Humanities in Class Webinars - National Humanities Center

Humanities in Class Webinars

Live, interactive webinars connect educators with scholars and experts in humanities fields to discuss compelling topics. Webinars are free of charge but require registration.

Download this pre-approval form to organize your NHC professional development credits. If you are looking for more professional development, check out our online courses.

Spring 2023 Semester

Why Colorblind Only at School: The Ongoing History of the Battle Over Affirmative Action

January 12, 2023   7:00–8:30 pm ET
Earl Lewis (Thomas C. Holt Distinguished University Professor and Founder, The Center for Social Solutions, University of Michigan)

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Between 1954 and 1955 many believed the United States embarked on a new chapter in its battle to ensure racial equity and inclusion. During those two years the US Supreme Court overturned the doctrine of “separate but equal” in schooling, and by extension, much of American life. It went further by instructing the nation to desegregate with “all deliberate speed.” Yet the vestiges of the Jim Crow order retained remarkable staying power, with schools across the South remaining segregated well into the late 1960s and early 1970s. In recognition of the long history of separate and unequal, some championed the positive use of race to do more than desegregate American life. They thought paying positive attention to race, eventually labeled affirmative action, would produce an integrated society. Critics quickly mobilized, arguing any attention to race violated the precepts of a colorblind society and that affirmative action amounted to forms of reverse discrimination. For more than fifty years we have remained locked in a social standoff: we recognize race in social settings, financial dealings, and health statistics but ignore it in trying to improve opportunities and institutions. What are the implications?

Looking for the Good War

January 17, 2023   7:00–8:30 pm ET
Elizabeth D. Samet (Professor of English, Department of English and Philosophy, United States Military Academy West Point)

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The idea of World War II as the “Good War” has exerted a powerful influence on the American psyche in the decades since 1945. The complexity of US participation in the war has been sanitized, simplified, and distilled into the stuff of myth. Examining that myth can help us better understand our country’s history, present place in the world, and future potential. Over the years, the consequences of Allied victory—chiefly the liberation of Europe from fascism—came to be imagined as the animating causes of American participation. The myth omits compromising details: an initial reluctance on the part of many Americans to enter the war on behalf of liberating anyone; our callousness toward the fate of European Jewry even after the war; and our exportation of Jim Crow segregation to postwar Europe. World War II was an aberration in so many ways: the existential threat posed by fascism, the necessity of our participation in the fight against it, and the decisiveness of Allied victory are only the most obvious. Having acquired a capacity to be surprised when American military might doesn’t establish, as it once helped to do, a new world, we have condemned ourselves to searching for another war just as “good” as World War II.*

*The views Elizabeth D. Samet expresses in this webinar do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, the Department of Defense, or the US Government.

Does Contempt Belong in Public Life?

January 24, 2023   7:00–8:30 pm ET
Krista K. Thomason (NHC Fellow, 2021–22; Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy, Swarthmore College)

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Most people agree that we have an obligation to be civil in public life. The problem is that we disagree about what "being civil" means. Does being civil mean we shouldn't express negative emotions, even when we think someone deserves it? This talk focuses on contempt and its place in public life. Are there times when we should express contempt for others or will it do more damage to an already fragile public forum? We will examine the question of contempt in the history of philosophy and see what those debates can tell us about contempt in public life today.

1968: Soul Music and the Year of Black Power

January 26, 2023   7:00–8:30 pm ET
Mark Anthony Neal (James B. Duke Distinguished Professor of African and African American Studies and Chair, Department of African & African American Studies, Duke University)

James Brown’s iconic song “Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud” was released in August 1968, a fitting coda for a spring and summer that had been dominated by the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy. Released months after violence erupted in Chicago, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. “Say It Loud”, topped the R&B charts, and became an anthem for Black pride in the 1960s, later inspiring hip-hop artists like Public Enemy and Ice Cube. Yet the emotions and concerns of Black America in the period were more complex than Brown’s anthem. The songs that topped the R&B charts in the intervening months between King’s assassination and the ascent of “Say It Loud,” from April to October 1968, highlighted the complexities of Black life in the aftermath of tragedy and anger. This webinar will examine how Black communities navigated emotions of grief, rage, resignation, suspicion, and defiance in this period, how Black music on the national and local levels reflected those emotions, and the extent to which the indexing of Black music via radio airplay and sales charts serves as a useful arbiter.

From Preconception to Postmortem: Understanding the Value of Black Life During Slavery

February 2, 2023   7:00–8:30 pm ET
Daina Ramey Berry (NHC Fellow, 2007–08; 2008–09; Michael Douglas Dean of Humanities and Fine Arts, University of California, Santa Barbara)

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In life and in death, slaves were commodities, their monetary value assigned based on their age, gender, health, and the demands of the market. This session will explore the economic value of enslaved people through every phase of their lives—including preconception, infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, the senior years, and death—in the early American domestic slave trade. Covering the full “life cycle,” historian Daina Ramey Berry shows the lengths to which enslavers would go to maximize profits and protect their investments.

Blackface from Time to Time

February 9, 2023   7:00–8:30 pm ET
Eric Lott (Distinguished Professor of English and American Studies, CUNY Graduate Center, City University of New York)

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Blackface costuming seems to exist in a kind of eternal present. The donning of blackface goes back centuries but dominated US popular culture in the form of the “minstrel show” all across the nineteenth century, after which it migrated to Hollywood film for much of the twentieth. American culture is saturated in blackface, from Saturday morning cartoons to pop music to works of literary high art. The official censuring of blackface in the 1960s has coincided with its continual “vernacular” reappearance to this day in Halloween costumes, fraternity parties, college yearbooks, and beyond, where from time to time blackface makes its inevitable return. Liberal white deployments of blackface to protest racial inequality, including those of journalist John Howard Griffin’s Black Like Me (1961) and former Spokane NAACP head Rachel Doležal (author of the 2017 memoir In Full Color), only thicken the plot. This webinar will explore the history of blackface performance and the time-to-time temporality of its ongoing present—why American culture seems to require the racial, sexual, and gendered throwbacks of its eternal returns.

Charting a Path between Textbook Maps and Historical Cartography to Teach Indigenous History

February 16, 2023   7:00–8:30 pm ET
Juliana Barr (NHC Fellow, 2018–19; Associate Professor of History, Department of History, Duke University)

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National Council for the Social Studies

Why is it that we in the United States still have the notion that as soon as Europeans put their first big toes on some American coast, all the Americas became up for grabs—denying Indigenous sovereignty, control of the land, and basic home field advantage? Why do we still have an image in our minds that Indigenous people existed in tiny pockets spread sparsely through a landscape still waiting to be “settled”? Much of why we do so is because the maps in US history textbooks tell us so. Those maps tell us that the North American landscape was empty, or that even when “peopled,” those people had no named towns, no charted roads, no territorial markers and, most importantly, no sovereign borders. And, the maps tell us that as soon as Europeans arrived, even those tiny pockets vanished from the earth. Such distortions are at odds with the history itself…and with historical maps drawn by Europeans. This seminar will help educators address the problem of textbook maps in the classroom, and ways to use historical maps to their advantage—making maps talking points and powerful visual aids for understanding the presence and power of Indigenous nations and people throughout North American history as well as for understanding the unique status and rising influence of Native nations today.

Traveling Black: Race and Resistance on the Road, the Rails, and the Skyways

February 23, 2023   7:00–8:30 pm ET
Mia Bay (NHC Fellow, 2009–10; Roy F. and Jeannette P. Nichols Chair in American History, Department of History, University of Pennsylvania)

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This webinar will offer an overview of the African American experience on planes, trains, automobiles, and other forms of transportation from the antebellum era to the present day. It will look at the forms of segregation and racial discrimination that have often confronted Black travelers and explore the central role that resistance to travel restrictions has played in Black civil rights struggles.

The Bill of Rights in the Twentieth Century (and Beyond)

February 28, 2023   7:00–8:30 pm ET
Sara Mayeux (Associate Professor of Law and History, Vanderbilt Law School, Vanderbilt University)

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Free speech, freedom of religion, the right to bear arms, limits on policing, protections against unfair punishment—these rights, and more, can all be found in the first ten amendments to the US Constitution, better known as the “Bill of Rights.” In popular discourse, these provisions are often presented as eighteenth century artifacts—an inheritance from the Founding Fathers which Americans today can’t change, but can only either cherish or reject. Yet, legal historians tend to teach and think about the Bill of Rights quite differently—as, in many ways, a product of twentieth century history. Judicial interpretations have changed over time, with especially dramatic changes between the 1920s and the 1960s, and so have cultural and political understandings. For example, the Bill of Rights was originally thought to bind only the federal government, but most of its provisions have now been applied to (or “incorporated against”) the states. This webinar will examine how and why this process of “incorporation” occurred; the fierce debates between Supreme Court justices about how to interpret the constitutional text; and the role of social and political movements in shaping the meaning of constitutional rights. This webinar will equip educators to teach about the Constitution in a dynamic way, so that students might see themselves not as passive recipients but as future participants in a never-ending process of constitutional debate, litigation, and change.

Mao and the Chinese Cultural Revolution

March 2, 2023   7:00–8:30 pm ET
Andrew G. Walder (Denise O’Leary and Kent Thiry Professor, Department of Sociology, Stanford University)

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Mao Zedong is still revered in China as the founder of the modern Chinese state, but during the last decade of his life he launched a remarkably radical and destructive campaign that aimed to tear down and rebuild the communist system that he founded in the 1950s. This decade of destruction is now largely ignored in contemporary China, and the ideas that launched it are diametrically opposed to the ones now emphasized by China’s leaders. This webinar will clarify the ideas that motivated Mao’s Cultural Revolution, and it will untangle the many twists and turns in this complex period. The campaign achieved few of the goals that Mao and his radical followers pursued, and they paradoxically laid the groundwork for a sharp turn toward a very different vision of socialism and economic development in the post-Mao era.

How American Art Made Relief, Recovery, and Reform a National Project During the Great Depression

March 7, 2023   7:00–8:30 pm ET
Erika Doss (Professor, Department of American Studies, University of Notre Dame)

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From 1933 to 1945, the federal government responded to the crisis of the Great Depression with the New Deal: political measures, economic programs, and cultural projects aimed at providing relief, recovery, and reform. The government also became the major patron of American art, supplying work relief for artists through projects like the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Women artists, working class artists, and artists of color gained unprecedented opportunities and public visibility during the New Deal as the artistic playing field expanded to a much broader range of American art styles, exhibition spaces, and audiences.

Government arts patronage hinged on rebuilding national unity and restoring confidence in capitalism and democracy, both destabilized during the Great Depression. While New Deal art varied in style and subject, much of it aimed to reaffirm American values of hard work, perseverance, individualism, and community. In contrast with arts patronage in Germany, Italy, and the Soviet Union, New Deal art specifically addressed America’s cultural pluralism, its multiple regional and local identities. Today, thousands of paintings, prints, posters, sculptures, and post office murals produced during the New Deal still exist. Focusing on these primary sources, this webinar considers how American art made relief, recovery, and reform a national project during the Great Depression.

Religion in America: Exploring the Changing Landscape with Students

March 14, 2023   7:00–8:30 pm ET
Timothy Beal (Florence Harkness Professor of Religion, Department of Religious Studies, Case Western Reserve University)

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Following a broad survey of the religious landscape of the United States, past and present, we will consider major forces of change on the horizon, especially the rapid rise of the “Nones” (those who answer “none” when asked to identify their religious affiliation) among younger generations. Emphasis will be placed on engaging easily accessible visual and textual resources with students in the classroom.

Fake News and Media Literacy during the American Revolution

March 16, 2023   7:00–8:30 pm ET
Jordan E. Taylor (Independent Scholar)

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As the United States seems to be growing more disconnected from reality, with conspiracy theories and falsehoods driving our politics, some Americans yearn to return to a time when everyone got their information from a newspaper and when most people could agree on the basic facts about what was happening in the world. Yet at the birth of the United States, there was very little agreement about world events. Fake news, conspiracy theories, and wild rumor defined the politics of the American Revolution. The revolution wasn’t just caused by big ideas about liberty and equality. It was also driven by misperceptions and misunderstandings. In this webinar, educators will learn how to use the media history of the American Revolution to frame and better understand our current so-called “post-truth” moment. By exploring the defective media literacy strategies of the eighteenth century, this webinar will also equip teachers to incorporate media literacy education into their classrooms.

Understanding Latinidades: Negotiating Region, Race, and Politics in the United States

March 28, 2023   7:00–8:30 pm ET
Sarah McNamara (Assistant Professor, Department of History, Texas A&M University)

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What do you imagine when you think of latinidad? Do common terms such as Hispanic, Latina/o, Latinx, Chicana/o, Chicanx, and more have the same meaning or are they distinct? How does latinidad differ across the United States and what does this show us about immigration, migration, and the shape of politics in the nation? This seminar answers these questions by examining the experience and history of latinidad between Florida and California, Texas and New York, as well as New Mexico and Illinois to illustrate how region and place have powerful influences on how someone understands themselves as well as their relationship to the US state. We will examine women and men, immigrants and migrants, exiles and asylum seekers, working class laborers and members of the middle and upper class as we explore both the fault lines and unifying experiences that lead to a relational understanding of self.

American Antisemitism in the Twentieth Century

April 11, 2023   7:00–8:30 pm ET
Kirsten Fermaglich (Professor of History and Jewish Studies, Department of History, Michigan State University)

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National Council for the Social Studies

The past several years have seen an upsurge in the visibility of antisemitism in the United States, from the Charlottesville marchers’ chant, “Jews will not replace us,” to mass murders at the Tree of Life and Poway synagogues. But most Americans think about antisemitism only in relationship to the Holocaust; antisemitism in the United States is a subject that few Americans understand or learn about in school. This webinar will trace the history of antisemitism in America throughout the twentieth century. Participants will learn the central tropes or themes that have historically shaped the hatred of Jews. We will then follow the emergence of these themes throughout the century, as Sunday laws, immigration restrictions, college quotas, federal housing policy, and extremist violence all shaped the lives of American Jews and limited their ability to participate equally in the life of the nation. We will talk as well about the ways that Jews battled these restrictions. By the end of the webinar, participants should be able to identify antisemitic tropes—even when Jews themselves are not openly mentioned—and to understand how those tropes have affected American Jewish life.

The N-Word in the Classroom: Teaching Racist Language without Harm

April 13, 2023   7:00–8:30 pm ET
Elizabeth Stordeur Pryor (Associate Professor of History, Department of History, Smith College)

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This workshop is designed for faculty and staff who grapple with a conundrum: How to teach the difficult racial history of the United States without inflicting damage in the present. The n-word, in particular—a word that is prevalent in both racist and anti-racist documents, art, literature and politics—poses a problem when invoked insensitively in academic spaces. Every year, classroom incidents involving the n-word generate student protests as well as impassioned debate from those who see any criticism of language as an attack on freedom of speech. As these conflicts play out at the most prestigious colleges, universities, and secondary schools in the country, they demonstrate how teaching material with the n-word has reached the level of pedagogical crisis. Arguing that the n-word in the classroom represents an issue about teaching rather than free speech, Elizabeth Stordeur Pryor, has given a TED Talk, led dozens of workshops, and developed a method for introducing faculty and students to these difficult conversations. Launching the webinar with a brief and basic history of the n-word in the United States, Pryor demonstrates her method for addressing fraught subjects and offers the building blocks for educators to teach the racist history of the US without harm.

Find Your Voice: Teaching Asian American Literature and Aiiieeeee!

April 18, 2023   7:00–8:30 pm ET
Tara Fickle (Associate Professor, Department of English, University of Oregon)

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Recent anti-Asian hate and resulting activism, in conjunction with the Black Lives Matter movement, have reignited the possibilities of interracial solidarity. This crucial coalition-building can best be understood through its historical antecedents: the social protest movements of the 1960s and 70s and the call for ethnic studies curricula in the American education system. Emblematic of this call for Asian Americans was a literary anthology, Aiiieeeee! (1974), which insisted on an Asian American voice that went far beyond the stereotypical cry of Asian characters depicted in early American films and comic books that inspired its title. 

This webinar will be led by Professor Tara Fickle, who helped to get the anthology reissued in 2019, wrote the new foreword, and is developing an associated digital archive. It will provide educators with grounding to teach Asian American literature, contextualizing major events and themes (such as Japanese American mass incarceration, the racial “in-between” position of Asian Americans as model minorities, and the rise of China) that have informed this underappreciated body of literature. Educators will learn to effectively lead students in discussions of a complex racial history, deploy accurate and up-to-date vocabulary, and connect contemporary events on the domestic and international stage to their history.

Art and US Imperialism, Past and Present

April 27, 2023   7:00–8:30 pm ET
Maggie M. Cao (NHC Fellow, 2021–22; David G. Frey Associate Professor, Department of Art & Art History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

“Imperialism” has long been an uneasy term for Americans in the contiguous United States. Many ignore or even deny the country’s colonial activities abroad, which started in the nineteenth century and continue today. This webinar will help educators bring empire into their teaching of the history and culture of the United States by mobilizing art as a productive lens. We will untangle the power relations and imperialist history informing nineteenth century US paintings of foreign people, places, and things. We will also look at artists living today who respond critically to that history in their work. In the process, we will understand what US imperialism looked like in the past and how it continues to affect contemporary communities and environments.

A Revolutionary History of the Middle East

May 2, 2023   7:00–8:30 pm ET
Naghmeh Sohrabi (Charles (Corky) Goodman Professor of Middle East History, Brandeis University)

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Primary Source Revolutions topple governments and usher in political transformation. They raise people’s hopes while disrupting existing power dynamics and social equilibria. In just over 100 years, the Middle East has witnessed the demise of empires, the establishment of nation-states, and power-vying between competing ideological and political camps. Throughout the region, revolutionaries have ended monarchies and proclaimed republics, and ousted tyrants and replaced them with a wide range of secular and theocratic alternatives.

Led by Naghmeh Sohrabi, professor of Middle East history and president of the Association for Iranian Studies, and co-presented by Primary Source and the National Humanities Center, this webinar explores the modern history of revolutions in the Middle East.

Difference and Diversity in the History of Computing

May 4, 2023   7:00–8:30 pm ET
Mar Hicks (NHC Fellow, 2018–19; Associate Professor of History of Technology, Humanities Department, Illinois Institute of Technology)

This webinar looks at how the history of computing is more diverse than many people expect, and why these less-well-known narratives are important to understanding the changes in the field of computing over time, as well as in the present day. Topics that will be addressed include gender, professionalization, race, class, sexuality, meritocracy, and historiography.

Fall 2022 Semester

Misinformation: Assessing the Threat and How to Address It

August 30, 2022   7:00–8:30 pm ET
Dustin Carnahan (Assistant Professor, Department of Communication, Michigan State University)

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In April 2022, President Barack Obama added his voice to the growing chorus of scholars, analysts, and pundits expressing grave concerns about the nature and structure of our information ecosystem, specifically pointing to the potential for misinformation to inflame “humanity’s worst instincts.” But just how worried should we be? And what can we, as citizens, do about it? This seminar provides historical perspective to the question of misinformation, the societal trends and psychological factors that have led us to our current moment, and a review of the evidence regarding the effectiveness of strategies aimed at addressing the problem of misinformation. The discussion will conclude by exploring the question of how much of a threat misinformation is to democracy and civic society, as well as how the battle against misinformation is likely to evolve into the future. By the end of the webinar, educators will be provided important context into how the issue of misinformation should be understood and evidence-based strategies to promote greater awareness of and resistance to misinformation as we prepare the next generation of civic-minded citizens.

The Strike: Rethinking Labor History in an Era of Economic Inequality

September 1, 2022   7:00–8:30 pm ET
Erik Loomis (Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, Department of History, University of Rhode Island)

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The United States is presently seeing a surge in union activity at corporations such as Amazon, Starbucks, Apple, and REI, plus at universities and among teachers. Meanwhile, we are living in an era of unprecedented economic inequality and attacks on unions. Unionization rates are the lowest in a century. This webinar will help educators gain an understanding of US labor history, using the idea of the strike as a way to provide an entry point to students on this complex issue. By the end of the seminar, teachers will have a greater understanding of how workers fought for economic democracy through organizing strikes, how ideologies of race and gender often led to strikes that undermined solidarity in the working class through workers fighting for race and gender exclusive workplaces, and how we can explain to students the complexity of economic history through examining the strike.

Who Interprets the Constitution and Why It Matters

September 7, 2022   7:00–8:30 pm ET
Risa Goluboff (Dean, Arnold H. Leon Professor of Law, Professor of History, School of Law, University of Virginia)

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Most people would answer the question of who interprets the Constitution in three words: The Supreme Court. Until recently, most historians who wrote about constitutional change similarly focused on the Court. This lecture will argue that that approach is both unduly narrow and fundamentally disempowering. Constitutional change does not begin or end at the Supreme Court. It involves regular people who believe that the law should address their problems, and lawyers who organize those problems into legal categories. It also includes social movements, lawyers, journalists, scholars, governmental officials, politicians, and others. Drawing on historical examples involving civil rights, social movements, and policing in the middle decades of the twentieth century, the webinar will elaborate on this more expansive approach to constitutional history. It will show how broadening the lens of who participates in interpreting the Constitution opens up new possibilities for constitutional meaning in the future and empowers people far beyond Supreme Court justices to participate in creating constitutional change.

The Presidency of Jimmy Carter

September 13, 2022   7:00–8:30 pm ET
Julian E. Zelizer (Professor of History and Public Affairs, Princeton School of Public & International Affairs, Princeton University)

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This webinar explores the presidency of Jimmy Carter. Understanding the thirty-ninth president of the United States raises crucial questions about the meaning of presidential leadership. Though Carter was a one-term president, who opened the door to Ronald Reagan and the conservative movement, he also successfully moved forward on a number of major policy issues that resonate to this day—energy, human rights, conservation, inflation, crisis diplomacy, government reform and more. How do we understand a president whose policies were often ahead of their time yet whose political failures were significant? This webinar will dive into the four years that Carter served in the Oval Office to rethink some of the basic ways that we evaluate presidential legacies.

“They Made Me the Best Bronc Rider in the County, But They Weren’t Trying to Make Me A Rider”: Enslaved and Free Black Cowboys in Texas

September 15, 2022   7:00–8:30 pm ET
Ronald W. Davis, II (Department of History, The University of Texas at Austin)

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During the cattle drive era of Post-Reconstruction Texas, approximately 35,000 cowboys participated in long-distance cattle drives. One in four of those cowboys was Black. Yet, some Black cowboys were born enslaved and learned cowboy work before the Civil War. Ronald Davis is a historian and curator of African American history at the Witte Museum in San Antonio, Texas. Recently, he cocurated the exhibit Black Cowboys: An American Story, which will travel through the Smithsonian. This webinar will assist educators in understanding the lived experiences of Black cowboys before and after the Civil War. During the workshop, teachers will learn that the institution of slavery was a malleable one, shaped the demands of the enslaver and the labor performed by the enslaved. They will also learn how Black cowboys navigated racism and discrimination on cattle drives and ranches, two of the few places that did not segregate laborers based upon race. Additionally, we will discuss why Texans, Americans, and Hollywood decided to forget Black cowboys. By the end of the seminar, educators will be able to teach the work Black cowboys did, the experiences they endured, and their essential role in the Texas cattle industry.

Talking Ghosts and Bold Women: The Weird World of Spiritualism in the Nineteenth Century

September 20, 2022   7:00–8:30 pm ET
Molly Worthen (NHC Fellow, 2020–21; Associate Professor, Department of History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

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In mid-nineteenth century America, it was scandalous for a single woman to travel by herself or address a mixed audience—unless she claimed to be channeling the words of a ghost. Spiritualist trance speakers addressed crowds of thousands, while others worked as mediums who earned a living by connecting grieving families with lost loved ones or resurrecting the voice of Abraham Lincoln or George Washington for a party trick. The vast majority of Spiritualists were women, and they found both religious fulfillment and an early form of feminism in this community—a movement that remains a more potent strain in our own culture than you may realize.

Liberty is Sweet: The Hidden History of the American Revolution

September 29, 2022   7:00–8:30 pm ET
Woody Holton (Peter and Bonnie McCausland Professor, Department of History, University of South Carolina)

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National Council for the Social Studies

In his book, Liberty is Sweet, Woody Holton’s “hidden history” of the American Revolution, nothing is quite what it seems. The painting on the cover seems conventional: a pistol-wielding Patriot foot-soldier captures two British horsemen…but the Patriot turns out to be a woman in drag. The phrase “Liberty is Sweet” sounds like the sentiments of Thomas Jefferson or Benjamin Franklin but actually comes from a 1775 letter describing George Washington’s slaves’ aspirations to escape Mount Vernon. Holton entitles his preface “Invisible Enemies” in a nod to the Native Americans who were long omitted from the story of American Independence but actually played a crucial role in bringing on the Revolutionary War and shaping its course. And these are far from the only surprises in Holton’s astounding reappraisal of the founding of the United States.

Participants in this webinar will read some of the most surprising documents Holton found while researching Liberty Is Sweet, then discuss and debate their meaning with the author.

Christian Nationalism and Internationalism: Evangelicals and US Foreign Policy in Modern History

October 4, 2022   7:00–8:30 pm ET
Lauren Frances Turek (Associate Professor of History, Director of Museum Studies, Trinity University)

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In the United States, white, evangelical Protestants exercise considerable political power, functioning as a strong and unified bloc on a range of hot-button cultural issues. Some of this political engagement has taken the form of overt Christian nationalism, with activists seeking to change US society, politics, and culture to conform with their particular interpretation of Christianity. Evangelicals have not limited their activism to the domestic sphere, however. This seminar will provide a history of evangelical Christian internationalism. It will explore the rise of the Christian right (and Christian nationalism) as a force in American politics, with a focus on the foreign policy issues that mobilized white evangelicals to engage with global politics—and seek to create a more “Christian” world. We will discuss US-Israeli relations, but will move beyond this issue to learn about the range of other foreign policy concerns that motivated US evangelicals, including religious liberty and persecution abroad, communism, human trafficking, and more. By the end of this seminar, educators will have a broad understanding of Christian nationalism and internationalism, and how these movements shaped US foreign policy during the Cold War and beyond.

Uncivil Religion: A Resource for Teaching about January 6, 2021

October 11, 2022   7:00–8:30 pm ET
Michael J. Altman (Associate Professor, Department of Religious Studies, The University of Alabama)

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Why did some members of the crowd sing the Christian hymn “Amazing Grace” during the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021? From JESUS 2020 signs to a large wooden cross, the rally and violent attack on the Capitol included a variety of religious symbols, rituals, and messages. What was the role of religion in the January 6 attack? How does it reflect the larger relationship between religion and politics in the United States? And how can teachers effectively discuss two difficult ideas, religion and politics, in the classroom? This webinar will use Uncivil Religion: January 6, 2021, an online resource developed by the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Alabama and the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, to introduce educators to strategies for teaching about religion, discuss the role of religion in the events of January 6 and American politics overall, and provide examples from Uncivil Religion that educators can use in the classroom.

Tacky’s Revolt: The Story of an Atlantic Slave War

October 18, 2022   7:00–8:30 pm ET
Vincent Brown (NHC Fellow, 2011–12; Charles Warren Professor of American History and Professor of African and African American Studies, Harvard University)

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In the second half of the eighteenth century, as European imperial conflicts extended the domain of capitalist agriculture, warring African factions fed their captives to the transatlantic slave trade while masters struggled continuously to keep their restive slaves under the yoke. In this contentious atmosphere, a movement of enslaved West Africans in Jamaica organized to throw off that yoke by violence. Their uprising—which became known as Tacky’s Revolt—featured a style of fighting increasingly familiar today: scattered militias opposing great powers, with fighters hard to distinguish from noncombatants. Even after it was put down, the insurgency rumbled throughout the British Empire at a time when slavery seemed the dependable bedrock of its dominion. Tracing the roots, routes, and reverberations of this event across disparate parts of the Atlantic world, historian Vincent Brown will expand our understanding of the relationship between European, African, and American history, as it speaks to our understanding of wars of terror today.

Colonial Hauntings: Pedagogies of Latinx Horror

October 25, 2022   7:00–8:30 pm ET
Maia Gil'Adí (Assistant Professor, English, Boston University)

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The horror genre has conquered the contemporary literary and popular market. From Jason Voorhees and Freddie Kruger to Hannibal Lecter and Pennywise the Clown, the monstrous figures of horror stories terrify and titillate us. Yet, there is an important tradition of Latinx literary and cultural production that mobilizes the tropes of the genre in unexpected ways, compelling us to reimagine what horror can be as it intersects with race and ethnicity. In this webinar, Gil’Adí examines Latinx horror to show how the genre addresses the unique experience of Latinx people in the Americas. She will show how the capacities of horror deepen our understanding of the foundational yet spectral presence of Latinx people in the “American” imaginary, treating monsters and haunting expansively. Attending to how writers use images of ghosts, zombies, monsters, and the otherworldly, we will explore shifting definitions of citizenship, nationhood, belonging, and identity. As we survey a variety of monstrous bodies, post-apocalyptic landscapes, and dystopian fantasies, we will consider questions such as: What is a monster? What is “Latinx”? How does the unique experience of Latinx people in the “New World” haunt conceptions of nation, citizenship, “illegality,” and personhood? Why do Latinx authors and filmmakers turn to horror to depict the Latinx experience?

Title IX at Fifty

November 1, 2022   7:00–8:30 pm ET
Anne M. Blaschke (Associate Lecturer, American Studies Department, University of Massachusetts Boston)

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Title IX of the Education Amendments Act celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1972, the policy requires educational institutions that receive government funding to treat all sexes and gender identities equally. While Title IX is most famous for opening sports to female athletes, the law’s effects have extended far beyond the playing field since its passage—reshaping the experiences of all who live and work on American campuses. This webinar examines the history of Title IX. Participants will explore the feminist activism that led to the law’s passage in 1972; the battles over academics, sport, sexual misconduct, and gender identity waged in the following decades; and Title IX’s impact on current cultural politics. Blaschke explains that Title IX has been both phenomenally successful and disturbingly unfulfilled. Even as millions of Americans have seized the expansive gender and sex opportunities Title IX has forced open—which their children and grandchildren now expect, and even take for granted—the potential of Title IX to normalize equality in education has not been realized because neither educational institutions nor the federal government have enforced the law. This seminar invites attendees to reflect on the history of Title IX and its potential to affect the future of American education.

Why Teaching Maus Matters Now More Than Ever

November 3, 2022   7:00–8:30 pm ET
Scott Denham (Charles A. Dana Professor of German Studies, German Studies Department, Davidson College) and Barbara E. Mann (Chana Kekst Professor of Jewish Literature, Modern Jewish Studies Department, Jewish Theological Seminary of America)

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In January 2022, the school board in McMinn County, TN, banned Art Spiegelman’s Maus from their middle school curriculum. This action, together with numerous other recent episodes of the banning of books related to LGBTQ+ identity, immigrant narratives, and questions of race and ethnicity, raises important questions about the classroom as a site of censorship and pedagogy as a tool of resistance. Especially given the rise of authoritarian regimes abroad, and the visibility and influence of extremist right-wing thought in the US, Maus offers important reminders of how societies have dehumanized entire populations in the past, and how acknowledging this history provides a model of compassion and empathy for the present.

This workshop will provide practical pedagogy for the teaching of Maus—focusing on the unique form and aesthetics of comix and the graphic novel, as well as essential historical and cultural background for teaching about life–writing, memoir, and the Holocaust.

What You’re Fighting For: American Women in World War II

November 8, 2022   7:00–8:30 pm ET
Kara Dixon Vuic (LCpl. Benjamin W. Schmidt Professor of War, Conflict, and Society in 20th-Century America, Department of History, Texas Christian University)

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On a tour of Hawai’i and the South Pacific in 1944 and 1945, comedian Bob Hope introduced tap dancer Patty Thomas to a crowd of servicemen who cheered and whistled their approval. “I just want you boys to see what you’re fighting for, that’s all,” he casually explained. Hope’s pronouncement today seems shocking, a brazen dangling of a young woman’s body as a kind of prize for men at war. Yet, few at the time would have thought twice about it. This webinar will consider why. We will examine why US agencies and the armed forces sent women all over the world to entertain servicemen, how the military used women’s bodies as recruitment and motivation tools, and how women struggled to straddle a blurry line between overt sexuality and respectable appeal. Images of women dancing for the troops or serving them doughnuts might have comforted the public back at home, but the women were doing far more important work than the images allowed. Our conversation will place these women at the center of how the American public gave meaning to the war and the gendered disruptions that it brought to their lives.

Indian Boarding Schools in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

November 15, 2022   7:00–8:30 pm ET
Cristina Stanciu (Associate Professor, Department of English, Virginia Commonwealth University) and Brenda J. Child (Northrop Professor of American Studies, Department of American Studies, University of Minnesota)

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This webinar will introduce audiences to the history of Indian boarding schools in the United States and Canada, as well as their continued legacy in contemporary Native communities. Designed to erase Indigeneity from North American lands and cultural memory—“kill the Indian and save the man,” in the words of Richard H. Pratt, the founder of the infamous Carlisle Indian School in Carlisle, PA (1879), and  “kill the Indian in the child” (in Canada)—the Indian boarding schools became what historians today call “total institutions” in their attempts to assimilate Native children and destroy Native cultures and communities starting in the nineteenth century. Besides uncovering this history through several case studies, the webinar will also pay close attention to representations of the boarding schools in both historical and contemporary American (and Canadian) literature.

How to Hide an Empire: Telling the History of the Greater United States

November 17, 2022   7:00–8:30 pm ET
Daniel Immerwahr (Professor, Department of History, Northwestern University)

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Look at a map of the United States and you'll see the familiar cluster of states in North America, plus Hawaii and Alaska in boxes. But what about Puerto Rico? What about American Samoa? The country has held overseas territory—lands containing millions of US nationals—for the bulk of its history. They don't appear often in textbooks, but the outposts and colonies of the United States have been central to its history. This webinar explores what US history would look like if it weren't just the history of the continental states but of all US land: the Greater United States.

The Myth of the “Dark Ages”: Teaching a Knowable Medieval Europe

November 29, 2022   7:00–8:30 pm ET
Matthew Gabriele (Professor and Chair, Department of Religion and Culture, Virginia Tech University)

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The word “medieval” often conjures images of the “Dark Ages”—centuries of ignorance, superstition, stasis, savagery, and poor hygiene. But more than that, the “darkness” of medieval Europe is often taken to mean that the period is fundamentally unknowable. This characterization has historically allowed people in subsequent centuries to fill that space with their own fantasies, allowing it to become a playground for fantasy authors and technologists, but also for nineteenth century colonialists and modern white supremacists. This means that how we talk about (and teach) this period matters, since modern analogies to the medieval (American empire and the Fall of Rome, COVID-19 and the Black Death, terrorism and the Crusades, etc.) still abound. This webinar will try to reframe the European Middle Ages, capturing this 1,000-year era in all its fundamental humanity, bringing to light its complexity and how it was capable of both beauty and horrors. We will discuss how the period came to be thought of as “dark” and “in-between,” and cover in depth particular moments from medieval Europe that shine a light on the messiness of this period and upend our assumptions.

The Abolitionist Roots of Reconstruction

December 8, 2022   7:00–8:30 pm ET
Manisha Sinha (James L. and Shirley A. Draper Chair in American History, Department of History, University of Connecticut)

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Recent events have revealed the importance of teaching and understanding the period of Reconstruction in United States history. Drawing on research from her forthcoming book, The Rise and Fall of the Second American Republic: A New History of Reconstruction, 1860-1900 (2023), Manisha Sinha will discuss how educators can incorporate the histories of abolition and Reconstruction in a more robust way by understanding how ordinary American citizens, men and women, Black and White, helped to expand the boundaries of American democracy through progressive constitutionalism and state formation at the national and state levels. Reconstruction, which was overthrown through a concerted campaign of political terror and legal chicanery, reveals the contested nature of American democracy with important historical lessons for our own times. By the end of this webinar, teachers will be able to draw on these insights to develop an expanded sense of this era in their classrooms.

Black Books and Data in the Twenty First Century

December 13, 2022   7:00–8:30 pm ET
Maryemma Graham (NHC Fellow, 2005–06; 2006–07; Distinguished Professor, Department of English, University of Kansas)

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While the digitization of texts has helped researchers rediscover lost works and forgotten authors, its benefits have not been distributed equally. This webinar will provide a brief overview of the History of Black Writing's "Black Book Interactive Project (BBIP)," a unique approach to reading and researching Black literature creating greater digital access to the work of both well-known and lesser-known novels by African American writers.

American Republics: 1783–1850

December 15, 2022   7:00–8:30 pm ET
Alan Taylor (NHC Fellow, 1993–94; Thomas Jefferson Foundation Chair, Department of History, University of Virginia)

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After winning independence, Americans still felt insecure, dreading that a foreign power would exploit disaffected elements within the new Union. Citizens knew that their country had dangerous fault lines within. Indians and enslaved people might ally with the British or Spanish empires to overthrow the United States. Worse still, foreigners might exploit jealousies between the states to provoke disunion and civil war. Enemies without combining with foes within could shatter the Union that preserved free government and internal peace. Fear drove American leaders to expand deep into the continent to push rival empires – British and Spanish – farther away from the United States. They hoped that distance would weaken imperial efforts to rally Indians and provoke slave revolts – or promote secession by a restive region. Leaders also distrusted their own settlers, fearing that they might break away to join another empire or form their own, independent republic. Prior to the 1840s, Americans lacked confidence in any supposed “Manifest Destiny” to control the continent. On the contrary, leaders pushed expansion to reduce the vulnerability of the United States to internal divisions.