E PLURIBUS UNUM.

#PlainTalkHistory is a meeting place where scholars, educators, and designers are creating the digital materials we’ve all been waiting for.

You can help:

Hello, teachers!

OUT OF MANY, ONE.

The United States is a multiracial democracy. It stands in a long line of nations on this continent to seek its harmony and prosperity through self-government.

We declare these ideals we stand for — but our textbooks seem too afraid to teach the real lessons that a citizenry would need to understand one another and share in the blessings of liberty.

Those writers are too stuck to a script to acknowledge one simple truth: our history was written by the choices and worth of people of every kind. What happened on this continent has been a massive experiment of people encountering their differences. It hasn’t gone smoothly.

“History, as nearly no one seems to know, is not merely something to be read.”

James Baldwin
And it does not refer merely, or even principally, to the past. On the contrary, the great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it... and history is literally present in all that we do. … It is to history that we owe our frames of reference, our identities, and our aspirations.

— James Baldwin

1965

History is an act of citizenship

#PlainTalkHistory is building a home to host the critical history lessons of a multiracial democracy. Guided by a distinguished Board of Advisors and funded by auut studio, in 2020-2022 we will assemble here the best digital history contributed by historians and teachers Gr. 9-12. These are the deeper stories glossed over in standard textbooks (and actually more interesting). Each is packaged here ready for teachers’ use or for anyone who has an hour to spare. To rectify the narrative, these stories are often about and centered on people of color who wove the fabric that ties us all together as the people of the United States.

We celebrate many voices,

and the

joy of learning something new,

and a

respect for so many shoulders we stand on.

Develop the skills for historical inquiry:

a hand-drawn horizontal line across the width of the page

Get your hands in an archive*

Stories here will examine primary-source data and documents, so students can form historical arguments about what happened. They’ll also meet the archivists who made this possible.

*no special white gloves needed.

Confront common misconceptions about history

Many of the narratives our parents learned are... — well, it turns out the story is more complicated than that. Nuance is traditionally set aside for history majors, but we believe that any young person can understand that the world was complicated (just like today’s).

Move beyond the PDF and practice spatial reasoning

These histories are told with interactive maps and timelines. A key part of understanding how events unfolded is to observe how close (or far apart) the actors were and how they moved — in relation to forbidding geography and contested land.

Graphics allow students to perceive patterns over space and time, adding a new tool in their analytical toolkit.

We. Need. Your. Help.

In 2020-2021 we’re in the construction phase. We’re assembling the best on a wide range of events in U.S. History. And we need your help... join us!

how does a

Young citizen know what to believe?

photo of three students reading quietly from tablet screens

Evidence.

In this photo we see the future voters of 2028. Like anyone, they have a desire to be inspired and to feel respected for the complicated world they maneuver. A modern media explosion makes both of those much noisier.
#PlainTalkHistory knows there are multiple perspectives behind the messiest historical events. Stories on this site provide many explanations of causation, and allow students to evaluate which perspectives are better supported by the evidence.

‘‘The Civil War was fought over slavery.’’
‘‘It was about the economy & states’ rights.’’
‘‘It was failure to compromise that caused the Civil War.’’
map showing towns and Indian Reservations in the Pacific Northwest

The things unsaid.

Maps tell a story. But they also can mislead, because every map makes unspoken implications about importance and control.

#PlainTalkHistory is leading the way for maps that are conscious of what’s being included AND excluded. Every element in our maps is chosen to support the story. Our cartography is multi-narrational: it recognizes that there are multiple relationships of people present on the same area of land.

Evidence.

In this photo we see the future voters of 2028. Like anyone, they have a desire to be inspired and to feel respected for the complicated world they maneuver. A modern media explosion makes both of those much noisier.

#PlainTalkHistory knows there were multiple perspectives behind the messiest historical events. Stories on this site provide many explanations of causation, and allow students to evaluate which perspectives are better supported by the evidence.

‘‘The Civil War was fought over slavery.’’
‘‘The Civil War was about the economy & states’ rights.’’
‘‘It was failure to compromise that caused the Civil War.’’

The things unsaid.

Maps tell a story. But they also can mislead, because every map makes unspoken implications about importance and control.

#PlainTalkHistory is leading the way for maps that are conscious of what’s being included AND excluded. Every element in our maps is chosen to support the story. Our cartography is multi-narrational: it recognizes that there are multiple relationships of people present on the same area of land.

a cartoon thought bubble

we’re here asking

Two BIG questions

What makes for better citizens?

We are fascinated by stories of heroism and difficult decisions that never make it into the textbook. If these powerful lessons are missing from class discussions, it is almost certain they go missing from our national discourse.

#PlainTalkHistory exists to empower the public to be proud participants — in a nation for the people, by the people, of the people.

a cartoon thought bubble

…What’s so great about a $10 word?

“Never use a long word where a short word will do.” Yet much of digital history is created in the academy, where sounding smart is what gets rewarded, and the audience is in the dozens.

#PlainTalkHistory thinks bigger than that — like in the 100,000s. We shine in digesting lots of information and nuance down to the essence of what is relevant, and important, and interesting.

We let historical figures introduce themselves in their own words, but otherwise we speak the language of laypeople.

What makes for better citizens?

We are fascinated by stories of heroism and difficult decisions that never make it into the textbook. If these powerful lessons are missing from class discussions, it is almost certain they go missing from our national discourse.

#PlainTalkHistory exists to empower the public to be proud participants — in a nation for the people, by the people, of the people.

What’s so great about a $10 word?

“Never use a long word where a short word will do.” Yet much of digital history is created in the academy, where sounding smart is what gets rewarded, and the audience is in the dozens.

#PlainTalkHistory thinks bigger than that — like in the 100,000s. We shine in digesting lots of information and nuance down to the essence of what is relevant, and important, and interesting.

We let historical figures introduce themselves in their own words, but otherwise we speak the language of laypeople.

we invite you to

Imagine all these lesson modules:

*Some are only aspirational for now. Will you help?

before-1770
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The many nations of Native America

The populous continent of 1680

Feb 1, 1701 Read more
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The futile Spanish search for Cíbola: a City of Gold

Following Indian highways and passing through numerous nations, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado reached Kansas 320 years before “Kansas” existed. COLLABORATORS NEEDED

Mar 15, 1528 Read more
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1640, 1682, 1691: The laws that created ‘whiteness’

COLLABORATORS NEEDED

Jan 15, 1640 Read more
1770–1789
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Black Pioneers in the "Great West"

The founding document of the Northwest Territory gave equal rights to men of all races, and African Americans built fortunes there on the new frontier. This was nation's first attempt at a multiracial democracy.

Jul 13, 1787 Read more
1789–1840s
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The Treaty of Greenville

A new boundary for indigenous Nations

Aug 2, 1795 Read more
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1806: End of the search for a “Northwest Passage”

European settlers long dreamed of a Northwest Passage — a continuous water route that would cross mountains to the Pacific Ocean. The Corps of Discovery seemed to finally have an answer when they docked in St. Louis in 1806. COLLABORATORS NEEDED

Sep 23, 1806 Read more
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A Republic of the Rights for Some

Bitter arguments over twelve (not ten) Amendments of a “Bill of Rights” COLLABORATORS NEEDED

Jan 15, 1790 Read more
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1804: How the Haitian Revolution changed the United States

COLLABORATORS NEEDED

Jan 1, 1804 Read more
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1803-1818: White supremacy re-asserts itself

By the time that Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois were writing their State Constitutions, white settlers in those territories were tired of this experiment in "all men are created equal." COLLABORATORS NEEDED

Jan 15, 1818 Read more
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Congress embarks on Indian Removal

An unprecedented policy, outsized for the size of the fledgling federal government — to collect, feed, and forcibly transport entire peoples to the far outskirts of the country. Twenty years and tens of thousands of deaths later, was it cruelty or incompetence? COLLABORATORS NEEDED

May 30, 1830 Read more
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1830s: What’s in your blood?

From full-blooded down to “one drop,” the language of white supremacy imagined new categories of people in terms of blood — even if scientifically, it's all just red cells. COLLABORATORS NEEDED

Jun 30, 1830 Read more
1850–1861
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Experiences & resistances of the enslaved in the 1850s

COLLABORATORS NEEDED

Jan 15, 1850 Read more
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Blackface and minstrelsy: “going viral” for 180 years

COLLABORATORS NEEDED

Jan 15, 1840 Read more
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We Secede!

Explore the Confederates’ reasons as they gave them in 1861

Jan 7, 1861 Read more
1865–1877
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Jourdon Anderson calculates his back pay

The Civil War has just ended, and Mr. Anderson dictates a note to the man who used to claim ownership over him.

Aug 7, 1865 Read more
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The women’s suffrage movement splinters

A coalition for half of the US population was still very hard to keep together. COLLABORATORS NEEDED

Jan 15, 1870 Read more
1877–1920
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The Railroad Company vs. Ida B. Wells

COLLABORATORS NEEDED

Jan 12, 1883 Read more
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Carlisle Indian Industrial School

How does a society that does not want Native Peoples... deal with Native Peoples? COLLABORATORS NEEDED

Jan 15, 1879 Read more
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Jim Crow: White supremacy re-asserts itself

COLLABORATORS NEEDED

Jan 12, 1890 Read more
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1898: How did the Kingdom of Hawai‘i become a state?

COLLABORATORS NEEDED

Jan 17, 1893 Read more
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Jovita Idár, journalist, defender of truth

COLLABORATORS NEEDED

Jun 1, 1913 Read more
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1910s: How the Mexican Revolution changed the United States

COLLABORATORS NEEDED

Nov 20, 1910 Read more
1920–1928
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Monroe & Florence Work Today

This project rediscovers the meticulous record-keeping of Monroe Work and his wife Florence. It is the most thorough map of the reign of lynching in the USA from 1848–1964.

Jan 24, 1912 Read more
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Monroe y Florence Work Hoy en Día (en español)

Este proyecto descubre de nuevo el registro minucioso de Monroe Work y su esposa Florence. Es el mapa más completo de la era de los linchamientos en EEUU desde 1848 a 1964.

Jan 12, 1912 Read more
1940–1955
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The road to Executive Order 9066

Before there was internment, there was an executive process

Feb 19, 1942 Read more
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Getting from Separate to Equal

It turns out, Brown v. Board of Education wasn't argued in a day.
COLLABORATORS NEEDED

Mar 15, 1944 Read more
2000–2018
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Standing Rock

History circles back to touch the present, bringing questions for us today. COLLABORATORS NEEDED

Apr 5, 2016 Read more

we have a

WHOLE lot of heroes

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we have a

WHOLE lot of heroes

photo of Ida Wells and her children

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