Angie Maxwell: The Long Shadow of Scopes

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When Bryan agreed to assist the prosecution in the 1925 Scopes trial that would test the Butler Act’s ban of the teaching of evolution in Tennessee, he was anything but new to the debate. Despite his progressive political record on issues such as women’s suffrage, Bryan’s swan song as an anti-evolution crusader was zealous and emphatic. He argued, wrote, and perhaps believed, that this single issue would erode American faith. For Bryan there was no middle, and his readers need only choose sides. His widespread essay on the subject was titled “The Bible and its Enemies,” and he considered the cause the greatest reform of his life. Science and even the experts who defense attorney Clarence Darrow had attempted to call at the trial, were adversaries in a zero-sum game that the world was watching.

K. Stephen Prince: Thinking about Reconstruction at 150 Years

Reconstruction remains one of the most widely misunderstood eras in United States history. Though historians have largely discredited the white supremacist interpretations of William A. Dunning and his students, the Dunning School lives on in the public at large. Otherwise informed and well-meaning individuals unthinkingly parrot early-twentieth-century critiques of Reconstruction, casually dismissing it as an era of federal overreach, northern cruelty, and cynical corruption. My own experience bears out this observation: a friend who claims that Reconstruction failed because it was “too harsh,” or a student who labels the period a “tragedy” without being able to provide a single reason for this characterization. I expect other scholars of the period have had similar experiences. It seems that on an instinctive, knee-jerk level, many Americans respond negatively to Reconstruction, though most could not explain why. The 150th anniversary of Reconstruction offers a perfect opportunity to set the record straight, or at least to give the public a fair accounting of the period’s challenges, its successes, and its failures.

Interview: Blain Roberts on the Intersection of Beauty and Race in the South

The image of the beautiful southern belle/lady was, by definition, racially exclusive, and many black women would have keenly felt its discriminatory power. There were occasions, however, when individuals and institutions attempted to claim the image for black women, to challenge its underlying racial assumptions and reframe its meaning. An interesting example is a photo spread that ran in Ebony magazine in 1971 entitled “Belles of the South” that featured young women from southern historically black colleges. The magazine said very explicitly that it wanted to prove that not all southern beauties were white—that black women were belles of the South, too.

Shane J. Maddock: The Case for Nuclear Zero

U.S. military dominance in both the quantity and quality of its weapons has reached a point where it has stopped increasing the nation’s security and has begun to erode it instead. Unable to match the conventional might of the United States, nations who fear American coercion can either seek nuclear weapons to deter a U.S. attack or use the threat of retaliatory terrorist attacks to make Washington pause. U.S. fear that its enemies will resort to either of these two options, in turn, leads to pressure to increase military spending to even higher levels.

Kathryn Shively Meier: A Civil War Soldier Beats the Odds on the Virginia Peninsula

From the summer of 1861 to the spring of 1862, each Confederate or Union soldier was sick an average of three times. It was also the norm for soldiers to shun official army medical care, as they found the medicines loathsome and dreaded being separated from their regiments, often familiar faces from back home. Though contemporary physicians were still caught up in such theories of disease causation as the four humors (the conception that illness occurred when the four main bodily fluids were in need of recalibration), laypeople preferred environmental explanations for sickness that could be confirmed by observation and personal experience.

Tammy Ingram on the Importance of Roads and the Foundation of the Dixie Highway

At the turn of the 20th century, roads dominated everyday life. They determined where people could and could not travel, as well as whether or not other people, goods, services and even ideas could reach them. Roads dominated conversations around the ballot box and the dinner table, but good roads eluded most Americans and virtually all Southerners

Beth Tompkins Bates: What Happened the Last Time Detroit Faced Bankruptcy

In the end, it was the federal government that made the difference between bankruptcy and [Detroit] emerging out of the crisis, as Murphy put it, with credit and honor. Throughout the crisis, Murphy practiced his belief that government’s primary responsibility was to serve the social and economic welfare of people, whose basic needs must not be subordinated to corporate America’s agenda.

Alex Lubin: Malcolm X’s Afro-Arab Political Imaginary

Malcolm’s transition would include rejecting the homegrown and Ahmadiyya-based, heterodox Islam practiced by the Nation of Islam and embracing the intellectual, moral, and political currents of orthodox Sunni Islam, African decolonization, and Arab nationalism. In this way, Malcolm’s political and moral commitments combined sometimes-contradictory political ideologies, including those of Muslim Brothers, secular pan-Africanists, and Nasserist pan-Arabists.

Jacqueline E. Whitt: Cooperation without Compromise: Military Chaplains’ Responses to the End of DADT

As the movement for the repeal of DADT gained political momentum, dozens of retired military chaplains and civilian religious organizations expressed grave concerns that a repeal of DADT would coerce military chaplains into performing services contrary to the dictates of their religious confession or would effectively silence their protected religious speech about the sinfulness of homosexuality. There were warnings of mass resignations or a mass exodus from the military chaplaincy by evangelical chaplains (who fill most chaplain billets). Ultimately, few chaplains have actually resigned their military commissions as a result of their opposition to the repeal of DADT or the ruling of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as unconstitutional.

Michael H. Hunt and Steven I. Levine: Troubles with Empire

Empire has had a long and troubled career in U.S. politics and culture–and the old angst is still very much with us. Over the last decade or so we have heard the familiar refrain adamantly denying the existence of an American empire, even as some have insisted just as adamantly on the reality or at least the possibility of an American empire. We embarked on our study of the four U.S. wars in Asia with no intention of getting mixed up in what seemed a tired, unproductive debate. We had our hands full working out the contours of our wars and tracing the relationship of each to the others.

Shane J. Maddock: Obama’s Course Correction on Iran

Much of the evidence now available suggests the Bush administration threats reinvigorated a moribund program. A Central Intelligence Agency report contended that Iran had abandoned its weapons program. But after the Bush administration scuttled diplomatic agreements regarding the Iranian program, hardliners took control and argued that Iran needed a nuclear weapon to deter a potential U.S. or Israeli military attack. They argued that Iraq had abandoned its nuclear ambitions under pressure from the West and reaped a brutal invasion for its efforts. North Korea, on the other hand, thwarted Western efforts to end its nuclear weapons program and avoided Baghdad’s fate. Arguments that at least the threat of a nuclear weapon was necessary took on greater persuasiveness given that U.S. military deployments sandwiched Iranian territory.

Video: Rebecca Sharpless on Cooking in Other Women’s Kitchens

http://vimeo.com/80109784

A video of Rebecca Sharpless’s talk on the history of African American women cooks in white households in the South, given at the 16th annual Southern Foodways Symposium, October 2013. Video produced by the Southern Foodways Alliance.

Join Us as We Celebrate African American Music Trails of Eastern NC

Eastern North Carolina has produced some of the most transformative figures in the history of jazz, gospel and popular music. Among them are internationally renowned jazz pianists and composers Thelonious Monk from Rocky Mount and Billy Taylor from Greenville. African American Music Trails of Eastern North Carolina celebrates people, places and events in Eastern North …

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The Best of Enemies: Durham History from Page to Stage

Durham’s ManBites Dog Theater hosts “The Best of Enemies,” a play based on the book by Osha Gray Davidson about the unlikely friendship between a poor white member of the KKK and a poor black civil rights activist in 1960s North Carolina.

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