Learning More About the “King’s Mountain Messenger”

By Leigh Ann Gardner, Interpretive Specialist, Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area

Located in the middle of a pasture, this dogtrot log cabin with part of its roof collapsed looks no different than the other deteriorating cabins we sometimes see while out in the field. Often first homes built by early settlers, such cabins sometimes later served as slave dwellings, tenant houses, or other farm outbuildings, such as corn cribs. This cabin in Lincoln County, however, was the home of a Revolutionary War veteran named Joseph Greer, a man with a number of legends surrounding him.

Cabin

The front elevation of the cabin as it appears today.

In early December 2015, Trail of Tears project coordinator Amy Kostine, graduate research assistant Taylor Stewart, and I first visited the cabin at the request of Dr. Warren Gill, a member of the family that owns the property. Prior to viewing the cabin, we were shown the Greer family cemetery, as well as the lovely (and well-preserved) 1857 Gothic Revival home where Dr. Gill’s mother currently resides. The family is interested in knowing what preservation options exist for the cabin and graciously set aside time to show us the place and answer our questions.

Gothic Revival Home

The 1857 Gothic Revival home of the Gill family in Lincoln County is beautifully preserved.

At some point in the twentieth century, the dogtrot cabin was covered with asbestos siding, and a rear addition, along with a chimney, were also added to the home. One of the most eye-catching features of the property are the remains of the two massive stone chimneys, showing a remarkable degree of craftsmanship, that once flanked each pen of the cabin. Although part of the roof of the pens has collapsed, the interior walls and logs remain in surprisingly good condition. A later visit a few weeks ago with undergraduate student Katelyn Dinkins revealed that newspaper remnants, once used as wallpaper, remain on the walls inside each of the pens.

collage of wall and chimney remnant

Example of the newspaper that still clings to the interior walls of the cabin (left), and remnants of one of the two stone chimneys present at each end of the cabin (right).

As we work to document the history of the cabin, as well as explore possible preservation options, we are uncovering interesting and somewhat colorful stories about Joseph Greer, who was born in 1754 in Virginia. Greer’s father, Andrew, was an early settler in the Watauga Settlement, arriving there in the 1760s. Several men of the Greer family took part in the Battle of King’s Mountain in 1780, a decisive Continental victory. Joseph Greer was chosen to take a message of the victory to the Continental Congress, then in session in Philadelphia. Known for his great height (accounts vary, but it seems to have ranged between 6.5 and 7 feet), Greer strode into the room where the Congress was in session, and members reportedly remarked, “No wonder the Americans can win, if this man is a sample of their soldiers.” Following the war, Joseph Greer had a store in Philadelphia for a few years before settling in Knoxville in the late 1790s. By the early 1800s, Greer had settled on his Revolutionary land grant in what is now Lincoln County and built this cabin, sometime before 1814.

Greer Uniform

The uniform of Joseph Greer was once on display at the Tennessee State Museum. The size of the coat corroborates the stories that Greer was a large man. Courtesy of the Tennessee State Library and Archives.

Like many well-to-do merchants and farmers of the time, Greer was a slave owner. The 1830 census, for example, shows that Greer owned 33 slaves. He still owned slaves at the time of his death in 1831, as his well directs that his slaves “be divided equally between my beloved wife Mary Ann and my children.”

One of the remarkable stories that emerges about Greer is related to one of his former slaves and may reflect the openness to emancipation, in certain specific situations, that was prevalent among some white Tennesseans during the decades after the American Revolution. In 1804, Greer petitioned the Tennessee General Assembly to emancipate Nancy, one of his former slaves. Although it is not clear when or for how long Greer had owned Nancy, by 1804 she had married Philip Thomas, a free person of color. Since Thomas was unable to petition the General Assembly on account of his race, Greer, then the clerk and master of the Superior Court of Law in Knoxville, approached the General Assembly on behalf of Thomas. The General Assembly emancipated Nancy and gave her the name “Nancy Thomas.”

Joseph Greer died in 1831 and was buried on his farm. The epitaph on his grave marker reads, “He was, while living an example of every virtue, distinguished for his benevolence and humanity.” We look forward in the coming months to learning more about Joseph Greer and his cabin.

Greer Family Cemetery

Plaque about Joseph Greer at the Greer family cemetery. Joseph’s grave lies to the left of the plaque.

See Also:

George M. Apperson, “African Americans on the Tennessee Frontier: John Gloucester and His Contemporaries,” Tennessee Historical Quarterly 59, no. 1 (Spring 2000): 2-19. The story about Greer and his former slave Nancy appears on pgs. 5-6.

Brian Patrick Compton, “Revised History of Fort Watauga,” Master’s Thesis, East Tennessee State University, 2005.

Calvin Dickinson, “Watauga Association,” Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture.

“King’s Mountain Messenger,” Yorkville Enquirer, August 20, 1915.

Maggie H. Stone, “Joseph Greer, “’King’s Mountain Messenger’: A Tradition of the Greer Family,” Tennessee Historical Magazine 2, no. 1 (March 1916): 40-42.

Mrs. John G. Young, “Joseph Greer: The King Mountain’s Messenger,” Lincoln Co. Tennessee Pioneers I, no. 6 (December 1971): 95-96.

 

 

 

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“Children, We All Shall Be Free”: The Fisk Jubilee Singers and Emancipation

By Antoinette G. van Zelm, Assistant Director, Center for Historic Preservation

2016 marks the 150th anniversary of Fisk University, first opened as the Fisk Free Colored School in January 1866. Fisk is one of the most significant Reconstruction-era properties in the United States, not to mention its importance within the state of Tennessee. In 1978, the campus was designated as a National Historic District, anchored by the stunning Jubilee Hall built in 1876 with funds raised by the Fisk Jubilee Singers during their first international tour.

Jubilee Hall from MTSU Library

Courtesy of Special Collections, James E. Walker Library, Middle Tennessee State University.

Pike Cover from MTSU Library

The Reverend G.D. Pike’s The Jubilee Singers of Fisk University. Courtesy of Special Collections, James E. Walker Library, Middle Tennessee State University.

Fisk’s early history is very well documented, particularly the emergence of the Jubilee Singers, whose world-renown began in the 1870s and continues to this day. When I was researching the history of emancipation in Tennessee, one of the sources that captured my attention was an 1881 history of the Jubilee Singers written by J.B.T. Marsh. In The Story of the Jubilee Singers; With Their Songs, Marsh, a Union army veteran and former mayor of Oberlin, Ohio, drew on two 1870s accounts of the singers by the Reverend G.D. Pike of the American Missionary Association. Marsh abridged Pike’s histories, expanded the narrative chronologically, added new songs, and filled in more biographical details about the singers.

In particular, my interest lay with those personal histories of the first Jubilee Singers. I was thrilled to find that the mini-biographies included details about the emancipation experiences of several of the singers who had formerly been enslaved (some of the singers had been born free). In fact, Marsh specifically highlighted those singers whose lives would “give the truest idea of slavery as it was felt by the generation to which the Jubilee Singers belong; of the changes and difficulties to which emancipation introduced them; of the sympathy and assistance they need and deserve.”

Marsh Cover from MTSU Library

J.B.T. Marsh’s The Story of the Jubilee Singers; With Their Songs. Courtesy of Special Collections, James E. Walker Library, Middle Tennessee State University.

Maggie L. Porter’s story began in slavery in Lebanon, Tennessee. For her and her parents, emancipation took place in Nashville, where their owner had moved before the Civil War broke out. Marsh attributed the Porters’ freedom to “the President’s proclamation, and the coming of the Union army,” although the Emancipation Proclamation technically excluded Union-occupied Tennessee. According to Marsh, 13-year-old Maggie Porter was among the first students to attend the Fisk School. After two years of study, she took on teaching duties in Bellevue (where her school was likely burned down intentionally over the Christmas holidays) and then at another school outside of the city. She later continued her studies at Fisk.

Also a native of Wilson County, Thomas Rutling’s experience of slavery had included the trauma of family separation. Both of his parents and some of his siblings were sold away during his childhood. As a boy, he both served in the dining room and worked in the field, so when the Civil War broke out he was able to learn the war news and share it with others enslaved on the plantation. He later recalled how dancing and singing had followed news of the Emancipation Proclamation. After the war, Rutling reunited with his eldest sister in Nashville and soon enrolled at Fisk.

Porter and Rutling

Images of Maggie Porter (left) and Thomas Rutling (right) from the Reverend G.D. Pike’s The Jubilee Singers of Fisk University. Courtesy of Special Collections, James E. Walker Library, Middle Tennessee State University.

Porter, Rutling, and other singers featured in The Story of the Jubilee Singers were later brought to life on the page by Fisk librarian Arnaud W. Bontemps in his Chariot in the Sky: A Story of the Jubilee Singers. Bontemps, who was also an acclaimed poet and writer, published this historical novel for young people in 1951, with illustrations by Cyrus Leroy Baldridge.

Jubilee Singers from LOC

The Jubilee Singers photographed sometime between 1870 and 1880. Courtesy of the Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

To celebrate Fisk’s 150th, a series of sesquicentennial activities is taking place at the university. In addition, the 35th annual Nashville Conference on African American History and Culture, sponsored by Tennessee State University and the Metro Historical Commission, will focus on Fisk. “Celebrating the Third Jubilee of Fisk University” will take place on Friday, February 12, at TSU’s Avon Williams Campus. The conference will include a performance by the Jubilee Singers.

See Also:

A Celebration of Fisk University Through Photographs, Programs and Publications, from A Digital Collection Celebrating the Founding of the Historically Black College and University.

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Mapping as Medium: Connecting the Public to the Past Using StoryMaps

By Brad Miller, Former CHP Graduate Assistant

I had the excellent opportunity to serve as a graduate assistant last summer with the Center for Historic Preservation (CHP), working with the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area. The mission of the Heritage Area is to work with “communities and organizations across the state to tell the powerful stories of the home front, the demands of fighting and occupation, the freedom of emancipation, and the enduring legacies of Reconstruction.”

In line with this mission, one of my tasks was helping inventory the CHP’s records managed in partnership with MTSU’s James E. Walker Library and Albert Gore Research Center. These CHP records contain the products of more than three decades of working with communities to survey their historic landscapes, including many related to the Civil War and Reconstruction. The most comprehensive and accessible records are being digitized for the Southern Places collection, which is where I specifically focused on content dealing with the creation of new African American communities during Reconstruction and into the twentieth century. Under the leadership of the CHP’s digital humanities research fellow, Dr. Susan Knowles, and Walker Library’s digital initiatives librarian, Ken Middleton, I set out with fellow graduate assistant Denise Gallagher to promote the accessibility of these records by creating ArcGIS StoryMaps.

StoryMaps is an online mapping application built to supplement the capabilities of ESRI’s ArcGIS mapping software. The application allows users to contextualize the maps they create with original and embedded text, images, and videos from other Web sites and databases. This form of interpretive presentation thus creates ways to connect the historical narratives, photographs, and field notes the CHP has created over the years (and digitized on Southern Places) with geographic locations.

I chose to experiment with the African American history of Rogersville, Tennessee, after coming across documentation related to St. Marks Presbyterian Church. The two StoryMaps screenshots below show how users can click on the icon of St. Marks on the map (top image) and pull up a link for “More info” that will bring up the photographs and historical notes created by the CHP (bottom image). The notes show that the Reverend William H. Franklin founded the church in 1875 and was significantly affiliated with Swift Memorial College for African Americans in East Tennessee.

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Screenshots from StoryMaps application: (top) base map for my StoryMap and (bottom) linked content from Southern Places.

By mapping these places, associated historical materials, and my own current photographs of the area, I created an approachable interface for the public to explore the evolution of the landscape in Rogersville. For example, Alexander Fain, Jordan Netherland, and Nathaniel Mitchell purchased land between two prominent African American churches in 1868 that eventually served as the location of an 1870 frame-and-log school and, later, the 1923 Price School that now houses a community center and museum. The mapped location within the African American community, photographs, links to the museum’s Web site, and a brief narrative based on the National Register nomination explore the long commitment to education in post-emancipation African American communities and invite users into the historical research process of linking primary and secondary sources to create a picture of the past.

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Price Public Community Center & Swift Museum.

Another example is Swift Memorial College, whose history is also relayed at the community center. Originally formed as Swift Memorial Institute in 1883, the school was transformed into a four-year college for African Americans with a campus consisting of several buildings, including the beautiful edifice pictured on the right below. Swift enrolled 200 students a year at its peak. The central edifice no longer stands, but most of the surrounding buildings still exist and have been adapted for new uses, such as the boys’ dormitory to the left below, which is now an apartment building.

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Screenshot from StoryMaps application: former boys’ dormitory (left) and the Swift Memorial College edifice (right).

StoryMaps thus transforms a seemingly normal residential area into a fascinating glimpse into African American education, religion, and community-building in the difficult times of Jim Crow segregation. The most exciting part for me was being able to embed a video clip from YouTube that contained interviews of alumni from Swift. The video adds a new level of engagement and, more importantly, integrates first-person perspectives that humanize the narrative about this historically significant institution.

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Screenshot from StoryMaps application: embedded YouTube clip from “The Swift Story.”

I welcome everyone to check out my StoryMap in progress on their computers, tablets, or smartphones. One of the added benefits of the application is its seamless transition to smartphones and tablets, which reach a mobile public and provide visitors the opportunity to explore Rogersville in person with historical information at their fingertips. The application would also serve as an effective tool for creating walking tours of historic neighborhoods or properties, especially when educators or students are unable to physically travel to locations or traverse certain terrains.

 

 

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Learning About Heritage Development for Rural Communities

By Ginna Foster Cannon, CHP Graduate Research Assistant

Last month, Lee Curtis of the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development and I attended the three-day Appalachian Gateway Communities Regional Workshop offered by the Conservation Fund in partnership with the Appalachian Regional Commission, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and South Arts, Inc., in Berea, Kentucky. We stayed at the lovely Historic Boone Tavern, a property listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Boone Tavern

Historic Boone Tavern in Berea, Kentucky.

Having visited a significant number of rural communities in Tennessee over the last year and a half, both with Lee concerning heritage development initiatives and the installation of Civil War Trails markers and on my own while conducting research for the Preliminary Heritage Development Plan for National Register-listed Hotels and Inns in Tennessee, I was excited to learn more about strategies to boost community and economic development in rural locales. The speakers covered a range of subjects, including the Economics of Gateway Communities, the Role of Transportation in Enhancing Gateway Communities, and the Role of Arts in Rural Economic Development & Strategies for Survival, to name a few. Below are some of my major take-aways:

  • Know the economic impact of tourism on the region. Tourists (defined as people who travel more than 50 miles one way) generate jobs, paychecks, and state and local taxes. A useful method of communicating the impact of tourism on an area is to calculate the tax relief per household that tourism provides. This not only personalizes the impact for local residents but also illustrates why further investment in tourism is worthwhile. Furthermore, developing tourism assets can have the added benefit of attracting potential employers to an area. For example, Volkswagen stated that it selected Chattanooga for a new factory several years ago in part because of the high quality of life the city would afford its employees.
  • Reliable broadband coverage is a key ingredient for economic development in rural areas. This subject was also covered extensively at the 2nd Annual Larry Lofton Memorial Tourism Seminar in November 2015 in Linden, Tennessee. Anyone who has traveled extensively in Tennessee knows all too well about the gaps in coverage. According to the experts, tourists are hesitant to leave the highway and venture into rural communities lacking service because of concerns about safety (e.g., phone and navigation) and access to tourism-related information (e.g., attractions, heritage trails, lodging, and restaurants.) via their smart phones. Furthermore, a lack of coverage hinders the growth of small businesses in the area and deters individuals and companies looking to relocate to the area. While some small communities do request service from providers, for most, it is not deemed economically viable. Providing universal broadband coverage to all communities in the South would be this century’s equivalent to rural electrification.
Tavern Image of Tourism Folks

Visiting the tiny town of Lynnville, Tennessee, with Rene Lance (left) and Lee Curtis (center) last Fall. We posed at a restored historic tavern on the property of the Colonel Littleton company.

  • There are resources available – use them! Supported by a grant from the NEA, the National Trust for Historic Preservation created a searchable database of case studies focused on heritage development. The database is searchable by attraction (e.g., “heritage area/scenic byway/heritage trail” and “Main Street/Community”) and by strategy (e.g., “serve local community” and “collaborate in new ways”). It is both interesting and educational to see how different attractions have addressed the issues facing them. (Tennessee sites in the database include Belle Meade Plantation, the Hermitage, and the Tennessee Main Street Program, to name a few.) This resource also lists contacts at the organizations who might be willing to discuss heritage development in more detail. A list of toolkits available from other national and state organizations is available. Another valuable resource is the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, an interagency partnership between the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The partnership was created in 2009 to help “communities nationwide improve access to affordable housing, increase transportation options, and lower transportation costs while protecting the environment.” The Web site lists both case studies and grants available to communities across the United States. There is no need to reinvent the wheel–use resources available to you.

The workshop spurred me to examine how tourism drives economic development in Tennessee, particularly in rural communities. According to the Tourism RoadMap published by the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, direct travel expenditures in the state equaled $17.7 billion in 2014, with all 95 counties generating more than $1 million. This resulted in $1.5 billion in state and local tax revenue. Also, during the same period, nearly 153,000 people worked in the tourism industry, up about 3% from the previous year. The state is supporting the growth of rural development with the Adventure Tourism District program that will allow qualified new businesses within a district earn job tax credits to offset a portion of their franchise and excise tax bills. An increase in the number of qualified businesses–restaurants, hotels, and outdoor recreational companies–will benefit both tourists and local residents alike and spur additional economic development.

Jack Trail Image

The Jack Trail is part of the Department of Tourist Development’s “Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways” program.

Finally, trail programs help promote Tennessee’s rural areas.  In 2008, the Department of Tourist Development launched the Tennessee Civil War Trails program in conjunction with the Tennessee Department of Transportation and the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area. To date, markers have been placed in 90 percent of Tennessee’s counties (representing more than 350 total markers), and 2 million maps have been distributed. The trail is the most requested brochure at the state’s sixteen welcome centers. In addition, the Department of Tourist Development has created the Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways program to encourage tourists to explore Tennessee’s backroads. The sixteen trails cover approximately 5,245 miles and pass through every county in the state. If you haven’t done so already, I highly encourage you to download a brochure or pick one up at a welcome center. My favorite trails thus far (I plan to travel all of them) are “Ring of Fire Trail: Ghost Stories and Music Legends,” “The Jack Trail: Sippin’ to Saddles,” and “Top Secret Trail: Proton Beams to Utopian Dreams.” Drop me a line to let me know your favorite trail and include photos if you have them!

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Satire, Symbolism, and the Art of the Political Cartoon

By Ethan Morris, Former CHP Graduate Research Assistant

Growing up, I used to read the funny pages in the Sunday papers and look over the political cartoons in the editorial section. Moreover, I served as the political cartoonist for my high school’s newspaper in Mt. Washington, Kentucky. Recently, I felt like a kid again as I completed a project about political cartoons for the Center for Historic Preservation’s Teaching with Primary Sources-MTSU (TPS-MTSU) program, an affiliate program of the Library of Congress.

1. Nast, 1871, Vultures

Thomas Nast’s cartoon from 1871 depicts William “Boss” Tweed and his Tammany Hall cronies as vultures, prepared to prey on the people of New York City.

My TPS-MTSU supervisors, Dr. Stacey Graham and Kira Duke, gave me the freedom to create a new type of primary source set (what we are calling a mini-exhibit) that brings together a number of online sources from the Library of Congress, provides context for each source, and lists suggestions for how each source might be used by a teacher in the classroom. The mini-exhibit that I created focuses on eighteen political cartoons published between 1867 and 1920. The project’s goal is to help public, private, and home-schooled students in Tennessee interpret and appreciate political cartoons.

The mini-exhibit also strives to inspire an interest in political cartoons, which, like newspapers generally, are on the decline. Political cartoons (small, though extremely insightful visual commentaries) are excellent and effective tools for gaining a better understanding of the past. They can also reveal (often through exaggeration) the prejudices and stereotypes that were common during certain periods of our history.

5. Pughe, 1906, Spider

John S. Pughe’s 1906 cartoon depicts spidery Nelson Aldrich, the chair of the Senate Finance Committee, catching and stopping finance bills that might hurt John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil monopoly.

Herb Block, a cartoonist who worked predominantly for the Washington Post from 1929 to 2001, stated that he “often summed up the role of the cartoonist as that of the boy in the Hans Christian Anderson story who says the emperor has no clothes on.” Cartoons often expose people, events, and issues for what they really are. Most cartoonists are confrontational and frequently call out people who are abusing their privileges, acting unwisely, or not doing their jobs. Cartoonists often gain either the ire or love of politicians. For instance, President Richard M. Nixon hated Hugh Haynie’s guts. Yet Haynie, a political cartoonist for the Louisville Courier-Journal, became a personal friend of President John F. Kennedy. While cartoonists’ political preferences often dictate their subject material, they often try to express values commonly held by many Americans. Sometimes they succeed, and sometimes they fail.

Take a look at some of the cartoons below, which are included in the mini-exhibit. What do you think? As you examine each cartoon, remember, in the words of Block, a cartoon “should have a view to express…some purpose beyond the chuckle.”

Ethan Morris worked at the CHP for three semesters and is studying this semester at the University of Northumbria at Newcastle.  We look forward to hearing about his adventures abroad and hope he enjoys reading many British political cartoons.

 

This 1882 cartoon, drawn by Thomas Nast, shows an Irish immigrant and a German immigrant contemplating the Chinese Exclusion Act and pondering “what is to hinder them from calling us green and keeping us out too?” with “green” referring to the men’s status as relatively recent immigrants.

2. Nast, 1882, Immigration

 

In this 1898 Louis Dalrymple cartoon, yellow journalist Joseph Pulitzer sticks his nose into President William McKinley’s war policy in the Spanish-American War.

4. Dalrymple, 1898, McKinley

 

In this 1906 cartoon, Louis Glackens imagines what William Jennings Bryan might do in retirement: open a museum, go hunting with Theodore Roosevelt, or melt the polar regions with his “hot air?”

6. Glackens, 1906, WJ Bryan

 

Winsor McCay published this cartoon in 1913 amid the National Child Labor Committee investigations.

7. McCay, 1912, Children

 

 J. H. Cassel’s cartoon, drawn in 1917, represents Americans’ anger with Germany’s unrestricted submarine warfare in the years prior to the official entry of the United States into World War I.

8. Cassel, 1917, WWI

 

This 1894 cartoon is Charles Jay Taylor’s vision of an America that allows women to vote. As we now know, chaos did not follow ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920.

3. Taylor, 1894, Suffrage

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On the Cutting Edge of History Education in California

By Dr. Stacey Graham, Research Professor, Center for Historic Preservation

As a historian, history teacher, and history lover, I’d prefer to think that no one would ever have to justify or defend the value of teaching history to students.  With the growing emphasis on reading and math in schools, and the design of standardized tests and teacher assessments, history (as part of social studies) seems to decrease in K-12 priorities more and more each year.  This is not just happening in Tennessee, as I found out at a conference I had the opportunity to attend in California last month.  I walked away from that conference, however, not only with dozens of great ideas for how to help teachers approach historical thinking and learning, but also with a renewed sense of optimism for the field of K-12 history teaching after meeting so many wonderful and dedicated teachers and scholars.

UCLA

I enjoyed revisiting the lovely UCLA campus, where I spent six years of graduate school, in sunny southern California.

The conference, organized by the California History-Social Science Project (CHSSP), was called Teaching the Past for Tomorrow: Conference on the Future of History Education, and held at the University of California, Los Angeles​.  CHSSP is a member institution of the nationwide Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources (TPS) consortium.  Since I work as project coordinator for the TPS affiliate in Tennessee, TPS-MTSU, I heard about this conference from Nancy McTygue, the CHSSP executive director.  I joined up with a colleague from the TPS-California University of Pennsylvania program, Dr. Michael Brna, to present a session called “Primary Sources and Community Engagement.”  We were scheduled for the very last time slot on the last day of the conference, but we didn’t mind.  (It’s hard to mind when you get a trip to Los Angeles out of it!)

Dave Neumann

Dave Neumann, director of The History Project at California State University, Long Beach, shared strategies for incorporating the work of historians (i.e., secondary sources) into the high school history class.

The sessions covered skills (such as literacy, inquiry, and historical thinking), strategies (including structured academic discussions and project-based learning), and historical content (such as medieval Asia and Chinese immigration into California). Many of the presenters were, like me, involved in teacher professional development (PD), particularly the PD networks of the CHSSP, which covers six of the universities in the University of California & California State University systems. Furthermore, I was surprised at how many presenters were actual classroom teachers, who could show the rest of us what primary source-based PD looks when implemented with students in a classroom.

Lisa Hutton

Lisa Hutton, Director of The History Project at California State University, Dominguez Hills, shared the work of three elementary classrooms (grades K, 1, and 5) as students used Hutton’s “toolkits” to approach primary sources through the inquiry method.

Lisa Hutton, director of The History Project at California State University, Dominguez Hills, shared the work of three elementary classrooms (grades K, 1, and 5) as students used Hutton’s “toolkits” to approach primary sources through the inquiry method.

The first keynote speech, delivered by Mary Schleppegrill of the University of Michigan School of Education, connected the teaching of historical content to the development of student literacy. Some of her questions—“How is history constructed and presented in language?” “How are students expected to read, talk, and write in the history classroom?” etc.—challenged me to be more aware that what we teach must first be absorbed through language.

The second keynote, led by Professor Teofilo Ruiz of UCLA, was an interactive joint presentation of the “Sites of Encounter in the Medieval World” lesson units created and produced by the CHSSP. I *highly* recommend this resource for all World History teachers. Through map layers, primary source texts and images, and expert secondary sources, it approaches the medieval world through a focus on the places where cultural and economic interaction took place and connected people.

Teofilo Ruiz

Here is Teofilo Ruiz, a medieval and early modern historian in the UCLA Department of History, recognizing me from where I sit in the second row. Teo was one of my professors when I was in grad school for medieval history at UCLA. He served as consulting expert scholar in the development of the “Sites of Encounter in the Medieval World” curriculum.

Here is Teofilo Ruiz, a medieval and early modern historian in the UCLA Department of History, recognizing me from where I sit in the second row. Teo was one of my professors when I was in grad school for medieval history at UCLA. He served as consulting expert scholar in the development of the “Sites of Encounter in the Medieval World” curriculum.

The session I shared with Michael Brna was a lot of fun for me. I learned how Michael is incorporating oral histories from the Veterans History Project into undergraduate learning at Cal U-Penn. I then got to share (with a small but engaged group) how TPS-MTSU incorporates local historic sites into workshops and institutes to help teachers make the connection between their local stories and the larger narrative of American history.

I highlighted in particular our Civil War Summer Institutes, which provide our teachers with access to places like the Wesley Heights neighborhood in Greeneville, Tennessee, an African American neighborhood dating to Reconstruction, and to the people who live there and can share the stories that bring history to life. One of my goals was to show providers of PD that mutually beneficial partnerships can be made with small, rural, volunteer-based, local organizations on a shoestring budget. These collaborations can be just as enjoyable and edifying as partnerships with larger state and federal institutions.

Future TPS-MTSU workshop participants will benefit from some of the strategies and ideas I gathered at this conference, such as making the best use of secondary sources in the history classroom. The whole experience reminded me how important it is to share our best practices with others and seek out new ideas on a regular basis.

 

 

 

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