Month In History

Discover the global events and personal stories of January

January 1, 1865

John F. Kennedy and Service

COMPELLING QUESTION: What does it mean to live a life of service? Why is Kennedy’s emphasis on service to the greater community and world important today?

Description: Students will work in groups to better understand the reasoning behind President John F. Kennedy’s emphasis on service in creating government programs such as the Peace Corps. Students will research different kinds of service in the world today: service in their community, government service, military service, etc. and create a short “Ask Not” video making the case for the value of a particular kind of service. 

January 1, 1920

The Centennial of the Women’s Right to Vote: The Presidential Election of 1920

With the Help of New Women Voters, Harding Wins in a Landslide – But Still Sees the Presidency as a Prison Term

January 1, 1850

Abraham Lincoln and the Jews

COMPELLING QUESTION: What were Abraham Lincoln’s attitudes toward religious minorities such as Jews and Catholics and how did it differ from others at the time?

Description: Students will work in groups to plan a temporary exhibit intended for visitors to a historic site or museum related to Abraham Lincoln. The exhibit will concern Abraham Lincoln’s attitude toward religious minorities. Students will analyze primary sources and select three they would like to include in their exhibit. From analyzing their sources, students will develop a “thesis” or argument that the exhibit will convey to their audience.

January 1, 1819

The Bicentennial of Herman Melville’s Birth

It wasn’t until he visited the Holy Land and wrote the longest poem in American literature about it, though, that he  gave up the idea of ever publishing again. He was finished: Clarel: A Poem and Pilgrimage in the Holy Land did him in.

Mark Twain, 1907. A.F. Bradley. Library of Congress.
January 1, 1887

Read Across America Day – Mark Twain Lists His Favorite Books For Children, and Himself

It’s noble to teach oneself, Mark Twain once remarked, but still nobler to teach others – and less trouble.

January 1, 1852

Mark Twain and the Adams Colony

American colonists followed preacher George J. Adams from New England to Ottoman-ruled Palestine on a messianic mission to prepare the Holy Land for the return of the Jews. “We are going to become practical benefactors of the land and the people,” Adams stated, “to take the lead in developing its great resources.” A year after arriving, some of these impoverished colonists wanted a ticket home. It was at that moment that author Mark Twain came to town while on a five-month pleasure trip through Europe and the Middle East.

January 1, 1911

Theodore Roosevelt and the 1912 Election

COMPELLING QUESTION: What qualities did Teddy Roosevelt possess that made his third party campaign appealing to voters

Description: It’s October of 1912 and Theodore Roosevelt is in the hospital after being shot while giving a campaign speech. Students will play the role of campaign advisors and work in groups to better understand Roosevelt and the election by analyzing primary sources. Then each group will create a campaign poster promoting Roosevelt’s candidacy. Students will consider what the key issues are in the election and how their poster will attract voters to Roosevelt’s campaign.

January 1, 1865

Americans Tourists in the Holy Land, 1865-1900

COMPELLING QUESTIONS: How were Americans able to visit the “Holy Land” in increasing numbers in the 1865-1900 period? What reasons did they have for going?

Description: Students take on the role of running a travel business in the United States in the 1880s. Their business will advertise travel itineraries to the “Holy Land,” (then called Ottoman Palestine, present-day Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territory). Using primary sources and secondary sources as their “guide” students will develop a reason for traveling, the route and transportation, and where they will visit. Students will work in groups to create a brochure or other advertisement complete with travel posters, tickets, and maps that will communicate the travelers’ motivation for taking the trip (alternatively, teachers may have students create a digital brochure or advertisement or a tour using Google Earth).

January 5, 1895

The Alfred Dreyfus Degradation Ceremony – Paris, France

The Dreyfus Affair was “one of the great commotions of history. ” It began in 1894 against a backdrop of espionage and antisemitism, when Jewish French Army captain, Alfred Dreyfus, was wrongly convicted of treason and sentenced to life imprisonment.

January 13, 1919

The 100th Commemoration of the Death of Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt, having wanted his whole life to be the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral, finally got at least half of his wish when, on January 8, 1919, he was buried, quietly, in his parish church in Oyster Bay. Reporters watching as President Wilson read the message that Roosevelt had died, swore he broke into a wide transcendent smile. Why, is the story told here, in one of the very last letters Roosevelt ever wrote…

January 13, 1743

Thomas Jefferson’s Birthday: JFK on Jefferson

President Kennedy laments he hasn’t time to write about Thomas Jefferson, and then carefully does so.

January 19, 1865

Lincoln Asks Grant, Not As President But As a Friend, For a Favor: Find a Place For His Son, Robert, on His Staff

Lincoln may have been hailed, during the Civil War, as the Father of the Nation, but at home, with his eldest son Robert, Lincoln was mostly the President of the United States.

January 20, 1961

A New Presidency: The First 100 Days

Truman on Kennedy: inexperienced and hopeful.

January 28, 1986

The Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster

Schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe Writes About Her Excitement Going into Space on the Ill-Fated Challenger.
On January 28, 1986, the NASA Space Shuttle orbiter Challenger lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida at 11:38 EST and, 73 seconds into its flight, exploded nine miles above the Atlantic Ocean. All seven crew members were killed, including 37 year-old McAuliffe, who had been selected from 11,000 applicants to be a “Teacher in Space.” Largely because of her presence, some 17% of Americans watched the live coverage of the launch.

January 30, 1933

The Holocaust

Manuscripts exploring the mounting dangers before the Holocaust, the devastation it wrought, and the way the Jewish people both resisted in the face of the Holocaust, and re-established their homeland in the wake of it.

January 31, 1967

The Anniversary of the Funeral of the Apollo I Astronauts

President Lyndon B. Johnson writes to the parents of astronauts killed in the Apollo I disaster.



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