Facing My Family's Past with Slavery

Posted by Marti Tippens Murphy on February 14, 2017

A few years ago, a book came into my possession that has been tossed around in my family like a hot potato for several generations.

Entitled, Religion and Slavery: A Vindication of Southern Churches, the book's author was James McNeilly, a Presbyterian minister and Confederate veteran from Nashville, Tennessee. Inside the front cover is an inscription from the author to my great-great-great-grandmother.

"To Corinne Lawrence: A tried and true friend of many years—and a devoted lover of the Old South, which I have tried to vindicate."

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Topics: Reconstruction, Memory, Memphis, Identity, History, Judgement and Legacy

The Myth of a Post-Racial Society After the Obama Presidency

Posted by Jeremy Nesoff on February 8, 2017

As the first black president, Barack Obama's legacy will always include issues of race. At his farewell speech he acknowledged this: "After my election, there was talk of a post-racial America. Such a vision, however well-intended, was never realistic. Race remains a potent and often divisive force in our society.” His presidency reveals the longstanding myth that American history has always been on a steady, progressive path towards embracing equality for all.

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Topics: Democracy, Reconstruction, American History, Civil War, Racism, Judgement and Legacy, legacy, race

How To Assess the Strength of a Democracy

Posted by Dan Sigward on January 18, 2017

This Friday, the United States will inaugurate its 45th president, Donald Trump. The tensions and divisions that were unearthed by the 2016 presidential campaign will not be put to rest once President Barack Obama transitions power to this new administration. Instead, they will require active, thoughtful, and responsible participation of citizens to work through together; our responsibilities as citizens do not end at the voting booth. This inauguration is an appropriate time to reflect and renew our engagement as committed participants in a healthy democracy. As we take stock in our own role in this, how do we also help students make sense of these divisions and assess the strength of democracy and civil society?

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Topics: To Kill a Mockingbird, Democracy, Reconstruction, Weimar Republic

Why Reconstruction Matters After this Election

Posted by Jeremy Nesoff on November 17, 2016

Before the US presidential election, Eric Liu wrote in a recent article in the Atlantic, “Whatever the outcome on Election Day, more than 40 percent of American voters will feel despondent, disgusted, and betrayed.” As we face this reality together, we have a chance to learn from the pivotal dilemmas and choices of our nation’s past as we pick up the pieces from the exhausting 2016 election cycle. We can look to the aftermath of the Civil War—another period of deep division within the US—to better understand how we got to this current divisive moment filled with vitriolic rhetoric.

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Topics: Democracy, Voting Rights, Reconstruction, voting

Using Reconstruction to Understand Today’s Racial Tensions

Posted by Andrew Reese on July 28, 2016

 One hundred and fifty years ago, two massacres in 1866 – one in Memphis and one in New Orleans galvanized national opposition to the Reconstruction policies that President Andrew Johnson enacted. These policies offered almost no protection to newly freed slaves in the aftermath of the Civil War.

How can confronting challenging historical moments like these become a step toward truth and reconciliation around issues of race that we face today? First, we need to understand the history behind them.

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Topics: Democracy, Reconstruction, Race and Membership, American History, Truth and Reconciliation

Seeing Today’s World Through the Lens of Reconstruction

Posted by Jennifer Forshey on June 27, 2016

As a teacher, I talk to my students about expectations a lot. My expectations for them and their expectations for themselves. I tell them it is my professional responsibility and mission to raise their expectations. I want them to think deeper and more creatively. I want them to understand and not memorize. I want them to realize the human impact of history and their role in our collective tomorrow.

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Topics: Reconstruction, Universe of Obligation

Three Reasons You Should Celebrate the 14th Amendment

Posted by Jeremy Nesoff on June 17, 2016

This week marks the 150th anniversary of the 14th Amendment in the United States, which was born out of struggles to rebuild the country following the Civil War. While approximately 4 million formerly enslaved black people were freed, the battle to define that freedom had just begun. It would last from 1865-1877 and is known as the Reconstruction Era. This period was described as a “splendid failure” by scholar and activist, W.E.B. Du Bois, yet important progress was made toward equal rights.

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Topics: Reconstruction, Civil Rights

How I Faced My Identity When Teaching the Reconstruction Era

Posted by Brigid Rowlings on February 11, 2016

As an educator who has taught the Facing History Reconstruction unit several times, one thing has become clear: who we are and where we are shapes the way we teach our students about this critical period in history. I’ve heard my fellow educators grapple with some of the same questions I’ve considered. How do we approach the topic of race and racism? How can we talk about African American history with a predominantly white student body versus a predominantly African American one? Or, how can we talk about the legacy of slavery with a predominantly urban or rural student body?  

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Topics: Reconstruction, Teaching, Identity, American History, Lesson Plans, Racism

Why A More Complicated Atticus Could Be A New Learning Opportunity

Posted by Laura Tavares on July 15, 2015

Like so many literature lovers, I’d been eagerly anticipating yesterday's release of Go Set a Watchman. For nearly two years, I’ve been thinking about the world of Maycomb as I worked with colleagues to create Facing History and Ourselves’ resource Teaching Mockingbird. I couldn’t wait to read Watchman, which has been described as a first draft or “parent” of To Kill a Mockingbird, to learn more about how Harper Lee first imagined beloved characters like Atticus, Scout, and Jem, and to see how she depicts Maycomb in the 1950s.

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Topics: To Kill a Mockingbird, Books, English Language Arts, Reconstruction, News, History, Harper Lee, Go Set a Watchman

What I Got Wrong When I Taught Reconstruction

Posted by Marty Sleeper on May 14, 2015

About two years ago, when I began reading draft chapters of Facing History’s new publication on the Reconstruction era in American history, I got to thinking back to how I learned about this period in high school in 1959 and in college, and also how I taught it to my students while teaching high school several years later in 1965.

In both my high school class as student, and later my high school classes as a teacher, I used the same textbook, David Saville Muzzey’s 1937 A History of Our Country, which for decades was the most widely used high school text on American history. Curious about what I learned and how I taught it, I dug out my well-worn copy and looked at how Muzzey wrote about Reconstruction.

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Topics: Classrooms, Books, Teaching Strategies, Democracy, Reconstruction, Facing History Resources, Teaching, Teaching Resources, History, American History, Civil War

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Welcome to Facing Today, a Facing History blog. Facing History and Ourselves combats racism and antisemitism by using history to teach tolerance in classrooms around the globe.

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