Thursday, September 09, 2010

A New Blog... with a broader view...

So I've had this blog ( for some time. I love US History and I love finding resources to help teach US History. The site has been good to me. I've made some online acquaintances, it's given me an outlet for some of my thoughts, and I get lots of free stuff from it. The problem is, that I currently don't teach US History. I used to teach it... Now I teach World History... and I've really learned to love the culture and discovery of World History. And I don't foresee a change in that regard anytime soon. So I'm transitioning to a new outlet with a new blog.

I'll still keep up and running, and update periodically, but this new blog will allow me to share things I'm actually doing in class and learning on my own.

Thanks for hopping over... I hope you like this as much as you've enjoyed


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Lafayette: The Lost Hero, a PBS Documentary

Marquis de Lafayette... a name you know I'm sure.  At least a name you've heard of.  The name may start the gears in your mind and then suddenly come to a screeching halt when you're forced to stop the machine and wonder... "How do I know that name?"  You may have heard of Lafayette College, or maybe there's a town you've heard of called Lafayette or Fayetteville.   Perhaps you've driven on Lafayette street.  It's a familiar name for sure, but perhaps the story behind the name is a little more vague.

You may have heard of a place called Lafayette, or Fayetteville, or Lafayette Hill or you may know a street with the same name.  But who is Lafayette? 

 an often neglected and controversial figure of American and French history.   Through letters and memoirs PBS has put together a documentary that follows the life and legend of Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis de Lafayette.  

Why would a young, wealth French aristocrat leave the comforts of his French life to fight for the independence of another nation on another continent?  The documentary will answer this question, as well as bring to light many other untold tales about Lafayette and his family. 

Visit the Facebook Page for Lafayette: The Lost Hero: set up by film maker Oren Jacoby.

Lafayette: The Lost Hero from The Documentary Group on Vimeo.


Monday, August 16, 2010

For Love of LIberty - The Story of America's Black Patriots

Introduced by Colin Powell, hosted on-camera by Halle Berry and narrated by Avery Brooks, For Love of Liberty uses letters, diaries, speeches, journalistic accounts, historical text and military records to document and acknowledge the sacrifices and accomplishments of African-American service men and women.

The story spans the Revolution to today and examines why, despite enormous injustice, these heroic men and women fought so valiantly for freedoms they themselves did not enjoy.

The project's goal is to raise public consciousness and shed light on an extraordinary and relatively unexplored aspect of our nation's history. The central theme of the initiative, the price of liberty, is relevant to all Americans.


Here are the links to For Love of Liberty web site: - Watch videos, read stories/bios, and check out an awesome timeline of US Wars - This site is all about the documentary. See images from the film, meet the cast and purchase the video.


Here are facilitators guide for both High School and College...


After September 30, 2010, the site will no longer be active due to funding issues by the Army. In an effort to distribute the materials before the site goes away... please send this to friends, colleagues and veterans. Below are the links to download the documentary. (Or you can buy it...)

For Love of Liberty Documentary Links:

Chapter 1: Introduction -

Chapter 2: The Revolution -

Chapter 3: The Civil War -

Chapter 4: WWI -

Chapter 5: WWII -

Chapter 6: The Korean War -

Chapter 7: The Vietnam War -

Chapter 8: The Middle East -

Chapter 9: Conclusion -

Play All: -


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Why Every President Sucked...

I recently received an email from Eric Olsen, a marketing writer and consultant. He seems like a brilliant chap. One of those guys that's good at everything... he appears to be very successful in life and in career. The reason he contacted me... is because he's also a musician and historian at heart. He's taken his musical talents, mixed them with some wit and cynicism... and he's put together a compilation of songs with the theme that every President has not met expectations.

His website: has the intent of ridding our society of the search for the perfect president. It won't happen.

There is a lot of truth to what he's saying... but there are also some things I might argue...
For example, in his song about Lincoln Eric states through his lyric...

"the sad thing is
for the cost of the war
you could have bought and freed
every slave you’re fighting for..."

But Lincoln didn't want to free the slaves. He wanted to preserve the union. Buying all the slaves from the Southern plantations would not have done anything to mend the divide between North and South. The south was fighting for preservation of their culture. Preservation of their economy, their way of life. The slave owners would not have allowed anyone to buy their freedom in mass numbers like that.

Overall the idea is brilliant... This can undoubtedly be used in the classroom. Choose an era or a president and show the song and the lyric in class. Discuss. Find the faults, find the truths, find the reasons why the President "sucked". I know the kids will love this. Have them make their own songs... Send them to Eric, I'm sure he'd love to hear them.

Each president has a short summary of the imperfect event or happenings that work as the theme for the song, as well as the lyrics for better understanding.

Below is his 'Why JFK Sucked' song... with lyrics.

"The CIA sent 1,500 Cubans to Cochinos Bay
Exiles armed and ready to revenge of Fidel

And to mimic a natural uprising
Defeating Castro’s communizing ways

And the deal was that the U.S. had their backs
If things would go awry
Awry they went, but no one came

Where was JFK
Who promised he would save the day

the bay of pigs
it was a big
disaster for America
rather than an uprising
everything came down
Where was JFK
Who promised he would save the day

And to save the little pretty face he had left
he had to pay Castro $53 million to get the prisoner’s back
Where was JFK
Who promised he would save the day"


10 Greenest Presidents

It was only a matter of time before a list like this surfaced. Many administrations did excellent work in promoting environmental and sustainable causes. These are the 10 best.

  1. Teddy Roosevelt - Comes as no surprise... He's the original Environmentalist
  2. Jimmy Carter - he was always more of a humanitarian than an executive anyway...
  3. Thomas Jefferson - Louisiana Purchase and Lewis and Clarke did a lot for his ranking.
  4. Bill Clinton - With Gore over his shoulder, you'd expect some change...
  5. Richard Nixon - he made the list of Presidents with the worst environmental record too...
  6. Franklin Roosevelt - Civilian Conservation Corps... part of the New Deal
  7. Abraham Lincoln - established the US Department of Agriculture (USDA)
  8. Lyndon Johnson - protected 9 million acres of land with the Wilderness Act
  9. Woodrow Wilson - oversaw the creation of the National Park Service... (Teddy's idea...)
  10. John Kennedy - had his guys look into the effect of pesticides and chemicals... laying groundwork for the EPA.

To read more about each President and their contributions go to the Daily Green - You can also see a list of the Presidents with the worst environmental policy...


Saturday, July 31, 2010

History Carnival #90 -

Hello, and welcome to the 90th History Carnival!

From the horse's mouth... " The History Carnival is a monthly showcase of blog writing about history, usually held on the 1st day of the month. It's hosted at a different blog each month to provide a variety of approaches and perspectives."

 I've received plenty of nominations from a few different view points, on plenty of different topics. 
 I had asked in my original post about hosting this carnival that blogs be submitted with my readers in mind.  I asked that the posts have some kind of information (lesson plan idea, resources, etc... that could be used in a classroom.  But I think this stipulation was ignored.  Because a "carnival" is simply a way to bring new blogs to my readers, I decided to keep any blog nominated that related to American History.

So here they are... enjoy.

Anthropology in Practice has some interesting information about the Hudson River in the late 17th century.  With the reconstruction of the World Trade Center, they've discovered a sea wall that was built in 1899.  This bit of archeology is especially interesting to me this summer.  I've taken two workshops this summer that have discussed archeology in and around Philadelphia.  I have a new found appreciation for archeology and the idea that underneath every building, there is probably remnants from another time.  This post is no exception.

Soldier's Mail is an excellent blog that publishes World War I letters.  I haven't read this blog, but was pleased when it was nominated.  There's a lot here to pull from.  This particular post is written from a soldier who was recently in a field hospital, and is expecting a furlough soon.  Teachers, see if you can use some of these in the classroom. 

Northwest History sticks it to the man... or... the museum. Read this open letter to curators at the Baron Von Munchausen home.  Though I don't know whether this is a farce or not.  The only Baron Von Munchausen I know is an exaggerated German baron who made up stories about himself that have became legend.  It's because of this, and the fact that I can't find any proof that a house like this exists, that I give you fair warning that what you're about to read may be a joke.  If it is true, it is an example of why we should all do our own research.

Religion in American History gives an overview of the book, Strangers and Pilgrims, Travelers and Sojourners.  It's an explanation of the reasoning for the book and the content and ideas behind the six volumes.

The Denver Post has great pictures of "America". The entry is entitled, America in Color from 1939-1943.  There was a lot happening in the world and in America in those five years... but the pictures don't reflect what might immediately come to mind. These images, by photographers of the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information, are some of the only color photographs taken of the effects of the Depression on America’s rural and small town populations. Check them out... they're fascinating.

Civil War Memory is attempting to inform the public about a movie they haven't seen.  To their credit, the preface the post by clearly stating they haven't seen it, but do want to bring this Civil War tale to the public for discussion about its validity.  It's a movie about Richard Kirkland a Confederate Sargent who risked his own life to save the life of a Union soldier at the Battle of Fredericksburg.

Reader's Almanac has a Walt Whitman poem in commemoration of an 1860 meteor.  Reader's Almanac is the blog of the Library of America, which as cool books but for a pretty penny.  You can sometimes try them out for cheap, and then cancel.  This is what I did to get a collection of Abraham Lincoln's writings. The blog is commemorating the sesquicentennial of the American Civil War with a series of posts following the history of the war as it occurred 150 years ago.

World War II - Day by Day - this blog is a cool idea. It's a daily update of what was going on in the War on this day. A time line of sorts.  Might be good fodder for classroom discussions when studying the war.

And that does it...  thanks for checking in.  This is the spot where I'd normally inform you about the host for next month, but it appears as if the Carnival is taking a break for September.  Look for another host here in October


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Russian Spies: Part of US History...

It started with the Rosenbergs and the KGB to Anna Chapman.... Russian spies have been a part of our history. has an image essay of some of the most memorable Russian spies.,29307,2000712,00.html

Here's more information about Russian espionage... 

Do we still have faith in our CIA? or our FBI!


Thursday, July 08, 2010

How to afford your teaching certification

I get a lot requests about education advancement for teachers and the best route to become a teacher... You'd be surprised how many people out there are in other careers - and through history want to become teachers.... I was there once (I used to be web designer...)

To help with some of these inquiries, is a guest post from Karen Shih of She's got the scoop on different options for teachers and for those that would like to become teachers.


You’ve settled on a career in education because of your love of history or teaching or both, but now comes a more difficult, less exciting part: getting and paying for your teaching certification. Fortunately, there are many local and national options for teachers looking to save money while working towards being certified.

For students seeking to earn their certification through a bachelor’s degree program, you can look to traditional forms of aid, such as federal aid through FAFSA, or other scholarships for undergraduate students.

If you already have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a particular field and are looking to switch to education, going through an alternative certification program could be more cost effective because it would take less time, often one to two years.

And for those with a short timeline or a current career obligation, an online teaching degree should be among your considerations. You can continue working at your current job, and it is possible to start teaching without certification (in some school districts) while you work toward your degree online.

Teaching certification is awarded by the individual state, so it’s important to check with your state’s department of education for specifics. You can look for state or county programs to subsidize your education. For example:

  • Texas’ Teach for Texas provides conditional grants for aspiring teachers who agree to teach in the state for a particular amount of time
  • California offers the Assumption Program of Loans for Education, which offers loan assumption for teachers going into critical areas
  • New York has a Teachers of Tomorrow program that offers tuition reimbursement for teachers going into high-need areas

Additionally, for teaching history in particular, the federal government offers a Teaching American History Grant that gives between $500,000 and $1 million to school districts for training history teachers.

Though finding and receiving financial aid to pay for teaching certification is a challenge, there are numerous federal and private options available to help dedicated and enthusiastic teachers ease the burden.


Tuesday, July 06, 2010

History Carnival #90 - US History for the Classroom

For the month of August, I've been given the privilege to host a History Carnival... 

For those that are unfamiliar with The History Carnival - here's an overview. 

History Carnival is a monthly showcase of blog writing about history, usually held on the 1st day of the month. It's hosted at a different blog each month to provide a variety of approaches and perspectives.  

I might suggest browsing some of the archived carnivals to see what it's all about...

This month, I am hosting.... for those that would like to be considered for the month of August, please send me some information about the posting and follow the directions below...

As a note - I'd like all posts to have some kind of information (lesson plans, ideas, resources) that can be used for teachers or classrooms.  In other words, I'd prefer not to have a lot of information, but decide how this information can be translated for students (preferably middle and high school students). 

How to submit nominations

All nominated posts should have been published since the most recent Carnival edition (or at most a few days before that).
1. You can send an email to Include the title and full URL of the post you are nominating, and the name of the blog. Please also put 'History Carnival' somewhere in the title of the email.
2. Or you can send an email using the simple nomination form at this site.

I'll choose my favorites... hopefully a good number of them, and post them August 1, 2010.  


Saturday, July 03, 2010

Happy 4th...

Great video for use in the classroom... or to just entertain yourselves...
Good ice breaker when studying the revolution, independence, etc... 

(though please make your own faces, as this is my wife and son...)

Just finished a week long workshop at the Constitution Center... great stuff.

Would love to learn from my readers and here about some of your best Constitution Lesson Plans...

Personalize funny videos and birthday eCards at JibJab!


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

50 Books That Changed the World

Don't know what it is about these lists... but people love them.

According to the Online Education Database, these are the Top 50 Books. They've inspired, provoked thought and caused controversy.



Saturday, June 12, 2010

National History Day

National History Day projects are being judged in the final rounds this week... For any teacher who's ever taken on this endeavor, you understand the work and excitement that goes along with the NHD. 

Below is text received from National History Day - they asked me to share it with my readers:

"During the week-long national contest from June 13-17, 2010, thousands of middle and high school students, educators, and parents come together to compete for scholarships and prizes, with finalists from 49 states and abroad.  Students will compete for gold, silver and bronze national awards, as well as college scholarships.

More than 300 judges (including historians and educators from secondary and higher education institutions, museums, archives, and government agencies) will evaluate the students’ award-winning work throughout the week. Noted filmmaker, Ken Burns, and author and historian, Cokie Roberts, serve on the honorary cabinet for NHD; and A&E Television Networks’ History Channel serves as a program partner.

A media event on Monday morning will feature a rare original printing of the Declaration of Independence.– one of 25 known to exist in the world – was the original printed on July 4, 1776, and is now owned by Hollywood producer and philanthropist, Norman Lear, who has lent the document to commemorate NHD’s students. At NHD, this Declaration of Independence will be on its first ever visit to Maryland.  Invited elected officials will unveil the Declaration of Independence and welcome the outstanding students and teachers at a media event to kick off the week, followed by projects and displays throughout the week.   Invited speakers include members of Congress representing Maryland, including Representatives Chris Van Hollen, Donna Edwards, and Paul Sarbanes, and Senators Barbara Mikulski and Benjamin Cardin.

Competing with documentaries, live performances, and original websites, the students – ranging in age from 11 to 18 – created innovative projects this year that include:
•       “Vaccination:  The Musical” – a live musical theater performance about the history and impact of vaccination on global health
•       “Google:  Impact and Change” – a live performance that illustrates Google’s impact on a generation
•       “Off the Bench and Onto the Field: How Title IX Changed Girls\' Athletics and Education” – a theatrical performance that portrays the 70-year fight for equality in sports
•       “Al Qaeda and the Internet: A New Age in Terror” – a documentary that discusses and analyzes terrorists’ contemporary use of the Web

One notable past NHD project included three students from Chicago who helped provide new evidence that re-opened the Mississippi Burning case and brought the killer finally to justice (

Please let me know if you’d like more information on NHD or the events taking place throughout the week.  I’d also be happy to connect you to any of the teachers, students, or program directors in the meantime or at the event week.  Video and photos of all participating students and educators will be made available all week, and you can keep up with NHD on Twitter (@NationalHistory), Facebook (, and YouTube ("


Monday, May 31, 2010

America: The Story of Us

With my busy life (redesigning/renovating our basement, and having a fantastic 10 month old son), I was finally able to catch up to my DVR and watch some of one episode of America: The Story of Us. 

The episode I caught was during World War II, and our jump into mass war production.  This was fitting considering it was Memorial Day weekend.  To say the least,  I was impressed.  It's a great perspective of the war that is often times overlooked.  It is not uncommon to find films of this nature caught up in the minutiae of war instead of the looking at the big picture.  I was impressed to the point where I'd like to pre-order the videos to add to my teaching library.   As a teacher, I know that kids would rather see the big picture so they can easily make connections to knowledge they already hold.

You can pre-order your copy today too at  America: The Story of Us (Three-Disc Set).  It's $40 bucks for 9 hours of video.   Or right from the source at

Below is a short preview of one of the many vignettes that 'America:...' offers.  You can view more at


Sunday, May 16, 2010

History Top 100 - History Websites

Here's a collection of a bunch of interesting history websites.   If you've got a history site, be sure to add your site.  It's quick and easy.  The owner of the site is very quick to reply to any issues. 
Top 100 History Websites


Saturday, May 08, 2010

Q&A with Author Kenneth C. Davis; A Nation Rising, Untold Stories of Flawed Founders, Fallen Heroes, and Forgotten Fighters from America's Hidden History

Kenneth C. Davis is the author of the book, "A Nation Rising; Untold Tales of Flawed Founders, Fallen Heroes, and Forgotten Fighters from America’s Hidden History"

Below is a short interview

“When You Don’t Know Much, Ask a Question: A Q -and- A with Bestselling Historian Kenneth C. Davis”

Since I began my career as a writer more than 25 years ago, I have embraced the basic belief that there are no bad questions—only bad answers.  Whenever I write a new book, give a speech, talk to teachers, students, librarians or radio show audiences, I try to invite questions and tackle them as best I can, while encouraging a spirit of curiosity in adults and children alike.

Here are a few questions that I am often asked —as well as some new ones about my current work.

Q. You didn’t finish college and you're not a trained historian or academic. How did you come to write history books?

A. Years ago, while working as a freelance journalist and book reviewer, I was casting about for a book project when my wife said to me, “You love American history. Why don’t you write about it?” That’s how I got started on Don’t Know Much About History more than 20 years ago. To my surprise the book went onto the New York Times bestseller list, stayed there 35 consecutive weeks and eventually sold over 1.5-million copies. Don’t Know Much About History gave rise to a series of “Don’t Know Much About” books for adults and children.  More recently, I wrote America’s Hidden History, and my new book, A Nation Rising.
        But my love of history is much older –it goes back at least as far as third grade, when I wrote a book about the U.S. presidents with colored markers on construction paper.  (Thanks to my mother, I still have it!) As a child, on family camping trips to places like Gettysburg and Fort Ticonderoga, I learned that history isn’t about marble heroes in textbooks—it happens to real people in real places. And that the “villains” like Aaron Burr or Benedict Arnold can sometimes be heroic too.
        All I’ve done in my books is to share my passion and curiosity and try to replace that “black hole” of dates and battles called “American History” with some true stories of remarkable, real people, told in an entertaining style.

Q. How do you respond to critics who say you are tearing down our history and our heroes with a “negative” approach?

A. I don’t equate “negative” with “accurate.”  People are ignorant of history because they are bored. They are bored because we have created a tidy but false narrative that is more like a bedtime story than real, live history. Our “heroes,” like Andrew Jackson in this new book, were capable of reprehensible things –like cutting off the noses of dead Indians to count casualties. We can put those truths into the context of the times, but we cannot ignore them. And sometimes we can find new “heroes” whose names we didn’t know –like William Weatherford, an American “Braveheart” who fought for his people’s land and freedom. It’s all part of the Hidden History. It’s not always pretty, but it sure is interesting.

Q. What is your new book,  A NATION RISING, all about?

A. This book describes what happened between 1776 and the Civil War –you know, those famous “four score and seven years ago.” More precisely, I set out to tell the story of an extraordinary half-century in which America went “from sea to shining sea.” But I’ve done it through the lens of six stories that your schoolbooks probably ignored. They are stories of courage, corruption, conquest, and conspiracy –not the tidy tales of “rugged individual” pioneers heading west and happy immigrants coming to America, mixing into the “melting pot” and fulfilling the dream.

Q. Of all the things that happened between 1800 and 1850, how did you choose the six stories in this book?

A. I often head down one path of research only to discover all sorts of people and events that have been overlooked –or deliberately erased—by our history books. Aaron Burr is a good example. I learned that as a 19-year-old, he served in the Revolution with Benedict Arnold and that remarkable coincidence fascinated me. Then I went on to find that this extraordinary character, who was reduced to a murderous scoundrel, was actually more complex and quite noble –he was a war hero, an early abolitionist and an advocate of the vote for women.  Or in looking into Andrew Jackson and the Battle of New Orleans, I found another story in the Fort Mims Massacre in Alabama that led to Jackson’s brutal first war with Native Americans, who called him “Sharp Knife.”  I had never heard of Fort Mims, but it was the deadliest frontier massacre in American history, a 19th-century “9/11” moment. But most of us never heard the name “Fort Mims.”
        Each of these stories involves this incredible expansion of America –what the textbooks called “Manifest Destiny.” But they left out the sordid details and the human cost of that lofty goal: the ethnic cleansing in our own past; the violent fights over religion; the vicious attacks on immigrants. And these stories are not only fascinating; they are important and obviously timely. We are still fighting over immigrants and religion in America.

Q. You've sold 4.5-million books. But your name isn't as well known as other historians. Why is that?

A. I may be the “Rodney Dangerfield of American History “—”I don’t get no respect.” No, seriously, my satisfaction doesn't come from being famous but rather from hearing a parent who says that my books got their kids hooked on history. And there’s always the student who gratefully tells me, “Your book got me through my AP History exam.” But the best compliment is when a teacher comments, “Your books made me want to teach History.”  I consider that a good day’s work!

© 2010 Kenneth C. Davis


Thursday, May 06, 2010

On This Day in US History: The Sinking of the Lusitania

The following information is courtesy of The Library of Congress (

"On May 7, 1915, the German U-20 (submarine) sank the British ocean liner Lusitania. Approximately 1,200 civilians died; more than 100 were U.S. citizens.

In reply to President Woodrow Wilson's protest, Germany justified the attack on grounds that the British government intended to arm merchant ships. Prior to the Lusitania's departure, the German government had warned that ships entering the war zone could be fired upon.

The Lusitania carried both passengers and ammunition that had been manufactured in the United States. The incident illustrated the difficulty of maintaining American neutrality. Appalled at Wilson's willingness to criticize Germany while ignoring British transgressions, Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan resigned.

The sinking of the Lusitania also highlighted the changing nature of war. Traditional rules of naval engagement mandated warning commercial vessels before firing upon them. However, surfacing to do so would place a U-boat in grave danger of destruction.

Public outrage over the loss of American civilian life hastened the U.S. entry into World War I. Although the cargo list of the Lusitania stated that she carried approximately 170 tons of munitions and war material, this information was not revealed to the public at the time. "

 The very fact that the information was not revealed to the public is cause for debate.  This "white lie" allowed the United States to rid themselves of any wrongdoing and pin everything on the German.  Propaganda posters of the Kaiser would soon follow.


Monday, May 03, 2010

The Correspondence of John Cotton Junior

In today's world of email, cell phones and electronic media it is not uncommon for a private correspondence to reach the masses.  Though it may happen quite a bit by error, there are times when the viral nature of one's "private" correspondence was released on purpose.

John Cotton Jr. (1639-1699) was born to one of New England's most famous clergymen.  By the age of 22 he was already the pastor of a church in Wethersfield, Connecticut and trying to put out the fire of a sexual scandal.  Already excommunicated from the First Church in Boston, for sinfulness with a woman other than his wife, Cotton diligently contested the charges brought against him.

Jobless, embarrassed and disgraced, Cotton moved his family from Connecticut to Martha's Vineyard, where he became a missionary to the Indians.  This move allowed him back into the good graces of the Church and soon accepted a job to the church in Plymouth.  For nearly 30 years he avoided scandal, until Church politics got the best of him once again.

What makes John Cotton Juniors story so fascinating is that his letters and writings were written in an era when it was widely accepted that his correspondence would reach far more than the intended recipient.  It is because of this that many letters addressed to him and written by him often read as newsletters and political propaganda.  These writings help to document some of the most dramatic happenings of the late 17th century in New England and the American colonies. 


Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Great Virginia Triumvirate; George Washington, Thomas Jefferson & James Madison

I love the University of Virginia Press.  And I think they love me.  They send me the best books.  And what's great about the University of Virginia Press is the fact that their books are Virginia-centric.  This means, you'll find a lot of books on Washington, Jefferson, Madison, et. al.

The most recent of these books is entitled, The Great Virginia Triumvirate: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson & James Madison, In the Eyes of Their Contemporaries.

With the help of these three men, Virginia played an important role in the fight for independence.  And as one of the largest and wealthiest of the colonies, they played an equally important role in helping to set up the new republic.  This is demonstrated with the number of Virginians who played key roles in guiding the fledgling nation. 

Washington as Commander in Chief and Army General, Thomas Jefferson as a statesman and scholar and James Madison as the "Father of Our Constitution".  

Author John Kaminski, who's Founders on the Founders is an excellent glimpse into the lives of our forefathers through personal quotes from journals and writings.  His knack for using candid dialogue and letters to bring personality to the founders is once again brought back in The Great Virginia Triumvirate.

This is a series of biographical portraits that bring these three men to life through the words of these three Virginians themselves.

Take for example the idea that Jefferson once told John Adams that he had not written about his life or a history of his time because he found his correspondence to be more direct and honest.  This in turn would provide a more accurate history of the time. 

Taken from letters, speeches, diaries and memoirs, the quotations and vignettes bring to life the personalities behind the public personae of these great men.


Wednesday, April 07, 2010

US Presidents Race

Those that have been reading this blog know that I'm a baseball fan. Much more than a baseball fan, I've been a die-hard Phillies' fan my entire life. As a kid I had some very lean years in the mid-80s. Lately, as you may well know, the Phillies have made up for many of those last place finishes. The city has really embraced this team.

Tonight the Phillies are playing the Washington Nationals.

I think it's worth mentioning that the Nationals have a pretty cool tradition at their home games that has great historical significance.

Much like a minor league baseball stunt, to keep the fans entertained between innings, there is a Presidential race. Only this race involves four mascots representing the four presidents on Mount Rushmore.

Every game, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt compete. The race originated as a scoreboard graphic, but has morphed into the "live-action" race pictured above.

There is a running joke that Teddy Roosevelt never wins. He'll often become distracted, or become disqualified for numerous reasons.

For more information about the race, you can read more at wikipedia:

By the way, the Phillies are currently winning 6-3 in the 7th.


Monday, April 05, 2010

Top 25 Websites for Teaching and Learning

The American Association of School Librarians has compiled a list of some very useful websites.

The "Top 25" sites foster the qualities of innovation, creativity, active participation, and collaboration. All of the websites are free, Web-based sites that are user friendly and encourage a community of learners to explore and discover.

Top 25 Websites for Teaching and Learning

I've used several of these.... I can speak for the power of VoiceThread, Wordle and Wikispaces.

Another great site not to make the list is Wallwisher.


Thursday, April 01, 2010

US History in Video - Free Access Through April

No agenda here... just a link to some Free US History videos.

With over 1,000 hours and 4,000 titles, American History in Video is the largest and richest collection of video available online for the study of American history.

Using commercial and governmental newsreels, archival and public footage and important documentaries, it's a great collection that allows students and researchers to analyze historical events.

And the best part is that access to all of this is FREE until April 30.

So gather what you can and plan your lesson plans accordingly as not to miss out on this opportunity. It's always good for kids to see news casts and footage from actual events, instead of having to read about it.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

100 Online Documentaries for Presidential History

Once again, in an effort to create more back links to their site to increase page rankings in the search engines, the wonderful team at online universities dot com has put together a cool list for us history buffs.

This one, is a list of the documentaries that have focused on presidents and their administration. Our commanders-in-chief are often the subject of documentaries and films, and now you've got many of them all in one place.

Here's the link: 100 Excellent Online Documentaries for Presidential History Buffs


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Pacific: HBO Miniseries - For Free!

About 6 weeks ago my wife and I went to a friend's house for dinner. Knowing I'm a history teacher and looking for something to chat about, our friend Tom asked me if I was excited for The Pacific. Not being an avid TV watcher and because I don't have HBO, I had no idea what he was talking about. I made a quick assumption it was a show about the Pacific theater of World War II. He told me he was looking forward to watching it, and that it looked like it was going to be pretty good with Steven Spielberg behind.

I dismissed it, as something I'll probably hear a lot about, and never take the time to rent it from Blockbuster. But the world has changed.

I can watch HBO for free - and thus, can watch The Pacific for free. Just go to and register your email address. This is quick and easy, and has some behind the scenes footage you can take a look at.

In the meantime, here are some links to the behind the scenes footage / historical background:

And the interactive battle maps:

PS - Tom Hanks was on the cover of this week's Time magazine labeled as a History Maker... he's the producer of The Pacific.... (if you recall... he's had a hand in other history projects including, Saving Private Ryan, HBO's John Adams series, Apollo 13, Charlie Wilson's War and one of my all time favorites The Burbs ;) )


Saturday, March 13, 2010

National History Day Needs Your Help

This message is from the National History Day Organization - it's an organization that works with teachers and students in creating projects to present in a variety of formats to a panel of judges. Each year there is a theme where students choose and manage their own projects. It's a good organization. It's losing some funding - and this email below is a call to action to try and keep some of that money coming in to help continue the great things this organization does.

Please read below....

"To our supporters:

We are now at a critical juncture in our efforts for the 2011 congressional budget. We have until Wednesday, March 17th 2010 to contact members of the House. Please, please do what you can to have as many people as possible take those few minutes to call or email their Representative. Keep in mind that congressional funding will benefit every state, especially those state programs that have been suffering in this economy.


Please read this full email.

National History Day (NHD) is asking for your help to gain support from members of Congress for a $1 million National History Day appropriation that will help our state programs grow and improve.

Thanks to your efforts, NHD was included in the omnibus bill for FY 2009 & FY 2010 with an appropriation of $500,000! It’s important to note that to be included in a congressional budget for the first time is a major accomplishment. National History Day clearly has the attention of members of Congress, so let’s try and build on our success. Keep in mind that we have programs across the country that could use the extra help of an increased congressional appropriation.

Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) is circulating what is called a “Dear Colleague” letter. The letter is similar to a petition that members of Congress sign in support of funding a program (click here to view the Dear Colleague Letter).

The Dear Colleague asks all members of the House to sign their name to the letter supporting NHD. This letter is addressed to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Subcommittee asking them to support funding NHD in the FY 2011 budget. It is very important to get support from as many members of Congress as soon as possible. This is a very common practice, which is implemented during the appropriations process. It is important that we get as many signatures as we can – as soon as we can (in the next two weeks). The appropriations committee will literally count every signature and the more signatures we have the better chance we will have of getting $1 million in support.

What to do?

Never called your Member of Congress before? Don't worry, it's easy! 
When you call your Representative, your call will be answered by a receptionist. Tell him or her that you want to leave a message for the Representative. The receptionist will take down your message.

We need your help. Congress must hear from you today!

NHD NEEDS YOUR HELP TODAY! We have two weeks and it is critical that you pick up the phone today to contact your members of Congress and ask them to sign the NHD Dear Colleague Letter. Our goal is get as many members of Congress to sign this letter in two weeks, which will demonstrate wide-spread support for funding for the NHD program.

When calling a Representative’s office, tell them:
• Your name and the city and state you live in.
• You’re calling today to urge the Representative to sign the Dear Colleague letter, in support of funding for National History Day in the FY 2010 budget. The letter is being circulated by Rep. Van Hollen.
• Why this money would be helpful to the NHD program in your state and district, how it would make an impact to increase the number of participants and improve overall programmatic efforts in the state.
• They can contact Sarah Schenning in Rep. Van Hollen's office at (202) 225-5341 with questions or to sign the letter.

How to Contact a Member of Congress

To find your Member’s contact information, including phone and fax numbers, visit,, or call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask for your Representative.

If you have any questions contact Kim Fortney at National History Day at (301) 314-9542."

Aja Julian
National History Day


Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Links to History: 100 Great Moments in American History You Can Catch on YouTube

Did you ever wish someone would take the time to scour YouTube for a bunch of useful history videos? Your wish has been granted...

Below, you'll find links to some of the greatest presidential speeches, moments of turmoil, moments of triumph and some moments we wish we could erase from American history. But without all of these moments, our history would be quite different.

Enjoy these links... use them in class, save this page, it could come in handy...


Friday, February 26, 2010

FYI: 18th Annual African American Children's Book Fair - Philadelphia

The 18th Annual African American Children's Book Fair, will be held on Saturday, February 27, 2009, 1:00-3:00PM, Community College of Philadelphia, 17th Spring Garden Street, Philadelphia, PA, in the Gymnasium. The event is free and opened to the public. Rain or snow....the good books will have an audience.
The Book Fair started out on a cold frosty day at John Wanamaker Department Store. Today it is one of the oldest and largest single day events for African American Children's Books in the nation.
The success of the program is due to the fact that we offer the best and the brightest from the African American Children's literary community. Parents, caregivers, and educators from the tri-state area are very supportive of the event. They all understand that children who read make more responsible decisions about their lifestyles.
Participants are nationally best selling authors/illustrators. Many have won the American Library Association Coretta Scott King award. Confirmed E.B. Lewis, Tonya Bolden, Deborah Gregory, Sean Qualls, Eric Velasquez, Shelby Williams, Nicole Bailey-Williams, Walter Dean Myers, Linda Trice, Lynda Jones, Lorraine Dowdy Gordon, Jerry Craft, London Ladd, Kelly Starling Lyons, Booker T. Mattison, Felicia Pride, Katura Hudson, Cheryl Hudson, Mutiya Vision, Charisse Carney-Nunes, and Lori Nelson
These authors/illustrators have written some of the best books of our generation. This book fair is an opportunity for them to promote their works to our children to enlighten, empower and enrich their lives. The book fair will offer the largest selection of affordable and best selling African American titles in the region to purchase.
NBC10 will once again host the Reading Room offering children a brand new book (while supplies last) of some of our guest authors/illustrators. The young attendees not only get a great book, but the opportunity to meet the person who wrote and illustrated the book.
In addition to the authors and illustrators we have an area called Literary Row that distributes book related promotional materials, a parent's book resources section and an Educator's Book Book Give-Away.
With proper ID some of our sponsors will give away books of some of our guest participants (while supplies last) to educators to use in the classroom libraries. I Lead-The Urban Genesis Project, and PECO are some of the sponsors. Cabot Creamery Cooperative is presenting information on good nutrition. Comcast, Health Partner, The Literary Media Consulting, Just Us Books will also offer resources for good reading habits.
The afternoon is filled with games, prizes and promotional give-away's. For general information about the book fair call (215) 878-BOOK.
This event will kick-off our "Take A Book Home," campaign. Children need to have books in the home. We are encouraging care-givers to create a library in the home. After all a book opens up world of Opportunities.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

And the winner of the Presidents DVD set is....

Heda Wood!

Congratulations Heda. It would be pretty cool to talk to Woodrow Wilson about his ideals of making the world "safe for democracy" and whether that principle holds up today. Heda said she'd also address the issue of race. Though, Heda, it's very tough to try and convince an early 20th century mind to adopt the principles of the early 21st century mind. A lot has changed in 100 years. As a teacher, I ask my students to do this. It's a hard concept to handle. Open-mindedness today supersedes any open thought from 100 years ago by a landslide and our ideals may be looked at by someone like Wilson as insane.

Regardless, your thoughts were good enough to win the DVD set. Please contact me at ushistorysite at gmail dot com and I'll have the DVDs sent to you.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Today in History - There's an App or that

Just received an email from a company that has created a website/iPhone application dedicated to making to providing information on what happened today... In History.

In other words, it's not just another of your average Today in History sites. This one actually gives you the content you want, where you want it... on your iPhone or iPod

Today In History is an effective tool to share: it simply offers snack sized pieces of information to get the reader hooked, lets them look up a bit more on wikipedia, and then once the seed is planted they'll hopefully act on it and seek more information in a library or in school.

Here's their website for more information:

And here's the Today in History iPhone application:


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Presidents 3-DVD Set Give Away...

In honor of President's Day, A&E Home Entertainment is having a special on "The Presidents" documentary on iTunes! You can download all eight episodes of the documentary for only 99 cents each.

The Presidents 3-DVD set is an eight-part survey of the personal lives and legacies of the remarkable men who have presided over the Oval Office.

From George Washington to George W. Bush, The Presidents gathers together vivid snapshots of all 43 Commanders in Chief who have guided America throughout its history--their powerful personalities, weaknesses, and major achievements or historical insignificance.

Based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning book by James McPherson, The Presidents features rare and unseen photographs and footage, unexpected insight and trivia from journalists, scholars, and politicians such as Walter Cronkite, David Brinkley, Wesley Clark, Bob Dole, and former President Jimmy Carter. Viewed within the changing contexts of each administration, the Presidency has never seemed more compelling and human. Narrated by Edward Herrmann (The Aviator), this three-DVD set is a proud addition to the award-winning documentary tradition of THE HISTORY CHANNEL.

Link to The Presidents on iTunes: (You Must have iTunes for this link to work)

If you've got iTunes or an iPod or any other iProduct that could download the information, the entire set is yours for about $8 bucks until February 23. Each episode is about 45 minutes long, so that's a pretty good buy. If you don't want to shell out the money, I'm giving one away. A&E has agreed to send one to me, and one to one of my readers.

So here's the deal.
To enter into the Free DVD sweepstakes tell me which President you'd most like to spend a day with, and tell me what you'd do. I'm looking for historical accuracy and creativity.

Good luck.


Monday, February 15, 2010

Links to History: The Museum of Online Museum

I just came across a cool website featured in an old American Teacher magazine. American Teacher is the national publication of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). The AFT is basically the union of all unions.

Which is very fitting considering the link I found is the online museum of all online museums.

The Museum of Online Museums, or MoOM, is an ongoing experiment of web publishing, design and commerce from the Chicago based design company, Coudal Partners.

The MoOM is updated often and they have a rotating gallery. There probably isn't a museum you can think of which isn't listed.

Online museums are a good way to bring otherwise inaccessible art to the classroom. Often times the museum will allow you to zoom in and navigate each piece and the good ones will have a background of the piece to help set the scene.


Monday, February 08, 2010

John Muir - Library of America's Story of the Week

I like books. I like collecting books and referencing books and knowing that I have books that could cover almost every part of American history. But like most of the free world, I don't like to pay for books. To subscribe to the books that Library of America (LOA) offers, one has to pay a heft price.

LOA usually has some kind of introductory offer that is too good to pass up. I acquired 3 books this way. I was browsing my own web site, and saw an add for an Abraham Lincoln collection for about $5, and a free book about US Grant. I clicked on the add (even though it was on my own site... sorry GoogleAds, I probably have 3 fraudulent cents in my pocket), and I got the books and quickly sent back the invoice with 'cancel' on it... Of course I still received a shipment of books, paid for them to be returned and made a phone call to cancel my account. I didn't like the idea of paying monthly for more books. But I do have some pretty good looking cloth bound books about Lincoln now in my collection.

And another good thing about giving them my information is now I receive The Library of America Story of the Week via email. This is simply a link to a blog written by an LOA staffer which gives their service more exposure and allows you short previews of the books the peddle.

The story I received last week struck a chord... John Muir. I'll be honest, I hadn't hear of John Muir until a few years back when my wife and I were visiting family in San Francisco on the way back from our honeymoon. We were fortunate to be able to spend a few hours driving Muir Woods just north of San Francisco. Naturally the curiosity in me nudged me to research a little more about Muir. That year while teaching in Atlanta the high school librarians were getting rid of old books that hadn't been checked out in a few years - and I was able to convince my wife to allow a box load or two to come back to our 2 bedroom apartment in Atlanta. One of those two boxes of books was a collection of John Muir writings, with a narrative by a more modern writer of the same vein.

To make what's already a rather long post shorter... John Muir is founder of the Sierra Club and a catalyst for the preservation of Yosemite National Park. Library of America pays tribute to the best thing since Thoreau in their blog:

Enjoy his prose. And then go outside...


Thursday, February 04, 2010

100 Incredible Lectures for History Lovers

Here's a great resource for teachers and students. Scrolling through the list you can probably find something for almost any topic in world history, government, economics, etc...

100 Lectures for History Lovers

I might suggest having some of your students listen to some of these lectures for extra credit and then report the highlights back to the class. You can show bits and pieces of the lectures in class, or for your tech-savvy students, perhaps they can edit the lectures to say something that wasn't really said... kind of a propaganda technique.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Teddy Bear of A Book....

I'm trying like heck to get through the Wilderness Warrior... I'm loving every page of it...but I can't seem to find time to actually sit down and read it.

This in and of itself is kind of a paradox... and here's why. In the book Teddy Roosevelt seems to accomplish an amazing amount of work with what seems to be very little free time. I envy his passion, his drive and his determination to do his job, and still find time for his adventures and his passion of wildlife.

The book opens up a whole new version of TR that I had never seen before. It recognizes his love of family and his conservative, almost secretive nature in revealing his relations with his wife. He's a good husband. He doesn't kiss and tell.

But there's good news ahead...

Our school has implemented 2 days of Sustained Silent Reading during our Seminar/Study Hall period. I now have those days to find time to read. And this will hold me accountable to finish reading.

Disclaimer: This entry is by no means a reflection of the book. With my busy schedule and so many interests, I find it hard to actually sit down and read. But I made a New Year's resolution to finish the books I start. Because I read mostly history books, I have a tendency to read a lot of it, really enjoy it, and then pick up another book, and thus have 2, 3, 4 books at the same time. This is going to stop. The disclaimer is the book is great, I'm learning a lot, and my love for TR grows with each page.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

My School

It's not often I let down my online wall and allow people into my personal life. This post is an exception. I'm very proud to say that my school has been highlighted in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the online version of the this article has been picked up in several national news feeds. It's nice to know the work we've been doing wearing many different hats, as founding teachers at a new high school is starting to be noticed.

Here's the article:

We're in our second year. We have just 9th and 10th graders. I'm happy to say as the boy's basketball coach and Athletic Director, we got our first ever victory as a high school yesterday, with a dramatic win. The kids rushed the floor as if we upset Duke or UNC. The school spirit is high... kids love coming to school here. The teachers love coming to work. It's an excellent environment.

I say this to preface some of the comments on the ensuing page below the article. I invite anyone to come into the school, and perhaps they'd change their mind.