I like to joke with my students when they ask me a question to which I have no idea the answer: believe it or not, being a historian does not mean knowing all things about all aspects of history. Case in point: my admittedly-sketchy knowledge of the finer points of the US Constitution. Over the last several weeks I’ve found myself searching the web for reliable non-partisan sources to help students with questions they have about current events related to the transfer of power, the nomination of a candidate to the Supreme Court, and contested elections. Twenty-plus years ago, as a graduate student preparing for doctoral exams, I no doubt could have answered these questions with a lot more certainty than I can today. Nowadays, I leave the day-to-day teaching of the Constitution to my expert colleagues in political science. So this week I’m sharing some of the resources that I and my students have found particularly helpful in recent days. Side note: there are seemingly infinite resources online. I have sought to be as non-partisan as possible with these suggestions while acknowledging that every source has a bias of one sort or another. The National Constitution Center has a fabulous “Interactive Constitution” that allows students to read the document by segment, offers brief articles on common/shared arguments, and a section called “Matters of Debate” written by scholars on opposing sides of interpretations. For any student or teacher looking for a straightforward, accessible site for easy reference, the National Constitution Center is the place to start. The Constitution Annotated is a more scholarly but also useful site that calls itself “a comprehensive, government-sanctioned record of the interpretations of the Constitution.” If, after the circus of the first Presidential Debate, you have students asking “what’s the point?” send them to the Commission on Presidential Debates web site, which is an amazing resource for transcripts and videos. Here students have the opportunity to judge for themselves how debates have changed in practice and process throughout the twentieth century. The “Debate History” tab will take students all the way back to the 1858 debates. Asking the students to compare our 2020 Presidential Debate(s) to one from years past is a fun way to engage them in a discussion of the media’s role in politics and to consider how candidates’ interactions with each other have changed dramatically over time. Finally, if students are curious about the history of voting/voting rights in the United States, there are many websites that provide basic timelines and some analysis. See, for example, the Carnegie Corporation’s Voting Rights: A Short History , which offers a brief illustrated timeline. The League of Women Voters ’ educational initiative may be of interest to students who want to learn how non-partisan organizations seek to encourage voter turnout. Students may also find useful voting resources by checking the web sites for their state’s Secretary of State’s Office. My home state of Massachusetts , for example, maintains a robust and informative site to help with all kinds of voting-related questions. These next several weeks will no doubt be politically contentious. As historians and teachers, the best we can do is offer our students resources to consider where our country has been historically and the critical thinking skills to decide the direction of our nation’s future.
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If you haven’t already heard, this fall Macmillan Learning is offering a “Black History, Black Stories” essay and video contest for college students and faculty: “we are looking to African American history to understand what has happened, what might happen, and how it may orient us in finding a better path forward. We want you to share your story: how are YOU drawing inspiration from Black history, events, movements, or leaders?” See the above link for submission details including acceptable formats and contest dates. I’m encouraging my students to submit entries so I figure this week I will draft one of my own to share with them.
Shortly after I arrived at the Community College of Rhode Island in 2007 I watched a documentary film with my US History II students -- part of the PBS series “The Great Depression,” which focused on the Joe Louis fights of the 1930s. Author Maya Angelou was interviewed about growing up black in the 1920s and 1930s. I looked around my classroom as she spoke. My students were then -- and are even more so now -- a racially and ethnically diverse group. Many had never heard of Joe Louis and only a few had read anything by Maya Angelou. What caught their attention, however, was her description of the harsh inequities of the segregated American school system. Her amazement at seeing a “new book” for the first time stuck with the students and we discussed it at length after the film.
Weeks later we studied Brown v. Board of Education (1954) and again the inequality of the past in our country’s school systems was discussed. This time with a new twist: students began comparing their modern day educational experiences. The suburban-students wondered aloud what schools were like in inner cities and vice versa. What they all seemed to agree upon, in spite of their various economic backgrounds and political differences, was that education should be equal . Listening to my students was inspiring in the sense that this diverse group of people have come to the shared conclusion, here in the 21st century, that inequality in education harms all of society.
So when I think about what inspires me about black history I’m most encouraged by the changes in ideology that have taken place overtime. I remind my students regularly that it’s easier to change a law than it is to change the way people think. And so while I’m affected by the changes that have taken place, I’m motivated by the reality that so many white Americans are still stuck in their racist beliefs. The first presidential debate provides dramatic evidence that we have people in power in this country who refuse to denounce the white supremacy that has plagued us since the first colonists arrived in North America. As historians and teachers, therefore, we clearly have a long, long way to go. Nonetheless, I will continue to draw inspiration from the small victories in hopes that our nation’s future is brighter and more equitable as a result.
Ask your students to think about their personal inspiration and to share it with us at the Macmillan Community. And, share your views with them as well! Visit this link for details. Even if your students decide not to do a formal contest submission, sharing their perspectives with classmates can, in itself, be informative and inspirational. I can’t wait to read/see the winning entries!
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It’s week three of the anything-but-normal fall semester of 2020: a good time to think about what’s working and what is not. This week’s blog, then, is a mismatch of things I’ve been thinking about since the semester began. I receive what feels like dozens and dozens and dozens of emails every single day. Teaching asynchronous, fully-online classes and never seeing my students face-to-face except for virtual office hours means that I take a daily descent into a bottomless inbox. I get emails at all hours of the day and night, all week and weekend long. The first week of classes I studiously carved out two blocks of time per day when I specifically responded to emails. Something happened during week two. I threw that organized practice out the window when I started feeling overwhelmed by the volume that would greet me during those planned response times. Reality, however, is that I’m likely being less productive now because I’m responding when each email pings my box even if it is interrupting other work. To add to the stress of the string of messages, I am constantly doubting the written directions I’ve given. More than once a day my internal voice asks “Isn’t that in the syllabus?” as I address a student’s question. I’ve literally re-read my syllabus countless times to check myself before responding. It’s almost as if my brain is saying “if people are asking the question, the answer must not be there.” But then the answer IS there … and so I just feel frustrated. On the other hand, the writing assignments I have added for extra credit have been a fabulous addition to my Black History class. This past week students read “What Kids are Really Learning About Slavery” ( The Atlantic 2018) . Although a small percentage of students in the class chose to complete the extra-credit assignment, those who did gave me a window through which I could learn about my students’ prior knowledge of Black History. Several wrote that the article forced them to consider the age at which they first learned about slavery in grade school. Some wondered if their schools waited too long to introduce difficult topics. Many reflected that their study of the institution had never before been directly linked to the history of racism in the United States. In their grade-school classes, some wrote, slavery and racism seemed completely disconnected. These observations have opened my eyes further to the beliefs that my students bring to my US history classes in general. As I move forward with this semester I’m hoping to do more assignments that help students see history as a process and not just lists of facts to memorize. The more I read their informal writings on historical events, the clearer it becomes that most students give very little thought to what they have been taught and why . Living in this era of so-called “fake news” makes it more important than ever that as historians we help students to question their sources -- even when those sources are academic. Now if I could only get them to read the syllabus...
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How are you drawing inspiration from historical black events, movements, and leaders?
2020 has been a time of extraordinary challenges for many people. It has also been a time of resurgent activism, nowhere more dramatically than with events associated with the #BlackLivesMatter movement—events that took their inspiration from the long quest for equality for Black Americans and charismatic leaders like the late John Lewis.
In many respects, we are looking to African American history to understand what has happened, what might happen, and how it may orient us in finding a better path forward. We want you to share your story: how are YOU drawing inspiration from black history, events, movements, or leaders? Share your video or short written story for a chance to win up to $1000!*
All higher education students and faculty are eligible to share their stories for participation in the contest.
Visit our contest website for more details on how to enter. We look forward to hearing your story!
* Fall 2020 Macmillan Learning Black History, Black Stories Contest
No purchase is necessary. Open only to legal residents of the fifty (50) United States and the District of Columbia who, at the time of entry, are 18 years of age or older, are enrolled as a student at, or employed as an instructor at, a higher education institution within any of the fifty (50) United States or the District of Columbia. Must enter by 11:59 p.m. ET on December 14, 2020. Void where prohibited. For full Official Rules, visit https://go.macmillanlearning.com/black-stories-terms-and-conditions.html . Sponsored by Bedford, Freeman & Worth Publishing Group, LLC d/b/a Macmillan Learnin g.
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My youngest son starts his junior year of high school this week. There is a pile of brand new books ready for his year ahead on the floor of my home office. More than once I have found myself flipping through his English and history texts: no doubt I am more excited about what he will learn in the year ahead than he is. His indifference reminds me how important it is that we as teachers find ways to reinvigorate our students at the start of a new school year and ignite their desire to learn. I’m finding this challenge more daunting than ever as we start the fall semester of 2020. All of my courses are online and asynchronous, which means there will never be a moment in which all of the students in one course are simultaneously learning in the same class room. I’m personally struggling with the knowledge that this semester’s “teaching” will not feel like any previous experience. Monday was my “first day of school” and it went something like this: first thing in the morning I checked that my learning management system was working properly and responded to dozens of emails. Throughout the day I replied to more emails and then began reading the short introductory assignments that students are posting throughout the week. Later this week I will hold virtual office hours … hopeful that someone will pop up on my screen to say hello or ask a question. I will record lectures for next week’s classes and prepare/post visual aids. All in the solitude of my at-home workspace. Admittedly, I had a really hard time getting excited about my first day of school, which made me wonder how my students are feeling. My high school-age son returns to his campus this week and will have social interactions with fellow students and teachers. I’m so jealous! For those of us who are completely online and asynchronous there is a strange void that exists and a feeling of intense isolation that is not typical for teachers. I’m wondering how I personally will overcome the physical divide between the students and myself: we are connected this semester by the content rather than the shared space of a classroom. Now, more than ever, I’d love to hear from Macmillan Community faculty who, like me, are fully online for the first time in their teaching careers. How are you crossing the divide to ensure that you still connect personally with your students? How will you conduct office hours? What kinds of changes have you made to your syllabi to adjust a formerly in-person class to asynchronous?
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I won't sugarcoat it: 2020 has been brutal in many different ways. I remember when the pandemic was really in full swing, there were so many public figures comparing COVID to 9/11. They meant to imply that this would be a defining moment for the new generation. They signaled that this would be so impactful that nobody could forget the experience; that it would be etched in our collective memory. Then, I remember hearing about Ahmaud Arbery and seeing that footage for the first time and just being shattered and thinking the same thing: I may not remember the date, but I'll always remember how crushing that footage was to watch. The problem is: then came George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Problem is: then I started thinking about Freddie Gray and Trayvon Martin and Sandra Bland and the many other names that I was struggling to recall. All of these senseless killings happened within my lifetime and those events have already gotten fuzzy. Where was I when I first heard? Who told me? Perhaps most important of all: how much sadness can one heart hold?
I don't have answers to all the above questions. I know and understand those that cannot continue to watch these crippling images of black bodies being destroyed on a devastating news cycle loop, yet I don't want to forget either. We must not forget! I came across "Voices from The Black Lives Matter Protests (A Short Film)" Running 8 minutes and 45 seconds, this video montage composed of audio and visual snapshots in the 14 days after George Floyd's murder put together by Vanity Fair crystallized both my memories of those days, as well as pivotal voices of the movement. For me, the toughest part of all may be the closing screens with the many names that the video is meant to honor. I don't even know all of them, or maybe there were some I forgot. We must remember. This helps me to remember, no matter how painful.
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I'm not a fan of being asked by students for "extra credit" assignments. Finally, however, this semester, I've found a reason to adopt a form of the practice in hopes that my students will gain some extra knowledge along the way to their coveted extra points. A continuously evolving result of the rise in civil rights activism prompted by the death of George Floyd in May has been new attention by the media and public on the history of black Americans. Most recently, as our nation marked the one-hundredth anniversary of the 19th amendment to the Constitution, mainstream publications highlighted the participation of black women in the suffrage movement. As a historian it has been heartening for me to see non-academic friends post articles about the work of Ida Wells on social media, among other courageous black women who were previously relegated to footnotes. As we approach what is likely to be a uniquely different fall semester, I want to encourage my students to take note of new spaces where they are seeing black history acknowledged. It’s not February, after all -- “Black History Month” -- and the sad reality is that prior to the tumultuous summer of 2020 most Americans did not know anything about Juneteenth or the Greenwood (Tulsa) Massacre of 1921. As a historian I want to see this new public fascination with black history find its way permanently into our K-12 curriculum so that the first time a student learns about the horrors of slavery and Jim Crow is not in my college classroom. One of my goals, however, is also to help students to recognize that understanding black history means more than knowing the ideological differences between Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. Our students need to acknowledge with the help of history the level to which racism and stereotyping have infiltrated all aspects of American society. We each have to start somewhere so my simple plan for this fall is to share an article -- weekly or bi-weekly -- that will encourage deeper reflection by my students and not just memorization of famous names and speeches. The article I’ve chosen to share to start the semester is “The Penn Museum Moves Collection of Enslaved People’s Skulls into Storage” ( Smithsonian , 4 August 2020). To those unfamiliar with the work of physician Samuel George Morton I invite you to read the article (and the various sources linked within) to learn about the Museum’s display of skulls, including at least 50 that critics argue were used by Morton and others “as pseudo-scientific evidence of a racial hierarchy and justification for slavery.” Students at the Ivy League school were instrumental in pushing for removal of the skulls from the Museum’s display. My plan is to create an extra-credit generating discussion board that will provide space for students to respond to the articles, share perspectives, and ask questions. I will encourage them to reflect on how the subject matter enlightens their personal understanding of black history as well as the way that the particular topic informs us how racism came to be so deeply ingrained in the American psyche. It is my hope that this first article, for example, will encourage students to begin thinking about scientific racism several weeks before we reach the subject matter in the textbook and simultaneously expand on whichever topic we are covering during a particular week in a no-stakes environment of extra-credit discussion. Extra credit: yay or nay? New assignments to help your students engage in the world around them while learning new course content? Please share.
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The Voting Rights Act was passed 55 years ago today. A movement that outlawed widespread voting discrimination, particularly for people of color, yet we all must consider the conundrum: have we really moved that far ahead of where we were 55 years prior?!
I'm curious what everyone in the community is doing as a way of not only encouraging their students to make sure that they are registered but also their family members, friends, kids of voting age, etc. Please share it below!
I think we can all agree that exercising this right to vote has never been more important. The fight for racial equality is from over and we must all do our part.
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Like most of you, no doubt, I’m bracing for a (hopefully) healthy dose of uncertainty during this coming fall semester. As faculty at a community college with a large number of nursing, health science, dental hygiene and engineering students, most of us who teach in the humanities and social sciences have given up our on-campus classroom space so that those professors who need to be face-to-face with students can do so safely. For the first time in my twenty-plus year teaching career, all of my classes will be completely online. I will admit to feeling overwhelmed by this reality in spite of the fact that I have taught online for more than ten years. I was an early adopter to the practice -- flexibility for working students and the creation of classroom space where students who are uncomfortable participating in person can find and share their voices are just two of the many positives of online learning. That being said, I never intended to move to a completely online teaching load and I’m feeling really sad about it. First and foremost, I will miss my students’ energy in the classroom. It’s reasonable to assume that the majority of us who teach -- at any level -- do so because we truly enjoy being with learners. We enjoy the process of guiding people through new information, and we take pride in the accomplishments of our students -- especially those who we have witnessed work extremely hard amidst difficult circumstances. I’m going to miss my daily interactions with fellow faculty. Email and virtual meetings, while productive, are not the same as being in a room with people who share our vision for the students we teach and want to work together to solve problems. I’m going to miss working quietly at my desk while my wonderfully smart and funny office-mate holds her student visiting hours. Meeting her sociology students and encouraging them to take a history course as a supplement to whatever field they are studying has brought many vibrant and energetic young people into my history classroom. I will miss being shushed in the library. And I’ll miss the staff members who keep our college running smoothly day to day and will continue to do so even when the majority of students and faculty are not on campus, especially the administrative assistants who keep me organized and always seem to have a snack in their desks on the days that my energy is lagging. As I prepare now for the semester to begin in three weeks, therefore, I’m looking for ways to not pass on this sense of sadness to my students. There already exists a barrier between students and faculty in online courses because of the method of delivery. How do we overcome that barrier and create the same kinds of connections we have had in the past with on-campus students? Will students attend my virtual office hours? Are there other ways to build bridges and community with online students that have worked in your virtual classroom? Please share.
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With the widespread cases of people afflicted with Covid-19, it can be depressing to hear about the total number of people affected by this disease. Added to that stress is knowing that with the closing of businesses--both temporary and permanent--jobs are lost and the road to economic recovery will be a long one.
Historically, this isn’t the first virulent epidemic in the United States, there have been several instances:
HIV/AIDS Epidemic: The first case of the HIV/AIDs infection was in New York City in 1981--at the time doctors didn’t know what the disease was and what was causing it ¹. As of 2017, there are over 37 million people worldwide living with this infection. To commemorate those who have lost their lives to HIV/AIDS and to raise awareness on this issue, December 1st is known as World Aids Day².
The Influenza Pandemic of 1918 (Spanish Flu): H1N1 was one of the most fatal diseases in the United States history. People from nearly all ages were at risk: those who are 5 years old or younger, 20-40, and 65 and older were vulnerable to the disease³. Worldwide, 50 million people died; 675,000 of them are from the United States⁴. While it is often called the "Spanish Flu" that is a misnomer--the actual origin of the outbreak is unknown⁵.
Polio: One of the few diseases that has been virtually wiped out in the United States for over 30 years⁶. Polio affected more than 37,000 people per year in the US alone⁷.
The one thing these three epidemics have in common is that things have gotten better. While it might not bring a lot of immediate solace to what’s going on, it is a re-affirming reminder that bad things do get better.
As the pandemic continues, it’s important to take care of your physical and mental health. Click on the links below for some great resources and tips on what you can do: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html
If you’re interested in learning more about online teaching and the resources available, make sure to check out the premium content in our community page.
¹NYC Aids Memorial, The New York City AIDS Memorial, nycaidsmemorial.org/timeline/.
³ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, History of 1918 Flu Pandemic. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 21 Mar. 2018, www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/1918-commemoration/1918-pandemic-history.htm.
⁵Andrews, Evan, “Why Was It Called the 'Spanish Flu?'.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 12 Jan. 2016, https://www.history.com/news/why-was-it-called-the-spanish-flu
⁶ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Polio Elimination in the U.S.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,, 25 Oct. 2019, www.cdc.gov/polio/what-is-polio/polio-us.html.
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In a recent blog I suggested that we ask our students to think about statues and memorials in their local communities that they would change. One of my goals for the coming school year is to encourage my students to be more aware of their local history and try to place it within the larger narrative of our nation’s past. In 1944 the American Historical Association published American History In Schools and Colleges in which they addressed the vast field of US history education. While there is much about the document that is now out of date -- content recommendations, for example, completely exclude women and non-white people -- I find one of the authors’ many conclusions still worthy of consideration: “The study of American history can help to produce loyal, intelligent, cooperative, well-rounded citizens only if our society honors citizens who possess these qualities.” (Chapter Two) I am struck by this statement as someone who relishes teaching my students about the uncooperative and disloyal. The Patriots were not cooperating with the mother country when they tarred and feathered Loyalists and declared their independence in the 1770s. Nat Turner refused cooperation with his master when he led an insurrection in 1831. Abolitionists expressed disloyalty to the nation when they rallied against anti-slavery petition gag orders and the Fugitive Slave Act. The 20th century has no shortage of intelligent but disloyal un-cooperatives: Alice Paul, WEB DuBois, Malcolm X, Dolores Huerta, and Gloria Steinem to name just a few. What draws me to this aged quote from 1944, however, is that some semblance of this ideology still lingers today: the sentiment that certain people should be memorialized as examples to the rest of us. Who we choose to honor is a central question present in today’s public debates about monuments, statues, flags, and names of military installations. Recently journalist Murray Whyte grappled with this topic in an insightful article titled “Weighing the fate of our most problematic public art” ( Boston Globe , July 10, 2020) Whyte describes the challenges faced by communities struggling to decide what to physically do with monuments determined to be no longer welcome or acceptable. “While defenders, such as the president, cite ‘heritage,’ there is no getting around a simple fact: Colonial monuments were always about domination -- powerfully, clearly, and publicly,” Whyte argues. “In the Jim Crow South, Confederate monuments were symbols of an old racist order, alive and cruelly dominant long after the Union victory in the war. But does locking away history, however ugly, counter the damage it causes?” Whyte’s piece encourages us as students of history to think about ways in which memorials and public art that reflect problematic historical moments in our nation’s past can encourage further discourse. Historians and artists that Whyte spoke to expressed concern that complete removal of certain monuments may mean a loss of opportunity for public conversation about uncomfortable historical realities. Where do these relics go? How do we continue to engage with them even if we as a society have acknowledged that they should not be revered? As historians we need to be continuously cognizant of what our students take with them from our classrooms into the public space. Students who understand that the disloyal and uncooperative have made significant, often positive changes in our nation’s history will, I believe, be better able to contextualize memorials and recognize that the nation’s historical record is far more complicated than any singular monument. As we look toward a future of new public efforts to document our nation's past I hope that we as a society are able to embrace a more diverse and honest conversation about our collective history.
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This summer our college filled three online sections of a six-week intensive Black History course in a matter of weeks. The sheer volume of student requests for capacity overrides led us to add to the number of sections of the full-semester course we will offer in the fall. Here at the community college where I teach students are undoubtedly motivated to understand how we as a nation arrived at current debates about race and racism. Teaching the course has been both exciting and overwhelming because so much is happening in real time around topics about which I’m introducing to the students. News references to “Jim Crow” and “Black Wall Street,” for example, are leading students to wonder about other subjects that were never taught to them in general United States history classes. Keeping the students focused on covering fifteen textbook chapters in just six weeks with the world changing seemingly by the minute around them has been difficult. Try as I might to stick to the course syllabus, weekly discussion boards have inevitably strayed to conversations about current events. I decided early in the first session of summer classes that I needed to try to satisfy both aspects of student curiosity simultaneously -- history and current events. Midway through the first six-week session, therefore, I began sending an extra email to the class each week specifically about current events with links to articles and/or videos to help the students explore a topic that I had seen or read about in the news further. The first link I sent was a “60 Minutes” piece on the Greenwood (Tulsa) Massacre of 1921. My brief email reminded the students about upcoming assignments and then added the link at the end. The cynic in me assumed that my already busy students would ignore the link. Instead I received a handful of emails sharing perspectives about what they had watched. The positive reactions from students encouraged me to continue the practice for the rest of the six-week session. I discovered along the way that a local historical organization had compiled a list of ways that residents could celebrate “Juneteenth” in our state. Sharing that list revealed to my students that Black History physically surrounds them every day -- not only during the month of February. At the end of the course I sent the students a final email that included a list of articles that I believe will be meaningful to the group now that they have completed a Black History course. This list included articles about textbook biases and surveys of current beliefs about the history of slavery. While many of these articles were published prior to the most recent round of civil rights activism that began in May 2020, my hope is that my students now have the historical context through which to understand articles that they likely would not have read prior to studying Black History in a formal course setting. The task of keeping students focused on the past to complete the course goals was enhanced by encouraging them to think about the present. By sending students links to articles and videos I hope that I encouraged the students to look beyond the news sources they might typically read and open their minds to new perspectives. Several students thanked me for helping them sort through “too much” information coming through their social media feeds while others shared articles with me that provided a foundation for further discussion and gave me a window into the news sources that students are regularly reading. How are you balancing the challenge of teaching history and current events this summer? Please share.
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June is Pride Month! Every year, organizations from all over the world hold events to raise awareness on LGBTQ+ issues while also celebrating their pride in being a part of the community.
In honor of Pride Month, I wanted to highlight some of the pioneers who had a major impact on the LGBTQ+ community.
Marsha P. Johnson- Marsha Johnson was a major advocate for the LGBTQ+ rights and had made significant contributions to the community. Originally from New Jersey, Marsha moved to Greenwich Village as it was one of the few places in the country that was a safe haven for the LGBTQ+ community¹. She was an active participant of the community and was one of the front-line protesters during the StoneWall riots². Marsha continued to advocate for the community and co-founded STAR ( Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries) and helped create one of the first homeless shelters for LGBTQ+ youth³.
Edith “Edie” Windsor- Edie Windsor was one of the biggest catalysts for overturning the DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) through her case Windsor v. United States. At the time before her case, Edie Windsor's marriage was not recognized by the federal government and after the death of her partner, she was ineligible for deductions on her estate tax⁴. She had sued and challenged Section 3 of DOMA which defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman⁵. Her Supreme Court win was the first of many for the LGBTQ+ community; subsequently, the Supreme Court was responsible for helping overturn Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act through Hollingsworth v. Perry, and Obergefell v. United States, respectively.
Keith Haring-World renowned artist Keith Haring played an instrumental role in raising awareness to the issues that affect the LGBTQ+ community. Keith Haring, originally from Pennsylvania, moved to New York City towards the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic which he then contracted later in 1987⁶. Working with multiple organizations and using his art, Keith Haring helped challenge the stigma of being gay and having HIV/AIDs. His artwork is renowned, it’s almost impossible to grow up in New York City during the 90s without seeing his artwork plastered in apparel, posters, and sometimes even mugs.
The list goes on and one, these are just some of the people who had made an impact in the LGBTQ+ community. To learn more, feel free to click on these resources from National Geographic, LGBTQ History, and CNN
1. Gillian Brockell, “The Transgender Women at Stonewall Were Pushed out of the Gay Rights Movement. Now They Are Getting a Statue in New York.,” The Washington Post (June 12, 2019), https://www.washingtonpost.com/history/2019/06/12/transgender-women-heart-stonewall-riots-are-getting-statue-new-york/.
4. "United States v. Windsor." Oyez. Accessed June 29, 2020. https://www.oyez.org/cases/2012/12-307.
6. Ending HIV. “Gay Art Legend Keith Haring.” Ending HIV, May 29, 2020. https://endinghiv.org.au/blog/legends-keith-haring/.
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The former state hospital in my town has been repurposed into an office building and luxury apartments. I drive by it regularly on my way to the grocery store. Its existence inspired the research I began in 2015 seeking to better understand the care of mentally ill women in the late 19th century. My initial curiosity about that building has contributed to my reading dozens of books on the history of mental illness and women’s healthcare, in addition to spending many, many hours in libraries and archives. The COVID-19 pandemic has slowed my research considerably. The archival work I was conducting is paused for the time being because access to the libraries is no longer available. Moving all of my courses online and planning for a seemingly un-plan-able fall semester have meant that time I would have spent this summer on research and writing has instead been dedicated to lots of online meetings and e-mail discussions about this past spring and the fall semester ahead. And yet, the voices that have spoken to me through my research still constantly weigh on my thoughts. Group exercise classes were allowed to resume outside last week here in Massachusetts so my favorite yoga teacher held our class in the courtyard space at the former state hospital -- beautiful green grass, benches, flowering trees and shrubs surrounded the students who remarked on the beauty and tranquility of the space. What played over and over in my head, however, were the stories of men and women who had lived amidst the walls of what formerly was a state institution for those deemed “insane.” I was struck in that moment by how easy it is for history to be forgotten and stories lost -- for kind, well-meaning people to have absolutely no idea of the space they are in, its history and significance. The history teacher in me had to resist the urge to interrupt students’ friendly banter about the beauty of the place with anecdotes of the sadness that would have surrounded us in that same space many years before. The experience has me thinking about voices that are lost as we re-purpose old spaces and contemplate the monuments that decorate our communities. Most of us spend very little time considering their meanings or wondering why one building is saved and others are demolished; why one person is memorialized and others forgotten, until we are forced to consider such questions. Right now, for example, statues of Christopher Columbus, Theodore Roosevelt, and Confederate leaders, among others, are being removed nationwide. It is time, as a society, to start really thinking about whose likeness should be erected in place of these relics of the past. Part of my planning for fall, then, is to design an assignment that will ask students to “replace” -- in essay form -- a historical monument/statue in their community. I’m asking the students to think not only about the history of the chosen monument as it stands today -- what/who it memorializes, when it was built, etc -- but also about ways in which the local community has celebrated or protested the memorial’s existence. What reactions does the current monument elicit from people in the community? From visitors? And, most importantly, to the student, does the monument represent the community’s past, present and future? I’m hoping that this assignment will force students to think more seriously about the issue of historical monuments: who makes decisions about the figures that a community chooses to publicly revere and why. For my students here in New England, I think this is especially relevant to ensure that they do not see the issue of Confederate statue removal as specific to only southern states but as a challenge to all communities throughout the United States to do better.
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