History Matters

  • Congratulations to Ohio’s Sara Ziemnik, 2017 National History Teacher of the Year

    The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is pleased to announce that Sara Ziemnik from Rocky River High School in Ohio has been named the 2017 National History Teacher of the Year.

    Ziemnik will be honored at a ceremony in New York City on Nov. 8, where Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Eric Foner will present her with the award and a prize of $10,000.

    “When it comes to classroom instruction and content delivery, Sara Ziemnik is a master at her craft,” says Robert Winton, principal at Rocky River High School. “Students are engaged through Socratic Seminars, role-playing, and other creative ways to relay historical events to high-school kids. An item that isn’t normally measured by national or state-mandated evaluation models is the ability to develop and maintain relationships with students. She is able to teach rigorous content and hold high learning expectations, all while keeping a smile on her students’ faces.” (more…)

  • “Madison’s Gift,” by David O. Stewart

    “Madison’s Gift: Five Partnerships That Built America”
    By David O. Stewart

    419 pp., Simon & Schuster

    Reviewed by Márcia Balisciano
    Founding Director, Benjamin Franklin House, London

    James Madison’s gift, referred to in the title of David O. Stewart’s impressively researched biography, was his ability to partner with others to ensure that a fledgling nation found stability in uncertain times. In exploring his relationship with five pivotal figures – Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe and Dolley Madison – he also reveals Madison’s many gifts. In particular, his “profound yet affable brilliance,” which he translated into studied and reasoned analysis, and quiet, yet heartfelt, oratory in order to realise a Constitution and a national government, marked by the peaceful transition of power and adequate defence in war. (more…)

  • “Wine Meant to Toast John Adams’ Presidency Was Just Discovered,” Architectural Digest reports

    July 11, 2017, Architectural Digest Reporter Nick Mafi explains, “Liberty Hall Museum — which is located on the campus of Kean University, one of New Jersey’s largest state schools — has been going through an extensive renovation,” with the goal of recreating each era of history. Recently, the museum “discovered several cases of Madeira wine from 1796 that had been shipped from Portugal for the celebration of John Adams’ presidency. (more…)

  • Historians Uncover Slave Quarters of Sally Hemings at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, NBC News reports

    July 3, 2017, NBC News — Reporter Michael Cottman announces: “Archaeologists have excavated an area of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello mansion that has astounded even the most experienced social scientists: The living quarters of Sally Hemings, the enslaved woman who, historians believe, gave birth to six of Jefferson’s children.”

    From inside red-dirt floor, dusty rubble-stone room built in 1809, Gardiner Hallock, director of restoration for Jefferson’s mountaintop plantation, says: “This discovery gives us a sense of how enslaved people were living. Some of Sally’s children may have been born in this room. It’s important because it shows Sally as a human being — a mother, daughter, and sister — and brings out the relationships in her life.”

    Click here to read more.

  • New poll shows most Americans can’t name a single Supreme Court justice

    In conjunction with Sunshine Week and timed for the opening of confirmation hearings for Neil Grouch (President Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court), C-SPAN asked polling company Penn Schoen Berland (PSB) to learn more about the public’s interest in the third branch of government.

    Fifty-seven percent of people polled by PSB weren’t able to name a single Supreme Court justice, or gave an incorrect name. (more…)

  • Half of Americans don’t know when the Civil War took place, according to the American Council of Trustees and Alumni

    Seven Score and 10 Years After Abraham Lincoln’s Assassination, One in Five Can’t Name John Wilkes Booth as Lincoln’s Assassin in a Multiple Choice Survey. (more…)

  • Americans recognize ‘past presidents’ who never were, Washington University study finds

    Ask Americans to name the former US president whose face is on the US $10 bill, and most will be quick to answer Alexander Hamilton. Do you agree?

    Sure, it’s a trick question. But a new study from memory researchers at Washington University in St. Louis confirms that most Americans are confident that Alexander Hamilton was once president of the United States.

    “Our findings from a recent survey suggest that about 71 percent of Americans are fairly certain that Alexander Hamilton is among our nation’s past presidents,” said Henry L. Roediger III, a human memory expert at Washington University. “I had predicted that Benjamin Franklin would be the person most falsely recognized as a president, but Hamilton beat him by a mile.” (more…)

  • How much U.S. history do Americans actually know? Less than you think, reports Smithsonian magazine, which asks David Bruce Smith, founder of the Grateful American™ Foundation, how we can fix this problem

    By Saba Naseem
    MAY 28, 2015

    Last year, PoliTech, a student group at Texas Tech University went around campus and asked three questions: “Who won the Civil War?”, “Who is our vice president?” and “Who did we gain our independence from?” Students’ answers ranged from “the South?” for the first question to “I have no idea” for all three of them. However, when asked about the show Snookie starred in (“Jersey Shore”) or Brad Pitt’s marriage history, they answered correctly.

    This lack of knowledge in American history is not limited to college students. Studies over the years show Americans of all ages fail to answer the most simple of questions. A 2008 study by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, which surveyed more than 2,500 Americans, found that only half of adults in the country could name the three branches of government. The 2014 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) report found that only 18 percent of 8th graders were proficient or above in U.S. History and only 23 percent in Civics.

    To help address this problem, David Bruce Smith, an American author and editor, founded the Grateful American™ Foundation in 2014. The interactive educational series aims to restore a passion for history in kids and adults. We interviewed Smith over e-mail about his program and his thoughts on how teachers can make American history enjoyable to learn. (more…)