*Washington Post* columnist Dana Milbank writes a letter to his teenage daughter

In November 2016, Dana Milbank‘s twelve-year-old daughter was worried about what might “lay ahead” in a Trump administration. Milbank wrote her a letter telling her “we must try to help Trump succeed.” But if Trump’s presidency took a “darker turn,” Milbank promised his daughter that he and others would “fight him with everything we have.”

Now, four years later, Milbank has written another letter to his daughter. Here is a taste:

We did not get the results we wanted Tuesday night. But, when all is said and done, we will get the result we needed. President Trump will be defeated. (And if I’m wrong, I’ll be following this with a very different kind of letter.) He has lost Wisconsin and Michigan and is on the cusp of losing ArizonaPennsylvania and possibly even North Carolina and Georgia — and losing only a couple of those should send him packing.

It’s not the broad repudiation of Trump I had hoped for. And it means 2016 was not a fluke: Trump may be gone, but Trumpism is here to stay, and our country has a lot of work to do to restore the virtues of civility, compassion, compromise and cooperation.

But let’s keep things in perspective. This is shaping up to be a historic victory for Biden, the first time an incumbent president has been defeated in 28 years. Biden has already broken Barack Obama’s record for votes received by a presidential candidate (69.5 million) with many ballots yet to be counted — in the highest-turnout election in 120 years. Biden overcame some of the dirtiest tricks ever used: laws and lawsuits to block Democratic voters from voting or their ballots getting counted, dark-web disinformation, mysterious robocalls, sabotage of the Postal Service and using the Justice Department as an arm of a presidential campaign.

And this:

Still, one outcome from the election fills me with hope. The youngest voters, the group you will join in the next election, showed up in impressive numbers. Voters aged 18 to 29 formed 17 percent of the electorate, exit polling finds, about the same as in 2016. But because overall turnout was so much higher, so was turnout of young voters. And these young voters, your peers, backed Biden over Trump by 27 points — a much bigger margin than when young voters backed Hillary Clinton over Trump by 19 points. Your generation is huge, multicultural and progressive. It will, in time, save our country from its dalliance with racist nationalism.

Read the rest here.

The Author’s Corner with Libra Hilde

Libra Hilde is Professor of History at San Jose State University. This interview is based on her new book, Slavery, Fatherhood, and Paternal Duty in African American Communities over the Long Nineteenth Century (The University of North Carolina Press, 2020).

JF: What led you to write Slavery, Fatherhood, and Paternal Duty?

LH: In one of my undergraduate courses, I ask my students to write a paper comparing the slave narratives of Harriet Jacobs and Frederick Douglass. The idea for Slavery, Fatherhood, and Paternal Duty emerged from repeatedly confronting the disjuncture between these two authors’ experiences. Despite being quite young when her enslaved father passed away, Jacobs attributed her sense of humanity and will to achieve liberty to his influence. Douglass could only guess at the identity of an unknown white father who never acknowledged or took responsibility for his enslaved child. I found this contrast fascinating and set out to explore how enslaved people conceived of and negotiated paternal duty within the constraints of slavery and Jim Crow.

JF: In two sentences, what is the argument of Slavery, Fatherhood, and Paternal Duty?

LH: Denied the ability to directly provide for and protect loved ones, enslaved men often found alternative ways to care for and support their children, exerting their influence through advice, ideas, and religious counsel, immaterial means over which slaveholders had less control. This book counters persistent stereotypes of African American families and absent, irresponsible Black fathers, showing that because enslaved and then freed men did not have access to open patriarchal authority, much of their care-taking behavior has remained hidden.

JF: Why do we need to read Slavery, Fatherhood, and Paternal Duty?

LH: Recent events and the racial reckoning we face in this country have underscored the destructive impact of misconceptions about Black masculinity and the African American family that are an ongoing legacy of slavery. In order to appreciate the variability and adaptability of the enslaved family, we need to look beyond household structure and normative definitions of family and fatherhood and instead look at how kin units actually functioned. It is also important to understand the public/private and hierarchical nature of Southern masculinity and how such assumptions continue to shape American attitudes. While only white men in the Old South had access to public definitions and the display of manhood, enslaved men were frequently allowed to exhibit attributes of masculinity within the confines of the plantation, especially when this arrangement profited the slaveholder. Enslaved men faced painful, intractable dilemmas and yet many endeavored to uphold the vision of paternal honor idealized by African American communities.

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

LH: I started college as a mechanical engineering major with the unrealistic goal of becoming a mission payload specialist and astronaut. In my first semester, I took an 800-person American History survey course with the late Leon F Litwack, and it changed my life. I switched my major to history and never looked back. In graduate school, I narrowed my focus to the Civil War era based on interest and a desire to work with the late William E. Gienapp. Great teachers and mentors have provided inspiration at every stage of my career development.

JF: What is your next project?

LH: My next project examines the consequences of Civil War mortality, comparing Southern counties with relatively light losses to those with heavy losses. The South lost a significant percentage of its white male population between the ages of 14 and 55, and local organization of regiments meant that deaths were unevenly spread across the landscape. I am using a combination of quantitative data and qualitative sources to explore the effects of wartime mortality on household formation, marriage patterns, local politics, regional migration, gender roles, and post-war race relations, with a particular focus on widows.

JF: Thanks, Libra!

Song of the Day

The lyrics are worth adding on this one:

Well now on a summer night in a dusky room
Come a little piece of the Lord’s undying light
Crying like he swallowed the fiery moon
In his mother’s arms it was all the beauty I could take
Like the missing words to some prayer that I could never make
In a world so hard and dirty so fouled and confused
Searching for a little bit of God’s mercy
I found living proof

I put my heart and soul I put ’em high upon a shelf
Right next to the faith the faith that I’d lost in myself
I went down into the desert city
Just tryin’ so hard to shed my skin
I crawled deep into some kind of darkness
Lookin’ to burn out every trace of who I’d been
You do some sad sad things baby
When it’s your you ‘re tryin’ to lose
You do some sad and hurtful things
I’ve seen living proof

You shot through my anger and rage
To show me my prison was just an open cage
There were no keys no guards
Just one frightened man and some old shadows for bars

Well now all that’s sure on the boulevard
Is that life is just a house of cards
As fragile as each and every breath
Of this boy sleepin’ in our bed
Tonight let’s lie beneath the eaves
Just a close band of happy thieves
And when that train comes we’ll get on board
And steal what we can from the treasures of the Lord
It’s been along long drought baby
Tonight the rain’s pourin’ down on our roof
Looking for a little bit of God’s mercy
I found living proof

A Sportswriter Takes His Daughter to See “Hamilton”

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This is a great piece by sportswriter Joe Posnanski about taking his 14-year old daughter to see Hamilton on Broadway.

I read this piece as a father of a 14-year old (actually, she turned 15 a couple of weeks ago) and as someone who is excited about the way this play is getting kids her age excited about history.

Here is a taste:

So, while it’s fresh in my mind now, I cannot imagine forgetting any detail of sitting with Elizabeth while we watched Hamilton. But I will forget. I will forget the details of this difficult but hopeful year. I will forget the size of eyes as she stared at the stage and tried to memorize it. I will forget because the years pile on, and memories cloud as they bump into each other, and I barely remember where I was yesterday.

But she will remember. That’s the thing. She will remember every detail. She will remember it the way I remember what it was like inside Cleveland Municipal Stadium with those stupid steel beams blocking every view of the field and the wind howling off of the Lake and the smell of stale beer and cigarette smoke. She will remember every little thing about that theater, about that stage, about Lin’s voice, about my jacket being around her shoulders, about Burr’s unplanned little laugh when watching King George dance, about that night.

Joe-Posnanski2

Joe Posnanski

 

As we walked out into New York, the echo of the show still ringing, she held on to me tight, and she stumbled because she was still inside the dream. She leaned up and kissed me on the cheek.

“Are you going to start crying again?” I asked her.

“No,” she said, but she did, just a little, and she clung to me tighter, and I leaned down and sang in her ear:

‘They’ll tell the story of tonight.”

She smiled and wiped away her tear. “They’ll tell the story of tonight,” she sang back.

Read the entire piece here.