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. Continue Reading Anne M. Blankenship: Pilgrimage to the WWII Japanese American Incarceration Centers: Championing Civil Rights for All
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. Continue Reading Stephen D. Engle: IL Governor Richard Yates and the Union’s Cooperative Federalism
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.” Continue Reading David S. Brown: Jimmy Carter and the Origins of an Era of Democratic Party Dominance
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. Continue Reading D. H. Dilbeck: What is a Just War? How the Union’s “Lieber Code” Answered a Perennial Question
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. Continue Reading Lon Kurashige: When Buddhism Was an Enemy Religion
Headlines of racial violence and the unabashed racism within Donald Trump’s campaign for the U.S. presidency do not allow Americans to escape the fact that our nation’s value of pluralism lies on shaky ground. The U.S. Constitution, of course, did not originally allow for the full rights of women or people of African, Asian, or Native American descent, but the notion of America as a land of opportunity for all persists. Continue Reading Anne M. Blankenship: E Pluribus Unum?
Trump voters are not likely to look to African American history for help in making sense of their situation or forging solutions, but if they did they might find that they have more in common with black Americans than they thought. In the mid-twentieth century, rural communities in the South—and their predominantly black labor force—experienced processes of displacement and decline that foreshadowed those that afflicted white workers in later decades. Continue Reading Greta de Jong: A Lesson from Black History for Angry White Men
It is important to recall Roosevelt’s positions on immigration because of the similarities between his day and our own. Immigration fears are a regular feature in today’s headlines as the United States (not mention the U.K. and European countries) wrestles with how much and in what ways to close its borders to newcomers. The same was true when Roosevelt became president. Continue Reading Lon Kurashige: What Would Teddy Roosevelt Do?
Director Gary Ross had a fascinating and complicated story to tell, and if he had difficulty weaving the parts together for a two-hour movie, his problems would have been compounded had he tried to tell the story of the deserters in rebellion against the Confederacy in the Carolinas. Imagine Free State of Jones with nearly 3,000 escaped prisoners of war thrown into the mix. Continue Reading Lorien Foote: Adding Prisoners of War to ‘Free State of Jones’
For the urban Ohio River valley, the richest source of evidence about African Americans’ personal service work derives from Eliza Potter’s singular autobiography, A Hairdresser’s Experience in High Life, published in Cincinnati in 1859. Born in New York, Potter moved to Cincinnati as a young woman in 1834. She worked as a child’s nurse in several wealthy white households and accompanied one family to Paris in 1841. After a dispute over wages, Potter left the family to learn the art of hairdressing. Returning to the United States after traveling and working in both France and England, she built a successful career dressing wealthy clients whom she dubbed “our aristocracy.” Continue Reading Excerpt: Bonds of Union, by Bridget Ford
In 1969 the Pensacola NAACP’s Youth Council listed “police brutality” as one of their two primary concerns for the coming decade, and numerous incidents supported their claim into the 1970s. Continue Reading J. Michael Butler: Wendel Blackwell, Philando Castile, and the Continuing Black American Freedom Struggle
Although the source of the 9/11 attacks was quite novel and although both the scale and the location of the harm “they” inflicted on “us” were unprecedented, the notion of a virtuous America endangered by wicked and violent enemies was not new at all. Indeed, from the moment that John Winthrop and the Puritans dropped anchor in Massachusetts Bay in 1630 and vowed to build a “City Upon a Hill,” Americans have tended to view the world in terms of “us versus them.” Continue Reading Excerpt: Us Versus Them, by Douglas Little
Don’t let Melania Trump’s Monday night speech be your guide to what Michelle Obama said in 2008. Instead, keep listening. There is more to learn than who borrowed what words. Continue Reading Martha S. Jones: Don’t Miss Out on What Michelle Obama Actually Said in 2008
Samuel Aspenwall did not say anything about his early boyhood. He began his account of his service, as did his sister Mary in her supporting deposition, with recollections of the family arguments about the lad enlisting. He said nothing about why he wanted to serve. We can imagine war news swirling around him, his family, and his town during his boyhood by reading other historical sources: local newspapers, local muster rolls that indicate that veterans were coming and going, and understanding the interactions of town life. What veterans’ anecdotes or ministers’ sermons he heard, what games played, songs sung, or books read that caused this “Strong desire,” is something difficult even to guess. Continue Reading Excerpt: Boy Soldiers of the American Revolution, by Caroline Cox
What was the tipping point that pushed Americans into taking the step of declaring their independence? After all, the colonies had been at war with Britain for more than a year by the end of the spring of 1776. The other factor most attributed to causing independence, Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, was five months old by that time. What changed in May 1776 to encourage patriot political leaders in both the Continental Congress and in many of the separate colonial assemblies to support severing ties with Britain? What produced a sudden support for independence?
The Germans were coming. Continue Reading Robert G. Parkinson: The Last News Story of Colonial America
Paris is only a five hour drive from my home in the Netherlands. I have strolled its streets many times, undoubtedly also those covered in blood after the November 2015 attacks. I have also passed through San Bernardino, California, and have stood regularly at the former World Trade Center site. Yet as I commemorate those victims of religious terrorism, I cannot but remember my meetings with black civil rights activist Bob Moses and his colleagues of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Their haunting tales of life in Mississippi in the 1960s wryly challenge some politicians’ and media pundits’ current claim to exclusivity for the term “terrorism” only in relation to Islam, reminding us that the most bloody and consistent trajectory of terrorism in the United States occurred under the banner of white supremacy. Continue Reading Laura Visser-Maessen: How Exploring Bob Moses’s 1960s Civil Rights Activism in Mississippi Can Modify America’s Current Terrorism Debate
Today the film Free State of Jones opens in theaters across the United States. Historian Victoria E. Bynum, whose book of the same name helped inspire the film, has been making media rounds this week, talking about what the New York Times has called “the first Hollywood drama to come with footnotes.” Director Gary Ross comes correct on the history in this project, so historians, enjoy! Here are four ways you can celebrate the opening of the movie today. Continue Reading 4 Ways to Celebrate the Release of Free State of Jones
The political scientist Daniel J. Elazar identified three traditions of political culture in America, generally consistent with Tocqueville’s characterizations. New England political culture of the Puritans evolved to become moralistic political culture. This component of American character emphasizes community and civic virtue over individualism. It promotes the idea of participatory democracy and the positive role of government in addressing common problems. The Mid-Atlantic region produced individualistic political culture, which views government as a utilitarian necessity and seeks to limit its intrusion into private activities. Private initiative is held to be of higher importance than the public sphere. The South produced traditionalistic political culture, which elevates social order and family structure to a prominent role. Continue Reading Excerpt: The Ashley Cooper Plan, by Thomas D. Wilson
We welcome to the blog a guest post from Brain Craig Miller, Civil War historian and author of recently published Empty Sleeves: Amputation in the Civil War South. In today’s post, Miller reflects on the Civil War America series and how it shaped his views of the Civil War. ### It was the morning prior… Continue Reading Brian Craig Miller: “Civil War America” and a Side of Tomato Soup
After the 2015 riots in Baltimore and elsewhere, I was struck—though not surprised—by many of the media’s depictions of its black inhabitants, as if they were irrational, self-defeating hoodlums, rather than emphasizing stories like that of Wayne, one of several hundred students in Baltimore’s public schools who participate in the Algebra Project (AP). Wayne had been kicked out of several schools until his AP involvement made him realize “what I can do inside of school and how I can help other people.” Continue Reading Laura Visser-Maessen: Bob Moses’s Lessons on the Meaning of Citizenship We Need in Today’s Race Debates