Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Underground Railroad: Myth vs. Reality

Trying to understand the truth/ realities of the Underground Railroad must go much deeper than public school textbooks, simplistic "fairy tale" curriculum, Hollywood movies, fictional novels, etc.  To truly understand the realities of The UGRR, we must dive deeply into the primary sources! 

Myth #1: Large numbers of white people participated in the UGRR.

Reality: Less than 1% (any color) of the population was involved in the UGRR.

Myth #2: There were hundreds of conductors and stations (and easily found) on the UGRR.

Reality: There were very few conductors and stations (not so easily found) on the UGRR.

Myth #3: Large numbers of slaves attempted to escape.

Reality: Less than 5% of slaves attempted to escape.

Myth #4: Large numbers of slaves succeeded.

Reality: Less than 1% of fugitive slaves succeeded.

Myth #5: Slaves (male and female) ran in large groups.

Reality: Most slaves (mostly young men) ran alone.

Myth #6: Slaves ran North (following The North Star) to escape.

Reality: Slaves ran in all directions (Florida...Mexico...The West...The Caribbean...).

Reality: Many slaves didn't the history of The Maroons.

If only it was as easy as the history "lessons", glamorized Hollywood depictions, a candle in the window, friend of a friend, or "wading in the water"...millions would have escaped and the evil institution of slavery would have ended "happily ever after!"

But as the radical abolitionist, John Brown would take war.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Whitman "Massacre"

Dr. Whitman...deaf or a very focused reader?!?

The Whitman "Massacre" took place on November 29, 1847 near present day Walla Walla, Washington.  The Whitmans (Dr. Marcus Whitman- "led" the first wagon train on the Oregon Trail in 1836...see Moses Harris) were accused by the Cayuse (Liksiyu) Indians of killing nearly 200 Cayuse who were under their medical care.

Chief Tiloukaikt

Dr. Whitman had declared himself as a "medicine man" as a way to undermine Cayuse doctors/ cultural traditions and failed in his treatments.  In Cayuse culture, when a patient who was being cared for by the doctor/ healer/ medicine man died, the relatives had a right to "revenge" by killing the healer.

 The Whitman Mission 
The Cayuse felt that Dr. Whitman had failed in his treatment. In addition, they felt The Whitmans were evil, arrogant, culturally insensitive (repeatedly referred to the Cayuse as ignorant savages), and had purposefully withheld treatment from these "American diseases".  To the Cayuse (and me), the Whitmans were not "pioneer heroes" or "innocent good-hearted missionaries"...this could more properly be called "The Whitman Judgment".

Were these "explorations" really exploitations..."discoveries" really exterminations... Today, less than 200 Cayuse are living in America. 


Friday, September 19, 2014

The American Jellyfish

The question (probably because of 9-11 Anniversary and thinking about The Constitution, Bill of Rights, and "All Men Are Created Equal") I have been contemplating lately could be asked several ways...

"How many times has America died?"

"How many times has America been reborn?"

"How many Americas have there been?"

To answer these questions, I have considered many events that are considered major turning points in our history...The Revolution, The Constitutional Convention, The Civil War, The World Wars, The Civil Rights Movement, 9-11...

My my opinion, there have been 4 distinct Americas so far (3 deaths and rebirths).

The First America- The Revolution, The Constitution, The Bill of Rights, political parties, Liberty v. Order...a land for the well-educated, land holding white men, Westward Expansion, slavery, Native American destruction, women as second class "citizens", deep national Sectionalism, etc.

This First America was inevitably destroyed by The Civil War...

The Second America- Reconstruction, White Power, Immigration, The Red Scare, The Great Depression, The World Wars, non-stop lynching, massive Industrialization, etc....all dominated by the overarching shadow of Jim Crow.

The Second America was "destroyed" by The Civil Rights Movement...

The Third America- Another Red Scare, The Civil Rights Movement, The Feminist Movement, The Era of Protest, Vietnam, Watergate and the mistrust of government, "the end" of The Cold War, The War on Drugs, etc.

The Third America was destroyed on 9-11...

The Fourth America- Terrorism, racial profiling, police brutality, biased 24/7 "media" coverage, educational dropouts, unemployment, immigration issues, Big Brother always watching and controlling, drone attacks, a "Jerry Springer" Society, mistrust of everybody...

When the Fourth America dies...will we be reborn? 

Better or worse?

Will we want to be judged by our words or our actions?

Can we be the hero?!?

IMO...Only if we grasp tightly, read, understand, and live "The Bill of Rights".

How many Americas do you think we've had?  What would be your turning points?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Why Are We Here?

I said "nothing"...but, I meant "Killing the Jellyfish!"

At the start of a new school year, I try to explain to my students why it is vitally important to take a United States History class...and the "correct" answer is not "because its the law", "I need this credit/ grade", etc.

Here are the three reasons we discussed:

1. To explore United States History Content (1800-present) through lecture, discussion, video clips, primary sources, etc.

2. To develop "Critical Thinking" Skills (CTS) or "Reading Your World" and we ask the question..."Why did this happen?"

The tools we use to think deeply about the content are:

A Common Lens
The Big Umbrella
The Jellyfish Theory
Analyzing Truth v. Myth
Analyzing Positive/ Convenient Memory

3. To develop a "Critical Consciousness" or "Talking Back to Your World." This step requires a person to take their CTS and convert it into ACTION!

This action may involve:

Being a part of a grassroots movement
Peaceful Protest, Boycotts, etc.
Being a "active" citizen, parent (future), voter, etc.
Standing up for justice, equity, etc.

I truly hope my students take their responsibilities seriously!