Almost overnight we’ve become a nation of stay-at-home learners. Fortunately, there is a wealth of material online offering constructive and stimulating reading projects for middle and high school age students. To assist parents and teachers in this new environment, we offer the following links to free, expertly curated resources focused on American history from Library of America and other leading cultural institutions. (A second post will identify resources for American literature and poetry.)
Library of America
The Civil War: Prepared for the 150th anniversary of the nation’s most devastating conflict, these six readers collect firsthand historical accounts from Americans of every stripe—men and women, Northern and Southern, enslaved and free—with introductions by acclaimed historians and questions for review and discussion.
• Secession and Union, introduced by Professor Manisha Sinha
• Reckoning with the War, introduced by Professor Eric Foner
• The Experience of Battle, introduced by Professor Brooks D. Simpson
• From Slavery to Freedom, introduced by Professor Thavolia Glymph
• Women and the War, introduced by Professor Elizabeth D. Leonard
• The War at Home, introduced by Professor Stephanie McCurry
World War I and America: U.S. involvement in the Great War was a transformational event in the history of our country. Here is a series of concise firsthand historical accounts by Americans who experienced World War I accompanied by video introductions by leading scholars and questions for discussion.
• Why Fight?, introduced by Professor Michael Neiberg
• The Experience of War, introduced by Professor Edward Lengel
• Race and World War I, introduced by Professor Chad Williams
• American Women at War, introduced by Professor Jennifer Keene
• The Home Front, introduced by Chad Williams
• America on the World Stage, introduced by Michael Neiberg
• Coming Home, introduced by Michael Neiberg
American Environmental Writing: A special Library of America website invites you to join activist and author Bill McKibben on a fascinating and inspiring tour of two centuries of essential American writings that changed the way we look at ourselves in relation to the natural world. In a series of short videos McKibben comments on a sampling of the most seminal works from his award-winning anthology American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau. (A free downloadable teacher’s guide is also available on the site.) Featured works include:
• Walden by Henry David Thoreau
• Rural Hours by Susan Fenimore Cooper
• A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf by John Muir
• A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold
• Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
• “Smokey the Bear Sutra” by Gary Snyder
The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
Colonial Williamsburg, the nation’s premier living history museum, is closed, but it is making its extensive library of teacher’s resources about subjects ranging from the founding of Jamestown to the Jim Crow era available for free to home learners. Register for free here.
The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History
A nonprofit organization dedicated to K–12 history education, The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History promotes the knowledge and understanding of American history through educational programs and resources. Amid the COVID-19 crisis they are offering a new free family website subscription to support remote learning (registration is required.)
Grateful American Foundation
Billed as “an interactive, multimedia educational series designed to restore enthusiasm in American history for kids — and adults, too,” the Grateful American Foundation offers remote teaching and learning aids, podcasts, videos, a guide to recommended history books for children, and other resources through its extensive website.
The National Constitution Center
The National Constitution Center in Philadelphia encourages individuals from across America and around the world to learn about, debate, and celebrate the world’s oldest functioning democratic charter. As part of their Online Civic Learning Opportunities the Center is offering daily live conversations for middle school, high school, and college students, available through Zoom, and accessible on home computer, laptop, or device.
The New-York Historical Society
This acclaimed New York cultural center and museum is conducting live stream online classes on Zoom. Lessons are content-based and inquiry-driven, featuring images and historical documents from the society’s collections. Different grade levels meet on different days, and each class lasts approximately an hour. No log-in or membership is required. Find our more about the schedule of classes here.
The Rosenbach Museum and Library
The Rosenbach is a world-renowned collection of rare books and manuscripts in Philadelphia. With schools closed, the Rosenbach continues to inspire students by sharing learning guides paired with primary documents penned by famous Americans ranging from Phillis Wheatley to George Washington to Abraham Lincoln.