Students Debate the Confederate Flag

It’s nice to see students talking to one another in the safety of a classroom about the Confederate flag. I am not sure where this debate took place. What I don’t get the sense of, however, is that students have been prepped in any way by their teacher about the history of the flag, though it is clear that a few students have done a little research. Click here for a recent post in which I outline one way that a middle or high school teacher can teach the controversy surrounding the memory of the Confederate flag. Continue reading “Students Debate the Confederate Flag”

Selling Slaves in “Grant’s Petersburg Progress”?

Four weeks into my undergraduate research seminar at the American Antiquarian Society and things could not be going better. I am lucky to have an incredibly thoughtful group of students. Today we discussed the first half of James McPherson’s For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War with two students leading the seminar. We took apart McPherson’s argument, the organization of the individual chapters and also compared it with the argument made in Gary Gallagher’s The Union War, which we discussed last week.

For the second hour we worked with curator Vincent Golden on Civil War newspapers, specifically Union regimental/camp newspapers. The AAS has an impressive collection from throughout the war and includes substantial runs of individual titles. I remember seeing them referenced in Chandra Manning’s What This Cruel War Was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War, but I believe she is the exception among Civil War historians. My hope is that at least one student will make use of these newspapers for the final research paper. Continue reading “Selling Slaves in “Grant’s Petersburg Progress”?”

Teaching the Confederate Flag Controversy

Schools across the United States are dealing with the question of what to do about displays of the Confederate flag on campus. Last week around two dozen students in Christiansburg, Virginia were suspended and this week a school in Michigan requested that students leave the flag at home. Unfortunately, we are hearing little to nothing about whether schools are taking the opportunity to educate their students about this controversy. This is a unique opportunity for history/social studies departments to step in and try to help their students make sense of the long and complicated history of the Confederate flag. There are likely a number of reasons why this does not appear to be taking place. With that in mind I offer one possible approach to dealing with this issue in the classroom. Please pass this on to teachers and other educators who might be in need of some guidance. I am now scheduling talks and workshops with schools and individual classes. You can find more information about how I can help here

On July 10, 2015 the Confederate battle flag was removed from the grounds of the state capital of South Carolina in Columbia, where it had flown since 1962, following the murder of nine members of the AME Emmanuel Church in Charleston. The decision to lower the flag and the national debate that ensued concerning the display of the Confederate flag in public places was fueled by the alleged shooter’s written testimony that he hoped his actions would inspire a race war as well as the release of photographs of the individual with Confederate flags. Continue reading “Teaching the Confederate Flag Controversy”

Teaching the Historian’s Craft at the American Antiquarian Society

So far I am thoroughly enjoying teaching my research seminar at the American Antiquarian Society. I have a really nice group of students from four different colleges in the Worcester area. They come with varying backgrounds and interests, but they all seem to be motivated. Tomorrow will be our third meeting. As I’ve mentioned before, the class is divided between a reading list and work in the archives itself. The readings are of course important, but what the students are primarily interested in is learning how to use the archives. In short, they want to get their hands dirty.

AAS Students Working With Archival Sources
AAS Students Working With Archival Sources

It’s been an interesting challenge in thinking through the steps it takes to familiarize students with the research process. Last week we discussed Louis Masur’s brief history of the Civil War before giving students their first exposure to actual documents. I had an AAS curator pull together six documents from their graphic arts collection and talk briefly with the group about how to think about these sources. I then divided the group into pairs to work with a single source. Students used the document analysis worksheets provided by the National Archives to explore their assigned source. We discussed the purpose of each source and tried to identify as many motifs and themes as possible. It’s a start. Continue reading “Teaching the Historian’s Craft at the American Antiquarian Society”

Portrait of J.E.B. Stuart Removed From Courtroom in Virginia

On August 19 Judge Martin Clark removed Stuart’s portrait from Patrick County, Virginia’s Circuit Court courtroom. Yesterday he offered a lengthy explanation for his actions and is well worth reading. On a side note, if I were teaching my Civil War memory class this year my students would be reading and discussing this document. It raises a number of relevant questions about the intersection of history, public memory and justice. Continue reading “Portrait of J.E.B. Stuart Removed From Courtroom in Virginia”