesh D’Souza gets a history lesson on Twitter.” The New Republic. (7/3/18). Retrieved from


Seal, Andy. “The D’Souza Line: When Correcting Bad History Is a Lost Cause (And When It’s Not)” Society for U.S. Intellectual History. (May 21, 2018). Retrieved from

The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade was one of the most impacting aspects of the development of nations on either side of the Atlantic from its beginnings in the sixteenth century to its demise in the nineteenth. Not only did it produce untold amounts of material and economic wealth to those nations who dealt in its commerce, but led to the enslavement, torture, and objectification of millions of people shipped to labor for others. In the development of the slave trade came racialized prejudice and oppression, which continues to haunt the societies it built, as well as those that the enslaving powers later influenced. This is a history that goes to the root of every society in the Americas, yet one that is very often obscured or rejected in the present day. People maintain false impressions of the scale of the slave trade, as well as the conditions under which slaves lived, based on flawed popular histories and textbook, institutionalized racism, and active obfuscation due to discomfort regarding the sins of the past. This legacy, however much one seeks to deny it, has very real consequences for people whose ancestors were forcibly shipped across the ocean as chattel to be bought, sold, traded, ordered about, derided, and tortured by others on the other side. To truly understand this past is to come to terms with the wrongs done in the past, as well as the generational trauma that seeps into every facet of American (the continent) society.


Voyages: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database is an online resource that seeks to allow any visitor–from dedicated historian to curious peruser–to access information regarding the Trans-Atlantic trips that brought millions of Africans into slavery. In order to better understand a world in which “the shipping of enslaved Africans across the Atlantic was morally indistinguishable from shipping textiles, wheat, or even sugar” (Eltis), Voyages has collected in one place the data from the 34,948 trips of slave ships across the Atlantic. The database’s origins lie in the 1960s, when scholars such as Herbert S. Klein began collecting data from archives regarding the trips undertaken by participants in the slave trade, mostly from then-unpublished sources. In the 1970s and 1980s, datasets began being produced that collected this information into navigable, computerized formats, and by the late 80s, over 11,000 voyages had been documented from published sources based on the records of a particular European country or slave port. In the 1990s, funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities allowed for the earliest version of Voyages to use new published data, registers, and accounts to build a single database to collect this data into a single database, code the data, and publish it as a CD-ROM in 1999; by this point, 27,233 voyage records were analyzed and published. In the beginning years of the twenty-first century, new data from research on Latin-American participation in the slave trade from colonial archives in Europe and the Americas, as well as information gleaned by supportive independent researchers, allowed for more nuanced information to be added to the database. In 2006, with a grant from the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research at Harvard, work was undertaken to bring Voyages online, to expand materials to other formats such as essays, lesson plans, and maps, increase the types of data variables, and allow for outside participation in the maintenance and aggregation of data on the site. Every three years, after a peer-review process, new data and corrections will be added to the database to ensure a complete, accurate record of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade for public access.


The Voyages database itself holds a wealth of information, all interactive and accessible by the public. One can search the database for trans-Atlantic voyages based on the desired variables (e.g. nation, “Voyage outcome,” “Voyage dates,” demographics of the enslaved, etc.), and find information regarding a particular slave ship voyage from Africa to America. For example, to click on Voyage 22 (the number assigned the voyage in the database), one finds the log of the Portuguese/Brazilian Bergantin ship Caçador (Portuguese for “Hunter”), owned by João Gomes Vale and captained by Félix José dos Santos and João Joaquim de Souza Fontes. One can learn that the voyage was “completed as intended,” with “slaves disembarked in Americas” “delivered… for original owners.” The voyage began in Rio de Janeiro on 2 October, 1816 and landed in Luanda sometime in the next month or two. 594 slaves were embarked. The Middle Passage crossing took 32 days. By the time the Caçador arrived in Rio de Janeiro on 24 February, 1817, 570 enslaved Africans disembarked; 24 died, 4 per cent of the original group. In all, the whole voyage took 145 days to cross the Atlantic and back. While this information is somewhat minimal (it lacks, for example, information on slave demographics), it is still able to convey a compelling story, one based on primary source documents such as archives in Brazil and Angola, British accounts, the Gazeta do Rio De Janeiro, and a Database of slave vessels arriving in Rio de Janeiro, 1811-1830 by Manolo Fiorentino. This is but one record of the 36,002 currently in the database, and more could be coming as research on the slave trade and its repercussions continues. Further manipulation of the tabs atop the “Search the Voyages Database” reveals more options for exploration: one can access summary statistics of the chosen variables, a table of cross-continental participation in the slave trade, custom graphs, timelines, an interactive map, and a chilling animated map where one can watch the ships crossing the Atlantic year by year (it must be said that control of the speed at which the ships ‘cross’ would make for an impressive, if disheartening viewpoint). Also included in the database are brief essays explaining the way the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade worked, what it was like, the role of colonial-imperial powers in its maintenance, free and enslaved Africans’ resistance to slavery, the end of the slave trade, its influence on ethnic and racial identity, the influence of the seasons on voyages, and testimonies by former slaves (numbering three). These essays allow the casual visitor to better understand the circumstances under which the slave trade existed and was carried out. Further resources include a searchable image bank (ideally complemented with a visit to the website Slavery Images: A Visual Record of the African Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Early African Diaspora), a database of the names of Africans enslaved during this time, lesson plans for a grade 6-12 audience, and links to resources for further investigation. These resources lend to a rounded and interdisciplinary understanding of the world that the slave trade shaped, as well as how visitors in the present day can understand this once-quotidian, yet peculiar, institution.


Voyages: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database is an invaluable resource for researchers of all types to better comprehend the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade in all its dimensions. In its capacity to make even the smallest scale of the voyage as important and approachable as the grand horror of the commerce itself, Voyages renders a necessary service to the ancestors lost to the Middle Passage and to slavery itself. While it lacks certain frills and a particular smoothness in its display and functionality, and could use the further addition of primary source documents beyond ledgers and logs regarding the slave trade (or at least links to such), as it stands, Voyages is edifying and essential to work regarding the Atlantic world and the role of slavery in its development. There is much to be learnt in the inhumanity of the scale at which people were bought and sold as mere property, as the debates over slavery and its importance for the present day infuriatingly rage on.




Eltis, David. “Construction of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database: Sources and Methods.” Voyages: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database. Emory University, 2010. Retrieved from

Slavery Images: A Visual Record of the African Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Early African Diaspora. Virginia Humanities and University of Virginia, 2018. Retrieved from

Digital history projects are a great way to further your education and growth. Many of these projects are designed to be interactive in order to hold the attention of the user. Simply put this means they are a fun way to learn. One such site was created by the Digital Scholarship Lab of the University of Richmond. The Digital Scholarship Lab has created a digital edition of Charles O. Paulin and John K. Wright’s Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States which was first published in 1932. The digital edition of the atlas has reproduced the nearly 700 maps found in the original edition enhanced by twenty-first century technology. The maps cover topics such as natural environment, voting information, and demographics. The digital atlas contains scans of the original maps, as well as, versions that have been georectified to show more accurately the geography it covers.

When you first enter the site you have a few options. One option is to watch an introductory video on the site and its functionality. I would advise doing this first so you can get an understanding at what you are looking at and decide the types of maps that might interest you to look at. Another option is to immediately enter the atlas and begin seeing the scanned pages. I would not advise this because you will just see scanned versions of maps without much context of what you are looking at. A third option is to look at the table of contents and decide from their what you would like to explore. This is a good thing to do after watching the introductory video because it will give you a little more context. From the table of contents you can choose a chapter that interests you. Some of the interesting chapter options are Exploration in the West and South 1535-1852, Colleges, Universities, and Churches 1775-1890, and Political, Social, and Educational Reforms 1775-1931.

I chose to look at the chapter titled Political, Social, and Educational Reforms, 1775-1931 first. I then chose to look at the map pertaining to the Woman Suffrage movement. After clicking on the earliest map date available you are taken to scanned version of the map with different places colored indicating states with full suffrage, partial suffrage, and no suffrage. There is an option at the bottom left corner that says Animate. After clicking the Animate button the map goes through each year from 1875-1920 changing colors to show in which year each state changed from no suffrage to partial suffrage to full suffrage. There are many maps with features like this to explore that make it engaging and easy to see the history.      

Subject: 11th Grade US History

Time to Complete Lesson Plan: ~2 weeks

Essential Question for the Unit: How did tensions lead to the Civil War?

Learning Objectives:

  1. I will answer Document Based Questions to write a DBQ essay.
  2. I will explain how political, social, and/or economic differences between the North and South contributed to the Civil War.
  3. I will accurately use documents to explain the causes of the Civil War.
  4. I will be able to complete a DBQ essay similar to those found in the NYS Regents Exam in US History.

Materials/Resources: Smart board, DBQ Packet (at the bottom of the post), loose-leaf, pens/pencils, previous class notes on the causes of the Civil War

**DBQ Essay prompt is courtesy of New Visions for Public Schools, graphic organizers are a combination of different graphic organizers found in the web, documents come from a variety of sources found online. Some of the sources used can be found within the US History regents as well. The links are here below:

Differentiation/Tiered Instructional Strategies: materials at varied reading levels, compacting, tiered activities, DOK questioning, flexible use of time, graphic organizers, use of contemporary technology, models of tasks at different levels, 1:1 assistance, larger font for students who need it, documents and questions read out loud, modeling.

Provocative Question (Aim): How did political, social, and/or economic differences between the North and South contribute to the Civil War?

Key Vocabulary: States’ rights, Abolitionist Movement, slavery, agrarian society, Missouri Compromise of 1850, “Force Bill”, nullifcation


Do Now: What was the Civil War?

  • This question is a review of previously learned material
  • Teacher will provide scaffolding as needed to help student remember what was the Civil War.

Mini-Lesson 1: Introduction of Documents to students (pages 1-8 of the packet)

  • Teacher will present students a packet of 7 documents without providing the writing prompt.
  • Teacher/ students will read the documents out loud.
  • Check for understanding: What is the document about?
  • Reading strategy: Summary of the document will be noted on the margins of the document to help students remember what the document is about.
  • Students will write the answer to the question in the space provided
  • Modification (if students struggle to answer the documents): Teacher will guide students throughout the process of answering document-based questions
  • Modification (if students are able to answer and understand the documents independently): Students will work independently on answering the questions for documents 3-7.
DBQ - Causes of the Civil War

Mini-Lesson 2: Bucketing Activity [This activity was inspired by The DBQ Project] (page 9 of the packet)

  • Question: What is the time period in which these documents were written? How do you know? What aspect of the Civil War are these documents discussing? How do you know?
  • Teacher will provide students with a handout with three buckets.
  • Teacher will explain what bucketing is and how they can use this strategy to help them organize their essay.
  • Teacher will direct students to label each document a different kind of cause of the Civil War: Political, Social, Economic
  • Teacher will guide student through sorting out whether the documents are talking about political, social, and economic differences between the North and South; students will have to explain why the document belongs there and if a document belongs in more than one bucket, why does it belong in multiple buckets?

Mini-Lesson 3: Graphic Organizer (page 10 of packet)

  • By this point, students will have figured out the writing prompt for the essay they are to write.
  • Teacher will explain in detail what the expectations are for the essay and what resources they will be provided in order to complete the assignment

Independent Activity 1: Completion of the Graphic Organizers

  • Students are to work independently on completing their respective graphic organizers.
  • Teacher will work 1:1 to aid students who are struggling in completing their graphic organizers
  • Teacher will circulate throughout the classroom to ensure that students remain on task and complete their graphic organizers satisfactorily

Independent Activity 2: Writing a DBQ Essay

  • Students will write their essays as they get the green light from the teacher to begin
  • Students who are done early will be having a writing conference with the teacher to ensure that the writing prompt is answered fully.

DOK Questions: 

Lower Level:

  • Based on these three documents, state two differences between the economies of the North and South before the Civil War.
  • Based on this document, what was one argument the American Anti-Slavery society planned to use to promote abolition?
  • According to Thomas R. Dew, what is ONE reason slavery was important to Virginia?
  • Which states mostly supported the use of Federal military force to enforce laws – northern states or southern states? Mid-level- What does this indicate about their view on state’s rights?
  • Based on the image, which states mostly did not support the use of Federal military force (North/South) to enforce laws? Mid-level- What does this indicate about their view on state’s rights?
  • According to Eric Foner, suggest ONE reason Southern slave owners supported the expansion of slavery into the west.

Mid/Higher Order Questions:

  • Why was Stephen Phillips against the annexation of Texas?
  • Based on this document, what is ONE way in which these proposals favored the free states, mostly located in the North?
  • Based on this document, what is ONE way in which these proposals favored the slave holding states, mostly located in the South and West?
  • According to John B Gordon, what was the Southern point of view regarding the power of states under the Constitution?
  • According to John B Gordon, what was the Northern point of view regarding the power of states under the Constitution?
  • Based on this map, how could the election of 1860 & President Abraham Lincoln have contributed to sectional differences between the North and the South prior to the civil war?
  • Discuss economic, political, and/or social differences between the North and South that eventually led to the Civil war


  • 1 thing students think they did well
  • 1 area that students struggled with/ need improvement on

Informal/Formal Assessment: Graphic Organizers, DBQ packet, completed essay

DBQ – Causes of the Civil War_2.0

Thomas Fangmann

Sometimes I am very disappointed by digital history projects. The interface looks cutting edge, the features are hyped up, and the project relates to an important topic. However, when I attempt to actually use the resource I am usually overwhelmed by the sheer immensity of data and the open-endedness of the application. I may use the features for a short amount of time before I get bored and continue on to something else. Granted, sometimes the project concerns a field that I am not very interested in.

This was not the case when I explored Feeding America: The Historic American Cookbook Project from the Clements Library, University of Michigan. Because of my general interest in preserving historic cultural traditions and my job at a historic site, this digital history project seemed to apply directly to my interests. It is a collection of 75 representative samples of American cookbooks and other related texts spanning the period from 1798-1922. When I went to the website I was not met with some overwhelming interface, but with a list of links with information about how to use the project’s resources. This included an introductory video, an introductory essay, and other resources such as an FAQ section. After watching the 15-minute video, I got an idea of what the project included, the rationale behind it, and some of the digital preservation methods used. Furthermore, the introduction essay was an extremely useful resource that divided the project into useful categories based on time-period, ethnic groups, regions, and other areas of interest. The introductory essay also had a list of secondary sources related to the topic of American culinary history.

One of the very useful features of the project is the text searchability. Each document in the collection was scanned using methods to preserve the physical integrity of the sometimes-delicate historic documents. In addition to the scanned images of the actual historic documents, each document also has a text transcription which is searchable. The entire project is also text searchable through a search bar tab. The original documents are available in a downloadable PDF and are also visible online. Part of why I like this project is the straightforwardness of its presentation. Granted, it is not dealing with an immensity of small data points, but instead with discrete documents that can be easily separated from each other. Still, the user is essentially presented with the raw data concerning the collection, as opposed to an interface that represents the data in a potentially limited way.

One of the limitations of the project was the inclusion of only 75 representative examples of the over 7,000 culinary texts that are available in the University of Michigan collection. The introduction discusses early American colonists using pre-existing European cookbooks and resources and mentions the names of some prominent examples. These early resources, however, and not included in the project, with the first available resource being Simmons, American Cookery from 1798. The rationale for the representative selection is not explicitly stated, however the immense size of the collection may be a factor.

Overall, if your focus is American culinary traditions in general then this is potentially a very valuable resource. One of its strengths is that it contains documents that represent a variety of regions and ethnic groups as well as over 100 years of American history. Because my focus is largely the 17th and 18th centuries, this project has limited utility, although it does provide full and high-quality access to American Cookery. The main audience for this project appears to be those who have a serious interest in studying American social history. The accessibility of the project and the introductory resources available however, ensure that anybody with an interest in history and culture could find it useful.

This is a miniature lesson plan using digital tools. I made the choice of using YouTube because not only is it public, it is easily accessible. When history involves the public and technology it has to be simple. Also, videos are always under a time limit and as teachers are also under the same limitations, it is always good to include little sources that can sum up a lesson and save time for another project.


The United States faced unprecedented danger, instability, and uncertainty after the fall of the stock market and rise of Nazism. Franklin Roosevelt was elected president to gallop Americans to press through the hard times. Recognizing the leadership of Franklin D. Roosevelt, students will break down what the Four Freedom’s speech meant for Americans.

Objectives Students will be able to:

-Recognize context of words through critical thinking.

-Develop ideas and assertions with factual research that can create persuasive arguments.

-When writing persuasive speeches understanding the intended purpose.

-How create a speech for a particular topic of interest.


– Pamphlets of the four freedoms’ speech.

-Variety of materials relating to who FDR is.


  1. Brainstorm what words or traits that make an argument or speech persuasive.
  2. Pass out Pamphlet of Four Freedom speech.

15 min

  1. Through groups of 5 by rotation there will be some stations to watch specific YouTube videos on:


-Break down key traits and words in throughout the speech.

-What makes the speech credible that people want/do to believe and follow those words?

  1. Once the students have discovered the answer to the question, students will find pressing issues that can use the same persuasive arguments.

20 Min

  1. After the description is completed, students are to create a small speech of a particular topic.
  2. Upon completion, the speeches can be shared as a class along with one thing they found that was interesting during their research.

Assessment Culminating activity:

The students will listen to each other essays/speeches and develop persuasive argument tricks that can be used in writing essays and speeches.

Create a rubric based on lesson concepts to assess students’ completed work.

For my final project of the semester, I’ve decided to pursue a small matter of personal importance. This refers to the character of William K. Vanderbilt II, a later member of the Vanderbilt family and a well-known traveler and collector. Having been born 1873 and died in 1944, Vanderbilt had a number of interesting accomplishments in his lifetime. However, one that stands out among them all (to me at least) is the accumulation of a massive ethnographic and natural history collection, which Vanderbilt used to establish a museum on his summer estate. Unlike some contemporaries, who used collections like these for personal status, Vanderbilt established this museum with the intention of educating the public. As such, Vanderbilt’s museum was open to the public free of charge during his lifetime. With somewhere in the ballpark 30,000 marine specimens, the Vanderbilt museum boasted one of the largest private marine collections in the world during his time. Even after his death, Vanderbilt left his museum to Suffolk County with a mission statement that would keep his museum dedicated to the thoughtful education of the public. 

  That being said, if you were to look at Vanderbilt’s Wikipedia entry, you would find little to no reference to this collection or his museum. In fact, when I originally accessed the article, the only mention of the museum was made under the “legacy” section. The mention was rather problematic as well, as the paragraph incorrectly cited the museum as being opened to the public over a decade later than it actually had. It’s rather strange, considering that there is a separate page on the museum which is linked to on Vanderbilt’s page, but it isn’t given more attention by the article. As a member of the museum’s curatorial staff, I decided to fix the this issue. 

The first change that I made was to a section under the “Life as an Heir” section of the article, which briefly mentioned a trip the Galapagos that Vanderbilt had undertaken. This trip was significant, in that it was in this trip that Vanderbilt hired William Belanske, the man who would be the curator of his museum. As such, I added more information indicating that this happened. This also worked well to lead into the mention of the museum. The article had previously noted that Vanderbilt was an avid collector, so I built on that, mentioning the date that the museum was originally built. After that, I amended the “Legacy” section of the article, which wrongly attributed the creation of the public museum to the tragic death of Vanderbilt’s son in 1933. As large of an impact as the death might have made, the documentation showed that the public museum had been in operation since 1922, over a decade before the event. Fortunately, someone had already created a link to 

In all honesty, editing the article was relatively easy. While it could be done anonymously, I opted to sign up for an account with Wikipedia for the sake of seeing updates to what I’d done so far. All that was required for that was a name, password, and optionally an email. Once that was done, all that I had to do was edit the article itself, which wasn’t to different from editing a Word document. One notable difference was that, in order to add citations to the text, you had to insert them by way of coding (a quick google search showed me the command I needed to do it.) Of course, it’s always preferable to cite sources, and I included the link to the museum’s history webpage. Afterwards, there is an interesting section that asks you to describe what you did. All in all, the process was fairly straightforward. 

As for why I went through the trouble of this at all, I would say that it was a good experience in working with public history. On top of that, it was a bit troubling to see that one facet of Vanderbilt’s life given so little attention on the article. As historians in training, it’s important to remain savvy on how to navigate sources like Wikipedia. Hopefully, if all goes well, my changes will stick, and maybe someone will find them useful in the future!

The Louisiana Purchase is often sidelined in favor of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, itself the context for the latter, but Rhoda Blumberg’s What’s the Deal? Jefferson, Napoleon, and the Louisiana puts the infamous deal in the spotlight. Aimed at young adult readers, What’s the Deal? simplifies the historical context, main players, and political intrigue involved in sealing the final deal. Written in an engaging, factual style, Blumberg brings the history to life for readers living two years after the events took place, making learning about a seemingly-insignificant event fleshed out for contemporary young readers.

The book is organized chronologically, with separate ‘episodes’ within the history before and after the signing of the Louisiana Purchase taking up their own space (such as a chapter on the Haitian Revolution. The book begins with a “Cast of Characters,” introducing the reader to the main players in the France, Spain, England, the United States, and Haiti, divided by their importance, social rank, and position. One notable omission is that of Jean-Jacques Dessalines (1758-1806), the first Haitian head of state who defeated the Napoleonic forces bent on conquering Haiti– not Toussaint Louverture, as credited in the book. The book successfully links the various interests of the key players in the unfolding of the Louisiana Purchase, unwinding the circuitous backroom deals and intrigue that led to the acquisition of Louisiana by the French, the relationships between US citizens and French spies, the interests of the Spanish versus those of the US, the debates around westward expansion, and the role of the Haitian Revolution in thwarting the plans of the world’s mightiest imperial powers. The prose is simple, and lends to easy, direct understanding of the topic, but does not make the book any less intellectually stimulating. There are plenty of quotations from primary sources, which do not take away from the narrative, but strengthen the compelling nature of Blumberg’s storytelling. As well, the anecdotes further strengthen the narrative, and allow for amusing moments in the prose (Napoleon’s bath being interrupted by his dissenting brother (92) is particularly memorable). A perusal of the notes and bibliography reveal a book that was well-researched, with some flaws, but, nonetheless, Blumberg’s thorough use of primary and secondary sources allows for deft handling of the topic at hand.

What’s the Deal?, like any book is by no means perfect. While it seeks to come across as impartial, it often passes moral judgments and takes a conciliatory tone towards colonialism. The most egregious failing is its Eurocentric viewpoint, minimizing the role of slavery in imperial Atlantic cultures and economies while lionizing the role of European statesmen and agents. Slavery is little mentioned, even when it made possible the maintenance of European empires and ensured their economic prosperity. As well, the Haitian Revolution is given a side role in Napoleon’s decision to abandon the American colonies, and even neglects to mention the brutality of the slave regime that led to the revolt. In a similar vein, there is no overview of the French Revolution, its demands, its effects on France’s overseas territories, and on the common people across French territory, which is key to the sympathy of the US to France, the rise of Napoleon, and the unfolding of the Haitian Revolution. This glaring omission may be reflective of an elitist worldview held by Blumberg that focuses on the ‘great men’ of history, while overlooking the regular people, and also making anachronistic judgments on the past. Blumberg uses the epithet “dictator” on Napoleon and Louverture, even though both of them were by no means dictators in the modern sense, even though their governing styles suffered little dissent. “Dictator” in the modern usage implies moral failings, extreme repression, and almost a maniacal desire for power and control, and are not applicable to the militaristic rule of the two leaders. As well, Blumberg accepts US westward expansion as an utter inevitability, something that must happen, no matter the cost, and without any discussion of the indigenous peoples living on the land, their coming displacement, or even contemporary views of the idea from people who were not statesmen. A further plaint regards the profusion of art and political cartoons throughout the book: while many are relevant to the subject matter upon the page, such as that of Thomas Jefferson vomiting up the money paid to the French for Louisiana (109), others, such as a portrait of Napoleon famously painted after his 1815 defeat at Waterloo (12 years after the Louisiana Purchase), are out of place and reveal a lack of research or care taken in choosing the art used in the book.

While imperfect, What’s the Deal? is a strong introduction to Atlantic politics at the turn of the nineteenth century, as it revolved around the Louisiana Purchase. It connects the various political issues of its day in the main countries involved, as well as introducing readers to the little-covered Haitian Revolution. It is a potential springboard for further research, but is a helpful introduction to the convoluted history that led to the Louisiana Purchase itself. It presents a clear and compelling historical overview of the period and is as an entertaining read as it is edifying.





Blumberg, Rhoda. What’s the Deal? Jefferson, Napoleon, and the Louisiana Purchase. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 1998.

The digital archive “”  (The International Association for the Preservation of Spiritualist and Occult Periodicals) is an online resource that allows open access to a vast quantity of digitized newspapers, books, and journals written about Spiritualism and the occult.  The material they intend to preserve focuses on the period “between the Congress of Vienna (1814) and the start of the Second World War (1939)” and  covers publications most prominently from the United States but also France, Germany, and the United Kingdom.  The IAPSOP was formed in 2009 in an effort to digitally preserve Spiritualist and occult periodicals when the founding members noticed libraries began removing many of these materials from their collections.  This digital history project is open to exploration by students, researchers, and the general public, though it is solely online; the IAPSOP has no physical structure other than servers.

Currently, the archive contains more than 8,000 book-length texts that can be searched by title, author, or publication date via their downloadable corpus (  Just as important, the IAPSOP also houses periodicals organized by publication title and numerous “mail order lessons” on becoming a Spiritualist written by historical “drivers” of the various movements.  All items housed within the database are scanned as PDFs and are backed up via Google Drive and Amazon Web Services – with additional copies held offline should their online repository services ever become disrupted.  The IAPSOP is kept running by a small unpaid board of directors and a network of student and researcher volunteers who offer their time scanning and categorizing occult materials.

The power of the IAPSOP is in the sheer quantity of material they have amassed in the past nine years; to read through their entire collection is an impossible task.  It also serves as a deterrent.  On the homepage are lists of periodicals recommended for beginners, grouped by national interest; but even these offerings provide a somewhat daunting endeavor for a newcomer.  I have had the opportunity to write to Marc Demarest (a director of the IAPSOP) and receive answers to my questions regarding website search functions and their online presence (or lack there of).  I asked if they would consider including an overarching timeline of major publications or highlights of the various movements their documents chronicle.  Understanding, of course, this would be a difficult challenge; as attempting to determine what is important is not necessarily the role of a standard archive.  Also noting there are no readymade links to profiles of – or works by – specific authors, rather they are simply organized by year of publication with a last name appended to the entry.  Mr. Demarest replied their primary users are either “working historians […] occult practitioners, or genealogists” and not the casual user.  As such, those seeking specific information should already have a basic understanding of research methods and be able to find what they need with little trouble – though anyone is welcome to send an e-mail inquiry.  Mr. Demarest also made it known the archive operates under a non-commercial-use Creative Commons license, essentially allowing users to extract the archive’s data and organize it however they see fit (as long as no monetization of the material occurs). 

Another feature that is currently not offered by the archive is transcribed text (a plain formatted text document to accompany the scans).  The materials that have been digitized are “full-text indexed” and as such, screen readers can make an attempt at “reading” the pages.  With some of the documents dating over 150 years old, it can make the voice synthesis process difficult/unintelligible  no matter how high quality the digital scan might be.  This would be a massive undertaking for the institution but Mr. Demarest has informed me that should an individual (or group) wish to supply the material, the IAPSOP would be willing to host it, if it is found useful. 

Finally, I asked Mr. Demarest why I had not seen a “strong social media presence” from the archive.  I believe my wording to be incorrect and wish to apologize for any implication which portrayed a social media presence is required.  My question would be better phrased as “What are the reasons the IAPSOP does not have social media accounts?” and Mr. Demarest had initially understood that to be my question and answered accordingly.  He informs me the IAPSOP spreads the word through their international community network, whether “e-mail, Slack, [or] the conference circuit” and that these members do a sufficient job of sharing the archive.  Because the archive is not attempting the reach the general public, he does not feel the need to delve into the “toxic” waters of social media and take on the yet-another daunting task of constantly updating multi-platform accounts.  I am inclined to agree with Mr. Demarest on “why make more work?”

Relying on volunteers and donations can severely limit the capabilities of digital history, though I am extremely grateful such an organization exists.  I would like to thank the IAPSOP board of directors and especially Marc Demarest for all of the time and effort they have put into the collection as well as taking a moment to answer my questions.  This has been a fantastic introduction into how digital history is changing the landscape of accessibility of research and I plan to offer my services whenever I have the opportunity in order to help preserve this catalog for future generations.

Spam prevention powered by Akismet

Skip to toolbar