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tv   The Civil War Teaching Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War  CSPAN  March 6, 2021 6:00pm-7:21pm EST

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looks back 75 years at winston churchill's iron curtain speech in 1946 at westminster college in fulton, missouri and in three hours remarks by former british prime minister margaret thatcher at westminster college in 1996. she spoke about churchill's iconic cold war speech and about the 1991 collapse of the soviet union. well, we are going to have a panel discussion now on teaching abraham lincoln and the civil war. my name is jonathan white and i'm the vice chairman of the lincoln forum, and i'm so glad to have all of you here today. we're going to be bringing in a wonderful panel. we have william c davis caroline janney tamika nunley and craig simons, and they will be coming in right now as they turn on their cameras and unmute and the way i wanted to start this off is actually to have each of our panelists introduce themselves to you rather than have me read
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a long introduction for each person, and i i want to have them talk about how they became interested in the american civil war where they teach what sort of classes they teach and how they think about teaching lincoln and the civil war. um, we have jack davis coming in here and we'll have jack go first and then we'll carry go second and then tamika and then craig and then i will bring up the rear. so, let's see jack if you can unmute yourself and turn on your camera. go right ahead. okay. how i got interested i was born in independence, missouri. which because pretty much on the fringes of the civilization prior to the civil war and of course it's the center of what was a very different sort of war. as a result of which my grandparents dinner table on sunday. it was still a fairly lively
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topic of conversation. my my grandmother's grandfather had a yankee cavalryman. and my grandfather's grandfather had been a confederate soldier from virginia who died in the war. so there were still kind of at it a little bit but that's all marriages. from that to to some sort of self-definitions that they were throwing around, you know, the people out in that region work at the time were referred to as jayhawkers and red legs. border trash missouri pukes even in that sort of thing gary gallagher always refers to he as a missouri puked i take objection to that. i'm border trash and i'm proud of it. around the age of 12 my grandfather. had a copy of bruce canton's book this hallowed ground. and i don't know why i happen to read it. i think i got fascinated with the maps first. and that that honey prose that captain had kind of sucked me in.
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and of course, this is just about the time the civil war centennials taking place by which time i was living in california, which was kind of a long way from anywhere as craig symonds will tell you it was a long way from anywhere related to the civil war. but i got interested in genealogy. i didn't wait till i was 80 to start it. i started as a teenager. and finding out that i had in fact a number of ancestors involved in the war. gave me an interest in finding out what the experiences were that they had gone through in their lives. and then a sort of a eureka moment came for me and this is my show and teleport of my talk that we always know that there was an ancestral piece of equipment from my yankee grandfather who was a great great grandfather who was a cavalryman but but i had never seen it. and one day in california opening a box of stuff that had been shipped from missouri that i have never been through. i came across this. which is the great great
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grandfather's travel women's pistol pouch cartridge pouch. his stencil for marking his belongings. and a cartoon disease photograph of him. you can't tell it from the photo, but he was a corporal of people in my family are always destined for high office. and somehow that piece of physical material culture who really grabbed me and the the interest really to kind of explode. from that i never went into the academic world at least not until years of years later. my career was primarily in publishing from about 21 years with. magazine called civil war times illustrated which gave me a wonderful opportunity to study from everybody not just one professor. i got to know bill wiley allen evans charlie rowland, but robertson, maryland with massey john. hope franklin and i got to spend time with all of these wonderful people all of whom i published
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at one time or another that magazine. and also i'm enjoyed a link with the popular historians who were not academics alex haley glenn tucker the bruce canton to a very limited extent. which i think helped give me some insight into. with the popular mind and the popular imagination was interested in. and wanted to see and understand. so it i had an extraordinary sort of path to reach the civil war. and one problem it may even be unique. i don't know but at every point it really helped to imbue and me a deep sense of the fascination of the people of those times the crises they went through and the means by which they tried to deal with them. great. thank you. carrie how about you? hi. thanks john for inviting me to be part of this this wonderful panel with so many people that i
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am fond of so like jack in some ways. i think it was where i was from. i'm i grew up in the shenandoah valley and surrounded by civil war battlefield civil war fights lesson than than two miles from my home. where my parents still live? there's a bridge that the jackson had burned. so it was it was everywhere in in the valley and my grandfather who was a world war ii veteran a marine in the the fourth division. took me to battlefields. took me to gettysburg into antietam and he was a voracious reader of anything civil war. my parents likewise took us to harpers ferry and other historic sites williamsburg. we that's what we did as a family. so i always had an interest in history. certainly never thought i would end up teaching history. i was going to law school. that was my path until my fourth year. i took a pass/fail class by this guy named ed ayers.
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and everything changed at that moment when i realized that that i could do this and not just be a lawyer. so that that was my path to the civil war. that's great and you teach at the university of virginia? yes our director of the nell center for civil war history. that's correct. and you did your undergrad and graduate work at uva. i did i did so i have returned to uva. i spent 12 years at purdue and now i am back at uva running the now center and teaching courses on on both the civil war and civil war memory among many other courses. great. thanks, tamika nunley. john thank you so much for having me. i'm very excited to be a part of this panel. so history my interest in the history of the civil war also started with a family tradition. my family has fought in every war since the civil war and and i just come from a military family. my father is in the middle was
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in the military and was in charge of the african-american cultural club when we lived in england, and so we read a lot of history books and a lot of biography and so that's how i became very interested in history, but when i went to uva and i always warned my students when they're applying to graduate schools, and if they're applying to uva in particular you think you're gonna study one thing and i came there with the intention of studying 20th century history. and and of course, i you know now i'm in 19th century specialist, and i think that you know you when you go to a place like uva and you get to study with people like gary gallagher and elizabeth barron, and now caroline janney you can't help but you sort of being pulled into this world. that's where all the cool kids are and so i ended up having a lot of questions and kind of our general american survey about you know, where we're black women during the war. i assumed that many of them were
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not necessarily soldiers, but where how were they responding to the developments of war and it's through that sort of line of questioning that i became very deeply interested in their experiences as refugees and and freed women during the war. great, and you are oberlin college now for you? yeah, well and you made a very important point to make about the civil wars where the cool kids are because that's a great position over to craig simon's who has moved more into world war ii, but we're gonna bring you back to the civil war today. can you tell us a little bit craig about where you teach what you've taught over the years and yeah, well this first time i've ever been called one of the cool kids. so i appreciate that very much. but to me because you and i kind of had a reverse circumstances john mentioned. i i have been in the civil war studying the civil war for 40 years and it kind of just beat me up a little bit and i'm doing a lot of world war ii stuff now, but i have been interested in history since i can remember
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having a conscious thought and to a certain extent. i think my focus on the civil war in particular like jack it's all bruce canton's fault. here's a guy who could take an event and just bring it absolutely alive. i try to do that as much as i can with my students as clearly bill brands does with his and also in my writing whenever i can so i began thinking and reading as much as i could about the civil war but grew up in california about as far away from a civil war battlefield as you can get if you're not in a white but also to tie in with what carolyn had to say a few minutes ago that when we i finally got east and we had our own son. that's how we spent our vacations was going to civil war battlefields and far from convincing him that he should be a civil war scholar. i think he decided he would be as far away from that as he could get he he does teach in california, but he teaches literature so he's he's not into
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that at all, but i think bruce cotton is probably the short two word answer to what first provoked my interest in the civil war. i ended up teaching it for 30 years at the united states naval academy, which i will argue is the best job in america. mmm that's great. i was thinking about this last night the first civil war book i ever read was jack davis's battle at bull run, and i read that when i was in middle school and i had him sign it for me a few years ago when i started college at penn state it was gary gallagher's last year there and he was teaching an upper level course that i wasn't able to take but i would go into his office and try to talk to him about the civil war and i remember as i began to make the transition from being a business major to a history major. i went into gary's office and i told him i wanted to become a history professor and he said let me give you some advice get a real job and do history on the weekends. i don't know if you gave that
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advice to anyone else. it was very good advice, but i'm very glad i didn't take it. i teach american studies at christopher newport university. and so i don't actually teach the civil war class here, but i do teach a lot of lincoln speeches in the different classes that i teach. so craig, i want to start with. you and i want to you've had a long career teaching in annapolis and now in rhode island, can you talk a little bit about the changes? you've seen over the course of your career in terms of anything that jumps out of your students or course content? yeah, actually, that's an interesting question. um, first of all, i do teach at a rather unique institution. keep in mind that the us naval academy is not virginia, ohio state or princeton or purdue students all wear uniforms. everybody comes to every class. nobody is late when i walk in the room. they come to attention, so that probably doesn't happen a lot in some of your classrooms and
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there almost universally really bright that doesn't change. they were bright when i began teaching there in 1976. they were bright when i left there 30 years later to do other things one of the things i didn't know though is increasingly. i think they are bright without necessarily great depth of factual knowledge and i suspect without any specific proof of it that some of it comes from the fact that most of them took advanced placement high level courses in which soon. well, i don't need to teach you things. you can always look up things. let's think deep thoughts and and consider them which is a great thing to do but often leaves vast lacuna of emptiness of particular of sequence of chronology and particularly frankly of geography. i remember being shocked fairly early on when i was teaching at the naval academy asking them handing out a blank map the united states and ask him to
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find her is places on it. someone couldn't find the state of south carolina. where the war began which led me to begin giving geography quizzes in a history class to which one of my colleagues responded geographies about maps histories about chaps. but i kept doing it anyway because i think it helped them picture things. in fact when i got into this section of the course where i did military maneuvers, i'd put a map up on a whiteboard by projection and then use colored markers to follow the movements around and they seem to find that quite enlightening. so that's one way and here's one other way. i think things change over the 30 years. i talked there thinking about what i would say today in our conversation. i went down to my basement and pulled out some old grade books and shocked myself to discover that in the late 1970s. my course average. this is for an upper level course of an elective course at history majors took my average
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grade was 2.3. 25 years later it was 3.5 now. i don't think they got that much smarter. maybe i got that much easier. i just think that's the way our whole curriculum has moved in in the time between the mid 70s and the end of the 20th century. so there's a couple of ways in which it's changed. that's interesting great inflation a perennial topic of discussion and department meetings. carrying tamika. i want to ask you both. what has been your experience in recent years in terms of your approach to teaching the civil war has it changed in the last couple of years or even has it changed this this semester in the wake of the tumultuous summer of 2020 with the murder of george floyd and protests in the streets. and i'll start so two things one is in my civil war memory class because we look at the way in which the war has been
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remembered interpreted celebrated. we can keep adding verbs there from the war forward in the past. i've been teaching this course now for 15 years, and i used to concentrate primarily on the 19th century looking at the veterans and other aspects literature you were talking about melville earlier. i always teach the portent and the martyr are two of the poems. i've always taught but over time i have increasingly added more about the 20th century this year. i brought it all the way up to 2020. so our last class will focus on what happened this past summer and what is what is continuing to happen? so that's one way in which that course has changed, but i will say i was still at purdue when charles charlottesville happened or august 11th and 12th 2017. i was really nervous to go into my classroom that fall and teach about the civil war in hindsight. i'm not sure why i was but i was
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and i quotes that opening lecture to make it more about why studying the civil war matters more today than it ever has and i've continued to modify that opening lecture. as i as i teach i've also done more i've added more debates. my students really seem to like debates. we added a debate on who freed the slaves and they get assigned. they don't get to pick who freed they have to argue. it was either african-american's union soldiers lincoln or congress that did so and then we talk about why that's the case and they ask for more debates. they wanted debate on reconstruction. so the next time i teach the course, we'll talk about that. they also want more on impeachment now thinking about their contemporary times and trying to understand the past. so that's a modification. i'll make the next time i teach the course. that's great, tamika.
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sure, so i i tend to start the civil war class and i do teach civil war and reconstruction and i also teach in advanced seminar on the civil war era which is more of a historic graphical seminar, but for my lecture course, i begin with an article from james mcpherson on on how to engage how to think about civil war history and sort of a general public audience and the importance of thinking about it in terms of public history, but then i also have them retanaghisi coasters. why so few black study the civil war and i find that that's just a really wonderful way to get a conversation going about people's proximity to this knowledge, right? i am i grew up loving history, but i wasn't a civil war buff, right whereas in my class. i might have you know, someone who's like a serious civil war buff and then i might have some people who love history and i have may have some people who just have no proximity or idea as to what this war was about.
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and so i think these articles are very great in capturing kind of the stakes and and how it's changing i teach at oberlin and so many of us on this call know that oberlin has a reputation right one that got it started in the 19th century is being very radical. and and progressive and i think that the students are drawn to oberlin because of that tradition and so they are very interested in learning about various experiences, particularly the social experience social history of the civil war. and so i think that's kind of what i bring to how i design the course is thinking about that bottom up history and what i like about that bottom up history is that it accounts for the lives of african-american's of people from the west of soldiers of women of immigrants in ways that really what their appetites in terms of what their
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interested in so i think oberlin oberlin brings a unique context in itself and teaching at oberlin and how we teach anything and overland is very interesting, but i'm always very encouraged by the fact that so many of these students are still interested in the civil war. know these classes the enrollments are always high and i don't think it has anything to do with me, but i do think it has something to do with this generation being very invested and in this topic and just understanding and the nuts and balls of that history. and yeah, so it's it's a fun course to teach now i have to make adjustments for this audience because most of my students are either from the west coast or from the east coast many of them are not from the midwest many of them are not from the cell i even ask them to raise their hands, you know to tell me whether or not they even been to the south and i'm always just shopped at how you hands
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are raised. i'm like you haven't been to the south right and and so i think just having those cultural contexts those regional distinctions to sort of teased out in our conversations have been very useful and how i've approached the course. yeah, that's really interesting. and i imagine that's true for most of you. they you have a lot of students from throughout the nation most of my students at c and you are craig. go ahead. yeah, we're just gonna follow up on that because one of the things i often did when i'm again a class was ask my students who are a national audience because the naval academy brings students from everywhere how many of you are from states or a part of the confederacy? eight hands would go straight up in the air right away. they knew. thank you. how many of you are from states that were part of the union but in the north at the time of the civil war and i'd get this. you know. so that's funny. jack so you spent a lot of your
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career in publishing, but you spent 10 years teaching at virginia tech. can you tell us a little bit about your experience at tech and then, you know, we we just talked about a little bit the massive social changes. we've seen in the land or social movements. we've seen in the last few months. what sort of changes have you seen over the course of your career in terms of public thinking about race or the civil war and how have you seen that affect the field of civil war studies? well first year question about teaching a check i actually spent 13 years. but i was brought in primarily to teach research and writing seminars for graduate students. and so i didn't actually really teach the survey or the basic civil war course. which a check was two semesters. i think it may have been the only school in the country, which it was that long. it's gone back to one semester now. of i only taught that once so i
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don't really don't really have a basis for much comparison in the teaching of civil war history and undergraduate. i can say that the students that i had. in the one year, i taught that course. had a very very thin background. and a lot of them were simply taking it because their parents or even grandparents had gone to tech and had taken the civil war course whether it was being taught by bud robertson almost and sometimes years. sometimes it had 300 students. and the grandpa or dad or mom was to say when you're there. you got to take a civil war class. i think a lot of rather disappointed to find that it wasn't bud teaching the course it was me. and they were there i think in part to be entertained. because it can't be a very entertaining subject. they came with very little background. not that many history mages check has a core of cadets rotc or that's i'm over a thousand
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now, it's growing and flourishing. and there be a fair number of members of the core cadets taking the classes because they might have an interest in military history. but i don't really have a basis beyond that to judge. how prepared they were when i last taught compared to 20 years before or compared to how prepared they are today when they take that. classes imagine this has to do with the nature in virginia tech itself, which is not primarily a liberal arts college. but all those years of publishing in the magazine business. as well as being a writer myself and so writing books and seeing what the general reading population was interested in. i have seen a lot of changes. mostly i think for the better. when i go back to by the way that first book that you read battle of bull run, you read it when you were in middle school, i wrote it when i was in middle school.
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a 1974 the civil war was almost poisoned. it was very difficult to find a trade publisher. that is a new york publisher. who would take on a civil war but they had concluded that you know, the civil war not just in academia but in publishing. was kind of a casualty of the vietnam era when public tastes just turned so much against anything with any hint of the military about it. and it was really only people like bruce canton and he was in his last years. who could guess over published that of course has changed dramatically? i don't know. i couldn't guess what rate rate they come out now. but it's pretty phenomenal still there are a whole mom and pop publishing companies that specialize in nothing, but publishing civil war history some of it very good. i think your 10 services media beatty out on the west coast. the reprint industry just sort
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of took off in the mid 1970s every printing civil war classic. it had done been done by. the university of indiana, press in the 50s and 60s with some limited success, that was about it. something changed in the public appetite in the 70s late 70s. that started to see this material coming out again had a phenomenal face about but and the quality and nature of what was being published changed a lot as well. the the common term applied to an awful lot of civil war books in the 1960s and 70s was pot boiler. that they were very thinly research mostly just in the official records and if you often very suspicious long after the fact memoirs with not much real background very little original research in manuscript and other primary sources. and essentially written to entertain and and they did but
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that has changed the audience for civil war books have done a lot more sophisticated through the years. and i don't know which came first. was it the historians were producing better material and the people who read it continued to expect better material. or if the reader's expected at first in historians lived up to it. has there been such a very significant changes 30 years ago 40 years ago. it was all the generals and battles just about we've had gardeners. probably somebody is still out there researching the 10,000th book on the battle of gettysburg even as we speak. but there may be yet something new to say. the but the approach to subject matter changed dramatically. at some point maybe in the 80s it started to be less and less just generals. and more and more political and social characters. you were very frequently had a civil war book in which women
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blacks other minorities or neither mentioned. and that's a whole sort of subs genre of the field of publication. that has become a field in and of itself. and what i really see happening, but it's not happening anywhere yet. like it's it will in its full realization. is this revolution in digital? material being made available online the creation of optical character recognition programs that can turn a document into a digitized workable document. his revolutionized things not every now and then when i feel self-loathing or going to torture myself all look at the american aquarian societies tens of millions of pages of newspapers. just to look through and something i've written a book about 30 or 40 years ago and to see everything i missed. yeah, because it wasn't practical then to sit down with the pages or with the microphone and spend years just to do one
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newspaper. and now you can do years worth of research in the press. yeah in the of a few weeks. the that's not being fully realized yet as more and more material becomes digitized. i think it will. though in question always carries with it. the the danger of people getting sucked into the idea of one-stop shopping right and not going out into the fielding as bill wiley used to say getting their fingernails dirty with the good honest dust scholarship. hmm a little bits of leather that peels off the record books and get stuck on you. so that's still an important component part and it's the most fun part too. i agree. i want to piggy back off of something. you said a few moments ago and i'll put this to carry when you think about the all of the new scholarship that is out there and you edit one of the major series in the field. there's so much work being done
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and so many different aspects of the war. what are the some of the major themes or ideas or facts that you try to get your students to understand when they have finished semester with you. well, i'll go back to where craig began with us and i will reiterate that i too do geography quizzes because i learned early on and teaching the civil war that you can't teach something as simple as the anaconda plan if people don't know where the mississippi river is. and so that that's a basic facts or just geography and knowing which states seceded and which didn't so i know that's not exactly what you're asking john but but that is something that i think can extend far beyond the civil war in terms of what they leave with. i want them to be asking questions bigger questions about why we ended up in a war in the first place. why was democracy fragile enough?
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that an election a democratic election could bring us to the most horrific war in history. and why did people make the decisions that they made one of the things that i stress time and time again regardless of what history class i'm teaching is that we don't have to condone people's behavior in the past. we don't have to even condemn their behavior that we have to try to understand why they made the decisions and acted as they did and an example that i use that maybe isn't the best parallel but i say, you know, we don't have to agree with what the taliban is doing to try to understand why it is doing what it's doing and we need to treat historical characters the same way and and think beyond the fact that their characters that they were real live people with lots of flaws and could could seem to be hypocrites and lincoln is a great example of this so many students become a
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frustrated when they realized what the emancipation proclamation did and didn't do and number one. they feel that they've been misled by previous teachers and we have to been unpack not necessarily. we have to talk about the complexities of it but understanding that lincoln was a person who changed over time whose position and values changed with the context and with his own lived experience. so those are some of the big broad. types of things that i get try to get out in my class yeah, i think you're right in in talking about how we humanize these historical figures because i think a lot of times when students are doing a reading it's just a boring, you know words on a page and it's hard for them to really think about that living breathing human beings wrote these words people who experience life in ways that aren't always so dissimer from the ways we do in one of my classes. i do a lot of lincoln readings
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and on the first day of class i go in and i do a lecture on the early life of abraham lincoln i start from him being born in a log cabin and i bring them up basically to write where he's meeting mary todd. and i tell them about his love life and his failures and his flat boat trip and his wandering around new salem and illinois and try to get them to see him as a human being and at the very end of that lecture. i look out and i do this without introducing myself at all. i look out and i say now i know most of you are probably really confused as to why you just heard a lecture on the early life of abraham lincoln on the first day of class because they expect me to go over the syllabus and tell them what are you going to do this semester? and so then i say for next class you're gonna read a speech that abraham lincoln delivered in 1838 the lyceum address and i say i've brought you up to that point in his life now. and i want you to think about him as a real person a young man in his late 20s and not as the
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giant statue in the lincoln memorial and my hope is that by humanizing lincoln in that way. it can really draw the students in and get them to see history in a different way. yes, and and something as basic that i think we as practicing historians take for granted is getting students to be in that moment. whether it's 1838 or 1861 and pretending that you don't know what comes next to understand what we can call contingency or or something else, but understanding that things didn't have to unfold as they unfolded that what happens at seven days has profound implications for the emancipation proclamation if mcclellan had had maybe been a little more successful maybe things would have turned out differently, but instead of seeing everything as a steady march and i've found at that sometimes difficult for students to turn off to stop at that
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moment and pretend that they don't know what comes next in order to assess why figures made the decisions that they did right? that's a very good point. i want to ask a question and i'm gonna give it to each of us. i i guess we'll go the order i see you on my screen. so i'll go to craig first and then tamika and then jack and carrie and you know, i'm looking at your wonderful backgrounds and all of the books that we all have in our offices are living rooms where we're sitting we need to all take this snapshot that you know, there's that rate my screen or rate my room thing where they tell you how good your books look in the background, but as we think about teaching, what are the readings that you most enjoy assigning the read the books or the articles or the authors that you find really resonate with students and so craig i'll start with you and if you can talk about why you think they they work well, sure, happy to do it. it's interesting going back to what bill said during his talk. he said he doesn't like mixing.
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fact and fiction because he's afraid he's going to draw something out of fiction and that will become the reality and so on catherine clinton said she does and i'm kind of on catherine's team here among the books my midshipmen loved the most kept reread after they left the academy read again in retirement. and yes, i'm old enough to have many former students who are retired. is michael shahr is the killer angels? i assigned the killer angels just about every year that i talked to the civil war and after that we we'd have a discussion about it, but then we'd all get in one of those great big blue naval academy coach buses and drive up to gettysburg and we'd walk that field and the southerners would go across the field of the northerners would stand at the stonewall and shoot him down. we'd go up on little round top and we'd stand right where chamberlain stood and said fix bayonets and my god, you could feel a hair stand up on the back of their heads. so yes, the killer angels is a
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piece of fiction, but boy did that suck them in and then they wanted to know everything really happened with those real live people that caroline was talking about and and that focused them a lot another book that i have found useful teaching reconstruction is very hard particularly for midshipman. i give them five weeks on the causes of the war and we deconstruct that thing and tear it apart i use debates like carolyn does um, and then we do seven weeks on the war where we're charging across the field in x's and o's on the board and all this stuff which to them is just red meat and then a reconstruction. it's kind of like do we have to do this? so getting them into reconstruction was always hard and i found one of the things that worked was be in tour gaze. autobiographical novel of fools of air and he's a carpet bagger who goes down to the south after the war and with all of the best intentions tries to create a new life down there. he'd been a veteran he'd been there during the war. the climate was nice.
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he thought it would work. what a fool he was to think there was a way he could make this that too captures them in a way that i think even really wonderful books about reconstruction. i know that's not necessarily an oxymoron, but even very good books on reconstruction can't get them into it in the same way that tour gay's book. so one of the things i and of course i use more conventional works as well. jim mcpherson's text or deal by fire not battle cry of freedom great as it is, but the textbook version of that which is called ordeal by fire would be the spine of the course, but i find that giving them michael charro or albion tour gay. i never gave them. of uncle tom's cabin. it's just too long, but i would spend a day with it reading excerpts explaining what it was how it was published in pieces how it had an impact. so those three in a way if you don't tom's cabin and michael sharon fool's aaron you get the
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three pieces of of the civil war reconstruction era in in fictionalized form that i think helps make those characters live. hmm, that's great now torché had a oberlin connection. well, i know he's from ohio. did he go to oberlin? i don't i think he did. i might be wrong about that, but i'll use that as a as a segue over to tamika. um for me the books that i like are martha holds his morning lincoln i think is really fascinating and just thinking about the broader sentiment public sentiment and what people really thought about lincoln and i think that students are quite surprised by the ways that americans in the 19th century thought of him and i think because my students there, you know, they have their radical cards. so, you know, they understand the nuances of emancipation and what it did and did not do right. and so they just, you know, just
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kind of leave it at that and i said well no, let's let's talk about the american people and where they are with this and i think that when we begin to do that, oh, excuse me. no one ever calls me on a saturday. i don't know when i came from but but i like to combine that with they new lincoln by kate mazers. i'm kate mazer's reprint of johnny washington's account of people in dc black people in dc and what they thought about lincoln and i think that you they are surprised by how nuanced the reading is of lincoln during that time of late. i've really enjoyed ready's work illusions of emancipation has been really just powerful important work for my civil war era seminar. i like to assign eric founders the fiery trial because i think it's just it's really a really great distillation of how to
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think about lincoln's approach to slavery and and i find that it's it's certainly taylor to students interests and in in lincoln's presidency a particularly around emancipation and so my big takeaway for them is to just sort of approach it with just a willingness to see contingency and to resist the impulse to oversimplify people like lincoln and also jeff davis, right and the different people who figure prominently in the war. and so these readings helped me do that work in a way that has been really great. i'm curious how students how your students respond to they new link. they knew lincoln. i i bought a copy from 1940 to for $200 before i knew kate was going to release it with oxford a couple years ago, so i could have gotten it a lot cheaper and it's just a wonderful book.
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but it's it's not a traditional history. i mean in a lot of ways. it's a work of folklore and i'm just curious how your students react to these stories of abraham lincoln getting to know african-american's in the dc community during the war. i think they're taken aback. i think that they were prepared to see linkedin as someone who yes issued the emancipation proclamation, but was someone who was racist in a product of his time, but i think that when you put in black perspectives of who lincoln what you know was at that time, it becomes very different right when you're thinking about how black people are cultivating their own. of oral traditions around how to remember lincoln and when you bring in those voices that kind of tempers that sort of a instinct or impulse to dismiss lincoln as oh he just did this right to win the war whereas they see that african-american's really helped him in high regard while they also still critique
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right some of his his choices, but at the same time would make up stories, you know, just about their own proximity to lincoln and whether or not they saw him, you know on his locks, you know throughout the district and so forth. and so it's also just about sort of oral traditions and history making that happens that can create some tension, but i think that, you know, collectively these works. do you really important work in giving us a fuller picture? yeah that reminds me. there's there's a really wonderful article by john barr and david silkenot that looks at the the slave narratives from the wpa and how they talked about lincoln and any former slaves talked about? oh, i met lincoln at such and such time many thought he actually traveled through the south in disguise and i assigned that that article once in class and students were just fascinated by sort of black memory from the 1930s of lincoln as emancipator or as a limited
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figure in in the way they remembered him. john let me go to or sorry. go ahead. oh and i was gonna say and i i think it's a part of a broader tradition as well. you know, i always tell people that you know when i was growing up, you know, it wouldn't be uncommon to see, you know, great grandma's house with a picture of lincoln right in a picture of jfk and like martin luther king up there too. right and like great grandma doesn't know lincoln, right? this is not related to lincoln but link is gonna be up in the house, right? and so i think that you know this tradition, um, certainly persists, you know throughout the 20th century as well. yeah, that's right jack. let me go to you. what what did you signing at virginia tech? of variety of things my interest was is was more focused toward the myth and memory and and the perceptions they were likely to have today of the civil war era as opposed to what it actually was like what i've found was
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that their idea the civil was almost entirely influenced by film. so i did show a gone with the wind which took up an entire week's worth of class periods. it was very easy week for me. and then said about after that to kind of deconstruct it to show them where the reality lay and how the incrustation of myth special through the lost cause myth era. um had produced not just gone with the wind, but what is still a powerful and still influential misconception? today i think they got it and they sort of enjoyed seeing this juxtaposition of the picture of moonlight magnolias versus what the the actual south was like top top to bottom both during the war and afterwards i didn't get into reconstruction. what craig was saying was interesting it reminded me of a conversation i had years ago with i forgot his name. he was a screenwriter who did.
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mini-series called the blue and the gray back in the 80s. and he was saying he really had wanted to go on and do a follow-up series on reconstruction, but found that he couldn't because there were no hebrews. from a demat dramatist point of view, of course, there are heroes, but they're all flawed at least as we would do. trying to get the students. to think critically i also assigned them what i regard as perhaps the worst book ever written about the civil war. charles cc adams went in the course of human events. it's it's you know, it's about 200 pages of complete nonsense. presented by a fellow who says he was the world's greatest authority on taxation, but he's with enumerate he would add 100% to him was 87% plus 14% he just he just didn't get it. it was very very much the lost cause a lot of libertarianism
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thrown him. to complete nonsense about slavery in particular 62% of southern homes had slaves. according to this and then to give them a chance to read that and then some assignments in simple things that would enable them to see where it's completely wrong or where what the image he was presenting is clearly influenced. by myth and memory that's still hung on. there was a limit to how much i could assign them because it was an upper division course, of course. i don't know how much they they got out of it, but what i found fascinating is 70 75 years later the first time the camera looks down the stairs at terra and you see card gable looking up at his rep butler the way every woman the class went. oh gable still had it. will carry. how about you? what do you enjoy assigning?
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so i'll talk about both of my classes in my civil war and myth and memory course i start with robert penn warren's legacy of the civil war written during the centennial which gives them. some framework to talk about the treasury of virtue and i started assigning this in indiana when i realized that so many of my students use the first person to talk about we did this. we did that meaning the union and we're really wrapping themselves and warren's treasury of virtue. so that's how i lead off my semester and it works incredibly. well some other trusted books that i come back to time and time again killer angels which i teach as as part of the 1970s and thinking about how it is a reflection in some ways on vietnam. and we also talk about the killer angels effect. so showing them what what it now looks like on the the far left
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flank of the union army that you there's now a paved path up to to chamberlain's monument as opposed to if we look at the right far right flank. i also have long used at least portions of confederates in the attic. i taught this last monday and students, you know, they are born long after that book was was researched and written but they find so much in it and it was really striking this time around how many of them noted that things that were going on in 1995 and 96, especially with confederate flags and white supremacy. how much of it they felt seemed so contemporary to them? so that's from the memory class from my civil war class. i almost always begin with charles dues apostles of disunion. and having the students read the secession speeches the commissioner's speeches from the deep south to virginia and north carolina the other upper south
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slave states. you know, it's it's a way of reminding them what secession was all about that. it was about slavery fears of miscegenation all of those other issues that we can pack into that. so that's a trusted standby. my students have really liked katie shively's nature civil war and thinking about medicine and soldiers in a different way and especially because so many of them are from virginia. they have a sense of place and thinking about the peninsula and and understanding the way in which the environment and soldiers interacted with one another. and the book that's worked the best for me on reconstruction is leanna keith's colfax massacre. and really drilling down into that 1873 massacre and thinking about the ways in which violence and politics were so intimately connected when hand in hand in the reconstruction south that is
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a difficult book for students to read on a kind of visceral level, but i find that they get the complexities of reconstruction through that book. so that actually is a great lead into a question. we got from a viewer and that is how do you teach the horror of the and this is open to anyone on the panel? how do you teach the horror of the war? how do you teach the horror of slavery? how do you bring these hard issues into your classes? go ahead carry, since you're not really i'll talk. so a lot of firsthand accounts whether it's with slavery or the battlefield itself. pausing and making students take stock that when we talk about numbers. if we're talking about the number of enslaved people who fled to a refugee camp of just
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stopping i use a lot of images, too. making them stop and think about these people as individual people one of the things i've started doing in recent years is using some of the colorized photographs. and i find that that students can relate to those. there's the one is it cumberland landing of the african-american's the refugee camp in virginia and when you see the colorized version and you realize either how young they are or how old they are and it's almost all women and the the different colored dresses and head scarves and just there's a dog in the picture and honing in on that. i think again, it's it's about the humanity. i also use a lot of accounts of soldiers talking about the battlefield. and i often stop and remind my students that even though there's certainly were heroes
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and there is there it can be glory and war that this was the loss of lives and it's not just the pictures of the dead bodies that you see at antietam, it's the ripple effect out that affects entire communities in the entire nation. and it's a lot of preaching on my part to be. honest that making them stop and really thinking about what we're talking about and there's moments of silence. i think can be especially powerful to bring them around and ground them in the seriousness of what we're discussing. yeah, tamika and then craig absolutely. i think that when we talk about soldiers and we talk about the military. there's a way in which we can talk about it in very abstract terms, especially for this generation who you know doesn't know anything about, you know, having to go to war right being forced into war and you know my
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family. like i said my i'm surrounded by soldiers my both of my siblings were soldiers and my brother fought in iraq and i think that when you begin to humanize sort of these big numbers and these figures and they start to read the letters from soldiers or they start to listen to an account from a wpa narrative, even though right there's going to be some, you know some struggle with thinking about the provenance of a wpa narrative, but still what stories they are able to tell our i find our very compelling to students and i like to actually assign some of these sources in writing assignments, so that not only are they introduced to them in class, but they can actually sit with them as they're preparing their own thoughts and and doing their own thinking about the war. and so i tend to give them an option of selecting one of three primary sources and sometimes they're very difficult to grapple with but i think that
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putting that in the context of an assignment means that we don't have to figure this all out right now. we can react and respond to what we're reading and then let's begin to sort of develop some thinking about what it is that we're reading. and so i find that using those primary sources just as carolyn has has been very compelling to students. sometimes it is. it appears more poignant to them reading those first-hand accounts, then it does for me to sit there on my pulpit right? i'm preaching to and and telling them what happened at that time. and caring point about the importance of jack kerry pointed out the importance of numbers in the impact. they have i think numbers and statistics in some ways have more impact on this generation today than in the past why i don't know. just i found a way to kind of stun them was to tell them how many deaths there were and then bring that forward six generations.
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to reveal to them that essentially you're talking hundreds of millions of americans who aren't born and are alive in this generation because of those who died in the civil war. yeah, that's a very powerful way to put it and to think about the just the numbers of people who died is is unfathomable to us today. i think what that generation was able to go through. can i just jump in and say one thing that seems to work well is if we're talking about 11,000 casualties to point out the basketball arena or if we're talking about 60,000 men that are in an army. that's the football stadium and so making those sorts of so they can picture. what these numbers mean? i think gives them some tangible way of thinking about them. yeah, that's a wonderful point craig. let me go to you on the question of how go ahead yeah, well a couple of things again about the uniqueness of the institution where i taught for 30 years and
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that is well two things in particular one is that there's a one enormous dormitory where they all live called bankrupt hall and in bancroft hall, that's where they get their sort of leadership training as supposed to education. so it's drummed into them daily. you're going to be responsible for the lives of the people you lead and a lot of people don't know this there is no united states marine corps academy the marines go to the naval academy. so some 20 to 25% of our graduates each year at the naval academy going to the marine corps and they particularly interested in the civil war. so my classes would have perhaps half of the students would be those who intend to go into the marine corps. and so they're thinking about leadership and their responsibility for the the men and women that they will lead in terms of so, i i really don't have to understand that a whole lot. i think the numbers caroline points out in the jack makes emphasizes our painful to them because of that background. so so that's one thing.
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i think it's selling the human cost of the civil war to that particular group of students is less of a lift perhaps at the naval academy, then it might be elsewhere, but i want to follow up to on something that caroline said about running a class and that is pauses silences. you know, i i had to train myself to shut up so often because my instinct is to keep talking to them and i'd ask an open-ended question and nobody would speak for three seconds. so i tell them what i thought the answer was no no, no, don't do that. you ask the question and you wake them out and you can do the same thing in terms of what was the impact of this on subsequent generations as jack points out or what's the impact on the people who are waiting at home and wait? for them to catch up with you. i think that's an important thing for for all of us to do because i'll speak only for myself. i'm vain enough to think that my opinion is so valuable.
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i should be speaking at all the time and that's not necessarily true. well, i certainly think it is of you craig. so we have the lincoln forum has a wonderful program for scholarships for high school teachers where teachers can apply and then in a normal year when we meet in gettysburg. we bring them out to gettysburg and they're recognized for their excellence in teaching and they get to enjoy the multiple days of the symposium. we weren't able to do that this year, but we do have a number of teachers who are watching and one of our teacher scholars is ruth scholacci and she is written in with a couple of questions. the one is she asked, you know, we have a lot of engaged students in the college classroom. is there any advice you can give to high school teachers who you know, their students are not choosing to be in the class and a lot of ways like our students are can you can you give any
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advice on how high school teachers can really reach out to high school students and get them interested in lincoln or interested in? civil war so that they do want to keep learning more and be engaged in it. and since unlike craig's classroom, we can't have moments of silence here on television. i'm gonna i'll go to tamika first. it's probably because i'm closer in age to a high schooler. thanks for pointing that um, you know, i i think that this is why i like the social history approach and i do do military history as well for my civil war course, but i like to start off with social history because i think that some of the newer scholarship that's been done. um, and and and jack has mentioned this has become sort of an emerging subfield of civil war history has really invited
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some opportunities for students to see themselves right in some of the stories not necessarily exactly what's happening in the war but right different regions different ethnicities, right thinking about gender these different issues configure, very prominently in the latest scholarship that's been done in the social history and the cultural history of the war and i find that that's often times a great entry point and i so like to sort of be regionally specific as well if there are ways in which you can connect them to sort of your current locale and that you know that places hist, you know the connections with the civil war. i think there's some really great opportunities that students are going to be like, oh i passed by that that statue or that bench or that cemetery or right that spot many times and did not realize that that was the context in which it has been either created or commemorated. and so i think that kind of
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approach has been a really nice way to bring people in and then i also think our current contemporary debates around monuments, you know, and this and similar ways that carrie has addressed in her class what's going on with all of these monuments and the what's the debate and what are the parameters of the debate? and i think actually a lot of young people are interested and understanding what's at stake. what's the history and provenance of those? mints and their own relationship to it. jack do you want to speak to that and then i'll go to carrie? well one thing for sure, i think that can be helpful is that. year after year after year eastern publishing the most popular singles genre of book is the biography. hmm people are people interested in people. and i've found in talking with teenagers. i have not taught high school, but they're interested in people as well. and if you can find some. some individuals who provide
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some leverage into the greater story and get the students interested in them. it may be a means of opening of the door to start to grapple with or find interesting the context of the world in which those people were living and then from that to spread out to learn more about the war in some ways. that's the way how i learned about it though. i was largely self-taught. when you wrote your first book in middle school. yeah, that was 1987. that's when i read it. good man, good man. yeah, they stopped printing them on clay tablets at that point. carrie so i will echo to make a and talking about place and that if there are places and you have the ability, i know the current circumstances make that difficult but the ability to take students to it doesn't have to be a battlefield, but that's certainly, incredibly powerful to take students to places so they can see the landscape or
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you know if you're in kansas to go down to potawatomi creek, and there's not a lot there, but man is it powerful to stand and think about what happened there? so place is one thing the other i'll come back to fiction. and that there is a fine line of not teaching the fiction as if it is the the actual lived experience, but it does provide an entry point for students and i'll say to the high school teachers out there. i taught red badge of courage this year i have for the past couple years in my memory class. none of my students had read it in high school, and i was sort of surprised about that so in teaching it as number one a book about the war but also a book that's written in the 1890s not by a veteran but one that was realistic enough that most veterans believed that it had been a veteran. so there's so many entry points that i think fiction allows. yeah, i love thinking about
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police the way you are and we often can think about the battlefield as a classroom if you're close enough to a battlefield to be able to do that when i again when i was a freshman at penn state i wasn't able to take gary gallagher's course, but he invited me to go along on his gettysburg trip, and it was just an incredible experience to be able to to go along and learn from him in the location where the battle had taken place and carrie. i want to ask you. can you talk a little bit about how you use the uva cemeteries in your classrooms? so again, this year makes it difficult, but in my memory course the beginning of the semester they have to go out to the cemetery to ava cemetery, which i happen to walk there this morning with none other than gary gallagher, but it's it's a place that allows you to think about both the wartime because you can look at the cemetery and look at the graves and see the way in which they were laid out all of the
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soldiers. there's about 1,000 soldiers in the uva cemetery were buried there during the war because of the fact that the university was a vast hospital complex and you can follow the dates you can see those buried in 62 all the way up through through 64 and a few and 65 but then talking about the monument. that's put up in the 1890s by the local. ladies memorial association. so it's a it's a place that i send my students they have to reflect on it. they have to write on what they see what the landscape tells them why it's there and they also have to talk about whether or not they had ever noticed. that it was there or not and most of them even though first year dorms are right beside the cemetery. most of them have walked past it and never thought twice so often pointing out those things that are right in their midst, but i'll go back and say that that produce certainly wasn't close to a civil war battlefield, but there were memorials to various union soldiers in places around campus that students weren't
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aware of that. they walked past all the time. so making them slow down and look at the landscape around them. i think can be incredibly empowering. yeah, i think that's a wonderful point. we're almost out of time. we have about six minutes left. and so this might be the last question that we have one of the questions that came in through the q&a function was what do you wish that your students knew before they got to your class? and again, i think this is something that's geared towards high school teachers who are thinking about what they should be covering when they teach high school students are there things that you wish that they knew or there are things that you often find you're having to help students unlearn as a result of what they've learned earlier. craig why don't i go to you first. yeah, sure. well, i mentioned geography before and i think that is important. i i think particularly for bright students college-bound students who are in high school that they're not asked to memorize state capitals and all
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that kind of stuff that many it well jack and i were required to do when we were youngsters and no longer perhaps so they don't have that and and it's it's a burden on high school teachers to say. oh, here's what you should do ruth. you should teach them all the nuts and bolts so that we don't have to and we get to talk about broader issues but on the other hand maps are away of if you can't go see a statue or a cemetery or a battlefield maps give you an opportunity to have a visual presentation of of where things might have happened. i think that would be useful. but but i also think that for high school teachers in particular, i think jack has put his finger on it and that is if you can get them interested in an individual and of course lincoln is an interesting individual john you do this on your first day in class if you can get them hooked on something we try to write something with a hook in the front so that they'll turn the page. you can do the same thing in the classroom you get them interested in a person and why does that person matter? well, what was that person involved in and how did that and
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then you expand that envelope outward until you explain what the compton constitution was all about rather than start with. well memorize the la compton concentration that was passed on such and such a date so that that i think might be one way at getting at it. it's difficult now not only for a high school teacher who doesn't have immediate access to battlefields or statues or cemeteries, but also in a time when everybody is mostly teaching remotely to do much of any of that, but you can as jack suggests come up with an individual a personality and then build around that or or competing personalities is bill brands did with and john brown. thank you. anyone else want to speak to that? of what you wish students knew coming into your classes or what? you have help them. unlearn. i'll just say that i think that studying the south. is is still very important?
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and i find it very striking how little many of my students anyway know about the south and its history and i think that would be just really helpful in adding some nuance and complexity to our understandings of the confederacy and understanding people's reasons for fighting that, you know, wasn't just people just being told what to do and they're doing it. it's that people had conviction and to understand those convictions in that 19th century context i think is really important tamika. how do your students respond when you do that in your classes when you try to get them to understand the confederates as they saw themselves and what they were up to? i find it's a really great learning moment, right the idea is to kind of really grasp something very quickly and package it up so you can pass the exam or you know do well on the paper but to really deconstruct something without a posture of dismissal but to take seriously what americans thought
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during that time i think is really just a wonderful way to understand. it's sort of understand your own self in this current moment right and thinking about people's differences politically or culturally or you know, whatever that might be. and so i i always try to frame it as this is a skill that's not just for you to pass the class. this is actually just a skill about, you know, civics and thinking about the differences that people have and how politics work and how culture and society is shaped by these dynamics and i find that once they begin to really understand that and go a little more in depth and studying that that they feel very, um, they very enlightened and empowered in way. that goes beyond, you know filling out your bubble in the midterm exam, right or saying all the right jargony things right or the right catch phrases for your essays that it really began begins to be something that they are now fully empowered to look at and think independently about what they're
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looking at right rather than sort of teaching to the test. i teach to cultivate their own independent thinking right which may be different from mine and that's fine right and to just sit well with that in the classroom space and realizing that people are going to come and arrive at different conclusions. yeah, that's one of the things i love about using primary sources and which we've all kind of talked about is getting students to read the words of the historical actors and getting them to try to understand the people as they understood themselves. so i always love using the secession speeches in the senate of this of the southern senators in january of 1861 or i'm sure many of us use alexander stevens's cornerstone address and using things like that. in connection with lincoln and letting them see the the way that their ideas are intention with one another and helping them to analyze i think. is just really important. i found there was something of a gee whiz moment.
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in taking them through the confederate permanent constitution and pointing out where their examples in it of these these guys not being just reactionary. slave owners, but actually in an odd way idealists. yeah kind of reform the system the notion of having a no political parties. making their constitution more organic and easier to amend than the us constitution. those are not things that people usually expect. to be coming right over mine. well, we are at the end of our time. i want to thank all of our panelists for participating in this wonderful discussion. thank you all so much for doing this and i i want to remind all of our attendees at home that you can order the books written by our panelists through the gettysburg heritage center and you can find them at gettysburg museum, and they will come with a signed book plate for this very special 25th anniversary of the lincoln forum. thank you all so much for this discussion.
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learn more about the people and events that shape the civil war and reconstruction every saturday at 6pm eastern only on american history tv tv here on c-span 3 on sunday at 4pm eastern. we'll feature an audio recording of winston churchill's entire iron curtain speech from march 5th, 1946 accompanied by still images and brief motion pictures. no complete film recording of the speech is known to exist. here's a preview. 75 years ago on march 5th 1946 winston churchill delivered his iron curtain speech at westminster college in fulton, missouri. no complete motion picture of the event is known to exist. churchill and president harry truman can be seen in a parade through the streets of fulton before their arrival at westminster college where 2700 people were gathered in the school gymnasium. this german language newsreel
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shows churchill receiving an honorary degree. mr. churchill and i believed in freedom of speech i understand that mr. churchill is going to talk on the seniors of peace. i know that he will have something constructive to say to the world in that space. i am happy that he came here to deliver it. and it's one of the great provisions of my lifetime to be able to present to you that great world citizen, winston churchill.
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here elastic over he warned up before he rose to his sleep here and black felt attack. he turns now and thanks to president and dust moment. he will hear mr. churchill. president mclaurin they did and gentlemen. and lost certainly not least. president of the united states of america i am very glad indeed to come to westminster college this afternoon. and i am complicated complemented. the jew should give me a degrees from an institution whose
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reputation has been so solidly except. so the name westminster somehow or other seems familiar to me. i feel as if i'd heard of it before. indeed now that i come to think of it. it was at westminster that i received a very large part of my education. in politics dialectic rhetoric and well into other things however, in fact we have both been educated at the same. or similar or itinerate kindred establish now it is also known as ladies and gentlemen, perhaps almost julie.
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for a private visitor to be introduced to an academic audience. by the presidency of the united states amid is heavy burdens duties and responsibilities. unsought but not recoiled from the president and traveled a thousand miles the dignify and magnify our meeting here today. and to give me an opportunity. of addressing this kindred nation as well as my own country, but cross the ocean and perhaps other countries, too. the president and tojo daddy did wish as i'm sure did you? that i should have full liberty to give my true and faithful
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counsel indeed anxious and baffling time. i shall certainly avail myself of this freedom. and feel the more right to do so. because any private ambitions i may have cherished in my younger days have been satisfied beyond my wildest dreams. let me however make it clear. that i have no official mission or status of any kind. and i speak only for myself. there is nothing here, but what you see. you can listen to the entire speech by winston churchill sunday at 4pm eastern.
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you're watching american history tv every weekend on c-span 3 explore our nation's past american history tv on c-span 3 created by america's cable television companies and today we're brought to you by these television companies who provide american history tv to viewers as a public service. moby--- was written by herman melville and published in 1851 up next nathaniel philbrick author of why read moby--- discusses his love of the classic novel and its lasting legacy the nantucket historical association hosted this program and provided the video. it is a tremendous pleasure to be here. you know moby--- is my personal bible and and not being an academic. i miss the camaraderie of being with fellow intellectuals. and so t


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