New World Prophecy: Dvorak, Dawson, and the Whiteness of Classical Music in America.

17 Sep

Though best known for his choral arrangements, William Levi Dawson composed a large-scale work, the <em></dt><dd class=

In 1934, Leopold Stokowski and his incomparable Philadelphia Orchestra premiered a new work by a black composer : the Negro Folk Symphony of William Levi Dawson. Four days later, Stokowski conducted the symphony at Carnegie Hall, a performance that was nationally broadcast and widely reviewed. “Hope in the Night,” the second movement, ignited an ovation—the orchestra had to stand. At the close, Dawson was repeatedly called to the stage. Pitts Sanborn of The New York World-Telegram wrote that “the immediate success of the symphony [did not] give rise to doubts as to its enduring qualities. One is eager to hear it again and yet again.” Leonard Liebling of the New York American (like Sanborn, a critic of consequence) went the full distance; he called Dawson’s symphony “the most distinctive and promising American symphonic proclamation which has so far been achieved.” Yet the Negro Folk Symphony would soon be forgotten.

So begins Joseph Horowitz’s intriguing American Scholar article on Dawson, Dvorak, and the whiteness of classical music in the United States. You may read the entire article here.

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Who Speaks for Crazy Horse?

16 Sep

Northwest Iowa Center for Regional Studies

Past Mt. Rushmore is another mountain, and another memorial. This one is much larger: the Presidents’ heads, if they were stacked one on top of the other, would reach a little more than halfway up it. After seventy-one years of work, it is far from finished. All that has emerged from Thunderhead Mountain is an enormous face—a man of stone, surveying the world before him with a slight frown and a furrowed brow.

So writes Brooke Jarvis in his astute report on the Crazy Horse Memorial in the Black Hills. You may read the entire New Yorker piece here.

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Presidential candidate and former pastor Mark Charles confronts American history

12 Sep

WASHINGTON (RNS) — Mark Charles may be the only 2020 presidential candidate who can list working as a Christian pastor on his résumé. But when you ask him how his faith informs his politics, he doesn’t exactly preach.

So begins Jack Jenkins’ Religion News Service report on my friend Mark Charles’ presidential campaign as an independent. You may read the entire story here.

On the Hunt for National Treasures With America’s Archive Detective

20 Aug
Mitch Yockelson (left), investigative archivist, and Jay Bosanko (right), COO of the National Archives, with recently rediscovered documents in 2016.

Mitch Yockelson (left), investigative archivist, and Jay Bosanko (right), COO of the National Archives, with recently rediscovered documents in 2016. BILL O’LEARY/THE WASHINGTON POST VIA GETTY IMAGES

Mitch Yockelson knows what’s missing by heart. There’s an arsenal of diamond-encrusted daggers, swords, and scabbards gifted to Harry Truman by a Saudi prince and the Iranian shah—all stolen from his presidential library in 1978. There’s Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s official White House portrait. It went missing in a move. And there’s a batch of Abraham Lincoln’s telegrams that just up and vanished.

Yockelson, the investigative archivist for the United States’ National Archives, is unlikely to find any of these priceless historical treasures in a fluorescent-lit hall on the Maryland state fairgrounds. The annual Maryland Antique Arms Show brings together hundreds of dealers peddling all types of military antiques and ephemera. There, men toting bayonets for sale peruse table after table of old uniforms, yellowed discharge papers, and bowls of ammunition. Yockelson attends shows like this two or three times a year, in addition to scouring online auctions and following tips, on the hunt for lost Americana that rightfully belongs to the U.S. government.

So begins Nina Strochlic’s fascinating story on trying to track down archival thefts from the U.S. National Archives. You may read the entire Atlas Obscura piece here.

The Impossible, Necessary History of the Hymnal

13 Aug

Phillips, The Hymnal

Historian Chris Gehrz provides a fascinating review of a new book, The Hymnal, by Christopher N. Phillips. You may read the review here.

Place, Societies, and The City of God

29 Jul

Northwest Iowa Center for Regional Studies

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“What our societies desperately need, therefore, are common objects of love that bind us together but inhibit our tendencies to idolatry.”

“The beauty and promise of place lies in its capacity to turn our eyes away from ourselves and our imagined images of ourselves to the reality of the world and the contingency of our place within it. The love of place is inherently modest, and therein lies its promise.”

So argues Australian theologian Andrew Errington at ABC Religion and Ethics. You may read his entire lecture here.

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A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE PHRASE “IF YOU AIN’T DUTCH, YOU AIN’T MUCH”

7 Jul
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The windmill in Orange City, Iowa’s Windmill Park.

It’s a phrase frequently employed in media coverage of Dutch Americans. It appears on kitsch t-shirts and coffee mugs. Even Dutch King Willem Alexander said it a speech in Michigan in 2015.

“There’s an old expression here,” chuckles Gleaves Whitney, director of the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, “If you ain’t Dutch, you ain’t much.” [1]

From the Netherlands, a journalist reports: “If you ain’t Dutch, you ain’t much”, they still always say in west Michigan.[2]

The phrase is now well-known and well-worn. It strikes many as a form of chauvinism more than pride, and it’s got the right alliteration and meter to remain a classic. But it is vague enough to be useful in a variety of contexts, and so it can mean different things to different people.

But just how old is this phrase, and where did it come from? I’ve spent almost twenty years studying and writing about the Dutch in the United States, and I can’t remember ever encountering the phrase “If you ain’t Dutch, you ain’t much” in any archival documents more than twenty years old.

So begins historian Michael Douma’s investigative essay on a phrase that, as he notes, I have heard here in Orange City. If you are interested in Michael’s full account, read his entire blog post here.

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