American Indians and World War I

9 Jan
Captain Ben Davis Locke (Choctaw) with American Indian soldiers

Captain Ben Davis Locke (Choctaw), in front, with American Indian soldiers at Camp Stanley, 1918. Courtesy of Francine Locke Bray.

The American Indians in WWI Centennial Commission and the Sequoyah National Research Center at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock have launched a new website. You may explore it and its links here.

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Protestant Missionaries of the 19th Century and Democracy

22 Dec

The Surprising Discovery About Those Colonialist, Proselytizing Missionaries

For many of our contemporaries, no one sums up missionaries of an earlier era like Nathan Price. The patriarch in Barbara Kingsolver’s 1998 novel, The Poisonwood Bible, Price tries to baptize new Congolese Christians in a river filled with crocodiles. He proclaims Tata Jesus is bangala!, thinking he is saying, “Jesus is beloved.” In fact, the phrase means, “Jesus is poisonwood.” Despite being corrected many times, Price repeats the phrase until his death—Kingsolver’s none-too-subtle metaphor for the culturally insensitive folly of modern missions.

So begins a fascinating report at Christianity Today about new research by sociologist  Robert Woodberry which firmly establishes a major positive impact on various nations in the world by 19th-century Protestant missionaries. You may read Andrea Palpant Dilley’s full story here.

Lully Lullay

18 Dec

Coventry, an English city of 250,00 in the West Midlands, was home to significant industrial power when World War II began, a line of industries Hitler wouldn’t and didn’t miss. When the Battle of Britain began, a specific Coventry blitz started immediately and didn’t end for three long months–198 tons of bombs killed 176 people and injured almost 700.

But the worst was to come. On November 14, 1940, 515 Nazi bombers unloaded on Coventry’s industrial region, leaving the city in ruins. Its own air defenses fired 67 hundred rounds, but brought down only one bomber. It was a rout.

At 8:00 that night, St. Michael’s Cathedral, a fourteenth-century church, was hit and burned, destroyed like so much else as a city turned to ruin.

So begins my friend Jim Schaap’s latest Small Wonder, broadcast on our local NPR station. He makes some wondrous connections: Christmas, World War II, and Wounded Knee. You may read (or listen to) the entire Small Wonder here.

On Display: The 1968 San Francisco State Student Strike

18 Dec

San Francisco State University (then San Francisco State College) was uniquely situated to address racial inequities during the 1960s. In the early 1960s, several SF State students traveled to the South to participate in the Freedom Rides in order to desegregate interstate travel. And in October 1962, a wooden Speaker’s Platform was built on campus which became the first college-sanctioned free speech platform in the nation. Tensions grew on campus through the mid-1960s as a coalition of student groups protested the releasing of student information to the Selective Service Office and anti-black animus that resulted in the beating of black students on campus. Students felt the campus administrators were racist and ignoring inequalities readily apparent on campus. Using the free speech platform, students developed an innovative Third World curriculum through an ambitious experimental college as they developed networks for civic engagement in underrepresented neighborhoods beginning in 1966. In 1968, the suspension of an English Instructor (and Black Panther Minister of Education) George Mason Murray set off the longest college strike in American history. After changes in the school’s president, activism from students and faculty, and the ultimate closure of the campus and numerous campus demonstrations, the coalition of the Third World Liberation Front and the Black Students Union, supported by the Students for a Democratic Society, issued demands seeking a resolution to the strike. The result was the creation of one of the nation’s first Black studies curriculum and Black Studies Departments, as well as the School of Ethnic Studies.

It is not surprising that the longest college strike in American history would unfold at SF State throughout 1968 as students from different ethnic backgrounds came together to fight for educational self-determination and curriculum relevant to their lives.

So begins Meredith Eliassen’s post at the Organization of American Historian’s Process blog about a new online archives collection. You may read the entire post, with links, here.

17 Dec

December is a month of holidays and festivities that bring families and friends together to celebrate their good fortune and look forward to the year ahead. For the enslaved couple William and Ellen Craft, the month of December 1848 promised more reason to celebrate than any they’d ever experienced. The potential was uncertain, however, and fraught with peril. After years of careful planning and preparation, this was the optimal time, they decided, to implement their plan to gain their freedom.

A search of all of the documents in the Library of Congress would be unlikely to yield a scheme for freedom more intriguing and daring than the Christmas escape strategy of the Crafts. Even though theirs is heralded as one of the most brilliant escapes from slavery in American history, it’s far less well known than the exploits of Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass or Josiah Henson.

The Crafts’ ingenious plan is documented in their 1860 narrative, “Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom; or, The Escape of William and Ellen Craft from Slavery.” The Library holds four different reprints of the account.

So begins an intriguing Library of Congress post by Lavonda Kay Broadnax. You may read the entire post here.

How Peter Jackson Made WWI Footage Seem Astonishingly New

17 Dec

As the director of elaborate fantasy epics like the “Lord of the Rings” and “Hobbit” trilogies, Peter Jackson has become known for meticulous attention to detail. Now he has put the same amount of care into making a documentary.

With “They Shall Not Grow Old,” Jackson has applied new technology to century-old World War I footage to create a vivid, you-are-there feeling that puts real faces front and center and allows us to hear their stories in their own words.

So begins Mekado Murphy’s New York Times post on a new documentary on World War I. You need to watch some of the sample links in the post here!

Black Lives and the Boston Massacre

12 Dec

On March 5, 1770, at a little after nine o’clock in the evening, men in uniform shot and killed an unarmed black man named Crispus Attucks. They got away with it.

This may seem like a radical way to introduce the Boston Massacre, that seminal episode in American history in which British soldiers fired on a mob, killing five men. But it is not far from how John Adams described the events to jurors while defending those soldiers at trial. The future president would later say that winning their acquittal was “one of the most gallant, generous, manly, and disinterested actions of my whole life, and one of the best pieces of service I ever rendered my country.” He engaged in some excellent lawyering, no doubt about it. The trial cemented Adams’s reputation as the archetypal lawyer-as-hero, a man willing to be hated in order to give individuals the chance to have their cause fairly heard. And it confirmed for Revolutionary British North Americans that theirs was a cause rooted in legal ideals. We have remembered the trial this way ever since: as a triumph of principle over self-interest or impetuous emotionalism. But an honest look at the transcript complicates the story by showing how racial prejudice contributed to the outcome. A critical part of Adams’s strategy was to convince the jury that his clients had only killed a black man and his cronies and that they didn’t deserve to hang for it.

So begins Farah Peterson’s masterful and sobering review of John Adams’s defense of the British soldiers in the Boston Massacre. You may read the rest of her American Scholar article here.

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