Given our constitutional separation of powers, it seems odd that a presidential inauguration takes place on the Capitol steps. Like so much else in American history, the story begins with George Washington. In 1789, the First Congress met in New York City, where it proceeded to count the electoral ballots, an easy task since the vote had been unanimous.
Puritans did not observe birthdays as we do, but the occasion–John Winthrop’s twenty-ninth birthday–in January 1617 may well have been a time for greater reflection than normal. Winthrop was in mourning for his wife, Thomasine Clopton Winthrop, who had died on 8 December. Four hundred years later, it is appropriate to reflect on what Winthrop’s experience and his Thomasine’s protracted death tells us about love and
Literacy in the United States was never always just about reading, writing, and arithmetic. Remember in the 1980s and 1990s the angst about children becoming “computer literate”? The history of literacy is largely about various types of skills one had to learn depending on the era in which they lived.
A quiet but intense debate has been going on among the dwindling group of Russian experts in the United States and Europe, who are increasingly disturbed by the hyperbolic rhetoric about Russian leader Vladimir Putin during and since the American presidential campaign, in the media, and from public intellectuals. Putin has been described as Hitler, Stalin, without a soul, and even crazy.
America has just experienced what some claim is the most unusual presidential election in our modern history. The Democrats picked the first woman to run as a major-party candidate, while the Republicans selected an alt-right populist who is the first modern candidate never to have held an elected office. With battles in 140-character bursts, the tenor of the campaign was unusual to say the least.
Fifteen years ago bipartisan support for No Child Left Behind (NCLB) served as a watershed moment in federal support for public education in the United States. The law emphasized standardized testing and consequences for states and schools that performed poorly. The law was particularly important because NCLB’s focus on accountability also meant that states and local school districts were required to report on the achievement of different groups of students by race, socio-economic background, and disability.
He is stupid and lazy. He has the attention span of a child. He caters to racism and he does not respect women. His patriotism is juvenile and belligerent. He claims to have the common touch, but he truly cares only for the rich. Is this the standard bill of indictment against Donald J. Trump, circa 2016—or against Ronald Reagan, circa 1980? Of course, these charges were made by liberal opponents of each.
Although populism is making headlines across the globe, there is a lot of confusion about what this concept really means and how we can study this phenomenon. Part of the problem lies in the usage of the term as a battle cry. Both academics and pundits often employ the term populism to denote all the political actors and behaviors they dislike.
Pope Francis recently visited Lund, Sweden to acknowledge with Lutherans the religious significance of the coming year leading up to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation on 31 October 2017. This is the customary date given when Martin Luther placed his 95 Theses on the Castle Church door of Wittenberg, Saxony. A plethora of events across the globe are in the works to commemorate the epochal event.
Twenty-five years ago today, the Soviet Union of Socialist Republics collapsed, effectively ending the Cold War that had defined the latter half of the twentieth century and had spanned the globe. The previous day, 25 December 1991, General Secretary of the Communist Party Mikhail Gorbachev had resigned, transferring the Soviet nuclear codes to Russian president Boris Yeltsin.
This month marks two hundred years since the founding of an organization that most people have never heard of: the American Colonization Society (ACS). The obscurity into which it has fallen would surprise Americans living in the decades before the Civil War. From its founding in 1816 until the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, the Society rallied some of the most influential people in the United States behind its principal objective.
On 27 April 1885, Alice Brereton (née Fairchild) returned to America with her family. The Aurania’s passenger list includes her British—born husband and their three children. From information contained in the list—name, age, citizenship, and occupation—we can reconstruct aspects of the family’s history revealed in other public documents.
A tense, volatile electoral season. Accusations of “voter fraud,” and real instances of thuggery on the campaign trail. Documented instances of real voter suppression due to newly instituted state policies attempting to restrict voting disproportionately by race. Real or implicit threats of violence against minority voters. Surging anti-immigrant and exclusionist sentiment, particularly against relative newcomers who practiced seemingly strange religions. Some might describe the recent electoral campaign that way, but I have in mind the election campaign of 1876.
Notwithstanding a few near misses (the Austrian presidential election), many more liberally-minded readers will probably reflect back on 2016 as a year of loss and anxiety. Two significant shocks—Brexit and the election as US President of a reality TV star billionaire with neither political experience or knowledge—have severely dented our sense of the logical progression of our times.
The United States did invent teenagers. That is a historic fact, just as Americans invented the telegraph, telephone, PC, and atomic bomb. While much progress has been made over time with many inventions, less so with teenagers.
Nate Parker’s movie The Birth of a Nation, which opens in Europe this month, tells the semi-fictionalized story of Nat Turner, an enslaved man who led a short-lived rebellion in rural southeast Virginia in August 1831. The movie focuses on Turner’s life before the rebellion; demonstrating one man’s breaking point sparked by the witnessing of extraordinary brutality.