U.S. 1 History Honors-Visual Essays

U.S. 1 History Honors-Visual Essays
Posted on 07/16/2018

The Long Shadow of Reconstruction: The Visual Essays of US I History Honors


In the summer of 2017, high school social studies teacher Bob Fenster participated in the National Endowment for Humanities program America's Reconstruction: The Untold Story, a three-week intensive seminar held at the University of South Carolina in Beaufort, South Carolina. The program included a presentation by Dr. Joshua Brown of City University of New York on a new form of writing known as a visual essay, which included multiple graphics (political cartoons, photographs, and other images) as a critical component of the essay. A requirement of the NEH program was that each participant had to create their own visual essay. Mr. Fenster, inspired by this assignment, decided to use it in his own US History I Honors classroom, and fellow US History I Honors teachers Rob Longo and Matt Mosko followed suit.


The US History I course ends with Reconstruction, a pivotal moment in the country’s history where many of the issues of slavery’s aftermath were being addressed, in part by the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution. Tragically the relative progress of Reconstruction was derailed by forces determined to maintain a socioeconomic and cultural status quo. The students in these classes were tasked with finding another aspect of American history where racial or ethnic issues arose. They picked 5 or 6 graphics to use as the core of their essay and had to make a connection to the Reconstruction Era regardless of whether they were focused on Chinese immigrants in the 1890s, the Ku Klux Klan of the 1960s, or the Black Lives Matter movement of the 2010s.


Students worked on these essays for nearly two months, typically researching a historical era they hadn’t learned about yet, searching for suitable graphics, revising their theses based on their findings, and making connections between the 1870s and their chosen subject matter. Over 120 essays were submitted, and ten were chosen to be highlighted on the University of South Carolina’s website (link coming soon). However, there were far more than ten excellent essays. Here is a sampling of student work from Mr. Fenster’s, Mr. Longo’s, and Mr. Mosko’s classes:


Ellis Bartolomeo

Carmen Bisagnano

Margaret Cappabianca

Emily Chu

Nick Fanizzi

Jake Ford Sydney Handler

Joshua Hartman

Nicholas Housel

Maya Karkhanis

Nandita Katherisan

Lara Leitz

Katrina Liu

Yash Parikh

Shweta Parthasarathy

Asha Patel

Keya Shah

Jane Sickles

Rachel Simroth Jennifer Stanton

Ria Trivedi

Elle Wolf

John Wolf


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