The Beginning of History


In the past few years I have had several people suggest that we start history classes with modern day and then work backwards through history slowly revealing how recent events connect with the past. This makes a lot of sense in some ways because arguably history isn’t linear and learning from history definitely isn’t. This means we could start anywhere we wanted in time and learn about history from that point or from multiple points.

I won’t be doing this entire year backwards, but I will jump a bit between recent and less recent history. Recently I was reminded that there are some events so important and momentous that we all but have to stop and think, “How did this happen? What led up to this?” The point is you can start history anywhere. For this year I’m starting it on August 9th 2014.

The shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO brought all this into sharp focus for me. Brown was shot and killed on August 9th. This is very recent history, but in a larger sense it is just the latest part of a story that has been playing out for a very long time. History isn’t a grouping of separate events. It’s a story in which the earlier chapters can often give us insight into what is happening in our chapter. More than that however, just like a novel the events early in the book dictate how the characters act in the closing chapters. How you feel (and the actions you take) about Michael Brown, his death, and the events that followed are largely based on how well you know the story of race relations in the United States, the confusing narrative of the U.S. legal and police systems, and a multitude of other ongoing and connected stories. Our story.


Read the information in the link above and make sure to click through all of the questions on the left side. Feel free to look up other information as well if you have questions. I want you to write a response to this article similar to what you would write for a current event report. In your response consider these questions.

  • In your opinion who should we hold responsible for this shooting?
  • Were the actions (of police and protesters) that followed the shooting justified? Why or why not?
  • Why is there so much tension between black people and white people? Not just in Ferguson, MO but in other places around the country and in the country as a whole as well.

No summary is necessary.  This response should be about three-fourths of a page.

You can write this response long hand or type it and email it to me at (Make sure you put your name on it). Either way it is due this Friday, Sept 5th

(Write the assignment in your planner!)
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