An Interview with Robert Nasson: The National History Club

Jun 9, 2021 by

Michael F Shaughnessy

  1. Robert, can you first tell our readers a bit about your education and experiences? – 

I majored in political science at Wesleyan University and have always had a deep passion for history, especially United States history. I think a big part of this is that I grew up in Lexington, MA, so I can remember going to the re-enactment of the Battle of Lexington early in the morning with my family. 

  1. How did the National History Club come about ? 

The National History Club was formed in March 2002 to promote the reading, writing, discussion, and enjoyment of history at the secondary school level. It was created under the banner of The Concord Review, and was the idea of Will Fitzhugh, Founder and Editor.

  1. Currently how many members or chapters do you have ? 

We have had over 600 chapters join the NHC and there are currently around 18,000 student members.

  1. Is there one in each of the 50 states? 

We wish! We are still missing Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, and South Dakota.

  1. Now, currently what kinds of projects are these clubs involved with at this time? 

Since we don’t limit the types of activities clubs can participate in it creates for a really wide-range of activities. Some of these include visiting local historical sites and museums, inviting in guest speakers, oral history projects recording veterans in their community, and much more. This year due to COVID, we even launched a monthly speakers series, where we had various figures who shared their experiences with our members through Zoom. They included a Medal of Honor winner and one of the Freedom Riders from the Civil Rights Movement.

  1. As a former history teacher- I know how hard it is to decide what should be taught, who should be taught and what was involved with various historical events. What is your position on this? 

That’s the toughest question these days! I would say this: a history teacher’s responsibility isn’t just to teach their students the material in their class, but rather get them passionate about history to continue learning about it even once they leave that class. There is just too much history to teach it a one-year class.

For example, my AP US History teacher instilled in me a love of history my junior year of high school. There was so much that I learned — and also didn’t learn — because it’s impossible to go from colonial America to the modern day U.S. in just a one year class. But she taught history in such an easy to digest manner, that I was hooked and have been interested in it ever since.

  1. Now, I was not living in 1776- but I know that people were born into that time frame- when slavery did exist- can we hold some new-born baby born on the 4th of July 1776- for the fact that their family owned slaves? 

Sorry, trying to fully understand this question. Are you saying hold that newborn baby responsible for the fact that his family owned slaves?

If so, I don’t think we can hold that person responsible seeing how she was just born at that time and his/her family owned slaves. However, I find it intellectually lazy if people don’t want to acknowledge the inherit advantage that slave owners had over slaves, which repercussions are still felt to this day. So, while I don’t believe in blaming these people, I also don’t want to dismiss their inherit advantage. I know I’m generalizing here but I think you’ll understand my point. 

  1. In your mind, what are some of the most contentious issues facing historians today?   

I’d say stretching the truth to make history seem more exciting. I think we often see this in movies and sometimes books (especially biographies), where people take liberties to spruce up a story. History should be the most accurate representation of an event as possible, whether you like the outcome or not. 

  1. What exactly are you trying to accomplish with these history clubs?  

Simply getting middle and high school students further interested in history outside the classroom. Again, I don’t think it’s possible to become extremely knowledgable about history based on one U.S. or World history class. It’s a constant reading of books, visiting sites, watching documentaries that makes one competent. Students that know history are better citizens as well, and are able to sift through the latest news with a more keen eye. That’s especially important these days in the age of 24-7 news coverage and such a polarized society.

  1. What have I neglected to ask? 

Nothing more on my end – thanks so much!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.