Friday, November 30, 2007

Making the Past Personal: Autobiography and the Civil War

You are to compose an autobiographical essay--taking the identity of someone during the Civil War period--fleshing out the context of the times (taken from reading, discussion, textbook, and Glory). Another option is to write historical fiction--create your own character for the time period, and use someone's life (found in a primary source) as the basis for your story.

Perhaps you wish to be a Civil War doctor working in a field hospital, or maybe a member of the 54th Massachusetts, or an ordinary citizen who witnessed (and survived) William T. Sherman's scorched earth campaign. The possibilities are limitless.

Whatever approach you decide to take--autobiographical essay or historical fiction--you must use, quote, and cite at least one primary source in your paper. Your essay must be 12-point font, Times New Roman, 1" margins, double spaced, and at least 1 page but no more than 2 pages. Cite your lone primary source (in MLA format) at the very end of your paper. In addition, your name goes on the first line of the first page, then double space and begin your essay.

The end of your textbook contains primary documents (in the DBQ sections), or you may wish to search around for primary documents here, here, here, here, here, here, or here. See tons of Civil War pictures here. And yes, you could even take on the identity of a Civil War photographer, with all of the relevant information about photography at the time.

I look forward to see who you are on Monday.....and remember you have a Civil War/Reconstruction quiz on Tuesday.....

[For more on the photo, click here and here.]

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Merry Chri$tma$ with Rev. Billy

If you've seen Super Size Me, then you will want to go see this documentary. It opens at the River Oaks theatre in Houston on Dec. 7. Check it out. Read some reviews of the film here.

[Photo credit here.]

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The "Reel" Civil War 1.0

As part of our study of the Civil War, we will view clips from the 1989 film Glory. It is about the 54th Massachusetts--the first all-black regiment of the Civil War. Read more about the 54th here, here, and here (this link takes you to a reenactor group from Boston).

Whereas the video worksheet I provide will allow you to follow along, the primary task before you is to compose an essay in response to the film. This is not a film review, but taking Glory as your que coupled with notes, thoughts, and ideas from reading and class discussion, this assignment is an analytical essay that will address the role of African Americans in the Civil War.

A film and American history project at Lehigh University provides us with some helpful reading points, and discussion questions. Click here for the movie's website. Stay a while to check it out.

For Tuesday

So, for Tuesday's discussion, I'd like you to respond to the questions relating to film and history. Click here and scroll down to the questions ("Specific Questions About Film and History").

The Assignment: Pick 2 of the questions you think are the most important, and respond in the comments section. Then, answer this question: what is the most powerful and important "historical" film you've seen? Why? (It doesn't necessarily have to be a film related to U.S. history.)

For Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday
Prior to viewing clips from Glory, familiarize yourself with the film--specifically the filmography and synopsis, and most important the historical context. You may wish to check out the photo gallery as well. There may be another blog assignment for Friday. Stay tuned.

On Thursday or Friday we will talk in more detail about the specifics of the essay. The essay is due Monday, December 3.

[Photo credit here.]

Friday, November 23, 2007

In the News

Starting today, Houston priest and Archbishop Daniel DiNardo becomes a cardinal.

See a KHOU newstory here, his Houston-Galveston Archdiocese bio here, newstories from Pittsburgh, the priest's old stomping grounds (read here also).

Finally, Houston Chronicle religion reporter Tara Dooley blogs about DiNardo here, and writes about DiNardo here.

[Photo credit here.]

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sudan & Darfur

Read basic facts about Sudan here and here and here, focusing on geography, people, economy, and government. Click here for a map.

The British colonized Sudan in the 19th century, and the country achieved independence in 1956.
Civil war plagued the southern part of the country for many years after that, and in 2005 a Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed. Sadly, John Garang (listen to an interview with Garang here), the major southern figure who devoted his life to the cause, died in a helicopter crash in 2005. In 2003 serious conflict erupted in the Darfur region in the western part of the country. Compounded by environmental stresses like drought, government-backed militia wreaked havoc across Darfur--similar to the practices perpetuated in the south for so long. Read about the Janjaweed here, and read survivor stories here. China, among other countries, is heavily invested in Sudan, a rather complicated matter.

For the work of Sudanese artists, click here. For survivor stories from the South (sometimes called the "lost boys"), read here, and listen to a Sudanese rapper who survived civil war here. Survivor Francis Bok visited SBS three years ago. Read here and here also, and watch this.

Topics for Tuesday and Wednesday discussion:

1. history of Sudan

2. geography of Sudan

3. origins of southern conflict, Darfur conflict

4. realities of war

5. survivor stories

6. the future of Sudan

If this is a topic that interests you and you wish to read something further, read Jok Madut Jok's new book, Dave Eggers' book, or check out some of the latest offerings about Darfur. Check out the "Not On Our Watch" site also.

Bringing attention to Sudan is something I've spent some time doing, and once helped to bring some speakers to Houston. After clicking Houston click on "Search the archive...." and type in Imperative to Act. You will see links to two presentations; one with Mark Bixler and one with Jerry Fowler. I make a cameo appearance in the Bixler segment about 10 minutes in. Make sure you listen to the entire Bixler presentation, though, and make time to listen to Jerry Fowler's talk. He's been on the ground in Darfur.

The "Stop Genocide in Sudan" picture is the design of a t-shirt one of my former students had made a couple of years ago, whereas the other shot is a picture of Sudan along the Nile River.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Listening to Hear, Hearing to Listen

Students at Princeton have composed an entire symphony on computers. Listen here.

And related to recent class discussions: Wintley Phipps (read here, too) offers a history lesson on the spirituals, and sings Amazing Grace. It is unforgettable and just moving. Watch and listen here.

A Journey with History: The Road to the Civil War

Read the textbook pages associated with the following events, items, and developments, and in your own words discuss the significance of each and how each related to the Civil War.

Bring your answers to class on Monday, as I will collect this assignment.

Wilmont Proviso 1846 (pp. 388-91)

Election of 1848 (pp. 390-92)

Compromise of 1850 (pp. 397-401)

Fugitive Slave Law 1850 (pp. 395-96)

Uncle Tom’s Cabin 1852 (pp. 409-411)

Election of 1852 (p. 401)

Ostend Manifesto 1854 (pp. 403-04)

Kansas-Nebraska Act 1854 (pp. 406-07)

Election of 1856 (pp. 415-17)

Dred Scott v. Sanford 1857 (pp. 417-18)

Lincoln—Douglass debates (pp. 421-22)

John Brown’s Raid 1859 (pp. 422-24)

Election of 1860 (pp. 427-28)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Stirring Thoughts and Brewing Discussion

I feel these weekly posts are becoming the same old grind, so I thought I'd offer something refreshing......

This week's post features an absolutely amazing presentation by historian Bryant Simon. He discusses the cultural meaning of Starbucks, and the social meanings of coffee, consumption, and commodification. As something of a coffee addict, I find his thoughts stirring and provocative at the same time, as do I the musings of Anthony Wild, author of Coffee: A Dark History.

I must admit, however, that I'm quickly becoming a fan of Dunkin' Donuts coffee.

I am confident Simon's forthcoming book on Starbucks will stir up great discussion--conducted over a cup of coffee of course. In the meantime, I hope his thoughts elicit stirring responses on the class blog. (I promise to never again use a stir pun three times in one blogpost; it feels like this one is going around and around.)
Also, perhaps this article may open some discussion as well.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Podcasting the Past

Here's a link to Friday's podcast, and you can find the lecture outline below. Remember, it may take a minute for the podcast to download, and don't forget that your writing assignment is due Monday 11/12.

I. Review of 19th century
a. transatlantic slave trade
b. Periodization
c. European countries involved
d. Middle Passage
e. Americas destinations (Brazil, Caribbean, North America)
f. Slavery in 19th century U.S. tied to labor, capitalism, sugar, cotton, rice, tobacco

II. Setting the Context
a. Lincoln’s Second Inaugural

III. Christianity in Antebellum America
a. revival and reform
b. racial categories informed cultural understanding, customs, traditions
c. white Christianity
d. black Christianity

IV. How did white Christians understand Christianity, slavery, and the Bible, and how did black Christians understand Christianity, slavery, and the Bible? Compare and contrast.
a. biographies of Douglass, Walker, Dew
b. discussion of life experiences, documents, document analysis

[Photo credit here.]

Friday, November 2, 2007

Tocqueville 2.0

Another Tocqueville post for installment #4 this nine weeks.

One of your U.S. history classmates sent along this article about Tocqueville, which I think helpfully provides a way to extend the discussion we started this week. You may also want to listen to the first 4 or 5 minutes of this radio show from the great program Speaking of Faith. This show is titled "The Religious Roots of American Democracy."

So, just like the questions I posed for the previous extra credit Tocqueville essay, I ask them again here in light of this essay and radio program:

1. According to Tocqueville, is religion a necessary part of democratic society? Why or why not?

2. Do you think Tocqueville agreed or disagreed with the First Amendment? Why or why not?

And a third question:

3. If Tocqueville were around today what do you think he would say about the relationship between religion and democracy and America's future--particularly in an age of war, globalization, etc.?

I look forward to hearing what you have to say, especially after this week's discussion of Tocqueville.

[Photo credit here.]