The United States historians at Public Seminar know what our high school and university colleagues are doing right now: finishing syllabi for the fall. We know the feeling of needing just the right piece – something that will spark discussion, show students what good historical writing looks like, and give them the idea that history matters to what they are thinking about now.
Well, we decided to give you a hand. Here are a few selections from our 2018 Public Seminar archive that will dress up your U.S. history syllabus, or one in another discipline that needs historical perspective.
Zara Anishanslin, Patriot Soldiers from Sh*thole Countries (January 29 2018)
Countries that President Trump scorns are an important part of the history of the American Revolution. These soldiers of color joined the Continental Army, sometimes in hopes of winning their own freedom from colonialism and slavery.
Benjamin Alpers, The Myth of Black Confederates (January 14 2018)
Why would some historians insist that enslaved African-Americans fought for the Confederacy? When racism on the rise, the alt-right is playing booster for a familiar, and fake, Civil War narrative.
Rosina Lozano, Michigan Claims English as Official Language (April 26 2018)
Have immigrants always been expected to learn English immediately upon arriving in the United States? In the nineteenth century, the Michigan saw translation – not English-only laws – as an important tool for assimilation.
Christine Woodside, Little House on the Prairie (April 11 2018)
The popular “Little House” books tell an iconic, feel-good, story about a white American pioneer family conquering the West. But biographers of author Laura Ingalls Wilder pull back the curtain in what really happened, and how the books were written.
Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, Summer Camps, Boarding Schools and the Ideology of Family Separation in the U.S. (June 21 2018)
When conservative media personality Laura Ingraham characterized immigrant children being separated from their families and incarcerated as “summer camp,” she didn’t know how right she was. Separating children of color from their parents, “for their own good,” has a long history in the United States.
Andrew McGregor, Agency, Order and Sport in the Age of Trump (July 18 2018)
What do early twentieth century football players Jack Johnson and Jim Thorpe have to do with contemporary politics? The history of sport tells us something about why nationhood and masculinity still speak to each other today.
Campbell F. Scribner, Etchings of Democracy (June 1 2018)
Did you ever carve your initials in a school desk? Thinking about this every day, and often scarred, piece of furniture as an archive helps us understand how our history is contained in objects.
Christopher Bonanos, Flash: the Making of Weegee the Famous (August 20 2018)
Arthur Fellig was the most famous newspaper photographer of mid-century New York City, and may have invented the noire genre. Nicknamed “Weegee,” after his “Ouiji-board” like ability to find a news scoop seconds after it occurred, his life tells a story of urban art, journalism, and the history of photography.
Bruce A. Williams, The Story of the Good War Must Change (August 9 2018)
Seeing WWII only as an American triumph over fascism prevents us from understanding the dynamics between Russia and Europe today.
Lori Flores, Dutch Plan to Target Youth in Designer Clothes (February 1 2018)
How police persecution of the “zoot suiters” in World War II-era Los Angeles helps us understand contemporary attempts to police minorities of color in Europe.
Jennifer Ash, The Story of Black Women’s Political Labor (March 9 2018)
The women of Bennett College were critical players in the struggle to desegregate a movie theater in Greensboro, North Carolina: why looking behind iconic moments in the civil rights story deepens our understanding of the 1960s.
Claire Potter, Why Can’t Women Bridge the Left-Right Divide? (May 23 2018)
Let’s look back to 1984, when Catharine MacKinnon believed that passing an anti-pornography ordinance could bring women together as political parties were pulling them apart.
But there’s so much more for your syllabus at Public Seminar. Go roam around the site, scroll through the Past Present vertical, explore our podcasts. Let other people know what you find – and how you are using it — in the comments section.