Get to Know the 2017 History Teachers of the Year: Jason Steinagle, New York

This year, the Gilder Lehrman Institute recognized 52 State History Teachers of the Year for their tireless and innovative efforts to make history come alive for their students.

But who are they, really? We asked these talented teachers to answer a few questions about themselves and to reflect on the challenges and joys of teaching. We will feature one state winner every Tuesday and Thursday between now and September, so keep checking back to learn more about these outstanding educators!

This week, meet Jason Steinagle: 



Jason Steinagle, Hamburg Middle School
2017 New York History Teacher of the Year

Do you have a favorite/funny memory from teaching?
I had the opportunity to substitute teach an American history high school class early in my career. I knew that it was important to keep the attention of my young audience. This was a lesson on the American Revolution, so I gently pulled the wall map of the thirteen colonies down to show my students the location of the battles. As I told the stories of Lexington and Concord, I touched the map to show their proximity to Boston. Immediately, the map recoiled with such forced that it jumped off the metal hooks that attached it to the wall and came crashing to the floor narrowly missing my head. Needless to say, I had my students’ attention.

State one fun historical fact about the town you live in or grew up in.
I teach in Hamburg, New York, where, according to local folklore, the hamburger originated in 1885. Two brothers from Ohio, Frank and Charles Menches of Akron, owned a vendor booth that sold sausages at the Erie County Fair, one of the oldest and largest in the country. Unfortunately, they ran out of pork for their sandwiches. Charles was forced to buy ground beef because the local butcher shop also ran out of pork, and it was too hot to slaughter any more. He took the ground beef back, rolled it into a patty, and tossed it on a cast-iron stove. Then, he started mixing together things like coffee, brown sugar, and other common household ingredients. The brothers placed the patty between two pieces of bread and served it to a customer who took a bite and said, “This is good!! What do you call it?” Frank then looked up at a banner at the fair and responded, “It’s called a hamburger.”

What is your favorite historical site or museum?
I have always enjoyed Old Fort Niagara, which was built by the French, strategically, at the mouth of the Niagara River and Lake Ontario, controlling the trade of the Great Lakes. This is where my love of history began. I remember visiting as a fourth grader years ago, when I saw the old brick walls and I listened intently to the stories of the docents as we toured the French Castle, the Guard Towers, and the Powder Magazine. More importantly, the cannon demonstrations and reenactors created lasting memories. These experiences have inspired me to create learning experiences for my students that immerse them in the historical eras and instill a love and appreciation of their past. Every year my school visits the fort. My family and I also visit the fort every summer.

What advice would you give to young people, in high school or college, who may be considering a career in education but are unsure?
Be passionate about your students, your community, your subject, and your profession. Focus your energy to create an ideal classroom environment for your students and for yourself. Set high expectations beyond the minimal Common Core standards and provide the resources necessary for your students to be successful. Continue to learn throughout your career – if you stop learning, you stop teaching.

If you could travel back in time and meet any historical figure who would it be and why?
I would like to meet Harriet Tubman. She provided hope and inspiration to millions of African American slaves during her time. Her courage is limitless, returning to the South several times to rescue her family and others even when her own health was compromised. 

What is your favorite historical film or series?
My favorite historical film is Glory. Every year, my students view the movie that celebrates the 54th Massachusetts regiment during the Civil War. These men fought bravely to take Fort Wagner in South Carolina. Their courage was a major step in changing Northern attitudes concerning slavery and the purpose of the war. My students learn that participating responsibly can make a positive change in our community.  



Get to Know the 2017 History Teachers of the Year: Blake Busbin, Alabama

This year, the Gilder Lehrman Institute recognized 52 State History Teachers of the Year for their tireless and innovative efforts to make history come alive for their students.

But who are they, really? We asked these talented teachers to answer a few questions about themselves and to reflect on the challenges and joys of teaching. We will feature one state winner every Tuesday and Thursday between now and September, so keep checking back to learn more about these outstanding educators!

This week, meet Blake Busbin: 


Blake Busbin, Auburn High School
2017 Alabama History Teacher of the Year

What is the last great history book you read?
The Legacy of Conquest by Patricia Nelson Limerick is one that truly stands out. It came recommended by a friend who read it for his Gilder Lehrman Teacher Seminar this summer. It stood out to me by challenging the way in which I interpreted the American West while also holding my interest throughout with intriguing stories and keen insights. Her key points have led me to reevaluate how I structure my unit on post-Civil War westward expansion and encouraged me to seek ways in which to truly promote multiple perspectives, beyond just settlers and American Indians, in this unit.

What is your favorite historical site or museum?
We are really fortunate to have the National Infantry Museum (Fort Benning/Columbus, Georgia) close to us. This is an incredible site to study military history as it tells the story of the US Army Infantry within the broader context of America’s rise to a world power. It puts on display amazing artifacts organized in a way that helps tell this story within its many interpretive exhibits, such as the jungle for the Vietnam War or the trenches in World War I. One of the great parts of this museum is the likelihood of touring it alongside veterans who experienced much of the recent history on display; with this chance, it serves as a prime opportunity to express our gratitude for their service and engage in meaningful conversation about what we see in the museum. This past spring, my students hosted at the museum oral history interviews with Vietnam veterans for the Library of Congress Veterans History Project; it was an incredible learning experience for them to be able to tour the museum with the veterans while also sitting down to help preserve history for future generations.

What advice would you give to young people, in high school or college, who may be considering a career in education but are unsure?
My best word of advice for those considering secondary education is to think beyond a love of the content. They certainly need a love for the content they may be teaching, but more importantly they must possess a servant’s heart for those placed under their direction. Lesson plans fall apart and often times do not meet the best expectations that a teacher might have for them, but this is often unseen by the students. What is observed is whether or not the teacher values the students in their care. This sense of compassion for the students is the foundation to success in the classroom. A teacher may have a tremendous understanding of what they are teaching along with one of the best lesson plans ever, but without a positive, mutual relationship of respect and admiration between the students and teacher, the lesson will not succeed.

Do you have a favorite historical topic or era?
I have found the Vietnam War, with its many implications both at home and abroad, to be a topic that I can absolutely immerse myself and my students in with great outcomes. Richard Nixon said in 1980 that “no event in American history is more misunderstood than the Vietnam War.” I find this quote so true for my students, therefore making it a great topic to teach as it has an eye-opening effect. The history of the Vietnam War contains so many instances of individuals having to make difficult choices full of moral complexity, such as a draftee choosing to accept their draft status or to choose evasion, that it provides valuable discussions for class. With all of the recent attention being given to the era—Ken Burns’s upcoming documentary, the New York Times’s recent ’67 series, and the upcoming 50th anniversary—the new scholarship being produced has brought a new level of depth to researching the era. The photographs, personal accounts, and music all add an additional layer that makes it so rich to teach.



Announcing Library Programming Grants

The Library Affiliate Program is offering public libraries six $400 grants to fund student-focused American history programming. Applications are being accepted until September 15, and grant recipients will be notified on October 2. The grant for this period will cover programming held between November 1, 2017, and May 1, 2018. Click here to apply!

Grants are open to all public libraries who are part of the Gilder Lehrman Library Affiliate Program. If your library is not yet an affiliate, you can easily register for the program here



Get to Know the 2017 History Teachers of the Year: Georgette Hackman, Pennsylvania

This year, Gilder Lehrman recognized 52 State History Teachers of the Year for their tireless and innovative efforts to make history come alive for their students.

But who are they, really? We asked these talented teachers to answer a few questions about themselves and to reflect on the challenges and joys of teaching. We will feature one state winner every Tuesday and Thursday between now and September, so keep checking back to learn more about these outstanding educators!

This week, meet Georgette Hackman: 


Georgette Hackman, Cocalico Middle School
2017 Pennsylvania State History Teacher of the Year

What is your favorite historical site or museum?
I have a definite tie. The first place is Ford’s Theatre in Washington DC. Because I am a huge Lincoln fan, many people ask me why I am devoted to the location where Lincoln was assassinated. The reason is simple. Ford’s Theatre is dedicated to preserving Lincoln’s memory. Even the signs read “where Lincoln’s legacy lives.” There is something moving and meaningful about spending time in the building where Lincoln spent his final hours. In addition, Ford’s has been able to bring together two of my favorite things: history and theater.

My second location is Colonial Williamsburg. My parents took me to Colonial Williamsburg when I was nine years old and it’s where my passion for history was born. Ever since that summer, Williamsburg has held a very special place in my heart. I’m fortunate to have worked and learned in both of these locations and they have both contributed to the teacher that I am today.

Georgette Hackman with students on a trip to New York CityWhat advice would you give to young people, in high school or college, who may be considering a career in education but are unsure?
I would ask these young people to close their eyes and remember their favorite teacher or teachers. To go further, I would ask them what their lives would be like had they never met those special teachers. If you contemplate the void that would be left in our lives by never having a truly great teacher, you suddenly realize the potential impact of an educator. Our profession desperately needs smart, passionate, and dedicated people. Sometimes the struggles in education are better documented than our triumphs. It’s up to teachers like me and my colleagues to spread the notion that teaching is not just a job, it’s the ability to change a life forever. Come and join the profession that creates all other professions!

Who is your favorite historian?
ALL OF THEM! Choosing just one is impossible. Stephen Knott, David McCullough, David Blight, and Doris Kearns Goodwin are at the top of my list right now, but that list is always growing and changing.

Do you have a favorite historical topic or era?
The eighteenth century and the American Founding. Not only is it what I teach, but it is also where my passion lies. The colonial and Revolutionary periods were the first area that I studied at length and are by far my favorite topics to teach. I have been blessed to have participated in teacher institutes at Mount Vernon and Colonial Williamsburg as well as being named a James Madison Fellow. All of these experiences have contributed to my passion and knowledge about this time period.

Do your students have a favorite historical topic or era?
Right now, anything pertaining to the Broadway musical Hamilton is white hot in middle school. Any topic that I can somehow relate to the musical is suddenly exciting and captivating for my students.



Get to Know the 2017 History Teachers of the Year: Paul Howard, Washington DC

This year, the Gilder Lehrman Institute recognized 52 State History Teachers of the Year for their tireless and innovative efforts to make history come alive for their students.

But who are they, really? We asked these talented teachers to answer a few questions about themselves and to reflect on the challenges and joys of teaching. We will feature one state winner every Tuesday and Thursday between now and September, so keep checking back to learn more about these outstanding educators!

This week, meet Paul Howard:


Paul Howard, LaSalle-Backus Education Campus
2017 District of Columbia History Teacher of the Year

What is the last great history book you read?
The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin

What is your favorite historical site or museum?
The National Archives. This may be DC bias, but the Archives is the American history gold mine. Apart from the founding documents, the Archives have the most fascinating documents and exhibits that highlight our macro history and, more importantly, our micro histories.

What advice would you give to young people, in high school or college, who may be considering a career in education but are unsure?
Most people who have entered the field of education do so because they want to help children achieve an elevated quality of life. Often times when you say that you are a teacher, people will replay with “Oh, I bet that is a rewarding job.” As they should, because it is a rewarding career. However, what you are never told during teacher training is that your failures will linger much longer than your successes. If you plan, teach, and seek professional development with the full effort and passion required by the profession, then you will have phenomenal triumphs and change the course of people’s lives. This is the ultimate professional satisfaction and these are the stories teachers tell themselves and each other. The stories that do not get told are the ones that potential teachers should know about.

It is impossible for a teacher to satisfy all the needs of all their students. No one person can pass on enough wisdom, knowledge, and love to children to prevent all of them from suffering. While most people understand this conceptually at a societal level, teachers experience this first hand. At some point you will fail as a teacher, and that failure will impact a child. Your failures will have names and faces attached to them. A teacher is not the sole reason for a student’s success, nor is a teacher the sole reason for their failure; however, young teachers should know that they will experience both and they both shape you as an educator.

If you could travel back in time and meet any historical figure who would it be and why?
Toussaint Louverture because he was a historical crossroads in human form. The man was a slave, a slave owner, a businessman, a general, a politician, and a writer. His perspective was unique in a world of revolutions and I would love to hear what he thought.

What is your favorite historical film or series?
The Big Short. It is not quite a “historical” film yet, but it will be, and it does an excellent job of documenting a prevalent mentality in America at the turn of the millennia.


Check out photos of Paul Howard with his students below:

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Get to Know the 2017 History Teachers of the Year: Caroline Young, Minnesota

This year, Gilder Lehrman recognized 52 State History Teachers of the Year for their tireless and innovative efforts to make history come alive for their students.

But who are they, really? We asked these talented teachers to answer a few questions about themselves and to reflect on the challenges and joys of teaching. We will feature one state winner every Tuesday and Thursday between now and September, so keep checking back to learn more about these outstanding educators!

This week, meet Caroline Young:


Caroline Young, Rockford High School
2017 Minnesota State History Teacher of the Year

What is the last great history book you read?
I could do a whole booklist here. Hellhound on His Trail by Hampton Sides, The Black Count by Tom Reiss, Appetite for America by Stephen Fried, and The Great Silence by Juliet Nicolson stand out from the last few summers.

I’m teaching Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand this year. I had a few kids pilot it last year, and I was impressed with the connection they made with Louis Zamperini. Hillenbrand’s telling made the past more relevant for my readers. The kids tend to see wars as fought by their grandpas and uncles, not really seeing or understanding that during the war, these men, in their late teens and twenties, were basically their own age with very similar lives. Establishing that relevance can be the hardest (and most important) lesson.

What is your favorite historical site or museum?
When I was young, my parents took my brothers and me on these wonderful road trips that I have since come to see as essential to my education and even my own identity. The Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming, is one of the museums that I visited as a kid that set me up to love the past—exciting and fantastic and romantic. And as an adult I see that lovely complication of theatricality in some of its collections.

What advice would you give to young people, in high school or college, who may be considering a career in education but are unsure?
Get into a classroom. Set up an observation schedule with your mom’s friend who teaches 4th grade or your aunt the librarian. If you find yourself helping, participating, volunteering, these are pretty good signs. There are many schools and programs needing volunteers, and indeed some education programs require those volunteer experiences for admission.

If you could travel back in time and meet any historical figure who would it be and why?
In Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, the boys and their telephone booth time machine bring Abe Lincoln, Socrates, Joan of Arc, and others to the present so Bill and Ted can pass history, graduate, and become the leaders of the free world. I’ve graduated high school and have no aspirations to lead the free world, so I’d be more personally reflective. I’d take my phone booth to my great-grandmother’s hometown in Poland at the turn of the 1900s. I’d like to know what she left behind when she made her way to Minneapolis as a teenager. I’d like to have that context for my own history.

What is your favorite historical film or series?
I am a tremendous fan of PBS’s American Experience. It’s a running joke in my honors class that I will recommend on a regular basis that they supplement their coursework with this or that segment of this or that episode. They give me odd looks when I tell them “Tupperware!” is great for a glimpse of the consumerism, gender roles, and politics of the 1950s. I use all of “The Civilian Conservation Corps” in all of my US history classes. That film is structured around the testimony of five men who served in the CCC. My students grew up hiking, hunting, fishing, and camping in the parks and on the trails the CCC was responsible for—it gives their own experiences more context.

Do you have a favorite historical topic or era?
I love almost all of it and actively work to make the stuff I like less more interesting to keep the kids engaged.



National Friendship Day: August 6

Marquis de Lafayette to Henry Knox, January 8, 1784 (Gilder Lehrman Collection).Today is National Friendship Day, and to celebrate, we’re showcasing a vivid letter from the Gilder Lehrman Collection that shows the enduring strength of friendship forged in war. In January 1784, the Marquis de Lafayette, back home in France, wrote a warm letter to Henry Knox. Both men had served as generals in the Revolutionary War, and the hardships and triumphs they shared had nurtured a strong bond. Lafayette affirmed his attachment to Knox despite their great distance, and implored his friend to keep in touch:

You know my tender affection to you, my dear knox, it is Engraved in my Heart, and I shall keep it as long as I live - from the Begining of our great Revolution which Has Been the Begining of our Acquaintance, we Have Been Actuated By the same principles, [impressed] with the same ideas, Attached to the same friends, and we Have warmly loved and Confidentially Entrusted each other.

Lafayette, while happy to hear that peace was being restored in America, admitted that he had mixed feelings about the disbanding of the Continental Army and the scattering of the men he called brothers. He lamented,

I Could not Help sighing at the first news that the Continental Army was no more – We Have so intimately so Brotherly lived together, We Have Had so much to fear, so much to Hope, we Have United ourselves through to many Changes of fortune, that the parting Moment Cannot But Be painfull.



Get to Know the 2017 History Teachers of the Year: Adam Johnson, Alaska

This year, Gilder Lehrman recognized 52 State History Teachers of the Year for their tireless and innovative efforts to make history come alive for their students. 

But who are they, really? We asked these talented teachers to answer a few questions about themselves and to reflect on the challenges and joys of teaching. We will feature one state winner every Tuesday and Thursday between now and September, so keep checking back to learn more about these outstanding educators!

This week, meet Adam Johnson: 



Adam Johnson, Romig Middle School 
2017 Alaska State History Teacher of the Year

Do you have a favorite/funny memory from teaching?
One year I had a student named Christopher in one of my 7th grade classes. Christopher, who has autism, had a very difficult year. Although he had a lot of discipline issues, I developed a rapport with him and convinced him to join the wrestling and track teams. Gradually as the year progressed, Christopher made more connections with students and staff. He had a difficult home life as well and when the year ended, it was difficult to see him leave. Surprisingly the next year I moved up to 8th grade and had Christopher in my class again. I worked with a great group of teachers that year, and Christopher had an excellent year, making honor roll and getting zero discipline referrals. On the very last day of school, during the end of the year award ceremony, he was selected as the student of the year for our middle school team. I choked up a little when I saw him receive the award—he was so happy. The crowd gave him a huge ovation. That one moment was probably the happiest moment in his life. He went off to high school, wrestled all four years and now attends the University of Alaska, Anchorage.

Adam Johnson (left) with students

State one fun historical fact about the town you live in or grew up in.
Anchorage, Alaska, was supposed to be called Ship Creek, which is the waterway that runs through downtown. The citizens in 1915 voted between three names: Ship Creek, Alaska City, and Anchorage. They chose Alaska City. However, the US postal service in Washington DC chose to name it Anchorage after a popular hardwood store it was sending mail to. After so much mail started coming in to Anchorage, the Alaska Territorial Legislature voted to make the town’s name officially Anchorage.

What is the last great history book you read?
The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court
by Jeffrey Toobin is a great read. Anyone who likes the modern history of the Supreme Court should read this book.

What is your favorite historical site or museum?
The National Constitution Center is an excellent museum. It is both modern and kid friendly. They did a good job making it interactive.

What advice would you give to young people, in high school or college, who may be considering a career in education but are unsure?
After I became a teacher I emailed my favorite teacher from high school. He reminded me that teaching is a calling. You might not make a ton of money, but teaching is very meaningful job. If you love working with kids and are devoted to the craft then you will enjoy teaching. You will make great memories, have funny stories, and have so many “light bulb” moments in your career that you won’t be able to count all of them. You can make a difference in kids’ lives, and when that happens, it is the best feeling in the world.

If you could travel back in time and meet any historical figure who would it be and why?
Ben Franklin. He would be a very interesting figure to hang out with. You could have political discourse and party at the same time. There is no other person in American history like Ben Franklin.

Who is your favorite historian?
I really enjoy the works of Jon Meacham. Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power is essential for anyone who wants to understand the mindset of Jefferson. He has also has written about Winston Churchill, Andrew Jackson, and George Washington.

What is your favorite historical film or series?
The King’s Speech is one of my all-time favorite movies about a historical event, followed closely by Patton, and Saving Private Ryan.

Do you have a favorite historical topic or era?
Definitely. I enjoy teaching and learning about the Philadelphia Convention. This event can relate to so many topics in history before and after it happened—it is timeless.

Do your students have a favorite historical topic or era?
We spend a lot of time focusing on government and the Constitution. We conduct a lot of debates using real-life examples from the past and today, from slavery to gay rights.



Get to Know the 2017 History Teachers of the Year: Andrea Guy, Tennessee

This year, Gilder Lehrman recognized 52 State History Teachers of the Year for their tireless and innovative efforts to make history come alive for their students. These exceptional educators were awarded $1,000 and an archive of books and resources for their school library, and were honored in state ceremonies.

But who are they, really? We asked these talented teachers to answer a few questions about themselves and to reflect on the challenges and joys of teaching. We will feature one state winner every Tuesday and Thursday between now and September, so keep checking back to learn more about these outstanding educators!

This week, meet Andrea Guy: 


Andrea Guy, Hardin Valley Academy Teacher and 2017 Tennessee State History Teacher of the Year

What is the last great history book you read?
How can I pick just one? I loved Timothy Egan’s The Worst Hard Time, which is about the Dust Bowl. I also tell my students that every single one of them should read Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee because that book changed the way I teach history. It had a profound effect on me and caused me to constantly challenge myself to teach history from other perspectives. Another great book is The Presidents Club, by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy, which I also recommend to my students. That book just blew my mind about the relationships between presidents after they leave office.

What is your favorite historical site or museum?
I could never pick just one! I love Lowell, Massachusetts. I went there as part of the NEH Summer Institute and was just amazed by the mills and the history that was still there. The entire city of Boston and the Freedom Trail is something I recommend my students do all the time. Finally, the Smithsonian American Art Museum has so much history in it. I could spend days inside just wandering, staring at the paintings.

What advice would you give to young people, in high school or college, who may be considering a career in education but are unsure?
I tell my students to always have a back-up plan. Get a degree that gives you flexibility. Teaching is hard, and the demands on teachers never lessen. Students need to get degrees that are marketable and where teaching for thirty years is not their only option. If they go into teaching and find that they do not love it or have the enthusiasm to work through the challenges, then they have something else they can be passionate about. I love my job, and I love going to work and engaging with students every day. That is what makes the stress and long hours worth it.

Who is your favorite historian?
I am a big fan of James McPherson, and have read all of his books. I once thought I would get my PhD in history with a focus on the Civil War, and I read about that subject exhaustively. I love Bruce Catton, Clifford Dowdey, Ed Bearss, Shelby Foote. In terms of topics other than the Civil War, I read everything that David McCullough writes because he is just so eloquent and brings history to life.

What is your favorite historical film or series?
My all-time favorite historical film is hands-down Last of the Mohicans. I saw it in the theaters over nine times, and since then I have seen it more times than I can count. It is a beautiful, raw film that I think captures the brutality and beauty of the French and Indian War.

Do you have a favorite historical topic or era?
Antebellum America

Do your students have a favorite historical topic or era?
My students love social history, in large part because I do. I do a lot of things with artifacts to help them with questioning, and that is always something that they talk about. In general students also seem to enjoy the World War I through World War II era.



Get to Know the 2017 History Teachers of the Year: Kevin Dua, Massachusetts

This year, Gilder Lehrman recognized 52 State History Teachers of the Year for their tireless and innovative efforts to make history come alive for their students. These exceptional educators were awarded $1,000 and an archive of books and resources for their school library, and were honored in state ceremonies.

But who are they, really? We asked these talented teachers to answer a few questions about themselves and to reflect on the challenges and joys of teaching. We will feature one state winner every Tuesday and Thursday between now and September, so keep checking back to learn more about these outstanding educators!

This week, meet Kevin Dua: 



Kevin Dua, Somerville High School Teacher and 2017 Massachusetts State History Teacher of the Year

Do you have a favorite/funny memory from teaching?
“Were you ever a slave?” still remains the most momentous question in my nine years in teaching. A student, as genuine as possible, literally asked me this question during class, stunning the other students. The moment highlighted the responsibility of my position, as a black male teacher, both professionally and personally. (I responded calmly by explaining that the 13th Amendment made it impossible for that question to apply to me in 2012).

The instance also became a growing experience. Back then, I generally took the teacher route to safely reply to such challenging inquiries, as opposed to the educator route, critically delving into the packed layers with my students. Moving forward, I have consciously made it a goal to create, encourage, and expand on such learning opportunities, thus never sidestepping again—for my students and for me.

State one fun historical fact about the town you grew up in.
Aside from it being the location in which General Robert E. Lee commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia during the American Civil War—my hometown of Alexandria, Virginia, is famously dubbed Home of the Titans, in honor of the T.C. Williams High School Titans football team. The story of this school and its desegregated football team (which won the state championship in 1971) was made into the 2000 Disney sports film, Remember the Titans, starring Denzel Washington.

What was the last great history book you read?
A friend and fellow teacher gave me Charleston Syllabus: Readings on Race, Racism, and Racial Violence (edited by Chad Williams, Kidada E. Williams, and Keisha N. Blain) as a gift. Described as “a collection of new essays and columns published in the wake of the massacre, along with selected excerpts from key existing scholarly books and general-interest articles,” this is a potent read for any teacher, historian, or other reader to experience.

What is your favorite historical site or museum?
The new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, is unquestionably the greatest historical landmark I have ever visited. The depth of world history that has been compacted in one building is overwhelmingly beautiful. The museum’s founders and contributors were thorough in ensuring that the multi-narrative of African-Americans’ agency was powerfully celebrated via various artistic media. To see during my visit many adults encouraging children to take notes and to ask questions—it showed this conscious effort by attendees to ensure full immersion in this history, for all ages.

Kevin Dua with his students

If you could travel back in time and meet any historical figure, whom would it be and why?
I would meet all 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence. And once we have all tolerated the bewilderment of time travel, I would inform them that I wanted to meet all of them to simply encourage them to continue compromising until they agreed to amend the “all men are created equal” to “all humans are created equal” (or “all men and women are created equal”) . . . and to abolish slavery before declaring independence to form a new nation. And if I were to meet them after the signing, I would ask them to convene again to make the necessary changes to ensure human rights.

Who is your favorite historian?
Historian Carter G. Woodson is one that I have come to highly value in recent years. His founding of "Negro History Week" (the precursor to Black History Month in February) has been significantly misunderstood. (He wanted the celebration to specifically correspond with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.) More importantly, his work via the Journal of Negro History and advocating teaching youth diverse narratives has positively impacted today’s schools.

What is your favorite historical film or series?
It would have to be 12 Years a Slave, a film that I have incorporated into my freshmen history class for the past five years along with an in-depth guide. My students have been truly mesmerized and I have enjoyed discovering a new aspect of a film I have seen 100+ times. For example, the rowhouse located at 1315 Duke Street (in my hometown of Alexandria, Virginia) was once part of a slave trade complex that grew to be among the nation’s largest. The last trader to operate on the site, James H. Birch, was the same dealer who paid men to kidnap Solomon Northup and then sold him into slavery. But a close second would be the musical 1776. A few months ago, my wife introduced (and heavily encouraged) me to watch this film. Since then, I have become an admirer.

Do you have a favorite historical topic or era?
The discovery of Jane in colonial Jamestown, Virginia; her story is the hook that starts my history classes each academic year. Aside from the grotesque recorded descriptions of cannibalism that my classes dig through, the fascination behind the meaning of the discovery is what remains captivating for me.

For me, and this is how I present it to my students, Jane represents a moment of truth, a tone setter, for a future nation. The poor planning, struggles, deaths, and resort to cannibalism—it all humbled a community on the brink of extinction. This community knew that, if they were able to survive such obstacles, they would need to embrace a new mindset to move forward, never weakening itself again. Jane was an indication that anything less than prosperity (by any means) as a people would be a failure. Also, Jamestown is in my home state of Virginia, so by default, it is a favorite topic of mine.

Do your students have a favorite historical topic or era?
The early women’s rights movement, starting with the Lowell mill factories protests. Due to budgeting, I have yet to fund a field trip to the Lowell mill factories (conveniently in the same state I work in). However, each year, to further my students’ understanding of this feminist movement, we simulate a factory shop inside my classroom. With desks set up as an assembly line, the students enter my classroom, sign a work contract (an actual primary source from a mill factory company from the 1820s), and begin to create “shirts” (drawing and cutting shirts), under my direction, as the owner.



The Cold War Moves to the Kitchen: On This Day, 1959

Still from "A Date with Your Family," a 1950 Encyclopedia Britannica instructional film On July 24, 1959, at the height of the Cold War, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and Vice President Richard Nixon held a “Kitchen Debate.” Since the end of WWII, the Soviet Union and United States had been locked in a fierce battle for technological, industrial, and military dominance. In their brief exchange, however, the two leaders put military prowess aside to pit the American lifestyle against the Soviet, and capitalism versus communism.

Nixon extolled the wonders of consumer choice and benefits of access to the newest products and technological advancements. He noted that new kitchen gadgets, such as dishwashers, made life easier for American housewives, and explained that even an ordinary blue-collar worker could afford a comfortable suburban home for his family. Khrushchev, meanwhile, criticized the American system for its wastefulness and deep inequalities, reminding Nixon that the advantages and comforts of this new middle-class suburban lifestyle did not extend to the poorest Americans.

Nixon: The American system is designed to take advantage of new inventions and new techniques. . . . Diversity, the right to choose, the fact that we have 1,000 builders building 1,000 different houses is the most important thing. We don’t have one decision made at the top by one government official.

Khrushchev: Your American houses are built to last only 20 years so builders could sell new houses at the end. We build firmly. We build for our children and grandchildren. . . . In Russia . . . you are entitled to housing. . . . In America, if you don’t have a dollar you have a right to choose between sleeping in a house or on the pavement.

For more on postwar America and the Cold War, check out History by Era.



Ulysses S. Grant Dies: On This Day, July 23, 1885

Frederick Dent Grant to J. B. Chaffee, telegram announcing Ulysses S. Grant's death, July 23, 1885 (Gilder Lehrman Institute).On July 23, 1885, Ulysses S. Grant, a Union general in the Civil War and the 18th president of the United States, died at the age of 63. He had struggled with throat cancer for a year while rushing to finish his memoirs, the proceeds from which he hoped would support his wife, Julia Grant. Grant died surrounded by his family, including his eldest son, Frederick Dent Grant. Soon after, Frederick  sent a telegram to his brother’s father-in-law:

To Hon J B Chaffee, 

Father died at Eight Oclock this morning, 

F. D. Grant

The news arrived in Denver, Colorado, later that same day. The telegraph in the late nineteenth century allowed relatively rapid sharing of such news, but the format allowed for short messages only, and any explanation of the full circumstances would have to await a letter.

 



Get to Know the 2017 History Scholars: Jacob Bruggeman

Jacob Bruggeman is a 2017 Gilder Lehrman History Scholar. These 15 exceptional college students were in New York City, June 49, learning from eminent historians and exploring New York City through a historical lens. Here Jacob describes highlights from the program.


In early June, I was honored to be one of fifteen undergraduate participants in the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History’s 2016-2017 History Scholar Program, through which I was flown out to New York City and housed at New York University with the fourteen other participants in the program. The program’s length is just short of a week, and each day we engaged with several preeminent American historians, whose myriad specialties ranged from women’s roles in the War for Independence and Lincoln’s life, to Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s naval policies.

Representing universities, public and private, from all over the United States, this year’s History Scholar cohort also embodied a comprehensive scope of academic training, ideological commitments, and experiential backgrounds. Yet, in the face of our deep differences, we formed a cohesive group, each of us dedicated to the preservation, understanding, and consistent reevaluation of others’ interpretations, or “histories,” of the past.

To be sure, we all cherish different moments and eras of American History, but we recognize that stewarding the past is not a zero-sum game, and that attempting to comprehend our past, regardless of the particularities of a certain period, place, or person, is a worthwhile endeavor—indeed, an endeavor upon which rests the stability of our modest republic.

I highly recommend applying to the program. Through engaging American history, the visiting scholars, and likeminded students, you just might make studying history more interesting, encourage those in your circles to appreciate the interpretation of the past, and, just maybe, help to preserve the republic.



Jacob Bruggeman is a sophomore honors student at Miami University with majors in history and political science. Jacob serves on the AEI Executive Board, the JANUS Forum Steering Committee, and the “I Am Miami” values committee, is the student editor of Miami University’s undergraduate journal of history, and is currently campaigning for a seat on the city council of Oxford, Ohio.



The Hamilton Education Program Goes on Tour

Student performers pose backstage at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, New YorkThe Hamilton Education Program is going on tour for the 2017–2018 school year! As Hamilton: The Musical makes its way across America, the Hamilton Education Program will be holding special full-day programs for students in the following cities:

San Diego, CA
Tempe, AZ
Seattle, WA
Denver, CO
St. Louis, MO
Salt Lake City, UT
Houston, TX
Washington, DC (2018–2019 school year)

Are you a teacher at a Title I–eligible high school in or near one of these cities? Your students can participate in a dynamic history and arts curriculum based on the musical and attend a once-in-a-lifetime day at the theater that includes a Q&A with select cast members, student performances, and a matinee performance of Hamilton.Apply to participate in the Hamilton Education Program here!



The Health Care Debate in 1951

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History recently acquired a letter from President Harry Truman to Dr. Channing Frothingham of Boston. In this letter, written in 1951, the President thanked Channing for his support of Truman’s plan for national health insurance.

Harry Truman to Channing Frothingham, January 31, 1951. (The Gilder Lehrman Inst

I am more grateful than I can tell you for this assurance of your continued loyal support of the national health insurance program. As you so frankly indicate, that program has powerful enemies who are not above misrepresenting its aim and purpose, in fact its fundamental principle.

Despite all obstacles it has been my observation that in the nearly two years since we met to discuss the program, understanding and appreciation of its merits have shown steady increase. I, too, believe that its further development is inevitable.

There is no doubt but that legislation to meet the present national emergency must necessarily take precedence in national consideration at this time. Nevertheless, I am convinced that we must continue to move forward in promoting the principles of national health insurance and of other health measures proposed by the administration to meet the dangerous lack of adequate medical care among a large proportion of our population. Certainly the need for more doctors is very real.

Truman had introduced his health care plan on November 19, 1945. He cited the millions of Americans who had been excused from military service due to health issues. His plan was to encourage more doctors and nurses to work in rural areas and to create a federally administered national health insurance fund. Truman’s proposal went to Congress in a Social Security expansion bill co-sponsored by Senators Robert Wagner and James Murray and Representative John Dingell. The Wagner-Murray-Dingell Bill faced opposition in Congress and from the American Medical Association. By 1951 Truman recognized that, with the crisis of the Korean War and a national reaction against the New Deal programs, he was not going to get his program through Congress. He dropped the program from his 1952 State of the Union address, but established a Commission on the Health Needs of the Nation to study the issue.



First Fridays at the Gilder Lehrman Collection

Menu from Nelly Grant's White House Wedding, May 24, 1874. (The Gilder Curator Beth Huffer chats with teachers about historic documents.Once a month, the Gilder Lehrman Institute offers teachers the opportunity to visit the Gilder Lehrman Collection for a behind-the-scenes show-and-tell with our curatorial staff. Last Friday, July 7, the curators were joined by Megan Elias, Director of Online Courses at GLI and author of Food on the Page: Cookbooks and American Culture. Together, we explored documents that focus on food and discussed what they tell us about the past and how food history can be used in the classroom. Some topics that came up were weevils as a source of protein, one hundred gallons of wine ordered for the hospital department of the army, and cold tongue in gelatin as the perfect wedding dish.

Click here to learn about First Fridays and other ways to explore the documents in the Gilder Lehrman Collection.

 

 

 

 

 



Get to Know the 2017 History Scholars: Midori Kawaue

Midori Kawaue is a 2017 Gilder Lehrman History Scholar. These 15 exceptional college students were in New York City, June 49, learning from eminent historians and exploring New York City through a historical lens. Here Midori describes highlights from the program.


Brought up in Japan, I was inspired by how Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series created a three-dimensional world for me to experience the physical forces that framed her 19th-century American pioneer life. Eventually, my affection for these novels evolved into a passion for US history.

Midori gets a first-hand look at letters in the Gilder Lehrman CollectionFor a history nerd, my experience with Gilder Lehrman’s History Scholar Award program was like opening a treasure box. From participating in numerous lectures given by renowned historians, to encountering rare manuscripts like the original engraving of Paul Revere's Boston Massacre, to walking around Times Square with my fellow scholars, I found myself tearing up with joy during the entire week. This year, the History Scholars had a chance to take part in lectures by seven historians whose research ranges from Women in the Revolutionary War to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s relationship with the US Navy. It was an overwhelming experience sitting in a room with professional historians who devoted their entire lives to a specific subject or person. 

My favorite talk was on “Mourning Lincoln” by Dr. Martha Hodes. Through letters, diary entries, account books, and other archival material, Dr. Hodes presented her research on how the nation reacted to Lincoln’s assassination. Before this lecture, I had never wondered about the diverse ways people mourned Lincoln and how strongly grief manifested in personal narratives. In this way, every lecture provided me new knowledge that expanded my intellectual horizon.

My ultimate career goal is to pursue a PhD in History of Science and research transnational connections of science in the Atlantic World. The History Scholar Award program provided me with not only new knowledge of US history, but also strong connections that will help me, as a young historian, build my career. I am already looking forward to working with my fellow History Scholars in the near future. 

 


Midori Kawaue is a 2017 graduate of DePauw University, where she was an international student majoring in history and French. She is the co-editor of a 700-page Civil War prisoner-of-war diary, which is currently under review at Kent State University Press. In 2016 she was one of six fellows selected from a national pool for the Historic Deerfield Summer Fellowship Program.



Pure Food and Drug Act Passed: On This Day, 1906

Theodore Roosevelt at his desk, ca. 1907, by Harris and Ewing, Washington, DC (Gilder Lehrman Collection)On June 30, 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Pure Food and Drug Act and Meat Inspection Act, marking an achievement in federal regulation of the food industry. The catalyst for these acts was Upton Sinclair’s best-selling book, published just six months prior, The Jungle. The book chronicles a fictional Lithuanian immigrant family’s attempts to earn a living amidst the exploitative labor practices of the Chicago meatpacking industry. Sinclair hoped that getting readers to sympathize with the difficult lives of the laboring classes would increase interest in socialism. But it was the graphic depictions of the unsanitary conditions and the dubious origin of the meat, which Sinclair spent months undercover researching, that grabbed attention instead, and sparking an outcry for food industry reform. 

Congress had already been considering a food purity act for some time, but action had been stalled by objections from conservative congressmen and food-processing companies. But the public outcry stirred up by The Jungle led President Roosevelt to start an investigation of the meatpacking industry, and hastened federal action to regulate the food industry. While Sinclair’s work failed to turn the public toward socialism, it is an example of the progressive reforms that were accomplished through the “muckraking” exposés of the era.

 

 

 

 

 

 



Earning Professional Development with the Gilder Lehrman Institute

Need professional development credit? Several Gilder Lehrman programs can be used by educators to obtain professional development points (PDPs) or continuing education units (CEUs) in historical content knowledge and curriculum design.

1. Self-Paced Courses

Self-Paced Courses are online, graduate-level courses on a diverse range of American history topics that can be taken at a teacher’s own time and pace, with no expiration dates or deadlines. Each course includes lectures by an eminent historian and pedagogical tools/videos, as well as supplementary primary source readings.
Credit: 15 clock hours

2. Teaching Literacy through History

Teaching Literacy through History™ (TLTH) is an interdisciplinary professional development workshop program that uses primary source documents and historical texts to improve K–12 education, presented in a series of completely customized workshops by master teachers and historians.
Credit: Varies depending on custom length of program. One full-day workshop typically offers 6–8 clock hours for all participants.

3. Online Graduate Courses

Online Courses offer you the opportunity to learn from leading scholars of US history in a virtual classroom with other students from across the country. These accredited graduate courses include weekly assignments and readings, discussions, and a final project.
Credit: 3 graduate credits in American history courses, and the equivalent number of clock hours per credit in your state (ex: Massachusetts offers 22.5 PD points per credit).

4. Summer Teacher Seminars

Teacher Seminars are weeklong programs held at some of the most prestigious universities and prominent historical sites in the United States, England, and Scotland.
Credit: 40 clock hours per weeklong seminar


The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is undergoing an initiative to become an approved professional development / Continuing Teacher and Leader Education (CTLE) provider in all states that have a registry or review process. We are currently an approved provider in

Texas (Sponsor #902-467)

Massachusetts (Sponsor #2016F0016)

New York (Sponsor #3406) 

Upon completing a Gilder Lehrman PD activity, New York, Massachusetts, and Texas teachers will receive a specialized letter of completion with all required components for obtaining PD in their state, including our provider #, start and end dates, number of hours, and a description of the activity. 

If you would like to take a GLI program for PD, but your state Department of Education or school district requires PD vendors to be state approved, please contact us at [email protected].



Get to Know the 2017 History Scholars: Melanie Sheehan

Melanie Sheehan is a 2017 Gilder Lehrman History Scholar. These 15 exceptional college students were in New York City, June 49, learning from eminent historians and exploring New York City through a historical lens. Here Melanie describes highlights from the program.



Melanie Sheehan (center) gets a close look at the first draft of the US Constitution at the Gilder Lehrman Collection.As a Gilder Lehrman History Scholar, I had the opportunity to meet with some prominent historians and to hear them discuss their current research. Because some talks covered a large swath of American history, I was able to connect discussions with professors like Ken Jackson and Thomas Heinrich with my own research interests in the New Deal. At the same time, I learned a great deal about people and events that I had previously known relatively little about, such as women in the American Revolution, from Carol Berkin.

I also very much enjoyed seeing historical documents and artifacts in the Gilder Lehrman Collection and the New-York Historical Society. Few moments compare to hearing the words, “This is James Madison’s hair.” Additionally, the professors and the Gilder Lehrman staff showed a real interest in supporting my ventures as a historian going forward, and the connections I made both with these accomplished professionals and with my peers in the program will prove invaluable in the future. 

The program also gave me, as a lifelong resident of the New York metropolitan area, an incredible opportunity to view New York City in a different light. For instance, during our walking tour of lower Manhattan, I realized that everyday sites like churches, cemeteries, and taverns, which I might have walked past to catch a subway in most circumstances, had served significant purposes during the American Revolution. My appreciation for the city deepened not only during organized events but also in the evenings, when fellow History Scholars and I had the opportunity to explore the city on our own. Seeing the reactions of my peers to Central Park and Rockefeller Center helped me to experience the city through the eyes of people who had never been to New York. And, of course, I enjoyed introducing them to Ray’s Pizza.    


Melanie is a 2017 graduate of Fordham University with a double major in history and American studies and a minor in economics. She will be starting a doctoral program in American history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill this fall.