We invite you to apply to participate in our exciting, rigorous two-week summer institute for school teachers “Race and Politics in the American Civil War.” We will convene 30 educators, nine renowned scholars, and the vast treasures of the New-York Historical Society’s collections for a two-week summer institute from July 13-25, 2014. The Institute will engage you in groundbreaking new scholarship, dialogue with leaders in the field, deep primary source research, and meaningful curriculum projects to examine the centrality of racial issues in the politics of the Civil War, and determine how politics and policies evolved over the course of these arduous four years to fundamentally reshape American democracy.
After the end of the Civil War and Reconstruction, a Southern interpretation of the conflict as a noble fight for states’ rights rather than a battle to maintain slavery overtook the national memory of the war. This “Lost Cause” mythology, in which noble southern gentlemen fought with valor for local rights against the aggressive North, has long been debunked by historians but remains in the national consciousness today. Moreover, a near deluge of recent scholarship highlights African Americans’ centrality in fighting for emancipation and equal rights—as opposed to the old image of Lincoln and other white politicians as the main conduit for change. The goal of our Institute is to engage K-12 educators in an analysis of these important perspectives on the past.
The Institute is built upon the core of the New-York Historical Society (N-YHS)’s pedagogical methodology—the simple guiding premise that objects tell stories. In The Civil War in 50 Objects, Harold Holzer, the book’s author and co-director of this institute, writes, “The Society has been dedicated to amassing a definitive record of slavery, secession, rebellion, and reunion from the time these movements first roiled the city and the nation, and the depth of today’s holdings bears witness to its unflagging dedication to that aspiration ever since.” Institute participants will enjoy direct access to these original primary sources and will learn to lead object-based inquiry to leverage artifacts to communicate rich and complex American history content in the classroom.
The subjects of race and politics will be interwoven throughout the course, as they were inseparable topics during the war itself, and will be structured around a chronological historical framework. The Institute will begin with an investigation of the national political and social climate anticipating the war: the Northern and Southern ramifications of race and politics before and during the election of 1860 and subsequent secession. We will then trace how the political landscape changed over the course of the Civil War, and the ways diverse groups of Americans viewed the roles African Americans could and should play as the nation evolved and the war progressed (particularly with respect to the policies of Abraham Lincoln, the methods of Frederick Douglass, and the actions and reactions of the black community). We will then investigate women’s contributions to the war effort; the roles African Americans played in carrying out the fight and, in so doing, fighting for their civil rights; and the Thirteenth Amendment and the final end of legal slavery. The legacies of the war and its continued relevance today will be further illuminated through a panel discussion on the history and memory of the Civil War with some of the nation’s best-known historians.
It has been said that New York won the Civil War, contributing critical men, money, and materiel in unmatched numbers. The program will benefit from this rich history and will acknowledge the importance of place in the study of the past. Teachers will learn about the 1863 New York City Draft Riots, the largest civil insurrection in American history (with the exception of the Civil War itself), not only through readings and a lecture, but by physically experiencing the sites at which this momentous uprising took place. Participants will also visit the African Burial Ground, the final resting place of over 400 enslaved Africans; Cooper Union, site of Lincoln’s famous speech that propelled him toward the presidency; Plymouth Church, prominent abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher’s church; and Union Square, the site of numerous rallies and parades during the War.
“Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.”