I agree! Also, what a pleasure it is to sit and listen, knowing that I can go back to watch the lecture again and take the relevant notes at a more leisurely pace. Hearing everything a second or third time is a huge help to me and a real strength of an online course over a conventional one.
Ann! Thanks for the lovely comment. I teach 6th Grade World Culture's which means we pound history, geography, culture, government and the kitchen sink at them in one year. Seventh grade is devoted to Texas History and 8th grade has American History for our state. Which means 6th grade lays the foundation for most geography skills until the kids get to high school. Unfortunately, geography has been taken out of a lot of the curriculum and we have to find clever ways of adding it back in. The Atlas is a huge help for making the historical/cultural connections.
I like the university aspect of the lesson. UT Austin wouldn't be founded for another half century, by which time Rutersville would be merged with three other colleges to become Southwestern University in 1870 (and original named Texas University before the school in Austin was conceived) and we're celebrating our 175th anniversary next month. But for educated migrants who wanted a good education for their children without returning east, it was a real concern. The university maps also demonstrate just how few advanced educational opportunities were available across the south. It also leads into discussions about single sex vs. co-ed educational opportunities in the South. Texas was quite progressive in 1860 having men and women enrolled together- of course there were only a handful of college available. You could do an entire unit of when and why and how and the backlash from single sex going co-ed. Hollins College in Roanoke, Virginia, changed their name to Hollins University about fifteen years ago when they started accepting male students. Hood College in Frederick, Maryland, had alums who heavily debated which dorms would be open to male students. For both those schools, and others it was a huge cultural change. Remember when the Citadel started to admit women to the corps in the mid 1990's? The change doesn't always come easy, but in all three colleges changing to co-ed was the right decision for the future of the colleges/universities.
For your IB students you could build an entire mini-DBQ with a check list of what you need to take as the hook exercise.
Land grants in Texas are amazing and you can read about them from the TSHA site or Texas General Land Commission. The Texas Land Commission is a fantastic resource and has great information about headright grants (prior to 1836, a family could acquire over 4,000 acres of land). The education specialist at TGLC is a retired 7th grade Texas History teacher (that I use to work with) and is incredible. I don't know what other states offer, but between TSHA and TGLC, we have a lot of resources available to use. So many early Texans came to Texas from other southern states, there's going to be a lot of crossover.
I also attempted to connect the concept of American Identity and the development of a southern regional identity and found your understanding really interesting. It seemed you argued that the southern identity was characterized as confident, flexible, persistent, and opportunistic. All impeccable qualities, yet the shadow of slavery, its acceptance, justification, and advance, was increasing. Kupperman below describes these characteristics as "virtues" and "defects."
Kupperman wrote "The outlines of a genuinely American society, with all of its virtues and defects, first emerged along the James."
You have an intriguing idea there! I don't think you need to reach farther than the smartphone in your students' pockets or the shoes on their feet. Conditions faced by workers in high tech factories in China or in the clothing industry in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka or Vietnam might serve as a good point of discussion.
It's remarkable how quick we are to justify our participation in economies driven by practices (sweatshops, child labor, coercive work environments, etc.) that we would consider unjust at home.
Thanks for your insights, and bringing up details that couldn't fit within our 350 word limit to the posts. I agree with you completely that Jefferson looked beyond slavery in his idealism, and accepted slavery- including his own slaves as an inheritance that needed to just be lived with at the time. In his Notes I was struck by his comments so favorable on the aptitude of Native Americans in the arts and other forms of creative and logical expression in comparison to African Americans. That seems to foreshadow his instructions to the Corps of Discovery on their approach to exploring the Louisiana Territory that he acquired to further expand our boundaries and lands suitable for farming. It seems that just as slavery ultimately needed to keep expanding to survive, so did U.S. boundaries to accommodate Jefferson's vision for his Agrarian Republic.
Great step by step instructions for middle schoolers, especially our intervention students and their aides.
I appreciated your essay. Attempting to comprehend this man is an example of what makes our subject matter so ceaselessly fascinating. Jefferson’s character and legacy presents a wonderful opportunity for the teacher to introduce historiography into the curriculum. There is an old joke that in some districts in the Boston area (Cambridge and Brookline), students graduate high school knowing only that Jefferson owned slaves, clueless as to his authorship of the DOC or his serving two terms as president. If this story contains even a shred of truth, then those teachers have been missing a perfect opportunity to provide the sources for students to decide for themselves. And those teachers are indoctrinating, not teaching. But I digress…
Jefferson’s racial comments are quite disturbing. I have hesitated to bring them into class for that very reason. It’s interesting that that particular passage would be chosen by the editors.
Your last paragraph is insightful in that it allows Jefferson to provide his own fodder to demonstrate his hypocrisy. It made me think of how Lincoln viewed Jefferson. I’m reading Guelzo’s intellectual biography of Lincoln and Lincoln privately detested Jefferson for this very hypocrisy. (He also despised his economic policies and theories.)
Thanks for sharing.
You highlighted some excellent points about the economic differences in the mentality of white land owners in Virginia. Taylor's article helped me note similarities between the economic goals and vision described by Morgan about Jamestown in comparison to the eighteenth century lifestyle described by Taylor. From the very earliest days of settled Virginia, the English gentry class who originally came to Virginia, wanted to make money without personally doing a lot of work. They used power and force to ensure that the enslaved people were productive. Later as the economy in the colonies developed, Taylor notes that southern soil was eroded and depleted (Taylor 17). This necessitated moving inland and south and expanding agricultural production. As I've heard, many southern plantation owners were land rich, but cash poor. There was no disposable, liquid money to pay off debts and invest in new infrastructure. The fear of "lapsing into dependency" either to the British empire or an American government stymied the southern economy from developing out of its agricultural base (Taylor 20). The lack of interest in the outside world, as you describe in paragraph 3, is another example of the distrust that residents felt about interference from non-locals; the economic diversity in the south was directly impacted by this and contributed to greater economic challenges that were encountered in the nineteenth century.
Thank you for reading my essay. I felt I would return the favor!
I enjoyed reading your analysis of Jefferson’s contradictions in terms of philosophy and personal practice. Most of us, I’m sure, find it at least somewhat difficult to fathom the Jefferson of the Declaration of Independence is the same man who wrote Notes on the State of Virginia. Even experts in the field aren't quite sure how to feel about this connection: I had the pleasure of working with Peter Onuf (Jefferson Memorial Foundation Professor, UVA) during a Teaching American History Grant and even this specialist who has attributed the better part of his profession to the analysis Jefferson and his era stated he was “deeply conflicted” on his personal views of Jefferson. However, it is also important for us (the students of history) to realize the complexity of the times and how easy it can be to denounce 18th century actions that do not meld with our 21st century beliefs.
And as a side note to your figures on Jefferson (to add to the confounding views):
He owned approximately 600 slaves throughout the course of his life. And he more than likely fathered all six of Sally Hemings' children.
I agree with your thoughts on America's blind idolization of Jefferson and Madison. I too, teach in the North, Ohio to be exact, and my students often perceive the South as the "bad guys" when we discuss the Civil War. I've mad a contentious effort to educate them on the fact that economically the North was profiting on the backs of slaves through the use of cotton in the textile mills and the rum shipped aboard the trading vessels bound for England. My students see the institution of slavery as the ultimate moral evil and have a very difficult time separating the morality of slavery from the economic necessity of it; at least from the South's perspective. Students of history need to learn that in regards to slavery, that the focus should not be on who are "good guys" or "bad guys," but how we keep this depravity from continuing.The United States still has slavery today.
If you have any use for print maps, the Facts on File American Historical Maps on File is a splendid resource. Back when there used to be such a thing as a library budget, I bought it for my middle school library. US history is about a third of the 450 maps in the collection, which range from ancient civilizations to modern times. When you buy the collection, you have the right to photocopy them as many times as you want. I've found it enormously helpful, especially for side-by-side comparisons. They photocopy well (unlike most other maps I've found) and are easy to read and interpret. The map legends are nicely done and useful for kids who are new to map reading. I don't know about the rest of you, but we get kids coming into 7th grade who don't even know the difference between a continent and a country, can't draw the cardinal directions on a map, and in some cases have never even had a social studies class. It's sad.
I was leafing through the Facts on File today and found a map entitled US Industry in the Early 1800s. I thought it was telling that where the south ought to be, there was an inset map of New England. The map didn't even show anything south of Virginia. I guess I could see the South by its absence in that map.
As a middle school teacher, I agree with the lack of depth in teaching about Jefferson. The hypocrisy, from our modern standpoint can at times be difficult to tackle and teach. By using primary sources in the classroom, students can go deeper into who these founding fathers were. It is difficult for students and adults to understand slavery as we are looking at it through 21st century eyes instead of 17th century. State standards/Common Core are not helping either as some schools are not teaching history at all.
I have found that the summer institutes through Gilder Lerhman are wonderful for teachers to go in-depth into a person or event. They are offering Thomas Jefferson this summer-you may want to check it out.
Thanks for talking about how history truly unfolds - in the small moments that might become become big moments and trends. It's a shame that more people, not just students, don't realize that. It seems to be a much more empowering view to think that one's small actions can matter. History is a collective experience and narrative. It can be told through our primary sources and it can be told by the most common voices - like those in Zinn's A People's History.
I'm also glad you talked about Kupperman's article The Jamsetown Project. I found Morgan's Jamestown Fiasco to be a much more insightful, truthful and interesting read. It is hard for me to believe that this was published in 2007. Kupperman seems to forgive all the sins and foolishness (Morgan is the opposite and a bit scathing, often reminding readers that the settlers were "bowling in the streets" rather than working)of those who settled Jamestown, because their settlement became the blueprint for a successful colony. Sounds like the premise for a business school case study. Yet Jamestown's success relied both on Rolfe's persistence and, to me, luck. What if Rolfe never thought to try, or could not get, seeds of the West Indies tobacco variety? What if he never thought to consider growing tobacco? Then we could not hold up Jamestown as a blueprint for all other settlements. I'd also like to see more evidence from Kupperman that the Puritans used Jamestown as a blueprint, rather than just coming to that conclusion based on timing, but perhaps that comes later in her book.
Your closing statement led me to think about what it means to be superior. According to Merriam-Webster to be superior means, “of higher rank, quality, or importance.” I suppose the white men of Jamestown thought of themselves as a higher class of people than the black, making themselves superior to their slaves. However, once you pointed out what each group contributed to the colony it is obvious that the black slaves were of greater importance because without them the colony would not have economically flourished as it did. And, if the black population were of greater importance then they were superior. I never thought of the black slave population as being superior to the white slaveholders, but you so eloquently made this the obvious case.
I have taught Equiano's writings to my 9th grade class. I know they found it absolutely fascinating that a man going through this type of experience can come out of it and is able to write about it. I like your approach to teaching the piece to students though. Instead of focusing on the writing itself and questioning his experience, you go and ask students how and why did Equiano write it? Adding the Jefferson piece to the discussion, students can make striking contrasts to how each writer viewed slavery. Teaching students history through primary source documents allows them to look back in time and understand the subject through the historic figures themselves.
One of the more valuable features of this class so far has been the focus on geography. I live in Virginia Beach, not far from Jamestown, so I feel like I'm really learning the geography of my own backyard. I found several of the maps in the historical atlas to be particularly interesting. For example, I noted that the climate of Britain would have been rather different than that of Jamestown. I wonder if this influenced the difficulty that the early settlers had. I also thought it was striking to see the tremendous concentration of slaves in the Virginia piedmont. Virginia really was the backbone of the South's slave economy for many years, and it is interesting to explore the early influences of Jamestown on this development.
I have passed Bartram's Gardens many many times on my way to Fort Mifflin. This year, I need to make it a priority because it sounds lovely. Thank you for your reply!
I am also an 11th grade US History teacher and I fully understand your difficulties. The absolutes and the attempt to oversimplify are regular members of my class. However, I try to as much as possible put my students in the shoes of the people we are studying and try to develop as much empathy as possible for every group. For instance, I try to make sure my students know why slave owners owned slaves and how people like Richard Henry Lee could be a champion of liberty and still parade his slaves as an illustration of British despotism. I agree with your reading of Jefferson’s science, but I would add that I like even better his empathy for the slaves and their prejudices toward their masters’ race, which illustrated his own inner multiple perspectives. Regarding Taylor, I also like your quote, which almost overly simply lays out the problems to come in the aftermath of the Civil War. Thank you.
Thank you for your insightful piece. I started out teaching middle school myself, so I’ve always had a soft spot for the historical myopia that you mention. The relatively new emphasis on Atlantic History, or the “Atlantic World” (at least it’s relatively new to me) seems to rectify something of this shortsightedness, especially when it comes to questions of American exceptionalism – our own “peculiar past,” as it were. But I worry sometimes when it comes to taking a longer view about American slavery, because I fear sometimes that it gets us “off the hook” when it comes to the institution. After all, slavery in other places was not race-based in the same way, although it would be interesting to take a broader view at resistance to enslavement throughout the world.
I did enjoy reading your your post seeing as it was similar to my own. I discussed the the hypocrisy of the South, allowing slavery to exist when many knew it was morally wrong. However, after further thinking, I'm wondering if they did know it was morally wrong. Did Jefferson, no fan of slavery according to quotes, really find it as repugnant as we do? Or did he just see it as one of his eras weaknesses, similar to the eras thoughts on women? I'm not sure many of the era really did find it to be morally wrong on the level that we do. Considering the fact that they saw blacks as inferior, Native Americans as expendable, and women being there only to serve men, I really think we have to consider just what their level of morality was. As I tell my students, usung presentism is never the way to understand an era.
You identified one of the issues that led to the South’s decision to secede from the Union, which was the growth of the slave population. Don E. Fehrenbacher writes about the “Malthusian time bomb” that was created by a growing slave population and the diminishing fertility, from over-planting of cotton, of southern land. The South had to expand not only for political reason tied to representation in Congress, but also for social reasons to alleviate this population pressure. The South secedes not because of the threat of abolition, which was generally considered to be a power the national government did not have, but secedes because of the threat of containment. This containment was seen as the only viable way to rid the South of slavery through a slow process of attrition.
Last year one of my students had a great idea for a "regional barbeque," sort of like the first Thanksgiving. Unfortunately the idea was immediately shot down by Administration, but be that as it may, food always offers an fantastic way to "wake up" 8th grade students...especially the boys. Ergo, I stumbled upon an amazing website filled with fabulous lesson plans. One specifically deals with growing rice. Being that this "treasure trove" of lessons is from National Geographic, so many of these wonderful lessons can be connected with "The Atlas" we explored last night together. I wish I had it last night!
Well done Aimee. Low performing students, who are often grouped with the ESE kids, often shout out their dislike for learning history. My theory is because history is not only confusing, but also requires advanced reading comprehension, knowledge of vocabulary and the necessity to keep track of lots of information. It is not easy to "dump the junk" so to speak. This being said, the past 7 years of my career have been dedicated to low, or "intensive" students. Teaching history as a core course gives me the opportunity to introduce my students to "celebrities" of the past. Not all days lesson plans are "equal" but every once in a while a PERSONALITY, such as Olaudah Equiano or Frederick Douglass are so powerful and inspirational that the students begin to "like" the subject matter. This is when and how they learn to appreciate these amazing stories. With any luck, this too shall encourage additional reading and hopeful comprehension.
Wonderful job, Ryan! It was interesting to learn that Jefferson desired to emancipate, then emigrate the slaves. In reading the selections from Notes on the State of Virginia, I was drawn to the line that begins “I tremble for my country” (Oxford, 15) because I knew I had seen it before. It is on the Jefferson Memorial. However, in researching the quote as it relates to the memorial, I found that the 3rd panel (of which this quote is part of) is actually a cutting and splicing of several Jefferson quotes.* When reading the 3rd panel as a whole, it sounds as if Jefferson wanted to free the slaves, and then educate them. However, when you read the quotes individually, you see Jefferson’s true agenda of emigration.
Just curious, where did you find the information that led you to your conclusion that Jefferson desired “emancipation designed by the elite”?
Thank you for your insight into the Colonization Movement. Few aspects in the history of slavery reveal the complicated nature of the problem than Colonization.The nature of colonization was a matter of contentious debate. Many favored the repatriation of freed slaves to Africa. Others favored independent settlements in freed states.
I grew up in the hills of Jefferson County, Ohio. Located along the Ohio River, the county was a true border between north and south as it was settled primarily by Virginians, North Carolina Quakers and Connecticut Congregationalists coming from the Western Reserve.
Part of the North- West Territory; Ohio was the first true free state with slavery forbidden as part of the North- West Ordinance. For this reason the state became an early destination for colonies of freed slaves. Several existed within Jefferson County including McIntye; a colony whose inhabitants has originally been slaves in Charles City Courthouse Virginia until 1825.
It should be noted that they and other freed slaves were not always welcomed with opened arms. Ohio infamously had black codes which forbid most African AMericans from settling in the state. Even a state known as a hotbed of Abolition was not truly free in our modern sense of the word.
You're right, history is full of hypocrisy and Jefferson--though brilliant, is one of the biggest hypocrites in American history. Unfortunately his views on African American inferiority was common for the times, and most White Americans, and fellow founding fathers shared this view, though I have read that Hamilton admitted that Blacks were biologically and mentally equal to Whites. Racism of course is still with us, and there are more people than we'd care to think of that share Jefferson's beliefs. I think there is this terrible part of the human character that wants to separate itself from other humans that do not look, or behave exactly as they do. It's tribal, often based on skin color, but not always. Put a Protestant and a Catholic from Northern Ireland in the same room and we wouldn't be able to tell the difference, but odds are they would be very uncomfortable with each other.
I love your lesson plan! I am not sure what grades or levels you teach, but I would so use this with my grade 11 US History IB students. I especially like the whole concept of becoming the person uprooting from their home to tackle the great unknown. I reminds me of that 1980's video game Oregon Trail.
I too was struck by Kupperman's observation that 17th c. investors wanted a financial reward for their capital. It was just in recent years that I really studied the differences between a colony established by a company and that by a nation or empire. It makes so much sense, to follow the money. I guess I was still immersed in my own K-12 indoctrination of the feel-good story of struggle and sacrifice so settlers could worship freely. And yet, to look at the development, unraveling, and eventual establishment of Jamestown is to really see where corners were cut with profit in mind. Is that just how large bureauocracies function? Satisfy the short term goal and hope someone else solves the long term problems?
Hi Chris. Your essay was succinctly written and hit the key points about a part of slave ownership history that always fascinated me - the fear slave owners had of possible rebellion by their slaves. While there were several "mini" rebellions through the course of American slave history, the two rebellions that struck the most fear into the hearts of slave owners was the better known Ned Turner revolt and, to a certain degree, lesser known Haitian rebellion at Saint Domingue. The fear went deeper than the possibility of being killed by their slaves, a rebellion meant the end of their status in Southern aristocracy as a slave owner and perhaps succumb to the fact they are on the same level as their slaves. So, slave owners walked the balance of justifying slavery, keeping slaves on their plantation, and ensuring (hoping) that the slaves continue their submissiveness. This "balancing act" was best said in Thomas Jefferson's quote, "holding the wolf by the ears." I appreciate how you included the British's complicity in this whole matter as well, almost as if they were perpetuating the problem.
Thanks again for a great read!
As usual, you have provided great insight into the conflict between clinging to the old inheritance laws and the desire of some, like Thomas Jefferson, to institute reform. The impact of the primogeniture inheritance laws on all aspects of society--the Tidewater planters at one end of the socio-economic spectrum and slaves who were now being sold with much more frequency--is particularly noteworthy because it allows an analysis of the causal connection between inheritance laws and the slave trading industry. I also think some of this material could be presented in connection with the story of Harriet Jacobs, since inheritance of slaves and their progeny profoundly affected her fate and the fate of other slaves.
I really enjoyed reading your essay and I agree with you that our students benefit by being able to make an emotional connection with historical characters. This helps students to understand why an issue such as slavery is so complex. While the narrative of Equiano is widely used by many of our colleagues as a vivid depiction of the horrors of the Middle Passage, I think your use of the Randolph piece as a juxtaposition of the cultural complexity for white society would give students an interesting way of exploring various attitudes toward slavery that were held by Southerners.
I enjoyed your use of idea of the virtuous yeoman farmer and your conclusion that the slave system extinguishes that virtue. I find it is difficult to present the economic and social factors that lead to slavery in the South without a student asking about the morality of the system. Jefferson is such a unique source to use with students: promoting small farming while at the same time having to rationalize slavery and large scale, plantation agriculture that is his ‘bread and butter.’ My students would quickly pick up on the irony of attacking wage ‘slavery,’ while, in the same selection, attempting to rationalize racial bondage.
That sounds like really neat lessons, if you are willing to share I would love to see them. I enjoyed reading your response to Rhonda and her writing as well. Thanks to both of you!
Well done! You give a concise and clear view of the inevitability of slavery in America, especially when you reference Jefferson's preference to keep the industrial sector in Europe, and maintain the United States as an agricultural sector. And you point out the salient facts that the men who initially arrived in Virginia were utterly unprepared for establishing a colony, having brought plenty of gentlemen, servants and craftsmen, but few husbandmen. There are many threads for further inquiry in your essay, and thus provides a great entry point for student researchers.
You are correct that we as Americans almost idolize individuals like Jefferson and Madison, and so easily over look that fact that they too had slaves. However, the idea that Jefferson uses to justify the differences in whites and blacks is flawed, as we all know. Further, it is also mostly his opinion, and not based on true scientific fact. The thought that we as a nation couldn't exist without slavery is true, as slavery was a necessity, but I believe due respect needs to be given to how they falsely justified it, distorted it from slavery into sheer abuse, and so much more. The slavery that existed and evolved within our country was drastically different that other nations, and we long continued it when other world powers stopped it.
The orderly emancipation designed by the elite or the horrific emancipation created by the enslaved themselves was highlighted really nicely in your essay. You highlight that Jefferson and Madison et al. were such complex people politically and of course just as humans in their insistence that African Americans (not even acknowledged as such) were not really human, but their emancipation was a necessity due to that fear of the "internal enemy". The mention of states rights, while connected to the societal separation of the slaves, also brings the concept of the differentiation between north and south in that era. The rationale for separation might have included the idea of economic "need" perhaps; but also the ability for the elite to keep the upper hand with regards to the enslaved population. Nice ideas and nicely developed (in 350 words or fewer!), thank you!
You are right when you speak of the ambivalence of the Patriots, including Jefferson, who tout the idea of inalienable rights; however, their shouts ring hollow. Jefferson believed that slavery was wrong. In fact in several letters he referred to epitomized slavery as wolf that the slaveholder had by the ears—you did not really like it, but you dared not let it go. You are also right about reasons why so many did not want to give up. The slave holder lived under an eternal cloud of “slave revolt,” real or imagined. As you talked about the evangelicals, did you also see how they toned down their rhetoric?
Jim Haferman 1/27/2015