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Week 13 The Freedom Fighters: Walt Whitman and Frederick Douglass

We have approximately two weeks left in our semester. Please email me your paper topics this week. You can focus on any writer (and writings) we have covered, or the few who are to come.

HERE ARE DIRECTIONS FOR THE ESSAY

(HERE IS A SAMPLE STUDENT ESSAY))

The essay will be due Wed. Dec. 20. Please email me about any questions you may have or for a topic suggestion (mnoonan@citytech.cuny.edu).

I am happy to review early drafts. Please upload your essay in our shared googledrive: HERE.

To upload a file from your computer press “new” (on upper left corner) and then “upload file”.

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On April 12 1861, at Fort Sumter, South Carolina, Americans from the North (the Union) and the South (the Confederacy) would start a brutal bloodbath in a Civil War that would last four years and cost almost one million lives. On the surface, the war was about “maintaining the union” but in reality it was over slavery; with the North hoping to end this immoral practice forever. This will be our last lesson (for next week).

Before we begin on this topic, I wish to introduce two ardent supporters of true Democracy and equality: the famous poet Walt Whitman and equally famous abolitionist (and former slave) Frederick Douglass.

Please first view this brief biography of Whitman: HERE

Song of Myself - Wikipedia

Read excerpts from his poetry collection “Leaves of Grass” (1855): HERE

Listen to Harvard historian David Blight talk about his new book on Frederick Douglass: HERE

Frederick Douglass

Also view this video of James Earl Jones reading Frederick Douglass’ “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July” (1852)

I am not requiring any more posts this semester. However, if you are missing one (or more) consider posting on one of these authors. Also consider writing a final essay that focuses either on Whitman or Douglass, whose works are breath-taking.

Final Week: The Civil War (1861-1865)

Reminder: Your Final Essay is due Wed., Dec. 20.

HERE ARE DIRECTIONS FOR THE ESSAY

(HERE IS A SAMPLE STUDENT ESSAY))

Please email me about any questions or concerns you may still have (mnoonan@citytech.cuny.edu).

Please email your essay directly to me or upload it to our shared googledrive: HERE.

To upload a file from your computer press “new” (on upper left corner) and then “upload file”.

The Civil War

Our required readings for the semester are over but I want to leave you with some concluding thoughts. Due to slavery, the U.S. began to break apart in the 1850s. John Brown is hanged in 1859 for trying to start a slave rebellion in the South but the war really begins with the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860. Quickly, most of the southern states secede, knowing that this will be the end of a way of life, created on the backs of millions of unpaid, brutalized African American people. The Civil War officially begins in March of 1861, pitting the North (the Union) against the South (the Confederacy). After four years of grotesque battles (over 500,000 dead), the North wins and America (in the 13th Amendment) abolishes slavery forever.

In April of 1865, as the war is about to end, Abraham Lincoln is assassinated by a southern actor named John Wilkes Booth. In Lincoln’s place, we get a new racist President Andrew Johnson who sets in motion the Jim Crow laws of the 1870s and 1880s. This story is, however, is beyond the scope of this class, though the legacy of slavery and racism remains (as the 1619 Project importantly argues).

If you have time, I recommend reading a famous short speech Lincoln gave during the middle of the Civil War, in which he says the North must keep fighting to ensure a “rebirth of freedom.”

 “Gettysburg Address”

I also recommend three spectacular films that help us understand the Civil War:

1) Glory 2) Harriet and 4) Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln.

Lastly, for WONDERFUL holiday entertainment, PLEASE WATCH the fabulous Little Women written by Louisa May Alcott and directed by Greta Gerwig, who also directed the recent blockbuster film “Barbie.”  View film trailer Here.

Have a wonderful break all!

Week 12: The Era of Reform, Post Due: Tues. Dec. 5th

For the remainder of the semester, we will be focusing on American Literature during the Era of Reform. This era saw the emergence of remarkable writers and thinkers dedicated to realizing the promise of a vital, engaged democracy. Writers such as Margeret Fuller, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Walt Whitman, Frederick Douglas, and Louisa May Alcott focused on a number of issues needing improvement in America ranging from women’s rights, worker rights, education for all, and an overall enlightened political and artistic culture.

As we head into the final stretch of the semester, I want you to start thinking about a topic (author or theme) that you would like to write about for your Final Essay Assignment. You may focus on readings we’ve done (working from one of your earlier posts perhaps) or choose a topic from upcoming authors (you could also focus on a film I’ve recommended).  

HERE ARE DIRECTIONS FOR THE ESSAY

(HERE IS A SAMPLE STUDENT ESSAY))

Please choose a topic by Wed. Dec. 6. The essay will be due Wed. Dec. 20. Please email me about any questions you may have or for a topic suggestion (mnoonan@citytech.cuny.edu).

For this week we will focus on the fight for equality for men AND women. This story begins in a town in New York state called Seneca Falls. It was here in 1848, that women (led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony) met at a convention to demand their rights. Together they penned the Declaration of Sentiments, which as you’ll note, was a re-writing of the original Declaration of Independence (1776).

Read: Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, “Declaration of Sentiments” (1848). Also important in this fight was the Transendentalist Margaret Fuller, who wrote Woman in the 19th Century. Here is an excerpt from her landmark book: “Educate Men and Women as Souls”

Importantly, Sojourner Truth called out the early fight for Women’s Rights for not including African American women as well in their efforts.

Listen to what she had to say in this speech reenactment: VIDEO

Here is the original text of the speech: “Ain’t I a Woman?”

In 2020, the first monument to women went up in Central Park featuring Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Sojourner Truth. Read the STORY here.

There is also a remarkable and important film on the great African American Freedom Fighter Harriet Tubman, which I highly encourage you to watch (if not now perhaps over the winter break). The film shows Tubman’s courageous work on “the Underground Railroad” in which she helped southern enslaved persons escape their masters to flee north. View film trailer here: Harriet Tubman

I also HIGHLY recommend the recent film version of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women , which provides a wonderful sense of life in the 1840s in Concord from the perspective of courageous, talented young ladies. View film trailer Here.

POST ASSIGNMENT (DUE: Tues. Dec. 6) For this week, please read and watch the above mentioned readings and videos. In your post, respond to ONE of them. Alternately, pick a grievance from the 1848 Declaration of Sentiments and speak to how this issue relates to women’s position in society today (cite an example if you can).

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