Reconstruction, Revolutions, and the Economy

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 11.02.36 AMI often speak with my students about the various “revolutions” that transpired over the course of the Reconstruction Era. Freedom, citizenship, and suffrage for former slaves are without question revolutionary. But there was an extent to just how revolutionary things would get – and thus we have the notion of revolutions unfinished. Black people enjoyed civil equality but not social equality; they got the vote, but not political determinism. Generally speaking, by 1868 Republicans (with only some success) shifted their attentions to moderation and economic development. Some might think that they wholesale abandoned freedmen – that getting the South on its feet and once again engaged in the national economy took precedent over black peoples’ definition of freedom . Here is a question for current students of the period: is it safe to say that Republicans were more interested in catering to outside investors than blacks’ rights as Americans?  Was equality before the law enough?

With compliments,


Greetings from Gettysburg

Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 8.40.38 PM Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 8.40.52 PM Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 8.42.39 PMToday I am featuring these cool vintage postcards depicting some Gettysburg battlefield tourist hot-spots. And…to let you know, if you do not already, that I have put together what I think is a pretty chill web-course on the battle. I designed it especially for high school APUSH and college students who want to know the battle and the historical context in which it unfolded. I also think it is great for anyone with an interest (buffs…I love buffs) in Civil War history or for those planning a trip to the national battlefield park. It will certainly get you in the Gettysburg mood. You can access the course HERE.

And this is what the reviewers think:

Succinct but detailed presentation by an instructor with an engaging style. Nice visuals. Very good production values.


Super concise and thorough. Love how he makes learning history fun 🙂

And another…

Professor Harris delivered an engaging and interesting way of approaching history. Rather than lecture and expect his students to accept his words at face value, Professor Harris challenges the student to engage the material and question long standing beliefs held by many. His integration of social media as a way of communicating ideas and engaging the material is superb. As he lectured, Professor Harris would periodically pop up in a side window to ask thought provoking questions, or to emphasize a point he had just made. Suffice to say, Professor Harris had no trouble making history come alive.

And there are more courses in production right now. I am nearing completion of a comprehensive course on the Reconstruction Era, and naturally, there is a Civil War course under development too.

So enjoy and please let me know what you think!

With compliments,


Racism in Reconstruction Politics

Screen Shot 2015-12-31 at 4.47.54 PM Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 10.24.11 AMI often show images such as these to my APUSH students when we discuss the racism embedded in Reconstruction Era political discourse. While nearly all white Americans (from both sides of the political spectrum) endorsed what we, from a twenty-first century perspective,  would consider racist assumptions and stereotypes, the conservative Democrats (especially in the former Confederacy)  did so with a particular zeal. This does not seem to surprise my students at all. It makes sense that the people who had fought to preserve slavery would be racists.  What they have trouble with is the notion that white Republicans – those who championed emancipation and eventually equality before the law for all Americans – could just as readily embrace the shared racist proclivities of white America. For example, they might support civil,  but not social equality; suffrage, but not political determinism.

One of the greatest challenges for students is to distance historical actors from neat and tidy categories. Though we have have a tendency to compartmentalize things for the sake of simplification and easy explanation – seldom does history unfold with clean edges. I am working on a web-course right now that will address the complexities of this era – tailored specifically for APUSH and college students. Expect the launch this month….just in time for test prep. See how that works out?

With compliments,