We Persisted: Teaching American Cultural History in the Pandemic

Written by
Jamie Saxon, Office of Communications
April 29, 2020

When Rhae Lynn Barnes designed the syllabus for her spring course “People Get Ready: American Cultural History: 1800-1970,” that hard stop at 1970 was intentional. But the coronavirus pandemic changed her viewpoint in unexpected ways.

“I have long used the excuse that historians need adequate distance from historical events to fully understand their implications and significance — which is true,” she said. But when the University transitioned to remote teaching on March 23, Barnes not only pivoted the course content, she also leaned in to her expertise in digital humanities to bring topics to life.

Barnes, an assistant professor of history, also saw an opportunity to help other educators and launched “The Show Must Go On: American Culture in Times of Crisis,” a free curriculum of lesson plans and filmed mini-lectures by leading scholars. Her goal, she said, is to help reduce the workload of millions of teachers and professors on the frontlines of public education during the COVID-19 disruptions.

“History provides models in courage, innovation and the astonishing human capacity to persevere in moments of crisis,” she said.

In this Q&A, Barnes considers how the past is informing her present and how “The Show Must Go On” reflects her commitment to service.

Read more at News at Princeton.

Photo: Operating a hand drill at Vultee-Nashville, a woman is working on a “Vengeance” dive bomber, Tennessee. Photo courtesy of Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division