Thursday, February 13, 2014

EdCafe Reflection: Yea or Nay?

The EdCafe was an interesting new experience to discuss topics. Instead of simply having one large class discussion, where few people were able to talk, 12 individual discussions took place, 4 at a time. This allowed people to be present at a total of 3 conversations (one of which they led). These types of discussions fostered a more open and lively conversation than a massive class discussion. The smaller groups of 4-6 people allowed people to contribute more freely. I enjoyed that the students were allowed to choose the EdCafe that they wished to attend for each time block, this meant that no one was forced into a conversation where they had little to say. To make the discussion better for the future, it would be helpful for each set of group leaders to come with visuals such as this diagram.
Venn Diagram used by Ellie and Simone to help present
Visuals would allow people to focus more on the discussion, and not have to stop constantly to take notes.

When Thomas and I presented, it went quite well, a hearty discussion was present for the entire time allotted for the EdCafe. There was little down time, where people were waiting for the next discussion question or there was nothing to talk about. The discussion questions which Thomas and I prepared were interesting and unique, so there was not much repetition from other discussions. Our discussion, and way of leading it fostered a friendly environment where all members felt free to talk, no one person was dominating the discussion. One thing that I would like to improve for next time is using a visual to aid in the discussion. I felt that the need to note-take was detracting from the depth and vibrance of the discussion. If we used a Venn-diagram or other note-taking visual, the members of the discussion would have been able to just take a picture of it after the discussion.

I was a good attendee at the two discussions I participated in. I was prepared for each discussion because I read the narrative which the discussion was about, and came to the discussion with a good knowledge of the narrative. I contributed when it was fit for me to contribute, but I tried not to dominate any discussion I was in by talking too much. Sadly, I do not think that my notes were an accurate representation of what I learned at the discussion. I was more focused on the discussion itself, and I did not wish to take away from the discussion by stopping every 30 seconds to type up notes on what was just talked about. If I had stopped often to take notes, I would have been less productive in the discussion. Overall I was pleased with the EdCafe format of discussion, and I hope to continue doing discussions in this manner in the future.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Not-So-Anti-Slavery North

It is often assumed by many Americans, specifically people in the northern states, that in Antebellum America the northerners were against slavery. However, this is not the case. Many northerners supported slavery based on economic grounds. Some northerners relied directly on slavery for their income.
One family, the DeWolfs, out of Rhode Island were one of the leading families in the slave trade. From the year 1769 to just before the civil war, more than 10,000 free Africans were brought into the country on DeWolf ships. The importation of slaves was outlawed in 1808, but the DeWolf family was so powerful that they had influence with the president and were able to continue their business. The DeWolfs developed a triangle route of trading that involved Rhode Island, Cuba, and the African coast. They were trading rum and slaves and reaping a massive profit. This family of northerners were clearly not against slavery, they were supporting its continuation by illegally bringing more slaves into America, and continuing to sell them. This economic dependence on slavery by northerners led to many northerners resisting abolitionist movements.

This chart shows how the economy of Lowell was dependent on slave labor. The textile factories were completely dependent on the cotton that was harvested by slaves. The slave population can be seen to clearly coincide with a dramatic increase in jobs in the Lowell mills, and an increase in cloth production in Lowell. This means that the more slaves that were brought into the united states resulted in a greater profit for the owners of the mills and more jobs for the lower class workers. This means that the jobs of the workers depended on the slavery of millions of blacks. 
This broadside from a Public Meeting in Lowell is strongly advocating against slavery. The persons at this meeting claimed that they are against abolition because they believe that it is an "infraction of their [southerners] rights". The glaring irony in this statement is ridiculous. The people of Lowell are so concerned for the rights of the southerners, but what about the rights of the millions of blacks who are enslaved? The first signer of this broadside is none other than Kirk Boot, an owner of a mill in Lowell. 
Although some citizens of the north were against slavery on moral grounds, much of the population depended on slavery for their welfare and therefore supported slavery. The perception of a "morally superior" north is definitely not true.