Below you will find resources that the contributors of PALS have used in their teaching. It can be hard to keep track of all the resources used in the classroom, so we decided to collect a few frequently used ones here. You will find not only a link to the resource but a little bit about why we recommend it and how we use it in the classroom. We will be updating this page with more resources, and feel free to recommend ones that belong on this list.
Scope: Resources Spanning Centuries, Fields, or Places
The American Memory project from the Library of Congress is a vast resource of primary materials related to American history and culture. It is searchable and can also be browsed by topic, time period, place, and kinds of materials in the collection. Some of the updated digital collections cannot be searched through the American Memory site but can be found here.
Freedom’s Story: Teaching African American Literature and History features contextual information and teaching tips for student discussion from senior scholars in African American Studies from the 1600s to the 2000s. Need help teaching the blues or jazz relative to African American literature? What about the trickster figure or the evolution of African American protest poetry from Phillis Wheatley to Natasha Trethewey? This is the site for you!
Migration is a popular theme in African American literature, and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture hosts the interactive website In Motion: The African American Migration Experience. The AAME website provide information, maps, images, and pamphlets for the various migrations that have occurred, from the transatlantic slave trade through 21st century African migrations. The reference list provided for each migration are also a great resource to get students started on research projects related to migration.
The National Museum of the American Indian has an online collections search which allows you to view images of material in the museum’s holdings. There are multiple ways to search the collections—by people, places, objects, for example. Further search perimeters include archeology items, ethnographic items, modern and contemporary arts, and photographic collections. The resources on the page could be used to support classroom discussion on a particular author or work, or they could be used in a project with students where they are asked to search for and analyze their own item from the collection.
Maps! The Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library had digitized portions of their collection of over “200,000 historical maps and 5,000 atlases.” You can search the collection or explore by topic. The page also includes a teacher resource section. While many of the teacher resources are geared toward the K-12 classroom, they could be adapted for high education.
Our Americas Archive Partnership (OAAP) is a searchable collection of archives from Rice University, the University of Maryland, and the Instituto Mora. The works available in OAAP range from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries, and the collection is designed to be hemispheric in nature. The collections are searchable, and one can also browse by themes—borders, labor, migration, etc.—related to studies of the Americas.
The National Archive has information available about the Presidential Libraries. This includes a link to the websites of each presidential library. Many of the individual libraries have digital resources that students can use. It might also be interesting for the class to do a rhetorical analysis of the different presidential websites and how they present information on the individual presidents and the time periods in which they were in the Oval Office.
Kansas University’s The Project on the History of Black Writing has many features to supplement African American literature courses or American literature courses that contain a significant amount of African American literature. Some particular features that might be useful are the catalogue of African American writers and texts from the 1800s to present and the short blog posts about different issues and black writers.
The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database provides visuals and data that enhance texts dealing with the middle passage or slavery. The maps available on the site are particularly useful for showing students the from where and to where slavers transported Africans. The distribution of slaves between North America, the Caribbean, and South America seems to surprise students because they tend to not know about slavery outside of the U.S.
The Massachusetts Historical Society offers a wealth of digital resources on a variety of subjects ranging from early America to World War One. The main “Online Resources” repository of the MHS features objects, manuscripts and transcriptions, photographs, maps, videos of their public programing, and a range of other materials. The user-friendly collections, with their sleek user interface, are perfect for out-of-class readings, assignments, and daily use in the classroom. Specific highlights of the digital collections include the Adams Papers Digital Edition, Perspectives on the Boston Massacre, Age of Exploration, and African Americans and the End of Slavery in Massachusetts. It’s difficult not to just list everything from this wonderful collection.
Scope: Resources about Specific Time Periods or Fields
The Podcast series Ben Franklin’s World as a case for audio in the classroom, or perhaps a homework assignment. The lectures in this series provide multifaceted context for the literature we teach. Whether history is at the center of our approach to teaching literature or not, spending a bit of time immersed in the voices and experience of early American writers’ contemporaries can provide an additional approach to closing the time period gap for our students.
Make colonial documents more tangible with Harvard University’s Colonial North American Project Online. For example, if teaching the Declaration of Independence, why not supplement the lesson with archival materials related to one of the most famous signers, John Hancock. Hancock had a rocky relationship with Harvard that can be seen using the materials discussed in this essay. What do we know about our Founding Fathers and how do materials like this complicate our ideas of the beginnings of the United States?
Common-place is a journal dedicated to early American history and culture. Essays in Common-place would work well in the classroom because although many of them are short they are also rigorous. The works in Common-place would make a good introduction to scholarly and intellectual discussions. They would also be useful for more specific classroom discussions. For example, this “Object Lesson” on Valentines would pair well with a lesson on the materials, including Valentines, that Emily Dickinson sent to her friends.
Scope: Resources about Specific Events, Series of Events, or Places
Teach Jim Crow, lynching, and segregation as a United States issue, not just a southern issue, with this interactive map from PBS. While it is just as easy to lecture on Jim Crow laws, the visualization of where specific laws existed that this map provides changes the way students understand those laws and the different regions in the US.
The Massachusetts Historical Society has 41 digital collections that include papers, newspapers, photographs, and other images from colonial America into WWI. Historian Liz Covart highlights 10 of those collections in her blog post “Getting Access: Massachusetts Historical Society Digital Resources.” Show your students studying abolition an image of The Liberator or teach Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia with its keyword search feature.
Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities hosted on MLA Commons is a resource for humanities scholars interested in digital resources related to teaching. The project is separated into keywords—hybrid, praxis, queer, etc.— with each keyword containing a definition of the term and several “artifacts” related to the keyword. The articles are different illustrations of the keyword. They might be articles, lesson plans, or syllabi, but each artifact links the keyword to a specific example of the keyword at work. The project is currently undergoing public peer review. You can comment on the project on its home at MLA Commons or discuss it with the #curateteaching hashtag.
The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) contains a wealth of digital materials from libraries all over the country. This source would be especially useful for introducing primary material into the classroom. The DPLA website has an Education section that includes primary source sets for the classroom and information about how to utilize the DPLA for teaching.
Teaching speeches, lectures, or sermons in your literature classroom? Bring audio in with American Rhetoric, or just find the actual speeches themselves.
Modern American Poetry Site contains information about American poets in the nineteenth through twenty-first centuries. It is organized by poet and presents a variety of topics on each poet–from historical background to criticism on individual texts. The site also has excerpts from published works of criticism. These snippets of criticism are the most useful part of MAPS. When teaching a particular poem, this is a great way of quickly seeing what critics have said about the poem and how it has often been read. Here is an example from the page on William Carlos Williams’ “The Red Wheelbarrow.” It looks like MAPS is moving, but we haven’t played around with the new site much yet.
This PDF of Sharon James McGee’s Analyzing Literature: A Guide for Students has a variety of useful explanations, examples, and exercises that can help teach literary analysis in the classroom.
Pedagogy Unbound‘s tagline is “A place for college teachers to share practical strategies for today’s classrooms.” This perspective results in a lot of resources for planning classes and classroom activities. It is a helpful stop when you find yourself with an idea for the classroom but unsure of how to execute that idea.