Field Notes is a collection of articles curated by students and teachers from around the world detailing their academic experiences.
Prior to my Sophomore year, many of my peers described Advanced Placement United States History (APUSH) as a class where students are destined to fail and learn nothing of importance to life. Yet, I found that APUSH actually proved to be awakening—and frankly quite detrimental—to my understanding of the modern world, our protection of it, and the politics that surround it.
As none of my previous history classes had covered the Civil War, I found APUSH fascinating. The class taught me much more than a lesson on how the United States came to be.
🎥 Watch: AP US History - The Civil War
Rather, it served as a lesson on the protection of minorities and the plights of women. A lesson that taught us that as the next generation, we could be the change that ends in history not being rewritten another time.
As a freshman, I was a subservient student to good grades. Therefore, I suffered from a teacher who constantly started heated political debates in the classroom and segregated students. The teacher later resigned due to accusations of involvement in a white supremacist group.
Most students probably don't relate to such an extreme example as to why they might hate history. But what I went through in my Freshman global studies class ignited a fire inside me. Before I took APUSH, I could not be swayed that another history class wouldn’t be a matter of survival until the school year ended.
Once I reached the end of APUSH, I was able to think to a new degree. I realized that female subordination wasn’t denounced in the 1800s, in the movies of the 1950s and 60s, or even today.
For example, women were abused by their husbands on a regular basis in 20th-century movies. Even now, varying opinions on the purpose of women in society spark arguments in different regions of the world. Some countries still enact laws enabling subordination under male family members.
Another example is how it took until 2018 for women to drive in Saudi Arabia. Before 2018, the Saudi Arabian government forced the majority of Saudi women to be dependent on their husbands for financial support—they could not drive to work on their own.
Due to cultural stigma, many of these women still will not be able to find jobs. Sexism runs rampant from the idea that women are subservient to men.
Girls with Sharp Sticks, by Suzanne Young, is an amazing example of the fight for women’s rights. It is a story of young women chosen to be trained on how to be proper wives. The novel parallels many boarding schools for girls in the early twentieth century. These schools trained women to have “proper responses” to the abuse they would endure by their husbands.
While this is a book I would recommend to anyone interested in the fight for civil rights, I don't recommend it to anyone suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder due to the extreme depictions of abuse.
Ideas from the novel concerning civil rights don't only apply to women, but they also apply to African-Americans and other ethnic groups living in the United States.
One of the most common examples is African-American slaves. The Thirteenth Amendment in 1865 was the first law that finally freed the slaves. Before the early 1800s, slavers took Africans from their homeland to America on a journey called the Middle Passage.
At least two million of them horrifically died from causes such as dysentery, measles, scurvy, and smallpox.
They lived in overcrowded conditions with urine and feces riddling their living place: the lower deck.
Simply ending the problem of slavery only led to more complex problems, however. Racism was still rampant within the United States. Well into the 1950s, African-Americans suffered from the “separate but equal” ideology of Jim Crow laws. They were more likely to live in poverty compared to Caucasian citizens.
⚡ Read: AP US History - The "New South"
Another ethnic group that became incorporated into the framework of the United States includes Mexican-Americans. These Mexican-Americans lived in Texas and other states that became annexed into the United States during the Mexican-American War. They have been discriminated against since the declaration of the US Constitution.
As Nativist sentiment grew, those coming from Europe due to the Irish Potato Famine and other catastrophes around the 1870s would be met with similar hate.
Additionally, Chinese-Americans and other Asians were blamed with job loss for nonimmigrant Americans. The United States even barred the immigration of some Asian ethnic groups.
⚡ Read: AP US History - Responses to Immigration
In the lessons you learn from United States History, AP or not, the true value lies within what you will take with you.
For me, the takeaway of APUSH was our generation's human rights political movements. This includes the rights of women and ethnic groups across the globe seeking to immigrate to the United States.