U.S. Moral Dilemmas

History is more than mere memorization of names and dates. Have you heard how Brooklyn Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm's 1972 Presidential campaign paved the path toward Barack Obama's electoral success? Did you know that Jackie Robinson was a civil rights leader after his Dodger playing career and was even arrested for keeping his seat on a bus eleven years before Rosa Parks? That Abraham Lincoln, never a slaveowner, publicly opposed "the peculiar institution" as a first-term Congressman in 1846, seventeen years before Emancipation? Case studies of these and other struggles for freedom and equality will show how ordinary people do extraordinary things to uphold the Declaration's democratic ideals. When Marian Anderson sings at the Lincoln Memorial, when Bayard Rustin organizes the groundbreaking March on Washington behind the scenes, they, like Americans before and after, face "moral dilemmas" which test our commitment. Whether Civil War or Civil Rights, concerning issues of the past or present concerns over national security, immigration and same-sex marriage, conflicts over the Founders' intent and impact continue. Through primary source readings, theatrical role-play, film and portrait analyses, plus discussion and debate, we explore the unifying theme of U.S. History's people, places and time periods. History boring? Mere memorization? Not a chance!

Thomas Jefferson, "Declaration of Independence"
Thomas Paine, "African Slavery in America"
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., "Letter From Birmingham Jail"
Abraham Lincoln, "Gettysburg Address"
Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, "On Women's Rights"
President John F. Kennedy, "Inaugural Address"
Frederick Douglass, "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass"
Bayard Rustin, "Down the Line: The Collected Writings of Bayard Rustin"
Media Used: 
"The Jackie Robinson Story," Hollywood Film, 1950
"Jackie Robinson," A&E Documentary
"Lincoln: 1863, The Pivotal Year," PBS Video
"Chisholm '72: Unbought and Unbossed," PBS Documentary
Significant Assignments: 

8-10 page research paper comparing historical figures from different time periods who faced moral dilemmas and impacted modern society

Group and individual podium presentations to gain public speaking skills while sharing earned knowledge and insight as model for formal Roundtable panels

Daily reflective writing, submitted twice-weekly, to analyze artifacts including films, portraits or maps; interpret primary source readings, develop profile biographies or "place yourself in history" by relating personal stories to seminal historical events

Group work with poetry, drama or mapping

Significant Activities or Projects: 

Please see above


Choose two historical figures who faced moral dilemmas. Then, like a detective, investigate: Who were these people and where did they come from? How did environment, education and early career exploration prepare them for leadership roles? What factors influenced their decisions? What common themes link your two figures? What can we learn from their contrasts? How do their stories affect us today?

Sample PBATs: 
"The Changes We Wanted, They Made"
"From Religious Conversion to Inspiration"
"The Roman Roots of George Washington's Beliefs"