What's Up, Docs?

Travis LetterThese are some of the primary sources I've stumbled across over the years of which I just can't seem to get enough. I realize this is weird and perhaps a bit sad, but I'm going to share them anyway so you can be strangely fixated as well.  

When I know where I got them, I've credited or linked or some such thing. Some I've had in electronic form for so long I don't actually know where I got them. I have no desire to violate anyone's copyright or take anyone's credit, so if you're pretty sure this is YOUR Federalist Essay #18 or whatever, let me know. 

In an effort to give some rough illusion of organization, I've added my own shorthand at the end of each description. DA=Document Analysis (primarily for learning/practicing), EA = Early American (1491 - Civil War), US = U.S. History (Post-Civil War), WH=World History, AG = American Government, OK = Oklahoma History, TX = Texas History. 

I know - brilliant, right?

DaVinci & Elvis Apply for Jobs - One way to promote close reading and document analysis is to give students a document with identifying information removed. Without the name of the Author, Place & Time, etc., they must use internal clues to infer the relevant information. This is a pair I used to use regularly. They'd analyze each one - usually with APARTY - then do a Venn to Compare & Contrast them. Neither are overly difficult and both contain plenty of internal clues, but they're not overly easy for kids born in the 2000's either. These make for a nice C&C to wrap up the process. (DA)

Ben Franklin & Charles Darwin Talk About Sex - Not with each other. This is another pairing of documents with identifying information removed. I haven't used the Franklin letter in class, but it's very popular with teachers - especially the tawdry ones. These C&C well also. (DA)

Coronado Writes to the King of Spain (1541) - He didn't find Quivera. He didn't find the Seven Cities of Cibola. He found naked people wandering around with the cows and eating raw meat. Now it's time to report to the King on how great it all went. (OK/EA)

The Federalist Essays #10 and #51 - Excerpts (1787/1788) - The two that seem to come up over and over again, although there are years I'm not sure why. I have two edits of these which I use, depending on the group. (EA/AG)

The Workingman's Committee of Philadelphia on the State of Public Instruction in Pennsylvania (1830) - Wonderful plee for meaningful public education system as foundational to democracy. I often use an excerpt of this together with the Horace Mann document below, but this fuller version is worth a perusal or seven. (EA/AG)

Andrew Jackson On 'Indian Removal' - Excerpts (1830) - Makes you wish YOU were being forcibly removed to Indian Territory! Those lucky savages... they don't know how good they're getting it. (EA/OK)

Alexis de Tocqueville, from Democracy in America (1835) - There's an unwritten rule that you must include something from Tocqueville any time you compile documents, write an article, or even think about 19th century America. I'm not sure what happens to you if you don't, but I believe it's similar to violating the Unbreakable Vow from those Harry Potter books. (EA/AG)

Horace Mann Pleads for Public Libraries (1840) - Everyone's favorite 19th Century education reformer argues the value of libraries with many words and much aplomb. I use an excerpt of this with the Workingman's Committee document above, but this longer version is pretty sweet if you can get through the verbage. (EA/AG)

Chattel Slavery vs. Wage Slavery (Orestes A. Brownson, 1840) - Brownson argues that whatever the criticisms of slavery in the South, wage workers in the North had it worse. Stinging critique of factory owners and the factory system. (EA/AG)

Henry David Thoreau - Life Without Principles (1863) - Excerpt from everyone's favorite Transcendentalist. Turns out those students who are destined to do nothing but sit and stare blankly may be more enlightened than the rest of us. Huh. (EA)

Jourdon Anderson Letter (1865) - This Reconstruction-era letter is a rich source of both content and structure-related discussion. I won't tell you what to love about it, but I like it better every time I work through it with students. Tone, and inference, and race, and society, and faith, and finance, and... you get the idea. (EA/US/AG)

Edward Bellamy - Looking Backward (1888) - When did novelists start thinking they were supposed to be doing allegory or making social commentary? This excerpt suggests folks in the future (the year 2000, to be precise) will be horrified by the way people used to treat one another socially and economically in the primitive past. Now if he just commanded a starship... (US/AG)

William Jennings Bryan - The Cross of Gold Speech (1896) - Excerpts from the roaring lion of Populism. "There are those who believe that if you just legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, that their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous their prosperity will find its way up and through every class that rests upon it." So... that's not topical or anything. (OK/US)

Zitkala-Sa: The School Days of an Indian Girl (1900) - Poignant account of a young Amerindian girl sent to boarding school to be educated and Americanized. (OK/US)

MLK and Malcolm X Excerpts (1963/1965) - Excerpts of the letter from those silly clergy who prompted MLK's famous "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," sections of the Birmingham letter itself, and one of my favorite Malcolm X speeches from his post-Mecca life, one week before his death. Good C&C if you're into that sort of thing. (US/AG)

These are just some of my favorites. Below are some links to various websites heavy on Primary Sources. If you have others you like as well or better, please let me know!

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History - A gold mine of legit primary sources, historian podcasts, and other goodies. You may have to register at some point, but it's free and they send very little unsolicited email. They also do some pretty impressive Teacher Workshops I hear.

Stanford History Education Group - This one is pretty new to me, but it's been recommended to me by several other teachers and looks pretty impressive so far. It's also got a pretty sweet wine-colored background... or is it magenta? No - ruby! Hmmm...

The Library of Congress Online - They seem to have tried to reorganize this to make it a bit more useful when you're looking for something specific. In years past, I've found it most entertaining when just kinda... browsing. In any case, as the name suggests, there's a mother lode of documenty goodnees here. 

The National Archives - Our government isn't known for using our tax dollars usefully, but this is one of their better efforts. Musta been an accident. More than primary sources, there are all kinds of things here.

EyeWitness to History - This is one of my favorites. "History through the eyes of those who lived it." Or at least through their words.

Digital History - This is first and foremost a kind of online textbook for American History, Pre-Columbus to Present. It's a nice summary of major eras and issues, although there are some organizational and navigational elements with which I'd quibble if anyone asked my opinion (they haven't). BUT, most of the "Eras" have a number of documents linked to them, and they've tried to do some interesting thematic things as well, so check it out.

Best of History Websites - You'll never guess what this one is about! What, you guessed already? Well, damn.

Cedric Villani