Judy Kutulas: How Mary Tyler Moore Helped 1970s America Imagine a New Future

Fictional Mary worked at a television station in Minneapolis even she knew was second rate. Yet it was also so beyond how she imagined her future unfolding that she embraced it with a mixture of gusto and relatable fear. So many of us were in that predicament in the 1970s, jarred out of what was supposed to be our future by the revolutions of the 1960s. Americans identified with Mary far more personally than most previous characters. As someone who studies sitcoms, I could explain to you the structural set-up that facilitated that bonding, but the outcome is what’s more relevant here: that Americans regarded fictional Minnesotan Mary Richards as a real person. They sent letters to the Minneapolis post office addressed to her and made so many pilgrimages to knock on the door of the house featured in the opening credits that they exhausted and angered the actual owners of the house. Real people showed up in the series playing themselves, including first lady Betty Ford, who loved Mary as much as the rest of us.

Lisa A. Lindsay: The “Truth” Behind Our Ancestors

Forty years ago CBS aired the miniseries Roots, based on Alex Haley’s 1976 bestseller in which he traced his own ancestors back to West Africa, followed them to the United States as slaves, and took them forward into freedom. For the first time, a massive audience—roughly half the country’s population—confronted slavery and its legacies through an African American perspective. Roots prompted Americans to search out their own ancestors, particularly in subsequent years as digitization and personal computing brought resources to searchers’ fingertips.Now genealogy’s popularity—attested by the success of ancestry.com and the television show Who Do You Think You Are—makes it tempting to forget that we often shape our ancestors ourselves, even at the expense of historical evidence. Professional historians, in fact, were quick to point out fictions within Roots, a charge Haley accepted by originally calling his book a work of “faction.” I (re)learned this lesson about historical memory myself when it almost derailed the project that became my book, Atlantic Bonds.

Stephen Cushman: Stephen Crane, Historical Researcher

The reason that we in the twenty-first century need to develop these complementary sensibilities is that the Civil War erupted against a standard of literacy different from our own, one with increasingly unfamiliar conventions of reading and writing. Because most of us know what we know about the war primarily through the medium of writing, understanding the war we read about depends to a large extent on our understanding as many historical and aesthetic layers of its writings as possible.

Karina Biondi: The Extinction of Sexual Violence in the Prisons of São Paulo, Brazil

In 1992, in order to contain a riot, police forces invaded the largest prison in Latin America and killed 111 prisoners. The event, known as the Carandiru Massacre, was illustrated in the Brazilian film Carandiru, directed by Hector Babenco. Episodes of sexual violence were frequent, as were violent disputes over material goods and the conquest of spaces within the prison. Another factor that defined the life inside the prison was the financial capacity of the prisoner. There were, therefore, two ways of obtaining material goods and sexual services in prison: money or physical violence.

David S. Brown: America’s Sunbelt Politics: The Story of Three Centuries

Historians and social scientists such as Richard Hofstadter and Daniel Bell first began to use the term “Radical Right” in the 1950s as something of a reaction to McCarthyism. A decade later, with the unexpected presidential candidacy of the Republican Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater accompanied by the growth in wealth, population, and thus political power of many southern states, the term “Sunbelt Right” came into vogue.

Gregg A. Brazinsky: Sino-American Competition Past and Present

Trump’s campaign rhetoric and willingness to aggravate the thorny Taiwan issue have raised hackles in Beijing. Part of the reason for this is that China’s view of itself and its role in the international community differs starkly from Washington’s.

Lisa A. Lindsay: The Enduring Allure of Emigration

The outcome of this nineteenth-century emigration movement offers little comfort for those who would leave today. At least half of the African Americans who settled in West Africa perished of tropical diseases, while others struggled to eke out a living. And they were not welcome there. Though they called their colony Liberia and touted “the love of liberty” in their official motto, the settlers’ encounters with local Africans were marked by violence, condescension, and—ironically—conditions not unlike slavery.

Nora E. Jaffary: Ancient Abortifacients in Modern Mexico

One of the things that surprised me the most was that throughout the colonial period and up until as late as the 1860s, neither community members nor judicial authorities in Mexico seemed particularly troubled that women were procuring abortions.

Lorien Foote: How Slaves Prayed for Yankees during the Civil War

In the fall of 1864, slaves prayed with and for hundreds of Yankee soldiers who sought refuge in their cabins. The words of these prayers reveal slaves’ powerful faith that God would intervene in history to defeat the Confederacy and bring about their freedom.

Michael Jarrett: John Hammond’s Golden Ears

John Hammond’s knack for discovering talent was so uncanny, so unparalleled in the history of American music, that it’s regularly celebrated. It is, however, rarely examined. Perhaps, that’s because scrutiny can come off as suspiciousness poisoned by ungratefulness.

Greta de Jong: Who Lost the War on Poverty?

Poverty may have won in the end, but this outcome was not inevitable. Innovative projects sponsored by the federal government in the 1960s put poor people to work providing needed services in their communities and helped to lift many participants into the middle class.

Anne M. Blankenship: Pilgrimage to the WWII Japanese American Incarceration Centers: Championing Civil Rights for All

One of the greatest challenges to pilgrimage today is the dwindling number of former incarcerees. In Memory, History, Forgetting (2004), Paul Ricoeur emphasized the need to preserve one’s heritage, while remaining separate from victimization. He said that descendants should not take on the “moral priority” of past victims.

Matthew Mason: Morality, Politics, and Compromise: The Plight and Prospects of the Moderate, Then and Now

There are a few potential parallels between modern and antebellum religious leaders. Many modern religious leaders seemingly hope to set aside thorny issues such as LGBT rights and immigration so they can refocus on their core religious missions.

John Mac Kilgore: Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story: An Early American Scholar’s Response to Hamilton

It’s such an incongruous moment to perpetuate Founders Chic, to applaud the man who is the ideological father of Wall Street, the debt economy, deportation, militarism, and the criminalization of protest. I can’t sing to that.

Stephen D. Engle: IL Governor Richard Yates and the Union’s Cooperative Federalism

Governors asserting themselves in ways that strengthened the Union was the cornerstone of the cooperative federalism that emerged in the Civil War North and contributed to a Union victory. If it is true, as some scholars have asserted in the last 150 years, that the Confederacy died of Democracy, it might also be said that the Union lived because of it.

David S. Brown: Jimmy Carter and the Origins of an Era of Democratic Party Dominance

Carter had no deep loyalties to the New Deal. He ran for his party’s nomination as an outsider to the Washington establishment but also eschewed the radical race politics practiced by southern Dixiecrats who, as recently as 1968, had championed the third-party presidential candidacy of George Wallace. He resisted ideological labels and told reporters that he was a liberal on some issues (civil rights, the environment) and conservative on others (fiscal policy). While in the presidency he sought to reduce government expenditures, balance budgets, and refused to push for a new New Deal. Anticipating a key theme of Ronald Reagan’s successful 1980 presidential bid, Carter, in his 1978 State of the Union Address, insisted, “government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.”

D. H. Dilbeck: What is a Just War? How the Union’s “Lieber Code” Answered a Perennial Question

Lieber was a Berlin-born jurist and scholar who taught in South Carolina from 1835-1856, but was professor of history and political economy at Columbia College in New York City at the outbreak of the Civil War. Almost as soon as the war began, Lieber (who wrote widely on the laws of war in the antebellum era) saw the need for something like the code he eventually drafted. The traditional just-war framework distinguishes between jus in bello, just conduct in war and jus ad bellum, legitimate reasons for engaging in war.

Lon Kurashige: When Buddhism Was an Enemy Religion

A few months after the Pearl Harbor attack, the FBI took my grandfather away from his wife and seven children and confined him and hundreds of other Buddhist priests apart from their families and congregations. Their main “crime” was to be leaders of an enemy religion. There was no evidence produced to implicate my grandfather or any Buddhist priest of wrongdoing.

Toby L. Parcel: School Assignment and the Emotional Investment of Mothers

We used our survey data to study who favored diverse schools, who favored neighborhood schools, and who worried about school reassignments.

Michael Jarrett: Early Record Men: How Talent Scouts, Managers, Recording Supervisors, Publishers, and A&R Men Shaped Music

Early record men, therefore, most resembled movie producers, not movie directors. Ultimately, their control derived from the power to grant or to deny access to capital. “I invented Louis Armstrong,” said Ralph Peer in a 1959 interview with Lillian Borgeson.