The U.S. of 1865 was a fundamentally different than the country than the one we live in today. Our country has been and continues to be formed by residents (not always legal citizens) speaking out and acting up to ensure that their rights are respected and protected. Women have marched for the right to vote, to work, and to not be physically assaulted. Civil Rights struggles to end racial segregation were both non-violent and required protections through the 2nd Amendment. From groups of citizens in frontier experiences chartering towns, cities, and homesteads the United States is unique because of its aspirations for justice, equality, equity, and freedom. In this class we will examine this evolution.
Parts of this course will be organized chronologically while other topics will be studied across a few decades. An important component of this course will look at the role nature has played on shaping history of the United States. How has our physical environment shaped our growth, trade, and history? We will approach many of our units by focusing not just on the people and places but on the soil, water, and environmental systems that impacted and shaped those events. The Great Depression wasn’t just a time with high unemployment and a crashed stock market, it’s also the time when the Midwest nearly became a Sahara Desert of North America. American Indians were subdued on the plains not only by direct military engagement but through a systematic extermination of the Plains Indians’ food source, the bison. Railroads altered farming in Brooklyn, NY and ranching in Texas. By exploring environmental crises from the past, we will gain a better context for solving environmental problems in our future. Will future wars be over water instead of oil? Have we actually ever stopped fighting over water? Can the air we breath be privatized and sold? How will we feed ourselves in the future? These are some of questions which we will seek to answer this year.