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: Mercury News (6-21-07)
San Mateo County Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said Kevin Jones will be charged with vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence. He faces up to a year in the county jail and a fine of up to $1,000 if convicted.
SOURCE: HNN Staff (6-26-07)
Now the authors have taken their revenge. Van Natta told an interviewer that Dallek "is a biographer of dead presidents. We did an investigative biography of someone running for president."
Dallek is the author of books on JFK, LBJ and Nixon. For the record, his book on Nixon also concerns Henry Kissinger, who is very much alive.
SOURCE: Straits Times (6-20-07)
'There is a lot of bad religion about,' she said, noting that Buddhists used the term 'unskilled religion'.
'Terrorism, in my view, is not inspired by religion. It's a form of religiously articulated nationalism,' she said.
She was delivering this year's Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) lecture to some 800 religious leaders, diplomats and others at the Ritz-Carlton Millenia on Monday night.
Introducing her, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim said hers was 'an independent view', and hoped her lecture would contribute to Singapore being an inter-faith hub.
Ms Armstrong argued that radical actions were a response to unjust foreign policies pursued by Western governments, such as in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Also, various fundamentalist movements are driven by the fear that their religion is under attack, she noted.
Muslims, feeling their faith was under attack from the West, took Quranic verses on self-defence out of context to justify aggression, she said.
But she added: 'Once a religiosity turns in any way to violence, it has lost the plot. Every single one of the major world traditions began as a recoil from violence.'
Ms Armstrong, whose writings on world religions are widely read and translated, argued that extremists are not true to their faith.
In her 45-minute speech titled The Role Of Religion In The New Millennium, she called for an emphasis on 'the golden rule' - to treat others as one would like to be treated, an ethic first promoted by Confucius.
This ethic should become a force in politics and in religion, she said, as it does not leave people feeling marginalised and helpless - often the sources of a turn to violence.
She also had a lively 45-minute dialogue with the audience, spanning topics including secularism and Islam and whether there were limits to compassion.
After the session, civil servant Julia Chan, 27, told The Straits Times: 'I don't see any conflict in being true to your own religion and showing equal compassion for everyone.'
Speaking to reporters later, Ms Armstrong said it is difficult to be optimistic about bridging the gap between the West and the Muslim world, a chasm which observers say has widened since the Sept 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
'You feel you're making some headway explaining that jihad does not mean holy war, but when something like the cartoon crisis happens, it's like snakes and ladders, it goes right down again,' she said.
She was referring to protests throughout the Muslim world last year when several European newspapers published offensive cartoons of Prophet Muhammad.
'I do not think this conflict is religiously motivated - it's about politics,' she said, adding that the US was not an honest broker in the Middle East.
However, she noted that the high levels of violence in the world today could compel peace, just as throughout history, excessive violence drove people to religion and peace.
SOURCE: Chronicle for Higher Ed (6-18-07)
“I am especially offended at this immoral and utterly politically motivated action, which goes against the principles of intellectual honesty, courage, and integrity that I was taught were the foundations of a proper Catholic education,” LeVine says. “It is certainly a shameful stain, and a mark of cowardice, particularly compared with the brave stand of the administration of Notre Dame in its invitation to Tariq Ramadan to fill a prestigious professorship despite the similarly risible attacks on his scholarship and character by many of the same academic hacks who’ve gone after Finkelstein.”
As a result, he says, he will no longer advise any graduate student to apply to a Ph.D. program or any young faculty member to apply for a job at DePaul, nor will he attend any academic conference put on at the university.
SOURCE: BBC News (6-16-07)
Dr Starkey - once Britain's highest paid TV presenter - becomes a CBE for services to history.
Also honoured are Westmoreland Cardiac Support Society co-founder Gillian Impey, who becomes an MBE.
Sellafield managing director Barry Snelson and Cumbria Police deputy chief constable Christine Twigg are also among those recognised.
Mr Snelson, from Cockermouth, becomes an MBE for services to the UK nuclear industry.
Ms Twigg, who was the Cumbria force's acting chief constable for a time, gets the Queen's Police Medal.
Also recognised is Anthony Wright, a teacher at Trinity School in Carlisle, who becomes a CBE for services to education.
SOURCE: Kansas City Star (6-16-07)
McCullough’s biographies of Harry Truman and John Adams have won Pulitzer Prizes. His years introducing “American Experience” on public television, as well as his narration of the landmark Ken Burns “The Civil War” documentary, have made him perhaps the county’s most recognizable historian.
About 400 people attended his speech Wednesday, which he delivered on the library’s front steps. Before that speech, he answered a few questions.
Q. Would Harry Truman be pleased with the Truman Library today?
A. He would be immensely pleased. … He wanted this to be a classroom for democracy, and I think he would be particularly pleased with the library’s program (The White House Decision Center) of bringing students and teachers here, which is one of the best of all the presidential libraries.
Q. Your biography of Truman appeared in 1992, and it was a great success. It soon was made into an HBO movie, starring Gary Sinise in the title role. It was about the same time the Truman Library Institute began raising funds for the library’s $22 million upgrade, completed a few years ago. Do you feel your book played a role in the success of that campaign?
A. I hope it played a good part. It certainly brought the story of Harry Truman to the country. I feel my own participation in trying to raise that money helped. The Truman Library is a national treasure, but it is also an important civic and cultural amenity for Kansas City and the surrounding area.
Q. Is it wise to continue to build presidential libraries across the country?
A. I just had someone in New York say to me the other day, ‘Hasn’t this presidential library craze gotten out of hand? Do we need all these presidential libraries all over the country?’
Well, we do. I don’t believe that everything ought to be in Washington. But I also know that it is valuable for anyone trying to understand the life of a particular president to come to the place that produced that human being, where his memory is part of the story of that place. This is where (longtime Truman Library research room staff member) Liz Safly introduced me to many people in the community who were invaluable to my understanding of Harry Truman, because they knew him or worked with him or watched him as we walked down the street.
None of that would have been possible had I been in Washington working in another big government building.
SOURCE: BBC News (6-16-07)
He revealed in a recent book that at the end of World War II more than 80,000 Japanese were kept in captivity.
The historian claimed they were used as cheap labour on projects across Asia and were not repatriated until 1948.
The professor, who also writes about the British Empire and the growth of Europe, was honoured for his contribution to historical scholarship.
SOURCE: Expatica (6-14-07)
The prize, with a value of 25,000 euros (33,000 dollars), is Germany's most prestigious literary award. It is to be presented at the Frankfurt Book Fair on October 14.
The jury said Friedlaender was an "epic storyteller of the history of the Shoah, the persecution and extermination of Jews in the time of Nazi dominance in Europe."
Friedlaender had provided people burnt to ashes with a voice and a memorial, it said.
Friedlaender was born in Prague in 1932, surviving the Holocaust in France. He has taught at the universities of Geneva and Tel Aviv, and is currently a professor of history at the University of California, Los Angeles.
His two-volume work, Nazi Germany and the Jews, is perhaps his best known.
SOURCE: Latvian Abroad (6-12-07)
This is quite outrageous. Apparently, in Putin's Russia, foreign historians are not allowed to do archive research unless Putin's government is sure that they'll interpret archive documents in desired way!
SOURCE: The Advocate (6-12-07)
During a speech Saturday at the Historical Society of the Town of Greenwich's 75th anniversary, held on the lawn of the historic Tomes-Higgins House, McCullough spoke about his crusade to educate the nation's youth about the importance of history and the vital role historical societies play in preserving the past.
"We're not doing a very good job of educating our children in the story of our country," he said.
"It's easy to interest children in history, particularly young children. They want to learn. They love stories, and that's what history is."Ê
McCullough, best known for his books "John Adams," "Truman" and "1776," was invited to speak not only because of his distinguished career, but also for his commitment to preserving local history, said Debra Mecky, executive director of the historical society.
"I feel I have been very fortunate in my subjects," he said. "I've enjoyed them, and the real reward of the work is the work and how much one learns. I have never undertaken a subject I knew a lot about . . . this way it's a journey, an experience."
He has traveled all over the country for the past 10 years supporting historical societies and their missions to educate youths.
"It's a crusade," he said. "I believe in it."...
SOURCE: The Guardian (6-12-07)
Norman Finkelstein, author of The Holocaust Industry, now has less than a year remaining on his contract with the political sciences department of DePaul University in Chicago. He lost his bid for a lifelong post after a four to three vote of the promotions and tenure board.
The decision came at the end of several months of wrangling, both within the Catholic university and within the wider academic and Jewish communities in the US. Mr Finkelstein has argued in his books that claims of anti-semitism are used to dampen down criticism of Israeli policy towards the Palestinians and that the Holocaust is exploited by some Jewish institutions for their own gain.
His position as a Jewish intellectual critical of Israel and of some elites within the Jewish community has prompted passionate debate on both sides.
Intellectuals such as the prolific writer Noam Chomsky and the Oxford historian Avi Shlaim have spoken out in Mr Finkelstein's favour, but others have decried him in equal measure as giving succour to anti-semitism. His most bitter opponent is Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard law professor, who campaigned heavily to prevent tenure being granted. Soon after Mr Finkelstein applied for it, Mr Dershowitz sent DePaul faculty members a dossier of what he categorised as the "most egregious academic sins, outright lies, misquotations, and distortions" of the political scientist...
SOURCE: The Boston Globe (6-10-07)
Among historians of the South and the Civil War, there is no larger question than why the Confederacy lost its bid for independence. Explanations range from battlefield tactics to the North's industrial superiority, from slave insubordination to the gradual disillusionment of the South's poor, white, non-slaveholding majority.
In San Diego that day, Faust, who takes over the presidency of Harvard on July 1, offered her own explanation, and it managed to rub nearly everyone the wrong way. The South lost, she argued, largely because of the part played by rich, white women, the very figures that had been held up as Dixie's staunchest supporters. Their disappointment with the cause, and their subsequent entreaties to their husbands, sons, brothers, and fathers to give up the fight, did as much as anything else to bring on collapse and defeat.
"It may well have been because of its women that the South lost the Civil War," her paper concluded.
Faust's revisionist salvo brought a fierce response from her audience. Stephanie McCurry, a historian now at Penn who was moderating Faust's panel, remembers the reaction as immediate. The audience at the talk, she says, "went nuts." To military specialists, to historians of slavery, to economic historians, even to some feminist historians, Faust's argument seemed at once radical and wrong-headed, and at the conference and afterward many people let her know that. Faust was verbally attacked. "I'd never seen anything like it," McCurry recalls.
As bombshells go, it can't compete with the one Larry Summers, who stepped down as president of Harvard a year ago, famously dropped in 2005, when he questioned women's aptitude for science. Indeed, Faust's tenure as dean of Harvard's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study has earned her a image in Cambridge as a kind of anti-Summers: In contrast to his damn-the-torpedoes style, she is a discreet conciliator, and her impeccable feminist bona fides stand in sharp contrast to his controversial musings on gender.
Nevertheless, Faust's distinguished career as a historian suggests a temperament quite different from that of her reputation as a consensus builder. Although as an administrator she has by all accounts been a smooth inside operator, as a thinker and writer Faust has displayed a taste for shaking things up.
SOURCE: WSJ (6-8-07)
One measure of the new Harvard leadership after Mr. Summers is ROTC, and on Tuesday neither acting president Derek Bok nor president-elect Drew Gilpin Faust saw fit to attend the ceremonies for the class of 2007. The university was instead represented by Stephen Rosen, a professor of government.
Harvard's ROTC, founded in 1916, was banned from campus in 1969; and aside from the brief interregnum of Mr. Summers, who was a vigorous advocate for its return, it has since been mostly spurned by the school's administration. Cadets must commute across town to MIT for its program, and receive no course credit -- or really, credit -- for their efforts.
In this Harvard echoes most of America's elite institutions of higher learning, particularly in the Ivy League. Faculties now say they object to the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays, but the anti-ROTC hostility seems more owing to the sentiments of the "antiwar" movement and other ideological academic causes. Chastened by Mr. Summers's toppling, Ms. Faust is no doubt wary of upsetting this constituency, if she is not a part of it herself.
SOURCE: PBS NewsHour (6-7-07)
Hisham Melhem is Washington bureau chief for the Arab satellite network al-Arabiya and Washington correspondent for the Lebanese newspaper An-Nahar.
And, Barry Rubin, did anyone on the Israeli side have the prescience, the forward look to understand that today's situation was a possible outcome of that war 40 years ago?
BARRY RUBIN, Director, Global International Affairs Center: Oh, absolutely. The debate following the war was between two camps. One camp said that they believed that the territories captured in 1967 were bargaining chips which would be used to attain peace with the Arab side when that became possible. The other side said that it did not believe that the Arab side or Arab parties would make peace for a very long time.
Now, where those two positions came together in a consensus was they need to hold territories until there could be a negotiated agreement. So, in a sense, a lot of people -- certainly half the population -- wouldn't be shocked. The shock, of course, came because, in the 1990s, there was a process with the PLO which was hoped that it would result in peace. And then, of course, when it came to the crunch in 2000, and Yasser Arafat was offered an independent Palestinian state and $22 billion in aid as the first offer, he turned it down, so it took a downturn.
So from the point of view of 1967, it's less of a shock than, let's say, from the point of view of 1997, when there were great hopes that there was going to be some kind of diplomatic resolution.
RAY SUAREZ: So you're saying, if I understand you, that there were people who understood that Israel might be in those territories for decades to come?
BARRY RUBIN: Well, I think everyone foresaw the possibility of it taking decades. But, again -- well, just very briefly to explain this...
RAY SUAREZ: Very briefly.
BARRY RUBIN: So the two views were, hold the territories until peace is going to happen. Some people thought it would happen sooner, some people later. In the 1990s, most people went over to the view that peace was possible, but what happened in 2000 confounded both sides.
As a result, what we have today is the analysis goes like this: On the one hand, the great majority of Israelis say they're ready to have an independent Palestinian state and they're ready to leave the remaining territories, but at the same time they say they're very skeptical about the ability of the other side to get it together.
SOURCE: New York Sun (6-6-07)
No, the reason why "Attendant Cruelties" got written is much simpler: It is Mr. Higonnet's overpowering hatred of President Bush. How, Mr. Higonnet keeps asking, did the country in which he has lived for decades — the country that he admires as "open-minded, welcoming, at the forefront of nearly everything, and, in so many ways, the freest country in the world" — twice elect as president a man whom he regards as evil incarnate? This is not an exaggeration. In the course of his book, Mr. Higonnet compares the president not just to Hitler — "We can understand him better if we understand what came before him. ... Hitler was a madman, but even he did not become chancellor of the German Reich just because he was a madman" — but also to Stalin: "What Stalinism was to utopian communism, Bushism is to the American creed."
With the illogicality of malice, Mr. Higonnet characterizes Mr. Bush as simultaneously incompetent and omnipotent, feckless and relentless, the bully of his advisers and the dupe of his advisers. Reckoning the sum of these contradictions tells us nothing about Mr. Bush or about America, but it tells us a great deal about the passionate, self-delighting, deeply irresponsible hatred that now prevails even among the most prestigious and best educated precincts of the Left. It is a book that Mr. Higonnet's sympathizers will read with vigorous nods, and everyone else will read with despairing shakes of the head....
SOURCE: PRNewswire (6-7-07)
The national winners emerge from a field of more than 700,000 middle and high school students who competed at the district and state levels leading up to the finals. The rigorous, multi-tiered selection process evaluates each project for its historical quality, clarity of presentation and how effectively it addresses this year's theme: "Triumph and Tragedy in History." The annual theme is broad enough to encourage investigation on an individual, idea or event of local, national or international historical importance, from ancient times to the present day. Students present their findings in the form of museum-like exhibits, multimedia documentaries, dramatic performances, or research papers....
SOURCE: AHA Blog (Click on SOURCE for embedded links.) (6-8-07)
SOURCE: USA Today (6-7-07)
Historians know little about the reclusive Newton, and British history professor and debut novelist Rebecca Stott uses his enigmatic life to construct a modern-day murder mystery set against the backdrop of a 17th-century ghost story.
When Elizabeth Vogelsang, a contemporary Cambridge historian, is found drowned, her son Cameron asks his ex-lover, writer Lydia Brooke, to complete his mother's book about Newton.
But strange things begin to happen when Lydia moves into Elizabeth's house.
Files begin to disappear, blood stains appear on a pillow case, and Lydia is attacked and beaten.
Then there's the spectral vision of a man — is it Newton? — whose presence casts itself upon a mirror or into the middle of a crowd of people on a Cambridge bridge.
Is there a connection between murders that happened in 17th-century Cambridge and the death of Elizabeth and a scientist with whom Cameron works? Did Newton kill all of them?...
SOURCE: http://www.nbc4.com (DC) (6-6-07)
"This is the nightmare of nightmares that there's a fire," said historian Cheryl Spector.
Spector said that while she was at work Wednesday, her life's passion was going up in smoke.
"I'm a historian and archivist and there was archival material that will never be able to be replaced and it's very sad," she said.
Spector said that after coming out as a lesbian in 1983, she has been using still cameras and video equipment to document the local history of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community in the D.C. region.
"The gay prides, victories, Supreme Court rulings and protests and marches, funerals, a lot of funerals of people who are prominent who died of HIV and AIDS over the years," said Spector.
However, fire officials said the four-foot high stacks of materials she had organized all throughout her apartment made it difficult to fight smoke and flames that alert neighbors spotted.
"Obviously it's a fire hazard. It prevents you from aggressively attacking the fire. As well, it poses a threat to tenants, especially in a multi-family dwelling like an apartment building. With the fire load it has, this could have been much worse," said Deputy Fire Chief Dan Barksdale of the Arlington County Fire Department.
SOURCE: http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com (6-6-07)
Paul Waite, a Hau'ula resident, will receive a $1,000 honorarium and will be in the running for the National History Teacher of the Year award to be selected this fall. Kahuku Elementary School's library will receive a core archive of history books and materials from the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.
The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History announced the list of winners today.
The award honors one exceptional K-12 teacher of American history from each state and U.S. territory. This year, only K-6 teachers were eligible for nomination.
SOURCE: http://blog.nola.com/times-picayune (6-6-07)
In a statement, the institute said:
Majeste will be recognized at an award ceremony on Monday, July 9 at 10:00 a.m. at The Old State Capitol in Baton Rouge. The award will be presented by Louisiana Secretary of State Jay Dardenne in the Old House Chambers at 10:30 a.m. A reception will be held immediately following the award ceremony in the Old Senate Chambers.
Inaugurated in 2004, the History Teacher of the Year Award is designed to promote and celebrate the teaching of American history in classrooms across the United States. It honors one exceptional K-12 teacher of American history from each state and U.S. territory. This year, only K-6 teachers were eligible for nomination. The selection of the state winner is based upon several criteria, including: at least three years of classroom experience in teaching American history in elementary school; a deep career commitment to teaching American history, which includes local and state history; evidence of creativity and imagination in the classroom that address literacy and content beyond state standards; close attention to primary documents, artifacts, historic sites, and other primary materials of history, including oral history; and evidence of thoughtful assessment of student achievement.
SOURCE: http://www.inrich.com (6-6-07)
George Washington's earliest surviving land survey (1749) and items from the estate of Paul Mellon jump to the top of his list. But the competition has heated up since the discovery of two wooden trunks containing letters, legal papers, journals and financial records collected by Mary Custis Lee, the eldest daughter of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
One of the most powerful is Lee's 1863 handwritten note to the headquarters of the Army of Northern Virginia announcing Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's death. "The daring, skill and energy of this great and good soldier, by the decree of an all-wise Providence, are now lost to us," Lee wrote.
"It was a pretty stunning discovery," said Shepard, the director of manuscripts/senior archivist at the Virginia Historical Society. "The opportunity to work with these items is just incredible."
The trunks were found at Burke & Herbert Bank & Trust Co. in Alexandria in 2002. Robert E.L. deButts Jr., a Lee descendant and corporate attorney in New York, had learned that Mary Custis had an account there at one time. When bank personnel began to research her account, they found the trunks in the basement.
"I guess it was one of those 'out of sight, out of mind' things," Shepard said.
Heirs to the Custis estate turned the trunks over to the Virginia Historical Society in late 2002. Shepard and his staff have spent years cataloging and preserving the papers....
SOURCE: Thomas Laqueur in the London Review of Books (6-7-07)
This raises one of the most fascinating questions posed by this book: the nature of this welcome. Stern is by far the most honoured German-speaking refugee historian in Germany – perhaps in academia more generally. Last September, the president of Germany bestowed on him the highest level of Bundesverdienstkreuz, the Federal Cross of Merit. At issue is not whether he deserves the recognition but rather what function this symbiotic relationship – between a scholar who craves honours and a culture that needs to bestow them – serves. Stern is a very good historian but he is one of a generation of very good émigré historians. Two research-based books – his PhD thesis on three illiberal writers of the 19th century and a beautifully written account of the mutually beneficial alliance between Bismarck and his Jewish banker Gerson Bleichröder – and some elegant essays do not, in themselves, explain the laurels.
The answer is not that he is unique in forgiving his native Germany. Others were willing to make moral discriminations among Germans after the war. Eric Hobsbawm writes, for example, that neither he nor his fellow ‘largely Jewish “re-educators”’ felt ‘the sort of visceral anti-German reaction’ that knowledge of the camps might have been expected to provoke: ‘Both conviction and realism saved us from turning the Nazis’ own racist anti-semitism inside out into an equivalent anti-Teutonism.’ That said, there has been no figure among the refugee community more eager, if not to forgive – Stern is repeatedly critical of the mendacity of individuals – then to make a place for himself in the new Germany.
When he went back to Germany Stern made every effort to establish contact with important people. He wanted, for example, to meet an old family friend from Breslau, Hermann Lüdemann, who was speaking at a tenth anniversary commemoration of the attempted coup against Hitler. It turned out that he needed an invitation to get in; supplicating at the gate was of no avail. Stern rushed to a stationery store to buy paper and an envelope, and, when a policeman was slow to agree to deliver his message to the former minister-president of postwar Schleswig-Holstein, Stern offered to take it himself. (Lüdemann, Stern tells us in a footnote, asked a third party whether Stern told jokes as well in English as in German.) Important people were drawn to him; this was not a one-way street. Helmut Schmidt, for instance, wanted someone to write about him; Stern was looking for a new project. ‘Ten days in Schmidt’s archives were wondrous’; Helmut and Mrs Schmidt were ‘wonderfully hospitable’.
In part, Stern’s success is a matter of individual psychology, age, the times and individual passions: man, moment, milieu. The older generation of historians of Germany who emigrated to the United States – major scholars like Hans Rosenberg, Hajo Holborn or Dietrich Gerhard, all students of the great Friedrich Meinecke in Berlin – were certainly interested in re-establishing scholarly relations with the land of their birth. Some went back to teach, others to retire, others not at all. But they were too distinguished, too secure in their learning, too attached to their students and to their new lives to need honours from Germany or have much interest in hobnobbing with political figures.
More to the point, there was almost no one else in Stern’s generation who had a deep interest in making it in Germany. His exact contemporary, Peter Gay (born Peter Fröhlich), did not return until 1961, when it proved almost unbearable. This too may be a matter of fathers; Peter’s was a lamp wholesaler who had to forge documents to escape and never succeeded in building a new life in Colorado. The son did end up writing about Weimar culture, but built his career by studying the Enlightenment, sexuality and psychoanalysis. No cathexis on Germany. Walter Laqueur, roughly Stern’s age and like him from Breslau, says that he felt remarkably at home when he returned after the war. But, he writes in his autobiography, ‘I did not find German postwar politics and culture particularly fascinating; in any case, the lack of passionate interest has been mutual.’ So he was not a candidate for the Stern role....
In the African-American community, a mistrust of doctors and medical research is widespread and deeply rooted in a history of involuntary, abusive and non-therapeutic experimentation on blacks documented since at least the eighteenth century.
In her acclaimed new book, Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present, journalist and bioethicist Harriet Washington traces this mistrust in the first comprehensive history of the medical mistreatment of African Americans.
Publisher’s Weekly praised Washington as a “great storyteller,” and named Medical Apartheid one of the best books of 2006, finding it “even at its most distressing, compulsively readable.” PW, Kirkus and Booklist each honored the book with starred reviews, and the Black Caucus of the American Library Association bestowed its Honor Nonfiction Award for 2007 on Medical Apartheid.
Washington’s book details horrific abuses by the guardians of health.
Africans found unfit by slave ship surgeons were routinely thrown overboard to die at sea en route to the Americas.
Physicians in the antebellum south believed that blacks were immune to pain and conducted hideous experiments on men, women and children without anesthesia.
More recent experiments include non-consensual and disproportionate sterilization of blacks like the “Mississippi appendectomy” performed on civil rights legend Fannie Lou Hamer.
Blacks were also the subjects of painful radiation and dermatological studies.
And, from 1932 until 1972, the U.S. Public Health Service in its Tuskegee experiments promised to treat hundreds of black men for syphilis, but actually provided no treatment, and instead watched the men die slow, painful deaths.
Harriet Washington is a Visiting Scholar at DePaul University School of Law, and a former Fellow in Medical Ethics at Harvard Medical School and at Stanford University. She has written extensively on medicine and ethics for publications from USA Today to the New England Journal of Medicine and the Harvard Public Health Review.
Robin Lindley: What prompted your interest in bioethics, and your new book?
Harriet Washington: I was always interested in bioethics. I started as a pre-medical student, like a lot of medical writers. When I finished college, I ran a small poison center for the university, and stumbled across case files showing a dramatic disparity in the way black and white patients with the same pathology were treated. I was most struck by how differently blacks were treated in research. I knew that participating in medical research was inherently risky, but protections are in place to limit the risk and to assure that people know the risks. All these protections seemed eschewed when it came to black people. The more I learned, the more I realized it was not part of the historical canon—this aspect of health care disparities was all but ignored.
That piqued my interest. When I became a journalist, I knew I wanted to do [the book], but not until 2002 when I did the clinical ethics fellowship at Harvard did I feel I had the tools to do an ethical analysis so that I would end up with something meaningful.
RL: When you told physicians of your plans for the book, wasn’t there disbelief about the history of medical experimentation on African-Americans?
HW: Several physicians told me that, including physicians in the history of medicine, which I found staggering. There is a resistance to acknowledging these things, but there’s no question they transpired. In the book, I use as references mainstream medical articles and physicians’ own writings.
RL: Can you discuss scientific racism in the antebellum period?
HW: We call it scientific racism now, but back then it was only science. The people who studied black people in the antebellum period were southern physicians because then 90 percent of black people then lived in the south. Physicians supported the enslavement system, and it probably couldn’t have persisted without the physicians who said blacks were inferior and made by the Creator to be the workhorses of the white man. It was the physicians’ role to help the planter in keeping slaves not healthy, but fit for work, and in keeping slaves subjugated.
There was conflation between medical treatment and punishment. A physician would jocularly advise a planter that a slave needed “nine drops of essence of rawhide.” There were physicians who actually prescribed physical punishment as “treatment” for ‘black diseases’—slaves [who resisted slavery]—who ran away, or didn’t work, or were intractable.
RL: One southern physician you write about is Dr. James Marion Sims, an esteemed, one-time president of the American Medical Association, who performed horrific experiments on black women and children.
HW: I thought he was a wonderful benefactor, the father of American gynecology—until I read his own writings. Now I know he was also an abuser of unwilling black subjects. I was staggered by the things he described. Sims, the so-called benefactor of women, often used the metaphors of imprisonment and of controlling and imprisoning a woman for her own good. He wasn’t referring only to black women, but his perfect subjects were enslaved black women who he bought or otherwise acquired to perfect distressingly painful, invasive reproductive surgeries that made his fortune.
He used black women. He performed 30 surgeries on one slave woman and, after repeatedly slicing and suturing the genitalia for four or five years, he perfected a repair for vesicovaginal fistula, a horrible complication of childbirth, and made his medical fortune.
He went north, headed the American Medical Association, and even went to France to become the toast of the Second Empire where he treated Empress Eugenie. All across the world, he’s usually spoken of as a wonderful hero, and that’s the face he turned to white women. But black women, and black men, saw a different face. He forced surgery [without anesthesia] on a black male slave named Sam. Sims blithely wrote about it in a medical journal, and the editors chimed in that he’d done a wonderful thing: he proved it was possible to operate on people whether or not they were willing.
RL: And Dr. Sims experiment on many women and children?
HW: About 13 women by my best count. At any one time, [Sims kept] at least five women in the shack he called a hospital, [but was actually] a laboratory where he confined people.
He also operated on several black children. He believed that a form of tetany, considered an infectious disease, could be treated in black children by re-arranging particular skull bones. He never explained how opening the skulls of infants and moving their bones around treated an infectious disease. Scientific racists believed that black people were less intelligent than white people [because] the skull bones of black children closed early, essentially trapping the brain before it could develop fully.
RL: Did any of these children survive these horrific operations?
HW: That’s a chilling thing. When these subjects are referred to, we rarely find out what happened. That wasn’t the point. He didn’t report if the slave infants recovered or died. In fact, with the surgery on captive women for vaginal fistula, he only records fixing a fistula of one woman, [and] never mentioned what happened to the others.
RL: And you write that researchers saw blacks as “clinical material,” and used the bodies of blacks for dissection in medical schools.
HW: When blacks were still enslaved, it was a simple matter because, as the property of the master, there wasn’t even a question of asking anyone else’s consent. Obtaining bodies for anatomical dissection was very difficult with a strong social sentiment against it. It was not only illegal, but socially reprehensible, to cut up a dead body. However, modes of practicing medicine were changing and people expected a physician to be familiar with the body. So whose bodies were used? Black people’s because they were so convenient. You simply went to someone who owned slaves and got their dead bodies.
Then the social landscape began changing. When slavery was abolished, you no longer could commandeer the bodies of black people with impunity—you had to be surreptitious, and there were several ways to do it. There were hospitals or wings of hospitals that were designated for blacks only where physicians would use black bodies with impunity. While they were alive, the people were used for clinical display—to display procedures or disorders. When they died, the bodies were simply moved to the anatomical laboratory.
However, this didn’t supply enough bodies, so physicians began taking fresh bodies from graveyards. After a while, laws banned this use of bodies, and medical schools became more circumspect. They began using black porters to obtain bodies. The Medical College of Georgia used Grandison Harris, a huge, strapping man. He was so strong, he could go to a black cemetery and pull bodies out with his powerful arms.
Fortunately for me, very specific documentation was kept on the bodies. In 1989, the Medical College of Georgia renovated an old laboratory. Construction workers found a cache of ten thousand human bones marked by anatomists in India ink and clearly discarded medical training material. Three-quarters of them came from the nearby black cemetery.
RL: So human remains were treated in effect as medical waste?
HW: Exactly. They found these bones jumbled together with broken test tubes and beakers, even with the bones of animals that had been used for medical research. There was no attempt to place them in any order, or invest the site with any dignity. This very sad scene was repeated at hospitals throughout the country.
RL: Can you describe the Tuskegee syphilis experiments?
HW: It started as a beneficent experiment in 1928 with Booker T. Washington and Julius Rosenwald, the founder of Sears Roebuck who had devoted himself to positive health initiatives to help black people—to start programs that they would take over. Unfortunately, the stock market crash in 1929 wiped out Rosenwald’s fortune so there was no money for that project.
The Public Health Service of the United States stepped in [in 1932], but public health physicians didn’t care about black self-sufficiency, and showed they didn’t care about black health either. They decided to take black people with syphilis and, instead of treating them, simply watched them. About 400 black men with syphilis were recruited under the guise that they would be treated. They were not told they had syphilis, but that they had “bad blood”—a folk term that could mean many things including venereal disease. They had 200 men as controls. For the next forty years, they watched these men die. The physicians were very open that their intent was to simply trace the progression of disease.
The physicians also wanted to validate their belief that syphilis treated blacks and whites differently. White people with syphilis were held to suffer horribly devastating neurological consequences [such as] deafness, blindness, paralysis, but [the researchers] said black people only had problems with their muscles and hearts, because the nervous systems of black people were so primitive and underdeveloped compared to whites. They took the data, manipulated it, and then falsely claimed they had proved that black people did not suffer any neurological consequences from syphilis, proving indirectly that black people had very inferior brains and nervous systems.
So the physicians were focused on everything except treatment. In the 1940’s, penicillin was found to cure syphilis. It was like a Holy Grail—as though scientists had now developed a shot to cure AIDS. The Surgeon General, Thomas Parran, had made finding a cure for syphilis his mission, so he and the Public Health Service were thrilled. Everyone got shots for syphilis, except for the men in the experiment. Most of the men died slow, lingering, painful deaths—and so did many of their wives, girlfriends and children.
In 1972, the study was stopped when Peter Buxtun, a young investigator for the PHS, discovered the study and told a journalist friend who wrote about it. When it hit the newspapers, and people in the United States—black and white—were horrified that the Public Health Service, the group that supposedly guards our health, would do this to a group of powerless, old black men.
In 1997, Bill Clinton issued an apology for the study. There were still a few survivors, and there was a dramatic and cathartic White House ceremony. It’s wonderful that he issued the apology, and it’s even better that part of the resolution was a bioethics center established at Tuskegee University. But all in all it’s very sad because subsequent events have shown that we didn’t learn what we should have. After the Tuskegee study—although historians speak as though it was the only important abuse of black people—there were many other abuses as bad or worse than Tuskegee.
RL: It seems you’ve done the definitive study of the Tuskegee experiment.
HW: It’s because like anyone who studies history, I had access to the work of earlier historians such as James Jones [author of Bad Blood] and Allen Brandt who had done good investigations. I took their work further by interviewing some important actors and addressing questions that had largely been ignored.
RL: Among the most chilling experiments you describe were the brain operations Dr. Orlando Andy performed on black children. Weren’t these fairly recent?
HW: It was in the 1960’s—not the antebellum past. Writing that part had me in tears, it was so upsetting. Dr. Orlando J. Andy of the University of Mississippi was performing lobotomies, which were done then, and it was disturbing because our understanding of the brain was cruder then. Andy presented it as therapeutic for boys with behavior problems. He used six-, seven-, eight-, nine-year-old boys who had been institutionalized. To say a boy had a behavior problem when you’re not a psychologist, when you don’t have psychological report, when you don’t have details, when the boy’s institutionalized and his parents are not part of the informed consent equation, it’s quite abusive.
What’s a behavior problem? Most six to nine-year-old boys are quite annoying at some time, but that doesn’t mean they should have parts of their brains taken out. One case Andy wrote up as an example of his best work was five repeated surgeries on the same black boy, precipitated by “a behavior problem” that nobody ever quantified.
When you look at the mores of the segregation-era south then, there was a very narrow range of behavior for black men and boys. Emmett Till, a 14-year-old black boy, was tortured and murdered on suspicion of whistling at a white woman. So for Andy, a non-psychologist, to say the boy had a behavior problem and that’s why he repeatedly went in and took out important areas of the brain is shocking. At that time, they didn’t understand all the functions of the amygdala, so he’d take out the amygdala, and when that didn’t help, he’d take out the fornix, and then he’d take out part of the frontal lobe. He notes what he removed, and how he tried to see what happened. It was very much research and not therapy, and very recklessly done.
And, by the end, these children who had lobotomies were barely functional. These children who had been functional could no longer walk or talk or had seizures. It was horrifying, and made worse by Andy saying he didn’t want his work restricted to young black boys. He felt that rioting blacks should have lobotomies, as did other neurosurgeons.
In the late sixties or early seventies, several physiciansgot a huge grant from the government to explore doing lobotomies. These lobotomies were actually performed on black prisoners, not white ones, in several state prisons. Here were doctors who had a very troubling agenda of performing lobotomies on black people whose politics they did not like, and this was done in prisons, which are civil rights deserts.
This mentality has not gone away. We saw it in New York City with the fenfluramine experiments where only blacks boys were allowed by protocol—no white boys were allowed—and they were given the toxic drug fenfluramine to monitor serotonin levels because researchers wanted to prove that these black boys had brain changes that would show them to be potential criminals.
The same thing happened in the 1970’s in Baltimore when a physician affiliated with Johns Hopkins looked for chromosomal abnormalities that he said could be tied to a propensity for violence. He looked at a pool of boys that was 85 percent black.
RL: Are there survivors of Dr. Andy’s haunting experiments?
HW: It’s likely there are survivors but, by the time of his writing, they had lost brain function and were institutionalized. They could still be lost in institutions. I am still haunted by this. It’s so frightening, especially when I see that the mentality that drove it has not gone away.
RL: And you describe research in prisons with captive pools of subjects.
HW: Yes. And last year, a government panel recommended reopening of prisons to research, and it’s almost certain prisons will be opened to research.
I’m very concerned about what’s happened recently with research in this country. We’ve got someone at the helm of NIH [National Institutes of Health] clinical trials who has adopted, in my opinion, a very cavalier attitude toward the rights of some research populations: prisoners seem to be one, and Third-World patients another. Subjects in Africa and other parts of the Third World have been treated horribly by American researchers. Things are done with them against their will, without their knowledge, and they’re offered much lower standards of research care and treatment—and this is justified as “practical ethics.” Practical ethics means we will do one thing in Guinea and another in Connecticut, that some people’s lives and rights mean more than others.
If you’re talking about the law, which gives minimal protections, a person has to give permission to participate in experiments. But in 1996, the law changed, and people can now be experimented on without their consent or their knowledge. If you’re unconscious and admitted to an emergency department, doctors can use you in a research protocol without asking your permission, without informing you. That 1996 federal provision has been used by companies that have devices to perfect and drugs to sell, and it’s been done with the blessing of some at NIH who are now at the helm. Things we don’t consider fair are now done with impunity, and legally. And ethicists use semantics to defend their actions.
RL: But non-consensual experimentation contravenes the Nuremberg protocols and other ethical protocols.
HW: The first sentence of the Nuremberg Code says, “The voluntary consent of the subject is absolutely essential.” But the Nuremberg Code is toothless, with no enforceable penalties for noncompliance. There are federal regulations that seek to legally constrain research institutions, but too often, the miscreants are never tried or punished. I’m not saying that the mass of physicians is amoral or bad. I believe the opposite is true. But I am saying they regard the Nuremberg Code as a good code for Nazi barbarians, but not anything to which they need to subscribe.
RL: What would you like your readers to take away from the book?
HW: Most of the change has been positive for black people and other research subjects. Most people are no longer forced into research or abused with impunity because they’re black. Research precautions do not perfectly protect people today, but the rampant abuse of yesterday does not exist anymore. That’s very positive, and I’m happy to acknowledge that.
The bad news is that our researchers use Third World and developing countries as their personal laboratory. There’s abuse very similar to what blacks went through in the early days of our republic. We have to demand that our researchers treat people abroad the same way they treat people here.
The other thing is for black people to understand that we have been abused, but that avoiding medical care and research is not something we can afford. It’s very dangerous for us, and is already harming us. For example, black people get hepatitis C more than white people, but the only conventional medication, Interferon, doesn’t work for black people. Part of the problem is that so few black people participate in research initiatives that we don’t know about problems soon enough.
Having said that, because there are still inequities and research is still dangerous, we also must charge government and researchers to tighten protections. The institutional review board (IRB) system, which is designed to protect patient subjects, does not work well and needs to be fixed. There also should be a course for research subjects to explain their rights, and how to protect themselves. Except for emergent situations, no one should be permitted to be a research subject who has not taken that course. Today, medical research subjects know only what the involved researcher chooses to tell them about the research, and that’s not good enough.
SOURCE: http://www.madison.com (6-5-07)
The irony was not lost on Alfred McCoy, the J.R.W. Smail Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. McCoy had been fiercely criticized by supporters of the school-naming proposal, including members of the School Board, for loudly challenging the notion that Vang Pao should be honored.
"When I spoke to the Madison School Board in May, I warned that there were more and more revelations coming out with regard to Vang Pao," McCoy said today.
The professor's historical research on Southeast Asia had been highly critical of the general who worked with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency during the Vietnam War era.
"I stood before the people of this city to warn that an embarrassment such as this would occur if Madison went ahead with its plans to name a school after a man who, according sustained coverage in responsible regional and national newspapers, was guilty of summary executions of enemy captives, fraudulent collection of funds from Hmong-Americans to support his resistance' to the Lao government, forced conscription of child soldiers and drug trafficking," McCoy said.
McCoy's words do, indeed, seem prophetic now that Vang Pao has been linked to what Bob Twiss, an assistant U.S. attorney in California, refers to as a "conspiracy to murder thousands and thousands of people at one time."...
SOURCE: Atlantic (6-12-02)
Michael B. Oren, the author of Six Days of War, talks about how a short but momentous conflict forged the modern Middle East....
You have said,"I'm a Zionist; I've devoted my life to Israel. Still, I set out to write a thoroughly honest and dispassionate book." Could you talk about how you went about trying to achieve that balance? How did your strong feelings about Israel play into the writing of the book?
No one writes an objective book. In the postmodern period, there's a tendency to indulge one's prejudices in history. The assumption is that you can't be objective and that to claim objectivity is to be disingenuous. But I believe that balance is something you strive for in the way a mathematician will strive for absolute zero, knowing in advance that he can't ever achieve it, but that he can get closer to it. Since my objective was to understand the Six-Day War and to understand how such a profound event unfolded—an event that is so profoundly impacting our current world—for me to indulge my prejudices would have been counterproductive. And I really viewed those prejudices as obstacles to overcome when I sat down to write history. Every time I came to a document that could be interpreted one way or another, I had to ask myself, Am I interpreting this document in the most balanced way possible, or am I reading it as an Israeli? From the first to the very last page of this book it was a challenge. But some of the most gratifying feedback I've received on the book has been from Arab scholars. I've spoken at Harvard, at Oxford, and most recently at the Council on Foreign Affairs and the National Press Club, and there have been Arab scholars at all of these talks and the feedback has been very encouraging. Recently I was invited to interview on Al Jazeera. It was the highest compliment I could get. I finally made it. I made Al Jazeera!
It seems from what you say in the book that in the years following 1967 the war was an incredibly painful, off-limits topic for the Arabs, so Arab scholars must have waited a while before they started studying it.
Even now it's very painful. This was the Arab world's first major postcolonial crisis, and they didn't fare well in it. They had to come to grips with why the promise of national liberation failed, and that is a painful endeavor. By the way, I think it's a necessary endeavor. It is an essential step in both the political maturation of the region and toward some resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict....