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THE RADICAL COMPASSION OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS

14 Feb

Frederick Douglass portrait

This year’s Black History Month coincides with the 200th birthday of Douglass, and it’s an ideal occasion to rectify some unfortunate ways in which this influential writer has continued to be misrepresented and misunderstood—and not simply by the likes of Trump. Specifically, consider this famous quote that has been attributed to Douglass for decades: “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

William Cheng offers a fine piece of historiography here about Douglass and a quote attributed to him. You may read his entire piece at the Pacific Standard here.

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How was St. Valentine’s Day transformed from a sacred event into an amorous one?

14 Feb

How was St. Valentine's Day transformed from a sacred event into an amorous one?

Valentine’s Day has a curious history. Its name belongs to an early Christian martyred in Rome during the 3rd century. When Pope Gelasius in 496 added Valentine to the Catholic register of officially recognized saints, he could never have imagined that the day chosen to commemorate him, Feb. 14, would become consecrated for lovers.

So begins Marilyn Yalom’s brief history of St. Valentine’s Day. You may read her entire Los Angeles Time‘s story here.

 

A Peek at Famous Readers’ Borrowing Records From a Private New York Library

7 Feb

The Reference Desk at the library.

The New York Society Library, a subscription library now located in a prim townhouse on East 79th Street, has been squirreling books away since 1754. Today the collection occupies nine stacks, and like any library, it can be bit overwhelming if you don’t know what to read. But the Library’s archive offers an unusual book trail to follow: the borrowing histories of its readers past.

So begins Erin Schriener’s fascinating post at Atlas Obscura on the New York Society Library. You may read the entire post here.

 

A disturbing new report on how poorly schools teach American slavery

5 Feb

Consider this from a disturbing new report on how U.S. schools teach — or, rather, don’t teach — students about the history of slavery in the United States:

  • Only 8 percent of U.S. high school seniors could identify slavery as the central cause of the Civil War.
  • 68 percent of the surveyed students did not know that slavery formally ended only with an amendment to the Constitution.
  • Only 22 percent of the students could correctly identify how provisions in the Constitution gave advantages to slaveholders.
  • Only 44 percent of the students answered that slavery was legal in all colonies during the American Revolution.

These results are part of an unsettling new report titled “Teaching Hard History: American Slavery,” which was researched over the course of a year by the Teaching Tolerance project of the nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center. The report includes results of surveys of U.S. high school seniors as well as social studies teachers in all grades — nationally representative of those populations — as well as an analysis of 15 state content standards, and a review of 10 popular U.S. history textbooks. The best textbook achieved a score of 70 percent against a rubric of what should be included in the study of American slavery; the average score was 46 percent.

So begins a Washington Post report by Valerie Strauss on how well the history of slavery is taught in U.S. high schools. You may read the rest of Strauss’ report here.

 

Laser Scans Reveal Maya “Megalopolis” Below Guatemalan Jungle

2 Feb

At National Geographic, Tom Clynes reports:

In what’s being hailed as a “major breakthrough” in Maya archaeology, researchers have identified the ruins of more than 60,000 houses, palaces, elevated highways, and other human-made features that have been hidden for centuries under the jungles of northern Guatemala.

You may read the rest of the report, with illustrations, here.

How Photographers Captured the Incarceration of Japanese Americans During WWII

31 Jan

San Francisco, California, April 25, 1942.

Photographer Toyo Miyatake was 14 when he arrived in America in 1909, and 46 when he was forcibly moved from his home in Los Angeles to the Manzanar incarceration camp. By then, he was a father of four and owner of a photo studio. As he and his family gathered their belongings—whatever they could carry—he grabbed a few items that were considered contraband: a lens, a shutter, and film holders.

So begins Anika Burgess’s account of an exhibition of photographs of the relocation and control of Japanese Americans during World War II. You may read the rest of the post, with selected photographs, here.

 

 

World War I: American Jazz Delights the World

24 Jan

In the afterglow of the armistice in 1918 that ended World War I, Europe, and particularly the city of Paris, exhibited a wild exuberance. In mid-January 1919, future civil rights pioneer and American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) officer Charles Hamilton Houston encapsulated the mood and sounds of European joy: “Paris is taken away with [jazz] and our style of dancing,” he wrote in his diary. “The girls come after the boys in taxis and beg them to go to the dance. Colored boys are all the go.”

So begins Ryan Reft’s post at the Library of Congress. You may read the rest of his post here.

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