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Archive for the ‘American History’ Category

John Hope Franklin, a prolific scholar of African-American history who profoundly influenced thinking about slavery and Reconstruction while helping to further the civil rights struggle, died Wednesday in Durham, N.C. He was 94. . . .

“During a career of scholarship, teaching and advocacy that spanned more than 70 years, Dr. Franklin was deeply involved in the painful debates that helped reshape America’s racial identity, working with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., W. E. B. Du BoisThurgood Marshall and other major civil rights figures of the 20th century. . . .

“Dr. Franklin combined idealism with rigorous research, producing such classic works as ‘From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African-Americans,’ first published in 1947. Considered one of the definitive historical surveys of the American black experience, it has sold more than three million copies and has been translated into Japanese, German, French, Chinese and other languages. . . .

“Dr. Franklin also taught at some of the nation’s leading institutions, including Harvard and the University of Chicago in addition to Duke, and as a scholar he personally broke several racial barriers.” (more @ NY Times)

RelatedJohn Hope Franklin, Scholar and Witness

[During my brief time as an undergraduate in 1970-71 at York College in Jamaica, New York, I was a double-major in English and the relatively new academic discipline, African-American Studies. While my interest in books and reading was derived from my uncle, the first member of our family to earn a college degree and whose library of literary classics and contemporary sociology lined a wall in my grandparents’ apartment, my interest in “Black Studies” was in part a protest against my father whose ambivalence about civil rights despite working for twenty years as a salesman in a men’s clothing store on 125th Street in Harlem frustrated my make-love-not-war/power-to-the-people counter-culturalist sensibilities. John Hope Franklin’s From Slavery to Freedom was required reading for my freshman Afro-Am 101 class. But while I respected Franklin’s long view of history, I was much more excited by my readings of Eldridge Cleaver, Amiri Baraka (the former LeRoi Jones), Stokely Carmichael and other black writers who spoke forcefully of the need for political and social change “now.” So struck was I by the writings of these powerful black voices that when I first became eligible to vote, I tried, albeit in vain, to register as a member of the Black Panther Party (my consolation, the only reasonable choice if I intended to vote, was to register as an Independent). Twenty years later, when as a graduate student at Yale University (in neither English nor African American studies) I reconsidered some of my freshman readings in cultural studies, it was Franklin’s books — exemplars of fair-minded scholarship and idealism — that mattered most in the then and “now.” R.I.P.]

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wizardofozWas Dorothy in Frank Baum’s 1900 children’s novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz a Populist “Everyman” who — with William Jennings Bryan (Lion), a farmer (Scarecrow) and an industrial worker (Tin Woodman) — went off to see the Wizard (President) to voice support for the use of silver as currency? Or, more critically, as economists today “fear an onset of deflation, and economic certainties melt away like a drenched wicked witch,” are there lessons to be learned from Oz?

“In 1964, high school teacher Henry Littlefield wrote an article outlining the notion of an underlying allegory in Frank Baum’s book. He said it offered a ‘gentle and friendly’ critique of Populist thinking, and the story could be used to illuminate the late 19th Century to students. . . .

“[Littlefield] believed the characters could represent the personalities and themes of the late 1800s, with Dorothy embodying the everyman American spirit.

“US political historian Quentin Taylor, who supports this interpretation, says: ‘There are too many instances of parallels with the political events of the time.’ . . .

“But not everyone believes The Wonderful Wizard of Oz includes any hidden meanings.

“‘Nobody ever suggested it until 1964,’ says Bradley Hansen, who is a professor of economics at the University of Mary Washington. ‘There’s no solid evidence that Baum had written it as a monetary allegory,’ he adds.”

As for the value of Baum’s book to present-day economists, Taylor agrees that despite the references to late 19th-century economic issues, “little can be learnt from Baum about the modern economic crisis.” (more @ BBC News)

RelatedSarah Palin As Dorothy? We’re Not In Kansas …

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obama-bushFrom an opinion piece by Jackson Diehl, deputy editor of The Washington Post‘s editorial page, suggesting that Obama may be more comparable to George W. Bush than Franklin Roosevelt:

“So Obama hasn’t strayed far from Karl Rove’s playbook for routing the opposition. But surely, you say, he’s planning nothing as divisive or as risky as the Iraq war? Well, that’s where the health-care plan comes in: a $634 billion (to begin) ‘historic commitment,’ as Obama calls it, that (like the removal of Saddam Hussein) has lurked in the background of the national agenda for years.”

[Forgive me, but I’m having a little trouble accepting a comparison between an illegal war that continues to cost countless billions of dollars and thousands upon thousands of lives, both American and Iraqi, with plans to reform the U.S. health care system, no matter how expensive. There’s more to fume about in Diehl’s piece but I think this gets my point across.]

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citylightsFrom The Nation archives, reviews of a dozen vintage films reflecting “the hardships and aspirations of Americans in the first Great Depression”:

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johnyooFrom Balkinization, Jack Balkin on “The End of the Yoo Doctrine”:

“The Office of Legal Counsel has just released a series of previously secret opinions from the Bush Administration. Perhaps equally important, it has issued two remarkable opinions, one from October 6th, 2008 and one from January 15th, 2009 which essentially disown the extreme theories of Presidential power offered during the crucial period between 2001 and 2003 when John Yoo was at the OLC. . . .

“The October 2008 and January 2009 memos are the Bush OLC’s way of distancing itself from its conduct during the period when John Yoo was at OLC and when the Cheney/Addington/Yoo theory reigned supreme. It is important to recognize that these two memos are largely concerned with disowning particular broad claims of constitutional law, and they do not disown any of the Bush Administration’s specific policies regarding surveillance, detention, and interrogation. Indeed, after John Yoo left the OLC the Bush OLC was able to justify many of these policies without the Cheney/Addington/Yoo theory, by arguing for example, that applicable legislation should be read very narrowly or that Congress had authorized what the Bush Administration wanted to do in the September 18, 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force. No one should confuse these memos with a reversal of Bush Administration policy– instead, they are an attempt to disown a particular theory of unlimited Presidential power that was an embarrassment to the professional standards of the OLC. In this sense what is remarkable about these two memos is not that they change any concrete practices but that the OLC felt the need to reverse itself years later and to disavow a particular type of reasoning– reasoning which sought, in secret, to justify a theory of Presidential dictatorship.” (via The Daily Dish)

RelatedJohn Yoo is sorry for nothing

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Obama GOP ReactionFrom TPM, evidence that the story told Tuesday night by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal during his GOP response to President Obama’s speech to Congress — “about how he backed a tough-talking sheriff’s efforts to rescue Katrina victims, government red-tape be damed [sic]” — was not true.

The full text of Governor Jindal’s speech can be found here.

obamacongressMeanwhile, Peggy Noonan saw Obama’s speech as a defining moment:

“A mysterious thing happened in that speech Tuesday night. By the end of it Barack Obama had become president. Every president has a moment when suddenly he becomes what he meant [sic] to be, or knows what he is, and those moments aren’t always public. . . .

“So with Mr. Obama, about four-fifths of the way through the speech. He was looking from the prompters to the congressmen and senators, and suddenly he was engaging on what seemed a deeper level. His voice took on inflection. He wasn’t detached, as if he was wondering how he was doing. He seemed equal to the moment and then, in some new way, in command of it.” (via Wall Street Journal)

A transcript of President Obama’s Address to Congress can be found here.

[As for that other influential GOP spokesperson, a video of “Joe the Plumber”‘s response to Obama’s speech can be found here.]

Update: (2/27) Jindal Admits Katrina Story Was False

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richrain“One of the most persistent cultural tics of the early 21st century is Americans’ reluctance to absorb, let alone prepare for, bad news. We are plugged into more information sources than anyone could have imagined even 15 years ago. The cruel ambush of 9/11 supposedly ‘changed everything,’ slapping us back to reality. Yet we are constantly shocked, shocked by the foreseeable.” (via NY Times)

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