Friday, June 19, 2015

The Dark BACKground of the FRONTier

This week long lesson was about the darker side of American history. The westward expansion and gold rush drove the native american people further out and resulted in the death of a longstanding, unique culture. The persecution of natives and discrimination against the black americans were carried out by the government. Our essential question focused on the motive behind these acts. “Were federal policies towards Native Americans and buffalo soldiers intentionally discriminatory or well intentioned?”

The buffalo soldiers were a group of black soldiers named after the strength of the bountiful buffalo of the western plains. After the civil war many black men did not really have anywhere to go and could not find jobs. However, since men of color were now allowed to join the military they joined up in the western expansion. Many people did not want to be told what to do by african americans and the soldiers were bonded through the discrimination they were all subjected to.

    The Buffalo Soldiers were used in the Indian war and for removing the rebellious natives off their land. They used total war to decimate the communities and were often brutal in battle. The natives had already been forced to move West but with the gold rush, white people moving across the country encountered the tribes and trespassed on their land, creating hostility between the two cultures. To solve this the American government sent soldiers to force the natives off their land, breaking up the longstanding communities and taking everything away from them. Obviously, they resisted the removal. They were promised new land to live on and schools were made for the children to be educated.

The schools were made to "civilize" the natives. Above the door there was a sign that said "Kill the Indian. Save the Man." They believed they were helping a savage people when in reality they only succeeded in wiping out a culture that was different from their own.

Survival of the Richest

This week begins the last month of our sophomore year of school. Once it hits June everything starts winding down, teachers are only briefly touching on the last few units to cram them in and the students are mentally preparing for summer. It's a weird time that has a strange balance between busy and laid-back. Our history class has just entered the final sluggish rush of education in true last month of school fashion. For our next few units we, the students, are sort of instructing our own lessons, a new focus each week. This first one, Carnegie and Rockefeller. We had a weekly plan to follow as we went, starting day one with going through the information and taking notes in a class google doc. Each group was given a focus Key People, Main Ideas, Important Events, and Essential Terms to take notes on as we watched videos and read documents as a class.

With this information we met the next day to create our very own Essential Question. After circling up and brainstorming together, with some suggested edits, we came up with the question "Essential Question: How did the actions of monopolistic leaders, such as Rockefeller and Carnegie, affect the common worker?" Monopolistic referred to the leaders of large economic monopolies, single corporations which completely dominated their industrial fields. We used the information from Rockefeller and Carnegie's biographies to understand who they were and what actions they had taken. The Homestead Strike video gave more information on the common workers and how they were impacted.

Rockefeller was widely disliked by the media, they believed he was motivated by greed and had power over a huge number of other companies, and in politics. He would lower and raise prices to buy out competitors to create his enormous monopoly and become one of the richest men in America. As the head of the corporation, Rockefeller was in charge of the treatment and pay of all his workers.
Carnegie was another powerful leader of a monopoly. However, he was not born with money he worked his way up through excelling at different jobs to get to where he got. He also messed with prices to buy out competitors.

Workers were often unhappy with pay or treatment and would organize strikes to protest their companies. Frequently the workers were replaced with "strike breakers" who were hired to make the strike ineffective. Or the company would just shut down until they agreed to work again. As Carnegie was not born rich and had to work like his own employees it was strange for him to mistreat workers when he used to be them. His own biggest strike, the Homestead Strike happened when he left someone else in charge and the police were needed to quell the violence. Both Carnegie and Rockefeller were known philanthropists, they donated large sums of money to build libraries and support the public.

Self-made success now she rose with Rockafellas

Friday, May 8, 2015

Mommy, Where Do Social Changes Come From?

In our study of the Civil War, the last lesson was about examining where freedom for the slaves came from. The essential questions were " Who 'gave' freedom to enslaved Americans? Did freedom come from above or below? To what extent were Abraham Lincoln's actions influenced by the actions of enslaved Americans?" First our class discussed the difference between freedom from above vs freedom from below using these two pictures. 

This first one shows an all-powerful Abraham Lincoln bestowing liberation upon the eternally grateful slave. It represents freedom from above since the man at the top of the social power pyramid, the president, grants the bottom of the totem pole slaves, freedom. It suggests that the slaves were helplessly awaiting rescue from the kind and powerful leaders, that the slaves did not have any hand in their emancipation but rather were saved by the nation's ruler.
We, as a class, felt that this was not an accurate depiction of how both parties felt/acted at the time.

The second image symbolizes the idea of freedom from below. In it the slave stands tall and triumphant, as if reaching the metaphorical summit of his climb up the social pyramid. He has worked for his liberation himself and is proud of what he achieved. This work implies that it was the slaves themselves who earned their freedom, that their actions eventually granted them the emancipation they worked so hard for.

Our job now was to analyze evidence of Lincoln's opinions and goals over time to determine where freedom for the slaves came from.

In 1862, Lincoln stated in a letter to Horace Greeley, " What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union…I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men everywhere could be free." He says his goal of the war is to save the Union and it's not about slavery, if freeing slaves helps with that goal he'd do it, and same with maintaining slavery, either way his goal is the union and any abolition or lack thereof depends on its aid to the union. The next document was the Emancipation Proclamation of January, 1863, in which Lincoln proclaims the freedom of all slaves, in rebelling states.
"all persons held as slaves within any state or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free"
This seems like some pretty straightforward freedom from above, except that the slave states that are part of the Union are still allowed to own slaves. At least the huge slave population down South is liberated? Not quite. Since Lincoln abolished slavery in only rebelling states, aka the states who refuse to listen to Lincoln, none of the slave owners actually released their slaves. In fact, the very fact that he had the audacity to try to take away their property, while he knows they don't submit to his authority, only served to anger the Confederate states further.

During the time of Lincoln's statements, the slaves were working to focus the war back on their situation. A letter from a general in 1862 tells how the runaway slaves would gather where the union troops were and force the government to pay attention to them. In videos we watched the slaves knew that by putting down their work and following the Union troops the commanding officers would write back to their superiors asking what to do.
"I hope to report to you a definite policy in reference to this matter, and in the mean time shall be glad to receive any instructions upon the subject which you may be disposed to give—" 
They didn't have enough food to feed them or room to house both them and the soldiers but they wouldn't leave so what should they do?

 In this engraving, hordes of slaves show up at a Union camp, leaving the base soldiers very confused.

Slavery was officially abolished 8 months after the war as a part of the 13th amendment.
"Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction." I believe that the freedom was granted from above, as the government legally abolished it without the slaves physically forcing their hand, but they had a strong influence in that decision and therefore deserve the credit for their actions.

We can use the paths leading to change in history as we continue to fix our country even now. In today's society two issues are becoming more prominent in their need to be addressed. Police brutality, especially dealing with race is a big one, and gender identity is finally becoming more public. In the case of police brutality, recent news and videos of cops beating, and sadly more often killing, unharmed or non dangerous individuals, have been stirring up emotions around the nation.

Ferguson Protests

Since the shooting of Michael Brown in August of 2014, the focus on police shootings has sharpened exponentially. The peaceful protests of Ferguson, MI, that ended in tear gas and rubber bullets originally brought huge amounts of attention to the frequency of these events and sparked protests across the country.  These incidents have only continued since, and if I had actually done this post on time I wouldn't have included this man, shot and killed only yesterday by the LAPD.

Baltimore Protests

Ferguson and Baltimore being the biggest, both peaceful and non peaceful protests have begun to call for investigation from civil rights and humane organizations into the actions of the police departments in many cities. The citizens of problematic cities and supporters have drawn the attention of President Obama and the rest of the united states government. Hopefully the brutality and discrimination will end through the combined efforts of the people and government. But so far there has been mainly efforts for change from below as passionate Americans have been spreading the word and protesting the issue. As things have become more violent and not calmed down I think change from above is also needed here to deal with the legal and political aspects that civilians cannot easily challenge.

Black Lives Matter

With gender identity, I believe the most change will come from below. The main issue is that people do not know and don't understand non binary and queer genders. The lack of information causes alienation and hate to spread. The statistics for suicide in trans* teens especially is sickening.

Until recently non cisgendered people have really not been talked about. People are so used to the binary social conventions of gender that they reject genderqueer expression quickly and don't try to understand. Thanks to social media and global communication, those who do not feel they fit into what they've been taught as boy vs girl, are more able to find others who feel the same way and soon will be able to show the rest of society and teach from personal experience.

Gender Is Poster

As with police brutality, increasing attention has been called to the deaths of these minority people through media and the internet. Transgender teen suicides have been too frequent and the only way to lower the statistics is through creating a less ignorant and more accepting society. Yet again if this was posted on time this link would not be here but sadly just this week another trans teen committed from bullying and unacceptance.

Leelah Alcorn's Suicide Post That Drew Attention To The Large Amount Of Trans* Deaths

Very recently celebrity Bruce Jenner has come out as a transgender woman, he says he prefers male pronouns though so I will continue to use he/him unless he later says otherwise. The publicity of his gender struggle is a huge step for trans* people everywhere as there is little to no representation in the media for them. Bruce Jenner is now one of two celebrity trans women, along with Orange Is The New Black star, Laverne Cox.  Informing about and representing queer people through all kinds of media and personal discussions is the only way to fix transphobic hate. Those from below need to inform and those above in positions of power need to represent.

Interview With Laverne Cox
Any additional information about anything this is one of my favorite websites ever

Here's the guy behind my fav website giving a TEDxTalk about gender 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Scavengers Assemble!

Now in our unit on the Civil War we are learning about the actual battles that took place. We had two essential questions for this lesson, "Who was the ultimate victor in each of the theaters of war: East, West, Naval?" and "What are some commonalities you can identify in the reasons for the results of the battles?" To figure this out we had a scavenger hunt around the school. First, we each got one of the twenty battles to gather information on. The name, location, date, victor, and theater were to be written in a google doc with two bullets explaining the reason for the result and a picture. This is mine. That night we had to make a sign with the number of our battle, a QR code, and a so the rest of the class could quickly access the doc. When we came in the next day we talked to whoever had the battle after ours. We needed to add the whereabouts of the next QR code to our doc. The location was supposed to be simple and exact so no one got lost or spent the whole time trying to figure out some cryptic clues; it was a scavenger hunt, not a treasure hunt.
After our few days of running around the school and copying information into our notes we then got together to answer the essential questions. Using a website called Padlet and the battle information we each added two posts to the site. We picked either the East, West or Naval and stated which side dominated that theater, using specific battles as evidence. The Confederacy succeeded in the Eastern Theater while the Union prevailed in the Western and Naval Theaters. In the battle of Bull Run, in the East, the Union's plan failed and they were defeated by Confederate troops. While in the battle of Chancellorsville once again the Union made a bad call allowing the Confederates to gather forces and trump the Northern army. In the Western Naval Theater, the battles of Henry Fort and Fort Donelson were won by the Union. Henry Fort belonged to the Confederates and was stocked with outdated guns, the Union general Andrew Foote overtook it with several weaponized vessels. In Fort Donelson, the Confederate camp was surrounded by Union forces, they had many casualties before surrendering. With about twenty people all posting in two theaters, trends in the battles were easy to identify. The Union's leadership was not where it needed to be in the beginning, they lost in the Eastern Theater mainly due to poor strategic planning. Yet Union forces excelled on the water where the strong naval power they had previous to the start of the war was unmatched by the South, the Confederacy was behind from the start in Navy power and could not catch up to the level of the Union.

Created with Padlet

The Padlet was cool because since everyone was posting, the trends were clear to see. The scavenger hunt part was really fun. I liked going all over the school instead of sitting in a classroom. The excessive exercise was more enjoyable to me than it was exhausting but it was really annoying when some people had their codes on the 4th floor and some put them in the cafeteria, on ground level. It would've worked a lot better if the school Wi-Fi wanted to function properly. Or if the person who had battle #15 didn't hide it in a place so difficult that whoever did manage to find it tore it off in anger. Without the location of the next one, my partner and I ended up sort of just wandering around scanning whatever we found along the way. We would've just followed the directions of the first random code we found and continued along the circuit from a new starting point but some of the codes were left up from other classes. If we followed the instructions from one of those we would've ended up on a wild goose chase. Which I guess we were kind of already on but it wasn't a risk we were willing to take. All these issues worked out in the end though because the disastrous first day of the hunt was a shortened period, the next day we had the full time and everything (except the Wi-Fi) was fixed.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Connections Between the Election and Objections to Slavery

The next lesson in our class was on the election of 1860. Our essential question was, "How were the results of the election of 1860 representative of the deep divisions over slavery?" To start we watched a crash course video which showed how slavery divided the country in the events of Bleeding Kansas Dred Scott v. Sanford, John Brown, and more. 

We then looked at the results of the election and the feelings towards slavery in each region and candidate. Then, we made videos using the Civil War In Art website. The videos show events around the election and through the succession. This is my group's educreation video.

Title screen of our video

Regional Reasoning

To begin looking at the Civil War our class made infographics on the statistics of the North and South. We used the information to understand why each side chose the strategy they did in the war and what resources they had to help them. Our graphs would be made using Canva, Infogram, or Piktochart, and would contain the statistics we felt best answered the essential question, "How did the differences between the North  and South affect each region's strategy and  success in the Civil War?" I chose population, railroads, and types of work. The types of work was important in the South because their whole plan was based around the importance of cotton exports. The population showed how much more manpower the North had and the railroads were essential in the movement of supplies and information during the battles. The activity helped me understand the reasoning behind each side and how they used what they had to their advantage.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Gender Isn't Even Real It's A Social Construct

The roles women of the 19th century had to fulfill revolved around the needs and wants of men in their society. They worked hard and were given no credit nor paid for their effort. Their main job was to marry and take care of the family. The world of a woman then was pictured as this:

“The Sphere of Woman”  illustration from Godey's  Lady's Book, March  1850
Found at: http:// whw/workshop/ untitled1.html
It shows her household duties; taking care of the children, teaching them their schoolwork, repairing their toys, keeping everything clean, making family's clothing, and keeping up their appearances. The home is high class, with fancy curtains to keep the feminine efforts hidden from the world. The picture is clearly unrealistic, no siblings get along that well, no mother who did that much work would look that calm, and kids are never that peaceful. These jobs weren't only an aim for women to strive to achieve but expected and enforced by the legal and social laws of the time.

The movement for female equality was started by abolitionists who realized in fighting for the rights of colored men they were fighting for rights that they themselves and other women didn't even have. In an attempt to oppose the ridiculous laws and rules oppressing half the nation's population, the Declaration of Rights and Sentiments was created. It was written to mimic the Declaration of Independance, the familiar wording meant to show the oppression of women and how it stood in contrast to the American ideals of freedom. The lists of grievances and resolutions directly addressed the laws and standards women were held to. It was signed by 68 women and 32 men from the Seneca Falls Convention for women's rights. This push for equality was met with many reactions and opinions from the media. 

Some reacted positively, encouraging female rights, while some mocked the movement, laughing at the idea of women doing things. The reporters for both had no qualms about sharing their opinions, both sides expecting to be correct. One of the most positive responses came from the National Reformer of September 14th, 1848. It points out the unfairness of expecting women to follow laws that they weren't even allowed to vote on. The National Reformer has many articles on the rights of women, all strongly in support of the movement. But as all human rights issues, there were many strongly opposed to the idea of ending oppression. The Oneida Whig had serious issues with females spending all their time voting and getting paid, they begged for an answer to the question, "If our ladies will insist on voting and legislating, where, gentlemen, will be our dinners and our elbows?" They were deeply confused and concerned as to how on Earth they would be fed if women dared to participate in the democracy of America.

Recently there has been much debate on how equal men and women are and whether women are treated differently from men. Many men and women look back on the past and go, "look how terribly females were treated we are 100% equal now!" and really we have come very far since the days of not allowing women to vote or own property. But does society react differently to men than they do to women? The answer is yes. Has there ever been a female president of the United States? No, and while it's easy to blame that on chance and the lack of a good candidate if you look at the reasoning behind not voting for a woman, there is a lot of pure sexism. This real news report was actually 100% serious in reasoning against women being leaders.

"There has got to be some downside to having a woman president, right?"

I mean really this alone could show the way people still believe women aren't as good as men but we'll look at this more thoroughly. In the video Bill O'Reilly states, "There haven't been that many strong women leaders." and this is a true statement, in national parliaments, and other leadership positions women are vastly outnumbered. America is ranked 83rd by equality in government in the UN's Women in Politics statistic map with 18.3% women in the lower/single house and 20% in the upper house/senate. Americans can say what they want about equality but Afghanistan is #41, with an avg of 27.6% women in their government, they are ranked twice as high as America.

What is the problem with having less women in politics? Well we already saw how in the 19th century people were mad because they didn't get to vote for leaders who then made laws they had to follow. The number of people in leadership positions is the amount of representation the group gets when laws that affect them are made. Recently the controversy about abortion has been brought up and leaves mostly men in charge of deciding the legality in a woman's decision about her body.

While women do now get to vote for leaders it's hard to pick female leaders when there are so few to choose from. Women are discouraged from going after leadership roles from the beginning and it just gets harder as they grow up. Female candidates are always attacked in media for the tiniest things and made to look incompetent through every minute detail of their lives.

Popular TV show "Parks and Recreation" (famous for its feminist protagonist Leslie Knope played by real life feminist and comedian Amy Poehler) shows how women are treated during elections and speaks against the discrimination. [Full episode]

The reason women are so harshly criticized? The majority of journalists are men. And most female journalists report on stereotypically "feminine" topics, like health and beauty, while the males report on the big issues.

In fact if you read the full report of The Status of Women in the U. S. Media 2014, pretty much all areas of media are male dominated. Newspapers, magazines, radio, sports journalism, gaming, social media, digital news, and worst of all, television and films.

The lack of female perspective in society makes it easy to avoid women's issues and set standards for women to meet. The amount of females population wise is equal to that of men, yet the power of women is still much lower. Media is how people get their information on everything. Media tells us how to live in the ideal way, it influences a person's opinion on how people should do their hair, wear their clothes, feel about topics, what car to drive, and what is right or wrong. Media is run by white old men and holds complete power over society, what is seen on TV or listed on a top 10 list on a blog is the standard.

The portrayal of women in media is not great. Models are tall, toned, and flawless complete with digital editing to give them that perfect physically-impossible-to-achieve look. Most movie protagonists are boys, who always end up getting the hot girl in the end. The plotline for a female character usually revolves around some boy.

Girls are taught to center their lives around a guy and that the most important thing is to be attractive. 'Do this so guys will like you' 'Don't do that, no one will date you.' Not only are they taught their worth is about their sexuality but it's enforced anyways. Heidi Klum once saved someone from drowning in the ocean and all the headlines focused on was that her bikini top slipped during it. Girls are blamed for tempting men in cases of rape and sexual harassment while the boys in these situations are treated as the victims, the death of a football career and scholarship while the real victim deals with trauma and worse.

The music industry has been called out on its misogynistic themes in rap especially. But its not the only one. There is an extreme lack of any female musicians in rock bands. The top 40s charts are filled with songs about the importance of sex and no one blinks an eye when 8 year olds sing along. The rap scene is famous for it's glorification of violence and sex. In media the ideal man has money, muscles, and multiple girls at his beck and call, they are usually nameless and pretty obviously only there for sex. A guy is more powerful if he's tougher than another guy.

Society has been taught to value men for their 'masculinity'. If a guy is respectful or emotional in any way that seems 'feminine' he's instantly labeled gay and then made fun of. This 1) is really homophobic and heteronormative and 2) builds a negative view on females.

The way men then come to defend their masculinity is through violence and abuse of women, men are supposed to be dominant and so the opposite must be true as well, women must be submissive. In every movie, book, and TV show the hero gets the super attractive girl in the end. Boys are taught that girls are prizes to be won. They are there to award sex for whatever masculine thing a guy does.

Somewhere In America

Girls take in the same media with another message. The ultimate goal is to get the boy and other girls are competition. Girl hate is the result of internalized misogyny. It is the root of phrases like "she's a slut" and the idea of being "not like the other girls". While men are praised for their sexuality women are shamed for it, weird isn't it. The "other girls" are slutty, prudish, petty, stupid, weak, etc. in the eyes of society. The idea of not being like the other girls is stupid and only encourages the harsh critiquing. The movie about high school where the nerd is the heroine because all the other girls are stuck up preps who only care about their hair, yeah that's where this comes from. "She wears short skirts, I wear tee-shirts, she's cheer captain and I'm on the bleachers." Okay? You're better than her why? (Taylor Swift has realized she was problematic and apologized don't be mean to her) Girls praise guys and think pictures of them shirtless are hot and once a girl does it she's a slut. Girls destroy each other for being whores, prudes, idiots, nerds, suck ups, fake, etc. when they should be encouraging each other and not valuing a person for how attractive they are to other people.

The girl hate cycle reinforces the problematic ideas that being a stereotypical girl is insulting. Guys don't want to be feminine and now girls don't want to be feminine. Why? Because femininity is seen as a bad thing. The more pink a girl wears in a show, the stupider and more hated a girl is in a show. Femininity is used to show the characters who are mean, stupid, shallow, and afraid of everything. The colors pink and blue are used to symbolize the two genders and usually in media, express the role of the person wearing them.

Why is a guy wearing pink so strange? He's being feminine and that's not right. Boys have their things and girls have to be the opposite. But gender is not an opposing set of characteristics. If a boy is strong it doesn't mean girls are weak, yet that's how it is viewed. If men are supposed to be dominant, women are meant to be submissive. Girls who do traditionally 'masculine' things are told they're faking it for male attention or are gay. The amount of girls who are verbally harassed in video games is sad. And guys are allowed to wear their "nice story babe, go make me a sandwich" and "get back in the kitchen" t shirts with no consequences because it's 'funny'.

Women don't hold many leadership positions in society. It's hard to when everyone tries to hold you back. Men find it insulting to work under a woman and often undermine her achievements to feel dominant again. Girls are told they're bossy when they try to take charge and eventually girls stop trying to, to avoid the judgment they face in those roles. They put in less effort to get a position of power and are then given less positions of power, only further creating inequality in power.

Also, people who say the wage gap isn't real? What is that about? There is literally statistical proof and if it still seems fake here's some guides.

And of course then we're at the hatred of feminism. If a girl dares to call herself a feminist and desires less violence and equal pay she's met with a variety of responses. There's the classic "feminazi" label, because the end of sexism is the same as religious genocide. Theres the rape jokes and threats because if someone is against objectification all they really need is forced sex. The violence threats like "if women want to be equal can I hit a girl?" Which is a serious problem because if your first reaction to equality is that you can be violent towards them that doesn't really make sense; Also, that's kind of one of the issues. Domestic abuse is an extremely widespread problem and part of this equity thing is the END of hitting girls.

The most common response lately is "Men are oppressed too." The problem here is that this minimizes the issues women face and feminism works to fix the problems men have.  "Men get raped too." Is another part of this. The problem there is that you're using that to erase women's abuse. And it's not girls who tell guys "It's not rape because he should enjoy it" It's other guys. Men get raped is a full sentence, once you add "too" you're using it to shut up other victims.

Once a guy was trying to tell me that rape wasn't a problem because it doesn't kill so feminists all just cry over nothing and when I tried to explain to him what male - privilege - is . he told me, that female privilege is being able to pull down your shirt and get out of a parking ticket for being female. Because that solves the problem of objectification....

Fox News recently said Frozen was a bad influence to boys and that there is too much representation of women in Hollywood

Women who speak up against the lack of power they have in society are attacked for being man hating, oppressive, ugly, and usually queer. Because obviously if a girl doesn't like men being in charge she is just too ugly to attract men and instead became a lesbian. This leads to girls defending themselves by saying they are straight and pretty and ends up excluding any girls who are queer or don't fit the standards of beauty.

Beyonce knows a girl can express her sexuality and it says nothing about not respecting herself

Society is not there yet. For more information click on the links throughout the post and read this book on gender and stuff. You can pay with a tweet  for free and get a digital copy it's really cool.
This post didn't even talk about gender queer individuals but sexism is even worse towards them.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A Nation of Savages

This unit we are examining the causes of the civil war, specifically slavery. Looking at back at America's slavery history it seems like a simple decision to either allow slavery or not, and to us it's a no brainer to not enslave people. But this wasn't the case in the 18th and 19th centuries. As time went on abolishing slavery became a more complex task, by the early 19th century it was economically entrenched in American society.

Slavery had been a part of American society since the country's establishment. It is mentioned in the constitution that slaves can't be freed by escaping to free states and they must be returned to their owners.
No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due. (Article 4, Section 2, Clause 3)
In the late 18th Century people believed slavery to be coming to an end, with the ideas of liberty expressed in the French and American revolutions, it seemed slavery was on its way out. However, Eli Whitney's invention of the cotton gin turned that around drastically. (A video showing how it works) With cotton being cheaper and easier to produce the industry expanded rapidly. But to make more cotton, these huge plantations would require a lot more workers. And the most profitable kind of employment? Slave labor.

This website shows the increase of cotton production, slavery, and export value between 1790 and 1860
The growth in slave population was mostly in the South, as the cotton industry moved South West the slaves followed; drifting further from the North. The cotton industry boomed in the south bringing in huge amounts of profit using their slave labor. However, while the cotton industry was located in the South, the North also benefited from the rise in production. They used the cotton in textile mills so instead of shipping in or paying more for their resources, the plentiful source of cheap cotton made their industry more profitable too.

This racially based system of slavery was unsurprisingly problematic in creating a white superiority complex that has continued to be an issue to this day. The general mentality of the American population grew so warped from years of validated mistreatment towards black people and social prejudice. George Fitzhugh, a sociologist from North Carolina in the mid 1800s wrote:
The Negro slaves of the South are the happiest, and, in some sense, the freest people in the world. ... The women do little hard work, and are protected from the despotism of their husbands by their masters. ... [The free laborer] is more of a slave than the Negro, because he works longer and harder for less allowance than the slave, and has no holiday, because the cares of life begin when its labors end. He has no liberty, and not a single right. . .. Free laborers have not a thousandth part of the rights and liberties of the Negro slaves. Indeed, they have not a single liberty, unless it be the right or liberty to die.
The whole thing is absurd. It completely disregards every aspect of slavery and even goes so far as to make slave owners the victim in this situation. Escaped slave, Frederick Douglass, was a bit more accurate in his accusation of oppression,

Morality of Slavery Documents

He calls out white Americans on their hypocritical celebration of freedom, they celebrate liberty while enslaving a huge amount of the country's population. When he says the people of the United States are guilty of the most shocking and bloody practices in the world, he refers to their ignorance of humanity but also how terrible the slavery system was here.

Over the course of a few days we watched a movie in class, Prince Among Slaves, in which Abdulrahman Ibrahim Ibn Sori, an African prince, is taken from his homeland to be sold into American slavery. He himself owned slaves back in Futa Jallon but the two systems of slavery were very different. In Africa they didn't buy and sell slaves as property; they enslaved war prisoners they had captured. These slaves worked separately from their owners, rarely seeing them. They were allowed to own property and by the 3rd generation, they were pretty much freed. Any children born of a free father and enslaved mother were born free.

As Abdulrahman learned, slavery in Mississippi was much worse. Slaves there had been randomly kidnapped and were bought and sold as if they were animals rather than humans. They worked closely with their owners, constantly under supervision and they were ruled by fear. It was impossible to get out of American slavery, your future family would be born into it and any child conceived by a free parent and slave was also raised a slave. Both cultures had slaves work different kinds of jobs, not just field work. And both enslaved outsiders; Non-muslims were the enslaved because of their religion in Futa Jallon and black people were enslaved in America for their race. Neither allowed slaves to travel without permission.

In America, Abdulrahman's noble status earned him nothing but a sarcastic nickname of "Prince". His education was also not respected, even though he was fluent in multiple languages. He was broken of his pride and forced into submission to his owners. The Americans saw him as nothing more than property. When sold at auction he was examined like an animal, checked for any noticable illnesses or disabilities. The system of slavery in America ignored every human characteristic of the enslaved humans and treated them as animals for no reason other than their race.

Monday, March 2, 2015

procrastiNATION: The US Government Avoiding Big Issues

During the 19th century American politicians discussed, argued over, and made laws regarding the issue of slavery in the country. All their debates however, focused on resolving a short term issue in a way that just made everyone happy enough for the time being. The actual large topic of slavery in America was avoided as much as possible to push off the large decisions that would inevitably cause extreme controversy and massive upset. Through these years of politics the debate over slavery was the elephant in the room so to speak. Everyone knew it was there but no one wanted to talk about it so instead they dealt with little problems that came along as a result and didn't bring up the large issue. To look at how the United States did deal with the smaller concerns and how they all fit together, our class examined eight events predating the civil war and whether the result was in support of or against slavery.

Pro-Slavery outcomes are on the bottom of the timeline
Anti-Slavery outcomes are above the line

 In 1820 the Missouri Compromise was agreed upon to keep the number of slave states equal to the number of free states so each side would have an equal number of representatives to vote on issues. In the compromise Missouri was established as a slave state and Maine, a free one. Slavery creeping North freaked out Northerners and so it was decided that any state above the 36 degree latitude line would have to be free, except Missouri. But then with the gold rush to California, the golden territory's population had grown so it could officially be the golden state. The inhabitants of California wanted to be a free state, which would again threaten the balance of slave/free states. Other issues were also surfacing at the same time; new land won from Mexico was yet to be declared slave or free, Texas was having border disputes, and the capital city was the largest slave port in North America.  The compromise of 1850 had 5 parts to it to best appease all parties without fully prohibiting or encouraging slavery. To make Northerners happy Washington DC outlawed the sale/purchase of slaves in the city. While owning slaves was still legal there it put a limit on slavery and was progress towards freedom. Also, California was admitted as a free state since the poor workers who moved there for work couldn't afford slaves and didn't want to compete against slave labor.

In favor of slavery three more parts of the compromise were created. Texas gave up the land in question in exchange for $10M, even without the Mexican land it remained the largest slave state in the union. As for the other land acquired in the war New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah were declared territories and slavery was not mentioned either way until decided upon by the inhabitants upon request for statehood. It was a very vague and unhelpful rule, erring on the side of slavery supporters since all they needed to do was fill up the areas with people who were pro-slavery. But the worst component was the Fugitive Slave Act. It required that all citizens had to assist in the recovery of escaped slaves and then denied the slaves the right to a jury trial. A slave that had escaped to a free state and lived there for years would be tracked down and dragged back to slavery, or even a free black person, without a jury trial it was easy to just say someone was enslaved and legally own them.
The compromise of 1850's five parts were designed to each smooth over a problem caused by the sectional freedom throughout the United States while continuing to keep slavery a fragmentary system in the growing nation.

Map of free/slave states after the Compromise of 1850 and the Kansas-Nebraska Act

To further complicate the issue of slavery, the Kansas-Nebraska Act defined the midwestern territories of Kansas and Nebraska and left them up to inhabitant vote to decide free or slave state. The possibility of slavery in the two territories overturned the Missouri Compromise line of freedom, but didn't concern Northerners too much since they thought the land wouldn't be good for cotton production. By now the land in the middle of America was mainly undeclared on its laws towards slavery and would remain impartial until the territory applied to become an official state. Then, the people living there would simply vote on the matter, majority rule.

Well owning people as property was a highly controversial issue and thus, unsurprisingly, the race to fill states with advocates for each side turned violent with the gruesome events of Bleeding Kansas.
The territory was open to be either slave or free; each side only needed to populate enough to win the vote. Each group swarmed the area and 2 separate capitals were set up. The anti slavery capital was burned down and John brown gathered a small army and brutally murdered pro slavery families in retaliation.

The last example of American politicians trying to deal with things short term instead of fixing the cause is the Dred Scott Decision. It started when Dred Scott tried to legally gain freedom through the court system of America. He claimed he and his wife were free because they were owned in states where slavery was illegal. This was a bad decision for him, the justice system doesn't care about a slave's technicalities, and it backfired badly. The results of this trial were not good and it was decided that slaves, because they are not citizens, were denied the right to sue in court;
"...they are not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word "citizens" in the Constitution, and can therefore claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens of the United States."
enslaved people could not win freedom simply by living in a free territory or state; the Missouri Compromise was ruled unconstitutional and all territories were opened to slavery. In the ruling the court is careful to focus on the fact that each state sets its own laws and the federal courts do not have jurisdiction in any slave matters since the laws vary between states. Each government pushes the responsibility of making decisions about the big problem of slavery onto other people. The national government makes it the states' individual problem and then the states leave it to whatever the people vote for. Each government only steps in to smooth over small issues that arise and don't acknowledge the cause of them. Eventually the built up tension must be dealt with and it is once the civil war breaks out. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

There is Then Creative Reading as well as Creative Writing

"Our age is bewailed as the age of Introversion. Must that needs be evil? We, it seems, are critical; we are embarrassed with second thoughts; we cannot enjoy any thing for hankering to know whereof the pleasure consists; we are lined with eyes; we see with our feet; the time is infected with Hamlet's unhappiness, — 
"Sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought."
Is it so bad then? Sight is the last thing to be pitied. Would we be blind? Do we fear lest we should outsee nature and God, and drink truth dry? I look upon the discontent of the literary class, as a mere announcement of the fact, that they find themselves not in the state of mind of their fathers, and regret the coming state as untried; as a boy dreads the water before he has learned that he can swim. If there is any period one would desire to be born in, — is it not the age of Revolution; when the old and the new stand side by side, and admit of being compared; when the energies of all men are searched by fear and by hope; when the historic glories of the old, can be compensated by the rich possibilities of the new era? This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it."
Emerson, Ralph. "The American Scholar" In Nature; Addresses and Lectures. 1849. Ralph Waldo Emerson Texts. (accessed January 11, 2015)

Emerson gave this speech on his Trancendentalistic ideal for America to the Phi Beta Kappa Society, at Cambridge, August 31, 1837. American society at the time had been stuck in European ideas even though the country had been independent for a while it was difficult for citizens to figure out what defines America. The country isn't moving forward because everyone is hung up on the great things of the past and tries, instead of using them as inspiration, to recreate something which has already been done. Emerson also recognizes the growing separations between people in the United States, he believes that if each person can focus on their self and find their power they would be able to connect to each other. Everyone is a part of the whole but each piece needs to trust itself in order to work together. 

It's pretty long and complex but it's really worth reading the whole thing The American Scholar

Power (to the People) Point

Andrew Jackson's actions as president of the United States are not looked back on fondly by many people today. Yet he's the face of our most popular dollar bill and praised by Americans today. He may have made some pretty bad decisions and caused a lot of problems in the long run, but his time in office was a time when democracy was still finding its way in American government. The essential question of this lesson was, Is Andrew Jackson's long-standing reputation as "the people's president" deserved? Why? Why not? 

Watching videos from TED Ed and Crash Course provided general information and then we split into groups to focus on one of the main aspects of Jackson's rule. The first group focused on the worst thing Jackson did during his tenure, the Indian Removal. He forced five tribes to move off their own land and go somewhere they knew nothing about. Jackson claimed it was beneficial for them to relocate far away from white settlements so the groups would no longer have conflicts.The natives of course argued that they had a right to live on their land and had fought on America's side before, it wasn't fair to make them move to an unknown area that they had no resources in.  Jackson however keeps going with his plan and tells congress it must be voluntary, acting as though he knows what is best for the natives and those savages don't know what they're talking about. A lot has changed since then, like the definition of "voluntary" apparently, because pretty soon military force was used to put the natives in concentration camps and then on a winter death march known as the "Trail of Tears".

The next group explained his implementation of "The Spoils System", a tactic in which the leader removes government workers and replaces the position with their own supporters as a reward for their loyalty. Jackson fired 919 people and employed his allies, bribing them with positions of power in exchange for their help. This scheme valued loyalty over competence and ability. Jackson claimed the rotation in employment would spark stimulating ideas from these freshly motivated workers. It worked out really well, especially when he put a longtime supporter, Samuel Swartwout in charge of collecting from the Port of New York's, one of the most valuable in the country. Swartwout ended up stealing $1,222,705.09 from the country, unsurprisingly enough seeing how Jackson had ignored his known proclivity towards criminal activities and warnings that he was making a bad decision from other political leaders, such as Van Buren. 

He also worked to destroy the federal banks in America in "The Bank War"

It may have largely contributed to causing the worst financial crisis in US history and left in it's aftermath, a horrible economic depression, but the motivation behind it was, on paper, in the best interest of the average American citizen. Everything Andrew Jackson did was really an appeal to the wishes of a common man in the country. He was for the people, giving them more of a voice through his position of power. Well, he was for the people who could vote, but if you weren't white and male did you really count as a person back then? He planned genocide of the natives as a way to make sure they didn't take resources and land from the white settlements nearby, He gave jobs to the people, (who helped him); is anything more democratic than literally giving the average man a position of power?  He even collapsed the economy in an attempt to return power over monetary relations back to US citizens and give small businesses more control of the market. His actions didn't really accomplish things in a positive way but he did expand democracy and tried to serve the demands of regular people.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Rise of Democracy

Democracy in the early 1800s was different from how we picture the meaning of that word today. We analyzed documents, art, and charts about democracy's growth in America and drew conclusions about what the information told us about American democracy in the early 1800s. Through it we learned that democracy has negative aspects and isn't always as fair as it sounds. We also saw how voting was not anything like we think of it today, there was much less security and a lot more chaos. The qualifications for the right to vote were very different and they've changed through the years.

This is the poster my group made defining Democracy and how it was used in 1800s America.

Democracy : a system of government where the power is vested in the people or through freely elected representatives

Art Source
Art Guide
Voting Chart 1
Voting Chart 2

Quotes on Poster (if hard to see)

Top Right Corner Quote:
"Today a man owns a jackass worth fifty dollars and he is entitled to vote; but 
before the next election the jackass dies.  The man in the meantime has 
become more experienced, his knowledge of the principles of government, 
and his acquaintance with mankind are more extensive, and he is therefore 
better qualified to make a proper selection of rulers – but the jackass is dead 
and the man cannot vote.  Now gentlemen, pray inform me, in whom is the 
right of suffrage?  In the man or in the jackass?"

-Benjamin Franklin, The Casket, or Flowers of Literature, Wit and Sentiment (1828)

Above Red Information Box:

"The attempt to govern men without seeking their consent is usurpation and 
tyranny, whether in Ohio or in Austria...I was looking the other day...into Noah 
Webster's Dictionary for the meaning of democracy, and I found as I expected 
that he defines a democrat to be "one who favors universal suffrage."

­ Norton Townshend, Ohio Constitutional Convention, 1850 

(Note:  Ohio became a state in 1803)

The Dorr War