Tag Archives: US History

New Stuff from Keith Harris History

Screen Shot 2016-07-20 at 9.12.39 AMGreetings friends! Of course I have been up to all sorts of things so far this summer. As some of you already know, I have taken a position at a private prep-school here in LA…teaching US history, a sort of hybrid Western Civ course, and an honors course in Civil War and Reconstruction history. So I am stoked. But…I am not leaving the digital world. Not by a long shot. Office Hours, my free student resource geared to helping students with some of the more pressing questions, is still going strong – here’s the latest, on the 1963 Birmingham Campaign.

Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 2.37.06 PMI am also very excited about my US History podcast (you’ll get the name of it soon enough…), where I will talk with experts in US History, American Studies, and other areas of Americana. The launch date is September 1 and my first guests will include, Kevin Levin, Megan Kate Nelson, Robert Rakove, Julian Hayter, Christian McWirther, Heath Hardage Lee, and Robin Foster. Don’t be surprised if our conversations tend to kick up a fuss…I mean, those of you who know me should expect nothing less.

Lot’s going on, yes? Stay tuned and be sure to fill out the form when prompted to get notified just as soon as things get rolling!

With compliments,



The Absurdity of #AllLivesMatter

Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 8.37.52 AMI suppose the social media hashtag #AllLivesMatter is well-intentioned.  Of course, everyone’s life matters. But as an offering in response to the #BlackLivesMatter campaign and philosophy, which is how people seem to be using it, the hashtag is insensitive,  a gross misunderstanding (or ignorance) of history and its legacy, and entirely absurd.

#BlackLivesMatter reminds us that American heritage reflects 400 years of institutionalized enslavement, oppression, and murder directed specifically toward – wait for it – black folks. And here’s the real sticker: for the most part, white America has stood silently by and let it happen…for four centuries.

Have “all” people been singled out for enslavement? Have “all” people had their children stolen and sold? Have “all” people had to resign themselves to arbitrary beatings and rape? Have “all” people faced a lynching for simply exercising their Constitutional rights?  Have “all” people faced the humiliation of legal public segregation? Have “all” people been denied a seat at a lunch counter or on a bus or in a theater? Have “all” people faced the reality of being singled out by law enforcement when they leave their homes? Have “all” people been criminalized for their manner of dress?  Have “all” people had to instruct their children that they will be treated as potential threats and thus take especial care not to be killed? No.

Many white Americans understand the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow era racism as things of the past – terrible yes, but over. And these folks suggest that we all move along; that if everyone obeys the law, there will be no trouble. And we will all live in peace – all of us. But anyone who has been paying attention knows that this is not the case. Anyone who reads the news and still believes things are fine is confused. Using #BlackLivesMatter does not mean that other lives do not matter – it is an acknowledgement of a history of brutality, its legacy, and its modern manifestations.

#BlackLivesMatter reminds us that the unseemly American tradition of enslavement, oppression, and murder is still with us. And until “all” Americans can admit this, little will change.

Just in case you need a reminder…

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Peace be with you,












The Reconstruction Era from Keith Harris History

Screen Shot 2016-01-21 at 6.07.08 AMAnd……we are good to go!

I am very pleased to announce the launch of the latest in the Keith Harris History web-course series: The Reconstruction Era, 1862-1877. This is a 17-lecture series that covers the political, social, and economic themes of the period. I have supplemented each lecture with a list of key terms and an assortment of downloadable primary sources…so you can read for yourself what the historical actors were saying as you follow along. I designed this course especially for history students (high school/AP and college undergrads) but anyone with an interest in this most contentious and complicated episode of US history will find the course useful and engaging.

I offer this to my on-line crew for a special price HERE.


And here’s the cool part: the course is social-friendly. Meaning: at various points I pose analytical questions or topics for discussion and invite students to post their responses to me on Twitter or any other social media platform using the hashtag #harristorian…and voilà – personal instruction from yours truly and discourse with the student community.

An overview…

The Reconstruction Era, 1862-1877

Lecture One – Wartime reconstruction (Part One)Screen Shot 2016-01-21 at 6.29.44 AM

Lecture Two – Wartime Reconstruction (Part Two) The Port Royal Experiment, Davis Bend Plantations, Southern Louisiana and the Mississippi Valley

Lecture Three – The Meaning of Freedom

Lecture Four – Presidential Reconstruction

Lecture Five – Congressional Reconstruction (Part One)

Lecture Six – Congressional Reconstruction (Part Two)

Lecture Seven – Impeaching the President

Lecture Eight – The Election of 1868 and the 15th amendment

Lecture Nine – A Republican South

Lecture Ten – The Political Economy of Reconstruction

Lecture Eleven – The Challenge of Enforcement

Lecture Twelve – Violence in the South

Lecture Thirteen – Reconstruction in the North

Lecture Fourteen – Depression and Politics

Lecture Fifteen – The Election of 1876 and the End of Reconstruction

Lecture Sixteen – Redemption

Lecture Seventeen – Popular Culture: Reconstruction and Hollywood – The Birth of a Nation and Gone With the Wind

Coda: Things to Consider

Take the course…each lecture is between 15 and 18 minutes long and jam-packed with all the goods to help you ace the test, write the paper, or have something interesting to talk about at parties – impress your friends!!

With compliments


Dickhead Follow Up

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 10.24.27 AMHi friends! You might recall a recent post where I offered some results from a social media survey I conducted concerning who among the many was the biggest dickhead in United States history. Many of you who had not participated were pretty surprised that the King Dickhead of America turned out to be George Custer. I feel your pain, what with the competition and all…Custer seems in the ballpark, but a long-shot nonetheless.

Here’s something else that I probably should have anticipated, but didn’t: glazed-over fanatical ideologues from both sides of the political spectrum will seize any opportunity to ram their political agenda down your throat. The most heinous offenders, in my best estimation, are unfamiliar with the term “dickhead” (such as, the guy who takes up two parking spaces on street-cleaning day) and didn’t read the post anyway – OR – they are so god-damn angry that their brains are about to hemorrhage and they are thus compelled to denounce ObamaClintonBushTrump with the usual (and let’s face it…pretty useless) zeal of an Internet troll. Either way…chill the fuck out people. These surveys were conducted in the spirit of levity.

With all of that out of the way…here are a few more contenders. I may have to conduct another general survey once these settle in.

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 10.46.57 AMCorelius Vanderbilt – being a capitalist business magnate might make you an asshole…but adding “Commodore” to your name for no real reason most certainly catapults you to the front of the dickhead line.


Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 10.49.19 AMRichard M. Nixon – he taped all his Oval Office conversations while he dropped the n-bomb along with a lot of other stupid shit. And anybody known as “Tricky Dick” should be suspect from the start.


Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 10.51.30 AMJoseph McCarthy – are you now or have you ever been a complete dickhead? Yes and yes.



Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 10.52.49 AMRoy Cohn – assistant dickhead…see above.




Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 10.54.29 AMBenedict Arnold – a Revolutionary dickhead…he didn’t play well with others and really craved wealth and social status – so much so that he married into a loyalist family during the war, lived well beyond his means, and sold out the Continental Army.  Get over yourself, dickhead.


Well…that should round things out a little, and perhaps inspire further contribution. But please, unless you want to prove to be a dickhead yourself – refrain from the political rants.

With compliments,


Who’s the Biggest Dickhead in United States History?

Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 9.49.03 AMIt’s not the easiest question to answer, really…what with all the possible contenders. But I asked it anyway – on the usual social media suspects. A couple of interesting things happened. For one, I learned that a dickhead is a special kind of historical actor. Sure, many a human abomination occupy the pages of our historical literature. But you can be a dickhead without being utterly despicable, though it doesn’t hurt. Many candidates were both total dickheads and complete assholes to be sure. Also, most nominees were Civil War soldiers. This may be because many of my social media connections are somehow involved in the study of Civil War history. But it also might be because desperate times call for a lot of dickheads.

So, who topped the list? George Custer. Not only his arrogance,  hyper-inflated ego, and sense of self-importance – but his unparalleled hubris during the Indian wars earned him the title of biggest dickhead. Congratulations, general.

Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 10.21.38 AMGeorge McClellan – another nineteenth-century military figure – ranked highly as well. Also an megalomaniacal and insufferable twit, he built one of the greatest armies the western hemisphere had ever seen – and then sat on it. What’s worse, he referred to his commander-in-chief (Abraham Lincoln if you’re following along) as the original gorilla…in public. What a dickhead. Other Civil war era  historical dickheads include Oliver Otis Howard – who showed disdain for his own soldiers in battle, and  JEB Stuart – another ego maniac who seemed more inclined to get his name in the papers than do his job. As an honorable mention,Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 10.22.40 AM  Andrew Johnson earned the title of Reconstruction dickhead. And to round out the nineteenth century, Andrew Jackson got a few nods. His Indian policy alone could have done the trick but it helped that he was a sociopath who would shoot a man over even the slightest provocation.

I’m a little surprised that the twentieth century didn’t get more play. My vote was for George Wallace. Standing in a schoolhouse door to symbolically defy federally mandated integration? It’s a Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 10.24.02 AMschool, you dickhead. George Patton was surely a dickhead of the highest caliber. I mean…who humiliates a wounded soldier by slapping him around in front of his fellow wounded comrades? And he did this TWICE! Dick. Head. And Bull Connor? Fire-hoses? On kids? Come on. Finally,  I am not sure precisely why, but I have always thought Nelson Rockefeller was at least half a dickhead.

At any rate, there you go. What I have learned from this experiment is that there are a lot of historical dickheads out there. And a lot of them were named George.

With compliments,