Category Archives: US History 1

The War of 1812 & Tecumseh

The War of 1812 is boring?  No way!  The White House burns down!  Native Americans find a true leader!  Slave revolts!  A battle fought (and won) after the treaty!  A huge win for the navy (Ol’ Ironsides – The USS Constitution).   A national anthem is written to a British drinking song.  Had enough?  No, there’s more!

First, we saw some clips from the History Channel’s ‘The First Invasion: The War of 1812’.  Click on the picture below to get the study guide, vocabulary, and discussion questions.

Then we learned about the causes and battles of the war from a really cool PowerPoint here:

And then we learned about Tecumseh and his brother, Tenskwatawa, called ‘The Prophet’.  You can watch the episode here for the powerful story of one of the greatest Native American leaders by clicking on the image below.

Labor History Unit PPT’s

Check here for the labor history assignment checklist as well as the quiz and the test questions.  If you haven’t finished in class, you can do it as a take-home assignment.  It’s due by the end of the week (March 11, 2011).  For the quiz and test, answer two of the four questions.  For the quiz, please make your answers at least half a page in length.  For the test, a full page is expected for each.  Thanks.

Labor History Websites

“I’m not a humanitarian, I’m a hell-raiser!”  Mary Harris Jones, known by workers around the world as Mother Jones, was not one to sit still and accept the world as it was.  With millions of Americans working in low-wage, dangerous working conditions, Mother Jones spoke out.  She spoke for women, miners, children and factory workers, among many more.  Why did she do it?  Why did she march?  Why did she risk jail?  Why was she called, “…the most dangerous woman in America” by President Theodore Roosevelt?

It’s all part of the story… the story of workers and their rights.  Let’s take a look at some websites that can help you understand what’s this is all about and learn more deeply about these topics: (they are in no particular order)

Check out the photographs of Lewis Hine.  He took photos all over America exposing child labor… There’s even an article (Jan 2011) in the Standard Times about child labor in New Bedford

The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire killed 146 women, because the exits were locked in their factory.  Learn more here…

The Haymarket Massacre (or Haymarket Riot) is a huge turning point in labor history… learn why here.

Chicago became the most modern city in the world in America.  Millions of immigrant workers came.  Learn more here.

Who was Emma Goldman? What impact did she have on workers?  Lots.  Learn why she was respected and feared here.

In Massachusetts, the labor movement began with working girls, especially in Lowell.  They were known as the Lowell Mill Girls… Use this website to play a game and make choices as if you were there…

Let’s also look at poetry… This famous poem is by Bertold Brecht.  In it he wonders with all the great things in history, who remembers the workers?  Check it out:

A Worker Reads History

Who built the seven gates of Thebes?
The books are filled with names of kings.
Was it the kings who hauled the craggy blocks of stone?
And Babylon, so many times destroyed.
Who built the city up each time? In which of Lima’s houses,
That city glittering with gold, lived those who built it?
In the evening when the Chinese wall was finished
Where did the masons go? Imperial Rome
Is full of arcs of triumph. Who reared them up? Over whom
Did the Caesars triumph? Byzantium lives in song.
Were all her dwellings palaces? And even in Atlantis of the legend
The night the seas rushed in,
The drowning men still bellowed for their slaves.
Young Alexander conquered India.
He alone?
Caesar beat the Gauls.
Was there not even a cook in his army?
Phillip of Spain wept as his fleet
was sunk and destroyed. Were there no other tears?
Frederick the Greek triumphed in the Seven Years War.
Who triumphed with him?
Each page a victory
At whose expense the victory ball?
Every ten years a great man,
Who paid the piper?
So many particulars.
So many questions.

–Bertold Brecht, 1928

And then there was Utah Phillips, who often said on stage, “You’ve got to MESS with people!”  As a singer and activist, there were almost none greater.  You can find good YouTube videos (below) but check out a memorial page here…

Workers Then: Labor PPT’s

If working in the US is difficult today, with near 16 million people employed because of the recession, imagine what work was like 100+ years ago, when industrialization was in its infant years.  How did people get by?  Why did unions form?  What did workers get paid?  And more importantly, what happened in New Bedford in 1928?  We’re going to learn about all of that from a couple different sources.  First, check out this amazing PowerPoint on the history of the Labor Movement.  Second, check out the photos concerning life in NYC in the turn of the century.  There’s also good stuff in there about the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Fire and its impact on workers.

Now, since we’re doing the same unit in US1 and US2, we’re going to have a slightly different focus on workers then, but the issues remain the same.  Let me know what you think!

Workers Now: Waging a Living

In the effort to learn more about workers and labor 100 years ago, we began this new unit by studying the stories of workers today.  What’s this film about? Here’s it’s description:

If you work hard, you get ahead. That’s the American Dream in a nutshell  no matter what your race, color, creed or economic starting point, hard work will improve your life and increase your children’s opportunities. Yet, this widely held dream is out of reach for an increasing number of working Americans.

One in four American workers more than 30 million people are stuck in jobs that pay less than the federal poverty level for a family of four. (i) Housing costs, to name just one of several essential living expenses, have tripled since 1979, (ii) while real wages for male low-wage workers are actually less than they were 30 years ago. (iii) But the new face of the working poor is overwhelmingly that of a woman struggling to support her children. Only 37 percent of single mothers receive child support, and that support averages just $1,331 per year. (iv) Nearly a quarter of the country’s children now live below the poverty line. (v)

What do these numbers mean in human terms? What is it really like to work full-time and remain poor? Waging a Living provides a sobering answer. Filmed over three years, the documentary offers intimate profiles of four working Americans: Jean Reynolds, Jerry Longoria, Barbara Brooks, and Mary Venittelli as they struggle to lift their families out of poverty.

Good-humored and strong-willed, Jean Reynolds is a 51-year-old certified nursing assistant in Keansburg, N.J., who supports three children, including her cancer-stricken eldest daughter, Bridget, and two of Bridget’s four children. She receives no help from her ex-husband. After 15 years working at the same nursing home, providing care to the infirm and dying, Jean earns the maximum wage the home pays — $11 per hour. Without health insurance, Jean is losing the battle to cover her daughter’s medical bills and her own everyday household expenses. It isn’t the life she was born into, and Jean grieves that she can’t give her children what her parents gave her. Ironically, Jean leads a successful drive for wage increases that do not ultimately benefit her; she’s already at “the max.” So when she is forced to take emergency custody of Bridget’s two other children, her situation becomes dire. Evicted from her home, with seven dependents in tow, Jean desperately turns to public assistance for the first time in her life and receives emergency aid. As grateful as she is, Jean knows all too well that the reprieve is only temporary.

Jerry Longoria is a 42-year-old security guard, whose $12 hourly wage barely covers the basics, including a tiny room in an SRO hotel in a blighted San Francisco neighborhood. A recovering alcoholic and drug addict, now four years sober, Jerry is nothing if not a dreamer. He dreams of finding better work, meeting someone special and finding a decent place to live. Although he manages to make child support payments every month, his fondest dream is to see his children in North Carolina after a nine-year absence. Jerry also jumps into union activism, speaking at rallies and meetings in support of a successful campaign for regular, yet modest, pay increases and health benefits for the city’s security guards. With remarkable discipline, Jerry saves enough money to travel cross-country for a warm reunion with his children, but when he returns home, he loses his job after an argument with his boss. He finds another job, but at lower pay, and laments that it will take eight years just to get back to the salary he used to earn.

Barbara Brooks is a 36-year-old single mother of five living in Freeport, N.Y. Her story most graphically illustrates the hazards of what she calls “hustling backwards.” Barbara, raised in abusive and impoverished homes, is poised and determined. In Waging a Living, she’s in a grueling struggle to balance her responsibilities as a mother, full-time worker and student. As a counselor at a juvenile detention facility where she herself was placed as a teenager, she earns $8.25 per hour and relies on a range of government services to make ends meet. Barbara dreams of a better life, which is why she continues her education despite the almost unbearable demands it places on her. The first blow comes when a favorable job evaluation brings her a promotion to $11 per hour, but the additional $450 she earns each month will cost her $600 a month in lost government aid. Though being off government assistance is part of her dream, she is falling behind financially even as she succeeds at work. More determined than ever to find the answer in education, Barbara earns her associate’s degree and gets a $15-an-hour job as a recreational therapist at a nearby nursing home. But, once again, she finds her income gains are wiped out by the elimination of government benefits. Unable to support her family on her new salary, she returns to a grueling work-and-school schedule, this time to earn a bachelor’s degree.

A 41-year-old single mother of three living in southern New Jersey, Mary Venittelli once led a comfortable middle-class life until it was derailed by a bitter divorce. When Mary re-enters the workforce, the only job she finds is a waitress position paying $2.13 per hour plus tips. In her own version of “hustling backwards,” Mary must now hire babysitters who eat up a major portion of her earnings. There are nights she comes home with $30 in tips and owes the sitter $28. Without financial help from her husband while the divorce is being settled, she relies on local food pantries to feed her family, borrows money from friends and runs up $15,000 in credit card debt. She loses her car and is in danger of losing her home. She also sees the impact the situation is having on her children, especially her son Quinn, who begins throwing violent tantrums. At the last possible moment, a divorce settlement and a new relationship help prevent Mary and her kids from joining the ranks of the working homeless. But Mary, having experienced how easily the coin of middle-class life can flip, is determined to rely on herself to secure her future. She returns to school to acquire new computer skills.

“In making Waging a Living, I wanted viewers to understand what it’s like to work hard, play by the rule and still not be able to support a family,” says producer/director Roger Weisberg. “It’s easy to take for granted the janitors and security guards in the offices where we work, the waiters and bus boys in the restaurants where we eat, and the nurses and caregivers in the facilities where we place our children and elderly. I wanted to bring viewers inside the daily grind of the nameless people we encounter every day who struggle to survive from paycheck to paycheck.”

“My goal,” he concludes, “was to get people to take a new look at the prevailing American myth that hard work alone can overcome poverty.”

Waging a Living is a production of Public Policy Productions in association with Thirteen/WNET New York, with funding provided by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Ford Foundation, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

Now on to the podcasts: (iTunes player required – you can download it here)

  • POV: Waging a Living – Beyond the Living Wage – In conjunction with the P.O.V. broadcast of “Waging a Living” on August 29th, this podcast features Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman talking to experts about the nation-wide struggle for a living wage, and the future of the living wage movement.
  • POV: Waging a Living – New York City Poverty – In conjunction with the POV broadcast of “Waging a Living” on August 29th, this podcast features Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman talking with experts about poverty in New York City and the struggle toward a living wage.
  • POV: Waging a Living – Barbara Ehrenreich – In conjunction with the POV broadcast of “Waging a Living” on August 29th, journalist David Brancaccio hosts a special podcast conversation with Barbara Ehrenreich on the state of American workers and wages today.
  • POV: Waging a Living – Howard Zinn and Amy Goodman – In conjunction with the POV broadcast of “Waging a Living” on August 29th, this podcast features historian Howard Zinn talking with Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman about the history of workers’ movements in the United States.
  • POV: Waging a Living – Chicago’s Big Box Ordinance – In conjunction with the broadcast of “Waging a Living”, Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman talks with experts about the passage of the Big Box Ordinance in Chicago, which requirs large retailers to pay their workers $10 an hour with $3 in benefits by 2010.
  • POV: Waging a Living – Filmmaker Interview – Filmmaker Roger Weisberg talks about how he found the people featured in “Waging a Living,” why there is a lack of media coverage of this issue and his use of cinema verite style in the film.

Slavery Unit PPT’s

As with all units here in the class, you will have a checklist of assignments, notes, focus group questions, projects, RAFT tasks, and more that will be available on PowerPoint slides.  Use these if you are absent and need to catch up or if you would like to review the material or show it to someone else.  Here are some of the slides:

Workers Today: Waging a Living

In the effort to learn more about workers and labor 100 years ago, we began this new unit by studying the stories of workers today.  What’s this film about? Here’s it’s description:

If you work hard, you get ahead. That’s the American Dream in a nutshell  no matter what your race, color, creed or economic starting point, hard work will improve your life and increase your children’s opportunities. Yet, this widely held dream is out of reach for an increasing number of working Americans.

One in four American workers more than 30 million people are stuck in jobs that pay less than the federal poverty level for a family of four. (i) Housing costs, to name just one of several essential living expenses, have tripled since 1979, (ii) while real wages for male low-wage workers are actually less than they were 30 years ago. (iii) But the new face of the working poor is overwhelmingly that of a woman struggling to support her children. Only 37 percent of single mothers receive child support, and that support averages just $1,331 per year. (iv) Nearly a quarter of the country’s children now live below the poverty line. (v)

What do these numbers mean in human terms? What is it really like to work full-time and remain poor? Waging a Living provides a sobering answer. Filmed over three years, the documentary offers intimate profiles of four working Americans: Jean Reynolds, Jerry Longoria, Barbara Brooks, and Mary Venittelli as they struggle to lift their families out of poverty.

Good-humored and strong-willed, Jean Reynolds is a 51-year-old certified nursing assistant in Keansburg, N.J., who supports three children, including her cancer-stricken eldest daughter, Bridget, and two of Bridget’s four children. She receives no help from her ex-husband. After 15 years working at the same nursing home, providing care to the infirm and dying, Jean earns the maximum wage the home pays — $11 per hour. Without health insurance, Jean is losing the battle to cover her daughter’s medical bills and her own everyday household expenses. It isn’t the life she was born into, and Jean grieves that she can’t give her children what her parents gave her. Ironically, Jean leads a successful drive for wage increases that do not ultimately benefit her; she’s already at “the max.” So when she is forced to take emergency custody of Bridget’s two other children, her situation becomes dire. Evicted from her home, with seven dependents in tow, Jean desperately turns to public assistance for the first time in her life and receives emergency aid. As grateful as she is, Jean knows all too well that the reprieve is only temporary.

Jerry Longoria is a 42-year-old security guard, whose $12 hourly wage barely covers the basics, including a tiny room in an SRO hotel in a blighted San Francisco neighborhood. A recovering alcoholic and drug addict, now four years sober, Jerry is nothing if not a dreamer. He dreams of finding better work, meeting someone special and finding a decent place to live. Although he manages to make child support payments every month, his fondest dream is to see his children in North Carolina after a nine-year absence. Jerry also jumps into union activism, speaking at rallies and meetings in support of a successful campaign for regular, yet modest, pay increases and health benefits for the city’s security guards. With remarkable discipline, Jerry saves enough money to travel cross-country for a warm reunion with his children, but when he returns home, he loses his job after an argument with his boss. He finds another job, but at lower pay, and laments that it will take eight years just to get back to the salary he used to earn.

Barbara Brooks is a 36-year-old single mother of five living in Freeport, N.Y. Her story most graphically illustrates the hazards of what she calls “hustling backwards.” Barbara, raised in abusive and impoverished homes, is poised and determined. In Waging a Living, she’s in a grueling struggle to balance her responsibilities as a mother, full-time worker and student. As a counselor at a juvenile detention facility where she herself was placed as a teenager, she earns $8.25 per hour and relies on a range of government services to make ends meet. Barbara dreams of a better life, which is why she continues her education despite the almost unbearable demands it places on her. The first blow comes when a favorable job evaluation brings her a promotion to $11 per hour, but the additional $450 she earns each month will cost her $600 a month in lost government aid. Though being off government assistance is part of her dream, she is falling behind financially even as she succeeds at work. More determined than ever to find the answer in education, Barbara earns her associate’s degree and gets a $15-an-hour job as a recreational therapist at a nearby nursing home. But, once again, she finds her income gains are wiped out by the elimination of government benefits. Unable to support her family on her new salary, she returns to a grueling work-and-school schedule, this time to earn a bachelor’s degree.

A 41-year-old single mother of three living in southern New Jersey, Mary Venittelli once led a comfortable middle-class life until it was derailed by a bitter divorce. When Mary re-enters the workforce, the only job she finds is a waitress position paying $2.13 per hour plus tips. In her own version of “hustling backwards,” Mary must now hire babysitters who eat up a major portion of her earnings. There are nights she comes home with $30 in tips and owes the sitter $28. Without financial help from her husband while the divorce is being settled, she relies on local food pantries to feed her family, borrows money from friends and runs up $15,000 in credit card debt. She loses her car and is in danger of losing her home. She also sees the impact the situation is having on her children, especially her son Quinn, who begins throwing violent tantrums. At the last possible moment, a divorce settlement and a new relationship help prevent Mary and her kids from joining the ranks of the working homeless. But Mary, having experienced how easily the coin of middle-class life can flip, is determined to rely on herself to secure her future. She returns to school to acquire new computer skills.

“In making Waging a Living, I wanted viewers to understand what it’s like to work hard, play by the rule and still not be able to support a family,” says producer/director Roger Weisberg. “It’s easy to take for granted the janitors and security guards in the offices where we work, the waiters and bus boys in the restaurants where we eat, and the nurses and caregivers in the facilities where we place our children and elderly. I wanted to bring viewers inside the daily grind of the nameless people we encounter every day who struggle to survive from paycheck to paycheck.”

“My goal,” he concludes, “was to get people to take a new look at the prevailing American myth that hard work alone can overcome poverty.”

Waging a Living is a production of Public Policy Productions in association with Thirteen/WNET New York, with funding provided by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Ford Foundation, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

Now on to the podcasts: (iTunes player required – you can download it here)

  • POV: Waging a Living – Beyond the Living Wage – In conjunction with the P.O.V. broadcast of “Waging a Living” on August 29th, this podcast features Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman talking to experts about the nation-wide struggle for a living wage, and the future of the living wage movement.
  • POV: Waging a Living – New York City Poverty – In conjunction with the POV broadcast of “Waging a Living” on August 29th, this podcast features Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman talking with experts about poverty in New York City and the struggle toward a living wage.
  • POV: Waging a Living – Barbara Ehrenreich – In conjunction with the POV broadcast of “Waging a Living” on August 29th, journalist David Brancaccio hosts a special podcast conversation with Barbara Ehrenreich on the state of American workers and wages today.
  • POV: Waging a Living – Howard Zinn and Amy Goodman – In conjunction with the POV broadcast of “Waging a Living” on August 29th, this podcast features historian Howard Zinn talking with Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman about the history of workers’ movements in the United States.
  • POV: Waging a Living – Chicago’s Big Box Ordinance – In conjunction with the broadcast of “Waging a Living”, Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman talks with experts about the passage of the Big Box Ordinance in Chicago, which requirs large retailers to pay their workers $10 an hour with $3 in benefits by 2010.
  • POV: Waging a Living – Filmmaker Interview – Filmmaker Roger Weisberg talks about how he found the people featured in “Waging a Living,” why there is a lack of media coverage of this issue and his use of cinema verite style in the film.