Week 10: Endings

Wow, week ten is finally here! This is my last official blog post for the semester. It’s hard to believe that things are already coming to an end. It seems like just yesterday that I started working at the Florida Historical Society! I had no idea what it was going to be like working in a research library, or even what exactly my project was going to entail. However, I’m happy to say that everything about this internship has worked out extremely well. I consider myself very lucky to not only have been given a project I was genuinely interested in, but to have also been able to work with such welcoming and helpful people! So, before I say anything else, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone at UCF and FHS who have made this internship such a rewarding experience.

I’m happy to say that all that remains of my project is a handful of loose ends. I was suppose to start this week by editing the document scans in Photoshop. However, the person who was meant to show me how to use the program was still on vacation. Therefore, I used the extra time to get a head start on creating the PowerPoint I will use during my final presentation at the end of the semester.

Thankfully, by the middle of the week I was able to get up and running on Photoshop. The person who was meant to help me turned out to be Jon White, the Director of Media Production. Mr. White was extremely helpful and quickly got me comfortable using the basics in Photoshop. I’ve never used the program before, but I am really thankful that I was able to get some experience using it. Learning the basics of Photoshop is just one of the many skills I was able to learn during this internship.

The process of using Photoshop quickly became routine and I was able to successfully edit the images I had scanned last week. The scanner’s ability to produce high resolution images helped tremendously when I went to edit them. I was able to adjust the contrast, brightness, and saturation of the scans to create images that were both true to the original versions and easy to read.

Photoshop open and ready to be used...not as scary as it first seemed!
Photoshop open and ready to be used…not as scary as it first seemed!

The final step in the process was inserting these scans into the modules themselves. Now that this process is complete, the modules will be printed out into physical copies to put through final corrections. The only thing left to do is export them as PDFs. Once these documents are exported in PDF format they will be ready to be posted to the Florida Historical Society’s website.

Next week on August 4th my fellow intern Holly and I will be giving our final presentations to the staff and volunteers at the Florida Historical Society, as well as to our UCF supervisor, Dr. French. I’m happy that I was able to spend some time this week working on my presentation. It will give me some extra time to get comfortable talking about my project. I don’t mind public speaking too much, but I do want to make sure that I practice enough so that I don’t speak too quickly or forget what I want to say!

As my internship comes to a close, I feel a real sense of accomplishment. When I started this project I was unsure of how I would go about creating a module that would do justice to the primary sources I encountered. I have read many fascinating and valuable documents. Some sparked outrage, like when I read the pro-slavery speeches of politicians or when I transcribed a “quality” ranking chart for slaves. Other documents were extremely moving, like the personal accounts from soldiers concerning the psychological traumas of war, or the heart-wrenching lamentations of a mother who feared her son was killed in battle. I hope that I created modules that will give these documents new life in classrooms teaching students history.

The only thing left to do is say goodbye! Thank you for reading this blog. I hope that the project of creating educational modules from primary sources continues at the Florida Historical Society. There are many more collections full of documents that would be beneficial for students in classrooms to breathe new life into Florida history.

Once again, thank you very much!

Goodbye, everyone! Thank you!
Goodbye, everyone! Thank you!

Sincerely,

Heather/ The Historical Knight

Week 9: Scanning Time!

Hello everyone…

Happy week nine! I hope that you all are well.

I started the week by sending my completed “Reconstruction in Florida” module draft to Mr. DiBiase for corrections. I actually finished that module draft last week, but I wanted to read it over one more time with fresh eyes before emailing it. I find that reading the same thing over and over again can cause you to miss some very important things! Walking away for a bit can really help make things clearer. Unfortunately, this is actually quite hard for me at times. However, it’s something I’m trying to get better at. I like to immerse myself totally into projects and not quit until they are done. In short, I find it hard to walk away! However, with an internship that revolves around a project that is intended to take an entire semester, it’s something that I have had to start doing. I guess that’s just another skill that this internship has been helping me learn. And for that I’m really grateful!

After completing my read through of my Reconstruction module, I then proceeded to work on correcting my “Civil War Soldier” module according to Mr. DiBiase’s notes. I found the corrections really helpful and I’m pleased to have at least one of the three modules past its first correction phase. I’m sure that there will be at least one more read through before the modules are converted into their final PDF format at the end of the semester.

The most exciting news this week is that I was finally able to scan my primary documents into digital files! I have to admit, I’ve been pretty excited to start scanning these documents because I was eager to see how they would turn out in a digital format. The FHS has recently acquired a new scanning and copy machine, and oh boy was it impressive! The machine has the ability to make high quality scans with very high resolutions. I think that makes a huge difference in something like a module that is very visual. What’s really neat is that everything about the scanning process was able to be manually controlled. One of the best features was that I was able to set a custom size for whatever I was scanning. This was really helpful for working with old documents that very rarely tend to be the same as today’s paper sizes (like the standard 8.5″ X 11″). The scanner also allowed for the density to be set. This was a setting that allowed me to darken images to bring out the content on the page. That was really useful for some of the documents that have faded significantly with age. Some of the documents I was working with were written in pencil, which made this type of feature even more valuable.

The only difficult part was getting the sources from books scanned successfully. I’m always very careful with books (because I love them!). So, I was very concerned with pushing too hard on the spines of these old volumes in order to get good quality scans. Fortunately, Mr. DiBiase was able to help me get some good quality scans without doing any damage to the books. Even if they aren’t perfect, I think it will work out fine because I have accompanying transcripts for all of my sources.

My friend, the scanning machine.
My friend, the scanning machine! (Did the scanner or I work harder this week? haha)

Once everything was scanned in, I was able to access all of the files on the FHS computer network. I have a file under their volunteer server that lets me access my documents from any computer in the building. (I think this will be particularly useful for me when I go to edit the images in Photoshop). I worked upstairs at the “kitty computer” to get all of the files renamed with descriptive titles and filed away into compartmentalized folders for ease of use. Oh, what do I mean by “kitty computer” you ask? I call it that because this computer just so happens to have a super cute cat sticker on the monitor. Not sure how it got there, but I think it’s pretty great.

Meow!
Meow!

Unfortunately, the person who usually works with Photoshop and image manipulation was out this week. However, he will be back next week to start helping me edit the images for contrast, cropping, etc. I’m looking forward to working with Photoshop because I’ve never used it before. I just hope it isn’t too complicated!

Once the editing process is complete, I will be nearly done with my project! Once I receive the remainder of Mr. DiBiase’s corrections and insert the edited scans, I will basically be at the finish line! Of course, I still have work to do on my final oral presentation. However, I’m feeling really good about where I stand!

See you next week!

Sincerely,

Heather/The Historical Knight

Week 8: Quality Time with Carpetbaggers

Hello, everyone! Here we are at the end of week eight. Can you believe it? This summer is absolutely flying! I’ve become very comfortable with my routine of researching, transcribing, and analyzing these sources. I guess I’ve been so busy that I’ve hardly noticed that in less than a month this semester will be over!

Thankfully, I was able to get quite a lot of work done this week. I have successfully put together a master draft for my third and final module, “Reconstruction in Florida.” It is composed of 4 primary documents, two are accounts from the corrupt election of 1876, and the other two are accounts from two different Florida governors from the beginning of Reconstruction in the South. One of these sources comes from a book titled Carpetbag Rule in Florida: The Inside Workings of the Reconstruction of Civil Government in Florida After the Close of the Civil War, which was published in 1888. Like one would imagine, this book contains a history of Reconstruction as it affected the state of Florida. This book contains excerpts from a speech made by Governor Walker, the last Florida governor before the new Constitution of 1868 went into effect allowing Florida to rejoin the Union.

Governor Walker was a Democrat who opposed African Americans voting, and defended slavery as an institution under which slaves were “happy and content.” What’s interesting is that the author of Carpetbag Rule in Florida, John Wallace, was actually a former slave from North Carolina. Wallace escaped slavery in 1862 when General Burnside and the Union Army moved against Confederate forces in his home state. Extraordinarily, Wallace joined  the Second United States Colored Troops and went on to self educate himself through dedicated study. Wallace offers enlightening commentary and a valuable perspective of a freedman on the views of Governor Walker.

What really moved me was the poem Wallace included to celebrate the seventeenth anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. It is a both a reflective and celebratory poem that expresses African Americans’ relationship with the concept of freedom. People like Governor Walker believed that African Americans were unhappy not being slaves tied to a master. He argued nonsense like African Americans would be happier as slaves since they wouldn’t have to worry about making their own living. Wallace assures readers, “I am confident if all these slaves the Governor spoke of had been called up at that time they would have said to him that they felt quite happy, even while there were many who were destitute and had no home to go to.”

I included this poem and Wallace’s commentary alongside Governor Walker’s speech in my module. I think it will be a wonderful opportunity for students to see the dichotomy between the views of freedmen and the Southern whites during Reconstruction.

Here is John Wallace’s poem, if you’d like to read it:

Freedom, thou welcome spirit of Love,

Whence and from where dist thou begin?

Thou from God’s bosom as a dove

Dist seek the earth to vanquish sin.

Before the land and skies were made

Thy spirit hovered o’re the deep,

And when God earth’s foundation laid,

Did enter man when yet asleep.

As he arose from dust to flesh,

Near him wast thou where e’er he went;

Though cast from Eden’s garden fresh,

Thou wast with him in sorrow bent.

And still wast thou all through

Despotic ages past and gone,

And as a brother e’er proved true—

Thy light ‘mid darkness ever shone.

When Pharaoh Israel’s children held

Four hundred years abject, enslaved,

To free them Egypt was impelled,

Though then was gained the land they craved.

 

America thought thee to evade,

And to the South her slaves she sold;

But through power she was made

To yield to thee this great stronghold.

Though here was called unto thy aid

Grim war, the court of last appeal—

And North and South each other braved,

Yet now they both thy blessings feel.

There were four millions souls and more

Of Africans in slavery bound,

They sought they crown ‘mid trials sore,

Two hundred years, and then ‘twas found.

Mankind has ne’re contended been

Where slaver’s cruel sway was held.

‘Twas giant Freedom fought the sin

Till all its darkness was dispelled.

Go sound the trumpet, ring the bell!

Just seventeen years ago to-day

Sweet Freedom wrestled us from hell

And put an end to slavery’s sway.

—————–

John Wallace was a truly amazing person. Here is an individual who took every opportunity to better himself despite all of the obstacles he was dealt in life! Isn’t that the real American dream?

John Wallace, author of Carpetbag Rule in Florida
John Wallace, author of Carpetbag Rule in Florida
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Carpetbag Rule in Florida

The final source I worked with this week was the inaugural speech of Governor Harrison Reed. Reed was a Republican from Massachusetts. To Southerner Democrats he was seen as a “carpetbagger,” but in truth he wasn’t always liked much by his own party either. Reed was almost impeached twice, due to conflict between “radical” and “moderate” Republicans. However, Reed did support African American rights and was dedicated to having Florida transition successfully back into the Union. He even appointed Jonathan Clarkson Gibbs as Florida’s first African American Secretary of State.

I will be submitting my draft for my Reconstruction module to Mr. DiBiase by the beginning of next week. The good news is that I now have time to make corrections to my first two modules and begin preparing to scan and edit the primary documents for their insertion into the modules. While this semester is wrapping up, there is still work to be done!

I hope everyone has a good weekend! See you next week!

Sincerely,

Heather/ The Historical Knight

Week 7: Hello, Reconstruction

Hello, everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful week!

This week has been pretty good! I’m feeling comfortable about my project and the steps I need to take to complete it. I had my midterm review meeting with Mr. DiBiase this week and it went very well. Thankfully, he seems pleased with how my project is coming along. We discussed the final steps I will be taking to finish the project, and I definitely think it will be doable as long as I keep my current pace. The only steps I haven’t started yet are scanning the documents and creating a PowerPoint for my final oral presentation in August.

As for this week’s work, I started off by formatting my “Civil War Soldier” module into a master draft in Word, like I did last week with my “Slavery in Florida Module.” I sent both of those files off to Mr. DiBiase for review and corrections. He said he should have them for me next week. Based on what he says, I will be able to make the final tweaks and be 2/3 done with my project. The last thing to work on is my “Reconstruction in Florida” module. Once that is put into a module draft like the first two, I will be able to focus on scanning and editing the documents to make them complete.

As of today, I can happily report that I am officially smack in the middle of constructing my Reconstruction module! (Get it?) I spent numerous hours with with a rather large book titled: Report of the Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections, With the Testimony and Documentary Evidence, On the Election in The State of Florida in 1876.

Not surprisingly, it’s a rather dry record book. It deals with the corrupt presidential election of 1876, that Florida was unfortunately involved with. The physical book itself is actually really lovely. It has a brightly colored red cover and has a beautiful swirling pattern along the edges of the pages. Here are some photos:

Report Of The Senate Committee On Privileges And Elections, With The Testimony And Documentary Evidence, On The Election In The State Of Florida In 1876
Report Of The Senate Committee On Privileges And Elections, With The Testimony And Documentary Evidence, On The Election In The State Of Florida In 1876
IMG_4010
Report Of The Senate Committee On Privileges And Elections, With The Testimony And Documentary Evidence, On The Election In The State Of Florida In 1876
Report Of The Senate Committee On Privileges And Elections, With The Testimony And Documentary Evidence, On The Election In The State Of Florida In 1876
Report Of The Senate Committee On Privileges And Elections, With The Testimony And Documentary Evidence, On The Election In The State Of Florida In 1876

The election of 1876 was between Democrat Samuel J. Tilden and Republican Rutherford B. Hayes. Southern white Democrats were humiliated by the process of Reconstruction in which Northerners known as “carpetbaggers” came down to the war ravaged South to make a profit. Southern Democrats also resented the equal rights stance the Republicans promoted in regards to African Americans. The election was a disaster with states like Florida, South Carolina, and Louisiana being accused of using threats and bribery to keep African Americans and Republicans away from the polls. As it would turn out, these accusations were all too true.

The book I have been working with this week contains some frightening testimonies about African Americans being captured and threatened into voting for the Democratic ticket. It also tells of white Democrats showing up to the polls in Florida with pistols sticking out of their pant pockets to intimidate anyone who might vote for the Republican party.

I chose an account from an African American from Columbia County, Florida who was threatened at gun point to vote Democrat. He and his companions were taken hostage by a group of white men with guns and made to swear they would stop supporting the Republican party, or else they would be killed. The man’s story was very intense, and I can only imagine the fear they must have felt in such an encounter.

I also selected an account from a chief deputy marshal who witnessed corruption at the polls firsthand. He was frustrated to find white Democrats crowding poll locations, local sheriffs arresting African Americans before they could vote, and men carrying weapons to intimidate voters.  I think these two testimonies will be very interesting for students to read because they highlight the violent and unstable environment common to the South during Reconstruction. It also highlights the political turmoil present at this time.

This week I typed up the two testimonies to make them key word searchable in my module. (This was a more laborious task than it sounds since the print in the book was really tiny!) I also created the corresponding comprehension questions for students. Along with those, I created their accompanying teacher discussion guides.

Next week, I will work on transcribing and creating questions for my next two Reconstruction sources. These will be inaugural addresses from two different Florida governors. They will be from earlier in the period when the issue of a black vote was still being debated.

Finally, I’d like to mention how happy I am to be working with such a kind fellow intern named Holly Baker this summer. We only see each other once a week at the archive, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed talking to her and learning about her project. Her passion for Florida folk life and archival work is contagious. Just seeing her industriously filing boxes and boxes worth of papers motivates me to work hard too! So, I just wanted to say, thank you for brightening my Tuesdays, Holly!

Holly!
Left: Holly, my fellow intern this summer at the FHS!

That’s it for this week. See you next time!

Sincerely,

Heather/The Historical Knight

Week 6: Putting it all Together

Hello everyone!

Week six has been a very productive week. I started off this week by writing an official introduction page to the “Slavery in Florida” module. I used some of the books I have been reading as sources to create an introduction that introduced the topic of slavery in Florida, as well as what slavery meant in the “Old South.” I tried to highlight the fact Florida had a long history of slavery from the Native Americans and Africans exploited during Spanish rule straight through the Civil War. I tried to be as succient as possible, and it ended up being just over a page. Hopefully that will be just about the right length to give students some good context for the sources they will be reading and analyzing. I know slavery isn’t an easy topic to discuss, but it remains an extremely important part of American history.

I also created a procedural page for teachers and organized some information into elements like key term lists and a teacher’s discussion guide. The discussion guides will give teachers information to discuss with students that relate directly to the questions students are asked about the primary documents. Therefore, in a class wide discussion the teachers will have a handy guide of points to bring up with their students. It may also help students who are struggling to answer certain questions.

I tried to keep the questions I asked middle of the road in terms of difficulty. That’s because I want the modules I create to be useful for students from around 8th grade up through high school. I know that these modules will be a supplement to a curriculum already in place in a classroom, so I hope that they can be adjusted as needed by teachers depending on the class.

The only bad thing is that tings get messy pretty quickly as I research and reference all of the sources I have been accumulating! Yikes!

Start of the day...
Start of the day…
End of the day!
End of the day! Messy, messy, messy!

Most exciting is that I have finally put together a rough draft of my first module. That means I have taken all the transcripts, questions, primary source guide, list of standards, etc. and put them into one big formatted document. Right now things are in a word document, but they will eventually be converted into an PDF format. This will allow teachers to display the module on a projector, electronically send students a copy, print out any numbers of pages, or do any combination of these things.

Things are coming together!
Things are coming together!

I also wrote an introduction to my “Civil War Soldier” module this week. I feel like the formatting of this module will come much easier now that I have an idea of how things will be laid out. (Personally, this has been my favorite module to work on. I find the letters from soldiers and their families extremely moving!) Next week, Mr. DiBiase and some of the other people who work at the archive will take a look at what I have so far. They will make corrections and send things back to me so I can make the necessary changes. I’m a bit nervous. I hope that what I have will be up to their expectations for the project!

On another note, I am really looking forward to actually scanning the documents I have been working with for all these weeks! The plan is to scan the documents and touch them up in Photoshop to ensure they are as readable as possible. I have never worked in Photoshop before, but Mr. DiBiase promised that there are some people here who are well versed in the program and are willing to help. That’s quite a relief!

The “Reconstruction in Florida” module remains my biggest challenge. I haven’t read through all of the sources yet. However, I know that I will aim for four primary documents, just like the other two modules. I also have to write some questions for students in regards to these sources. However, I’m not too worried. These sources are printed, and while I am going to type up transcripts, it will be much easier than some of the handwritten documents I have been used to transcribing.

I’ve also been reflecting on my project as a whole this week. I suppose I’m so excited to work on this project because I really hope that what I create will be useful to students. History classes are preparing students more and more for analyzing history through primary documents rather than just relying on their textbooks. I’m excited to get some of these primary documents out of their boxes on dusty shelves and into the hands of students who can utilize them to better understand history. I wasn’t sure what type of history internship I wanted to do when I first decided to sigh up. However, I’ve been thinking more and more that I’m really happy I chose to do an internship that related to education.

Next week will be more formatting and editing. However, I’m really grateful I now have my vision laid out in a tangible way! I’m sure it will make things run much more smoothly from this point on!

See you next week!

Sincerely,

Heather/The Historical Knight

Week 5: Looking Closer At Slavery

Hello, all!

Here we are at the end of week five. This week I took a closer look at slavery for my module about slavery in Florida. I started out the week by finishing the table I was typing up that ranked the “quality” of slaves at the El Destino Plantation. Some slave names were difficult to read, but with the help of a book titled Florida Plantation Records from the Papers of George Noble Jones, I was able to fill in many of the gaps. The plantation records book contained similar lists to the one I was looking at. The lists contained in the book were created during different years, but were still from the same plantation, El Destino. Using these records, I was able to cross reference with the list of slaves we had at the archive. Many slaves were the same, and using tables of family groups I was able to fit many of the pieces together.

For example, some slaves had their names spelled differently depending on the list. One instance of this was “Minney” who had her name spelled “Mini” in one list and “Minney” in another. Based on the context, they were surely the same person. However, one thing I have learned from looking at all of these old documents is that spelling is something that can vary quite a bit. Of course, there was no spell check back then! However, thinking about the context of this document reveals that the author of this table likely did not care how the slaves’ names were spelled. It was likely written as the author heard it. Furthermore, since an overwhelming majority of slaves did not read or write, they would never know if their names were spelled correctly or not.

List of slaves at El Destino Plantion from Florida Plantation Records from the Papers of George Noble Jones
One list of slaves at El Destino Plantion from Florida Plantation Records from the Papers of George Noble Jones

I also completed a bit more background research this week to prepare for writing my short introductions at the beginning of my modules. Mr. DiBiase supplied me with several interesting books regarding slavery in Florida. I was particularly interested in getting more information about the overseers of the plantations in Florida. This is because many of the documents I plan to use come from overseers recording daily logs or their weekly reports sent to plantation owners. I found that reading books written specifically about slavery in Florida was really helpful. For example, when looking into when slaves were supplied new clothes, I learned in Florida many slaves were only given one pair of shoes a year because the winters were not harsh enough to warrant another pair. One of the books also included some interesting photographs that provided some good context for the information.

Some pictures from Slavery in Florida, one of the books I've been looking through.
Some pictures from Slavery in Florida, one of the books I’ve been looking through.

There is so much information about slavery, it’s a bit hard to narrow the search. The introductions I want to write in my modules need to be short and sweet. They will be written for the purpose of giving students context for the primary sources they are going to read. Therefore, they can’t be too lengthy. However, they also need to be informative enough that students will be able to approach the topic comfortably.

Some books on slavery in Florida I have been reading through this week.
Some books on slavery in Florida I have been reading through this week.

Some interesting information I found on overseers was definitely worth the read. For example, some overseers worked on commission in which their salary depended on the profit made from cotton picked that year. This gives some good insight into the motivation of the overseers on the plantations. Of course, not all were in this situation. Nevertheless, overseers had a lot of responsibility. They were charged with making sure there was a good crop for the owner, enough food for animals and slaves, and were expected to improve the land and keep the livestock and equipment in good condition. Also interesting is the fact that the slaves recognized that the overseers were not the same status as the plantation owner. This meant that many overseers felt they had to maintain their authority solely through their whip.

This week I also began looking for a bill of sale for a slave to give another perspective in this module. This document will end up coming from the Palmer Ferris Collection. These men used their slaves primarily for cutting wood rather than on a plantation. However, the principle of buying and selling slaves remains the same. The first bill of sale I came across was for an entire group of slaves.

A bill of sale for a group of slaves for a large sum of money
A bill of sale for a large group of slaves being purchased at one time.

I found these documents particularly interesting because they were partially printed. This indicates that, just like today, a bill of sale was a commonly used form. The formal, legal language used in these forms is a nice change of pace from the letters of overseers. While this document was very interesting, the bill of sale I ultimately decided to use was for an individual slave named Jacob. He was sold for $500 at the age of eighteen. This document really resonated with me. I wondered about his story. Where was he born? Was he being sold away from his family? Was this the first time he was sold to a new master? I hope these are some of the things students will consider when viewing this document as well.

IMG_3967
The bill of sale for Jacob, aged 18.

Finally, I also began writing a primary source guide this week. I have been looking through what resources like the Library of Congress has to say about identifying and understanding primary sources. The guide will be in a Q&A format with common questions I think students will have about identifying and reading through primary sources. For example, “Are primary sources always written documents?” and “Is my textbook a primary source?” I will include this guide with each of my completed modules to serve as a resource for teachers to use in their classrooms.

That’s about all for now. I’ll see you next week!

Sincerely,

Heather/The Historical Knight