Tag: American history

Confession Time! But No Apologies


Clinton fixer Lanny Davis is rightly celebrated for his political strategy to counter attacks or scandals. “Tell it early, tell it all, and tell it yourself,” he said, authoring a book with that subtitle.

It’s good advice. And while I will never place my name in nomination for any public office, invoking terms attributed to famous Civil War Union General William T. Sherman, allow me to follow Davis’s sage advice.

‘Emancipation’ from Our History Continues


No trip to Virginia is complete without excursions to Arlington Cemetery, including the stately mansion at its highest point, “Arlington House.” Add to that George Washington’s Mount Vernon, a half-hour drive south along the Potomac River. It is a Commonwealth steeped in colonial and Civil War history. At the time of our founding, it was our most populous state and once encompassed what is now West Virginia and Kentucky. Four of our first five presidents were Virginians.

Arlington House, also the Robert E. Memorial at Arlington Cemetary. For now.

And if you have time, a two-hour trip toward Charlottesville should include stops at three homes of America’s founders: James Madison’s Montpelier, James Monroe’s Ashlawn, and of course, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. Add visits to several great wineries in the region and perhaps Civil War battlefields, from Manassas to Chancellorsville.

This Fourth of July week on “The Learning Curve,” co-hosts Gerard Robinson and Cara Candal talk with Dr. Joseph Ellis, Professor Emeritus of History at Mount Holyoke College and author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation. They discuss the resurgence of public interest in the Revolutionary and Founding generations due, in part, to his book, Passionate Sage: The Character and Legacy of John Adams. Known as the “Atlas of American Independence,” John Adams was perhaps the best educated among the Founding generation. Ellis describes his deep knowledge of classical liberal arts and Enlightenment subjects, including ancient history, political philosophy, and the law, and how it equipped him for intellectual and political leadership. They review Adams’ key experiences and character traits, as the major author of the 1780 Massachusetts Constitution, which served as a model for the U.S. Constitution; his ardent opposition to slavery; and his critical eye for spotting political talent. Lastly, they explore the relationship between Adams and his beloved, talented wife, Abigail; as well as their gifted son, John Quincy Adams, the sixth U.S. President; and the family’s remarkable dedication to public service. Prof. Ellis concludes the interview with a reading about John Adams and American Independence.

Stories of the Week: In Mississippi, public K-12 students have made greater gains than in any other state, becoming a national model for both practitioners and policymakers alike, as a result of specific reforms implemented by State Superintendent of Education Carey Wright. At least 12 states are relaxing teacher certification rules, including licensure, to address the labor shortage.

How Repeating Firearms Remade America


“They say God created all men, but Samuel Colt made them equal.” This saying originated in the American West, testimony to the impact repeating firearms had in nineteenth-century America. Samuel Colt, known for the Colt revolver, may be the best-known gun maker in the United States. In the nineteenth century, he was one among many firearms pioneers.

“Gun Barons: The Weapons That Transformed America and the Men Who Invented Them,” by John Bainbridge, Jr. tells the story of the men who brought repeating firearms to market, and the companies they started. They included Christian Sharps, Benjamin Henry, Oliver Winchester, Horace Smith, and Daniel Wesson.

All founded companies to manufacture firearms. A few disappeared. Others, including Colt and Smith and Wesson, still exist. This book’s emphasis is on their histories during their birth century, the period between the late 1830s and 1898.

This week on “The Learning Curve,” co-hosts Gerard Robinson and Cara Candal talk with Dr. Clayborne Carson, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Centennial Professor of History Emeritus at Stanford University and the Founding Editor of The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr. He describes the larger political and spiritual lessons Dr. King and the other leaders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) sought to impart regarding nonviolent protest, and the complex relationship among Dr. King, the SCLC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and less well-known civil rights figures like the late Bob P. Moses. They discuss how hymns and literary works such as Langston Hughes’s 1951 poem “Harlem (A Dream Deferred),” strongly influenced Dr. King’s sermons and speeches. Dr. Carson compares how racial issues have differed in Southern and Northern cities, noting MLK’s 1966 Chicago Campaign. They explore whether K-12 U.S. history instruction sufficiently covers the Civil Rights era compared to other important periods, and Dr. Carson offers insights on how policymakers, schools, and parents can draw on lessons from the Civil Rights era to better understand race in America. He concludes with a description of the World House Documentary Film Festival, a free, four-day webinar and virtual film festival celebrating MLK, beginning on January 14th.

Stories of the Week: In London, staff shortages from a spike in COVID cases have forced many early education programs to reduce their hours of operation or close. In an era in which technology is replacing books, how can we ensure our children develop the habits that lead to lifelong reading? An EdWeek story explores this question, which is important because long-form and pleasure reading are linked with higher academic performance.

Thanksgiving Lesson From Linus


Did you catch “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” on PBS this week? The most memorable line was from Linus’ moment at the table, thanking God and the settlers for the first Thanksgiving. The Peanuts gang included a colorful mixed bag of guests, including a special dog, a bird, and that famous piano music. No social justice message or censorship of history, just a simple prayer.

I vaguely remember as we approached Thanksgiving in grade school one year, we were asked to dress up as either a pilgrim or an Indian. I dug out shiny buckle-looking earrings from my aunt’s jewelry box and clipped them to my loafers. We drew pictures of turkeys with crayons by outlining our hands and got bags of candy corn. We learned about that famous first dinner and the sharing of food between two cultures. In spite of all that is going on in the world, we are the only country with this one very special holiday. Millions will take a journey just to share a drumstick with those they love.

Men, Women, and Workplaces


June 1949. The American Medical Association’s annual convention was held in Atlantic City, filling the run-down seaside town’s parking lots with out-of-state Cadillacs. One of the main events of the weekend was demonstrating a new tool for training doctors, medical color television, a futuristic-seeming replacement for the tiers of ringed seats of the traditional operating room surgical amphitheater. But TV was too poor a teaching substitute until color came along. After an elaborate luncheon was over, a spokesman for the manufacturer, Smith, Kline, and French, strongly suggested that the doctors’ wives leave the hall, as the live images would be very graphic.

To his surprise, most of the ladies stayed and watched, most of them impassively sipping coffee and smoking cigarettes. (I mentioned it was 1949, right?) Someone explained to the SKF man that the women were, or had been nurses, and had seen far worse. “They met their husbands on the job”. In 1949, that was as common a fact of women’s lives as hats, white gloves, and handbags. For women, getting ahead in life generally involved marriage, with the goal of marrying “up”. It had always been the way of the world.

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For Independence Day, on the Fourth of July, I offer a list of posts this weekend on topic. Some posts may be about celebrations and observances. Some may be about history. There will surely be food and drink posts, music posts, and hopefully fireworks! How about a favorite recital of the Declaration of Independence? What […]

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A Tale of a Real Shooting Railroad War


Railroad rivalries played a significant role in nineteenth-century US history. No rivalry was as intense or bitter as the one between the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe, and the Denver and Rio Grande railroads.  At times it erupted into actual gunfire.

“From the River to the Sea: The Untold Story of the Railroad War That Made the West,” by John Sedgwick tells the stories of their battles. The stakes were high. The winner could gain access to the Pacific. Could, rather than would because other railroads sought to block the winner from advancing.

Sedgwick frames the story as a personal duel between two individuals: General William J. Palmer and William Barstow Strong. Palmer, a Civil War hero, had relocated to Colorado to build the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. Strong was the corporate-minded manager of the Santa Fe. Both men had a vision of driving a railroad to the Rio Grande River and from there west to the Pacific Ocean.

Better Late Than Never: Learning About the Tulsa Race Massacre


I love my home state of Oklahoma. It is home to wonderful people; family, friends, excellent schools, a terrific and diverse culture, and some remarkable history.

Attending public schools during my formative years, from kindergarten in Guymon to college in Chickasha, I took my share of Oklahoma history classes and remember much of it today. In college, my Oklahoma history class taught me about President Andrew Jackson’s forced relocation of Indian tribes from the southeast to Oklahoma Indian Territory — the “Trail of Tears.” Thousands died.

Think Things Are Contentious Now? Learn Some History


There is a never-ending contest for “favorite journalist” in the Johnston household, but Salena Zito is always a finalist. And she just rocketed into the pole position.

I’m delighted to be a “friend” of hers on Facebook. I rarely take issue with her reporting. She fills a niche long ignored by corporate media – focusing on real people and real communities that fall between the Hudson River (NY) and LAX. More specifically, lives and communities that border or encompass Greater Appalachia, from western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio to West Virginia and southern Virginia. She stays outside Washington’s beltway and she refuses to traverse interstate highways.

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I used to subscribe to Harper’s Magazine back in the day when it was closer to classical liberalism than Leftist ideology. I still have a handful of those magazines from the 1980s. Walter Karp, historian and contributing editor, was what we would call today a “good liberal.” And he understood the problem with public (read […]

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The New York-Based Slave Trade


One of history’s curious episodes was a rise in transatlantic slave trading based in the United States in 1850 that continued through 1863. It occurred despite the abolition of the slave trade by Great Britain in 1807. The United States followed in 1808, with a long decline in illegal slave trading by US ships between 1808 and 1850.

“The Last Slave Ships: New York and the End of the Middle Passage,” by John Harris, tells the story of this resurgence in the slave trade, including the reasons behind it.

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The final line in The Sending section of the liturgy I use during the hour of Sext (inhale) reached out and grabbed me. Sext is the noon hour of prayer, one of eight times during the 24-hour day when the Benedictine monks, in the oldest traditions, stop whatever they are doing to pray. Here’s the […]

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Earlier this week, a massive fire engulfed the Collegiate Church of New York, part of a group of historic churches that identified originally as reformed Protestant. In a Fox News report, firefighters responded quickly, but the historic church was already in flames. The fire is reported to have started in a building next door. “Built […]

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In a conversation recorded just before Election Day, Bruno Maçães joins Brian Anderson to discuss his striking vision of America’s future. Maçães’s new book is History Has Begun: The Birth of a New America.

Culture Counteroffensive Launched


Scale justice Trump President Trump and his appointed subordinates in the Department of Education have launched a real counteroffensive in the culture war. The president took the occasion of Constitution Day, which is also Citizenship Day, to announce a full offensive against the leftists’ lies, and identified Howard Zinn as a propagandist. Then the Department of Education took the president of Princeton at his word when he proclaimed in writing that this university, recipient of federal largesse in grants and scholarship guarantees, is shot through with systematic racism.

Remarks by President Trump at the White House Conference on American History
Issued on: September 17, 2020
National Archives Museum
Washington, D.C.

2:54 P.M. EDT

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  I received a video recording of a mama and three bears at a neighbor’s, located across the street from a beach house that I manage. The mama bear was huge, straddling the back fence, with her snout facing a delicious bird feeder. The family who spotted her grabbed the camera. The audio says “there’s […]

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Presidential Pardon for Susan B. Anthony on 19th Amendment Centennial


President Trump took the occasion of the 100th anniversary of ratification of the 19th Amendment, extending the franchise to American women, to pardon one of the heroes of the long fight for the vote. This is not the first time he used the presidential pardon power to correct a very old wrong. President Trump pardoned Jack Johnson, one of the greatest boxers of all time, and a black man convicted of transporting a white woman (his girlfriend of the moment) across state lines. Now, President Trump pardons Susan B. Anthony, convicted of voting in a federal election when women were ineligible to do so, on the same day he signs a proclamation celebrating women’s participation in American public life.

The women’s suffrage movement took the long hard path of convincing a strong majority of men across the states to support an amendment that would mean men would no longer control our politics exclusively. Ratification of the 19th Amendment was the fruit of women working from 1848 to 1920 to gain the vote in federal elections.

Organized work for women suffrage began in the United States with the Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, N.Y. in 1848, which was called by Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, early leaders of Massachusetts and New York, in response to the indignation aroused by the refusal to permit women to take part in the anti-slavery convention of 1840. From the date of that convention the suffrage movement in the United States began the fight that lasted seventy years and ended with victory. Another convention followed in 1852 at Syracuse, N.Y., at which delegates from Canada were present and it was there that Susan B. Anthony assumed leadership of the cause to which she devoted her life.

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Do you have children or grandchildren in grades 3-12? First Lady Melania Trump is inviting them to submit their original artwork in celebration of 100 years of American women having the right to vote, and in remembrance of the long decades of hard work leading up to the ratification of the 19th Amendment. The deadline […]

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