Students in the American Studies course “Four American Lives: Lincoln, Whitman, Douglas, Homer” took a road trip to Washington, D.C. - and to the Civil War era. After studying the final days of Lincoln’s life and the life of Frederick Douglass as a slave at the Wye House on previous trips, this trip was focused on Frederick Douglass in his later years and Winslow Homer. Students were lucky enough to be joined by Dr. Peter Wood, author of Near Andersonville and Winslow Homer historian, as well as Dr. Eleanor Harvey, chief curator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Students visited the Frederick Douglass house on the outskirts of Washington D.C and then visited the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the National Gallery of Art.
“Hometown History” demonstrated to educators how to make use of historical resources in their own communities; how to engage students in researching and studying the places where they live; and how to connect local history to larger historical events. As our “laboratory,” we used Chestertown, Md., a town whose rich history stretches back more than 300 years. This seminar focused particularly on using original historical documents, whether in the classroom or during field trips. We will discover how records of one local community – including 19th-century newspaper articles, firsthand slave narratives, and census records – vividly reveal how the Underground Railroad and the Civil War were experienced by ordinary citizens of this small American town. Teachers learned how primary sources can “bring to life” a local historic site (such as Chestertown’s Civil War veterans’ hall) by revealing individual stories of people who took part in its history. Participants discussed research strategies and Maryland-specific resources with State Archivist Dr. Edward C. Papenfuse, Jr. and Chris Haley, Research Director for the Study of the Legacy of Slavery in Maryland Program at the Maryland State Archives, and nephew of author Alex Haley.The “Roots of a Nation – A Chesapeake Journey” Teaching American History initiative is a consortium of seven Maryland school districts, including Calvert, Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s, St. Mary’s, and Talbot counties, working together to increase teacher content knowledge, improve pedagogical practices and measurably improve student achievement in American History. The program is produced by Sultana Projects, Inc. Teaching partners include the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, the Center for Environment & Society, the Calvert Marine Museum, and Sultana Projects, Inc.