Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

March 13, 2014

Briggs kids get ‘Revolutionary’ lesson

TAHLEQUAH — Students at Briggs Public School peered through a window on the Revolutionary War years, thanks to a guest who portrayed three women of the era.

Darci Tucker, from Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, visited the school to speak with students in the fifth and eighth grades and give her “Revolutionary Women” presentation. Tucker’s visit was arranged by Briggs faculty member Marta Ashlock.

“I visited Colonial Williamsburg with the Teacher Institute last summer and we saw Darci Tucker,” Ashlock said. “When we heard she was bringing her tour to Oklahoma, I jumped at the chance, and our superintendent [Stephen R. Haynes] was gracious and said we could bring her to our school.”

Tucker opened by discussing the background of the Revolution, and why momentum for independence swelled in the colonies.

“There were a lot of good reasons to live under the crown,” she said. “The British military was one of the strongest in the world. Shipping was protected by the British navy, and the army had the colonists’ backs.”

Many of the students seemed surprised when Tucker explained the rights of the colonists - especially if they were male and owned property.

“The colonists had more rights than any other people in the world,” she said. “Did they have freedom of speech? Yes, though it wasn’t guaranteed in writing. It was the result of a history of court cases and their understanding of their rights.”

American colonists enjoyed freedoms of the press, assembly and petition. In criminal cases, they received protections and were presumed innocent, but did not have the right to an attorney. They did not have freedom of religion, and paid taxes to the Church of England to support the poor, but were only required to attend church once a month.

“But the colonists began to feel they weren’t being treated as full British subjects,” Tucker said. “Taxation without representation got people marching in the streets. For many years, the colonists elected people to handle laws, including the tax law. They elected people they knew. After the French-Indian War, the British government was in debt, lands won were given to the Indians, and the colonists were told, ‘Oh by the way, we’re levying some new taxes, and you’re not electing your tax representatives anymore.’ That becomes the responsibility of Parliament, which is 3,000 miles across the ocean.”

To illustrate the conflict between loyalists and those advocating independence, Tucker told the students to imagine their teachers had given approval to plan a party  – which the students want to hold at a pool with music and pizza. But the teachers step in, claiming a pool is unsafe, pizza is unhealthy and the music is bad and must be changed.

She asked the students whether they believed the teachers had the right to change the conditions, and a show of hands indicated the kids were split. Those siding with authority said the teachers were in charge, responsible for safety and answerable to parents. Those against said the teachers broke the deal and did not fully understand being a student.

“Being answerable to the parents – that’s sort of like Parliament being answerable to the king,” Tucker said. “Not understanding the students is like Parliament not understanding the colonies.”

Tucker dressed and assumed the characters of three women, then took questions from the students. The first was a fictitious composite named Jane Walker, who goes from inheriting a 350-acre tobacco farm and 25 slaves to a boarding house. Her assets are gambled away by her husband, who then enlists in the army and suffers a mortal wound. She notes that she has little legal recourse.

The second was Elizabeth Thompson, a true historical figure and loyalist who served as a British spy in Charleston, S.C. Her husband, an importer, suffered abuse as a loyalist and fled to London. Thompson was recruited when she housed captured British naval officers in her home.

The third, Deborah Samson, was also a true figure. She disguised herself as a man and adopted male mannerisms to fight in the Revolution for 18 months before being discovered.

The presentation was given to the fifth and eighth grades because the American Revolution is covered in their history instruction.

srowley@tahlequahdailypress.com

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