Tuesday, September 5, 2017

7 Questions with Timothy, Moderator of The History Club

The History Club  can be found on facebook and at http://www.historyoftheunitedstates.net/.

Email address historyoftheunitedstates2015@gmail.com

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” 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

7 Questions With Larry Elliott, AKA Abraham Lincoln

In 2003,  Larry Elliott entered a Lincoln look-a-like contest in Hodgenville and began reading about this great man. After an extensive study of his life, I decided to purchase a complete period-correct Abraham Lincoln costume and began portraying him.  In 2005, when he learned that his great, great, great, grandmother (Mary LaRue Enlow) was the midwife who helped deliver Abraham Lincoln, I knew this vocation was for me. He and his wife now portray Abraham and Mary Lincoln in more than 100 schools each year as well as for other groups.  His website is http://www.larrylikelincoln.com/

1. How and/or when did you get you hooked on history?
I entered a Lincoln lookalike contest in Hodgenville, KY, where Abraham Lincoln was born. My family is from Hodgenville. I began reading about A.L. and the Civil War and all that this great man accomplished. I was hooked and I have been portraying him for 13 years in 100 plus schools a year.

2. What role does history play or has it played in your personal life?
Making me appreciate all the soldiers in all of the American Wars that sacrificed their lives for our freedom, especially WWII and D-Day June 6, 1944.

3. How is history part of your professional career?
I portray the man that saved America. America did not truly become America until after the successful Union victory!

4. Why is studying/knowing history important?
So we can learn from our past going forward.

5. What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?
American Revolutionary war because it has the Hand of God all over it. The Patriots really had no chance of winning and defeating the Redcoats. God had a different plan...
6. How did you and your wife become Abraham and Mary Lincoln?
After I began portraying A.L. my wife began reading about Mary Todd. We decided to put together a program about the story of their lives in contrast. They were so very different people.

7. Why are Abraham and Mary Lincoln's stories relevant today?
His legacy cannot be forgotten and Abraham Lincoln would not have become President without Mary Todd. Also his legacy of his humble roots with one year of education and becoming a self-made lawyer is an inspiration to all students I meet.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

7 Questions With Rodney Gillis of the American Numismatic Association

Rodney Gillis, a former Middle and High School teacher of 15 years, is currently the Executive Director of the ANA ( https://www.money.org/ ). He helped with the proposal to have a commemorative dollar coin minted to honor the veterans of World War I and helped write the legislation for the coin. The legislation was signed into law and the coin will be minted at the start of 2018. He is the proud owner of a 1951 Buick Roadmaster. He is married (29 years) and has a Dachshund (Little Louie) and a Yellow Lab (Dixie).

1.      How and/or when did you get you hooked on history?
My mother encouraged me to read at an early age and I took an interest in the history of the presidents.

2.      What role does history play or has it played in your personal life?
I have a collection of stock certificates that includes the parent company of the Titanic. I also own an antique car that I have worked to keep as original as possible.

3.      How is/How was history a part of your professional life/career?
I was a history teacher for many years. As the Education Director of the American Numismatic Association, I am constantly looking for outreach opportunities to show that coins are really primary historical documents.

4.      Why is studying/knowing history important?
History plays an important role in the study of cultures. History also gives us an example as to how we should make decisions.

5.      What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?
My favorite period of history is the 1880s to the turn of the 20th century. So many innovations and interesting characters.

6.      How did you become a numismatist and what does your job as Education Director entail?
My brother and I were walking down a street in Puerto Rico and he pointed out a shiny object in the middle of the street. I picked it up and it was a very old U.S. coin. I started to collect soon after. As Education Director at the ANA, I teach classes on grading, travel to local schools to conduct classes, put education content on our website, answer coin questions from the public and administer programs designed to get youngsters involved in the hobby.

7.      How do coins and coin collecting reflect history and how can coins be used in history education?
Coins are really primary historical documents. Their design reflects the cultural icons of the country that produced them. It is always fun to imagine that a coin minted in a historically significant year was actually in someone’s pocket at a famous event.