How Do We Teach Politics in a Society Where Political Affiliations Have Become Toxic?

How Do We Teach Politics in a Society Where Political Affiliations Have Become Toxic?

Nick Zolkiwsky

Throughout my time as a student from kindergarten up until the eighth grade, politics and government were never taught in my classes. To which I was not at all surprised, after all how do you teach a second grader the difference between a conservative and a liberal when they should be learning how to construct paragraphs and learn how to use a keyboard? Let alone how do you get them interested in such a topic? Even more importantly, how do we get them interested in the topic and teach them to respect others who may hold different political views?

The first time I can vividly recall politics being taught in my class was when I was in fourth grade and we were fastly approaching the 2008 Presidential election. During those short and brief lessons, my teachers did not tell us where Senators McCain or Obama sided on certain issues or even a basic background of the parties they were affiliated with. Instead, we were all taught to like Obama because he was younger and was the more “favorable” candidate among teachers at my elementary school. The same situation occurred four years later when I was in eighth grade and the 2012 election was approaching. To which I was genuinely surprised because at this point we were all teenagers and had a better understanding of how the world works compared to when we were still in grade school, at least I thought I did. However, it wasn’t until the 2016 election that my teachers actually began talking about the issues that Americans would be voting for and where Donald Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stood. While for the first time we were having open discussions about beliefs and the two major parties it was undoubtedly one of the most toxic environments one could have ever imagined. Instead of listening to each other oftentimes I would find classmates getting into heated arguments, which were then followed by one person attacking the personal character of the other. Even as a 17 year old I knew this was no way to hold political discussions. Where was the respect? Where were the listening skills? And most importantly, where was the maturity? The answer, nowhere to be found. So the question is, how do we, as teachers, teach and create a healthy environment where students can learn and discuss politics when we live in a society that becomes toxic when these discussions arise?

To say 2020 has been one of the most unpredictable years in recent memory would be an understatement. It’s been a 12 month period where every 30 days or so we are met with another apocalyptic type event: first it was wildfires, then a pandemic, then heightened racial issues, and to make it all the more fun we threw in a Presidential election into the mix. According to an article from “” there are easy steps to teaching politics within the classroom in the current climate that we live in. The first step that the article suggests is to discuss biases and “fake news” within the American mainstream media. This is a perfect starting point as understanding biases will better help all students fully understand the concepts of politics and how different media outlets portray a candidate/policy than a rivaling network. This also opens up the door to teach students the importance of fact-checking and doing their own research, which in the past few years has become so much more important than ever. Unfortunately, due to the easy access to media and the increasing influence of social media, individuals will typically see a picture or a meme on Twitter or Instagram and assume it to be true. Not only will they outright believe it but they won’t even go through the effort of reading up on the issue or using that additional information to form their own opinion.

The next three steps that the article discusses are more so related to notifying parents that you are about to discuss politics within the class. As many social studies teachers know, politics is a very touchy subject to teach about, and as many teachers in general know, parents sometimes are not afraid to tell you how they really feel about you teaching a particular subject. What this step aims to do is to notify the parents before the lesson is taught and lay out for them how the subject will be delivered to the students. By doing so, not only will the parents be as caught up as their students are but, it better prepares them to answer those difficult questions that their children may ask at the dinner table or in some cases, provide clarification and context to when a student tells their parents what they did in school that day. In addition to notifying parents about the upcoming lessons on politics and how you intend on delivering the information, it is a good idea to also encourage parents to talk about politics with their students at home. This is done so not only will the students have a better understanding of what they are getting into and about to learn, but it will also help them start to relate to certain focal points and issues that personally matter to them and their family.

Lastly, once the day has arrived to start teaching about politics in your classroom there are a few ground rules that you should establish right off the bat. The first rule, and quite possibly the most important rule, is to ensure that your students will show respect and remain respectful during the lesson. The way I like to think of it is, respectful ears are ears that are open to hearing the voices of others without judgment. The next rule is more geared towards you as the teacher and that is to remain neutral on the subject matter. While it is oftentimes difficult to remain neutral on certain topics, you have to understand that some of your students might have little to no understanding of the issues that you are about to discuss. Rather than giving them a biased opinion, which they have learned about at this point, you are giving them a non-partisan view and allowing them to make their own opinions on the topic. The third and final rule is to make sure that the students know that their opinions are their own opinions and they have the right to have them. This can be very empowering for students, especially those in High School who now find themselves in the “young adult” category. By having their own free-formed opinions this helps them establish a sense of identity as to who they are and where their morals lie and if you think about it you’re killing two birds with one stone.

How you want to present the information is totally up to you, just as long as you feel that you can provide the necessary information and that the information provided will be retained by the students in the classroom. Some suggest that PowerPoints and lectures may be the best option because this allows students to ask questions throughout the lesson and does provide room for a short class discussion. The more you allow students to voice their opinions and ask questions shows that they are engaging in the topic and that they are getting curious about why things are the way that they are. Other ways could include holding a mini-election within your own classroom, however, this activity may take a few class periods to run its full course, but on the flip side is it keeps them engaged longer and it allows them to go home after class and do their own research to further their own side of the topic. The last way you could do it is a much more laissez-faire approach and that is an open class discussion where you go around and have students speak up on what they know about politics. In doing so, the students are teaching one another and it gives you the teacher the opportunity to expand on talking points, correct any misconceptions brought up and even guide them to areas of further discussion. However, the one drawback that this approach comes with is that you will have biased opinions from students, so be sure to neutralize any bias that could be presented and most importantly, if a student holds similar views as you do, do not promote those as the “correct” way of thinking. 

In conclusion, it is safe to say that we live in a time like no other. Our political climate in our nation today has never been as divisive as it has been over the past few years. But we as educators and even future parents must realize that if we want to change the toxic climate that is our political spheres, then we must lead the charge. Show our students it’s okay to disagree with others and that you can still be friends just because one person voted for one candidate and the other voted for the opposite candidate. The sooner we implement respect in our classrooms and when discussing politics with younger generations the more likely they will pass those traits down to their children.

Enemies in Their Own Homes

Enemies in Their Own Homes

Austin Parrish

“I am the grandson of immigrants from Japan who went to America. Boldly going to a strange new world, seeking new opportunities.”  George Takei, a famous Japanese American actor who is proud of his heritage is also proud to be an American citizen.  Just as his grandparents came to the United States, so did many other Japanese people.  They came to seek opportunities and create a new life for themselves. They wanted to live the American dream, and all was well until the day that will live in infamy, flipped the lives of the Japanese Americans.  After the attack on Pearl Harbor the United States felt that the only things that they could do to prevent further attacks on the United States was to round up the Japanese Americans and put them into internment camps all over the country.  This was heavily backed up by powerful figures in government such as the President and the Secretary of War.  There were those who opposed the idea but the overwhelming push for the Japanese Americans to be put into the internment camps drowned out the opposition.  Japanese Americans became an important part of the economy in a few different states and by removing them all so rapidly it would be extremely detrimental to American’s society.  This paper will argue that it did more harm to the United States socially and economically to put the Japanese Americans into the internment camps.  It cost the United States a lot of money to set up the camps, round up all the Japanese Americans and keep them there for a couple of years.  Socially it was detrimental to the Japanese Americans after they returned home from the Internment camps as they lost everything upon returning home.  The United States felt that they were making the right decision and wanted to make the public feel safe.   To keep the citizens at peace of mind they made the decision to put them in the camps even though it would cost the United States.  Even though the Japanese attacked the United States directly it did not mean that all the Japanese people living in the United States were spies for Japan or had mal intent.

Japanese immigration to the United States started around the 1900s and when they first arrived in the United States their economic status was on par with that of African Americans.  There were many restrictions set on Japanese immigrants, making it difficult for them to be economically successful.  They were not allowed to own any farm land or even lease it in a few different states.  However, according to historian Masao Suzuki, due to their culture and solidarity they were able to be more successful and some considered them an “ideal minority”. In the eyes of the American people the ideal minority was what they were looking for in the immigrants that were coming into the United States.   The idea of “ideal minority” meant that they were helpful to society in that they were able to keep jobs and work hard as well.  The Jewish people were also considered ideal minorities because they shared a similar work ethic because of their culture and the society that they lived in.  However, the neighbors to the Japanese, the Chinese were very hard workers but due to their lifestyle in China most of them were looked down upon and would not fit into American culture as easily as the Japanese did.

Immigrants coming into the United States were usually coming for one reason to work.  In the short time between 1900 and 1940 about 90% of the Japanese population that had come to the United States were working in jobs.  Many of those jobs were unskilled, which included things such as farming, railroad work, mining, and domestic servants.  There was also a small 2% of Japanese Americans that were professionals or proprietors and that only continued to increase and eventually by the 1940s it went up to 18%, the highest of all minorities.  The Japanese were a crucial part of the economy in some states.  Even though they were very productive and contributed to society they were still looked down upon in the eyes of white Americans and were still not seen as equals to the other white minorities.  However, on the day that will live in infamy, December 7th 1941, when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor everything changed for the Japanese Americans and their lives were turned upside down.  The view of the Japanese people drastically shifted and led the United States to take immediate action.  Franklin D. Roosevelt the 32nd President of the United States created the Executive Order 9006 which resulted in the internment of the Japanese Americans.  This further alienated the Japanese Americans in the eyes of the American people.  Which had a very negative social impact on the Japanese Americans as well as problems for civil rights in the United States.

The attack on Pearl Harbor stunned Americans and President Franklin D. Roosevelt made a speech December 7th 1941 in response to the attack on Hawaii.  Roosevelt stated “YESTERDAY, December 7th, 1941 a date which will live in infamy the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.” There was civil unrest among the people of the United States as they were scared of the uncertainty that lay ahead of them.  The main reason behind the President creating the Executive Order 9066 was to protect from any form of espionage, to do this he gave power to the Secretary of War.   He was given the power to evacuate the Japanese Americans from their homes and bring them into military controlled camps.  The Japanese Americans were uprooted from their homes and were only allowed to bring with them what they could carry.  Even though there was much support from influential members of the government for the internment camps there were those such as Governor of Colorado, Ralph L. Carr, who were very much against the idea.  An American General by the name of DeWitt states that “a Japs a Jap… Whether the Jap is a citizen or not”.  This sentiment was the widely accepted view for the American people at that time because of the immediate impact Pearl Harbor had on the population.  This order outraged Carr, who believed that all American citizens, regardless of race or ethnicity, should be guaranteed their constitutional rights.  Even though there was support against the internment of Japanese Americans there was not enough to free them from the camps.

This paper will be delving into the social and economic effects of putting the Japanese Americans into the internment camps.  The United States had done more harm to itself socially and economically by putting the Japanese Americans in the camps.  It will discuss the social changes that occurred when the Japanese citizens were vacated from their homes.  The paper will also take into consideration the economic effects of removing the Japanese Americans from their homes and into the camps.  From the jobs that the Japanese Americans were doing, to feeding them in the camps, setting up the camps, and giving retribution for what they had lost as well.  The paper will also take into consideration the reasoning for the Japanese being put into the internment camps and the possible positive outcomes.

In the years leading up to the United States entering World War II because of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese American population started to assimilate into American society.  Japanese American families made the United States into their home just as George Takei’s mother and father did.  Prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor Takei’s family had been living comfortably in Los Angeles and were even celebrating the American holiday of Christmas because they felt as though they were truly American citizens.  After the attack on Pearl Harbor the morning after, the Takei family’s car was smashed and painted on saying “Get out Japs”This act of vandalism shows how the call for internment caused problems socially on a whole other level because the act of hatred made it seem as though all Americans were against the Japanese.  Which was a very backwards way to try and rally the people because it made the Japanese Americans feel as though they cannot be trusted even though in some cases families had been living in the United States for multiple generations. This incident was incited by the speech that President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave after it was reported that the Japanese were the ones behind the attack.  His speech and call for congress to go to action further alienated the Japanese Americans in the eyes of the American people.  Socially for the Japanese Americans they now felt as if they were enemies in their own home, that even though they were tax paying Americans they were considered the enemy.  The claim was that they wanted to avoid something of the magnitude of Pearl Harbor to happen again and they felt that it was the best thing to do to make the American people feel most safe.

The internment of the Japanese Americans was truly unjustified as it was discovered that there was no real threat of Japanese Americans attacking the country.  Under the order of the President there was a man by the name of Curtis B. Munson and he was tasked with gathering intelligence on the loyalty of the Japanese Americans.  His research concluded that the Japanese Americans were loyal and would pose little threat to the United States.  He said that “There is no Japanese `problem’ on the Coast … There is far more danger from Communists and people of the Bridges type on the Coast than there is from Japanese.” The report goes into the different generations and how each of them are loyal to the United States, the first generation of Japanese Americans who are around 55-65 may romantically be connected to Japan but he goes on to say how their loyalty to Japan has been severely weakened because they have chosen to leave Japan.  Munson had written in his report that “they have chosen to make this their home and have brought up their children here. They expect to die here. They are quite fearful of being put in a concentration camp. Many would take out American citizenship if allowed to do so.” This is where socially for the United States wanting to intern their own citizens continues to cause problems for them.  What the United States described as “model minorities” are being attacked and the minorities are in fear of their own government which was reason enough to want to leave.  Even though what the government planned to do was a large civil rights issue, they felt as though they were doing the right thing as there is always a need to defend one’s country.   From the report there was a generation of Japanese Americans that the government did feel they needed to watch.  The younger generation that had been taught their early years in Japan and then had come to the United States however, even they were considered to be no real threat.  This showed that the main reason for the United States to call for the internment of Japanese Americans, was really not backed by much evidence besides that they were being over cautious.  Which leads to the idea that there was a deeper cause for the internment of the Japanese Americans rooted in a racial bias.  If the United States government had truly taken account of the report they could have avoided the social repercussions for what they had done prior to the Japanese Americans being released.  The United States government waited seventy-four days after the attack on Pearl Harbor to take action against the Japanese Americans calling for Executive order 9066 in which the government gave the call to intern the Japanese Americans in camps across the country.

Executive Order 9066 was detrimental to American society because it took away American citizens’ civil liberties. The order was a big step backwards in the case of civil rights which only led to further problems in the future socially for the United States.  The order gave permission to “the Secretary of War and the said Military Commanders to take such other steps as he or the appropriate Military Commander may deem advisable to enforce compliance with the restrictions applicable to each Military area hereinabove authorized to be designated, including the use of federal troops and other federal agencies, with authority to accept assistance of state and local agencies.”.  The President gave the military power to handle the situation and for them to take the lead in putting the Japanese into the internment camps.  Japanese Americans had no intention of revolting but were still going to be put into the camps and the Americans were now faced with interning over 100,000 Japanese Americans and keeping them in a camp for over two years.  This order proves to show that there would be social repercussions for going about this in the wrong way.  By giving the military the job of interning the Japanese Americans it made them feel far more alienated.  As they would really no longer be true American citizens as all their civil liberties are being stripped away. 

The issue for the United States would be that they have to pay the workers for filling in for the Japanese workers but the problem was that the employers now have to pay the workers more money.  This was not beneficial to the businesses and or the economy of the United States as now the businesses could not make as much money.  This shows another way that the United States caused harm to itself for interning the Japanese Americans.  There was more of a negative impact economically for the white Americans that owned the farm and business but also for those people who were buying from them as well.  Since they had to pay the workers more, that means that had to increase the price for the food or labor that was being supplied.  California was highly populated by the Japanese so they were most heavily affected by the sudden disappearance of the Japanese workers on their farms.  

The Japanese Americans at that time were responsible for the production of almost 40% of the agricultural growth in California.  California was hit hard when a sudden disappearance of workers stunted the amount of agriculture that California was producing.  An interview done with a man who had been in the internment camps states that “At 98, Riichi Fuwa doesn’t remember his Social Security number, but he remembers this: “19949. That was my number the government gave me,” he said. “19949. You were more number than name.”.  The assigning of the numbers to the people rather than using their own names was another thing that caused problems for the Japanese socially.  As this was a practice used to dehumanize people and was used even by the Nazi’s in their internment camps.  However, there is no comparison to what went on in Germany and there is no intent to really compare them in any way.  Fuwa was assigned that number when he arrived at the camp when he was 24 years old and when he arrived he saw “Rows and rows and rows of these buildings, We were inside the barbed-wire fence, the armed guard towers. We couldn’t walk out of the enclosure. I might get shot.” He remembered thinking, “Hey, I’m an American citizen! Now I’m the one being hunted.”.  It was noted that they paid the Japanese Americans and that depended on each of the camps but in the one Fuwa was working they paid them twelve dollars a month which was barely anything compared to what they were paid outside of the camps.   This was a struggle both economically and socially for the Japanese Americans as they were losing money while being in the camps for so long, and also being dehumanized in these camps.  They were treated almost as live stock and they had most if not all of their civil rights taken away.  This maltreatment of the Japanese Americans left a lasting impact on these citizens and would not soon forget.

When the Japanese Americans were brought to the camps they were forced to leave everything behind including their homes and business.  They were given time to gather what they could carry and told that they would be taken to the camps to live until they would be released.  The United States decided that they would buy the Japanese Americans homes and businesses from them, however they were paying almost nothing and they had no choice but to accept it.  The United States was able to take advantage of the Japanese Americans once again they were able to buy land and homes from that at extremely low prices.  This caused problems for the Japanese Americans after they had left the internment camps.  They did not know what their future would be like after they had left the internment camps because they no longer had a home, their business, or their job.  This would lead to more social problems for the United States as it was unfair the way they were treated which would lead to reparations causing issues for the United States economically.

This court case is evidence to support the United States facing social repercussions and many more issues.  The first court case was between Kiyoshi Hirabayashi v. United States, which started May 10th 1943 and finished June 21st 1943.  Kiyoshi was convicted of violating a curfew and relocation order.  This happened during the time the Japanese Americans were being put into the internment camps and laws were being enforced against them.  They were not given the option to leave their home and many Japanese Americans did not feel they should have to leave and that is what ultimately caused this court case to begin.  The reason this court case was so important was because they were looking at whether or not the President’s executive order and the power delegated to the military authorities discriminate against Americans and resident aliens of Japanese descent.  These actions that had taken place were violating their Fifth Amendment rights.  This court case goes to argue that the United States was taking advantage of their power and caused problems with its own citizens by taking away many of the Japanese American’s rights.  By having put them in the internment camps and even charging the Japanese for breaking their new laws showed just how poorly this was handled and the error that they made in making the internment camps in the first place. However, the United States government found the President’s actions to be constitutional, claiming that the relocation and curfew laws put in were okay.  The reasoning behind the court decision had to do with the fact that much of the military supplies were being built on the west coast and it would be in the best interest for the United States to make sure the Japanese Americans could not go near them.  During the case they ducked the idea of relocation as they really had no answer for that and really only focused on the curfew aspect.  This shows how the internment continued to cause issues socially for the Japanese Americans and that their problems with the internment were getting pushed aside rather than listened which would lead to another court case that happened a year after.  This court case ended quite quickly as the United States government knew what they were doing was wrong and truly unjustified as seen by the Munson Report.  This issue of relocation would turn into something much more, as civil rights issues were starting to sprout up at this time.  Due to the war however much of this was swept under the carpet only to reappear after the war’s end.  

This case like the prior one discusses the social issues that were caused by the internment of the Japanese Americans.  It was about a Japanese-American man living in San Leandro, Fred Korematsu, chose to stay at his residence rather than obey the order to relocate.  Korematsu was arrested and convicted of violating the order.  He responded by arguing that Executive Order 9066 violated the Fifth Amendment.  The court case was important because of the fact that this was similar to the prior court case in that it was affecting the Japanese Americans in a negative aspect once again.  It showed that more Japanese Americans believed that they were citizens just like everyone else and that they had certain rights that should not have been taken away from them.  This affected the United States in the social end because this angered many Japanese Americans who were very much in support of America to feel alienated and eventually move into support for the civil rights push after they were released from the internment camps.  In an opinion written by Justice Black, the Court ruled that the evacuation order violated by Korematsu was valid. The majority found that the Executive Order did not show racial prejudice but rather responded to the strategic imperative of keeping the U.S. and particularly the West Coast, which is the closest region to Japan, secure from invasion. The Court relied heavily on a 1943 decision, Hirabayashi v. U.S., which addressed similar issues. Black argued that the validation of the military’s decision by Congress merited even more deference.  Justice Frankfurter concurred, writing that the “martial necessity arising from the danger of espionage and sabotage” warranted the military’s evacuation order.  Justice Jackson who disagreed, argued that the exclusion order legitimized racism that violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. There were swaying opinions on the case but ultimately met the same fate as the last one so not much was accomplished for the Japanese Americans but this only seemed to cause more problems for the United States.  

These two court cases truly are some of the stronger documents as they give extremely valid arguments against the relocation and internment of the Japanese Americans.  It is clear to the common people that their civil liberties are being violated and the executive order and curfew are in direct violation of the Fifth Amendment, as the Japanese Americans were not given fair trial before really in a sense being sentenced to jail.  There was no evidence given to be able to do such a massive thing, such as relocation of an entire ethnic group.  They had done research “The Munson Report” that the Japanese Americans in fact were not a threat to the United States in any way.  They had no need to fear the Japanese Americans would do any harm to the United States and even though California had the largest population of Japanese Americans the report showed that even they really had nothing to fear.  They made the claim that they were protecting the production aspect of California and that it is in fact the closest to Japan; this was still not a good enough reason for them to have to relocate.  Even by putting them in internment camps that did not affect the fact that they could still be attacked by the Japanese directly.  It is not as if the Japanese did not know where California is.

Even with those trying to fight for the Japanese Americans no real change was seen until much later on after the war finished with Proclamation 4417.   President Gerald R. Ford’s Proclamation 4417 confirmed the termination of the Executive order that authorized the Japanese American’s internment during World War II.  This took place February 19th, 1976.  This was the first step taken by the United States to begin to attempt to make up for what they did to the Japanese American population.  The President said “that we have learned from the tragedy of that long-ago experience forever to treasure liberty and justice for each individual American, and resolve that this kind of action shall never again be repeated.”.  The government now acknowledges what they had done goes against the ideals of a democracy.  This Proclamation goes into prove the argument that the United States by putting the Japanese Americans in internment camps only caused the society more harm and hurt the belief that many Japanese Americans had about the United States.  Not much longer after that, there were a string of new bills that go onto try and pay back the Japanese Americans for what they went through including the Civil Liberties Act of 1987 and the amendments made to it not much long after.  There was also the Japanese claims act which had to do with both the economic effects as well as the social, as the Japanese Americans had lost everything upon returning to their homes after they had been released by the American government.  

The Japanese claim act was a very important act that was created in order to give compensation to the Japanese Americans after they had left the internment camps.  The Japanese Americans had everything they had taken from them and when they got out they pretty much had no money, a place to live, or a job.  This act was extremely detrimental to the United States government as they had to give up a lot of money to pay back what they had taken from them.  However, not every Japanese American filed for the compensation.  There were 26,550 claims made and each claim was supposed to be given about $20,000.   Which ended up being around 36 million in reparations paid which in today’s money is a little over 4 billion dollars.  While this was not a huge sum of money, it was still a lump sum that could have been used in other ways besides having to pay reparations.  These payments not only affected them economically but impacted them socially as well.  This was really not enough money to give back to the Japanese Americans as they had lost everything and $20,000 would not buy back their homes, business and cars.

The Civil Liberties Act of 1987 was introduced January 1st, 1987 and was done by the House and the Judiciary branches of the government.  These two were the committee responsible for the law.  The Act declares a few different things including that  a grave injustice was done to citizens and permanent resident aliens of Japanese ancestry by the evacuation, relocation, and internment of civilians during World War II; (2) these actions were without security reasons and without any acts of espionage or sabotage documented by the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, and were motivated by racial prejudice, wartime hysteria, and a failure of political leadership; (3) the excluded individuals suffered enormous damages for which appropriate compensation has not been made; and (4) the Congress apologizes on behalf of the Nation.

The United States was faced with a difficult decision after the infamous day of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  However, the choice they made to intern the Japanese Americans had far more negative effects than they originally thought.  It affected the United States both socially and economically, while it did not affect it as economically as originally believed it still had a negative impact on the United States.   The United States was able to take advantage of the field work that the Japanese Americans were doing by selling excess crops and food to the free market while this did help the government.  It really only harmed the common American farmer who had lost workers to go work on other farms.  They also took advantage of the fact, that after they would be released, they now knew of more government owned farm land that they could use or sell. The real effect was felt socially by the Japanese Americans until reparations and acts had been put into place to make up for what had been done.  The United States government going on to openly say what they had done back then was wrong and to try and amend for what they had done strengthens the argument that they had done more harm both economically and socially to the United States.


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The American Flapper Through Media

The American Flapper through Media

Kaitlyn Ford

The American flapper, a “new woman”, a change in society, oftentimes overlooked inside history. The flapper did not provide any legal change for women, did not gain them more political rights in her time. She did something else entirely. The American flapper held change in the role of women, the appearance of women, and the way women were looked at inside society. Their power was in their style, their actions, and the culture time period they lived in. When it comes to teaching the flapper, she many times will be brushed over and not paid enough attention. Inside this paper, I will explain a way to place the flapper inside the social studies classroom that will be engaging for the students.

            The flapper emerged during a time in American history where much of society and culture was undergoing change. Historians Kathleen Drowne and Patrick Huber wrote “According to many historians, the Jazz Age marked the birth of Modern America” (Drowne & Huber, 2004). Meaning that during this time considered “the Jazz Age” is what truly began what many consider to be modern American, many of our modern themes came about and can be traced to begin with this time period in America. This time period in American history was one of change, prosperity, and modernization. Many people look here and can see the beginning of the modern times Americans would soon enjoy. So, what exactly happened in this time? A positive aspect of the 20s was the consumer culture. In 1922 the economy had a reboot due to consumer goods being manufactured in industries (Drowne & Huber, 2004). This made products faster, easier, and cheaper. More people would be able to afford a top since it was mass produced by machines. One major reason for consumer goods spreading quickly inside America was through the new media. “Consumer goods revolution fueled the nation’s flourishing economy and increasing reliance on new technologies and mass media transformed the daily lives of ordinary Americans” (Drowne & Huber, 2004). The media was able to influence the lives of Americans across states, classes, and genders aiding in influencing this new consumer culture. People began to use the media and technology to grasp what consumer goods they should purchase during this time period. All of this would be useful information to provide for students to prepare them for the flapper and why the media plays a role in her fame. If the students come into the lesson I explain later one, with a background of the consumer culture and the new media outlets for Americans, it can make learning about the flapper better.

            Who was the American flapper? Historian Joshua Zeitz provided a description of the flapper in Flapper. He states “… the notorious character type who bobbed her hair, smoked cigarettes, drank gin, sported short skirts, and passed her evenings in the steamy jazz clubs, where she danced in a shockingly immodest fashion” (Zeitz, 2006). Inside this activity, I am not trying to convince them of who the flapper is or what she is trying to gain, but more so how she became a household name inside America during the 1920s. After taking the time to explain the 1920s, it is time to begin the flapper movement.

            As a way to engage the students and allow them to move about the classroom, you can create a station activity. This would be a group activity but their review will be independent to see each student’s understanding of the material. Throughout the research done around the American flapper, I have been able to find numerous sources from the time period that can help express the flapper. The goal of this activity is to allow the students to engage with the primary sources and develop their own interpretations. Another goal would be for the students to see how the media during this time could change an opinion of a subject, for them to see bias using the flapper as an example. At the end of the lesson, the students should be able to explain the various types of media sources during the 1920s allowed ideas, opinions, and themes to spread throughout America.

            You can add more sources if you deem necessary but for my lesson I have two newspaper sources and three magazine covers from LIFE. Day One will be the introduction to the 1920s and the mass media (as discussed above). For the review and to check for understanding, they will have a brief response to compare the primary sources they interacted with and explain how those sources depicted the flapper and what influence these would have on the American people then. If it is an honors class, it would be useful to also add for them to describe how these sources affect Americans today in comparison to the 1920s.

            The first newspaper was from the Library of Congress. It was a fashion page that describes the latest trends in dressing, shoes, and hats. A famous actress Clara Bow who portrays a flapper in the film “IT” in 1927 is shown modeling her own hat. It was labeled “the latest for girls” (Evening Star, 1927).  The second newspaper was NYS Historic Newspaper. This paper as well was centered on Clara Bow but instead of her fashion, it was her movie “IT” (The Massena Observer, 1927), showing the times the movie was playing at and the theater it was located in. It allowed Americans to find the film easier by simply reading the paper. As well, this paper promotes the film to the people and could influence a person to attend the theater that day. With these two newspapers, it allows the students to interact with the primary source material on their own and come to understand the type of sources written about the flapper during this time.

The three magazine covers by John Held can be found in numerous books such as Carolyn Kitch’s The Girl on the Magazine Cover; The origins of visual stereotypes in American Mass Media. However, these images can also be discovered on the web. The first one “The Sweet Girl Graduate” depicts the flapper with a cap on her head and diploma in her hand. This expresses the view that the American flapper was educated to some degree. It allows the students a different perspective on the flapper from simply the fashion and actress inside the newspaper.

The next magazine cover was labeled “Sitting Pretty”. This picture shows a flapper and dog both sitting. It expressed the dress, appearance and appeal of the flapper to the students. The newspaper did not do a great job at seeing the flapper since it was more grain like, whereas this cartoon makes it more clear. It helps to show just another aspect of the flapper that would be displayed to the American public.

The final magazine to look into was titled “Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks”. This image shows a young flapper dancing with an older man. They both appear to be enjoying their time and having fun. During this Jazz Age, there was music and dancing, this image helped bring that to life. Part of the flapper was going out and having a good time, so to fully understand this flapper, they would need this side as well.

“The Sweet Girl Graduate”
“Sitting Pretty”
“Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks”

For the setup of the lesson. I would create the five stations. Have the desk preorganized with the primary source already at the table, however it would be hidden inside a folder and they would be told not to touch it yet to keep them from being distracted. Then I would start with a Do Now. Personally, I would begin with asking the students what is a flapper. It would be interesting to see what they do and do not know about this term. Then, pass out the paper they will be using for the activity. The first section on their paper will be filled with questions from the 1920s review. I would have, define the consumer culture, what mass media is, and why this period is considered “Modern America”. This way, as they continue through the stations they can reference if needed and can use this after watching the film. Then, after the review, they can begin their stations. They would be given questions to answer at each station. What type of source are you looking at? When was the source created? What is the source attempting to convey or show the reader? How do you think this influenced a person’s view on the flapper? Depending how long the block is would determine how much time they are given at each station. Allow roughly 10 minutes to briefly go over what they learned and their opinions on the primary sources. I would bring up bias at this point in the lesson.

            Overall, the students should be able to use the primary sources and develop their own understanding of how media affected Americans during this time. The students would use the flapper to better understand the media and the power it could have over this time period. As stated before, the flapper is commonly overlooked. However, she can be used to not only show the changing of women inside society and creating a modern woman, but the flapper can also show them how the media played a role inside the lives of Americans.


Drowne, K., and Huber, P. (2004), The 1920s: American Pop Culture Through History 3-28.

Evening Star. [volume], (Washington D.C.) September 23, 1927, page 22, Image 22.

Kitch, C. (2001), The Girl on the Magazine Cover; The origins of visual stereotypes in American Mass Media, 121-135.

The Massena observer. (Massena, St. Lawrence County, N.Y.) June 2, 1927. Page 12, Image 12.

The Teachable Idols of the ’60s: Their March Toward Civil Equality

The Teachable Idols of the ‘60’s: Their March towards Civil Equality

Thomas Colantino

2020 will be stamped in history books worldwide. You always wonder when analyzing history what it was like to live in some of the most chaotic time periods. I guess you never realize what it’s like living through history when it is happening around you every day. Teaching history relies on this idea of perspective. Students must be able to not only comprehend the content, but also be able to focus through another lens, which is the ability to put themselves in the situation that is being taught. I feel as though the best way to achieve this is through student engagement. The most important question in education is how to get students to be engaged with the material and to learn the lessons accordingly? For myself, the philosophy is you have to find ways to relate or spark the interests of the student. Schooling, in a repetitive manner can become exceedingly dull and classes can become white noise to students, ESPECIALLY, in the world we live in today. With virtual learning students are partaking in classes sometimes still in bed. There is a plethora of distractions when working from home, so as the educator, the objective is to make the class not only packed with content, but also have the ability to intrigue the students.

            For myself, the best way to pique the interest of students would be to somehow combine a mutual interest and find it in history, or how at least it could correlate. I feel as though my capstone is this happy medium. The entertainment business, of any kind reaches a wide variety of people. Whether it be through film, art, music, or athletics, one of the many outlets connects with someone. So, why wouldn’t you try and incorporate the entertainment business into a lesson. If you could show history through entertainment, potentially students would be more interested to learn that lesson. My capstone centers around the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s, one of the most crucial topics of not only modern America, but American history in general. Yet, with a little twist, I focus on the celebrities of the time period, and how they were able to utilize their platforms to promote change. Not only just working for activists, but also alongside them. With many of the unfortunate events that had transpired over the course of the year in relation to social issues, it was interesting to see which individuals were on the forefront fighting the battle and protesting in the street. In several different cities around the country, several different actors, athletes, etc., flooded the streets with the general civilian voicing their wants and desires. For students, seeing their favorite athlete or musician voicing their opinion for change, could change the student’s perspective and raises interests. As a result, this idea can be depicted also for the Civil Rights Movement. By finding celebrities that chose to fight for the Civil Rights Movement, it creates another avenue for students to stay engaged with the material.

            So how would one go about collaborating the important material in regards of the history aspect of the Civil Rights Movement, and also sparking the interest of students through the entertainment of the era. For myself, I start with the true trailblazers, the ones that’s actions outside of their own profession spoke louder than those within their respected fields. One of the obvious names to start with in this case is Jackie Robinson. Now, Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947, well before the 1960s and its decade of civil rights activism, but every lesson has a background section, no? To Segway to a historical standpoint, around this same era, dealing with the same kind of circumstance, Executive Order 9981 (1948), the desegregation of the military declared by President Harry Truman. See, there are connections that can be made. In terms of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s itself, the individuals to stick with are those who worked closely with the activists of the era. Someone like Harry Belafonte, singer by day, activist by night, had a loft in New York City where activists would meet to create rally plans and protests to promote change. Even the idea of the stories that could be shared of activists and celebrities would be intriguing enough for students to work with the material. The overall argument here is that there is knowledge that can be learned from these celebrities and their work towards promoting civil equality.

            To conclude, there were similar arguments I attempted to prove that could be utilized within the classroom. I tried analyzing media sources such as newspapers to see the perception of historical events. The objective here was to see how the events were written and perceived by the general public. This idea derives from how medias portrayal of an event can alter an individual’s viewpoint of that situation.  The influence of the public can be changed through how the media covers the situation. This idea of an influence can also be seen in comparison to those of celebrities and their aurora. Celebrity platforms reach a wide variety of individuals. The way they speak and carry themselves can and does influence their fans. The idea here that I try to create with the Civil Rights Movement is that if the celebrities preach change, then their fans will want change. In closing, the main argument of this work is how important student engagement is. Yes, we bounce around the ideas that are focused within my capstone, but the reason for its importance is how it can provoke interest in students. Every child is entertained by a commodity of life. Why not, as teachers, add the entertainment factor to the classroom and connect it with your lessons? Throughout history there are other aspects that connect history to everyday life. As an example, when teaching the Renaissance, generally professors and educators utilize the art aspect of the movement to pique the interest of their students. The colors, pictures, paintings, etc. help the class visualize the era. How about when teaching the Civil Rights Movement, add the sounds of Bob Dylan and Harry Belafonte, with the words of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X to see the similarities—or just as importantly the differences? Or add the movement of one Muhammad Ali in and outside the ring with the movement of protest marches for civil justice and voting rights in the South during the early stages of Civil Rights Movement. There are many ways to connect, it just takes thinking outside the box to not only teach, but to entertain.

The 1918 Influenza in San Francisco: A Case Study for Today

The 1918 Influenza in San Francisco: A Case Study for Today

Melissa Brown

In 1918 the world was at war, battling on both the battlefields in Europe and in medical facilities around the world. As World War I was coming to an end, a lethal combination of pneumonia and influenza was spreading, and quickly reaching pandemic levels. The influenza of 1918 spread quickly in military bases throughout the US, across battlefields in Europe, and eventually throughout the world. The first wave of the pandemic mainly affected the US military and navy, as well as the militaries of European powers, (Crosby, 2003, pg. 17-45). During the second and third waves, the virus spread throughout the US, (Crosby, 2003, pg. 45-202). It affected day-to-day life everywhere, from large cities to small towns. Hospitals across the US quickly overflowed with influenza patients. Some cities, like Philadelphia, adopted phone services to minimize the number of people in hospitals, (Crosby, 2003, pg. 79). Other cities, like San Francisco, focused more on mandating that gauze masks be worn to prevent the spread, (Crosby, 2003, pg. 101-116). By the end of the pandemic in 1920, more people had died from influenza than those who had died in World War I.

            San Francisco during the influenza of 1918 is an interesting case study, because of all of the similarities to today. For example, San Francisco went through two waves of an epidemic, whereas other cities like Philadelphia only underwent one. The specific problems that the public dealt with during this pandemic were published in the city’s two major newspapers of the time, the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Francisco Examiner. Both of these newspapers offer an abundance of primary sources that can be used to answer a variety of different historical questions on the topic. The three main issues that span the one hundred and two years of time are the city-wide shutdown of businesses and services, the mask mandate, and the call for medical aid.

The effort to help prevent the spread of influenza led to a shutdown across the city, effectively taking away a lot of forms of entertainment. On October 17, 1918 the San Francisco Board of Health shut down a majority of the businesses and services within the city. This order shut down schools, church gatherings, any sort of public gathering, and many forms of entertainment, (“All Public Meetings,” 1918). There was one exception to this ban, and that was outdoor group sporting events. Just one day later, Dr. Hassler, a member of the San Francisco Board of Health, actually encouraged public gatherings to play outdoor athletic games, despite banning all public gatherings the day before, because of the belief that fresh air could prevent the spread of influenza, (“No Ban on Athletics,” 1918). By shutting down a lot of businesses and services, daily life in San Francisco became a lot different; there were less options for how people could safely spend their days.

The city-wide mask ordinance had a massive impact on both society and culture in San Francisco, but it also holds similarities to today in its effect on the public. On October 24, 1918 the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance requiring masks be worn in public. Anyone caught not following this ordinance faced either a maximum jail sentence of ten days in county jail, or a fine ranging anywhere from three dollars to ten dollars. A lot of the specifications as to when a mask had to be worn, and when it did not, resemble a lot of the restrictions in place today. For example, anyone in a public place, at gatherings of two or more people, or anyone selling food or clothing had to wear a mask. The exceptions were if one was around the family that they live with, or eating they were not required to have a mask on. It is interesting also that they included specifications for the masks that were worn. Masks had to firmly cover the mouth and nose, be made of mesh gauze or any four-ply material, and be at least five inches by seven inches, (“Here is Text of,” 1918). This mandate affected daily life for people living within the city. It even became a controversial issue, a symbol of being forced to do something by the government. There were articles published describing how a hundred and ten people were arrested for not following the mandate, (“110 Arrested,” 1918). The disputes became so serious that people were even shot and killed over this topic, (“Three Shot in Struggle,” 1918). One symbol of defiance is a man who was arrested and sent to jail for spitting on the sidewalk, (“Man Sent to Jail,” 1918). The term “mask slacker” was even added to the vernacular, as a way to refer to people who did not wear masks when they were supposed to; it was even used in the titles of many articles that were published at the time, (“‘Mask Slackers’ Given Jail Sentences,” 1918). Despite the controversy, masks ended up becoming a part of the culture by way of fashion, they essentially became accessories, (“Everyone is Compelled,” 1918). The effects of this mask mandate impacted the city’s society and culture in a way that seems familiar to today.

Another aspect of the 1918 influenza that has connections to today is the urgent need for medical help. During the epidemic, medical staff quickly became overwhelmed with cases. At only three months into the influenza outbreak in San Francisco, the ill significantly outnumbered medical professionals. Advertisements were published in newspapers requesting help from any trained medical professionals. It eventually got so bad that they started asking for help from untrained individuals as well, (“Nurses Wanted,” 1918). Women specifically were advertised to, they were “urged to war on influenza” while men were at war overseas, (“Each Person Urged,” 1918). There were even advertisements, approved by the Board of Health, that were meant to persuade people to wear masks to prevent the spread of influenza, (“Wear a Mask,” 1918). Preventative measures like this were put in place so that the public could do their part in helping the fight against the influenza. This sense of an overwhelmed medical world is very relevant to today. Even the push to help relieve the pressure on hospitals by putting preventative measures in place is relevant.

There are a lot of connections between the influenza of 1918 and the current COVID-19 pandemic. When the first wave of the COVID-19 virus in America started to spread rapidly across the country, the medical world was overwhelmed with cases. There was a call for masks and face shields to be sent to hospitals due to the low supply and high demand of those items. Ventilators were in high demand across the country as hospitals tried to prevent having to make the same choices that nurses in Italy were forced to make due to their lack of enough ventilators to go around. Medical staff across the country became overworked as they spent long days and nights putting themselves in danger to fight the virus. Preventative measures were taken to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. A mask mandate was even put in place in many states, forcing citizens to wear face coverings in public. This caused many conflicts and protests across the country as it became a highly controversial political symbol. Quarantine began and many states asked the public to stay home and stay safe in order to do their part to prevent the spread. Many states shut down non-essential businesses during quarantine, causing people to come up with new and creative ways to both entertain themselves and see family members safely. All of this, as previously proven with examples from various newspaper articles, echoes what people went through in 1918.

            History classes should explore current events through the lens of history. Throughout history, there have been many large-scale viruses that impacted human life. The bubonic plague that killed a third of Europe’s population, the virus that struck the people and major players of Athens as they were behind the wall in the Peloponnesian War, and the yellow fever that struck Philadelphia hard in 1793 are just a few examples of large-scale viruses that impacted civilizations throughout history. The influenza of 1918 is not as commonly represented in history lessons as past viruses like the bubonic plague; it is commonly left out of history classrooms across the country. There are many ways that a teacher could use this specific pandemic in a history classroom. To name a few examples, one could look at how disease impacted societies throughout history by providing students with a few different situations. Another example is to use the article about the man who was arrested for spitting on the sidewalk as an example of an act of defiance, (“Man Sent to Jail,” 1918). This can then be taken further by asking if this particular act of defiance was justified. One could even relate this to a conversation about first amendment rights, and why this became such a disputed topic. Even asking where your rights end and another’s begin can add to this conversation. This topic of the 1918 influenza pandemic can be very versatile, the key though is to bring the conversation into current times. These are difficult times, and history class is a place where students have the opportunity to unpack everything that is going on in the world. It is important to look at current events through the lens of history in order to help students better digest the world around them.

In all, San Francisco during the 1918 influenza pandemic is a perfect case study for today. The city-wide shutdown of businesses and services, the mask mandate, and the call for medical aid all echo the problems facing the American public during the COVID-19 pandemic today. This is not where the comparisons end, however, these are just a few of the most prominent examples. Another example would be that 1918 was a congressional election year, and people actually showed up to vote in-person. It only takes a little digging to realize just how relevant the 1918 influenza is today. I encourage you to do a little digging of your own, because this is a versatile topic that should be covered in history class.


All public meetings are banned under city order. (1918, October 18). San Francisco Examiner, 5.–all-public-meetings-are-banned-under-city-order?page=root;rgn=full+text;size=100;view=pdf;q1=San+Francisco+Examiner

Crosby, A. W. (2003). America’s forgotten pandemic: The influenza of 1918 (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press.

Each person urged to war on influenza. (1918, October 16). San Francisco Examiner, 4.–each-person-urged-to-war-on-influenza?page=root;rgn=full+text;size=100;view=pdf;q1=San+Francisco+Examiner

Everyone is compelled to wear masks by city resolution; Great variety in styles of face adornment in evidence. (1918, October 25). San Francisco Chronicle, 1.–everyone-is-compelled-to-wear-masks?rgn=full+text;view=image;q1=San+Francisco+Chronicle

Here is text of city mask ordinance; Violation incurs fine or imprisonment. (1918, October 25).San Francisco Chronicle, 1.–here-is-text-of-city-mask-ordinance-violation-incurs-fine-or?page=root;rgn=full+text;size=100;view=pdf;q1=San+Francisco+Chronicle

Man sent to jail for spitting on sidewalk. (1918, October 27). San Francisco Examiner, 6.–man-sent-to-jail-for-spitting-on-sidewalk?rgn=full+text;view=image;q1=San+Francisco+Examiner;op2=or;q2=San+Francisco+Chronicle

Mask slackers’ given jail sentences, fines. (1918, October 29). San Francisco Examiner, 13.–mask-slackers-given-jail-sentences-fines?rgn=full+text;view=image;q1=San+Francisco+Examiner;op2=or;q2=San+Francisco+Chronicle;op3=and;q3=mask+slackers

No ban on athletics, is dictum on health. (1918, October 19). San Francisco Examiner, 9.–no-ban-on-athletics-is-dictum-on-health?page=root;rgn=full+text;size=100;view=pdf;q1=San+Francisco+Chronicle;op2=or;q2=San+Francisco+Examiner

Nurses wanted on influenza. (1918, December 22). San Francisco Chronicle, 10.–nurses-wanted-on-influenza?page=root;rgn=full+text;size=100;view=image;q1=San+Francisco+Chronicle

110 arrested for disobeying masking edict. (1918, October 28). San Francisco Chronicle, 1.–110-arrested-for-disobeying-masking-edict?rgn=full+text;view=image;q1=San+Francisco+Examiner;op2=or;q2=San+Francisco+Chronicle

Three shot in struggle with mask slacker. (1918, October 29). San Francisco Chronicle, 1.–three-shot-in-struggle-with-mask-slacker?rgn=full+text;view=image;q1=San+Francisco+Chronicle

Wear a mask and save your life! (1918, October 22). San Francisco Chronicle.–wear-a-mask-and-save-your-life?rgn=full+text;view=image;q1=San+Francisco+Chronicle

The Power of Propaganda: Using Disney’s Wartime Films in the Classroom

The Power of Propaganda: Using Disney’s Wartime Films in the Classroom

Annamarie Bernard

Film in the classroom is always engaging to students. It provides them with a new perspective of events from the past. Rather than have students read or listen to their teacher speak on an event, putting on a movie can break up class time while appealing to even the most reluctant of learners. Films also help identify and highlight the deeper motivations of the producers, directors, or sponsors. There is always a motivation or a reason behind each piece, whether it be to share a personal story, to provide entertainment, or to spread a political message. Throughout history, political messages have been deeply embedded in movies, creating a new form of propaganda to reach a wider audience and spread their messages.

During the time the United States was involved in World War II (1941-1945), filmmakers such as Walt Disney were recruited by the United States government to spread specific messages.  In January 1943, Disney released three popular short films: “The Spirit of 43,” “Der Fuehrer’s Face,” and “Education for Death.” Each of these cartoons unveils a complex political message to gather support for the United States war effort. Because World War I was extremely unpopular with Americans, the need for citizen support in this new war, mentally and monetarily, was essential to be successfully involved (Steele, 1978, p. 706).  Disney’s three propaganda films can be incorporated easily into the social studies classroom to teach deeper lessons, especially when discussing the American home front during World War II.

The first of Disney’s more popular propaganda films is “The Spirit of 43.” This cartoon shows Donald Duck as he navigates what to do with his money on payday. First, Donald meets Thrifty Duck, who encourages him to save his money to pay the upcoming national income taxes for the benefit of the war effort. Next, he meets Spendthrift Duck, who advocates for spending his paycheck to buy material objects, thus going against the war effort and supporting Nazi Germany. The final scene of the film shows the guns, planes, and tanks that were created because of the tax money. The repetitive saying, “Taxes to defeat the Axis” is one of the lasting impressions of the cartoon, signaling the need for the funds to be given to the government in order to end the war (Disney, “The Spirit”, 1943).  By showing this film, students will come to realize that this six-minute propaganda film was used in a way that directly motivated Americans to do their part in the war effort. The need for income taxes is evident through this piece, and, by using Donald Duck, a classic Disney character, the film is engaging while still being informative.  This illustrates the lack of support for the war at the home front and the mindset the Americans needed to be in. Using “The Spirit of 43” in the classroom can be a great way to demonstrate the direct link between entertainment and politics. It is not commonly known that Disney used their art for the promotion of war, but through this film, the connection is undeniable; it captures the home front mentality and advocates for a call to action.

Like “The Spirit of 43,” one of Disney’s other films, “Der Fuehrer’s Face,” aimed to raise money for the war through war bonds. While it further illustrates the need for monetary support for the war, it also can be used to show students the life of a German worker.  This short film follows Donald Duck as he navigates his day in Nutzi Land, a spoof on Nazi Germany. From the moment he wakes up, Donald Duck lives a life very different from most Americans: he has to ration his food, work “48 hours shifts” in artillery manufacturing, and salute pictures of Hitler every time he sees him. This life becomes so intense and overwhelming that Donald suffers a mental breakdown and passes out. When he wakes up, he is back in America, relieved to find that his adventure was a nightmare (Disney, “Der Fuehrer”, 1943). As illustrated in the film, the German home front was drastically different from America’s home front, and viewing it can allow students to compare the wartime efforts in the two countries. In Nazi Germany, all concepts of individualism and personality are gone, as seen through a now passive Donald Duck, one of the most boisterous Disney characters with an overwhelming personality.  In America, a sense of individualism was kept, even when working in factories. The comparisons and contrasts that can be made are endless. While the film was created to raise money and support for the war, it can be further utilized in the classroom to supplement a lesson about the American home front, specifically through the differences of the two countries and the fear of losing personal freedoms, a defining characteristic of being American. “Der Fuehrer’s Face” has multiple applications for teaching World War II in the classroom.

The third Disney propaganda film that can be used in the social studies classroom is “Education for Death.”  It is a cautionary tale to warn the American public about the dangers of Nazism. In the classroom, it can be incorporated into the American Homefront with the motivating factors for fighting Germany, but it can also be used as a way to illustrate perspective.  Throughout the film, young Hans grows up in Nazi Germany and becomes indoctrinated in the ideology until he is a full Nazi soldier. The way he was raised illustrates how he sees his reality. For example, when Hans is in school, he learns about “natural law” through the analogy of a bunny and a fox. The weaker bunny was trapped and eaten by the fox, showing superiority. Hans immediately feels sorry for the bunny, a reaction that gets him punished by his Nazi teacher. The goal was to praise the strong fox for preying on the weak bunny, a mindset that the Nazis used in everyday life (Disney, “Education”, 1943). This is the perspective of a Nazi, something so different than that of the American soldiers. It demonstrates how the way they were brought up influences their actions as an adult.  While this film is specific to Nazi Germany propaganda, it can be used for students to gain a deeper understanding of how one’s beliefs change the way the world is perceived.  This skill of seeing events from a different perspective is essential in social studies classes to understand the purpose of a text, event, or action. This animation was created to entertain, but it also incorporated deeply embedded messages that are valuable to students. Through the film “Education for Death,” Disney’s short film can lend itself to multiple usages in the classroom.

Propaganda in the form of mass entertainment, such as short films, was essential in shaping the mentality and deeper sentiments of the American home front to be one that was more receptive and supportive of World War II.  Through “The Spirit of 43,” “Der Fuehrer’s Face,” and “Education for Death,” Disney was able to convey deeper, inspirational, educational messages to the audience about the war effort. In a 1943 New York Times interview, Disney stated:

“The war” he said, “has taught us that people who won’t read a book will look at a film… you can show that film to any audience and twenty minutes later, it has learned something- a new idea, or an item of important information- and it at least has stimulated further interest in study.” (Strauss, p. 168).

Disney sums up perfectly what any good piece of mass media should do- teach the audience and get them motivated to act on the information, whether it be to learn more about it or actively make the change it calls for.  All entertainment has a crafted message the creators want to express, whether it be to buy a new product, to illustrate a universal theme of life, or to persuade people to support the war effort.  Within these pieces, there are deeper themes that can relate to the classroom and everyday life. As teachers, it is important to show students how influential mass media is, whether it be from today or seventy years ago. Mass media as a form of entertainment will not go away, and it can be used in any form, especially in short, engaging Disney films, inside the classroom to provide a deeper outlook into the lives, motivations, and wants of those who created it.


Disney, W. (1943). Der Fuehrer’s Face. [Video file]. Retrieved from

Disney, W. (1943). Education for Death. [Video file]. Retrieved from

Disney, W. (1943). The Spirit of 43. [Video file]. Retrieved from

Lee, S. H. (2009). Herr Meets Hare: Donald and Bugs Fight Hitler. ArtUS, 26, 70–75.

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Historic New York: Underground Railroad Stations

Historic New York: Underground Railroad Stations

Sheryl Nance-Nash

Reprinted by permission from the Amsterdam News, October 8, 2020,;

Stephen and Harriet Myers Residence, Albany: This is an award-winning Greek Revival building built in 1847. Underground Railroad site. It celebrates the anti-slavery activism of Stephen and Harriet Myers and their colleagues, the meetings of the Vigilance Committee, and the Freedom Seekers who stopped here to request assistance. The Residence has seven rooms on three stories with a full basement that housed the kitchen and dining area. It was the home of Stephen and Harriet Myers and their four children in the mid-1850s, when it was also the office and meeting place of the local Vigilance Committee. Over 50 Freedom Seekers were directed there for assistance. Stephen Myers was born enslaved in New York State. He and Harriet were the central figures in Northeastern New York’s Underground Railroad movement (

North Star Underground Railroad Museum, Ausable Chasm: The museum shares stories of the Champlain line of the Underground Railroad, which includes the Upper Hudson River, Champlain Canal and Lake Champlain in the Northern section of the Adirondacks. Freedom seekers traveling north navigated these waterways into Canada, making Lake Champlain a gateway to freedom. Exhibits include stories of enslaved individuals and families who traveled through the Champlain Valley to Canada or settled in the area, local safe houses, as well as accounts of the debates over slavery and the divisions it caused.

Harriet Tubman National Historical Site, Auburn: This 26-acre estate in upstate New York includes the former home of Harriet Tubman, a two-story brick home provided by William Seward, the U.S. senator from New York, a welcome center and the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged. She helped hundreds of enslaved people and families to freedom on her Underground Railroad over a period of 12 years. In 1857 she moved to Auburn and continued her work as the conductor of the Underground Railroad.

Plymouth Church, Brooklyn: Under the cover of night freedom-seekers would come and others would leave the Plymouth Church in Brooklyn. The basement of the church was a hiding place. The church started in 1847 and was led by anti-slavery advocate and senior minister Henry Ward Beecher. From its beginnings, the church served as a vital philosophical and geographical link in the Underground Railroad. Famous visitors include President Abraham Lincoln and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The National Register of Historic Places designated the church a National Historic Landmark in 1961.

Gerrit Smith Estate National Park, Petersboro: Gerrit Smith was one of the most powerful abolitionists in the United States, using his wealth to assist formerly enslaved people reach freedom, arranging safe passage to Canada, helping families establish their lives locally, gifting land and providing educational opportunities. Among the properties’ treasure are the five original horse stalls that were used in the Underground Railroad. “The Gerrit Smith Estate is a National Historic Landmark.

Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center, Niagara Falls: Showcases the stories of Underground Railroad freedom seekers and abolitionists in Niagara Falls. Located inside the former 1863 U.S. Custom House attached to the Niagara Falls Amtrak Station, the One More River to Cross permanent exhibition spotlights the crucial role Niagara Falls played by its location and geography, and the actions of its residents and particularly its African American residents.

Art in an Area of Conflict: Kosovo

Art in an Area of Conflict: Kosovo

Susan Goetz Zwirn

UNICEF, during a discussion organized by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) reported in June, 2018, that children living in conflict areas has increased by 74% (UNICEF, 2018, June 26).  This site notes that in 2020 fifty-nine million children will require humanitarian assistance, the largest number since UNICEF began record keeping, with conflict the major driver  (UNICEF, 2020, Jan. 25) .  Basic services like water, health and education are all impacted.  Even when actual conflict has abated, children are impacted by the toll caused by missing and dead relatives, physical destruction, and economic deprivation.  The cultural genocide (a term to be explored) that often occurs prior to actual genocidal conflict is devastating.   A report by Save the Children in 2019 provided even more staggering statistics.  The organization reports that 1 in 5, almost 420 million children, were in conflict affected areas in 2017, constituting a rise of 30 million from 2016 (Chen, 2019).

The uprooted and traumatized children referred to in these statistics have contributed to what is, undoubtedly, the worst refugee crisis in modern history. The refugee ‘issue’ impacts most of the world and is an engine driving national and international policy by nations in turmoil, inflicting increased suffering of these children.  Although attention is focused on a few global hotspots where journalists are permitted, these tragedies are escalating and developing in dozens of places, for a myriad of reasons. Aggression promoted by intolerance is internalized in children and adolescents who have lived with insecurity born of a history of violence, often separated from loved ones, and grown up in exile or in displacement camps. This ongoing tragedy is unfolding in the United States as well. As of September 2018, the New York Times reported that there are 12,800 children in federally contracted shelters and 1,500 unaccounted for.  The current administration is canceling English classes and recreational activities (Romo, 2019). According to a joint investigation by The Associated Press and the PBS series, Frontline: “The nearly-70,000 migrant children who were held in government custody this year—up 42 percent in the fiscal year 2018-2019—spent more time in shelters and away from their families than in prior years (Aljazeera,2019).  Can activist art educators provide consequential results for children impacted by such conflict?

This study was completed in Kosovo with the nonprofit arts organization ArtsAction Group (AAG).  AAG is an international community-based collective with over a decade of commitment to socially engaged arts initiatives with youth in conflict-affected environments. Informing this study is a week-long participatory observation experience in Kosovo with AAG as well as oral history interview data and research prior to the trip.

Their multifaceted mission statement is elaborated on their website:  AAG is focused on both the individual child and the group: developing capacity for empathy, aesthetic awareness, creativity, problem solving, curiosity, engagement with community, the development of self-esteem, and encouraging empowerment to participate in a democratic society. Of equal significance to AAG is the role of the arts to connect young people to the knowledge and skills required for the 21st century.  A keen focus on teaching contemporary art and design, particularly STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) via an inquiry-based approach further aides individual and group survival in today’s economy. An emphasis on contemporary art not only connects young people to global movements, it also encourages personal connection and individual mean making. 

Kosovo: Historical context in the struggle for independence

In 1999, after a prolonged conflict, the United States and NATO allies acted to end ‘ethnic cleansing,’ a euphemism for genocide, perpetrated by Milosevic’s forces, and characterized by murder, looting and intimidation orchestrated against Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian population. Milosevic directed his forces inside Kosovo to drive the bulk of Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian population out of the territory or annihilate them. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and obtained diplomatic recognition as a sovereign state by 113 UN members. Many countries, notably Russia, China, India and Serbia, do not recognize Kosovo’s independence and it is not a part of the UN.  Due to the lack of universal acceptance of Kosovo’s statehood and ongoing tension with Serbia, NATO troops maintains a presence in the region.

The violence in Kosovo is not unique.  In the 20th century, self-determination inspired peoples on several continents to overthrow oppressive rule. Once gaining independence, newly seated leaders in many of these nations, however, often denied the same freedoms for ethnic and religious minorities within their borders– perpetuating oppression and civil unrest. As of 2013, Sambanis writes that there were at least 125 civil wars in progress (as cited in Welhengama, 2013).

Kosovo province succeeded from Serbia in 2008. Gurr notes that except for Central and West Africa and South and Southeast Asia, most secessionist movements have subsided. Despite this reduction, current initiatives to justify secession have focused on the idea that self-determination is a human right (Welhengama, 2013).  What happens to the cultural, religious, and/or political groups that are engaged in these conflicts? 

Cultural Genocide

In 1948, the United Nations defined genocide at the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide Article II, as acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group (United Nations Human Rights, 2018). The idea that genocide starts, but is not confined to killing, was elaborated on by Raphael Lemkin who first conceptualized ‘cultural genocide’ (as cited in Novic, 2015). Although Article II limited the legal definition of genocide to the physical and excluded the destruction of tangible cultural heritage and the prohibition of the use of the language of a group in their definition of genocide, the debate has continued. For Lemkin and others, cultural genocide came to be a form of genocide per se because the destruction of a culture could engender the destruction of the group over time. Anthropologists Jaulins and Clastres used the term ‘ethnocide’, which they claim is the systematic destruction of the modes of life and thought of people who are different. Clastres added that, genocide kills their bodies, “…while ethnocide kills their spirit” (as cited in Novic, 2015, p. 64).

The cultural dimension of genocide broadens a definition of genocide from a sole focus on the action of physical genocide to intention. Coined ‘ethnic cleansing,’ physical and cultural acts of genocide constituted mass attacks against people as well as their cultural heritage (United Nations Security Council, 1992). Whether the intention was to destroy or replace ethnic Albanians, the results impacted thousands of people in what is today called Kosovo. Since 1999, the region has been in a state of flux, beginning after the war with the presence of a military-humanitarian apparatus (Pandolfi, 2003) in which governmental and non-governmental relief agencies exist in a prolonged state of emergency and temporary relief.

Twenty years after the war, Kosovo is the economically poorest nation in Europe; the median family income is under 10K. Rebuilding from a war and genocide that impacted every community, the traumatic effects are still very much a part of Kosovar citizens’ lives and the rebuilding process is fraught with tension (Shtuni, 2015). Recent statements made by the US Ambassador to Pristina indicate a possible shift in US policy towards Kosovo which contradicts the stance taken in 1999 to end the war. Discussions against the partition of Kosovo from Serbia indicates that the sovereignty of Kosovo is perhaps now more fragile than before (2018, August 13, Mujanovic). According to Serbia’s foreign minister, as of August, 2019, 15 countries have revoked their recognition of Kosovo who stated it falls below 100 countries.  However, Kosovo claims to have 114 recognize it (Palickova, 2019). Kosovo is not a member of the UN and Russia and Serbia’s opposition is a cloud hanging over Kosovo’s efforts to join the EU. 

Working towards self-determination, Kosovars work to rebuild the economy. Kosovars are re-envisioning their culture and spirit as they choose to identify– through processes of becoming, mapping their own future– not wholly as victims, survivors, soldiers, or descendants (Biehl & Locke, 2010)..

Fellbach Haus Centre for Creative Education

Fellbach Haus is a community cultural center in the town of Suhareka, directed by a team from the community which includes artist and educator, Refki Gollopeni. Gollopeni experienced the war firsthand, when the Serbian government shut down the schools and the Albanian language was disallowed. After the war, Gollopeni focused on active involvement with the youth in the community for healing and rebuilding through art. He saw the need for art projects aimed at meaning making and creative expression, as well as innovative, entrepreneurial knowledge, and skills.

Gollopeni’s ten years of collaboration with AAG began with a meeting at a peace education conference. Wariness of non-governmental organizations and UN groups that aren’t grounded in community resulted in a two-year vetting process before AAG met Gollopeni. This relationship, over time, has been enhanced by local and international arts partners, local businesses, as well as the families of the young people who participate in the art programs. Gollopeni wanted to bring contemporary art education practices to Fellbach Haus. He describes the relationship with AAG: “Together we are working to establish a better future for humanity, while simultaneously maintaining human identity through peace, love, and art” (R. Gollopeni, interview, March 2018).

In Suhareka’s schools, art education focuses on traditional media and skills. Through collaboration, AAG designs projects that honor the local leaders’ expertise, and introduces new methods and materials at Gollopeni’s request. Each site is specific. Starting in 2008, with the request from Gollopeni to bring contemporary art practices to the center, AAG introduced installation art and artists which helped model teaching and the production of art that was collaborative and ephemeral vs the individual artist making a permanent object. Materials were locally sourced or transported on site by AAG.

In following years, AAG introduced stop motion animation stimulated by the work of contemporary artists. The content of the work was grounded in community, identity, and history, particularly documenting war stories from the community. Expanding upon the animation workshops, Gollopeni organized an international animation festival the following year which highlighted student work alongside work by international artists. Gollopeni continues to develop curriculum, building on the yearly experiences with AAG in ways that are meaningful for student expression and the future goals of the community.

Gollopeni’s interest in introducing contemporary art practice and collaboration for Kosovar youth corresponds to a recent research shift in scholarly and pedagogical activity regarding creativity. A new generation of research has begun to examine creativity as an outcome of collaborative activity rather than as a phenomenon that occurs entirely within the individual. Glaveanu’s culturally based definition of creativity refers to it as “a complex socio-cultural-psychological process. (Zwirn & VandeZande, 2015, p. 11). This understanding of creativity has salience for our discussion. Creativity is understood as a “generative process; it is connected to previous knowledge and cultural repertoires and in a dialogical relationship with the old or the already-there” (p. 11). In this conception, “tradition and previous knowledge are part and parcel of the creative process,” and “creativity and tradition are interpenetrated” (p. 13).

Week at the Fellbach Haus

Children’s projects focused on the theme of identity in an imaginative way, exploring the question: If you could have a secret super power, what would it be? The teens project, titled Utopia/Dystopia was developed in collaboration with Gollopeni and his discussions with his students during the planning stage before the visit. The theme asked students to explore the questions: What does ‘utopia’ mean to you? What does dystopia mean to you? Where do they overlap?  Students viewed images by contemporary artists who have explored the themes of utopia and dystopia to generate dialogue around societal and personal issues. The students discussed what they considered characteristics of utopian and dystopian society.

The discussion was facilitated with Gollopeni and students fluent in English translating. The inspiration to tackle these subjects evolved from discussions with Kosovar teens via skype prior to our arrival. The youngest nation in Europe, Kosovo has a youth unemployment rate of around 57%. Young people are keenly aware of the disparity in access to opportunities and experiences that most other European youth enjoy (McCarthy & Wagoneer, December 14, 2017). Discussing utopia as a form of empowerment in envisioning a brighter future for the country and dystopia as a critical analysis of their daily experience hit close to home.

STEAM approach through contemporary art

Both the children’s workshops and the teen workshops focused on integrating technology into the art making as a means for creative expression. Kosovar youth come from a long artistic and cultural tradition. Their appreciation for art, along with their motivation to learn about new technologies was quite evident in what they accomplished in the space of the week with AAG.

The children created artworks working with circuitry for lights and sound recordings of their voice, describing their desired superpower. The elementary students also used circuit boards. The teens similarly worked with conductive materials as well as how to make an image into a 3D print file. They learned about Bare Conductive Touch Boards for adding sound to a symbol that they had created to identify their idea. The Touch Board makes projects interactive through a microcontroller based platform that allows one to turn almost any material or surface into a sensor. Thick graphite sticks served as both conductive material for sound and for ’drawing utopia and dystopia themed murals. Students chose a symbol on their work for emphasis and created the symbol into a 3D printed object.

Community Focused Alliances

Strategies employed by AAG bolster the impact of SEAE. Analysis of documentation, interviews, video, photos, observations and experiences highlight key curricular concepts: a valuing of alliances, empowerment through self-determination, curriculum co-created and based on participants stated requests that meets individual and group goals (such as current design and STEAM projects for 21st century skills, and a pedagogy focused on hope and personal and community meaning making.  The arts foster dialogue towards individual and community development.

Building alliances with local groups through long-term cooperation lay the groundwork for AAG’s success in Kosovo. AAG forms community alliances through student-led engagement in the form of interactive and participatory exhibition design, which culminates their workshops. The public exhibitions extend their focus on engaging community with young people, artists and art educators, by networking with family and community members. Collaboration is fundamental as students decide how to showcase their art to the community.  The turnout of several hundred parents, youth and municipal personnel at the workshops’ end confirmed the value of the workshops to community members.

Transformational, socially engaged education via the arts gains vitality when it is youth focused with a recognition that the future of Kosovo and its sovereignty is linked to the voices of generations to come. As Dukagjin Lipa, father of Kosovar’s first international pop star, Dua Lipa, explained in August 2018, regarding his creation of the first major music festival in Kosovo, “We have our troubles, but we have one of the most wonderful youths in this part of the world. They are intelligent, they’re creative. They have something to say.” (Marshall, A., 2018)


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The Cholera Epidemic of 1832 in New York State

The Cholera Pandemic of 1832 in New York State

Richard L. Williams

Reprinted with permission from

History shows that several pandemics have struck in New York State – one of the less remembered is known as the Second Cholera Pandemic of 1832. New York was among the most thoroughly scourged among the states.

A person may get cholera by drinking water or eating food contaminated with the Vibrio cholerae bacterium.  Although cholera can be acquired from under-cooked marine life, in an epidemic, the source of the contamination is usually the feces of an infected person. The disease can spread rapidly in areas with inadequate treatment of sewage and drinking water and New York City, Buffalo, and Utica were all hit particularly hard due to the bacterium‘s water borne mobility.

Virtually every city along the Hudson and St. Lawrence Rivers, Lakes Ontario, Erie, and Champlain, and the Erie Canal suffered despite the imposition of quarantines and frantic local efforts to “purify” and eliminate public health nuisances. In June 1832 cholera appeared in Quebec and Montreal and then in Prescott, Kingston, and York in Canada. Thriving towns along the Erie Canal suffered as well as small villages and even isolated farms.  The appearance of cholera was the signal for the general exodus of inhabitants of larger communities, who, in their headlong flight, spread the disease throughout the surrounding countryside. The disease was terrifying. Like the current coronavirus pandemic, it had to be faced alone, often without friend, minister, or physician.

The pandemic was compounded by miasmatics, an obsolete medical theory that held that diseases — such as cholera, chlamydia, or the plague — were caused by noxious “bad air” (sometimes called night air).

Personal habits were also thought to be a major cause and public health officials sought to protect people they called “poor and vicious” from themselves. Cleanliness helped, but also New York City banned “green and unripe fruits of every kind.”  Leaders of the Temperance Movement charged whiskey as the culprit. “Strict Sabbatarians” thought the disease was due to improper regard for the holiness of Sundays.

Many people traveled then on the Erie Canal or on stagecoaches on turnpikes passing through communities like Utica, where the Common Council established a Board of Health on June 16, 1832 to make regulations to “prevent the introduction and spread of the disease in the city.” Property owners were directed to purify and cleanse their house or business and to remove unwholesome substances or water. Lime or chloride of lime was to be used by all to purify residences and other buildings.

A temporary hospital was erected on Broad Street and 50 bushels of lime was bought “for the use of the poor.” Canal boats were directed to a quarantine where they could be “cleansed and purified.” By August 13th Utica had four fatal cases, and the alarm had spread across the city. It was estimated that 3,000 people left Utica “in search of a securer refuge from the mysterious disease.” All told, Utica had about 200 cases of cholera and about 65 deaths. A writer in The Utica Daily Gazette 15 years after the episode said that “the bolts of death fell thick and fast. The dead were hurried to their graves as soon as the breath left the body, unaccompanied by friends and without the usual ceremony.”

By September 11, 1832 the Board of Health announced that there was no danger to people returning to Utica. On September 25th no new cases were reported.  As abruptly as the 1832 cholera pandemic had appeared in New York, it dissipated and was largely gone from the State by December of the same year.

A similar epidemic, the Third Cholera Pandemic, returned to the United States in 1849. It is believed that over 150,000 Americans died during the two pandemics.

Constitutional Textualism, Undocumented Immigrants, and the 14th Amendment

Constitutional Textualism, Undocumented Immigrants, and the Fourteenth Amendment

Alan Singer

This article was originally serialized as a three-part post in History News Network.

Posting on History News Network, Elliott Young, professor of History at Lewis & Clark College, examined the Supreme Court decision in Department of Homeland Security v. Thuraissigiam (2020). Young described the decision as a “fundamental threat to equal protection of the law for all undocumented immigrants” that defied long established legal principles. I strongly support Young’s arguments and, in this article, I wish to extend them. Equally distressing is that it was a seven-to-two majority decision with Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer joining the rightwing court bloc. Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan posted a powerful joint dissent.

The 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act “placed restrictions on the ability of asylum seekers to obtain review under the federal habeas statute.” In this case, Vijayakumar Thuraissigiam, an undocumented immigrant from Sri Lanka applying for refugee status because as a Tamil he faced beatings, torture, and death, claimed that since he had already entered the territory of the United States, he was entitled to due process. Thuraissigiam was represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The Court upheld the constitutionality of the 1996 law and ruled that he was not.

 The majority decision for the rightwing bloc was written by Samuel Alito. Alito argued “Respondent’s Suspension Clause argument fails because it would extend the writ of habeas corpus far beyond its scope ‘when the Constitution was drafted and ratified’” and that the “respondent’s use of the writ would have been unrecognizable at that time.” Not once did Alito reference the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. Breyer and Ginsburg, in a concurring opinion written by Breyer, stated that they supported the court majority “in this particular case,” but not the broader assertions made by Alito.

In a dissent endorsed by Kagan, Sotomayor wrote that “The majority declares that the Executive Branch’s denial of asylum claims in expedited removal proceedings shall be functionally unreviewable through the writ of habeas corpus, no matter whether the denial is arbitrary or irrational or contrary to governing law. That determination flouts over a century of this Court’s practice.” She argued “Taken to its extreme, a rule conditioning due process rights on lawful entry would permit Congress to constitutionally eliminate all procedural protections for any noncitizen the Government deems unlawfully admitted and summarily deport them no matter how many decades they have lived here, how settled and integrated they are in their communities, or how many members of their family are U. S. citizens or residents.” If Sotomayor is correct, and I believe she is, the Thuraissigiam decision puts all DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients at immediate risk.

I’m not a big fan of the national Common Core Standards and its high-stakes standardized reading tests, but as a historian and social studies teacher, I like the idea that they promote close reading of text. Former Associate Supreme Court Justice Anton Scalia, the halcyon of judicial conservatism and the patron saint of the Supreme Court’s dominant bloc, justified his rightwing jurisprudence claiming to be a textualist. According to Scalia, “If you are a textualist, you don’t care about the intent, and I don’t care if the framers of the Constitution had some secret meaning in mind when they adopted its words. I take the words as they were promulgated to the people of the United States, and what is the fairly understood meaning of those words.”

But, as Shakespeare reminded us in Hamlet’s famous “To be, or not to be” soliloquy, “There’s the rub.” There is always “the rub.” The problem, with both Common Core and Constitutional textualism is that words have different meanings at different times and to different people and sometimes words are chosen, not to convey meaning, but to obscure it. Understanding “words” requires historical context.

The word slavery did not appear in the United States Constitution until slavery was banned in 1865 by the Thirteenth Amendment because the Constitution, as originally written, represented a series of compromises and contradictions that the authors left to be decided in the future. It was a decision that three score and fourteen years later led to the American Civil War.

The humanity of Africans was generally denied at the time the Constitution was written; they were chattel, property. But in Article I, Section II of the Constitution, which established the three-fifth plan for representation in Congress, enslaved Africans are referred to as “other Persons.” And in Article IV, Section II, the Constitution mandates that “No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due.”

I read text pretty well. As persons, enslaved Africans should have been included in the people of the United States who wrote the Constitution “in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

But of course, they weren’t. Just reading the Constitutional text, without context, does not help us understand what Scalia called “the fairly understood meaning of those words.”

Unfortunately for the nation, political bias blinded Scalia while he was on the Supreme Court and blinds the rightwing cabal that dominates the Court today so badly that they just don’t read with any level of understanding and ignore historical documents. Because of this, one of the most pressing issues in the 2020 Presidential election is the appointment of future Supreme Court Justices who can read text with understanding, especially the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution, and are willing to search for supporting historical evidence.

In his war on immigration, Donald Trump has repeatedly tried to implement regulations that speed-up dismissal of refugee claims so they can be thrown out of the country and others that permit the Department of Homeland Security to indefinitely detain families that cross the Southern border with Mexico into the United States without proper documentation. Trump calls constitutionally protected birthright citizenship “ridiculous” and says his administration is “looking very, very seriously” at ideas for stopping it because the promise that their children will be American citizens is a “magnet for illegal immigration.”

I am not an expert on magnets, but I do know what the Constitution says, why it was written that way, and what it means. In the 14th amendment to the Constitution, approved after the Civil War, national citizenship, including birth right citizenship, and the rights of citizens of the United States, were defined for the first time. According to Section 1 of the Amendment, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.” The only persons born in the United States and excluded from automatic citizenship were Native Americans who were members of sovereign tribes and the children of foreign diplomats stationed in the United States. Native Americans were finally granted birth right citizenship by the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924. According to the 14th Amendment, the children of immigrants, both documented and undocumented, as long as they are born in the United States and subject to its laws, are automatically citizens whether their parents become citizens or not. Among other people, that included my parents – and by extension, me.

In addition, Section 1 states, “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Equal protection of the law, due process, the right to life, liberty, and property, are assured by the Constitution to all persons, not just to citizens, including undocumented immigrants. If we exclude some people from personhood rights, we return to a reading of the Constitution that allowed “other Persons” to be enslaved. To prevent this from happening again, Section 5 of the amendment granted Congress “power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article,” but not the power to violate it.

The due legal process guaranteed to persons was earlier defined in the Bill of Rights. The Fifth Amendment bars prosecution for a crime without an indictment from a Grand Jury; the Sixth Amendment ensures that “the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed”; and the Eighth amendment bans “cruel and unusual punishments.” All of these rights were violated during slavery days when Blacks had no legal rights, including a public trial before an impartial jury. The case against Solomon Northup’s kidnappers in Washington DC was dismissed because a Black man could not legally testify against whites. It is important to note that the Sixth Amendment does not make an exception denying legal protection to undocumented immigrants, while the Eighth Amendment would probably be read by a legitimate Supreme Court as denying the separation of children from their parents and indefinite detention at the border – and at Guantanamo.

The Fourteen Amendment was written to protect persons and to empower Congress to enforce their protection because before the Civil War, Fugitive Slave laws denied due process to persons accused of being runaway slaves. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, permitted someone to be detained based on an “affidavit made by the claimant of such fugitive”; provided for the appointment of commissioners who reviewed claims outside of regular judicial channels; required “marshals and deputy marshals” to enforce provisions of the act and paid them doubled if an accused fugitive was enslaved; established penalties for “any person who shall knowingly and willingly obstruct, hinder, or prevent” a “claimant, his agent or attorney, or any person or persons lawfully assisting him, her, or them, from arresting such a fugitive”; and most disturbingly, a “deposition or affidavit” by a claimant against an accused freedom-seeker, was sufficient grounds for a commissioner to declare someone a fugitive and order them enslaved.

The phrasing of the 14th Amendment was also necessary because Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney, in the 7-2 majority opinion he wrote for the Dred Scott decision, claimed that people of African ancestry “were not intended to be included, under the word ‘citizens’ in the Constitution, and can therefore claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens of the United States.” Taney, blinded by his bias against Blacks and determined to permit the spread of slavery into western territories, ignored the Constitutional provision that legal rights were guaranteed to persons, not just to citizens, and that Africans were recognized in the Constitution as persons.

In his dissent to the Dred Scott decision, Associate Justice Benjamin Curtis made clear that the ruling by Taney and the Court majority were in violation of both the text and intent of the Constitution, and after the decision was made, he resigned in protest. Curtis wrote that “At the time of the ratification of the Articles of Confederation, all free native-born inhabitants of the States of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and North Carolina, though descended from African slaves, were not only citizens of those States, but such of them as had the other necessary qualifications possessed the franchise of electors, on equal terms with other citizens.” In addition, the Constitution’s fugitive slave clause (Article IV, Section II) established the personhood of enslaved Blacks when it referred to them as “persons held to service in one State, under the laws thereof.”

Antonin Scalia, rejected examining the original intent of the authors of the Constitution and its amendments, claiming we cannot know what they meant by what they wrote. But the thing is, their explanations of the meaning of the text are often well documented, especially as in the case of the 14th Amendment. Fortunately, while many current justices, like Scalia was when he served on the court, are limited in their understanding of what authors mean by the text, historian don’t have those limitations.

The Congressional Globe, predecessor to the Congressional Record, contains verbatim debate over the Fourteenth Amendment including extended statements by Congressman John A. Bingham from Ohio (House of Representatives, 39th Congress, 1st Session), the principal author of the amendment, and an elected official who could read very well, especially when the text was the United States Constitution. Bingham’s extended comments on the 14th Amendment appear pages 1088-1094.

According to Bingham, “I propose, with the help of this Congress and of the American people, that thereafter there shall not be any disregard of this essential guarantee of your Constitution in any State of the Union. And how? By simply adding an amendment to the Constitution to operate on all States of this Union alike, giving to Congress the power to pass all laws necessary and proper to secure to all persons – which includes every citizen of every state – their equal personal rights . . .” Bingham clarified, “the divinest feature of your Constitution is the recognition of the absolute equality before the law of all persons, whether citizens or strangers . . .” Based on this, Bingham advised President Andrew Johnson that “the American system rests on the assertion of the equal right of EVERY MAN to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; to freedom of conscience, to the culture and exercise of all his faculties.”

As Bingham explained, “Equality before the law” under the Fourteenth Amendment means exactly what it says it means; it is a right guaranteed to “all persons, whether citizens or strangers.”

In his speech to Congress, Bingham echoed some of the arguments made by Frederick Douglass when Douglass rejected the idea that the United States Constitution was a pro-slavery document. Douglass denied “that the Constitution guarantees the right to hold property in man. Douglass believed “The intentions of those who framed the Constitution, be they good or bad, for slavery or against slavery, are so respected so far, and so far only, as we find those intentions plainly stated in the Constitution . . . Its language is ‘we the people;’ not we the white people, not even we the citizens, . . but we the people . . . The constitutionality of slavery can be made out only by disregarding the plain and common-sense reading of the Constitution itself.”

Bingham, who analyzed context, as well as text, stated that “everybody at all conversant with the history of the country knows that in the Congress of 1778, upon the adoption of the Articles of Confederation as an article of perpetual union between the States, a motion was made then and there to limit citizenship by the insertion in one of the articles of the word ‘white,’ so that it should read, ‘All white freemen of every State, excluding paupers, vagabonds, and so forth, shall be citizens of the United States.’ There was a vote taken upon it, for all our instruction, I suppose, and four fifths of all the people represented in that Congress rejected with scorn the proposition and excluded it from that fundamental law; and from that day to this it has found no place in the Constitution and laws of the United States, and colored men as well as white men have been and are citizens of the United States.”

Bingham turned the Comity Clause in the Constitution, which affirms that states must respect each other’s laws and was used by slaveholders to demand the return of freedom-seekers as stolen property, on its head. He argued it should be read as written; that “The citizens of each State shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States.” He argues “This guarantee of your Constitution applies to every citizen of every State of the Union; there is not a guarantee more sacred, and none more vital in that instrument.” Essentially, Bingham believed, as did Douglass, that the slave states and slavery had been in violation of the Constitution all along, and the 14th Amendment, was need because its fifth clause empowered Congress to “enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article,” hopefully eviscerating the ability of states and localities to defy the law.

Supreme Court decisions based on text without context have been responsible for some of the greatest perversions of justice in United States history. The 14th Amendment empowered Congress to pass laws ensuring the rights of citizens and persons. One of the first laws, the Civil Rights Act of 1866, predated approval of the amendment, so Congress ratified it again in 1870. In Congressional debate over the law, Representative James Wilson (Republican-Iowa) explained that it “provides for the equality of citizens of the United States in the enjoyment of ‘civil rights and immunities,’ and that the civil rights protected by the law are “those which have no relation to the establishment, support, or management of government” (Congressional Globe, House of Representatives,  39th Congress, 1st Session,  1115-1117).

Section 1 of the Civil Rights Act declared “That all persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the accommodations, advantages, facilities, and privileges of inns, public conveyances on land or water, theatres, and other places of public amusement.” Again, a right granted to persons irrespective of citizenship. Section 2 described penalties for violating the law.

But in 1883, by a seven-to-one vote, the Supreme Court endorsed Jim Crow racism as the law of the land when it ruled the Civil Rights Act unconstitutional. Writing for the court majority, Associate Justice Joseph Bradley argued that the Thirteen Amendment, as written, outlawed slavery, not discrimination, and the text of the Fourteen Amendment only authorized Congress to prohibit government action, not actions by individuals or non-governmental groups.

The only dissenting voice on the Court was Associate Justice John Marshall Harlan who wrote “The opinion in these cases proceeds, it seems to me, upon grounds entirely too narrow and artificial. I cannot resist the conclusion that the substance and spirit of the recent amendments of the Constitution have been sacrificed by a subtle and ingenious verbal criticism.” Harlan attacked the decision because “the court has departed from the familiar rule requiring, in the interpretation of constitutional provisions, that full effect be given to the intent with which they were adopted” and has “always given a broad and liberal construction to the Constitution, so as to enable Congress, by legislation, to enforce rights secured by that instrument.

Harlan then cited an interesting precedent for his view of the Constitution – the Court’s position on Fugitive Slave Acts. According to Harlan, “Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Law of 1793, establishing a mode for the recovery of fugitive slaves and prescribing a penalty against any person who should knowingly and willingly obstruct or hinder the master, his agent, or attorney in seizing, arresting, and recovering the fugitive, or who should rescue the fugitive from him, or who should harbor or conceal the slave after notice that he was a fugitive,” a view upheld by the Supreme Court in its 1842 Prigg v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania decision, which recognized the power of Congress to pass legislation enforcing the rights of slaveholders.

In a series of rhetorical questions about the Thirteenth Amendment, Harlan asked whether “the freedom thus established involve nothing more than exemption from actual slavery? Was nothing more intended than to forbid one man from owning another as property? Was it the purpose of the nation simply to destroy the institution, and then remit the race, theretofore held in bondage, to the several States for such protection, in their civil rights, necessarily growing out of freedom, as those States, in their discretion, might choose to provide? Were the States against whose protest the institution was destroyed to be left free, so far as national interference was concerned, to make or allow discriminations against that race, as such, in the enjoyment of those fundamental rights which, by universal concession, inhere in a state of freedom?”

Harlan warned, “Today it is the colored race which is denied, by corporations and individuals wielding public authority, rights fundamental in their freedom and citizenship. At some future time, it may be that some other race will fall under the ban of race discrimination. If the constitutional amendments be enforced according to the intent with which, as I conceive, they were adopted, there cannot be, in this republic, any class of human beings in practical subjection to another class . . .”

It is significant that in 1896, Harlan was the only dissenting voice in the Supreme Court’s Plessy v. Ferguson legalizing the “separate but equal” doctrine that remained in affect until it was overturned in 1954 by the Brown v. Board of Education decision.

Returning to John Bingham and Congressional debate over the 14th Amendment, Bingham’s explanation of the amendment as an all embracing guarantee of civil rights was adopted by the woman’s suffrage movement, whose white leadership initially opposed the 14th Amendment because in its second section it included the word male, writing gender distinctions into the Constitution for the first time, and the 15th Amendment because it granted voting rights to Black men, but not white women.

In 1869, Attorney Francis Minor, whose wife Virginia was the President of the Woman Suffrage Association in Missouri, drafted a series of resolutions that were adopted by National Woman Suffrage Association and endorsed by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Minor argued that the Fourteen Amendment barred “provisions of the several state constitutions that exclude women from the franchise on account of sex” as “violative alike of the spirit and letter of the federal Constitution.” Following up on these resolutions, in November 1872, Virginia Minor attempted, unsuccessfully, to vote in St. Louis, while Anthony and fourteen other women in Rochester, New York voted in the Presidential election and Anthony was later arrested. Francis Minor sued the St. Louis registrar because Virginia Minor, as a married woman, was legally not permitted to sue in her own right. In the case Minor v. Happersett (1875), the Supreme Court ruled that while women were citizens of the United States and the state in which they reside, the right to vote was a privilege not granted by the 14th amendment. John Marshall Harlan had not yet been appointed to the Supreme Court

In 1884, Susan B. Anthony testified before the Senate Select Committee on Woman Suffrage, “The Constitution of the United States as it is protects me. If I could get a practical application of the Constitution it would protect me and all women in the enjoyment of perfect equality of rights everywhere under the shadow of the American flag.”

Anthony’s testimony is of great importance today because the Supreme Court will be deciding a series of cases on the legal rights of both women and undocumented immigrants. Virginia recently became the thirty-eighth state to approve the Equal Rights Amendment, first passed by Congress in 1972. The amendment simply states, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” The version passed by Congress included an expiration date, later extended to 1982. Congress and the Supreme Court most decide if the expiration date is Constitutional and if the United States now has a new 28th Amendment.

The Supreme Court decision on DACA was narrowly decided on technical grounds and the Trump Administration is pursuing new legal avenues to end legal protection for about 800,000 undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children. If the Court ultimately overturns DACA and subjects DACA recipients to deportation, at issue will be their Constitutional right to due process under provisions of the 14th Amendment.