Category Archives: Teaching

Marcus M. Porter’s Eternal Bivouac

Evergreen Cemetery in Stoughton, MA

Evergreen Cemetery in Stoughton, MA

Yesterday students in my Civil War Memory class handed in their final projects. They are amazing and reflect a good deal of research and creativity. Students researched Civil War monuments and memorials in their own communities or designed their own for a specific location. One student created a video that explored a number of Civil War monuments in Stoughton, including this unusual grave marker, which I thought was worth sharing.

From Find A Grave:

Marcus Morton Porter (1841-1921). Porter enlisted as a private on October 15,1862, in Company G, 47th Massachusetts Infantry, and was mustered out on September 1, 1863. He was a member of Post 72, GAR. Porter became a member of the Old Stoughton Musical Society in 1893 and served as the society’s president from 1911 to 1913.

This particular student admitted that she has never enjoyed living in Stoughton, but that working on this project left her feeling more closely connected to her community.

Mission Accomplished.

Jefferson Davis Welcomes Students Studying Civil Rights Movement

Jefferson Davis Monument

Jefferson Davis Monument

On Sunday I head out with roughly 35 students and 3 colleagues for a 5-day tour of the Civil Rights South. We’ve been meeting with students to give them a broad outline of the history and questions that will be covered as we travel from Atlanta to Memphis.

One of my main responsibilities will be to help students make connections between the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement through a close examination of monuments and memorials. I want students to understand that the visual reminders of the civil rights struggle are fairly recent additions to the landscape and that they exist in some tension with reminders of the Civil War and the Lost Cause. Continue reading

12 Years A Slave Wins Best Picture

Check out Mary Niall Mitchell’s Common-place essay on the backstory of 12 Years.

As many of you now know, last night 12 Years A Slave won Oscars for Best Picture, Actress in a Supporting Role, and Adapted Screenplay. Congratulations to Steve McQueen, John Ridley, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Brad Pitt, and the rest of the cast and crew for making this important movie.

“Everyone deserves not just to survive, but to live. This is the most important legacy of Solomon Northup,” – Steve McQueen

“Cruel, unjust, exploitative, oppressive, slavery bound two peoples together in bitter antagonism…” – Eugene Genovese

There are plans to bring this movie to classrooms across the country. Stay tuned.

When Students From Boston Go South To Study Civil Rights

In a little over three weeks I will be heading out with roughly 35 students on a civil rights tour of the South. Our trip will take us from Atlanta, Georgia to Memphis, Tennessee. Along the way we will stop at some of the most important sites related to the civil rights struggle and talk with various participants, including a Freedom Rider who was on the bus that was firebombed in Anniston, Alabama. My primary responsibility along the way will be to help students make connections with the Civil War and Reconstruction era through the interpretation of various public sites including monuments and buildings. It promises to be an enlightening and enjoyable trip for all involved and yet I have some concerns. Continue reading

“A Ludicrous Tragedy or a Solemn Farce”

Today in my survey class we examined newspaper editorials from across the country in the wake of John Brown’s raid at Harpers Ferry in October 1859. The goal of the lesson was to learn how to interpret newspapers and to get a sense of the extent of the sectional divide over Brown’s actions. Students tracked assessments of Brown that bridged North and South and ways in which they diverged. Even more interesting was watching them come to terms with the fact that not everyone in each region agreed on what Brown’s actions meant. Students struggled quite a bit with an editorial from Nashville, Tennessee. Continue reading