The History of America in 8 Acts: Who Lives? Who Dies? Who Tells The Story?

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The idea for this product was inspired by the hit Broadway musical Hamilton. After reading NY Times critic Ben Brantley’s August 6, 2015 review of ‘Hamilton.’ I was drawn to one particular paragraph that captured the essence of the American story:

“Mr. Miranda’s Hamilton, a propulsive mix of hubris and insecurity, may be the center of the show. But he is not its star. That would be history itself, that collision of time and character that molds the fates of nations and their inhabitants.”

As social studies professionals we are in the business of telling stories. History is drama. It’s full of character and conflict. Who is protagonist? Who has the starring role? What, when, and where does the plot turn? Does it have a happy or tragic ending? These are the problems historians deal with when they tell the story of America. Effective educators tirelessly weave endless narratives about America’s past into lesson plans designed to share what this collision of time and character ultimately created.

While the chronological framework of any US History course is pre-determined, stressing the importance of uncovering the life stories of individuals or groups creates the possibility of a broader understanding of the American story.

The History of America in 8 Acts - Who Lives? Who Dies? Who Tells The Story? provides a framework for uncovering these essential stories by realigning 8 of the AP US time periods in “Acts” with four powerful instructional tools designed to guide their inquiry:

1.Each Act includes a cover page, presenting a visual preview of the 12 individual or groups who will be the focus of each time period.

2.Each Act includes a 700 to 1000 word summary of the time period to give students an historical context.

3.Each Act contains brief biographical sketches of the 12 individual or groups (96 total) who are the focus of the Act. Over 125 active links from NPR History podcasts are aligned with biographical sketches to make learning about the individual more relevant and engaging.

4.Each Act includes several APUSH themes to help students connect the historical context and biographical sketches to the content presented in text readings and class discussions.

The History of America in 8 Acts: Who Lives? Who Dies? Who Tells The Story?

Act I [1491 to 1607]
On a North American continent controlled by American Indians, contact among the peoples of Europe, the Americas, and West Africa created a new world.

Prince Henry The Navigator
The Horse
Montezuma II
Hernan Cortez
Bartolomé de Las Casas
Juan de Sepúlveda
Coureur des bois
Adrian Vanderdonk
Queen Elizabeth II
Sir Walter Raleigh
John Smith

Act II [1607-1754]
Europeans and American Indians maneuvered and fought for dominance, control, and security in North America, and distinctive colonial and native societies emerged.

Sir George Calvert
Slaves in the West Indies
Indentured Servants
William Bradford
John Winthrop
Anne Hutchinson
King Philip
Nathaniel Bacon
William Penn
Tituba the Slave [SAMPLE NPR LINK}
George Whitefield

Act III [1754 to 1800]
British imperial attempts to reassert control over its colonies and the colonial reaction to these attempts produced a new American republic, along with struggles over the new nation’s social, political, and economic identity.

General James Wolf
The Noble Savage
Chief Pontiac
Charles Townsend
Sons of Liberty
Mercy Otis Warren
Sybil Luddington [SAMPLE NPR LINK]
Thomas Paine
Phillis Wheatley
Daniel Shays
The Federalists [SAMPLE NPR LINK]
Matthew Lyon

Act IV [1800-1848]
The new republic struggled to define and extend democratic ideals in the face of rapid economic, territorial, and demographic changes

Aaron Burr
John Marshall
Robert Fulton
John C. Calhoun
Henry Clay
Samuel Morse
Charles G. Finney
The Grimke Sisters [SAMPLE NPR LINK]
Emma Hart Willard
The Tramscendentalists

Act V [1848 to 1877]
As the nation expanded and its population grew, regional tensions, especially over slavery, led to a civil war — the course and aftermath of which transformed American society.

John L. O’Sullivan
Rep. David Wilmot
Senator Daniel Webster
Harriet Beecher Stowe [SAMPLE NPR LINK ]
William Seward
Abner Doubleday
Solomon Northup [SAMPLE NPR LINK]
Sullivan Ballou
John Brown
Clement Vallandigham
Radical Republicans
Marshall Twitchell

Act VI [1865 to 1898]
The transformation of the United States from an agricultural to an increasingly industrialized and urbanized society brought about significant economic, political, diplomatic, social, environmental, and cultural changes.

Sitting Bull and George Custer
Frederick Jackson Turner
Homestead Family
Powerhouse Mechanic
Lewis Hine
Albert Parson [SAMPLE NPR LINK]
William “Boss” Tweed
The New Immigrants
Henry George
William Graham Summer
May Elizabeth Lease
William Jennings Bryan

Act VII [1890 to 1945]
An increasingly pluralistic United States faced profound domestic and global challenges, debated the proper degree of government activism, and sought to define its international role.

Alfred T. Mahan
William Randolph Hearst
Queen Liliʻuokalani [SAMPLE NPR LINK]
Alice Paul
Ida Tarbell
Henry Johnson [SAMPLE NPR LINK]
Sacco and Vanzetti
Langston Hughes
Dorothea Lange
Eleanor Roosevelt
The Tuskegee Airmen
Fred Korematsu

Act VIII [1945 to 1980]
After World War II, the United States grappled with prosperity and unfamiliar international responsibilities while struggling to live up to its ideals.

Returning G.I.'s
George Marshall
George Kennan
The Rosenberg’s
Elizabeth Eckford [SAMPLE NPR LINK]
James Reeb and Violla Luizzo
Michael Herrington
Robert McNamarra
War Protestors
Woodward and Berstein
Gloria Steinem
American Hostages

If you are interested in incorporated more digital content into your program I suggest one of my favorite under the radar products - .
The American Pageant's Infinite Playlist
This is a fantastic tool !

Total Pages
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Teaching Duration
1 Year

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The History of America in 8 Acts: Who Lives? Who Dies? Who
The History of America in 8 Acts: Who Lives? Who Dies? Who
The History of America in 8 Acts: Who Lives? Who Dies? Who
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