New Civil War Poster Pieces Things Together for American History Classrooms

In proclaiming October as National Arts and Humanities Month, President Obama said the arts and humanities “speak to our condition and affirm our desire for something more and something better.”  A new poster from the National History Clearinghouse, “How Do You Piece Together the History of the Civil War?,” employs images of objects such as a quilt, a map, some photographs, a haversack, and a receipt to deepen understanding of the Civil War and about how historians piece together the past.

This 24-by-36-inch poster features a collage of primary sources and related questions that get students thinking about how we know what we know about the past, as we do with all history, but especially in relation to our country’s most devastating conflict, the Civil War. The question, “How can geography impact a battle?,”  accompanies a map of Gettysburg while a slave receipt prompts students to think about the laws, economics, and, most importantly, people involved in the institution of slavery.

The Clearinghouse, a professional development resource center funded through OII’s Teaching American History program, is making these posters available free of charge to classroom history teachers. The Clearinghouse has received more than 15,000 requests for the posters.  Click here to order your copy.

civil war posterAs a special bonus for teachers, the Clearinghouse has created an interactive version of this poster with links to teaching materials and websites related to the Civil War. Topics include military history and life on the battlefield, children’s voices during the Civil War, African American perspectives, emancipation, women’s roles, and Civil-War-era music.

This poster and online resources illustrate that it takes many sources and perspectives to develop a rich understanding of the Civil War in all of its complexity. As noted recently by Richard Byrne in the Free Tech for Teachers Blog, “Through both the poster and the site you can introduce students to the idea that a historical artifact is more than just an object; it can be the start of a great story.”

The National History Education Clearinghouse is directed by George Mason University through a contract with OII’s Teaching American History program.  The Clearinghouse provides high-quality professional development resources to K-12 history educators to make sure these educators have the best tools for teaching American history as a separate academic subject. “Teachers across the country and around the world are using to deepen their content knowledge of American history, learn new strategies for teaching history in engaging ways, and expand their use of primary sources in the classroom,” according to the Clearinghouse’s director, Dr. Kelly Schrum. Editor’s note: Watch this space for another article in observance of Arts and Humanities Month and click here to read Secretary of Education Duncan’s ED Blog on the observance.