Ed Sullivan and Civil Rights

Supremes

The Supremes on the Ed Sullivan Show, 1966

Hey Todd Allen, I think you should include something about Ed Sullivan in your Return to the Roots of Civil Rights bus tour.

Here is a taste of an article about a forthcoming documentary titled “Sullivision: Ed Sullivan and the Struggle for Civil Rights

Ed Sullivan and the Struggle for Civil Rights tells the story of the man who single-handedly changed the face of popular culture and impacted the minds and lives of both his performers and his viewers. This long-awaited, 70-minute documentary takes a surprising look at the man who was once television’s most influential personality. Visit www.mpslegacyproductions.com to learn more.

Suzanne Kay, daughter of the iconic actress and singer Diahann Carroll, and Margo Precht Speciale, granddaughter of Ed Sullivan, are Producers. They will participate in the film festival panel along with Diahann Carroll, Dwandalyn R. Reece, Ph.D., Curator of Music and Performing Arts, National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Ed Sullivan is best known for creating television’s longest running variety show and for introducing The Beatles to America. But he was also a risk-taker who consistently booked African-American artists despite threats from southern sponsors and letters from irate white viewers. He showcased unknown artists who are household names today, and he treated them with grace and dignity at a time when racism was the norm, challenging America to do the same.

Based on interviews with celebrities, Sullivan’s family members, and media analysts, this documentary shines a light on a little known chapter in America’s struggle for racial justice.  Harry Belafonte, Diahann Carroll, Berry Gordy of Motown, Diana Ross, Oprah Winfrey, and Whoopi Goldberg are just some of those interviewed as they talk about how the show was a launching pad for their careers and changed their vision of America and America’s vision of African-Americans.

Read the entire article here

Another Battle at Gettysburg?

monument-gettysburg-P

Next weekend marks the 154th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.  It looks like Gettysburg will once again be a battleground, but this time the “war” is a cultural one, focused on modern debates about free speech, the Trump presidency, and Confederate monuments.

Read Dustin Levy’s piece at the York Daily Record.  Here is a taste:

The Gettysburg National Military Park has issued three special use permits for first amendment activities on July 1, according to a Thursday news release.

“As custodians of land owned by the American people, the National Park Service has a responsibility to make that land available for exercising those rights,” Bill Justice, acting park superintendent, said in the release.

“As with any First Amendment activities, Gettysburg National Military Park’s objectives are to provide for public safety, minimize impacts on historic resources of this park, and afford visitors an enjoyable experience.”

The Sons of Confederate Veterans Mechanized Cavalry and Real 3% Risen will gather north of Meade’s Headquarters near 160 Taneytown Road from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The park expects 250 to 500 participants with the Sons of Confederate Veterans and 500 to 1,500 participants with Real 3% Risen, a Facebook group dedicated to protecting American freedoms.

Ski Bischof, of Allentown, helped organize the events with a Facebook event called “Support America and Her History.” Together, they are joining up with the other groups to form a united front against a group that might be there to protest against President Trump and/or the Confederate flag, according to the Facebook event page.

A third group, Maryland Sons of Confederate Veterans, consisting of about 20 people, is planning to march in formation from the North Carolina Memorial to the Virginia Memorial, with small ceremonies along the way, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The events came about, in part, because of unsubstantiated reports of an activist group coming to the battlefield on July 1. The allegations of this group’s intended activities have spread on social media the past couple weeks, infuriating many.

Read the entire article here.

The Conference on Faith and History Comes to Grand Rapids in October 2018

cfh-header-2

The Fall 2018 meeting of the Conference on Faith and History (CFH) will be meeting at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan from October 4-6, 2018.  This year’s conference theme is “History and the Search for Meaning: The CFH at 50.  Mark your calendars!

I am happy to report that we have secured the following keynote speakers:

Thursday Night Plenary: Peggy Bendroth, Congregational Library—“The Spiritual Practice of Remembering”

Friday Afternoon Plenary: Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn, Syracuse University—Title TBD

Friday Banquet Speaker: Beth Barr, CFH President

Saturday Morning Plenary: Robert Orsi, Northwestern University, “History and Presence”

I hope to see you all there.  Let’s have a record turnout for our 50th anniversary conference.  Stay tuned.  The Call for Papers will be released in a few months.

The Noose That Brought History To Life

National-Museum-of-African-American-History-and-Culture-1-1020x610

Lonnie Bunch, the founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, has turned to the op-ed pages of The New York Times to address the noose found recently at the museum.

Here is a taste of his piece:

The person who recently left a noose at the National Museum of African American History and Culture clearly intended to intimidate, by deploying one of the most feared symbols in American racial history. Instead, the vandal unintentionally offered a contemporary reminder of one theme of the black experience in America: We continue to believe in the potential of a country that has not always believed in us, and we do this against incredible odds.

The noose — the second of three left on the National Mall in recent weeks — was found late in May in an exhibition that chronicles America’s evolution from the era of Jim Crow through the civil rights movement. Visitors discovered it on the floor in front of a display of artifacts from the Ku Klux Klan, as well as objects belonging to African-American soldiers who fought during World War I. Though these soldiers fought for democracy abroad, they found little when they returned home.

That display, like the museum as a whole, powerfully juxtaposes two visions of America: one shaped by racism, violence and terror, and one shaped by a belief in an America where freedom and fairness reign. I see the nooses as evidence that those visions continue to battle in 2017 and that the struggle for the soul of America continues to this very day.

Read the entire piece here.

I also recommend this conversation between Bunch and American Historical Association director Jim Grossman.

“That’s why I chose you”

PapaCarron375-1050x699

Check out John Allen‘s interview with Father Juan Julian Carron, leader of the Catholic movement Communion and Liberation.  Carron offers some important reflections on how Christians need to live in this world.  I hope the court evangelicals are reading.

Here is a taste:

Allen: Rod Dreher recently argued that Christians should abandon the culture wars in the West because we’ve already lost, and the most we can hope for is a ‘Benedict option,’ meaning creatively preserving small islands of the faith amid a decaying and hostile culture. You too seem to be saying that we should get past the culture wars, without abandoning those positions, but for a different reason.

Carron: Certainly, absolutely. It’s always struck me, the contraposition between trying to make Christianity into a civil religion, on the one hand, and on the other, trying to make it entirely private. To me, it’s like trying to amend the design of God. I ask myself, who would ever have bet that God would begin to reach out to the world by calling Abraham? It was the most unlikely, most confusing, way of going about it anyone could have imagined.

The choice can’t come down to either the culture wars or a Christianity emptied of content, because neither of those options has anything to do with Abraham and salvation history. Abraham was chosen by God to begin introducing into history a new way of living life, that could slowly begin to generate an external reality with the capacity to make like dignified, to make it full.

I imagine that if Abraham were around today, in our minority situation, and he went to God and said, ‘Nobody’s paying any attention to me,’ what would God have said? We know very well what he’d say: ‘That’s why I chose you, to begin posing to reality a presence significant enough, even if no one believes it, that I will make of you a people so numerous that your descendants will be like the stars in the sky.’

When he sent his son into the world, stripped of his divine power to become man, he did the same thing. It’s like St. Paul said, he came to give us the capacity to live life in a new way. That’s what generates a culture. The question for us is whether the situation we’re in today gives us the chance to recover the origins of the design of God.

Allen: You seem fairly optimistic that’s still possible.

Carron: Yes, absolutely. I’m completely optimistic, because of the nature of the faith itself. I’m an optimist based on the nature of the Christian experience. It doesn’t depend on my reading of things, my diagnosis of the sociological situation. The problem is that to be able to start over again from this absolutely original point of departure, we have to go back to the roots of the faith itself, in what Jesus said and did.

If there’s a case for pessimism, it’s that too many times we’ve reduced Christianity either to a series of values, an ethics, or simply a philosophical discourse. That’s not attractive, it doesn’t have the power to seduce anyone. People don’t feel the attractive force of Christianity. But precisely because the situation we’re living in today is so dramatic, from every point of view, paradoxically it’s easier to get across the novelty of Christianity.

Read the entire interview here.

“I get twitchy when a presenter starts talking about ‘negotiating’ and ‘complicating’ and ‘constructing’.”

Bendroth

Check out Katy Lasdow‘s interview with Peggy Bendroth, Executive Director of the Congregational Library & Archives in Boston.  It is part of the Junto’s series on “Where Historian’s Work.”

Here is my favorite part of the interview:

JUNTO: When we spoke, you stressed the importance of storytelling as a means of getting a variety of people interested in history. How does storytelling factor into the work that you do? How does it connect to your research and writing?

BENDROTH: I invite a lot of academics to give talks at the Library—we have a monthly “History Matters” series that brings in a mix of people in our downtown area. I get twitchy when a presenter starts talking about “negotiating” and “complicating” and “constructing.”  It’s not that these words are bad—they’re great at academic conferences and I love most of them dearly. But (and I’m overstating a bit) the people in our audience profoundly do not care. It’s not that they can’t understand the concepts—I’m sure most of them could—but that’s not why there are there. I think that, like most human beings, they are looking for connection. They want to hear about other human beings, other lives, stories that make someone from the past both totally foreign and utterly familiar.

We should never forget that. I’m not saying that every historian has to be David McCullough or Doris Kearns Goodwin—would that we could sell that many books! But if we can’t explain our ideas in clear simple language that the average person, they we don’t really understand them ourselves.

JUNTO: Any other thoughts on career diversity for Early Americanists?

BENDROTH: I do have a word of caution. Combining the life of the mind with lots of administrative responsibilities is not for beginners!  If you do not already have a scholarly agenda, a network of friends, and some solid achievements on your resume, the job will devour you. It is so much easier to answer an email or plan a meeting than it is to think and write. My day is full of 10 to 20 minute slots where I’m waiting for a phone call or between meetings, and I used to think I could (or should) switch over to some more academic intellectual task. It took me way too long to realize that this is ineffective and ultimately exhausting—you can only care about so many things at once. Thinking and writing requires days at a time, a place apart from your office and computer. It sometimes means going for a walk, “wasting” time staring out windows. Scholarly work also means having the support of a visionary board and regular explanations to your staff that “working at home” is not a euphemism for goofing off.

Read the entire interview here.

Library of Congress Places 25,000 Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps Online

sanborn-maps-logo-1911-pennsylvania-allentown

This is huge.  We uses these maps for our Digital Harrisburg Project at Messiah College.

Here is a taste of the press release:

The Library of Congress has placed online nearly 25,000 Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, which depict the structure and use of buildings in U.S. cities and towns. Maps will be added monthly until 2020, for a total of approximately 500,000.

The online collection now features maps published prior to 1900.  The states available include Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Alaska is also online, with maps published through the early 1960s.  By 2020, all the states will be online, showing maps from the late 1880s through the early 1960s.

In collaboration with the Library’s Geography and Map Division, Historical Information Gatherers digitized the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps during a 16-month period at the Library of Congress.  The Library is in the process of adding metadata and placing the digitized, public-domain maps on its website. 

The Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps are a valuable resource for genealogists, historians, urban planners, teachers or anyone with a personal connection to a community, street or building.  The maps depict more than 12,000 American towns and cities.  They show the size, shape and construction materials of dwellings, commercial buildings, factories and other structures.  They indicate both the names and width of streets, and show property boundaries and how individual buildings were used.  House and block numbers are identified.  They also show the location of water mains, fire alarm boxes and fire hydrants.

In the 19th century, specialized maps were originally prepared for the exclusive use of fire insurance companies and underwriters.  Those companies needed accurate, current and detailed information about the properties they were insuring. The Sanborn Map Company was created around 1866 in the United States in response to this need and began publishing and registering maps for copyright. The Library of Congress acquired the maps through copyright deposit, and the collection grew to 700,000 individual sheets. The insurance industry eventually phased out use of the maps and Sanborn stopped producing updates in the late 1970s.

I have spent far too much time looking at these maps this weekend.  You can view them here.

Is Jimmy Carter a Lost Causer?

Over at Civil War Memory, Kevin Levin discusses a fascinating story about Jimmy Carter and the Lost Cause.  It will be published in a chapter in his forthcoming edited collection, Interpreting the Civil War at Museums and Historic Sites. The story comes from an essay on historical markers and the Civil War written by Todd Groce, the CEO of the Georgia Historical Society.

The story centers on this marker,  which was originally placed on the grounds of the Carter Center in Atlanta:

George Civil WAR

Apparently Jimmy Carter did not like the text of the marker and wanted it changed to reflect, according to Groce, “a more traditional Lost Cause interpretation.”  This happened in 2015.

Read more at Civil War Memory.

The Morning Headlines

New York Times: “G.O.P. Senator Vital to Health Bill’s Passage Opposes It”

Washington Post: “Obama’s secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin’s election assault”

Wall Street Journal: “Health Bill Vote Gets Tighter for Senate Republicans”

Harrisburg Patriot-News: “‘Her touch was disaster’: Agnes hit 45 years ago”

BBC: “At least 140 missing in China landslide”

CNN: “Trump on Mueller: ‘We’re going to have to see'”

FOX: “TRUMP’S ALL EAR Trudeau: President actually listens, says NAFTA not going anywhere”

Andrew Bacevich on Carl Becker, Donald Trump, Bill O’Reilly, and the Writing of History

Becker

Carl Becker

Historian and foreign policy scholar Andrew Bacevich brings these three figures together in a provocative essay about how we write history.  Here is just a small taste:

Contrast the influence wielded by prominent historians in Becker’s day—during the first third of the 20th century, they included, along with Becker, such formidables as Henry Adams, Charles and Mary Beard, Alfred Thayer Mahan, and Frederick Jackson Turner—with the role played by historians today. The issue here is not erudition, which today’s scholars possess in abundance, but impact. On that score, the disparity between then and now is immense.

In effect, professional historians have ceded the field to a new group of bards and minstrels. So the bestselling “historian” in the United States today is Bill O’Reilly, whose books routinely sell more than a million copies each. Were Donald Trump given to reading books, he would likely find O’Reilly’s both accessible and agreeable. But O’Reilly is in the entertainment business. He has neither any interest nor the genuine ability to create what Becker called “history that does work in the world.”

Still, history itself works in mysterious ways known only to God or to Providence. Only after the fact do its purposes become evident. It may yet surprise us.

Read the entire piece at The Nation.

Thucydides and the Trump White House

Thucydides

He wrote the History of the Peloponnesian War and is considered one of the first historians in the Western world.  He also seems to be a favorite of some members of the Trump administration.

Over at Politico, Michael Crowley tells the story of how Thucydides made it to the White House.

Here is a taste:

Thucydides is especially beloved by the two most influential figures on Trump’s foreign policy team. National security adviser H.R. McMaster has called Thucydides’ work an “essential” military text, taught it to students and quoted from it in speeches and op-eds. Defense Secretary James Mattis is also fluent in Thucydides’ work: “If you say to him, ‘OK, how about the Melian Dialogue?’ he could tell you exactly what it is,” Allison says—referring to one particularly famous passage. When former Defense Secretary William Cohen introduced him at his confirmation hearing, Cohen said Mattis was likely the only person present “who can hear the words ‘Thucydides Trap’ and not have to go to Wikipedia to find out what it means.”

That’s not true in the Trump White House, where another Peloponnesian War aficionado can be found in the office of chief strategist Steve Bannon. A history buff fascinated with grand conflict, Bannon once even used “Sparta”—one of the most militarized societies history has known—as a computer password. (“He talked a lot about Sparta,” his former Hollywood writing partner, Julia Jones, told The Daily Beast. An unnamed former colleague recalled for the New Yorker Bannon’s “long diatribes” about the Peloponnesian War.)

In an August 2016 article for his former employer, Breitbart News, Bannon likened the conservative media rivalry between Breitbart and Fox News to the Peloponnesian War, casting Breitbart as the disciplined warrior state of Sparta challenging a decadently Athenian Fox. There’s also NSC spokesman Michael Anton, a student of the classics who owns two copies of Thucydides’ fabled work. (“The acid test for me is: Do you read the Hobbes translation?” he says. “If you’ve read that translation, you’ve got my respect.”)

Read the entire piece here.

Thanks to Sam Smith for bringing this piece to my attention.

How to Have a Great Experience in the Archives

Archives 3

Apparently today is archive day at The Way of Improvement Leads Home.

If you are new to working in the archives, I recommend taking a look at Andrea Turpin’s recent post at Religion in American History: “Adventures in the Archives: Tips for Minimizing Expenses, Maximizing Time, & Having Fun.”

Turpin offers five pieces of advice:

  1. Apply for grants
  2. Be shameless
  3. Let archivists help
  4. Tailor your research style to the nature of the archives
  5. Have fun both inside and outside the archives

See how Turpin unpacks these points at Religion in American History blog.  This is helpful stuff.

Can a “Discovery” Be Made in an Archive?

Archives 2I am in the archives this week.  I am hoping to discover something that will be useful to my current research project.  I am not expecting to uncover something that no one has ever seen before, but if I do stumble across a manuscript that had either been misplaced or forgotten, and somehow advances our understanding of my field in new ways, I would probably consider it a “discovery.”

Over at The Atlantic a couple of archivists are debating the meaning of the term “discovery.”  A lot of it seems to be semantics, but it is still an interesting debate.

Suzanne Fischer of The Henry Ford says that if you “discover” something in an archive it is not a “discovery.”   Helena Iles Papaioannou of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln argues that it is a “discovery” if you find something in an archive that no one knew was there.

This debate arose in the context of Papaioannou’s find of a Surgeon General’s report on the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

So what does count as a “discovery?”

Most Popular Posts of the Last Week

Here are the most popular posts of the last week at The Way of Improvement Leads Home:

  1. This May Be the Best Thing I Have Read on Trump
  2. Barton: God Brings Bad Weather Because of Abortion
  3. What Pope Francis Really Said on the Plane Yesterday
  4. No One in New York Yelled “You’re Erasing History” When the Statue of George III Was Torn Down in 1776
  5. Court Evangelical Robert Jeffress: Bernie Sanders Should Apologize or Resign
  6. A Question for Court Evangelicals:  Are You Following Machiavelli or Christ?
  7. Four Myths About Slavery
  8. Does Bruce Springsteen Explain Donald Trump?
  9. Are Your Kids Going to Vacation Bible School This Summer?
  10. Welcome New Readers

Meet The Way of Improvement Leads Home’s New Intern: Devon Hearn

Devon

Welcome Devon Hearn!

The Way of Improvement Leads Home blog is happy to announce that we have a new intern!

Devon Hearn, a junior history and social studies certification major from Abington, Massachusetts, has joined the team this summer and will continue to work with us throughout the 2017-2018 academic year.  Devon is already hard at work.  She is handling our “Morning Headlines” feature and has begun facilitating the ever-popular Author’s Corner feature.  She will also be taking on additional responsibilities in the Fall.

Devon is preparing to be a middle school or high school history teacher and she just got back from a three-week trip doing archaeology with Messiah College history majors in Greece and Cyprus.  (See above picture, taken in Greece).

Please welcome Devon to The Way of Improvement Leads Home team!

The Morning Headlines

New York Times: “On Health Bill, McConnell May Still See a Loss as a Victory”

Washington Post: “Obama’s secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin’s election assault”

Wall Street Journal:  “Senate Health Bill Sets Up Showdown Among Republicans”

Harrisburg Patriot-News: “Rain all day: Remains of Tropical Storm Cindy to soak Pa.”

BBC: “Grenfell Tower fire began in fridge freezer”

CNN: “How Trump’s press tactics hurt you”

FOX: ‘”THE WHOLE THING IS RIDICULOUS’ Trump, in ‘Fox & Friends’ interview, says Mueller’s team in Russia probe”
is full of ‘Hillary Clinton supporters'”

Mark Schwehn Remembers Arlin Meyer, the “Gentle Giant” of Valparaiso University

Arlin and Sharobn

Arlin and Sharon Meyer

Arlin Meyer of Valparaiso University served as the Program Director of the Lilly Fellows Program in Humanities and the Arts from 1992-2002.  I was a postdoctoral fellow in this program from 2000-2002.  My experience as a Lilly Fellow remains a deeply transformative moment in my professional life.

Everyone has an Arlin Meyer story.  I have many–too many to mention here.  I tell them often.  In fact, I was just talking about him the other day while sitting at the dinner table with my wife and daughter.

Arlin passed away in February 2017.  Here is what I wrote on Facebook in the wake of his death:

I am saddened to learn that Arlin Meyer, longtime Valparaiso University English prof and founding Program Director of the Lilly Fellows Program in Arts and Humanities, passed away today. My kids (one has gone off to Arlin’s alma mater, Calvin College) will always remember Arlin’s candy jar in the Linwood House. I will always remember him as a beloved mentor who taught me most of what I know about the world of church-related higher education. (And recommended me to Messiah College). I will never forget sitting in my Linwood House office with Arlin on the morning of 9-11-01 listening to the radio and trying to make sense of it all. RIP. My prayers are with Sharon and his family.

I was unable to make the funeral, but I am glad that The Cresset has published Mark Schwehn‘s eulogy.

Here is a taste:

This hands-on administrative style extended well beyond his twelve years as dean of Christ College into his equally long tenure as the founding program director of the Lilly Fellows Program in Humanities and the Arts. In addition to having to build a national network of church-related colleges and universities, which now numbers around 100, Arlin selected, supported, and mentored scores of Lilly postdoctoral teaching fellows. Five such fellows were present at the colloquium this past Monday. And the book I mentioned that we were studying together was co-authored by a woman whom Arlin had recruited to serve on the board of the Lilly Fellows Program.

Like some of the undergraduates in Christ College, the postdoctoral teaching fellows were sometimes startled or intimidated by Arlin. More than one new Lilly Fellow suddenly discovered, on the summer day they were moving into their house in Valparaiso, Arlin Meyer standing in their as-yet unfurnished living room. Astonished of course, and expecting the worst—i.e., that Arlin had come over to inform them that their fellowship had been revoked—they soon became relieved and pleased to learn that Arlin had simply dropped in unannounced to help them move into their new home. He probably carried too many couches in his life. And too many other burdens better borne by others, as well.

RIP Arlin.

The Basement of the Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln

Did you know that there is a 3-story, 43,800 square foot basement beneath the Lincoln Memorial?  The National Park Service wants to rehab this space in time for the Memorial’s centennial in 2022.

Atlas Obscura tells us more:

Construction began on the Lincoln Memorial in 1914 on the muddy stretch of land known as the Potomac flats. The Army Corps of Engineers had just finished its 40-year-long dredging and landfill project that produced the shoreline we know today. Workers had to dig down 40 feet before work could begin on the marble monument. Here they poured dozens of concrete columns to support the surface structure.

The underground cathedral of concrete pillars was then simply forgotten about until renovations in 1975. According to the Washington Post, in preparation for the Bicentennial, the memorial’s bathrooms were renovated, and the construction crews started peering into the building’s foundation. They brought along their friends, some of whom belonged to the National Speleological Society. The cellar was deemed a cave, complete with stalactites and its own ecosystem (insects, rodents, etc).

Read the rest here.