Learning About History From Television

Our history classes need an upgrade

Learning About History From Television
Photo by Austrian National Library / Unsplash

I’m a product of the Orange County Public Schools education system. I learned from fantastic teachers who made learning fun and engaging. Though, there are major portions of our American history that simply were not taught in school. Instead, I’ve learned about our major moments in history from unlikely places.

The Tulsa Massacre

In 1921, a white mob destroyed an entire black-owned neighborhood in Tusla, Oklahoma. Violence, murder, and even bombs from planes destroyed an entire generation’s way of life. In the days following the massacre, thousands of black residents were interned and left homeless.

I learned about this horrific event from the TV show, Watchmen.

The show creates an alternative version of United States history, largerly due to the events in the Tulsa Massacre. The series opens with the horror of bombings and the events impact one of the main character’s storylines throughout the season.

The show, produced by HBO, is free to watch this weekend in protest of the President holding a rally in Tulsa, originally scheduled for Juneteeth, another major historical moment I didn’t learn about in school.


Over the last few years, the life of Alexander Hamilton was brought to the forefront by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Today, Alexandar Hamilton is a household name and the early days of the United States are seared into memory thanks to brilliant lyrics and phenomenal choreography. Though, prior to the show’s success, my knowledge of Hamilton was limited to a 90s’ Got Milk? commercial.

The Sea Dragon

I’m a huge fan of 60s-era NASA. Growing up in Central Florida, we learned a lot about astronauts and the Space Race with the USSR. Though, we didn’t learn everything.

The Sea Dragon rocket, designed by NASA in 1962 but never built, was far larger than the Saturn-V and designed to be launched from the ocean. NASA intended the Sea Dragon to be far cheaper to build and launch while providing enough thrust and payload capabilities to deliver an entire space station in a single mission. Plus, the rocket was designed for reusability. Despite these benefits, NASA never pursued the project due to budget cuts.

I learned about the Sea Dragon while watching another alternate history television show, For All Mankind. In the show produced by Apple, Russia beats the US to the moon and the Space Race never ends, propelling technological and political advancements far earlier than our actual history allowed.

Justin Cox Justin Cox

Justin Cox is a donut-loving, word-writing, nonprofit consultant based in Orlando. He also runs The Writing Cooperative on Medium. Come say hello!