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Social Ed. Sept 2011 Free Sample: Congress Investigates Pearl Harbor and 9-11

Social Ed. Sept 2011 Free Sample: Congress Investigates Pearl Harbor and 9-11

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National Council for the Social Studies presents Social Education the journal for Social Studies educators.

Social Studies--Preparing Students for College, Career and Citizenship
National Council for the Social Studies presents Social Education the journal for Social Studies educators.

Social Studies--Preparing Students for College, Career and Citizenship

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The official journal of National Council for the Social Studies Volume 75, Number 4 September 2011 www.socialstudies.org

Social Education 75(4), pp 175–181 ©2011 National Council for the Social Studies

Teaching with Documents

Congress Investigates: Pearl Harbor and 9/11 Congressional Hearing Exhibits
Christine Blackerby
On the morning of December 7, 1941, Japanese bombers staged a surprise attack on U.S. military forces at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. In less than three hours, the United States suffered more than 2,400 casualties and loss of or severe damage to 188 airplanes and 8 battleships. Japanese losses were less than 100 personnel, 29 planes, and 5 midget submarines.1 Sixty years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States was attacked again. On the morning of September 11, 2001, four commercial airplanes hijacked by 19 terrorists killed nearly 3,000 people when they crashed into the two towers of the World Trade Center in New York City; the Pentagon near Washington, D.C.; and a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The plane that crashed in Pennsylvania was likely headed to the U.S. Capitol or the White House. These tragedies caused Americans to question the adequacy of the nation’s defenses and to ask why they had failed so spectacularly. Citizens turned with their questions to the branch of the federal government that is closest to the people—Congress. Members of Congress started to inquire as to what went wrong and how to prevent it from happening again—Congress began to investigate. The Constitution does not state explicitly that Congress has the power to investigate, but from the earliest years it was understood that this power was necessary to ensure that the laws Congress passed were faithfully executed.2 In “Federalist 51,” James Madison and Alexander Hamilton wrote, “In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men ... you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to control itself.” Congress’s power to investigate is a check on the power of the other branches, and serves the Founders’ goal of a government that controls itself. The Supreme Court has recognized the wide scope of Congress’s power to investigate: The power of the Congress to conduct investigations is inherent in the legislative process. That power is broad. It encompasses inquiries concerning the administration of existing laws as well as proposed or possibly needed statutes. It includes surveys of defects in our social, economic or political system for the purpose of enabling Congress to remedy them. It comprehends probes into departments of the Federal Government to expose corruption, inefficiency or waste.3 Congress’s first investigation started in 1792 when the House of Representatives
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passed a resolution to examine the disastrous defeat of Maj. Gen. Arthur St. Clair in an Indian battle. Since then, Congress has used this expansive power to investigate a wide range of topics, including interstate commerce, the Ku Klux Klan, the sinking of the H.M.S. Titanic, Wall Street banking practices, organized crime, domestic communism, juvenile delinquency, the Vietnam War, Watergate, the collapse of Enron, and the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina. Some investigations lead directly to the creation of new legislation to address the problems identified during the inquiry. Other times, the investigation spurs preemptive action in another part of the government or in the private sector to solve problems exposed during the probe. Still other investigations serve to educate the public on critical issues so as to enable citizens to be informed voters. Four years after Pearl Harbor, Congress created the Joint Committee on the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack. Five months after the 9/11 attacks, Congress created a joint inquiry to look into intelligence failures before and after the attack. Then in November 2002, Congress created the independent National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, popularly called the 9/11 Commission, to thoroughly investigate the attack.

The recommendations adopted from both post-investigation reports had farreaching impact and informed important changes in the structure of the federal government.
Pearl Harbor

The Joint Committee on the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack was established to “make a full and complete investigation of the facts relating to the events and circumstances leading up to or following the attack.”4 In its investigation, the Committee sought to determine whether military shortcomings or failures might have contributed to the disaster and, if so, to suggest changes that might protect the country from another such tragedy in the future. The Committee’s public hearings commenced in November 1945 and continued to the next May. Testimony was received from 43 witnesses and ran to approximately 15,000 typewritten pages.5 One of the Committee’s main conclusions was that the divided command in Hawaii between the Army and the Navy led to a poor response to possible warnings of a Japanese attack. The two branch commanders in Hawaii did not receive the same intelligence information and did not have an information-sharing framework. For example, the Navy was aware of the Army’s new radar system, which was new technology at the time, but did not get reports from it. The Navy commander believed that the Army was operating the radar system around the clock, but in fact the Army did not yet have enough trained personnel or working equipment to run it continuously. On December 7, 1941, the Army radar system was scheduled to run only from 4 to 7 a.m. At one radar station that morning, Detector Station Opana on the northern tip of Oahu, the Army privates running the radar did not leave at 7 a.m. when their shift ended. They lingered over the equipment to get some extra practice with the new technology. At 7:02 a.m., a large white blip appeared on the screen about 137 miles north of the

island. The privates marked this activity and the continuing movements of the incoming planes on a hand-drawn map. They estimated that the blip represented about 50 airplanes. Pvt. Joseph Lockard reported this to the Information Center and spoke with the only officer on duty, Lt. Kermit Tyler, an air force pilot. It was Tyler’s second day on the job, and he knew little about radar technology. But he knew that a group of American B-17s were due to arrive that day from San Francisco, and he told Lockard to forget about what he saw. The two privates on duty continued to track the incoming planes until 7:39 a.m. when they lost the signal due to interference from the mountainous terrain of the island. They then officially went off duty and returned to their camp. It was only after arrival at camp that they received word that at 7:55 a.m. the Japanese had begun dropping bombs on Pearl Harbor. At that moment, they realized that the planes they had been tracking on the radar plot were not American, but the Japanese attacking force. They had witnessed the start of World War II for America, but they hadn’t realized it.
September 11

Defense Command (NORAD), the Pentagon, and the White House. Clear channels of communication did not exist, and the relay of information was often delayed. The Commission also looked into the intelligence failures prior to 9/11. They found many walls that prevented intelligence-sharing between agencies, but they also determined that in some cases, notably within the FBI, individuals believed that they could not share information when, in fact, they legally could.7 This contributed to one of the main conclusions of the investigation. Like at Pearl Harbor, there was a lack of communication regarding military and intelligence issues that contributed to the tragedy. The Commission saw that much evidence pointing to the plot was known prior to 9/11, but that information was not shared widely enough to connect the dots. In both cases, the first witnesses to the attack didn’t know what they were seeing. The investigations showed that more sharing of intelligence information might have allowed for a more rapid and robust response to the attacks, or perhaps could have prevented them altogether.
The Documents

The mandate of the 9/11 Commission was to provide a “full and complete accounting” of the attacks of September 11, 2001, and to provide recommendations as to how to prevent such attacks in the future. The Commission reviewed more than 2.5 million pages of documents and interviewed over 1,200 people in 10 countries.6 From logs, notes, and recordings, the Commission’s staff constructed a minute-by-minute account of events of the day, and graphically depicted the flight paths of the four hijacked planes, as well as the U.S. Air Force fighters that were scrambled to try to intercept them. The minute-by-minute account illustrated the confusion about what was happening among the many actors involved at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), North American Aerospace
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Two documents featured in this article show one of the most important parts of congressional investigations—the gathering of evidence and establishing of facts. The Radar Plot of Station Opana was entered as exhibit evidence during the testimony of George Elliott, the other private who was on duty at the radar station on Oahu with Private Lockard. The members of the investigating committee questioned Elliott to determine the exact sequence and times of events on the morning of December 7 at the radar station that were marked on the plot. They wanted to clarify who knew what and when. The exhibit depicting the movements of the four flights and military aircraft on 9/11 was created after the attack by the staff of the 9/11 Commission, rather

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than contemporaneously like the Radar Plot. However, it served the same purpose of showing the timing and movement of the planes during the attack so that the facts of the events were clear. The 9/11 exhibit also shows the paths of the U.S. Air Force fighters that were scrambled in response to the hijackings, and when the transponders (referred to as IFF in the image) were turned off on three of the four flights after they were hijacked.
The Federal Government is Transformed

Both the Pearl Harbor and 9/11 Commission post-investigation reports had a significant impact on the federal government. Both investigations aimed to determine what went wrong so that the problems could be corrected. In both cases, one of the contributing factors to the tragedies was a dearth of informationsharing between agencies with overlapping responsibilities. The recommendations of the investigators at the close of the inquiries addressed these issues.

The problems of communication between the Army and Navy at Pearl Harbor were addressed with a wholesale reorganization of the military. After the Joint Committee released its final report in 1946, Congress took up the challenge of improving coordination in the military. It passed the National Security Act of 1947 8 and amended it in 1949 to eliminate the separate departments of the Army and Navy and instead create a united Department of Defense. The four service units (Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines) were required to report to the Secretary of Defense. Additionally, the National Security Act created a new agency to coordinate intelligence activities, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The CIA was established to provide overall direction for and coordination of the collection of national intelligence outside the United States and ensure the most effective use of resources.9 Sixty years later, a very similar reorganization occurred after the publication

of the 9/11 Commission report in July 2004. The report included 41 recommendations, including the proposal to overhaul the national intelligence framework. Subsequently, Congress passed the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 10 to create a new Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and a new counterintelligence center to promote information-sharing between agencies.11 The role of the DNI is to effectively integrate foreign, military, and domestic intelligence in defense of the homeland and of United States interests abroad.12 Of these changes, Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) said, “We are rebuilding a structure that was designed for a different enemy in a different time, a structure that was designed for the Cold War and has not proved agile enough to deal with the threats of the 21st Century.”13 Anticipating the report’s conclusion that more coordination was needed among the many government agencies that protect Americans at home, Congress had passed the Homeland Security Act

1. Project or distribute copies of the two documents to all students. Ask them to gather as much information as they can from the documents. Lead a class discussion with the following questions: What kind of documents are they? When were the documents created? What do they depict? Why might they have been created? Inform the students that the documents are evidence collected or created during two congressional investigations. Ask the students to reconsider their responses in light of this new information and speculate why Congress would obtain this kind of evidence. As an alternative to this activity, direct your students to a similar activity using the “Interpreting Data” tool on the National Archives’ new DocsTeach.org website. See docsteach. org/activities/5276. 2. Share with the students the information from the article about the origin of the documents. Then ask them to make a T-chart to identify the similarities and differences between the documents. Conclude the activity by asking students: What type of information did Congress collect in both investigations? Why did Congress need to collect this kind of information before writing new laws? 3. Ask students to read the powers given to Congress in Article I of the Constitution to search for the power to investigate. When the students are unable to find it, start a discussion about the implied powers of the Constitution. Share with students the quote from “Federalist 51” that is in the article. Ask students how the Founders’ concept of checks and balances is reflected in the quote. Ask students to brainstorm how the quote is related to congressional investigations. Looking again at the documents, lead a

SuggeSted teaching activitieS

discussion with the following questions: How does Congress’s investigation into this information “oblige [government] to control itself?” How do congressional investigations serve as a check on the other branches of government? What examples can students come up with that show that idea in action? How did the Pearl Harbor and 9/11 investigations serve as a check on government actions? 4. Ask students to hypothesize about why Congress conducts investigations. Determine what congressional investigations they know about (HUAC? Watergate? Steroids in baseball?). Why did Congress investigate those subjects? What happened as a result of them? Divide students into small groups and direct them to select a Senate investigation highlighted at www.senate.gov/ artandhistory/history/common/briefing/Investigations.htm. After learning about an investigation, encourage each group to share with the class what the Senate investigated, what action Congress took as a result, and how the investigation served as a check on the government. 5. Ask students to consider what subjects they think Congress should be investigating today and what problems they think Congress should seek to fix. Assign student pairs to identify an issue that they believe Congress should address, and direct them to conduct their own investigation on the topic. Brainstorm sources of information Congress should look to or people who could serve as witnesses in hearings. Require pairs to present their findings to the class, and write a bill that could be introduced in Congress that is designed to address the issues uncovered during their investigation.

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of 2002 14 to create a new cabinet-level office, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This new office was formed from the integration of all or part of 22 different federal departments and agencies into a unified department whose main goals are to prevent terrorist attacks within the United States and protect Americans within our borders. Congress’s power to investigate is used, like it was after Pearl Harbor and 9/11, to ascertain the facts of what happened, what went wrong, and how to fix it. This information is essential to Congress’s ability to fulfill its legislative and oversight duties. The power to investigate is the linchpin of the Founders’ checks and balances system.

Notes 1. National Archives, “President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Address to a Joint Session of Congress Asking for a Declaration of War Against Japan.” Accessed June 27, 2011, www.archives.gov/legislative/features/dayof-infamy/.

12 Office of the Director of National Intelligence, “About the ODNI,” accessed June 27, 2011, www.dni.

13. Congress Investigates (2011), 536. 14. Pub. L. 107–296, 116 Stat. 2135

2. Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., introduction to Congress Investigates, by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. and Roger Bruns, eds. (New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1975), xix. 3. Watkins v. United States, 354 U.S. 178 (1957). 4. S. Con. Res. 27, 79th Cong. 5. National Archives, “Guide to the Records of the U.S. House of Representatives.” Accessed June 27, 2011,

Note about the Documents
The Radar Plot of Detector Station Opana comes from the records of the Joint Committee on the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack in Record Group 128: Records of Joint Committees of Congress, 1789–2004, National Archives Building, Washington, D.C. It is available online as ARC identifier 2600930 at www.archives.gov/research/ arc/. The 9/11 hearing exhibit showing the four hijacked flights comes from the records of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, in Record Group 148: Records of Commissions of the Legislative Branch, 1928 – 2007, National Archives Building, Washington, D.C. It is available online as ARC identifier 5899988 at www. archives.gov/research/arc/. Both are also available at www.DocsTeach. org.

6. Gail Russell Chaddock, “The 9/11 Commission 2002,” in Congress Investigates, Roger A. Bruns, David L. Hostetter, and Raymond W. Smock, eds. (New York: Facts on File, 2011), 526. 7 Ibid., 533. 8 Pub.L. 80-235, 61 Stat 496. 9 Central Intelligence Agency, “About the CIA.” Last modified November 30, 2010, https://www.cia.gov/

10. Pub.L. 108-458, 118 Stat. 3638. 11. Congress Investigates (2011), 535.

Christine Blackerby is an archives specialist in the Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D.C., and Lee Ann Potter is the Director of Education and Volunteer Programs at the National Archives and Records Administration. Potter serves as the editor for “Teaching with Documents,” a regular department of Social Education. You can reproduce the images that accompany this article in any quantity. For more information about the National Archives education program, visit www.


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Social Education 75(4), pp 196–198 ©2011 National Council for the Social Studies

From the Civil War to 9/11: Democracy and the Right to a Fair Trial
Alan S. Marcus


n the United States, our right to a fair trial is protected by the Constitution. The ideal of justice is a critical underpinning of our democracy. However, while the United States is a model of an honorable and just court system most of the time, our constitutional rights are occasionally stretched or broken. The rationale is often national security, but others assert that political shenanigans and moral lapses are the real culprits. One instance when constitutional rights were suspended was the case of Mary Surratt. Surratt was one of eight people accused in the plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. Her story is explored in the film The Conspirator, released on April 15, 2011, to coincide with the anniversary of Lincoln’s death and the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. In this article, I analyze The Conspirator through four questions that teachers can apply to any historical film they show.1
The Case of Mary Surratt

The Conspirator as Hollywood Text

Although Mary Surratt denied any involvement in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, on June 30, 1865, she was condemned to hang for treason, conspiracy, and plotting murder. Surratt was the only woman standing trial in the plot to kill Lincoln and was the first woman ever executed by the United States government. Surratt was certainly a Confederate sympathizer, and she owned a boarding house where John Wilkes Booth and others convened for some of the assassination planning. 2 But was she guilty of participating in the conspiracy, and did she receive a fair trial? Surratt was not convicted by a jury of her peers, nor was she afforded many of the other rights to a fair trial. Instead, she was tried by a nine-member military commission. President Andrew Johnson signed her

death warrant despite a recommendation from the military judges that her sentence be commuted to life in prison.
The Conspirator

Hollywood is famous for creating “visual texts” that bring the past to life, broaden traditional historical narratives, connect the past and the present, and enrich our understanding of the past. Hollywood is also infamous for creating composite characters, distorting historical time, playing loose with the historical record, and “enhancing” films with fictional elements.4 When evaluating a “Hollywood history” film as an historical text there are four particularly relevant and revealing questions that teachers can ask: How accurate is the film? Particularly, where does the film use historical evidence, and where does it stray from the historical record? What perspectives does the film promote or empathize with? Whose point of view dominates? How is the film a reflection of the time in which it was created? What educational opportunities does the film create?

The Conspirator is the first film created by The American Film Company, a studio established explicitly to produce films that tell “true” narratives about the American past. In an interview for this article, CEO Alfred Levitt said that prominent historians play a critical role in making the company’s films so that “each production remains true to the history from which it is drawn.”3 Directed by Robert Redford and starring James McAvoy as Frederick Aiken (Surratt’s attorney), Kevin Kline as Secretary of War Stanton, and Robin Wright as Mary Surratt, the film’s central narrative revolves around Surratt’s trial and her interactions with Aiken.
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The hanging of Mary Surratt (far left) and three other conspirators, July 7, 1865.
(Courtesy of the Library of Congress, LC-DIGcwpb-04230)

Here, I answer these questions for The Conspirator. Accuracy As an historical text The Conspirator does better than the average Hollywood film at adhering to the historical record, though it is not devoid of typical Hollywood conventions. Screenwriter James Solomon began work on the script in the early 1990s. In an interview for this article, he explained how he used court transcripts from Surratt’s trial, press accounts, and journal entries to recreate the trial and overall historical events. The American Film Company then vetted the script through several historians, including James McPherson. These historians stayed on as consultants throughout filming. While the film’s accuracy is enhanced through the use of historical documents and historians, there are gaps in the historical record. CEO Levitt explained that the film takes some dramatic license to fill in those gaps because “history doesn’t record every single moment, every conversation or thought.” Therefore, according to screen-

writer Solomon, he had to do his best to recreate the courtroom audience reaction and conversations that took place outside of the courtroom, particularly between Surratt and Aiken during his visits to her jail cell. And, says Levitt, the film had to honor the way people really spoke during the period while balancing that with language and a style to which modern audiences could relate. However, what Solomon said was his most daunting challenge in terms of historical accuracy was recreating the emotions of characters, how they might feel about or react to a particular event. For emotional accuracy he relied on reading diaries of the time to understand people’s feelings and emotions. Finally, the film’s creators went to great lengths to accurately portray the historical setting (clothing, buildings, hair style, etc.). For example, to recreate the look of wallpaper for scenes shot indoors, they steamed period style wallpaper with tobacco smoke. Perspectives and Point of View There are two aspects of The Conspirator related to perspective that merit discusS e p t e m b e r 2 0 11 197

sion: the point of view from which the narrative unfolds and the perspectives on Surratt’s innocence or guilt. The Conspirator is about Mary Surratt, but the narrative is told through the character of her attorney, Frederick Aiken. Aiken was a civil war hero who reluctantly took the case. This point of view helps the audience connect to the film through a good-looking and intelligent war hero who is unsure of Surratt’s innocence or guilt. It allows Secretary Stanton to be a clear antagonist and presents the audience with a choice about whether to believe Surratt’s innocent plea. I asked Solomon why he chose Aiken’s perspective as the narrative device through which to tell the story. Solomon did not offer a complicated rationale, but said he chose Aiken simply because he connected emotionally to the character. When he began writing and researching the screenplay, Solomon was similar in age to Aiken and was dealing with similar issues of personal responsibility and loyalty to family and friends. Solomon is also a former journalist, as was Aiken. Interestingly, Solomon remarked that were he starting

the script today, he would be more likely to tell the story through the point of view of Surratt or perhaps Stanton. Solomon is now older, married, and a father (one of his children is named Lincoln). With his new perspective as a parent and as an older person, he now feels stronger connections with these other two characters. Solomon commented that another significant tribulation was deciding how the film would portray Surrat’s innocence or guilt. What did she know or not know? Solomon asked this question as he searched through historical documents. His approach was to let the film provide a degree of ambiguity so that ultimately the audience must judge for themselves. What Solomon does do is allow Surratt’s point of view to be heard through Aiken’s character, at least to the degree possible given the available evidence. While the film does not clearly endorse Surratt’s innocence or guilt, it does take a stand that Surratt did not receive a fair trial. Reflection of Today Years from now, it might seem obvious that The Conspirator is a reflection of 2011, particularly the controversial issues surrounding 9/11, and whether accused terrorists should be tried in military or civilian courts. This hypothesis might be reinforced by considering the liberal views of director Robert Redford and the fact that one of the consultants is a military historian who previously was a prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. However, this assumption would be flawed. Solomon began his research and writing long before the 9/11 attacks and even before the first World Trade Center bombings in 1993. Modern day connections between the film and today are more about audience perception than

about the aims of the screenwriter or the original intent of the film. Educational Opportunities We know that films can motivate students, develop historical empathy, reflect the time period in which they were created, bring the past alive, and spark dialogue about controversial issues.5 The Conspirator provides insight into a little known, engaging, and illuminating epi(Photo courtesy of the American Film Company)

highlight the story of a woman or a group of women, especially for the Civil War. Some may argue that this achievement is tempered by the fact that the woman featured is not a clear-cut protagonist; depending on an individual’s response to the film, she could be seen as a protagonist or an antagonist. Nevertheless, the film can be used to bring a woman’s perspective into the history classroom and, used in conjunction with other sources, to explore issues of women’s agency in history. For a set of guiding questions and excellent activities about the right to a fair trial, women in history, and the impact of presidential assassinations, download the film’s education guide (see Teacher Resources). As teachers continue to evaluate the potential of Hollywood history films for use in the classroom, the four questions presented here around accuracy, perspective, reflection of time period, and educational opportunities, can guide their analysis and pedagogical decisions.
Notes 1. A special thanks to Kimberly Birbrower (from Big Picture Instructional Design), Alfred Levitt (CEO of the American Film Company), and Jim Solomon (the screenwriter and researcher for The Conspirator) for providing background about the film and for being supportive and enthusiastic. 2. The original plot was to kidnap President Lincoln, not kill him. 3. http://theamericanfilmcompany.com/about. 4. Alan S. Marcus, Scott Alan Metzger, Richard J. Paxton, & Jeremy D. Stoddard Teaching History with Film: Strategies for Secondary Social Studies. (New York: Routledge, 2010). 5. Ibid.

Robin Wright as Mary Surratt.

sode that is rarely covered in textbooks or curricular standards. However, the film’s ultimate strengths as a teaching tool revolve around two characteristics. First, the film highlights dilemmas inherent in a democracy. In this case, individual rights pitted against national security concerns, particularly the fundamental issue of a right to a fair trial. This was both a historical legal and moral quandary and is reflected in a contemporary context. Second, the film tells the story of a woman. The past is often focused on the role of men, particularly in film. Few films
Teacher Resources

Alan S. Marcus (alan.marcus@uconn.edu) is associate professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction Neag School of Education, the University of Connecticut, Storrs, Conn.

Official Education Guide for The Conspirator, www.conspiratorthemovie.com/images/resources/study_guide_conspirator.pdf Mary Surratt House Museum, www.surratt.org/ Library of Congress Documents on the Assassination Trials, www.loc.gov/law/help/rare-books/lincoln.php#trials Women and the Civil War, Civil War Wives, Carol Berkin (New York: Alfred Knopf Publishers, 2009).

S o c i a l E d u c at i o n 198

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