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Teaching the Constitution Through Theater

Partnership Between StoryWorks and USCHS

(Virtual) March 6 and 8

The U.S. Capitol Historical Society is excited to partner with StoryWorks Theater for Civics Learning Week to teach the Constitution through theater in order to foster a deeper understanding of the U.S. Constitution through inclusive and transformative educational experiences. On March 6 and 8, join StoryWorks Theater’s Jenna Welch, Aallyah Wright, and Rebecca Welch Weigel for a brief introduction of two virtual plays, Beautiful Agitators and Now’s The Time, and corresponding curriculum.

StoryWorks is committed to developing content related to civic engagement, justice, agency, equity, diversity, and constructive discourse. The plays developed through this program engage students in inquiry-based and experiential learning to inspire them to ask complex questions about the historical underpinnings behind contemporary issues. This approach gives students a more intimate and immersive experience as they witness the events unfold.

Beautiful Agitators

(Virtual) March 6

from 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm ET

Beautiful Agitators, a theatrical play about Vera Mae Pigee, a hair stylist and business owner in Clarksdale, Mississippi, and one of the unsung heroes of the civil rights era.

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Now’s The Time

(Virtual) March 8

from 7:30 pm - 8:30 pm ET

Now’s The Time opens at the dawn of Reconstruction, the Civil War has just ended but the nation is plunged again into crisis with the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. 

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Access these plays and corresponding teacher materials are also available for free through the Society's We the People Constitution Hub. The Hub is a public digital collection of curated Civics and History resources to help students and educators gain a deeper knowledge of their civic rights and responsibilities, as well as the history and practical implementation of the Constitution.

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Civic Learning Week

Making civic learning a nationwide priority

for a stronger democracy

March 6-10, 2023

The national Civic Learning Week 2023 (CLW) is hosted by iCivics and seeks to highlight the importance of civic education in sustaining and strengthening constitutional democracy in the United States. By highlighting the civic knowledge, skills, and dispositions that provide the foundation for an informed and engaged populace, CLW seeks to further energize the movement to prioritize civic education across the nation.

We encourage you to participate in this series of virtual and in-person civic learning events throughout the week to learn about the key role different groups play in ensuring high-quality civic education is accessible for each and every student across the nation.

See Featured CLW Events

Battle for the Speakership:

What 1923 Can Tell Us About 2023

Video Available!

After winning a narrow majority in the House of Representatives, the Republican Party sets its sights on passing key legislation to address the nation’s greatest social and economic issues. However, before they can, they must elect a Speaker. An historic series of votes fail day after day in a divided caucus until the establishment candidate provides enough concessions to win the gavel. The year is 1923 and Frederick H. Gillett is elected as Speaker of the House.

On Thursday, March 2 the U.S. Capitol Historical Society hosted an event featuring historians, Christopher McKnight Nichols and Maxine Wagenhoffer, who discussed this once-overlooked chapter of American History and explored the lessons the fractious politics of the 1920s can teach us about the fractious politics of our times.

Nichols is the Hayes Chair in National Security Studies at The Ohio State University and an expert on U.S. foreign relations and modern U.S. intellectual, political, and cultural history, from the Gilded Age and Progressive Era through the present. He is the author of Promise and Peril: America at the Dawn of a Global Age and the editor and author of Rethinking American Grand Strategy. His latest book, Ideology in U.S. Foreign Relations: New Histories, won the 2023 International Studies Association prize for best-edited book in historical international relations.

Wagenhoffer is a Ph.D. candidate in U.S. history at The Ohio State University, with expertise in women's history, cultural and political history, celebrity studies, and the history of the media. Her dissertation focuses on the intersections of gender, politics, and American celebrity culture through the lens of Alice Roosevelt Longworth.

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Women's History Month Programs

Capitol Kids: Michelle Coles on “Black Was the Ink”

Video Available

On February 15, the U.S. Capitol Historical Society continued its “Capitol Kids” series with civil rights attorney and author Michelle Coles as she discussed her novel Black Was the Ink, a young adult historical fiction about the Reconstruction Era and the first Black members of the U.S. Congress.

Malcolm Williams hasn’t been okay for a while. He’s angry and despondent and feels like nothing good ever happens for teens like him in D.C. All he wants is to be left alone in his room for the summer to draw or play video games–but no such luck. With growing violence in his neighborhood, his mother ships him off to his father’s family farm in Mississippi, and Malcolm is anything but pleased. A few days after his arrival, his great-aunt tells him that the State is acquiring the farm to widen a highway. It’s not news Malcolm is concerned about, but someone plans to make it his concern. One minute Malcolm is drawing in the farmhouse attic, and the next he’s looking through the eyes of his ancestor Cedric Johnson in 1866.

As Cedric, Malcolm meets the real-life Black statesmen who fought for change during the Reconstruction era: Hiram Revels, Robert Smalls, and other leaders who made American history. But even after witnessing their bravery, Malcolm’s faith in his own future remains shaky, particularly since he knows that the gains these statesmen made were almost immediately stripped away. If those great men couldn’t completely succeed, why should he try? Malcolm must decide which path to take. Can Cedric’s experiences help him construct a better future? Or will he resign himself to resentments and defeat?

Michelle Coles is an award-winning young adult novelist, former civil rights attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice and public speaker. As a 9th generation Louisianan, she is highly attuned to the struggles that African Americans have faced in overcoming the legacy of slavery and the periods of government-sanctioned discrimination that followed.

She is a proud alumna of Howard University School of Law, where she graduated as valedictorian of her class, and the University of Virginia. Her goal in writing is to empower young people by educating them about history and giving them the tools to shape their own destiny. She lives in Maryland with her family. Her debut young adult historical fiction novel, Black Was the Ink, was published with Tu Books, an imprint of Lee and Low Books, on November 2, 2021. Black Was the Ink was awarded the 2022 Grateful American Book Prize, a 2022 Skipping Stone Award, and the 2019 New Visions Award Honor.

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Member Support Helps

Inspire Informed Patriotism 

Enjoying our Lectures and Webinars? How about our Educational Videos for young people? Or the We the People Hub for teachers, parents, and students? None of our programs would be possible without the ongoing financial support of individuals like you who value America’s heritage and want to ensure our democracy will remain steadfast for future generations. If your circumstances allow, please consider making a membership contribution to the USCHS today.

Thank you!

U.S. Capitol Historical Society | CapitolHistory.org

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