Last week marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln and, to celebrate the bicentennial, the History Channel sponsored a “teach-in” campaign aimed at getting as many teachers as possible to bring the 16th President of the United States into their lessons plans on the big day.
Lucky for us, our teacher, Paul “Lash” LaRue, was on it.
During last Thursday’s Research History class, Lash integrated the legendary president into fifth period in a way that informed us all of the many amazing obstacles and challenges he overcame throughout his time in office.
First, we watched an HBO special entitled Unchained Memories: Readings From the Slave Narratives. This was a really interesting (and rewarding) part of the day. Basically, for the last ten weeks, we have all been focused as a class on transcribing interview after interview with some of our country’s World War II veterans. It was refreshing to see how such tedious work (as was done to capture the stories of the slaves in the video) could be turned into such a productive resource that saves something important for future generations.
We also watched a webcast that was a question and answer session between several inquisitive teenagers and three prominent Lincoln scholars. One of the most interesting parts of the webcast was hearing from the scholars because they were extremely passionate (and of course knowledgeable) about Lincoln. One of them expressed that even though President Lincoln had many scars on his time in office - such as suspending habeas corpus - he accomplished many more good things, like reuniting the country in a time of deep division.
The following are just a few opinions from my fellow classmates about our Lincoln “teach-in” day:
"The most fascinating part of the day was watching the video about the slave diaries. It was neat to see their stories documented just as we are documenting those of World War II veterans. My hope is that one day our hard work will become a presentation just like this video.” - Jackie P.
“My favorite part of the day was the video about the slave stories. It ties deeply into our daily activities because we’re doing the same thing that the preservationists who made the video did. Hopefully, our efforts will someday give World War II veterans the same forum for their deserving stories.” - Tim K.
“My favorite part about the ‘teach-in’ was watching the HBO documentary. You learn so much more about how slavery was back then when you see and hear transcribed stories from former slaves. It’s really cool that we are doing something in our class that will be read many, many years from now.” - Nicole F.
And there you have it: all it took was a good documentary (and a smorgasbord of equally good snacks) to make countless hours spent playing, stopping, rewinding and fast forwarding tapped transcripts all totally worth it.
- Matt M.
Matt M. is a senior at Washington High School in Washington Court House, Ohio. This semester, he’ll be working with his Research History classmates to document and preserve Good Hope Cemetery. Stay tuned as they share their experiences here on our blog and on their Flickr photostream.