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2005 3-June to July

Week of 7-25-05 FRIDAY

Scholar Sees Rowhouses as Slave Haven : A community push to save seven downtown Brooklyn rowhouses that may have been Underground Railroad safehouses has gained last-minute support. In a stunning reversal, historian A.J. Williams-Myers, a member of an academic panel hired by the city to review a study of the homes, visited the Duffield St. buildings on Tuesday - and now believes runaway slaves were hidden in basements of some of the homes."I saw what indeed may have been the very secreted, below-ground facilities used by those in search of freedom," Williams-Myers wrote in an E-mail obtained by the Daily News. A professor of black history at SUNY New Paltz, Williams-Myers contradicted preliminary findings of a city-sponsored study done by the consulting firm AKRF, Inc.

How Kremlin Strove to Block Dr. Zhivago : The lengths to which the Soviet authorities were ready to go in their efforts to block publication of Boris Pasternak's epic novel about 20th-century Russia, Doctor Zhivago, was revealed by a letter published yesterday. After the book was rejected by the authorities, Pasternak passed his manuscript to the leftwing Italian publisher Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, who had it translated and printed in the west. It appeared in November 1957. But since then, literary historians have speculated on the author's behaviour between delivery and publication. In messages to those involved in what was to be the literary coup of the century, Pasternak called for publication to be suspended. It turns out he was pressured by security services in the USSR to urge that his book not be published. In a just-published letter to his translator he made his true feelings known:"I wrote the novel to be published and read. That remains my only wish."

News: In his first public remarks since taking on the job of directing the planning of the future National Museum of African American History and Culture, Lonnie Bunch, a historian and former president of the Chicago Historical Society, said he had been wrestling with several approaches to the museum's mission. Most important, he said, the museum must combat the natural tendency not to dwell on negative experiences such as slavery."This desire to omit -- to forget disappointments, moments of evil and great missteps -- is both natural and instructive. It is often the essence of African American culture that is forgotten or downplayed," said Bunch.

US Immigration/The Fort That Let Outsiders In: The government has been keeping tabs on immigrants since 1820, and Castle Garden at the Battery, originally built to defend New York from foreigners, was the city's first official debarkation point. It was the gateway for immigrants until 1890, when federal officials took over responsibility for the newcomers, who were processed first at the nearby Barge Office and, starting in 1892, on Ellis Island. Ellis Island may claim more of the ancestral spotlight, but Castle Garden was no slouch. More than one in six native-born Americans are descendants of the eight million immigrants who entered the United States through Castle Garden in Lower Manhattan beginning 150 years ago next Monday. A nonprofit group formed to rebuild the 23-acre park will begin a free Web site for scholarly and genealogical research, CastleGarden.org, which includes a database of more than 10 million of the 12 million immigrants who arrived at the Port of New York from 1820 to 1892.

The"N" Word: Stephen Hagan,an Aboriginal researcher at Australia's University of Southern Queensland, battles to strip a local stadium of a derogatory name. The critical moment came when Mr. Hagan, an accomplished rugby player in his schoolboy days, took his family to a match at the Toowoomba Sports Ground, the town's rugby-league headquarters. He was shocked to see that the section of the stadium in which he and his family were sitting was blazoned with large letters reading"E.S. 'Nigger' Brown Stand." The stand was named in 1960 to honor a local player from the early 1920s, the first from the region to represent Australia, who went on to become a well-respected businessman and alderman on the Toowoomba City Council. Mr. Hagan decided that the word"nigger" was something that his children, and the community at large, should not see in such a public context.

Alexis de Tocqueville Anniversary: At the time of Tocqueville's birth, 200 years ago this week, hardly anybody thought that democracy could ever exist, much less thrive, in Europe without frequent violence and revolution. Only the extraordinary geographical and historical conditions of the Americans allowed them, and only them, to benefit from free, pluralistic politics and democratic institutions. That was the general opinion of those who visited America.

Truman and the Atomic Bomb: The sixtieth anniversary of Hiroshima seems to be shaping up as a subdued affair--though not for any lack of significance. A survey of news editors in 1999 ranked the dropping of the atomic bomb on August 6, 1945, first among the top one hundred stories of the twentieth century. And any thoughtful list of controversies in American history would place it near the top again. According to an article written by Richard B. Frank for the Weekly Standard, Truman was justified in using the bomb: the Japanese did not see their situation as catastrophically hopeless. They were not seeking to surrender, but pursuing a negotiated end to the war that preserved the old order in Japan, not just a figurehead emperor. Finally, thanks to radio intelligence, American leaders, far from knowing that peace was at hand, understood--as one analytical piece in the"Magic" Far East Summary stated in July 1945, after a review of both the military and diplomatic intercepts--that"until the Japanese leaders realize that an invasion can not be repelled, there is little likelihood that they will accept any peace terms satisfactory to the Allies." This cannot be improved upon as a succinct and accurate summary of the military and diplomatic realities of the summer of 1945.

Mormon Trek Across the West: The wagon wheel ruts are still visible in places. Even after 150 years, they mark the toil and struggles of thousands of pioneers who settled the West. And while they are not near modern highways, these parallel grooves in the sand and clay are again attracting tens of thousands of pioneers from around the world who seek to relive the experiences of their ancestors. But in a twist of history, the new trekkers -- mostly members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- are making their own tracks and endangering parts of the original trail.

Reporting the Last IRA 'Stand Down': The last time the IRA stood down its"volunteers" was in 1962 when it called an end to its border campaign. A statement released to the media on 26 February 1962 went as follows:"The leadership of the resistance movement has ordered the termination of the campaign of resistance to British occupation launched on December 12th, 1956. So how was the ending of this IRA campaign reported? Fyffe Robertson of the BBC's Tonight programme presented a special report in 1962 on the ending of the campaign, during which he heard from two IRA men. Both predicted that the campaign of violence would cntinue and said that it was the only way to achieve the group's goals. The words of both men were to be proved correct in that the IRA would re-emerge in the 1970s as the armed provisional movement for the bloodiest part of its war yet.

Iraqi Antiquities: Donny George, Director General of museums in Iraq, has clearly stated that they will refuse access to the National Museum in Baghdad to anyone who encourages the illegal trade in antiquities through purchasing, appraising or publishing; Grand Ayatollah el-Sistani has declared looting un-Islamic but radical cleric Muqtada el-Sadr has issued a counter-fatwa to the effect that looting of antiquities is allowed as long as its proceeds benefi