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A Name You Should Know: Robert Smalls

Frederick Douglass. Sojourner Truth. Martin Luther King Jr. Rosa Parks. These names are in the pantheon of African American heroes. Each year during Black History Month their names are at the fore of many celebrations. Robert Smalls. His name is not well-known, or even known at all, but his contribution to black history is extraordinary and fascinating.

Robert Smalls Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

Robert Smalls went from slave to naval captain to U.S. congressman by age 36. The story to his fame began in Charleston, South Carolina 13 months after the attack on Fort Sumter. Smalls was entrusted with piloting the CSS Planter, a Confederate military transport ship. He gained the confidence of the ship’s owners, and in doing so he began to plan an escape to the Union blockade about seven miles in the distance. On the early morning of May 13, 1862, Smalls stole the Planter after its three officers went ashore for the night leaving Smalls and his slave crew alone. Donning the captain’s straw hat and employing the signals he had memorized, Smalls steered the Planter to another wharf where his family and the families of the other crew were waiting. Sailing past five fortified Confederate posts, Smalls’ plan succeeded as the Planter made it to the Union without incident. At just 23 years old, Robert Smalls delivered 16 men and women to freedom and gave critical Confederate defense information to the Union. A reporter hailed it “one of the most daring and heroic adventures” of the Civil War.

Robert Smalls’ story did not end there. Hailed a hero, he was able to lobby the federal government for the enlistment of black soldiers in the Union war effort and reportedly recruited almost 5,000 men himself. He lead the Planter in 17 battles and eventually became her captain. He was the highest-ranking African American officer in the Union Navy. After the war, he became a leader during Reconstruction in the Republican Party. He was elected to the South Carolina legislature and later to the U.S. House of Representatives five times. One of his key initiatives was ensuring free education for all children.

Whether known for their activism or heroism, here are a few other names you should know. Honor them by sharing their stories with others not only during Black History Month but throughout the year.

Bessie Coleman

Hiram Revels

Dorothy Height

Nat Love

Daisy Bates

Guion Bluford

ProQuest’s eLibrary is an excellent resource for students wanting to learn more about African American history and achievement. The new eLibrary platform makes searching easy with its visually appealing Common Assignments and Subject trees. Also, make sure to look at the Editor’s Picks which are focused on Research Topics related to Black History Month. This new feature will change frequently so check back to see what’s new.

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Celebrate Black History Month 2018 with eLibrary’s Editor’s Picks

2018 Black History Month Poster (Credit: Association for the Study of African American Life and History )

 

February is Black History Month in the United States. Created in 1926 as Negro History Week by Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), Black History Month is not only a time of celebration of the achievements and contributions of the African American community, but it also brings attention to the African American experience in the United States.

The ASALH continues what Dr. Woodson started by focusing on a different theme for Black History Month every year. The theme for 2018 is African Americans in Times of War which coincides and commemorates the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.  African American men and women have served in every war from the War of Independence to the War on Terror. Take a look at the new eLibrary Editor’s Picks as it pays tribute to those African Americans who served — those who served in the Armed Forces as well as those who served their communities.

eLibrary Editor’s Picks via ProQuest eLibrary

Featured Editor’s Picks include African Americans in the Civil War and both World Wars I and II. These Research Topics will lead your students to information with which they may not be familiar — the pioneering 54th Massachusetts Infantry in the Civil War and the 369th Infantry Harlem Hellfighters in World War I and the persistence of segregation in the military during World War II. As students scroll through the carousel, they will find the fascinating story of Robert Smalls, a 23-year-old slave who stole a Confederate ship, navigating his family and crew to freedom. He would later serve the Union in the Army and Navy and South Carolina as a Congressman in the United States House of Representatives. There is General Colin Powell, retired four-star U.S. Army general. He served his country in war, and he was the first African American to serve on the Joint Chiefs of Staff and as Secretary of State. Unrelated to the theme but also featured are the inspiring lives of Madame C.J. Walker and Mae Jemison. Madame C.J. Walker used her marketing skills to create a cosmetics and hair care empire in the early 20th century. Her business helped to serve and empower African American women. Mae Jemison was the first African American woman to travel to space in 1992. She also served as a doctor, college professor, Peace Corps worker and an advocate for science education for minority students.

Teachers and students: Make sure to check Editor’s Picks regularly because they will change frequently. Featured Research Topics related to monthly celebrations like Black History Month, significant events, anniversaries and people will be highlighted. Other times the picks will complement the Trending Research Topics. Research Topics are curated and created by editors with students in mind to use as a “jumping-off” point into the wonderful world of research.

eLibrary’s Editor’s Picks are but a small sample of the Research Topics related to black history. eLibrary offers a plethora of information and sources on many important people, stories and events in the African American experience.

Don’t have eLibrary? Request a free trial.

 

Medical History: The First Human Heart Transplant

Dr. Christiaan Barnard by Benito Prieto Coussent via Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 3.0]

Fifty years ago this week marks a milestone in medical history.  It was on December 3, 1967, the first successful human-to-human heart transplant took place.  On that day in Cape Town, South Africa Dr. Christiaan Barnard placed the heart of 25-year-old Denise Darvall into 53-year-old Louis Washkansky.  The unknown surgeon became an overnight sensation though he claimed the procedure “not that great an event—certainly not in the history of medicine.”

Louis Washkansky lived only 18 days.  He died of double pneumonia possibly contracted as a result of a suppressed immune system from anti-rejection medication.  His transplanted heart, however, had functioned normally.  Despite the short duration of Washkansky’s life post-transplant, Barnard’s achievement would change contemporary cardiac surgery.  Though he had not developed the transplant technique, Barnard pioneered its use around the world.  His boldness to perform the risky surgery in response to rigorous questioning by medical researchers was perhaps his main contribution. Prior to the heart transplant, Barnard introduced open-heart surgery in South Africa, and he would later develop new designs for artificial heart valves.

Today heart transplants are routine.  Statistics show there are approximately 5,000 heart transplants performed in the world each year.  Survival rates are increasing with 75% at five years and beyond.  Many more could be done if there were donor hearts available.  In the United States alone, there are almost 4,000 people awaiting a new heart.

Teachers can expand on the topic of organ transplantation with their STEM/STEAM students by exploring eLibrary’s scholarly medical journals such as The Lancet for more technical information, medical reference books such as The Mosby Medical Encyclopedia for general overviews and newspapers for up-to-date reporting and statistics.  Search for subjects like medical technology in Research Topics which can help students begin their research.

Canada … You Don’t Look a Day Over 149

Canada 150 via Flikr [CC BY-NC-SA 2.0]

July 1, 2017, marks the 150th anniversary (the sesquicentennial) of the Canadian Confederation.  On this date, the three British colonies of the Province of Canada (Ontario and Quebec), Nova Scotia and New Brunswick united to form the Dominion of Canada under the British North America Act of 1867.  What is now ten provinces and three territories sprang from these original four.

In celebration of her sesquicentennial, here are 13 interesting and fun facts about Canada.

  1. Canada’s name means “village” originating from the Iroquoian word, “kanata.” When the French explorer, Jacques Cartier, met the Iroquois chief, Donnacona, he inquired the name of the land. Whether Cartier truly understood Donnacona’s response or not, the country’s name has remained since the 16th century.
  2. While technically not a confederation, the use of the term Confederation became the go-to descriptor for Canada’s union in the 19th century. Canada is actually a federation because of its central government and partially self-governing provinces.

    National Flag of Canada via Wikimedia Commons [Created by E Pluribus Anthony]

  3. The iconic Canadian national flag, unofficially the Maple Leaf, did not become official until February 1965. That is almost 100 years after the formation of the Confederation! Until then, Canada had used about 13 different flag designs.
  4. Canada is huge in terms of area (9.9 million square km/3.8 million square mi).  It is the second largest country in the world.  Only Russia is larger.
  5. There are over 36 million people who call Canada home. Almost 21% of the Canadian population is foreign born.  Canadians claim over 200 languages, including 60 indigenous, but English and French are Canada’s official languages.  Montreal is the second largest French-speaking city in the world after Paris.
  6. Canada’s First Nations number 1.8 million people and 634 tribal governments and bands. Canoes, hockey, corn, snowshoes, chewing gum and cough syrup are just some of their contributions to Canada and the world.
  7. Canada has 20 percent (one-fifth) of the freshwater in the world. It has more lakes than the rest of the world’s lakes combined. No other country’s surface area is covered by as much water as is Canada’s – almost 9%.
  8. Record holder: Canada has the largest polar bear population, produces the most maple syrup and has the most doughnut shops per capita. It also claims the most educated society with over half its residents having college degrees.
  9. While polar bears are populous in Canada, they are not the national animal. That would be the North American Beaver.
  10. Canada could have become part of the United States if it had wanted. According to Article XI of Articles of Confederation, the first constitution of the United States, Canada would have been 

    Provinces of Canada, July 1867-July 1870 via Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 3.0]

    automatically accepted into the union—no questions asked. Any other colony requesting admission would have required nine states to agree.
  11. Ice hockey is the most popular sport in Canada. It was invented by the Mohawks who called it “aukie.” What would surprise many is one of America’s most popular sports, basketball, was invented by a Canadian.  In an effort to keep his students active on rainy days, Dr. James Naismith created the game in 1891 in Springfield, Massachusetts.
  12. Canada vs. America: The United States invaded Canada twice – first during the American Revolutionary War in 1775, second during the War of 1812. The United States lost both times.
  13. Canadians are not Americans, and they don’t end every sentence with ‘eh.  The debate over Canadian identity has been ongoing since before Confederation.

Canada’s sesquicentennial is a year-long celebration.  For students in Canada and those in the United States who would like to learn more about their northern neighbor, eLibrary offers a multitude of resources.  Check out Research Topics on Canada’s First Nations, Canadian provinces and territories, Canadian history and Canadian identity.  Search Canadian publications to find provincial newspapers, magazines and reference works such as the Toronto Star, Canadian Geographic, and the Canadian Encyclopedia plus many others.  Canada’s official Canada 150 website offers the scoop on all the celebrations commemorating Canada’s 150th birthday.  For more facts about Canada, the CBC’s Amanda Parris shares 150 of them in this fun video.

To our Canadian friends:  How you are celebrating Canada’s 150th?  Tweet us at #ProQuest.

The Legacy of Loving v. Virginia

A recent statistic showed 1 in 6 marriages today is interracial.  This is certainly not a difficult number to grasp.  Imagine though that a mere 50 years ago in 16 Southern states interracial marriage was against the law — anti-miscegenation laws designed to preserve “racial integrity.”  While 50 years may seem like a long time ago in the rather short history of the United States, the country is only two generations removed from forbidding people from different races to marry.

Yesterday, June 12, was Loving Day.  It marked a significant day in our nation’s civil rights history albeit one that is not as well known as Brown v. Board of Education.  On that day in 1967, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled unconstitutional laws prohibiting interracial marriage.  The impact of the landmark Loving v. Virginia decision is still felt today.

Loving v. Virginia Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter were married in 1958.  He was white, she black and Native American.  Their marriage was a violation of Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924, and just five weeks into their marriage they were arrested.  Neither Richard nor Mildred wanted to be a civil rights activist.  They wanted only to live and raise their family quietly in Virginia.  Watch the 2016 movie Loving to see an excellent dramatization of their story and struggle.

The Loving decision paved the way for marriage equality.  The landmark Supreme Court ruling, Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), which opened the door to same-sex marriage, evokes memories of Loving.  Mildred Loving even spoke in favor of gay marriage before her death in 2008.  Another impact of Loving is a fivefold growth in interracial marriages since 1967 when only three percent of marriages were racially mixed.  Interracial couples still face discrimination and hostility, but there has been much progress since Richard and Mildred Loving took their stand.

Katie and Chris [Photo Courtesy of Katie Coulter]

Teachers:  How can you relate this to your students?  Marriage for most of them is years away.  But they are dating and in relationships now.  More than 11 million Americans are in interracial marriages and relationships today, like my niece Katie and her boyfriend Chris.  The Loving decision and its continuing impact should not be forgotten in the civil rights discussion.  eLibrary can help you in this discussion with relevant Research Topics (Civil Rights Movement, Gay Marriage, Race and Ethnicity, Racial Segregation, White Supremacy) and up-to-date newspaper articles surrounding the 50th anniversary of Loving.

When the U.S. and Russia Played Let’s Make a Deal

Alaska Purchase Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

The discussion of recent U.S.-Russia relations is a good opportunity to share the history of relations between the two countries with your students.  A significant event in this history is the Alaska Purchase which occurred 150 years ago when the relationship between the two countries was perhaps more allied than it is now.  Considered a “folly” by some at the time, the acquisition of Alaska added over 586,000 square miles of new land to the growing United States.

Russia had been a player in the Alaskan territory since the mid-1700s.  By the mid-1800s, Russia was having financial difficulties after its defeat in the Crimean War, and the territory had become a burden.  Russia decided to put the unprofitable and indefensible territory on the market.  The United States seemed the only potential buyer.  In March 1867, armed with instructions to accept no less than $5 million for Alaska, the Russian minister to America, Edouard de Stoeckl, was surprised when Secretary of State William Seward came in with just that for a first offer.  By the time negotiations were over, the U.S. offer was up to $7.2 million.  On March 30, 1867, the United States became the proud owner of a seemingly barren land.

U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward [Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons]

Tsar’s Ratification of the Alaska Purchase [Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not everyone was as enthusiastic about the deal as William Seward was.  He was a proponent of territorial expansion and could see the potential in Alaska’s natural resources that skeptics who referred to the deal as Seward’s Folly or Seward’s Icebox could not.  The deal, though, was a good one for the U.S. averaging to less than two cents per acre.  It remains the second-largest land deal ever.  In 1880, Seward’s vision would be vindicated when gold was discovered paving the way for population growth, new towns, and statehood.

Your students can learn more about the Alaska Purchase and the major players by starting with eLibrary.  One excellent resource is the book, The Alaska Purchase.  It covers everything from Alaska’s “discovery” by the Russians to its statehood in 1959.  Consider this lesson from the Library of Congress for your students to dig deeper into using primary sources.

Fun Fact:  While you cannot see Russia from Sarah Palin’s home in Wasilla, you can see it from Little Diomede in the Bering Strait.  The island is 2.5 miles from its Russian counterpart Big Diomede.  You can also see Russian mainland from the top of St. Lawrence Island about 37 miles away as well as some Siberian mountains from Cape Prince of Wales, the westernmost point of the American mainland.

eLibrary’s editor‐created Research Topics give content, context and pathways beginning users need to start researching U.S.-Russia relations and other topics.

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A Name You Should Know: Claudette Colvin

Claudette Colvin Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

Most everyone knows Rosa Parks whose courageous action of not giving up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama city bus to a white passenger on December 1, 1955, helped launch the civil rights movement.  Most people do not know Claudette Colvin who also refused to give up her seat on the bus — nine months before Rosa Parks.

On March 2, 1955, fifteen-year-old Claudette Colvin remained seated when a white passenger boarded the bus and waited for her to move.  She believed it her constitutional right to sit wherever she chose even though Jim Crow laws of the day dictated otherwise.  She was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.  Claudette would later say, “I couldn’t get up that day.  History kept me stuck to my seat.  I felt the hand of Harriet Tubman pushing down on one shoulder and Sojourner Truth pushing down on the other.”

Claudette Colvin’s arrest provided the spark needed to make a stand and provide a test case to end segregation on city buses.  However, local African-American leadership thought otherwise.  They believed Claudette would be perceived as too militant.  Her image was not the one the movement wanted to cast.  When she became pregnant a few months later, their belief was reinforced.  Instead, Rosa Parks’ similar act of defiance would hasten the 381-day Montgomery Bus Boycott and lay the foundation for the modern civil rights movement.

Not until many years later would Claudette Colvin become more than just a footnote in history.  Her role is not celebrated, but it is nonetheless pivotal.  In a recent honor, Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange called her “an early foot soldier in our civil rights.”  Claudette Colvin stands alongside Rosa Parks — two women, two generations — taking a stand and helping to change history.

Happy Birthday, Half-Pint!

Laura Ingalls Wilder Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

Today marks the 150th birthday of one of the most widely read American children’s authors, Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Her autobiographical Little House on the Prairie series based on her childhood, published from 1932 to 1943, remains at the top of many a young child’s reading list today.  In the pantheon of children’s literature, the Little House books are considered classics having sold over 60 million copies.

Laura Ingalls was born in the Big Woods of Wisconsin on February 7, 1867.  She was the second child born to Charles and Caroline Ingalls.  Her books reflect her life during the 1870s through 1880s as part of a pioneer family on the move.  At the urging of her daughter, Rose, Laura wrote nine books chronicling the family’s moves from the Big Woods to Missouri, Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa and finally South Dakota.  Her first book, Little House in the Big Woods, was published in 1932 when Laura was 65.

Little House on the Prairie Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

The legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Little House books has been enduring.  In 1954, to honor her enduring contribution to children’s literature, the American Library Association created the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal.  Originally awarded every three years to an American author or illustrator, it is now awarded annually to any author or illustrator whose books, like Laura’s, have made a lasting impact in the world of children’s literature.  Perhaps more well known is the Little House on the Prairie television show that ran from 1974-1983.  The show remains popular and  continues in reruns today.

For this writer, Laura Ingalls Wilder and her books played an important part of my childhood and my adult life.  I remember receiving the Little House box set for Christmas at age 9 from my grandparents.  What an exciting gift for a young reader!  My sister and I took turns reading the series.  Little House was weekly viewing for my family and remained so for me in my college years.  My roommate and I would set our schedules around Little House reruns.

Take some time to learn more about this influential writer who died at age 90 in 1957.  Read or re-read the Little House books.  See for yourself why the legacy and impact of Laura Ingalls Wilder endures.

Happy Birthday, Stephen Hawking!

Stephen Hawking Research Topic via ProQuest eLibra

“Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future,” Steve Miller wrote in his 1976 hit, “Fly Like an Eagle.” And so, time has once again quickly slipped into a new year.  Many long to forget 2016 with its spate of notable personality deaths.  Instead of lamenting the year past, let’s begin by wishing an early happy birthday to a man who became a “cultural icon” by writing about the beginning of time and the universe.

This coming Sunday marks the 75th birthday of the one of the most prominent scientists of our time, Stephen Hawking.  Dr. Hawking is well known for in scientific circles as a theoretical physicist and cosmologist which has led to a pop culture following outside that realm.  Dr. Hawking is a favorite scientist of Dr. Sheldon Cooper on TV’s The Big Bang Theory.  An intimate portrait of the man was made into a 2014 movie, The Theory of Everything, starring Eddie Redmayne who won the Best Actor Academy Award for his portrayal of Hawking.

Born January 8, 1942 in Oxford, England, Hawking knew from a very young age he wanted to study mathematics.  Unable to pursue a degree in mathematics at University College, his father’s alma mater, Stephen studied physics and gained first class honors at graduation. This led to graduate research in cosmology and a PhD in applied maths and theoretical physics at Cambridge.  It was during his studies, at age 22, he was diagnosed with a slow-progressing form of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).  Despite his physical limitations, Dr. Hawking has not let his disease limit him professionally.  For thirty years, from 1979 to 2009, he served as the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, a position once held by Isaac Newton.

In 1988 Hawking achieved worldwide acclaim with his bestselling book, A Brief History of Time.  He wrote the book to make topics in cosmology like the Big Bang and black holes more understandable and attainable.  Ever the research scientist, Professor Hawking continues to research and lecture on topics related to mathematics, cosmology and theoretical physics.  A current area of interest is the search for extraterrestrial life in the universe.

 

December 7, 1941: Infamy at Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

Pearl Harbor Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

“Yesterday, December 7, 1941–a date which will live in infamy–the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the empire of Japan.”

With those words, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked for a declaration of war against Japan.  Seventy-five years ago tomorrow Japan attacked the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor in the Hawaii Territory.  The surprising assault came in the early hours of a tranquil Sunday morning, and it hastened the United States’ entry into World War II.  Over 2,400 servicemen and civilians lost their lives that day.  For the Greatest Generation, Pearl Harbor was their September 11th.

The attack at Pearl Harbor was a pivotal moment in American history.  Until December 7, 1941, the United States’ policy regarding World War II was one of isolation.  The provocation by the Japanese that day transformed America from the once fourteenth-ranked military power to the world’s leading superpower.  It moved the United States to be more involved on the world stage.

Very few, if any, American military and government leaders thought Pearl Harbor would ever be attacked.  It was believed to be “the strongest fortress in the world” and too far from Japan.  The Philippines was a more likely target.  Two waves of Japanese Zero fighters, more than 350 in total, launched from six aircraft carriers within 300 miles of the Hawaiian islands took aim at Battleship Row and Hickam Airfield where over 300 American warbirds stood tip to tip.  Japan’s goal was to prevent the United States from hindering its military actions in Southeast Asia by neutralizing the U.S. Pacific Fleet.  In just 90 minutes, Japan devastated the American forces at Pearl Harbor.  The attack was a great tactical victory for the Japanese.

The numbers were staggering: 2,403 lives lost, 1,178 wounded, five battleships sunk and almost 200 planes destroyed.  The sight of the sunken USS Arizona remains one of the most iconic images of that day.  To this day, 1,177 men lie at rest in her remains on the harbor floor.

Department of the Navy [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons

Wreckage of the USS Arizona [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons

The numbers of World War II veterans dwindle each day and their personal accounts go with them.  To read their stories and learn more about the attack at Pearl Harbor, search eLibrary and its vast resources of timely newspapers, magazine articles and primary source materials.

Related Research Topics

World War II

Japan in World War II

U.S. Navy