Seventh-grade social studies class at Dodd Middle School in Cheshire, Conn., Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020. (AP)

Young Americans know a great deal about American history. They absorb ideas and impressions of the past through video games, field trips, dinner-table conversations, church sermons, monuments, and SNL parodies. That history comes to them in fragments and shards, in mismatched pieces.

It is up to history teachers to give…


Around corporate and university board tables, the phrase “diversity, equity, and inclusion” has become a common, almost ritualistic phrase, deployed on PowerPoint slides and on strategic plans, on bulletin boards, and on job descriptions. …


flickr.com/photos/albertogp123

Those who care about the teaching of history and civics are holding their breath as they wait to learn the fate of the billion-dollar, bipartisan Civics Secures Democracy bill currently before both houses of Congress. …


I became, back in graduate school, a devotee of what was then called “the new social history” — the history of everyday people. The field, which was just emerging in the 1970s, democratized history and opened up new possibilities for learning about the past. I loved it.

I probably also…


A voter casts a ballot at the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage in Louisville, KY, Nov. 3, 2020. (Associated Press)

The subtleties and surprises of the 2020 presidential election have been explored from every possible angle: ethnicity and gender, the suburbs and the cities, continuities and changes between 2016 and 2020.

In many ways, however, the broad outlines of the election of 2020 — like the elections of the last…


When we began creating the tools of New American History several years ago, we imagined them as a complement to non-digital teaching. We assumed teachers and students would always share classrooms and libraries. …


President Trump speaks to the White House conference on American History, National Archives, Sept. 17, 2020. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

“We must clear away the twisted web of lies in our schools and classrooms, and teach our children the magnificent truth about our country,” President Trump declared last week in a speech at the National Archives. …


Image: flickr.com/photos/oneterry

History has thrown a series of surprises at Americans of late, especially in the intersection of Black history and Confederate history. While it is not true that “nobody” had heard of Juneteenth before the Black Lives Matter protests, as President Trump asserted in June, it is true that many white…


I learned by accident last week from my weather app that in the summer, humidity is much higher in the morning than it is later in the day. I’ve lived in humidity all my life, but had managed not to learn that fact. I did know a formula — it’s…


Protesters gather around the Robert E. Lee statue on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Va., June 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Long after the smoke has cleared from last week’s protests, long after the headlines have been replaced with new ones, teachers will have to explain what these events mean, just as they must explain every step of our past. That is lonely work, vulnerable work, critical work.

The protests of…

Ed Ayers

Ed Ayers is a historian and president emeritus at the University of Richmond.

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