The end of May marks the beginning of the Siege of Vicksburg, a campaign against the pivotal port city of Mississippi that would ultimately decide the fate of the war. The Library of Congress houses numerous documents pertinent to teaching the Civil War. Today, they highlight the Vicksburg Daily Citizen’s Final Edition. Printed on the back of wallpaper, the piece highlights the defiant and innovative spirit of Confederates. Vicksburg would fall on July 4, 1863 after the citizens of the town suffered wide spread starvation, disease, and regular shelling from the Union Army.
Today marks the anniversary of the landmark case, Brown vs. Board of Education. On this day in 1954, the Supreme Court ruled that the segregation of races for education under the “separate but equal” clause was unconstitutional. The case would begin the unwinding of separate but equal institutions throughout the country (a process that would take decades). In honor of the 59th anniversary, here are a great list of resources for teaching this topic:
Library of Congress - The Library of Congress highlights Brown v. Board of Education along with a series of other landmark cases, arguments, studies, etc on the issue of Civil Rights in American history. You can explore the LOC online as well as in person.
Ourdocuments.org - Explore high resolution images of the Brown decision as well as other documents related to Civil Rights and the landmark Supreme Court decision.
Separate is Not Equal: Smithsonian Institution - the Smithsonian commemorates the landmark case with an in depth online exhibit that explore segregation in the United States.
National Archives - The National Archives hosts high resolution images of landmark papers, including the Supreme Court deciding and dissenting opinion on the Brown v. Board of Education case.
This quarter’s Gilder Lehrman’s “History Now” series features the historical role of first ladies in American politics. The issue, “First Ladies’ Contributions to Political Issues and the National Welfare” highlights the roles of the President’s spouse from Martha Washington all the way to Betty Ford. It explores their personalities, political temperament, social role, and even controversial status.
In addition to these fascinating articles, they include two lesson plans that help educators present the material in alliance with the common core as well as an interactive map of their birth places. Gilder Lehrman provides a plethora of resources for teachers of American History.
If you are looking for some good brief videos to supplement your course content, check out Crash Courses’ videos on US History, World History, Chemistry, Biology, Ecology, and Literature. The videos are usually only 11-13 minutes in length, have great imagery, and provide accurate information in a thoughtful way. While it won’t replace a week’s worth of lesson plans, it is a great supplement to course content. Check out their YouTube Channel and follow them on twitter.
In honor of Black History Month, the Library of Congress is hosting the electronic exhibit “African American Odyssey: A Quest for Full Citizenship.” The exhibit displays more than 240 artifacts, including documents, images, videos, and more.
The exhibit “explores black America’s quest for equality from the early national period through the twentieth century.”
This is a rich, multimedia exploration into the experience of African Americans in this country for over 200 years.
Black soldiers could not officially join the Union army until the Emancipation Proclamation was issued on January 1, 1863. But, on the ground, they had been fighting and dying from the beginning.
When three escaped slaves arrived at Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia, in May, 1861, Union General Benjamin Butler had to make a choice. Under the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act, he was compelled to return the men into the hands of the slaveowner. But Virginia had just signed the ordinances of secession. Butler determined that he was now operating in a foreign territory and declared the men “contraband of war.”
When more enslaved men, women and children arrived at the fort, Butler wrote to Washington for advice. In these early days of the Civil War, Lincoln avoided… The Uncertain Promise of Freedom’s Light: Black Soldiers in The Civil War | Around The Mall.
On March 3, 1913, 5,000 women marched up Pennsylvania Avenue demanding the right to vote. Their “national procession,” staged the day before Woodrow Wilson’s presidential inauguration, was the first civil rights parade to use the nation’s capital as a backdrop, underscoring the national importance of their cause and women’s identity as American citizens. The event brought women from around the country to Washington in a show of strength and determination to obtain the ballot. The extravagant parade–and the near riot that almost destroyed it–kept woman suffrage in the newspapers for weeks. This 30-foot long showcase display recreates the mood of the parade and illustrates its impact using costumes worn by participants along with banners, sashes, postcards, letters and photographs.
If you cannot make it to Washington D.C. and want to look at some of the high resolution images, be sure to check out the exhibit online.
Today, NASA remembers their fallen astronauts on their annual “Day of Remembrance,” which falls on the 10th anniversary of the Columbia disaster in 2003. While NASA has the the highest safety record for manned space flight in the history of the world, the program has not been without tragedy. I recently highlighted the 27th anniversary of the Challenger Explosion that took the lives of all seven crew members, including teacher Christa McAuliffe, the first and only participant in NASA’s Teacher in Space Project (cancelled in 1990 as a result of the tragedy).
The first astronaut tragedy to hit NASA was the ill-fated Apollo 1 in 1967. Originally intended to be the first manned mission to the moon, a fire during the launch pad test resulted in the deaths of all three crew members. Manned lunar launches were delayed only briefly as the United States government was embroiled in the Space Race against the Soviet Union.
While there would be other fatalities in training scenarios and frightening close calls (the Apollo 13 mission, for example, very nearly ended in tragedy but the swift thinking of its crew and NASA engineers resulted in a Hollywood-style happy ending) NASA’s space program would continue for nearly 20 years without incident until the Challenger explosion in 1986. Many believed that the explosion of the Challenger at launch would be the death knell for NASA, but after a few years space exploration continued and the program endured.
On February 1, 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated on reentry over Texas and Louisiana. Subsequent testing and examination indicated that pilot error had caused the tragedy. All seven crew members (5 Americans, 1 Israeli astronaut, and 1 Indian astronaut) were killed. The world community mourned the loss of these scientists.
Today, on the anniversary of the tragedy, American and NASA remembers all of the astronauts who gave their lives in our endeavor to explore beyond our own atmosphere. While their tragedy touches us all, their legacy endures. NASA, still battling funding cuts, intends to reinstitute manned flights to space in a few years.
For a list of all space-flight related fatalities, see this article on Wikipedia (note that while the USSR has some names reported, historians and political scientists agree that the number of cosmonauts killed in space travel has been vastly and drastically underreported).
For more information on Columbia Disaster, see:
Not long after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation went into effect on the first day of 1863, artist Eastman Johnson composed the small painting shown here. EntitledThe Lord Is My Shepherd, it portrays a young black man reading the Bible intently. He may well be a former slave, and reading scripture could…
On January 28, 1986, 11:38 am EST, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after launch. All seven crew members were killed in the tragedy. This was the first shuttle to be completely destroyed in an accident. The Challenger launch had been promoted and touted by NASA, especially with its inclusion of Christa McAuliffe, the first teacher in space.
After the disaster, space flight was put on a 32 month hiatus while NASA officials and the government investigated the cause of the explosion. The Rogers Commission (a special committee formulated to investigate the disaster) and the House investigations determined that the explosion was caused due to the failure of an o-ring seal during launch. The House made the determination that:
…the Committee feels that the underlying problem which led to the Challenger accident was not poor communication or underlying procedures as implied by the Rogers Commission conclusion. Rather, the fundamental problem was poor technical decision-making over a period of several years by top NASA and contractor personnel, who failed to act decisively to solve the increasingly serious anomalies in the Solid Rocket Booster joints.
The Challenger explosion was the worst disaster in NASA’s history until the Columbia was destroyed on re-entry in 2003.