Humanities in Class Webinars

Live, interactive professional development webinars on compelling topics by leading scholars for humanities educators and advocates of all levels. All webinars are free of charge.

Fall 2017 Schedule

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The First American Commitment to Vietnam, 1945–1954

Tuesday, September 12, 2017   7:00–8:30 pm EDT
Andy Rotter Leader: Andy Rotter, Professor of History, Colgate University

The United States first engaged with Vietnam in the immediate aftermath of World War II, as it struggled with the dilemmas of postwar reconstruction, the course of decolonization in Asia, and perceived Soviet aggression across the globe. Though largely unremarked at the time, during the late 1940s the administration of Harry S. Truman chose sides in Vietnam—or, more broadly, Indochina—underwriting the French-sponsored government of the former emperor Bao Dai in the south, while distancing itself from the nationalist movement led by Ho Chi Minh and tainted, in its view, by its communist rhetoric and associations. Even before the outbreak of war in Korea in June 1950, the die was cast: the United States sided with the French in their effort to restore their empire in Indochina. Why did the United States make this choice? Were there alternatives to it? This webinar will explore these and other questions.

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Massive Firepower Meets the Jungle: Fighting the Ground War in Vietnam

Thursday, September 21, 2017   7:00–8:30 pm EDT
Bernie Carlson Leader: Bernie Carlson, Chair, Department of Engineering and Society, Professor of History, University of Virginia

Many of us have seen the Vietnam War through movies and television—think of the helicopter battle scene in Apocalypse Now. Yet, what was the logic behind the use of heavily-armed helicopters who carried soldiers to various villages up country circa 1966-67? How did the Vietcong fight back and why did they ultimately defeat superior American firepower? How might think about battles as often a tension between who holds the right ground versus who has the right weapons? What does a specific style of fighting say about a culture?

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Cultivating Students’ Philosophical Thinking

Thursday, October 5, 2017   7:00–8:30 pm EDT
Jana Mohr Lone Leader: Dr. Jana Mohr Lone, Director, University of Washington Center for Philosophy for Children

This interactive webinar will explore how introducing philosophy in the classroom can enrich student learning, and will provide ideas and resources for encouraging deep and well-reasoned thinking about some of life’s “big questions.” Participants will learn about some of the methods of pre-college philosophy, and will engage in philosophical discussions and activities on topics such as: “What can we know? What makes something right or wrong? Are we free? What is a mind? How do we define happiness?”

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The Art of Revolution: Tunisia, Egypt, and Syria

Thursday, October 12, 2017   7:00–8:30 pm EDT
Ellen McLarney Leader: Ellen McLarney, Associate Professor of Arabic Literature and Culture, Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Duke University
  NHC Fellow 2011-12
This seminar explores the historical contexts leading to the eruption of the uprisings known as the Arab Spring in early 2011. After a brief introduction to politics in Tunisia, Egypt, and Syria, we turn to the flowering of music, art, graffiti, poetry, film, and digital media that gave expression to the revolutionary unrest. This seminar looks at how this cultural production functioned as a catalyst for political change, as art flourished as the authoritarian state’s censorship on political and artistic expression broke down. The second part of the seminar turns to the aftermath of the revolutions and the democratic processes and movements that emerged out of the Arab Spring. We focus on the influence of religion, religious parties, and religious movements in Tunisia, Egypt, and Syria—in the post-uprising elections, governments, and constitutions. Although the 2011 uprisings initially seemed to be lit by the same spark, they had very different outcomes in these different cases.

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White Supremacy, An American History

Wednesday, October 18, 2017   7:00–8:30 pm EDT
Adriane Lentz-Smith Leader: Adriane Lentz-Smith, Associate Professor of History, African-American Studies, and Women’s Studies, Duke University

This webinar examines the relationship between white supremacy and the making of America in the long twentieth century. For many white Americans at the turn of the last century, “white supremacy” was a political program and a battle cry. A response to black freedom struggles, changing populations, and new economic orders, white supremacy set the boundaries of citizenship rights, national belonging, and economic possibility. How did this work? How were these boundaries enforced? And when did white supremacy lose its mainstream viability? Join us as we focus on three mechanisms—political disfranchisement; extralegal violence; and federal policy—which help us explore these questions about the workings of white supremacy and open up new ways of approaching its history.

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The Century of the Child: American Children in the Twentieth Century

Tuesday, October 24, 2017   7:00–8:30 pm EDT
Jim Marten Leader: Jim Marten, Chair, Department of History, Marquette University

The Swedish sociologist Ellen Key predicted in 1900 that the twentieth century would be “the century of the child.” It was, in a way, as Americans embraced the notion of a protected, nurtured childhood that had first appeared in the early nineteenth century and became the model for all childhoods within a few generations. This webinar will examine the efforts to realize Key’s prediction through child welfare reform, which included everything from building playgrounds to creating the Children’s Bureau (1912), and from the campaign against child labor to the extraordinary improvements in child health. But we will also examine the bitter irony of Key’s phrase, as war, depression, and politics interrupted the march toward perfect childhoods. Throughout, American children will be placed in a global context, and whenever possible the points of view of children will provide texture to the discussion of policies. As the historian Joseph Hawes once said, childhood is “where you catch a culture in high relief,” and the twentieth century provides a true measure of the potential as well as the limits of American society’s commitment to its children.

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The Graphic Novel

Wednesday, November 1, 2017   7:00–8:30 pm EDT
Jesus Costantino Leader: Jesus Costantino, Assistant Professor of English, University of New Mexico

At first glance, a graphic novel is nothing more than a comic that can stand on a bookshelf; however, graphic novels have a history distinct from, and in fraught relationship to, both comics and novels. While graphic novels grew out of the countercultural underground comics scene of the 1960s and 1970s, the form also gave (some) comics mainstream legitimacy by bringing (some) comics out of comic shops and into bookstores. The question of legitimacy continues to define the graphic novel, both in its form and in its, often non-normative, content. Drawing on key example texts, this webinar will explore the history of the graphic novel and of its cultural legitimacy.

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The Supreme Court and Civil Rights

Tuesday, November 7, 2017   7:00–8:30 pm EST
Michael Klarman Leader: Michael Klarman, Kirkland & Ellis Professor of Law, Harvard University

Everybody has heard of Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court’s landmark 1954 decision, which held that state-mandated segregation of public education was unconstitutional. But how representative was Brown of the Supreme Court’s contributions to racial equality in American history? Have the Court’s rulings, on the whole, been more helpful or harmful to the cause of racial equality? What role did the Court play in the civil rights movement of the 1960s? And what has the Court generally done since that time with regard to educational segregation, race-based affirmative action, minority voting rights, and racial issues in the criminal justice context?

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Five Myths About North Korea

Thursday, November 30, 2017   7:00–8:30 pm EST
Sung-Yoon Lee Leader: Sung-Yoon Lee, Kim Koo-Korea Foundation Professor in Korean Studies and Assistant Professor at The Fletcher School at Tufts University

North Korea policy has confounded the United States for the past quarter century. North Korea's backwardness and the bizarre nature of its leadership have led U.S. policymakers to patronize their adversary. The result has been oscillation between expedient deals and half-hearted sanctions. Meanwhile, Pyongyang's nuclear and missile threat capability has grown markedly, while the regime's repression of its people reveals, according to a landmark UN study, a state without “any parallel in the contemporary world.” Gone is the era of procrastination, expedients, and patronizing of Pyongyang. Dr. Lee addresses the root cause of the problem and offers a prescription for resolving the North Korea threat.

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The Price of Liberation in World War II

Thursday, December 7, 2017   7:00–8:30 pm EST
William Hitchcock Leader: William I. Hitchcock, Professor of History, University of Virginia

Americans are justly proud of the role their country played in liberating Europe from Nazi tyranny. But in celebrating the success of United States soldiers, we often forget to consider the human cost of war. The liberation of Europe in 1944-45 provides an opportunity to study the American victory alongside the tragic suffering of civilians who were caught in the crossfire. This webinar is for teachers who want to expose their students to the extraordinary events of the Second World War’s climactic battle—the Battle of Normandy—while also including in our study of war the high price paid by families, women and children, refugees, and humanitarian relief workers who toil in the shadow of powerful armies.

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Spring 2018 Schedule

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Black Lives Matter in Historical Context (repeat)

Thursday, January 11, 2018   7:00–8:30 pm EST
Yohuru Williams Leader: Yohuru Williams, Professor of History, Fairfield University

In this presentation, Dr. Yohuru Williams explores the history of the struggle for racial equality in the United States from the Civil Rights era through the contemporary Black Lives Matter Movement with an exploration of key episodes and moments in U.S. History using a variety of primary sources.

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Suckers and Swindlers: Business Fraud in the History of American Capitalism

Thursday, January 18, 2018   7:00–8:30 pm EST
Edward Balleisen Leader: Edward Balleisen, Associate Professor of History and Public Policy, Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies, Duke University
  NHC Fellow 2009-10
Capitalism depends on trust, and so always creates opportunities for economic deception. As a result of America’s embrace of innovation and openness to the slick sell, the avenues for duplicity have been especially broad in the modern United States. This webinar will examine the American experience with business fraud since the early nineteenth century—the enduring difficulties of defining fraud; the characteristics of the worst fraud scandals; and the evolution of institutional attempts to contain its corrosive impacts. Join us to explore this important lens on American economic culture, as well as ways that you can bring team-based historical research into your classrooms.

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Environmental History: Eating the City

Tuesday, January 23, 2018   7:00–8:30 pm EST
Matthew Booker Leader: Matthew Booker, Associate Professor of History, North Carolina State University
  NHC Fellow 2016–17
Nineteenth-century Americans generally ate locally. While luxuries like coffee, tea, and sugar connected them to the global economy, refrigeration, transportation, and income forced most people to eat seasonal and regional foods. Farmers recycled human and animal waste. The rise of the industrial city, with its immigrant populations, networked economies, and steam-powered workplaces, profoundly challenged that older system. Unprecedented concentrations of people—New York had as many as 500 persons per square mile—overwhelmed local food producers, and extraordinary volumes of human waste led to disease epidemics. Most people encountered these consequences of modern life through their food and drink, both of which became the focus of consumer fear and governmental regulation. This webinar will use a forgotten staple, oysters, to explore the risks of industrialization and the consequences of environmental protections.

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Listening to Literature, Hearing History

Tuesday, February 13, 2018   7:00–8:30 pm EST
Mary Caton Lingold Leader: Mary Caton Lingold, Assistant Professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University

Is literature a form of sound recording? If so, how can we listen to it? This webinar presents approaches for bringing the study of sound into the literature and history classroom. We will explore specifically how interpreting sounds in historical literature like slave narratives and colonial travel writing opens up new ways of understanding the American past, and specifically early African American experiences. The webinar also introduces a growing digital resource, The Sonic Dictionary, that is being created by university students to enhance the vocabulary of sonic experience.

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Can A President Do That?: The Secret White House Tapes and Presidential Power

Thursday, February 22, 2018   7:00–8:30 pm EST
Kent Germany Leader: Kent Germany, Associate Professor of History, Director of Undergraduate studies, University of South Carolina

In the 20th century, the power of the United States president expanded enormously, and each president had to learn what kind of power they had and how far they needed to stretch the limits of it. This webinar will use the once top secret White House Tapes of JFK, LBJ, and Nixon to explore three crucial crises that shaped answers to the question, “Can a President Do That?” 1) the Cuban Missile Crisis; 2) the FBI, Surveillance, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Voting Rights Act; 3) Watergate and the Nixon's argument to David Frost that “when the president does it, that means it is not illegal.”

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Mass Incarceration in America

Thursday, March 8, 2018   7:00–8:30 pm EST
Heather Thompson Leader: Heather Thompson, Professor of History, University of Michigan

As the twentieth century came to a close and the twenty-first began, something occurred in the United States that was both internationally unparalleled and historically unprecedented. Between 1970 and 2017 more people were incarcerated in this country than were imprisoned anywhere else in the world, and at no other point in this nation’s recorded past had the economic, social, and political institutions of a country become so bound up with the practice of punishment. This webinar will offer an overview of the origins of mass incarceration, as well as its implications for our nation’s cities and communities, our economy, and our very democracy. Via this webinar we will locate not only why we chose this policy path and what the fall out from that decision has been, but we will also consider where are we might be headed today with regard to matters of policing and prisons.

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Secrecy and Democracy: The History of the FBI and CIA

Thursday, March 15, 2018   7:00–8:30 pm EDT
Kathryn Olmstead Leader: Kathryn Olmstead, Professor of History, University of California, Davis

Many Americans are fascinated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), but we know very little about their histories. This webinar will use recently declassified documents to analyze the histories of both agencies and of the controversies that they’ve inspired. What were the original purposes of each agency, and how have they changed over time? How did Americans learn about some of the most controversial programs (illegal surveillance by the FBI, assassination plots and drug testing by the CIA), and how did they react to these revelations? We will talk about how these real historical events help us understand the challenges of making sure America’s secret agencies are accountable to the public.

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From Democracy to Authoritarianism: The Death of the Roman Republic

Thursday, March 29, 2018   7:00–8:30 pm EDT
Michael Fontaine Leader: Michael Fontaine, Associate Professor of Classics, Cornell University

Comparisons between ancient Rome and the United States are suddenly all around us. Why, and what do they portend? Right around the time Jesus was born, ancient Rome’s 500-year-old republic failed. Its traditions of representative elections, checks and balances, tolerance, and freedoms of movement and expression were swept away, never to recover. In their place rose the Roman Empire, an increasingly authoritarian and Orwellian structure that saw state-sponsored persecutions of minorities, artists, and dissidents at home, endless foreign wars abroad, and, eventually, even the requirement for all citizens to believe certain theological propositions. How did Rome transform in this way, and why did it never go back? This webinar will highlight political institutions, imperial expansion, the breakdown of republican institutions, the civil wars, and a few personalities whose names, 2000 years on, are still familiar to us all.

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