This page includes, in addition to news about historians, news about political scientists, economists, law professors, and others who write about history. For a comprehensive list of historians' obituaries, go here.
SOURCE: http://www.eveningsun.com (11-12-06)
Town dignitaries clustered near the platform, anxious to hear what President Abraham Lincoln might have to say that November day in 1863.
A cheer went up for the president as he prepared to speak.
"I suppose you have all seen me and according to my past experience, you have not seen as much as you expected to see," Lincoln began.
The joke about his personal appearance was vintage Lincoln. But it didn't, of course, begin the 16th president's fabled Gettysburg Address.
This was Lincoln's less-known Hanover address, a speech that never might have taken place were it not for the behind-the-scenes machinations of a prominent Hanoverian.
But while Lincoln's remarks at the Hanover train station on his way to Gettysburg are largely forgotten, they helped shape the enduring legend of Lincoln's trip to Gettysburg, according to Gettysburg College Professor Gabor Boritt.
Borritt's new book, "The Gettysburg Gospel: the Lincoln Speech that Nobody Knows," describes Lincoln's Hanover appearance in detail. He admits there's no guarantee he reproduced the day accurately, but if he came close, Lincoln may have done well to stay inside.
Boritt writes that Lincoln grumbled about the visit. A story filtered through the decades claims Lincoln complained about his scheduled speech at Gettysburg. Boritt speculates the president grumbled about Hanover, and fuzzy memories attached the complaint to the upcoming stop in Gettysburg
After his opening joke, Lincoln engaged the crowd in banter he probably regretted.
He asked the crowd if "the rebels" had come to Hanover. At least one voice responded "yes."
"Well, did you fight them any?" Lincoln asked.
"Lincoln was still joking, but people fell silent," Boritt wrote. He added "fighting was no jocular matter for folk who had worried about their houses being burnt."
An awkward silence persisted until young women presented flowers to the president. Then a father held up his son while the boy gave Lincoln an apple from his own yard before the train chugged out of the station.
The town had made its contribution to the Union cause. The day before the Battle of Gettysburg, combat in Hanover killed 19 Union cavalry.
SOURCE: Bruce Craig in Perspectives, the newsmagazine of the AHA (11-1-06)
The new NARA initiative was conceived in response to an April 2006 audit report by the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) entitled "Withdrawal of Records from Public Access at the National Archives and Records Administration for Classification Purposes." Weinstein explained the objectives, milestones, and progress to date for the initiative that the archivist hopes will serve as the catalyst for declassification reform among federal agencies.
During the meeting that brought together representatives of the National Coalition for History, the American Historical Association, the National Security Archive, the Federation of American Scientists, and several other groups, Weinstein explained how the program would establish a better means for managing referrals of classified equities between executive branch agencies. In addition to the NDI, the meeting included a briefing on the National Archives program for handling the systematic declassification of presidential records called the Remote Archives Capture Project. The archivist explained that all federal agencies are being encouraged to participate in and support both of these declassification initiatives....
SOURCE: Linda Kerber, president of the AHA, in Perspectives (11-1-06)
In the essays that follow, three historians reflect on the subject: Douglas Baynton discusses disability as an analytic category, culturally and historically contingent, changing its meanings over time. Catherine Kudlick and Paul Longmore reflect on disability as practice, as infirmity that many of us experience and to which we all are likely to be vulnerable as we age.
Together these reflections raise challenging questions: What hidden assumptions have we made about what counts as an interesting subject of study and analysis? What hidden assumptions have we made about what is needed—besides smarts—to be a historian? What do we count as competence? Do we assess it wisely?...
We historians are lucky in our chosen work: maturity is likely to bring strength. Libraries are our laboratories; we rarely get thrown out of them when we retire or our grants run out. It is not difficult to think of many historians who have done their best work late in life; as bodies weaken, wisdom may grow.
But stop the clock at a single moment in time. At that moment, close to 20 percent of the population is being counted by the census as disabled—the figure that Kudlick and Longmore cite in their essay. But at that moment, too, every newborn baby is in need of 24-hour round-the-clock care; they cannot be left unguarded for a moment. As children get older, the need for care will slowly decrease, but it will not be gone fully until they reach 18, or more probably, 20 or, these days, 22 or 24 (think of all the college graduates who return home to live for a while). At the other end of the life course, if one is very lucky, one can reach age 60 or 65 without much need for additional care, but after that the need will increase gradually (again, if one is lucky) from needing help with lawn mowing on to the activities of daily life, throughout the next 20 years or more. At any given moment there are people who are in bed with the flu or hospitalized with ailments. Feminists are fond of emphasizing that women are a majority of the population; far more than 50 percent of the population is in need of some sort of help to get through the day.
People with disabilities are among us everywhere—in the schools and in museums, in government and other offices, and in annual meetings of our associations. Some of the disabled are visible: those who carry white canes for blindness, or sit in wheelchairs, or who hobble on crutches temporarily or permanently. Many of the disabilities are not immediately (or ever) visible to the uninformed: Deafness, the exhaustion resulting from chemotherapy. None of our institutions are inhabited by as many people with disabilities as they might be, were conditions more welcoming.
For more than 15 years, the Americans with Disabilities Act has summoned up a remarkable set of changes in the practices of daily life. Its requirements of physical accessibility have transformed the landscapes of the institutions where we work and study—and of the hotels where we hold our annual meetings. Think autoslide or power doors at entrances, wheelchair-accessible water fountains and sinks, Braille keypads in the elevators, handrails in bathtubs and showers.
All activists are hungry for their history. So it is with disability history. In turn, the new disability history will enable all of us to understand not just a social movement, but all history better. ...
SOURCE: Announcement from the Cold War International History Project/Woodrow Wilson Center about an upcoming lecture by Chris Tudda, author of The Truth is Our Weapon: The Rhetorical Diplomacy of Dwight D. Eisenhower and John Foster Dulles. The lecture will take place 11-15-06 at 4pm at the Wilson Center, 5th floor conference room. (11-14-06)
Tudda explores the Eisenhower administration's pursuit of these two mutually exclusive diplomatic strategies and reveals how failure to reconcile them endangered the fragile peace of the 1950s. He builds his argument through three case studies: the administration's badgering the French and their allies to ratify the European Defense Community, its threat to liberate Eastern Europe from Moscow's rule, and its forcing the issue of German reunification. By emphasizing the threat from the Soviet Union, Eisenhower and Dulles were trying to promote an activist as opposed to isolationist foreign policy. But their rhetorical diplomacy intensified Cold War tensions with European allies as well as with Moscow and effectively overwhelmed the administration's true diplomatic aims.
Based on American, British, Eastern European, and Soviet primary sources-many only recently unearthed-The Truth Is Our Weapon is a major contribution to the historiography of Eisenhower's diplomacy and an important statement about the implications of public and private policymaking.
Chris Tudda is a Historian in the Declassification and Publishing Division in the Office of the Historian, Department of State, where he coordinates the declassification of manuscripts for the Foreign Relations of the United States series. He is also responsible for producing the Office's internet-only publications and has been a member of the Organizing Committee for the Offices two scholarly conferences on the 1967 Arab-Israeli War (2004) and the 1971 South Asia Crisis (2005). He chaired a panel at the Office's September 2006 conference, "Transforming the Cold War: The U. S. and China, 1969-1980." He earned a B.A. from the University of Vermont in 1987 and the Ph.D. from American University in 2002. He is the author of The Truth is our Weapon: The Rhetorical Diplomacy of Dwight D. Eisenhower and John Foster Dulles, which was published by Louisiana State University in April 2006. In June 2006 he was named to the Advisory Board of the Voices of Democracy Project, a web-based teaching program for American undergraduates that promotes the study of great speeches and debates, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities. His article "Re-enacting the Story of Tantalus: Eisenhower, Dulles, and the Failure of the Rhetoric of Liberation" was published in the fall 2005 edition of the Journal of Cold War Studies. Another article, "A Messiah that will Never Come: British Reconciliation Efforts, American Independence, and Revolutionary War Diplomacy" is under consideration at Diplomatic History. He is currently working on a reassessment of American Revolutionary Diplomacy and a history of Nixon's Opening to China.
For more information and RSVP, please visit
http://www.cwihp.org or e-mail us on email@example.com.
SOURCE: Middle East Studies Aassociation (11-13-06)
Honorable Nouri Kamal al-Maliki
Prime Minister of the Republic of Iraq
c/o The Embassy of Iraq
1801 P Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20036 USA
Fax: (202) 462-5066
Dear Prime Minister al-Maliki:
We write to you on behalf of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) and the American Association of University (AAUP) to express our grave concern over the killing of two of Iraq's most prominent academics: Isam al-Rawi, a professor in the Department of Geology at the University of Baghdad and president of the Union of University Professors, and Jassim al-Asadi, Dean of the University of Baghdad's School of Administration and Economics.
Professor al-Rawi was killed by unknown gunmen on October 30, 2006, on his way to work. Then, on November 2, 2006, in an act which many observers see as revenge for the earlier killing, unknown gunmen murdered Professor al-Asadi, his wife and son as they passed by car through the neighborhood of al-Adhamiyya.
Their murder highlights the startling fact that over 180 university professionals in Iraq have been killed since the 2003 US-led occupation and thousands of academics, teachers, clinicians, writers and artists have fled your country. We note that entire academic departments at Baghdad University and on other campuses have been forced to close down and are no longer able to fulfill their educational and research missions.
As we have previously noted, the present Government of Iraq has done little to ensure the safety of academics since it took office. A significant portion of the current violence against academics has been perpetrated by sectarian militias affiliated with the ruling political coalitions. Professors have been threatened, harmed, kidnapped and assassinated because of their actual or alleged political affiliations, or because they failed to respond resolutely to demands of students for special treatment. Communities of students are becoming politicized in a way that threatens the institutionalization of tolerance and the protection of intellectual diversity.
We ask your Excellency to recognize that the destruction of Iraq‰¥ús intellectual and academic class through murder and mass exodus is a profound challenge to the future of Iraq and that you take immediate action to:
1) Secure the campuses in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq; 2) Affirm the independence of Iraq‰¥ús system of higher education, immunize it against sectarian politics as far as possible and provide for it a budget that is institutionally protected from partisan or sectarian pressures; and 3) Identify the murderers of Professors al-Rawi and al-Asadi and bring them to justice.
Please know that we remain ready to take steps, together and with sister organizations, to promote programs and policies in Iraq and on behalf of the international community of scholars and researchers that will resolutely address this disturbing situation.
Juan R.I. Cole
Roger W. Bowen
AAUP General Secretary
cc: Ambassador Samir Sumaidaie
The Embassy of Iraq
1801 P Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20036 USA
Fax: (202) 462-5066
SOURCE: The Record--The Independent Newspaper at Harvard Law School (11-9-06)
Tushnet joined the Harvard Law School faculty this year as William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law after spending twenty-five years teaching at the Georgetown University Law Center. Cornell, an Associate Professor of History at Ohio State University and Director of the Second Amendment Research Center at the John Glenn Institute, recently published a book on the history of gun control entitled A Well-Regulated Militia: The Founding Fathers and the Origins of Gun Control in America.
Cornell began by describing the high cost - in both dollars and lives - of gun violence in America, noting that approximately 30,000 Americans die each year as a result of gun violence and that direct medical costs alone constitute several billion dollars of spending per year. At the same time, he acknowledged that a platform based on eradicating guns entirely would be an unrealistic way to address the problem. According to Cornell, 35% to 40% of households in this country own at least one gun and gun ownership is too historically embedded in our society to make a confiscation plan realistically viable.
At the same time, Cornell expressed his belief that progressives have been ignoring the gun control issue for too long and that they need to find a way to develop and express a position on the issue that demonstrates a middle ground.
"There is a way of making gun control an issue that is not poison to the left," Cornell stated. "You can be for gun regulation without actually wanting to take everyone's guns away."
Tushnet, on the other hand, showed less optimism about the possibility of making progress on the gun control issue and expressed concern that "making a big deal about it" would be a fruitless use of time and energy.
"Given the prevalence of guns in society, and the cultural resonance that gun ownership has in substantial segments of society, there is no politically achievable gun policy that is going to have any significant effect one way or the other on gun violence, which means it's just wasted effort."...
SOURCE: Reuters (11-11-06)
Citing Pentagon officials, the Times reported that Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Peter Pace had assembled a team of what it called some of the military's brightest and most innovative officers and charged them with taking a fresh look at Iraq, Afghanistan and other flashpoints.
Pace announced the review in a series of television interviews on Friday but did not give many details.
The New York Times said that among ideas discussed were increasing the size of the Iraqi security forces, along with U.S. efforts to train and equip them, and adjusting the size of the American force in Iraq.
It added that Pentagon officials stressed that the review extended well beyond Iraq, and that some unorthodox ideas on how to fight terrorism were being weighed....
The team involved in the military review includes Col. H. R. McMaster, an Army officer whose 2005 operation in Tal Afar has been cited as a textbook case in how to wage counterinsurgency in Iraq, as well as Col. Peter Mansoor, the director of the United States Army and Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., who commanded an Army brigade that fought the Mahdi Army militia in 2004 at Karbala, the newspaper reported.
SOURCE: WaPo (11-11-06)
But letters from Victor Hugo, Russian oil-field maps and explosives-factory share certificates will be among the items going on display next year in Athens in a new museum dedicated to Nobel, the museum's founder announced this week.
Greek historian Giorgos Marcou's family donated the funds for the project, and bought documents and other materials from all five continents, hauled them to Greece, and conceived and built the facility to house them.
Marcou's interest was piqued in the late 1970s in Italy when his research revealed that two of Nobel's friends shared the surname Marcou. His family even donated the land for the museum, which he said was full of "mosquitoes and lettuce" before the groundbreaking in the northern suburb of Halandri.
Nobel, who was born in Stockholm in 1833 and died in San Remo, Italy, in 1896, professed a lifelong interest in ancient Greece. His explosives and engineering systems were employed in digging the Corinth Canal in the late 19th century, and he named his invention of dynamite after the Greek word "dynamis," meaning power.
Still, the Greek connection is far from obvious and, to some, is controversial. Marcou acknowledged that many Greeks initially opposed a Greek site, but such sentiments were overridden by his zealous pursuit of a near-lifelong dream -- backed by a dedicated family fortune.
The Museum of the Hellenic Nobel Collection will present more than 3,500 artifacts related to the famous Swede. These include letters, photographs, drawings, patents, and other documents and objects culled from more than 200 private collections in some 62 countries.
The three-floor facility will include permanent and rotating exhibitions, a reading library, an amphitheater, archives and other facilities.
By 1998, Greek stewardship of the long-scattered Nobel collection was secure. "We tried to save them from ruin," Marcou said at a news conference.
SOURCE: Ralph Luker at HNN's Cliopatria (blog) (11-10-06)
SOURCE: Jeffrey R. Young in the Chronicle of Higher Education (11-10-06)
While other disciplines have found ways to represent complex phenomena using illustrations that overlay many types of information, Mr. Ayers says, history has for the most part focused on written narratives, linear stories that set forth an overriding argument. But since life is messy, and the lives of so many individuals are sure to be influenced by a variety of forces in ways that are hard to describe, pictures might prove to be history's next frontier.
Imagine, he says, a social weather map plotting the movements of people as multiple historical forces come into play. And like the weather maps on television-news broadcasts, perhaps the data could be set in motion, so that effects of various social warm and cold fronts could be observed.
"I think of the past as at least as complex as anything in nature, and yet we restrict ourselves to analog means of describing it," says Mr. Ayers. "So I thought, if this works for physical natural processes, why couldn't we be able to see social processes as well?"
The professor, an expert on the Civil War and himself a renowned storyteller, was one of the earliest proponents of digitizing the raw materials of history. In the 1990s, he led the creation of the Valley of the Shadow: Two Communities in the American Civil War, one of the most popular collections of historical records online. That project, which many see as a model for digital history projects, focuses on two counties in the Shenandoah Valley, one in the North and one in the South, during the Civil War and Reconstruction.
Mr. Ayers has already written an extensive narrative based on his exploration of the thousands of diaries, letters, and public records in the collection. But he is convinced all those data have far more to say.
If data are gold mines of information, he is now going prospecting.
By applying new digital tools to the Valley Project, as it is known, and by inviting others to join in and add their own data and tools, Mr. Ayers is now hoping to help build an interactive historical atlas, a rich collection of data about American history. The new project, called the Aurora Project: A Dynamic Atlas of American History, is a joint effort with William G. Thomas III, a professor of humanities at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, and it will begin by focusing on the current research areas of the two historians. For Mr. Ayers, that topic is the social history of freed slaves and the networks they formed after emancipation....
SOURCE: Dr. History (blog) (11-11-06)
I was pretty shocked by the news that Donald Rumsfeld is resigning as Secretary of Defense, but that doesn't come close to matching my shock that his replacement could be current Texas A&M president and historian Robert M. Gates.
Gates received a master's in history from Indiana University in 1966 and his Ph.D. in Russian and Soviet history from Georgetown University in 1974. These are two high ranking history programs so I couldn't help but be a little impressed at these credentials.
His dissertation - SOVIET SINOLOGY: AN UNTAPPED SOURCE FOR KREMLIN VIEWS AND DISPUTES RELATING TO CONTEMPORARY EVENTS IN CHINA - is a weighty 306 pages long.
Although it doesn't look like he ever spent any real time in the classroom behind the lectern, I wonder if he will be the first 'academic' to serve as Secretary of Defense? There have been lots of academics who have held the Secretary of State job, but I can't think of any who have served in this capacity [although I'm going to go research it ASAP]. It should be interesting to see how someone like Gates can combine his practical experience from the CIA and other government positions, with his historical understanding of how the world operates.
Looks like I'll have to add another name to my list of famous historians if Gates is confirmed.
SOURCE: David Horowitz at FrontPageMag.com (11-10-06)
Bettina Aptheker is a well-known American radical who in the 1960s was a leader of the campus Left, and now, like so many of her peers, is a tenured activist on the faculty of a major university. Her father, Herbert Aptheker, was the Communist Party’s most prominent Cold War intellectual and, as the Party’s “leading theoretician,” a noted enforcer of its orthodoxy. The author of a notorious tract justifying the 1956 Soviet invasion of Hungary, Aptheker earned academic credentials as the author of a Columbia University doctoral thesis on American Negro Slave Revolts and was appointed editor of the papers of fellow Communist and friend, W.E.B. DuBois, and eventually executor of his literary estate. These achievements made Aptheker an unwitting intellectual forerunner of the ethnic and gender “identity politics” that would capture the allegiance of his daughter’s generation and supplant the economic Stalinism that was his own window on the world.
“The Party was everything” for him, his daughter tells us in a newly published memoir – “glorious, true, righteous, the marrow out of which black liberation would finally come.” His truth was not that of the scholar and skeptic but of the priest, framed “in absolutes: Loyalty, loyalty to this movement above all else.” It was a mantle the daughter aspired to put on: “To inherit a father’s dreams makes you the eldest son. To further his ambitions makes you heir to the throne.” The apercu is quoted from an anthology of lesbian writings and appears on the very first page of her memoir, provocatively titled Intimate Politics: How I Grew Up Red, Fought for Free Speech, and Became a Feminist Rebel.
I sat down to read this memoir expecting to learn little or nothing from the effort. The low expectations were not personal but a response to the genre of Communist memoirs, with which I was all too familiar. Political missionaries such as Bettina Aptheker and her father are self-confined prisoners of a religious faith, a fact she unexpectedly acknowledges early in her text: “While some families embraced religion to believe in and guide their lives, we had Communism.” It is this fact that makes such reminiscences normally unrewarding. The moral compass of an ideological faith requires a flattening of the human landscape and the reduction of its complexities to the formulas that enable its pilgrims to chart their earthly progress.
In the Apthekers’ household, this moral rectitude routinely required the suppression of facts inconvenient to their cause and the occlusion of perspectives that questioned its truths. The father’s apologetic for the Soviet outrage in Hungary was an obvious case in point. By her own account, the daughter rigidly followed his ideological footsteps. Indeed despite her claim to be a “feminist rebel,” she owes to him every achievement of notoriety in her own political career. By her own account the Aptheker daughter was not even aware of the ideas of non-Party Marxists like Herbert Marcuse and Maurice Merleau-Ponty before encountering them in graduate school in her late twenties. “There was a whole world of ideas out there about which I knew almost nothing,” she observes in her text, “because my reading had been so (self-) censored.” It is an even more striking admission in that she had spent the previous 10 years as a student and political actor in an environment – Berkeley – which was the capital of the “New Left” and thus the center of a veritable renaissance of unorthodox radical ideas.
Because of the authorial mission, the first editorial principle of the ideological memoirist is invariably the exclusion of the politically inexplicable. Unruly experience cannot be permitted to enter the autobiographical frame where it might unsettle the meanings of a devotional life. Drained of the unexpected, such reminiscences, therefore, are not really self-portraits but summaries of the hero’s political postures over time. Eric Hobsbawm’s Interesting Times is an example of the genre, as is the autobiography of Al Richmond, one of Aptheker’s Party mentors. But it is not only memoirs by Communist authors that suffer this literary constraint. I remember my acute disappointment on reading the autobiography of Irving Howe, a stalwart of the anti-Communist Left, just because of this fact: In writing it, he had left out his life.
The very title of Aptheker’s book, Intimate Politics, was unpromising. It is an obvious play on the familiar feminist slogan, “the personal is political.” As I understood it, the phrase expressed an ideological will to reduce everything personal to a political formula, stamping out the messy particulars of an individual existence in the process.
Despite these forebodings, my interest in Intimate Politics had been piqued (along with everyone else’s) when a dark secret at its core was leaked by the first reviewers. The famously loyal daughter of a famous progressive father had outed him as a child molester. In the daughter’s telling – which is hard to credit – she had repressed the memory of her molestation for 40 years and recovered it only as she sat down in her fifties to interrogate her past. According to the daughter, the father whom she adored as an avatar of humanity’s future “liberation” had forcibly masturbated on her innocent flesh “from early childhood until age thirteen.” To conceal the shame, he had terrorized her into silence with a threat, which merged with the political terror that defined their lives: If you speak out, if you reveal who we are, you will betray us, and “terrible things will happen.” So fearful was the child of losing her father to unseen forces if she spoke the truth, she suppressed it, keeping the secret eventually even from herself.
The daughter’s 500-page memoir, 10 years in the writing, is framed by this secret and by its unceremonious revelation at the end of the patriarch’s life: “As I began writing, sifting through my childhood memories, they erupted in ways I would never have predicted. A story emerged. A fault line opened and my world underwent a seismic shift.” So she begins her book; and closes it with her confrontation with the patriarch over his unspeakable crime. At the time of her revelation, Herbert Aptheker was 84-years-old and had already suffered a “major stroke.” Fay, his wife of 62 years, was dead a mere 17 days. Yet, in response to a seemingly innocent question, “Did I ever hurt you when you were a child?” she accuses him: You are a molester and I am your victim. “This is worse than Fay dying!” the old man squeals. The daughter drives on: it happened. Desperation overwhelms him. He talks of suicide. Facing a personal destruction as complete as if his existence had been erased by a totalitarian state, he denies the claim. “I can’t live with this…I have no memory of it! You must have dreamed it, or read about it somewhere! I cannot live with this. Therefore, I deny it.” But the daughter persists and the old man, increasingly frantic, clutching at his own reality as it slips irretrievably away, interjects bizarrely: “You know a great moment in history? Nat Turner was in his cell. One arm chained to the wall.” He is reaching for the legacy and the myths that have sustained him and has become in his own mind one with the rebel slave confronting the jailers who are about to execute him, crying, “Was not Christ crucified?”
It is a scene of betrayal unique to this literature. For a family living for history, as the Herbert Apthekers did – living for humanity – this is the point of no return. Talk about giving aid and comfort to the enemy! Talk about the patricidal fury of the heir apparent! Talk about unruly!
For Bettina Aptheker, the recovered incest memory – if that is what it is – provides one of the insurmountable fault lines in the perfect sense her parents attempted to make of the world with their progressive values and ideas. But in the end it is not what triggers her exit from the Stalin cult or propels her on the road to her second thoughts. The prime mover of this painful odyssey – the indispensable peg that will not fit the ideological frame – is not any act inflicted on her but the contingency of her own sexual identity: “I don’t think I ever would have moved out of the perceived safety in which I had enclosed myself by the mid-1970s had it not been for the fact that I was a lesbian. My strong desire to live my own life – as a lesbian and as a feminist-activist scholar – overrode fear, parental pressures, and Communist imperatives.”
But here, as on many other occasions in her book, her self-understanding falls short. For the desire that drives her story is more than just a need to live her own life. It is also the religious desire for a vision that will unify her life. The desire to close the gap between her personal truth and her political ideas is the true theme of Aptheker’s memoir, justifying both the title of her book and the feminist slogan from which it derives. It is this need that drives her ruthless determination to confront the fault lines of her parents’ lives and her own, even when the confrontation is emotionally violent; even when it expresses itself in cruel and unnecessary acts; even when it means ripping asunder the foundations of hearth and home.
"Everywhere in my life there were secrets. There were those I was told to keep and others about myself that I chose to keep…[These] secrets kept me isolated, especially from other children, and instilled in me the belief that what went on at home had nothing to do with my parents’ political beliefs – those of socialism, peace, social justice, racial equality and civil rights. Of course, I didn’t see the contradiction between the way they lived and what they believed until much later, when I realized that I had to live what I believed if I was going to overcome my past and thrive as an authentic person."
Not all the secrets were sexual. Some were personal, like the fact of her mother’s first marriage, which she discovered inadvertently at the age of 10, when an old family acquaintance accosted them in a department store and addressed her mother by a previous married name: “Now I knew that Mother and Father had lied to me my whole life about something that felt very important to me. What else had I not been told? What else had I been told that wasn’t true?”
But the Aptheker secrets were above all political, deriving from the public activities that provided meaning to their lives. Bettina describes the execution of the Rosenbergs, the martyred saints of the Communist church, as “the political nightmare of my childhood,” a common experience for those of us who grew up in that radical generation. She was eight at the time: “After their execution my mother pulled me onto her lap one evening when she got home from work. We were in the big green leather chair in the living room. She said: ‘I have something very important to tell you.’ Her voice was soft, almost without inflection. I could feel her breath on my cheek. ‘Your daddy and I are Communists. You must never, ever tell anyone. Do you understand?’” The message was clear. If you reveal who we are the consequences may be death.
A year later, at a camp for “progressive” children, Bettina betrayed the secret. The children were lying on their bunks before going to sleep, boasting about their parents, and ranking them politically. “My parents are Communists,” said one proudly. “Mine aren’t,” responded another, challenging the presumption of virtue behind the claim. “‘My parents are Communists too,’ I said. Then I froze. I had betrayed the secret. I was terrified. FBI agents were lurking outside our bunkhouse. They would have heard me. They would arrest my parents….” Terrible things would happen.
But of course, it was pure fantasy, since – as Aptheker herself concedes – her father was a publicly known Communist. Her mother was protecting her from possible repercussions from other children and unwittingly terrorizing her instead.
Decades after, Aptheker had occasion to contrast her family’s Byzantine household with a conservative foil. She and her life partner, Kate Miller, were visiting Miller’s Lutheran parents, who were from the Midwest and who believed – and made no secret of their belief – that an “unrepentant homosexual” like their daughter “would literally burn in hell.” It was an attitude, however, as Aptheker notes, that didn’t prevent them from loving their daughter. Aptheker had spent decades in the closet out of fear of revealing her secret to her own mother and father (and for a long time even herself), because she thought it would mean expulsion from her family and her Party and world. What she was observing in Kate’s family came as a revelation: “I was most amazed however by their family interaction. The content may have been conservative, but at least everything was out in the open. In my family, everything was communicated by innuendo, and undercurrent, and we kept so many secrets from each other, lying by omission, by denial, by erasure.”
Not surprisingly, the secrets of the Aptheker household were accompanied by a psychological rage whose dimensions could be frightening. “Though my father was passionate and articulate on behalf of causes he believed in, particularly Communism,” Aptheker observes, “this fire could also quickly turn to unrestrained anger.” She provides examples. The stories of his war service are mainly “harrowing.” On one occasion he recalls for his daughter that he pointed his sidearm at the head of the unarmed mayor of German village after liberation, demanding milk for children in a refugee camp. “My father cocked the gun and told him to find the milk or ‘I’d blow his goddamn head off.’ The milk arrived but my father still regretted not ‘shooting the sonofabitch anyway.’” This could have been mere bravado, but the incidents she relates are too numerous and too detailed to doubt.
SOURCE: Lee Formwalt in the OAH Newsletter (11-1-06)
Graduate education in history remains a topic of heated discussion among scholars, and it has received significant attention recently from the AHA’s report, The Education of Historians for the Twenty-first Century (2004), to the Carnegie Initiative on the Doctorate initiative. Through her long career, Lerner has been an integral part of changes in the profession. I asked her for her thoughts regarding changes in graduate education that are needed to better prepare future historians.
“The first thing I have to say is that we are always being questioned as though there were two different aspects of what historians do—teaching and research—two really separate things. I don’t believe that, and I don’t believe in coming out with anything that says do one OR the other. I think, however, many improvements can be made in what we do in the training in research. Historical training should impart to the future historian a deep and abiding passion for presenting the past to the present. It seems to me that if we don’t make students feel that history matters and matters profoundly, we are missing the essence of what we are doing. Many people are so busy with career-building strategies that they never get to think about the larger and deeper meaning of what it means to be a historian. I feel that if you don’t have that and you don’t impart that, there is no point in doing what we do.”...
SOURCE: OAH President Richard White in the OAH Newsletter (11-1-06)
Public intellectuals are certainly public; it is the intellectual part that worries me. Raritan is not a history journal, but it is a very good journal edited by a historian. I read it and write for it occasionally. The current issue captures the dilemma nicely. There is an article by the editor Jackson Lears that brings considerable scholarship and learning to bear on an important public issue. This is what public intellectuals should do. There is also an article by Todd Gitlin, a sociologist, on why we need public intellectuals. It is a good example of why we might actually need fewer public intellectuals. It is a rant. That it is a rant in favor of reason and the Enlightenment does not make it any less of a rant. I happen to agree with at least some of Gitlin’s politics, but that is why I find the article so embarrassing. It is lazy. There is not a single idea that we have not heard many times before. It deals with difficult intellectual issues by denouncing them. Ranting fills a niche already crowded to overflowing.
What currently passes as public history in our premier national institutions and the rather low bar for being a public intellectual raises questions about what scholars should, and should not, do as citizens....
The best public interventions by scholars are when the stars align and a matter of urgent public interest corresponds to topics to which we have been giving considerable thought and research. Then we have a responsibility to speak out no matter how unpopular our positions might be. The worst moments are when we become pundits—experts on everything, masters of the superficial, purveyors of opinion for opinion’s sake. We also need to be harder on people whose opinions we share. We are, after all, implicated in the stupidities of our allies not our opponents. We need to recognize when the stars align; at other times, we might just let other people talk.
I have sometimes considered endowing yet another award in our seemingly endless series of awards. It would go to the year’s Most Embarrassing Historian. The winner, almost by definition, would be someone who became too public of a public intellectual. We are all eligible. I might win it myself one day.
SOURCE: Thomas W. Zeiler in the OAH Newsletter (11-1-06)
H-Diplo’s example of technological democracy in action raises comparisons with a far more well-known tool of the twenty-first century, Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that encourages anyone to insert, revise, and discuss an entry. The democratic process—that is, free access to write, comment, and read on the site—assumed primacy in Wikipedia’s basic structure and content, and it has worked wonders in boosting the number of entries in the English version to over one million since 2001. On a smaller scale, H-Diplo has had a similar impressive rise to that of Wikipedia. According to its managing editor, Diane Labrosse, H-Diplo has a current membership of about 4,000 members, a nearly four-fold increase over the past eight years. The average H-Net list has roughly 600 members, while a typically strong one attracts about 1,000 subscribers. This makes H-Diplo one of the top five largest lists among the 180 on the H-Net system.
Democracy is in action within H-Diplo’s submissions process, too, but in a more controlled way. To be sure, the editors and moderators provide guidelines to ensure civility, regulate the list to prevent redundant messages, and terminate access for those eventually identified as rogue contributors. This has brought charges that H-Diplo stifles the very democratic process that lies at the core of Internet communications. Some readers complain about ideologically driven gate-keeping that represses open inquiry, but it is impossible to verify such complaints with any accuracy, especially as such grievances are common in the academy. My brief survey of H-Diplo members (of which just a handful responded) turned up grumbling across the political spectrum (though more from the Left). In determining content from the top down, the editors also work closely with other scholarly journals (such as Diplomatic History, the journal of record for the field) to present forums on articles, and they have their own excellent list of book review roundtables. But the core of H-Diplo, just like Wikipedia, remains member driven. Subscribers offer topics on whatever suits their fancy. Free expression, however moderated by the editors, is in evidence, but a question arises as to how positive the consequences are....
SOURCE: Jennifer Howard writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education (11-10-06)
The scholar will have one answer. It may not jibe with the verdict of his or her college's institutional review board, whose mandate is to make sure that research involving humans stays within ethical bounds, regardless of the topic. Over the past decade, it has become increasingly likely that before the historian ever switches on a tape recorder, the board will insist that he or she put the project — or protocol, in IRB-speak — through the kind of vetting that was designed to keep biomedical and psychological experiments on the straight and narrow.
The debate cuts to the heart of what historians do, especially if they study events that took place within living memory. And it is becoming more urgent, as events like Katrina and the attacks of September 11, 2001, inspire more scholars to turn to the recent past and to oral history as a means of recording and understanding it. But as oral history becomes more popular and more pervasive, both as a research tool and as a pedagogical technique, it has also come under more scrutiny. And that worries scholars who are not used to being on the regulatory radar.
As the American Historical Association has documented in a series of periodic updates in its monthly newsletter, Perspectives, IRB's have over the past several years begun to pay closer attention to all research projects that involve human beings, no matter what the field. Ten years ago, when Linda Shopes was president-elect of the Oral History Association, she remembers only "a handful of complaints" from oral historians about IRB's. Since then, with colleges increasingly wary of potential lawsuits, oral historians have found their work caught up in regulatory reviews.
Some historians, especially those who work at colleges where oral history is well established, are quickly turned loose by their IRB's. Others get tangled up in a review process they find cumbersome and unfriendly. They accuse review boards of a failure to understand the nature of historical research and of an overzealous commitment to a one-size-fits-all system of review. In such cases, a scholar who specializes in, say, the civil-rights movement may find that, in terms of how his research is viewed by the university, and the paperwork he or his students must complete, he may have more in common with a colleague in the medical school than he does with the medievalist down the hall....
SOURCE: US News & World Report (11-5-06)
Why are sick celebrities so important to other sick people?
There's a sense that celebrities have access to the best care and that you'd be wise to do what they did. Would that work for me, people wonder? Lance Armstrong says that people write to him asking about everything he did and ate while fighting testicular cancer.
So they are role models?
Definitely. This whole business of battling your disease, well, Lou Gehrig was practically a template for it. When doctors at the Mayo Clinic finally figured out he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, he worked with them, following all their suggestions, even for experimental medicine, like vitamin treatments. This was covered heavily in newspapers in 1939, so people reading learned about the value of clinical trials. Even though he died, the lesson was that you do your best and you go out like a hero.
Is that what really happened?
The reality was that it sucked. Gehrig's wife described his last days as bedbound and immobile. Every breath must have been a struggle. But that wasn't covered in the papers. Instead, we got the heroic death in the movie The Pride of the Yankees.
So the fighter is a bad model?
It's a balance. Patients want to believe they can battle disease, and there's no doubt that optimism helps them, and so does fortitude. But there are many people who fight and don't win. Implying that patients who fight harder always do better is not necessarily true. And those who get sicker may blame themselves for not trying hard enough. Adding guilt to suffering is a terrible burden.
John Foster Dulles also fought and lost.
Yes, and people said he fought his colon cancer in 1956 as tenaciously as he fought communism. But one important thing Dulles did was bring cancer out of the closet. No one even liked using the word. But Dulles made a public statement, talked about what his doctors were doing, and went back to work....
SOURCE: NYT (11-1-06)
Mr. Irwin delays his direct attack until the penultimate chapter but throws down the gauntlet early. “Orientalism,” which indicts the entire field of Eastern studies as racist and imperialist, he characterizes in the introduction as “a work of malignant charlatanry.”
Its distortions are so fundamental, its omissions so glaring, that the first order of business, as Mr. Irwin sees it, is to offer a dispassionate account of what Western scholars did and did not do. The exercise is worthwhile, he argues, because Mr. Said’s book “has been surprisingly effective in discrediting and demoralizing an entire tradition of scholarship.”
A survey course in West-East encounters follows, beginning with the scattered observations of the ancient Greeks and Romans, and the first attempts by Christian thinkers to make sense of Islam, a religion they interpreted as a new form of Christian heresy. Mr. Irwin points out that throughout the Middle Ages and well into the Renaissance, Muslims, to the extent that they were thought about at all, were often regarded as pious, austere and a reproach to lax Christians. Saladin, in particular, was elevated to heroic status.
“The Arabs and Turks were not regarded as barbarians, nor were they consciously regarded as non-European, for there was little or no sense of any kind of European identity in this period,” Mr. Irwin writes....
SOURCE: Jerusalem Post (11-8-06)
Alan Dershowitz, Harvard's Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, has decided to attack me personally, thinking that if he undermines my reputation he can save his own. Paradoxically, he manages to prove one thing in his op-ed - that he is a consistent man.
As in his book The Case for Israel, here too, he relentlessly passes fiction for fact.
Despite Dershowitz's claims, I never compared Israelis to Nazis, and I certainly am not a neo-Nazi or anti-Israeli. Like Dershowitz, I am an American citizen, yet unlike him I have chosen to live in Israel and invest a large portion of my time struggling for social justice. I served in the Israeli paratroopers and was critically wounded defending the northern border.
Following the great Jewish tradition, I try, however modestly, to be critical of Israel whenever its policies violate principles of justice or human rights.
Ironically, about two years ago Dershowitz invited me to contribute a chapter to a book he was editing called What Israel Means to Me. At that time he was not questioning my commitment to Israel. What, then, has led him to change his mind?
Dershowitz's assault began following my review of Norman Finkelstein's Beyond Chutzpah. This book, which was published by University of California Press, provides clear evidence that in The Case for Israel Dershowitz "lifted" information and ideas from Joan Peters's From Time Immemorial. My review maintained that Harvard University's own definition of plagiarism - "passing off a source's information, ideas, or words as your own by omitting to cite them" - would, indeed, convict Dershowitz.
It was this that triggered Dershowitz's animus.
DERSHOWITZ avers that he never tried to stop UC Press from publishing Beyond Chutzpah and seems to think that if he repeats this often enough it will eventually become true. This is a well-known demagogic strategy.
Unfortunately for him, UC Press has correspondence on file in which he and the prestigious law firm he hired demand that the Press sever all contact with Finkelstein. A typical letter from Dershowitz's attorney, Rory Millson of Cravath, Swaine & Moore, describes "the press's decision to publish this book" as "wholly illegitimate" and concludes that: "The only way to extricate yourself is immediately to terminate all professional contact with this full-time malicious defamer."
When the Press's director Lynne Withey replied that she was committed to academic freedom and would therefore go ahead with the book, Dershowitz wrote to the university's board of trustees and even to California's governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, asking them to intervene on his behalf. They declined.
DERSHOWITZ'S inability to refute the evidence led to his vicious personal attack against me. However, Dershowitz also makes a political claim when he contends that my successful suit against Prof. Steven Plaut was, in effect, an attempt to undermine freedom of speech. Again he distorts the truth to suit his own purpose.
I filed a libel suit against Plaut when he began publishing a series of slanderous articles in which he calls me a "fanatic anti-Semite," "a Judenrat wannabe," "a promoter of Hitler," and "a groupie of the world's leading Holocaust denier." He went on to compare me to the notorious Holocaust denier David Irving.
In various places he claimed that I have called on Arabs to use violence against Israel; he published an article on the racist Kahane Web site, asking his readers to harass me - some obediently complied; he also disseminated the falsehood that my academic ability is poor, and even initiated an international campaign to have me fired.
Make no mistake, my suit against Plaut is about slander and not about our opposing political views.
YES, I AM a severe critic of the Israeli government's policies, but just as I want my opinions to be heard, I believe in freedom of expression and am not interested in censoring other people's opinions, including those of Dershowitz or Plaut. If anyone disagrees with my views, he or she has the right to try and refute my position. Notice, that throughout his article Dershowitz does not engage my political arguments. Instead, he picks up the cudgels of defamation and vilification.
In fact, both Plaut and Dershowitz are the ones who aim to silence their political rivals. In order to accomplish their goals they exploit the Holocaust, thus undermining the significance of this uniquely catastrophic historical event.
Their attack against me illustrates this point. Despite the fact that most of Plaut's criticism is related to my positions vis- -vis the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he characterizes me as an anti-Semite, Judenrat wannabe, and promoter of Hitler. The use of Holocaust vocabulary is intentional and emotive, designed to destroy my credibility in the political arena. The sad irony is that in order to advance his political goals Plaut ends up trivializing the Holocaust.
Despite the ruthless efforts to ruin my good name, the Israeli court has had its say. It found Plaut guilty of libel. Now, in the aftermath of this case, allowing his personal vendetta to blur his legal judgment, Dershowitz shamelessly attacks the judge's verdict. This lack of judgment is apparent when the Harvard professor calls me names and concludes with a cheap dare that I sue him, instead of rising to the academic challenge of proving that he did not "lift" information from others.
Unlike Dershowitz, however, when choosing between truth or dare I always side with truth.
SOURCE: Jerusalem Post (11-8-06)
A case in point is Dr. Neve Gordon of Ben-Gurion University, who has defamed so many people, as well as the nation of Israel. He also recently defamed me by saying that I had tried to prevent the publication of Norman Finkelstein's latest anti-Zionist screed, Beyond Chutzpah. In fact, as I specifically wrote in my letters to Finkelstein's publishers - as Gordon knew, because I released the letters - "I have no interest in censoring or suppressing Finkelstein's freedom of expression."
Gordon's lie came straight from Finkelstein, who has a history of claiming that prominent Jews are trying to silence him, prevent publication of his books and keep them from being reviewed: "All opinion-leaders, from the left to the right, are Jews… The Silence around my book in the US - if this is not a conspiracy, then what is one?"
What's ironic about Gordon's article, though, is that just as he was falsely accusing me of trying to silence Finkelstein, he was trying to silence Prof. Steven Plaut of Haifa University.
THE GENESIS OF Gordon's notorious lawsuit against Plaut was a fawning book review Gordon wrote of Beyond Chutzpah for Haaretz. In response, Plaut wrote an Internet posting entitled "Haaretz Promotes the 'Jews for Hitler.'" Plaut subsequently wrote that Yasser Arafat was Gordon's "guru" and compared Gordon to members of Judenrats after Gordon illegally entered Arafat's compound in solidarity with the terrorist leader.
For exercising his freedom of speech in this way, Plaut was found liable for slander and fined NIS 80,000, by a Nazareth judge, Reem Naddaf, who went out of her way in her opinion's dicta to justify Holocaust revisionism, which of course often goes over the line into something far darker, as it does when Finkelstein espouses it to mock survivors and condemn those seeking justice.
The verdict against Prof. Plaut was wrong, as I will explain by discussing both substantive and legal aspects of Plaut's accusations.
First, as to substance: Gordon argued, dubiously, that Plaut meant to include him (Gordon) when he wrote "Jews for Hitler," rather than Finkelstein and his fellow-travelers such as Noam Chomsky, who have openly endorsed Holocaust deniers and revisionists.
Even so, is there a factual basis behind the claim that Gordon supports genocidal anti-Semites, considering his admiration for Norman Finkelstein?
Finkelstein himself isn't an outright Holocaust denier (though neither was Hitler, of course), because he acknowledges the basic facts of the Holocaust, while minimizing the number of victims. But Finkelstein is, in many ways, worse than an outright denier. He denies the reality of survivors, calling them "hoaxes" and "hucksters" and accuses Elie Wiesel of lying about his past.
The major theme of the Finkelstein book that Gordon was extolling is that Jews are responsible for anti-Semitism. "Alongside Israel, [American Jewish elites] are the main fomenters of anti-Semitism in the world today. They must be stopped."
FINKELSTEIN'S and Gordon's articles are featured on Holocaust denial and neo-Nazi Web sites, such as that of the Hitler-loving Ernst Zundel, who said of Finkelstein that "[h]e is making three-fourths of our argument - and making it effectively."
So if Finkelstein and Gordon aren't themselves explicitly neo-Nazi, they're at least very highly regarded by those who are - and for good reason.
[This article goes on for another page. Click on the SOURCE link above to read the rest of the article.]
SOURCE: Announcement--George Mason University (11-8-06)
3301 Fairfax Drive, Arlington, VA. A reception will follow. The service is open to all; Cornelia Levine and possibly other members of the Levine family will attend.
We have set up a website with more information, including directions. The site includes a page where we encourage people to submit their own recollections of Larry, since the number of speakers at the event will necessarily be limited. The website is at:
We hope to see you in December, but if you cannot attend please consider adding your thoughts to the website.
The Organization of American Historians has voted to create an annual Lawrence W. Levine Prize for the best book in cultural history. We hope that you will consider contributing to the $50,000 prize endowment fund to make that possible. Checks can be made out to "OAH Prize Fund" with "Levine Award" on the memo line, and mailed to Roy Rosenzweig or Mike O'Malley, Department of History and Art History, MS 3G1, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA 22030.
Dina Copelman, Jack Censer, Marion Deshmukh, Deborah Kaplan, Mike O'Malley, Martin Sherwin, Roy Rosenzweig
George Mason University
Besides being a dedicated teacher and scholar, Naison is a community activist, and very much involved in various interracial youth organizations. He is a founder of the Bronx Youth Employment Project,"Save a Generation," and an organizer and fund-raiser for the Bonnie Youth Club, the largest sand-lot baseball league in Brooklyn and the only one that is predominantly African-American.
In the Fall of 2002, I sat down with Naison and interviewed him about his life and career, and the relationship between his activism and his scholarship.
Gerald Zahavi: Mark, it's a pleasure to have you here.
Mark Naison: I am very glad to be here.
Zahavi: Well, let's start by being provocative. How did a 'white boy' like you ever get so involved with the study of African American culture and history?
Naison: I grew up in Crown Heights in the 1950's at the time that it was undergoing a very dramatic change in its racial composition, a change which really polarized the community. I grew up in the early 50's when there wasn't a visible race problem Crown Heights was a Jewish and Italian community. Perhaps one and two percent of the population was Black and the Jewish population, at least on the surface, was very racially tolerant. They welcomed the Jackie Robinson Dodgers. Racial epithets were not used in my presence. When people were talking about Blacks they used the term"Shvartza"; they actually went into Yiddish. I was there when integrated sports were capturing the imagination of the neighborhood. I was there when rock and roll was doing the same. But then, by the time I entered High School, the neighborhood became very tense. I went to a local high school which had about twenty percent of its students African American, many of them coming down by bus from Bedford Stuyvesant. There were fights outside the school; there were fights in the school. I got in a locker room fight with six black kids. It led me being knocked out cold. I ended up going to a school out of the district, and my parents who had not talked about race very much when I was eight, or nine, or ten--by the time I was thirteen or fourteen-- [were] becoming very visibly angry about the changing racial composition of the neighborhood and their anger came to a head for the first time when I was in High school and decided to participate in my first civil rights demonstration which was being organized by the Erasmus Hall High school Chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality, which was joining Brooklyn CORE in picketing Ebinger's Bakery. This bakery chain refused to hire African Americans as truck drivers or [have] people working in the stores, even though many of their stores were being located in Black neighborhood. And when I went to this demonstration my parents hit the ceiling and said one, that I can get in trouble for going to a demonstration because in their era people lost lost their jobs because of this, but two, I should'nt be doing something to help black people; I should be doing something to help the Jews if I wanted to help somebody. It was clear that they saw African Americans as a treat to their neighborhood, their security -- in ways that upset me. So, when I went to college I also became involved in the chapter of CORE at Columbia. [I] was watching with great concern and dismay at the violence that greeted civil rights demonstrators in the South. [I] also was disturbed at how race played itself out in the Columbia campus. There were some Southern students at Columbia who were openly racist. Columbia itself had this very contemptuous attitude toward Harlem, had also displaced many people of color from the neighborhood. And so, I looked around me and saw an extension of the racial issues that I was seeing in my own neighborhood which seemed to really divide people, and of course was now dividing the whole country. So when I started taking history classes in American History, I decided to do my research papers on subjects relating to race. The first big research paper I did was on the disfranchisement of the Negro in Alabama in the early 20th century, when the Alabama Constitutional Convention was debating whether to overturn the Reconstruction actions which had placed African Americans in positions as voters and as office holders and basically eliminate them from politics and establish a formal segregation code. So that was my first research venture into the study of race and it was a fascinating experience. I loved going back into the past. It was, I think 1903, and I was living this. I was at the convention, and the issues seemed so alive to me that I said"well, this is the kind of history I wanted to do." And I got some encouragement from this. I mean, this was a time at Columbia there were no courses in African American History. I don't ever recall reading a book by an African American author, but I had professors who encouraged this interest, particularly Walter Metzger who really, you know, every time I took a course with him and wanted to do this kind of research, he encouraged it. So I was moving in this direction, based upon my experience in Brooklyn, based upon what I was seeing and experiencing at Columbia, based upon what I was watching in the news, but the thing that really pushed me into this was what happened to me when I was a senior at Columbia and I met an African American woman at a basketball team party at Columbia. We started dating and then I fell in love with her. When I told my parents, they reacted with a level of hysteria that just blew me away. They had no interest in this young woman's background, character, personality, accomplishments; just the fact that she was Black meant that they would have nothing to do with her. They basically told me she could never be part of our family, and they would see me but never with her, and basically said that I was destroying everything that they had worked for in their lives. Now this experience (and parenthetically I was adopted by her extended family of transplanted Southerners), that experience made me feel that race was the overwhelming issue in American society , that we as a nation was unable to deal with not only at the level of politics but at the level of folk culture mores. And as an intellectual, if I was going to do anything to make a difference it was to find the language, find the images, to try to understand the force of this in people's lives. So I said I've got a subject that will keep me busy for a lifetime. I mean I wish I didn't have the momentum and drive for this interest coming from this experience, but it did and it's something that's never left me. ...
SOURCE: Economist (11-4-06)
George Bush described this recently as a "great book". But Mr Roberts's work is less a history than a giant political pamphlet larded with its author's prejudices, with sneers at those who do not share them and with errors. Mr Roberts has the Red Army marching "eastward" across Europe in 1945 (one of three such reversals of geography); Britain's women's navy mis-spelled as "WREN"; similarly "Srebenica", "Götterdämmarung", Walter Laqueur as "Lacquer"; and, if you please, Luigi Barzini, an Italian journalist who in 1983 wrote "The Europeans", as a character in Henry James's 1878 novel of the same name.
So far, so trivial. Less so are Germany's atrocities in (today's) Namibia being displaced to Angola; the Lusitania as an "American" liner; "only" the English-speaking armies being "still capable of mounting any kind of offensive in 1918"—the year of a huge German one. Britain's 1945 election was "postwar"; and the list of prime ministerial adulterers "while in office" includes John Major—whose one publicly known affair ended two years before he moved into Downing Street.
If the common reader can spot these errors, what about an expert? Was American opinion really as "galvanised" by the torpedoing of the Lusitania as by Pearl Harbour and September 11th 2001? Outraged, yes, but it took two years and German resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare in early 1917 (which Mr Roberts strangely postpones to that September) to bring America to war—surely the longest reaction-time in the history of galvanism. In boyish zeal, he rehashes the dubious British claims to have invented television and the jet engine. A Brit was just ahead of a German in the laboratory, but Germany had a jet flying 18 months earlier.
His broad judgments tend to be odder still. He thinks the right to bear arms "the final bulwark of American citizens' rights". So America has no Supreme Court? He approves of the Versailles treaty after the first world war (indeed he says it should have been tougher) and of American support for some vile regimes and ghastly civil wars in Latin America. He is nostalgic for the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires and in deep mourning for the British one. It certainly had real merits, but was the Delhi durbar of 1911 really "the proudest day of the English-speaking peoples' mission [sic] in India"? In Amritsar in 1919, ten minutes' firing by troops into a banned gathering killed almost 400 Indians, even by the official count. Mr Roberts gives five pages to this massacre, saying it restored order. Not even in those days did the home government accept that excuse. ...
SOURCE: brynmawr.edu/news (11-2-06)
Stroud's position — Assistant Professor of Growth and Structure of Cities and Environmental Studies on the Alderfer Fund — is a new one at the college. Stroud earned a B.A. in political science at the University of Michigan. She took an M.A. in U.S. history at the University of Oregon in Eugene, where she was introduced to environmental history; urban historians supervised her Ph.D. training at Columbia University. She comes to Bryn Mawr from Oberlin College, where she had been teaching since 2001. The Bryn Mawr position, she says, offered a rare opportunity to combine her interests in urban and environmental history.
“It's not very often that a position in urban studies is a joint appointment in environmental studies as well,” she says. “It was perfect. And I'm delighted to return to Philadelphia, where I grew up.” Stroud's sister Beth graduated from Bryn Mawr in 1991, so she knew the College not only through reputation, but through alumna enthusiasm as well.
Stroud's research explores relationships between cities and the far larger environments of which they are a part — relationships that sometimes take surprising forms. For instance, her current book manuscript looks at the reforestation of the Northeastern United States that began in the 19th century. The region was concurrently undergoing intense urbanization. That the two processes occurred simultaneously was no accident, Stroud says; in fact, she argues that urbanization was a major causal factor in the return of the forest.
In the 19th century, Stroud explains, the development of cross-country railroads meant that farm products could be shipped east from the fertile Midwest, and less-productive farmland in the Northeast was no longer competitive. Much was allowed to lie fallow and eventually revert to trees.
But that's only half the story, Stroud says. “Just as that land was becoming available on the market, a conception of forests as very complex public resources was beginning to develop. People were beginning to understand — and sometimes misunderstand — concepts that we now term ecology. There was, for example, a widespread popular belief that an impending 'timber famine' would deprive the region of fuel and building materials; some people even believed that trees caused rainfall and that deforestation would result in drought.”
These and other concerns about the uses and necessity of trees encouraged public policies that both conserved and rebuilt forests. As former farmers moved to cities, city residents pressured their municipal governments, their state legislatures and eventually the federal government to purchase land, to change tax policies and to shift land-management priorities. Through their efforts, what had been open fields became national forests, national parks, state reserves, tree nurseries, watershed protection lands, or just as often, private land with new incentives for owners to nurture and preserve standing timber. Believing that more forest was needed to supply resources to increasingly dense urban populations, the nation invested in trees....
SOURCE: Wayne State student newspaper (11-6-06)
Beginning with the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement of the 1960s, Zinn has been a tireless activist as well as a voice of dissent for over 40 years. Last night at Cobo Hall, the Cranbrook Peace Foundation honored the historian, author and lifelong peace activist.
Zinn, the author of the classic best-selling book “A People’s History of the United States, 1492 - Present,” along with other important works on history and U.S. policy, lectured and answered questions. Zinn began his career as a professor at Spellman University in the early ‘60s where he became involved with SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).
Zinn began his lecture with an anecdote about meeting current Michigan House Representative John Conyers for the first time in Selma, Ala., in 1963. Conyers was introduced to Zinn as a young lawyer from Michigan. Zinn was there with SNCC, it was Freedom Day and black people were arriving at the county seat to try to register to vote, where they faced long lines of police cars, the deputy sheriff and his men.
“It was like a war was taking place on this street in front of the county courthouse, as if there was an enemy there. And the enemy [was] old black ladies and women carrying their kids and young men, people who wanted to vote — they were the enemy. And there was the Army brought out to intimidate them and to arrest some of them and beat some of them and cattle prod some of them and John Conyers was there that day and that was the first time I met him,” Zinn said. He called it, “a day to remember, a day of courage and commitment.”
The topics discussed ranged from our history of “violent expansion and history of ethnic cleansing,” the media’s apparent lack of fact-checking, to the Bush administration’s “war crimes.” Citing Colin Powell’s WMDs speech to the United Nations before the beginning of the war in Iraq, Zinn called it “probably the longest list of falsehoods ever spoken to the U.N.”
SOURCE: news.wisc.edu (11-1-06)
"Almost nothing draws people as quickly as the possibility of digging cash out of the earth," says Johnson, a professor of history and Chicana/o and Latina/o Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "The California Gold Rush was not just a 'get rich quick' phenomenon; it happened at a peculiar point in both U.S. and world history that just kind of made people go nuts."
Johnson is one of the experts who contributed to the documentary "The Gold Rush," which will run this month as part of the acclaimed PBS history series "American Experience." Using primary sources such as letters and memoirs, the film pieces together real personal stories of gold-rush adventurers hoping to strike it rich, while adding perspective from authors and professional historians.
Wisconsin Public Television will air "American Experience: The Gold Rush," on Monday, Nov. 6, from 8-10 p.m.
Johnson was interviewed by the filmmakers in San Francisco, in a stately Victorian home that was a product of the astounding wealth amassed from the Gold Rush era. The film focuses on the first big wave of the rush, from 1848 to 1853, when surface mining and individual prospecting still prevailed in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.