History is no more than a record of past events. Some people think that what is in the past is not important. Some people think what has happened in the past can help us plan for the future. Others think that if we don’t learn from past mistakes, we’ll continue to make them.

The when and where of the past are important to understanding the how and the why. How did certain events come about? Why did people act the way they did? Why did colonists think destroying tea — the drink they loved — would solve their tax problems? How did an entire village of people come under the spell of young girls accusing everyone of being witches? Why didn’t more passengers get into lifeboats before the Titanic sunk?

Events happening right now will be part of history tomorrow. Someday people might be interested in what you were doing, or thinking, or making, or  accomplishing. They won’t just want to know your name and the date you did something. They’ll want to know why you did it. They’ll want to know how you accomplished it. They’ll want to know the story behind the event. What kind of history do you want to leave behind?

  • Pearl Harbor
  • Harriet Tubman
  • U.S Constitution
  • Lewis and Clark
When: Early in the morning on Sunday, December 7, 1941
Where: U.S. Naval Base, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
What: Japanese fighter pilots dropped bombs on U. S. battleships moored in Pearl Harbor
Why: Japan was at war with other countries and needed oil and raw materials. If the United States opposed Japan, this small country would be no match for the U. S. military. So Japan decided its best chance was a surprise attack that would cripple the U. S. Navy.
How: The Japanese navy secretly sent an aircraft carrier with fighter planes to a location in the Pacific Ocean. Just before 8:00 in the morning on December 7, 1941, combat planes carried out a surprise attack on the U. S. battleships moored in Pearl Harbor.
Result: Five of the eight U. S. battleships in Pearl Harbor were sunk and the rest were damaged. More than 2,400 Americans were killed. The United States declared war on Japan. The attack on Pearl Harbor inspired many people to join the military and fight in World War II.
When: About 1820 to 1865
Where: United States of America (Maryland, Georgia, Pennsylvania)
What: A secret system to help slaves escape to freedom in northern states and Canada called the Underground Railroad
Why: During the mid-1800s, some states still allowed slavery. Slaves who were willing to risk death for freedom tried escaping to free northern states or Canada.
How: People who agreed to help runaway slaves secretly offered food, shelter, and transportation. These people risked severe punishment if they were caught helping slaves to escape. They often had secret signals, such as a quilt handing on a clothesline, to let slaves know they were a safe stop on the Underground Railroad .
Result: Harriet Tubman made 19 trips and brought more than 30 people to freedom on the Underground Railroad. Slavery ended in 1865 with the end of the Civil War and the passage of the 13th Amendment.
When: 1776 to 1789
Where: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
What: A 4,543-word document outlining the United States government and its functions
Why: After the Revolutionary War, the Articles of Confederation left the new United States weak and nearly out of money. A new form of government was needed.
How: Fifty-five representatives met in Philadelphia to create a new and better government for the United States of America
Result: The U. S. Constitution created a government that has worked for over 200 years. Many other countries have modeled their own governments after the U.S. Constitution.
When: When: 1804 to 1806
Where: St. Louis, Missouri, west to the Pacific Ocean
What: A trip, sponsored by the U. S. government, to explore land west of the Mississippi River and discover a water route to the Pacific Ocean
Why: After the Louisiana Purchase, President Thomas Jefferson wanted to know about the land, animals, plants, and waterways in this huge unexplored area of land.
How: Meriwether Lewis and William Clark guided a crew of soldiers and frontiersmen to travel in keelboats and overland. Along the way, Native Americans helped this corps of men with food, horses, and guidance.
Result: The Corps of Discovery helped expand the western frontier. Lewis and Clark brought back maps of the west including major rivers and mountain ranges. The corps observed and described 178 plants and 122 species of animals.