[ Note: One question any new blogger should—but probably doesn’t—ask is, “Will I be able to find sufficient material to keep this blog alive?” I know that I didn’t think about this question in May 2010, when I contemplated establishing a blog. Yet in 2018, as “Retired But Not Shy” cruises past its eighth birthday, I can finally admit that my blog has lasted so long because I’m something of a historical pack rat. Let me explain.]
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I gradually saw that my blogging interests centered around several themes. Not only had I written about, lectured on, and opined concerning these issues on numerous occasions, but I also had kept copies of those notes, lectures, talks, articles, and editorials. So, yes, “Retired But Not Shy: Doing History after Leaving the Classroom” (hereafter, RBNS) could have become little more than a collection of my “Greatest Hits,” but that’s not what happened.
Although the blog’s archives reflect some walks down memory lane, other posts broke new ground. But, just for the fun of it, let’s concentrate this time on “old war horses,” posts I pulled from basement filing cabinets, revised, or otherwise gussied up so that they might enjoy new life in the blogosphere.
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“Blues Stories”—eight of these posts originated in “Back to School Night” lectures I offered annually to returning alums at Atlanta’s Finest Prep School (AFPS), the nom de blog of the place where I taught for nearly forty years. Most of the others came from books I’ve read since retiring from AFPS. Rather than mention any titles here, I’ll refer you to the Year Eight “Top Ten List” below, where half of the items are Blues-related.
“Dead Georgians”—twenty-eight posts, and counting. Quite a few were offshoots of earlier research, for my dissertation (and the book that resulted from it), and later, as I piloted ideas that eventually found their way (or didn’t) into my second book.
The story of the “Fourth Dimension” in Georgia politics began as an article in AFPS’s History Department Newsletter. The two-part tale of Elias Boudinot and the Cherokee Phoenix (here, here) was my contribution to AFPS’s “Explore! Native Americans” program, and subsequently became a staple in my AP United States History course (APUSH). “Georgia and the American Revolution,” grew out of a course presented to an adult evening class at AFPS in 1976, during the bicentennial celebration of the American Revolution.
Other posts in this section originated as public lectures. “Georgia and the Federal Constitution” (here, here) comprised a talk to a group of Georgia History buffs during the bicentennial celebration of that document. I trotted out “Factions and Parties in Georgia, 1783-1806,” based on my dissertation, for a class at Emory University’s Oxford College in Covington, Georgia, taught by my good friend, Dr. Arnold Shankman, and subsequently used “up the road” from AFPS, at a neighboring prep school.
“Meanings of ‘Liberty’ in Georgia During the American Revolution” grew out of notes created for a discussion on a public television station in Augusta, Georgia, arranged and hosted by Dr. Ed Cashin of Augusta College. A recent two-part post, “Georgia Visions,” (here, here) was based on a talk I gave to groups of foreign high school students visiting AFPS.
I was proud of the “historical problem,” “Who was a ‘Citizen’?,” which tried to identify the author of a pamphlet on Georgia politics in the years after the end of the American Revolution. Perhaps the answer to this question mattered only to me, because I had been unable to answer it while researching my dissertation nearly fifty years ago. Still, I took what I knew (or thought I knew) and organized it as a sort of “DBQ on Steroids,” the kind of documents-based essay assignment I had used with my APUSH students many times. And, I offered “a solution” as the final post in the series, something I’d been unable to do in the early 1970s.
Finally, posts on antebellum Georgia governors George Gilmer and Wilson Lumpkin, the treatment of “An Anti-Slave Trade Movement in Middle Georgia?” and several on the Cherokee and the Creeks sampled research for my second book.
“Historical Reflections”—this collection drew on material I had prepared during my years at AFPS, though many of them also appear on other blog “pages.” (See links at the top of the home page.)
“Growing Up in Colonial New England” was originally prepared for an evening “Education” course I took while trying to become “certified” to teach high school history in Georgia.
A series that began last year and concluded in Year Eight, “Betts: A Mother’s Memoir,” combined edited versions of my late mother’s family history and a memoir covering her two families, from the early 1920s through 1964, with three concluding episodes I wrote to fill in gaps and provide a broader context for Betts’ story (go here, here, and here).
“Interdisciplinary Work”—most posts in this category also stemmed from my years at AFPS, when I responded to requests for help from colleagues in other departments.
In addition to the series on the Cherokee Phoenix newspaper and its founding editor, Elias Boudinot, noted above, other posts drawn from school-wide interdisciplinary projects were “The Uses of History in Tom Stoppard’s ‘Arcadia’” and “Echoes of the Scopes Trial.”
Additional efforts to aid colleagues seeking a historical perspective for difficult topics included: “Denying the Holocaust”; “American Witch Hunters: Salem and McCarthy”; on “American Republicanism,” for AFPS’s “School for the Common Good”; and “Reckoning with the ‘Dispossessed Majority’,” for my older son’s summer school New Testament class.
“The Book that Changed My Life” answered a request from our high school librarian for faculty essays on that topic to be included on the library’s new website.
“Prep School”—these posts also were direct outgrowths of my teaching career at AFPS. Among the highlights:
One of my favorite posts, “That’s Why They Paid Me the Big Bucks,” originated as a farewell editorial in the History Department Newsletter in 2010. Another post, “Testifyin’ at the PDC,” was a “pep talk” delivered to the school’s “big givers” at a dinner held at an exclusive club.
Early in my final year at AFPS, our principal asked us to critique the school’s “faculty forum” [“pre-planning”] topic. “Teaching 21st-Century Students: A Reflection” was based on the letter I sent in response.
Last, but not least, are the popular posts in the “Teaching Prep School with a PhD” series (see here, here, here, and here). There, I suggested to graduate students in My Old Graduate School’s “Beyond the Professoriate” program that, in these parlous times for History PhDs, aspiring college professors might be able to leverage their degrees into a secondary school setting and be content there.
“Teaching History”—this series of posts features some essays included under other topics, especially “Historical Reflections” and “Interdisciplinary Work.” Among those not previously mentioned, my favorite is “Teaching History ‘Backwards,” based on an article for the History Department Newsletter about an experimental approach adopted in an elective Civil Rights history course.
“The South/Civil Rights”—This page includes several posts about The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The first, published in 2012 (revised in 2015), grew out of editorials written for the History Department Newsletter. Thereafter, I began to post annually a commemoration of the King Holiday, including, most recently, part of a talk I delivered in a 1987 high school assembly to introduce a panel discussion of King’s life and legacy.
“Teaching History ‘Backwards’” is included in this section as well, along with several other milestones on the road that led me to the Civil Rights history course. One was an article from the Georgia Association of Historians Newsletter (1978) about a course I offered for a few years, “The South and the Sectional Image.” (And, like the post about growing up in colonial New England mentioned earlier, this essay originated in an “Education” course.) The winding path to the Civil Rights course also involved introductions to two panel discussions on Southern History, one at AFPS, the other on “Myth and Reality in Southern History,” organized for a regional independent schools meeting in Atlanta.
“The Vietnam Era”—the main reason I created this page was to highlight how I finally came to terms with the Vietnam War during my early years at AFPS:
The four-part series, “Growing Up with Vietnam,” was based on a talk I gave several times in the school’s “Senior Lecture Series,” then incorporated into my APUSH course each spring.
Another post began as a review of a novel on the Vietnam War on the home front, but also included a healthy dollop of reminiscences about my Vietnam war at home.
Finally, “Past Personal: Teaching the Vietnam War as History,” originated as a paper delivered at a meeting of a local independent school organization.
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The top ten posts for Year Eight (June 2017-May 2018):
- Teaching Prep School with a PhD, 1.
- Getting Reacquainted with Georgia Governor Wilson Lumpkin.
- Teaching History “Backwards.”
- The Voice of the Urban Blues: Bobby Blue Bland.
- Son House: Preacher, Killer, Father of the Delta Blues.
- The Chitlin’ Circuit: Life, Death, and a Musical Revolution.
- Blues Theology, Part 1.
- An Obituary for “King Cotton” in Georgia.
- Blues Theology, Part 2.
- Georgia and the American Revolution, Part V: The Divided Whigs of Revolutionary Georgia.
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So, what’s the message for aspiring bloggers this post? “Don’t throw away your written past if you plan to carve out a future in cyberspace” might just fit on a bumper sticker. Another suggestion: have lots of interests, or, if you have only one or two topics you like to write about, space your efforts so that you always have something in reserve, for when it’s time for a new post but, alas, you just can’t think of one.
Finally, as RBNS approached its eighth birthday, it reached a milestone: In November 2017, this blog received more than one thousand visits, nearly a third more than were recorded for the entirety of Year One (June 2010-May 2011); subsequent months in Year Eight have come close to four figures, but none has reached it.
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By the time this post appears, RBNS will have received around 29,000 visits over its lifetime. Thank you, one and all, for making this happen, and please continue to stop by “Retired But Not Shy”! Pack rat or no, I’ll try not to let you down.
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For those interested in reading more of my reflections on history, here are links to several books on the subject: