Archive | American culture RSS feed for this section

Romantic or racist? Perceptions shift on ‘Little House on the Prairie’

13 Jul

In Minnesota, Waziyatawin’s daughter came home from school one afternoon shaken and deeply disturbed by that day’s read-along.

The book? “Little House on the Prairie.” Her mom says the then-8-year-old was upset by hearing her teacher deliver the novel’s phrase, “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.” When Dr. Waziyatawin, a Dakota historian with a doctorate in American history from Cornell University, petitioned the Yellow Medicine East District in 1998 to stop teaching the book in third grade, her request was rejected.

In Kansas, Laura McLemore, who was named after the Little House series’ author Laura Ingalls Wilder, dedicates herself to preserving the legacy of the author, dressing up as the fictionalized Laura character to make the pioneer-era books come alive for school kids.

In Boston, when James Noonan, a research affiliate at Harvard Graduate School of Education, read the book to his 3-year-old daughter last year, he says he struggled to find a “middle path,” pointing out racism and talking about the perspectives of the Native characters not included in the series. “I’m not trying to censor it. I’m trying to ask important questions about it and not let Ma’s perspective speak for itself,” says Dr. Noonan.

These divergent responses reflect a still-unsettled struggle over how society should deal with books – especially ones long revered as classics – that contain racism. The “Little House on the Prairie” ​series, ​which follows the fictionalized Ingalls family as they settle in Kansas, ​has for decades been a third-grade reading staple, translated into more than 40 languages a​s well as adapted ​for TV.

So begins Rebecca Asoulin’s report on differing ways of dealing with how Native Americans are regarded in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s classic books. You may read the entire story at the Christian Science Monitor here.

Advertisements

The Mystery Man Who Spent 20 Years Photographing North American Buildings

10 Jul
Grand Forks, North Dakota, May 1990.

Grand Forks, North Dakota, May 1990.

In May of 1982, Barry Gfeller left his home in Camas, Washington,* got into his car, and began to drive.

His plan was similar to eight previous road trips he’d already taken, and 14 more he would embark on in the years to come: to photograph the streets and buildings of towns across the United States and Canada. For nearly two decades, Gfeller would periodically hit the road to continue what became a mammoth photographic survey. In May 1982 alone, he photographed over 200 towns, traveling as far north as Edmonton and as far east as Milwaukee. When Gfeller died in 1999, his collection—which he arranged alphabetically, stored in long wooden boxes—consisted of 50,000 prints and negatives.

“Ultimately, Gfeller drove over 100,000 miles across 44 states and six Canadian provinces between 1977 and 1996,” says Mike O’Neill, a political strategist who first learned about Gfeller in 2016. After Gfeller died, the collection made its way from his estate to a Canadian charity. Sixteen years later, the charity asked O’Neill to help find a buyer who could donate the work to a museum. They didn’t have to look far. Fascinated, O’Neill purchased the collection himself in 2017. He’s now begun to digitize the prints, and is searching for a long-term home for Gfeller’s archive.

So begins Anika Burgess’s fascinating post about Barry Gfeller the photographer. You may read the rest of story, with sample photographs, at Atlas Obscura here.

An Iowa Governor Worth Remembing: Robert E. Ray, 1928-2018

9 Jul

Northwest Iowa Center for Regional Studies

Image result for Robert Ray Tai Dam

My friend Jim Schaap has posted a fine remembrance of former Governor Ray. It is worth your read, here.

View original post

REGARDING THE TERM “MERCILESS INDIAN SAVAGES”

5 Jul

The other day I was asked if Americans can or should celebrate the country we aspire to, instead of the one described in the Declaration of Independence?

For the past decade, I have been working to educate our nation on the Doctrine of Discovery and the white supremacists’ influence it has on the foundations of our nation. This is especially evident in the Declaration of Independence, where, 30 lines below the inclusive and benevolent statement “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal”, that document refers to the indigenous peoples of Turtle Island as “merciless Indian savages.” Demonstrating very clearly, that the only reason the founding fathers used the inclusive term “all men” is because they had a very narrow definition of who was actually human. I have written many articles regarding the Declaration of Independence, and I did not intend to write yet another one this year. But I appreciated being asked this question, and so I decided to respond.

So begins my friend Mark Charles’ editorial at Native News Online. You may read his entire piece here.

Ice Cream Saloons?

27 Jun

article-image

On August 28, 1900, Rebecca Israel decided to treat herself to dinner at Cafe Boulevard, a fashionable restaurant in the heart of Manhattan’s Jewish theater district. Despite being polite and well-dressed, Rebecca was refused a table and asked to leave. The restaurant’s owner, Igantz Rosenfeld, had a strict policy against serving women who were unaccompanied by men. Rebecca sued him for discrimination, but the case was dismissed by the New York Supreme Court in 1903.

Throughout the 19th century, restaurants catered to a predominately male clientele. Much like taverns and gentlemen’s clubs, they were places where men went to socialize, discuss business, and otherwise escape the responsibilities of work and home. It was considered inappropriate for women to dine alone, and those who did were assumed to be prostitutes. Given this association, unescorted women were banned from most high-end restaurants and generally did not patronize taverns, chophouses, and other masculine haunts.

As American cities continued to expand, it became increasingly inconvenient for women to return home for midday meals. The growing demand for ladies’ lunch spots inspired the creation of an entirely new restaurant: the ice-cream saloon. At a time when respectable women were excluded from much of public life, these decadent eateries allowed women to dine alone without putting their bodies or reputations at risk.

You may read the rest of Jessica Gingrich’s fascinating historical piece at Atlas Obscura here.

Why We Don’t Read, Revisited

15 Jun

A little more than a decade ago, I wrote an article for The New Yorker about American reading habits, which a number of studies then indicated might be in decline. I was worried about what a shift to “secondary orality”—a sociological term for a post-literate culture—might do to America’s politics. “In a culture of secondary orality, we may be less likely to spend time with ideas we disagree with,” I wrote. I suspected that people might become less inclined to do fact checking on their own; “forced to choose between conflicting stories,” they would “fall back on hunches.”

I’ll go out on a limb and say that I don’t think that I got this part wrong. But I’ve often wondered whether I was right about the underlying trend, too. Were Americans in fact reading less back then? And are they reading even less today? Whenever I happen across a news article on the topic, I wonder if I’m about to find out whether I was Cassandra or Chicken Little.

Read the rest of Caleb Crain’s New Yorker essay here.

Is Jerusalem embassy part of God’s grand plan? Why some evangelicals love Israel

16 May

(RNS) — On Monday (May 14), the Trump administration unveiled its new Jerusalem embassy. Many American evangelicals cheered because they understood the United States’ recognition of Jerusalem as the “once and eternal” capital of Israel as a fulfillment of biblical prophecy.

Trump chose two evangelical ministers to offer prayers at the dedication of the embassy. Robert Jeffress, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, delivered the invocation. John Hagee, pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, gave the benediction.

Both clergymen adhere to dispensationalism, a theology informed by a literal reading of biblical prophecy. Most Americans have never heard the term “dispensationalism,” but they might have been exposed to this view of history through the popular “Left Behind” novels published in the 1990s and 2000s by Christian authors Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye.

So begins my friend John Fea’s post at Religion News Service. You may read his entire piece here.

Exploring the Past

Reading, Thinking, and Blogging about History

Enough Light

"In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don't." - Blaise Pascal

Lenten Lamentations

Preparing to Participate in God's Mosaic Kingdom

The Text Message

Discoveries from processing and reference archivists on the job

john pavlovitz

Stuff That Needs To Be Said

Wirelesshogan: Reflections from the Hogan

"History is the record of our loves in all their magnificent and ignoble forms." Eugene McCarraher

The Way of Improvement Leads Home

"History is the record of our loves in all their magnificent and ignoble forms." Eugene McCarraher

the way of improvement leads home

reflections at the intersection of American history, religion, politics, and academic life

The Pietist Schoolman

The website and blog of historian Chris Gehrz

Native News Online

American Indian News

thepracticalhistorian

Your guide to practically true history.

THE TWELVE

Reformed. Done Daily.

i-history

by Alex Scarfe

blogwestdotorg.wordpress.com/

Thoughtful Conversation about the American West

Northwest History

"History is the record of our loves in all their magnificent and ignoble forms." Eugene McCarraher

%d bloggers like this: