I was recently invited, along with my frequent collaborator (also known as my partner-in-crime), Dr. Bethany Jay, to present at University of Southern Maine’s inaugural symposium, Race, Power, and Difference: A symposium for Maine Educators.
The symposium featured Dr. Tiffany Mitchell who kept the audience laughing throughout her keynote address that focused on how educators could go beyond one-dimensional narratives about people of color in the classroom, using her own experiences to emphasize points.
Bethany and I were there to present our work on how to incorporate practical strategies and hands-on learning regarding slavery. Our work with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teach Hard History program and lessons that we each use with our own students served as the basis for our discussion with the participants.
***Interestingly, ZB Oakes was a slave auctioneer who lived in Charleston, SC in the 1800s. His papers are part of the collections at the Boston Public Library because they were seized during the Civil War by a Massachusetts regiment comprised of free blacks and brought back to Frederick Douglass – as almost a trophy about what he helped accomplish!
Our session was one of the most attended of the day, with some participants having to stand and a continual stream of adding more chairs to the already cramped room. It clearly demonstrated that educators KNOW that this is an important topic and yet struggle for finding appropriate resources. Throughout the presentation and activities the participants were continually engaged and asking great questions – of us and other attendees – about strategies that they might use or modify to fit their unique student populations.
And to make things even MORE exciting – one of the fellow presenters was Dr. Nate Hamilton! Nate frequently collaborates with Bethany and me and has been a part of the Peabody extended family for years. It was nice to see him in his “natural habitat” of Maine for once!
The Peabody Museum once again partnered with Dr. Bethany Jay, professor of history at Salem State University, to run the graduate summer institute class, Preserving the Past: Using Archaeology to Teach History.
The week long class focuses on how archaeology can be used in middle and high school classrooms as a way to talk about minorities who are often left out of the historical record. Each day was focused on a different minority group such as Native Americans, women, enslaved people, and free blacks.
Dr. Nate Hamilton giving a tour of the Rebecca Nurse Homestead
Excavating at RNH
Excavating at RNH
Students doing the Little Spots Allow’d Them lesson
Students on a tour of the Royall House and Slave Quarters museum
Each day gives students background content to ground them in the topic, a tour of a historic or other site, and hands-on lesson plans. This year’s lesson plans included the Peabody’s “Maps and Dreams,” which utilizes Native American petroglyphs as well as a map in Phillips Andover’s Knafel Map Collection and “Little Spots Allow’d Them,” which focuses on the archaeology of the Royall House and Slave Quarters. They also were able to see the mock excavation activity about Katherine Nanny Naylor which the Commonwealth Museum hosts as part of their Archaeology of the Big Dig.
The last day is always the highlight of the class. Dr. Nate Hamilton of University of Southern Maine generously lenthis time and expertise to the class, allowing the students to participate in a real excavation at the Rebecca Nurse Homestead in Danvers MA.
Also this summer, Dr. Brad Austin of Salem State University brought his class Teaching Difficult Topics: Native American History to the Peabody. The class spent the day working with the Peabody’s History 300 lessons “alterNATIVE uses” and “Trail Where They Cried.”
In “alterNATIVE uses” students examine both a stone and metal projectile point to better understand how iron and trade affect both Native and European communities during the 1600 and 1700s. Each student was given a replica stone and metal projectile point along with the lesson plan.
In the “Trail Where They Cried” the students learned how to make the complex history of Cherokee Removal more accessible to students through a Choose Your Own Adventure style activity.
Both activities were a big hit and the students have asked to use more of the Peabody’s teaching resources.
Scholars, museum professionals, educators and interested members of the public gathered at Salem State University for a symposium that delved into the history and implications of slavery in New England. Essex Heritage organized this event to be interactive and engaging. In addition to scholars they also invited the participants to explore the topic through breakout sessions and facilitated activities.
Beth Beringer of Essex Heritage invited me to lead one of the activities. During the morning session I lead participants through our History 200 lesson, The Little Spots Allow’d Them. Participants explored how landscapes can and have shaped human behavior using archaeological data from Isaac Royall’s Ten Hills Farm in Medford, Mass. (now the Royall House and Slave Quarters).
The program then shifted to exploration of the difficult discussions that arise when confronting northern slavery. The experts on this panel had a diverse background as historians, professors, and museum professionals. They focused on meaningful strategies that could be used to engage any audience – classroom, museum goers, or the public – in a substantive manner.
Keynote speaker (and ChuBbs Woodrow Randall enthusiast) Dr. Joanne Pope Melish spoke about the often complex relationship that New England had with the institution of slavery. She focused on the impact that this history has had on the region and its legacy today. Melish was also quick to point out that “rich men did not own slaves. Slaves made men rich” and how we need to shift the typical narratives used when engaging with students in any setting.
There also was a group of museum educators who talked about their unique ways of engaging the public in the history of slavery in New England. Maryann Zujewski from Salem Maritime National Park has been working with Dr. Bethany Jay of Salem State University to reframe their interpretive tours so that they are not simply ADDING black people to history, but that they and other minorities are becoming more integrated in a meaningful and natural manner. Olivia Searcy discussed how she has helped to create the educational programming for the Royall House and Slave Quarters Museum in a manner that has focused on the history of the enslaved people at the site. The Caribbean Connections program from the House of the Seven Gables is a duel language program, described by Ana Nuncio as innovative in its outreach to minority groups in a community which might not otherwise feel welcomed in a museum setting.
At the end of the day participants could self-select into a variety of breakout sessions to dive further into a topic of interest.
This symposium was very important and offered me a great deal of new information and ways of thinking. I am already furiously at work on how to integrate all that I learned into the lessons and activities that I teach. I hope that another symposium of this kind will be offered again and I anxiously await word from my friends at Essex Heritage!