Eichenlaub Antebellum Party

A Party for the Ages


Amanda Mathis

Students participate in the Antebellum Dinner Party

Amanda Mathis, Staff Writer

Every year, Mrs. Julie Eichenlaub, Menchville’s AP U.S. History teacher, uses a variety of teaching methods to prepare her students. One of these methods is a “Dinner Party” during which the students are assigned a person of historical significance to research. This particular party was dubbed the Antebellum Dinner Party and took place during the early-mid 1800s.  During the dinner parties, students sit in a student-led circle, representing their historical figures. In these conversations the students, acting as the figures, address issues that had effect during the given time period such as, “Can social justice be achieved under the present system of government?” “Is human nature fundamentally good or bad?” and “What makes a good society?” This helps the students gain a more accurate view of historical events as they speak through the mouths of the past. All students get a chance to speak on the presented issues and often debate from opposing points of view. They receive insight on the opinions of the people that helped shape America, so they not only learn the facts they will be tested on, but gain knowledge to help them get a deeper understanding of the past to help them make better choices for the future.

Sometimes the students do not share the opinion of the person they are researching, but this only helps them better understand why those people formed their opinions and what caused them to take the actions they did. For example, one of the questions asked of the students was “Can legislation change human behavior?”  Susan B. Anthony (Jessica Von Schmidt Pauli) felt legislation should be changed to improve the rights of women, and if that is done, then human thinking will change to favor equal rights for all. Another response sparked a debate between three men, Henry Clay (Issac Hughes) , Frederick Douglass (Benjamin Mitchell), and John Brown (Joshua Cerny). Clay said “… if a law/legislation is based on correct morals, it will be mostly followed unless morally incorrect…” then Douglass followed with “…government and legislation will not change the attitudes of the people, it will change their fear of punishment which will change their actions…” All of this was concluded with a completely different view from Brown, stating “Violence is the only way to alter the attitudes of the people.” So, despite not necessarily being the most favored opinion, the students still learn from the perspectives of the time period and gain a deeper understanding of the past.