The Unfinished Civil War? -Learning experience January 5/6


What is the impact of the Civil War on our society and culture today? Is the Civil War only a memory?  Does it still exist today, just not with bullets and cannons? We will discuss some of the important legacies of the Civil War in our present society in class tomorrow.  To prepare …


You are a student in a public middle school in Georgia.  Your school mascot is the “Rebels”, depicted by a cartoonish plantation owner. In addition, many people at your school bring Confederate battle flags to school sporting events to support your team.  Some students at your school feel very uncomfortable about the mascot’s link to the Civil War and the symbolism of the Confederate flag in present society and have started a petition to have the mascot changed and flag banned from all school events.  Would you sign the petition? To develop an opinion on this controversial issue, check out the videos and browse through the Confederate Flag websites below for about 10-15 minutes.  When you enter our next class, you will be taking a side on the issue. Write your opinion along with your explained justification in the space provided on your handout.  Make sure you take a side!

NOTE – Many of the websites referenced on this site are extremely biased in one form or another.  Taft makes no guarantees about the content of any of the sites nor the message of any of the organizations referenced.  Some links may be inactive.

THE CONFEDERATE FLAG – You can start by simply searching for “Confederate Flag” in the news. If you do, check out the actual source for each – see any bias?

The Confederate flag was a HUG topic in the news in 2015-6 due to horrible events in South Carolina. Check out A Year Later: the Confederate flag in South Carolina.

For more on the Confederate flag controversy, visit Inside the battle over the Confederate flag – CNNPolitics.comConfederate Flag Controversy from, Confederate Flag Controversy from the Huffington Post, some articles from CNN, The Complicated Political History Of The Confederate Flag

Mississippi has a close link to the Confederate flag – consider their state flag.  The symbol in the Magnolia State is still an issue.

The CONFEDERATE FLAG: Views from the Heart of Dixie – a somewhat balanced overview

Is it okay to display a Confederate Flag at a cemetery in California?  Or over a Texas courthouse?  How about on a private individual’s truck? On Kentucky’s license plates? How about wearing in to prom?

Country star Trace Adkins recently wore a Confederate flag earpiece – was it controversial?

How should Taft teach the Confederate Flag controversy? Kevin Levin has some advice.

The Confederate flag led to the death of 19 year old Michael Westerman in 1995.  The New York times articles are available here and here . Tony Horwitz wrote a fascinating (and long) article about it in the New Yorker Magazine, and also as part of his book Confederates in the Attic (Taft’s favorite book of all time).

Confederate Flag editorial cartoons exploded over the past year – check some out


Recently (a few years ago), a Florida student was shot over an argument about the flag, and two years ago students were suspended from school in Minnesota for waving the flag

An African American student  made waves in December by hanging the flag in his dorm room.  The display of the Confederate flag on private property has also been challenged recently.

The display of the Confederate flag in schoolshas been hotly debated over the past few decades, and student display of the Confederate flag in schools has ahistory of case law.  Many schools in the nation have discussed or have banned the presence of the Confederate flag or emblem in their halls. One student was suspended for wearing a Confederate flag prom dress.  A few years ago, a middle school student in Georgia was suspended for a t-shirt. Another controversy arose over a student depiction of a rebel mascot at a school. Recent controversies over the Confederate flag in schools have sprung up inTennessee,Georgia, and Pennsylvania.

The discussion about the Confederate flag has been huge in South Carolina, which voted to remove the flag from the state capitol building in 2000 but put it up on the capitol grounds.  The NCAA consideredbanning any postseason games in South Carolina because of the flag at the capitol. The state of Georgia has gone through recent flag revisions, leading to arguments over the Confederate flag as well.   The flag was also part of a question posed in a 2007 Presidential nominee debate.  Other candidates chimed in, including Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton.

Many top editorial cartoonists have used the Confederate flag issue as a subject for their work.

Kid Rock faced some flack for his use of a Confederate flag … remember, he is from Detroit.

A few years ago, t-shirts and other apparel made by Dixie Outfitters were banned in many schools in the South.  The clothing, depicting Confederate flags in various situations, were thought to possibly cause racial tension. Find out more at Dixie Outfitters’ site on School Banning of Southern Heritage Symbols .

Many people feel that the Civil War has always been presented from a biased, northern perspective, and they try to make sure that the “truth” is told.  Some groups that want to make sure the War for Southern Independence is accurately discussed include Dixie Outfitters, Know Southern History, and a branch of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

The mascot for the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) was recently changed after years of controversy. Here’s one person’s opposition to the change. A school in Charlotte North Carolina has been embroiled in a fight recently over their Rebel mascot.

More mascot news – In Richmond, students are seeking to revive a ‘Rebel’ mascotOne local high school drops ‘Dixie,’ while another keeps it

You Tube is FULL of various Confederate flag videos … watch with an open and mature mind.



NOW … Examine the remaining links to get an idea about how the Civil War is still “unfinished”.   Jot down some notes, reactions, and questions! 

* CIVIL WAR MEMORY – The number of blogs that reflect about and react to the memory of the Civil War is enormous … too many to put on this site.  A few you may want to check out are Civil War Memory, Dead Confederates, and A House Divided. CNN’s John Blake thinks we are still fighting the war today ( in some areas).

* SESQUICENTENNIAL CELEBRATIONS – Should Southern states celebrate and commemorate the anniversary of secession from the Union? It was a big deal last year. Check out some articles about the SC Secession Ball here, here, here, and here.* Many states, North and South, have some sort of online commemoration of their state’s involvement in the Civil War – check out the ones from Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Arkansas, Tennessee, Ohio,Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Missouri, and even some stuff from Wisconsin

* REMEMBERING THE CONFEDERACY – The state of Virginia went through some controversy in April of 2010 when the governor proclaimed April to be Confederate History Month … without mentioning slavery. The statement garnered a LOT of publicity – President Obama was critical of it – check it out here, here, and here. There are also a few great cartoons about it here and here,

* A college fraternity inspired by Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee has banned members around the country from wearing Confederate uniforms to “Old South” parties and parades after years of complaints that the tradition was racially insensitive.
* some schools still hold segregated proms – like in Georgia – while Morgan Freeman recently paid for an integrated prom in his hometown* SLAVERY APOLOGIES – Should the government apologize for slavery?  The House of Representatives did so in July 2008, as did the states of Virginia, Florida, New Jersey, and others.

* some schools have had challenges with how the topic of slavery is taught – one recently in Ohio, and another in Virginia

* SLAVERY REPARATIONS – The issue of slave reparations has become more public over the past decade.  Supporters of reparations (payments) feel that the inequalities faced by modern-day African Americans are a direct result of slavery and discrimination. Lawsuits seeking reparations for descendants of slaves are expected be filed against the government and other institutions that benefited from slavery.  TheSlavery Reparations Information Center has more information, as does the NPR site on slave reparations.  A few articles also shed light on the subject, from Time, the BBC, and .  Barack Obama has alsochimed in on the topic.

*CIVIL WAR REENACTORS – Thousands of men and women spend every weekend as Civil War re-enactors, immersing themselves in the life of the 1860s. Interested in finding out about more?  Wisconsin has a few units with online information, including the 2nd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry, Co. C , the 15th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry , and the 42nd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry

* PRESERVING BATTLEFIELDS – Civil War battlefield preservation is a huge issue among fans of history and people looking to expand business and investment. The Civil War Preservation Trust is devoted to protecting the “hallowed grounds” by stopping encroaching development and growth.  A casino near Gettysburg was recently defeated, but other battlefields and locations are still in danger of being lost.

* In 1994 the heavily armed Disney divisions were outflanked in their attempt to build an American history theme park and real estate development near the site of a major Civil War battlefield. Disney America In the “Third Battle of Bull Run”, Disney was beaten by a group of historians and preservationists who were worried about the ‘Disneyfication’ of the war and the destruction of beautiful environment and the creation of urban sprawl near Manassas.  A website offers more information (but somewhat biased information).

*THE CONFEDERACY AGAIN?– A Neo-Confederate movement has grown in popularity recently in their push to reclaim the heritage of the South, especially concerning the controversy over the Confederate Flag.  Groups involved include the League of the South, The Confederate Society of America, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the Southern Legal Resource Center, and the Southern Caucus – * Other political groups concerned with the Southern cause include the Southern Independence Party, the Southern Party of Georgia, the Southern Independence Party of Tennessee, The Southern Party of North Carolina, and the Southern Independence Party of Texas

*STATUES AND PLAQUES – In Richmond, a bitter dispute ran along racial lines in 1995 over the placement of a statue honoring Arthur Ashe, the late tennis star and a native of the Virginia capital. Some traditionalists – who happened to be white – didn’t think a statue honoring a tennis player – who happened to be black – belonged with monuments to the heroes of the Confederacy, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. Richmond’s blacks objected because the young tennis star wasn’t welcome in that section of the city in the segregated days of his youth, when he was unable to play on public courts. After an ugly controversy, the statue was unveiled on Monument Drive.

* An additional controversy has happened due to the unveiling of a statue of Abraham Lincoln in historic Richmond – the first of it’s kind in the South.   Lincoln is not the most well liked historical figure in Virginia, and an online petition was created to oppose the statue.

* A few years ago, there was a big controversy over the dedication of a statue to Robert E. Lee at Antietam.  For more info, you can check this article and this report.

* Recently, plaques in the Texas Supreme Court celebrating the Confederacy were removed and replaced with more general terms.  For more info, check out this page from the SLRC. The Appeals Court made a recent decision concerning the plaques.

*NAMES – In the past few years, students at Middle Tennessee State University petitioned to have the name of Forrest Hall changed, since it honors the Confederate General who helped form the Ku Klux Klan.  You can check out some of the debate here and here.

* Alabama has recently taken the phrase “The Heart of Dixie” off of it’s license plates.  Check out this article for more info.

* The University of Texas has faced criticism for statues on campus

*The state of Rhode Island recently underwent a controversy over the official name of the state


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Head to the Division and Reunion site for our Civil War Study!

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ABOLITION – Assignment November 8/9

I can discuss and evaluate the various efforts of abolitionists in the antebellum era.

How did the movement to end slavery begin?  What were some of the ideas and methods of the major abolitionists?  What was the impact of the abolition movement?  All good questions, right?   To get an overview of the abolition movement and to lead into our next class activity …

Check out The Abolitionist Movement from the History Channel and What obstacles did Abolitionists face? from Eric Foner and PBS. This should give you an idea of the basics of the movement.  In addition, your task is to check out the individual abolitionist that you have been assigned.  Why did that person oppose slavery?  What did they do in their opposition?  What was the impact?

As you do, consider the efforts of the people in the Abolition Movement.  They took a stand, often facing a great deal of opposition, violence, even death.  Would you do it?  Can we learn from their efforts?

Once you are done, use the ABC-CLIO research (usmstudent, historyrules)  list to find out about the abolitionist that you play in your next class.  Make sure you can explain who why you opposed slavery, what you did in the movement, and the impact of your actions.  You should also post your picture and a “catch phrase” on your section Abolitionist Bulletin Board – Abolition1 / Abolition2 / Abolition3


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Antebellum Slavery – Living and Resisting – In class November 9/10

“Death is better than slavery.”  Harriet Ann Jacobs

You have hopefully been examining a variety of resources regarding the world of antebellum slavery and are starting to understand the awful conditions of “The Peculiar Institution”.  To examine a bit about life during antebellum slavery, take the quick quiz and then see if you can find the answers using the “Conditions of Antebellum Slavery ” reading. You can also find out a great deal about life in slavery from the Living Conditions from Slavery and the Making of America.

“Slaves ‘naturally’ resisted their enslavement because slavery was fundamentally unnatural.” Franklin W. Wright

How did slaves respond to their life in bondage? It’s one of the most common questions asked by students – so let’s see if we can find some answers.  Slavery and the Making of America has a decision making activity to get your mind going. Take a look at “The Decisions the Slaves Made” and see if you would have done the same as those who were suffering in slavery.  Then, check out Slave Resistance from the National Humanities Center and Slave Resistance and Revolts from Digital History to find out how enslaved people responded to their situation.

One of the most commonly studied forms of resistance was the Underground Railroad, which extended into Wisconsin and is commemorated downtown with the story of Joshua Glover. Scholastic has a great site called “The Underground Railroad – Escape from Slavery”. Take a look at the sections called “Escape!” and “Reaching Safety” to get a better idea about what the trip was like and what happened once the runaways made it to the North. Finally, make sure you read over the “Myths of the Underground Railroad” . If you want, add to your collections!

Keep adding to our bulletin board of questions!

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Visual Analysis!

Maximize it for the best detail!

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In Class November 4/7 – King Cotton

“The most important determinant of American history in the nineteenth century.” – Historian Gene Dattel

Eli Whitney’s Cotton Gin Patent Drawing and Patent Petition

Cotton Gin – Eli Whitney from Have Fun With History

The Spread of Cotton and Slavery from the University of Oregon

The Role Cotton Played in the 1800s Economy by Henry Louis Gates Jr.


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TARGET DISPLAY – The Growing Nation – Thinking Like a Historian




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An Introduction to Slavery – In class November 2

When I think of SLAVERY … form

Introduction Presentation


Post questions on the SLAVERY BULLETIN BOARD

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Here you go, young historians – knock our socks off with your incredible historical thinking!

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Assignment Rocktober 28/29 – The Masque of the Growing Nation

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  • I can discuss the progress and limits of social growth in America in the antebellum era
  • I can utilize perspective to analyze and evaluate the past
  • I can represent the ideas, experiences, and impact of individuals and groups from the past using different platforms.
  • I can present oral information clearly, accurately, and creatively.

The Masque of the Growing Nation from Chuck Taft on Vimeo.

The masquerade ball was a somewhat popular event during colonial times in America, and it remained in fashion during the first half of the 19th century.  Harking back to Venetian tradition, the celebrations were originally used to recognize upcoming marriages.  They later became a social event in which participants would disguise themselves, and the challenge was to guess their actual identity.  Masquerade balls have become a part of popular culture as well, including scenes in Romeo and Juliet, The Dark Knight Rises, Phantom of the Opera, and a short story by some guy named Poe.

On Monday, all young historians will participate in a masquerade ball honoring the study of the growing nation and focusing on our essential question – Should America’s growth in the antebellum era be celebrated or denounced? You will be given a role to play at the masquerade.  Your task is to do some research about your role and use your critical thinking to craft a statement about your perspective concerning a specific aspect of the time period.  Do you think the era should be seen as one to celebrate, or one to denounce?  Your statement should be about a paragraph long, and you should have a thesis or specific point to your statement.  You should use one or two sources – no more are really necessary for this activity.

In addition, you should design a mask that represents your role, your opinion, or something about you and the era.  You can use one of the masques in class, print your own, or create your own original design! Be creative, be historical, be colorful! Have fun with this – ok?

For example, if I was Alexander Hamilton, I may say …

We should celebrate the early 1800s because, as a country, we established a strong national economy. (that’s the thesis)  Through my economic plan, we attacked the debt crisis, developed a national monetary policy, created a national bank, and pushed for more industry in the United States. This economic growth continued as the century progressed, leading to a market revolution.  The nation was more connected with canals, roads and eventually railroads, and both farmers and artisans produced goods for the markets instead of themselves.  Capitalism rules, my friends!

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Need a mask? Check out …


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