Today’s post comes from Sydney Vaile and Marie Pellissier, interns in our Education and Public Programs division.
This summer, Primarily Teaching made its way to Chicago, Atlanta, Boston, and Washington. DC. Educators in each city searched for primary sources that shared a common theme of Leadership and Legacy in History. The participants searched through the holdings of the National Archives and chose three to five documents each to be scanned, digitized, and published on DocsTeach.org.
We had the privilege of making the documents from all four Primarily Teaching Workshops available online for the first time. We uploaded each document or photograph, making it available for educators to create their very own online activities. During the Washington, DC, workshop, we had the opportunity to meet the participating teachers and librarians and see the end product—presentations of their newly created activities—after a long week of research, scanning, and digitizing!
Each workshop focused on a specific topic within the common theme, so we got to read through almost 150 incredible documents. Chicago and Boston looked at Civil Rights related court cases, Washington, D.C. focused on immigration, and Atlanta studied the Tennessee Valley Authority.
Here are a couple of our personal favorites:
Marie: One of my favorites was a document from the Washington, DC, Primarily Teaching session. A 1905 statement from Margaret Dye Ellis, who spearheaded the movement to have female inspectors at Ellis Island, is about the necessity of women in such positions. She argued that an immigrant woman would be more comfortable speaking to another woman about issues such as pregnancy, and that female inspectors would be more likely to spot girls vulnerable to human trafficking. I found it really fascinating—in an age when women were discouraged from working outside the home, these female inspectors were working in very visible positions. I had never heard of female inspectors on Ellis Island, and I think their contributions are important to remember when thinking about narratives of immigration.
Sydney: One document that stood out from Boston’s Primarily Teaching session was a 1975 guidebook for African-American students. Published by Freedom House, the “how to” booklet provided students with strategies for reacting to the desegregation crisis of the 1970s. Solutions to probable situations such as violating the Boston Code of Discipline, expulsion, and violence were included so that Black students would know how and how not to act around their White counterparts. The idea of attending a segregated school today is mind-blowing, so I took great interest in reading the same instructions as the students did in the 1970s to stay out of trouble in their struggle for freedom.
Working with educators participating in Primarily Teaching allowed us to learn history on a different level. Technology has become more and more important with each passing year. DocsTeach allowed us to see the entire process behind the production of an activity. In a way, the documents came to life, and will be used to impact the rising generation of educators.
Many new primary sources are now available as teaching tools on DocsTeach.org—alert the children!