Decision Activity: Joshua Huddy, Monmouth County, 1780

Decision Activity: Joshua Huddy
Shrewsberry, New Jersey, September 1780

My name is Joshua Huddy, and I may only have a few minutes left to live. I am an ardent patriot and the Captain of the Monmouth Militia. I just heard glass break downstairs, and from my window, I can see members of the loyalist “Black Brigade” surrounding my house. I see Colonel Tye, standing about six feet tall, commanding his troops. While I fear no man, I begrudgingly respect the military prowess and fighting ability of Colonel Tye. It almost seemed inevitable that we would meet one day in combat. His infamous raids of Patriot homes and my raids of Loyalist homes in Monmouth County set us on a collision course.

We almost came musket to musket at the Battle of Monmouth. But alas, we are not facing off on the battlefield, but rather, at my home. I am outgunned and outmanned, but I am determined not to go down without a fight. Colonel Tye is demanding that I surrender and come out of my house unarmed. Can I resist? In April, Mr. Russell resisted Colonel Tye, and he was killed. I am sure Colonel Tye and the Loyalists want my blood. In 1777, my men and I dragged Loyalist Stephen Edwards from his home in Shrewsberry and hanged him. The Loyalists have wanted revenge ever since. Can I surrender? Will they kill me? Even if they take me prisoner, that may be worse than death. Rumors abound regarding the treatment of Patriot prisoners of war. Most do not survive. It is only me and my mistress, Lucretia Emmons, home tonight. But I have muskets and I have ammunition. We cannot fight Colonel Tye and his men from Refugeetown alone, but perhaps we can hold them off until members of my Monmouth Militia arrive. However, time is of the essence.

As Colonel Tye and his men surround my home, what should I do?

Be sure to provide reasoning for your response.

  1. Surrender to Colonel Tye and face the consequences of my raids? I may face the hangman’s noose. But I am a Captain of the Monmouth Militia. They may be able to negotiate my release.
  2. Fix my bayonet, load my musket, and go down in a blaze of glory. Even if I am taken down, I will try to take out Colonel Tye, and save my fellow Patriots from his raids.
  3. Defend my home by loading several muskets and placing them at every window. Then move from window to window, firing at Colonel Tye and his men, in an attempt to convince them that I have several soldiers here fighting along my side. This can buy me time until the Monmouth Militia arrives.

After making your decision complete the following extension activity:.

The Monmouth Militia has arrived. Write out your orders for your men to fight against Colonel Tye.

Below is a map of Monmouth County in 1781.

Use this map to answer the following:

1. Locate Shrewsberry on the map and describe the geographic features of the area.

2. Colonel Tye and his men were stationed in “Refugeetown” in Sandy Hook over the course of the American Revolution. Locate Sandy Hook on the map and use the “scale of miles” to determine the distance between Sandy Hook and Shrewsberry.

Decision Activity: William Franklin, Middlesex County, 1776

William Franklin: Like Father, Like Son?

Decision Activity: Middlesex County 1776

            Join or Die? Famous words from my old man in 1754. A little dramatic if you ask me. His message to the colonists was simple: unite, fight against the French and their Native American allies or…die. My dad’s words created negative sentiments for the Native Americans, both during the French and Indian War when they were published, and after. As a loyalist and supporter of the Oneida and Lenape natives in my state of New Jersey, I would ultimately strive to send a different message than my father during the Revolution.

            I wasn’t always a Jersey boy. I was born in Pennsylvania in 1730. I never knew my mother, and I wasn’t born into a life of privilege like my contemporary, George Washington. I referred to my dad earlier-have you figured out yet that it’s Benjamin Franklin? My dad was a successful printer, and turned his attention to politics in the 1750s. He was also an engineer, inventor–you can consider him a renaissance man of sorts. I wanted to be just like him. I followed him everywhere, including to Albany in 1754 where my dad laid out his famous Albany Plan of Union. Part of this plan was to create a colonial alliance during the French and Indian War. My dad created a woodcut of a severed snake that represented the demise of the colonies if unity was not established. Get it? Join. Or die. I know, I know. I mocked the join or die thing just a moment ago. But at the time I supported the sentiments.

            After the French and Indian War, I became the royal governor of New Jersey. Being royal governor meant I was expected to uphold the rules of the British crown. After the Stamp Act, tensions in the colonies were heating up and my dad was becoming more and more anti-British. I on the other hand wanted New Jersey to remain true to King George III.

How can we ensure that a new government will be better than this?

What will we lose in the process?

What if this turns to anarchy?

Because of my sentiments in keeping the royal government unchanged in the colonies, militias made up of Patriots were on to me. I was arrested in June of 1776 in Perth Amboy and there was no hope in keeping New Jersey “loyal” or should I say “irreconcilable” after that. I was jailed in Litchfield, Connecticut, 135 miles away! I guess they were expecting me to sit in my cell and ‘think about what I did,’ but instead I was pardoning Loyalists. Jokes on them! I left the prison two years later, and spent the remaining years during the Revolution in New York City. I continued to have correspondence with King George III, and eventually I returned to England in 1782 as part of a prisoner exchange.

Join or Die. Hm. What was there to “join”?

Supporting Questions/Decisions:

Have you ever gone against the beliefs of your parents or guardians?

What impact did this have on your life?

How did it affect your family members?

How did William’s decision affect his relationship with his father, Benjamin Franklin?

 

In your opinion, did William make the right decision in supporting the British crown? Do you think this influenced New Jersey’s history?

 

Is your history book more focused on the Patriot perspective than the Loyalist perspective during the Revolution? If yes, what changes would you make?

 

Decision Activity: Elizabeth Covenhoven, Monmouth County, 1778

Elizabeth Covenhoven

Decision Activity: Monmouth County, 1778

“What’s a Woman To Do … In Times Like These?”

“These are the times that try men’s souls.”  Those infamous words were echoed throughout the colonies since the publication of Thomas Paine’s American Crisis in December of 1776. But what then, can be said, of us ladies? Women: married, single, daughters, mothers, sisters, and grandmothers. A war where loyalties were drawn, neighbor against neighbor, friend against newly formed foe. And here, especially in New Jersey, the war was always in our backyard. With the colonial victories at Trenton and Princeton in the winter of 1776-1777 it would seem as though Washington’s troops were making some progress toward their campaign for victory. But the British were a tough enemy. They were unrelenting and refused to let a rag-tag group of Patriots win. That’s why it was no surprise to me when I heard the rustlings around town that the British were moving throughout the area on their way to New York, perhaps even stopping in the area of the Monmouth Courthouse, my hometown! (Freehold, New Jersey) This was a scary thought, especially to me, since I had heard rumors of British troops burning down homes, taking animals from the barns, and stealing good supplies, foodstuffs, and other valuables from the colonists!

Those of us ladies that remained were often left on our homesteads, alone, to fend for ourselves in the midst of war. I myself have reared 10 children in a one-room home that has stood on this property at 150 West Main Street for the past 25 years. After our children were grown and gone, my husband William and I built a substantial home with the wealth that our families left us, making it one of the most impressive in Monmouth County. We were also able to purchase some very nice furniture, and of course, a beautiful set of china plates, for entertainment purposes of course. I have worked too hard to lose any of these things!

            I guess by now you’re wondering, who am I? Well, my name is Elizabeth Covenhoven.   My husband William is a 5th generation Dutch-American who roots in Monmouth County date back to 1709.  At the time that the war came through my backyard in 1778, I was 74 years old, left alone to fend for myself alongside my four enslaved persons that lived with me on my property. My husband, unfortunately, was not here at the time that General Clinton passed through, and therefore, I alone had to make tough choices in order to survive. My home and its belongings are all I have. 

What should Elizabeth Covenhoven do in order to survive the British occupation of her hometown? Be sure to provide reasoning for your response. 

  1. RUN. This might be a bit challenging due to her age, but certainly, she can hopefully make it to one of her children’s homes and see if they can offer her protection from the British. That is, if they themselves aren’t already in trouble …
  1. OUTWIT. She realizes the limitations of her age. However, with the help of her enslaved persons, she can most certainly hide what possessions she has in the nearby woods and under the earth. The British certainly can’t be that intuitive to know what she has done …
  1. NEGOTIATE. Certainly, the British can’t be *as bad* as how they are perceived? And besides, she is a wealthy Monmouth County socialite, that could be helpful to tired and hungry soldiers and their officers.
  1. FIGHT. She can attempt to defend her land claims and property with the support of her four enslaved persons. Certainly, she can’t take on the British Army by herself, but she could attempt to not let them into her house to seize her property and possessions or set fire to her home.

After discussing and deciding on your decision, select one of the following activities. Be sure to use support from your knowledge of the time period in order to justify your response:

  1. Write a letter to your husband, William, justifying the choice that you made for survival. Remember that you will need to outline what happened to your possessions, as well as the home.
  1. Write a letter to General Clinton. Make sure that you state your case as to why your home should be spared from invasion/destruction of the British.
  1. Write a letter to General Washington. Explain your case to the General of the Continental Army and ask for any type of retribution that has to deal with what has happened to your homestead.

Resources:

https://www.monmouthhistory.org/covenhoven-house

From Scratch: Adventures in Harvesting, Hunting, Fishing, and Foraging on a Fragile Planet

From Scratch: Adventures in Harvesting, Hunting, Fishing, and Foraging on a Fragile Planet, by David and Jon Moscow (New York: Permuted Press, 2022)

Review by Alan Singer

Jon Moscow is the co-executive director of the Ethics in Education Network located in New York City and a podcaster. David Moscow is an actor and producer. Jon and David are father and son. In the preface to From Scratch they wrote “There are also many meals in here. Some are unique. Some are gut-turning. Most are great.” They are clearly more adventurous than me. I recommend staying with the less gut-turning suggestions.

The first gastronomical adventure is in New York City and it is about harvesting and eating oysters from Long Island Sound. David claims he dreamed about oysters since his boyhood in the Bronx with trips to Orchard Beach. I also grew up in the Bronx, back in the 1950s, frequented Orchard Beach, and I warn readers, nothing good comes out of those waters that I would eat, then and now. Today the water is considered clean, but when I was a boy we frequently saw raw sewage and condoms on the waves.

The best part of this chapter, and every chapter, are the gastronomical history lessons. The original inhabitants of the New York metropolitan region were the Lenni-Lanape who harvested oysters before the water was polluted and cooked them by wrapping them in seaweed and tossing them into a fire. We also learn that Pearl Street in Manhattan was “paved” by burning oyster shells to create lime that was mixed with broken oyster shells, sand, ash, and water. New York continued to be the oyster capital of the world until the early 20th century when New York City oyster beds were closed because of toxicity. David does admit that New York City oysters are still considered unfit to eat so that he and friends actually harvested oysters further east on Long Island.

Other adventures in harvesting and eating include trips to South Africa for avocados and “dune spinach,” to Mediterranean Malta and Sardinia for octopus and snails, Peru with its thousands of potato varieties, Kenya for barley and honey, and back to New York after a stop on the Amalfi Coast and Naples to savor pizza. David discusses some of his favorite New York pizza parlors including his childhood haunt, Three Brothers, on Kingsbridge Road. Brother’s Pizza is still located at 27 E. Kingsbridge Rd. Another noteworthy Bronx pizza destination is Catania’s Pizzeria & Café at 2307 Arthur Avenue. However my favorite is Pizza Plus on 359 7th Avenue in Brooklyn because their pizza has the best red sauce. The best part of this chapter is the authors’ discussion of the history of the tomato, which traveled from the Americas to Europe as part of the Columbian Exchange. Who knew there were over 15,000 varieties of tomatoes?

Fred Ende, Director of Curriculum and Instructional Services at Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES, who also reviewed the book, points out that in the first and second chapters the authors show that the history of both Long Island and South Africa was influenced, in some cases deeply, by food, and that food was influenced by history. Ende appreciated the interdisciplinary nature of the story the Moscows are telling because too often secondary schools disciplines are taught in isolation. Elde likes that the book melds science, art, culture and history pretty seamlessly.

The book ends with recipes including a Philippine dish, Kilawin made with mackerel, tuna and coconut, a Native American trout and potato dish from Utah, and D Michele’s famous pizza dough. I make my own pizza from scratch and I do all my foraging at a local supermarket.

Alan’s Homemade Pizza

Ingredients for the dough

  • 2 cups flour, plus more for rolling
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tbs. dry yeast
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cups warm water (body temperature)
  • 2 tbs. olive oil to mix into the dough and 2 tsp. to oil the bowl

Instructions

1. Combine and stir the dry ingredients and then add the water and oil. Stir and knead the dough until it is smooth with a slight gleam. If the dough is too sticky add a little more flour. If it is too dry, add a very small amount of water. I rub a little flour on my hands as I knead the dough. After about ten minutes I roll the dough into a ball and place it in a covered oiled bowl for about an hour and keep the bowl in a warm place; sometimes in the oven with the temperature set at the lowest level.

2. While the dough rises I prepare my toppings. I use sliced olives, mushrooms, and green peppers After an hour, preheat the oven to 475°F. I usually use a commercial sauce; my preferred one is Barilla. I roll out the dough as flat as I can with a rolling pin (without tossing it up and down) and put it on a large oiled baking sheet. I brush a light oil coat on the dough, cover the pie with sauce leaving a thin 1/2 crust on the edges, sprinkle with lots of thinly sliced mozzarella, feta bits, oregano, and parmesan, and add the toppings.

3. Now its time to bake the pizza in the 475°F oven for about 15 minutes until the crust is brown and the cheese is melted. Magnifico!

The Ferguson Brothers Lynchings on Long Island: A Civil Rights Catalyst

The Ferguson Brothers Lynchings on Long Island: A Civil Rights Catalyst (The History Press, 2022) by Christopher Verga

Review by Alan Singer

(Reprinted with permission from New York Almanack)

In a book dedicated to Wilfred Ferguson, the son of Charles Ferguson, teacher and historian Christopher Verga resurrects the story of two Roosevelt, New York brothers killed by a Freeport police officer in 1946. Verga opens The Ferguson Brothers Lynchings on Long Island: A Civil Rights Catalyst with an account of the long history of racism on Long Island and in the Freeport area including Ku Klux Klan activity. The background to the 1946 killings takes up the first third of the book. The book is well researched and referenced with extended quotes from official court documents and newspaper accounts. It is available from Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats.

On February 5, 1946, two African American men, brothers, were shot and killed by a white probationary police officer in Freeport, New York. The officer claimed that the men were part of a group of four, all brothers, who were using “abusive and threatening language” and that one of the men he shot had stated that he had a .45 and was going to use. The officer’s first shot struck 27-year old Charles Ferguson, a World War II veteran, in the heart and killed him instantly. The second shot wounded Joseph Ferguson, aged 20, and then struck Alphonso Ferguson, aged 25, in the head. Charles and Joseph Ferguson were both wearing military uniforms when they were shot. Alphonso Ferguson was taken to Meadowbrook Hospital in East Hempstead where he died. The fourth brother, Richard Ferguson, also a veteran, was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. He was tried, convicted, and sentenced to 100 days in jail, but his conviction was overturned on appeal. Military tribunals later cleared the brothers of any blame in the incident. Charles Ferguson was buried at the Long Island National Cemetery with full military honors.

At the time of the shootings, Freeport was a segregated town. There were no Black police officers there or teachers in the Freeport school system and Black children were all zoned to attend one elementary school regardless of where they lived.

After Nassau County District Attorney ruled that the shootings were justified, the New York Committee for Justice in Freeport, the American Jewish Congress, and Congressional Representative Vito Marcantonio of Manhattan demanded that Governor Thomas E. Dewey authorize a new investigation. In July, Dewey appointed Lawrence S. Greenbaum, as a special investigator to hold hearings and examine witnesses. Greenbaum, a lawyer, was a member of the NAACP. A petition to Governor Dewey condemned the Nassau County District Attorney for “not properly and without prejudice carry out his duties in the presentation to the February grand jury” and the Freeport Village Board for prejudicing the proceedings by exonerating the white officer before the grand jury had heard the case. The petition also asserted that the brothers were not drunk as the police claimed, and that the incident had been precipitated when the operator of a lunch counter had refused to serve the men because they were Black. Legendary folk singer and activist Woodie Guthrie wrote a song, “The Ferguson Brothers Shooting,” to support the campaign for justice for the Ferguson family.

The cop said that we had insulted the joint man.

He made us line up with our faces to the wall;

We laughed to ourselves as we stood there and listened

To the man of law and order putting in his riot call.

The cop turned around and walked back to young Charlie

Kicked him in the groin and then shot him to the ground;

This same bullet went through the brain of Alonzo

And the next bullet laid my brother Joseph down . . .

The town that we ride through is not Rankin, Mississippi,

Nor Bilbo’s Jim Crow town of Washington, D.C.

But it’s greater New York, our most fair-minded city

In all this big land here and streets of the brave.

At the hearing, held in Manhattan, the two surviving brothers testified that the police officer first kicked Charles and Joseph Ferguson and then drew his pistol and lined the four brothers against a wall. The police produced witnesses to support the accused officer, including an African American by-passer, and no cross-examination of witnesses was permitted. The officer repeated his accusation that Charles Ferguson claimed to have a weapon, and that he shot Alfonso Ferguson when Ferguson was charging at him. The officer and the other police witnesses admitted that they never saw a gun and no gun was found at the scene. A spokesperson for the New York Committee for Justice on Freeport charged that the investigation was a “white-wash” and an “unvarnished fraud’ because witnesses were not cross-examined. At the final inquiry session on July 23, most of the audience walked out in protest.

After the special investigator’s report was released on August 2 and exonerated the police officer and the Nassau County District Attorney’s office, Governor Dewey closed the inquiry. The report claimed that the police officer acted because he believed his life was in danger and there was reason to believe he would have acted differently if “the four men before him had been white and not colored.”

The killing of the African American men in Freeport became an issue in the November 1946 gubernatorial election as Dewey, a Republican, campaigned for reelection. Democratic party candidate James M. Mead charged that the shooting was a lynching and accused Dewey of endorsing Southern-style racism. However, once Dewey was reelected, the Freeport case dropped out of the news.

A side story in the book is the role of the American left including the Communist Party in the push for the special investigation into the killings and for justice for the Ferguson family. While the NAACP also called for the inquiry, it avoided being too closely associated with the left groups, and being branded as communist or communist directed. State and federal law officials investigated communist influence in the campaign, perhaps more carefully than they investigated the actual incident. In Nassau County and in Freeport supporters of the police officer used left involvement in the campaign as a way to discredit the specific charges and deny underlying racism in the area.

Verga concludes the book by examining a similar story about an African American veteran attacked and gravely injured by police in South Carolina and other incidents of racism in the United States and on Long Island after World War II including the notorious racial covenant banning African Americans from purchasing or renting Levittown homes. Verga note that at least demographically, Freeport and Long Island have changed since the deaths of Charles and Alponso Ferguson at the hands of a police officer in 1946.

Nineteen Reservoirs: On Their Creation and the Promise of Water for New York City

Nineteen Reservoirs: On Their Creation and the Promise of Water for New York City (The Experiment, 2022) by Lucy Sante with photographs by Tim Davis

From 1907 to 1967, a network of reservoirs and aqueducts was built across more than one million acres in upstate New York, including Greene, Delaware, Sullivan, and Ulster Counties. This feat of engineering served to meet New York City’s ever-increasing need for water, sustaining its inhabitants and cementing it as a center of industry. West of the Hudson, it meant that twenty-six villages, with their farms, forest lands, orchards, and quarries, were bought for a fraction of their value, demolished, and submerged, profoundly altering ecosystems in ways we will never fully appreciate. This paradox of victory and loss is at the heart of Nineteen Reservoirs, Lucy Sante’s meticulous account of how New York City secured its seemingly limitless fresh water supply, and why it cannot be taken for granted. In inimitable form, Sante plumbs the historical record to surface forgotten archives and images, bringing lost places back to life on the page. Her immaculately calibrated sensitivity honors both perspectives on New York City’s reservoir system and helps us understand the full import of its creation.

Coming Out of the Streets: LGBTQ Youth Experiencing Homelessness

Coming Out to the Streets: LGBTQ Youth Experiencing Homelessness, by Brandon Andrew Robinson (Oakland: University of California Press)

Review by Thomas Hansen

This is the story of a qualitative research study in which the professor was an observer who was able to get a great deal of trust and information from the subjects interviewed.  Volunteering at the shelter where the subjects were housed temporarily, the professor conducted this ethnographic study by using in-depth interviews to look at the lives and goals of young homeless persons.   

I disagree with the author making the clear point throughout the book that the family does not shoulder much of the blame for the young people becoming disenfranchised or bullied or shunned by society.  The author hopes people will move beyond simply blaming the family for all the difficulties youth must conquer in order to survive the young-adult years.  The author insists it is “the system” that needs to be fixed—not the youth and not the family.  There would be many people who disagree with this author on this point, including many people who have battled through those difficult years and somehow made it to the other side.

While I leaf back through the book and thought again about what I had recently read, two young gay men at the next table are telling of the terrible experiences they had growing up, coming out, and finally escaping a damning and hateful family—in both of their cases.  I keep moving away from them, but I can still hear every word they are saying and do not want to listen.  However, they get louder and louder as they share their experiences and hopes out loud. 

I am embarrassed I can hear all this—at the same time I am thankful I am hearing such a timely discussion when I am trying to write some notes that will lead to a review of this book. 

They share a common story about the oppressive life they have lead “at their family’s house.”  I know very little–if anything—about these two young men.  I do not know their names or where they are from or what their parents are like.  I do not know if anything they are sharing very loudly is true or not.  But most everything they are saying is similar to a story I have heard from many young people for years.   

It is true that different people, in different situations and cities, will have disparate realities as they “come out” into whatever sexuality or personality they take on as adults.  I would argue with this author that it is the great majority of young LGBTQ persons who have had the most difficulties at home—the very people who should be loving, supporting, and protecting the youths are instead perhaps the biggest challenge facing them. 

Children’s families often abandon them and turn them off.  Without the support of the very people who should be helping, these youth often have to make sure very hard decisions and face some terrible dangers to survive.  In the meantime, the family continues to withhold their assistance.         

The professor who conducted this study insists it is society—not the family—that is the culprit in the destruction of young people who are meant to come out and live the responsible gay lives they should be allowed to live.  The professor attempts to show how blame for the young people’s stress can be levied against several different pieces of the system.  Teachers, school administrators, the courts, the police, and mainstream society in general are all to blame for presenting the young persons with great challenges and judgment.  The author makes the point that the family is not the main problem and she does this strongly in the book.

Maybe in this particular shelter where the author interviewed young people, and throughout this study, and elsewhere in this book, the family is not to blame.  However, I maintain the family is one of the most guilty parties in the oppression, judgment, and ostracizing of the young people who wind up out on the streets and facing terrible choices.

I know it is the average families, including the parents without much cultural and educational understanding, who have no idea how much they are contributing to creating a whole population of young adults in stress.  These are young persons who are struggling to gain their independence and who have to make difficult decisions to do so.  Young LGBTQ persons become involved in prostitution, selling drugs, using drugs, shoplifting and other sorts of crimes. 

The book does a good and typical glimpse of the young people who have been damaged by their families (and church and school and neighbors and etc.).  There is so much wasted time.  Instead of transitioning easily from being children to being adults, these young people have to use a huge amount of energy to survive, learn, begin to work, and then establish new goals later in life, and become adults “later” than they wanted to in some ways, and “way too early” in other ways.

Much as these young persons are still children, they are thrust into the rougher realities of an adult world not very interested in protecting them.  While I agree society can be one of the culprits, I maintain it is principally the family who bears the responsibility for making life difficult for the young people. 

There is plenty of evidence in the literature of the family’s negative role in the lives of such young adults.   

Engaging Students with Poverty in Mind: Practical Strategies for Raising Achievement

Engaging Students with Poverty in Mind: Practical Strategies for Raising Achievement, by Eric Jensen (Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development)

Review by Thomas Hansen

Eric Jensen provides good hints and strategies for dealing with the special and difficult problems our poorer students bring to the classroom.  The number of students living in poverty has grown exponentially, yet many educators are not aware of the realities.  Jensen shows a good understanding of some of the difficulties and challenges students face, and he uses a research basis in this text.

Published in 2013, this book paints a bleak picture of a bleak nation.  I am sure Jensen had NO idea there would be worse days, COVID-19, and a burgeoning homeless population in this country.  Fresh after the New Great Depression, this book was timeless then—and is timeless now.

This text appeared years ago but is still relevant because the number of persons on the streets has risen, a huge number of families rely on food stamps and free lunches, and the homes of many families have been boarded up for a number of years, with most people not able to afford a house and the original occupants of those dwellings now living with relatives, in shelters, or in their cars. 

A huge challenge today is how to afford a place to live.  Struggling families can tell you this.  Housing is expensive.  In many cities, very few people have any interest at all in providing affordable homes or apartments for poorer people to live in.  You can count on one hand the cities that have actually addressed the problem of “where to put the poor people.

The question remains:  “How do we begin to help students who face the stressors of hunger, despair, and stigma each day?”  It is important to serve and protect the students now, while they are poor, and deal with housing and other services later.  But how do we teach them?  Feed them?  Encourage them?

Jensen includes the data from research on these students, starting with health and nutrition issues and ranging to the stress levels and daily hassles students face.  These and five other areas constitute the seven types of challenges facing students living in poverty, though I would suggest many of our students, in addition to teachers and teacher candidates, face many of these same difficulties.   Jensen calls these “the seven engagement factors,” and the other ones are: vocabulary; effort and energy; mind-set; cognitive capacity; and relationships.

Jensen bases his approach here more on the stressors facing poor students and less on technical information about the poverty numbers and facts out there.  For that technical data, we would have to go to other sources. 

Jensen proposes “five rules for engagement” for teachers to employ in the classroom as a means of getting poorer students involved: upgrade your attitude; build relationships & respect; get buy-in; embrace clarity; and show your passion.  Though I think these are good to use with any student, they seem to make sense in dealing with students who face the hassles and challenges of living with poverty on a daily basis, a seemingly unrelenting set of difficulties.  Clarity is important, for example, because students living in poverty are often hungry and tired, and they need straightforward definitions and examples, in addition to encouragement and a positive learning environment.

Jensen acknowledges hunger and stress and the power they hold over students.  He reminds us that students should be treated with dignity, and that they are the reason we have a job.  The students are the future of our country, Jensen reminds us, not prison inmates. 

Students living in poverty, especially, come to school wondering if someone there cares about them, wondering if they are important.  They may have difficulty concentrating, and difficulty feeling that the school day may offer something interesting and relevant in a world that may have forgotten them, they may feel.  Younger people, especially, have trouble making sense of a world in which there is so much hunger.                

I can think of some other texts from years ago that are still relevant.  If Jensen’s older book is to be used in a topics class on dealing with poverty issues or other such use, including professional development meetings or retreats, I would definitely recommend one or more additional texts—both of them older/older editions fine—with more specific information on poverty be included.  One good additional text would be: Poverty in America: A Handbook, Third Edition, 2013, by John Iceland.  

Another good text would be: Someplace Like America: Tales from the New Great Depression, Updated Edition, 2013, by Dale Maharidge, Photographs by Michael S. Williamson.  These could both provide more of the technical information not included in the Jensen text.

To summarize, I recommend this text because of the good teaching strategies and scenarios included.  I think most of what Jensen includes is good information for working with any student, and certainly any student facing stressful situations. 

Health Care Off the Books: Poverty, Illness, and Strategies for Survival in Urban America

Health Care Off the Books:  Poverty, Illness, and Strategies for Survival in Urban America, by Danielle T. Raudenbush, (Oakland: University of California Press).

Review by Thomas Hansen

Teachers of social studies—and all teachers interested in social justice—can make good use of this text as either a good reference for their personal library or a good research source for students in secondary school courses to read and consult.  There is a great deal of good information here about healthcare and healthcare policies in the US.  The book is written in accessible language and does not appear to have any offensive passages.

Danielle T. Raudenbush explains the ways in which poor urban dwellers in a project navigate the challenging world of health care, some with insurance, some without.  Raudenbush shows us there are three different levels of approaches to getting the needed pills, bandages, and even medical equipment whether patients follow the formal approach to getting their healthcare—or not.

The author makes it clear there is a consistent and reliable informal network of helpers for poor persons to get pretty much whatever they need on the streets.  Raudenbush acknowledges this particular qualitative study, done over time, focuses very much on healthcare issues and does not address food, money, rides, or other items very much. 

The author shows us there are those three different approaches, first formal: going to doctor appointments, buying medication and/or using insurance to do so, and then taking all of the medication/following all the doctor’s orders, and convalescing as directed.  There is also informal—and this is the one that seems to be of most interest to the author.

A second approach is “informal” and it involves using local resources and persons in the process of purchasing or trading for the pills, bartering for the pills, lending other needed medical supplies and goods, or purchasing these items from a helper in the project.  It is very interesting how the author is able to get so much information, and she has established very good rapport, it seems, with the residents of the project.  Like her subjects in the study, the author is African-American, and this connection helps her to get the trust of the people she interviews.  She also conducts focus groups with the residents.

A third approach—she calls it the “hybrid” one, shows local and formal together.  The author reveals how much the residents of the project bend rules, make important connections, share resources, and make use of the people who serve as “helpers” in that community.  Doctors and other medical personnel are also involved in the hybrid approach in various ways—and in the informal approach too.

Helpers provide the backbone for the poor to get access to so many services, and to food, and to medication, and even to walkers and wheelchairs.  Often heard among the homeless, also, are these kinds of questions:

  • Who is giving away winter coats?
  • Who has free dinner tonight?
  • Is there any place with decent sack lunches by my spot where I stay now?
  • Where can I get some gloves and underwear on a Sunday?
  • How do I find that lady who has the phone chargers for sale?

In addition to these questions, helpers often have to deal with others—such as ones dealing with social security application rules, where to get free aspirin, how to get disability checks, how to find a good dentist who takes XY or Z insurance, and other needed information.  As in this book, one will find out the streets have helpers who are constantly assisting those in need—and who are well-known among the street networks. 

Informal networks and devoted helpers are an integral part for many residents of that project.  The author does a great job of show how complex the relationships can be.

Troublemaker

Troublemaker, by John Cho (Little, Brown, 2022)

Review by Valerie Ooka Pang

This review was originally published in the International Examiner and is republished with permission.

Korean American actor John Cho has written Troublemaker, an excellent novel for middle-school students about racism, a Korean American family, and the bonds of a son with his father. Cho lived in Everett for part of his young adult years and remembers going to the local Fred Meyer supermarket, and while his parents shopped, he would visit the book section and read a chapter in the novel, First Blood. Every week while his parents were purchasing their weekly groceries, John would read another chapter.

Jordan Park, a 12-year-old, is always in trouble unlike Sarah, his perfect sister, a junior in high school. As a Korean American kid, he cannot live up to the expectations of his parents, especially his father. Jordan picks poor friends and gets suspended from school for cheating on tests. He does not want to tell his parents about his suspension. He thinks he can prove to his family that he is not a bad kid.

The Park family lives in Los Angeles, and his father has a store in Koreatown. It is 1992 when race riots rock the city. Rodney King is beaten by four White police officers. Latasha Harlins is shot and killed by a Korean shop owner who says she thought the teen was shoplifting. The police found that Latasha had the money for the juice in her hand and was not stealing. Racial tensions are high.

Jordan and Sarah find themselves in this confusing and dangerous time. Jordan wants to help his father protect their store because the police do not do much for shop owners in Koreatown, but he can’t find a ride to the shop. His friend takes him part of the way, but then he leaves him at a neighborhood hangout. His sister worries and tries to find him.

In the end, Jordan learns a valuable lesson about guns from his father. He grows up a lot during that summer. This is a coming-of-age story of a young Korean American male and a portrait of his Korean American family. The dialogue pushes the story line forward and is a major element in creating an engaging novel.

Troublemaker provides an excellent opportunity for teachers and parents to talk about family relationships and how sometimes communications in the family get misinterpreted. The story emphasizes the dad’s love for his son though the son does not realize how much his father cares for him. Teachers can also have students talk about the racial conflicts between Blacks and Koreans, and police and communities of color. Though the story does not take on racial discord head on, it provides openings for educators to talk about the problems among communities of color. This book is extremely timely especially since there is so much anti-Asian hate in the nation today.