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.
[Thomas S. Blanton is the Director (since 1992) of the independent non-governmental National Security Archive at George Washington University, Washington D.C., and series editor of the Archive’s award-winning Web, CD, book, and microform publications totaling more than 500,000 pages of declassified documents.]
Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, thank you for inviting me to testify about the crisis currently facing one of the glories of our democracy, the Presidential Records Act. Other experts you are hearing today will give you the legislative history and the legal reasoning behind this landmark law; my own conviction is simply that this statute fulfills a core motivation of our Constitutional system, that of preventing our Presidents from becoming – or acting like – kings. Their records actually belong to us, the citizens, and the Presidential Records Act...
SOURCE: New Republic (2-28-07)
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Education (3-1-07)
That demonstration, which resulted in arrests but no violence, burned an indelible image of the Black Panthers and black power into the public consciousness. But the message carried that day — resistance to racial oppression, often through angry words and violent deeds — has long been the public legacy of the Black Panther Party, which formed in 1966.
Until recently, historians have not given much attention to the Black Panthers, except to note the perceived detriment to the broader civil-rights...
SOURCE: WSJ (3-1-07)
The atomic bomb fell on Nagasaki on the morning of Aug. 9, 1945. On Sept. 6, George Weller of the Chicago Daily News, fresh from covering the formal surrender of Japan aboard the USS Missouri, arrived in the city. He got there by impersonating an American colonel and forcing his way onto Japanese trains. He was the first Westerner to enter Nagasaki after the bomb.
By heading for Nagasaki, Weller was following his nose for news but also defying a ban imposed by Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who had declared Japan's southernmost island of Kyushu, where Nagasaki is located, off-limits to journalists. Weller reasoned that the war was over, the U.S. military's authority over journalists was now moot, and he ought to be free to travel wherever his story took him.
But MacArthur had the last word. Weller's dispatches, filed through U.S. censors in Tokyo, never reached Chicago. Weller always assumed...
SOURCE: WaPo (2-27-07)
What makes the story that broke over the weekend so compelling is that we know the charismatic activist Sharpton and we knew the onetime segregationist Thurmond. The ancestors of such public figures can't be dismissed as mere historical abstractions. They were real, flesh-and-blood men and women who played their roles, voluntarily or not, in the horrific institution that so indelibly stained this nation.
Because we know so little about slavery at the individual level, we really don't know slavery at all.
SOURCE: University of Virginia Magazine (2-1-07)
Such doublespeak, Handler maintains, not only prompts head scratching among the crowds who tour the nation’s most renowned living history museum, but reflects an identity crisis afflicting the institution itself. Just as most of its guides don periwigs and breeches, yet address visitors not as characters reciting scripts, but as historical "interpreters" parlaying information, corporate...
SOURCE: AlterNet (2-28-07)
When Ohio Congressman Tony Hall introduced two resolutions in 1997 and 2000 asking Congress to officially apologize for slavery, he was blasted from pillar to post. Irate whites called the resolution wasteful and racist. Many blacks ridiculed it as much too little and much too late. But the slavery issue refused to go away. Virginia is the latest to deal with it when both houses unanimously passed a resolution apologizing for slavery. The resolution was mild, innocuous, and ultimately toothless, but at least it acknowledged the monstrous wrong of slavery.
Now Congress should follow Virginia's lead and apologize for slavery. And it's not just a matter of doing the morally right thing. The U.S. government not just a handful...
SOURCE: NYT (3-1-07)
Just when we thought the news couldn’t get any weirder, we learned this week, via The Daily News, that Mr. Sharpton’s great-grandfather was a slave who was owned by relatives of Senator Strom Thurmond, the longtime archsegregationist who ran for president as a Dixiecrat in 1948.
“There’s not enough troops in the Army,” Mr. Thurmond told a screaming crowd during that campaign, “to force the Southern people to break down segregation and admit the nigra race into our theaters, into our swimming pools, into our schools and into our homes.”
Mr. Sharpton seemed a little shaken by the revelation. “You’re always kind of thinking that your ancestors were slaves,” he said. “But this was my grandfather’s father. I knew my grandfather. It’s eerie when it becomes so personal.”
The days of slavery are closer than we tend to think, and they were crueler than we tend to realize...