Pocahontas and the Construction of Native American Identity
Most children today are familiar with the story of Pocahontas bravely saving the life of John Smith and bringing together the warring English and Native American factions. But this fascination over Pocahontas – particularly her image and what she symbolized – has been part of American identity for four hundred years. Dozens of artists and illustrators have imagined Pocahontas, with every example telling us more about the artists’ preconceptions than about the Native American “princess” herself. Students analyze these images of Pocahontas, as well as depictions in literature, to see the many ways Pocahontas has been used to define not only Native American identity but American identity more broadly.
Thomas Jefferson – author of the Declaration of Independence, scientist and inventor, musician and architect – has long been hailed as a genius and Renaissance man. Yet this passionate advocate for liberty and human rights was also the owner of some two hundred slaves. This unit analyzes the complexity of Jefferson’s legacy by examining the architecture and material objects of the Monticello plantation alongside writings by and about Jefferson. Like many Amcon topics, this one brings together several different academic disciplines – visual art, history, sociology, rhetorical analysis, and critical race studies – to construct a more complex portrait of America’s third president.
Early American Newspapers Project
The number of newspapers surged in colonial America, from just one at the beginning of the 1700s to well over a hundred by 1800, with each contributing its own perspective on the pressing controversies of the time. This unit invites students to immerse themselves in the political, social and economic world of an early American newspaper, analyzing both the newspaper as a media source and what the newspaper can tell us about the readership that supported it. Students learn to access the electronic database, America’s Historical Newspapers, to search through historical artifacts that were once only available to senior scholars.
Voting and the Practice of Citizenship Project
In Amcon, we believe students learn the meaning of citizenship by combining academic study with hands-on civic engagement in their various communities. In this project, students involve themselves in local, state-level and presidential elections. They can volunteer for a political campaign of their choice, serve as a trained election judge for the city of Northfield, register voters, or help out at one of several voter information meetings sponsored by the local League of Women Voters.