Tag Archives: 19th Amendment

History is Local – Tennessee Style

30 Apr

Another academic year is coming to a close, and, over the past few days, I have been reflecting upon it. Things have gone decently, but this is the first year that I have wondered if anyone is listening. As usual, there have been some engaged students and some who would probably rather be somewhere else. However, I have gotten more frustrated this time than ever before.

At our university, all students are required to take two semesters of History, and I realize that most of them are taking it because they have to take it. They are not planning on being historians, museum curators, lawyers or any other of the great professions you can get with a History degree. Still, it would be nice if they did not stare out of the windows or sneakily play with their phones. Heck, it would be even nice if some of them brought paper and pencil to class.

Honestly, it gets frustrating. I may not get them to love the subject, but I want them to get something out of it. To accomplish this, I sprinkle some local history in with the American history. They may not be interested in the millworks of New England, but they may be interested in the millworks of our town. Simply, not all history takes place far away. Some of it takes place right around the corner in places they pass everyday.

That is why I throw as much Tennessee history into the mix as I can. This might perk them up, and it might help them realize that this state has played an important role in our nation’s past.Tennessee Flag

We cover the three Tennessee presidents – Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk and Andrew Johnson – because presidents are important. Did you know that Polk is the president that brought California into the United States? Yep, a guy from Columbia, Tennessee did that.

However, I like to go deeper than that and talk about people who they may have never heard of.

Peter Burnett, a Tennessee native, was the first governor of California.

Grantland Rice, perhaps the greatest sportswriter to sit behind a typewriter, was from Murfreesboro. He wrote about the Four Horsemen of Notre Dame and a line that goes like this:

For when the One Great Scorer comes

To mark against your name,

He writes – not that you won or lost –

But how you played the game.

Cordell Hull, a graduate of Cumberland University (where I work), was known as the “Father of the United Nations” and won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work on that organization.

David Crockett, defender of the Alamo and hero to millions of kids in the 1950s, was a Tennessean.

Sam Houston, who led the rebel forces in the fight for Texas independence, had his first law office here in Lebanon.

W.E.B. DuBois graduated from Fisk University and taught school in Wilson County before going on to create the NAACP.

George Rappelyea thought of a publicity stunt to draw attention to his town of Dayton. They arrested John Scopes for teaching the theory of evolution and hosted the Scopes Monkey Trial, one of the many “Trials of the Century.” It sparked a debate that continues to this day.

John Butler, the legislator who sponsored the anti-evolution bill, represented the neighboring counties of Sumner, Trousdale and Macon.

Oak Ridge is a small town that came to prominence as one of the sites of the Manhattan Project, which brought us into the atomic age.

In 1920, legislative leaders met at the Hermitage Hotel to discuss voting for or against the 19th Amendment. It is a long story, but they eventually approved it. That made Tennessee the decisive state in women getting the right to vote.

John Chisum was born in Tennessee but gained notoriety as the “King of the Pecos”, one of the most successful cattlemen in the West.

I could name others, but these are a few that I can think of. I really think mentioning local people helps students learn a little more about American history. At least, I hope it does.

Brought to You By the Number 20

7 Feb

Count von Count makes his return on a milestone day in the world of “Surrounded by Imbeciles”, as of this moment 20 people are following the blog. I realize that’s not a great amount in comparison to many of the blogs out there, but that’s around 19 more than I thought would ever click the follow button. What makes it more special is the fact that no one in my non-internet life knows this blog exists. So, I appreciate everyone who follows this blog. With that in mind, here is a tribute to the number 20 HA HA HA HA!

20/20 – Obviously, this is the measurement for perfect vision, which is something I do not have. It is also the basis for the old saying, “Hindsight is 20/20.” However, this represents the television newsmagazine 20/20. Actually, I should narrow it further. This represents 20/20 in its original form with Hugh Downs as the host and reporters such as Geraldo Rivera and John Stossel. When I was a kid, I thought it was a cross between 60 Minutes and Real People. Looking back, I may not have been too wrong. Just remember, “I am Hugh Downs, and this is… 20/20.”

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – The book? I have never read it. The movie? James Mason is cool, but Kirk Douglas is miscast. I am talking about the old ride at the Magic Kingdom in Disney World. It could have been the lamest ride ever. At least with “It’s a Small World” you know what you are going to get. “20,000 Leagues” faked you out with these cool looking submarines sitting in a lagoon. Once you climbed in there were these uncomfortable benches and the distinct smell of a locker room. Then, you look out of the windows at fake looking fish and plants. I changed my mind. It was the lamest ride ever.

$20 – This denomination honors Andrew Jackson, who lived down the road from my town. We hear a lot about “Old Hickory” in these parts, and I teach with a couple of Jacksonian historians. Jackson is a controversial figure of presidential history due to his policies toward Native Americans. In fact, the 20 is not a welcome denomination on many reservations. So, take some other money if you ever find yourself on one. There is some irony to Jackson’s portrait. He hated paper currency and shut down the national bank that issued it.

20 Questions – People say this is a fun game, but I have never had the patience for it. Once I get past “is it bigger than a breadbasket” I am throwing guesses out there.

20th Century Fox – The movie studio came into existence in 1935 with the merger of (surprise) 20th Century Pictures and Fox Film Corporation. It produced classic musicals such as The King and I and The Sound of Music. It got in trouble when management offered Elizabeth Taylor $1 million to star in Cleopatra, and she took it. However, there was a rebound in Science Fiction with Fantastic Voyage and Planet of the Apes. Of course, the studio reached Sci-Fi perfection in the 1970s with Star Wars. As a major studio, there are too many movies to list.

1920 – A big year in history, the 19th Amendment was ratified and gave women the right to vote, an event that my state played a major role in. Warren G. Harding was elected president of the United States. Bill Cullen, the host of more game shows than anyone in history, was born. George Gipp, the football player immortalized on film by Ronald Reagan, passed away.

There you have it. In honor of the 20 blog followers, a short dedication to the number 20.