Sunday, June 14, 2015

Good Intentions Don't Un-do Bad Actions

This past week in Honors History 10, we forged ahead with the learning, analyzing, and reflecting process that goes into creating our final exam. The basic routine of this was as follows: watch background videos, analyze primary and secondary sources, create 40 exam questions, discuss and formulate an essential question, and answer it in a blog post. To read about this process in more detail, check out my most recent post.

This week, we came up with the question: During westward expansion, did the impact of federal policy towards buffalo soldiers and native Americans match the intent?

Before this unit, when I heard the words “westward expansion,” the image that would immediately pop into my mind was one derived from the “Little House on the Prairie” series. This image was one of Native Americans solemnly riding on horseback, leaving the land that they had grown up on. Because of this image ingrained in my mind, I pitted the white people who forced them to leave as cruel and heartless. I did not consider that the whites may not have realized how wrong or out of control their actions were.

Native Americans being forced to leave their homes.
Image found at:

After taking a look at the Dawes Act, set into place by MA Senator Henry Dawes in 1887, I realized that the white people in power really didn't have the intention of being so cruel to Native Americans. In an excerpt from this act, it reads that it was, “to extend the protection of the laws of the United States and the Territories over the Indians, and for other purposes.” Although US citizens benefitted from taking the NAs land, this really wasn't the reason that they took it. Instead, white Americans believed that they were doing the NAs a favor by removing them from their land, that by putting them in separate areas they would be able to help reform the NAs and transform them into better people.

Although the intentions of white Americans who pushed for NAs to be removed from their land may not have been bad, the ways in which this removal was carried out certainly were. During the late 1800s, president Andrew Johnson created 6 acts of regiment troops to reinforce military in the Midwest. These troops were comprised of Buffalo Soldiers, black Americans who has recently been members of the union troops and continued on in the US armed forces. These soldiers, who already had to endure terrible conditions, were ordered to destroy anything in sight that was the NAs in an effort to remove them from their lands.

No, the white people in power weren't trying to do any harm by removing NAs from their homes, but in doing so they ended up causing battles, deaths, and hardships for both the NAs and the Buffalo Soldiers.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Power to the ((Super Rich and Successful Only)) People

Here is our weekly plan in full detail.
            With three short units left, the last day of school only four weeks away, and finals fast approaching, we (the students of Honors History 10) put our last few weeks to good use by not only learning and studying for our final exam, but by CREATING it. That’s right, the STUDENTS wrote the final exam. The plan is to give each unit a week. During that week, the entire class takes notes in a shared Google doc as we watched videos and analyzed primary and secondary sources together. At the end of the week, we use everything that we just learned to come up with 40 questions for the final exam. At the end of the three weeks, when classes end and finals start, the product of our efforts will be a 120 question exam, a LOT of notes, and three blog posts answering a student-crafted essential question for each unit.

Check out week 1: Did the captains of industry have a positive or negative impact on the public?

Rockefeller- the powerful, strangling squid.
During the late 1800s, America went through a period of uninterrupted industrial growth. It was during this time that captains of industry, wealthy people who lead certain business fields, emerged as people of power. Although they helped shape America to what it has become today, these “captains” left a negative impact on the public during their time. John Rockefeller, founder of the “Standard Oil Company,” was one of these captains who negatively impacted the public. In a political cartoon appearing in the September 7th, 1904 issue of “Puck,” artist Udo J. Keppler draws Rockefeller as a giant squid, strangling the U.S. capitol and other industries. Just like the malicious squid in Keppler’s drawing, Rockefeller was able to create a monopoly on natural fossil fuels and bribe politicians to get his way. This was bad for the general public because Rockefeller had power over everyone, so even decisions they voted on weren’t necessarily determined fairly.

“Forty-Millionaire Carnegie in his Great Double Role"
Similar to Rockefeller, Carnegie was a great businessman and captain of industry who poorly impacted the people of his time. In the July 9th, 1892 issue of The Saturday Globe, artist David P. Demares depicts Carnegie simultaneously giving away money and taking it away from his workers in his cartoon, “Forty-Millionaire Carnegie in his Great Double Role." Leading such a large business, Carnegie’s frequent wage cuts affected thousands of people.

                Captains of industry like Rockefeller and Carnegie thrived during the late 1800s, and used their excessive wealth and power to manipulate the government and take money away from innocent employees. But if it weren’t for them, American wouldn’t be what it’s like today. The excessive wealth that captains of industry held in their industries carries over to help our industries thrive today. As a country, wealth is still distributed very unevenly, but we are able to see that letting bribery influence political decisions can be disastrous.  

Friday, May 1, 2015

Power from the People, or the President?

In school, everyone learns about America's dark past- slavery- and how we were able to change for the better as a country to abolish this practice. We learn about the Civil War, where the north fought the south for the abolishment of slavery and eventually won. But does anyone ever tell us who started this movement? What kinds of people were the driving force behind the abolition of slavery? This past week in honors history 10 we explored the answer to these questions.

One way we learned about those who contributed to the abolition of slavery was through reading primary documents. Then, we put them into this chart (Lincoln!) to show what power came from above, what power came from below, and what Lincoln wanted to do.

As president of the United States, Lincoln was a big part of getting slavery abolished. Although he claimed to "intend no modification of [his] oft-expressed personal wish that all men everywhere could be free" in his reply to an Open letter from Horace Greeley, his actions and decisions during the war enabled an end to slavery. By declaring the emancipation proclamation, stating it only right and constitutional for slaves who fought in the war to become free after it was over, Lincoln freed thousands of former slaves. Although Lincoln, a person with a LOT of power, appears to be the reason slavery was abolished, the actions of slaves themselves were also a huge contributing factor. In primary source y, slaves are described to have pushed their way through white people preparing through war in an effort to force themselves into the issue and into the war. Slaves helped fight for their freedom just as much as those in power did.

                                      Check out this video to learn more about the civil war.

When it all boils down, I think that slavery was abolished because of actions taken by those out of power just as much as those in power. Yes, Lincoln is well known for his actions, but that is because he had a lot of power at the time. Lower people and slaves were also a driving force in that they helped influence Lincoln and his decisions. This whole situation of force behind a change coming from below and being broadcast and taken further by those people who are "above" still happens today. Recently there has been HUGE coverage for a story surrounding Bruce Jenner, former Olympic athlete and reality TV star, and his coming out as Transgender. Other Trans people have been pushing for acceptance and equal treatment for years, but now that Bruce Jenner is talking about it, it's finally starting to become a reality. Just like Lincoln was a voice for slaves, Bruce Jenner is a voice for the Trans community and it's supporters.

Friday, April 10, 2015

A New Route to Learning

This past week in honors history 10 we took a different route to learn about the Civil War battles...literally. Our class held a scavenger hunt to take notes, here's how we did it: After each student got assigned a battle, we divided up and researched, each making a google doc about our assigned battles as we went. For homework that night we each made and printed out a and a QR code to our docs so that our classmates would be able to scan and view them. The next day we hid our codes all around the school and made sure to write where the next code as located so our classmates would know where to go. Then, we were off!

At each battle stop, students used the QR codes to scan in and take notes about the battle from the docs. By the time we finished, we all had notes on the theater, victor, and main reasons for each battle, and we got to have fun!

After the scavenger hunt, we got back came back as a class to regroup and analyze all of the information we had just taken down. First we looked at this really great, interactive map to get down some more notes, then we turned to padlet to share the conclusions each of us had drawn. By the end of class, it became clear that the Union army dominated both the naval and western theaters. The Union army also came to win in the east, but it took a period of Confederate dominance before they gained the leadership they needed to win.

At the close of the civil war in 1865, the Union army was victorious. This makes sense, as throughout the war they dominated most if not all theaters. In naval battles, the Union had more resources than the confederates, so it was easier for them to come by sea. Oftentimes they were able to surround the confederates with their ships. In the western theater, the union dominated because they outnumbered the confederates. In the east, it was sort of a different least in the beginning. Disorganized and lacking leadership, the union army fell to the confederate army at the beginning if the war. But as they gained leadership and military strategy, they were able to rise back on top.

Also, make sure to check out my scavenger stop for an example!  After scanning in with the QR code, my classmates were able to take down my notes on the Surrender of Fort Donelson, Tennessee.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Who But Lincoln?

In 2015, America looks back at Abraham Lincoln as one of our greatest presidents and leaders. Lincoln is the man who abolished slavery, Lincoln is the man who got us through the Civil War. But leading up to the Election of 1860, not everyone revered Lincoln the way America does now. Instead, the country was split between four candidates, each one representing a different view on how to handle slavery.

The map above represents which parts of the country favored and voted for each candidate. It makes sends that the south voted for Breckenridge because he advocated for slavery, just as it makes sense that the north and West voted for Lincoln because he was against it. Bell was the candidate chosen by those living in between the North and South because he wanted to maintain the union as it was, which would keep them out of wars harmful way, and Douglas advocated for slavery to be determined by popular sovereignty. 

In class, we watched John Green's crash course video to get an overview on the election of 1860 and how it effected divisions during events like Bleeding Kansas. After taking notes and processing all of the information, we went onto the Civil War in Art website, where we split into groups to analyze the pictures and sources it had to offer. Finally, we made videos explaining the election of 1860, and relating it to the art that we found on the Civil War in Art website. Check out my groups video below:

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Why the South Had No Chance Winning the Civil War

Every American knows the story of the civil war: the courageous North fought the racist South for the abolishment of slavery and were celebrated as heroes when they won. But not everyone knows the details behind the story. Nobody ever talks about how the North had the upper hand from the start; how they made up 2/3 of American citizens and manufactured over 50% of American goods. Nobody talks about how the South never wanted to start fighting; how they just wanted to defend the laws they had been practicing their whole lives.

In Honors History 10, we studied the causes of the Civil War and what impacted its outcome. Check out this info graphic I made on, explaining how initial differences between the North and South affected each sides strategies and stance in the Civil War. Most of the stats used in the info graphic were gathered from analyzing railroad maps and a document titled "Slavery by the Numbers".

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Crime Against Humanity

Today slavery is studied by nearly every student in the US so that they will learn never to repeat this awful action of dehumanization. During the early 19th century, the topic of slavery was pushed aside, ignored, and avoided so that white Americans could benefit from it. In Honors History 10, we’ve spent the past week taking notes, watching videos, and reading primary sources in order to get a better understanding of what really went down. After that we split into groups and organized the events we had just learned about on a timeline- the conclusion has become obvious. Through exploration of the Gadsden Purchase, Bleeding Kansas, the caning of Sumner, and John Brown’s Raid, it becomes clear that the debate over slavery was the elephant in the room, the obvious issue that nobody wanted to talk about, for American politics in the early 19th century.

The Gadsden Purchase was a tiny piece of land bought by the US in 1853, which would be used to transfer pro slavery settlers to Nevada, California, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. The initial purchase of these states was $15 million, but the tiny Gadsden cist almost just as much-nearly $10 million. This shows that the US was avoiding an end to slavery, because they were willing to pay such an outrageous price for a tin strip of land, just so that it could aid the pro-slavery cause. 

We used an app called timeline to organize events from 1850-59.

A few years later, in 1856, an event called “Bleeding Kansas” takes place and is followed by the caning of an anti-slavery senator, which further proves that American politicians wanted to avoid the topic of slavery. With turmoil between anti-slavery “free soilers” and pro-slavery activists, Senator Charles Sumner gives a speech attacking southerners for forcing slavery on the territory. Riled up and angry by Sumner’s speech, Representative Preston Brooks “defends” the south, and their right to slavery, by beating Sumner with his can. Following the caning, Brooks receives canes in the mail with encouragement to “beat him again”. The southern, pro-slavery government and people support Brooks because he punished Sumner for trying to bring the issue of slavery to attention.

For each event we wrote out a brief and easily comprehensive summary.

Even when activists like John Brown attempted to bring the horrors of slavery to attention, they were shut down by people in power. In 1859, John Brown raided the federal arsenal at Harper’s ferry with 21 other individuals, black and white alike. Quickly, he was captured, tried, and hung, but his last address to the court stuck out. Brown declared that he would forfeit his life for justice among all. Nonetheless, the court used his hanging to make a statement- they would not tolerate anti-slave movements.
Check out this wordle made from Charles Sumner's speech, "The Crime Against Kansas". The bigger the word, the more often it was used in his speech. Its interesting to note that words like "South" and "Now" stick out. While there was slavery in the North, there was less of it. Sumner wanted to bring to attention this issue, and to bring slavery to an end "NOW".
Wordle: The Crima Against Kansas

Monday, February 23, 2015

As Clear As Black and White

During these past few weeks, as bright white snow has taken over New England, Honors History 10 has studied another period during which the color white dominated-- the US's early 19th century. As cotton became a large industry, slavery became economically entrenched and the white population dominated the blacks, forcing them to submit to slavery.

At the start of the 19th century, slavery looked like it was on its way out. But with the invention of the cotton gin, there became a desperate need for people to work the rapidly expanding cotton plantations—slaves were the answer. When Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin in 1793, cotton plants became economically profitable to grow. Down south cotton grew easily, so as the crop grew in export revenue, the number of slaves working southern plantations also expanded. Between 1790 and 1800, cotton became 7% of the nation’s total export revenue with a slave population of about 690,000. As cotton’s export revenue grew to be 22% in 1820, the slave population expanded in turn to 1,191,000. Slavery became economically established by the early 19th century because cotton became a large part of the industry, and slaves were necessary to run cotton plantations. 

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Frederick Douglas's on whites on the 4th.

The system of slavery that became economically entrenched in the US’s early 19th century affected human dignity in the sense that it degraded African members of society by singling them out as slaves. Anti- Slave activist and American author, Fredrick Douglas responded to white American’s hypocritical celebration of freedom on the 4th of July. Upon asking what the 4th meant to an American slave, Douglas stated that it, “reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim.” White Americans treated blacks as so much lesser than them that they were able to declare freedom for all members of society, while completely overlooking the massive African slave population that lacked freedom. Many African Americans, like Douglas, felt so offended by the discrimination that they faced because of race based slavery that they spoke out about it.

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Douglas's response to the whites' hypocritical 4th celebration.
In this system of race based slavery, African Americans had many of their rights ignored, and their right to freedom taken away completely. As mentioned above, Frederick Douglas argued against the hypocritical white American declaration stating all men free. According to Article 4, Section 2, Clause 3 of the Founder’s Declaration, any slave who escapes, “shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due.” Slaves were bound to their owners for life—they lacked the right to escape and live freely. Already without freedom, slaves had even more dignity take from them by being counted not as a whole person, but 3/5 of the person in deciding state population. Race based slavery discriminates against a particular race, and ignores the needs, rights, and characteristics of that race. 

For more on 19th century US's race based slavery, check out the this article about the life of Abdul Rahman, an African prince who was captured and enslaved in the US. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Gender Equality, or Lack There Of

After years of male dominance, 19th century society was taken aback when women began talking and writing in an effort to earn equality. Never before had women voiced their thoughts, much less argued with those of the male gender. But in 1848, that began to change. Women from all over the country gathered at the Seneca Falls Convention to discuss the current social, civil, and religious conditions of women and fight for equal rights in these areas. Form this convention sprung more, causing both positive and negative reactions.
After the Seneca Falls Convention in July of 1848, newspapers all over the country had something to say, and that something was not always very nice. “It requires no argument to prove that this is all wrong,” declares The Mechanics Advocate about the rights of women. While women’s reforms upset a large portion, a chunk of the population was in support of women’s equality. The North Star Newspaper considers women member of the “human family” and argues that, “we cannot be deterred from an expression of our approbation of any movement, however humble, to improve and elevate the character and condition of any members of the human family.” As an abolitionist newspaper, The North Star agrees that ALL humans should have the same rights, including black men and women of all kinds.
Over 150 years after the Seneca Falls Convention and the start of the women’s reforms, one would think that gender equality should be prominent in the US—sadly that is not quite the case. Although today’s society likes to think that both genders are treated the same—women work until they have to stay home and watch their kids, laws forbid abuse within a relationship, etc.—there are still many VERY prominent differences in the treatment of women and men.
One of the most obvious ways to see the different treatment of females and males in our society today is through social media. Let’s start with Instagram. One of the easiest ways to rake in compliments and boost your self-esteem is to post a quick selfie—IF you’re a girl. What is considered “cute” when posted by a girl, is called “soft” or ever “gay” (sadly and WRONGLY used as an insult) when a guy posts it. Now on to twitter. There is nothing more annoying than a heated feminist on twitter complaining unequal treatment, right? But somehow it’s funny to make a parody account called “meninist”, where users make fun of these attempts as gender equality.
Yes, society has come far from the day’s during which women weren’t allowed to speak, and men were allowed to beat their wives at a whim. But is our society, one rich with double standards, really THAT much better?
Check out this Pantene commercial, pointing out ways women and men are treated different in society today. Can you relate?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Father of Free Thought

Emerson points out the importance of one's own thoughts.

Ralph Waldo Emerson is considered to be the leader from which the transcendental movement emanated. In his 1888 essay, “Self-Reliance”, Emerson works to convince his readers that it is right to believe one’s own thoughts and declare them aloud, even if others disagree. The transcendental movement took place just after the Industrial Revolution- am epoch bursting with new technologies and ideas. Emerson writes that amidst these new ideas, we must not lose ourselves. Amidst these new ideas we must strive not to conform, but to “believe what is true for you in your private heart.” That having been said, holding beliefs not contradictory to those of the general population should not be looked down upon. Although Emerson states that “To be great is to be misunderstood,” it must be taken into consideration that one’s beliefs may truly accord with those of society. In these excerpts, Emerson is trying to convince the reader to follow their intuition and shirk ideas not aligning to their own beliefs. As he went on to lead the transcendental movement, Emerson continued to preach self-reliance as opposed to conformity.

Emerson explains why trusting one's own thoughts it good.

Formal Citation of text: Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Self Reliance. 1841. Ralph Waldo Emerson Texts. January 12, 2015.