Monday, August 21, 2017

How can we understand the legacy of slavery, the Civil War, and what happened in Charlottesville, VA?

Last week was our first week of school and our students wanted to know what had happened in Charlottesville, VA the previous weekend.  As a US history teacher, I helped my students discuss what had happened.  However, over the weekend, when things calmed down, I put together a Google Presentation with a wide ranging bibliography to give a clearer view of what happened.
As most everyone has heard by now, last weekend a protest and a counter protest were held in Charlottesville, VA near the campus of the University of Virginia and a protester was killed while a couple of Virginia State Troopers were killed in a helicopter crash while responding to the clash of the different groups.
Why did all of this happen?

The bottom line is slavery and the Civil War and the culture of the former Confederacy in the years since the Civil War.  If our students can understand these issues, we can help them understand what happened last week.
In order to get a fuller picture, I put together a bibliography with a number of different perspectives regarding slavery, the Lost Cause, and Jim Crow to give my students a better understanding of why people were protesting the potential removal of an old statue.
I got started with an article by Matthew Green of KQED's The Lowdown, which gave a clear overview of the issues and from which I got some of the visuals for my presentation.  There is also a link to a solid overview on the events of Friday night, August 11 and Saturday morning, August 12 from NPR.
From there I found a list of slaveowning presidents in US history to give some background as to the pervasiveness of slavery among the nation's founding leaders and to also put Robert E. Lee and other Confederate leaders in context.

However, the presentation begins with a YouTube video of a clip from the Simpsons, where the character Apu is taking his citizenship test and comes up against the final question on the cause of the Civil War.  The clip allows us to realize that the bottom line of the Civil War was slavery and from there it gets complicated, but without slavery, there would never have been such a horrible conflagration let alone secession.

This is key as one of the main tenets of the argument for Confederate symbols and monuments is that these icons do not celebrate slavery but more celebrate the honor of the soldiers who fought in the Civil War on the side of the Confederacy.  The best evidence to give lie to this line of thinking is the declarations that the seceding states used to leave the Union.  Slavery was fundamental to their motivations to break up the United States.  We will use the Mississippi declaration.

In order to understand how these ideas gained some currency, we need to help our students understand the Lost Cause and Jim Crow.  I try to get my students to understand why former Confederates were motivated to justify their roles in the Civil War and then they have to understand the rise and prevalence of Jim Crow.
From there I need my California students to understand that these ideas were not solely confined to the South and we take a look at some examples of Confederate monuments in the Central Valley and Los Angeles.
The last two slides are on President Trump's response to Charlottesville and the presence of Nazi flags to shine light on some of the other issues that have cropped up after and during the protests themselves.  The Trump slide gives us an opportunity to discuss what are the major issues involved in how we look at history and allows us to contrast Confederate leaders and the early presidents of the United States.  Should we view the slaveowning presidents in the same light as the Confederate leaders?  If so, why?  If not, why not?  From there we can discuss how and why Confederate leaders played a role in secession and contrast that against the role that the slaveowning presidents played in building the Union.

How do we discuss the presence of swastikas at a rally that purportedly was designed to celebrate Southern culture and honor?  From my perspective as a US history teacher as well as a student of modern European history, I can say that the protesters who allowed swastikas among them lost any moral standing and the rally could not have been for Southern honor and culture with the presence of an unquestionably White Supremacist symbol.

Finally, I have included a list of 10 questions to help my students focus on the main issues from the presentation and provides us a number of places to stop and discuss what happened.
If we can help our students understand these issues, we will understand much better how these issues have grown and will continue to plague our country if we don't deal with them clearly and stop letting them fester and grow in strength.
Learning is my business.  What do you think?

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Was Dr. Seuss Racist?!? Fake News or a Teachable Moment?

Dr. Seuss is an American icon.  My own children have celebrated his birthday every year since kindergarten at their school.  We have read many of his books at home and I have used The Cat in the Hat in my psychology classes to illustrate children's development of consciousness and morality.
This spring I was confronted by a couple of conflicting images from his past:

Who was Dr. Seuss?  Was he the artist who was criticizing the American isolationist group, "America First" and their inability to question Hitler's xenophobic attitudes in Germany or was he the propagandist who used racial slurs and Asian stereotypes to depict Japanese-Americans at the time of Japanese internment?  Was he both?  Or was there more to the story?
In my classes, we have two catch phrases, "How do you know what you know?" and "I love history" and they combine to help us ferret out the answers to these questions, while also helping us understand how to see what's fake news and what's not.
Most people have no idea of the Dr. Seuss from before The Cat in the Hat, but he drew propaganda cartoons for the US government during World War II.  How do we get that story?
I had my students read the blog post that brought the anti-Japanese cartoon to my attention.  The blog was called "The Angry Asian Man," which told the story of two elementary kids, a brother and sister, who brought flyers about Dr. Seuss' racist past to school to show their classmates that there was more to their favorite author's backstory.  The backstory included his cartoons which had used racist stereotypes to characterize Japanese-Americans at the beginning of World War II.  The kids' great grandparents had been interned, which made their ancestors the targets of Seuss' propaganda.  The kids wanted their classmates to know the rest of Seuss' story and made flyers to educate them.  However, both of their teachers objected to them handing out the information in school and emailed their mother and father explaining what had happened.
The kids' father explained that he and the kids' mother had taught the siblings about Dr. Seuss's propaganda past even though they had read the stories at home.  He also hoped that schools were havens for critical thought, but also pointed out that Seuss had made a change later in life and that he and the kids' mother would have added that part of Seuss' story to the flyer.  In the end he thanked the teacher and moved on.
So, was Dr. Seuss racist?
So, was Dr. Seuss racist?
How do we use the blog post and the cartoon to decide that question?  We have to analyze both.  We start with the big questions:
Text--What is being directly and overtly communicated in the document?  What is it saying?  Summary.
Context--What is the historical context for the document?  Where does it fit in history and why is that important?
Subtext--What is not being directly communicated in the document but is being implied or is being communicated between the lines and how do we know that?
If we can discover the answer to these questions, we can use the document to help us understand our answer to the bigger question, in this case, Was Dr. Seuss racist?
In order to get to the core of these big questions, we use the basic question words to get to the bottom of the document and how it answers our question:
However, those words themselves need to be stretched to get to us to the core of text, context, and subtext.
How about this?

We take the blog post and the America First cartoon and analyze them using the question words to get us to understand what is the text, context, and subtext.
We use what we know to answer the question, Was Dr. Seuss racist?
However, can the students explain whether or not Dr. Seuss was racist in detail?
Not yet.
From there we add a few other documents to the mix.
First, there is a collection of cartoons that Dr. Seuss created before and during World War II, "Dr. Seuss Went to War" then there is an article, "When Dr. Seuss Took On Adolf Hitler," which gives some background (context?) to what Dr. Seuss did during the war.
After working our way through those documents, we analyze three more documents before we make our final judgement, "Can We Forgive Dr. Seuss?" "10 Facts About Horton Hears a Who," and 
"Kids Use ‘Dr. Seuss Week To Teach Classmates About His Racist Cartoons."  After analyzing them, we ask ourselves, are they all equally important to our understanding of Dr. Seuss and can they help us answer our question?
By breaking down Dr. Seuss and his work, we can gain a much better understanding of the "text," in his case, the point of his cartoons, while also gathering the historical context of his work.  After all the docs, we can clearly glean the subtext to what he was saying about the enemy, which illustrated the prevailing mood in the United States during World War II.  We can also clearly use examples to explain how we know what we think and know about Dr. Seuss.
We have been able to gather evidence to explain how we know what we know about Dr. Seuss.
In the end, my students said that Dr. Seuss was neither a racist nor was he not a racist.  They said his work and his life are much more complicated than that.  They did unequivocally say his anti-Japanese cartoons were definitely racist, but that he had a change of heart after visiting Japan after the war.  They also said his children's books are not racist and have been great aids in helping them understand the world.  They also said that all of this was legitimate information, but that some documents were more valid and trustworthy than others.  In other words, the allegation that Dr. Seuss was a racist was not "fake news" but something much more complicated that needed analysis to gain a fuller understanding.  For our class this year, it was definitely a teachable moment and yet another great reason for me to exclaim, "I love history!"
So, what do you think, was Dr. Seuss racist?  Analyze the documents and let me know what you think.
Learning is My Business!

Links from the post:

  1. He Was Not Who You Think
  2. Dr. Seuss goes to War
  3. When Dr. Seuss took on Adolf Hitler
  4. Can We Forgive Dr. Seuss?
  5. 10 Facts About Horton Hears a Who
  6. Kids Use ‘Dr. Seuss Week’ To Teach Classmates About His Racist Cartoons
  7. Analyzing Primary Documents Presentation

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Moving Forward

How do we move forward?  We have a new president who is unlike any before him.  Whether we support him or not, we do not know what he is going to do and how he is going to do it.

We need to have a plan for judging how the new administration moves forward and how to voice our support or dissent.  In order to do this effectively, we need to decide what's important to us, how to judge whether the government is moving in the right direction, and then how to move forward with what we know.

Why should we decide what's important to us?  As I tell my students, I am a history and government teacher who gets paid to watch this stuff and I still can't keep up with it all.  The Representatives and Senators all have staffs with specific areas of focus to keep an eye on all the different issues and concerns.  We private citizens need to focus on what's most important to us and go from there because it's much more manageable and we'll be much more effective.
How do we decide what's important?  We used this KQED resource in my classes to help the students decide.  It has the general Democratic and Republican stances as well as how the American people feel about nine different issues.  If you're still not sure what's most important to you, try I Side With to gain some depth on the issues.
Regarding the issues, how many should be important?  I stress to my students that 1-3 is ideal as one issue is probably too few and will over-focus us on just one issue and more than three issues will stretch us to the point of not being able to really focus our time and energy and allow us to understand what's happening with these issues.
So, now how do we find out if the government is doing what we want it to do on the issues that are most important to us?  We need to follow a range of news sources that give us a fully formed understanding of what and how the government is doing what it's doing.  Let's start with this graphic by Vanessa Otero (@vlotero--she also gives us an excellent rationale behind the chart HERE ):

As you can see, the graphic has a vertical axis which rates the journalistic quality and a horizontal axis which rates the partisan bias.  Ideally, we'd all have the time and inclination to read ALL the sources in the top two, middle groups to have both excellent daily news sources and in-depth sources on the longer term issues.  However, as we don't really have the time to focus on more three issues, how are we going to read ALL the BEST news sources?  Short answer, we're not.  We don't have the time!
How do we follow our news sources?  I use Twitter and have used Facebook.  In short, I suggest social media.  Twitter is my chosen source as it's organized by the latest sources first and I can always go to a source's individual feed and see if there's anything I missed.  I can also use the excellent search features by hashtags and by keywords.  

Which ones should we follow?  Well, what do you like?  I like to read, but I also like visuals and interactives as I'm a teacher and I'm often looking for current events for my students, so I lean toward print media first and then I go from there.  The New York Times, Washington Post, PBS, and NPR are my first sources for national news.  I also go to the San Francisco Chronicle, the LA Times for a California perspective on big stories and of course California stories.  From there, I follow the Fresno Bee for local news as well as the Modesto Bee and Sacramento Bee for Central Valley news and California state news.
Those are my starting points.  What you need to do is make sure you understand how you like to consume your news.  Do you like to read?  Do you like visuals?  Do you like interactives?  Do you like video?  Check out the different sources from the graphic or from the list above and find out what medium is your favorite and go from there.

Another emerging helpful source for news is YouTube.  You can find daily videos from the major national news sources on YouTube, but the locals are a little less reliable and often are more off beat and human interest.  The national and international news sources are good and getting better but the locals are hit and miss.  Here's a list of what I've found of the best, The New York Times, Washington Post, PBS Newshour, NPR, The EconomistReuters, and the Associated Press.
Now we have our issues and we've found news sources to keep an eye on how the government does or doesn't do what we want.  How do we do something with what we know?

As political scientists say, there are conventional and unconventional forms of political participation and having our voices heard.  For today's post, we'll deal with the conventional forms of communication.  We have the most basic, voting, and then we go from there to calling and writing our representatives.  The best source for finding the contact information for our elected state and federal representatives is Common Cause.  The three best ways to let your elected representatives know how you feel is to either make a phone call to their district or state office or to send them a snail mail letter or a personal email to their district or state office.  The local offices get much less traffic and your phone call will be answered by a human and your letter will be read and will get a response. The visual below from the Philadelphia Inquirer illustrates these ideas.
What should we do, call or write?  From what I've heard from Congressional staffers, the representatives and aides respond to those types of communication that show more effort and thought.  They definitely don't pay much attention to online petitions, Tweets, and Facebook as much as those forms of communication are much more easily sent and often sent in the heat of the moment without much thought.
The next post will cover the next two aspects of this political conversation, when should we communicate our ideas and attitudes and what to do beyond calling or writing our representatives.
Thank you for reading and please let me know what you think.  As always, Learning is My Business...

Check these sources for more on how to contact our representatives:

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Colin Kaepernick and the National Anthem

Colin Kaepernick and the National Anthem
As a US history and government teacher, my students pledge allegiance every morning, but at the start of the year, I implore them to think about what they are saying and why they are saying it. Throughout the year, we revisit the meaning of the pledge and I ask my students to revisit their understanding of the pledge and how it has changed as they have learned more about the United States. Now that Colin Kaepernick has sat down during the National Anthem, we have a new opportunity to examine what we are doing and why we are doing it on top of the issues of the relations between African-Americans and the police.

Warm Up Discussion Questions
  1. What does the national anthem and the pledge of allegiance mean to you?
  2. Why do we sing the national anthem and stand for the pledge of allegiance?
  3. What does it mean to you to be patriotic?
  4. What does it mean to you to protest?
  5. How does the first amendment protect protest?  How/why?
  6. Is protest patriotic?

  1. Who is Colin Kaepernick and why are we talking about him?
  2. Who are Tommie Smith and how is he connected to Colin Kaepernick?
  3. Who is Toni Smith-Thompson and how is she connected to Colin Kaepernick?
  1. Why have many people gotten angry over Kaepernick’s protest?
  2. How did the speaker in the video feel about Kaepernick’s protest?
  3. Who is Alejandro Villanueva and why are we reading about his opinion?
  4. How does he feel about Kaepernick’s issue and his forum?
  5. Why would he “hold hands” with Kaepernick but caution him at the same time?

  1. Who was Jackie Robinson and why is he important?
  2. How did he feel about the flag and the national anthem?  Why?
  1. Who is Harry Edwards and why are we reading his opinion?
  2. How does he feel about Kaepernick?
  3. Why does Kaepernick have a right to do what he did?
  4. How does he feel about other NFL players and their opinions?
  5. What would he like to see and why?
  6. How does he feel veterans have been treated in the US?
  7. According to Edwards, why is the Star Spangled Banner played before baseball and football games?
  8. Why does he say, “what is right is not always appropriate; that what is appropriate is not always best?”
  9. How does he feel Kaepernick’s protest fits in the presidential campaign?
  10. How does he feel about “the conversation” black families and families of police officers are having?
  11. Why does he have “no problem” with Kaepernick’s protest?
  12. How do you feel about this whole issue?  Why?
  13. What issues in the US do you feel we should not stay silent on?  Why?

More Resources

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Understanding Lincoln from California--Slave State Without Slaves

Abraham Lincoln has always been taught from a Northern and Southern perspective and NOT a Western or California perspective.  The major conflicts of the 1850’s played out with the political players from those areas and of course, that is where the killing and dying of the Civil War occurred during the early 1860’s.  To understand Lincoln from California one needs to see how California had its own sectional battle with Southerners and Northerners vying for power to the point where California was clearly a slave state, but had outlawed slavery.  It was a slave state without the slaves.  The best way to understand this dichotomy is to examine the roots and policies of three of its major politicians, William M. Gwin, David S. Terry, and David C. Broderick; and then compare them to Lincoln.  Through these men, the national struggles that Lincoln dealt with can be seen clearly through a California perspective.

When California entered the Union on September 7, 1850, it was a free state but was dominated by the pro-South and pro-slavery Chivalry Wing of the California Democratic Party.  The Chivs were led by Southerners like United States Senator William Gwin and Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court, David Terry, who hailed from Mississippi and Texas respectively and came separately to California in 1849 to strike it rich in the goldfields and perhaps make a political mark as well.  Slavery was banned however, because the miners in the diggings in the Sierra Nevada were worried about unfair competition from slaveowners and slaves.  They were more worried about free labor than freeing slaves.
Broderick on the other hand also came to California in 1849 as yes, all three men were 49ers, but he fled from New York City as he had run afoul of the Tammany Hall machine and was looking for a new start.  He had been a stonemason and a firefighter in New York and once his political fortunes turned south, Broderick headed West.  Like Gwin, Broderick did not dig for gold but got himself quickly and deeply involved in California politics as a Free Soil Democrat.  He saw that San Francisco was politically organized like New York with fire companies acting as political clubs.  He also knew a political truism that money was the “mother’s milk of politics” and found his way deep into San Francisco’s politics. (Richards, Ch 1)

Over the decade of the 1850’s, political events like the rise of the Chivs seemed to be forcing California into greater alliance with the South that is, however, until the Terry-Broderick Duel in 1859, and the onset of the Civil War in 1861, permanently pushed California into Lincoln’s camp and solidly into the Union.  
Once firmly in the Union, Lincoln reached back to his days as a Whig as he rewarded California with the Western terminus of the Pacific Railroad, a bounty of homesteaders with the Homestead Act, and the signing of the Yosemite Grant all during the Civil War.
William Gwin and David Terry made their way to California for different reasons and by different modes, but they both made their mark on California politics as members of the Chivs.  Gwin had come to California from Mississippi after losing a Senate seat to Jefferson Davis.  He quickly realized that his political career would fare better in California and headed West.  
Terry came from Texas looking to strike it rich, but did not and quickly settled in as a lawyer in Stockton.
 Gwin after a few early setbacks as a newcomer, gained a reputation as a moderate as he took a clear stand against corporations and state debt (Richards, Ch 2) even though it was widely known that he owned 200 slaves on a plantation back in Mississippi (Richards, Ch 2).  He managed to get himself elected Senator and helped present California’s petition for statehood and its constitution in 1850 in Washington, DC.  
Once Gwin got to Washington, he faithfully supported the South as he represented California in the Senate  for nine of its first eleven years in the Union.  He made sure that in 1852, John B. Weller was elected as California’s other Senator and for the 1850’s, “in North-South struggles, Weller and Gwin might as well have been representing Mississippi.”  They both toed the Southern line in all the major questions as they both supported the repeal of the Missouri Compromise in the Kansas-Nebraska Act, stood behind the Dred Scott decision, and backed President James Buchanan’s scheme to bring Kansas into the Union as a slave state. (Richards, Ch 4)
Terry on the other hand, never tempered his politics and made a name for himself in state politics.  However, he was an even more rabid supporter of slavery and the South than Gwin.  Fellow California Supreme Court Justice Stephen Field said Terry had “the virtues and prejudices of men of the extreme South.” (Richards, Epilogue)  
He would do whatever it took to bring slavery to California. He went so far as to pledge to his first wife that “he was determined ‘to change the Constitution of the state by striking out that clause prohibiting slavery… or, failing in that, divide the state and thus open a portion of California to Southerners and their property.’” (Richards, Prologue)

Broderick, meanwhile, had also made a fortune in San Francisco real estate and had a firm grip on San Francisco politics.  This is where he and the Chivs began to battle.  As the Chivs became more and more oriented toward the South, they and Broderick began to emulate the sectional struggles in the East.
As abolitionism began to grow in the United States through the 1850’s as crisis followed crisis, like the debates over the Fugitive Slave Act, Kansas-Nebraska, Dred Scott, and Bleeding Kansas, Abraham Lincoln became more publicly open about his feelings on slavery.  This can be most clearly seen through his House Divided Speech in 1858, where he famously said,
“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.
I do not expect the Union to be dissolved---I do not expect the house to fall---but I do expect it will cease to be divided.
It will become all one thing, or all the other. (Lincoln, House)
California was still battling over slavery with the Chivs even going so far as to slur a slave holding Southern candidate for Governor, Edward Stanly, as a “nigger-loving abolitionist.” (Richards, Ch 6)  On the other side were those who were morally and politically opposed to slavery like William Shannon, Elisha Crosby and David Broderick.

During California’s constitutional convention in 1850, Shannon and Crosby had worked to make California a free state.  Shannon had seen slavery during his time in the US Army and he hated what he had seen.  Shannon had proposed California’s anti-slavery clause, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, unless for the punishment of crimes, shall ever be tolerated in the State.” (Richards, Ch 3)
Coincidentally, President Zachary Taylor, although a slaveholder, had sent an emissary to make California a free state to avoid greater political haggling over slavery.  

Gwin politically read the tea leaves and he too supported the anti-slavery clause.  Gwin had seen how the gold country could be “worked efficiently by slave labor.”  He explained to some pro-slave men, “(the miners) do not wish to see the slaves of some wealthy planter brought there and put in healthy competition with their labor side by side.” Through a mix of morality, politics, and economics, California’s constitution would be anti-slave. (Richards, Ch 3)

On another front that paralleled the East, California was dealing with a vestige of Spanish and Mexican rule, which was the Indian apprenticeship program.  As California entered the Union as a free state, its legislators were writing a law to continue the practice of keeping Native Americans as slaves.  Labor had become so scarce with the huge influx of miners and the rush of workers from other professions to the goldfields, that lawmakers saw the need to maintain the old custom.  

Natives were forced into as one Democrat argued, “A ‘general system of peonage or apprenticeship’ (that) was the only way to quell Indian wars. A stint of involuntary labor would civilize Indians, establish them in ‘permanent and comfortable homes,’ and provide white settlers with ‘profitable and convenient servants.’” (Smith)  As California formally outlawed African slavery, it codified a system where abuses of slave trading and “baby hunting” existed alongside stories of unprosecuted deaths of Native children.
California evolved from this mix of attitudes against slavery to one where it would barely deliver the state to Lincoln in the 1860 election, to being firmly Unionist to finally begin to emancipate its Native American apprentices by the middle of the Civil War.  The change came quickly as David Terry killed David Broderick in a duel, Lincoln barely won the state in the 1860 election, the Confederates fired on Fort Sumter, and Lincoln emancipated the slaves.
In 1859, the war of heated words broke into violence as the Chivs finally grew too tired of the dogged resistance of Broderick to their Southern leaning schemes.  Broderick and Gwin had campaigned together as Broderick had challenged Gwin to meet face to face.  As Broderick was not one to duck a fight whether that be legislative or physical, soon he and Terry traded words after a particularly tense set of speeches.  Terry had slurred Broderick by intimating that instead of following Democratic Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois, he was “‘under the banner of the black Douglass,’ Frederick Douglass, the abolitionist.” (Richards, Ch 8)  
As the custom of the times dictated, Terry challenged, Broderick accepted, the seconds met, and the duel was commenced.  Terry killed Broderick and it seemed that the Chivs could move forward unimpeded by any criticism let alone Broderick’s.  However, the backlash began immediately as many saw the duel as political murder.  Broderick’s words were reported as, “I die because I was opposed to a corrupt administration and the extension of slavery.” (Richards, Ch 8)

Between the duel and the presidential election of 1860, Chiv popularity dwindled.  At the polls in November of 1860, the four way vote was won by Lincoln barely winning out over Douglas by 614 votes.  
Once the war broke out, Unionists became ascendent as they blamed the Southerners for starting the war by firing on Fort Sumter.  As the war progressed, many of the Chivs left the state to fight for the Confederacy as Terry earned a commission as a brigadier general and Gwin went back to Mississippi and worked as a Confederate emissary to France and Mexico. (Richards, Epilogue)
On January 1, 1863, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation went into effect.  In the next few months, the now-Republican run California legislature moved to abolish Indian servitude but still held on to the ideas of civilizing the Natives and thus the move was incomplete.  
“By 1867, one Republican agent declared that ‘the hoe and the broadaxe will sooner civilize and Christianize than the spelling book and the Bible.’ He advocated forcing Indians to work until they had been ‘humanized by systematic labor.’” (Smith)  Yes, California had followed Lincoln’s lead and had moved toward emancipation of the Indian apprentices, but could not move beyond the ideas of the Natives needing civilizing and thus started a whole other brutal and inhuman chapter in American history.
As the war ground on, Lincoln reached back to his days as a Whig politician as California was rewarded for its loyalty to the Union with internal improvements. Lincoln made sure that the Pacific Railroad ran on the central route and had its western terminus in Sacramento.  He purposely took advantage to the lack of Southern legislators during the war to get the railroad on the route that would be to the greatest Northern advantage while also benefitting California.  
He also passed the Homestead Act , which helped settle the midwest and the far west and again benefitted California.  The act granted over 10 million acres in California to over 66,000 homesteaders mostly over the 50 years following the Civil War.(Abraham)  

Finally, in 1864, Lincoln rewarded California with the Yosemite Grant which was, “the first parkland the federal government ever set aside for preservation and public use.”  Yosemite set the example for Yellowstone, which was named a National Park in 1872, while Yosemite became a National Park in 1890. (Glass)
In the end, we can understand Lincoln and the struggles of the 1850’s more clearly through California’s own political battles.  In its first 15 years of statehood California evolved from a slave sympathizing state with miners who feared competition from slaves in the goldfields to a state that had moved toward abolishing its own form of Indian slavery after having slightly voted for Lincoln in the 1860 election and solidly aligning itself with the Union at the outset of the war.  Through the battles of William Gwin, David Terry, and David Broderick alongside the move to make California a free state, to the tribulations of the California Indians, one can see Lincoln in greater clarity as his struggles can be made more local and understandable.

Works Cited
"Abraham Lincoln and the West." National Parks Service. U.S. Department of the Interior, n.d. Web. 30 July 2016.
"Chivalry Politicians." Sacramento Daily Union 10 September 1857 — California Digital Newspaper Collection. California Digital Newspaper Collection, 10 Sept. 1857. Web. 30 July 2016.
DeWitt, Howard A. "Senator William Gwin and the Politics of Prejudice." ELC ENGL-163: Senator William Gwin and the Politics of Prejudice. Ohlone College, n.d. Web. 30 July 2016.
"EMANCIPATION MEETINGS IN ENGLAND.; THE WORKINGMEN OF MANCHESTER." The New York Times. The New York Times, 14 Jan. 1863. Web. 30 July 2016.
Glass, Andrew. "June 30, 1864, Lincoln Creates Yosemite Park." POLITICO. Politico, 30 June 2009. Web. 30 July 2016.
Lincoln, Abraham. "Abraham Lincoln, Speech to Indians, March 27, 1863." Lincoln's Writings. Dickinson College, 27 Mar. 1863. Web. 31 July 2016.
Lincoln, Abraham. "Abraham Lincoln to the Workingmen of Manchester, England, January 19, 1863." Lincoln's Writings. Dickinson College, 19 Jan. 1863. Web. 30 July 2016.
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