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: NYT Magazine (4-6-08)
Will Americans vote for a black president? If the notorious historian William Estabrook Chancellor was right, we already did. In the early 1920s, Chancellor helped assemble a controversial biographical portrait accusing President Warren Harding of covering up his family’s “colored” past. According to the family tree Chancellor created, Harding was actually the great-grandson of a black woman. Under the one-drop rule of American race relations, Chancellor claimed, the country had inadvertently elected its “first Negro president.”...
To anyone who tracks it down today, Chancellor’s book comes across as a laughable partisan screed, an amalgam of bizarre racial theories, outlandish stereotypes and cheap political insults. But it also contains a remarkable trove of social knowledge — the kind of community gossip and oral tradition that rarely appears in official records but often provides clues to richer...
SOURCE: NYT (4-6-08)
FORTY years ago on March 31, at the National Cathedral, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered what would be his last Sunday sermon, on his way back to Memphis. That same night in 1968, President Johnson shocked the world by announcing that he would not seek re-election.
I was a senior in college. My mother was visiting four nights later when all conversation suddenly hushed in a busy restaurant. A waiter whispered that Dr. King had been shot.
Civil rights, Vietnam, Dr. King, Memphis — these are historic landmarks. Even so, this year is a watershed. Because Dr. King lived only 39 years, from now on, he will be gone longer than he lived among us. Two generations have come of age since Memphis.
This does not mean that...
SOURCE: Japan Focus (4-1-08)
Neo-nationalists have shut down a Chinese-directed movie about Japan’s controversial war memorial Yasukuni, the latest in a string of incidents threatening freedom of expression in Japan.
Its name translates as “peaceful country,” millions have silently prayed there for an end to wars, and for much of the year the loudest sound is the buzzing of insects and the shuffle of old footsteps to the hushed main hall. Yet Yasukuni Shrine, which occupies a single square kilometer of central Tokyo, is one of the most controversial pieces of real estate in Asia, resented by millions who consider it a monument to war, empire, and Japan’s unrepentant and undigested militarism.
A decade ago when Chinese director Li Ying began filming there he didn’t know what to make of his mysterious subject...
SOURCE: Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) (4-1-08)
SOURCE: City Journal (4-4-08)
In 1969, the Theater for Ideas organized a symposium to discuss whether acting should be “theater or therapy.” The event was prompted in part by the antics of the Living Theater, which had become famous for asking members of the audience to shed their clothes onstage along with the cast. In an emblematic moment, the distinguished critic Robert Brustein, one of the symposium’s panelists, spoke of the importance of “supremely gifted individuals” such as Chekhov to the theater—and was met with shouts of “Fuck Chekhov!” Eventually that command would extend to “Fuck Shakespeare” and “Fuck Euripides.”
Another panelist was Paul Goodman, who had come of age in the 1930s and was now a guru to the sixties generation. His 1960 book, Growing Up Absurd, had taught baby boomers that winos offered “a wise philosophical resignation plus an informed and...
SOURCE: Weekly Standard (3-31-08)
It was 75 years ago, on March 4, 1933, that Franklin Delano Roosevelt appeared on the steps of the Capitol to take the presidential oath, declaring in his inaugural address that "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself" and promising "direct, vigorous action" to confront the unprecedented economic crisis facing the nation.
Roosevelt's speech was short on specifics about his bold new measures, and he did not use the term "New Deal"--though he had used it extensively during his presidential campaign. But the "New Deal" soon became the catchall phrase for the philosophy and the legislative accomplishments by which his administration is known. Roosevelt's leadership during those difficult years turned him into the...
SOURCE: Middle East Strategy at Harvard (MESH) (4-1-08)
HNN Editor: In this lengthy piece, excerpted here, Professor Laqueur wonders what might have happened if the Jews had established a homeland in Palestine in the mid-19th century, as some suggested should occur to solve "the Jewish question": What to do with Europe's Jewish population.
... Once the state had come into being, there would be an almost unlimited number of possibilities of how it would develop; we cannot possibly know whether the Second World War would have taken place and if so what role Disraelia would have played in it. It is quite likely that a Cold War would have occurred and that it would have ended as it did. There would have been crises, domestic and external, affecting the state as has been the case with regard to all nations...