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Dustin Wood’s Class Visits The Hermitage

Posted by on Tuesday, April 9, 2024 in Spotlights.

The People’s President or King Andrew? Andrew Jackson remains one of the most complex presidents in U.S. history. In his Jackson biography, American Lion, historian Jon Meacham writes, “[Jackson] was the most contradictory of men.” The same man who championed democracy for commoners and saved an Indian orphan from the battlefield was a slaveholder responsible for the forcible removal of native peoples from their lands. Jackson’s contradictions make him a fascinating study whose legacy will long be debated.

Before he was the seventh president of the United States, Jackson was a military hero and Tennessee politician who made his home 15 miles from Vanderbilt University’s campus. Jackson’s 8,000-square foot Greek Revival-style mansion, The Hermitage, is now a historical museum – the second oldest presidential home museum in the United States.

Thanks to the kind folks at The Hermitage, Dr. Dustin Wood’s Histories of Public Communication class had the opportunity to visit Jackson’s home for an immersive educational experience. On their private tour, Wood’s students enriched their knowledge of the man nicknamed “Old Hickory” and the people – free and enslaved – who lived on Jackson’s sprawling, 1000-acre plantation. Touring the mansion and grounds of The Hermitage invited new reflections on what lessons can be learned from the past.

Dr. Wood’s Histories of Public Communication class investigates U.S. history by examining rhetorical texts from the Founding Era through the 21st Century. In doing so, Wood and his students explore themes of identity (What does it mean to be an American? Whose America is this?) and nation creating, building, and sustaining. President Jackson represents a key figure in this historical drama.