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By Cadence Summers, VI Form
Women in World War II: Women’s Army Corps to Second Wave Feminist Movement
Editor’s Note: The Shen Prize is a speech competition for V Formers responding to the prompt: What is a moment of significant expansion or contraction of United States’ democracy? The 2020 recipient of the Shen Prize was Catie Summers.
“For all the girls in the [Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadrons], I think the most concrete moment of happiness came at our first review. Suddenly and for the first time, we felt a part of something larger. Because of our uniforms, which we had earned, we were marching with the men, marching with all the freedom-loving people in the world.” This is an excerpt from the poem At Twilight’s Last Gleaming, written by Cornelia Fort, one of the first woman pilots in the United States.
During World War II, the United States government drafted as many male soldiers as possible. Although thousands were automatically selected, just as many were needed to stay on the homefront to support the war effort through non-combat roles, which prompted the government to replace men in the workforce with women. During wartime, women’s employment rate increased 25%, and over 350,000 women served in the U.S. military. This increase in women’s employment and the diversification of jobs available to them is an expansion of American democracy. American democracy is fluid, ever-changing, and situational. As the country adapts and advances, so too does its democracy. These fluctuations occur in time with shifts in political climates thus the inclusivity and definition of American democracy at a given time correlates to the status of the country at that time. The introduction of the Women’s Army Corps, also known as WAC, during World War II represents an expansion of American Democracy due to the situational requirements of a nation at war. This expansion not only gave women the option to support the war effort by taking on traditionally male roles in the workforce and military, but also for the duration of the war, granted these women access to a society in which their work and contributions outside of the home were as valued as those within it.(more…)
By Isabelle Titcomb, VI Form
Yin and Yang: The Interdependence of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X
Sixth form Isabelle Titcomb spent a semester this year in History Fellowship class conducting research on the relationship between MLK and Malcolm X — two of the most influential leaders in African American history whose words still have a lingering influence.
By Matthew Gates, V Form
The Reach for Perfection in the Jacksonian Era
Although Andrew Jackson, the seventh President of The United States, only held office from 1829 to 1837, he made a profound impact on American history. During “The Jacksonian Era,” (1816-1841) the economy boomed, technology advanced, American borders expanded, but most importantly, the common man gained a sense of importance, and American optimism and patriotism were “unbounded” and “infectious” (Remini 108). It was a time of “passionate commitment to democracy” (Remini 122).
In response to the boom in the economy and the growth of industry and materialism in America during the Jacksonian Era, the theme of Culture and Society is evident throughout the Transcendental Movement. This movement, which originated in Massachusetts, emphasized the divinity of man and his connections to God and stressed the beauty in nature in a society preoccupied with materialism. Transcendentalists such as Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson encouraged Americans to live more modestly and enjoy the simplicity of nature. Emerson referred to the growing obsession of the American people to gain wealth as “‘the demon of reform,’” thereby proving that the emergence of the Transcendental Movement was necessary to respond to the expansion of American industrialism and materialism (Remini 73). Even today, there are still Transcendentalists who believe in the importance of living humbly and recognizing the beauty in nature in daily life. (more…)
By Matt Walsh, V Form
What to Do with Confederate Monuments
Despite the meteoric rise of clickbait fake news, the majority of “alternative facts” don’t come from shady fake news websites. Rather, they come from our distorted perception of American history. I only had to read one chapter of Dr. James Loewen’s Lies My Teacher Told Me, a book that sheds light on the dishonesty of American history textbooks, to realize the problems with American history education. Lauded by the likes of Howard Zinn and Jon Wiener, Lies My Teacher Told Me provides a thorough examination of the lies promulgated by American history textbooks.
Dr. James Loewen, who holds a Ph.D. in sociology from Harvard University and taught at the University of Vermont and Mississippi’s Tougaloo College, came to visit St. Mark’s in October of 2017. Dr. Loewen’s talk to the St. Mark’s faculty and student body regarded the danger of misconceptions of the past and centered on the problems with Civil War monuments honoring Confederate generals. Loewen asserted that the construction of these statues—often in veneration of Robert E. Lee or Jefferson Davis—represent what he calls a “nadir” in racial equality in the United States. (more…)
By Joseph Lyons, IV Form
Memorialization, Memory, and the Civil War:
The Evolution of Civil War Memory through the Monuments of North Carolina and Maine
Driving up the hill from downtown Bridgton, Maine, one sees a towering Civil War monument looming on the horizon. The monument itself is unremarkable, as there are at least 144 other Civil War memorials in the state. Given the imprint that this conflict left on America’s collective memory, the prolific memorial-building efforts in Maine are no surprise. However, the way Maine memorials portray the conflict is rather puzzling. Despite the fact that the Union fought the war, at least in part, for emancipation and racial equality, Mainers constructed monuments, like the one in Bridgton, that largely disregarded the significance of slavery to the conflict. The inscription on the Bridgton monument reads: (more…)
By Joey Lyons, VI Form
Racial Integration at St. Mark’s: The Experience and Legacy of Ethan Anthony Loney
On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that segregation in public schools deprived minority children of equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court’s decision in Brown repudiated the “separate but equal” principle, a principle that had prevailed in the United States since Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). In his unanimous opinion, Chief Justice Earl Warren stated that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” After a second decision a year later, in Brown II, the Court demanded that public schools integrate “with all deliberate speed.” However, the desegregation of public schools proceeded slowly, particularly in the South, which engaged in “massive resistance” and passed laws declaring the Brown decision invalid. Unlike southern states, northern states did not reject the Court’s ruling outright. Instead, northern school boards drew school zones that reflected white and black neighborhoods, thus maintaining segregated school systems. (more…)
By Joey Lyons, VI Form
The Founding Fathers’ Intent and the Formation of the Constitution
Throughout the country’s history, Americans have romanticized the nation-building work of the Founding Fathers. Since egalitarianism, liberty and democracy are central to the American mythos, Americans have often associated those ideals with the country’s founders. In making this association, Americans neglect the private interactions between the founders and, instead, focus on their public rhetoric. In public documents, most of the Founding Fathers expressed a desire to establish an inclusive democracy with majority rule. However, the founders, all of whom were in the economic elite, communicated different beliefs amongst themselves. Privately, the Founding Fathers wrote about their concerns over the possibility of oppressive majority rule by common people. As wealthy landowners, events, like the Rhode Island Currency Crisis and Shay’s Rebellion (both in 1786), (more…)