2020-2021 Seminar Schedule

As a part of  the university’s plan to limit in-person conferences, the RCHA’s High School Teachers Institute will deliver its seminars online for the Fall semester. We will continue our programming  with the following modifications:

  • Maintain the existing calendar of seminars.
  • Reduce the length of the seminar from full-day to two 45- minute lectures starting at 10:00 AM,  with a coffee break in between and a Q & A session afterwards.
  • Run the seminars in real time on a platform that will allow it to be as interactive as possible
  • Record the sessions so that teachers who can't attend can access it at a later date.
  • Make the seminars free to participants as an outreach gesture.
  • Post both the lectures and the PowerPoints on the RCHA website.
  • Continue to offer Professional Development certificates to attendees.
  • Cap attendance to ensure audience size is manageable.The Fall seminars are being offered at no charge, but you must register in advance. 
Please click here for important information on the Institute and its policies.

Fall Semester 2020


The Making of Slavery in Latin America and the Caribbean

September 25, 2020

Yesenia Barragan, Associate Professor, Department of History, Rutgers University

Over 90% of an estimated 12.5 million African descended people who were kidnapped and forced to cross the Atlantic Ocean as slaves were brought to Latin America and the Caribbean— a fact little known to Americans. This seminar explores the making of slavery in Latin America and the Caribbean over the course of three centuries. We will first examine Africa and the rise of the trans-Atlantic slave trade in the sixteenth century, with a focus on economics and the social experiences of African captives. We will then analyze the economic, social, and geographic dynamics of three main kinds of slavery that developed in the region: sugar, gold mining, and urban slavery—from Brazil and Colombia, to Cuba and Mexico. Finally, we will explore the making of spiritual and ethnic cultures that developed among enslaved Africans and their descendants, including the Brazilian martial art of capoeira and the Afro-Cuban religious tradition of Santeria. Overall, the seminar will serve as an introduction to the everyday lives of enslaved Africans and their descendants as they lived, labored, and resisted across Latin America and the Caribbean. 


Accidents and Disaster in the US and the World

October 16, 2020

 Jamie Pietruska, Associate Professor, Department of History, Rutgers University

Although accidents and disasters are often perceived as isolated, rare events, they have become increasingly central to the history of the United States and the world over the past four centuries. Through efforts to anticipate hazards, develop new tools for risk management, build infrastructures for relief, expand government capacity for disaster response, and remember victims, accidents and disasters have become a part of everyday life. In this seminar, we will begin with an introduction to some concepts (including normal accidents, unnatural disasters, and disaster capitalism) that scholars have used to understand risk and catastrophe in modern life. Then we will trace the history of hurricane prediction, beginning with knowledge about hurricanes in the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Atlantic World, then examining the late nineteenth-century use of telegraph networks for storm tracking and the creation of the U.S. hurricane reporting network in the West Indies during the Spanish-Cuban-American War, and concluding with computerized hurricane forecast models in the context of Hurricane Katrina. The seminar will also suggest ways to incorporate the history of hurricane forecasting into broader themes in U.S. history courses, including American imperial expansion, the growth of federal administrative capacity, and racialized patterns of housing and transportation in American cities.


African American Young Women, Brown vs. Board of Education, and the Long Civil Rights Movement

October 30, 2020

 Rachel Devlin, Associate Professor of History, Rutgers University

Brown vs. Board of Education has been called “The Case of the Century” and “the finest hour of American law.”  This workshop will examine how and why African American young women and girls led the fight to bring Brown to fruition and then, in vastly disproportionate numbers, volunteered to desegregate historically white schools in the early nineteen sixties.  In the process we will examine the everyday lives of black girls at midcentury with an eye toward understanding the particular skills and commitment they brought to school desegregation in particular and the larger civil rights movement in general.   We will follow girls through the arduous process of filing desegregation law suites and into formerly all-white schools where they were met with daily violence, harassment and social ostracism.   We will consider their oral histories, keeping in mind how individual women chose to tell their stories of what was, by all accounts, a war inside American public schools.  We will also consider how girls and young women fought back against sexual harassment and violence, the outsized role women played in the Montgomery bus boycott and other landmark civil rights protests, and how their activism informed the civil rights movement as a whole from the 1940s through the 1960s.


The World of the Gothic Cathedral: From the Building of Chartres to the Burning of Notre Dame

November 13, 2020

Anthony Di Battista, Lecturer, Department of History, Rutgers University

Gothic Cathedrals are the most beautiful and the most visible remainders of the Middle Ages. They required generations of laborers to construct them, and in the modern era are still used every day for precisely the same purpose for which they were built.This seminar will examine the world that fostered the construction of these edifices: the economic changes necessary to build on a monumental scale, the role of pilgrimage, the technical challenges, and the flowering of the Gothic style across Europe.