About the Authors – Teaching Social Studies, Vol. 20, No. 1, Winter-Spring 2020

About the Authors
Jessica Acee is the Student Leadership Coordinator at St. Mary’s Academy in Portland, Oregon.

Georgia Belesis is a teacher and adjunct lecturer at Forest Hills High School and Queens College in Queens, NY.

Andy Beutel has been teaching middle school social studies for 13 years. He presents and writes about the challenges and possibilities of critical teaching and learning in an affluent public school.

Mitchell Bickman is the social studies K-12 director in the Oceanside, New York school district.

Hank Bitten is the Executive Director of the New Jersey Council for the Social Studies.

Michael Catelli is the K-12 Supervisor of Social Studies, World Language, and ESL at the Somerset Hills School District in Bernardsville, NJ having been in education for over ten years. Michael works with staff at all grade levels to design instructional strategies and programs.

Sean Demarest is a preservice educator at Rider University.

Scott Eckers is the chair of the social studies department at The Wheatley School in East Williston, NY.

Julianna Ezzo is a preservice educator at Rider University.

Nora Flanagan is anEnglish teacher at Northside College Preparatory High School in Chicago.

Dr. Russell Hammack is an Assistant Professor of Secondary Education at Jacksonville State University.

Dr. Lisa H. Matherson is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the College of Education at The University of Alabama.

Dawn McShane is an award-winning social studies teacher at the ABGS Middle School in Hempstead, NY.

Jamie Megee is a preservice educator at Rider University.

John O’Leary is an eighth grade Social Studies teacher and has been teaching in the Flemington-Raritan School District for seven years, focusing on building active citizenship skills with his students.

LynnAnn Perlin is a social studies teacher at Sayville (NY) High School.

Ryan Pierson is a student at Hillsborough High School in Hillsborough, New Jersey.

Taina Santiago is a preservice educator at Rider University. 

Lindsay Schubiner is the Program Director at the Western States Center, Portland, Oregon.

Alan Singer is the director of social studies education at Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York.

Stephanie Skier is a social studies teacher atDemocracy Prep/Harlem Prep High School.

Kyle Stapinski is a preservice educator at Rider University.

Ben Szczepanik is a preservice educator at Rider University. 

April Francis Taylor is a middle school teacher and the Director of Student Life in the Mamaroneck (NY) School District. 

Dr. Elizabeth K. Wilson serves as Senior Associate Dean and Professor of Social Studies and Literacy Education in the College of Education at The University of Alabama.

Confronting White Nationalism in Schools

Review by Nora Flanagan, Jessica Acee, and Lindsay Schubiner

Americans across the country report a rise in white nationalism and other bigoted extremism. Because schools are hubs of our communities, they have become battlegrounds for extremist organizing. There is evidence that white nationalist groups are specifically targeting young people with their messaging. These groups test market slang on Twitter, rewrite popular songs with white nationalist lyrics, and join mainstream video game platforms, all to reach a young audience.

In this toolkit, we’ll share strategies to counter white nationalist organizing in schools through sample scenarios that schools frequently encounter. Whether a student has been found passing out white nationalist flyers or buttons on school property, or more actively advocating for a “white pride” student group, the following pages offer advice for parents, students, teachers, school administrators, and the wider community. Many resources currently exist that address diversity, inclusion, and bullying in schools; a few of them are listed in the resources section. This toolkit is specifically focused on responding to white nationalist targeting and recruitment of students.

It’s easy to miss an unfamiliar white nationalist symbol, or feel unsure about how to respond to a student citing a white nationalist source in the classroom. There’s a lot to keep track of when working with young people; we want to make it easier to recognize these behaviors (and those responsible), and to take action.

Everyone who engages in the life of a school is in a unique position to isolate and push back against the growing white nationalist movement and the hateful narratives they tout. It’s time to own that power. Our job is to build schools where everyone feels valued, and where our students can grow to be engaged citizens of an inclusive democracy.

What Are We Talking About When We Say “White Nationalism”?

White nationalism is a term that originated among white supremacists in the post-1960s Civil Rights era. While initially used as a euphemism for white supremacy, by the late 1990s, white nationalism emerged as its own distinct ideology with an emphasis on anti-Semitism and the creation of all-white ethno-states through violence and policies that increase the vulnerability, criminalization and removal of minorities and other targeted communities.

White nationalism is implicitly violent, as its goal of an entirely white nation state can only be realized through violent means. Short of achieving its end goal, white nationalism directly and indirectly influences a myriad of policies ranging from immigration enforcement, voter disenfranchisement and suppression, and state disinvestments that continue to marginalize and repress communities of color.

Today white nationalism operates as a bigoted social movement that aims to build political power toward its goal of a white nation. It is distinct from white supremacy, which is a system of oppression designed to maintain control over people of color and the rights of all women.

White nationalists often mask their ideology using positive statements of love for white people rather than overt hate, and they seek to recruit supporters based on disingenuous arguments that white people are victims. They argue that racial diversity and demographic changes are equal to white genocide. “Identity Evropa,” a white nationalist group now rebranded as the American Identity Movement, has disseminated flyers that say “Protect Your Heritage,” or “Our Future Belongs to Us,” for example. White nationalists also use anti-immigrant, anti-Black, and anti-Muslim rhetoric focused on crime or terrorism to appeal to fear and prejudice among their audience. Misogyny, which describes hatred or prejudice against women, is similarly a key recruitment tool for white nationalist groups. These groups also mobilize homophobia and trans-phobia (bigotry directed at lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people) for similar purposes.

Why This Matters

All teenagers seek a sense of identity and belonging. White nationalist organizations know this and look for ways to connect with young people in order to grow their base. It takes vigilance on the part of teachers, administrators and parents to ensure that all members of a school community feel connected in positive ways and are not left vulnerable to extremist rhetoric or recruitment.

Adults often dismiss early indications of hateful ideology as a student ‘pushing boundaries’ or ‘acting out’ and while this might also be true, in many cases they are dismissing warning signs of a dangerous warning signs of a dangerous affiliation taking root. Race may not initially enter the picture; recent events demonstrate strong connections between misogyny, the sexist subculture “InCel” (short for involuntary celibate), and white nationalist ideology. What might seem innocuous or isolated, like a student scratching a swastika into a desk or a sudden spike in misogynistic or anti-Muslim language, warrants a response that clarifies behavioral expectations, affirms the value of all human life, and opens a dialogue with students to interrupt this behavior.

Left unchecked, white nationalist ideology and affiliation are dangerous. Once a student is connected to white nationalism, online or in real life, it is difficult for them to disconnect, so the best time to intervene in a young person’s affiliation is early. After they identify with white nationalism or another bigoted ideology intervening can be very dangerous. We urge the utmost in caution at this stage. White nationalism brings inherently violent and escalating threats to the families and communities it impacts. It is no accident that a number of incidents of mass shootings have involved white nationalist ideology. Scapegoating marginalized communities is one warning sign for violence.

White nationalist groups seek power and an organized base of support. Schools are an obvious target. This toolkit is designed to help you take back any space, however small or large, that white nationalism may try to carve out in your school community.

How to Use This Toolkit

This toolkit works best as a guide with suggestions and resources to help school communities navigate their own questions and challenges. Students, teachers, staff, administrators, parents, and other community entities can collaborate to adapt these approaches and find new solutions. Our goal is to provide effective resources to all members of school communities so that they may place obstacles in the path of those who would attempt to harm them.

We focus on high schools, but many of these resources also apply to middle schools and colleges. While this toolkit was created to offer tips and strategies on how to respond to white nationalist and other extremist organizing in schools, the following resources can and should be applied to any situation where you see potentially harmful activity. We encourage other anchor entities—libraries, faith-based organizations, community centers, and others—to discuss these scenarios and strategies, engage with local schools, and collaborate to strengthen community responses to hate.

A resource section is included at the end of this toolkit to aid your learning and help your school community grow stronger. One key resource is a list of proactive steps and best practices for schools. The section includes related resource guides, sample policies and language, and basic information on the white nationalist groups most likely to recruit in schools. Links to further reading also provide a starting point for your own research.

Please consider reaching out to Western States Center at info@wscpdx.org  to share your experience countering white nationalism in your school. We hope this toolkit is helpful as you strengthen your school community against bigotry.

 Request a free PDF of the toolkit at https://www.westernstatescenter.org/schools

The Songs of America by Jon Meacham

Reviewed by Hank Bitten

This book should be required reading for teachers of American history, interdisciplinary and humanities teachers, and music teachers! America has produced some of the world’s best song writers, musicians, and singers. America is a competitive democracy and the music of our history stirs our conscience and creates a harmony among dissident voices.

“History isn’t just something we read; it is also something we hear.  We hear the musketry on the green at Lexington and Concord and the hoofbeats of Paul Revere’s midnight ride. We hear the moans of the wounded and of the dying on the fields of Antietam and of Gettysburg, the quiet clump of the boots of Grant and Lee on the porch steps of Wilmer McLean’s house at Appomattox-and the crack of a pistol at Ford’s theatre.  We hear the cries of the enslaved, the pleas of suffragists, the surf at Omaha Beach.  We hear a sonorous president, his voice scratchy on the radio, reassuring us that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself; and we hear another president, impossibly young and dashing, his breath white in the inaugural air, telling us to ask not what our country can do for us but what we can do for our country.  And we hear the whoosh of helicopters in the distant jungles of Southeast Asia and the baritone of a minister, standing before the Lincoln Memorial, telling us about his dream.” (p.3)

The Look of Liberty

Perhaps the subtitle of the Songs of America: should be revised to “Patriotism, Protest, and the Music that Made America Great” rather than the music that made a nation.  Although the events in this book are familiar, many of the vivid photographs and illustrations were new to my eyes. The perspective of Tim McGraw is authentic as his words reveal an emotional context of passion for the lyrics and the challenges of singing familiar tunes. Tim McGraw writes about the closing verse in The Liberty Song, composed by John Dickinson (Pennsylvania) and Arthur Lee (Virginia) published on July 18, 1768:

What really speaks to me is the final verse. Dickinson clearly understands that this is a moment in time that will live forever (at least he’s hoping it will, and hope drives so much of art), and he used this idea to inspire real people to take real steps toward independence-and transformation:

‘All ages shall speak with amaze and applause,

Of the courage we’ll show in support of our laws;

To die we can bear-but to serve we disdain,

For shame is to freedom more dreadful than pain.’” (p.10)

The Liberty Song likely inspired Phyllis Wheatley who captured the hope and vision of all Americans in 1775 in her poem, “To His Excellency George Washington”

Proceed, great chief, with virtue on thy side,

Thy ev’ry action let the Goddess guide.

A crown, a mansion, and a throne that shine,

With gold unfading, Washington! Be thine. (p.25)

The Scars of Slavery

Phyllis Wheatley understood the bold American experiment for freedom and equality.  Unfortunately, her voice could not be heard as America became divided between the competing visions of the Federalists led by Washington, Hamilton, and Adams and the Republicans (anti-Federalists) led by Jefferson and Madison.

Lo! Freedom comes. Th’ prescient Muse foretold.

All Eyes th’ accomplished Prophecy behold:

Her port describ’d, “She moves divinely fair,

Olive and Laurel bind her golden Hair.”

She, the bright Progeny of Heaven, descends,

And every Grace her sovereign Step attends;

For now kind Heaven, indulgent to our Prayer,

In smiling Peace resolves the Din of War. (p.27)

A few months before the 55th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence as a twenty-four year old student at Andover Theological Seminary in Massachusetts, Reverend Samuel Francis Smith, was reading some patriotic German songs and wrote on a piece of scrap paper:

My country! ‘tis of thee,

Sweet land of liberty,

Of thee I sing:

Land where my fathers died,

Land of the pilgrims’ pride,

From every mountainside

Let freedom ring! (p.43)

LESSON IDEA: Cite evidence from the lyrics of The Liberty Song and America (My Country ‘tis of Thee) that America is a place of hope.

The vision of Daniel Webster inspired the verses of this hymn which united the majority of the American population when Andrew Jackson was president. Jon Meacham cites that the power of this hymn is in the first word, “My”.  Although the Congress adopted the gag rule to postpone debate on abolition, the passion for freedom was driven in the abolitionist versions of this popular song published under the pen name of “Theta”:

My native country! Thee-

Where all men are born free,

if white their skin:

I love thy hills and dales,

Thy mounts and pleasant vales;

But hate thy negro sales,

As foulest sin.  (p.45)

Harriet Tubman sang spirituals as signals for planning escapes on the network that became known as the Underground Railroad,

When that old chariot comes,

I’m going to leave you,

I’m bound for the promised land,

Friends, I’m going to leave you. (p.57)

In freedom, the freed slaves, perhaps as many as 100,000, sang a new song of thanksgiving:

Glory to God and Jesus, too,

One more soul got safe;

Oh, go and carry the news,

One more soul got safe….

Glory to God in the highest,

Glory to God and Jesus, too,

For all these souls now safe. (p.61)

Unfortunately, America as the land of the free where all races are treated equally was not realized for blacks, Native Americans, women, and immigrants.  President Lincoln’s Second Annual Message to Congress in 1862 testified to the harsh reality that combat, loss of life, the destruction of property, permanent injury, and risk of defeat.

“The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation.  We say we are for the Union.  The world will not forget that we say this. We know how to save the Union. The world knows we do know how to save it. We – even we here – hold the power and bear the responsibility. In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free – honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve.  We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth.” (pp.67-68)

The Songs of America provides a litany of songs during these uncertain years: “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” “Go Down, Moses,” “The First Gun is Fired,” “The Vacant Chair,” “John Brown’s Body,” “The Battle Cry of Freedom,” “Marching Through Georgia,” and “We are Coming, Father Abraham.”

On November 19, 1861, Julia Ward Howe, writer and social activist, attempted to boost the morale of soldiers four months after Bull Run by singing “John Brown’s Body.” Restless from her experience, she awoke at dawn at Willard’s Hotel on 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. and scribbled down new verses to “John Brown’s Body” that she later sent to The Atlantic Monthly for $5.00.

“He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;

He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat:

Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! Be jubilant, my feet!

Our God is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,

With a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me:

As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,

While God is marching on.” (p.76)

As Tim McGraw reflects, “Fighting for the Union was a Christian responsibility, a mission from God that required action and came with God’s blessing.  It was the ultimate religious motivation: Christ saved you, now you must go save freedom. (p.78)

LESSON IDEA: Why did slavery impair the vision of America as a place of hope? Cite evidence from the lyrics in the songs above to support this argument.

The Words of War and Peace

One of the most dramatic and moving chapters in The Songs of America is the patriotic music during the time of World Wars 1 and 2. After reading the headlines in the paper on April 7, 1917 in his home at Great Neck, Long Island, George M. Cohan got a big tin pan and a broom and started marching around his house to the words of “Over There.” The lyrics give us a sense of American identity in making the world safe for democracy and freedom.

“Over there, over there,

Send the word, send the word over there

That the Yanks are coming, the Yanks are coming

The drums rum-tumming everywhere.

So prepare, say a prayer,

Send the word, send the word to beware-We’ll be over, we’re coming over,

And we won’t come back till it’s over, over there.” (p.111)

As a result, 2 million enlisted and 2.8 million were drafted. But as General Sherman said,“War is Hell! You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out.” 

Alfred Bryan wrote “A Mother’s Pleas for Peace, I Didn’t Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier” and George Graff Jr. wrote “Let Us Have Peace.” These songs marked the beginning of protest songs, which became increasingly popular in the 1960s. As Tim McGraw insightfully writes, “While melodically I’m called to battle, lyrically I’m called to contemplate the price that’s to be paid for waging war.” (p.113)

I didn’t raise my boy to be a soldier,

I brought him up to be my pride and joy,

Who dares to place a musket on his shoulder;

To shoot some their mother’s darling boy?

Let nations arbitrate their future troubles,

It’s time to law the sword and gun away,

There’d be no war today,

If mothers all would say,

‘I didn’t raise my boy to be a soldier.’ (p.112)

It is likely difficult for students in your classes today to understand that many songs in our history are personal and sung as a result of a creative and resourceful music teacher or choir director in a church or school. “America the Beautiful” was composed by Katherine Lee Bates in 1895 on a trip to Pikes Peak in Colorado. The song inspired a generation of young girls and boys and was sung by American soldiers on Armistice Day in the bloody trenches of Verdun. The song inspires immigrants, the neglected, and the troubled because it speaks of the continuing work of what Americans seek.

O beautiful for spacious skies,

For amber waves of grain,

For purple mountain majesties,

Above the fruited plain!

America! America!

God shed His grace on thee

And crown thy good with brotherhood

From sea to shining sea! (p.114)

I learned something new from my reading of the Songs of America about the influence of religious music in the meeting of Churchill and FDR at the signing of the Atlantic Charter. FDR was an Episcopalian and Churchill and Anglican.  Together, they shared a common faith, commitment to good will, and an understanding that they were instruments of God to bring good into the world.  In his Second Inaugural Address (1937), FDR said:

“This new understanding undermines the old admiration of worldly success as such. We are beginning to abandon our tolerance of the abuse of power by those who betray for profit the elementary decencies of life.

In this process evil things formerly accepted will not be so easily condoned. Hard-headedness will not so easily excuse hardheartedness. We are moving toward an era of good feeling. But we realize that there can be no era of good feeling save among men of good will.

For these reasons I am justified in believing that the greatest change we have witnessed has been the change in the moral climate of America.

Among men of good will, science and democracy together offer an ever-richer life and ever-larger satisfaction to the individual. With this change in our moral climate and our rediscovered ability to improve our economic order, we have set our feet upon the road of enduring progress.” http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5105/

One can only imagine what happened aboard the HMS Prince of Wales on Sunday, August 9, 1941 with a congregation of British sailors in a declared war, American sailors, and the two statesmen. It was the first of 12 meetings between the two leaders of the free world.

Together, everyone sang “Our God, Our Help in Ages Past, confessed their sins, shared a reading from Joshua 1:9, prayed the Lord’s Prayer followed by other petitions and sang:

Onward, Christian soldiers,

Marching as to war,

With the cross of Jesus

Going on before!

Christ, the Royal Master,

Leads against the foe;

Forward into battle,

See, his banners go… (p.136)

In just four months, the music changed as Irving Berlin, Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Frank Sinatra, and Frank Loesser set the new tone following Pearl Harbor.  America needed songs of hope:

“God Bless America”

“We’ll Meet Again”

“You’ll Never Know”

“Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition”

“The White Cliffs of Dover”

“Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree”

“This Land is Your Land”

The Words for Civil and Human Rights

James Weldon Johnson, Bob Cole, and J. Rosamond Johnson, presented an assembly program in Jacksonville, Florida to 500 children at the Stanton School, where James Weldon Johnson was principal. The program was on February 12, 1900 (Lincoln’s birthday) and the school bears the name of Lincoln’s Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, an advocate for human rights. The Stanton School is the second prep school founded for black children at a time when Americans witnessed an increase in racism and lynchings.  James W. Johnson decided to read a poem instead of delivering a speech and Bob Cole and    J. Rosamond Johnson put it to music.

“Lift every voice and sing

Till earth and heaven ring,

Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;

Let our rejoicing rise

High as the listening skies,

Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.

Sing a song full of faith that the dark past has taught us,

Sing a song full of hope that the present has brought us.

Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,

Let us march on till victory is won.”  (pp.103-104)

This powerful song inspired blacks and whites in the civil rights movement, united a nation when it was sung at Super Bowl 53, and continues to provide hope for us today as it captures the vision of the American Dream. The song was kept alive by the children at the Stanton School for 20 years before in gained a national audience.

The chapter on the songs of the civil rights movement is one of the most engaging in the book.  Perhaps it is because I remember these songs, perhaps it is the music, or perhaps it is our continuing historical challenge in addressing racism, equality, and freedom.  Jon Meacham and Tim McGraw provide perspective to the musical and historical narrative of how music influenced the last third of the 20th century. The death of Emmett Till in 1955 was a lesson that I taught many times and it was a lesson that my students never forgot!

In 1962, Bob Dylan knew about Emmett Till, segregation, Freedom Rides, and the Cuban Missile Crisis,. In Greenwich Village, they began singing “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” “The Times They are A-Changin,” “The Death of Emmett Till,” “With God on Our Side,” “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “This Little Light of Mine,” “The Dogs of Alabama,” “A Change is Gonna Come,” and “We Shall Overcome.” Joan Baez, Sam Cooke, Tom Paxton, Mahalia Jackson, Ray Charles Peter, Paul, and Mary, and Stevie Wonder all contributed to the lyrics of truth and the melody of hope.

They did not die in vain.

They did not die in vain.

We shall overcome

Someday. (p.164)

LESSON IDEA: Did the Civil Rights movement and legislative reforms move America closer to becoming a place of hope for everyone by one small step or by one giant leap?

These were decades of division and confusion. It was the Age of Aquarius, Archie Bunker, Vietnam, Watergate, and equality for women. The future of the world could be shaped by the power of the music and the influence of the media on the message. In March 1974, less than six months before he would resign as President of the United States, Richard Nixon made a rare appearance at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. Speaking to a friendly audience, Nixon said:

“Country music, therefore, has those combinations which are so essential to America’s character at a time that America needs character, because today-one serious note-let me tell you, the peace of the world for generations, maybe centuries to come, will depend not just on America’s military might, which is the greatest in the world, or our wealth, which is the greatest in the world, but it is going to depend on our character, our belief in ourselves, our love of country, our willingness to not only wear the flag but to stand up for the flag.  And country music does that.” (p.175)

The choir singing the songs that defined America’s vision in a decade of division included Merle Haggard (“Okie from Muskogee”), Doug Bradley and Craig Werner (“We Gotta Get Out of This Place”), Creedence Clearwater Revival (“Fortunate Son”) , Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler(“The Ballad of the Green Berets”), Pete Seeger (“Bring Them Home” and “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy”), Glen Campbell (“Galveston”), the Animals (“We Gotta Get Out of This Place”), Martha and the Vandellas (“Jimmy Mack”), James Brown (”Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag”), Otis Redding (“R-E-S-P-E-C-T”), Steve Cropper (“Sitting on The Dock of the Bay”) , Johnny Cash (“Ragged Old Falg”), Simon and Garfunkel (”Bridge Over Troubled Waters”), Neil Young, (“Ohio”), Country Joe MacDonald (“One, Two Three What are we Fighting For?/ I Feel Like I’m Fixin to Die Rag”) and Aretha Franklin (“Chain of Fools”). 

This is a time when cultural history connects with our political history with engaging lessons with complex questions for 21st century students to debate.  Students enjoy the music but the powerful application of America’s vision and the character of the civic identity of each individual is the enduring legacy that is essential to a meaningful education. The impact of the influence of music on our culture, as opposed to a response to our culture, over the past 30 years is one that the perspectives of historians will debate and one that teachers cannot ignore. President Reagan said in a speech on September 19, 1984 in Hammonton, New Jersey, America’s future rests in a thousand dreams inside your hearts; it rests in the message of hope in songs so many young Americans admire: New Jersey’s own Bruce Springsteen.  And helping you make those dreams come true is what this job of mine is all about.” (p. 203)

These dreams and messages of hope for the frustrated, alienated, and discriminated are proclaimed in Brue Springsteen’s “Born to Run,” and “Born in the U.S.A,” Diana Ross’s “I’m Coming Out,”  Melissa Etheridge’s “Come to My Window,” Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” and Brandi Carlile’s “The Joke.”

The closing pages of the book reflect a different tune following the Attack on America on September 11. Jon Meacham and Tim McGraw cite the music at the national memorial service at the Washington National Cathedral on Friday, September 14, 2001 which included “O God, Our Help in Ages Past,” “A Mighty Fortress is Our God,” “The Lord’s Prayer,” and “God Bless America.”  It was the musicians who united America in a broadcast , “Tribute to Heroes,” ten days after the Attack on America which included consoling and inspiring lyrics from Bruce Springsteen (“My City in Ruins”), Stevie Wonder (“Love’s in Need of Love Today”),  (p.217)

It is important for students to understand perspectives in the context of how the response to horrific events takes place on the historical stage. As Bruce Springsteen’s songs in The Rising album expressed our grieving, hope, and unity, the Dixie Chicks protested against President Bush’s decision to invade Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 2003. While their perspective was against the decision to go to war, it also raised questions about the implications of free speech and censorship and respect for the Office of the President of the United States.

Perhaps the question to ask and debate at both the beginning of a course in U.S. History and at the end of the course is how much of America’s history is one of debate, dissent, and dispute?  Should we always be restless, fighting, and disagreeing or should we always strive for harmony, peace, and agreement? Does our music reveal evidence of a convincing answer?

Does Democracy Work? An Inquiry into American Democracy

by Dawn McShane & LynnAnn Perlin

Democracy has existed for hundreds of years in this country. Our population today is more informed than ever, have opportunities that our ancestors could only dream of, yet more and more Americans don’t think our democracy is working. Democracy is an important topic for our students to discuss as many people view this current political climate as a crossroads between the expansion of democracy globally vs. a shift towards soft authoritarianism. Many people have posed the question: are we experiencing a fourth wave of democracy with countries like Iraq and Afghanistan in transition? While on the flip side the popularity of the Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt book, How Democracies Die (2018),has challenged us to questions whether the global trend is going away from democracy towards an eventual death of democracy. These are conversations happening in our world today, and our students have to familiarize themselves with democracy to even engage in such debates. 

The Inquiry Design Model allowed us to create a lesson that challenges students to reflect on the history of democracy, the current state of democracy, and the future of democracy in America. In order to encourage student’s interest in the topic, we suggest starting with a staging question related to the topic, specifically the idea of voting. For our staging question, we used a brief clip on the history of Alice Paul and asked students to consider why Alice Paul and her fellow suffragettes were willing to sacrifice everything for the opportunity to participate in American democracy? You want to use this as an opportunity to engage all students in the conversation so that they can how it relates to them personally. This staging question also challenges students to question the value of democracy and how those included in democracy has expanded through the years. 

The first compelling question of this inquiry asks students to consider the definition of democracy. We suggest starting with a definition of democracy from one of the Founding Fathers and select primary source texts from different points in American history. We selected a variety of different primary sources for this first document set so that students can examine different perspectives of democracy. You want to give students time with these documents and allow them to close read each of them so that they truly understand what is being said. Using analysis strategies along with frequent conversations about the documents gives student confidence with difficult documents. 

With the second compelling question, we want students to analyze data in order to examine how voter turnout has changed throughout American history. Using the data students will create a claim that explains America’s relatively low voter turnout compared with other developed democracies. This task can also be modified for younger students by providing them with three possible claims and allow them to choose one and develop evidence to support their chosen claim. This task pushes students to think about American democracy and what a lack of voter turnout means for the future of our democracy. 

The third compelling question asks students to explore how Americans have developed a negative view of democracy. We wanted to use this inquiry to build upon ideas and help students make connections to ultimately question whether “democracy works.” By asking students to create a visual comparing both the positive and negative views of democracy, the students are able to make those important connections. The students then use all the information to create an argument that answers the question, “Does Democracy Work?” While answering this question, students should consider the following: Are there still groups that are left out of our democracy? Does everyone have an equal voice? Is America the democratic model for the rest of the world? 

Beyond this inquiry, we also encourage students to use what they learned about democracy to take action. Through conversations, students can think of ways to become active members in their communities and practice true democratic values. With so many young activists visible in the news, students are encouraged to fight for change in their local communities based on their own interests. The discussion of democracy and its future is not limited to any one type of student, but is an important discussion for every young person on the cusp of voting to engage in. 

Expanding Democracy / Jacksonian Democracy / White Men’s Democracy

by Stephanie Skier

Editor’s Note: this lesson is retrievable from https://edsitement.neh.gov/lesson-plans/lesson-1-1828-campaign-andrew-jackson-expansion-voting-base; Henretta et al (2014). America’s History, For the AP® Course, 8th edition.

Key Historical Themes/Trends: expansion of the franchise; rise of popular politics; rise of “democracy”; decline of notables (prominent elites) – John Quincy Adams as “the last notable president” (JQA refused to adjust to the new style of party politics); explicit exclusion of women and African Americans: “white men’s democracy”; rise of political machines; new forms of political corruption

Learning Objective: Explain the causes and effects of the expansion of participatory democracy from 1800 to 1848.

Historical Developments: The nation’s transition to a more participatory democracy was achieved by expanding suffrage from a system based on property ownership to one based on voting by all adult white men, and it was accompanied by the growth of political parties.

Do Now: Silently and independently answer questions 1-5 based on the following maps (figure 1): Figure 1:

  1. How many states or territories had property qualifications for voting in 1800?
  2. How many states or territories had property qualifications for voting in 1830? 
  3. How many states or territories had universal white male suffrage in 1830?
  4. What do you think could have caused this the expansion of the franchise from 1800 to 1830?
  5. In your opinion, what is the significance of the change shown in the maps?

White Man’s Democracy

Old cultural rules and new laws denied the vote to most women and free African American men.  When women and free African Americans sought voting rights amidst the new expansion of voting rights to poorer white men, legislators wrote explicit race and gender restrictions into state constitutions.  These exclusions often covered not just voting, but also serving on juries and running for public office. An 1821 New York State constitutional convention approved nearly universal suffrage for white men but set a high property threshold for blacks. The new constitution was overwhelmingly approved by New York State voters in January 1822 by 74,732 to 41,402.

“Article II, Section 1. Every male citizen of the age of twenty-one years, who shall have been an inhabitant of this state one year preceding any election . . . shall be entitled to vote in the town or ward where he actually resides . . .; but no man of colour, unless he shall have been for three years a citizen of this state, and for one year next preceding any election, shall be seized and possessed of a freehold estate of the value of two hundred and fifty dollars, over and above all debts and incumbrances [debts] charged thereon; and shall have been actually rated, and paid a tax thereon, shall be entitled to vote at any such election.

Turn and talk:

  1. How did New York State restrict voting rights for men of colour [black]?
  2. In your opinion, why do you think that race and gender restrictions on voting were added at the same time that property restrictions on voting were removed? 
  3. Do you think that the results were more democratic or less democratic than before?

Political Parties Take Command

  1. As the power of the notables declined, the political party emerged as the organizing force in the American system of government.
  2. Parties were political machines that gathered the diverse agenda of social and economic groups into a coherent legislative program.
  3. Although the beneficiary of elitist education and financial support, Martin Van Buren advocated a political order based on party identity, not family connections.
  4. Between 1817 and 1821, Van Buren created the first statewide political machine, and he later organized the first nationwide political party.
  5. Keys to Van Buren’s political success were his systematic use of party newspapers to promote a platform and drum up the vote and his use of patronage. He and his party made six thousand political appointments in New York. Van Buren then used the spoils system to award public jobs to political supporters after an electoral victory. Under the spoils system, public jobs were given to reward party allegiance, not based on an individual’s qualifications for the job.
  6. Van Buren insisted on disciplined voting as determined by a caucus, a meeting of party leaders, to ensure passage of the party’s legislative program.

Directions: Fill in the political parties and key political leaders for the Transition and the Second Party System shown in the diagram below. List 3 key organizing tools/methods that political parties used under the Second Party System and the purpose or effect of each of those tools/methods. (Hint: look among the bolded words in the “Political Parties Take Command.”

Method used by Political PartiesPurpose or Effect

Directions: Answer the question below based on the following diagrams.

Question: Describe the overall trend in voter turnout (the percentage of eligible voters who actually voted) from 1824 to 1844.

Image Analysis

Directions: For your group’s assigned image, follow the 4-step Image Analysis procedure below, discussing with your group and jotting down very brief notes in response to the Image Analysis questions (3 minutes).  Then answer the content-specific questions for your image 10 minutes.

Before answering the content-specific questions for your image, conduct a general image analysis using the following four-step procedure.

  1. Visual Inventory: Describe the image, beginning with the largest, most obvious features and proceed toward more particular details. Describe fully, without making evaluations. What do you see? What is the setting? What is the time of day, the season of the year, the region of the country?
  2. Documentation: Note what you know about the work. Who made it? When? Where? What is its title? How was it made? What were the circumstances of its creation (if known)?
  3. Associations: Begin to make evaluations and draw conclusions using observations and prior knowledge. How does this image relate to its historical and cultural framework? Does it invite comparison or correlation with historical or literary texts? Do you detect a point of view or a mood conveyed by the image? Does it present any unexplained or difficult aspects? Does it trigger an emotional response in you as a viewer? What associations (historical, literary, cultural, artistic) enrich your viewing of this image?
  4. Interpretation: Develop an interpretation of the work that both recognizes its specific features and also places it in a larger historical or thematic context.
The County Election

Figure 1: George Caleb Bingham, The County Election, oil on canvas, 1851-1852

Group A: With your group, analyze the painting below and answer Questions 1-7.

  1. According to the painting, who is shown participating in elections?  Describe the people shown in the crowd in terms of their race/ethnicity; sex/gender; class; and age.
  2. As shown the painting, was this election day gathering formal or casual?  What does that suggest about politics during this time period?
  3. According to the painting, what might have drawn people from rural areas to go the polling place on election day, aside from the election itself?
  4. Based on the painting, where and how did people cast their votes?  Was voting by secret ballot or in public? 
  5. Based on the painting, how do you think the people shown were getting information about the candidates and forming their decisions about how they will vote?
  6. Do you see anything in the painting to suggest to presence of political parties? How does Bingham portray them?
  7. What does the painting suggest about elections in which common people (not just wealthy property owners) can vote?

Group B: With your group, analyze the political cartoon and captions below and answer Questions 1-

Agrarian Workingmen’s Party of New York City, political cartoon, 1830

Captions:  Upper left: “We are in favour of Monarchy, Aristocracy, Monopolies, Auctions, laws that oppress the Poor, Imposture and the rights of the rich man to govern and enslave the Poor man at his will and pleasure, denying the Poor the right to redress, or any participation in political power.” Satan: “Take any, my dear Friend, they will all help you to grind the WORKIES [workingmen]!!”  

Box in Satan’s hand: “Ballot Box”  

Man in top hat: “My Old Friend, give me one of your favourites — TAMMANY — SENTINEL, or JOURNAL, or the POOR will get their rights. I’ll pay all.”  

Box in lower left foreground: “This contains the cause of all the misery and distress of the human family.”  

Upper right: “We are opposed to Monarchy, Aristocracy, Monopolies, Auctions, and in favour of the Poor to political power, denying the right of the rich to govern the Poor, and asserting in all cases, that those who labour should make the laws by which such labour should be protected and rewarded and finally, opposed to degrading the Mechanic, by making Mechanics of Felons. Our motto shall be LibertyEquityJustice, and The Rights of Man.”  

Liberty’s banner [Candidates of the Agrarian Workingmen’s Party, Nov. 1830 election]: “Register, John R. Soper, Mariner. Assembly, Henry Ireland, Coppersmith; William Forbes, Silversmith; William Odell, Grocer; Micajah Handy, Shipwright; Edmund L. Livingston, Brassfounder; Joseph H. Ray, Printer; Merritt Sands, Cartman; Samuel Parsons, Moroccodresser; Thompson Town, Engineer; Alexander Ming, Senior, Printer; Hugh M’Bride, Cartman. For Lieutenant-governor, Jonas Humbert, Senior, Baker. Senator, George Bruce, Typefounder. Congress, Alden Potter, Machinist; John Tuthill, Jeweller; Thomas Skidmore, Machinist.  

Worker: “Now for a noble effort for Rights, Liberties, and Comforts, equal to any in the land. No more grinding the POOR — But Liberty and the Rights of man.”  

Box in Liberty’s hand: “Ballot Box”  
  1. Compare the clothes of mainstream political party politician (shown in the middle left) with the clothes of the working man (middle right). What do their clothes indicate about each man?
  2. What is the politician doing in the cartoon?
  3. According to the cartoon, what were the roles of political parties and their newspapers?
  4. What is the Devil (on the left)) shown doing?  What is his symbolism in the cartoon?
  5. What is “Mother Liberty” (the figure on the right) shown doing?  What is her symbolism in the cartoon? 
  6. What opinion of the Working Men’s Party (the list of candidates shown on the right half of the cartoon) does the cartoonist present?
  7. Which figure — the working man or the party politician — did the cartoonist present as being the legitimate protector of the accomplishments of the American Revolution?
  8. What solution does the cartoonist offer to solve the problems of political corruption and working-class oppression?

Education: Debates and Changes

Question: What were some of the major changes in education that occurred over the period of the 1820s-1850s?

  • Although families provided most moral and intellectual training, republican ideology encouraged publicly supported schooling.
  • Bostonian Caleb Bingham, an influential textbook author, called for “an equal distribution of knowledge to make us emphatically a ‘republic of letters.’”
  • Farmers, artisans, and laborers wanted elementary schools that would instruct their children in reading, writing, and arithmetic.
  • Although the constitutions of many states encouraged the use of public resources to fund primary schools, there was not much progress until the 1820s.
  • To instill self-discipline and individual enterprise in students, reformers chose textbooks that praised honesty and hard work while condemning gambling, drinking, and laziness. American history was also required learning.
  • Horace Mann (1796–1859), the nation’s leading educational reformer, led the fight for government support for public schools. As a state legislator in Massachusetts, in 1837 Mann took the lead in establishing a state board of education and his efforts resulted in a doubling of state expenditures on education. He also won state support for teacher training, an improved curriculum in schools, the grading of pupils by age and ability, and a lengthened school year. He was also partially successful in curtailing the use of corporal punishment. In 1852, three years after Mann left office to take a seat in the U.S. Congress, Massachusetts adopted the first compulsory school attendance law in U.S. history.
  • However, most northern cities specifically excluded African Americans from the public schools. It was not until 1855 that Massachusetts became the first state to admit students to public schools without regard to “race, color, or religious opinions.” 
  • Women and religious minorities also experienced discrimination. For women, education beyond the level of handicrafts and basic reading and writing was largely confined to separate female academies and seminaries for the wealthy. Emma Hart Willard opened one of the first academies offering advanced education to women in Philadelphia in 1814.
  • Many public school teachers showed an anti-Catholic bias by using texts that portrayed the Catholic Church as a threat to republican values and reading passages from a Protestant version of the Bible. Beginning in New York City in 1840, Catholics decided to establish their own system of schools in which children would receive a religious education as well as training in the arts and sciences.
  • In higher education, a few institutions opened their doors to African Americans and women.
  • In 1833, Oberlin College led by the revivalist minister Charles G. Finney, became the first co-educational college in the United States. Four years later, Mary Lyon established the first women’s college, Mount Holyoke, to train teachers and missionaries. A number of western state universities also admitted women.
  • Three colleges for specifically for African Americans, including Lincoln University, were founded before the Civil War.  A few other colleges, including Oberlin, Harvard, Bowdoin, and Dartmouth, admitted small numbers of black students.

Final Writing Task

Directions: Silently and independently read and annotate the quotations below.  Then write a 3-5 sentences response to the prompt based on the quotations.

1. Compare and contrast the opinion presented by Alexander Hamilton and the opinion presented by the New York Working Men’s party.

2. Connect to the theme: How do these primary source documents connect to larger changes in U.S. politics that occurred over this time period?

turbulent: unsteady, fluctuating, stormy
imprudence: recklessness, lack of caution, lack of forethought
New York Workingmen’s Party: Formed in 1829, rose quickly to prominence and then disappeared in 1831, when much of the party’s agenda and voters were coopted by the Tammany Hall Democratic Party political machine.  The New York Workingmen’s Party successfully supported the end of imprisonment for debt in New York state and expanded funding for public education in New York City. 

 “All communities divide themselves into the few and the many. The first are the rich and the well born, the other the mass of the people… The people are turbulent and changing; they seldom judge or determine right. … Give, therefore to the first class a distinct permanent share in the government…. Can a democratic Assembly, who annually revolve in the mass of the people, be supposed steadily to pursue the public good? Nothing but a permanent body can check the imprudence of democracy.” —Alexander Hamilton, 1787

“All children are entitled to equal education; all adults, to equal property; and all mankind to equal privileges.” — New York Workingmen’s Party, 1829

Missing Persons in History

The Alice Paul Institute

I think about how much we owe to the women who went before us-legions of women, some known but many more unknown. I applaud the bravery and resilience of those who helped all of us – you and me – to be here today.” Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court Justice

Grade: 6-8 / Duration: 2 class periods


  • Students will develop analytical research skills, work cooperatively, and practice positive presentation skills.
  • Students will learn about a diverse array of women’s rights activists and how they shaped the suffrage movement.


  • Craft supplies – construction paper and/or poster board, plain white paper, markers, glue, scissors, etc.
  • Computers with internet access for research
  • Missing Persons Report handout
  • List of activists (included) to assign students

PROCEDURE: After watching Alice at a Glance, debrief with students:

  • Who were the main historical figures presented in the DVD?
  • What did they contribute to their women’s suffrage movement?
  • What obstacles did they face, and how did they overcome them?
  • Was women’s suffrage achieved with the work of only these women, or did it take many different hands?

TASKS: In groups of two or three, students will each research a different activist who somehow played a role in women’s rights. While all of these activists are well known among historians for their contributions, most of us have never heard of them before. Each group will craft a creative “Missing Persons Report” on their historical figure (see assignment handout). They should include a bibliography of their sources used. Students should use the resources available at the school to conduct their research, including internet research databases and library materials. (Google searches should only be accepted as a last resort and information must be from reputable websites.) When students have completed their research (See handout for guidelines of relevant information) they should begin creating their Missing Persons Report. Encourage students to get creative. They may wish to bring in materials from home to complete their Missing Persons Report the following day. When all students have completed their Missing Persons Report, give students time to present their posters to the class. Students should present basic background information about their activist, highlight their contributions and briefly explain why they think this activist should be better known. Display the posters in the classroom or hallway to share students’ research about lesser-known women’s rights activists.

EVALUATION: Consider evaluating students’ learning for a grade based on their group participation, research bibliography, and finished product. Check in on student’s understanding as they research–they may need additional support with the research process or sorting through information about their activist.

ADAPTATIONS: A more extended project might involve the creation of a class book, group PowerPoint project, or a project using other media. Consider creating an interdisciplinary project on persuasion with a Language Arts class by asking students to use persuasive techniques in their final projects. Expectations of final products and analysis involved will vary with grade levels.


The following activists worked for women’s suffrage; even if students are familiar with some of the names, they often don’t know the activists’ contributions to women’s rights in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Here’s a chance for them to find out: Jane Addams; Ida Wells Barnett; Antoinette Brown Blackwell; Henry Blackwell; Harriot Stanton Blatch; Mary Ann Shadd Cary; Carrie Chapman Catt; Anne Clay Crenshaw; Paulina Wright Davis; Rheta Childe Dorr; Frederick Douglass; Lillian Feickert; Abigail Kelly Foster; Matilda Joslyn Gage; Angelica Emily Grimke; Sarah Moore Grimke; Ida Husted Harper; Julia Ward Howe; Alice Duer Miller; Esther Morris; Lucretia Mott; Parker Pillsbury; Robert Purvis; Jeanette Rankin; Caroline Severance; Anna Howard Shaw; Mary Church Terrell; Sojourner Truth; Victoria Woodhull; Maud Younger

Missing Persons Report

There are many activists (female and male) who made tremendous contributions to women’s rights. Most are well-known by historians, but many of us don’t recognize the names of people who had a major impact on women’s rights. As historical detectives, you will research one activist who fought for women’s right to vote. With your group, you will create a Missing Persons Report about your historical figure. Get creative with your report! Be sure to address:

  • Who your figure is (name)
  • When they lived
  • An image of the activist
  • Their major contributions to women’s rights
  • Why you think people should know about this activist
  • Consider including symbols of your activist’s work and life, quotes by or about your activist, or pictures of their work – anything that will show others who your activist was.

Broken Promises in the Middle East from the Institute for Curriculum Services

Institute for Curriculum Services

Editor’s Note: this lesson is retrievable from https://icsresources.org/curriculum/the-arab-israeli-conflict/

The Institute for Curriculum Services (ICS) is dedicated to improving the quality of K-12 education on Jews, Judaism, and Israel in the United States. They do this by developing standards-aligned curricula and training teachers around the country (www.icsresources.org). Steve Goldberg, a former President of the National Council for the Social Studies, is the New York regional trainer for (ICS).  In this lesson, students examine letters, agreements, and official statements that were written during World War I and shortly after it ended. These documents show how the British made conflicting promises to Jews and Arabs during this period. These are planned as a two-day lesson.


  • What role did the Allied Powers (especially the British Government) play in setting up conflicts in the region which persist today?
  • Why did the British Government make promises that conflicted with each other?

Learning Outcomes – Students will be able to:

  • Understand the connection between the broken promises made to Arabs and Jews during World War 1 and current challenges in the Middle East.
  • Situate a modern conflict in its historical, cultural, and geographical context.
  • Derive information from political maps.
  • Determine the central ideas or information from a primary text.
  • Determine the meaning of words and phrases used in a text.

Materials: Broken Promises video and Primary Sources, Key Words, and Maps (available online)

Primary Sources

  • DOCUMENT 1: Hussein-McMahon Correspondence (1915) and Maps ?
  • DOCUMENT 2: The Sykes-Picot Agreement (1916) and Map ?
  • DOCUMENT 3: The Balfour Declaration (1917) ?
  • DOCUMENT 4: The Feisal-Weizmann Agreement (1919) ?
  • DOCUMENT 5: The Covenant of the League of Nations, Article 22 (1919)

Handouts: Tweet the Document Exercise; SOAPSTone Graphic Organizer; Exit Slip

Introduction: Ask the students to talk to their elbow partners about times when they’ve experienced promises being broken. Has a friend broken a promise? A parent or guardian? A family member? What did it feel like? Is there any way to make up for a broken promise? What do broken promises do to relationships? At this point, the teacher can segue into the topic of the class: What happens when nations make promises that they can’t or won’t keep?

Activities: Watch the film, “Broken Promises,” available online; if you didn’t do Lesson 1, watch the film, “Land Matters,” also online. Alternatively, you may introduce the topic with the following talking points:

  • To understand the Arab-Israeli conflict, it’s important to consider the broken promises that the British made to Arabs and Jews as they tried to secure allies in the Middle East during World War I.
  • During WWI, the geographic territory that now comprises the State of Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank, was known as “Greater Syria” and had been part of the Ottoman Empire for six centuries.
  • Because of its geographic location, this region is a land bridge connecting Asia, Africa, and Europe and was strategically important to the Allied Forces (Britain, France, Russia, and later the United States and Italy) in their fight against the Central Powers (primarily Germany and the Ottoman Empire).
  • Britain first engaged Arab leaders as allies during World War I by promising them independence at the end of the war (as seen in DOCUMENT 1: The Hussein-McMahon Correspondence).
  • Shortly after, Britain enlisted Jewish support in the war effort by promising to create a Jewish national home in the ancient Jewish homeland (as seen in the DOCUMENT 3: Balfour Declaration).
  • While some Arab and Jewish leaders recognized the benefits of the establishment and maintenance of respective territories within this region (as seen in the DOCUMENT 4: Faisal- Weizmann Agreement), the ruling powers (Britain and France) secretly made an agreement to exercise political control through spheres of influence (as seen in the DOCUMENT 2: Sykes-Picot Agreement).
  • Shortly after World War I ended, European nations formed the League of Nations as a way to settle international disputes and prevent future conflict. The DOCUMENT 5: Covenant of the League of Nations, Article 22, provides the framework for what should be done with the colonies and territories that had controlled by the Central Powers before the war.

Primary Source Analysis

Option 1: Working in small groups, students will analyze primary source documents using the social media platform, Twitter. This activity works best with Documents 1-3. Each group should have one Tweet the Document handout and one of the first three documents. Each group will do their own document analysis using the Tweet format (see handout). Explain that Twitter is an online news and social networking site where people communicate in short messages called Tweets. Using a maximum of 280 characters, the Tweeter’s ideas are explained in brief but meaningful phrases, promoting the focused and intentional use of language. Hashtags (#) are used to categorize Tweets so that they are part of a narrowed conversation and are easier to find in a Twitter search. They are also used to add extra emphasis to the Tweet, similar to bullet points.

Option 2: Students should form groups of four or five so that they will be able to work independentlyandtheninsmallgroupsevaluatefiveprimarysourcedocuments. Distribute the primary source documents so that each group receives a full set. If there are only four students in a group, they can skip either Document 4 or 5. Each student should read the introduction to the text to get a sense of authorship, audience, setting, time, and type of document. Then, each student will read the assigned primary source document, using the SOAPSTone Graphic Organizer to record pertinent details. Students will then present their findings to their small groups.

Variation: Students form groups of two (or three) and each pair will work on one text and fill out the SOAPSTone Graphic Organizer together. The small groups then present their findings to the class so that the whole class is exposed to the full set of documents. In order to make use of both types of primary source analysis, students may use the exercise for because they are shorter and more conducive to the Tweet format. Using the exercise for Documents 4-5 gives students the opportunity to focus on the more nuanced language in these sources, especially with regard to purpose and tone.

Option 3: In order to make use of both types of primary source analysis, students may use the exercise for because they are shorter and more conducive to the Tweet format. Using the exercise for Documents 4-5 gives students the opportunity to focus on the more nuanced language in these sources, especially with regard to purpose and tone.

Conclusion: Students can answer the questions on the Exit Slip, either as part of a class discussion or individually.


DOCUMENT 1: Hussein-McMahon Correspondence (1915)

BACKGROUND: Beginning in the summer of 1915, Sir Henry McMahon (1862-1949), British High Commissioner in Cairo, exchanged letters with Hussein Ibn Ali (1853/54-1931), the Sherif of Mecca. In these letters, which became known as “The Hussein-McMahon Correspondence,” McMahon agreed to support Hussein’s request for Arab independence in exchange for Arab support against the Ottoman Empire in World War I. NOTE: The maps that accompany this document were not part of the original correspondence; they represent the request that Hussein made and the response that McMahon provided. What precisely was promised later became the subject of great debate.

Source: The Israel-Arab Reader: A Documentary History of the Middle East Conflict. W. Laqueur and B. Rubin, editors. New York: Penguin Books, 2008.

EXCERPT From Sir Henry McMahon, 24 October 1915

“I have received your letter of the 29th Shawal, 1333 [in the Islamic calendar], with much pleasure and your expressions of friendliness and sincerity have given me the greatest satisfaction.

“I regret that you should have received from my last letter the impression that I regarded the question of the limits and boundaries with coldness and hesitation; such was not the case . . .  I have realised, however . . . that you regard this question as one of vital and urgent importance. I have, therefore, lost no time in informing the Government of Great Britain of the contents of your letter, and it is with great pleasure that I communicate to you on their behalf the following statement, which I am confident you will receive with satisfaction.

“The two districts of Mersina and Alexandretta and portions of Syria lying to the west of the districts of Damascus, Homs, Hama and Aleppo cannot be said to be purely Arab, and should be excluded from the limits demanded. . . I am empowered in the name of the Government of Great Britain to give the following assurances and make the following reply to your letter:

1. Subject to the above modifications, Great Britain is prepared to recognize and support the independence of the Arabs in all the regions within the limits demanded by the Sherif of Mecca.

2. When the situation admits, Great Britain will give to the Arabs her advice and will assist them to establish what may appear to be the most suitable forms of government in those various territories.

3. On the other hand, it is understood that the Arabs have decided to seek the advice and guidance of Great Britain only, and that such European advisers and officials as may be required for the formation of a sound form of administration will be British . . .

“I am convinced that this declaration will assure you beyond all possible doubt of the sympathy of Great Britain towards the aspirations of her friends the Arabs and will result in a firm and lasting alliance, the immediate results of which will be the expulsion of the Turks from the Arab countries and the freeing of the Arab peoples from the Turkish yoke, which for so many years has pressed heavily upon them.”


Islamic calendar: lunar calendar with 12 months and 354 or 355 days; began in 622 CE (which became Year 1) to mark the year that Muhammad (whom Muslims view as the last prophet) migrated from Mecca to Medina with his followers and established the first Muslim community
Sherif of Mecca: leader responsible for overseeing the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina and the surrounding Hejaz (in what is today Saudi Arabia); traditional title given to descendants of Muhammad’s grandson, Hasan ibn Ali
Sheikh: an Arab leader; a title often given to a chief of a tribe or family
Turkish yoke: Ottoman rule

Hussein’s Request

The area with diagonal lines (ARABIA) represents what Hussein originally requested as territory for a future Arab state. See Schneer, Jonathan, Balfour Declaration the Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict  (New York: Random House, 2012).

McMahon’s Response

In his letter, McMahon offers Hussein everything to the right of the thick dark line (which corresponds to Arabia on the map to the right, but was technically called the Villayet of Damascus because it was part of the Ottoman Empire). The area in the shaded region, McMahon said, was not properly Arab and could not be included.

DOCUMENT 2: Sykes-Picot Agreement (1916) (EXCERPT)

Source: The Israel-Arab Reader: A Documentary History of the Middle East Conflict. W. Laqueur and B. Rubin, editors. New York: Penguin Books, 2008.

BACKGROUND: On May 9, 1916, Great Britain and France reached a secret agreement, drafted by their representatives Mark Sykes and Francois George-Picot, respectively. As part of this agreement they outlined their spheres of influence in the Middle East, territory for an Arab state or confederation of Arab states, dividing most of the Ottoman Empire into areas of British and French control which would take effect at the end of World War I. This agreement became public in March 1917 (See accompanying map).

That France and Great Britain are prepared to recognize and protect an independent Arab State or a Confederation of Arab States (A) and (B) marked on the annexed map, under the suzerainty of an Arab chief.

That in area (A) France, and in area (B) Great Britain, shall have priority of right of enterprise and local loans.

That in area (A) France, and in area (B) Great Britain, shall alone supply advisers or foreign functionaries at the request of the Arab State or Confederation of Arab States.

That in the blue area France, and in the red area Great Britain, shall be allowed to establish such direct or indirect administration or control as they desire and as they may think fit to arrange with the Arab State or Confederation of Arab States.

That in the brown area [yellow on the map] there shall be established an international administration, the form of which is to be decided upon after consultation with Russia, and subsequently in consultation with the other Allies, and the representatives of the Shereef [alternative spelling for Sherif] of Mecca.  


confederation: association, partnership
functionaries: officials, employees
right of enterprise: the right to control their own business interests
spheres of influence: areas where British and French interests would have priority over local governments
suzerainty: a situation in which the Arabs could be in charge of their own internal affairs but where Great Britain or France, as the dominant states, would still control foreign affairs

DOCUMENT 3: The Balfour Declaration (1917)

BACKGROUND: On November 2, 1917, British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour (1848-1930) wrote a letter, endorsing the British Government’s establishment of a Jewish national home in the geographic territory of Palestine. Lord Rothschild, to whom the letter was addressed, was the unofficial leader of the British Jewish community. Source: Balfour Declaration November 2, 1917. The Avalon Project at Yale Law School.

Foreign Office, November 2nd, 1917
Dear Lord Rothschild, I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet.   “His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”   I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.  
Yours sincerely,
Arthur James Balfour

KEYWORD: Zionist Federation: group founded in 1899 to advocate for a permanent homeland for the Jewish people

DOCUMENT 4: Feisal-Weizmann Agreement (1919) (EXCERPT)

Source: The Israel-Arab Reader: A Documentary History of the Middle East Conflict. W. Laqueur and B. Rubin, editors. New York: Penguin, 2008.

BACKGROUND: On January 3, 1919, Emir Feisal (1885-1933), son of Hussein ibn-Ali and an Arab leader and military commander, and Chaim Weizmann (1874-1952), President of the Zionist Organization, entered into an agreement with each other to formalize the national aspirations of both the Jews and the Arabs with the aim of establishing independent states for both peoples. Note: In this agreement, the term Palestine referred to a Jewish state.

His Royal Highness the Emir Feisal, representing and acting on behalf of the Arab Kingdom of Hedjaz, and Dr. Chaim Weizmann, representing and acting on behalf of the Zionist Organisation, mindful of the racial kinship and ancient bonds existing between the Arabs and the Jewish people . . . have agreed upon the following Articles:

  • Article I: The Arab State and Palestine [Jewish State] in all their relations and undertakings shall be controlled by the most cordial goodwill and understanding . . . .
  • Article II: The definite boundaries between the Arab State and Palestine shall be determined by a Commission to be agreed upon by the parties hereto.
  • Article III: Measures shall be adopted . . . or carrying into effect the British Government’s Declaration of the 2nd of November, 1917 [the Balfour Declaration].
  • Article IV: All necessary measures shall be taken to encourage and stimulate immigration of Jews into Palestine on a large scale . . . In taking such measures the Arab peasant and tenant farmers shall be protected in their rights and shall be assisted in forwarding their economic development.
  • Article V: No regulation or law shall be made prohibiting or interfering in any way with the free exercise of religion . . .
  • Article VI: The Mohammedan Holy Places shall be under Mohammedan control.
  • Article VII: The Zionist Organization will use its best efforts to assist the Arab State in providing the means for developing the natural resources and economic possibilities thereof.

Reservation by the Emir Feisal: If the Arabs are established as I have asked in my manifesto of 4 January, addressed to the British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, I will carry out what is written in this agreement. If changes are made, I cannot be answerable for failing to carry out this agreement.


answerable: responsible; blamed for
cordial: warm, friendly
Emir: commander, prince, or ruler
free exercise of religion: the right to choose and practice a religion
hereto: to this document
measures: systems, procedures
Mohammedan: old-fashioned term for Muslim; not used today
reservation: stipulation; a condition that must be met
thereof: the thing that has just been mentioned; in this case, the Arab State

DOCUMENT 5: Covenant of the League of Nations, Article 22 (1919) (EXCERPT)

Source: The Covenant of the League of Nations, 1919. The Avalon Project at Yale Law School.

BACKGROUND: As World War I was coming to a close, many of the European powers sought to form an international organization to settle disputes between nations. Member nations would agree to defend each other if attacked and would not declare war without the consent of the others. The Covenant of the League of Nations is the document which created the League of Nations and defined its mission. The League of Nations formally came into being in 1920 as a result of the Paris Peace Conference. This section of the Covenant talks about what should be done with the colonies and territories controlled by the Central Powers before World War I.

To those colonies and territories which as a consequence of the late war have ceased to be under the sovereignty of the States which formerly governed them and which are inhabited by peoples not yet able to stand by themselves under the strenuous conditions of the modern world, there should be applied the principle that the well-being and development of such peoples form a sacred trust of civilization and that securities for the performance of this trust should be embodied in this Covenant . . . 

The tutelage of such peoples should be entrusted to advanced nations who by reason of their resources, their experience or their geographical position can best undertake this responsibility, and who are willing to accept it, and that this tutelage should be exercised by them as Mandatories on behalf of the League.

The character of the mandate must differ according to the stage of the development of the people, the geographical situation of the territory, its economic conditions and other similar circumstances.

Certain communities formerly belonging to the Turkish Empire [Ottoman Empire] have reached a stage of development where their existence as independent nations can be provisionally recognized subject to the rendering of administrative advice and assistance by a Mandatory until such time as they are able to stand alone. The wishes of these communities must be a principal consideration in the selection of the Mandatory.

Other peoples, especially those of Central Africa, are at such a stage that the Mandatory must be responsible for the administration of the territory under conditions which will guarantee freedom of conscience and religion, subject only to the maintenance of public order and morals, the prohibition of abuses such as the slave trade, the arms traffic and the liquor traffic, and the prevention of the establishment of fortifications or military and naval bases and of military training of the natives for other than police purposes and the defense of territory, and will also secure equal opportunities for the trade and commerce of other Members of the League . . . 

The degree of authority, control, or administration to be exercised by the Mandatory shall, if not previously agreed upon by the Members of the League, be explicitly defined in each case by the Council.

Source: The Covenant of the League of Nations, 1919. The Avalon Project at Yale Law School. Web.


arms traffic: illegal buying or selling of weapons
covenant: agreement, contract
Council of the League of Nations: one of the central units within the League of Nations
mandate: a region or territory assigned to one of the Allied Powers by the League of Nations
mandatories: countries assigned to administer or govern a region
provisionally: for the time being, temporarily
strenuous: demanding, difficult tutelage: instruction, guidance


Tweet the Document Exercise: Twitter is an online news and social networking site where people communicate in short messages called Tweets. Tweets are limited to 280 characters. Hashtags (#) are used to categorize Tweets so that they are easier to find in a Twitter search. Hash tags are also used to add extra emphasis to the Tweet, similar to bullet points. Tweet the central message(s) of your document using the Twitter format.

SOAPSTone – Graphic Organizer

 Close ReadingHow do you know?
SPEAKERWho is the speaker? What can you tell or what do you know about the speaker that helps you understand the point of view expressed? 
OCCASIONWhat is the time and place of the piece? What is the current situation (that prompted the writing)? Is this a political event, a celebration, an observation, or a critique? Identify the context of the text. 
AUDIENCEWho are the readers to whom this piece is directed? It may be one person or a specific group. Does the speaker specify an audience? What assumptions exist in the text about the intended audience? 
PURPOSEWhat is the purpose behind the text? (Why did the author write it? What is his goal?) What is the message? How does the speaker convey this message? 
SUBJECTWhat topic, content, and ideas are included in the text? State the subject in a few words or a short phrase. 
TONEWhat is the attitude of the author? Is the author emotional, objective, neutral, or biased about this topic? What types of diction (choice of words), syntax (sentence structure), and imagery (metaphors, similes, and other types of figurative language) help reflect the tone? 


1. What promises did the British make during World War I?

2. Why did the British make conflicting promises? Which promises did they break?

3. What kind of agreement did Faisal and Weizmann make with each other?

4. What do you think happened in the region after World War I because of broken promises?