Tag Archives: West

THE CONSUMER AGE TURNED AMERICANS INTO GAMBLERS

2 May

Iowa Lottery CEO Terry Rich presents a check to Lerynne West, one of the winners of a $700 million Powerball prize in November 2018. Courtesy of AP Photo/Charlie Neibargall.

Today legal gambling in the United States is widely accepted and more prevalent than ever. But as recently as the 1950s, gambling was seen as a fundamentally un-American way to make a living. This shift in attitudes towards gambling—which took about a half-century to achieve—spoke to generational shifts in American beliefs about morality and capitalism.

So begins historian David G. Schwartz’s concise and cogent history of attitudes toward gambling in the U.S. in the 20th and 21st centuries. You may read his entire Zocalo essay here.

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WHAT THE DODGERS AND GIANTS’ 1958 MOVE WEST MEANT FOR AMERICA

28 Mar

Few phrases are as evocative of a mythical, imagined urban past as “Brooklyn Dodgers.”

Those two words, particularly in the borough that is now a punch line for hipster jokes, bring to mind a different America, one where the U.S. saw itself as more of a political innocent just discovering its global superpowers, where hardworking immigrant families advanced rapidly into the middle class, and where young people survived on a diet of knishes, homemade pasta, kielbasa, and other foods from the old country (but rarely drank anything stronger than a milkshake). The nostalgia evoked by the phrase “Brooklyn Dodgers” was broad enough to include African-Americans making steady advances into the promise of full citizenship, symbolized by the integration of baseball by Jackie Robinson and the excellence of his teammates, from Roy Campanella to Don Newcombe.

Those fantasies—of the Dodgers, of baseball, of America—came crashing down in 1957. It was announced that winter that the Dodgers and their uptown rivals the Giants, who made their home in Harlem, would leave New York the following year for Los Angeles and San Francisco.

This move West, still decried in Brooklyn and among older New Yorkers, changed how Americans thought about baseball and the country.

So begins Columbia University professor Lincoln Mitchell’s summary of his book on the westward move of baseball in the 1950s. You may read the entire Zocalo Public Square post here.

CAN BETHEL CHURCH MAKE REDDING, CALIFORNIA, HEAVEN ON EARTH?

18 Mar

Northwest Iowa Center for Regional Studies

Is this heaven, or Redding?

These days, the city of 91,000 at the north end of the Sacramento Valley, seems to sit halfway between the godly and the earthly—and not just because of the divine spectacles of nearby Mounts Shasta and Lassen. At the heart of Redding stands a quintessentially California church with a focus on community impact so intense you could almost call it supernatural.

Bethel Church may not be a household name in California, but it should be. Because there is no other institution in our state better at engaging with its hometown than Bethel and its 11,000-plus members.

So begins Joe Mathews’ report on Bethel Church and Redding, California. You may read the entire Zocalo Public Square story here.

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A New History of Native Americans Responds to ‘Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee’

26 Jan

“The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee,” by David Treuer (Ojibwe), examines … recent generations of American Indian history. Through memoir, interviews and extensive reading, Treuer counters the familiar narratives of invisibility that have so readily frozen America’s indigenous peoples. Interweaving stories from family members, the voices of policymakers and assessments of contemporary youth culture, the book introduces alternative visions of American history. The result is an informed, moving and kaleidoscopic portrait of “Indian survival, resilience, adaptability, pride and place in modern life.” Rarely has a single volume in Native American history attempted such comprehensiveness.

So observes historian Ned Blackhawk about David Treuer’s new history of Native Americans. You may read the entire book review at the New York Times 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.

Alaska After the Quake

12 Dec

Northwest Iowa Center for Regional Studies

HOMER, ALASKA—I rode out last Friday’s earthquake under the dining room table. My sister-in-law had arrived the night before from Philadelphia for a two-week visit. I made her crouch under the table with me. Her eyes were wide. I wondered: How much longer will this go on?

So begins Miranda Weiss’s musings on living in Alaska with earthquakes and climate change. You may read the rest of her American Scholar post here.

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