The History Club can be found on facebook and at http://www.historyoftheunitedstates.net/.
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How and/or when did you get you hooked on history?
I remember exactly how I became hooked on history. It was in the 4th grade and it came from an unlikely source – a history textbook, specifically “The History of Our United States” by Harold H. Eibling. I remember it because when the school year ended I “lost” it so my parents would pay for it and I could keep it! I still have it to this day.
What caught my attention was the short biographies it contained about each American President (ending with Truman!). These brief stories left more questions than answers and ever since then I’ve been trying to answer those questions. I attached a scanned page of one of these (yes, I really still have the book!). Along with being blessed by having some great teachers that fed my interests instead of being forced to feed me standardized tests, this is where my love of history started.
What role does history play or has it played in your personal life?
I grew up in a very diverse neighborhood. There were lots of Hispanic immigrants and European and Pacific refugees in my neighborhood, mixing with the white and black communities so I was fortunate to be a a place learning about other people was necessary. My neighbors next door had come to the United States as refuges from the Russian Revolution. Being in Los Angeles, I had friends whose parents had been in Japanese internment camps.
For me it was a struggle to finish secondary school and college was not an option, so my role with history has always been entirely personal. After school, I went to work in construction and planned to join the Navy, but life had other things in mind. Eventually I got a job working at a University and they allowed staff to use the library. With the aid of some wonderful librarians who guided me I was able to pursue my interest in history at a deeper level. I know my love of history has made me a more informed citizen and made me thankful for the blessings we have as Americans.
How is/How was history a part of your professional life/career?
Studying history naturally developed my reading and communication skills, increased my awareness of how issues have multiple facets, provided role models for moral and practical leadership and developed my critical thinking and problem solving skills. Even though history has not played a formal role in my professional life, it has given me priceless skills that made my life better.
Why is studying/knowing history important?
Today, possibly more than ever, knowing our history can mold a better more informed citizen. Many of our current concerns, such as immigration, cultural relations, historical symbols, have deep roots in history that most people don’t know or understand. There are many things Americans can be proud of and more things we can learn from.
Take for example our current concerns about immigration and border security. Many people would be startled by the fluid cultural history of the southern border. For Hispanic American Heritage Month, we will have a reading group focused on reading “Becoming Mexican American: Ethnicity, Culture, and Identity in Chicano Los Angeles, 1900-1945” by George J. Sanchez which explores the fascinating development of the borderlands between Mexico and the United States and the unique cultures that developed from these circumstances.
What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?
I’ve always been drawn to the history of the “frontier”, whether it’s the western frontier most Americans think about or the history of the frontier along the southern borders (the southwest and Florida) or the saltwater frontier that many people crossed from the Pacific and Atlantic to come to America.
A recent book I read tells the story of a “frontier” most Americans wouldn’t recognize as a frontier – the early history of Georgia. “The Short Life of Free Georgia” by Noeleen McIlvenna recounts the unique circumstances of how Georgia was created and how their place on the frontier, comparatively disconnected from the other colonies, influenced the society that developed.
I’ve also been drawn to this in other areas of history, such as Eastern Europe, the Caucasus borderlands and Korea.
Tell us about the History Club?
It actually started in 1992 as a “Gopher” site with a Usenet discussion group. This was a bit before the “web”. Gopher sites were basically collections of text documents and Usenet groups were primitive discussion boards. I started the website in 1998 and the Facebook page in 2015.
What can people expect to find on The History Club?
The main focus of the club is reading. There are so many great history books waiting for readers! We live in a really blessed time where books are plentiful.
We have a variety of different reading groups, mostly about American History. I’ve tried to create something for a wide range of interests. Each group covers one chapter a week and I post thought questions/statements for people to keep in mind as they read. I’ve found this helps myself and others to remember points and themes as we read and makes it much easier to understand the author’s intentions and viewpoint.
I also post Thought Quotes from the chapter, often from the primary sources the author uses and sometimes a passage I find significant from the author. I get a lot of positive feedback from teachers about these and they seem to be of use in some classrooms. I also attempt to find reliable primary sources online and post links to them so that as we’re reading about a document we have access to it when possible.
Finally, I always try to post useful short articles from reputable public history sites for background or biographical information about what we’re reading. Again, I’ve receive great feedback from teachers with these and I’m always happy to find a quality resource to share.
The word “I” above really should be a “we” because I depend on the help and advice of a lot of great people. I like to think I’m a facilitator and moderator more than a “teacher”