Thinking About the Shaw Memorial and Civil War Memory

Tomorrow morning I will be spending some time online with a group of 7th and 8th graders, who are attending a Civil War institute that my friend and fellow teacher, Chris Lese, put together in Milwaukee. This guy is doing amazing things in the classroom and I am thrilled to be a part of it.

I am going to focus on the Shaw Memorial here in Boston and the broader subject of memory. As most of you know my teaching career has been on the high school level and beyond so I don’t mind admitting that I am just a bit nervous about this particular session. I put together a couple of slides including one that features monuments to a wide range of historical figures and events, which I will use to ask the question of why we feel a need to remember and commemorate the past at all. From there I can move into Civil War monuments and the Shaw Memorial.

For those of you more familiar with junior high school students what questions would you ask to encourage reflection on what is a fairly abstract subject? Thanks for your help.

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6 comments… add one
  • stampdxer Jul 10, 2014 @ 12:13

    Guy named Russell Duncan gave talk last year at conference on african Americans in the civil war.. 2nd South Carolina vs the 54th. Pretty interesting..

    One point he makes, one was fighting for freedom the other for equality.

    Video is at this site..

    Click on videos.. His talk , about 15 min duration starts at about minute 9.

    Runs in my mind that he is also writing a book on the subject.

    Russell Duncan -Professor of History and Social Studies in the English-Speaking World, University of Copenhagen

    Here is a video that I bookmarked. Can’t recall why. Pretty good talk on the memorial..

    Check out this video on YouTube:

    Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Regiment Memorial

    • Kevin Levin Jul 10, 2014 @ 13:09

      Russell Duncan wrote a biography of Robert Gould Shaw and edited his letters for publication some time ago. Both are well worth reading.

  • Kathleen Wyer Lane Jul 8, 2014 @ 11:07

    Hi Kevin

    Meg is on target in her assessment of middle school children. Before I add my suggestions, forgive any errors. I have to use my smart phone to post here and I often make mistakes.

    What I remember about Kids is that they love gore So in order to soften their disappointed (I assume that your lecture won’t be about this) Below are my thoughts.

    In another life, I was an elementary school teacher. So here are my suggestions. I assume that the Shaw Memorial and your lecture will center on Or touch on the 54th and their battle in South Carolina. They would be interested to know that:

    Slaves were not waiting at the gates of Tara for Denzel to liberate them. They were not all from the North. In other words, the majority of the men in the USCT were from Southern states. South Carolina was one of them.
    That women in South Carolina served in the Civil War, too.

    Two women who served in the Civil War as nurses in South Carolina were Susie King with the South Carolina Volunteers (I am not sure of the Regiment number ) Susie King’s autobiography is on line on Documenting the South. She is also mentioned at the link below. Which I will describe shortly.

    The other nurse and more familiar name is Harriet Tubman. We often remember as a leader of the UNGRR where according to her biographer, Dr Kate Larsen, Harriet said she led approximately 70 people to Freedom. That’s light stuff as compared to the hundreds she freed in a raid in South Carolina under Montgomery’s command. She was the only woman in the Civil War who led men into battle.There’s a great video of Larsen’s lecture that I’m sure that the students would enjoy.

    Finally, the link below will take you to a marvelous website that’s presented by the National Institutes of Health Museum. Binding Wounds is the history of black nurses and doctors who served in the Civil War. A photo of Susie King and a brief bio is included.Please Note that on the right side of the page is a set of lesson plans that target the age group of the students you will be addressing. The site is chock full of photos which this age group will enjoy.

    Also either the National Archives has lots of photos of Civil War soldiers.


  • Meg Thompson Jul 8, 2014 @ 9:00

    Ask then what they think makes something memorable–what qualities evoke those mystic chords of memory for a 21st century techno-wizard? Then go from those answers to what about the Shaw Memorial, Shaw, the Civil War, etc. parallels these experiences.

    7th & 8th graders–in general, of course, are pretty much “me” centered. They are making that initial break from being part of a family unit to becoming a separate unit on their own, so much of their processing is narcissistic.

    At least you have a real person to work with! I have to make numbers and letters matter to them! lol

    Middle school kids are a little rough around the edges, as it should be, but they are also wonderful–caught in that in-between time that lies amid childhood and being an outright teenager. I love them!

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