I bumped into Reel American History some time ago, thought it was pretty cool and promptly forgot about it.  During a recent NetVibes RSS purge, I ran across another mention of the site that jogged my memory. (Of course, I can’t remember now who mentioned so if it was you . . . um, thanks.)

Reel American History suggests that

Film writes history with lightning. So how are we being shaped by history at the movies? Compare the “reel” with the “real” through detailed case studies from the extensive syllabus of films about American history.

You can find case studies on 30 different movies that cover a wide range of US history such as 1492: Conquest of Paradise and Hotel Rwanda. There is also a huge list of movies aligned to specific time periods and events. There are resources for both teachers and students as well as a nice bibliography.

The site is part of a larger site called History on Trial. All of the content on the site is created and maintained by a group of Lehigh University students. The goal of the larger site is to provide resources that address provocative questions in history:

  • The Pocahontas Archive

    Did she, or didn’t she? Save John Smith, that is. Use the extensive list of materials here to explore this and many other questions about the representation of the saintly but shadowy Indian Princess whose presence hallows our Capitol rotunda.

  • The Literature of Justification

    What right had the first “discoverers” of America to make war on and take land from the Native Americans? Case studies of European justification strategies in the various contact zones and our own Supreme Court decisions regarding Indian land rights.

  • The Enola Gay Controversy

    How do we remember a war that we won? Was the atomic bomb – our knock-out punch – a beneficent end or an ominous beginning? Decide for yourself as you follow the National Air and Space Museum’s plan to exhibit the plane that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima.

  • The Vietnam Wall Controversy

    How do we remember a war that we “lost”? Can we understand the emotions that caused Maya Lin’s serene “rift in the earth” to be denounced as a “black gash of shame and sorrow”? Relive the multi-leveled controversy over the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Some nice stuff that forces kids to really dig into some pretty powerful issues.

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