This Week in Geographic History: May 28-June 3

Here’s an advance look at some of the “This Day in Geographic History” (TDIGH) events coming up this week. For each date, we’ve matched it with a map or visual, background information, and a classroom activity so you can plan ahead.

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Monday, May 28

The map shows the routes of the five tribes that were forced to leave their homelands in the Southeast and live in Indian Territory in what is now Oklahoma. A surprising number of Americans opposed Indian removal. (The first bill in Congress passed by only 103 votes to 97.) But the demand for new lands was high, and former Army officers such as Andrew Jackson used their experiences as Indian fighters to gain political popularity and get elected to office.
Map by National Geographic Society

TDIGH 1830: Indian Removal Act

This act led to the brutal forced relocation of 46,000 Native Americans, in order to make room for white settlement and slavery in the West.

Map: Zoom in and download Trail of Tears National Historic Trail maps.

Context: Use this primary resource from the National Archives to learn why President Jackson wanted to relocate Native Americans.

Activity: Watch the short video “Trail of Tears: Are the Cherokee an Independent Nation?” Ask students to share their view on President Jackson’s decision.


Tuesday, May 29

Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, on top of the world.
Photograph courtesy Jamling Tenzing Norgay and Wikimedia. CC-BY-SA-3.0,2.5,2.0,1.0

TDIGH 1953: First Successful Summit of Mount Everest

Mountaineers from different parts of the globe were the first to make it to the highest elevation in the world.

Map: Follow Hillary and Norgay’s route around Everest with this annotated satellite image.

Background: Get some fast facts about Mount Everest, and more about the technology used to summit it in 1953.

Activity: Tashi Tenzing, Tenzing Norgay’s grandson, said it was wrong that Edmund Hillary, a New Zealander, had been knighted by the U.K. while his grandfather received only relatively minor decorations. An agreement between Hillary and Norgay kept the true identity of Everest’s first climber a secret until the 1980s. Why do students think Hillary was decorated while expedition’s indigenous Sherpa mountain guides, like Norgay, were not?


Thursday, May 31

The deadliest flood in U.S. history was the Johnstown Flood of 1889. The flood killed more than 2,200 people in the steel-industry town of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. The Johnstown flood was a man-made disaster, created when a weak dam burst, sending water rushing toward the town at 64 kilometers per hour (40 miles per hour).
Photograph courtesy Langill & Darling, N.Y.C., courtesy Library of Congress

TDIGH 1889: Johnstown Flood

The man-made flood resulted in more than 2,000 deaths and changed how lawsuits are handled.

Map: Consult maps of Johnstown, the Little Conemaugh River, and the disastrous flood of 1889.

Background: What is a flood plain? and facts about the 1889 flood.

Activity: Use this terrific lesson from Teaching with Historic Places to study the rise of American industrialization and the Gilded Age or on understanding the relationship of technology and the environment. 


Saturday, June 2

TDIGH 1962: Ray Charles Tops the Charts

Prior to his release of the groundbreaking Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, both country and soul musicians encouraged Charles not to integrate musical styles from different genres. Charles ignored them, saying “There’s only two kinds of music as far as I’m concerned: good and bad.”

Media: “I Can’t Stop Loving You” was written by country singer/songwriter Don Gibson. Compare and contrast Ray Charles’ version, above, with versions by Conway Twitty, Roy Orbison, Engelbert Humperdinck, Frank Sinatra, and Count Basie.

Background: The Wikipedia entry for Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music is a good article. Learn how Charles was inspired to create a country album there.

Activity: Can students think of other artists who work in multiple genres of popular music? What musical and social challenges do they face? Discuss the criticism of Beyonce at the Country Music Awards, and the lack of criticism at Justin Timberlake at the same event the year before.


Sunday, June 3

“Zoot suiters,” mostly Latino youths, line up outside a Los Angeles jail on their way to court to stand trial for various offenses connected with the Zoot Suit Riots, a series of conflicts with white military and police personnel.
Photograph by Acme Newspictures, Inc., courtesy Library of Congress

TDIGH 1943: Zoot Suit Riots

Los Angeles was rocked as white police and military servicemen engaged in a series of violent conflicts with Latinos.

Visual: Watch a brief video about the play Zoot Suit, and try to watch the great 1981 film of the same name.

Background: Dig deeper into the riots and political tensions that fueled them.

Activity: Read and discuss this article about police brutality toward Latinos. Or read through this article on the cultural significance of zoot suit fashion. Can students think of other fashions or clothing choices that may contribute to racial profiling?


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