A Memorial Project for a Controversial Figure

  • Learning
Ron Widelec, Upper Division History Teacher

One of the most controversial figures in American history is Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States. During his lifetime, he was beloved by many as the first “man of the people” to be elected president. Yet, others viewed him as a tyrannical figure whose personal and governmental actions were wildly out of step with norms at the time. In recent decades, his support for slavery and involvement in the destruction and displacement of Native Americans has also become a major source of dispute.  

This year, the 11th grade U.S. history classes were tasked with breaking into small groups and designing a memorial for Andrew Jackson that somehow took into account the complex nature of his presidency. They had to write up proposals for their design, backed up by primary and secondary evidence, and submit a visual design. In doing this, students had to learn more about Andrew Jackson and also tackle the problem of how we choose to remember controversial figures from America’s past.

The students came up with a wide range of designs. One group used a architecture program to design a two artistic walls depicting the “two sides” of Andrew Jackson. At the angle were the walls meet, a statue of Jackson is depicted. 

Andrew Jackson Memorial

Another group envisioned a two-sided structure modelled on a redesigned $20 bill, with each side representing a specific view of Andrew Jackson.

Andrew Jackson Memorial
Andrew Jackson Memorial

Another take on the project was a mural that would take up an entire wall.   The images selected depict various actions taken by president Jackson and different perspectives on his legacy.

Andrew Jackson Memorial

One group went with a seemingly more traditional approach to a monument, using a statue of Jackson as a war hero.  The base of the statue was designed to give the appearance of a reflection.  The reflection-like image, however, was not an actual reflection of the statue, but rather that of a Native American slumped over on a horse, reminding views of his role in the removal of thousands of Native Americans from their ancestral homes.

Andrew Jackson Memorial

One group decided to take advantage of modern technology - the laser cutter - and designed a lithophane portrait of Jackson as a prototype of the memorial that could be installed in Louis Amstrong Park in New Orleans and in Osage Park in Oklahoma.

Andrew Jackson Memorial
Andrew Jackson Memorial

In their class presentations, students demonstrated historical understanding and creativity as well as skills in applying knowledge acquired from learning other subjects.

 

  • 11th Grade
  • History
  • Project-based Learning
  • Upper Division
  • Upper Grades Program