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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.

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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.

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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.

On Evangelicals, a Christian America, and Supporting Trump–an Evangelical Historian’s Lament

29 Jun

John Fea is a Christian, a historian, and a friend. His new book, Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump, has just been released by Eerdmans Publishing. At History News Network, he has an opinion piece about evangelicals, thinking historically, and politics. You may read the piece here. (See his related piece at The Atlantic on evangelicals and fear here.)

Ice Cream Saloons?

27 Jun

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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.

A History of Pizza

26 Jun

Fast food outlet: a Neapolitan pizza seller, 19th century.

Pizza is the world’s favourite fast food. We eat it everywhere – at home, in restaurants, on street corners. Some three billion pizzas are sold each year in the United States alone, an average of 46 slices per person. But the story of how the humble pizza came to enjoy such global dominance reveals much about the history of migration, economics and technological change.

So begins Alexander Lee’s concise “slice” of the history of pizza. You may read the rest of his piece at History Today here.

Evangelical Fear Elected Trump

24 Jun

White conservative evangelicals in America are anxious people. I know because I am one.

Our sense of fear, perhaps more than any other factor, explains why evangelicals voted in such large numbers for Donald Trump in 2016 and continue to support his presidency.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and essayist Marilynne Robinson once wrote, “Fear is not a Christian habit of mind.” The great poet of the Jersey shore, Bruce Springsteen, sings, “Fear’s a dangerous thing. It can turn your heart black you can trust. It can take a God-filled soul, and turn it to devils and dust.”

So begins my friend historian John Fea’s brief history of white evangelicals and fear. It is based in large part on his new book, Believe Me. You may read the rest of this Atlantic piece by him here.

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