You don't have to wait! 10 Facing History & Ourselves Resources For Early American History

Posted by Dan Alba on September 23, 2015

There was a time when American History teachers had to just "hold tight" until their course chronology met up with available Facing History resources on the Eugenics movement (late 1800s/early 1900s), and 20th century issues around immigration, education, and "race."

But, good news... you no longer have to wait!

Over the years Facing History and Ourselves has developed materials and resources which can be incorporated in teaching early American History. Those topics/themes include religious freedoms, the U.S. Constitution, the history of American slavery, the Reconstruction Era, early Los Angeles history, early Chinese immigration, Eugenics and early notions of race in American History.

Below are resources you can access now for your first semester American History classes:

Online module

Washington's Rebuke to Bigotry: Reflections On Our First President's Famous 1790 Letter To The Hebrew Congregation In Newport, Rhode Island. A powerful "original intent" 1790 founding document from president George Washington to members of a Hebrew congregation. In it, Washington defines American "national values" concerning religious rights. The letters available online are accompanied by teaching strategies, and there is now a book of scholarly essays which can be purchased as well.

Teaching Guide

The Reconstruction Era: The Fragility of Democracy. One of our newest publications examines the era of Reconstruction and its legacies today by considering themes of identity, membership, individual and group choice, responsibility and denial during a critical moment testing the world's first interracial democracy.


Race & Membership in American History: The Eugenics Movement (particularly the first 2 Chapters "Science Fictions and Social Realities" and "Race Democracy & Citizenship"). Chapter 1 introduces students to key concepts and themes by examining the idea of difference through various lenses. Chapter 2 places those ideas in historical perspective by examining how Europeans and Americans regarded differences in the 1700's and early 1800's. Many of the beliefs we hold today about race, citizenship, and democracy developed during those years.

Guide To Twilight Los Angeles (Reading 1 "History and Identity" & Reading 2 "Membership and Community"). Reading 1 tells the story of how it "came to be" through the founding of Los Angeles by a diverse group of people. Reading 2 explores membership and community in Los Angeles and California between 1848-1880.


These films can be borrowed/streamed from the Facing History library by Facing History educators.

Becoming American: The Chinese Experience (a Bill Moyers presentation) Every generations asks "Who may live among us? Who may become American? and What does it mean to be an American?" This film series and accompanying study guide explore how one "becomes" American by examining the case of the first arrivals of Chinese in the 1840's and their story about identity and belonging.

Race: The Power of an Illusion (Episode 2: The Story We Tell). This episode in the three-part film series uncovers the roots of the race concept in North America, the 19th century science that legitimated it, and how it came to be held so fiercely in the Western imagination. This episode reveals how race served to rationalize, even "justify," American social inequalities as "natural."

African American Lives. This film series profiles some of the most accomplished African-Americans of our time, using DNA to trace their roots down through American history and back to Africa serving examples for all Americans of the empowerment derived from knowing their heritage.

Slavery and the Making of America / 4 part series (1619-1877). Episodes 1 and 2 in particular spotlight the origins of slavery in America from 1619 through 1739 focusing on Dutch New Amsterdam (later NYC), illustrating how slavery in its early years was a loosely defined labor source similar to indentured servitude, the continued expansion of slavery in the colonies, the evolution of a distinct African American culture, and the roots of the emancipation movement.

Africans in America: America's Journey Through Slavery (1619-1681). This documentary considers the contradictions that lie at the heart of the founding of the American nation. This series explores the impact of slavery on Americans - black and white - from the first English settlement in 1607 to the brink of civil war in 1861.

The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross (1500-2013). Commencing with the origins of slavery in Africa, this series moves through 5 centuries of remarkable events right up to the present. Of particular interest for early American History classes is Episode 2: "The Age of Slavery (1800-1860).


So, American History teachers, the wait is over, the resources are accessible, and you can begin as early as you wish!

Topics: Reconstruction, Teaching, Los Angeles, Race and Membership in American History: Eugenics

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