History Standards

Here are some of the ways the "Federated Colored Catholics" website can be used to help teachers meet United States history curriculum standards.

The following standards are based on the National Standards for History, Grades 5-12, created by the National Center for History in the Schools.

This website is ideal for teaching Era 6, The Development of the Industrial United States (1870-1900) and Era 7, The Emergence of Modern America (1890-1930). Though nearly all of the documents date from the years 1925 until 1933, they can be used to greatest effect to illuminate issues related to the previous two eras. Within Era 6, the site relates to Standard 2, massive immigration after 1870 and how new social patterns, conflicts, and ideas of national unity developed amid growing cultural diversity. Document 14, in particular, "The Negro and the Immigrant" (1933) illuminates the perceived similarities and differences between African Americans and Polish and Irish immigrants. The website also presents a fresh angle on anti-Catholic sentiment, revealing how one group of Catholics (whites) could come to discriminate against another, black Catholics, even as those whites are attempting to reconcile contemporary ideas about race within the Catholic Church itself (Standard 2b). Few textbooks examine attempts at integration as well as inclusion within the Catholic Church, yet Standard 2b emphasizes that students should be able to explain racial conflict in different geographical regions, and how different minority groups sought to acquire rights and opportunities. This website allows teachers and students to learn about how race was addressed within an institution that itself was accorded minority status and rarely studied with respect to race: the Catholic Church.

Finally, as far as fitting this site into a National Standards-sensitive curriculum, it works well in a unit related to Era 7, specifically Standard 3a. This standard emphasizes that students be able to examine rising racial tensions, the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan, and the emergence of Garveyism. The documents of the Federated Colored Catholics present a uniquely Catholic perspective on the racism of the period, as well as the reactions to such racism. The Introduction sets Thomas Wyatt Turner and the story of the FCC within the context of his contemporaries, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B Du Bois, and Marcus Garvey.

The Federated Colored Catholics website is most effective in generating Historical Comprehension (Historical Thinking Standard 2), Historical Analysis and Interpretation (Historical Thinking Standard 3) and Historical Issues-Analysis and Decision-Making (Historical Thinking Standard 5).

The document on this site are followed by a series of questions that point the student toward understanding its content as the expression of an individuals, communities, and as related to broader historical narratives. Students are asked, for example, to read the 1925 Mission Statement of the Federated Colored Catholics (Document 1). The related questions ask students to explain the organization's objectives as expressed in the document, to consider those objectives in the context of broader relations between whites and African Americans in the early 20th century, and to think about how they might be relevant (or not) to relations between blacks and whites today. Students, moreover, can become their own historians using the Federated Colored Catholics website, meaning that teachers can ask them first to read the introduction, then move on to the documents, then answer the document questions in light of the primary and secondary reading. In this manner students are encouraged to arrive at their own conclusions about the documents they are reading, and ideally, a sense of the difference between primary and secondary sources, how interpretations and facts often work hand in hand. Especially effective in this respect are the several letters reproduced on the site. Often such letters, written privately, contain admissions and emotional expression one might not see in more public documents. In comparing letters to addresses and mission statements, student can get a sense of how context shapes interpretation. Hence reading the Introduction, examining the documents, and answering the questions can generate historical comprehension of black white relations within the 1920-1940 Catholic Church, and of social relationships during the period more generally.

In presenting multiple perspectives on the Federated Colored Catholics, students are asked to consider how each fits into the broader evolution of the organization. While Thomas Wyatt Turner receives much of the attention as the group's leader, Fathers John La Farge and William Markoe, two of the FCC's allies with their own ideas about the organization's goals, are also represented. The site is interspersed with more broadly focused documents such as editorials and articles, moreover, to convey general perspectives as well. The documents revolve around dramatic shifts in interpretation as to where African Americans were and should be within the broader church, illuminating ideas about the meaning of interracialism and equality in an inherently hierarchical institution. In reading the documents students compare personalities, values, and institutions, they consider differences in perspective, and gain greater understandings of how the choices, behaviors and beliefs of the different actors worked with a single religious institution to shape outcomes. Such understandings reveal greater powers of historical analysis and interpretation, Standard 3 of national historical thinking standards.

In identifying issues and problems of the past, in realizing that the values and points of view of those involved in the evolution of the FCC shaped the fate of the group, teachers and students can use this website to develop abilities to analyze historical issues and understand how decision making shapes history. Letters are important forms of communication for FCC members. What kinds of information were conveyed through letters? Would access to the Internet or email have affected the content of the letters, the style of the writing, the ideas conveyed? Would the evolution of the FCC itself have been different if the actors had access to modern forms of communication? If a student is able to answer such questions following thoughtful use of the Federated Colored Catholics website, she will be exhibiting an ability to engage in historical issues-analysis and decision making, Standard 5 of national historical thinking standards.

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