A couple of weeks ago I was informed that I was selected for one of this year's Golden Apple Teaching Awards. It's a wonderful way to end another year in the classroom and today is the awards ceremony over at the Rotunda at the University of Virginia. Awards are given to teachers in both the private and public schools here in Charlottesville and Albemarle County. We have excellent public schools so it will be nice to be able to meet some of the best from that sector. Supposedly there will be a great deal of news coverage so if you live here in the C-Ville area check out th evening news and the Daily Progress for more information. You may even get to see my ugly mug. I will post some pics later this evening.
I couldn't be more pleased that in the next few years I will be spending much more time writing for and working with fellow history teachers. Next semester my Civil War elective will be beta-testing a simulation for the Valley of the Shadow Project which allows students to take on one of the characters in the database and interact with one another in response to changing events from the eve of the war through to the end and into Reconstruction. After the fall semester is completed I will be joining the developer of the software in writing a Teaching American History Grant for further development at which time we will set up workshops with public school teachers to demonstrate what can be done with the program in the classroom. Next February I will run a workshop with my friend and colleague, Professor Robert Kenzer of the University of Richmond, for public school teachers on how to teach the Civil War and the Lost Cause in the classroom. Given our current project on Ken Burns we will probably focus on how to use The Civil War in the classroom along with other secondary and primary documents.
To all of my fellow teachers, congratulations on another year doing the best job in the world. I wish all of you a restful and enjoyable summer vacation.
Wait…if they make the lettering just a little smaller they should be able to fit the Confederate flag on the right side. The state can then offer a two-for-one deal. Read the story here.
I am reading Rick Perlstein's new book on Richard Nixon and the rise of modern conservatism, titled Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America. It's quite good and I highly recommend it. I am reading through the chapter on Ronald Reagan's run for governor of California; at one point Perlstein sketches the culture wars of the mid-1960s and the moral panic that led many California conservatives to view Reagan as their guy. One example he uses is an excerpt from a review of historian John Hope Franklin's Land of the Free (1966). The publication in question concluded that it:
destroys pride in America's past, develops a guilt complex, mocks American justice, indoctrinates toward Communism, is hostile to religious concepts, overemphasizes Negro participation in American history, projects negative thought models, criticizes business and free enterprise, plays politics, foments class hatred, slants and distorts facts and promotes propaganda and poppycock.
Hey Horowitz…you got nothin' on this guy.
Historian Edward Renehan admitted to stealing a March 1, 1840, letter written by Lincoln and two by Washington,
one written on Aug. 9, 1791 and one written and signed on Dec. 29, 1778. Renehan later sold them to a New York gallery for $97,000, according the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan. He is the author of a number of books, the most recent being Commodore: The Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt. The Newsday snippet included a short reference to Renehan's bipolar disorder which was undiagnosed during 2005 and 2006 at the time of the thefts. I want to quote Renehan's own thoughts on this very serious mental disorder:
I was diagnosed as "type 2" bipolar (aka, manic depressive) in 2007.
This is a progressive biochemical disorder from which I've evidently
suffered for a very long time, perhaps even since adolescence, and
which had reached a grave critical mass in recent years. I am currently
under treatment, on meds that my doctor and I are fine-tuning, and I am
slowly learning how to cope more efficiently and constructively than I
have in the past. (In the meantime, I continue to pick up the shattered
pieces from one of my last great, extended hypo-manias.) I only mention
the bipolar issue because I approve of the movement of sufferers who
are "outing" themselves, discussing the disorder, and thus working to
remove the stigma that surrounds it.
Information about bipolar disorder can be found here. This crime comes with a maximum 10-year prison sentence, but I do hope that given the circumstances the court will be lenient.
This is the perfect time for a controversy surrounding how to remember Martin Luther King. [Read the story here and read Eugene Robinson’s editorial.] My classes recently finished a book on the Civil Rights Movement and we had a chance to talk in detail about the differences between King and Malcolm X and organizations such as the SCLC, CORE, SNCC, and the Black Panther Party. It is no accident that King and the SCLC remain closer to the hearts of mainstream America than the more "radical" figures – whatever that means. It’s interesting to me that when it comes to our own revolution that we have little trouble handling the more extreme elements in the urban centers such as the Sons of Liberty who engaged in blatant acts of intimidation and destruction against the British. It’s the more conservative elements that often take a back seat in terms of our support and sympathies, but that’s another story.
A close look at the respective trajectories of King and Malcolm suggests that as King was becoming even more confrontational Malcolm was moving in the opposite direction and yet our collective memory has frozen them in time in ways that seem to serve our own purposes as opposed to historical accuracy. I dare say that most white Americans prefer the image of King on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial giving his "Dream" speech rather than his later speeches in 1967-68 against the Vietnam War. In the case of the former King spoke for our shared values in contrast with an aggressive posture against America’s foreign policy in Vietnam and a strong sense of betrayal. Even with the images of "Bull" Connor’s dogs in Birmingham and the tear gas on the Edmund Pettus Bridge we still do our best to remember the 1960s as a relatively peaceful transition where morality and justice ultimately prevailed. We prefer our King to be open-armed, if only as a way to reinforce our deeply-held beliefs about the innate goodness of America. We need to believe that slavery and Jim Crow were simply aberrations within the "City Upon a Hill."
Eugene Robinson nails it in today’s column in the Washington Post:
Here’s what is really going on: It’s clear that some people would
prefer to remember King as some sort of paragon of forbearance who,
through suffering and martyrdom, shamed the nation into doing the right
thing. In truth, King was supremely impatient. He was a man of action
who used pressure, not shame, to change the nation. The Montgomery bus
boycott, to cite just one example, was less an act of passive
resistance than a campaign of economic warfare. Yes, he knew that
televised images of black people walking miles to work would help mold
opinion around the world. But he also knew that depriving the bus
companies of needed revenue would hit the Jim Crow system where it
I agree with Robinson that a "choice between Martin Luther King whose saintly martyrdom redeemed the soul of white America and a
defiant Martin Luther King who changed the nation through the force of
his indomitable will, I’ll take the latter." Lei Yixin, one of China’s foremost sculptors, has done an outstanding job depicting King. While a number of people have protested over the hiring of a Chinese sculptor I find it just a bit ironic given that a large number of black Americans in the post-WWI era engaged in political protest against Jim Crow from within various socialist and communist organizations. I highly recommend Glenda Gilmore’s Defying Dixie: The Radical Roots of Civil Rights, 1919-1950 for more on this. The book will surely win a number of awards next year.
Yixin’s King serves as a reminder that fundamental change throughout this country’s history has rarely taken place without demands and a defiant stand.