When I began AP World in my sophomore year of high school, I knew virtually nothing about the religion of Islam. So when we began our unit on the Islamic Empire, my experience was something akin to culture shock. I had never realized how similar Islam was to Christianity, and the more I learned about the events of that time period, the more I began to realize *why* I was so ignorant. The interactions between the Western world and the Muslim people had consistently been tense throughout history, despite having very similar religions. This…
by Ben Vinson III, Dean of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, George Washington University
Ben Vinson III reflects on how an appreciation for history can enrich our understanding of what he calls the “depth to our days.” Specifically, he recalls how the story of Mount Rushmore’s construction kindled his boyhood imagination growing up in South Dakota.
by Jaroslav Folda, N. Ferebee Taylor Professor emeritus, UNC
At the end of my sophomore year in high school, during the awards ceremony in June, I received my varsity letter for playing football. And then my history teacher, Mr. Harvey, got up and gave three academic awards. To my complete surprise, I received one of those prizes. It was a book of Plutarch’s Lives, which was inscribed to me in part as follows: “This book ... represents his persistent toil toward clear, precise and meaningful expression in history at the Paris American High School.”
In addition, Mr. Harvey had also written…
My humanities moment came in preparing to teach a course on the French Revolution. I am by training a Byzantinist and medievalist, but got my job as a world history teacher. To fill in the gap and also since I could read French, the acting department chair gave me the job of teaching the French Revolution, even though I had gotten a D in that subject at Haverford College. So I did some background reading, and one of the things that I remember was the wild statements of Jacobin party leaders in their attempts to bring virtue to the French…
by Steve Oreskovic, Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District
History teacher Steve Oreskovic discusses how he gets his students to empathize with the feelings of injustice among colonists in the run up to the American Revolution, helping them gain a richer context for learning about history.
by Kamille Bostick, Vice President, Education Programs, Levine Museum of the New South
Kamille Bostick shares the moment when she first saw the PBS documentary Eyes on the Prize and discusses how the revelations of that film history have contributed to her career and her long interest in history, especially the lives and accomplishments of African Americans.
In this video submission, Ken Burns recounts how formative experiences, both deeply personal and as a young person growing up in the midst of the Civil Rights era, have shaped his perspective on American history and have informed nearly all his documentary projects.
Ken Burns describes how lines from a historic speech given by 29-year-old Abraham Lincoln have “haunted and inspired” him for nearly 40 years. Expanding on what is revealed in those sentences, Burns discusses how they speak not only to Lincoln’s basic character and optimism, qualities that proved essential to his presidency. He goes on to note that Lincoln’s words, here and elsewhere, are suggestive of what is best in the American character.
by Thomas Scherer, Consultant, Spencer Capital Holdings
Thomas Scherer describes two related encounters which speak to the power of hearing poetry performed aloud. The first is an explanatory talk and poetry reading by the great literary scholar M. H. Abrams at the National Humanities Center; the second is hearing Lin-Manuel Miranda discuss his award-winning rap musical, Hamilton.
In the speech from which this excerpt is taken, Frederick Douglass delivered a powerful argument about the hypocrisy inherent in celebrating America’s founding while continuing to allow slavery. As he notes, “What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim.”
When my hero, Sonia Sotomayor, arrived at Princeton in 1972, she was a quietly diligent student, but one whose working-class background, ethnicity, and gender set her apart from most of her classmates. Princeton had only recently begun admitting women and there were very few Latinos (only 20) of either gender among its elite ranks.
During the spring of that first year, she took a class on Contemporary Latin America with historian Peter Winn, who — on grading her first paper — pointed out the idiomatic and grammatical errors she had made…
In a time when wives were treated like property, Abigail Adams insisted that her husband “Remember the Ladies” when writing the laws of the country and warning him, that “If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.” Full text of some of her letters can be found athttp://americainclass.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/AAdams-StudentVersion.pdf
The night of April 4, 1968, presidential candidate Robert Kennedy received the news that Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated. Kennedy was about to speak in Indianapolis and some in his campaign wondered if they should go ahead with the rally.
Moments before Kennedy climbed onto a flatbed truck to address the crowd, which had gathered in a light rain, press secretary Frank Mankiewicz gave the candidate a sheet a paper with ideas of what he might say. Kennedy slid it into his pocket without looking at it. Another aide approached with…