This past year, I wrote a book about lawyers’ service in the American Civil War, I argued that the lawyers’ part in the US and Confederate cabinets and in their respective Congresses made a civil war a little more civil, and allowed that out of horrific battle came a new respect for rule of law, as well as a new kind of positive, rights-based constitutionalism.
The development of the world, and of scientific discovery, is highly contingent on the actions of individual people. The Irish-born John Tyndall (c. 1822–93), controversial scientist, mountaineer, and public intellectual, nearly emigrated to America in his early 20s, like so many of his fellow countrymen. Had he done so, the trajectory of nineteenth-century scientific discovery would have been different.
The Supreme Court is at the heart of the United States of America’s judicial system. Created in the Constitution of 1787 but obscured by the other branches of government during the first few decades of its history, the Court grew to become a co-equal branch in the early 19th century. Its exercise of judicial review—the power that it claimed to determine the constitutionality of legislative acts—gave the Court a unique status as the final arbiter of the nation’s constitutional conflicts. From the slavery question during the antebellum era to abortion and gay rights in more recent times, the Court has decided cases brought to it by individual litigants, and in doing so has shaped American constitutional and legal development.
During George Washington’s presidency, Indian delegates were regular visitors to the seat of government. Washington dined with Cherokees, Chickasaws, Creeks, Kaskaskias, Mahicans, Mohawks, Oneidas, and Senecas; in one week late in 1796, he had dinner with four different groups of Indians on four different days—and on such occasions the most powerful man in the United States followed the customs of his Indian visitors, smoked calumet pipes, exchanged wampum belts, and drank punch with them.
An aging TV personality occupies the White House. Representing the Republican Party, he denounces his predecessors for coddling the nation’s enemies. Not long after taking office, he begins rattling nuclear sabers with the country’s most dangerous nuclear rival, threatening complete destruction and promising victory in nuclear war. His rhetoric concerns people at home and abroad. Just as this description applies to Donald Trump in 2017, it also characterizes Ronald Reagan in the early 1980s. A longtime critic of his predecessors’ détente policy, Reagan took a fierce stand toward the Soviet Union.
Discover how Henry Buie, Moses Summerlin, Lurena Roebuck, and almost a thousand other black soutnerners managed to successfully litigate civil cases against white southerners throughout the 85 years following the Civil War. Many different tactics needed to be deployed during this period of injustice, and in a system where those in power often had very different interests and perspectives than their own.
The Eighteenth Amendment to the US Constitution banned alcohol from 1920 to 1933. Sometimes called the “noble experiment,” this disastrous public policy reduced tax revenues, made gangsters rich, and failed to stop drinking. Alcohol consumption did drop some, but regular drinkers turned to bootleg liquor and moonshine. In the following interview the historian W. J. Rorabaugh discusses prohibition and its discontents.
On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, the Great War came to an end. Conventional accounts of the war often allow these closing battles to be overshadowed by opening moves and earlier battles. However, the human costs behind the Allied victory cannot be truly understood without examining the summer of 1918. Using personal accounts featured in The Last Battle, the timeline below captures the final battles of World War I through the eyes of the men fighting them.
When New York’s Crystal Palace opened in 1853, it quickly became one of the most celebrated landmarks in the city. But five years later, the building was gone—engulfed in flames and reduced to a heap of smoldering debris. The below photographs from The Finest Building in America recapture the sensation and spectacle behind the New York Crystal Palace: a building that mattered so much to antebellum Americans and New Yorkers, yet was never rebuilt.
The first incarnation of Black History Month began in 1926, when Carter G. Woodson, historian and author, established an observance during the second week of February coinciding with the birthdays of social reformer Frederick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln. The month-long celebration was then proposed at Kent State University, Ohio, in February 1969, beginning the following year.
Since the first poems published by former slaves Phyllis Wheatley and Jupiter Hammon around the time of the American Revolution, African American literature has played a vital role in the history and culture of the United States. The slave narratives of figures such as Frederick Douglass and Harriet Wilson became a driving force for abolitionism before the Civil War, and the tumultuous end of Reconstruction brought about the exploration of new genres and themes during the height of the Jim Crow era.
In March of 1924, Charles S. Johnson, sociologist and editor of Opportunity: A Journal of Negro Life, approached Alain Locke with a proposal: a dinner was being organized with the intention to secure interracial support for Black literature. Locke, would attend the dinner as “master of ceremonies,” with the responsibility of finding a common language between Black writers and potential White allies.
We want George Washington—the President of all Presidents, the Man of all Men—to be a certain way. We want him to be an unalloyed male outdoing, singlehandedly, all the other competitors. We want him strong and rude, rough and rugged, athletic and hypersexualized, a chiseled torso, a Teddy Roosevelt, a Tarzan, and a John Wayne: “a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.”
Mexico and the United States share a highly integrated economic relationship. There seems to be an assumption among many Americans, including officials in the current administration, that the relationship is somehow one-sided, that is, that Mexico is the sole beneficiary of commerce between the two countries. Yet, economic benefits to both countries are extensive.
With his right arm extended – pausing for just a moment – Senator John McCain flashed a thumbs-down and jarred the Senate floor. Audible gasps and commotion followed. At 1:29 am on 28 July, Senator McCain had just supplied the decisive “Nay” vote to derail the fourth and final bill voted on that night. With that, a seven-year pursuit to undo the Affordable Care Act had collapsed.
Each year, department stores in New York City decorate their windows with ornate holiday displays. Taking on festive themes with dazzling lights, crystals, and figurines, these stores aim to entice shoppers and encourage passers-by to get into the holiday spirit. In the following excerpt from Greater Gotham, Mike Wallace discusses the history of these famous department stores and their connection to the economy of New York City.