Morning Headlines

The New York Times: “Kirstjen Nielsen Resigns as Trump’s Homeland Security Secretary”

The Washington Post: “Kirstjen Nielsen quits as homeland security secretary after meeting with Trump”

The Wall Street Journal: “Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen Resigns”

Harrisburg-Patriot News: “$21,000 in Victoria’s Secret merchandise stolen from Capital City Mall: police”

BBC: “Sudan protest: Clashes among armed forces at Khartoum sit-in”

CNN: “Nielsen ouster lays bare Trump’s own immigration crisis”

FOX: “Former acting ICE Director Tom Homan: Trump made the right move picking McAleenan for DHS”

Morning Headlines

The New York Times: “In a Kenyan District, Cheap Antibiotics Fuel Deadly Drug-Resistant Infections”

The Washington Post: “Without a well-defined border strategy, Trump seeks quick-fix solutions”

The Wall Street Journal: “Corporate Profit Squeeze Looms, Threatening Stocks’ Climb”

Harrisburg-Patriot News: “‘Retail apocalypse’ continues: Gap, Family Dollar, thousands of other stores will close this year”

BBC: “Rwanda genocide: Nation marks 25 years since mass slaughter”

CNN: “A college student’s death spurs a city toward requiring ‘identifying signage’ for rideshare vehicles”

FOX: “Ocasio-Cortez responds to Trump over ‘bartender’ comment; lashes out at Amazon”

Morning Headlines

The New York Times: “A Mysterious Infection, Spanning the Globe in a Climate of Secrecy”

The Washington Post: “In a diverse field, black voters ponder the best odds against Trump”

The Wall Street Journal: “Boeing to Cut 737 MAX Production”

Harrisburg-Patriot News: “Penn State’s Micah Parsons is eager to take the next step at Linebacker U after a true standout freshman season”

BBC: “Iran floods: Fresh evacuations with more rain forecast”

CNN: “Jennifer Hart drove her six children to their deaths as her wife looked up how much they would suffer, a jury says”

FOX: “Trump declares ‘country is full’ in Fox News interview, says US can no longer accept illegal immigrants”

Morning Headlines

The New York Times: Ethiopian Crash Report Indicates Pilots Followed Boeing’s Emergency Procedures”

The Washington Post: “Potentially damaging information in Mueller report starts political fight”

The Wall Street Journal: “Trump Picks Herman Cain for Fed Seat”

Harrisburg-Patriot News: “Yuengling family and Phillies pitcher Aaron Nola kick off brewery’s 190th anniversary”

BBC: “Brexit: UK asks EU for further extension until 30 June”

CNN: “Why would someone claim to be a missing child?”

FOX: “Trump reacts to Barbara Bush criticism: ‘Look what I did to her sons'”

The Author’s Corner with Jacob Lee

Masters of the Middle WatersJacob Lee is Assistant Professor of History at Penn State University. This interview is based on his new book, Masters of the Middle Waters: Indian Nations and Colonial Ambitions along the Mississippi (Belknap Press, 2019).

JF: What led you to write Masters of the Middle Waters?

JL: In large part, my research is driven by things that surprise me. Years ago, I read about George Rogers Clark’s campaign into the Illinois Country during the American Revolution and realized that, although Clark and his soldiers had gone to fight the British, they mostly encountered French farmers and merchants. Across the Mississippi, they interacted with Spanish officials at St. Louis. At that point, my knowledge about colonial America was more or less limited to the traditional, Anglo-centric narrative, and I wanted to know more about who these people were, why they were there, and how they fit into the story of early America.

That curiosity about the Illinois Country intersected with a longstanding interest in empires and colonialism. I’m especially intrigued by how empires work, how they acquire power, and why they succeed or fail in their ambitions. Because multiple Indian nations and four empires claimed part or all of the Illinois Country during the period I cover, that region provided an ideal place to pursue questions about power and resistance in early America and to think about different models of colonialism.

JF: In two sentences, what is the argument of Masters of the Middle Waters?

JL: Empires exist to dominate, but their authority is often proscribed, because it depends upon alliances with local peoples. In the North American midcontinent, power flowed through the kinship-based social networks that controlled travel, trade, and communication along the region’s many rivers.

JF: Why do we need to read Masters of the Middle Waters?

JL: Masters of the Middle Waters offers new ways to think about North America and its colonial history. First, it places kinship at the center of the story. Both Native peoples and European colonists organized their societies around kinship, and they understood the power of kinship ties in trade, politics, and diplomacy. Second, this book embeds intertwined Native and imperial histories in the physical geography of the midcontinent. Several of the continent’s most important rivers – the Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Illinois, Wabash, Tennessee, and Cumberland – all meet in a relatively small space in Middle America. These waterways were the conduits of most economic, military, and political activity in the region. Commanding those rivers allowed Native peoples and Europeans to vie for status, influence, and wealth. Bringing these two threads together demonstrates the power of personal relationships in a complex, dynamic environment to shape the course of empires.

Additionally, his book narrates the story of early America from the center of the continent. Waterways linked the vast interior of North America, and along them, social networks joined disparate and distant groups of Indians and Europeans in an interwoven social landscape of movement and interaction. As a result, the consequences of events in the midcontinent reverberated throughout eastern North America and across the Atlantic. The history of Middle America is central to the history of early America.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

JL: I inherited my interest in American history from my parents. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t fascinated by history. As I mention in the book, my earliest memory is walking up Monk’s Mound at Cahokia on a family vacation. But, the realization that I wanted to be a historian – and that I could become one – was slow in coming. I grew up in rural Kentucky far outside the world of academia. I was lucky to have great undergraduate mentors, who encouraged my passion for research and writing. Just as important, they also gave me guidance about the historical profession and helped me see the path that I ended up taking.

JF: What is your next project?

JL: My next project is a history of the Louisiana Purchase. Many historians have told the story of the negotiations between the United States and France over the purchase. This book picks up after the treaty was signed. Despite the agreement between the two empires, U.S. ownership of Louisiana was tenuous at best, and the decades after 1803 were filled with contests for control over the region. I am exploring how the U.S. state acquired and wielded power in the trans-Mississippi West but also how various groups of Native peoples and colonists in the region limited federal authority deep into the nineteenth century.

Morning Headlines

The New York Times: “Some on Mueller’s Team Say Report Was More Damaging Than Barr Revealed”

The Washington Post: “Ethiopia says pilots followed Boeing procedures, but couldn’t control jet before deadly crash”

The Wall Street Journal: “Carlos Ghosn Is Arrested Again on Fresh Suspicions”

Harrisburg-Patriot News: “Star Barn venue bars gay weddings over owner’s religious beliefs”

BBC: “Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 pilots ‘could not stop nosedive'”

CNN: “Ethiopian Airlines pilots ‘followed expected procedures before crash'”

FOX: “Three more women accuse Biden of inappropriate contact, say his video wasn’t enough”

Out of the Zoo: “March Madness”

March Madness

I challenged my boyfriend Nolan to a March Madness bracket competition last month, with little success.

Annie Thorn is a first-year history major from Kalamazoo, Michigan and our intern here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home.  As part of her internship she will be writing a weekly column for us titled “Out of the Zoo.”  It will focus on life as a history major at a small liberal arts college. This week she writes about her the “March Madness” and her history of sports class.  Enjoy! –JF

To be completely honest, I don’t know a whole lot about sports. While I consider myself an athlete–I ran track and cross country in high school–I’m usually pretty clueless when it comes to following organized athletics. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy sports, and I’m usually more than willing to sit down and watch a game, but ask me which college team is ranked highest in the country, or which player is a shoe-in for rookie-of-the-year, there’s no way I would be able to provide you with an accurate answer.

My boyfriend Nolan, on the other hand, knows a lot more about sports than I do. For one, he’s played more than I have–track, football and power lifting now, but basketball, baseball and soccer in the past as well. He follows sports too, and on the couple occasions I’ve watched games with him I’m reminded of how little I truly know about athletics. Nolan knows all about which teams are good and which ones aren’t; he knows which players to keep an eye on and which ones to disregard.

All this being said, I should have known that challenging Nolan to a March Madness bracket competition was a fool’s errand from the start. Nonetheless, I downloaded the ESPN app, joined the group he made for the two of us, and with little informed strategy made my picks. For the fun of it we added a friendly wager into the equation–whoever’s bracket lost, we decided, would plan (and pay for) a fancy date for the other as soon as I came home for the summer. As the NCAA tournament comes to a close and my bracket continues to suffer more hits, my chances of winning the bet are looking slim to none, little to my surprise. Even so, the contest has provided an extra way for Nolan and I to have a little fun, and to keep connected while I’m away at school.

Our March Madness bet reminds me of an overarching theme I’ve been learning in my Sports, Race, and Politics class this semester; namely, that sports bring people together–and they have for a long time. Before people hosted extravagant Superbowl parties, sports brought people together. Before loyal fans could stream their favorite college team’s games on their phones, sports still brought people together. Even before ESPN invented a March Madness app that allowed ambitious girlfriends to challenge their long-distance boyfriends to ill-fated bracket wagers, sports brought people together.

Sports, throughout history, have bridged cultural, racial, and geographic barriers. Back in the 19th century, sports allowed immigrants to participate in American society right after stepping onto United States soil. After all, you don’t have to speak the same language as someone else to play a pickup game with them in the street. Sports brought unity among races in other ways as well–as African American athletes like Jessie Owens, Jackie Robinson and Muhammad Ali emerged in the public eye, blacks and whites alike ventured out to the track, baseball diamond, or boxing ring to witness sporting prowess at its finest. While segregation continued to apply within sports arenas even after teams themselves were integrated, games allowed members of both races to come together in the same space to watch the same game and cheer for the same team.

Ever since their arrival in American life, sports have provided a way for athletes and fans alike from all races, income levels, and geographic regions to share a common interest and pursue a common goal.

Morning Headlines

The New York Times: “Trump Retreats on Health Care After McConnell Warns It Won’t Happen”

The Washington Post: “Trump leaves Washington reeling as he struggles with domestic agenda”

The Wall Street Journal: “Ethiopian Airlines Pilot Initially Followed Boeing’s Required Emergency Steps to Disable 737 MAX System”

Harrisburg-Patriot News: “What can you expect out of April in Harrisburg? A little bit of everything”

BBC: “Brunei implements stoning to death under new anti-LGBT laws”

CNN: “Ethiopian Airlines pilots followed Boeing’s emergency crash procedures before crash: report”

FOX: “Strzok-Page affiar made them vulnerable to foreign intelligence, a top FBI official told Congress”

Morning Headlines

The New York Times: “For Many British Businesses, Brexit Has Already Happened”

The Washington Post: “Khashoggi children receive payments, houses from Saudi Arabia after killing”

The Wall Street Journal: “Between Two Deadly Crashes, Boeing Moved Haltingly to Make 737 MAX Fixes”

Harrisburg-Patriot News: “Pa. cities with the most homeowners ‘under water’ on their mortgages in 2019”

BBC: “Brexit: No deal more likely but can be avoided-Barnier”

CNN: “Trump seems inclined to close border despite potential chaos”

FOX: “Dems playing politics with disaster relief funds for Midwest, Republicans say”

The Author’s Corner with Dale Soden

Outsiders in a promised landDale Soden is Professor of History and Director of Weyerhaeuser Center for Christian Faith and Learning at Whitworth University. This interview is based on his book, Outsiders in a Promised Land: Religious Activists in Pacific Northwest History (Oregon State University Press, 2015).

JF: What led you to write Outsiders in a Promised Land?

DS: I decided to research and write Outsiders in a Promised Land after publishing a biography of the most influential religious figure in the first half of the 20th century in the Pacific Northwest—the Reverend Mark Matthews (University of Washington Press, 2001). Most historians had neglected the role that religious activists, including Matthews, had played in the Northwest largely because of its reputation as the least-churched region of the country. However, it became evident, that beginning in the mid-19th century, religious activists played key roles in trying to shape the culture of the Northwest through the establishment of schools and colleges as well as lobbying for the passage of laws that would shape behavior. They led the way in the struggle for not just the prohibition of alcohol, but as the century wore on, the advocacy for civil rights and other issues of social justice. All of this was largely untold by previous historians.

JF: In two sentences, what is the argument of Outsiders in a Promised Land?

DS: The argument for Outsiders is that in the period between the mid-19th century and the 1930s/40s, religious activists (Protestants, Catholics, and Jews) exercised outsized influence on the culture of the region as they tried to mitigate the early influence of largely young adult males who were mainly interested in gambling, prostitution, and alcohol. The second half of the book is focused on the cultural war between largely conservative and liberal elements within the middle class after mid-century; this war largely focused on whether more conservative social values should prevail within the Northwest or whether more liberal values that emphasized pluralism and social justice should predominate.

JF: Why do we need to read Outsiders in a Promised Land?

DS: Outsiders helps us understand two fundamental questions: What was the role of religious activism in the history of public life in the Pacific Northwest, and secondly, Outsiders helps explain the larger trajectory of religion in public life not just in the Northwest but in the context of the larger American story. This book is unique in the sense that it should help reveal how a region of the country can express elements that are unique to that region, but also elements that are familiar across the American landscape. As we attempt to understand the culture wars that continue to dominate many of the country’s political dynamics, having a better understanding of how these culture wars evolved from the mid-20th century to the present should be helpful perspective.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

DS: I decided to become an American historian several decades ago in graduate school. It was only after I taught a couple of courses in American history that I decided to make that my emphasis. In general, I was drawn to American history because of how evident it was that my father, who had lived through the Depression and fought in World War II, had such a different experience that I who was living through the ‘60s with the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movement. I wanted to understand him and myself more fully.

JF: What is your next project?

DS: I’m currently working on a comparative study of the role that predominately African-American churches and pastors played in the struggle for civil rights on the West Coast. I’m looking at churches and pastors in Seattle, Portland, the Bay Area and Los Angeles. I’m most interested in how these pastors, many of whom went to school with Martin Luther King Jr., or knew him directly, navigated the influence of Black Power on their own ministries and efforts to work for social justice.

JF: Thanks, Dale!

Morning Headlines

The New York Times: “Lawsuits Lay Bare Sackler Family’s Role in Opioid Crisis”

The Washington Post: “White House doubles down on threat to close U.S.-Mexico border”

The Wall Street Journal: “U.S., Ethiopian Investigators Tussle Over 737 MAX Crash Probe”

Harrisburg-Patriot News: “Classic April Fool’s Day pranks: Spaghetti trees and flying penguins”

BBC: “Turkey local elections: Setback for Erdogan as his party loses capital”

CNN: “Biden tries to defuse first crisis”

FOX: “Wife of former Defense secretary calls photo with Biden misleading”

Morning Headlines

The New York Times: “Trump’s Order to Open Arctic Waters to Oil Drilling Was Unlawful, Federal Judge Finds”

The Washington Post: “For Trump’s ‘Party of Healthcare,’ there is no health-care plan”

The Wall Street Journal: “Global Deal-Making Gets Off to a Slow Start in 2019”

Harrisburg-Patriot News: “After the Civil War, African-Americans made a sleepy Pa. borough home; can its rich history be saved?”

BBC: “Ukraine election: Comedian is front-runner ahead of first round”

CNN: “The 2020 campaign is already turning into a war on ‘elites'”

FOX: “Chris Rock slams Jussie Smollett at NAACP awards: ‘What the hell was he thinking?'”

Morning Headlines

The New York Times: “50 Years of Affirmative Action: What Went Right, and What It Got Wrong”

The Washington Post: “With social program fights, some in GOP fear being seen as the party of the 1 percent”

The Wall Street Journal: “U.S. Stocks Rise, Notching Best Quarter Since the Crisis”

Harrisburg-Patriot News: “NY Giants running back returns to Harrisburg classroom to teach lessons of success”

BBC: “Brexit: Theresa May ponders fourth bid to pass deal”

CNN: “White House in disarray: Trump’s victory lap clouded by chaos”

FOX: “As ‘swatting’ defendant is sentenced, victim’s family tells of further tragedies ‘directly related’ to case”

Morning Headlines

The New York Times: “Brexit Live Updates: U.K. Parliament Debates Theresa May’s Departure Plan”

The Washington Post: “How Trump dodged a special counsel interview–and a subpoena fight”

The Wall Street Journal: “Investigators Believe Boeing 737 MAX Stall-Prevention Feature Activated in Ethiopian Crash”

Harrisburg-Patriot News: “How high will Pa. turnpike fares go? (And other numbers you should know)”

BBC: “Brexit: MPs face new vote on withdrawal deal”

CNN: “Court blocks another Trump attempt to undermine Obamacare”

FOX: “Wealthy ‘NIMBY’ libs in Pelosi’s SF district raise $60G to fight center for city’s homeless”

The Author’s Corner with David Silkenat

Raising the White FlagDavid Silkenat is a Senior Lecturer of American History at the University of Edinburgh. This interview is based on his new book, Raising the White Flag: How Surrender Defined the American Civil War (The University of North Carolina Press, 2019).

JF: What led you to write Raising the White Flag?

DS: Growing up, I constantly heard that “Americans never surrender” – every president and major political figure since JFK has uttered some version of this claim. Yet, during the Civil War, armies and individual soldiers surrendered all the time. Trying to make sense of why they surrendered so often was the motivating impulse behind the research.

JF: In two sentences, what is the argument of Raising the White Flag?

DS: It argues that American ideas about surrender at the beginning of the Civil War grew out of inherited notions that surrender helped to distinguish civilized warfare from barbarism, but evolved over the course of the war as demands for “unconditional” surrender, the enlistment of black men into the Union Army, the proliferation of guerrilla warfare, and what some historians have termed “hard” warfare all challenged the meaning of surrender. In the final phase of the war, when Confederate defeat became inevitable, surrender became the route to peace, albeit a difficult and perilous one.

JF: Why do we need to read Raising the White Flag?

DS: The American Civil War began with a surrender at Fort Sumter and ended with a series of surrenders, most famously at Appomattox Courthouse, with dozens of surrenders in between (Ft. Donelson, Harpers Ferry, Vicksburg, etc.). One out of every four Civil War soldiers surrendered – either individually on the battlefield or as part of one of the large surrenders. Looking at the Civil War through the lens of surrender opens up new questions about the plight of prisoners of war, Confederate guerrillas, Southern Unionists, and African American soldiers, the culture of honor, the experience of combat, and the laws of war.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

DS: I first really fell in love with American history in high school because of some great teachers. In college, I had my first experience with archival research and I was hooked. I taught high school for several years before going to graduate school, and it wasn’t really until graduate school that I knew I wanted to be an academic historian.

JF: What is your next project?

DS: I’m currently writing an environmental history of American slavery.

JF: Thanks, David!

Morning Headlines

The New York Times: “Alternate Brexit Plans Rejected; Theresa May Offers to Step Down”

The Washington Post: Boeing, initially defensive, now ‘humbled’ by 737 Max crisis”

The Wall Street Journal: “Huawei Equipment has Major Security Flaws, U.K. Says”

Harrisburg-Patriot News: “Three Mile Island 40 years later: A timeline of events as they occurred on March 28, 1979”

BBC: “Brexit: Process in deadlock as MPs seek consensus”

CNN: “Trump and Comey clash over outcome of Mueller probe”

FOX: “Trump vows to release FISA docs now that Mueller probe is concluded, slams ‘treasonous’ FBI”

Out of the Zoo: “Irene”

Annie and Irene

I interviewed Irene Stearns my junior year as part of a National History Day project on the Kalamazoo Gals. Irene worked at the Gibson guitar factory during WWWII coiling strings.

Annie Thorn is a first-year history major from Kalamazoo, Michigan and our intern here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home.  As part of her internship she will be writing a weekly column for us titled “Out of the Zoo.”  It will focus on life as a history major at a small liberal arts college. In this column she writes about her friendship with one of the “Kalamazoo Gals.”  Enjoy! –JF

If you’re from Michigan like me, or perhaps you’re a guitar aficionado, you may have wandered down Parson’s Street in downtown Kalamazoo to a run-down factory that used to house Gibson Inc. Even though Gibson no longer resides in my hometown, the instrument making will remain part of its history for many years to come.

Perhaps one of the most special eras of Gibson’s history lives on through Irene Stearns. Irene coiled guitar strings for Gibson in the 1940s;  she worked alongside numerous other women who the company hired during World War II. Aptly nicknamed “Kalamazoo Gals” by author John Thomas for Glenn Miller’s song “I’ve got a Gal in Kalamazoo,” these women received high praise for their quality work.  “Banner Gibsons,” which were crafted by these female luthiers during the war years, are some of the most valuable (and arguably some of the best sounding) Gibson instruments to date. The Kalamazoo Gals are often commended for their courage and hard work, alongside thousands of other women who helped fill the “arsenal of democracy” during WWII. We thank them for opening doors for women in the workforce and praise them for opposing the traditional roles women were expected to play back then. We learn about these women who worked during WWII and even paint them as revolutionaries.

I got the privilege to befriend Irene two years ago when I was compiling research for an exhibit about the Kalamazoo Gals. We spoke extensively about her work at Gibson and it didn’t take me long to realize that she saw herself as anything but revolutionary. Irene worked at Gibson not because she wanted to open doors for women of future generations, or even because she wanted to be remembered as a courageous Rosie-the-Riveter. She worked simply because she didn’t like her old job and wanted a new one. She never thought her story would make the history books–she was just going to work, doing what she had to do to earn little money. She never once thought she would receive any kind of recognition or praise.

We can learn a lot from people like Irene. The extensive human narrative we call history is filled with ordinary characters who never expected to be remembered. The parts of their lives that we find fascinating, or inspirational even, they saw as normal. It often makes me wonder: Which ordinary actions I take today could be seen as extraordinary tomorrow? How will my steps here and now affect the ones future generations will be able to take in the future?

I don’t know the answer to these questions; I probably never will. However I do know from Irene’s story that the little things matter. The way I work, the way I meet challenges and take opportunities will contribute to the way I am remembered. It’s impossible for me to know what future historians will think when they look back on my story–but I want them to see that I did what I could to make it the best one I could write.

Morning Headlines

The New York Times: “Democrats Pivot Hard to Health Care After Trump Moves to Strike Down Affordable Care Act”

The Washington Post: “Trump surprises Republicans, pleases Democrats with push for health care battle”

The Wall Street Journal: Tax Changes Hit Overseas Profits of Some U.S. Companies”

Harrisburg-Patriot News: “Pa. House prayer re-energizes debate on separation of church and state”

BBC: “Brexit: MPs prepare for votes in bid to break deadlock”

CNN: “Why did prosecutors drop all charges against Jussie Smollett?”

FOX: “Who is Tina Tchen, the attorney linked to Jussie Smollett messages?”

Morning Headlines

The New York Times: Trump and Republicans Seek to Turn the Tables in Post-Mueller Washington”

The Washington Post: “Dispute erupts over Mueller’s findings”

The Wall Street Journal: “Mueller Findings Set Off a Political Tussle”

Harrisburg-Patriot News: “Philadelphia’s $50 million esports arena to open in 2021: What you need to know”

BBC: “Brexit options ‘narrowing’, says health secretary”

CNN: “Trump savors his sudden winning streak”

FOX: “McConnell to Put Green New Deal to vote, forcing Democrats to go on record”

Morning Headlines

The New York Times: “Mueller Finds No Trump-Russia Conspiracy, but Stops Short of Exonerating President on Obstruction”

The Washington Post: “Mueller finds no conspiracy, attorney general says”

The Wall Street Journal: “Mueller Doesn’t Find Trump Campaign Conspired With Russia”

Harrisburg-Patriot News: “Remember these cold cases? Technology giving investigators new life in solving them”

BBC: “Mueller report: Trump cleared of conspiring with Russia”

CNN: “Emboldened: Trump’s presidency enters a new era”

FOX: “Graham sends ominous tweet to Comey: See you soon”