Fall Inservices: King Assassination, Calif. Gold Rush, Sultana disaster, The Suck, more


As always, events will run from 4 to 6 pm Central Time (5 to 7 Eastern). As always, attending teachers will receive a certificate showing two hours of professional development.

Here’s the remainder of the fall lineup:

Perresquia speaks at a TN History for Kids event in Memphis in July 2021

Thursday, October 5: Marc Perrusquia on The Assassination of Martin Luther King and the events that led up to it

April 4, 1968, may have been the most important date in Tennessee history. In this presentation, Marc Perrusquia, director of the institute for public service reporting at the University of Memphis, will go over in great detail the causes of the 1968 Sanitation Workers strike and all the events that took place that fateful week. He will talk about why the national guard was called out, what the mood was like in Memphis, who Ernest Withers was, and why Martin Luther King very nearly didn’t make his “I have been to the mountaintop” speech, which turned out to be his last .

Click here to register for the October 5 event.


Carol Moore and Barry Thacker of the Coal Creek Watershed Foundation

Thursday, October 19: Barry Thacker on the Coal Creek Wars and History Bill on Voting Rights and Laws of the late 1800s in Tennessee.

First, the Coal Creek Wars: The 13th Amendment abolished slavery, except as punishment for crime. The Tennessee legislature used that loophole to enslave the state’s convicts—many of them young black men from Nashville and Memphis—and force them to work in the coal mines of East Tennessee. That is until Coal Creek miners went to war with the Tennessee National Guard to end the practice. Tragically, hundreds of those miners who fought to end convict leasing died in one of Tennessee’s most tragic disasters. These stories and more will be told by living-historian David R. Thomas who will time-travel from Coal Creek’s past to bring that history to life. 

Part Two: The generation after the Civil War saw major changes in Tennessee’s voting laws — first in 1867 and then in 1890. The first wave of change resulted in a few African-American men being elected to public office in Tennessee; the second wave of change saw to it that almost no Black people were elected to public office in Tennessee until the 1960s. History Bill explains these changes and why they are important. By the end of this presentation, teachers will know how it was that illiterate people could vote in the 1870s; what the Dortch Law was; how the poll tax worked; how both Shelby and Davidson Counties were reorganized to discourage African-American involvement; and how both the Baker vs. Carr lawsuit and the 1965 Voting Rights Act changed everything.

Click here to register for the October 19 event.


Our tour guide to the Sutter’s Mill site will be Holly Thane of California State Parks (photo courtesy of Placerville Mountain Democrat newspaper)

October 26: A Live Broadcast from Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park in California

The 1848 discovery of gold in California is one of the most important events in American history. It not only ensured that the country’s population would spread to the Pacific coast faster than anyone could have predicted, it fueled the east-west migration that would lead to Civil War.

On Oct. 26, we’ll take you to a place about half way between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe.

In this incredible 2-hour inservice, Holly Thane of California State Parks will take us on a detailed tour of the site where gold was discovered, and tell us some of the things students in California learn about the gold rush. (She’s done this sort of thing before, but NEVER with an audience that is not in a Pacific Coast State. WE ARE THE FIRST!!!)

Click here to register for the October 26 event.


Collegedale Public Library image

Wednesday, November 1: Dragging Canoe (Joe Guy) and “The Suck — Noun, not Verb” (History Bill).

Dragging Canoe was the chief who helped form and led the warlike band of the Cherokee known as the Chickamaugans near present-day Chattanooga area in the late 18th century. Legends about this man remain. Archenemy to Middle Tennessee’s settlers, he is considered by some to have been the greatest Native American warrior in the southeast. But who was he? And what do we really know about his life, his relationship with his father, his leadership, his people and his death? McMinn County historian Joe Guy will present (and you’d better listen up, because he’s also the sheriff down that way!)

Donald Davidson map

Part Two: Early Tennessee history was shaped by the legendary navigation barriers downstream from present-day Chattanooga (where the Chickamaugans resided). But what WAS the Suck, the Frying Pan, the Skillet, etc.?; What are some of the events we KNOW occurred in this area? How long did it take the Tennessee Electric Power Company to get rid of it?And why did Johnny Cash decide to end his life there? (But instead found Jesus in a cave there.) History Bill has the unforgettable presentation about a place your students will want to know about.

Click here to register for November 1.

Calvin Sneed stands in front of an old toll bridge (Calvin Sneed photo)

Wednesday, November 8: Ferries and Bridges: How Crossing Bodies of Water has Changed Tennessee Life 

Part One: Tennessee used to have upwards of eight HUNDRED ferries! With fascinating photos and newspaper articles, History Bill will explain what ferries were like and how they affected our lifestyle and institutions (college football, for instance!)

Part Two: Chattanooga news anchor, columnist and lifelong Tennessee resident Calvin Sneed is crazy about bridges. He’s taken more photos and done more research on Tennessee’s bridges than anyone alive. In this presentation, Sneed will tell teachers why teaching students about bridges will open their eyes to history and a new view of the world. He will also focus on TOLL bridges — Tennessee used to have 17 of them — where they were, how much it cost to use them, how quickly they paid for themselves, and why we don’t have them anymore.

Click here to register for November 8.


Wednesday, November 15:  Fayette County’s Tent City Movement (Robert Hamburger) and the Lynching Sites Project (John Ashworth)

In 1965, graduate student Robert Hamburger visited Fayette County — a part of Tennessee where African Americans were still suffering the consequences of their attempt to fight for voting rights in the Tent City Movement which began about six years earlier. The end result of Hamburger’s experience was his 1973 book Our Portion of Hell, which told first-person accounts of that struggle from the point of view of people such as local farmers Harpman and Minnie Jameson. In this presentation, the now-retired author will retell the stories of people such as the Jamesons and explain how his time “in hell” affected his life.

John Ashworth speaks at a TN History for Kids event in July 2021

Part Two: We’ve always known there were lynchings in Tennessee, but until fairly recently, no one had ever compiled a list of them or mapped them. Brownsville native (and Vietnam veteran) John Ashworth is one of organizers of the Lynching Sites Project, and one of the many things that the project has done is create a detailed data base of Tennessee’s lynchings and collect details about these events. In this presentation, Ashworth will explain to teachers how their students can learn more about the project, and (more importantly) how they can dig up more about the history of their part of Tennessee.

Click here to register for November 15.