TEACHING

Ben Wright offers courses in American history, African American history, the Atlantic World, and the digital humanities. All of his courses require students to perform as historians: analyzing primary documents, crafting arguments based on these documents, and evaluating the arguments of other historians. Students of history become careful readers, creative thinkers, and clear communicators—all essential skills for success in contemporary life.

 

Wright is also the managing editor of Teaching United States History, where his writings

on pedagogy are publicly available

 

 

Courses offered at the University of Texas at Dallas

Syllabi are available upon request

HIST 1301 - U.S. History to 1865 

This course covers the main themes of U.S. History through 1865. The first objective of this course is to provide an overview of American history through the Civil War. We will study the main political, economic, social, and cultural developments during this period so that you will have a basic understanding of the chronology of U.S. history. Another objective is to enhance your ability to evaluate historical information. An adequate overview of any historical period requires a balance of factual knowledge and critical analysis. Memorization of facts is useless without an understanding how they fit into a bigger picture. In critically evaluating historical information, we will together assess the relative benefits of the three primary means of historical presentation: These are works of academic, public, and popular history. The course will require a good bit of reading, discussion and writing.  In addition to the examination of U.S. History, this course is also designed to improve your skills as a college student and modern professional, making you more educated, employable, and interesting.

HIST 2331 - Slavery and Abolition

Harriet Jacobs wrote in 1860, "No pen can give an adequate description of the all-pervading corruption produced by slavery." Despite this impossibility, studying slavery offers a window into the depths of human suffering and heights of moral potential. This material is difficult and sometimes even demoralizing, but in the endurance, resistance, and ultimate liberation of the enslaved, we also find some of the most inspiring and meaningful stories that history can offer. This course explores the creation and eventual destruction of chattel slavery in the United States and the Atlantic World. But the destruction of chattel slavery did not mean the end of human bondage. We will also explore how slavery continued and transformed since emancipation.

 

This course has two purposes: The first is to gain a broad understanding of slavery and abolition in the history of the United States and the Atlantic World. The second is to develop skills in critical thinking, research, and communication. To pursue these goals, the course will include two phases. The first will be a discussion-driven seminar surveying the broad contours of scholarship on slavery and abolition. During these weeks, students will write short weekly reflection papers. The second will be a guided research seminar where students will produce a work of original research with the expectation that this research will be presented and/or published. The course will devote considerable class time to training and supporting students as they research and write. Small, structured assignments will walk students through the process of conducting historical research and communicating ideas in clear, convincing fashion. 

HIST 2332 - Civil War and Reconstruction

The Civil War is the crucible of American history. Less than a centry after the birth of the United States, the nation was nearly torn apart. The war brought an unprecedented experience of death, suffering, and ultimately a new birth of freedom, a new birth that was, in many ways, stillborn. This course centers on the time of reckoning for the original sin of slavery in the United States. Students explore the causes of the Civil War, the lived experience of men and women during the war years, the trial of Reconstruction, and the place of the Civil War in American memory. Particular attention is paid to the role of slavery and emancipation in the era. 

ARHM 3342 / HIST 2330 - Introduction to Digital Humanities

Our world is increasingly digital. What does this mean? How does the digital turn change the way that we research and communicate humanistic knowledge? What is gained and what is lost by these changes? 

 

This course has four goals. Students will analyze theoretical issues in the emerging field of digital humanities. Students will gain experience with basic tools used by practitioners of the digital humanities, including, but not limited to, GIS programs, public curatorial platforms, web design, social media analytics, and basic Python programming. Students will engage with ongoing conversations on how works of digital scholarship should be evaluated and then use these lessons to evaluate notable works of digital scholarship, focusing on projects related to the history of slavery. Finally, students will produce an original work of digital scholarship. 

HIST 6332 - Slavery in America

Harriet Jacobs wrote in 1860, "No pen can give an adequate description of the all-pervading corruption produced by slavery." Despite this impossibility, studying slavery offers a window into the depths of human suffering and heights of moral potential. This material is difficult and sometimes even demoralizing, but in the endurance, resistance, and ultimate liberation of the enslaved, we also find some of the most inspiring and meaningful stories that history can offer. This course explores the creation and eventual destruction of chattel slavery in the United States and the Atlantic World. But the destruction of chattel slavery did not mean the end of human bondage. We will also explore how slavery continued and transformed since emancipation.

 

It is the goal of this class to prepare you for a career as a researcher, teacher, archivist, or curator. Graduate courses in history often ignore the fact that most historians are not primarily researchers, but rather teachers, curators, or interpreters. This course attempts to reflect the diversity of careers in history through differentiated assessment. Students will be encouraged to select the final assessment that is most relevant to their professional ambitions, whether it is a research paper, teaching portfolio, primary source anthology, or museum exhibit. 

HIST 6390 - Digital Humanities

Our world is increasingly digital. What does this mean? How does the digital turn change the way that we research and communicate humanistic knowledge? What is gained and what is lost by these changes? 

 

This course has four goals. Students will analyze theoretical issues in the emerging field of digital humanities. Students will gain experience with basic tools used by practitioners of the digital humanities, including, but not limited to, GIS programs, public curatorial platforms, web design, social media analytics, and basic Python programming. Students will engage with ongoing conversations on how works of digital scholarship should be evaluated and then use these lessons to evaluate notable works of digital scholarship, focusing on projects related to the history of slavery. Finally, students will produce an original work of digital scholarship.