By Robert Olwell Last spring, I divided the students enrolled in my course on the “Era of the American Revolution” into groups of four and assigned each group the task of researching, writing, and then producing a four-five minute “video essay.” (For more on the video essay form see “Show & Tell: The Video Essay […]
Two students stand back-to-back in the center of the room. At my signal, they step in opposite directions, turn, and shoot. Afterward, one crumples to the floor dead while the rest of the class erupts in cheers of glee or howls of outrage. This scene took place in my classroom last fall. My students were all “in character,” acting the part of the historical figures.
The Book of Negroes is an extraordinary historical resource, a meticulous list drawn up by the British authorities between May and November 1783, in which they recorded the personal details of some 3,000 African Americans evacuated from New York.
As a historian of early America, my subject predates the invention of film or video, voice or music recording, or even photography. When I watch my modernist colleagues deliver multi-media lectures – including film clips, snatches of popular music or speeches, and photos – I feel a twinge of envy.