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.
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.
This article is based on interviews with Marisa Mathias, teachers, and students of the Pascack Hills/Valley Regional District. Hank Bitten is the Executive Director of the New Jersey Council for the Social Studies.
The intent of this course was to introduce students to the more pluralistic world that they are likely to encounter. For much of human history most people lived in a world where they were likely to come across people much as themselves: that is all of their contacts would be with people of a similar ethnic, racial, social and religious background. As the world has become more interconnected students are likely to have to deal with people who have differing world views and the intention of this course was to use the study of religion as a vehicle for students to explore the diversity of religious belief and to see how religion can be a unique and distinct explanation of the human experience.
The goal of the course was to show how religion supports our understanding of how the world operates. Just as the physical and social sciences add to our understanding of how we experience life, so does religion but it does it in a way that that is unique to the core ideas of this discipline. This course was designed to explore the terms and language of religion so that it speaks to the listener on the termsthat most suits its distinctive message.
One of the guiding posits of this course is best summed up by the words of Ludwig Wittgenstein, 20th century Austrian philosopher:
“It is a grave mistake to make religious belief a matter of evidence in the way that science is a matter of evidence because theological language works on an entirely different plane. If religious language is interpreted symbolically it has the power to manifest a transcendent reality in the same way as the short stories of Tolstoy. They reveal a reality too wonderful for words.”
This course permits students to examine religion through the prism of myth and symbol, distinct from an emphasis on creed and ritual, for as Francesco Petrarch said in his 14th century treatise, On Religious Life:
“Theology is actually poetry, poetry concerning God, effective not because it ‘proved’ anything, but because it reached the heart.”
Religion is not supposed to provide answers to questions that lay with the reach of human reason. There are other disciplines that are designed for that.
Religion’s task, closely allied with that of art, it helps us live creatively, peacefully, and even joyously with realities for which there are no rational explanations and for problems for which there are no easy explanations: mortality, pain, grief, despair and outrage at the injustice and cruelty of life. Actually, the study of religion motivates inquiry, discovery, and exploration. When reason is pushed to its limits, we can arrive at a transcendence that may permit us to affirm our suffering with serenity and courage.
Interpreting religion through the use of myth and symbol opens up a new avenue of understanding religious stories that is not reliant on the historical validity of those stories. Those stories have something timeless to tell us about the human experience that transcend our ability to validate them as historical fact.
While there may be some who may doubt that which is neither apparent of the senses nor obvious to our intelligence, I would direct you to the words of Albert Einstein who said in Living Philosophies in 1931:
“The most beautiful emotion that we can experience is the mystical. It is the sower of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger is all but dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself to us as thehighest wisdom and most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms – this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of all true religiousness.”
This is what we hope to convey to our students. That through a study of religion with the aid of an understanding of the myth and symbol we too may receive a glimpse of the divine nature of our world. Finally, Carl Jung concluded that
“Science … is part and parcel of our knowledge and obscures our insight only when it holds that the understanding given by it is the only kind there is.”
From a Teacher of the Religion in America Class:
When Dom started this elective course over 30 years ago, both his insight and perspective were brilliant. He held two master’s degrees, one in American History and one in Myth and Religion. Challenging students to examine religion through the prism of myth and symbol offered the opportunity to see beyond creed and ritual. This focus allowed for a second, most important objective to be met for students – to help them understand individually why they believe what they believe. From my experience, this is what students appreciated most from the class. Dom and I have always believed in the art of discussion and have both witnessed throughout our careers that students became empowered when we created a comfortable atmosphere for them to listen, think, question, discuss and grow. This has been and continues to be the beauty and strength of the course.
In 2007, when I began teaching the class, I looked to Stephen Prothero, Religious Scholar and Professor at Boston University. In his book, Religious Literacy, he revealed that most of his students had no understanding of religious concepts. His belief was and continues to be that his students as well American citizens in general need to be religiously literate. Religious literacy, according to Prothero is, “a skill to engage in public conversations about religion” and requires “knowledge of world religions, empathetic understanding, critical engagement, and comparative perspective”.
Our course at Pascack Valley is entitled Religion in America where we offer students a comparative study of World Religions as well as the opportunity to understand why they believe what they believe. And all of it is done through the fostering of lessons in empathy and critical engagement. Inviting guest speakers in to our class from various religions was yet another brilliant idea of Dominic when he began the course and it continues to be the highlight for students. We study religion through the understanding of myth and symbol and learn about multi-religious beliefs from those who practice.
Dominic, myself and now Marisa believe that religion matters and that students cannot make sense of global or American history or America or the world today without it. At a time when ‘information civility’ is waning and in dire need of resurrection, this course espouses it. And the great benefit for students is that they ultimately gain a better understanding of why they believe what they believe.
Comments from final reflection papers by students:
Before taking Religion in America, I held the belief that religion is a form of guidance which allows its followers to feel a sense of purpose in life. This course has reinforced my understanding of religion but I realized there is a lot more to explore and dissect when it comes to religion. The comparative nature of this class has allowed me to find commonalities and debunk preconceived notions about certain religions, which has fostered a stronger sense of open-mindedness within myself. Now I see the concept of religion as having different layers or components: spiritual, structural, and psychological. Moreover, this course has allowed me to analyze my own personal connections to religion and how they have altered my thought processes and behaviors. Despite the fact that I do not presently identify with any religion, this class has had a positive impact by allowing me to apply certain practices and tenets of other religions to my own life.
“As each speaker came in and I listened to them speak so passionately about their religion and my eyes were really opened. Everyone was so humble and surprisingly open to other religions. All the stereotypes I once believed were immediately thrown out the window. I no longer believed that religion is merely for the purpose of worship and control of the masses. It’s about love, community, and giving up yourself for a higher power and cause. Whether it is through community service or the small everyday good deeds you can do.”
“Now at the end of this course, if you ask me whether I believe in God or not, I will still say no, but I will tell you all about how there is something out there for everyone. There is some way to make life worth living, the experience may not be able to take all the bad out of the world, but it will be able to balance it out with the good. It took me a long time to understand why the dark in this world is so necessary, and with the help of this class I finally understand it is completely necessary so that each and every one of us can experience the good in extremes. I now understand that all we can do to live a healthy and happy life is to exist in the present at all times, forgive and forget, and make mistakes. Everybody may not be able to agree with me, but that is okay because religion is not just one thing, it can be anything you believe it to be.
My time spent learning about religions in this class was not time wasted. I feel that I really did learn a lot about the beliefs of the world, the people who believe in them, and the cultures surrounding them all. I value the time I spent learning about all of this, and I feel it was something good for me to have experienced. I’m happy that I have, and I will take the information I’ve gathered this semester with me through the rest of my life. I hope to use it to become a better person, someone who’s more equipped to be more accepting of people no matter what they believe, even if I don’t think it is something I personally could ever subscribe to.”
“After every single speaker that came in, I went home and couldn’t wait to tell my mom, dad, and sister about what I learned.”
“I’m excited to come to class every day. This class genuinely made me a happier and more accepting person.”
“This class is great because you not only learn about the different religions, and different parts of the world, but also about different cultures and the diversity within them.”
I teach sixth grade social studies in an independent Episcopal school. The course explores a narrative history of the Atlantic world beginning with the European Age of Exploration, particularly examining the theme of colonialism as it unfolds in Latin America/the Caribbean and Africa. The content of the course moves between the historical narrative and current global issues that, in some way, tie into that narrative. A major goal of the course is building global citizenship and empathy among the students. The course includes a standalone unit on world religions with the goal of attaining a basic degree of religious literacy and understanding the religious components of the historical narrative and current issues we discuss. Another main objective is helping students develop a respectful understanding of and empathy toward diverse religious traditions. This project articulates the beginning point of the unit on world religions by starting with the concept of lived religion. Because sixth graders need to develop the basic content knowledge of major religious traditions as a starting point, it is important to precede any discussion of the “basic facts” of any religion with the explanation that each tradition is characterized by astounding internal diversity. Using this preliminary discussion as a starting point, students can then move into the discussion of each faith tradition understanding the nuances that there is no such thing as a “pure” example of any tradition.
How can we move beyond a monolithic treatment of religious traditions when introducing religious studies to middle school students? This is the main question behind this project. The NEH Summer Institute, “Religious Worlds of New York,” has emphasized the concept of “lived religion” as an alternative approach to the more traditional model of focusing primarily on basic beliefs and practices as a way to learn about religious traditions. Rather than treating these traditions as monolithic or unchanging, the lived religion or cultural studies approach sees religion as a dynamic, constructed reality in the lives of practitioners that is situated in a particular historical context and, therefore, infinitely diverse in its expression.
The challenge I attempt to undertake with this project is how to communicate essential information about the world’s most influential faith traditions to middle school students in a way that acknowledges the staggering internal diversity of human experiences of these traditions.
I have been persuaded by many of the readings and speakers in this institute of the value and need for the lived religion approach. In particular, Dr. Ali Asani, one of the foremost scholars of Islam in the United States, argued that treating religions monolithically is a cause of ignorance and dehumanization, which of course lies behind many of the religious conflicts we are experiencing in today’s world. Clearly, there is an imperative to teach from a lived religion or cultural studies approach given my overall course goals of global citizenship, empathy and respect. However, in my context teaching sixth grade in a relatively religiously homogeneous community, I am starting from “square one” in terms of introducing these faith traditions for the first time. There is a clear tension between the task of learning the “basic facts” about each tradition and understanding religious life in context of the lived religion approach.
In thinking through how to alleviate this tension, I propose a new way of framing how I introduce the study of world religions for my sixth graders. Instead of launching into learning about history, beliefs, practices, geography, etc. for each religion, I will begin by introducing the concept of lived religion as a way of demonstrating the internal diversity of each faith tradition and the enormous complexity of factors affecting its expression in the “real world” where we live. In short, I want my students to approach the study of each tradition with the caveat that there is no such thing as the “pure” expression of that tradition.
What I propose in this project is a visual model or template for thinking about lived religion. I will use the graphic resource I have created here to explain the concept of lived religion and to caution against projecting the basic facts of any tradition onto any individual practitioner, faith community, denomination, or entire religion. I will use this concept as a way of setting the tone for our study of religion as one of what Robert Orsi calls “radical empiricism” – that my students can approach the study of each tradition as a detached observer rather than a devotee, expert, or theological critic. This will allow us to explore the basic facts of each tradition in the context that these facts have no “pure” expression in the real world. Then, as we examine real examples of lived religion in our community through field trips and ethnographic research, students can explore questions surrounding the extent to which the examples they have encountered reflect the basic traditions we have discussed.
In addition to my emphasis on lived religion as an alternative approach to understanding religious studies, I will include some discussion of how the study of religion ties into the broader theme of colonialism, a major theme of our sixth-grade course. The very idea of “religion” is itself a cultural construct of westerners imposed on nonwestern contexts (Asani, Orsi, Paden, Diner, Hawley, and others we have read or heard from as guest speakers in this institute have emphasized this point). This graphic will help me return the discussion to the theme of colonizer and colonized as we study religions by looking at colonialism as one component of the historical context through which we must filter our study of religion as a lived phenomenon.
I hope that through this careful framing of our discussion of the idea of lived religion, my students will understand that the basic facts of the traditions are an important starting point for understanding religions in the world today, but never are they representative of the religious reality of lived experience.
1. Develop interest and support from teachers in your department or school and supervisor.
2. Develop an objective, mission statement, and curriculum outline for a semester course.
3. Identify resources and speakers in your community. (museums, colleges, places of worship, demographic profile from the U.S. Census.) (www.census.gov )
4. Identify online resources or cost of books and resources.
5. Present plan to your principal.
6. Present plan to your Director of Curriculum.
7. Engage interested students who might sign up for this elective course in one and or two years. (Focus on freshman and sophomore students or middle school students.)
Benefits and Advantages for Students: ○ Colleges value the course for its emphasis on research, understanding of the cultural experiences of students from diverse populations, and the inherent qualities for inquiry and critical thinking
○ Social Emotional Learning connections support sensitivity to the experiences and beliefs of other students, emphasize ethical and moral discussions, and listening to a variety of perspectives.
○ Relevance to the content in the subjects of U.S. History, World History, English Literature
Steps to Support your Course Proposal:
Organize public discussion groups o Present an outline of an elective course on world religions to students and document their questions and statements about offering a course. What do they want to know, why do they want to know about religious teachings, do they have any experiences with the subject of different religious beliefs, etc.
o Arrange for a discussion with teachers in your department and school about an outline for an elective course. Is this something that should be taught by one department, involve an interdisciplinary course offering (literature, science, art, music, etc., be structured around team teaching, etc. o Provide an opportunity for the public (parents and community leaders) to comment on the proposal.
Discuss the proposal with your school or district’s Curriculum Team o First, arrange for an informal discussion with your supervisor and building principal about the need, support, scheduling, and budget. o For example, is this a course that would be taught for a semester or a full year? Should this course be taught during the school day or offered online, after school, on Saturdays, etc.
o Is the primary focus of this course content, enrichment, or exploratory?
o Are there any concerns within the school or community?
o Second, arrange for an informal or formal presentation with your supervisor and principal to your Director of Curriculum and Superintendent.
o At this time, present the course outline, C3 Framework Religious Studies Companion document, examples from other schools, list of possible speakers, textbooks or online resources, the goals and objectives for this course, where it is most likely to fit in the schedule, a summary of your research, professional development and training for teachers, the course description for the Program of Studies, and a timeline for implementation.
Steps to Support your Course Proposal:
Scholarly Research on Teaching Religion from the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute (2019) Goldschmidt, Henry. (2013). From world religions to lived religion. In V.F. Biondo & A. Fiala (Eds.), Civility, Religious Pluralism, and Education: Routledge.
● Warren Nord – “[Even] if students acquire a basic religious literacy as a result of their courses in history and literature, they are unlikely to develop any significant religious understanding … This kind of inside understanding requires that religion be studied in some depth, using primary sources that enable students to get inside the hearts and minds of people within a religious tradition” (p. 178)
● Goldschmidt – “This sort of empathic understanding is an essential prerequisite to civic engagement, and civil dialogue, among Americans of diverse religious and secular backgrounds” (p. 178)
● “What they need, I think, is an introduction to what scholars in the humanities and social sciences have taken to calling “lived religion.” They need to study popular beliefs and practices, in addition to canonical doctrines and rituals. They need to explore the process of interpretation – tracing how sacred texts may shape, and be shaped by, the practical concerns of contemporary communities. They need to question the boundaries of established religions, and the definition of “religion” as such. And they need to pay very close attention to the diversity within religious traditions and communities, by tracking the doctrinal debates that divide every community, as well as the relationships between religion and other forms of identity, such as race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality … They need to know how their experiences of American society may be radically different – and not so different at all – from the experiences of their peers living in different religious worlds” (p. 183)
● “I’m afraid world religions curricula may reinforce the divides among religious communities themselves, by painting an oversimplified portrait of these communities as internally homogenous and clearly bounded – wholly unified by their doctrinal commitments and hermetically sealed by their doctrinal differences” (p. 182)
● Orsi, R. (1997). Everyday miracles. In D.D. Hall (Ed.), Lived Religion in America – Toward a History of Practice: Princeton University Press:
“The focus on lived religion … points us to religion as it is shaped and experienced in the interplay among venues of everyday experience …, in the necessary and mutually transforming exchanges between religious authorities and the broader communities of practitioners, by real men and women in situations and relationships they have made and that have made them” (p. 9).
● Orsi, R. (2003) Is the Study of Lived Religion Irrelevant to the World We Live In? Special Presidential Plenary Address, Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, Salt Lake City, November 2, 2002. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 42 (2), 169-174:
“The study of lived religion situates all religious creativity within culture and approaches all religion as lived experience, theology no less than lighting a candle for a troubled loved one, spirituality as well as other, less culturally sanctioned forms of religious expression. Rethinking religion as a form of cultural work, the study of lived religion directs attention to institutions and persons, texts and rituals, practice and theology, things and ideas – all as media of making and unmaking worlds. They key questions concern what people do with religious idioms, how they use them, what they make of themselves and their worlds with them, and how, in turn, men and women, and children are fundamentally shaped by the worlds they are making as they make these worlds. There is no religion apart from this, no religion that people have no taken up in their hands” (p. 172)
Paden, W.E. (1994). Religious worlds: The comparative study of religion. Beacon Press. ● “Like the study of music, which is not limited to examining a sequence of composers but also considers the special world of musical categories such as rhythm and harmony, so the study of religion is not limited to analyzing historical traditions such as Buddhism, Judaism, and Christianity but also investigates the religious “language” common to all traditions, the language of myth, gods, ritual, and sacrifice – in short, the language of “the sacred” (p. 1) ● “Many Westerners have found a “perennial philosophy” – as in the title of Alous Huxley’s book on the subject – embodied in mystical experience and writings around the globe. Huxley stressed that the mystics of all religions express a common unity of vision because they have all alike experienced the one reality “beyond name and form.” Innumerable religious sects have maintained versions of the idea of a traditional wisdom that underlies all historical religions and have emphasized the great difference between parochial, literal interpretations of religion, on the one hand, and mystical or symbolic representations on the other. ● In the 20th century, Carl Justav Jung (1875-1961) developed a psychological approach to religion and mythology that stressed the role of universal, collective archetypes embodied in every psyche. The myths and gods here represent typical functions of the unconscious that get reenacted over and over again in similar ways in individual lives. Everywhere we find versions of the great mother, the hero, the tyrant father – all representing structures of the relationship of the go and the unconscious. The archetypal self that is in all of us is “The Hero with a Thousand Faces,” as Joseph Campbell puts it in the title of his widely read book. The stages of the journey of the human spirit follow the same patterns, with but local variations, everywhere” (p. 32)
Jeremiah Clabough University of Alabama-Birmingham
The United States has always been conflicted about what its role should be in international affairs. This started early in U.S. history as George Washington warned Americans in his Farewell Address to avoid foreign entanglements. Washington’s Farewell Address provided a vision for the U.S in international diplomacy that shaped a large portion of Americans’ views until the end of the 19th century.
However, the United States could not resist the urge to engage in imperialistic actions like other European nations with the potential of opening foreign economic markets and exploiting the natural resources of a country for profit (Pearcy, 2019).
One notable example of American imperialism is the annexation of the Philippines at the end of the Spanish-American War. These imperialistic actions by the administration of President William McKinley created a political backlash. Many Americans felt the U.S. was betraying its core principles and values. Anti-imperialists found their voice and leadership in William Jennings Bryan.
In this article, I explore William Jennings Bryan’s reasons for protesting U.S. imperialistic practices in regards to the annexation of the Philippines. First, a brief overview of William Jennings Bryan is given. Then, the article shifts to look at the importance of examining political figures’ positions on issues. An analysis of political figures’ policies can help students develop their own political beliefs about public issues. Then, I provide an activity that allows middle school students to see William Jennings Bryan’s objections to the U.S. replicating the imperialistic practices of Western European countries. The steps and resources needed to implement this activity are given.
William Jennings Bryan: The Righteous Champion of Movements
William Jennings Bryan did more than deliver The Cross of Gold speech to advocate for silver as opposed to the use of gold and take part in The Scopes Trial to defend the beliefs of creationism against evolution. He was politically active when the United States was in a time of transition into an industrial power in the back part of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century. Like all periods of transition in U.S. society, this era created uncertainty by many about the direction of the United States. William Jennings Bryan became the voice for many Americans about the challenges being created as the U.S. underwent these changes. These challenges included how American farmers and the majority of average citizens were left out of the economic gains by manufacturing during the Gilded Age. The changes brought by U.S. industrialization, issues of using silver as currency, and Bryan’s eloquence as a public speaker led him to be the Democratic nominee in the 1896 presidential election. Bryan lost the 1896 presidential election to the Republican nominee William McKinley (Cherny, 1994; Koening, 1971; Kazin, 2006). For many state social studies standards, William Jennings Bryan vanishes from the pages of history after his defeat to McKinley in the 1896 presidential election only to reappear in the guise of a publicity speaker in the 1925 Scopes Trial in Dayton, Tennessee to argue against the teaching of evolution and to affirm creationism taught in the Bible. However, Bryan was far from quiet in American politics after his defeat in the 1896 presidential election.
Analyzing U.S. Politicians’ Positions on Public Issues
U.S. politicians’ stances on public policies are influenced by their political, social, cultural, economic, religious, geographical, and regional values, biases, and beliefs. These factors impact how people perceive the contours of an issue and then construct public policies to grapple with a contemporary challenge. Politicians’ public policy solutions allow middle school students to contextualize an historical time period by analyzing vexing issues of an era (Oliver & Shaver, 1966).
The examination of politicians’ public policies provides a great learning opportunity for middle school students. The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) advocates for this type of social studies instruction to strengthen K-12 students’ content-area literacy, thinking, and argumentation skills for the social studies disciplines in its C3 Framework (NCSS, 2013). Students are able to analyze politicians’ rhetoric to see how they argue for certain policies. This allows students to see how political parties and their candidates differ on solutions to issues. Additionally, students are able to research how political parties’ beliefs are fluid because of how issues, figures, and events impact, shape, and alter party platforms and values. The ability to analyze political rhetoric is a valuable skill for students to possess as future democratic citizens in order to be able to make informed decisions about political candidates and public policies to support (Engle & Ochoa, 1988). Students need to be able to decode politicians’ subtle arguments and hold them accountable for statements that negatively impact a person’s local community, state, and nation (Clabough & Pearcy, 2018; Pearcy & Clabough, 2018).
Our middle school social studies classroom should be a “laboratory for democracy” where students research and generate solutions to historical and contemporary issues (Clabough & Wooten, 2016). These learning experiences equip our students with the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to be actively involved and informed future democratic citizens. More importantly students can decide for themselves about which political party, candidates, and issues to support; in other words, students are able to develop their own civic identities (Rubin, 2010).
Analyzing the Reasons for William Jennings Bryan’s Arguments against U.S. Imperialism
First, the teacher starts by having middle school students in pairs read the first two paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence, which can be accessed at https://www.archives.gov/foundingdocs/declaration-transcript. Pairs read the first two paragraphs of this seminal document that helped to formulate the political principles and beliefs of the United States and then answer the following two supporting questions.
1. According to Jefferson, where do governments derive their power? Use evidence to support your arguments.
2. Based on these two paragraphs, what are the political beliefs of United States? How do you think these values will influence U.S. foreign policy? Use evidence to support your arguments.
These two supporting questions help students grasp many of the core political beliefs of the United States. This background knowledge is important for the next steps of this lesson plan because William Jennings Bryan argued that the McKinley administration and supporters of imperialistic practices in the U.S. violated many of our core political beliefs. These core political beliefs include the ability of a people toward self-determination in their own government and the values of political independence and personal liberty (Glad, 1960; Kosner, 1970; Jessen, 2017).
After students read and answer the two supporting questions about the Declaration of Independence, there is a class discussion. Students add onto their responses based on peers’ comments. The teacher may ask the following extension question. Based on the democratic principles espoused in the Declaration of Independence, how should the United States interact with other countries? This class discussion allows students to learn from their peers. The analysis prompts and extension question help students grasp how principles outlined in the Declaration of Independence should position the United States as an ally to countries espousing democratic ideas and beliefs on a global scale. Again, this step of the activity helps students to see how the core political beliefs of the U.S. stood in contradiction to the imperialistic practices that will be discussed at the end of the 19th century.
Next, students watch a brief Crash Course video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QfsfoFqsFk4) to gain background knowledge about how the Spanish American War led to imperialistic actions by the United States. After watching the Crash Course video, students in the same pairs answer the following two supporting questions.
1. Why did U.S. engage in imperialistic actions? Use evidence from the video to support your arguments.
2. Why did some people oppose the U.S. engaging in imperialistic actions? Use evidence from the video to support your arguments.
These two supporting questions help students articulate the reasons that politicians had different beliefs about whether the United States should get involved in imperialistic practices and thus change the ways that it engages in international relations with other countries.
Once the pairs answer these two questions, there is another class discussion. The teacher compiles students’ answers to these two questions on the board and asks the following extension question.
Why did technological changes brought by the Second Industrial Revolution create economic incentives for the U.S. to engage in imperialistic practices abroad?
It is important during this class discussion that the teacher stresses the importance of supporting answers to these questions with evidence from the video. The discussion of these questions helps students grasp how the potential for economic wealth in foreign markets was a driving force for U.S. imperialistic practices. The compilation of answers to these questions allows students to draw on notes from this class discussion for the summative writing prompt.
Students need opportunities to analyze texts that capture historical and contemporary figures’ beliefs and public policies (Journell, 2017). To examine William Jennings Bryan’s beliefs about imperialism, the teacher may use excerpts from his Imperialism: Flag of an Empire speech. This is arguably Bryan’s most well-known speech about his arguments against imperialism. Pairs read excerpts from this speech. Specifically, they look at paragraphs 24-29 from Bryan’s speech (accessible at https://voicesofdemocracy.umd.edu/williamjennings-bryan-imperialism-speech-text/). After reading these excerpts, students complete the following graphic organizer.
Graphic Organizer for William Jennings Bryan’s Critique of U.S. Imperialism
The questions in this graphic organizer enable students to articulate Bryan’s beliefs about imperialism. Pairs support their answers to these questions by drawing on evidence from the excerpts of Bryan’s speech. The teacher circulates the classroom to help pairs as they are completing this graphic organizer. By completing this graphic organizer, students gain experience analyzing how historical figures frame and rationalize their arguments. Bryan’s interpretation of America’s political identity created conflict because he saw the McKinley administration as betraying the political values and beliefs of the country (Glad, 1960; Kosner, 1970).
After pairs complete the graphic organizer, students share their responses to the three questions, and they add onto their graphic organizer based on peers’ comments. The teacher asks the following supporting question.
How did the American political identity create conflict with engaging in imperialistic actions for Bryan?
Students share their responses to this question. The teacher should point out that one driving conflict throughout U.S. history in foreign diplomacy is that politicians see the role of the U.S. differently. This can clearly be seen with the U.S. not being involved in the League of Nations after World War I, and the Senate almost passing the Bricker Amendment in the 1950s to limit the power of the President to enter diplomatic agreements like those made at the Yalta Conference (Caro, 2003). These examples help students to understand the reasons for politicians’ differing beliefs about public policies connected to U.S. foreign policy.
Next, pairs use all of the information collected at this point to take civic action. They select one of the two following prompts and write a one-page op ed similar to those that appear in The New York Times (Clabough & Wooten, 2016).
Assume the role of a supporter of William Jennings Bryan that has just heard his Imperialism: Flag of an Empire speech. Use evidence from sources examined to articulate Bryan’s arguments and explain his reasons for why the U.S. should not engage in imperialistic actions. You should also explain why U.S. democratic beliefs and imperialism are a contradiction.
Assume the role of a supporter of the McKinley administration’s position on the annexation of the Philippines that has just heard William Jennings Bryan’s Imperialism: Flag of an Empire speech. Use evidence from sources examined to support your arguments on why Bryan is wrong about imperialism and why the U.S. should engage in imperialistic actions. You should also explain why U.S. democratic beliefs and imperialism are not a contradiction.
Regardless of the writing prompt pairs select, this writing activity allows students to use evidence to make persuasive arguments about a public issue in an historical era. Students use evidence to articulate their beliefs about the U.S. foreign policy through examining the questions raised by William Jennings Bryan about imperialism. Students gain experience making persuasive arguments about a public issue, which is a skill that they can apply as future democratic citizens. Democratic citizens must work through the mechanisms of local, state, and federal government to hold politicians accountable for foreign policies that are reflective of American ideals and principles (Levine, 2007).
After pairs write and edit their op-ed piece, they share their work in class. This allows students to hear their peers’ arguments about William Jennings Bryan’s opinions about the reasons that the U.S. should not annex the Philippines. The sharing and discussions about pairs’ op eds allow students to explore imperialism in more depth (Hess & McAvoy, 2015). One supporting question that the teacher may ask to extend the discussion is the following. How can U.S. foreign policy create ripple effects for future interactions with other countries? An examination of this supporting question helps students grasp the long-term ramifications of U.S. action in international diplomacy. The teacher can point out that the U.S. has had to deal with the fallout of some foreign policy decisions for a long time such as the CIA supported coup of Iran in 1953 (Magliocca, Pellegrino, & Adragna, 2019). These discussions help students grasp the importance of the U.S. having a consistent political philosophy in its international diplomacy.
In this article, I discuss how middle school social studies teachers can explore the political contradiction of U.S. democracy engaging in imperialistic actions. Arguably William Jennings Bryan made the most articulate critique of the annexation of the Philippines by the McKinley administration. For Bryan, imperialism violated the morale character of the United States. A country like the United States that was founded upon the principles of political self-determination and personal liberty should not deny these political rights to others (Kosner, 1970; Cherny, 1994). The activity in this article could be modified and replicated to look at the contradiction of other Western European countries’ imperialistic actions.
The most famous cases of imperialism tend to be examples where countries espousing democratic values engaged in non-democratic actions for economic benefit (Pearcy, 2019). Some examples include Great Britain in India, the United States in the Philippines, and Belgium in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Each example provides an opportunity to explore the political identity of a democratic country when it does not engage in a foreign policy espousing democratic values. After analyzing sources about a democratic country’s imperialistic actions, students can research and discuss how World War II served as a catalyst to end many imperialistic regimes. The hypocrisy of democratic countries fighting for freedom from Nazi Germany while preventing political freedoms of their imperialistic holdings abroad led to numerous countries gaining independence at the end of World War II.
Imperialism has been an underexplored topic in social studies education. The recent NCSS accreditation standards place imperialism as a central topic for social studies education (NCSS, 2018). Middle school students need opportunities to analyze a democratic country’s imperialistic actions. These activities provide examples of missed opportunities when citizens do not hold their countries responsible for an anti-democratic foreign policies. Students can also research how imperialistic actions create conflict in an interconnected global world that influence countries’ relationships in the past, present, and potential future (Harshman, 2015; Pearcy, 2019).
Caro, R. (2003). Master of the Senate: The years of Lyndon Johnson. New York, NY: Random House.
Cherny, R. (1994). A righteous cause: The life of William Jennings Bryan. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.
Clabough, J. & Pearcy, M. (2018). “Wild words”– Analyzing angry rhetoric in American politics. Social Studies Research and Practice, 13(3), 369- 382.
Clabough, J. & Wooten, D. (2016). Bias, bigotry, and bungling: Teaching about the Port Chicago 50. Social Education, 80(3), 160-165.
Engle, S. & Ochoa, A. (1988). Education for democratic citizenship: Decision making in the social studies. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Glad, P. (1960). The trumpet soundeth: William Jennings Bryan and his democracy, 1896-1912. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.
Harshman, J. (2015). Introduction to research in global citizenship education. In J. Harshman, T. Augustine, & M. Merryfield (Eds.), Research in global citizenship education (pp. 1-8). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing Inc.
Hess, D. & McAvoy, P. (2015). The political classroom: Evidence and ethics in democratic education. New York, NY: Routledge.
Jessen, N. (2017). Populism and imperialism: Politics, culture, and foreign policy in the American West, 1890-1900. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas.
Journell, W. (2017). Teaching politics in secondary education: Engaging with contentious issues. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.
Kazin, M. (2006). A Godly hero: The life of WilliamJennings Bryan. New York, NY: Alfred Knopf.
Koening, L. (1971). Bryan: A political biography of William Jennings Bryan. New York, NY: G.P. Putnam’s Sons.
Kosner, A. (1970). The voice of the people: William Jennings Bryan. New York, NY: Julian Messner.
Levine, P. (2007). The future of democracy: Developing the next generation of American citizens. Medford, MA: Tufts University Press.
Magliocca, A., Pellegrino, A., & Adragna, J.(2019). Operation TPAJAX: An investigation into the 1953 Iranian coup d’etat. Social Education, 83(1), 35-42.
NCSS. (2013). The college, career, and civic life framework for social studies state standards: Guidance for enhancing the rigor of K-12 civics, economics, geography, and history. Silver Spring, MD: Author.
Contributors: Shannon Alexander, Julianna Carron, Charles Friedman, Jennifer McCabe, Shannon Mitchell, Josh Schoenbrun, Stephanie Skier, Jasmine Torres, and Alan Singer
“I have sometimes been ready to think that the passion for Liberty
cannot be Equally Strong in the Breasts of those who have been accustomed to
deprive their fellow Creatures of theirs.”
– Abigail Adams, 1776
“The origin of all power is in the people,
and they have an incontestable right to check the creatures of their own
creation.” – Mercy Otis Warren, 1788
“If Congress refuse to
listen to and grant what women ask, there is but one course left then to
pursue. What is there left for women to do but to become the mothers of the
future government?” – Victoria Woodhull, 1871
“I do not believe that women are
better than men. We have not wrecked railroads, nor corrupted legislature, nor
done many unholy things that men have done; but then we must remember that we
have not had the chance.” – Jane Addams, 1897
“There will never be
complete equality until women themselves help to make the laws and elect the
lawmakers.” – Susan B. Anthony, 1897
[Industrial Workers of the World] has been accused of pushing women to the
front. This is not true. Rather, the women have not been kept in back, and so
they have naturally moved to the front.” – Elizabeth Gurley Flynn
doubted that equal rights was the right direction. Most reforms, most problems
are complicated. But to me there is nothing complicated about ordinary
equality.” – Alice Paul, 1972
2020 marks the centennial of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution ensuring the right of women to vote. As part of our commemoration, Teaching Social Studies will publish material writing more women into United States history. This package contains lesson material on the Seneca Falls convention, the 1912 Lawrence, Massachusetts “Bread and Roses” strike, 1917 food riots in New York City, the campaign for Woman’s suffrage, changing gender roles in the 1920s, the right of women to continue to work while pregnant, and on a number of individual women including Anne Hutchinson, Mercy Otis Warren, Abigail Adams, Sojourner Truth, Lucy Stone, Susan B. Anthony, Mary Lease, Alice Paul, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Margaret Sanger, Sally Ride, Michelle Obama, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Aim: What did Anne Hutchinson contribute to American society?
Source: Anne Hutchinson in Massachusetts Bay, the National Park
Anne Hutchinson was a Puritan spiritual adviser, mother of 15, and an important participant in a religious controversy that sharply divided the Massachusetts Bay Colony from 1636 to 1638. Hutchinson was part of a religious faction that believed they had received personal revelation about the will of God. Her religious convictions were at odds with the established Puritan clergy in the Boston area who believed knowledge of God’s will came through understanding of the Bible. Hutchinson’s popularity and charisma helped create a theological schism that threatened to destroy the Puritans’ religious community in New England. Because she refused to change her beliefs and stop teaching, she was tried for heresy and convicted. Her punishment was banished from the colony along with many of her supporters. The painting by Edwin Austin Abbey (1900) shows Hutchison defending herself in front of a court in New England in 1638. Questions 1. What is happening in this picture? 2. Who is Anne Hutchinson defending herself against? 3. In your opinion, what do you think Hutchinson is saying to her accusers and judges in this picture?
The Trial of Anne
Instructions: This is the transcript from the trial of Anne
Hutchinson. In 1638, she was found guilty of heresy (believing in false gods)
and banished from (forced to leave) the Puritan colony in Massachusetts Bay.
Read the excerpt of the trial and answer the questions below.
John Winthrop: Mrs. Hutchinson, you are called here as one of those that have
troubled the peace of the commonwealth and the churches here; you are known to
be a woman that has had a great share in the promoting of opinions that have
caused trouble, and…you have spoken out against our leaders, and you have
maintained a meeting and an assembly in your house that has been condemned by
our government as a thing not tolerable nor comely in the sight of God nor
fitting for your sex, and you have continued doing this, even after we asked
you to stop. Therefore, we have thought good to put you on trial and ask you
what is happening. If the rumors against you are false, we will dismiss the
charges so that you may become a profitable woman here among us, otherwise if
you continue to speak your mind, then the court may take such course that you
may trouble us no further
Anne Hutchinson: I have come when you summoned me but I hear no charges against me.
John Winthrop: I have told you some already and more I can tell you . . . Why do
you lead a Bible study every week upon a set day?
Anne Hutchinson: It is lawful for me to do
John Winthrop: It is lawful for you to lead a Bible study for women, but your
meeting is of another sort for there are sometimes men among you.
Anne Hutchinson: If men came it is because they chose to be there.
John Winthrop: But you know it is illegal for a woman to teach a man scripture?
Anne Hutchinson: Again, if men chose to come to my meetings it was their own
fault. I taught all those who came to me.
Gov. John Winthrop: the
sentence of the court you hear is that you are banished from out of our jurisdiction
as being a woman not fit for our society, and are to be imprisoned till the
court shall send you away.
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: You
have power over my body but the Lord Jesus has power over my body and my soul,
and you should assure yourselves this much, if you go on in this course, I will
bring a curse upon you and your children, the mouth of the Lord hath spoken
Gov. John Winthrop: the
sentence of the court is that you are banished from our land as being a woman
not fit for our society, and are to be imprisoned till the court sends you
Anne Hutchinson: I desire to know why I am banished?
John Winthrop: Say no more, the court knows why and is satisfied.
1. Who is in charge of
asking the questions? Do you think he is important in this society? Why?
2. Why is Anne Hutchinson
being banished from society?
3. Why wouldn’t the court
explain to Anne why she was being banished when she asked?
4. Why didn’t Anne just
deny the charges laid against her?
5. Do you think Anne
would have been treated differently if she were a man? Explain.
Mercy Otis Warren
Mercy Otis Warren was born in Massachusetts in 1728. She was a dramatist, historian, and an important political writer during the American Revolution. Because she was a woman and concerned about being taken seriously, any of her works were published using pseudonyms. Mercy Otis Warren wrote poems and plays that attacked British authority in Massachusetts and urged colonists to resist infringements on their rights and liberties. Her home in Plymouth, Massachusetts was a meeting place for the Sons of Liberty before the outbreak of the War for Independence. Her regular correspondence included Abigail Adams, John Adams, and Martha Washington. During the debate over the Constitution, she opposed ratification unless it included a Bill of Right. In 1805, she published one of the earliest histories of the American Revolution.
How did Warren contribute to the push for American independence?
Where did Warren believe power should reside in a society?
Why is Warren considered “ambivalent” about the new Constitution?
A) Observations on the
New Constitution (1788)
origin of all power is in the people, and they have an incontestable right to
check the creatures of their own creation.”
Letter to Catharine Macaulay (1788)
situation is truly delicate & critical. On the one hand we are in need of a
strong federal government founded on principles that will support the
prosperity & union of the colonies. On the other we have struggled for
liberty & made costly sacrifices at her shrine and there are still many
among us who revere her name to much to relinquish (beyond a certain medium)
the rights of man for the dignity of government.”
Abigail Adams: “Remember the Ladies” (1744-1818)
Background: Abigail Smith was born in Massachusetts in 1744. She never
received a formal education, however her mother taught Abigail and her sisters
to read and write. She married John Adams in 1764. He would become the first
Vice-President and second President of the United States, John Adams. She was
also the mother of John Quincy Adams, who became the sixth President.
Abigail Adams is remembered today for the many
letters she wrote to her husband while he was in Philadelphia in 1776 during
the Continental Congress. John frequently sought the advice of Abigail on many
matters, and their letters are filled with intellectual discussions on
government and politics. Abigail Adams was also a correspondent with Thomas
Jefferson and kept both Adams and Jefferson aware of events at home while they
served overseas during and after the American Revolution.
Abigail Adams to John Adams, March 31, 1776 I have sometimes been ready to think that the passion for Liberty cannot be Equally Strong in the Breasts of those who have been accustomed to deprive their fellow Creatures of theirs. Of this I am certain that it is not founded upon that generous and Christian principal of doing to others as we would that others should do unto us. . . . I long to hear that you have declared an independence and by the way in the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation. That your Sex are Naturally Tyrannical is a Truth so thoroughly established as to admit of no dispute, but such of you as wish to be happy willingly give up the harsh title of Master for the more tender and endearing one of Friend. Why then, not put it out of the power of the vicious and the Lawless to use us with cruelty and indignity with impunity. Men of Sense in all Ages abhor those customs which treat us only as the vassals of your Sex. Regard us then as Beings placed by providence under your protection and in imitation of the Supreme Being make use of that power only for our happiness.
1. What events were
taking place when Abigail Adams wrote this letter?
2. Why does Abigail Adams
question the “passion for Liberty” of the men assembled in
3. What does she believe is the natural tendency of men?
4. What does she want the new Code of Laws to do?
5. In your opinion, what
is the historical significance of this letter?
Sentiments, Seneca Falls, NY, July 19-20, 1848
Background: The Declaration of Sentiments were written demands made by attendees of the July 1848 Seneca Falls Convention. The final document was signed by 68 women and 32 men. Prominent signees included Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Amy Post, and Frederick Douglass.
A. When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one portion of the family of man to assume among the people of the earth a position different from that which they have hitherto occupied, but one to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes that impel them to such a course.
B. We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of those who suffer from it to refuse allegiance to it, and to insist upon the institution of a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their safety and happiness.
C. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer. while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their duty to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of the women under this government, and such is now the necessity which constrains them to demand the equal station to which they are entitled.
D. The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.
What does the second passage [B] of the Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments declare?
What document is it modeled on?
According to section D, why do the signers of the Declaration feel justified in their campaign?
If you had participated in this convention, what specific rights would you have wanted to guarantee?
In your opinion, why did the authors of the Declaration of Sentiments model it on an early document from United States history?
In your opinion, have the problems noted in these passages been resolved in the United States? Explain.
Reactions to the Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments
The male dominated press
did not take warmly to the Seneca Falls woman’s rights convention and the
Declaration of Sentiments. Read the articles, select one, and write a
letter-to-the-editor in response.
Public Ledger and Daily Transcript (Philadelphia): Our Philadelphia ladies not only possess beauty, but they are celebrated for discretion, modesty, and unfeigned diffidence, as well as, wit, vivacity, and good nature. Who ever heard of a Philadelphia lady setting up for a reformer, or standing out for woman’s rights, or assisting to man the election grounds, raise a regiment, command a legion, or address a jury? Our ladies glow with a higher ambition. They soar to rule the hearts of their worshipers, and secure obedience by the scepter of affection. The tenure of their power is a law of nature, not a law of man, and hence they fear no insurrection, and never experience the shock of a revolution in their dominions . . . Women have enough influence over human affairs without being politicians. Is not everything managed by female influence? Mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and sweethearts manage everything. Men have nothing to do but to listen and obey to the “of course, my dear, you will, and of course, my dear, you won’t.” Their rule is absolute; their power unbounded. Under such a system men have no claim to rights, especially “equal rights.” A woman is nobody. A wife is everything. A pretty girl is equal to ten thousand men, and a mother is, next to God, all powerful . . . The ladies of Philadelphia, therefore, under the influence of most serious “sober second thoughts,” are resolved to maintain their rights as Wives, Belles, Virgins, and Mothers, and not as Women. Rochester (NY) Democrat: This has been a remarkable Convention. It was composed of those holding to some one of the various isms of the day, and some, we should think, who embraced them all. The only practical good proposed —the adoption of measures for the relief and amelioration of the condition of indigent, industrious, laboring females — was almost scouted by the leading ones composing the meeting. The great effort seemed to be to bring out some new, impracticable, absurd, and ridiculous proposition, and the greater its absurdity the better. In short, it was a regular emeute [riot] of a congregation of females gathered from various quarters, who seem to be really in earnest in their aim at revolution, and who evince entire confidence that “the day of their deliverance is at hand.” Verily, this is a progressive era!
Mechanics (Albany, NY): Now, it requires no argument to prove that this is all wrong. Every true hearted female will instantly feel that this is unwomanly, and that to be practically carried out, the males must change their position in society to the same extent in an opposite direction, in order to enable them to discharge an equal share of the domestic duties which now appertain to females, and which must be neglected, to a great extent, if women are allowed to exercise all the “rights” that are claimed by these Convention-holders. Society would have to be radically remodelled in order to accommodate itself to so great a change in the most vital part of the compact of the social relations of life; and the order of things established at the creation of mankind, and continued six thousand years, would be completely broken up. The organic laws of our country, and of each State, would have to be licked into new shape, in order to admit of the introduction of the vast change that is contemplated . . . [T]his change is impractical, uncalled for, and unnecessary. If effected, it would set the world by the ears, make “confusion worse confounded,” demoralize and degrade from their high sphere and noble destiny, women of all respectable and useful classes, and prove a monstrous injury to all mankind. Telegraph (Worchester, MA): A female Convention has just been held at Seneca Falls, N.Y., at which was adopted a “declaration of rights,” setting forth, among other things, that “all men and women are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.” The list of grievances which the Amazons exhibit, concludes by expressing a determination to insist that women shall have “immediate admission to all the rights and privileges which belong to them as citizens of the United States.” It is stated that they design, in spite of all misrepresentations and ridicule, to employ agents, circulate tracts, petition the State and National Legislatures, and endeavor to enlist the pulpit and press in their behalf. This is bolting with a vengeance.
Isabella Bomfree was born into slavery in upstate New York. In 1826, she escaped slavery with her infant daughter but had to fight her former owner in the courts to free her son. In 1828, she became the first black woman to win a case like this against a white man. In 1843 Isabella Bomfree changed her name to Sojourner Truth and became an itinerant preacher and political activist. During the Civil War, Truth helped to recruit black men to join the Union Army. Truth was a nationally-known anti-slavery speaker. Her most famous speech was Ain’t I a Woman? In this speech she argued for equal human rights for all women and for blacks. Truth exclaimed, “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 helps me any best place. And ain’t I a woman?” Sojourner Truth was nearly 6 feet tall, and some people accused her of not really being a woman. When someone publicly claimed this in front of her, she paused her speech, glared at the man, and opened her blouse revealing her breasts.
1. Where was Isabella Bomfree born?
2. How did she use the
law to challenge slavery?
3. Why do you think Isabella Bomfree changed her name to Sojourner Truth?
4. In your opinion, why
is her “Ain’t I a Woman” speech considered one of the most powerful in United
“Ain’t I a Woman”
In May 1851, Sojourner Truth attended the Ohio
Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio. She delivered a speech where she
demanded full and equal human rights for women and enslaved Africans. The text
of the speech was written down and later published by Frances Gage, who
organized the convention. In the published version of the speech Sojourner
Truth referred to herself using a word that is not acceptable to use. This is
an edited version of the speech.
Well, children, where
there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that
between the Negroes [Blacks] 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?
Then they talk about this
thing in the head; what do they call it? [Intellect, someone whispers.] That’s
it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or Negro’s rights? If my
cup won’t hold but a pint and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to
let me have my little half-measure full?
Then that little man in
black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, because Christ
wasn’t a woman! 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.
“Women Suffrage in New Jersey”: An address to
the New Jersey State legislature by Lucy Stone (1867)
Lucy Stone (1818-1893) dedicated her life to improving the rights of American women. She graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio in 1847, worked with the American Anti-Slavery Society, convened the first national Women’s Rights Convention in 1850, and in 1868 organized and was elected president of the State Woman’s Suffrage Association of New Jersey. This excerpt is from a speech she gave to the New Jersey State Legislature demanding the right of women to vote.
What arguments did Lucy Stone use when she demanded that New Jersey grant women the right to vote?
According to Stone, why was the right to vote the fundamental right of citizens?
A. Women ask you to
submit to the people of New Jersey amendments to the Constitution of the State,
striking out respectively the words “white” and “male” from
Article 2, Section 1, thus enfranchising the women and the colored men, who
jointly constitute a majority of our adult citizens. You will thereby establish
a republican form of government.
B. Gentlemen will see it
is no new claim that women are making. They only ask for the practical
application of admitted, self-evident truths. If “all political power is
inherent in the people,” why have women, who are more than half the entire
population of this State, no political existence? Is it because they are not
people? Only a madman would say of a congregation of Negroes, or of women, that
there were no people there. They are counted in the census, and also in the
ratio of representation of every State, to increase the political power of
white men. Women are even held to be citizens without the full rights of
citizenship, but to bear the burden of “taxation without
representation,” which is “tyranny.”
C. “Governments derive
their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Not of the governed
property-holders, nor of the governed white men, nor of the governed married
men, nor of the governed fighting men; but of the governed. Sad to say, this
principle, so beautiful in theory, has never been fully applied in practice!
D. What is Suffrage? It
is the prescribed method whereby, at a certain time and place, the will of the
citizen is registered. It is the form in which the popular assent or dissent is
indicated, in reference to principles, measures and men. The essence of
suffrage is rational choice. It follows, therefore, under our theory of
government, that every individual capable of independent rational choice is
rightfully entitled to vote.
D. The great majority of
women are more intelligent, better educated, and far more moral than multitudes
of men whose right to vote no man questions. Women are loyal and patriotic.
During the late war, many a widow not only yielded all her sons to the cause of
freedom, but strengthened their failing courage when the last good-bye was
said, and kept them in the field by words of lofty cheer and the hope of a
country really free.
E. We are asked in
triumph: “What good would it do women and negroes to vote”? We answer:
“What good does it do white men to vote? Why do you want to vote,
gentlemen? Why did the Revolutionary fathers fight seven years for a vote? Why
do the English workingmen want to vote? Why do their friends-John Bright and
Thomas Hughes and the liberal party-want the suffrage for them?” Women want to
vote, just as men do, because it is the only way in which they can be protected
in their rights.
Susan B. Anthony was born February 15, 1820 in Adams Massachusetts. She was brought up in a Quaker family with long activist traditions. Early in her life she developed a sense of justice and moral zeal. After teaching for fifteen years, she became active in temperance. Because she was a woman, she was not allowed to speak at temperance rallies. This experience, and her acquaintance with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, led her to join the women’s rights movement in 1852. Soon after she dedicated her life to woman suffrage. In 1872 she was arrested in Rochester, New York when she tried to vote in the Presidential election in violation of state law. She argued that she had the right to vote because the 14th amendment said, “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.” On the final day of the trial, Anthony, who had not previously been permitted to speak, defended her actions.
1. On what legal grounds
did Susan B. Anthony demand the right to vote?
2. Why did Anthony deny
the legitimacy of the trial?
3. What other act of
defiance is Anthony referring to in passage C?
4. In your opinion, why
do some historians consider Anthony’s defiance and this statement to the court
among the most important actions in the fight for women’s suffrage and social
United States v. Susan B. Anthony, Rochester New York, 1873
A. But your honor will not deny me this one and only poor
privilege of protest against this high-handed outrage upon my citizen’s rights.
May it please the Court to remember that since the day of my arrest last
November, this is the first time that either myself or any person of my
disfranchised class has been allowed a word of defense before judge or jury.
B. All of my prosecutors, from the 8th ward corner grocery
politician, who entered the complaint, to the United States Marshal,
Commissioner, District Attorney, District Judge, your honor on the bench, not
one is my peer, but each and all are my political sovereigns; and had your
honor submitted my case to the jury, as was clearly your duty, even then I
should have had just cause of protest for not one of those men was my peer;
but, native or foreign born, white or black, rich or poor, educated or
ignorant, awake or asleep, sober or drunk, each and every man of them was my
political superior; hence, in no sense, my peer.
C. Forms of law all made
by men, interpreted by men, administered by men, in favor of men, and against women;
and hence, your honor’s ordered verdict of guilty, against a United States
citizen for the exercise of “that
citizen’s right to vote,” simply because that citizen was a woman
and not a man. But, yesterday, the same man-made forms of law, declared it a
crime punishable with $1,000 fine and six months’ imprisonment, for you, or me,
or any of us, to give a cup of cold water, a crust of bread, or a night’s
shelter to a panting fugitive as he was tracking his way to Canada.
D. May it please your honor, I shall never pay a dollar of your
unjust penalty. All the stock in trade I possess is a $10,000 debt, incurred by
publishing my paper—The Revolution—four years ago, the sole object of which was
to educate all women to do precisely as I have done, rebel against your
man-made, unjust, unconstitutional forms of law, that tax, fine, imprison and
hang women, while they deny them the right of representation in the government;
and I shall work on with might and main to pay every dollar of that honest
debt, but not a penny shall go to this unjust claim. And I shall earnestly and
persistently continue to urge all women to the practical recognition of the old
revolutionary maxim, that “Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God.”
Mary Lease: The Power of
Wall Street Threatens Democracy
Mary Clyens was born in 1853, the daughter of famine era Irish immigrants to the United States. Her father and older brother died fighting for the North in the Civil War. In 1870, Mary Clyens moved to Kansas to teach at a Catholic mission school. She married Charles Lease, a local shop owner and pharmacist, and had four children. Charles Lease’s business was destroyed during the national financial crisis of 1873 and the family moved to Texas. In Texas, Mary E. Lease became involved in politics and was an active supporter of prohibition and women’s suffrage. She joined the Women’s Temperance Union, the Farmers’ Alliance and the Populist Party and obtained a national reputation as an outstanding orator. Between 1890 and 1896 she toured the country making speeches. She is credited with telling Kansas farmers to “raise less corn and more hell.” Some scholars believe Mary E. Lease was the model for the character Dorothy in Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” In 1902, Mary E. Lease divorced her husband and moved to New York City. She joined the Socialist Party, became an editor of a newspaper, and campaigned for Eugene V. Debs when he ran for president of the United States in 1908. She died in Callicoon, New York in 1933.
foreclosure – a bank takes over of a property after a borrower has not made payments on a mortgage or loan
monopoly – A company that controls an industry, good, or service
loan-shark – a moneylender who charges extremely high rates of interest tariff – a tax on imported goods (goods that are produced in other countries)
“This is a nation of
inconsistencies. The Puritans fleeing from oppression became oppressors. We
fought England for our liberty and put chains on four million of blacks. We
wiped out slavery and our tariff laws and national banks began a system of
white wage slavery worse than the first . . . Wall Street owns the country. It
is no longer a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, but
a government of Wall Street, by Wall Street, and for Wall Street. The great
common people of this country are slaves, and monopoly is the master. The West
and South are bound and prostrate [defeated] before the manufacturing East.
Money rules . . . We want money, land and transportation. We want the abolition
of the National Banks, and we want the power to make loans direct from the
government. We want the foreclosure system wiped out… We will stand by our
homes and stay by our fireside by force if necessary, and we will not pay our
debts to the loan-shark companies until the government pays its debts to us .”
1. What are 3 examples of
“inconsistencies” that Mary Lease lists in her speech?
2. What does Lease mean
by “slaves” and “masters” in her 1890 speech?
3. According to Lease,
what were the different circumstances of the U.S. regions of West, South, and
4. What does Lease mean
when she says the U.S. is “no longer a government of the people, by the people,
and for the people, but a government of Wall Street, by Wall Street, and for
5. What economic and
policy changes does Mary Elizabeth Lease want?
6. In your opinion, does
the power of Wall Street banks threaten democracy? Explain.
Alice Paul: A Woman Who Gave Her Life to Her Cause by Shannon Alexander
Suffragettes protest in
front of the White House in Washington DC, February 1917.
childhood and religious upbringing strongly influenced her activism. She was
born on January 11, 1885 in Moorestown, NJ to William and Tacie Paul. The
eldest of four children, Alice spent her childhood at Paulsdale, a 265 acre
farm, where she was raised a Hicksite Quaker. Quakers beliefs, such as gender
equality and education for women, challenged societal norms at the time. They
also believed in making society a better place. Paul Another major influence on
Alice was her mother’s involvement in the women’s suffrage movement. Tacie Paul
was an active member of the National American Women’s Suffrage Association and
regularly brought Alice to meetings.
graduating at the top of her class at Friends School, a Quaker High School in
Moorestown NJ, Alice continued her education at Swarthmore College, a Quaker
institution founded by her grandfather. After Swarthmore, she began graduate
work at the New York School of Philanthropy and also attended the University of
Pennsylvania where she received a M.A in Sociology in 1907. In the years that
followed, she studied sociology and economics in England and earned a doctorate
in Economics at the University of Pennsylvania and a law degree.
that Alice Paul spent in England was a turning point in her political and
social life. While working at the Woodbrook Settlement of Social Work, Alice
befriended Christabel Pankhurst, daughter of the Emmeline Pankhurst, a leader
of the British Suffragist Movement and founder of the Women’s Social and
Political Union. The organization’s motto was “Deeds, not words” and it was
notorious for breaking the law. The radical ideals of the Pankhurst women
inspired Alice and she was transformed into a radical militant suffragette.
Direct Action To Promote
next three years Alice became involved in direct action to promote women’s
rights. She and her supporters smashed windows, threw rocks, and participated
in hunger strikes, demonstrations and picket lines. She was arrested on several
occasions. It was at this time when she also met her “partner in crime,” Lucy
Burns; an individual who would be greatly involved in Alice’s work in the
United States in the years to come. By 1910, Alice Paul had left England and
returned to the United States bringing the radical ideals and philosophies of
the English Suffragettes with her. She planned to implement these ideals to
help reshape the American Women’s Rights Suffrage movement.
demanded that the United States pass a new constitutional amendment giving
women the right to vote. She challenged the N.A.W.S.A., which focused on state
campaigns rather than calling for a constitutional amendment and supported
President Wilson. She blamed Wilson and his administration for not making
women’s suffrage a priority.
In 1911 the
American Women’s Suffragist movement moved from advocacy to activism. Alice
Paul and Lucy Burns took over the N.A.W.S.A Congressional Congress in
Washington D.C. and organized one of the largest parades supporting the right
of women to vote. On March 3, 1913, 8,000 women – suffragists, educators,
students, mothers, and daughters – marched down Pennsylvania Avenue towards the
White House where Woodrow Wilson was prepping for his inauguration. The parade ended
in chaos and a riot as police officers turned a blind eye as marchers were
mobbed by angry men watching the parade. As a result of the erratic
interruption, over 300 women were injured.
Alice Paul left the N.A.W.S.A and founded the Congressional Union for Women’s
Suffrage, whose sole priority was a constitutional amendment. In 1915, the
group was renamed the National Women’s Party. The reorganization of the NWP and
the creation of Silent Sentinels marked a new level of struggle. On January 10,
1917 Alice and the Silent Sentinels began their two and a half year picket
demonstration outside of the White House. President Wilson was initially amused
by the suffragettes. However, his attitude changed after the United States
entered the war in 1917. When women continued to picket and referred to him as
“Kaiser Wilson,” many were arrested, including Alice Paul, for “obstructing
traffic.” They were sent to Occaquan Workhouse, a woman’s prison in Virginia,
where they were forced to live in unsanitary cells, brutalized, abused, and
Hunger Strikes and Prison
imprisoned, Alice Paul continued to protest for women’s suffrage by partaking
in hunger strikes. Prison doctors had to forcibly feed her, sticking tubes down
her throat and shoving food into her stomach. Though these procedures were
torturous, she never succumbed. Her actions gained her widespread support and
other women began to follow in her footsteps. After a 22-day hunger strike, one
of the prison doctors was quoted saying about Alice Paul: “She has the spirit
of Joan of Arc and it is useless to try to change it. She may die, but she will
never give up.”
15, 1917, a date known as the Night of Terror, W.H Whittaker, superintendent of
the workhouse and over forty men beat, choked, dragged, and brutalized many of
the women prisoners. One of the victims was a 73-year old woman. Once the press
released news about the attacks, as well as the hunger strikes and the
torturous force-feeding methods, the public became outraged. The women received
widespread sympathy from the general public and from politicians, including
In 1920, the
19th Amendment was ratified and women gained the right to vote. For the rest of
her life, Alice Paul continued to fight for women’s rights both domestically
and internationally. In 1923, she announced a campaign for another
constitutional amendment, which she called the “Lucretia Mott Amendment” or the
Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). It would say, “Men and women shall have equal
rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its
The ERA was
first introduced in Congress in 1923, and continued to appear in every session
of Congress until in 1972. It was finally passed in 1972, but failed to get
ratified by the states.
1920s through the 1950s, Alice Paul traveled across South America and Europe
advocating women’s rights. During World War II, she became involved in a Peace
Movement which helped give refuge to victims under the Nazi regime. She
strongly believed that if women were more involved in World War I, World War II
would never have happened. In 1938, she helped establish the World’s Woman
Party (WWP) in Geneva Switzerland. The WWP worked closely with the League of
Nations to ensure equal rights for men and women.
return to the United States in the 1950s, Alice campaigned to abolish l sex
discrimination. Her efforts were successful, and the sexual discrimination clause
(title VII) was added to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Alice Paul never married or had children. Her entire life was
devoted to the cause of women’s rights. She died in 1977 at the age of 92 in
Moorestown, NJ from heart failure.
In 1917 Food Riots Led By
Immigrant Women Swept Through U.S. Cities
at New York City Hall (Library of Congress)
1917 the United States still had not entered the Great War in Europe. But the
week of February 19-23, 1917, there was a wave of food riots in East Coast
United States cities attributed to wartime food shortages, profiteering, and
hoarding. The New York Times reported
riots in New York City’s the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Manhattan and in Boston,
Massachusetts, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Williamsburg and Brownsville, Brooklyn an estimated 3,000 women rioted
overturning peddler’s pushcarts and setting them on fire after food prices
spiked. On New York City’s Lower East Side an army of women, mostly Jewish,
invaded a kosher poultry market and blocked sales the day before the Jewish
Sabbath. They protested that the price of chicken had risen in one week from
between 20 and 22 cents a pound to between 28 and 32 cents a pound. Pushcarts
were overturned on Rivington Street and at a similar protest in the Clermont
Park section of the Bronx. Four hundred of the Lower East Side mothers, many
carrying babies, then marched on New York City Hall shouting in English and
Yiddish, “We want food!” “Give us bread!” “Feed our children!” The Manhattan
protests were organized by consumers committees led by the Socialist group
Mothers’ Anti-High Price League, which had also organized a successful a
boycott on onions and potatoes.
At the City
Hall rally, Ida Harris, President of the Mother’s Vigilance Committee,
declared: “We do not want to make trouble. We are good Americans and we simply
want the Mayor to make the prices go down. If there is a law fixing prices, we
want him to enforce it, and if there isn’t we appeal to him to get one. We are
starving – our children are starving. But we don’t want any riot. We want to
soften the hearts of the millionaires who are getting richer because of the
high prices. We are not an organization. We haven’t got any politics. We are
just mothers, and we want food for our children. Won’t you give us food?”
rally the police arrested Marie Ganz, known in leftwing circles as “Sweet
Marie,” when Police Inspector John F. Dwyer claimed he heard her inciting a
group of women to continue rioting while she was speaking in Yiddish, a
language it is unlikely that Dwyer understood. Ganz was soon released with a
suspended sentence. Dwyer, four years later, was implicated in a Congressional
investigation of real estate fraud in New York City.
City Mayor John Purroy Mitchel, who was away from City Hall during the
protests, finally meet with the group’s leaders and then directed city
commissioners of Charities, Health and Police to determine whether there were
cases of starvation or of illness from insufficient nourishment amongst the
city’s working class and poor.
At a public
hearing the city’s Board of Estimate and Apportionment unanimously passed a
resolution instructing its Corporation Counsel to draw up a bill to be
presented to the State Legislature City that would authorize the city to
purchase and sell food at cost during emergencies. It also urged Congress to
fund an investigation of food shortages and price spikes. Speakers at the
hearing in favor of immediate action to address food shortages and price hikes
included Lillian D. Wald of the Henry Street Settlement, “Sweet Marie” Ganz,
and Rabbi Stephen Wise of Manhattan’s Free Synagogue.
the hearing, “We are all of a common people and we would lay down our lives for
this country. The people are suffering and ask you to do what you can for them.
What you should do is get after the people who have been cornering the food
demanded to know if “there is food enough the city or there is not food enough.
If there is not food enough here then the city officials should do what England
and Germany have done. They should have supplies passed around equally. If
there is enough food, the question is: What can be done to control prices?”
directly to Mayor Mitchel, Rabbi Wise declared: “If an earthquake should
happen, you would not hesitate a moment, Mr. Mayor, to go to the Governor or to
telephone to the President at Washington if a telephone could be used, or go to
General Wood at Governors Island and demand army stores. Of course, that would
be an emergency, but this is an emergency also, though, of course, it is not as
spectacular an emergency as an earthquake would cause. But the fact remains
that you have got to take energetic steps. Let us have an end of this cheap
the Mayor launched a campaign to have women substitute rice for potatoes while
George W. Perkins, the chairman of the city’s Food Committee, personally
donated $160,00 for the purchase of 4,000,000 pounds of rice and a carload of
Columbia River smelts from the State of Washington. Arrangements were also made
with William G. Willcox, President of the New York City Board of Education, to
distribute a flyer to every school child encouraging parents to purchase and
serve rice as a way of holding down the price of other commodities.
the food riots, Congressman Meyer London, a Socialist who represented a
Manhattan district, gave an impassioned speech in Congress where he argued:
“While Congress is spending millions for armies and navies it should devote a
few hours to starving people in New York and elsewhere. You have bread riots,
not in Vienna, nor in Berlin, not in Petrograd, but in New York, the richest
city of the richest country in the most prosperous period in the history of
Cahan, editor of the Jewish Daily Forward,
a Socialist and Yiddish language newspaper, reported that they had investigated
a number of cases and that families, even with working members, were suffering
speakers at the Boston rally denounced the high cost of food, as many as 800
people, mostly women and children, looted a grocery and provision store in the
West End. Police finally suppress the rioters. Philadelphia was under virtual
marshal law after a food riot led to the shooting of one man, the trampling to
death of an elderly woman, and the arrest of four men and two women. Several
hundred women attacked pushcarts and invaded shops.
States Attorney for Massachusetts announced the formation of a special Federal
Grand Jury to investigate food shortages and price increases. He blamed “local
intrastate combinations” that were forcing up prices. New York County District
Attorney Edward Swann also began an investigation into reports that potatoes
were being warehoused on Long Island while farmers and agents waited for prices
possible source of the probably were coal shortages caused by wartime demand
that were disrupting food supply lines. The Bangor & Aroostook Railroad in
Maine, that served the country’s chief source for potatoes, reported it had
only a five-day supply of coal in stock.
The Times also reported on the formation of
“Feed America First” in St. Louis, Missouri. Police officials warned the
protest movement might be the result of pro-German propaganda designed to
pressure the Wilson administration to embargo food shipments to European combatants.
Federal investigators, however, argued that there were no facts supporting this
from protestors and the city government pushed New York State Governor Charles
S. Whitman to endorse emergency measures to contain food prices. In a public
announcement he declared that “There is no doubt in my mind that the situation
is the most serious perhaps in the history of this State, and it will grow
worse before it grows better. I intend to take any steps that may be necessary
to bring relief to the famine-stricken poor in New York City and other
communities where there is widespread suffering.” Whitman then called for the
immediate passage of the Food and Market bill proposed by a special state
legislative committee headed by State Senator Charles W. Wicks. However, by
mid-March the original Wicks Committee bill, which would have allocated broad
power to the city government to regulate food markets, was dead after facing
fierce opposition from farm groups in upstate regions.
later everything changed when the United States entered the war. The Socialist
Party of America continued its opposition to United States involvement and many
of its leaders were imprisoned while the mother’s food campaign receded from
Background: In January 1912 a newly enacted Massachusetts law reduced the workweek of women and children from 56 to 54 hours. Mill owners in Lawrence, Massachusetts responded by cutting the wages of these workers by 32 cents a week. While it does not seem like a lot of money now, for workers, whose average pay was $8.76 per week, that meant family members would go hungry. The workers, who were largely immigrant women, went on strike. They were helped by the Industrial Workers of the World and organizers “Big Bill” Haywood and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. To break the strike, mill owners hired provocateurs to cause trouble and planted dynamite in an attempt to discredit strikers. Strikers grew so angry that they attacked a streetcar with scabs who were crossing the picket line. Police attacked the strikers, killing one person. The next day a soldier killed another striker.
as conditions in Lawrence grew tenser and more desperate, striking families sent 119 of their children to
New York City to live with relatives or strangers who supported their strike.
5,000 people greeted the children at Grand Central Terminal. When a second
trainload of children arrived a week later, the children paraded down Fifth
Avenue. Because the “children’s exodus” won broad public support for the
strikers, Lawrence mill owners and authorities tried to stop a third trainload.
When mothers tried to get their children on the train, police dragged them away
by their hair, beat them with clubs, and arrested them.
the women was a strategic mistake. President William Howard Taft ordered the
Attorney General to investigate what was happening in Lawrence and Congress
held hearings. Striking workers, including children testified about brutal
working conditions and poor pay in the Lawrence mills. A third of mill workers
died within a decade of taking their jobs from respiratory infections caused by
inhaling dust and lint or from workplace accidents. A fourteen-year-old girl
recounted how she was hospitalized for seven months after a mill machine tore
off her scalp.
result of public outcry, mill owners agreed to many of the workers’ demands and
the nine-week strike ended. The workers received a 15% wage hike, overtime, and
the mill owners’ promise not to retaliate against striker leaders. By the end
of March, other New England textile workers received similar raises.
“Bread and Roses” originated in a speech by Rose Schneiderman, an
organizer for the garment workers union in New York City. It became the title
of a poem by James Oppenheim and appeared on signs and banners at Lawrence,
Massachusetts rallies. It later became a song sung at union rallies and
“Bread and Roses” by James Oppenheim
As we go marching, marching In the beauty of the day A million darkened kitchens A thousand mill lofts grey Are touched with all the radiance That a sudden sun discloses For the people hear us singing Bread and roses, bread and ro
As we go marching,
We battle too for men
For they are women’s children
And we mother them again
Our lives shall not be sweetened
From birth until life closes
Hearts starve as well as bodies
Give us bread, but give us roses
As we go marching, marching We bring the greater days For the rising of the women Means the rising of the race No more the drudge and idler Ten that toil where one reposes But the sharing of life’s glories Bread and roses, bread and ro
Elizabeth Gurley Flynn (1890-1964) Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was a labor leader, activist, and feminist who played a leading role in the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). She was in Concord, New Hampshire, her family moved to New York when she was ten. Her parents were socialists and introduced her to radical politics. When she was 16 she gave her first political speech, “What Socialism Will Do for Women.” At the age of seventeen, she became a full-time organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World. In 1912, she assisted strikers in Lawrence, MA and organized to bring the children of Lawrence to New York City for safety. Flynn was a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and she played a leading role in the unsuccessful campaign to stop the executive of Italian immigrants Sacco and Vanzetti. Among other causes she championed women’s right, suffrage, and birth control. In the 1930s she became a member of the American Communist Party. She wrote for their newspaper and served on the national committee. In the 1950s she served two years in federal prison because of her Communist Party membership.
Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was the inspiration for the song The Rebel Girl by IWW songster Joe Hill.
Statement by Elizabeth
Gurley Flynn at her Trial for being a member of the Communist Party (1952)
A) I am
an American of Irish decent. My father, Thomas Flynn, was born in Maine. My
mother, Anne Gurley, was born in Galway, Ireland. I was born in Concord, New
Hampshire, 62 years ago . . . My mother was a skilled tailoress; my father a
quarry worker who worked his way through the engineering school at Dartmouth
College in New Hampshire. My father, grandfather, and all my uncles were members
of labor unions.
B) I come from a family
whose day-by-day diet included important social issues of the day, and from
this I early learned to question things as they are and to seek
improvements. Thus, my mother advocated Women’s Suffrage, discussed with
their children the campaigns of Debs, the Socialist candidate for President. My father read aloud to me and to my brother and
sisters such books as the Communist Manifesto and other writings of Marx and
C) I was
determined to do something about the bad conditions under which our family and
all around us suffered. I have stuck to that purpose for 46 years. I consider
in so doing I have been a good American. I have spent my life among the
American workers all over this country, slept in their homes, eaten at their
country is a rich and beautiful country, fully capable of producing plenty for
all, educating its youth and caring for its aged. We believe it could do this
under Socialism. We will prove to you that it is not the Communists who
have advocated or practiced force and violence but that it is the employing
class which has done both throughout the history of my life in the American
E) We will prove to you
that it is nor we who flaunt the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, but that
is has always been done by the employing class. We will prove that we are
fighting here for our constitutional and democratic rights, not to advocate
force and violence, but to expose and stop its use against the people. We will
demonstrate that in fighting for our rights, we believe we are defending the
constitutional rights of all Americans. We believe we are acting as good
1. What was Elizabeth
Gurley Flynn’s background?
2. Why was she put on trial?
3. In your opinion, why
did Joe Hill call her “The Rebel Girl”?
4. In your opinion, how
should women like Elizabeth Gurley Flynn be remembered?
Battle for the 19th
Instructions: Analyze the
images, the map, and bread the descriptions and answer questions 1-5.
feminism was a period of feminist activity during the 19th and early 20th century that
focused on legal issues, primarily on gaining the right to vote. The 19th
Amendment was passed by Congress on June 4, 1919 and was ratified by the states
on August 18, 1920. The Women’s Suffrage Clause gave the right of women to vote.
Daily picketing of the White House in
Washington DC demanding the right of women to vote began January 10, 1917. The
protesters were pressuring President Woodrow Wilson to support the “Anthony
amendment” to the Constitution. During the year, more than 1,000 women from
across the country joined the picket line. 218 protesters from 26 states were
arrested and charged with “obstructing sidewalk traffic.” 97 were sent to
either the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia or the District of Columbia jail.
19th Amendment: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”
How did suffragettes pressure President Wilson to support the right of women to vote?
What happened to women protesting in Washington DC?
When was the 19th Amendment adopted?
In your opinion, how did state’s that issued women the right to vote prior to the 19th amendment influence its final passage?
In your opinion, why was the 19th amendment a “turning point” in the struggle for equal rights for women?
Not All Women Supported
the Enfranchisement of Women
In 1870, Harper’s New Weekly Magazine
published a letter from an “earnest and thoughtful Christian woman” opposed to
women’s suffrage. In 1895 Massachusetts asked women if they wanted the right to
vote. Only 22,204 women answered in the affirmative. In 1911, Josephine Dodge founded the National Association Opposed to
Woman Suffrage (NAOWS). The NAOWS was most popular in northeastern cities. Examine
the excerpt from the letter, the flyer, and the political cartoon and answer
1. Why does the author of
the letter oppose women’s suffrage?
2. Why is the New Jersey
Association opposed to woman’s suffrage?
3. What is the point of
view of the cartoonist?
4. How would you respond
to the letter, flyer, and cartoon? Why?
“The natural position of
woman is clearly, to a limited degree, a subordinate one. Such it has always
been throughout the world, in all ages, and in many different conditions of
society . . . Woman in physical strength is so greatly inferior to man . . .
Woman is also, though in a very much lesser degree, inferior to man in
intellect . . . Christianity
confirms the subordinate position of woman, by allotting to man the headship in
plain language and by positive precept . . . Sensible women may always have a
good measure of political influence of the right sort, if they choose. And it
is in one sense a duty on their part to claim this influence, and to exert it,
but always in the true womanly way. The influence of good sense, of a sound
judgment, of good feeling may always be theirs. Let us see that we preserve
this influence, and that we use it wisely. But let us cherish our happy
immunities as women by keeping aloof from all public personal action in the
political field.” – Female
Suffrage: A Letter to the Christian Women of America, Harper’s New Weekly Magazine
Changing Roles for Women in the 1920s in Pictures
Instructions: How does each photograph suggest changing roles for women in the
Margaret Sanger (1879-1966)
Margaret Higgins Sanger was born in 1879 in Coming, New York. She was an American birth control activist, sex educator, writer, and nurse. Sanger popularized the term “birth control” and established organizations that evolved into the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Sanger worked as a nurse and mid-wife in New York City in the east-side slums. During her work among working-class immigrant women, Sanger met women who underwent frequent childbirth, miscarriages, and self-induced abortions for lack of information on how to avoid unwanted pregnancy. Access to contraceptive information was prohibited on grounds of obscenity by the 1873 Comstock Laws. In 1916, Sanger opened the first birth control clinic in the U.S. in Brownsville, Brooklyn and was arrested for distributing information on contraception. But Sanger believed that while abortion was sometimes justified, it generally should be avoided, and she considered contraception the only practical way to avoid them. Sanger felt that in order for women to have a more equal footing in society and to lead healthier lives, they needed to be able to determine when to bear children. She was forced to flee to England to escape persecution, but returned to the United States and continued to champion for the right of women to access information about reproduction and contraception.
1. Why is Margaret Sanger remembered today?
2. Why is the letter from a mother in “bondage” a powerful
statement about the need of women for reliable and safe birth control?
in Bondage (1928)
Margaret Sanger published a selection of the letters she received from women
seeking birth control information. The letters remain a powerful testament to
the vulnerability of women without access to reliable contraception. One is
reproduced here. A more complete list is available at
How can one control the
size of a family? I am the mother of four children, thirty years old. Our first
child died of pneumonia in infancy. Since I’ve had three others, —six, three
years and nine months old they now are, and it’s a continual worry for fear I
shall be having more soon as we would be unable to care for them. My husband is
a barber, earning, besides tips, $26.00 a week. Out of this we are trying to
pay for a home, as it’s cheaper than renting with three children. The baby
requires certified milk because I am so overworked I am unable to nurse her. If
it were not for my mother we could never get along. I do all my own work, make
over all my own clothing and my relatives’ for the children, even all our coats
and hats, as I learned to do this before I was married. You can easily see
there is no recreation or rest . . . Please don’t think I dislike children; I
love mine dearly, but trying to care for them and bring them up properly wears
one’s patience all away as I have to make every minute count to keep things
going. I can’t afford any improvements to help me in my work. I must wash every
day in order to get the washing done and keep the children clean as I have
neither the time or strength to do it all at once. With a baby one cannot
anyway. I can’t bear to be a cranky, cross mother to my children. I haven’t
been to a place of amusement, even a picture show, in over seven years. The
last time I was away from home for a few hours visit was Christmas 1924. The
only way I can get downtown to shop for an hour is when my husband takes the
time off to stay with the children. Don’t you think I am doing all I can
without having more children. What help is there for a woman? Must she separate
from her husband and break up the home?
Women Who Helped Win
World War II
American women played
essential rolls on the home front and overseas during World War II. In 1943, a song “Rosie the Riveter,” was broadcast nationally. It was
performed by singers and popular band including the Four Vagabonds, an
Rosie the Riveter by Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb
girls attend their fav’rite
Sipping Martinis, munching caviar
There’s a girl who’s really putting
them to shame
Rosie is her name
All the day long whether rain or shine She’s a part of the assembly line She’s making history, working for victory Rosie the Riveter Keeps a sharp lookout for sabotage Sitting up there on the fuselage That little frail can do more than a male will do
a boyfriend, Charlie
Charlie, he’s a Marine
Rosie is protecting Charlie
Working overtime on the
When they gave her a production “E”
She was as
proud as a girl could be
There’s something true about
and blue about
Rosie the Riveter
Everyone stops to
admire the scene
Rosie at work on the B-Nineteen
She’s never twittery, nervous or jittery
What if she’s smeared full of
oil and grease
Doing her bit for the old Lend lease
She keeps the gang around
They love to hang around
Rosie the Riveter
Rosie buys a lot of
That girl really has sense
Wishes she could purchase
Putting all her cash into national
Senator Jones who is “in the know”
Shouted these words on the radio
Berlin will hear about
Moscow will cheer about
Rosie the Riveter!
World War II radically
changed roles played by women in American society. Between 1940 and 1945, the
female percentage of the U.S. workforce increased from 27 percent to nearly 37
percent. By 1945 nearly one out of every four married women worked outside the
home. About 350,000 women served in the U.S. Armed Forces. In 2010, the Women’s
Airforce Service Pilots were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.
Serving in the Military
and Teaching While Pregnant
Most Americans are
familiar with the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade (1973) that a right to
privacy exists as part of the Due Process clause of the 14th Amendment to the
Constitution that protects a women’s reproductive freedom, specifically the decision
whether to carry a pregnancy to term. Forty-five years later it remains one of
the most politically contested Supreme Court decisions. Two other court cases
in the same period, one that made it to the Supreme Court and one that did not,
also were crucial in defining the legal rights of pregnant women and women’s
rights in general.
Susan Struck was a career
nurse and Captain in the U.S. Air Force. In 1970, while stationed in Vietnam,
Stuck became pregnant. The Air Force offered her the option of resigning her
commission with an honorable discharge or of terminating her pregnancy. Struck
rejected both options, although she was willing to place the baby up for
adoption. She sued the Secretary of Defense in federal court demanding the
right to both give birth and keep her job. Struck argued that the Air Force
statue discriminated against her because she was a woman, men were allowed to
become fathers, and because of her religious beliefs which prevented her from
terminating a pregnancy. The Ninth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals
sided with the military. Future Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was
scheduled to represent Struck when her appeal was heard by the Supreme Court.
However Struck’s appeal became unnecessary when Air Force reversed its policy
on pregnancies and allowed her to have the child and remain in the military.
1. Who was Susan Struck?
2. What was the issue in
Struck v. Secretary of Defense?
3. Why did Captain Struck
argue the Air Force regulation was unconstitutional?
4. What was the
resolution of the case?
5. In your opinion, how
did this case impact on the rights of women?
B) Cleveland Board of
Education v. LaFleur, 414 U.S. 632 (1974)
As recently as the 1970s,
pregnant teachers could be forced to take unpaid maternity leaves as soon if
they reported to supervisors that they were pregnant or if a supervisor
observed that they were pregnant. In a case heard before the Supreme Court in 1974,
three teachers challenged these rules as “arbitrary and irrational.” Carol Jo
LaFleur was a junior high school teacher in Cleveland, Ohio. Ann Elizabeth
Nelson taught French at Central Junior High School in Cleveland. Susan Cohen
was a social studies teacher at Midlothiam High School in Chesterfield County,
Virginia. The cases were combined as Cleveland Board of education v. LaFleur.
By a 7-2 vote the Supreme Court ruled that the “presumption that every pregnant
teacher who reaches the fifth or sixth month of pregnancy is physically
incapable of continuing” was unconstitutional.
1. What was the issue in
Cleveland Board of Education v. LaFleur?
2. Why did the three
teachers bring this case?
3. What is the meaning of
4. What was the Supreme
5. In your opinion, how
did this case impact on the rights of women?
The Court’s Majority
Decision by Justice Potter Stewart
Neither Mrs. LaFleur nor
Mrs. Nelson wished to take an unpaid maternity leave; each wanted to continue
teaching until the end of the school year. Because of the mandatory maternity
leave rule, however, each was required to leave her job in March 1971. The
two women then filed separate suits in the United States District Court for the
Northern District of Ohio . . . challenging the constitutionality of the
maternity leave rule. The District Court tried the cases together, and rejected
the plaintiffs’ arguments . . . Susan Cohen, was employed by the School Board
of Chesterfield County, Virginia. That school board’s maternity leave
regulation requires that a pregnant teacher leave work at least four months
prior to the expected birth of her child. Notice in writing must be given
to the school board at least six months prior to the expected birth date . . .
Mrs. Cohen informed the Chesterfield County School Board in November 1970, that
she was pregnant and expected the birth of her child about April 28, 1971. She
initially requested that she be permitted to continue teaching until April 1,
1971. The school board rejected the request, as it did Mrs. Cohen’s subsequent
suggestion that she be allowed to teach until January 21, 1971, the end of the
first school semester.
This Court has long
recognized that freedom of personal choice in matters of marriage and family
life is one of the liberties protected by the Due Process Clause of the
Fourteenth Amendment . . . There is a right “to be free from unwarranted
governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the
decision whether to bear or beget a child.” By acting to penalize the
pregnant teacher for deciding to bear a child, overly restrictive maternity
leave regulations can constitute a heavy burden on the exercise of these
protected freedoms. Because public school maternity leave rules directly affect
“one of the basic civil rights of man,” the Due Process Clause of the
Fourteenth Amendment requires that such rules must not needlessly, arbitrarily,
or capriciously impinge upon this vital area of a teacher’s constitutional
liberty . . . The provisions amount to a conclusive presumption that every
pregnant teacher who reaches the fifth or sixth month of pregnancy is
physically incapable of continuing. There is no individualized determination by
the teacher’s doctor – or the school board’s – as to any particular teacher’s
ability to continue at her job. The rules contain an irrebuttable presumption
of physical incompetency, and that presumption applies even when the medical
evidence as to an individual woman’s physical status might be wholly to the
contrary . . . We hold that the mandatory termination provisions of the
Cleveland and Chesterfield County maternity regulations violate the Due Process
Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, because of their use of unwarranted
conclusive presumptions that seriously burden the exercise of protected
Women Continue to Transform Our Country
Sally Ride: Sally Kristen Ride was born in 1951 in La Jolla,
California. She was an American astronaut, physicist, and engineer. Ride joined
NASA in 1978 and in 1983 became the first American woman in space. At age 32,
she is the youngest person to have gone into space. Ride was one of 8,000
people who answered an ad in the Stanford student newspaper seeking applicants
for the space program. After she was chosen, she received considerable media
attention where reporters asked her questions such as, “aren’t you worried what
space will do to your reproductive organs?” And, “Do you cry when things go
wrong on the job?” Ride insisted that she saw herself only in one way, as an
astronaut. Ride was extremely private about her personal life. She was married
for five years to fellow astronaut Steve Hawley. Ride is one of the most
successful astronauts and continued her career in researching space until her
death in 2012. After her death, her obituary revealed that her partner of 27
years was Tam O’Shaughnessy, a childhood friend. She is the first known LGBT
Michelle Obama: Michelle Robinson Obama was born in 1964 and is
an American lawyer, university administrator, and writer who served as the
First Lady of the United States from 2009 to 2017. Obama is a graduate of
Princeton University and Harvard Law School. As First Lady, Obama worked as an
advocate for poverty awareness, education, nutrition, physical activity, and
healthy eating. She supported American designers and was considered a fashion
icon. Michelle can trace her genealogy back to the American South where her
great-great-grandfather was born into slavery in 1850 in South Carolina.
Michelle has devoted much of her career to teaching the values of self-worth to
young women. She said in 2012, “one of the lessons that I grew up with was to
always stay true to yourself and never let what somebody else says distract you
from your goals. And so when I hear about negative and false attacks, I really
don’t invest any energy in them, because I know who I am.”
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was born in 1989.
She is a Latina American politician, educator, and political activist. In
January 2019 she became the youngest member of Congress representing a district
that includes largely immigrant communities from the Bronx and Queens.
Ocasio-Cortez was elected as a Democrat and identifies as a Democratic
Socialist and a strong advocate for a Green New Deal.