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Teaching Disability History: How the Civil War Changed Disability and American Government

A white man with beard, wearing a Union Army jacket. His sleeves are empty.
Thu, 06/30/2022

A Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources grant supported Emerging America to create a free K-12 Disability History Curriculum: Reform to Equal Rights. Topics include, Antebellum Reformers, Immigration and Disability, Eugenics, the Disability Rights Movement, and the Americans with Disabilities Act and other laws. 

As part of the project, Massachusetts Humanities awarded an Expand Massachusetts Stories grant to allow Emerging America and Disability History scholar Graham Warder to research and publish the compelling stories of disabled Massachusetts Civil War veterans and nurses. 

The Civil War left more than 600,000 dead and half a million injured. An unprepared nation strained to nurse soldiers during the war and vastly expanded state and Federal services to aid veterans after. By 1900, the U.S. had paid pensions to nearly a million veterans, justified largely by their disabilities. These changes transformed America, spurring enormous growth in government and private services. The experience also profoundly sharpened attitudes toward people with disabilities, both sympathetic and fearful.

Complete a very short survey on Teaching Disability History in the U.S. Help Emerging America gain insights on what Disability History is taught. 

June 30, 2022 - Register for Teaching Disability History workshop 

From 9:00am - 12:00pm, Emerging America will hold a half-day online teacher workshop on the Civil War veterans unit: How the Civil War Transformed Disability. Teachers will experience primary source-based activities from the unit on disabled Civil War veterans and will explore the strategies and tools of inquiry-based instruction using primary sources.

From 12:30-3:00pm, Emerging America will showcase the entire K-12 Disability History curriculum and feature a lesson-writing workshop.

Logo of Reform to Equal Rights K-12 Disability History Curriculum




Teachers may earn 10 PDPs (no added cost) if they participate in BOTH daytime sessions and join a free 7:00pm virtual talk by historian, Graham Warder: "Massachusetts and the Experience of Civil War Disability." Teachers must also complete a written reflection and text set. 

Registration is now open to the general public for the 7pm talk by Graham Warder, "Massachusetts and the Experience of Civil War Disability." Register for the evening talk. If you register for the teacher workshop, you do NOT need to also register for the evening talk. 

Workshop is led by Rich Cairn, author of the Reform to Equal Rights curriculum and founder of Emerging America. See bios of presenters, Cairn & Warder

Cost to participate in either or both of the daytime workshops is $30. 

Photo is of Sergeant Thomas Plunkett of Co. E, 21st Massachusetts Infantry Regiment in uniform with American flag. [1863-1865]. Library of Congress

This program is made possible by a grant from Mass Humanities, state-based affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, which provided funding through the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) and by a grant from the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources program.

Logo of Mass Humanities





Logo saying Member of Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources Consortium



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