Sunday, December 2, 2007

Takaki Chapter 14 - What is an American?

One of my favorite collections in American Memory is the Now What a Time: Fort Valley Music Festival collection. These are recordings done at a gospel music festival in the 1940's during the time of World War 2. One of my favorite songs is used at the start of the Immigration activity and it is called "We Are Americans, Praise the Lord". I would start a lesson on Takaki's final chapter by having the students listen to this song without any context and ask what's going on? What are the participants saying or trying to say? (Note I might stop it about half way through before the singers start talking about war bonds and attacking the Japanese so that students are less aware that when the song takes place). To help guide the discussion I would probably use the song analysis tool found in our Lyrical Legacies presentation.

To supplement this I would probably play a recording of Walt Whitman's I Hear American Singing as read by Billy Collins and ask the students how this compares to the song. Then I would ask them to think about what makes someone American? And then I'd discuss how the various immigrant groups have worked to make themselves part of America and perhaps if they have succeeded or not.

I would probably also take some time and play some of the recordings from the various Folklife collections at the Library and ask how the folklife collected documents America and the cultures that make it unique. I think that would fit in nicely with the I Hear America Singing poem as well.

Though not part of my particular lesson for those wanting to look at images from the Manzanar interment camp visit the Ansel Adams presentation on Japanese American Internment and the Dorothea Lange images that are found in the exhibition on women photographers during World War 2.

While searching in World War 2 women photographers collection I found a fascinating image called This is America that Lange may have taken for propaganda purposes. I think that might be an interesting image to have accessible during my lesson and I might perhaps ask students to consider why that image was taken and remind them when it was taken (1942). What was the suggestion and I wonder if that kind of image could be used now.

1 comment:

jamiej said...

Danna--this is Jamie from our Social Studies Methods class a few years ago at AU. I was hoping to get back in touch as I'm teaching in DC now and on a resource hunt. Let me know if you're still at LOC, I have a few questions/need a bit of help to figure something I'm hoping to teach U.S. History next year (teach World now) and would love to keep in touch. Thanks!