The Taste of Shared Humanity


In an age of immigration bans and border walls, it’s easy to see the world through an “us versus them” lens. But sometimes all it takes is a fleeting incident to alter one’s world view. 

When I was seven and traveling through India with my family, a bag of taffy helped me recognize the place of privilege I hold as a white, middle-class American. But that candy also helped me feel a kinship to other children.  Here’s my tale of discovering the taste of shared humanity. Read more

Time Traveler’s Tool Box: Synthesis and Inference Activity

In honor of my favorite president–Mr. Lincoln–here is an activity that gives student historians practice dissecting primary sources, extracting meaning from them, and communicating that meaning in a coherent paragraph. In commemoration of Black History Month, the subject of Lincoln’s words is slavery. Read more

Review of Getting Away with Murder: The True Story of the Emmett Till Case

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History records the names of martyrs

and the world learns of the deeds of these men and women who died for a cause—Socrates, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. So when Chris Crowe stumbled across the story of Emmett Till, he was stunned that he had never heard of this black boy whose death catalyzed the modern civil rights movement.

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Historical Salem scene

Review of Witches: The Absolutely True Tale of Disaster in Salem

If I could be a fly on a historic wall, I’d go back to the meeting house in Salem, Massachusetts when Sarah Towne Cloyce was tried for witchcraft in 1692. I recently discovered that I’m distantly related to her.

I’m also related through marriage to Thomas Fiske, the foreman of the jury that condemned at least one accused witch, maybe more. So I had distant Dodge relatives on both sides of this crisis in history. What I really want to discover is what position my direct ancestors—the family of Richard Dodge—took on the witchcraft issue.

So I dug into online archives, hoping for a diary or letter or some other juicy source. I emerged empty-handed. Thus, I decided if I couldn’t uncover a detailed history of my family at this moment in the past, I’d write their story myself.

That is how my current fictional work-in-progress began. Tentatively titled The Tale of a Hunter, my story is a Romeo and Juliet tragedy set in Wenham, Massachusetts in 1692. More on that story as it develops.

If you’re interested in writing historical fiction, understand that you’ll have to do lots of historical research. Here is a review of a nonfiction book for teen readers all about the Salem witchcraft hysteria. Read more

Tool box drawing

Time Traveler’s Tool Box: Questioning

Have you always wanted to travel back in time? It’s possible, you know. Historians know the secret.

A historian is a time traveling detective whose job is to solve mysteries of the past. But you don’t have to be a historian to transport to another era. Anyone can do it with a bit of practice and a Time Traveler’s Tool Box.

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Trial of George Jacobs

The Devil in the Details: Researching Hysteria, from the Salem Witch Trials to McCarthyism

Unsolved mysteries bug me. I want to solve them. In January of 1692, young Abigail Williams and Betty Parris fell into fits. They convulsed and barked and complained of being bitten and pinched. This kick-started the Salem witch hysteria that left twenty people dead and countless others physically and financially ruined.

What caused Abigail and Betty to sicken in those dark winter days? The Puritans diagnosed bewitchment. Today we find such a diagnosis ridiculous. So were the girls faking it? Read more