Roundup: Talking About History
This is where we excerpt articles about history that appear in the media. Among the subjects included on this page are: anniversaries of historical events, legacies of presidents, cutting-edge research, and historical disputes.
SOURCE: Japan Focus (10-26-05)
[This is an introduction to two Office of War Information propaganda films on Japanese Internment. To view the films, click on the URLs at the end of this article.]
Upon viewing once again the Office of War Information’s “newsreels” on the forced removal and confinement of Japanese Americans during World War II, I am struck by the contradictions of the ideals of U.S. democracy and its realities. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in his message to Congress about a year before...
SOURCE: NYT (10-31-05)
That may sound surprising at a time when Rosa Parks is probably mentioned in every American history textbook and is the subject of dozens of biographies. The problem is that her story is usually presented as a simplistic morality tale. It is a paint-by-the numbers picture of virtue that goes like this:
On Dec. 1, 1955, Mrs. Parks is an ordinary 42-year-old seamstress in downtown Montgomery, Ala. She leaves work and gets on the Cleveland Avenue bus to go home. When the whites-only section fills up, the bus driver yells at Mrs. Parks to give up her seat to a white man. She refuses and is arrested. Simply by sitting on a bus, Mrs. Parks sets off the year-long Montgomery bus boycott that galvanizes national attention, brings the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to the start of his journey as a civil rights leader and creates a model of nonviolent protest against racial segregation.
SOURCE: Circulating email (10-31-05)
We learn much from how we present our heroes. A few years ago, on Martin Luther King. Day, I was interviewed on CNN. So was Rosa Parks, by phone from Los Angeles. "We're very honored to have her," said the host. "Rosa Parks was the woman who wouldn't go to the back of the bus. She wouldn't get up and give her seat in the white section to a white person. That set in motion the year-long bus boycott in Montgomery. It earned Rosa Parks the title of 'mother of the...
The "Founding Fathers," or "Founders," are getting worked over in public affairs, and especially in religious matters, more than ever before. With courts wrestling with issues of church and state, educators fighting over ways to treat faith and faiths in public institutions, and communities battling over the place of religious symbols on "everybody's spaces" like courthouse lawns and walls, we often find citations from figures like Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Madison, and so many others. These figures were writing in the context of their own times and are easily misrepresented out of that context, but we can still draw some signals from their works.
Fortunately, a new collection of snippets from their writings is available in The Founders on Religion: A Book of Quotations, edited by James H. Hutson. I first came across Hutson during the bicentennials of the Declaration and the Constitution, about which he had so many sane things to...
SOURCE: Baltimore Sun (10-30-05)
...Did you learn anything surprising about slavery in your hometown while working on this exhibit and catalog?
I knew quite a bit, or thought I did, but I learned quite a bit as well. It turns out there are three big stories here. This exhibit actually covers one of them. A second exhibit will cover the other two.
The first story is of the institution itself, which turns out to be much more significant than most people can imagine. New York City in the 17th and 18th centuries was the largest slave-holding city on the North American continent. There were more slaves in New York than in...
SOURCE: American Conservative (11-7-05)
So reads the simple entry in the log of HMS Victory for Oct. 21, 1805, the day of Trafalgar, one of the greatest sea battles of history, in which Admiral Horatio Nelson, architect of the Royal Navy victory over the French and Spanish fleets, lost his life.
On this month’s 200th anniversary of that battle that ended Napoleon’s threat of invasion, a battle is being fought over London’s Trafalgar Square, where a 185-foot victory column stands, atop which is a statue of the great Sea Lord who had led British fleets to triumph at Copenhagen and the Battle of the Nile.
London Mayor Ken Livingstone, dubbed “Red Ken” by the press for his hard-left views, wants to plant, in the heart of Trafalgar Square, a 9-foot statue of another Nelson—Nelson Mandela.
The Westminster Council...
SOURCE: Los Angeles Times (10-27-05)
Rosa Parks, who died Monday at 92, was the U.S. civil rights movement's most famous heroine. Her refusal to give up her seat on a city bus in Montgomery, Ala., in 1955 initiated a successful yearlong bus boycott that marked the onset of Southern direct-action protests. A decade later, those demonstrations culminated in the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Nowadays, Parks' life is widely celebrated. But she lived almost a quarter of a century in near-obscurity before history finally appreciated and acknowledged the importance of her solitary act of quiet resistance.
After her arrest, she was fired from her job as a department store seamstress and could not get another. Rivalries within the Montgomery...
SOURCE: The San Francisco Chronicle (10-27-05)
The biggest thing in the history book business these days is Arcadia Publishing -- a company that thinks small.
Arcadia's specialty is a line of standardized little books about city neighborhoods, small towns, fire and police departments, and obscure railroads. Arcadia is the master of the niche market, with a huge list of books (2,367 titles in its "Images of America" series alone) that are mostly pictures and pretty much all nostalgia. Just now Arcadia is mining California history, with 240 titles on the past of the Golden State.
Arcadia pumps out books like nobody's business -- seven books on California subjects premiered in a single week in mid-October, including a book on Sausalito, one on Castro Valley, one on the Mother Lode town of Nevada City, and another on Sacramento's Curtis Park.
The company is based...
SOURCE: Boston Globe (10-26-05)
What made Parks such a sustainable hero was her bedrock humility. She was...
SOURCE: Los Angeles Times (10-25-05)
Often called the mother of the movement that led to the dismantling of institutionalized segregation in the South, Parks became a symbol of human dignity when she was jailed for refusing to relinquish her bus seat to a white man when she rode home from work on the evening of Dec. 1, 1955.
Her arrest for violating Alabama's bus segregation laws galvanized Montgomery's blacks, who boycotted the city's buses for 381 days until the U.S. Supreme Court declared the law unconstitutional.
"Her legacy was her quiet dignity and instinctive rage against injustice," Rep. Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles) told the Times on Monday...
SOURCE: The Daily Yomiuri (Tokyo) (10-26-05)
Peter Randall, 64, of Portsmouth, N.H., spoke on the treaty at the lecture held in Tokyo on Tuesday to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the treaty.
The lecture was cosponsored by The Yomiuri Shimbun and the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership.
During the lecture, Randall explained, using slides, how the delegations of both Japan and Russia were welcomed by local people when they arrived in Portsmouth.
He pointed out that when the negotiations reached an impasse, local people invited representatives of both countries to attend church services and take part in recreational activities, thus...
SOURCE: The Herald (Glasgow) (10-22-05)
Yesterday, thousands in London and elsewhere marked the 200th anniversary of the battle and Nelson's death aboard HMS Victory. The Queen led commemorations in London by lighting a beacon beside Victory and, throughout the weekend, more than 6000 events will take place. A remembrance service will be held in St Paul's Cathedral tomorrow, where Nelson is buried.
The degree of enthusiasm for the...
SOURCE: Financial Times (London, England) (10-22-05)
The names of the great cities of the ancient world echo in the mind like evocative fragments of poetry: Babylon, Nineveh, Persepolis, Thebes, Rome, Athens, Alexandria. Historians have told us repeatedly that the earliest cities were the fountainheads of civilisation, that their founding signalled the end of the pastoral and nomadic life and the beginning of law, government, architecture, art and the life of the mind.
But what did these great cities actually look like? Two centuries of archaeology have told us a great deal. But the people who lived in them have left us no surviving record - no maps, no views, no urban panoramas of their cities. All we have are a few sketches on stone or clay tablet showing city walls, usually under attack in battle or siege. The only real exception that we know of was the massive plan of Rome incised on stone around AD200 and...
SOURCE: The Sunday Mail (Queensland, Australia) (10-23-05)
A colourful figure in the Melbourne underworld in the 1930s, she drove a rare Rolls-Royce.
Though Cecilia has disappeared -- she fled Australia with a price on her head after being unfaithful -- the Rolls has re-appeared in all its former glory and will be one of the star attractions at a classic-car auction in Sydney today.
Melbourne auto historian Michael Browning this week said the car's history had been thoroughly researched, and was no myth.
"It's certainly had a shady and colourful past," he said.
A 1934 model 20/25 swept-tail sports coupe, it is known in Rolls-Royce circles as "Cecilia", in honour of its most infamous owner.
Auctioneers Shannons expect bids in the $58,000 to $68,000 range "befitting her colourful history and her unique art deco styling".
SOURCE: The Houston Chronicle (10-24-05)
Odd as it seems, the menu analysis by Texas A&M University-Galveston oceanographer Glenn Jones is drawing international interest. He is scheduled to present data from initial studies at a conference of ocean historians in Denmark this week.
Some of the information Jones has gleaned might shock today's restaurant patrons.
"Before the 1880s, it was unusual to see lobster on menus," said Jones. "It was considered trash fish that people didn't want."
Glenn said his interest in menus as historical resources evolved from a project in which he assigned students in a coastal resources class to study seafood price data based on prices in a 1950s restaurant menu he came across.
Besides documenting the rise and fall in popularity and...
SOURCE: The Herald (Glasgow) (10-24-05)
The location of the tenthcentury battle of Brunanburh has long been considered one of history's greatest unsolved mysteries.
It was there that Athelstan, grandson of Alfred the Great, destroyed the combined armies of the Scottish king, Causantin mac Aeda, Owain, king of Strathclyde, and Viking king of Dublin, Anlaf Guthfrithson, to confirm his supremacy over the land.
However, research shows that the site of the bloody battle of Brunanburh was in Dumfriesshire and not in England, as most accounts of the battle have proposed.
More than 30 locations throughout England have been suggested, from Yorkshire to Dorset, but in recent years a growing tide of opinion has favoured the Cheshire town of Bromborough.
Now Kevin Halloran, an independent researcher based in Lancashire, has proposed that all these sites are based on...
SOURCE: frontpagemag.com (10-24-05)
"Wearing a smile of melancholy sweetness that many women find devastating," read the Time article, "Che guides Cuba with icy calculation, vast competence, high intelligence and a perceptive sense of humor."
"This is not a Communist Revolution in any sense of the term," The New York Times had declared a year earlier. "Fidel Castro is not only not a Communist, he is decidedly anti-Communist."
"It would be a great mistake," Walter Lippmann wrote in the Washington Post that same month, "even to intimate that Castro's Cuba has any real prospect of becoming a Soviet...
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Education (10-21-05)
...Ralph Ellison once remarked, "All of us old-fashioned Negroes are Jews."
The alliance between the two groups [Jews and blacks] reached its peak in the aftermath of World War II, but almost immediately began to dissolve, as Jews, with the downfall of educational quotas and other anti-Semitic restrictions, embarked on a rapid ascent of the social and economic ladder, while African-Americans, however much their lives were improved by the end of segregation, began an ascent destined to be far slower and more erratic.
When demoralizing setbacks made African-Americans skeptical of integrationist strategies and aroused them to the color consciousness...
SOURCE: National Review (10-19-05)
National Review Online: What made you first think of Ronald Reagan and Winston Churchill in the same sentence — and enough sentences to fill a book?
Steven F. Hayward: This was something of an accidental discovery growing out of my larger work-in-progress on the Reagan presidency (the second volume of The Age of Reagan, due hopefully next year). I began writing what I thought would be four or five paragraphs on the ways in which Reagan used the example and memory of Churchill. But I kept working through the material, and before long I was up to 5,000 words. I came to see that the parallels between them are extensive and profound. Martin...
SOURCE: Christian Science Monitor (Boston, MA) (10-19-05)
In this first of two Sunday services, members of the Peoples Baptist Church in Boston celebrate their faith and commitment to community. The Rev. Wesley Roberts is preaching on "Why We Need Each Other," as the church begins a new campaign of spiritual fellowship and community service.
This month also marks another celebration: the church's 200th anniversary.
In 1805, free blacks on Boston's Beacon Hill started First African Baptist Church, the first independent black Baptist church in the North, and the first free black church of any denomination in New England.
It has since had an uninterrupted history (through several name changes), symbolizing both the...