Archive for the ‘primary resources’ Tag

Teaching with newspapers.

As of late I am constructing a digital archive of Civil War Hartford. Although it is obvious that no military battles were fought in the city, it is clear that the political battles were hot and heavy. The biggest problem I am facing is presenting Connecticut’s ideological struggles to my intended audience.

This project is intended to be a resource for teacher’s to incorporate into the social studies classroom. In Connecticut, the social studies curriculum framework places the study of the Civil War in eighth grade. Although students are excited to learn about Social Studies at this grade level, their ability to comprehend the language used in 19th century newspaper articles is limited.

If you look at the three major papers in Hartford during the Civil War, it is clear that The Hartford Daily Times was a conservative paper representing Democratic ideology, The Hartford Courant was more of a moderate-Republican paper, and The Hartford Evening Press was certainly a voice for the radical Republicans. The problem lies in the vocabulary and discussion of sophisticated ideas such as republicanism (intentional small “r”), Constitutional theory, and Human Rights (abolitionism).

What it really boils down to is that the students can comprehend the ideas flaming the political and military battles of Civil War America, but many (if not most or all) will not have the ability to analyze these primary sources effectively. I wonder if it would be better to compose more of a secondary source where the students could read about the political leanings of each paper and then read shorter, more readable selections of articles to illustrate the papers’ political ideology. I guess it would be sort of like an encyclopedia entry with direct quotes illustrating a papers stance on important political issues such as the Emancipation Proclamation and the Connecticut’s 1863 gubernatorial election.

It is important for students to look at the ideological differences that Hartford’s Civil War newspapers to get a true sense of the political ideologies of everyday Nutmeggers during the War for the Union. Students will see that Connecticut had many people who viewed the Civil War as an unjust act of despotism over state sovereignty. From these stark contrasts in perspectives social studies students will learn that there is no one prescribed American history. Through the study of history students must be exposed to the many narratives that exist and draw their own conclusions based on well rounded unbiased presentation of the past.