Roundup: Talking About History
This is where we excerpt articles about history that appear in the media. Among the subjects included on this page are: anniversaries of historical events, legacies of presidents, cutting-edge research, and historical disputes.
SOURCE: Haaretz (4-29-08)
In the article, "Hitler up close and personal," he emerges as an exotic figure, somewhat peculiar. "I must note right away that the impression Hitler makes is immeasurably better than expected," writes Savitt. "He is 46, but looks younger. Incidentally: he is a bachelor. Self-satisfaction and self-confidence are apparent in his movements; he acts and feels as if he himself is a 'star.' Because the world's eyes are now turned upon him and this pleases him."
The Mandate-era Hebrew press watched with wonder mixed with concern at the unprecedented political phenomenon that...
SOURCE: USA Today (4-28-08)
Then, when I was 14 years old, I came across a red photo album, hidden in my parents' home outside Tel Aviv. The photographs in the album were from that dark time. They showed my father Yaacov Laskier's family, all of whom had been exterminated in the Holocaust. All I had known previously was that before the war, my father and his four brothers and four sisters belonged to a well-to-do, respected Jewish family.
In the album, there was a photo of a girl embracing a little boy. She was about 8 years old, with beautiful black, smooth hair. With a heavy heart, I turned to my father and asked him who those children were, and who was the girl who resembled me. And then, for the first time, my father told me about Rutka and Joachim-Henius, his children with his first wife, Dvorah Hampel. All three of them had perished in Auschwitz. Rutka...
SOURCE: Salon (4-28-08)
After all, in that spring of '76, tempers were flaring all across Boston. Two years earlier, U.S. District Judge Arthur Garrity had ordered the city to desegregate its schools through busing, and now kids from mostly black Roxbury were being forced to share classrooms with kids from mostly white South Boston, and the "Southies" didn't like it one bit. Boycotts and protests followed in short order, and when a crowd of white students descended on City Hall Plaza on April 5, it was pretty much business as usual.
Until a black lawyer named Ted Landsmark, on his way to a meeting, chose that particular moment to pass by. At once, a knot of protesters set upon him, knocked him down, kicked and punched him, shattered his glasses, broke his nose....
SOURCE: Smithsonian Magazine (4-1-08)
Let's begin with a brief exercise. Who are the most famous Americans in history, excluding presidents and first ladies? Go ahead—list your top ten. I can wait.
A colleague and I recently put this question to 2,000 11th and 12th graders from all 50 states, curious to see whether they would name (as a great many educators had predicted) the likes of Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, Tupac Shakur, 50 Cent, Barry Bonds, Kanye West or any number of other hip-hop artists, celebrities or sports idols. To our surprise, the young people's answers showed that whatever they were reading in their history classrooms, it wasn't People magazine. Their top ten names were all bona fide historical figures.
To our even greater surprise, their answers pretty much matched those we gathered from 2,000 adults age 45 and over. From this modest exercise, we deduced that much of what we take for...
SOURCE: Japan Focus (Click here to see pictures accompanying this article.) (4-15-08)
The controversies that continue to swirl around the Nanjing Massacre, the military comfort women, Unit 731 and other Japanese military atrocities rooted in colonialism and the Asia Pacific War are critical not only to understanding the dynamics of war, peace, and terror in the long twentieth century. They are also vital for understanding war memory and denial, with implications for peace and regional accommodation in the Asia Pacific region and the US-Japan relationship.
This article offers a comparative framework for understanding war atrocities and the ways in which they are remembered, forgotten and memorialized. It examines a number of high profile atrocities in an effort to understand their character and the reasons why recognizing and accepting responsibility for their actions have been so difficult. Neither committing atrocities nor...
SOURCE: Historical Agent (blogger at: The G Spot) (4-24-08)
One such moment occurred the last time I was teaching the second half of the U.S. history survey (1865 to the present). I was lecturing about the labor movement in the late nineteenth century, arguably its most dramatic period: massive strikes met by state repression; the colorful culture of the Knights of Labor; the black flags of anarchists; the retrenchment of the American Federation of Labor. So what was the problem?
I don’t think it was that the students were uninterested in labor history. In fact...
SOURCE: NYT (4-23-08)
IT was the year of years, the year of craziness, the year of fire, blood and death. I had just turned 21, and I was as crazy as everyone else.
There were half a million American soldiers in Vietnam, Martin Luther King had just been assassinated, cities were burning across America, and the world seemed headed for an apocalyptic breakdown.
Being crazy struck me as a perfectly sane response to the hand I had been dealt — the hand that all young men had been dealt in 1968. The instant I graduated from college, I would be drafted to fight in a war I despised to the depths of my being, and because I had already made up my mind to refuse to fight in that war, I knew that my future held only two options: prison or exile.
I was not a violent person. Looking back on those days now, I see myself as a quiet, bookish young man, struggling to teach myself how to become a writer,...
SOURCE: New Statesman (4-17-08)
Following the important groundwork done by Salma Khadra Jayyusi's Legacy of Muslim Spain, the edifice of ignorance and prejudice is slowly beginning to crumble. "More than ever before, light needs to be shone on the long Andalusian aftermath that is pressingly with us now," David Levering Lewis concludes in God's...
SOURCE: New Republic (5-7-08)
... What some experts envisaged, only three years ago, as a permanent Republican majority now looks like an illusion. The Democrats, despite their internecine battles over the presidency, remain in a potentially strong position and ought to win substantial majorities in both the House and Senate. Having claimed his party's nomination, John McCain must persuade many on the right that his campaign will not, as the radio polemicist Rush Limbaugh has predicted, "destroy" the Republican Party. As his remedial actions demonstrate, McCain cannot count simply on reassembling, yet again, the old Reagan coalition. "It's gone," Ed Rollins, Reagan's White House political director, has said. "It doesn't mean a whole lot to people anymore."
If Rollins is correct, we have reached the end of an extraordinary era in American history. After Barry...
SOURCE: WSJ (4-22-08)
Fifty-four years ago today, Sen. Joseph McCarthy started his televised hearings on alleged Soviet spies and communists in the Army. The spectacle grabbed the country's attention for the next two months.
By the end of the McCarthy hearings, the senator's career was over; before an audience that often numbered 20 million Americans, he came across as bullying and unscrupulous. Yet today, more and more conservative writers are trying to vindicate the late senator. Authors M. Stanton Evans and Ann Coulter, for example, have claimed that McCarthy was more right than wrong because he, along with dozens of other anticommunists, was correct that the government was riddled with spies.
The FBI agents who actually chased...
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Ed (4-21-08)
They were the pink slips that helped change American liberalism.
Forty years ago — on May 9, 1968 — the local school board in Brooklyn's black ghetto of Ocean Hill-Brownsville sent telegrams to 19 unionized educators, informing them that their employment in the district was terminated. Eighteen were white. One black teacher was mistakenly included on the list but reinstated almost immediately after the error was discovered. Although there was some ambiguity in the notices about whether the teachers were being terminated or merely transferred to another district, members of the Ocean Hill-Brownsville board repeatedly said they had "fired" the teachers, and Rhody McCoy, the local superintendent, told The New York Times: "Not one of these teachers...
SOURCE: WashingtonDecoded (website run by Max Holland) (4-11-08)
David Kaiser’s The Road to Dallas, as John McAdams’s review makes abundantly clear, is scarcely different from dozens of conspiracy-mongering books on the Kennedy assassination that have been published in the last 44 years.
SOURCE: TomDispatch.com (4-17-08)
It took more than four years just to excavate and construct that mountain redoubt outside of Colorado Springs, that Cold War citadel whose two huge blast doors weighed 25 tons each. Within its confines, under 2,000 feet of Rocky Mountain granite, fifteen buildings were constructed, each mounted on steel springs, each spring weighing nearly half a ton, so that, when the Soviet nukes exploded, each building would sway but not collapse.
When it became operational in 1966, the Cheyenne Mountain Complex was the ultimate bomb shelter. Its 200 or so crewmembers were believed to have a 70% likelihood of surviving...
SOURCE: NYT Editorial (4-17-08)
The King Center is a fine institution. But it’s a modest museum, like others scattered through the country that deal with aspects of the nation’s most divisive subject. Why, I wondered as I viewed the exhibit, does the Holocaust, a German crime, hold pride of place over U.S. lynchings in American memorialization?
Let’s be clear: I am not comparing Jim Crow with industrialized mass murder, or suggesting an exact Klan-Nazi moral equivalency. But I do think some psychological displacement is at work when a magnificent Holocaust Memorial Museum, in which the criminals are not Americans, precedes a Washington institution of...
SOURCE: Slate (4-14-08)
When it comes to canonical works of history writing, national differences are all the more striking. Before the 18th century, nearly all historians wrote exclusively about their own countries, and in...
SOURCE: Nixon Blog (4-11-08)
Attending a national conference on preaching here in the Washington, D.C. area this past week, I noted many references to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as the recently past 40th anniversary of his tragic assassination was referred to by speaker after speaker. King was certainly a giant in our history, a man of thought and action remembered as someone who had the courage of his convictions.
Dr. King was a great man on so many levels. But he was first a Pastor-Preacher, erudite and eloquent – persuasive and passionate. And with preaching in the news recently, I revisited some of his last sermons and speeches, wondering how they’d play in today’s cultural and political climate.
Of course such a translation of any discourse from one era to another is potentially perilous, running the risk of ignoring the context of the remarks and the idiosyncrasy of the current moment. But I think it’s...
SOURCE: Oxford University Press blog (4-11-08)
The National Press Club is celebrating its centennial, raising a question about why journalistic competitors feel compelled to band together. Founded in 1908, the club had many short-lived predecessors. The Washington...
SOURCE: Japan Focus (Click here to see pictures accompanying this article.) (4-9-08)
April 9, 2008 marks the 66th anniversary of the fall of Bataan which resulted in the largest surrender by the United States Army in its history. Over 77,000 American and Filipino troops were to become victims of one of the most brutal episodes in the Pacific War—the Bataan Death March.
The March: Beginning of the Ordeal
In 1941, the Filipino people were already promised independence from the United States, which had seized the islands nation from Spain during the Spanish-American War. But with the Japanese expansion to Southeast Asia beginning to pose a threat, Gen. Douglas MacArthur was recalled to active duty to prepare for a possible Japanese attack. When the attack did come, MacArthur’s initial plan to halt the Japanese invasion at the beaches failed. As a result, tens of thousands of US troops who retreated...
SOURCE: http://www.signonsandiego.com (4-9-08)
On April 9, 1942, Gen. Douglas MacArthur's Armed Forces in the Far East was forced to surrender Bataan to the Japanese, this in spite of his orders of April 3 demanding that no surrender be considered and, if ultimately necessary, to “charge the enemy. Make one last stand.” He likened the situation to Gen. George Custer's last stand at Little Bighorn in 1876, except MacArthur was not there for the onslaught that followed.
On that memorable day 66 years ago on Bataan, 12,000 American service men and women, along with 57,500 Filipino troops, were ordered by Major Gen. Edward King, the commander of all fighting forces on Bataan, to surrender to the Japanese Imperial Army. This was the largest military defeat in the history of the United States, yet it has gone largely unnoticed and forgotten all these years.
Yes, the date...
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Ed (4-11-08)
In December 1890, the elderly Walt Whitman received in the mail an unusual Christmas greeting from his admirer William Sloane Kennedy, a Harvard Divinity School dropout turned journalist. "Do you suppose a thousand years from now people will be celebrating the birth of Walt Whitman as they are now the birth of Christ?" Kennedy asked cheekily. "If they don't," he added, "the more fools they."
Kennedy's question was brazen, but it was probably not entirely unexpected. Starting in the 1860s, Whitman attracted a diverse group of adherents who regarded him less as a great poet, an American successor to Wordsworth, than as a great spiritual leader, a successor to the Buddha and Jesus. John Burroughs, the 19th century's most popular nature writer, published two...