Thursday, April 30, 2015

Freedom from Above and Below

Lately in history class, we have been discussing the terms "freedom from above" and "freedom from below", and how these terms were used in the Civil War. Freedom from above is the act of providing equality to people that are of a lower social class than those who are giving it to them. Freedom from below is defined as the act of people in a lower social class using their mass in numbers to overthrow the fewer people in higher social classes to gain equality. In class, we analyzed two documents, each displaying freedom from either above or below. Using these documents, we then tried to figure out who "gave" freedom to enslaved Americans, whether this freedom came from above or below, and how much Abraham Lincoln's actions were influenced by the actions of enslaved Americans.

The first document we analyzed was a work of art depicting Abraham Lincoln seemingly giving freedom to a slave who is kissing his hand and kneeling on the ground. This image depicts freedom from above, as Lincoln was of a higher social class and was seemingly freeing the slave. Freedom came from above in the Civil War for the slaves in that because they were essentially the lowest class in society, freedom from above came from any whites who were willing to help them to freedom.

Freedom from below was very present throughout the Civil War. The second document we analyzed was a picture depicting a mass of slaves walking off of a farm and past a Union camp. This is an example of freedom from below in that the slaves, who are essentially the bottom of the social pyramid, are using their power in numbers to overpower their fewer masters and get out of their current position.
Today, it is harder to tell whether change comes from above or below. It seems to be pretty evenly distributed. For example, after the recent police brutality in New York, the NYPD retrained their officers, however there has been little change nationally concerning the issue, and it does not seem to be stopping anytime soon. The fact that things like this sometimes go unnoticed and sometimes even without acknowledgement from the government is a great hinderance to America and it must change soon, because if the government isn't willing to acknowledge it's faults and institute change from above, we must resort to change from below, which is not always the safest route to take.

Friday, April 10, 2015

I Went Looking for Fights! 20 To Be Exact.

Last week in history class, we did a Civil War scavenger hunt. Each student was assigned a battle to learn about, and we each made our own Google Doc that others can view.  The Google Docs included the battles' location, date, victor, and theater (east, west, or naval). We then created signs with a QR code linking to the document, a link to the document, and the location of the next battle. We then put the signs in any area of the school of our choosing for our classmates to look for, making a total of 20 battles for the class to look for around the school. We then carried out the scavenger hunt, and when everyone had gotten all the information for all of the battles, we regrouped with the class and used an app called Padlet to determine which side in the Civil War performed the best in each theater. There were two essential questions for this activity. First, who was the ultimate victor in each of the theaters of war: East, West, Naval? Second, what are some commonalities you can identify in the reasons for the results of the battles?
In the east theater, the Confederacy dominated the Union. For example, in the battles of Fredericksburg and Second Manassas the Confederacy had access to heavy artillery and almost invulnerable positions on the battlefield, and therefore were able to win more easily. However, in the western theater, the Union was more dominant over the Confederacy. For example, at the battle of Chattanooga, the Confederate army was overwhelmingly outnumbered. Troops also suffered from poor communication and pressure from their leaders. The Union won most of the battles in the Naval Theater, such as the Battles of Baton Rouge and Vicksburg. They succeeded because they used both the land and sea to their advantage, gaining a positional advantage over the Confederate troops. The Union seemed to generally have  much greater tactical skill than the Confederacy. For example, the Union utilized both land and sea to their advantage more so than the Confederacy in such battles as Baton Rouge and Vicksburg. They also used the tactic of surrounding the enemy until they were forced to surrender, such as in the battles of Shiloh and Fort Donelson.
After doing this activity, I know a lot more about not only the Civil War itself, but the tactics and advantages each side used in the war. It is very important to not only look at who has won the war, but also who has won each battle and how they did it, so that we can learn from them.