Suppressing or Inhibiting Teaching

Suppressing or Inhibiting Teaching

 Cynthia Vitere

I have been teaching history on the secondary and college level for almost thirty years. Much of this time has been spent as a teacher on Long Island, New York where my area of expertise has ranged from contemporary issues and criminal justice to leading the International Baccalaureate program in history in my current district. As a trained historian, educator and administrator I bring all of these mindsets to my curriculum and pedagogy.

In considering the question of how one addresses attempts to suppress or inhibit teaching I believe it is essential to first discuss one’s understanding of the discipline of history, why we teach it and how we teach it. Why do we ask students to take a history course? I believe the most important function of history education is to establish the foundations for informed democratic citizenship. In the primary grades, students develop a narrative of U.S. history and at the secondary level they acquire the tools to examine and critically analyze that narrative. This critically thinking student is empowered and encouraged to then articulate multiple narratives which reflect our pluralistic society. Education is no longer a hierarchical relationship between the teacher and student, but a collaborative relationship where knowledge can be nourished and exercised through regular open discourse.

When I first engage students in my classroom, too many of them assume that history is a set narrative with established facts that must be memorized. Very few students like history. Many adults I meet say they hated history class as children but now appreciate it because they finally see its utility. It is not their fault; as that educational experience is the rule for most of us, rather than the exception. For me, it wasn’t until pursuing my graduate degree in history that I was truly engaged in thinking and acting like a historian. I quickly learned that the historical narratives we tell are governed by time and place, by the perspectives of the historians and their audience, and by the availability of evidence. Historiography, or the study of how history is written, tells us that this process of continuity and change results in fantastic disputes among scholars; disputes that rarely trickle down to the high school classroom. For many, this critical history is not welcome in the classroom because it is perceived as being “too hard” or “too nuanced for the high school student”. Since “that’s not going to be on the test” it is deemed irrelevant, or worse yet, an expression of the teacher’s political agenda.

I do have a point of view. I want my students to take a seat at the historians’ communal roundtable, use the critical thinking skills particular to history, and contest our curriculum. By acknowledging the role of race, gender, class, ethnicity and every other “divisive” lens students confront the fullness of our sometimes painful past and forge a meaningful place for their own individual narrative in our shared story. For much of my career this approach to history education was not controversial but encouraged and valued as an essential component of civics education.

When I first started teaching history I was asked to create and implement a course in Multiculturalism. This course was initiated in response to racial and ethnic tensions in my district. This senior elective was seen as a corrective to those divisions. There was a desire to confront racism, ethnocentrism and sexism head on. While this was a challenging course, I felt fully supported by my administrators to engage my students with challenging readings and to moderate discourse which was frequently impassioned, sometimes tense, but ultimately a source of greater understanding and community building.

Since 9/11 the question about what should be taught in a history classroom became more problematic. With so many of my students’ families directly or indirectly affected by 9/11, history was no longer a distant topic. One had to regularly question how your topics and discussions might upset students or community members. I began to introduce trigger warnings into my practice as a way to acknowledge students’ emotional challenges, sensitively modify my instruction, but not silence necessary discourse.

With the election of President Obama the issue of race became more problematic but not one to be avoided. In my economics and history classes I freely used the PBS program entitled “Race: The power of an Illusion”. This program and its complementary website provided interactive resources which challenged student preconceptions about race and how it has influenced government legislation and programs in the 20th century. Students were challenged to critically examine, discuss and assess the subject matter. Although this curriculum demanded careful implementation, I never felt significantly anxious about the curriculum or my pedagogy. I never experienced any negative feedback or reproach. When I consider using those resources today, a paralyzing doubt stops me. Even though my graduate mentor and acclaimed historian Ira Berlin is a source in the program, the current political educational environment stops me from freely using him. Why? The website explicitly addresses the structural and historical nature of racism. Simply put, I would be targeted as a practitioner of critical race theory and pilloried.

If I were to teach the transformation of my pedagogy I would ask my students to identify a chronology of contributing factors. I would introduce the following: the emergence of Donald Trump as the voice of the Republican Party, the 1619 Project, the Black Lives Matter Movement and the Covid-19 Pandemic. When the 1619 Project was published in August of 2019 I was excited by the opportunity to introduce a reframing of American history. The beginning of my year focused on having students examine, discuss and evaluate the use of 1619 and 1776 as the defining dates in our national origin story. Excerpts from Nicole Hannah Jones’s introduction, as well as the rebuttal by Marxist and conservative historians were considered. We replicated the debate that ensued among historians. Students were not insulted, nor did they feel bad about themselves or experience any less pride as Americans. What they did do was engage in a lively critical discussion. With this introductory unit I sought to establish the transitory nature of history and the importance of critical thinking. I was neither worried or challenged by this lesson.

This, of course, is not the world we live in today. As 2019 turned into the presidential election year of 2020, the critical engagement of race became much more politicized. Still, I did not veer away from the lens of race as it is a foundational factor for historical inquiry, especially American history. After four years of the Trump Administration’s attack on evidence-based reasoning, the engagement of history became much more problematic. The normalization of framing evidence that you don’t like as fake by politicians and members of the media on both sides of the political spectrum impacted the classroom. Students would actually respond to historical evidence and claims in class with “fake news” as a silencing response. When silence is the aim, discourse itself is the problem. As a practitioner of critical thinking and discourse, my pedagogy became increasingly problematic. By 2021, I would become a target in our contemporary political culture wars.

As a teacher of the two-year IB History of the Americas curriculum, we examine U.S. history in year one and the emergence and consolidation of 20th century authoritarian regimes in year two. As I was teaching the Reichstag Fire and Hitler’s Enabling Act the January 6 insurrection took place. The continuity of this contemporary event and our historical inquiry provided a teachable moment. Students read contemporary German authors’ examination of American events from their unique historical perspective. The narratives were examined, interrogated and disputed. The sources were used to stimulate discussion, not as an equation of Nazi Germany 1931 and the United States 2021. I believed that I had a responsibility to my students to address what was happening around them, but felt that I had to mediate it through the lens of the past. Unfortunately, silence, self-censorship and discomfort became an unwelcome norm. I increasingly incorporated student writing in private blogs so that they could safely and critically engage history and contemporary events. Increasingly, I, too, self-censored in response to my discomfort. In speaking with colleagues both in the United States and on international IB web spaces, the professional fear was palpable. Was it possible to address these momentous events or was it best to safely stick to the proscribed curriculum? While many departments worked collectively to navigate a response, many others avoided discussion and left pedagogic choices to the conscience of individual teachers. In collective avoidance of this thorny issue, many hoped to protect themselves from acrimony.

Ultimately, the practitioner of critical pedagogy will be targeted by those who choose to close the door on the past, no matter how carefully they tread. My public crucible was in response to a lesson which asked students to assess the impact of racism. I did not feel comfortable or safe directly addressing the George Floyd/Derrick Chauvin trial but I did feel a professional responsibility to address the deep threads of racism and division. As a way to displace the dialogue, I focused on student generated claims which judged quantitative analysis to be more objective and useful than qualitative analysis. I asked students to apply these lenses to the impacts of racism. Students did engage in critical discourse, but what I found is that many do not want critical discourse to be taking place in public schools. If we cannot engage in critical discourse then we as educators have lost our most important teaching tool.

In historical retrospect, what have I learned? I would like to say that the experience of having my curriculum and pedagogy subjected to media and community scrutiny and attack would energize my efforts as a democratic educator. The reality is not so heroic. Much like the American Revolution, ⅓ of my professional and personal community supported me, ⅓ actively opposed me and ⅓ avoided me at all costs. This did not surprise me. When nations slide towards authoritarianism, teachers are often the first targets. The public attack on my pedagogy made this slide harder to deny and avoid. It made all teachers the target.

As teachers we are public figures who are under incredible pressure and scrutiny. One can hope to lay low and never make a mistake or misstep. One can stick to the text and avoid anything that hints of controversy, but this is not tenable. I came into education with a toolbox. The tools have evolved over time, but their purpose remains the same. My use of these tools in our current climate is much riskier. My curricular choices are more conservative, I hesitate to bring contemporary documents into our discussions of the past. I speak obliquely and ask neutered questions. To do differently is too charged, too dangerous, and too divisive but I must also acknowledge that there is a point at which I cannot surrender who I am as a critical educator. History itself calls on me to hone my critical pedagogy for these challenging times. The risk of not doing so is too great. The challenge for today’s social studies educators is how to cultivate democratic students in a world that is increasingly opposed to democracy? I do not have a singular answer, but I commit myself to seeking new methods and mediums so that we as social studies educators can reject complicity and collectively facilitate the better angels of our nature.

The History of the Lenni Lenape Before, During, and After the American Revolution

The History of the Lenni-Lenape Before, During, and After the American Revolution

(Image courtesy of Legends of America)

By Mr. David A. Di Costanzo, M. Ed Social Studies Department Chair Vineland High School


During the first year of this grant, seven Social Studies teachers from around the state conducted research for the New Jersey Council for the Social Studies (NJCSS). The teachers examined the histories of ordinary people in New Jersey and how the events leading up to and during the Revolutionary War impacted their lives. The grant, “Telling Our Story: Living in New Jersey Before and During the American Revolution”, is an ongoing effort by the NJCSS to prepare educators in New Jersey for the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution during the 2025-26 school year. The 250th anniversary celebrations will continue through 2031 and is part of the overall mission of the NJCSS to provide and make available meaningful lessons and activities to students, teachers, and the public.

During Year Two of the grant, the focus of the research has shifted to include the role and contributions of African Americans, Native Americans, and prisoners of war before, during, and after the American Revolution. An emphasis on the experiences of women and children during this time period will also be researched. The lives of the Lenni-Lenape from New Jersey before, during, and after the American Revolution is a fascinating and important part of American history. Professor of History and Native American Studies Colin G. Calloway from Dartmouth University said, “with few exceptions, the Indian story in the Revolution remains relegated to secondary importance and easy explanation: The Indians chose the wrong side and lost. To better understand the reality of the Revolution for American Indians, we need to shift our focus to Indian country and to the Indian community.” [1] Sadly, the story of the Lenni-Lenape during this time period has been “relegated to secondary importance” and not been told enough.

The role of Lenni-Lenape is crucial in our understanding of the American experience. What was lifelike for the Lenni-Lenape in New Jersey?  Unfortunately, the Lenni-Lenape, dealt with racist mindsets which were the primary impetus that led to a negative and mostly superficial historiography of their culture that took centuries to completely shift. Historical perceptions and the racial mindsets of Native Americans did eventually change but only after they were deprived of their land, forced to live on reservations, and required to assimilate into mainstream American culture.  

It’s also important to note that for Native Americans the Revolutionary War began way before Lexington and Concord.  Most historians agree that the American Indians had been fighting for their own independence since the Europeans made contact.  Accepting and embracing the fate of the Lenni-Lenape and discovering how people lived before and during the American Revolution in New Jersey is important work. It allows students and residents in various counties throughout New Jersey to discover a more objective truth about Native Americans before and during the American Revolution. This more objective truth is an honest attempt to provide greater transparency for everyone, whether they agree with it or not.

Historical Background:

The cultural history of Native Americans is interesting for a variety of reasons. The treatment of Native Americans is viewed by most historians as horrific. Native Americans were systematically excluded from having a true voice during European exploration and colonization as well as after the United States was founded. The explorers ravaged the indigenous people of this continent with violence, disease and deprivation.  Native Americans had non-Christian spiritual beliefs which went against the religious doctrine of the early explorers. This difference in cultures created a severe spiritual divide.  Later on, colonists traded with Native Americans but European settlers viewed them as nothing more than savages and barbarians. 

            By the nineteenth century, Native Americans had no choice but to assimilate in order to survive. Forced assimilation in order to survive is not the same thing as having a legitimate stake in the system.  Time has made most ethnicities, including American Indians, a larger part of the American landscape. All of these factors created a system of severe limitations for most Native Americans that still lingers today.  The situation in New Jersey regarding the treatment of the Lenni-Lenape was similar to the way Native Americans were dealt with throughout the colonies and the United States.

            The Lenni-Lenape of New Jersey are descendants of the Paleo-Indian whose history on this continent has been traced back to 13,000 years ago.  The Lenni-Lenape were also referred to as the Delaware Indians by the English and the Dutch.  Professor of History Maxine Lurie from Seton Hall University and Professor of Anthropology Richard Veit from Monmouth University said, “the first settlers to reach what is now New Jersey probably did so during or before the Paleo-Indian period.  Archaeological sites from this period are quite rare.” [2] Nevertheless, Paleo-Indian artifacts have been found across New Jersey as well as in New York and Pennsylvania. Excavations during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries confirmed the presence of Paleo-Indians throughout New Jersey.

            Various cultural periods would ensue for the next several thousand years leading to the final phase prior to European contact which is referred to as the Woodland Period.  This period began roughly a thousand years ago and continued until contact with Europeans during the early sixteenth century. [3] The earliest reports of contact with European explorers occurred in 1524 when Giovanni da Verrazano explored the Atlantic coast of North America. He described the natives in and around what today is New Jersey as “most loving”. [4]  Contact with whites was sporadic until the early 1600’s. The interactions with the Lenni-Lenape and the explorers increased and progressed during the early seventeenth century and beyond. 

            The Dutch and English had a sincere desire to trade with the American Indians from the Garden State.  It’s well documented that, “the Dutch West India Company, formed in Holland in 1621 to develop commerce, especially fur trading, constituted the present New Jersey Hudson River area into the province of New Nether (often “New Netherlands”) in 1623.” [5]  Furs, cooper, and other perishable commodities, such as alcohol, were all eagerly exchanged.  It became clear almost immediately that most Native Americans didn’t react well to the consumption of alcohol.  This inability to consume alcohol in moderation was something European traders would quickly learn to take advantage of without hesitation. The Dutch and English traded with the Lenni-Lenape of New Jersey in spite of the animosity and racism that existed.  Most Dutch traders had very little respect for the American Indians.

This map is from John Snyder’s The Story of New Jersey Civil Boundaries 1202-1968 

This map shows various Indian trails that crisscrossed New Jersey. The Assunpink Trail goes from the lower left on the Delaware River and continues northward, crosses the Raritan River and heads for Staten Island.

            An unintended consequence or impact of European exploration was the massive spread of numerous diseases. Professor Lurie and Professor Veit, said that in and around New Jersey

“The impact of disease on Native American populations was disastrous. Population estimates for the Lenape vary significantly, with some scholars arguing for 12,000 natives at the time of European contact and others for much smaller numbers.  In the seventeenth century smallpox epidemics, malaria, measles, and influenza significantly reduced the Native American population” [6]

Like all of the other Native American tribes in North America, disease had a devastating effect on the Lenni-Lenape of New Jersey that would linger on for decades.  It put the indigenous people of this continent at a serious disadvantage from the beginning of their contact with the Europeans.

            In spite of the effects of alcohol and disease on the Lenni-Lenape of New Jersey, they maintained a serious control of trade during most of the seventeenth century. Professor of History Jean Soderlund from Lehigh University said that

“Because of mythology, the Lenape are often portrayed as a weak people lacking the numbers and fortitude to defend their homeland.  The prevailing narrative ignores the period of 1615-1681 when the Lenape dominated trade and determined if, when and where Europeans could travel and take up land.” [7] 

Except for the Pavonia Massacre in February of 1643, the Lenni-Lenape avoided major conflicts during this time period. This was in stark contrast to the Anglo-Powhatan War and Bacon’s Rebellion in Virginia which were both larger in terms of the number of people that were killed. [8]  The Pavonia Massacre was the first known attack led by Dutch soldiers that saw over one hundred Native American men, women, and children slaughtered in the area of what is today Jersey City.  After the massacre, hostilities would remain for almost three years until a truce was agreed to in 1645.

A Depiction of the Pavonia Massacre in 1643 (Image courtesy of Timetoast)

Professor Soderlund said “the Lenapes’ firm grip on south and central New Jersey is clear in a map from 1670 created by a merchant named Augustine Herrman, who had settled in New Amsterdam in 1644 and then established his plantation, Bohemia Manor, on the Maryland Eastern Shore in 1661.” [9] The map below shows New Jersey illustrated on the lower right-side of the map.  Numerous Lenape populated the area shown on the map that constitutes most of present-day New Jersey. This map is definitive evidence of the control the Lenni-Lenape had over New Jersey during the late seventeenth century.  

A map by Augustine Hermann of Virginia and Maryland and New Jersey as it was planted and inhabited in 1670, W. Faithorne, sculpt.  (Map courtesy of the Library of Congress)

            The Lenni-Lenape had an interesting relationship with the Quakers, especially in West Jersey. The influence of the Quakers could be felt throughout New Jersey during the colonial period.  Professor of History Richard McCormick from Rutgers University said

“Lacking the peculiar fervor that had stamped them as religious radicals in the previous century, the Quakers manifested increasing concern with social problems and took leadership in many areas of humanitarian reform.  Impelled by that saintly friend, John Woolman, of Mount Holly that came out firmly against slave holding in 1758, displayed a deep concern for the plight of the Indians, developed a system of education, and even began to withdraw from political activities because of their opposition to the war and military preparations.” [10]

Unfortunately, the Quakers, as well as other religious groups were guilty of displacing the Lenni-Lenape particularly in West Jersey and in Pennsylvania.  Professor McCormick made it clear that the Quakers weren’t transparent with the Native Americans of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including the Lenni-Lenape, in various land deals.

            During the eighteenth century, the relationship between the Lenni-Lenape and the colonists would continue to deteriorate. Land ownership became a major issue throughout New Jersey, as well as the rest of the colonies, as the English took over control and established their dominance throughout the continent.             Several Lenape chiefs attempted to secure land deals with the New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware colonies. These efforts culminated in the Walking Purchase of 1737. Chief Tishcohan (or He Who Never Blackens Himself) was one of the signers of the Walking Purchase of 1737, a treaty with the Penn family that later caused the Lenape to lose most of their land in the Delaware Valley.  It’s certain that “the infamous Walking Purchase defrauded them of considerable land in eastern Pennsylvania.  The Walking Purchase led to years of recriminations and bad feelings. [11] 

Delaware Chief Tishcohan

Tishcohan by Gustavus Hesselius. A 1735 portrait of the Delaware chief Tishcohan, commissioned by John Penn. William Penn’s son. (Portrait courtesy of the Millstone Valley Scenic Byway)

            Another victim of the Walking Purchase, Chief Teedyuscung would eventually leave New Jersey and make his way to Bensalem and align himself with the Moravians. Prior to the American Revolution Chief Teedyuscung would be killed by white vigilantes.  These killings made it clear that it was in the best interest of the Lenape to continue moving west. The legacies of both Chief Tishcohan and Chief Teedyuscung  include their efforts in trying to preserve the culture and legal rights of the Lenape.

Chief Teedyuscung

A depiction of Teedyuscung (Image courtesy of the Wissahickon Valley Park)

            The role of religion became even more prominent during this time period.  Missionaries from various Christian faiths made attempts at converting numerous Native American tribes including the Lenni-Lenape. Associate Professor of History Linford D. Fisher from Brown University said “the rich, overlapping worlds of Native spirituality and Christian practice, one in which the rituals, symbols, and beliefs of European Christianity were adopted by Indians over time, either voluntarily or in response to the overtures of English missionaries.” [12]

One missionary, David Brainerd, played an important role in attempting the religious conversion of the Lenni-Lenape. Professor Lurie and Professor Veit said that “Presbyterian missionaries also were active among the Delaware.  In 1745, David Brainerd, a young Presbyterian minister who belonged to the New Light faction of the church, which emphasized personal salvation and evangelical zeal, began mission work among the Lenape.” [13]  David Brainerd died in 1747 and was succeeded by his brother John who held similar beliefs regarding personal salvation and missionary work.  John Brainerd would be instrumental in the conferences the New Jersey Colonial government held in 1756 and 1758 in which the colony attempted to address the Native Americans consumption of alcohol and made clear the process for selling Indian lands. [14] 

            Throughout the French and Indian War, countless Native American tribes fought on the side of the British and the French. Numerous tribes, including the Lenni-Lenape of New Jersey, signed the Treaty of Easton of 1758. Part of the treaty included a provision that the Lenni-Lenape avoid alliances with the French during the war. They also had to forfeit their eastern lands. In return, the British promised to stop expeditions into Indian territory west of the Alleghenies. As a result, many Lenape left New Jersey.  It was around this time that New Jersey created its first Indian reservation, which was called “Brotherton,” and was located in the present-day Indian Mills section of Shamong in Burlington County.   Reverend John Brainerd assisted in the settlement of the reservation. [15] A result of the Treaty of Easton was the establishment of a permanent home for the Lenape that initially saw some success but was ultimately unsuccessful.       

            The Native Americans throughout the colonies had a very distinct role during the American Revolution.  Professor Wilcomb E. Washburn, the former Director for the Smithsonian’s American Studies Program said, “it was a shadowy role, but an important one. It was shadowy not only because the Indian operated physically from the interior forests of North America and made his presence felt suddenly and violently on the seaboard settlements, but because the Indian was present also in the subconscious mind of the colonists as a central ingredient in the conflict with the Mother Country.” [16]  The British and the Colonists made numerous attempts to form alliances with various tribes throughout the colonies.  There was some success in getting the Indians to align with one side or the other. 

            The Lenni-Lenape from New Jersey had already begun to leave by the start of the American Revolution. The Lenape were a divided people with only a small number remaining in the Garden State, while most moved north or west. [17] The Lenni-Lenape that remained in New Jersey during the American Revolution played a significant role. Professor Lurie said,

“During the Revolution, the western Delaware at first tried to stay neutral, but then split as some joined with the British, while others sided with the Patriots.  Thus, this also became a civil war for them.  The United States signed a treaty in 1778 with the chiefs who sided with the Patriots, but White Eyes, the strongest supporter, was murdered, promised supplies were not delivered, and villages of friendly natives were attacked.  In the end, the results were disastrous for the Delaware, whichever side they took, as well as for members of other Indian nations.” [18] 

Following the Revolution, the Lenni-Lenape of New Jersey suffered through more broken promises first by the British, who basically abandoned them, and then by the United States government.  By the early nineteenth century, most of the Lenni-Lenape either integrated into the local communities in New Jersey or left the state.  Many went to Canada or the Kansas Territory while others joined other Native American tribes such as the Cherokee.  Others ventured west to “Indian territory” which is today Oklahoma.

            During the nineteenth century, Native Americans, including the Lenni-Lenape, were instrumental in shaping abolitionism, both as participants in antislavery activities and as objects of concern.  In fact, abolitionist support for Native Americans before the Civil War did exist.  Unfortunately, it’s made clear that not all politicians from New Jersey supported both Native American rights and the abolition of slavery. Associate Professor of History Natalie Joy from Northern Illinois University said,

“Especially disappointing was New Jersey senator Theodore Frelinghuysen, among the most vociferous congressional opponents of removal and yet an avowed supporter of the American Colonization Society. Though they praised his “unwearied zeal in the cause of the injured and insulted Cherokees, abolitionists highlighted Frelinghuysen’s continued disengagement with the antislavery cause.” [19]

It appears that Congressman Frelinghuysen was against Indian removal but refused to support the abolition of slavery. This is not surprisingly particularly since New Jersey was the last northern state to abolish slavery following the Civil War. After rejecting the 13th Amendment, New Jersey did finally ratify it on January 23, 1866. 

            By the conclusion of the Civil War, many Lenni-Lenape were living in Kansas. Professor of History C.A. Weslager from Widener University said, “in the winter of 1866, the Department of Indian Affairs brought to Washington the chiefs and councils representing the Indian tribes living in Kansas for the purpose of persuading them to sell their reservations and move to new homes in what was then called Indian Territory, or even further west.” [20]  Treaties were made with various Native American tribes including the Lenni-Lenape.  The Lenni-Lenape sold or gave up their land holdings in Kansas and settled in Oklahoma.

Jennie Bobb, and her daughter, Nellie Longhat, both Delaware (Lenape), Oklahoma, 1915. (Photo courtesy of the National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution, Washington)

            The remaining Lenni-Lenape that stayed in Oklahoma were the final collective remnants of a once proud, dominant, and successful people.  Many had already assimilated into American culture by the end of the nineteenth century.  Continued pressure from the United States government would force even more Lenni-Lenape to integrate into white communities.  Sadly, this indigenous group, like the vast majority of other Native American tribes, were systematically deprived of their land, forced to live on reservations, and required to assimilate into mainstream American culture. Professor Weslager said, “by 1946, Congress established the Indian Claims Commission to act as a court and provide a regular means of adjudicating claims involving injuries to Indian tribal groups.” [21]  Historians have surmised that this commission was essentially an admission of guilt by the United States Government. The Indian Claims Commission would go on to adjudicate hundreds of claims and award millions of dollars to various Native Americans.  Reparations would be awarded to the Lenni-Lenape and start to be distributed during the late 1960s. 


            The lives of the Lenni-Lenape from New Jersey before, during, and after the American Revolution is a fascinating and important part of American history. They were a thriving and successful culture until European contact. The Lenni-Lenape were able to remain successful in New Jersey for over a century after European colonization. The Lenni-Lenape had largely left by the beginning of the American Revolution.  However, those who remained did play a role.  During the American Revolution, there was some success in getting the Indians to align with one side or the other.  Regardless, as the United States continued to develop and grow the Native Americans of this continent were deprived of their natural and lawful rights. Native Americans were systematically excluded from having a true voice during European exploration and colonization as well as after the United States was founded.

            By the nineteenth century, Native Americans had no choice but to assimilate in order to survive. Forced assimilation in order to survive is not the same thing as having a legitimate stake in the system.  Time has made most ethnicities, including American Indians, a larger part of the American composition. The role of Lenni-Lenape is crucial in our understanding of the American experience. Regrettably, the Lenni-Lenape, dealt with racist mindsets which were the primary impetus that led to a negative and mostly superficial historiography of their culture that took centuries to completely shift. Historical perceptions and the racial mindsets of Native Americans did eventually change but only after they were deprived of their land, forced to live on reservations, and required to assimilate into mainstream American culture.

Works Cited

Calloway, Colin G. “‘We Have Always Been the Frontier’: The American Revolution in Shawnee Country.” American Indian Quarterly 16, no. 1 (1992): 39–52.

Fisher, Linford D. “Native Americans, Conversion, and Christian Practice in Colonial New England, 1640-1730.” The Harvard Theological Review 102, no. 1 (2009): 102.

Joy, Natalie. “The Indian’s Cause: Abolitionists and Native American Rights.” Journal of the Civil War Era 8, no. 2 (2018).

Lurie, Maxine N., and Richard F. Veit. New Jersey: A History of the Garden State. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers   University Press, 2018.

Lurie, Maxine N. Taking Sides in Revolutionary New Jersey Caught in the Crossfire. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2022

McCormick Richard P. New Jersey from Colony to State 1609 to 1789. The New Jersey Historical Series, Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, New Jersey 1964.

Snyder, John Parr. The Story of New Jersey’s Civil Boundaries, 1606-1968. Trenton: New Jersey Dept. of Environmental Protection, Division of Water Resources, Geological Survey, 1969.

Soderlund, Jean R. Lenape Country: Delaware Valley Society Before William Penn. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015.

Washburn, Wilcomb E. Indians and the American Revolution. Accessed December 14, 2022. 

 Weslager, C. A. The Delaware Indians: A History. Rutgers University Press, 1972.

[1] Calloway, Colin G. “‘We Have Always Been the Frontier’: The American Revolution in Shawnee Country.” American Indian Quarterly 16, no. 1 (1992): 39–52.

[2] Lurie, Maxine N., and Richard F. Veit. New Jersey: A History of the Garden State. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers   University Press, 2018, 11.

[3] Lurie & Veit, 16.

[4] Lurie & Veit, 18.

[5] Snyder, John Parr. The Story of New Jersey’s Civil Boundaries, 1606-1968. Trenton: New Jersey Dept. of Environmental Protection, Division of Water Resources, Geological Survey, 1969.

[6] Lurie & Veit, 20.

[7] Soderlund, Jean R. Lenape Country: Delaware Valley Society Before William Penn. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015, 5.

[8] Soderlund, 5.

[9] Soderlund, 2.

[10] McCormick Richard P. New Jersey from Colony to State 1609 to 1789. The New Jersey Historical Series, Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, New Jersey 1964, 95.

[11] Lurie & Veit, 25.

[12] Fisher, Linford D. “Native Americans, Conversion, and Christian Practice in Colonial New England, 1640-1730.” The Harvard Theological Review 102, no. 1 (2009): 102.

[13] Lurie & Veit, 24.

[14] Lurie & Veit, 24.

[15] Lurie & Veit, 25.

[16] Washburn, Wilcomb E. Indians and the American Revolution. Accessed December 14, 2022.

[17] Lurie, Maxine N. Taking Sides in Revolutionary New Jersey Caught in the Crossfire. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2022, 107.

[18] Lurie, 8.

[19] Joy, Natalie. “The Indian’s Cause: Abolitionists and Native American Rights.” Journal of the Civil War Era 8, no. 2 (2018): 222.

[20] Weslager, C. A. The Delaware Indians: A History. Rutgers University Press, 1972, 421.

[21] Weslager, 457.

The Hanoi Train Station: Perspectives and Empathy in Social Studies Education

The Hanoi Train Station: Perspectives and Empathy in Social Studies Education

Jonathan Lee Lancaster

The picture above is “Hanoi station,” which is one of the main train stations in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. The train station has keenly unique features; it is centered with a modern, cement block-style design, which is flanked by stunningly ornate yellow wings.

Having conducted research in Vietnam for a few months earlier in the year, I had walked by the Hanoi train station dozens of times without taking much notice; the train station was simply just another building that I passed on my way to my favorite cafe. It wasn’t until I was sitting on the back of a motorbike with a Vietnamese friend while passing the train station that I inquired further about the building. My friend told me that the building was originally built by the French in the early 1900s during France’s colonization of the country; it was then bombed during the war with the United States in the early 1970s; then, it was reconstructed with the help of the Soviet Union later in the 1970s. All of these foreign influences throughout the course of Vietnamese history have given the Hanoi train station its unique look, with its French-style wings and cold, Soviet-looking center. I was baffled at this revelation. For months, I had naively walked by this building without an ounce of knowledge of its origin, supremely oblivious to the historical factors that created it, and – despite being a social studies teacher – ignorant to ask about it earlier.

The Hanoi train station became a symbol to me. It symbolized all of the history that I, as an American, had the privilege to be unaware of. I did not have to live the realities of the Vietnam War’s destruction of Vietnam or its legacies, even if my father’s generation were the ones who perpetrated it. I could simply walk by that history and move on with my day, while the Vietnamese people truly lived in the reality of the wake of the war. Though this was simply a building that embodied the legacies of the war, it symbolized the ongoing Agent Orange effects from the Vietnam War – which continue to produce birth defects – and the thousands of unexploded ordinances (UXOs) that continue to kill people yearly in Southeast Asia. These were the realities that I lived outside, never having to confront.

A few months later, after finishing my research and returning home to New Jersey, I met with some social studies colleagues who were planning their classes for the upcoming year. The overarching topic of discussion was making our social studies classes engaging and interesting for students. While our conversation ebbed and flowed between how to teach colonial American history, the Civil War, the Great Depression, and more, the topic of the Vietnam War emerged.

One colleague was passionately lobbying others to implement an engaging game that he had developed for students last year, in which students were to attempt to create the best strategy for Americans in Vietnam. Students would be put into groups and earn points depending on the evidence and argument for their strategy. The conversation continued, with sprinkled remarks from the other teachers about how they had overheard students talking about the game the previous year, and how students were so engaged. While the discussion continued, my mind started to stray back to one thing in particular: the Hanoi train station.

While American students have the luxury to make a game – no matter the intent or effectiveness – out of the Vietnam War, the Vietnamese people do not. While American students can, in their groups, pitch their argument for the best war strategy for 4 points and then proceed to hurry off to biology class, completely forgetting about the Vietnam War until the 41-minute block the next day, the Vietnamese people do not. While American students can “walk by” the realities of the war and move on with their days, as I had done, the Vietnamese people must live the reality of a post-war torn nation.

This is not a story of Vietnamese pain, nor an attempt to highlight the struggle for recovery of Vietnam after the war. This is about how we, as educators, frame and conceptualize history for our students. It seems that, especially with the passage of time, our empathetic sense weakens; educators are more prone to create seemingly harmless simulations and games in the name of “engagement” out of truly devastating historical events. When we, as educators, have students conduct a “World War II Twitter Project” where student groups embody different nations that fought in the war that must post “comments” to each other, or when students must engage in a simulation in which they are meant to see what it feels like to be {insert some group from history here}, or when we create games for students out of history, we are communicating that the history isn’t reality – it is entertainment. We are, in fact, hurting students’ abilities to empathize with others, as it promotes a dissociative outlook on history where the people described in their textbooks (which hopefully we have moved away from already) or readings are nothing more than mere ink blots on a page. It blends the line between reality and fiction, leading students to believe that it is appropriate to be ignorant of historical processes and products.

Though this is focused mostly on international events, the same applies with domestic history. The sad reality is that if you search for news articles regarding social studies teachers in New Jersey attempting simulations, a number of incredibly grotesque articles will appear of teachers having students do a “simulation” of a slave auction or having students lay on the ground to “simulate” being whipped after picking cotton.

For example, in March of 2017, a Maplewood, NJ teacher held a mock slave auction. Moreover, in the same year, a teacher in South Orange, NJ had students create slave auction posters. More recently, a Toms River teacher had students “pick cotton” and simulate being whipped through sounds of cracking whips. Though these selection of stories are from my home state of New Jersey, this phenomenon is occurring nationwide.

These examples are products of our distorted view of “engagement” in social studies education. It is simply not possible for students to “feel” what it was like to be in any historical event in which a peoples suffer, and it is problematic to attempt to do so. Our attempts to “engage” students seemingly to trick them into learning history while doing so hurts our students’ formulation of their worldview.

While making sure students have “fun” is an important element of a successful classroom, we must ensure that “fun” does not come at the expense of empathy. Unfortunately, the topics that are in humanities’ curricula are seldomly “fun.” It is not easy teaching about wars, plagues, racism, and more; however, social studies provides educators with the ability to leverage those underbellies of our societies and histories to promote cultural competencies, perspective-taking, and contextualization.

While I am not claiming that every simulation or game in social studies is inherently bad, I am saying we have to be very, very careful about what we are doing when we incorporate them. Is the point of the simulation or game merely engagement? If so, it could be extremely problematic. If the point of the simulation or game is towards genuine understanding and empathy, then it may be a sound pedagogical choice.

Nonetheless, bear in mind that history is real, tangible, and has consequences – even if those consequences aren’t felt by you, your students, or in your nation. Just because an event happened long ago or in some other area of the world does not mean we should feel tempted to take it less seriously. Truly reflect on if that game or simulation is presenting history as it should be: a tool to build empathy, analyze the past, and understand our contemporary realities.

So, I urge you to think of the Hanoi train station. What history are you possibly “walking by”? What history are you tempted to represent through a game, simulation, or creative project and what is it truly communicating to students? To what extent can we have “fun” in social studies classrooms while also staying true to fostering the cultural competencies and perspective-taking elements we are striving for? And how can we teach social studies in a manner that promotes global empathy?

Apprehensive About Teaching

Apprehensive About Teaching

Adeola Tella-Williams

The attack on Critical Race Theory is creating controversy in education. For the first time in my professional career, I am apprehensive about teaching any subject having to do with race, religion, Blackness, Whiteness and all things cultural. Why? The simple answer lies in the attempted coup of education by some parents over their misunderstanding about Critical Race Theory and conflating it with Culturally Relevant Teaching. IT IS being used as a political ping-pong, mainly by the Republicans to erase parts of American history that mainly deals with the cruelties of slavery and mistreatment of people of color. While apprehensive, I remain true to history and will always teach as I have been doing for the past 20 plus years.

I have been an educator for 21 years. I began my teaching career in East New York, Brooklyn, as a middle school Social Studies teacher at one of the lowest performing schools in New York City. Regardless of the school’s low performance status, my students were some of the smartest and kindest I have ever taught. They were aware of the shortcomings of their reality. They knew the truth and were not afraid to voice their opinions, good, bad or indifferent. It was fun and challenging teaching them, but they took their agency, no one had to give it to them. After a year in Brooklyn, I left in 2000 to teach conversational English in Tokyo, Japan for a half year and returned to East New York for another year. The past two decades, I have been in the Uniondale School District. I took a sabbatical in 2016 to teach in the United Arab Emirates, where I taught Humanities to Arab, continental African, Canadian, South American, and Indian middle school scholars at American International School, Abu Dhabi. This year, I am teaching African and Latinx History to upperclassmen and Global History to 9th graders in Uniondale High School.

In my years as an educator, I have assisted and led many activities and events outside of the classroom; most notably, a student forum on police brutality in the wake of the Michael Brown shooting back in 2014. I also created a girls Rite of Passage program in 2004 at one of the two middle schools in Uniondale. When President Barack Obama was elected in 2008, I assisted the Uniondale High School in planning a “controversial” inauguration assembly in recognition of the first African American elected President of the United States. The program was considered “controversial” because a number of white teachers objected and boycotted the event.

I have also worked with Dr. Alan Singer, professor at Hofstra University, for many years. I asked him to lead a discussion on the complexities surrounding the Iraq war back in 2003 to my middle schoolers and he was the keynote speaker for a forum held between two racially segregated communities, Oceanside and Uniondale. We discussed police brutality and other racially charged issues on Long Island in 2015. The discussion of the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the absence of weapons of mass destructive also produced heated faculty blowback.

I have immersed myself in “controversial,” or as I would prefer to call them, “contemporary issues” my entire career. I am finding that in this day and age, the topics I chose to cover back then would be considered blasphemy today. For example, Bridges was created to foster empathy, and collaboration amongst White, Black and Hispanic students who live in neighboring communities, attend different schools, and have little contact with each other. It is the goal of the program to engage students in the evaluation of contemporary issues related to race, economics, and politics that will lead to well-rounded, active, and engaged citizens. In Bridges, difficult conversations are encouraged and the asking of challenging questions is nurtured. Divergent points of views are not shunned with the understanding that students can agree to disagree with civility. In this program we have discussed the January 6th insurrection, the legacy of segregation on Black and Brown communities, cross-cultural experiences of Black and White students, and other contemporary issues that would make those who dislike Critical Race Theory very uncomfortable.

Back in 2014, when I decided to do the forum about police brutality in the wake of the Michael Brown shooting with my Participation and Government scholars, I did not think of the backlash or its “controversial” nature. I thought about the hopelessness I saw in my students that September. They looked at me as just another teacher. It was as if they gave up on learning and embraced the Read, Answer Questions, Pass a Test and Repeat pedagogical style. But, little did they know, I was not that teacher, I have never been that teacher. Recognizing this hopelessness in the wake of the Michael Brown shooting prompted me to change the way I would teach this course. As it was my first time teaching the course, I wanted to make it real for the students. After all, it’s a “Participation” in Government class. I took that term “participation” literally and decided they would be active, as opposed to passively learning in this course. Therefore, learning through doing became one of the goals. Their hopelessness from my perspective was due to the way the year began, with the shooting coupled with normal senioritis and a genuine boredom for all things related to school. Therefore, empowering their voices became my mission, and so I challenged them to put on a forum on police brutality. After all, our early ancestors, who created great civilizations in Africa, Greece, Rome and the Americas, held forums to gauge the feelings of their subjects on controversial issues. Furthermore, forums give voice to the voiceless and empower citizens to take further action. To me this is how a democratic society prospers; it actively engages young people early on.

Gone are the days of sitting in the class and taking notes on how great democracy is when in reality my students were not having, or seeing, that same example in their day-to-day lives. In their world, fairness was a fairytale. To them education was boring and they were tired and ready to graduate and join the rest of humanity in the rat race called life. However, I refused to let them leave in this manner. I was, and am, still very idealistic and optimistic about education and what it can do for young people charged with taking over, ready or not. Nonetheless, I charged them with putting on a school-wide forum on police brutality. They were very reluctant at first, as they were not used to being placed in leadership positions. But I assured them that the worst that can happen is the principal says no and then they don’t have the forum, but they had to ask first. They asked and to their surprise, not mine, the principal agreed. My principal at the time, was very supportive of student engagement. Having a strong principal makes a world of difference for a teacher like me. She was not afraid to support any program or event that gave students a voice. Again, as their teacher, my concern was not the backlash. My goals were to help them love learning, give them agency and have them practice their voice.

In preparation for the forum, they researched about the Civil Rights Movement and the history of police brutality in America. I felt they needed to see the trend, be informed, and be armed with solid information when they spoke in front of their peers. I wanted them to be confident when they took to the stage. I wanted them to lead. Many scholars are not given the tools to be leaders in real world scenarios. It was important to me to have these non-AP scholars lead an academic forum in front of their peers who only saw them in non-academic settings. These were scholars that always got in trouble; they were not jocks or honor students, just “regular,” sometimes forgotten people. I wanted them to be heard and seen, as they have something to say and lots to give.

All of the above were also my goals in starting the Rite of Passage program. These were also my goals when I decided to be the first advisor of the Bridges High School program. I believe giving scholars the opportunity to lead and participate in real world scenarios makes education palatable – it makes it real. As with science and math, many scholars ask, “When will I need this in real life?” Some teachers are able to show the why and some aren’t. These days however, STEAM and STEM have become the norm. As a history teacher, Historical and Civic Literacy is just as important as STEAM and STEM to me. Making space for these contemporary issues gives students agency and time to hone their Social Studies skills of argumentation, observation, listening, speaking, analyzing, synthesizing and application.

When I started the Rite of Passage program some ten years ago in my district, it was to help girls of color, especially darker hue girls, accept themselves in a world that constantly ignores them. Another goal was to help girls get along better, to learn how to respect each other despite their difference in hair texture, complexion or whatever else distract girls from being their best. While I did not see this program as controversial, today it seems as though it is. With the Crown Act being passed in California and other states, African textured hair seems to be a problem in the workplace and in schools. Girls of color are 5.5 times more likely to be suspended from school, starting in pre-school. Programs like the Rite of Passage aim to reveal the controversial issues that plague Black girls. Many of the girls I had in the program have since graduated college and are well into their careers. I have received Facebook posts and text messages from them referencing our time together and how impactful those times had on them then and now.

Simply put, I am an educator who does not shy away from contemporary topics or historical controversies in and out of the classroom. My goal has always been to make sure scholars love learning and intrinsically love the art of learning about themselves, within the context of mirrors, windows, and glass sliding doors. I also aim to instill the love of learning in order to help them make their communities a place they are proud of and value. My upbringing in a Jamaican-Nigerian household has strongly shaped my approach as an educator. I also received these messages from my upbringing in my African American community after moving to the United States in 1987 from Nigeria.

Curriculum focused on Culturally Relevant Teaching is under attack and it is being interwoven in the debate about Critical Race Theory. While some elements of culture are in Critical Race Theory, the philosophy was not intended for K-12 education. When parents fail to understand the importance of creating safe spaces for scholars to speak about controversial issues or contemporary issues, it marginalizes young people of color. For instance, White teachers make up 79% of the teaching staff across America, and Black and Hispanic teachers make up less than 5% of the teaching staff in predominantly white schools. Where is the diversity of thought when scholars graduate from high school? How are students of color being taught, let alone having their issues addressed in forums or in the classroom? When does a white child meet or interact with a Black or Brown teacher? These are questions that need to be raised in education. But how can we discuss these and other topics when Critical Race Theory is being conflated with Culturally Relevant Teaching and anything having to do with race or culture is seen as divisive rather than an integral part of progress? School is the place to teach and grapple with controversial topics in a responsible way, of course. The attacks on Critical Race Theory and Culturally Relevant Teaching are making it harder to teach controversial topics in history as well as put on programs about contemporary issues as I have done in the past, creating a tense environment to discuss these topics freely and responsibly. I am afraid educators like me will continue to be apprehensive about teaching subjects having to do with race or spear head programs that raise contemporary issues. I am afraid that the attack on CRT will take over education and take us back to a time when teachers wrote notes on the board, students copied, memorized information, did not or could not ask questions, took a test, barely passed and moved on to the next grade anyway. This type of “teaching” has not been productive, especially in Black and Brown school districts. As a result of this style of pedagogy, if you can call it that, our Black and Brown scholars have been mislabeled, wrongly disciplined and have been marginalized from the curriculum. Really, they are just bored and uninterested in an education that fails to recognize them. As educators we have a responsibility to speak up and not allow the attack on Critical Race Theory to lead us back to the 80’s, 90’s, and early 2000’s when schools did not address the academic needs of Black and Brown students, but instead disproportionately placed them in SPED classes and suspended them in droves, creating the school-to-prison pipeline that so many in education reference today. All students really need is a true education.

Decision Activity: Guillam Demarest, Bergen County, NJ, 1781

Decision Activity: Guillam (Gilliam) Demarest

Bergen County, NJ 1781

August, 1781 (Two months before the Battle of Yorktown)

Father came to visit today. I think this was his fourth visit to the Sugar House Prison in New York City on Crown (now Liberty Street) in four days, but my memory might be failing me — hunger tends to expand time. It feels like decades since my stomach was full. These measly rations (when we get them) would be barely enough to satisfy a small baby, let alone a nineteen-year old man. Of course, my father, David, reminds me that my hunger is my choice. I need but only swear fealty (loyalty) to the Crown, abandon my principles of liberty, and turn against the twenty-three other Patriot members of my family to no longer be hungry.

Father accused me of betraying our country, but how can I betray a country I never felt I belonged to? Our ancestors are French, not British, and we don’t even speak English at home – we speak Jersey Dutch. He is the traitor, not I.  Even my mother, Jane, doesn’t support his decision to join the British.

Father told me to join him and his refugee group. He demanded I join him. But if I join him now, what about Philip and John, my cousins? We were captured together by my father and his men, who were raiding homes in the area for food and supplies, at New Bridge in August but separated upon arrival at the prison (Lurie: Taking Sides, Page 101).

I wonder what will happen to Mother when this is all over. If the British win, will she be persecuted because she and her sons supported the American cause? Will they point to the fact that I willingly enlisted five different times (in 1777, 1778, 1779, 1780, and 1781) for the American militia?  If we win, will she be persecuted because her husband fought on the side of the British? I do not know if I will make it out of this Sugar House prison to see her again. I think I might have a fever. Two men next to me had a fever five days ago. Now, they are dead.

Oh, how I wish I could ask them what they would do….

What should Guillam do in this situation?

  1. Accept his father’s offer to take An Oath of Allegiance to the Crown?
  2. Refuse his father and remain in the Sugar House prison until the Patriots arrange for his release through a prisoner exchange?
  3. Attempt to escape from the Sugar House prison before he dies?
  4. Do something else? Explain.

Guillam ultimately chose to refuse his father’s offer and remained in the Sugar House prison for nine months. Following his release, he rejoined the American militia, where he ended up receiving a serious hand injury. In 1782, Guillam married Bridget Brower with whom he had six children. His father, David, who according to a family acquaintance, “deserted his country’s cause,” moved to Nova Scotia after the war. His mother Jane, ended up having her property confiscated because of her husband’s decision to join the British army. She remained in New Jersey with Guillam.

Decision Activity: George Morgan White Eyes, Princeton, NJ, 1778-1790

Decision Activity: George Morgan White Eyes

Princeton, Mercer County


Koquethagechton, also known as White Eyes, was a Lenape chief living in Ohio Country. He married Rachel Doddridge, a white woman who had been taken captive by the Lenape at age 5 and had become fully assimilated to Lenape life. As an adult, Doddridge chose to remain an adopted Lenape.

When the American Revolution began, Koquethagechton initially tried to remain neutral, but before long it became evident that he would have to take sides. In 1777, Koquethagechton addressed the Continental Congress, and the following year negotiated a peace treaty with American representatives.

Which of the following provisions should Koquethagechton have sought in a peace treaty?

Select one option and explain your answer in 3 to 5 sentences.

  • A new state shall be created for the Lenape, incorporating the nation into the United States with representation in Congress.
  • The United States must build a fort in Lenape territory to help protect the Lenape from attacks by other Native American nations or from the British.
  • The United States shall provide the Lenape with clothing, utensils, and weapons as needed.

Amazingly, the Treaty of Fort Pitt, signed September 17, 1778, included all of these provisions. The promise of a 14th state along with Congressional representation is something that was never promised to any other Native American group, but relied upon the further approval of Congress. Unfortunately, the treaty never received the support of Congress and was ultimately rendered meaningless.

Later that year, while accompanying American soldiers in Ohio Country, Koquethagechton died at the age of 48. Initially the cause of death was reported as smallpox, but eventually it was revealed he had been murdered by the American militia. Nearly ten years later (circa 1788), Rachel Doddridge was murdered in the course of a robbery by white men disguised as Native Americans. Both of their stories are compelling and worthy of more examination, but our focus here turns to their son, George Morgan White Eyes, partly named for Koquethagechton’s American friend, who would become the boy’s guardian.

White Eyes was seven years old when his father died. The Continental Congress assumed financial responsibility for the upbringing of the chief’s son. White Eyes was likely the first recipient of government-based student financial aid from the U.S. government. After completing grammar school, he was enrolled at the College of New Jersey in Princeton in 1785.

In December 1787, he and three other students were summoned before a disciplinary committee for insolence towards a tutor. Apparently, it wasn’t the only time he’d gotten in trouble at school. His guardian decided to remove him from Princeton and sent him to New York City to temporarily be under the care of a merchant tailor while awaiting instructions from Congress on what to do with young White Eyes. His guardian explained in a letter to Congress that White Eyes’ misbehavior may have had to do with his learning the news of his mother’s recent death and the long-concealed truth about his father’s murder. Morgan suggested that instead of sending him back to Princeton – or back to his nation – that White Eyes be sent to a different institution of higher learning, like Yale.

Which of the following choices do you think 18-year-old George Morgan White Eyes would make?

Select one option and explain your answer in 3 to 5 sentences.

  • Go back to Ohio Country to live among his own people.
  • Let his future be decided by George Morgan and the decision of Congress.
  • Strike out on his own in the New York to find a job and be independent.
  • Appeal directly to someone in power, explaining his desire to either be given a job or further education.

On June 2, 1789, George Morgan White Eyes wrote to President George Washington:

“[N]ot the severest Want shall make me return to my native Country—Tis thought from the Behaviour of my Colleagues while at Princeton that I will follow their Example—but never—I shall say but little but I trust my heart is fixed, & the time may come that this now feeble Arm, may be stretched out in the Service of America; & render the United or Individual States essential Service.

My humble request is & has this some Months past, that if the Burthen (sic) is too great on the United States that some kind of Employment may be pointed in order that I thereby may obtain a Living a[long] the Line that Congress probably first intended—That is agreeably to the Education they have been pleased to bestow upon me—I care not what [it] is I am willing to do what I am able, & you should think necessary to my future Welfare—[E]ntreating your Excellency’s kind Patronage on this Occasion I have the Honor to remain With the most perfect Respect, Sir, Your most Obedient & most devoted Servant”

Congress did not act quickly, and as the weeks went by, ‘the severest want” apparently changed White Eyes’ mind. He wrote President Washington again:

“The treatment I met with at Princeton & the Character I bear (which I know I am innocent of) here, are great Grievances to me, especially as I have undergone a great many Difficulties, I shall stear (sic) my Course towards my native [country] let the Consequence be what it will.

For it is better for me to live in Contentment & Quietude, than a life Contempt & Ignominy.1 I have not had any thing this while past & I am almost naked, thro’ some guile or other, for what I know. I believe they are tired of doing any thing for me & I am tired waiting for their duty which is incumbent on them by a resolve of Congress.

I am now to look out for myself since I cannot behave myself, better than I have done; for all that I do is in vain, yet all these things are not discourages of my staying here any longer, but I am [anxious] to return & see my Mother & Friends, as it ought to become every person who has a regard for their Nation. I beg you would assist me in my return as I have no other person to apply to; but if not I must do as well as I can.” Source

In March of 1790, George Morgan White Eyes returned to his nation in Ohio Country.

Sadly, his story has an ignominious ending. Eight years later (1798) in West Point, Ohio, an intoxicated White Eyes ran at 17-year-old William Carpenter Jr. with a tomahawk. Fearing for his life, Carpenter shot White Eyes, killing him instantly. Initially the boy and his father were charged with murder and aiding and abetting, but the case never came to trial.

To GEORGE MORGAN Mount Vernon, August 25, 1788.

Sir: The letter which you did me the favor of writing to me the 31st. of last month, with a Postscript to it on the 5th. of this, came duly to hand; as did a small parcel of wheat, forwarded some time before, by the Post Master General from New York. For your polite attention to me in these instances I pray you to accept my best acknowledgments and Thanks. With much concern I have heard of the ravages of the Hessian fly on the wheaten Crops in the States East of the Delaware and of the progress of this distructive (sic) insect Southerly; but I congratulate with you sincerely on your successful endeavors in the management of your measures &c. to counteract them. If the yellow bearded wheat from a continuation of experiments is found no matter from what cause, to be obnoxious to and able to withstand this all devouring insect [it] must indeed be valuable; but I have paid too little attention to the growth of this particular kind hitherto, to inform you in what degree of cultivation it is in this State, I may venture, at a hazard, however, to add that it is rare: because it is unusual to see fields of bearded wheat of any kind growing with us, particularly in the Western parts of the State, which falls more immediately under my observation. I will distribute the Seed which you have sent me; make enquiry into this matter and communicate the result, begging in the meantime, if any further observations on this insect, and the means of guarding against him should be made by you that you will have the goodness to communicate them to. 67 Source

I am an American: The Wong Kim Ark Story

I am an American: The Wong Kim Ark Story

by Martha Brockenbrough with Grace Lin (Little, Brown, 2021)

Review by Valerie Ooka Pang

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

Has anyone questioned your citizenship? Has anyone ever said to you, “You don’t belong here. Go back to where you came from!”? Meaning you are not an American and should go back to where you came from. This happened to me often in Eastern Washington where I grew up, yet if I was to go back to where I came from, that would have been Seattle, Washington, where I was born. Why didn’t other youngsters think of me as an American? I could also be an immigrant who became an American like Wing Luke, who was the first person of color elected to the Seattle City Council.

Race is a powerful element of American society. People judge others based on their skin color, physical characteristics, stature and cultural practices. I am Japanese American and many of the young people I grew up with did not think of Japanese Americans as Americans. I was seen as a foreigner and so did not belong in the United States, though I lived in the state of Washington all of my
life. I wish there had been a book like I am an American: The Wong Kim Ark Story so their teachers could read it to their students. The book is about how Wong Kim Ark went to court and fought for his right as an American citizen.

In 1873, Wong Kim Ark was born in San Francisco, California to parents from China.
Chinese immigrants suffered much prejudice living in California. His parents left San Francisco in 1890 to go back to China while he stayed with relatives in California. Wong Kim Ark visited his parents in 1894 on a temporary trip. When he returned to San Francisco, he was not allowed to enter the United States because officials said he was not a citizen. He was put in prison because of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Law that did not allow Chinese workers into the United States. Lawyers sued to get him out of prison in district court.

At that time Wong Kim Ark was about 21 years old. He argued that since he was born in San Francisco, he was a citizen. Members of the Chinese community pooled their finances and hired several lawyers to represent Wong Kim Ark. His case went all the way to the Supreme Court, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that due to the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, since Wong Kim Ark was born in the United States, he was a citizen even though his parents were from China.

The Supreme Court decision of Wong Kim Ark is important because often race is used as an obstacle in establishing citizenship for other Asian Americans and people of color. The Supreme Court ruled that birth in the United States establishes citizenship. The Wong Kim Ark case supports his statement of “I am an American.” Even after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Kim Ark, he had to carry a certificate of identity “to prove he was an American.” Racism was still strong in the United States.

This is an excellent story to read to children to show that the United States is a diverse country, and its citizens are members of many different ethnic and racial groups. Every student and teacher should know who Wong Kim Ark is and how he
helped to establish citizenship rights for people of color in the United States. Most learners and educators do not know about the contributions that many Asian American and Pacific Islander people have made to our civil rights.

Consider purchasing this book for your children or educators. There should be more AAPI role models presented in school. This book is an exceptional resource. There is additional information about the case at the end of the text. The timeline of historical events is especially informative. It includes dates about Wong Kim Ark’s life and different immigration legislation. As Wong Kim Ark said, “I am an American.”

Finding Our Place in Revolutionary History

Finding Our Place in Revolutionary History
Karen Parker

All human beings want to feel like they belong to something bigger. This is
especially true when students reach adolescence, their whole psyche revolves around being liked, accepted, and belonging to a group. The importance of that “place” that they hold is the driving force held together by peers, social media, cliques, fashion, and home. Relating part of their place to history and pique that sense of belonging to that history, not feeling left out of it as a spectator, not feeling odd or different from the people and feeling like they are connected with the locations, can be the key to the level of engagement. Luckily, in New Jersey, it is not difficult to find Revolutionary era connections in our backyards and neighborhoods.

There is a disconnect with children during their education of history. Students often feel disconnected because of the difficulties in relating to elapsed time, distant places, and unfamiliar habits and customs. As educators, it is our challenge to create as many opportunities for connections as possible, to have the students relate to some “thin and brittle” threads of familiarities, and often we can wrestle grudging interest in the topics presented.

History, unlike active experimentation in science and the excitement of fiction in
language arts, is unsurprisingly often deposited toward the end of the favorite subject list, to muddle around in student’s heads where they view the facts as dull lists of events and dates of forced importance with scattered entertaining facts – more so if they relate to a holiday that includes time off from school.

To connect with people from generations past, it is important to find that common ground with today. Where I grew up in Morris County, I lived a short drive from an active and preserved area of Revolutionary history, spending many hours of my childhood roaming the woods and fields of Revolutionary significance, taking short field trips to Jockey Hollow, Fort Nonsense, and the Ford Mansion. Where I teach in Hunterdon County, the most notable area is Washington’s Crossing State Park, with which many of my students are completely unfamiliar, and the war to them
seems very distant. It is important to find nearby locations and people that are
connected to the Revolution era.

In my research for the New Jersey Council for the Social Studies, I was looking
for information on people from Hunterdon County who were actively involved in the
Revolutionary War. There were many references to soldiers, the Commissary General for Washington’s army and the local militia, but I came across one primary
source that I thought might catch the interest of my students.

Through researching into the life of this average local person, James Parker, reading about his daily missives on the management of the property, connections to the effects that the war had on the common people became evident. Parker’s
connections began as a proprietor whose primary residence was in one of the colonial capitals, Perth Amboy. He was a major landowner in Hunterdon County, owning land in what is now Kingwood, Union, Bethlehem, and Tewksbury Townships and built a large stone house in Union Township called Shipley. It is interesting to note that many people in this local area were not following the political patriots, but many had loyalist leanings or were ambivalent.

Mr. Parker was one of those who did not support the patriotic feelings and was
sentenced and jailed by the New Jersey Council of Safety during the summer of 1777, in Morristown, for refusing to take an oath renouncing loyalty to Britain. He was paroled and exchanged for a Patriot held in New York in 1778. At this time, he spent
more and more of his time in Hunterdon County, overseeing his lands. Some think
that he was avoiding the political climate of the large shore town of Perth Amboy,
though he documents in his farm journal his travels back and forth to his original home for proprietor meetings.

Some other examples of Parker’s political leanings come from an entry in his journal that appeared sympathetic to a local loyalist family, the Voughts who lived in Clinton, known then as Hunt’s Mill, about three miles away from Parker’s home in Pittstown.. On December 18, 1778, Doc Smith took his contribution to a relief fund for women, wives of people gone into the British line and had all of their effects sold. This is the same date that the Voughts had all of their belongings auctioned off. These families were considered traitors by the New Jersey Legislature, which allowed all of their property and possessions to be confiscated. At this time, a large amount of the British army and many of their sympathizers occupied areas of New York and Staten
Island) (Gigantino 2015)

The farm journal expresses many tasks that most would take for granted at the
time, documented in amazing detail, though commonplace and ordinary back then.
These entries in this primary source give glimpses of insight on the challenges of
conducting business during the Revolutionary War. He notes that on July 1, 1778, he was in the meadow with great firing heard at a distance, “Regulars and Continental troops engaged in general or skirmishes since Sunday last.” He notes that it was a “severe engagement” and we can assume that he was hearing the Battle of Monmouth and he must have been at Perth Amboy to be in the proximity to hear the
fighting, even though he does not mention it. There are no references of any major
engagement during this time period anywhere near his lands in Hunterdon County.

Financial struggle, even for wealthy proprietors, was a part of daily life. The
farm journal mentions the use of many different denominations of hard currency:
Continental Dollars, Johannes and Moidore, which were Portuguese gold coins, English Guineas, New York Currency, English Pounds and Spanish dollars. In January of 1779, Parker discusses an issue with the prevalence of counterfeiting, by mentioning that he was buying land from Abraham Bonnell. He could not confirm if the money he was paying with was counterfeit. Bonnell said he didn’t believe any was, due to being very careful to examine the bills and that the mark of a printer was not necessarily a proof of authenticity. At one point he mentions, “Paid for bushel of wheat in hard money.”

This may have been noted because of the general lack of coinage and the use of
continental paper money. He noted on March 5, 1780 that taxes were collected but there was a scarcity of money, and on March 13 taxes were collected on his Bethlehem property, and he complains about having no money until he could collect on his debts. On March 23, taxes were collected on Tewksbury property, and he mentions that he is owed more money than he can pay; he can’t pay the taxes until his debtors pay. For the same year, he was taxed on 200 acres, was able to pay three-quarters of the bill but had no continental money, so he borrowed it.

Everyone knows that Continental and British troops moved all around New Jersey. It is common knowledge that they were located near the famous areas of conflict such as Monmouth, Trenton, Princeton, and Washington’s Crossing at the Delaware River. Troops on both sides of the war marched through Hunterdon County and
stopped to rest their soldiers and horses.

On December 4, 1778, Parker mentions being told by Moore Furman, a local miller and merchant who was well connected as a Deputy Quartermaster General for New Jersey, that Gen. Burgoyne’s army was marching to Virginia and would be quartered in the neighborhood as they marched along. On December 5, troops of the 1st Division came down with three companies of men, eight officers. He notes little business was conducted due to attending the troops. On December 6th, the 1st Division “marcht” off and the 2nd division came in. Charles Stewart (local and
the Commissary General of Washington’s army) spared a gallon of spirits. On
December 7th the 2nd division left, no others came, on December 8th, the 3rd
division troops came with six companies and five officers of the 62nd regiment, on
December 9th, the 3rd division left. Parker noted that the Brunswick troops arrived with three officers and 78 men on the 10th and that little work was accomplished when troops were there. December 11th was active with part of a company of ‘foreign troops” that were there with a major, two horses, a baggage wagon with four more horses; this group left on December 13th.

Imagine the disruption of regular life and business when these troops had been
quartered on the property. May 15, 1779 brought troops from the Continental army through the Pittstown area. James Parker notes that the Regiment of the New Jersey Brigade, commanded by Colonel Ogden, marched to Pittstown on the way to Easton with 300-350 men. The Continental troops pastured horses in local fields. Parker notes that he put into pasture twelve Continental horses, then took on
seven more Continental horses, ending the day with a total of twenty. On August 25th, he received from Nehemiah Dunham, who built the stone mill in nearby Clinton, five barrels of flour for Continental service. On August 25th, he put into pasture 12 Continental horses. On August 26th he took seven more Continental horses, September 4th put up nine more Continental horses and on September 18th, all Continental horses left.

In today’s military, food and supplies are provided by the government, but back in
Revolutionary times, troops were expected to be supplied by local people, sometimes
with promissory notes, sometimes by donation with no recompense. Sometimes a
tax was paid to help sponsor troops. In Parker’s journal he mentions that on July
12,1779, he paid Adam Hope a tax toward raising a state regiment, as assessed by
Colonel Beavers and Charles Coke, of 45 dollars. On August 25th, he received from
Nehemiah Dunham of Clinton five barrels of flour for Continental service. He noted a meeting in Pittstown on January 18, 1780, “Spent day in Pittstown where residents met to deliver cattle and grain collected for the army.”

Students need to imagine for themselves that not all of the population of New Jersey followed the Patriot cause, most sources agree that in the colonies they made up only about thirty to forty percent of the population. They believe that around twenty
percent were acknowledged Loyalists, while the remaining population were neutral.
There were many risks on both ends of the political spectrum, with neighbors who
harassed or reported neighbors, or turned their coats when it was to their benefit.

They need to experience the feelings of taking sides, or remaining neutral in situations. It is important to realize that everyone in New Jersey was involved in the Revolutionary War because it influenced their ordinary lives in ways that did not directly involve battles, shooting, famous officers and other incidents memorialized with statues and National Parks. The areas right around the corner, a barn down the street, an old house, mill or tavern, a name of a road in New Jersey, may have been owned or named after ordinary people whose stories were intimately intertwined with the Revolutionary War.

The decisions of James Parker and others were difficult for them and they have
relevance for us today whenever we receive criticism for our decisions.

Gigantino, J.J. (2015). The American
Revolution in New Jersey: Where the
Battlefront Meets the Home Front. Rutgers
University Press.

Stevens, S.B. (2015). All Roads Lead to
Pittstown. Hunterdon County Historical

Slavery in New Jersey: Teaching Hard History Through Primary Sources

Slavery in New Jersey: Teaching Hard History Through Primary Sources

by Dana Howell

Photo of the Marlpit Hall Family

For nearly a century, the Monmouth County Historical Association (MCHA) has told the story of the Taylor family at Marlpit Hall, the c. 1760 historic house museum in Middletown, NJ. It is a fascinating story indeed, and speaks to the strife between Patriots and Loyalists in Monmouth County, a hotbed of activity during the Revolutionary War. Until recently, however, a chapter of the house’s history had gone untold. In October of 2021, MCHA unveiled the exhibit 

Beneath the Floorboards: Whispers of the Enslaved at Marlpit Hall to include this forgotten chapter. This award-winning exhibit was the culmination of two years of extensive research done by curators Bernadette Rogoff and Joe Zemla to interpret the home to include the long-silenced voices of the enslaved who lived there.

Primary source documentation and discoveries of material culture were the foundations of the research done to uncover the lives of seven of the twelve known enslaved individuals at Marlpit. Birth, death and census records, wills, runaway ads, inventories, bills of sale, and manumissions (or freedom papers) shed light on the experiences of Tom, York, Ephraim, Clarisse, Hannah, Elizabeth, and William. In 2020, Joe Zemla discovered secret caches of artifacts hidden beneath the floorboards of the kitchen loft living quarters that spoke to their religion and protective rituals, while archaeological digs supervised by Dr. Rich Veit of Monmouth University provided further evidence to piece together what life may have looked like for the enslaved. Throughout the house, mannequins dressed in                        

historically accurate reproduction clothing bring each individual to life, supplemented by their carefully researched biographical panels. The artifacts they left behind are now on display; there is no longer a need for them to be hidden from view.

One of the most prevalent comments made by visitors is that they were unaware that slavery existed in New Jersey. For many years, our educational system had been complacent with the general notion that the northern states were free, while the South had enslaved labor. New Jersey has been referred to as the “most southern of the northern states,” second only to New York in the number of enslaved persons and the very last to legally abolish the institution on January 23rd, 1866.

Comparatively, little has been written about slavery in the North. We can read about
the facts of the matter, but the personal stories in the Floorboards exhibit make an impact that no textbook or blog can. The enslaved are presented without any form of politicization, but rather from an evidence-based and humanized lens. Students are able to connect with them, particularly with Elizabeth and William, who were born in the home and are represented as children – another sad fact of slavery that often goes overlooked. It is a unique opportunity to be able to mentally place these individuals in surroundings which are familiar to the student, albeit long ago. The students learn that we can make educated guesses about what life was like during the time in which the enslaved lived and explore the spaces they inhabited, but we can never truly understand their experiences as enslaved human beings. The only thing we can do is try to imagine it, using historical evidence from primary sources as our guide.

There is a sad deficit in age-appropiate classroom resources to teach slavery, and almost none that cover slavery in the North. This deficit creates roadblocks for public school teachers who are mandated to teach these topics as required by the NJ Department of Education’s 2020 Student Learning Standards, incorporating the 2002 Amistad Law.

While nothing can compare to the experience of actually visiting Marlpit Hall, the opportunity to do so poses challenges for many school districts. In order to make the fascinating information in the exhibit as accessible as possible to students, MCHA has created two NJ standards-based digital education resources adapted for the elementary and middle/high school levels. Created under the advisorship of respected professionals in the fields of education and African American history, both age-appropriate resources provide background on the system of slavery in New Jersey with a focus on the enslaved at Marlpit Hall. In it, they will be introduced to each individual, along with the primary sources that helped to build their stories. Dr. Wendy Morales, Assistant Superintendent of the Monmouth Ocean Educational Services Commission, notes “The questions and activities included in this resource are standards-aligned and cross-curricular. This means students will not only learn historical facts, but will be challenged to think like historians, analyzing primary sources and making connections between historical eras.” Creative writing, art, music, and civics are all explored.

The section on the origins of slavery in New Jersey stress that the enslaved came here not as slaves, but as individuals who were taken from a homeland that had its own culture and civilization. Two videos, courtesy of, make a powerful impact. Students will get to view a timelapse of the paths of over 35,000 slave ship voyages, plotted in an animated graph. This visual representation helps students visually process the magnitude of the forced migration of the enslaved, while a 3-D modeling of an actual slave ship offers a uniquely realistic view of these vessels.

 Time lapse of plotted slave ships         Video featuring 3-D model of slave ship

Both grade level resources come with downloadable worksheets that can be customized to accommodate differentiated learning strategies, and submitted through Google Classroom. Teacher answer keys are provided for guidance as well. MCHA is proud to provide these resources free of charge to aid educators in their responsibility to teach slavery. The resources offer a guided approach to help educators navigate this sensitive and often difficult topic in the classroom. The new mandates are an excellent start to correcting the record on New Jersey’s history of enslavement, but it is truly New Jersey’s educators who will place their personal marks on bringing relevance and reverence to the topic in the classroom.

These resources can be found under the education tab at MCHA welcomes all questions and comments to