Category Archives: History in the News

December 7th 1951

This is a previous blog post I originally published on September 11, 2011. In light of the Pearl Harbor anniversary, I thought I would republish it today.

While I am sitting here typing and reflecting on the events on September 11th 2001 from a decade’s hindsight, my thoughts wandered to the 10 year anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th 1951.  So I asked…

Almost immediately, I received a response. Someone suggested using Google News Archive to look for information from newspapers on that date. I had no idea Google had been scanning newspapers, but it made sense to me, considering all of the other scanning they are doing. I went to the site and found a whole paper from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from December 7th 1951. You can view the paper by clicking below. [Note: Use the toolbar at the top to zoom out or request a full page view.] This is an image of page 38 of 42. The story was not a focus of the media. If you go to the link and read the left and right columns, you will find some odd human interest stories, but not central news. From a cultural perspective, notice also the number of advertisements and their focus (heavily influencing women to buy).

Within this page, there are three small columns concerning the Pearl Harbor attack that brought the US to declare war on Japan and formally enter World War 2. Notice the titles.(You can click on the images for a larger viewing, in order to read the text.)

The article that makes me think the most as a historian is this one. “Gone is the sublime and wonderful confidence that American boys plus American arms plus American production, can make short work of any and all enemies.” “Today they know that a killer-nation is not likely to observe the amenities and conform to etiquette.” Is the journalist referring to the nuclear age that cast a shadow over the world, especially in the midst of the Korean War (as December 7th 1951 was), or do they recall the surprise attack on the “day that will live in infamy”?

The article below also reflects a new reality concerning war: dissent and public opinion. I found it fascinating that a rally was held in which President Roosevelt was denounced as “Chief American warmonger” at an America First rally. What would have been the reaction to rallies against the invasion of Iraq that occurred in January and February of 2003 if the 9/11 attacks had happened in their midst? As the editors stated, “Nothing could have united the American people so immediately and completely.”

While my TV shows every network focusing on the memorial events of the World Trade Center, as well as at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania, I wonder if some consider the “penalties of leadership” written above to reflect our future, not just that of 1951. Did we ever have that “sublime and wonderful confidence”? Will we? Should we? These are questions I hope to introduce in my US History classes this week.

The Convention Wordles

Being a history teacher, I just can’t stay away from the conventions. I love the drama, or even the lack thereof, on the convention floors. Most nights I would sit up and watch. Some nights I had headphones in listening the the live stream. But in the end, I wondered what had changed and what it all meant. So, I decided to put some of the major speeches into Wordle and see if I could discern the tea leaves. Here’s what I got:

Round 1: Political Wives

Ann Romney’s Speech

Michelle Obama’s Speech

Round 2: Keynote Addresses

Chris Christie’s Speech

Julian Castro’s Speech

Round 3: Nominee Speech

Mitt Romney’s Speech

President Obama’s Speech

What do you think? Patterns?

The 2012 Election in Your Classroom


The election is coming! The election is coming! 2012 is ‘one of those years’ in the classroom and it is a great opportunity for History and Social Studies teachers to focus on the choices that Americans make to determine their next president. For us, as teachers, there are a lot of bases to cover as we hope to inform our students about the process by which a person becomes a candidate, the social issues that divide and unite the country, the nature of political parties and campaign financing, the current state of the economy amid high unemployment, and the war in Afghanistan and our foreign policy in very important regions of the world like China, the Middle East, Africa and more. It’s a big plate.

I’d like to offer some suggestions and resources that might help facilitate discussion, depth and debate before November 6th rolls around. Many of these suggestions come from the great work done by other educators and found on Twitter. We all stand on the backs of giants.

  • From the National Constitution Center, adomatic.us gives students the power to create their own candidacy for the presidency by creating their own campaign ad. It’s an easy step-by-step process. Thanks to the great post by Gillian Nyla.
  • Facilitate a discussion with your students on the nature of the political parties and the issues that divide them into ‘left and right’ positions using this infographic. Infographics allow students to visualize complex issues. You can even have students create their own using sites like visual.ly, easel.ly, and infogr.am. For a great resource on 2012 election infographics, check out this intense Pinterest board on the subject. Have students fact-check and analyze as propaganda.
  • Watch with students, ‘The Choice’ by PBS Frontline with your students. It will air on October 9th and will provide a documentary on the biographies of the two candidates as well as an in-depth look at the issues that divide them and their leadership styles and personalities. Also check out their documentaries on the 2008,2004 and 2000 elections.
  • Explore the complex issues of campaign financing with your students using the transparency of OpenSecrets.org. Following the 1996 elections, the Center for Responsive Politics created the website to ‘follow the money’ in national and local elections. Role play with students campaign fundraising activities, re-enact the Citizens United Supreme Court case, or run an in-class election as if it was a presidential one to see how the money influences (or not) the vote.
  • Any US History teacher knows how complicated it is to explain the dreaded Electoral College. This under 5 minute video helps explain it all, including all of the oddities and complexities of the process. It’s great. You could show this to your students all the way through and ask them “Who got this?”, then go back and pause it along the way for deeper explanation.  Open a discussion about why this process exists. If its around Constitution Day, even better! If students still have questions, send them to the US Government FAQ page for the process.
  • FIguring out where the candidates stand on the issues is sometimes a lot harder than it looks. Sometimes there are subtle policy differences and other times its really hard to determine where the candidates are just based on general statements made in speeches. ProCon.org has a great webpage that takes the issues and parses them by the candidates own statements, along with analysis, by topic. It’s a great place for students to go to find out sometimes how similar and different the choices between candidates is. Have students create their own stump speeches, role play and debate each other, have a newsmaker interview with campaign staff, etc. and watch the subtleties fly! This website is also a good place to learn and discuss foreign policy, which hasn’t really been a front-page issue in 2012.
  • Here’s some great resources for students to see and build their own electoral maps from the New York Times, PBS Newshour, CNN and FOX. Have your students figure out how polls determine these stats. Help them conduct their own school and town/city polls. Finally, here’s another good one that students can use to build a map to 270 electoral votes, called 270 to Win.
  • The New York Times also has some great infographics from the conventions. This one explains visually how many times certain words were used in the convention speeches. Students can look at these and begin a discussion on who the audience is for each speech and what the candidate’s intent is. You could also use the website Wordle to cut and paste famous speeches in history into a text box. What happens next is that you get a visual ‘word cloud’ on the most commonly used words in bigger and bolder print. Here’s a link to convention speeches I put into Wordle.
  • Campaign commercials also say a lot about a candidate and their campaign’s message. We all remember the little girl counting while picking a flower, and then getting blown up by a nuclear weapon. This site, the Living Room Candidate, has hundreds of campaign commercials going back to Eisenhower. They make for excellent primary source analysis as well as a focus on propaganda in election politics. Here’s also a great site which provides a sample of 200 years of election posters.
  • There are many surveys and questionnaires you can give your students to gauge their positions on different issues. Here’s a brief list: Campaign Match Up,
  • Finally, here’s a list of some great sites with other teaching lessons and ideas for Election 2012:

I hope these resources help. Please feel free to leave feedback, and have a great time exploring these issues with your students on the road to November!

NAZI’s Given ‘Haven’ in US

As students, history is made each day around us – although we often don’t notice or reflect on it.  Now we have a chance…  The New York Times reported today that NAZI’s were given ‘Safe Haven’ in the US.   This shocking assertion follows previous reports and histories conducted by the CIA exposing their potential involvement. The article begins…

A secret history of the United States government’s Nazi-hunting operation concludes that American intelligence officials created a “safe haven” in the United States for Nazis and their collaborators after World War II, and it details decades of clashes, often hidden, with other nations over war criminals here and abroad.

This ‘secret history’ is a 600 page report from the Department of Justice titled, ‘Office of Special Investigations: Striving for Accountability in the Aftermath of the Holocaust’ that the New York Times obtained and published on their website today.  The Times also published an interactive viewer that compares the full version of the report with a previous edited version.  With scrolling side-by-side windows, you can look at what was omitted and why.

To get to the heart of the matter, Chapter 5 of the report, titled, ‘Alleged US Support for NAZI’s Entering the US’, begins with these extremely important questions:

Whether the United States helped persecutors enter the country has implications for our nation in terms of the values it may reflect. Did we knowingly permit major or even minor Nazi persecutors to enter, and if so, what justification was given? At what level within the government was there legal and moral authority to advance such a policy? And have efforts made to conceal such activities from the public in order to advance some perceived higher national good?

These questions have a great deal of weight, especially for high school students learning about the US role in World War 2.  The beginning paragraph continues:

OSI did not originally conceive its mission as including the need to answer these questions. But it was inexorably drawn to the issues when subjects argued that they were in the country at the behest, or with the knowledge, of the United States – allegedly in return for information or services supplied to the government during or after the war. OSI learned that some persecutors were indeed knowingly granted entry. America, which prided itself on being a safe haven for the persecuted, became – in some small measure – a safe haven for persecutors as well. Some may view the government’s collaboration with persecutors as a Faustian bargain. Others will see it as a reasonable moral compromise borne of necessity.

These last two sentences form an essential question.  Which side do you take?

Osama Bin Laden’s Death

Good evening.  Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.

These were the words spoken by President Obama on May 2nd 2011.  It was enormously important news, and something noted by historians everywhere as a major event.  Let’s learn more about this story from many different perspectives.

First, let’s learn as much on this event as possible:

You can also see how many newspapers around the world created their headlines for that important day:

Next, let’s examine some ideas on how this event can be taught in the classroom:

You can also explore how this is a teachable moment by looking at dozens of other events and issues brought to the classroom from current events.  There’s a huge list here:

Let’s also take a look at a classroom exercise concerning US policy in Afghanistan and the options for the US on the War on Terror following Bin Laden’s death:

Who are the people who fight for Osama Bin Laden?  Take a look at this PBS Frontline documentary that goes behind the scenes of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

What was it like to be in the war room in the White House watching the operation take place live?  Take a look here.

Think of what it is like for soldiers to kill.  There is a lot more here than action and adventure.  This documentary explores those in the military who choose non-violence.  It’s an interesting counterpoint to the excitement of the raid on Bin Laden.

What about the cost?  Since 9/11 there has been a huge amount of money spent on the war on terror.  How much?  Take a look here:

And also take a look at the cost of both wars (Afghanistan and Iraq) here.  It’s constantly going up according to how much money Congress appropriates.  Here’s a snapshot on Monday morning, May 9.

Finally, how did Twitter get this story out?  Take a look here at a graph:

As well as a story on NPR concerning Twitter breaking the news here.

If there are other ideas, suggestions, comments or questions, please let me know.  The last link I’d like to leave you with is from a former student who wrote about this on his blog, The Daily Voice of Reason.  Check it out.

 

 

Native Hawaiian Government?

HONOLULU –  Their kingdom long ago overthrown, Native Hawaiians seeking redress are closer than they’ve ever been to reclaiming a piece of Hawaii.

Native Hawaiians are the last remaining indigenous group in the United States that hasn’t been allowed to establish their own government, a right already extended to Alaska Natives and 564 Native American tribes.

With a final vote pending in the U.S. Senate and Hawaii-born President Barack Obama on their side, the nation’s 400,000 Native Hawaiians could earn federal recognition as soon as this month.” and the land, money and power that comes with it. They measure passed the U.S. House last month.

Many Native Hawaiians believe this process could help right the wrongs perpetuated since their kingdom was overthrown in 1893. The also point to the hundreds of thousands who died from diseases spread by foreign explorers before the kingdom fell.

Native Hawaiians never fully assimilated after the first Europeans arrived in 1778: They earn less money, live shorter lives, get sent to prison more often and are more likely to end up homeless than other ethnicities, said Clyde Namuo, CEO of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the state-funded agency founded to improve the conditions of Native Hawaiians.

“It’s about correcting the injustice,” Namuo said. “When you look very closely at the numbers — prison, health, wealth, education — we are not at the level that our colonizers are at.”

However, just what Native Hawaiians would receive if the federal recognition measure passes Congress is uncertain. The bill sets up negotiations between a new Native Hawaiian government, the state of Hawaii and the federal government, but it doesn’t specify what resources Native Hawaiians would receive.

Namuo said he hopes the lives of Native Hawaiians would be improved if they had more control of their own destiny.

A disproportionate share of Native Hawaiians find themselves homeless, huddled beneath plastic tarps in beach camps or living in shelters. Native Hawaiians make up 28 percent of the state’s homeless who received outreach services, while accounting for about 20 percent of the population, according to last year’s report by the University of Hawaii Center on the Family.

“It’s been far too long for the Hawaiian people to be suffering,” said Bert Beaman, a Hawaiian who lives at Keaau Beach Park. “Whatever Hawaiians can get, get it and be grateful.”

Opponents of the legislation say it would give Native Hawaiians special treatment at the expense of other taxpayers. One study commissioned by a group opposed to a Native Hawaiian government predicted it would cost $343 million a year in lost tax revenue if 25 percent of the state’s lands were transferred.

“It is not the role of government to try and make up for past wrongs,” said Jamie Story, president of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, which promotes free markets and small government.

Supporters view the proposal as a way to provide reconciliation to the Hawaiian people that was urged in the 1993 Apology Resolution, in which Congress acknowledged the United States’ role in the Hawaiian Kingdom’s overthrow 100 years earlier.

They hope Native Hawaiians could eventually get greater access to affordable housing, their own culturally focused education system, health centers and full-time jobs that would include teaching hula or Hawaiian language if the bill passes.

“Things would get better for Hawaiians,” said Jade Danner, vice president of the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement. “When Native Hawaiians are truly empowered to make their own decisions, it’s not that we’ll make better decisions than anybody else. It’s that we know our communities and we know what will work.”

Others are skeptical, including some of the homeless, who wonder whether any of these changes would help them.

“I don’t think it’s going to be enough. Even if we get money, the homeless still need more help after living on the beach for so long,” said Alice Greenwood, who lives in transitional housing.

The amount of money and land at stake could be substantial.

About $338 million is held in trust for Native Hawaiians by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. In addition, University of Hawaii law professor Jon Van Dyke, who wrote “Who Owns the Crown Lands of Hawaii?”, said a Hawaiian government should receive about 1 million acres — about 20 percent of the state’s land mass that was once monarchy property.

How the trust money and land would be used is a big question, said Kaulana Park, chairman of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, which provides housing to Native Hawaiians on former kingdom lands.

“Where that goes nobody knows, whether it’s housing, economic development or health,” Park said. “The first hurdle is to get it passed.”

A majority of Native Hawaiians favor this process of federal recognition, Namuo said. But it is opposed by pro-independence groups who want the Hawaiian kingdom restored.

About 109,000 Native Hawaiians have registered for Kau Inoa, a signature drive run by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to establish a list of voters who would be eligible for elections associated with a Native Hawaiian government entity.

A spokesman for U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, said the legislation could reach the Senate floor this month, but because of other national priorities, Akaka’s goal is to get the vote by August.

“This is the moment of truth,” said Van Dyke. “I’m optimistic that we’re going to see it passed, and then it will be exciting to see what happens,” Van Dyke said.

By MARK NIESSE, Associated Press Writer Mark Niesse, Associated Press Writer

Draft of US Constitution Found

constitution

Early draft of the Constitution found in Phila.

By Edward Colimore

Inquirer Staff Writer

Researcher Lorianne Updike Toler was intrigued by the centuries-old document at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

On the back of a treasured draft of the U.S. Constitution was a truncated version of the same document, starting with the familiar words: “We The People. . . .”

They had been scribbled upside down by one of the Constitution’s framers, James Wilson, in the summer of 1787. The cursive continued, then abruptly stopped, as if pages were missing.

A mystery, Toler thought, until she examined other Wilson papers from the Historical Society’s vault in Philadelphia and found what appeared to be the rest of the draft, titled “The Continuation of the Scheme.”

The document – one of 21 million in the Historical Society’s collection – was known to scholars, but probably should have been placed with the other drafts, said constitutional scholar John P. Kaminski, director of the Center for the Study of the American Constitution in the history department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“This was the kind of moment historians dream about,” said Toler, 30, a lawyer and founding president of the Constitutional Sources Project (www.ConSource.org), a nonprofit organization, based in Washington, that promotes an understanding of and access to U.S. Constitution documents.

“This was national scripture, a piece of our Constitution’s history,” she said of her find in November. “It was difficult to keep my hands from trembling.”

As other researchers “realized what was happening, there was a sort of hushed awe that settled over the reading room,” Toler said. “One of them said the hair on her arms stood on end.”

Two drafts of the Constitution in Wilson’s hand had been separated from his papers long ago. One of them included the beginning of still another draft and was apparently seen as part of a single working version, instead of a separate draft.

Toler said “The Continuation of the Scheme,” including its provisions about the executive and judiciary branches, completes that draft, making it a third.

She “found a document that was sort of buried in its right place, but not taken out by an archivist for special treatment,” said Kaminski, the constitutional scholar. “This is a valuable document. It is in Wilson’s hand, and it was in Wilson’s papers, where it should have been.”

With so many historical documents “going online, you don’t have that kind of discovery in an archives,” he added. “I can understand why [Toler] would be excited.”

For Nathan Raab, a member of the Board of Councilors of the Historical Society, the documents are reminders “of the great depth of the archives there and the emotional power of holding a piece of history in your hand.”

“The Continuation of the Scheme” and countless other documents had been evaluated by scholars decades ago before being carefully filed away at the Historical Society at 13th and Locust Streets.

“Perhaps this one should have been placed with the other drafts,” said Lee Arnold, senior director of the library and collections at the Historical Society. “We may do that, but no decision has been made.

“We want to look at it more thoroughly,” he said. “In the end, though, [the document] is perfectly fine.”

The drafts of the Constitution in Wilson’s hand were removed from his other papers and placed in Mylar and acid-free folios and have been occasionally displayed.

“The Continuation of the Scheme” document “was safe and preserved, but not given the prominence,” said Kaminski, chief editor of the book The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution.

“Wilson was a great man and one of the great founders and should be respected for that,” he said. “We owe him our gratitude for the role he played.”

Wilson, who lived in Philadelphia, was selected July 24, 1787, with four other members of the Constitutional Convention to serve on the Committee of Detail.

The committee – which also had John Rutledge, Edmund Randolph, Nathaniel Gorham, and Oliver Ellsworth – used 28 resolutions passed by members of the convention to flesh out the Constitution.

They finished their work and presented it Aug. 6, 1787, to the Constitutional Convention. It included Wilson’s famous “We the People” beginning.

Seeing the framers’ drafts and thought processes leading up to that point was especially thrilling to Toler, who is studying at Oxford University, where she is seeking a doctorate in U.S. history and specializing in constitutional legal history.

“The Constitution may be the most important document written in modern history,” said Toler. “It is the longest-standing written constitution and the basis for most of the constitutions in the world.”

After finding the draft, “I felt like an actor in the movie National Treasure, but [actor] Nicolas Cage was nowhere to be found,” Toler added.

“However, what I found was a national treasure – the real national treasure.”