Book Reviewed by Hank Bitten, NJCSS Executive Director
I am a history teacher who wanted to learn about the perspectives of racial inequality and social justice as a result of the events during the summer of 2020. Although I have a strong content background in the history of African Americans, slavery, reconstruction, prejudice and discrimination, constitutional law, the economics of poverty, and human rights, I never taught a course on social inequality, criminal justice, or how to address problems in this area.
A former student, Dr. Christopher Borgen, who is a law professor at St. John’s University, introduced me to the Equal Justice Initiative and its founder, Bryan Stevenson. After visiting the EJI website and learning from others that Bryan Stevenson was a past speaker at an NCSS convention, I read his book, all 66 pages in about 30 minutes!
The book was different from what I was expecting. When I read the description on the Amazon website, I was expecting stories of convicted felons on death row who were falsely accused and then represented by Dr. Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative. Instead, I discovered that I shared the same hopes, values, and mission as Bryan Stevenson, even though our life experiences were very different. The things we shared were loving grandmothers, disappointing high school educational experiences, religious faith, and a calling to help people by making a difference in their lives. My world view that we are placed into situations by circumstance (or divine intervention) was reinforced in the 66 pages of what I read.
Bryan Stevenson lived in a rural town in southern Delaware from 1959 until he graduated from Eastern University (PA) in 1977. He attended the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard where he earned a Master of Arts degree in Public Policy and a Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law School. After moving to Atlanta, he was an attorney with the Southern Center for Human Rights in 1989 he founded the non-profit law center, Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery. His life’s work is committed to eliminating life-without-parole sentences and capital punishment for juveniles. The Equal Justice Initiative have won reversals or release for 135 wrongly convicted death row prisoners.
The EJI opened the Legacy Museum in 2018 in Montgomery, Alabama to focus on racial inequality and the challenges of race discrimination in the criminal justice system in the United States. The current digital exhibits on racial justice, Reconstruction, and criminal justice reform are informative.
As a white, middle class, educated person living in a suburban community, my wife and I taught our children and now we are teaching our grandchildren that the police are your friend. We instill in them that if you are ever in trouble to seek the advice of the police who are easily recognized by their uniforms. This is teachable because all of us deserve to be treated equally! The book provides examples of how “our society applies a presumption of dangerousness and guilt to young black men, and that’s what leads to wrongful arrests ad wrongful convictions and wrongful death sentences, not just wrongful shootings.” The example of injustice is the story of Walter McMillian who was sentenced to death in 1986 for the murder of Ronda Morrison, an eighteen-year old white woman. He was treated unfairly because he was targeted, the victim of false testimonies, convicted of a life sentence by an all-white jury, and then this sentence was changed to the death sentence by judicial override. This short book emphasizes the power of mercy and redemption and how simple interventions based on perseverance can lead to justice and goodness and change lives.
The K-12 educational experience of Bryan Stevenson gave me a different perspective of my own experiences. I was educated in the Paterson Public Schools from 1952-1964. I went to overcrowded schools, we were attacked by black teenagers from the other side of the real estate dividing line, lacked a college preparatory experience even though I was in the Academic program, and skipped two years graduating at age 16. Bryan Stevenson’s experience was similar and yet opposite. Although he went to school a decade later, his mother and grandmother were anxious every day about his experiences in an integrated school. Both of our mothers and grandparents were influential in teaching us to read (newspapers and encyclopedias) and we were both the first in our families to attend and graduate from college.
The second perspective I gained from this book was first introduced to me in Race Matters by Cornell West. I read this book in the 1990s and the narrative demonstrated by African Americans through all the years of segregation, insecurity, and prejudice is one of love, hope, and a desire for acceptance. During the current national dialogue of racial inequality and social injustice, I think back to my first years as a teacher at Martin Luther High School in Maspeth, Queens. This was the year of the strike by teachers in the New York Public Schools and the year that neighborhood schools ended and busing to integrated schools began. As a new teacher, I was instructed to start an African American History course, even though college courses in this field were rare and not part of my education. As a result, I learned with my students, enrollment increased to multiple sections, and my students taught me about their experiences in East New York, (and other communities), threats against them on public transportation, and the difficulty in finding work. I also learned about the experiences of their parents in the workforce at a time when the Bakke decision by the Supreme Court challenged the validity of minority quotas.
The third perspective, the one that motivated me to write this book review, was the role and influence of the church and the driving values that motivated the life work and decisions of Bryan Stevenson. I discovered in this narrative the importance of social and emotional learning, that solutions are always a process rather than an answer, and the importance of teachers in educating students.
It is important for teachers to understand the narrative of fear. This is evident in the restrictions of the plantation, denial of literacy, and Jim Crow segregation. It is also evident in the classification of drug addicts and users as criminals instead of individuals with a sickness or mental health condition. Fear is a powerful force in the human condition. We are taught to fear the consequences of breaking laws and rules as well as fearing failure.
It is equally important for teachers to teach and be a voice of hope and help. The social studies teachers I am privileged to know want to make a positive difference in the lives of their students. This is why civic education and historical context is important to them because the context supports equality, freedom, respect, justice, respect, and human rights. These are the threads that weave every day in the lessons of ancient societies, the Enlightenment, totalitarian rulers, colonial America, abolition, suffrage, Reconstruction, the New Deal, Fair Deal, Great Society, and the American Dream.
The impressive personal story of Bryan Stevenson is one of notable accomplishments but the difference he has been able to make in the lives of people through the Equal Justice Initiative is very similar to the impactful stories of teachers. Although our calling is to teach social studies, we are also teachers of life skills, the extraordinary lessons of handling crises, and how to persevere through the frustrations of declining test scores and disappointments. Teachers are always modeling resilience, perseverance, and help.
Another lesson that was reinforced for me through this book was the concept of leadership. Leadership in the classroom is demonstrated by getting our students to support common goals of listening to others, searching for the truth, asking questions, doing our best, and supporting each other. Bryan Stevenson also includes speaking out for what is right! This includes making our classrooms and schools free from fear and anger, free from complacency and ignorance, and places where students feel comfortable to ask questions, learn different perspectives, and respect the competing ideas that are inherent in a democracy.
There are many lessons throughout this book and they will speak to each person in a different way. Regarding civic engagement, it is important to follow the calling in one’s heart in addition to their cognitive knowledge of what needs to be changed. It also means to think small when there are big problems. Bryan Stevenson lives in a state with a very high poverty rate and a record of harsh punishments against people. The lesson I came away with is to make a difference where I can, even if it is in the lives of just a few. For your students, let them know that they are witnesses to everything they see – bullying, sexism, injustice, inequality, favoritism, patronizing, cheating, lying, exaggerating, complacency, etc.
The book takes only a few hours to read but the messages in the book will last a long time!
The word, “Interdisciplinary” has been circulating in education for years. Over time, “interdisciplinary collaborations” and “interdisciplinary learning spaces” have become more prevalent in schools and institutions across the country. Just this year, I have proposed a new interdisciplinary class called “Science and Society” to my district Curriculum Committee and got it approved for implementation. However, the significant increase in interdisciplinary learning over the years is hardly a surprise given its vast appeal.
To begin with, the very prospect of learning through a marriage of multiple disciplines is an inherently progressive standard. It is a clear break from the status quo of traditional disciplinary barriers that have been established in education systems for decades. As a result, interdisciplinarity is an innovative and exciting topic for many teachers, supervisors, and students. More recently, it has begun to move into frontline conversations about 21st century education reform and a fundamental structuring of pedagogy itself.
As a student interested in education policy, I too share the enthusiasm of others who are excited to see the rise of a new learning model that aims to boldly change the educational landscape. At the same time, the hype and novelty surrounding such a learning paradigm can often overshadow the reality behind what interdisciplinary education truly is and why it has become essential for schools across the nation. I would like to take this opportunity to share why interdisciplinary education is much deeper and more profound than it appears to be, and why it has become a fundamental necessity for the education system in America.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution
Currently, the world is seeing tremendous advancements in science and technology that will certainly permeate every aspect of society. With giant leaps being made in robotics, artificial intelligence, 5G connectivity, gene editing, virtual reality, robotics, and sustainable technology to name a few, the world is building upon the previous digital revolution (the “3rd” Industrial Revolution) in ways never seen before. Ever since the World Economic Forum introduced the realization of this new “Fourth Industrial Revolution” in 2015, people have started to grasp just how drastic these technological changes are going to be.1
The Job Market
An obvious result of these enormous changes in technology is a corresponding shift in the job market. The predicted impact of automation and artificial intelligence on jobs is staggering: a McKinsey study claims that 400 million workers across the world will be displaced by automation within the next 10 years2, while an Oxford University study reveals that around 47% of American jobs are at high risk of being taken over by computerization.3 While there is much debate on the extent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s impact on net job growth, it is indisputable that employees in the next few years will work in an environment increasingly dominated by automation. At this point, it is important to take a step back and consider what this all really means for workers and what kinds of skills they will need to bring to the workplace. Simply put, what are the things people can do that automation cannot already do better and more efficiently? Our ability to collect and analyze data, memorize, calculate, and perform repetitive physical tasks are not on that list and will be at high risk of being supplanted by automation. The reality is that certain job skills will not maintain the same value at a time of such rapid change in the world. Not being able to identify what skills may be placed at higher value as a result of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (FIR) could be disastrous for people and the economy.
This is where interdisciplinary education will make a difference. In the coming years, one of the most coveted and important job skills will be the ability to think about and approach problems by drawing from multiple disciplines. More specifically, this will come in the form of being able to understand modern technologies and scientific developments within societal, historical, economic, and moral contexts – perspectives that artificial intelligence would not be fully trusted with in the near future. People who have developed the capacity and willingness to approach the complex issues of today from an interdisciplinary standpoint will not only be assets to the workforce by being able to provide nuanced solutions covering both objective and subjective perspectives, but will also be most conscientious about how to deal with the FIR technologies that are dramatically impacting the job market.
Public Policy and Scientific Progress
The Fourth Industrial Revolution will bring about significant dilemmas for government at the federal and local levels. While technological progress is amazing and currently improving the quality of life for millions, it has limited value until society determines how it will advance civilization and be regulated. The current controversy surrounding the role of giant tech companies (Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, Google) in politics as well as partisan strife on issues such as abortion, artificial intelligence, climate change, cyber security, and healthcare are just the beginning. Novel technologies brought on by the Fourth Industrial Revolution will be radically more pervasive in the lives of people and much more multifaceted than the issues of today.
One prominent example is the bioethical issue of embryonic gene editing (the technology for which already has been used) which will have a tremendous impact on people’s relationship with biomedical technology. If granted the decision to choose on an individual basis whether gene editing is a viable option for their own children, people could potentially be given the ability to dictate the evolution of the human species by selecting certain characteristics. From what kind of moral or even policy-based foundation can society learn to adequately deal with such decisions? People in this nation are already extremely polarized and struggling to make significant strides in reconciliating opposing viewpoints over the single controversy of abortion, which is just the tip of the iceberg of dilemmas brought by increasing biotechnological capabilities. This is ignoring the host of moral, political, economic, and social quandaries that will result from the rise of artificial intelligence, human-machine interfaces, augmented reality, and much more. As of now, the world is woefully unprepared to deal with the inevitable technological dilemmas that will arise in the future. Future generations need to be able to relate perspectives from economics, ethics, behavioral psychology, and sociology to the current rise of advanced FIR technologies.
Outside FIR, the necessity for interdisciplinary thinking relating to modern issues is already being put into the spotlight due to the complex nature of the current pandemic. The immediate COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated the need to approach a topic as complicated as a pandemic from scientific, economic, and social standpoints.
When the world’s current events are so obviously multifaceted and require not just dialogue among experts from different fields but also people able to integrate different disciplines, it is the responsibility of the education system to take notice and adapt appropriately. Education is the only wide-encompassing entity that can systematically influence young people, and is the key to empowering a new generation of people who will be prepared for such dramatic changes in the world.
Examining the drastic advancements in technology throughout time and their effects on society is extremely relevant in regards to the current Fourth Industrial Revolution and the importance of interdisciplinarity. The transformation of society in Europe and the United States from an agrarian to an industrial civilization (~1740-1860) undeniably had many positive effects such as the overall increase in quality of life and wealth for the average person. On the other hand, the failure to consider mechanization and industrialization from a holistic view of multiple perspectives presented unprecedented consequences such as soaring income inequality, vast overcrowding of cities, and loss of individuality and sense of agency for many workers. Perhaps the most disastrous overlooked consequence of industrialization was its devastating effect on the environment, as the government made practically no effort to mitigate the pollution produced by factories. Below is a report from the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change showing the dramatic increase in greenhouse gas levels as a direct result of industrialization. The inability for society to prepare for the interdisciplinary nature of technological changes has had ramifications lasting to this day.
The necessity for taking a nuanced approach to the world’s problems did not begin with the Fourth Industrial Revolution and has always been prevalent throughout history.
The Essence of Interdisciplinary Learning
Many educators are familiar with interdisciplinarity as a newer approach to education. However, the idea of combining multiple disciplines dates back to pedagogy used in ancient Greece with the Trivium and Quadrivium, which represent early philosophical approaches to a “unified” form of liberal arts education. Although originating in ancient Greece, the Trivium and Quadrivium primarily came into use in the early Middle Ages, and are often associated with that era historically. While there has been much evidence over time indicating the benefits of interdisciplinarity,4, 5, 6, 7 what about this learning model in particular makes it go beyond simply recognizing the connections between concepts learned in two different classes? The word “Interdisciplinary” literally means “between or among disciplines.” But what does “between or among disciplines” really mean? Perhaps the true essence of learning between disciplines is much deeper and more profound than it immediately seems.
Every academic discipline, whether it be social studies, math, science, or language arts, has a certain knowledge base to go along with it. A foundation of facts and fundamental skills are necessary to advance a student’s learning in any subject. It would not make sense to do calculus without having a solid grounding in algebra, or to analyze historic events without first learning at least the basic factual details of those events. However, too often the disciplines are viewed as really just a set of facts, formulas, and “knowledge bases.” Interdisciplinarity takes the disciplines and elevates the meaning behind them to the point that such restricted viewpoints no longer become sustainable.
By its very nature, an interdisciplinary approach requires an understanding of the disciplines far above the informational level. Actually “combining” multiple disciplines in a profound and meaningful way is simply not feasible without first viewing them as different “mindsets” and not just “knowledge bases.” Through this approach, it is possible to put the social studies, natural sciences, and humanities into larger and more applied contexts that exist across and beyond the spheres of those respective fields. When multiple disciplines are not only juxtaposed but truly integrated, the differences and similarities of what they each offer and aim to accomplish through different ways of approaching issues become illuminated. One of the most prevalent issues in society is unnecessary conflict between people with differing perspectives who are unwilling to compromise or take each other’s viewpoints seriously. Interdisciplinarity eliminates the notion that one perspective is superior and fosters a healthy dialogue that seeks to value and combine multiple disciplines and ways of thinking. Thus, Interdisciplinary thinking is not simply defined by the ability to make obvious, surface-level connections across different fields.
A unique quality to interdisciplinary learning is that in many ways it opposes thinking by analogy. Thinking by analogy builds off of what has already been long-established, which is often the case when studying or conducting research in a single discipline. Granted, there are obvious benefits to specialization in one subject area that can have tremendous applications in society and academia. Advancing knowledge in an area over time is intrinsically valuable, and interdisciplinarity does not aim to overhaul or “dethrone” the existing educational paradigm but rather gain more presence and importance in the learning process.
However, exclusively thinking by analogy is what prevents innovation and progress. Being stuck in the past when the world is being upturned by the Fourth Industrial Revolution is dangerous, and a learning model that can create new perspectives and ways of approaching nuanced issues of today is needed now more than ever. By exploring a scientific issue through a social studies lens or vice versa, students are pushed to think critically about what connections can be made that have never been identified before.
Interdisciplinary Learning in the Classroom
While the theory behind interdisciplinarity may sound attractive, actually implementing it in the classroom is a different story entirely. The key point is that there is no one way to effectively do this. Education policy itself is highly localized, and each district has its unique way of implementing and maintaining the standards outlined by the state. This is not too surprising considering the fact that different students make up the population in different areas. These are the personal thoughts of a student which were enhanced by various conversations over the past years with education professionals.
A direct pathway to increase interdisciplinary education would be the implementation of a separate class (or classes) specifically designed to foster this thinking in students. In my own district, the Curriculum Committee approved a “Science and Society” elective class built on specific topics that were identified to be effective in helping students think from both a scientific and societal perspective: the origin of scientific thought, Darwinian evolution and society, and the scientific revolution and enlightenment. However, the resources that were used to develop the components and structure of this class were very specific to the school and district where it was being implemented.
A plausible approach to implement “interdisciplinary” classes in a more general sense is the idea of thematic classes. These would not be attached or affiliated with any one department in particular, but rather a shared responsibility between or among multiple departments. If this is the case, faculty who develop the curriculum and coordinate the logistics might have more leeway to cooperate in a joint-effort. Perhaps even a classroom with a two-teacher dynamic, each from a different discipline, might be fitting for a class of this type. This goes back to the idea of interdisciplinarity as a convergence of “mindsets,” not simply knowledge bases. The specific experiences and perspective that a social studies teacher brings to a classroom environment is significantly different from that of a science teacher, and even a simple dialogue or sharing of ideas between professionals from different disciplines in a classroom can be very powerful.
Furthermore, the NJ Student Learning Standards that were recently revised contain specific curricular areas that are great candidates for thematically oriented classes. These include a section in the social studies standards called “Renaissance, Scientific Revolution, Reformation, and Enlightenment,” the unit on biological evolution in the science standards, and a unit called “Influence of Engineering, Technology, and Science on Society and the Natural World” also from the science standards. These are areas that are not only explicitly part of the learning curriculum as mandated by the New Jersey Student Learning Standards, but also areas that can be targets of thematically organized classes that can very easily bring in multiple disciplinary perspectives.
Depth Over Breadth
An alternative approach to creating a distinct interdisciplinary class is something that might be more broadly implemented in traditional social studies and science classes. This is not necessarily about changing the curriculum content itself, but how this content is conveyed to students. By creating a larger emphasis on how curricular content relates to real contemporary issues and society at large, students will have a more efficient and holistic learning experience.
This broadly based approach addresses an aspect of education that needs improvement, which is how students personally view their learning. On too many occasions students are bombarded with the rapid pace and workload of classes, which leaves them with insufficient room to seriously consider the importance and realistic implications of what they are learning. Too often, the curriculum taught in the class is left in the classroom only and interpreted by students as merely a series of strategies and memory points to be utilized in assessments. Classrooms brimming with potential to explore concepts in a deep and substantive manner are sometimes forced to prioritize breadth over depth, out of fear that the required units might not all get covered. How will this prepare the next generations for the rapidly changing world and the slew of complex interdisciplinary issues that will force us to think outside of traditional education models? Students need an educational model that is inherently interdisciplinary and thematically based in multiple subject areas.
While having a knowledge base of facts and concepts is necessary in a social studies class, it is important for students to understand how this knowledge fits into a larger context that includes disciplines other than the social studies. This educational approach is not only a more accurate reflection of the real world that is not arbitrarily divided into separate disciplines, but also a far more efficient and engaging way of teaching. It goes back to the idea of interdisciplinarity as “mindsets.” Considering one discipline in the context of another is impossible unless the student is willing to go beyond the superficial and internalize what kind of thought process or approach a certain discipline brings to a nuanced dialogue. As such, an increased focus on the holistic applications of a discipline will naturally enhance students’ understanding of that discipline itself.
Interdisciplinary learning is no longer a privilege for schools but a necessity. Change in the education system is time-sensitive and needs to start happening now. In many ways, this change is already becoming evident. Only recently the initiative to implement curricula for climate change was added to the NJ Student Learning Standards, and there has been a clear move in the right direction from the NJ Department of Education to increase the prevalence of interdisciplinary learning. Little by little, cumulative changes will hopefully provide the next generations with increasingly innovative and advanced ways of thinking and learning about the world around them.
I would like to thank Mr. Hank Bitten at NJCSS for his tremendous support throughout this. I also want to thank Mr. Gold, Ms. d’Adolf, Dr. Mamman, and the wonderful educators and professionals back at Tenafly High School for being such a positive influence in my life.
3 – Frey, Carl Benedikt, and Michael A. Osborne. “The future of employment: How susceptible are jobs to computerisation?.” Technological forecasting and social change 114 (2017): 254-280
4 – Hall, Pippa, and Lynda Weaver. “Interdisciplinary education and teamwork: a long and winding road.” Medical education 35.9 (2001): 867-875
5 – Strauss, Ronald P., et al. “Cognitive and attitudinal impacts of a university AIDS course: interdisciplinary education as a public health intervention.” American Journal of Public Health 82.4 (1992): 569-572
6 – Jones, Casey. “Interdisciplinary approach-advantages, disadvantages, and the future benefits of interdisciplinary studies.” Essai 7.1 (2010): 26.
7 – Coops, Nicholas C., et al. “How an entry-level, interdisciplinary sustainability course revealed the benefits and challenges of a university-wide initiative for sustainability education.” International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education (2015).
As I am writing this, we are scheduled to return to school in a hybrid approach for 2020-2021. Significantly, it appears that at least 20% of families will be opting for an all-remote experience to begin the school year. Additionally, it certainly seems at least possible that Governor Murphy could either require a remote start to the year, or we could be forced to use the all-remote plan after a few weeks if the rate of infection increases with back-to-school.
by Timothy B. Monahan
Teacher and Technology & Innovation Specialist at Ridgewood High School (NJ)
On a personal level, I accept that I have very little control or influence on the numerous reopening issues at hand. With this in mind, I have been focusing most of my attention on remote teaching for 2020-2021. More specifically, one question has driven me: “How can I implement a package of meaningful, reasonable assessments that resemble what I would normally give in-person under observation to deter violations of academic integrity?”
The Challenges of Remote Learning
Frankly, I have enough trouble enforcing academic integrity when I am present in the classroom, so remote assessment presents quite a challenge for me. Formative assessment and remote learning go hand in hand, as I am sure many educators found last spring. Summative assessment can be much trickier, especially if your course is not tied to essay responses or is tied to a rigorous AP exam. Unfortunately, in my case, I teach a course where students are expected to succeed on two extremely rigorous AP Exams in May. Therefore, abandoning the traditional (summative) modes of assessment that motivate and validate student learning is not an option if I intend to achieve my district’s mandate for high student achievement.
Since last March, I have been planning ways to preserve rigorous, traditional summative assessment in a remote learning environment. Naturally, academic integrity is a monumental hurdle. As it stands, it appears that we will need to solve this question for at least the approximately 20% of students opting for all-remote learning. Obviously, there remains a distinct possibility that we could need a plan for all our students if and when we go to the all-remote schedule.
I am not only a teacher; I am also a member of my district’s Technology & Innovation Specialist team (formerly called Tech Coaches). Naturally, we spent hundreds of crisis hours in 2020 cataloging and pushing platforms & strategies for remote learning to our colleagues. I focused on screening everything out there for the most valuable strategies for high school classes. Fortunately, our team has been doing this type of in-house professional development work for many years prior to 2020, a major credit to the Ridgewood Public Schools!
Formative vs. Summative: Rethinking Assessment in the Remote Arena
We don’t advocate our teachers to merely lecture in a Zoom or Google Meet. Our district philosophy is based on a standards based approach, with formative and summative assessment being implemented to both engage students and check for learning at various intervals. While our approach in the 2020 crisis provided a teacher option to teach synchronous (live) or asynchronous (flipped lessons due at 8pm each night), heading into the 2020-2021 we have adopted a much more synchronous approach. This coming year, we will lean heavily on formative assessment during or after synchronous lessons. It seems likely that many teachers will start each remote period with the full-class meeting before breaking-out into smaller rooms on Google Meet or Zoom to accomplish an objective. The teacher can bounce group-to-group virtually, or even have groups record their break-outs to promote focus on the group objective. For example, in the course I teach, the group objective will vary between going over a problem assigned for homework previously, or solving a new problem in real time.
Other teachers will have their students discuss or debate a topic, or maybe even produce work digitally. The possibilities are confined to the virtual setting, but remain limitless! At the end of the period, the teacher can then bring the whole class back together to debrief and complete a formative assessment which is a “check for learning.” There are dozens of ways our teachers can push formative assessment, and our Technology and Innovation Specialist team will continue to work with teachers individually to build-out their remote courses.To accomplish this, our teachers will likely use an interactive platform, such as Pear Deck, for direct, synchronous instruction with formative assessment embedded. Our teachers also craft their own formative assessments in Google Forms and the Skyward SMS to supplement direct instruction. Furthermore, in our district we recently completed Summer Professional Development to craft Standards Based Assessment & Rubrics to lean on during remote instruction. As it pertains to rubrics, I strongly advocate teachers use the Google Classroom Rubric functionality.
Good news: we seem to have figured-out synchronous teaching and formative assessment during the unexpected 2020 Crisis. While it wasn’t easy, hopefully you agree that teachers have remote instruction and formative assessment under control. But what about summative assessment? Remember, those are the traditional unit tests that check for long-term learning. Those are invaluable in education, too, because they check to make sure students are retaining and building upon the skills they learn day-to-day.
We’re not talking about the old-days of rote memorization here, because that went out of fashion with the advent of Google. No, summative assessment is where the student demonstrates the ability to analyze, critique, or solve complex problems by applying thinking skills to a relevant (“real world”) scenario. I used to tell parents on Back-to-School Night that summative assessment in my World History course would never be “How tall is the Great Pyramid of Giza?” but something closer to, “What does our knowledge of the methods required to construct pyramids in Egypt indicate about the structure of the government and economy of the Old Kingdom period of Ancient Egyptian civilization?”
Keep in mind that concluding formative assessment means multiple choice while summative assessment means essay is a common mistake. While the second question could certainly work as a free-response question, both those questions about Ancient Egypt can be multiple choice stems. One way I differentiate between formative and summative assessment is to lean on my experience as a sports coach. Formative assessment is like evaluating how my players did on specific skills in the drills we execute during practice. Summative assessment is how well they put all the skills together during scrimmages or games.
How to Preserve Traditional Formative Assessment in the Remote Arena
Normally, my course features 10 different unit exams that cover several clusters of content standards each. These are my traditional summative assessments. Based on professional collaboration with teachers of the same course at other schools, there is absolutely nothing revolutionary about what I do. However, with the 2020 Crisis, traditional summative assessment got immediately marginalized out of despair over security. Many teachers, including me, opted to replace traditional summative assessment with project-based assessment where academic integrity was not an issue. Also, this allowed the students a chance to socialize virtually during the darkest days of the quarantine. However, that was March 2020, a point where my students had already completed 9 of the 10 traditional summative assessments. I don’t have the luxury of abandoning traditional summative assessment for the entirety of 2020-2021, and there is no guarantee I’ll be able to pull-it-off in the physical classroom with so many opting for all-remote.
What I will be doing in my classroom is a variation of what my neighbor was subjected to as he finished a graduate program last spring. It goes something like this:
Step 1: The teacher must first decide how to best digitize his/her traditional assessment for remote access. (e.g.: Google Doc, Google Form, Skyward, etc. etc.)
Step 2: Where practical, teachers are encouraged to make several versions of each assessment by scrambling questions, slightly changing numbers/wording to reduce the temptation and ease for students to violate academic integrity.
Step 3: On the day of the summative assessment, the teacher will assign students to individual break-out rooms (e.g. Google Meet). During testing, the teacher can choose to have every room open (but muted) as a tab in Chrome or to bounce room-to-room to check in.
Step 4: Students will be instructed as to the teacher expectations in advance. For example, “all students must put their phones away.” Here are the expectations I plan to push to my students:
You must locate yourself in a quiet area/room of their house where you will not be interrupted during the assessment.
All students must have their cameras & volume on (teacher will check for each), and must refrain from communicating with anyone else present in their home during the testing period.
All students must share their screen to ensure no unauthorized tabs are open and to provide a record of the session. (Note: in my district we have a GoGaurdian license and I’ll have this running, but it only works on district issued Chromebooks, and many use personal devices. So I’m doing this for the Mac Book users.)
Each students’ testing session will be recorded and archived by the teacher only (not the student). In the event of any issues, the recording will be scrutinized for irregularities.
All of the above are considered an extension of the school Academic Integrity Policy.
Step 5: Stress the expectation that academic integrity extends firmly into the remote arena. Do this early (on your syllabus and first day of class), seek administrative support to reinforce this value, and make sure to hold students accountable. The best deterrent for cheating is vigilance. I know that during in-person assessments, I often have a bad habit of grading work at my desk, despite my better judgement telling me I should spend the entire period vigilantly patrolling the classroom. In the remote arena, this is even more important. I am planning in advance to spend the entire period closely watching the test-takers, and doing nothing else.
I should also mention that some teachers might also want to incorporate the approach used by the College Board for the 2020 AP Exams. In that case, the students were allowed to access their notes, but strictly forbidden from communicating with each other during the exam period. Upon release of the exams, it became apparent that the College Board had re-designed the format of the exams to be very difficult to complete in the allotted time, presumably scoring the exams on a greater curve to compensate. This format not only assesses student mastery of the content by further emphasizing the time constraint, but it also discourages cheating because sorting out the answers to different versions of the exam would potentially take-up valuable time. Notably, teachers who have multiple sections of a course (e.g. I usually have 4-5 sections of one AP course) face the challenge of preventing inter-section breaches of exam security (screen shots, etc.) However, that issue transcends remote learning vs. in-person learning, and remains elusive.
While the particular approach described here is what I am planning to adopt and use for this September, I am not suggesting everyone adopt this approach. In fact, not every teacher will need or want to implement this type of plan for the 2020-2021 school year. However, as I said earlier, something I am specifically trying to accomplish is overall preparedness for two extremely rigorous AP exams in May 2021. I have to believe this approach gives me the best chance to replicate the annual student achievement I have been able to obtain with in-person instruction.
Stalin: Waiting for Hitler, 1929-1941 By Dr. Stephen Kotkin, Princeton University
Application to European and World History by Hank Bitten
The opening sentence, the thesis statement, by Dr. Kotkin is capitalized: “JOSIF STALIN WAS A HUMAN BEING.” This is supported by the evidence that he carried documents wrapped in newspapers, was an avid reader with a personal library of more than 20,000 books, and a man who enjoyed his tobacco from Herzegovina. Throughout the book there are the details of the floor plans of his apartments and hunting lodge, passion for his 1933 Packard Twelve luxury car and relationships with his mother, two wives, and children.
This is a fascinating read about Stalin, the ‘seemingly humane man’ and totalitarian ruler, his handling of the failures in agriculture and limited successes in manufacturing, propaganda and party purges, solidification of Party power, perspectives on capitalism, fascism, socialism, and communism, and the threats the U.S.S.R. faced from Germany, Japan, the long civil war in China, and even the small independent state of Poland. As a teacher of U.S., European, and World History, I likely spent too much time on the impact of the Great Depression and the rise of dictatorships than on the global perspective of the new Soviet empire and Japan’s vision in the Far East. The advantage of Stalin: Waiting for Hitler, 1929-1941 is that it provides teachers with examples for decision-making lessons in every year from the first Five Year Plan until the evening of Operation Barbarossa.
The eloquently phrased statement below by Dr. Kotkin is an argument for high school students to analyze and debate. History is about thinking and students need to investigate sources, determine their reliability, and develop their own thesis statement.
“A human being, a Communist and revolutionary a dictator encircled by enemies in a dictatorship circled by enemies, a fearsome contriver of class warfare, an embodiment of the global Communist cause and the Eurasia multinational state, a ferocious champion of Russia’s revival, Stalin did what acclaimed leaders do: he articulated and drove toward a consistent goal, in his case a powerful state backed by a unified society that eradicated capitalism and built industrial socialism. “Murderous” and “mendacious” do not begin to describe the person readers will encounter in this volume. At the same time, Stalin galvanized millions. His colossal authority was rooted in a dedicated faction, which he forged, a formidable apparatus which he built, and Marxist-Leninist ideology, which he helped synthesize. But his power was magnified many times over by ordinary people, who projected onto him their soaring ambitions for justice, peace, and abundance, as well as national greatness. Dictators who amass great power often retreat into pet pursuits, expounding intermittingly about their obsessions, paralyzing the state. But Stalin’s fixation was a socialist great power. In the years 1929-36, covered in part III, he would build that socialist great power with a first-class military. Stalin was a myth, but he proved equal to the myth.” (p. 8)
It is difficult to find humor in a book about a leader responsible for killing (and starving) millions of people but Dr. Kotkin finds the right time to tell us about the goodwill tour of Harpo Marx. In the middle of a counterrevolutionary terrorist plot against Stalin, a possible war with Japan, and FDR trying to save American capitalism from default. Harpo Marx (an American comedian) while interacting with a Soviet family in the audience has 300 table knives cascade from his magical sleeves! (p.145)
The lessons for teachers and students are enriched by the details in this book. For example, Dr. Kotkin’s analysis of the failures of the collective farms in the first four years of the First Five Year Plan provide factual data for teachers and resources for developing engaging decision-making activities for students.
In 1929, the USSR had only 6 million out of 60 million workers employed, an unemployment rate of about 90%! Livestock and grain prices crashed as did the U.S. stock market with a 25% decline in four days of October. But in the USSR, there was a surprise harvest of 13.5 million tons. This led to forced collectivization of 80% of the private farms and the deportation of kulaks as Stalin understood the importance for agricultural security in an insecure state. Food was essential to the industrialization of the Soviet Union and for the police, army, and ordinary people. By contrast, a Soviet worker needed to labor for sixty-two hours to purchase a loaf of bread, versus seventeen minutes for an American. (p.544)
“But the dictator himself would turn out to be the grand saboteur, leading the country and his own regime into catastrophe in 1931-33, despite the intense zeal for building a new world. Rumblings within the party would surface, demanding Stalin’s removal.” (pp. 70-71)
Decision Making Activity:
Should the USSR focus on agricultural reforms before starting a program of industrial reforms? (1929-1934)
The decisions facing Stalin had to be overwhelming:
His government faced increasing debt
There was no organized educational system to assimilate the diverse population
He needed to increase agricultural productivity
The Communist Party was divided between followers of Trotsky and Stalin
The military did not have any airplane or pilots
Peasants were quitting the collectives by the hundreds of thousands in search of food with millions facing starvation.
There were violent protests against local officials as one-third of the livestock perished and inflation soared.
Cholera epidemics killed about one-half million and the catastrophe in the Ukraine resulted in 3.5 million deaths, 10% of the population.
“Collectivization involved the arrest, execution, internal deportation, or incarceration of 4 to 5 million peasants, the effective enslavement of another 100 million; and the loss of tens of millions of head of livestock.” (p.131)
Decision Making Activity:
With military expansion in Japan and Germany, civil war in China, and the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, should Stalin and the USSR focus on investment in military technology and building an army?
The research of Dr. Kotkin offers teachers a treasure of statistical data and insights into these critical years of Stalin’s survival. In 1931, “Japan had 250,000 troops (quarter of a million) in the Soviet Far East and Stalin had 100,000 with no fleet, storage facility or air force. At best they could transport troops on five trains a day.” (p.84). Without exports and with severe budget cuts, the USSR manufactured 2,600 tanks by the end of 1932. This was possible because Stalin secretly increased the budget for military spending from 845 rubles to 2.2 million.
The construction of the White Sea-Baltic Canal (1933) was a significant investment for exporting minerals and increasing state revenue. Stalin’s infrastructure projects illustrate his understanding of the importance of industrialization. Unfortunately, the White-Sea Baltic Canal was less than fifteen feet deep in most places, limiting use to rivercraft. Stalin was said to have been disappointed finding it ‘shallow and narrow.’” In 1937, Stalin celebrated the opening of the Moscow – Volga River canal with a flotilla of forty-four ships and boasting that Moscow was linked to five seas. (White, Black, Baltic, Caspian, and Azov). Sadly, it was built with Gulag prisoners and according to Professor Kotkin, 20,000 perished. (p.404) Stalin also started The Great Fergana Canal (1939) and the Moscow subway system.
The personal accounts from diaries and interviews is a reason for teachers to read this book. For example, Stalin’s wife, Nadya, was diagnosed with angina and a defective heart valve. Although Dr. Kotkin notes that Stalin was not a playboy, as was Mussolini, Stalin’s flirtation with a 34-year-old actress after the November 7 Revolution Day parade pushed Nadya over the edge. Her body was found in a pool of blood in her room on the morning of November 9 by Karolina Til, the governess of young Svetlana, Vasily, and Artyom. The cause of death was reported as appendicitis, although it was a suicide. In the middle of this personal tragedy, 9-year-old Svetlana wrote:
“Hello, my Dear Daddy.” I received your letter and I am happy that you allowed me to stay here and wait for you….When you come, you will not recognize me. I got really tanned. Every night I hear the howling of the coyotes. I wait for you in Sochi. I kiss you.” Your Setanka.” (p.135)
Another example of the ‘seemingly human qualities’ of Josif Stalin is a description of an evening birthday celebration for Maria Svanidze, governess, Svetlana said she wanted to ride on the new Moscow metro and Stalin and the family walked on the newly opened subway. It was dark.
“Stalin ended up surrounded by well-wishers. Bodyguards and police had to bring order. The crowd smashed an enormous metal lamp. Vasily was scared for his life. Svetlana was so frightened, she stayed in the train car. We ‘were intimidated by the uninhibited ecstasy of the crowd,’ Svanidze wrote. “Josif was merry.” (p.234)
By 1933, Stalin’s fortunes were changing for the better. This is why history is often unpredictable. The collectivized fall harvests were good and the unbalanced investments of the first Five-Year Plan finally produced results. Socialism (anti-capitalism) was victorious in the countryside as well as in the city. The USSR joined the League of Nations, Harpo Marx toured the USSR, and the United States sent Ambassador William C. Bullitt to Moscow.
Decision Making Activity:
Did the United States and other countries extend diplomatic recognition to Stalin and the USSR prematurely?
Although Stalin refused to pay (or negotiate) the debt of 8 billion rubles owed to the United States since the end of World War I, he announced debt forgiveness of 10 million gold rubles to Mongolia on January 1, 1934, about 45 days after President Roosevelt agreed to formal recognition. (p.196) In 1983, the USSR repaid its debt to the United States.
The anti-terror law to protect the security of the Soviet Union led to the arrests of 6,500 people following the death of Kirov, a member of the politburo. Gulag camps and colonies together held around 1.2 million forced laborers, while exiled “kulaks” in “special settlements” numbered around 900,000. But the state media was able to boast that there were less murders in all of Soviet Union than in Chicago (p.286) For the two years 1937 and 1938, the NKVD would report 1,575,259 arrests, 87 percent of them for political offenses, and 681,692 executions.” (The number is closer to 830,000 since many more died during interrogation or transit.) (p.305)
Decision Making Activity:
Did Stalin have a reason to fear for his power or did he desire the personal power of a despot?
First, the economy between 1934-36 was relatively good as the Soviet Union escaped the tremendous debts of other countries during the Great Depression because of its limited exposure to global trade, a planned economy, and the famine ended. Stalin was suspicious of the imperialists in Britain and France, feared they would establish an anti-Soviet coalition, and attack through Eastern Europe. He needed to isolate or eliminate potential threats in the military and friends of Trotsky whose publications presented Stalin as a counter-revolutionist and one who betrayed the teachings of Marx. The Soviet empire (USSR) is a large country and assassinations are difficult to prevent.
The influence of Trotsky continued for more than a decade after his exile. Trotsky headed the Red Army until 1925 and everyone worked with him. In 1936, the NKVD arrested 212 Trotyskyites in the military, including 32 officers. (p.350) “After a decree had rescinded Trotsky’s Soviet citizenship, he had written a spirited open letter to the central executive committee of the Soviet…asserting that ‘Stalin has led us to a cul-de-sac….It is necessary, at last, to carry out Lenin’s last insistent advice:remove Stalin.” (p.372) Who could Stalin trust?
In the Middle of the Thirties the World Changed
Dr. Kotkin offers a detailed analysis of how these civil wars impacted the geopolitical balance of the new class of world leaders in Britain, France, and Germany along with the poor military record of Mussolini in Ethiopia. The Spanish and Chinese civil wars in the east and west presented challenges and opportunities for Stalin. Stalin sent 450 pilots and 297 planes, 300 cannons, 82 tanks, 400 vehicles and arms and ammunition. Stalin is the leader of the politburo but none of his top leaders had a university education.
Although these two conflicts are different, they are caused by extreme poverty and the failure of government to solve the social and economic problems. They also involved foreign interference, although in the Chinese civil war, Japan occupied significant areas of the country. Although communism was a political presence in both civil wars, it did not follow the revolutionary reforms of Lenin or Stalin. The situation in Spain likely clarified Stalin’s world view regarding his fear of conspiracies from within, the consequences of a long conflict, and the complexities of revolutionary movements.
An example of scholarship I found useful is the removal of Spain’s gold reserves, estimated at $783 million, dating back to the Aztecs and Incas. (p.343) A significant portion of this money flowed to Moscow financing the costs of new armaments. A second example is the tragic record of genocide resulting in the execution of more than 2,000 prisoners in Madrid’s jails. The human rights abuses involved the evacuation of several thousand innocent people. I was not aware of this organized attempt by Spanish communists and their Soviet advisors. (p.350) but important to classroom instruction.
The madness continued “On April 26, 1937, the German Condor Legion, assisted by Italian aircraft, attacked Guernica, the ancient capital of the Basques, at the behest of the Nationalists, aiming to sow terror in the Republic’s rear. The attack came on a Monday, market day. Not only was the civilian population of some 5,000 to 7,000 (including refugees) carpet-bombed, but as they tried to escape, they were strafed with machine guns mounted on Heinkel He-51s. Some one hundred and fifty were killed.” (p.407)
The Basques surrendered. Every effort was taken to keep Soviet involvement from the people, although Trotsky was able to influence. “He sent a telegram from Mexico to the central executive committee of the Soviet, formally the highest organ of the state, declaring that ‘Stalin’s policies are leading to a crushing defeat, both internally and externally. The only salvation is a turn in the direction of Soviet democracy, beginning with a public review of the last trials. I offer my full support in this endeavor.” (p.434)
Kristallnacht (November 9-10, 1938) is only 18 months into the future.
Some 10,000 miles away in China, the USSR is confronted with the Nanking Massacre, invasion of Mongolia, and continuing fighting between Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong. But in 1936, there was an attempted coup in Tokyo. There was much confusion regarding who in the military was behind this failed attempt because it was clearly anti-capitalist but according to Richard Sorge, the Soviet intelligence officer in the German embassy in Tokyo, it was not connected to any communist or socialist organizations. Stephen Kotkin provides substantial research on the work and missteps of Richard Sorge providing insights into how Soviet intelligence worked during the Stalin years, especially in Berlin and Tokyo. For example, Sorge photographed the full text of a secret document and sent it to a Soviet courier in Shanghai who eventually got it to Moscow stating that “should either Germany or Japan become the object of an unprovoked attack by the USSR,” each “obliges itself to take no measures that would tend to ease the situation in the USSR.” (p.356)
The Capture of Chiang Kai-shek
Stalin in the middle of his “House of Horrors” and the purges of 1937-38 discovered that history would test him as a diplomat, military strategist, and intelligence gatherer even though he had no experience in these areas. One of his first tests came to him on a cold December morning with the capture of Chiang Kai-shek, age 49, in central China. This was a turning point.
“At dawn on December 12, (1937) his scheduled day of departure, a 200- man contingent of Zhang’s personal guard stormed the walled compound. A gun battle killed many of Chiang’s bodyguards. He heard the shots, was told the attackers wore fur caps (the headgear of the Manchurian troops), crawled out a window scaled the compound’s high wall, and ran along a dry moat up a barren hill, accompanied by one bodyguard and one aide. He slipped and fell, losing his false teeth and injuring his back, and sought refuge in a cave on the snow-covered mountain. The next morning, the leader of China-shivering, toothless, barefoot, a robe over his nightshirt-was captured.” (p.360)
The detailed and descriptive connections that teachers love to share with their students, especially Zhang Xueliang’s relationship with Edda Ciano, Mussolini’s daughter and the wife of the Italian minister to China, make the story of history very realistic and relevant!
Decision Making Activity:
Should Stalin support Chiang Kai-shek or order him killed based on Shanghai Massacre in 1927 with the execution of thousands of communists?
If Chiang Kai-shek is killed, will Japan extend its presence in China?
If Chiang Kai-skek is released, will he defeat Mao Zedong, someone Stalin considered influenced by Trotsky?
In the middle of this turning point situation and the continuing fighting in Spain, Stalin’s House of Horrors executed 90 percent of his top military officers in the purges of 1937-38, about 144,000. “Throughout 1937 and 1938, there were on average nearly 2,200 arrests and more than 1,000 executions per day.” (p.347) “The terror’s scale would become crushing. More than 1 million prisoners were conveyed by overloaded rail transport in 1938 alone.” (p.438)
“Violence against the population was a hallmark of the Soviet state nearly from its inception, of course, and had reached its apogee in the collectivization-dekulakization…They would account for 1.1 million of the 1.58 million arrests in 1937-38, and 634,000 or the 682,000 executions.” (p.448). The news of Hitler’s territorial acquisition of Austria (March 12, 1938) and annexation of the Sudetenland (September 30, 1938) will occur within a few weeks and months.
For teachers looking for an inquiry or research-based lesson on Stalin’s purges, consider this statement by Dr. Kotkin: “World history had never before seen such carnage by a regime against itself, as well as its own people-not in the French Revolution, not under Italian fascism or Nazism.” (p. 488) The madness was similar to the spread of a virus with one arrest infecting others. It only required an executive order (or consider it a ‘prescription’) to cure the infection of suspicion.
On the Eve of Destruction
By 1938, Stalin had 11 years of experience as the absolute leader of the Soviet government. During these 11 years he had changed the domestic policy of the Soviet Union. In 1939, Time Magazine honored him as Man of the Year for his accomplishments. The issue characterized Stalin as a man of peace by comparing him to Mussolini, Hitler, and Roosevelt. He was also Man of the Year in 1943. Your students will find this interesting!
This is the year Stalin celebrated his 60th birthday (Dec. 18, 1878) and it is also the time when the world changed. Stalin would begin a journey where he lacked experience and because he arrested and executed 90% of his top military leaders resulting in no one to go to for diplomatic or military advice. Stalin was left with Peter the Great and the realpolitik of Bismarck for the play book on how to handle Mussolini, Hitler, and Chamberlain, Churchill, and Roosevelt.
“Germany’s mobilization was so sudden, ordered by the Fuhrer at 7:00 p.m. on March 10, 1938…Events moved very rapidly. On March 12, a different Habsburg successor state vanished when the Wehrmacht, unopposed, seized Austria, a country of 7 million predominantly German speakers. It was the first time since the Great War that a German army had crossed the state frontier for purposes of conquest, and, in and of itself, it constituted an event of perhaps greater import than the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which helped spark the Great War mobilizations of 1914.” (pp.558-559)
The Soviet Union had a border on the west of almost 2,000 miles and a 2,600-mile border in the east with China. The Soviet Union had an inefficient transcontinental railroad, a small air force, an army that did not understand the Russian language, 6,000 nautical miles of coastline, seaports that were easily blocked by mines or ice, and a small navy! Stalin understood the fate of the Soviet Union as Japan had 300,000 forces in Manchukuo and 1,000,000 in northern China and controlled Peking, Tientsin, and Shanghai in less time than it took me to write this review! (p. 457)
The brilliance of this book is in the details and interesting personal stories. In the context of writing about Stalin’s introduction to foreign policy, Dr. Kotkin describes the life of Benito Mussolini in vivid detail with comparisons to Stalin and Hitler.
“On a typical day in 1938, spent an hour or two every afternoon in the downstairs private apartment in the Palazzo Venezia of Claretta Petacci, whom he called little Walewska, after Napoleon’s mistress. The duce would have sex, nap, listen to music on the radio, eat some fruit, reminisce about his wild youth, complain about all the women vying for his attention (including his wife), and have Walewska dress him. Before and after his daily trysts…the duce would call Claretta a dozen times to report his travails and his ulcer.” (p.525)
“Stalin’s world was nothing like the virile Italian’s. Women in his life remained very few. He still did not keep a harem, despite ample opportunities…..If Stalin had a mistress, she may have been a Georgian aviator, Rusudan Pachkoriya, a beauty some twenty years his junior, whom he observed at an exhibition at Tushino airfield.” (p.525)
Decision Making Activity:
Faced with these rapidly changing events as a result of the decisions of Japan and Germany, what should Stalin do?
Seek an alliance with another state?
Change the budget priorities from rebuilding the infrastructure of the Soviet Union to military spending?
Begin a campaign of disinformation to the Soviet people about the international threats?
Double down on finding Trotsky and have him executed to avoid an internal threat of revolution?
Name a possible successor, should something happen to Stalin.
Throughout the book there are provocative claims that should challenge AP European History students to think: For example: “So that was it: Germany foaming at the mouth with anti-Communism and ant-Slav racism, and now armed to the teeth; Britain cautious and aloof in the face of another continental war; and France even more exposed than Britain, yet deferring to London, and wary of its nominal ally, the USSR. Stalin was devastating his own country with mass murders and bald-faced mendacities, but the despot faced a genuine security impasse: German aggression and buck-passing by great powers-himself included.” (p.593)
Investigate or Debate:
Stalin passed the supreme test of state leadership in 1939.
Stalin failed the supreme test of state leadership in 1939.
The first argument should investigate the evidence regarding the risks and rewards of selling resources to Hitler and Germany. Did this enable Hitler to become stronger or did it enable the Soviet Union to gain trade revenue to rebuild its military and infrastructure? The lessons of geography, imperialism, alliances, and military preparation from 1914 are complex and difficult for a state leader to master.
Hitler needed the resources of oil, steel and grain and the Ukraine in the Soviet Union was the treasure. Poland understood Hitler’s motives and knew that an attack on the Soviet Union by Japan would likely extend their short-lived independence. Dating back to the end of World War I, Polish forces still occupied the western Ukraine along with German troops. If the Blitzkrieg was to take place in six months, Germany needed these troops. Meanwhile, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) desired independence and Pavel Sudoplatov, from the Soviet Union, blew up Yevhen Konovalets, the OUN leader, with a concealed time bomb in a box of chocolates in a Rotterdam restaurant. In two years, he will get to Trotsky. (p.596)
Students should also use the analysis and end notes in this book to determine if Stalin made the right decisions regarding who he trusted. Could he trust President Roosevelt? Neville Chamberlain, Adolph Hitler? Richard Sorge? Edouard Daladier? Stalin: Waiting for Hitler. 1929-1941 is a debater’s dream with 160 pages of notes and a Bibliography of almost 50 pages in size 3 font!
The year, 1939 marked the opening of the World’s Fair in New York City with thousands of visitors; it is also the year when the Nazi’s smashed Jewish owned stores, businesses, and synagogues in November 9-10, killing at least 100 innocent Jewish people. Was Stalin the best person to stop Hitler or did his silence empower him? There is evidence in the book to support both arguments.
These are challenging events for students to grasp and some of the best lessons for historical inquiry and “What If” scenarios. To emphasize the complexities of role-playing history in real time, consider that Lithuania relinquishes the deep-water Baltic port of Memi (Klaipėda) to Hitler’s ultimatum and Romanian businesses negotiate partnerships with Germany providing access to the unlimited oil supplies in the Ploiesti region. (p.613). During these fast-moving events, Stalin promoted Nikita Khrushchev to the politburo (p.605), Alexi Kosygin as commissioner of textile production, and Leonid Brezhnev to party boss in his region. (p.603).
“Khrushchev had to authorize arrests, and, in connection with the onset of ‘mass operations,’ he’d had to submit a list of ‘criminal and kulak elements,’ which in his case carried an expansive 41,305 names; he marked 8,500 of them ‘first category’ (execution). At least 160,000 victims in Moscow and Ukraine, would be arrested under Khrushchev during the terror.” (p.520)
We are now on a countdown of less than six months to Blitzkrieg and two years to Operation Barbarossa.
Historical Claim: “The Fuhrer really be stopped or even deflected?” (p.641)
The arguments below are a sample of the resources in the narrative of Dr. Kotkin’s book.
Hitler’s rearmament starved Germany of resources. This limited Hitler’s ability to fight in a long war and it negatively affected the German people. Hitler could not risk a war with the Soviet Union if his intention was to dominate western Europe.
Three weeks before the planned attack on Poland, Stalin entered into official talks with Germany on August 11, 1939 and by August 20, an economic agreement was finalized.
Mussolini did not sign the Pact of Steel until August 25, less than one week before the invasion.
France had 110 divisions compared to Germany’s 30, with only 2 considered to be combat ready. (p. 680)
The invasion of Poland was planned for August 25 but Hitler got cold feet after he gave the final order. Would Hitler risk a world war over Poland, which he could also obtain by negotiation or ultimatum?
Italy also desperately needed resources. Mussolini told Hitler he needed 7 million tons of gasoline, 6 million tons of coal, and 2 million tons of steel.
The history of the world might have taken a different course. For example, one week before the blitzkrieg of Poland, the Soviet air force fired on Hitler’s personal Condor by mistake when it was flying to Moscow with Joachim von Ribbentrop aboard to sign the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact. They missed. (See another example on page 10 about Rudolph Hess’ plane crash in Scotland and the failed assassination plot against Adolph Hitler in Munich)
On September 1, 1939 the blitzkrieg began. “The Germans in Poland, by contrast, had lost between 11,000 and 13,000 killed. At least 70,000 Poles were killed and nearly 700,000 taken prisoner. The atrocities would continue long after the main combat was over. More than a million Poles would be forced to work as slaves in Germany.” (p.688) The day before Hitler gave the order to double the production of the new long-range ‘wonder bomber”, the Ju88 for use against Britain.
Frozen in Finland
On the afternoon of November 26, 1939, five shells and two grenades were fired on Soviet positions at the border, killing four and wounding nine. “An investigation by the Finns indicated that the shots had emanated from the Soviet side. They were right. “The Finns maintained that Soviet troops had not been in range of Finnish batteries, so they could not have been killed by Finnish fire, and suggested a mutual frontier troop withdrawal.” (p.722) The Soviets never issued a formal declaration of war. Hitler would now see the strength of the Soviet armor, even though the Finns were still using 20-year-old tanks from World War I. (p.726)
The Winter War of 1940-41 is a significant event in the timeline of World War II. Unfortunately, it is one that most teachers and students overlook because of the fast-moving events between Blitzkrieg and Barbarossa. The Red Army suffered frostbite in the -45-degree weather, guerrilla attacks with flammable liquids stuffed in bottles and ignited by hand-lit wicks (Molotov cocktails), and stuck on the ice of frozen lakes. (p.727) Would the history of the 20th century be different if Stalin defeated Finland in a matter of weeks and Hitler and Mussolini saw the strength of the Soviet military? Would the history of Europe be different if Finland maintained its independence? Students need to investigate what went wrong with the strategy of the Soviet Union to control Finland and the Baltic Sea. Winston Churchill had limited knowledge of Stalin and the Soviet Union when he made the statement below. In fact, he only gained popularity as few months before as a result of Hitler’s Lebensraum. Given this understanding, how accurate is his statement below?
Winston Churchill stated it clearly on January 20, 1940: “The service rendered by Finland to mankind is magnificent. They have exposed, for all the world to see, the military incapacity of the Red Army and of the Red Air Force. Many illusions about Soviet Russia have been dispelled in these few fierce weeks of fighting in the Arctic Circle.” (p.740)
“Finland paid a heavy price for the avoidable war. Nearly 400,000 Finns (mostly small farmers) upward to 12 percent of its population – voluntarily fled the newly annexed Soviet territories for rump Finland, leaving homes and many possessions behind, and denying the NKVD victims to arrest. Finland suffered at least 26,662 killed and missing, 43,357 wounded, and 847 captured by the Soviets.” (p.748) Finland lost its independence to Nazi Germany.
“Still the Soviets lost an astonishing 131,476 dead and missing; at least 264,908 more were wounded or fell to illness, including the frostbitten, who lost fingers, toes, ears. Total Soviet losses neared 400,000 casualties, out of perhaps 1 million men mobilized – almost 4,000 casualties per day.” (p.748) On March 5, 1940, Stalin approved the execution of 21,857 captured or arrested Polish officers.
Another “What if” situation, similar to the shooting down of the plane taking Ribbentrop to Moscow in August, occurred only two months after the blitzkrieg and during this winter war in Finland when “Georg Elser planted a bomb in one of the columns right behind the podium of the Munich Beer Hall where Hitler was scheduled to speak on November 8, 1939. It was a year-long plot planned by Elser. But fog forced Hitler to travel from Berlin to Munich by a regularly scheduled train. He began his speech early and left ten minutes before the explosion. Eight were killed and 60 were wounded.” (p.700)
If you enjoy these unexpected stories, Dr. Kotkin offers another bizarre account, involving Rudolph Hess, which took place during the Attack on Britain in 1940.
“On May 13, although details were scarce, he (Stalin) learned of a sensation reported out of Berlin the previous night: Rudolf Hess, deputy to the Fuhrer within the Nazi party, had flown to Britain. “Late on May 10, a date chosen on astrological grounds, in a daring, skillful maneuver, he piloted a Messerschmitt Bf-110 bomber across the North Sea toward Britain, some 900 miles, and, in the dark, parachuted into Scotland. His pockets were filled with abundant pills and potions, including opium alkaloids, aspirin, atropine, methamphetamines, barbiturates, caffeine tablets, laxatives, and an elixir from a Tibetan lamasery. He was also carrying a flight map, photos of himself and his son, and the business cards of two German acquaintances, but no identification. Initially, he gave a false name to the Scottish plowman on whose territory he landed; soon members of the local home Guard appeared (with whisky on their breath). The British were not expecting Hess; no secure corridor had been set up. Hess was among the small circle in the know about the firmness of Hitler’s intentions to invade the USSR.” “Hitler stated that Hess had acted without his knowledge, and called him a ‘victim of delusions.’” (pp.866,67)
On the eve of the Battle of Britain and Fall of France, Dr. Kotkin offers a view of the Soviet home front. Stalin, a leader with no military experience, worked aggressively since 1936 to build the largest army in the world. Considering the debt of the Soviet Union during the 1930s, what price did the people pay?
(I apologize that I cannot verify the accuracy of the data below but offer it for the purpose of discussion regarding the changes occurring in the Second Five Year Plan with an emphasis on industrial production.)
source: (R.W. Davies, Soviet economic development from Lenin to Khrushchev, 40.)
“The Red Army was expanding toward 4 million men (as compared with just 1 million in 1934). Some 11,000 of the 33,000 officers discharged during the terror had been reinstated. Consumer shortages had been worsening since 1938. At the same time, alcohol production reached 250 million gallons, up from 96.5 million gallons in 1932. By 1940, the Soviet Union had more shops selling alcohol than selling meat, vegetables, and fruit combined.” (p.781)
Britain, France and the Fate of the Soviet Union
As the war intensified in 1940 with the attack on France, Stalin was forced to reassess what was developing. He knew, or thought he knew, that the Soviet Union would be safe from German invasion for resources as long as Hitler was fighting in western Europe. But the battle in France began on Mother’s Day and ended shortly after Father’s Day. (May 10 – June 25) The French air force was no match for the Luftwaffe and the French had done little regarding the installation of antitank obstacles and bunkers in the Ardennes. (p.766) “The French lost 124,000 killed and 200,000 wounded, while 1.5 million western troops were taken prisoner; German casualties were fewer than 50,000 dead and wounded.” (pp.767)
What did Stalin think? Stalin depended on the French military and Germany fighting in western Europe. Did Stalin connect the missing pieces of the puzzle regarding the importance of Russian oil and supplies to Germany’s power? Between July 10 and the end of October 1940, Germany bombed Britain. The British lost 915 planes but the Germans lost 1,733 planes, almost double the number. (p.794)
The only silver lining in the storm clouds over western Europe for Stalin was on August 20, 1940. After five years of failed attempts to get Leon Trotsky, including the discharge of 200 bullets into his bedroom on May 27, 1940, Ramon Mercader managed to smash a pick into his head. Nearly 250,000 watched the funeral possession in Mexico City. For Stalin, the revolution was now complete!
Meeting of the politburo, January 1941. Have your students prepare a report to Stalin about the best defensive strategy for the Soviet Union for 1941. The members of the politburo have just received an intelligence report from Richard Sorge in the Germany embassy in Tokyo regarding an expected target date for an attack on the Soviet Union on May 15, 1941.
Here are the facts: (pp.819-830)
The Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact is no longer certain.
The Winter War against Finland was a military disappointment.
Germany controls a significant part of France, including Paris.
It is a risk for Germany to fight a two-front war against Britain and the Soviet Union at the same time.
It is estimated that Germany has 76 divisions in the former Poland and 17 in Romania, with an estimate of 90-100 in western Europe.
The Soviet Union is spending 32 percent of its budget on the military and has the largest army in the world at 5.3 million. Germany spends about 20% of its budget on the military.
Germany and Italy need supplies of oil, steel, and grain.
The USSR promised to ship Germany 2.5 million tons of grain, some from strategic reserves, and 1 million tons of oil by August 1941, in return for machine tools and arms-manufacturing equipment.
The Soviet border from the White Sea to the Black Sea is 2,500 miles and vulnerable to attack at any point.
Franklin Roosevelt will be inaugurated as President of the United States on January 20, 1941 and is committed to supplying Britain with aid as an ‘arsenal for democracy’.
The war in the Balkans began on October 28, 1940 and Italy’s offensive is moving slowly.
The United States broke the Japanese intelligence code, should Stalin explore help from the United States?
The Soviet Union needs to expand the trans-Siberian Railroad.
Stalin does not believe Hitler and the German army are invincible and they can be defeated.
The NKVD captured 66 German spy handlers and 1,596 German agents, including 1,338 in western Ukraine, Belarus, and the Baltics.
Here are the Unknown Factors: “Hitler estimated it would take four months to defeat USSR” (p.882).
Would a blitzkrieg attack on German forces along the Soviet frontier deliver a knockout blow?
Will a surprise Soviet attack on Germany move Britain and Germany to negotiate a settlement.
Should the Soviet Union move back 100 miles to draw the Germany army into Soviet territory and they encircle them?
How will Churchill and Britain react to a German attack on the Soviet Union? How will FDR and the United states react?
Are the Germans secretly moving their army on trains from western Europe to the Soviet frontier?
If Germany intervenes in the Balkans will this enable them to invade the Soviet Union?
Is Richard Sorge a double agent that should not be trusted?
What are Hitler’s plans?
Will a Soviet campaign of disinformation be effective?
Will an accidental war break out with an unknown incident at the border?
This is a fascinating book to read and I have decided to leave the creative and carefully researched Conclusion that Stephen Kotkin has written as a surprise. It is perhaps the best ending of a book or documentary that I have read. I cannot wait to read the third volume of the attack on the Soviet Union and the aftermath.
Regarding my opening statement: “The opening sentence, the thesis statement, by Dr. Kotkin is capitalized: “JOSIF STALIN WAS A HUMAN BEING.” Perhaps the argument is correct. Stalin loved his mother, was the father of three children, and witnessed the unfortunate early deaths of his two wives, Kato Svanidze, at age 22 of illness and Nadezhda Alliluyeva, of suicide at age 31. Even though in my reading of this book, I understood Stalin as stoic and emotionally removed from his executive orders leading to the imprisonment and execution of millions, I kept thinking that he lived with feelings, remorse, and personal guilt. I may never know but I can speculate.
A thousand-page book is not a quick read. My five grandchildren were impressed with the size of the book and why the grandfather would read about a man who did terrible things. I documented my quotations carefully with the intention that teachers might use them as a reference guide should they purchased this book. I am happy to give them to you upon request.
My first course in Russian history was in 1967. It was a wonderful introduction to Russian culture, geography, socialism, communism, and 20th century foreign policy. As a teacher, I read Professor Kotkin’s books and attended several of his lectures, I never had the luxury of taking a second college course. As a first-year teacher in New York City in 1969, I made arrangements for Alexander Kerensky to speak with my students. Unfortunately, he broke his arm and was hospitalized in April and passed in June 1970. In the 1960s, Stalin’s daughter, Svetlana, moved to Long Island and later to Pennington, NJ and Princeton. Although I never had an opportunity to see her, I was mesmerized by her decision to come to the United states so soon after the Cuban Missile Crisis. In 1999, I had the pleasure of dinner with Sergei Khrushchev, the son of Nikita Khrushchev.
Using John Lewis’s March Graphic Novel Trilogy in Middle School
Nicole L. Waid, State University of New York (SUNY)—Oneonta
Many adolescent learners’ knowledge of the history comes from their social studies textbook. Misco (2014) posited that the organization of social studies content must encourage the students to engage in reflective learning activities that they can connect to real world experiences. Ogawa and Kusahara (2011) acknowledged that teachers often glean a significant part of their understanding of the social studies content from information in textbooks. Loewen (2008) pointed out that history is a collection of fascinating stories and suggested that telling the stories of the past could ignite the sense of wonderment in adolescent students that are absent in many students. Loewen felt the problem was the format of social studies textbooks.
Textbooks often struggle to not only illuminate the past, but they fail to use history to put contemporary issues into context. Despite middle school students’ lack of motivation to read social studies textbooks, most adolescents are proficient in using an array of multimodal texts such as the movies, comics, and various internet sources (Draper & Reidel, 2011).
Using graphic novels in middle school social studies classes is a successful way to invigorate instruction. Serchay (2008) described graphic novels as nonfiction or fiction books that follow a similar format as comic books and typically tell a story from start to finish. Draper and Reidel (2011) explained that graphic novels engage middle school students by combining visual and verbal elements to bridge the gap between content from social studies and multimodal texts that students use outside of school. Using graphic novels as instructional tools could promote engagement during literacy-based activities. Graphic novels have emerged as an ‘in demand’ format with today’s adolescents due to popular cable series like The Walking Dead and movies like V for Vendetta.
According to The Lexile Framework for Reading (2012) combining art and text helps engage struggling readers. Cromer and Clark (2007) noted that contemporary graphic novels’ imagery and first-person accounts differ from traditional historical narratives third person. Graphic novels that focus on social studies content provide a narrative approach to social studies education that is more engaging to adolescent learners.
Graphic novels are useful resources that allow students to contextualize the information in the text. Contextualization refers to the student going beyond just comprehending the actual words found in the text to making connections to the historical period depicted in the graphic novel. This contextualization leads to a richer understanding how the events result in awareness of the historical period (Britt & Aglinskas, 2002). Boennan-Cornell (2015) made the contention that instructing students how to read a variety of primary and secondary texts using multiple approaches prepares them to analyze texts more critically. Zammit (2007) was in agreement with Boennan-Cornell’s belief that using graphic novels prepares students to analyze texts more critically and added that it also enabled students to create similar documents to apply the higher level application skills to they gained from critically analyzing graphic novels.
With the emergence of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) teachers have to reevaluate their teaching practices to ensure that that they are making the appropriate instructional shifts that make students college and career ready under the College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards. Lee and Swan (2013) identified two types of literacy instruction that attempt to address the instructional shifts that promote literacy in social studies; these areas are content area reading and disciplinary literacy. Social studies teachers are well positioned to put texts into the context of the content area. Social studies instruction focuses on many primary and secondary sources, so refining students’ content literacy skills are crucial. Shanahan and Shanahan (2008) characterized disciplinary literacies as incorporating literacy skills that are critical to creating, communicating and comprehending academic knowledge. Each of the areas of social studies has different literacy skills that are necessary to analyze texts that are appropriate individual topics such as history, economics, and geography.
There have been multiple studies that examined the impact of using graphic novels in social studies instruction. Bosma, Rule, and Krueger (2013) conducted a study of 25 suburban middle school students who were studying the American Revolution. The activity divided students into four groups, and each group was instructed to read one book on the American Revolution over the span of four consecutive 40 minute periods. Students engaged in the reading exercise before receiving instruction on the American Revolution. Students in two of the groups read graphic novels about the Boston Massacre and Patrick Henry and read illustrated nonfiction texts on Paul Revere and the Boston Tea Party. The other two groups read graphic novels about Paul Revere and Boston Tea Party and read illustrated nonfiction books about the Boston Massacre and Patrick Henry. At the end of each day, the students answered a survey on a scale of one to ten to report how much they enjoyed the book and to measure their general interest in the topic. After two weeks, students compiled a list of five things they remembered about the book that their group read. That data obtained from the surveys suggested that shows students were able to recall more concepts and generalizations when reading graphic novels than to illustrated nonfiction texts. The findings also showed that students reported more enjoyment and interest were when reading the graphic novel as opposed to the illustrated nonfiction books.
Hawkins, Lopez, and Hughes (2016) discussed how to teachers in Illinois incorporated John Lewis‘ March Books One and Two (Lewis, Aydin& Powell, 2013, 2015) into two United States History mixed ability courses. The learning segments included pre-assessments that measured the students’ background knowledge about the civil rights movement and posttests that measured the impact the graphic novels had on student learning.
The pretest revealed the students’ apparent lack of knowledge about the pioneers of the civil rights movement and the struggles that Americans faced in their quest for civil rights. The students in both classes read March Book One and March Book Two in conjunction with classroom notes and instruction. The teachers used the graphic novels to scaffold instruction on literacy skills while addressing the historical content. One class used a guided learning packet that stressed vocabulary associated with the civil rights movement such as segregation, civil disobedience, March on Washington, and Freedom Rides. Instructed to define the words using context cues and direct quotations from the graphic novels.
The final part of the activity was student generated projects about the civil rights movement using evidence from the graphic novels as well as other primary and secondary sources. The students synthesized the information from multiple sources to demonstrate their knowledge of the civil rights era after reading the graphic novels.
The second United States History class read excerpts from both graphic novels as a supplement to classroom instruction and analyzing various primary and secondary sources. The students read March Book Two independently and noted key themes using a graphic organizer. The students noted the chronology of the events in the book and then worked in small groups to discuss why the book started and ended the way that they did. The second group also compared and contrasted the different perspectives from other primary and secondary sources on the civil rights era.
After the unit on social change was completed students completed the same questions about their knowledge of the civil rights movement. The students’ level of content knowledge of about civil rights era was increased dramatically after being exposed to March Book 2 and the other sources. The teachers saw the benefit of taking the instructional time to teach students how to read graphic novels because the use of graphic novels invigorated the instruction on racial justice (Hawkins, Lopez, & Hughes, 2016).
The New York City Department of Education has announced that the March trilogy (Lewis, Aydin & Powell, 2013, 2015, 2016) will be used to teach about the civil rights movement. Many strategies could be implemented using the March trilogy. Loewen’s (2008) critique of textbooks suggests that books do not put contemporary issues into context to make the information more compelling to adolescent learners. Using the C3 Framework could make the problem of civil rights more compelling.
The C3 Framework includes four elements:
1. Developing questions that act as the basis of historical inquiry,
2. Applying content reading and disciplinary literacy skills,
3. Evaluating and gathering evidence
4. Making evidence-based claims and taking informed action
Before students begin studying the civil rights movement, the teacher should do a pre-assessment to measure what they know about the civil rights movement. A KWL chart would be a useful tool for determining what background knowledge students have about the civil rights era. Once students fill out the K column the teacher would present the class with current events related to civil rights. The current events for this portion of the activity could include stories involving protests by Black Lives Matter activists and Colin Kaepernick, voter identification court rulings, gerrymandering and police violence against black people. Discussing contemporary issues related to civil rights will put the struggle for civil rights into a context that student could relate to everyday life. Class discussions about contemporary issues might lead to questions about civil rights. Students would come up with questions they would like to know about civil rights in the W column of the KWL chart. Compelling questions are questions that students use as the basis of their inquiries. If students can participate in the formation of the that students use as the basis of their inquiries. If students can participate in the formation of the compelling questions employed in historical investigations, they may be more motivated to find answers that will answer their questions by using evidence-based claims.
Once students complete the K and W of their KWL chart, students would work in three groups. Each group would be assigned either March Book 1 (Lewis, Aydin & Powell, 2013), March Book 2 (Lewis, Aydin & Powell, 2015) or March Book 3 (Lewis, Aydin & Powell, 2016). The students will discuss the questions they generated in the W column of their KWL chart to find any commonalities that exist. The groups will select one compelling question that will act as the basis for their historical inquiry and select supporting queries which support the compelling questions. Rothstein and Santana (2011) discussed the Question Formation Technique which helps students generate questions, refine their questions to make them more open-ended, prioritize the queries and formulating a plan to answer the questions.
The teacher would supply each group with supporting documents for each graphic novel. For example, additional primary and secondary sources related to sit-ins would supplement March Book 1 (Lewis, Aydin & Powell, 2013). Sources about the Freedom Rides would strengthen March Book 2 (Lewis, Aydin & Powell, 2015). Documents relating to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would supply additional information for March Book 3 (Lewis, Aydin & Powell, 2016). The teacher would provide scaffold questions for the supporting documents and a graphic organizer to record evidence to substantiate the claims they would make at the end of the inquiry. Students in each group would answer the scaffold questions and discuss the responses in their groups to determine how the answers fit into their set of questions. Students in each group would read their assigned graphic novel and create a timeline to make a precise sequence of events. One the scaffold questions, graphic organizers, and timelines are complete; students discuss the evidence they gathered from all the sources. The group would answer their compelling and support questions and then create their graphic novels that address their compelling questions.
Each group would present their graphic novels to the other two groups in the class. After all of the student-created graphic novels are presented, the students will fill in the L column of their KWL charts. If any questions remain unanswered after the presentations, they could be addressed in a class discussion. At the end of the March trilogy unit, students would brainstorm actions to improve civil rights in contemporary America.
Using the March trilogy in social studies classes when addressing civil rights in the United States could invigorate instruction by combining words and visuals to examine key events in the civil rights movements. Seeing images and text help motivate students to be more engaged because the story comes alive in a way that does not occur in traditional textbooks. Loewen (2008) felt that textbooks failed to address the fascinating stories that exist in United States History. The March trilogy tells John Lewis’s fascinating stories, and brings the conversation on civil rights into a real world context for the 21st century learner.
Boennan-Cornell,W. (2015). Using historic graphic novels in high school history classes: Potential for contextualization, sourcing, and corroborating. History Teacher, 48(2), 209-224.
Bosma, K., Rule, A. A., & Krueger, K. S. (2013). Social studies content reading about the American Revolution enhanced with graphic novels. Social Studies Research & Practice, 8(1), 59-76.
Britt, M. A. & Aglinskas, C. (2002) Improving students’ ability to identify and use source information. Cognition and Instruction 20(4), 485-522.
Cromer, M. & Clark, P. (2007). Getting graphic with the past: Graphic novels and the teaching of history. Theory and Research in Social Education, 35 (4), 574-591.
Draper, C.A. & Reidel, M. (2011). One nation, going graphic: Using graphic novels to promote critical literacy in social studies classrooms. Ohio Social Studies Review, 47(2), 3-12.
Hawkins, M., Lopez, K., Hughes, R.L.(2016). John Lewis’s March, Book Two: Assessing the impact of a graphic novel on teaching the civil rights movement. Social Education, 80 (3), p. 151-156.
Lee, J., Swan, K. (2013). Is the Common Core good for social studies? Yes, but… Social Education, 77(6), p. 327–330.
Lewis, J., Aydin, A. & Powell, N. (2013). March, Book One. Marietta, Ga.: Top Shelf.
Lewis, J., Aydin, A. & Powell, N. (2015). March, Book Two. Marietta, Ga.: Top Shelf.
Lewis, J., Aydin, A. & Powell, N. (2016). March, Book Three. Marietta, Ga.: Top Shelf.
Loewen, J. W. (2008) Lies my teacher told me: Everything your American history textbook got wrong, New York: New Press.
Misco, T. (2014). Powerful social studies unit design: A companion to powerful social studies teaching and learning. Clearing House. 87(6), p. 241.
Ogawa, M., Kusahara, K. (2011). 30 years after the 1981 Japan/United States textbook study project: How are they portrayed? Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, April 10, 2011, New Orleans, LA.
Randall, R., Marangell, J. (2016). Improving on past practice: Embracing a new direction in secondary social studies teaching and learning. History Teacher 49(3), p.383-396.
Serchay, D. S. (2008). Graphic novels for children and tweens. New York, NY: Neal-Shuman.
Shanahan, T., Shanahan, C. (2008). Teaching disciplinary literacy to adolescents: Rethinking content area literacy,” Harvard Educational Review 78, p.40-59.
Zammit, K. (2007). Popular culture in the classroom: Interpreting and creating multimodal texts. In R. Whittaker, M. O’Donnel, & A. McCabe (Eds.), Advances in language and education (p. 60–76). New York, NY: Continuum.
Rothstein, D., Santana, L. (2011). Teaching students to ask their own questions. Harvard Education
Context matters. I mean that in terms of the context in which I read. Sometimes, I put a book aside as not relevant, not interesting, or just not the right book at the right time. Currently, my context is the COVID-19 pandemic and my safer-at-home lockdown. For escape, I’ve turned to books, but perhaps oddly, to non-fiction. The more dire the situation, the more tragic the true story, the better I feel. In troubled times, I find solace. In tales of disaster, I discover courage and resilience, pain and perseverance, hope and victory. Everywhere these books take me, I find context for understanding what we face today and lessons for living through catastrophe. In the early spring of the pandemic, Erik Larson’s The Splendid and the Vile (2020) and Black Death at the Golden Gate (2019) by David K. Randall were gripping page-turners.
So is The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women (2016) by Kate Moore. Moore took me to the radium-dial factories of Newark and Orange, New Jersey and then to Illinois through a story I had never heard before. During World War I, young women from working-class families found good-paying jobs painting watches and other instruments that glowed in the dark for the military. After the war, the desire for these watches exploded, factories expanded production, and the women recruited their younger sisters and friends to join them at companies such as Radium Luminous Materials Corporation, United States Radium Corporation, and Radium Dial Corporation.
The Radium Girls, as they were called, were excited to be front and center at the radium craze. Discovered in 1898 by Marie and Pierre Curie, radium was rare and one of the most valuable commodities in the world. Two decades later, radium was considered a wonder drug, a cure-all for just about everything. Consumers drank radium potions and swallowed radium pills; the wealthy went to radium clinics and spas. Products from jock straps to mosquito sprays claimed, often falsely, to contain radium. The radium dial factories engaged the girls in an important war effort, painting luminous airplane instruments, gunsights, and ship’s compasses. This was a job for women – some as young as 14 – with excellent fine motor skills. Many earned more than their laborer fathers and brothers. The radium girls enjoyed the female camaraderie of the factory floor; they bought nice clothes and danced the nights away with eligible young men; they were happy; they glowed.
Quite literally, the women glowed. As they painted, they mastered the technique of dipping the fine camel-haired brushes into the radium paint, then their mouths to wet the brush into an even finer point. Paid by the piece, their goal was to paint the small dials as precisely and quickly as possible. With every dip, the girls swallowed the radioactive substance. Despite their care not to waste paint, the fine dust covered their hands, their hair and their clothes. When they walked home together at night, hung their glowing dresses in their closets, and stood in front of a mirror, the girls “fairly shone in the dark,” like “otherworldly angels.”
By 1921, the first of the Radium Girls was sick. Teeth fell out, jaws crumbled, bone cancers grew, women failed to conceive or miscarried. Through the 1920s and 30s, many died painful deaths, some quickly, some slowly. Initially, the girls, their dentists and their doctors made no connection to their work. When the first finally did, linking their own illnesses with those of friends and co-workers, the companies denied that the paint could be the cause. Radium, after all, was harmless, they testified.
The Radium Girls is the story of the courageous women and a handful of doctors and lawyers who take on powerful corporations and a legal system determined to thwart them at every turn, calculating that they can outlive the dying women. Company officials lie and cover-up; mayors and chambers of commerce welcome jobs during the Great Depression; neighbors turn on the women and their families; victims of radium poisoning die. The not-yet-dead fight on. Though few of the Radium Girls themselves would benefit, eventually laws were written, saving other lives.
Kate Moore uncovers the lives of these women and makes their heartbreaking story personal. She shows us that the fight for workers’ rights and lives never ends, but that change is possible. The Radium Girls belong with The Jungle’s meatpackers and the Triangle Shirtwaist women in our history lessons. In our Covid-19 pandemic times, the fight for workers’ lives continues; the Radium Girls light the way.
In the 1950s and 1960s the revolutionary communist-led government of China enlisted elementary school-age students to educate adults about the need for public health measures. The Chinese campaign against spitting in public was actually not new or communist inspired. In the late 19th century, as immigrants poured into overcrowded urban areas, tuberculosis bacterium (TB) was responsible for a pandemic that caused the death of one in seven people in the United States and Europe. It New York City, spitting on a public conveyance was made illegal in 1896 and spitters were subject to arrest and a fine of up to fifty dollars. Signs were placed in street cars and on the subway system warning that spitting spread TB. When the signs proved to be an inadequate deterrence, health officers, known as the Sanitary Squad, conducted random raids at subway stations arresting hundreds of scofflaws. The city also launched public health campaigns distributing flyers and schools were enlisted to educate children about the spread of the disease.
This play was performed on street corners in Hangzhou and Shanghai by Young Pioneers, children between the ages of nine and thirteen. In the 1950s and again during the Corona virus pandemic today, China uses poster art to teach public health lessons. Classes can act out and discuss “Do Not Spit at Random” on Zoom. This version of the play is from a New York City multicultural curriculum package (1967).
Questions for discussion include:
Who are the Young Pioneers?
In your opinion, why are they involved in the public health campaign?
What are some of the arguments and social pressures used to make the Passer-By clean up the spit?
If you lived in China at that time, would you have joined the Young Pioneers? Explain.
Do you think student plays like this one would help in the current Corona virus pandemic? Explain. As a follow-up, students can write their own plays teaching people how to be safe during the Corona virus pandemic and create public health posters. Do Not Spit at Random (188u-yao sui-ti t’u t’an) by Fang Tzu Setting: Street corner of Hangzhou, China, the early 1960s. A young girl Pioneer with a megaphone comes out from a crowd in the street or from among the audience in a theater.
Characters: Young Pioneer (Hsiao-Ying) Passer-By (Ch’em Jung-fa) One of the Crowd Crowd People’s Police Mother
YOUNG PIONEER. Dear uncles and aunts, please do not spit at random. Spitting at random on the ground is a most deplorable habit. It helps to spread germs and disease, and so may affect our health harmfully. Dear uncles and aunts, if you want to spit, please do so into a cuspidor. If there is no cuspidor at hand, then spit into a handkerchief.
PASSER-BY (walks across a stage with a briefcase, makes noise as if going to spit). Hmm …hawk…choo! (Spits phlegm on the ground.)
YOUNG PIONEER (seeing the passer-by spit, hurries away from the crow to overtake the man, or leaps onto stage from below). Uncle, uncle, don’t spit on the ground. Please rub it away with a piece of paper.
PASSER-BY. My young friend with the cuspidor so far away, where do you think I should spit.
YOUNG PIONEER. You can go up to the cuspidor. It’s only a few steps away.
PASSER-BY. I’d have to go there and come back again. How do you think I am going to catch my bus?
YOUNG PIONEER. Uncle, don’t you know there are many germs in spittle? When it dries the germs will be scattered everywhere, and, by breathing the air, people may be infected with such diseases as typhoid, diphtheria, tuberculosis –
PASSER-BY. I am not a tubercular. So there cannot be any germs in the phlegm I coughed out.
YOUNG PIONEER. It is a social obligation to refrain from spitting at one random. If everyone spits and insist that there can be no germs in what he has spat, how can we be patriotic and keep ourselves in good health?
ONE OF THE CROWD (speaks from the crowd or from the audience, in a theater). Rub the spittle away quick! (A large crowd gathers around the passer-by)
PASSER-BY (irritated). Hmm. You want me to squat there and rub away the spittle? But I have no time for that. Besides, I’m not used to doing that sort of thing. (Prepared to go.)
YOUNG PIONEER. Uncle, uncle, don’t go. I haven’t finished with you yet.
PASSER-BY. I have to go home now to my dinner and have no time to carry on a conversation.
ONE OF THE CROWD. Hey, you come back here! There can’t be a more unreasonable man than you.
PASSER-BY. How so?
YOUNG PIONEER (offering a piece of paper). Uncle, please rub it away with this piece of paper.
PASSER-BY. I won’t do it!
YOUNG PIONEER. How can you refuse to carry out a social obligation?
PASSER-BY. Are you lecturing me? (Here a number of actors come out of the crowd to speak, or speak from among the audience, or some may go up on the stage.)
CROWD. What? You are trying to assume airs? Don’t argue with him. Call the police. Police! Comrade police!
PASSER-BY. I won’t rub it. I promise not to spit again.
CROWD. Comrade, what is your unit?
PASSER-BY. That’s none of your business
CROWD. Why isn’t it my business? When you refuse to carry out a public obligation, everyone is entitled to criticize you.
PEOPLE’S POLICE (enters). What’s happened here? (At this moment the crowd becomes larger.)
CROWD. He spat at random and refuses to accept criticism. He would not listen to the advice of a child. And he’s such a big man. He is no better than this child. And he is a Party member too! Probably a backward one.
PEOPLE’S POLICE. All right, it’s clear to me now. (Addressing the crowd.) Comrades! What do you think we should do with such a man?
CROWD. He should be criticized and fined. He should be made the subject of a wall newspaper. A cartoon should be drawn of him for all to see. He should be taken to the police station.
PEOPLE’S POLICE. Oh, well, if you will not rub it away, I’ll do it for you. But, first of all, may I know what unit you belong to?
PASSER-BY. As for that – (The voice of a middle-aged woman is heard offstage calling someone.)
MOTHER. Hsiao-ying, Hsiao-ying!
YOUNG PIONEER. Oh, Mama!
MOTHER. There you are. We’ve been waiting for you a long time. The meal is cold. Won’t you hurry home to your meal?
YOUNG PIONEER. I haven’t finished my work yet.
MOTHER. Work? What sort of work?
YOUNG PIONEER. Someone has spat on the ground and refuses to accept criticism. Unless he cleans it off, I am not going to let him go.
MOTHER (recognizes the passer-by). Oh, is that you, Comrade Ch’en?
PASSER-BY. Er – es, it’s me, Teacher Wang.
MOTHER. Hsiao-ying, who is it that refuses to accept criticism?
YOUNG PIONEER. Mama, there he is.
PEOPLE’S POLICE (addressing mother). Comrade, do you know which unit this comrade belongs to?
MOTHER. He is the accountant of the cotton mill. He is Comrade Ch’en Jung-fa.
PEOPLE’S POLICE. Good, thank you. (Addressing the passer-by.) I think there’s only one way now. (Draws a circle round the spittle on the ground with a piece of chalk and is about to write down the name of the passer-by and the unit to which he belongs.)
PASSER-BY (frightened). Comrade, don’t! Don’t write down the name of my unit! (Addressing the crowd.) Comrades and my young friend, please pardon me this once. You may write my name there, but please do not write the name of our mill too. Our mill has already signed a patriotic health pact.
PEOPLE’S POLICE. Yet you break the pact?
PASSER-BY. All right, I’ll clean it, I’ll clean it. I promise not to do the same thing again.
PEOPLE’S POLICE (to mother). Comrade, your child is really a good Young Pioneer, a young heroine for the elimination of the seven pests (mosquitoes, flies, rats, sparrows, and so forth) and for public health. If everyone eliminates the seven pests in earnest and maintains public hygiene as she does, our cities and the countryside will be rid of the seven pests sooner, disease will largely be wiped out, people will be healthier than ever, and the nation will be more prosperous and stronger.
MOTHER. Hsiao-ying, hurry home to your meal. It’s already cold.
YOUNG PIONEER. Mama, my group leader isn’t here yet. I’ll go home when he come to relieve me.
MOTHER. Oh, well, I’ll have to warm the meal again anyway.
YOUNG PIONEER (speaking through megaphone and coming toward crowd in the street or toward audience in theater). Dear uncles and aunts, please do not spit at random. Sitting at random is a most deplorable habit.
Kristen Bradle, Jessica Hermann and Dean Bacigalupo
Rationale: This package was created as a resource to assist educators who are teaching the 9th grade New Jersey World History or 9th and 10th grade New York State Global History and Geography curriculum. The resources and guiding questions are aligned with the New Jersey and New York Learning Standards and the academic skills required on the New York State Global History and Geography Regents examination. The resources highlight the impact of climate change on human societies as an enduring issue that reemerged at different points in history. These resources contain strong transdisciplinary connections between Social Studies, Science, and STEM/STEAM.
The impact of climate change on human societies is one of the most pressing topics affecting the world today. Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg is demanding government and corporate action to prevent a climate catastrophe. Goals in designing these materials were to interest students in the past and to engage them as active citizens in the present empowered with historical knowledge.
Human Impact on the Environment: Includes environmental degradation, deforestation, desertification, global warming, destruction of ozone layer, pollution, extinction of species/loss of species, loss of biodiversity, diversion of rivers/water sources, use of alternative energy sources, impact of policies on sustainability, and spread of disease.
Impact of Environment on Humans: Includes impact of climate, impact of natural disasters, and impact of policies designed to deal with natural disasters.
Impact of Technology: Includes consequences of technology use for people and consequences of technology use for the environment. Impact of Industrialization: Includes consequences of industrialization.
Impact of Globalization: Includes consequences of interdependence.
Social Studies Frameworks: The following New York State Frameworks are addressed in this series of climate activity sheets:
CLASSICAL CIVILIZATIONS: EXPANSION, ACHIEVEMENT, DECLINE: Classical civilizations in Eurasia and Mesoamerica employed a variety of methods to expand and maintain control over vast territories. They developed lasting cultural achievements. Both internal and external forces led to the eventual decline of these empires. Geographic factors encouraged and hindered a state’s/empire’s expansion and interactions. Students will investigate how geographic factors encouraged or hindered expansion and interactions within the Greek, Roman, and Mayan civilizations.
SOCIAL AND CULTURAL GROWTH AND CONFLICT: During the postclassical era, the growth of transregional empires and the use of trade networks influenced religions and spread disease. These cross-cultural interactions also led to conflict and affected demographic development. Networks of exchange facilitated the spread of disease, which affected social, cultural, economic, and demographic development. Students will map the spread of the Black Death (Bubonic Plague) as it was carried westward from Asia to Africa and Europe. Students will evaluate the effects of the Black Death on these regions
CAUSES AND EFFECTS OF THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION: Innovations in agriculture, production, and transportation led to the Industrial Revolution, which originated in Western Europe and spread over time to Japan and other regions. This led to major population shifts and transformed economic and social systems.
GLOBALIZATION AND A CHANGING GLOBAL ENVIRONMENT (1990–PRESENT): Technological changes have resulted in a more interconnected world, affecting economic and political relations and in some cases leading to conflict and in others to efforts to cooperate. Globalization and population pressures have led to strains on the environment. Technological changes in communication and transportation systems allow for instantaneous interconnections and new networks of exchange between people and places that have lessened the effects of time and distance. Students will investigate the causes and effects of, and responses to, one infectious disease (e.g., malaria, HIV/AIDS). Population pressures, industrialization, and urbanization have increased demands for limited natural resources and food resources, often straining the environment. Students will examine strains on the environment, such as threats to wildlife and degradation of the physical environment (i.e., desertification, deforestation and pollution) due to population growth, industrialization, and urbanization.
Science and STEM/STEAM Transdisciplinary Connections: The NYS P-12 Science Learning Standards with STEM/STEAM practices and crosscutting concepts guidance document that was referenced to inform connections with middle and high social studies can be found at: http://www.nysed.gov/common/nysed/files/program s/curriculum-instruction/p-12-science-learningstandards.pdf Transdisciplinary connections for middle school include 3 inquiries: Earth’s Systems, Weather and Climate, and Human Impacts can be found on pages 48-50. Transdisciplinary connections for high school include the inquiry focused on Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems and can be found on pages 67-68.
Sample Lesson Introduction Below is a visual Do Now activity that displays the impact and affect climate change has had on the world. This provides students with the evidence and visual understanding that the climate change has resulted drastic changes to our ecosystems. The website below, created by NASA, displays a series of before and after pictures of different climate change “hot spots” around the world. Within these pictures, visible changes, such as rising levels of water can be seen. https://climate.nasa.gov/images-of-change?id=709#709-christmas-tree-harvest-inashe-county-north-carolina
DO NOW: You will examine a series of images on the board, while viewing these images fill out the chart below.
Topic: Old Kingdom Egypt AIM: What environmental change caused the downfall of Old Kingdom Egypt? These documents explore the effect of desertification in the past.
Document 1: Desertification of Egypt “Tomb paintings and inscriptions hint that the environment became more arid toward the end of the Old Kingdom, as some plants disappeared and sand dunes crept close to river settlements. Data drawn from cores in the Nile basin confirm that the climate began to dry around 2200 B.C.” Source: Did Egypt’s Old Kingdom Die—or Simply Fade Away?
Document 3:Desertification of the Sahara “7,300 to 5,500 years ago: Retreating monsoonal rains initiated desiccation in the Egyptian Sahara, prompting humans to move to remaining habitable niches in Sudanese Sahara. The end of the rains and return of desert conditions throughout the Sahara after 5,500 coincides with population return to the Nile Valley and the beginning of pharaonic society . . . The climate change at [10,500 years ago] which turned most of the [3.8 million square mile] large Sahara into a savannah-type environment happened within a few hundred years only, certainly within less than 500 years,” said study team member Stefan Kroepelin of the University of Cologne in Germany.” Source: https://www.livescience.com/4180-saharadesert-lush-populated.html
Document 4:Effects of Drought and Desertification on the Egyptian Empire “When a drought brought famine to the land, there was no longer any meaningful central government to respond to it. The Old Kingdom ended with the 6th Dynasty as no strong ruler came to the throne to lead the people. Local officials took care of their own communities and had no resources, nor felt the responsibility, to help the rest of the country. As the 6th Dynasty passed away, Egypt slowly tumbled into the era now classified by scholars as the First Intermediate Period . . . At the end of the 6th Dynasty, there was no longer a central government of note and Egypt entered a period of social unrest and reformation known as The Frist Intermediate Period (2181-2040 BCE) during which Egypt was ruled regionally by local magistrates who made and enforced their own laws. The rise of these local officials and the power of the priesthood were not the only causes of the collapse of the Old Kingdom, however, in that a severe drought toward the end of the 6th Dynasty brought famine which the government could do nothing to alleviate. Scholars have also pointed to the exceptionally long reign of Pepi II of the 6th Dynasty as a contributing factor because he outlived his successors and left no heir to the throne.” Source: https://www.ancient.eu/Old_Kingdom_of_Egypt/
Questions: The civilizations you examined today made advances in their societies.
How have environmental factors impacted the societies you examined today?
How did the advances civilizations made contribute to environmental consequences?
How have these advances caused a long-lasting impact that is negatively affecting societies today?
Identify a similarity or a difference between the events, ideas, or historical developments presented in documents 1 and 2.
Explain a similarity or a difference in the events, ideas, or historical developments presented in these documents. Be sure to use evidence from both documents 1 and 2 in your response.
Topic: Collapse of Akkadian Empire Aim: What did the Curse of Akkad teach us about the impact of climate on society? These documents examine the effect of drought caused by a changing local environment.
“For some time, researchers attributed the collapse to political disintegration and invasion by hostile groups. Some paleoclimate records indicate that a catastrophic drought also occurred around this time and suggest that climate factors beyond the control of the empire played a role in its demise.” Source: Drought and the Akkadian Empire
“Instead of rain, the Akkadians and their subjects were baked by dry, hot winds from the north. Precipitation fell by 30 percent, and crops withered in the field; the raw wind picked up the topsoil and blew it south. With their surplus dwindling, the fields barren, and laborers consuming what was left, at some point the Akkadians decided the game was up. Many of the Akkadians moved south, likely as word filtered back that the Euphrates, though diminished, continued to flow, supplying irrigation water to the fields there. Some refugees became pastoral nomads, moving with their herds in search of fodder.
Those who remained at Tell Leilan left no trace. As the decades went by, sand and dust gradually entombed the acropolis. When the winds and drought finally abated, some three hundred years later, new settlers moved in.” -Eugene Linden, The Winds of Change
What was “The Curse of Akkad”?
Use specific quotes from the text to explain what happened as a result of the climate change the Akkadian Empire experienced.
How did Akkadians adapt/respond to the changing climate?
Topic: Mayan Civilization Aim: Did consequences of climate change play a significant role in the downfall of the Mayan Civilization? Climate change played a critical role on the collapse of the Mayan Civilization.
Document #1: Chart of Evaporation: Scientists have reconstructed climate at the time of the Mayan civilization by studying lake sediment cores from the Yucatan Peninsula (Hodell et al. 1995; Curtis et al. 1996; Hodell et al. 2005). It is possible to reconstruct changes in the balance between precipitation and evaporation (P−E), a common indicator of drought, by measuring oxygen isotope data from the shells of gastropods and ostracods. Lake H2O molecules containing the isotope 18O evaporate less easily than H2O molecules with 16O. Thus, during periods of strong evaporation, the lake water becomes enriched in 18O (values of δ18O are high). These isotopic values are incorporated into the growing shells of gastropods and ostracods that live in the lake.
Another proxy for P−E is the percent of sulfur in the lake sediments. Evaporation concentrates sulfur in the lake water. If the sulfur concentration becomes high enough, salts such as gypsum (CaSO4) will start to precipitate from the lake water and add sulfur to the lake sediments. The variations of sulfur percentage match the variations in oxygen isotopes closely. Corroborating one paleoclimate proxy with another is an important check on proxy records and gives us more confidence in them.
Document 2: Effects of Deforestation on Mayan Civilization: “Results from simulations with a regional climate model demonstrate that deforestation by the Maya also likely induced warmer, drier, drought‐like conditions. It is therefore hypothesized that the drought conditions devastating the Maya resulted from a combination of natural variability and human activities. Neither the natural drought or the human‐induced effects alone were sufficient to cause the collapse, but the combination created a situation the Maya could not recover from. These results may have sobering implications for the present and future state of climate and water resources in Mesoamerica as ongoing massive deforestation is again occurring.” Source: Oglesby, R. J., T. L. Sever, W. Saturno, D. J. Erickson III, and J. Srikishen (2010). “Collapse of the Maya: Could deforestation have contributed?” J. Geophys. Res., 115, D12106, doi:10.1029/2009JD011942.
“Deforestation led to lower rainfall and higher temperatures; both factors would have been detrimental to Mayan life. The reduction in rainfall means it would have been more difficult for the Maya to store enough water to survive the dry season, while the warmer conditions put more stress on evaporation, vegetation, livestock, and people. These effects occurred during both the wet and dry seasons but were much larger during the wet season, when they were also arguably more important. This is because the Maya societal structure depended on storage of water during the wet season, which in turn provided for them during the dry season.” Source: AGU Journal
Document 3: Effects of Drought on Mayan Civilization: “Recent data indicate that a major drought at this time may have been a key factor in the collapse. Research along the Holmul River, which runs through several bajos and connects 10 major Maya cities, indicates that between A.D. 750 and 850 the river either dried up or became swampy, perhaps as a result of a long period of drought” [Sever and Irwin, 2003; T. P. Culbert, personal communication, 2002].
Document 4: Reduction of Rainfall and Wetland Formation: Researchers from Arizona State University analyzed archaeological data from across the Yucatan to reach a better understanding of the environmental conditions when the area was abandoned. Around this time, they found, severe reductions in rainfall were coupled with a rapid rate of deforestation, as the Mayans burned and chopped down more and more forest to clear land for agriculture. Interestingly, they also required massive amounts of wood to fuel the fires that cooked the lime plaster for their elaborate constructions—experts estimate it would have taken 20 trees to produce a single square meter of cityscape. Smithsonian magazine Accelerator mass spectrometry dates chart and conceptual model of wetland formation. (Credit: T. Beach et al., University of Texas at Austin)
Document 5: Lake Bottom Sediment Core from Yucatan Peninsula: Bands located on sediment core help indicate periods of drought and periods of rainfall based on the coloring of the bands. Below, is a piece of lake bottom sediment core from the Yucatan Peninsula, displaying periods of drought during the time of the Mayan collapse.
Questions for Mayan Document Series:
How did deforestation and drought play a critical role in the decline and eventual collapse of the Mayan Civilization?
How does science aid historians in understanding important changes in climate that have affected civilizations?
Based on the research presented in this document series, did consequences of climate change play a significant role in the downfall of the Mayan Civilization?
Topic: Roman Empire (27 BC-476 AD) Aim: How did shifts in climate lead to the decline of the Roman Empire? During the establishment and peak of the Roman empire Europe was enduring a period of climate stability. When Rome began experiencing colder, unstable weather, deadly epidemics led to a decline in civilization.
Document 1: Climate Change Background “Climate change did not begin with the exhaust fumes of industrialization, but has been a permanent feature of human existence. Orbital mechanics (small variations in the tilt, spin and eccentricity of the Earth’s orbit) and solar cycles alter the amount and distribution of energy received from the Sun. And volcanic eruptions spew reflective sulphates into the atmosphere, sometimes with long-reaching effects. Modern, anthropogenic climate change is so perilous because it is happening quickly and in conjunction with so many other irreversible changes in the Earth’s biosphere. But climate change per seis nothing new.” Source: Smithsonian
Document 2: How Favorable Climate Led To The Rise of the Roman Empire “It turns out that climate had a major role in the rise and fall of Roman civilization. The empire-builders benefitted from impeccable timing: the characteristic warm, wet and stable weather was conducive to economic productivity in an agrarian society. The benefits of economic growth supported the political and social bargains by which the Roman empire controlled its vast territory. The favorable climate, in ways subtle and profound, was baked into the empire’s innermost structure.” Source: Smithsonian
Document 3: Climate and The Fall of The Roman Empire “The end of this lucky climate regime did not immediately, or in any simple deterministic sense, spell the doom of Rome. Rather, a less favorable climate undermined its power just when the empire was imperiled by more dangerous enemies— Germans, Persians—from without. Climate instability peaked in the sixth century, during the reign of Justinian. Work by dendro-chronologists and ice-core experts points to an enormous spasm of volcanic activity in the 530s and 540s CE, unlike anything else in the past few thousand years. This violent sequence of eruptions triggered what is now called the ‘Late Antique Little Ice Age,’ when much colder temperatures endured for at least 150 years. This phase of climate deterioration had decisive effects in Rome’s unravelling. It was also intimately linked to a catastrophe of even greater moment: the outbreak of the first pandemic of bubonic plague.” Source: Smithsonian
Document 4: Levels of Precipitation in the Roman Empire The Fall of the Roman Empire was affected by a period of cooling, known as the Little Ice Age. This period of cooling greatly affected the way people lived. Source: US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.
Document 5 and 6: Favorable Flooding of the Nile Creating Stable Conditions Source: The Journal of Interdisciplinary History “Finally, unnoticed until not, Egypt, the Roman Empire’s breadbasket, spears to have enjoyed exceptionally favorable conditions for cereal production during this period . Nile river levels reflect precipitation over Ethiopia and East and Central Africa. Precious study has clarified the history of Nile floods down to 299 A.D., but that abundant evidence has never been exploited for climate history or economic performance. Before Rome annexed Egypt, all seven of nine securely recorded Nile floods in the earlier years of the first century B.C. were below average. For the next 329 years, from the annexation in 30 B.C. to 299 S.D., reliable documents allow an estimate of the annual flood in 199 different years, after which the available data become more scarce until 642 A.D. They show a subtle but significant pattern: The most favorable floods occurred when contrasted with those of the following period.”
Note:Dead Sea: Fluctuating sea levels reflect overall precipitation in the Levant. Although the chronology is fluid, recent work clearly confirms earlier findings of an early and late period of humid conditions, separated and followed by dry conditions Note:Lake Van: Oxygen isotopes within our period indicate most humid conditions c. the first centuries B.C. and A.D. and c. the fifth and sixth centuries A.D., and dry conditions c. the third and seventh centuries.
Document 7: Favorable Conditions During the Roman Empire Source: The Journal of Interdisciplinary History, The Roman Optimum: Stability from C. 100 B.C. to 200 A.D. Exceptional climate stability characterizes the centuries of the Roman Empire’s rise; certain regions enjoyed unusually favorable conditions. In the western Roman Empire, the first century B.C. through the first and possibly second century A.D. were warmer than later centuries. Archaeological evidence from Britain, ice-core date from Greenland, and dendrodata about summer temperature.
Document 8: The Fall of the Roman Empire Source: The Journal of Interdisciplinary History We synthesize the results for the entire sweep of Roman imperial history in four multi-century phases, distinguishing between the western (approximately -9.34 to 22 degrees) and the eastern (22 degrees to 38.96 degrees) regions of the Empire. The written, archeological, and natural-scientific proxy evidence independently but consistently indicates that climate conditions changed during the period of the Roman Empire’s maximum expansion and final crisis. Rates of change shifted dramatically over time, from apparent near stasis under the early Empire to rapid fluctuations later in the Empire’s history. Changes affected different parts of the Empire in different ways and at different times. Even though the different data sets are not in perfect agreement about absolute dating, they impressively converge about the sequence of events. In each case, the discussion moves from west to east.
Why might an unprecedented period of chilling have major consequences on the Roman Empire?
Why is it important river levels and flooding remain on a set schedule and stay predictable? If they do not, what effects might it have on society?
Was the Roman Empire able to adapt to climate change?
Topic: Collapse of the Norse North Atlantic Network Aim: How did climate change cause the Inuit civilization to prosper and the downfall of the Norse? Climate change can cause one civilization to flourish while it causes another to collapse. Civilizations that are able adapt to climate change may prevail.
Medieval Warming Period 900-1250 A.D. created wealth and prosperity in Europe. During this time the peak expansion of Viking Influence occurred. This warming period caused the growing season to lengthen as population and trade expanded throughout Europe. The Norse first ventured to Iceland starting in 874 when trees were plentiful. From Iceland they traveled to Greenland which had “better land for growing barley than Iceland, as well as birch and willow trees, and meadows to support livestock.” In an attempt to expand their influence some “Norse traders ventured to North America during the 350-year span of the Western Settlement in Greenland” but “Norse ventures in the New World petered out” and the Norse were forced to return to Greenland and Iceland. The weather turning colder due to the Little Ice Age “eliminated the possibility that the Norse would colonize North America.”
“Climate changes, and when it does, it favors some and penalizes others. This is what happened during the Viking Age. Starting between 1343 and 1345, Greenland suffered through ten cold years, culminating in the worst winter in five hundred years in 1355. This led to the collapse of the western colony.” The Norse civilization slowly collapsed and starved as “short cold summers gave the Norse no opportunity to rebuild their flocks and grain supplies. For food, they relied on hunting and gathering as well as farming…and relied on meat and milk to get them through the winter.”
“The Inuit flourished during this same period. The Norse could have survived the bad weather too if they had learned from the Inuit, who love it when the weather turns frigid because it gives them an ice platform from which to hunt ringed seals with harpoons when the mammals surface at breathing holes in the sea ice. Christian Norse likely regarded the shamanistic Inuit as unenlightened and beneath them. The Norse could have adapted Inuit hunting methods and survived the Little Ice Age. Greenland colonies prospered during the warm years and became uninhabitable by agrarian people during the cold years. The Little Ice Age proved absolutely fatal to the Greenland colonies.” – Linden, The Winds of Change
Would the world be different today if the Medieval Warm Period had continued and Greenland settlers had endured? Explain your answer.
Why did the Inuit civilization survive the Little Ice Age while it caused the collapse of the Norse civilization?
Topic: The Fall of the Ancient Khmer Empire 802 CE-1431CE Aim: What does Ancient Khmer infrastructure reveal about their collapse? Through innovation the Khmer Empire tried to decrease the effects of climate instability but ultimately climate change prevailed and led to the fall of the Empire.
“The cause of the Angkor empire’s demise in the early 15th century long remained a mystery. But researchers have now shown that intense monsoon rains that followed a prolonged drought in the region caused widespread damage to the city’s infrastructure, leading to its collapse. From the beginning, water was central to the development of Angkor, which is often described as a “hydraulic city.” Channels and reservoirs were constructed to collect and store water coming from the hills, both for flood control and for distribution for agriculture. A system of overflows and bypasses carried surplus water to the Tonle Sap Lake to the south of the city.
In the mid to late 1300s, Angkor began suffering from a persistent drought. This was followed by several years of unusually strong monsoon rains, producing extensive flooding with which the city’s infrastructure seemed to have been unable to cope. The flooding caused serious erosion in the system, with links in it being systematically severed. To the south of the city, canals were choked with material eroded from the center of Angkor.
The bridge at Angkor Thom was built from reused stone blocks from temples, with many of them carved in intricate ways. That they would take apart a temple and use it for something as mundane as a bridge suggests there is something seriously going wrong. It has long been thought that the damage to the water management system put an end to a long period of decline at Angkor. As the flooding destroyed the infrastructure, the city of Angkor collapsed. In 1431, it was taken by the Siamese army.
How did infrastructure innovations created by the Angkor civilization help their civilization flourish and then aid in the collapse?
What advantages do societies have today for surviving climate change that the Ancient Khmer Empire did not?
Document 1: The Rise of Genghis Khan and The Mongols. “On a research trip to Mongolia in 2010, Pederson, Hessl and their colleagues discovered a stand of stunted Siberian pine trees in the Khangai Mountains. The trees—some of which were still alive—were ancient, some more than 1,100 years old. Old trees provide a living history book of the climate. During warm, wet years, the trees grow more, and the rings inside the trunk that mark those years are wider. The opposite happens during dry years, when the rings would be narrow. Counting back to the late 1100s, just before the rise of Genghis Khan, the tree-ring data indicated that the Mongol steppes had been in the grip of an intense drought, one that could have helped drive the years of division among the Mongol tribes as they competed for scarce resources. But the tree-rings showed that the years between 1211 and 1225—a period of time that coincided with the meteoric rise of Genghis Khan, who died in 1227—were marked by unusually heavy rainfall and mild temperatures.” Source: Time Magazine
Document 2: “The transition from extreme drought to extreme moisture right then strongly suggests that climate played a role in human events. It wasn’t the only thing, but it must have created the ideal conditions for a charismatic leader to emerge out of the chaos, develop an army and concentrate power. Where it’s arid, unusual moisture creates unusual plant productivity, and that translates into horsepower. Genghis was literally able to ride that wave.” Source: PNAS Study, Amy Hessl
Document 3: Tree Ring Moisture: Tree ring moisture indicated the Mongols suffered severe drought and began dealing with a period of moisture when Genghis Khan was able to rise to power. Tree-ring drought reconstruction site (green cross) and inferred temperature site (white cross) are 50 km apart. Map of the Mongol Empire near its zenith (aqua) in 1260 CE. The ancient capital city of Karakorum (black triangle) and current capital of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar (black star). Source: PNAS
How could change in climate lead to the emergence of a new leader?
Why would climate altering from dry to damp help foster conditions where a civilization is able to thrive?
Do we see a similar trend of unfavorable climate conditions, followed by favorable climate conditions leading to the emergence of powerful leaders elsewhere in history?
Topic: Bubonic Plague Aim: Was the Bubonic Plague pandemic driven by climate change? The Bubonic Plague (1346-1353) was a result of weather effects due to climate change during the Little Ice Age (1303-1860)
Document 1: The Spread of the Black Plague “From 1347 to 1353, a second plague pandemic called the Black Death swept across Europe, killing some 25 million people there and another 25 million in Asia and Africa. But plague is not naturally found in Europe. The disease is endemic to Asia, where the bacterium is found among small animals (rodents) and their fleas. It’s possible the disease was reintroduced to Europe multiple times following Asian climate events. The world was suffering through a second plague pandemic as effects of quick succession of floods and droughts. The rodents likely played a role in moving the disease between harbors. Instances of quarantining ships—a practice developed in the late 14th century in response to the Black Death—could have saved at least a few port towns during the centuries of the second pandemic.” Source: Plague Pandemic May Have Been Driven by Climate, Not Rats
Document 2: The climate causes of the Black Plague “Rapid shifts between warm and cool throw ecosystems out of balance, unleashing pests and microbes, and ruining crops. During the Little Ice Age global temperatures dropped between 0.5 and 1 degree centigrade. Flooding in China’s river valleys “one of the greatest weather-related disasters ever known,” since the floods led to the deaths of roughly 7 million people…made Asia a petri dish for the next iteration of the plague in 1332. The years following saw severe drought, setting up the climate seesaw that would cause the rapid increase and collapse of various rodent populations, both of which could have brought the plague into contact with humans. Weather played a role in releasing the Black Death from China and Mongolia, where it had been bottled up in rodent populations. Before it made its way down the Silk Road to Crimea, the plague killed an estimated 35 million people in China. Then, in about 1346, it began to move west. The plague and other epidemics made several return visits over the next few centuries. All these traumas were direct and indirect effects of the Little Ice Age.” Source: Linden, The Winds of Change
Would the world be different today if the Medieval Warm Period had continued and Greenland settlers had endured? Explain your answer.
Why did the Inuit civilization survive the Little Ice Age while it caused the collapse of the Norse civilization?
Topic: Medieval Europe AIM: How did building Cathedrals during the Middle Ages impact the environment? Deforestation places strains on the environment with major consequences.
Document 1: The Notre Dame Cathedral: The Notre Dame Cathedral was built in Paris, France in 1163. On April 15, 2019 a structure fire broke out under the roof in the Notre Dame Cathedral.
Document 2: “The trees that made up the roof’s wooden structure were cut down around 1160, and some sources estimate that the beams accounted for 13,000 trees, or about 21 hectares of medieval forest, many of which had been growing since the 800s or 900s. “You have a stage in France where deforestation was a problem; these buildings consumed huge amounts of wood.” That’s according to Columbia University art historian Stephen Murray, who spoke with Ars Technica. All that wood, he said, supported an outer roof of lead— until the wood burned and the roof collapsed.” Source: Notre Dame Cathedral will never be the same, but it can be rebuilt
Document 3: “The wooden roof, which burned in the fire, was built with beams over 850 years old, comes from secular forests. Most of the large 12thcentury trees were cut for construction, making them a deciding factor in the current state of the trees on French territory. Another major problem is the large-scale deforestation that was taking place at that time. Many trees have grown since the 7th century, which means that much of the wood destroyed in Dombrand was destroyed 1,300 years ago. For the construction of churches castles and ships needed large quantities of wood, leaving a large part of the wood in French forests as felled.”Source: SUMBER projections for the reconstruction of Notre Dame Cathedral. What the architects say about the lack of a crucial element
Is it possible to rebuild the Notre Dame Cathedral roof today replicating its original structure using the same original materials? Explain your answer.
What environmental impact did the construction of the Notre Dame Cathedral have on the environment at the time of its original construction? How did it impact the environment?
Topic: Industrial Revolution AIM: How did the advancements made during the Industrial Revolution impact the environment? The Industrial Revolution started mid-18th century in England. and has had a lasting impact on climate. These documents focus on how new industries produced new problems with pollution, problems that continue today.
Document 2: Political Cartoons
Document 3: “Fog everywhere. Fog up the river… fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollution of a great (and dirty) city.” – Charles Dickens, BLEAK HOUSE. The towns surrounding Manchester . . . re badly and irregularly built with foul courts, lanes, and back alleys, reeking of coal smoke, and especially dingy from the originally bright red brick, turned black with time. These east and north-east sides of Manchester are the only ones on which the bourgeoisie has not built, because ten or eleven months of the year the west and south-west wind drives the smoke of all the factories hither, and that the working-people alone may breathe . . . Along both sides of the stream, which is coal-black, stagnant and foul, stretches a broad belt of factories and working-men’s dwellings . . . The cottages are old, dirty, and of the smallest sort, the streets uneven, fallen into ruts and in part without drains or pavement; masses of refuse, offal and sickening filth lie among standing pools in all directions; the atmosphere is poisoned by the effluvia from these, and laden and darkened by the smoke of a dozen tall factory chimneys. – Condition of the Working Class in England, by Engels, 1845.
Document 4: “And what cities! … smoke hung over them and filth impregnated them, the elementary public services – water supply, sanitation, street-cleaning, open spaces, and so on – could not keep pace with the mass migration of men into the cities, thus producing, especially after 1830, epidemics of cholera, typhoid and an appalling constant toll of the two great groups of nineteenth century urban killers – air pollution and water pollution or respiratory and intestinal disease.” – Hobsbawm, 1969, p. 86.
What environmental effect did the Industrial Revolution have on England’s environment? Note one environmental effect from political cartoons and one from the excerpts.
What aspect of the Industrial Revolution caused these environmental effects? Explain your answer.
Explain the historical circumstances that caused the environmental effects?
Identify and explain a cause and effect relationship associated with the ideas or events in documents 1 and 2. Be sure to use evidence from both documents 1 and 2 in your response.
Topic: Climate Change and Disease Aim: How did the eruption of Mt. Tambora in Indonesia lead to a global pandemic? Natural catastrophic events like a volcanic eruption can had long term widespread consequences.
Environmental Effects “A powerful volcanic eruption in 1815 set off a chain of events, from extreme weather and crop failures to a global cholera pandemic. Mount Tambora erupted on the Indonesian island of Sumbawa. It belched millions of tonnes of rock, ash and gas in April 1815, set off a tsunami, and killed about 100,000 people in the immediate aftermath. Then, as sulphur dioxide rose with the ash into the stratosphere and circled the globe, the world was plunged into a volcanic winter that lasted three years. Crops failed in China, Europe and, eventually, America. In New York, it snowed in June. In the Alps, glaciers fingered out at unprecedented speed. Weird as it may seem, the Tambora explosion, unnoticed outside Java, not only unleashed devastating weather, destroying crops and communities around the globe. It also transformed cholera from a local nuisance in Bengal into one of the world’s most virulent and feared diseases.” Source: Relevant lessons from climate change and a global pandemic in the 19th century
“The onset of volcanic winters jeopardized global food security and had climate effects that lasted years. It created a global pandemic that lasted years and hurt the global economy.”
Rise of a New Disease “In 1817, a global cholera pandemic suddenly erupted, a “phantom agent of death that was brutal, unknowable, and potentially limitless in its reach.” From India, a newly virulent strain of cholera spread to Myanmar and Thailand in 1819 and 1820 and Iran in 1822 before reaching France in 1830 and eventually the United States in 1832.” Source: Relevant lessons from climate change and a global pandemic in the 19th century
“Drought brought on by the eruption devastated crop yields across the Indian subcontinent, but more disastrously gave rise to a new and deadly strain of cholera. Cholera had always been endemic to Bengal, but the bizarre weather of 1816–17 triggered by Tambora’s eruption—first drought, then late, unseasonal flooding—altered the microbial ecology of the Bay of Bengal. The cholera bacterium, which has an unusually adaptive genetic structure highly sensitive to changes in its aquatic environment, mutated into a new strain. This was met with no resistance among the local population, and it spread across Asia and eventually the globe. By the century’s end, the death toll from Bengal cholera stood in the tens of millions.” Source: Tambora eruption caused the year without a summer: Cholera, opium, famine, and Arctic exploration.
What climate reactions occurred as a result of the eruption of Mount Tambora?
How did the eruption of Mount Tambora cause the cholera pandemic?
How did the eruption of Mount Tambora affect the world economy
Topic: Water Resources Aim: What will the United States do when the water in the Great Plains is gone? Changing climate is affecting a vast area of the United States. The droughts and shorter growing season taking place in the Great Plains will have dire effects on the population. The main source of water in this area, the Ogallala Aquifer, is being drained and dried. The unstable climate will affect water resources and agriculture in the United States.
“The Plains are made up of a broad range of ecosystems, including forests, rangelands, marshes, and desert. Climate change related impacts, including heat waves and extreme weather events, have disproportionate effects on vulnerable groups, including young, elderly, ill, and low income populations. In the Great Plains, remotely located populations, face greater challenges in responding to climate change because of a lack of development, public health resources, and access to other public services and communication systems. Language barriers for indigenous groups can also impact the ability to respond to climate extremes.” Source: Climate Impacts in the Great Plains | US
“This is the breadbasket of America—the region that supplies at least one fifth of the total annual U.S. agricultural harvest. If the aquifer goes dry, more than $20 billion worth of food and fiber will vanish from the world’s markets. And scientists say it will take natural processes 6,000 years to refill the reservoir.” Source: The Ogallala Aquifer: Saving a Vital U.S. Water Source
Impacts on Water Resources “As patterns of temperature and precipitation change, the Great Plains region is expected to face increased competition for water supplies for use by homes, business, agriculture, and energy production. Water in this region comes largely from the High Plains Aquifer system, made up largely of the Ogallala aquifer. The High Plains Aquifer system is one of the largest freshwater aquifers in the world and underlies approximately 111 million acres in parts of Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming. Nearly 30% of all irrigated lands in the United States reside above this aquifer, making it one of the primary agricultural regions in the nation. The High Plains Aquifer also provides drinking water for more than 80% of the residents living over the aquifer and is key to the region’s energy production. Long-term declines in the water level within the High Plains Aquifer have resulted from greater water discharge than recharge. Discharge (or withdrawal) occurs largely by irrigation, which has resulted in an average water level decline of 14.2 feet since irrigation began around 1950. This translates to an 80 trillion gallon reduction in water storage within the aquifer. Recharge (or replenishing) comes primarily from precipitation. In the northern portion of the Great Plains, rain can recharge the aquifer quickly. However, with climate change, precipitation in the winter and spring is projected to increasingly fall in the form of very heavy precipitation events, which can increase flooding and runoff that reduce water quality and cause soil erosion. In the southern portion of the region, little recharge occurs, so declines in the aquifer’s water level are much greater (see figure of High Plains Aquifer). Climate change will worsen this situation by causing drier conditions and increasing the need for irrigation.”
Topic: Natural Disasters Aim: Can climate change trigger volcanic eruptions? Researchers believe record rainfall attributed to climate change triggered the 2018 Kīlauea volcano eruptions in Hawaii.
Do Now: Read about the relationship between climate change and rainfall and answer question: How does “human-caused climate change” lead to more intense rainfall? “Human-caused climate change intensifies the heaviest downpours. More than 70% of the planet’s surface is water, and as the world warms, more water evaporates from oceans, lakes, and soils. Every 1°F rise also allows the atmosphere to hold 4% more water vapor. So when weather patterns lead to heavy rain, there is even more moisture available for stronger downpours, increasing the risk and severity of flooding.“– Climate Central, https://www.climatecentral.org/news/report-pouring-it-on-climate-change-intensifies-heavy-rain-events
Instructions: Examine Document A, the abstract from a scientific report in the journal Nature, and Document B, an excerpt from a report on the study published in the British newspaper The Guardian. An important role of the press is to translate technical language into conventional speech. After reading the two documents answer the guiding questions and discuss with our team whether The Guardian report adequately explained the scientific study.
Where is the Kīlauea volcano and when did it erupt?
According to the scientific report, what triggered the eruption?
The scientific report cites “anthropogenic climate change” as a cause of the eruption. Based on context clues, what is “anthropogenic climate change”?
What other evidence is there of volcanic eruptions triggered by intense rainfall?
The headline in The Guardian article is “Record rain triggered 2018 Kīlauea volcano eruptions, says study.” In your opinion, are the headline and article an accurate summary of the scientific report?
Document A: Extreme rainfall triggered the 2018 rift eruption at Kīlauea Volcano Source: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586- 020-2172-5 The May 2018 rift intrusion and eruption of Kīlauea Volcano, Hawai‘i, represented one of its most extraordinary eruptive sequences in at least 200 years, yet the trigger mechanism remains elusive. The event was preceded by several months of anomalously high precipitation. It has been proposed that rainfall can modulate shallow volcanic activity, but it remains unknown whether it can have impacts at the greater depths associated with magma transport. Here we show that immediately before and during the eruption, infiltration of rainfall into Kīlauea Volcano’s subsurface increased pore pressure at depths of 1 to 3 kilometres by 0.1 to 1 kilopascals, to its highest pressure in almost 50 years. We propose that weakening and mechanical failure of the edifice was driven by changes in pore pressure within the rift zone, prompting opportunistic dyke intrusion and ultimately facilitating the eruption. A precipitation-induced eruption trigger is consistent with the lack of precursory summit inflation, showing that this intrusion—unlike others—was not caused by the forceful intrusion of new magma into the rift zone. Moreover, statistical analysis of historic eruption occurrence suggests that rainfall patterns contribute substantially to the timing and frequency of Kīlauea’s eruptions and intrusions. Thus, volcanic activity can be modulated by extreme rainfall triggering edifice rock failure — a factor that should be considered when assessing volcanic hazards. Notably, the increasingly extreme weather patterns associated with ongoing anthropogenic climate change could increase the potential for rainfall-triggered volcanic phenomena worldwide.
Document B: Record rain triggered 2018 Kīlauea volcano eruptions, says study https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/22/record-rain-triggered-2018-kilauea-volcanoeruptions-hawaii-study The spectacular eruptions of the Kīlauea volcano in Hawaii in 2018 were triggered by extreme rainfall in the preceding months, research suggests. Scientists say the finding raises the possibility that climate breakdown, which is causing more extreme weather, could lead to an increase in eruptions around the world. The 2018 Kīlauea eruptions were one of the most extraordinary sequences in at least 200 years, according to the scientists, with rifts opening, summit explosions and collapses, and a magnitude 6.9 earthquake. But the trigger was not known. However, several months of unusually high rainfall preceded the eruption, with one 24-hour period setting a record for the entire US. This flood of water would have percolated down into fissures and pores in the rocks of the volcano, as far as 1.8 miles (2.9km) below the surface. The scientists calculated this pushed up the pore pressure inside the rocks to the highest level in almost 50 years, weakening them and allowing magma to push up from below. The scientists also looked at eruptions of Kīlauea since 1790 and found that these historical events were twice as likely to happen in the rainy season. Such a link has long been thought possible – JD Dana, one of the first geologists to visit Hawaii in the late 1800s, suggested the idea. They also ruled out magma pressure from below triggering the eruption, because the surface had barely deformed, and the gravitational pull of the sun and moon, which can trigger eruptions. “All the circumstantial evidence points in the same direction,” said Jamie Farquharson, at the University of Miami, whose research is published in the journal Nature. Rain has been linked to shallow eruptions in the past, such as at Mount St Helens in 1980, but this is the first time an impact at depth has been found.
Topic: Impact of Current Climate Change Aim: How does climate change threaten the future of Kenya? Climate change severely impacts Kenya. Kenya is dealing with erratic rainfall, extreme drought, and an increase in temperatures. Kenya is in extreme need of global action to help combat the challenges climate change brings to their everyday life.
Document 1: Projections of Kenya’s Future Source: United States Agency of International Development
Document 3: Historic Climate vs. Future Climate Projections (U.S. Agency of International Development)
Document 4: Effect of all Aspects of Life (U.S. Agency of International Development
Document 5: Primary Source Information: The Children of Kenya (Source: UNICEF) “Our home was destroyed by the floods and we have nothing left. My parents cannot even afford to pay my older siblings’ school fees since we have no cows left to sell.”-Nixon Bwire, age 13, Tana River.
“Climate change is affecting us and, in the future if we are not involved, we will live in a desert. The rivers have dried up and sand mining has increased, this has caused many children to drop out of school to work loading vehicles for mines”-Samuel, age 14, Machakos
Idhila Mohammed carries her child on her back as she searches for food and water for her surviving cattle. “We had 180 cattle last year, but since the drought only 40 are left,” she said. “In the few years that I’ve been here, the climate has really changed. Temperatures have gone up. The rainfall has dropped. As time goes by, things are getting worse and worse … It rains once in three months, that’s not normal. This has led to shortage of food and water, which has led to the death of animals. People lose their livestock and other people die due to starvation and hunger.” Lourine Oyodah, age 15, Lodwar
Document 7: Documented Changes from 1967- 2012 (Source: Human Rights Watch) Between 1967 and 2012, maximum and minimum average temperatures in Turkana County, in Kenya’s northwest corner near the border with Ethiopia, rose between 2 and 3°C (3.6 to 5.4°F), according to data from the meteorological station in Turkana’s capital. Rainfall patterns seem to have changed, with the long rainy season becoming shorter and drier and the short rainy season becoming longer and wetter. Insecurity and conflict in the region are expected to get worse as grazing lands decrease.
At the same time, hydroelectric projects and irrigated sugar plantations in Ethiopia’s lower Omo River Valley threaten to vastly reduce the water levels in Lake Turkana, the world largest desert lake, and the source of livelihood for 300,000 Turkana residents. Some experts forecast that the lake may recede into two small pools, devastating fish stocks.
Document 8: Conditions in Kenya (Source: Kenya Climate Innovation) For instance, the flooding in Naivasha, Kenya after the Karati River burst its banks caused 172 fatalities, displaced 283,290 people and left 84 people with severe injuries. Government data also shows that in the Tana River alone, 150,000 people have been displaced and 16 killed due to flooding. Furthermore, flooding is related to food scarcity fueled by decreased yields. The drought has also lead to decreased power and water supply to cities in Kenya, including Nairobi. One of the areas that has negatively been impacted by climate change is agriculture, which supports 75% of Kenya’s population and contributes to 21% of the country’s GDP. Given its high reliance on rainfall, it is adversely impacted by drought. For instance, prolonged drought in 2016/2017 yielded low agricultural productivity that resulted in food prices increasing by a third.
What major changes in climate has Kenya had to deal with?
How has climate change affected Kenya?
Have climate conditions improved and are conditions projected to improve? What do the climate projections suggest?
Do the United States and other economically advanced nations have a responsibility to provide aid to Kenya? Explain.
Topic: Climate Change Impact on Sub-Sahara Desert Aim: How is climate change affecting regions bordering the Sahara Desert? Climate change in sub-Sahara arid regions has led to an increase in temperature, changes in rainfall levels, an increase in sea level, desertification, deforestation and the emergence of new diseases that will seriously impact human life, both in the area and globally.
Document 1: Climate Changes and Impacts Source: Climate change impacts in Sub-Saharan Africa: from physical changes to their social repercussions.
Document 2: Rising Sea Levels Source: Climate change impacts in Sub-Saharan Africa: from physical changes to their social repercussions
Document 3: Is Africa sleepwalking into a potential catastrophe? Source: BBC. The African continent will be hardest hit by climate change. There are four key reasons for this: First, African society is very closely coupled with the climate system; hundreds of millions of people depend on rainfall to grow their food Second, the African climate system is controlled by an extremely complex mix of large-scale weather systems, many from distant parts of the planet and, in comparison with almost all other inhabited regions, is vastly understudied. It is therefore capable of all sorts of surprises Third, the degree of expected climate change is large. The two most extensive land-based end of-century projected decreases in rainfall anywhere on the planet occur over Africa; one over North Africa and the other over southern Africa Finally, the capacity for adaptation to climate change is low; poverty equates to reduced choice at the individual level while governance generally fails to prioritize and act on climate change
Document 4: Deforestation in Sub-Saharan Africa: At the end of 1990, Africa had an estimated 528 million hectares, or 30 percent of the world’s tropical forests. In several Sub-Saharan African countries, the rate of deforestation exceeded the global annual average of 0.8 percent. While deforestation in other parts of the world is mainly caused by commercial logging or cattle ranching the leading causes in Africa are associated with human activity. Developing countries rely heavily on wood fuel, the major energy source for cooking and heating. In Africa, the statistics are striking: an estimated 90 percent of the entire continent’s population uses fuelwood for cooking, and in SubSaharan Africa, firewood and brush supply approximately 52 percent of all energy sources. Source: African Technology Forum
Document 5: Deforestation: It is difficult to imagine that such vast ancient woodlands are at risk of extinction. But they are disappearing at an alarming rate. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), indigenous (also known as “old-growth”) forests in Africa are being cut down at a rate of more than 4 mn hectares per year — twice the world’s deforestation average. According to the FAO, losses totalled more than 10 percent of the continent’s total forest cover between 1980 and 1995 alone. Source: “Saving Africa’s Forests, ‘The Lungs of The World’ by Michael Fleshman.
Document 6: Desertification: Desertification is defined as the persistent degradation of dryland ecosystems by climatic variations and human activities. Simply put, desertification is the process by which fertile lands become deserts, typically because of drought, deforestation or inappropriate agriculture. Desertification affects up to 30 percent of land worldwide, and 1.5 billion people around the world depend on land at risk from desertification for their main source of food or income. Seventy-four percent of these people already live in poverty.
In sub-Saharan Africa, desertification may force up to 50 million people to flee their homes by 2020. Since 1923, the Sahara Desert has expanded by 10 percent, especially affecting people living in the Sahel region. Dryland covers 65 percent of the African continent, and 70 to 80 percent of people in Ethiopia and Kenya are threatened by desertification. Source: The Borgen Project
Document 7: Desertification:Desertification is most severe in Africa. Arid lands account for two-thirds of the African continent, and three-quarters of the continent’s drylands that are used for agriculture have already begun to lose productivity. A total of 45 percent of Africa’s population lives in drylands that are susceptible to desertification, according to the United Nations Development Program’s Drylands Population Assessment II. In Kenya, a three-year drought has withered crops and killed livestock, leaving thousands of people without adequate food supplies. Two-thirds of the country’s land has been severely affected by the drought, and over 40 percent of Kenya’s cattle and up to 20 percent of its sheep and goats have perished, according to the Arid Lands Resource Management Project, a government initiative. In neighboring Tanzania, widespread tree felling threatens to transform much of the country’s forest into desert. In early January, Vice President Omar Ali Juma called attention to the worsening problem, noting that the country is losing between 320,000 and 1.2 million acres of forest land each year to the expansion of agricultural lands and to increased demand for fuelwood. Livestock herders also contribute to the deterioration of Tanzania’s forests by moving their herds from arid areas in the north to the vegetation- and water-rich forests of the south.
What climate problems are affecting Africa?
Why are deforestation and desertification threatening the survival of sub-Saharan Africa?
How can deforestation and desertification in Africa be prevented
Topic: Pandemics Aim: How does the world’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic illustrate about the possibilities for responding to climate change? The response to the Corona Virus pandemic led to an unintended decrease in human causes of climate change.
“Levels of air pollutants and warming gases over some cities and regions are showing significant drops as coronavirus impacts work and travel.
“Traffic levels in the [New York] city were estimated to be down 35% compared with a year ago. Emissions of carbon monoxide, mainly due to cars and trucks, have fallen by around 50% for a couple of days this week according to researchers at Columbia University. They have also found that there was a 5-10% drop in CO2 over New York and a solid drop in methane as well.”
In Los Angeles, New York, Manila and Milan, the skies clear as air pollution drops. In Venice, the canal water is clear enough to see fish, and dolphins are returning. What would the world be like if we decided to pursue this trend?
What response to climate change did the coronavirus cause globally?
How did this pandemic lessen the effects of climate change?
As countries plan to restart their economies, what are some changes they should consider in light of unintended consequences of quarantine?
East Africa Confronts New Climate Change Plague Aim: How has climate change caused the worst Desert Locust in over seventy years in the Horn of Africa? Rising numbers of Desert Locusts in East Africa are a threat to food security and livelihood. Kenya is experiencing the worst Desert Locust infestation in over seventy years.
Document 1: Desert Locusts. “The eighth plague that the Judaic God launched against the Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun in the Old Testament story of Exodus was swarms of locust. The locust covered the sun and devoured everything green in the fields. This immense locust swarm is a direct result of global warming and climate change. Warming of the Indian Ocean produced record heavy rainfall in the region from October through December, accelerating the breeding and growth of the desert locust. Source: https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2020/3/5/1924511/-World-Confronts-New-Climate-Change-Plagues
Document 2: Effects of Desert Locusts. “Kenya is battling its worst desert locust outbreak in 70 years, and the infestation has spread through much of the eastern part of the continent and the Horn of Africa, razing pasture and croplands in Somalia and Ethiopia and sweeping into South Sudan, Djibouti, Uganda and Tanzania. The highly mobile creatures can travel over 80 miles a day. Their swarms, which can contain as many as 80 million locust adults in each square kilometer, eat the same amount of food daily as about 35,000 people.” Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/21/world/africa/locusts-kenya-eastafrica.html?searchResultPosition=1
Document 3: “Rising numbers of Desert Locusts present an extremely alarming and unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods in the Horn of Africa. It is the worst outbreak of Desert Locusts seen in the region for decades. Tens of thousands of hectares of croplands and pasture have been damaged in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia with potentially severe consequences in a region where 11.9 million people are already food insecure. The potential for destruction is enormous.” Rising temperatures also mean locusts can mature more quickly and spread to higher elevation environments. Given that many locusts are adapted to arid regions, if climate change expands the geographic extent of these lands, locusts could expand their range as well. “Therefore, in general, locust outbreaks are expected to become more frequent and severe under climate change,” said Arianne Cease, director of the Global Locust Initiative at Arizona State University. Source: http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/1258877/icode/
How has climate changed caused faster breeding and growth of Desert Locust?
How have increased swarms of Desert Locust devastated life in Kenya?
Topic: Climate Change Aim: Can the world reverse global warming? “Socratic Seminar CRQ “Task: Have students seating arranged to participate in a Socratic Seminar Using specific details from each document, students should discuss:
What is the goal of each author?
How do youth become important in affecting change?
If you had Theodore Roosevelt, Martin Luther King Jr., and Greta Thunberg over for a dinner party- what would they say to each other? What would they say to you? (Think about each person’s goals, methods, areas of agreement, areas of disagreement, etc.)
Informed Action/Extension activities: Donald Trump (Republican) and Joseph Biden (Democrat) will need to present a plan to address climate change as they try to appeal to American voters. Research each candidate’s policy proposals/actions on climate change and prepare a graphic organizer to illustrate these with you class. What policy proposals and decisions do you agree with? Disagree with?
“My message is that we’ll be watching you.” “This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you! “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you! “For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you’re doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight.
Who is Greta addressing in this speech? Who are “us” that Greta is referring to?
You say you hear us and that you understand the urgency. But no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that. Because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil. And that I refuse to believe. “The popular idea of cutting our emissions in half in 10 years only gives us a 50% chance of staying below 1.5 degrees [Celsius], and the risk of setting off irreversible chain reactions beyond human control. “Fifty percent may be acceptable to you. But those numbers do not include tipping points, most feedback loops, additional warming hidden by toxic air pollution or the aspects of equity and climate justice. They also rely on my generation sucking hundreds of billions of tons of your CO2 out of the air with technologies that barely exist. “So a 50% risk is simply not acceptable to us — we who have to live with the consequences. “To have a 67% chance of staying below a 1.5 degrees global temperature rise – the best odds given by the [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] – the world had 420 gigatons of CO2 left to emit back on Jan. 1st, 2018. Today that figure is already down to less than 350 gigatons. “How dare you pretend that this can be solved with just ‘business as usual’ and some technical solutions? With today’s emissions levels, that remaining CO2 budget will be entirely gone within less than 8 1/2 years. “There will not be any solutions or plans presented in line with these figures here today, because these numbers are too uncomfortable. And you are still not mature enough to tell it like it is. “You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say: We will never forgive you. “We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line. The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not.
Why does Greta think current climate change initiatives will fail? “And you are still not mature enough to tell it like it is” What is ironic about this statement? What “change” is Greta alluding to?
Document I: Climate activist Greta Thunberg, 16, addressed the U.N.’s Climate Action Summit in New York City on September 23, 2019. Here’s the full transcript of Thunberg’s speech, beginning with her response to a question about the message she has for world leaders.
Questions 1) In your opinion, was Greta Thunberg’s speech effective in moving young people to take action against climate change? 2) What part(s) of Greta’s speech had the strongest impact? Why? 3) Greta Thunberg was 16 years old when she delivered this speech to the United Nations. Does this fact make her speech more or less powerful? Explain.
Document 2: Statement by Martin Luther King Jr. at the Youth Leadership Conference, April 15, 1960 Background: Over two hundred student and adult activists gathered at Shaw University for an Easter weekend youth conference to discuss the growing sit-in movement. King issued this statement at a press conference on the opening day of the meeting. The following day, King addressed a mass meeting at the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium. During the three-day conference, youth leaders voted to create the Temporary Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)
This is an era of offensive on the part of oppressed people. All peoples deprived of dignity and freedom are on the march on every continent throughout the world. The student sit-in movement represents just such an offensive in the history of the Negro peoples’ struggle for freedom. The students have taken the struggle for justice into their own strong hands. In less than two months more Negro freedom fighters have revealed to the nation and the world their determination and courage than has occurred in many years. They have embraced a philosophy of mass direct nonviolent action. They are moving away from tactics which are suitable merely for gradual and long-term change.
Today the leaders of the sit-in movement are assembled here from ten states and some forty communities to evaluate these recent sit-ins and to chart future goals. They realize that they must now evolve a strategy for victory. Some elements which suggest themselves for discussion are:
1) The need for some type of continuing organization. Those who oppose justice are well organized. To win out the student movement must be organized. 2) The students must consider calling for a nation-wide campaign of “selective buying.” Such a program is a moral act. It is a moral necessity to select, to buy from these agencies, these stores, and businesses where one can buy with dignity and self-respect. It is immoral to spend one’s money where one cannot be treated with respect. 3) The students must seriously consider training a group of volunteers who will willingly go to jail rather than pay bail or fines. This courageous willingness to go to jail may well be the thing to awaken the dozing conscience of many of our white brothers. We are in an era in which a prison term for a freedom struggle is a badge of honor. 4) The youth must take the freedom struggle into every community in the South without exception. The struggle must be spread into every nook and cranny. Inevitably this broadening of the struggle and the determination which it represents will arouse vocal and vigorous support and place pressures on the federal government that will compel its intervention. 5) The students will certainly want to delve deeper into the philosophy of nonviolence. It must be made palpably clear that resistance and nonviolence are not in themselves good. There is another element that must be present in our struggle that then makes our resistance and nonviolence truly meaningful. That element is reconciliation. Our ultimate end must be the creation of the beloved community. The tactics of nonviolence without the spirit of nonviolence may indeed become a new kind of violence.
What was the purpose of “sit-ins” of the 1960s during the Civil Rights Movement? Why was it important for students to become involved?
What is a climate strike?
What are similarities and differences between the climate strikes of today and the sit-ins of the 1960’s?
Document 3: American Antiquities Act of 1906, 16 USC 431-433 Sec. 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That any person who shall appropriate, excavate, injure, or destroy any historic or prehistoric ruin or monument, or any object of antiquity, situated on lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States, without the permission of the Secretary of the Department of the Government having jurisdiction over the lands on which said antiquities are situated, shall, upon conviction, be fined in a sum of not more than five hundred dollars or be imprisoned for a period of not more than ninety days, or shall suffer both fine and imprisonment, in the discretion of the court. Sec. 2. That the President of the United States is hereby authorized, in his discretion, to declare by public proclamation historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated upon the lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States to be national monuments, and may reserve as a part thereof parcels of land, the limits of which in all cases shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected. Sec. 3. That permits for the examination of ruins, the excavation of archaeological sites, and the gathering of objects of antiquity upon the lands under their respective jurisdictions may be granted by the Secretaries of the Interior, Agriculture, and War to institutions which the may deem properly qualified to conduct such examination, excavation, or gathering, subject to such rules and regulation as they may prescribe. Sec. 4. That the Secretaries of the Departments aforesaid shall make and publish from time to time uniform rules and regulations for the purpose of carrying out the provisions of this Act. Approved, June 8, 1906. President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act into law on June 8, 1906.
Read the following quotes from President Theodore Roosevelt. Choose one of these quotes. For this quote:
Define the historical context behind President Roosevelt’s words.
Explain and give examples of how the Antiquities Act (1906) could be used to improve the situation(s) Roosevelt brings attention to.
Quote #1: “We have become great because of the lavish use of our resources. But the time has come to inquire seriously what will happen when our forests are gone, when the coal, the iron, the oil, and the gas are exhausted, when the soils have still further impoverished and washed into the streams, polluting the rivers, denuding the fields and obstructing navigation.”
Quote #2:“But we are, as a whole, still in that low state of civilization where we do not understand that it is also vandalism wantonly to destroy or to permit the destruction of what is beautiful in nature, whether it be a cliff, a forest, or a species of mammal or bird. Here in the United States we turn our rivers and streams into sewers and dumping-grounds, we pollute the air, we destroy forests, and exterminate fishes, birds and mammals— not to speak of vulgarizing charming landscapes with hideous advertisements. But at last it looks as if our people were awakening.”
Socratic Seminar CRQ “Task: Have students seating arranged to participate in a Socratic Seminar. Using specific details from each document, students should discuss: 1) What is the goal of each author? 2) How do youth become important in affecting change? If you had Theodore Roosevelt, Martin Luther King Jr., and Greta Thunberg over for a dinner party what would they say to each other? What would they say to you? (Think about each person’s goals, methods, areas of agreement, areas of disagreement, etc.)
Informed Action/Extension activities: 1) Donald Trump (Republican) and Joseph Biden (Democrat) will need to present a plan to address climate change as they try to appeal to American voters. Research each candidate’s policy proposals/actions on climate change and prepare a graphic organizer to illustrate these with your class. What policy proposals and decisions do you agree with? Disagree with?
2) A great project is launching a Climate Emergency Campaign in your community. The Climate Emergency Campaign asks local governments to declare a climate emergency. Students can lobby school boards to mandate teaching how climate change threatens local communities and human civilization. In 2017, Hoboken, New Jersey was the first city in the United States and the third city in the world to declare a Climate Emergency. Hoboken is located on the Hudson River flood plain and suffered serious damage during Superstorm Sandy in 2012. The Climate Mobilization website has a sample Climate Emergency resolution.
Editor’s Note:This is the third day of a multi-day lesson in a three-lesson sequence designed for fourth grade on slavery and New York developed by April Francis for the Putnam | Northern Westchester BOCES Integrated Social Studies/ELA Curriculum.
Aim: How did New Yorkers challenge slavery? NYS Social Studies Framework: 4.5a: There were slaves in New York State. People worked to fight against slavery and for change; Students will investigate people who took action to abolish slavery, including Samuel Cornish, Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, and Harriet Tubman.
Social Studies Practices: Gathering, Interpreting, and Using Evidence; Comparison and Contextualization; Geographic Reasoning; Economics and Economic Systems; Civic Participation
Next Gen. ELA Standards: o 4R6: In informational texts, compare and contrast a primary and secondary source on the same event or topic. (RI); o 4R8: Explain how claims in a text are supported by relevant reasons and evidence. (RI&RL) o 4W5: Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to respond and support analysis, reflection, and research by applying grade 4 reading standards. o 4SL4: Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking clearly at an understandable pace and volume appropriate for audience.
Learning Objectives: Identify Harriet Tubman, William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, The Jerry Rescue, African Free School, and the AntiSlavery Society. Define resist and resistance.
Analyze the Underground Railroad system. Decipher and understand various primary and secondary sources. Develop individual and group presentation skills. Evaluate which form of resistance was most successful in ending slavery in NYS.
Materials: Video: Harriet Tubman (4:48 minutes) https://www.youtube.com/watchv=Dv7YhVKFqbQ&feature=youtu.be o Source 1. Harriet Tubman biography o Source 2. NYS Map of the Underground Railroad o Source 3a & 3b. African Free School o Source 4. Frederick Douglass & The North Star o Source 5. Anti-Slavery Society o Source 6. The “Jerry Rescue” Syracuse, NY
Formative Task: Students will serve experts on one form of resistance used against slavery and present it as a group to the whole class.
Lesson Narrative & Procedure: In this lesson, students will be introduced to the term “resistance” and analyze various methods New Yorkers used to fight against the system of slavery. Students will be introduced to famous abolitionists such as Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, and William Lloyd Garrison. Through video analysis, students will understand how the secret Underground Railroad system was used to help enslaved people escape to freedom. To synthesize their learning, students will be asked to summarize the methods some New Yorkers used to resist the slave system.
Preparation for Day 1: Make copies of “Source 1: Harriet Tubman biography” and the “Circle Map” worksheet. Queue video: Harriet Tubman (4:48 minutes)
Day 1 Engage (10 minutes): The teacher should introduce the supporting question “How did some New Yorkers resist the slavery system?” by having a student read it aloud to the class. The teacher should ask students if they know what the term “resist” means. After students respond, the teacher should give an example of “resisting” and then share a definition of the term. Once students have a foundation of the term “resist” the teacher should ask students, “Based on what we have learned, why do you think some New Yorkers would want to resist the slave system?” Students should respond with examples from the previous lessons.
Explore (20 minutes): The teacher should distribute Source 1: Harriet Tubman Biography. Ask students what they know about Harriet Tubman. Students will share various answers. After students respond, the teacher can share they will participate in the read aloud. During the read aloud, students can annotate the reading. Additionally, the teacher can choose to play the animated video Harriet Tubman as a support to the reading (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWVr57o_ElU ).
Once students have finished the reading (and/or video), students share main ideas on their circle map, that answer the questions: a. How did Harriet Tubman resist the slave system? b. How did she help others? Ask, “What can this biography inform us about Harriet Tubman’s character? Do you know of anyone today that would be similar to Harriet Tubman in character?
Explain (10 minutes): After discussing Harriet Tubman, the teacher can ask students, “Based on your own knowledge and our reading today, what do you know about the Underground Railroad?” Students can share various answers. The teacher can then state, “New York State played a vital role in the Underground Railroad. Let’s investigate how the Underground Railroad worked in helping people resist the slave system.”
Elaborate (15 minutes): The teacher will have students work in pairs on the “Underground Railroad” packet. The student worksheet is located on the last page of the packet. Once students have completed the packet, the teacher can participate in a whole class review. The teacher should ensure to ask follow-up or clarifying questions when needed based on student responses.
Evaluate (10 minutes)
After review, the teacher should distribute the Exit Ticket- Day 1 to each student, asking them to respond to the question prompt: Do you think you would have been able to escape using the Underground Railroad? Explain. a. An alternative activity to the “exit ticket” is creating a Padlet board online for student responses.
Day 2 Preparation: Print Sources 2-6 and create “Stations” for student groups. Make copies of the “Resisting Slavery” Graphic Organizer Chart.
Engage (15 minutes): The teacher should reintroduce the supporting question “How did some New Yorkers resist the slavery system?” and have students complete a brainstorm of their understanding of yesterday’s lesson using the “3-2-1” method: a) 3 things they learned from yesterday’s lesson. b) 2 things they found interesting. c) 1 question they still have? After reviewing using the 3-2-1 method, the teacher can have students analyze Sources 2-6, in a group format.
The teacher can state: a. “Today we are going to analyze other ways people in New York resisted the slave system in the 1800s. We will be working in cooperative teams, using your “Resistance of Slavery in New York” chart to record your findings. Each team will be assigned one document to analyze, and then they will report on this document to the class.
i. Station 1. Source 2. NYS Map of UGRR (printed in color or viewed on a smartboard)
ii. Station 2. Source 3a & 3b. African Free School
iii. Station 3. Source 4. Frederick Douglass & The North Star
iv. Station 4. Source 5a & 5b. Anti-Slavery Society
v. Station 5. Source 6. The “Jerry Rescue” Syracuse, NY
Note: Teachers should use their knowledge of their students and assign the documents based on student levels. Documents can also be modified to meet specific needs of individual classrooms.
Explore & Explain (15 minutes). Students should analyze the document they were assigned for their group. As a group, they should fill out their portion of the Graphic Organizer – Resisting Slavery and then decide how they will present this information to the rest of the class.
Elaborate (15 minutes). After student analysis, each team should share their “expert” knowledge of the source they were assigned in a presentation format. Students can use the Source Analysis Guide-Historical Thinking Chart adapted from the Stanford Historical Education Group (SHEG) to help develop their presentation. For each group presentation, the teacher should project the source onto the Smartboard so it is visible for all students. While one group is sharing, all members should be recording key points onto their individual “Resisting Slavery” graphic organizers.
Evaluate (10 minutes). After group presentations, the teacher can distribute the Exit Ticket- Day 2 and state, “Slavery was finally banned in New York State in 1827, ‘Which method of resistance do you think was most successful in ending slavery in New York State? Why?’”
Background: (A) Harriet Tubman was born a slave. Her parents named her Araminta “Minty” Ross. She changed her name in 1849 when she escaped. She adopted the name Harriet after her mother and the last name Tubman after her husband. Tubman suffered a head injury as a teenager which gave her…sleeping spells. She was deeply religious and according to her it was her religious beliefs that gave her courage rescue friends and family over and over again. She remained illiterate [unable to read or write] for her entire life.
(B) Harriet Tubman was the most famous conductor of the Underground Railroad. In a decade she guided over 300 slaves to freedom; abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison thought she deserved the nickname “Moses”. She worked hard to save money to return and save more slaves. In time she built a reputation and many Underground Railroad supporters provided her with funds and shelter to support her trips.
(C) During the Civil War, Tubman served as a nurse, cook, laundress, spy and scout. After the Emancipation Proclamation she returned to Auburn where she lived the rest of her life. She opened her doors to those in need. With donations and the money from her vegetable garden she was able to support herself and those she helped. She raised money to open schools for African Americans and gave speeches on Women’s rights. Her dream was to build a home for the elderly and in 1908 the Harriet Tubman Home for the Elderly was created.
Source 2. Underground Railroad Routes in New York State The Underground Railroad was a connection of people helping enslaved people escape from slavery in the early and mid19th century. It included free blacks, whites, church people, and abolitionists. Enslaved Africans traveled to freedom by any means available, using homes as stops, songs, and secret codes. This map shows escape routes used by runaways when traveling through New York State.
Source 3a. New York African Free School Right after the American Revolution, the New York Manumission Society was created. It worked to end the slave trade around the world and to achieve the abolition of slavery in the new county. It established the African Free School in New York City, the first education organization for Black Americans in North America. It served both free blacks and the children of enslaved people.
Source 3b.African Free School Student Award for Edward T. Haines Source: https://www.nyhistory.org/web/africanfreeschool Edward T. Haines proudly displays his handwriting skill and his title as assistant monitor general, a position that carried significant responsibilities. The 1820 U.S. census lists an African American ‘Hains’ family with a boy Edward’s age living in New York City’s Fifth Ward, a west-side neighborhood south of Canal Street that was the home of many free people of color in New York City.
Source 5a – Anti-Slavery Society William Lloyd Garrison was born December 10, 1805 in Newburyport, Massachusetts. In 1830 he started an abolitionist paper, The Liberator. In 1832 he helped form the New England Anti-Slavery Society When the Civil War broke out, he continued to speak against the Constitution as a pro-slavery document. When the civil war ended, he at last saw the abolition of slavery. He died May 24, 1879 in New York City. Source: www.biography.com
Source 5b – Anti-Slavery Society Gerrit Smith founded the New York State Anti-slavery Society in Peterboro, New York in 1835.
This monument, added to Clinton Square, Syracuse, NY in 2001, celebrates the October 1, 1851, rescue of William “Jerry” Henry, an escaped slave from Missouri. Henry had been arrested in Syracuse and since he was an escaped slave; law officers were eager to follow the Fugitive Slave Act and wanted to return him to Missouri. The Fugitive Slave Act was a United States law that said runaways, even in free states, had to be returned to their masters. Henry was arrested the same day an abolitionist meeting was taking place in the city. A large group of fifty-two men stormed a police station, pounded on down its doors, and rescued “Jerry” Henry. Within a few days, “Jerry” escaped to freedom in Kingston, Ontario. The “Jerry Rescue” itself was organized by area abolitionist leaders.
How did some New Yorkers resist the slave system? Directions: Use this chart to organize your information for each document.
The Underground Railroad was a network of secret routes and safe houses established in the United States during the early to mid-19th century and used by African American enslaved people to escape into free states, Canada and Nova Scotia with the aid of abolitionists and allies who were sympathetic to their cause. It is believed that around 100,000 runaways between 1810 and 1860 escaped using the network. The majority of the runaways came from the upper south states that bordered free states such as Kentucky, Virginia, and Maryland.
The Underground Railroad was not located underground, and it was not a railroad. It was symbolically underground as the network’s activities were secret and illegal, so they had to remain “underground” to help fugitive slaves stay out of sight. The term “railroad” was used because the railroad was a system of transportation and its supporters used railroad code to communicate in secret language. Runaways used songs called spirituals to communicate with each other. Homes where fugitives (runaways) would stay and eat were called “stations” or “depots” the owner of the house was the “station master” and the “conductor” was the person responsible to move slaves from station to station. Those financing the Underground Railroad by donating money, food, and clothing were called “stockholders”.
Codes and Songs of the Underground Railroad Supporters of the Underground Railroad used words railroad conductors employed every day to create their own code as secret language in order to help slaves escape. Below are a sample of some of the words used:
Songs were used in everyday life by enslaved African Americans. Singing was a tradition brought from Africa by the first enslaved people; sometimes their songs are called spirituals. Singing served many purposes such as providing a rhythm for manual work, inspiration and motivation. Singing was also used to express their values and solidarity with each other and during celebrations. Songs were used as tools to remember and communicate since the majority of enslaved African Americans could not read. Harriet Tubman and others used songs as a strategy to communicate their struggle for freedom. Coded songs contained words giving directions on how to escape also known as signal songs or where to meet known as map songs.
When the Sun comes back And the first quail calls Follow the Drinking Gourd. For the old man is a-waiting for to carry you to freedom if you follow the Drinking Gourd. The riverbank makes a very good road. The dead trees will show you the way. Left foot, peg foot, traveling on, Follow the Drinking Gourd. The river ends between two hills Follow the Drinking Gourd. For the old man is a-waiting for to carry you to freedom if you follow the Drinking Gourd.
This song suggests escaping in the spring as the days get longer. The drinking gourd is a water dipper which is a code name for the constellation Big Dipper which points to the Pole Star towards the north. Moss grows on the north side of dead trees, so if the Big Dipper is not visible, dead trees will guide them north.
Why do you think it was known as the Underground Railroad??
Why do you think runaways were called fugitives?
What role did songs play in the Underground Railroad?
What are some of the symbols in the song and what do they refer to?
This dramatization designed for classrooms explores the lives and words of freedom-seekers from New York and the South and Black abolitionist who fought to end slavery in the United States. Each speaker is a real historic figure and addresses the audience in his or her own words.
Background: The Dutch West India Company (WIC) founded New Amsterdam on the southern tip of Manhattan Island in 1624. The name was changed to New York in honor of the Duke of York after Great Britain took control over the small settlement in 1664. The Duke of York was the younger brother of the King of England and a future king himself. He was also the head of the Royal African Company, which was engaged in the transAtlantic slave trade. Many enslaved Africans were branded with the letters RAC, the company’s initials, or DY, which stood for Duke of York.
The first eleven enslaved Africans were brought to New Amsterdam in 1626 to work for the WIC. The first slave auction in what would become New York City was probably held in 1655. The city Common Council established the Wall Street slave market in 1711. The last enslaved Africans in New York were freed on July 4, 1827, which meant slavery existed in New Amsterdam/New York for over 200 years, which is longer than there has been freedom in the city.
This play introduces African Americans, some born enslaved and some born free, who helped transform New York City and state into a center of resistance to slavery. It also tells about the ugly truth of slavery in New Amsterdam and New York. Each of the speakers in this play is a real historical figure and the words that they utter are from their speeches and writing or from contemporary newspaper accounts.
The play opens with a petition from Emanuel and Reytory Pieterson. They were free Blacks in colonial New Amsterdam. In 1661, they petitioned the Dutch government to recognize that their adopted son, eighteen-year old Anthony van Angola, was a free man because his parents were free when he was born and he was raised by free people.
Venture Smith was born in Africa, kidnapped, sold into slavery, and transported, first to Barbados, and then Fisher’s Island off the east coast of Long Island. In a memoir, published in 1796, Smith described brutal treatment while enslaved. Jupiter Hammon was the first Black poet published in the United States. Austin Steward was brought as a slave from Virginia to upstate New York where he secured his freedom and established himself as a merchant. Peter Williams, Jr. was an Episcopal priest who organized the St. Philip’s African Church in New York City. Thomas James was born a slave in Canajoharie, New York and later became an important figure in the AME church. John B. Russwurm published the first African American newspaper in the United States. William Hamilton was co-founder of the New York African Society for Mutual Relief. James McCune Smith was the first African American to obtain a medical degree. David Ruggles was a founder and secretary of the New York Committee of Vigilance.
Samuel Ringgold Ward’s family escaped enslavement in Maryland when he was a child. He became an abolitionist, newspaper editor, and Congregationalist minister. Henry Highland Garnet also escaped to the freedom with his family when he was a child and he became one of the most radical Black abolitionists. Solomon Northup was a free Black man in upstate New York who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in Louisiana. After twelve years of enslavement he was able to contact his family and secured his freedom. After escaping from slavery in Maryland, Frederick Douglass became a leading abolitionist orator and newspaper editor. Jermain Loguen was an abolitionist, teacher, minister and Underground Railroad “station master” in Syracuse.
After gaining her freedom when New York State abolished slavery, Isabella Bomfree became Sojourner Truth, an itinerant minister and abolitionist and feminist speaker. Harriet Jacobs wrote about her life enslaved in North Carolina and the discrimination suffered by free Blacks in the North. James Pennington opposed segregation in New York and championed education for African American children. Elizabeth Jennings was a free woman of color who challenged segregation on New York City street cars. William Wells Brown, a former freedom-seeker, worked as a steamboatman on Lake Erie helping other freedom-seekers escape to Canada. Harriet Tubman was the most famous conductor on the Underground Railroad. Frances Ellen Watkins Harper was a writer and an activist for African Americans and woman.
New York’s African Americans Demand Freedom
1. Reytory Pieterson: Reytory and Emanuel Pieterson were free Blacks in colonial New Amsterdam. In 1661 they petitioned the Dutch government to recognize that eighteen-year old Anthony van Angola, who they raised after the death of his parents, was born free and should legally be recognized as a free man.
Reytory, in the year 1643, on the third of August, stood as godparent or witness at the Christian baptism of a little son of one Anthony van Angola, begotten with his own wife named Louise, the which aforementioned Anthony and Louise were both free Negroes; and about four weeks thereafter the aforementioned Louise came to depart this world, leaving behind the aforementioned little son named Anthony, the which child your petitioner out of Christian affection took to herself, and with the fruits of her hands’ bitter toil she reared him as her own child, and up to the present supported him, taking all motherly solicitude and care for him . . .Your petitioners….very respectfully address themselves to you, noble and right honorable lords, humbly begging that your noble honors consent to grant a stamp in this margin of this document . . . declaring] that he himself, being of free parents, reared and brought up without burden or expense of the West Indian Company . . . may be declared by your noble honors to be a free person.
2. Venture Smith: Venture Smith was born in Africa, kidnapped, sold into slavery, and transported, first to Barbados and then Fisher’s Island off the east coast of Long Island. When he was twenty-two years old, Smith married and attempted to escape from bondage. He eventually surrendered to his master, but was permitted to earn money to purchase his freedom and the freedom of his family. He published his memoirs in 1796.
My master having set me off my business to perform that day and then left me to perform it, his son came up to me in the course of the day, big with authority, and commanded me very arrogantly to quit my present business and go directly about what he should order me. I replied to him that my master had given me so much to perform that day, and that I must faithfully complete it in that time. He then broke out into a great rage, snatched a pitchfork and went to lay me over the head therewith, but I as soon got another and defended myself with it, or otherwise he might have murdered me in his outrage. He immediately called some people who were within hearing at work for him, and ordered them to take his hair rope and come and bind me with it. They all tried to bind me, but in vain, though there were three assistants in number. I recovered my temper, voluntarily caused myself to be bound by the same men who tried in vain before, and carried before my young master, that he might do what he pleased with me. He took me to a gallows made for the purpose of hanging cattle on, and suspended me on it. I was released and went to work after hanging on the gallows about an hour.
3. Jupiter Hammon:Jupiter Hammon, who was enslaved on Long Island, was the first Black poet published in the United States. He addressed this statement to the African population of New York in 1786, soon after national independence.
Liberty is a great thing, and worth seeking for, if we can get it honestly, and by our good conduct, prevail on our masters to set us free. That liberty is a great thing we may know from our own feelings, and we may likewise judge so from the conduct of the white people, in the late war. How much money has been spent, and how many lives have been lost, to defend their liberty. I must say that I have hoped that God would open their eyes, when they were so much engaged for liberty, to think of the state of the poor blacks, and to pity us.
4. Austin Steward: Austin Steward was born in 1793 in Prince William County, Virginia. As a youth, he was brought to upstate New York where he eventually secured his freedom and established himself as a merchant in Rochester.
We traveled northward, through Maryland, Pennsylvania, and a portion of New York, to Sodus Bay, where we halted for some time. We made about twenty miles per day, camping out every night, and reached that place after a march of twenty days. Every morning the overseer called the roll, when every slave must answer to his or her name, felling to the ground with his cowhide, any delinquent who failed to speak out in quick time.
After the roll had been called, and our scanty breakfast eaten, we marched on again, our company presenting the appearance of some numerous caravan crossing the desert of Sahara. When we pitched our tents for the night, the slaves must immediately set about cooking not their supper only, but their breakfast, so as to be ready to start early the next morning, when the tents were struck; and we proceeded on our journey in this way to the end . . . My master . . . hired me out to a man by the name of Joseph Robinson . . . He was . . .tyrannical and cruel to those in his employ; and having hired me as a “slave boy,” he appeared to feel at full liberty to wreak his brutal passion on me at any time, whether I deserved rebuke or not; . . . he would frequently draw from the cart-tongue a heavy iron pin, and beat me over the head with it, so unmercifully that he frequently sent the blood flowing over my scanty apparel, and from that to the ground, before he could feel satisfied.
5. Peter Williams, Jr.: Reverend Peter Williams, Jr. was an Episcopal priest who organized the St. Philip’s African Church in New York City. In 1808, Williams delivered this prayer commemorating the outlawing of the trans-Atlantic slave trade by the United States.
Oh, God! we thank thee, that thou didst condescend to listen to the cries of Africa’s wretched sons; and that thou didst interfere in their behalf. At thy call humanity sprang forth, and espoused the cause of the oppressed; one hand she employed in drawing from their vitals the deadly arrows of injustice; and the other in holding a shield, to defend them from fresh assaults; and at that illustrious moment, when the sons of 76 pronounced these United States free and independent; when the spirit of patriotism, erected a temple sacred to liberty; when the inspired voice of Americans first uttered those noble sentiments, “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”; and when the bleeding African, lifting his fetters, exclaimed, “am I not a man and a brother”; then with redoubled efforts, the angel of humanity strove to restore to the African race, the inherent rights of man. . . . May the time speedily commence, when Ethiopia shall stretch forth her hands; when the sun of liberty shall beam resplendent on the whole African race; and its genial influences, promote the luxuriant growth of knowledge and virtue.
6. Thomas James: Reverend Thomas James was born enslaved in Canajoharie, New York. When he was eight years-old, James was separated from his mother, brother and sister when they were sold away to another owner. He escaped from slavery when he was seventeen. He later became an important figure in the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
While I was still in the seventeenth year of my age, Master Kimball was killed in a runaway accident; and at the administrator’s sale I was sold with the rest of the property . . .My new master had owned me but a few months when he sold me, or rather traded me, . . . in exchange for a yoke of steers, a colt and some additional property. I remained with Master Hess from March until June of the same year, when I ran away. My master had worked me hard, and at last undertook to whip me. This led me to seek escape from slavery. I arose in the night, and taking the newly staked line of the Erie canal for my route, traveled along it westward until, about a week later, I reached the village of Lockport. No one had stopped me in my flight. Men were at work digging the new canal at many points, but they never troubled themselves even to question me. I slept in barns at night and begged food at farmers’ houses along my route. At Lockport a colored man showed me the way to the Canadian border. I crossed the Niagara at Youngstown on the ferry-boat, and was free!
7. John B. Russwurm: Freedom’s Journal was the first African American newspaper published in the United States. It was founded and edited by Samuel Cornish and John B. Russwurm in New York City in 1827. Its editorials stressed the fight against slavery and racial discrimination.
We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us. Too long has the public been deceived by misrepresentations, in things which concern us dearly, though in the estimation of some mere trifles; for though there are many in society who exercise towards us benevolent feelings; still (with sorrow we confess it) there are others who make it their business to enlarge upon the least trifle, which tends to the discredit of any person of color; and pronounce anathemas and denounce our whole body for the misconduct of this guilty one . . . Education being an object of the highest importance to the welfare of society, we shall endeavor to present just and adequate views of it, and to urge upon our brethren the necessity and expediency of training their children, while young, to habits of industry, and thus forming them for becoming useful members of society . . . The civil rights of a people being of the greatest value, it shall ever be our duty to vindicate our brethren, when oppressed; and to lay the case before the public. We shall also urge upon our brethren, (who are qualified by the laws of the different states) the expediency of using their elective franchise.
8. William Hamilton: William Hamilton was a carpenter and co-founder of the New York African Society for Mutual Relief. On July 4, 1827 he delivered an Emancipation Day Address celebrating the end of slavery in New York State.
“LIBERTY! kind goddess! brightest of the heavenly deities that guide the affairs or men. Oh Liberty! where thou art resisted and irritated, thou art terrible as the raging sea and dreadful as a tornado. But where thou art listened to and obeyed, thou art gentle as the purling stream that meanders through the mead; as soft and as cheerful as the zephyrs that dance upon the summers breeze, and as bounteous as autumn’s harvest. To thee, the sons of Africa, in this once dark, gloomy, hopeless, but now fairest, brightest, and most cheerful of thy domain, do owe a double obligation of gratitude. Thou hast entwined and bound fast the cruel hands of oppression – thou hast by the powerful charm of reason deprived the monster of his strength – he dies, he sinks to rise no more. Thou hast loosened the hard bound fetters by which we were held. And by a voice sweet as the music of heaven, yet strong and powerful, reaching to the extreme boundaries of the state of New-York, hath declared that we the people of color, the sons of Africa, are free.”
9. James McCune Smith: Dr. James McCune Smith was an African American physician who studied medicine in Glasgow, Scotland. Here he describes a manumission day parade in New York that he attended as a youth.
A splendid looking black man, mounted on a milk-white steed, then his aids on horseback, dashing up and down the line; then the orator of the day, also mounted, with a handsome scroll, appearing like a baton in his right hand, then in due order, splendidly dressed in scarfs of silk with gold-edgings, and with colored bands of music and their banners appropriately lettered and painted, followed, the New York African Society for Mutual Relief, the Wilberforce Benevolent Society, and the Clarkson Benevolent Society; then the people five or six abreast from grown men to small boys. The sidewalks were crowded with wives, daughters, sisters, and mothers of the celebrants, representing every state in the Union, and not a few with gay bandanna handkerchiefs, betraying their West Indian birth. Nor was Africa underrepresented. Hundreds who survived the middle passage and a youth in slavery joined in the joyful procession.
10. David Ruggles: David Ruggles was born free in Norwich, Connecticut in 1810. He moved to New York City in 1827 where he was a founder and secretary of the New York Committee of Vigilance which aided hundreds of fugitive slaves. He also founded the city’s first Black bookstore, was a noted abolitionist lecturer, published a newspaper, and ran a boarding house that was a stop on the Underground Railroad. In 1838, he provided safe-haven in his home for a freedom-seeker named Frederick Bailey who later changed his name to Frederick Douglass.
The whites have robbed us for centuries – they made Africa bleed rivers of blood! – they have torn husbands from their wives – wives from their husbands – parents from their children – children from their parents – brothers from their sisters – sisters from their brothers, and bound them in chains – forced them into holds of vessels – subjected them to the most unmerciful tortures: starved and murdered, and doomed them to endure the horrors of slavery. . . . But why is it that it seems to you so “repugnant” to marry your sons and daughters to colored persons? Simply because public opinion is against it. Nature teaches no such “repugnance,” but experience has taught me that education only does. Do children feel and exercise that prejudice towards colored persons? Do not colored and white children play together promiscuously until the white is taught to despise the colored?
11. Samuel Ringgold Ward: Samuel Ringgold Ward’s family escaped enslavement in Maryland when he was a child. He became an abolitionist, newspaper editor, and Congregationalist minister. He was forced to flee the United States in 1851 because of his involvement in anti-slavery activity in Syracuse.
I was born on the 17th October, 1817, in that part of the State of Maryland, commonly called the Eastern Shore. My parents were slaves. I was born a slave. They escaped, and took their then only child with them . . . I grew up, in the State of New Jersey, where my parents lived till I was nine years old, and in the State of New York, where we lived for many years. My parents were always in danger of being arrested and re-enslaved. To avoid this, among their measures of caution, was the keeping of their children quite ignorant of their birthplace, and of their condition, whether free or slave, when born.
12. Solomon Northup: Solomon Northup was a free Black man in upstate New York who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in Louisiana. After twelve years of enslavement he was able to contact his family and secured his freedom. His memoir remains a powerful indictment of the slave system.
My ancestors on the paternal side were slaves in Rhode Island. They belonged to a family by the name of Northup, one of whom, removing to the State of New York, settled at Hoosic, in Rensselaer county. He brought with him Mintus Northup, my father. On the death of this gentleman, which must have occurred some fifty years ago, my father became free, having been emancipated by a direction in his will.. . . Though born a slave, and laboring under the disadvantages to which my unfortunate race is subjected, my father was a man respected for his industry and integrity, as many now living, who well remember him, are ready to testify. His whole life was passed in the peaceful pursuits of agriculture, never seeking employment in those more menial positions, which seem to be especially allotted to the children of Africa. Besides giving us an education surpassing that ordinarily bestowed upon children in our condition, he acquired, by his diligence and economy, a sufficient property qualification to entitle him to the right of suffrage . . . Up to this period I had been principally engaged with my father in the labors of the farm. The leisure hours allowed me were generally either employed over my books, or playing on the violin – an amusement which was the ruling passion of my youth.
13. Henry Highland Garnet: Henry Highland Garnet escaped to freedom with his family when he was a child and became a Presbyterian minister in Troy and New York City. At the 1843 National Negro Convention in Buffalo, New York, Garnet called on enslaved Africans to revolt against their masters.
Let your motto be resistance! It is in your power so to torment the God-cursed slave-holders, that they will be glad to let you go free. If the scale was turned, and black men were the masters and white men the slaves, every destructive agent and element would be employed to lay the oppressor low. Danger and death would hang over their heads day and night. Yes, the tyrants would meet with plagues more terrible than those of Pharaoh. But you are a patient people. You act as though you were made for the special use of these devils. You act as though your daughters were born to pamper the lusts of your masters and overseers. And worse than all, you tamely submit while your lords tear your wives from your embraces and defile them before your eyes. In the name of God, we ask, are you men? Where is the blood of your fathers? Has it all run out of your veins? Awake, awake; millions of voices are calling you! Your dead fathers speak to you from their graves. Heaven, as with a voice of thunder, calls on you to arise from the dust. Let your motto be resistance! resistance! resistance! No oppressed people have ever secured their liberty without resistance. Trust in the living God. Labor for the peace of the human race, and remember that you are four millions.
14. Frederick Douglass: Frederick Washington Bailey was born in Maryland in 1817. He was the son of a White man and an enslaved African woman so he was legally a slave. As a boy he was taught to read in violation of state law. In 1838, he escaped to New York City where he married and changed his name to Frederick Douglass. In 1847, Frederick Douglass started an anti-slavery newspaper in Rochester, New York.
“We solemnly dedicate the ‘North Star’ to the cause of our long oppressed and plundered fellow countrymen. May God bless the undertaking to your good. It shall fearlessly assert your rights, faithfully proclaim your wrongs, and earnestly demand for you instant and even-handed justice. Giving no quarter to slavery at the South, it will hold no truce with oppressors at the North. While it shall boldly advocate emancipation for our enslaved brethren, it will omit no opportunity to gain for the nominally free complete enfranchisement. Every effort to injure or degrade you or your cause . . . shall find in it a constant, unswerving and inflexible foe . . .”
15. Frederick Douglass: In 1852 Frederick Douglass delivered a Fourth of July speech in Rochester where he demanded to know, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”
“What have I or those I represent to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? . . . Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you this day rejoice are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence given by your fathers is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn . . . What to the American slave is your Fourth of July? I answer, a day that reveals to him more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass-fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality . . . There is not a nation of the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of these United States at this very hour.”
16. Frederick Douglass: In a January 1864 speech at Cooper Union in New York City, Frederick Douglass laid out his vision for the future of the country.
What we now want is a country—a free country—a country not saddened by the footprints of a single slave—and nowhere cursed by the presence of a slaveholder. We want a country which shall not brand the Declaration of Independence as a lie. We want a country whose fundamental institutions we can proudly defend before the highest intelligence and civilization of the age . . . We now want a country in which the obligations of patriotism shall not conflict with fidelity to justice and liberty . . . WE want a country . . . where no man may be imprisoned or flogged or sold for learning to read, or teaching a fellow mortal how to read . . . Liberty for all, chains for none; the black man a soldier in war, a laborer in peace; a voter at the South as well as at the North; America his permanent home, and all Americans his fellow countrymen. Such, fellow citizens, is my idea of the mission of the war. If accomplished, our glory as a nation will be complete, our peace will flow like a river, and our foundation will be the everlasting rocks.
17. Jermain Loguen: Jermain Loguen escaped from slavery in Tennessee when he was 21. Once free, Loguen became an abolitionist, teacher and minister. In 1841, he moved to Syracuse, where as the “station master” of the local underground railroad “depot,” he helped over one thousand “fugitives” escape to Canada. In 1850, Reverend Loguen denounced the Fugitive Slave Law.
I was a slave; I knew the dangers I was exposed to. I had made up my mind as to the course I was to take. On that score I needed no counsel, nor did the colored citizens generally. They had taken their stand-they would not be taken back to slavery. If to shoot down their assailants should forfeit their lives, such result was the least of the evil. They will have their liberties or die in their defense. I don’t respect this law – I don’t fear it – I won’t obey it! It outlaws me, and I outlaw it, and the men who attempt to enforce it on me. I place the governmental officials on the ground that they place me. I will not live a slave, and if force is employed to re-enslave me, I shall make preparations to meet the crisis as becomes a man. If you will stand by me and I believe you will do it, for your freedom and honor are involved as well as mine, . . . you will be the saviors of your country. Your decision tonight in favor of resistance will give vent to the spirit of liberty, and will break the bands of party, and shout for joy all over the North. Your example only is needed to be the type of public action in Auburn, and Rochester, and Utica, and Buffalo, and all the West, and eventually in the Atlantic cities. Heaven knows that this act of noble daring will break out somewhere – and may God grant that Syracuse be the honored spot, whence it shall send an earthquake voice through the land!
18. Sojourner Truth: Sojourner Truth, whose original name was Isabella Bomfree, was born and enslaved near Kingston, New York. After gaining her freedom she became an itinerant preacher who campaigned for abolition and woman’s rights. During the Civil War, Truth urged young men to enlist and organized supplies for black troops. After the war, she worked with the Freedmen’s Bureau, helping people find jobs and build new lives. Her most famous speech was delivered in 1851 at a women’s rights convention in Ohio.
Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about? That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman? . . . That little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him. If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.
19. Harriet Jacobs: Harriet Jacobs was born enslaved in North Carolina in 1813. After hiding in an attic for seven years, she escaped to the north in
She published her memoir in 1861 using the pseudonym Linda Brent. In 1853, Jacobs wrote a Letter from a Fugitive Slave that was published in the New York Daily Tribune.
I was born a slave, reared in the Southern hot-bed until I was the mother of two children, sold at the early age of two and four years old. I have been hunted through all of the Northern States . . . My mother was dragged to jail, there remained twenty-five days, with Negro traders to come in as they liked to examine her, as she was offered for sale. My sister was told that she must yield, or never expect to see her mother again . . . That child gave herself up to her master’s bidding, to save one that was dearer to her than life itself . . . At fifteen, my sister held to her bosom an innocent offspring of her guilt and misery. In this way she dragged a miserable existence of two years, between the fires of her mistress’s jealousy and her master’s brutal passion. At seventeen, she gave birth to another helpless infant, heir to all the evils of slavery. Thus life and its sufferings was meted out to her until her twenty-first year. Sorrow and suffering has made its ravages upon her – she was less the object to be desired by the fiend who had crushed her to the earth; and as her children grew, they bore too strong a resemblance to him who desired to give them no other inheritance save Chains and Handcuffs . . . those two helpless children were the sons of one of your sainted Members in Congress; that agonized mother, his victim and slave.
20. James Pennington: James Pennington was born into slavery on the coast of Maryland and escaped in 1828. He challenged segregation and championed education for African Americans. He authored the first account of African Americans used in schools, A Text Book of the Origin and History of Colored People.
There is one sin that slavery committed against me, which I never can forgive. It robbed me of my education; the injury is irreparable; I feel the embarrassment more seriously now than I ever did before. It cost me two years’ hard labour, after I fled, to unshackle my mind; it was three years before I had purged my language of slavery’s idioms; it was four years before I had thrown off the crouching aspect of slavery; and now the evil that besets me is a great lack of that general information, the foundation of which is most effectually laid in that part of life which I served as a slave. When I consider how much now, more than ever, depends upon sound and thorough education among coloured men, I am grievously overwhelmed with a sense of my deficiency, and more especially as I can never hope now to make it up.
21. Elizabeth Jennings: In 1854, Elizabeth Jennings, a free woman of color, was thrown off a street car in New York City. The New York Tribune printed “Outrage Upon Colored Persons” where she told her story.
I held up my hand to the driver and he stopped the cars. We got on the platform, when the conductor told us to wait for the next car. I told him I could not wait, as I was in a hurry to go to church. He then told me that the other car had my people in it, that it was appropriated for that purpose . . . He insisted upon my getting off the car, but I did not get off . . . I told him not to lay his hands on me. I took hold of the window sash and held on. He pulled me until he broke my grasp and I took hold of his coat and held onto that. He ordered the driver to fasten his horses, which he did, and come and help him put me out of the car. They then both seized hold of me by the arms and pulled and dragged me flat down on the bottom of the platform, so that my feet hung one way and my head the other, nearly on the ground. I screamed murder with all my voice, and my companion screamed out “you’ll kill her. Don’t kill her.” . . . They got an officer on the corner of Walker and Bowery, whom the conductor told that his orders from the agent were to admit colored persons if the passengers did not object, but if they did, not to let them ride . . . Then the officer, without listening to anything I had to say, thrust me out, and then pushed me, and tauntingly told me to get redress [damages] if I could.
22. William Wells Brown: William Wells Brown was born on a plantation near Lexington, Kentucky in 1814 and escaped to Ohio in 1834. He moved to New York State in the 1840, and he began lecturing for the Western New York Anti-Slavery Society and worked as a steam boatman, which enabled him to assist freedom-seekers on the Underground Railroad. During the Civil War he demanded that Blacks be allowed to serve in the Union Army.
Mr. President, I think that the present contest has shown clearly that the fidelity of the black people of this country to the cause of freedom is enough to put to shame every white man in the land who would think of driving us out of the country, provided freedom shall be proclaimed. I remember well, when Mr. Lincoln’s proclamation went forth, calling for the first 75,000 men, that among the first to respond to that call were the colored men . . . Although the colored men in many of the free States were disfranchised, abused, taxed without representation, their children turned out of the schools, nevertheless, they, went on, determined to try to discharge their duty to the country, and to save it from the tyrannical power of the slaveholders of the South . . . The black man welcomes your armies and your fleets, takes care of your sick, is ready to do anything, from cooking up to shouldering a musket; and yet these would-be patriots and professed lovers of the land talk about driving the Negro out!
23. Harriet Tubman: Harriet Tubman, who escaped from slavery in Maryland as a young woman, was the most famous conductor on the Underground Railroad. She served in the Civil War as a scout, nurse, and guerilla fighter. On October 22, 1865, Harriet Tubman spoke before a massive audience at the Bridge Street AME Church in Brooklyn.
Last evening an immense congregation, fully half consisting of whites, was presented at the African M.E. Church in Bridge street, to listen to the story of the experiences of Mrs. Harriet Tubman, known as the South Carolina Scout and nurse, as related by herself . . . Mrs. Tubman is a colored lady, of 35 or 40 years of age; she appeared before those present with a wounded hand in a bandage, which would she stated was caused by maltreatment received at the hands of a conductor on the Camden and Amboy railroad, on her trip from Philadelphia to New York, a few days since. Her words were in the peculiar plantation dialect and at times were not intelligible to the white portion of her audience . . . She was born, she said, in the eastern portion of the State of Maryland, and wanted it to be distinctly understood that she was not educated, nor did she receive any “broughten up”. . . She knew that God had directed her to perform other works in this world, and so she escaped from bondage. This was nearly 14 years ago, since then she has assisted hundreds to do the same.
24. Frances Ellen Watkins Harper: In May 1866, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, a leading African American poet, lecturer and civil right activist, addressed the Eleventh National Women’s Rights Convention in New York.
Born of a race whose inheritance has been outrage and wrong, most of my life had been spent in battling against those wrongs . . . We are all bound up together in one great bundle of humanity, and society cannot trample on the weakest and feeblest of its members without receiving the curse in its own soul. You tried that in the case of the Negro. You pressed him down for two centuries; and in so doing you crippled the moral strength and paralyzed the spiritual energies of the white men of the country. When the hands of the black were fettered, white men were deprived of the liberty of speech and the freedom of the press. Society cannot afford to neglect the enlightenment of any class of its members . . . This grand and glorious revolution which has commenced, will fail to reach its climax of success, until throughout the length and breadth of the American Republic, the nation shall be so color-blind, as to know no man by the color of his skin or the curl of his hair. It will then have no privileged class, trampling upon outraging the unprivileged classes, but will be then one great privileged nation, whose privilege will be to produce the loftiest manhood and womanhood that humanity can attain.