Some tips on avoiding fake campaign advertising

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As the November elections approach, the New-York Historical Society offers some helpful advice. Here is a taste of its post “‘I Approve This Message’: 7 Online Ploys to Look Out for this Election Season.”

2) Fake videos
These videos seem to be real but have been digitally manipulated in ways that can be obvious or subtle. The recent example that purported to show Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi slurring her words is an example of what some call a “cheap-fake.”  More sophisticated and frightening versions—described as deep fakes—are far more difficult to decipher and are waiting in the wings. WHAT YOU CAN DO:  If a video seems too good (or too bad) to be true, you may want to check on its legitimacy. Look for tell-tale signs: the eye gaze is wrong or the eyes don’t blink; the hair or teeth look synthetic; the lip syncing is off; the skin tone is blotchy; there’s blurriness where neck meets the head; there are missing shadows. Also, judge the credibility of the speech: Would you expect this person to say that?  If you have doubts, most factchecking sites like politfact.com or snopes.com follow wide-spread ruses and report on them.

3) Deceptive campaign ads from fake sources
Misleading campaign ads are designed to move far and fast and sow confusion online. During the 2016 presidential election, there was a concerted, coordinated campaign by the Russian-backed Internet Research Agency to create hostility, divide Americans, and discourage people from voting. Largely undetected at the time, some 3500+ divisive Facebook ads were microtargeted to U.S. voters on topics ranging from immigration, radical Islam, gun rights, and injustice against Black Americans to name a few. Facebook recently announced it will block advertising from state media, but you can’t just count on someone else.  WHAT YOU CAN DOMany of these ads had misspellings or grammatical errors, so if you were paying attention, those would have been a red flag. Many also identified themselves as coming from nonexistent organizations and websites that had similar names to real ones. If you start seeing new divisive ads or receiving something digitally that you never have seen before, be sure and check whether or not the sender is legitimate.

Read the entire piece here.

The Author’s Corner with Anna Mae Duane

educated for freedomAnna Mae Duane is Associate Professor of English at the University of Connecticut. This interview is based on her new book, Educated for Freedom: The Incredible Story of Two Fugitive Slave Schoolboys Who Grew Up to Change a Nation (NYU Press, 2020).

JF: What led you to write Educated for Freedom?

AMD: I was exploring the archives at the New-York Historical Society and I came across a skit included in the records of the New-York African Free Schools. This 1822 skit depicts two students, one student chastising the other for having a slothful mother who keeps him from getting to school on time. I wanted to know what it was like to be a nine–year-old child, and to stand on stage and act out a script that depicted your mother–and by extension the other mothers at the school–as being too lazy, or too ignorant to understand the great importance of getting to school on time. Since that day, I’ve been told many times that this is, perhaps, the wrong question to ask. We can’t ever know how any historical person really felt, and in this case, the evidence made it seem like a particularly futile question to ask. These were children, Black children in a slave nation no less, reading words written for them by white adults, which they dramatized before a public that would judge them on their performance. In other words, we must recognize that these two schoolchildren were utterly subaltern: it’s a fool’s errand to try to hear them speak.

Educated for Freedom is a response to that objection. As I’ve researched the work of the school, and the lives of the two of the remarkable people who have attended it (one of whom, Dr. James McCune Smith, turned out to be one of the kids in the skit), I’ve realized that the historical and the literary documents offer ample proof that these children and others like them were part of broad conversations about the nation, about power and, most particularly, about the future.

So while this book is a biography of two men who became giants of Black abolitionism, I wanted to keep the dialogue open between their lives as adults and their experiences as children by pausing at moments when their “adult” work–in medicine, science, and politics—was shaped by Black children in their lives, sometimes strangers, sometimes fugitives, sometimes their own children. Much work on Black abolitionism has stressed the ways in which the activists sought, understandably, to gain access to a citizenship that was coded both male and adult. I sought to structure the book in a way that braided the personal with the political, the needs of a child, with the demands of a citizen, to reflect how mutually constitutive these terms were in the process of determining how slavery was defined, attacked, and defended in the years leading to the Civil War.

JF: In two sentences, what is the argument of Educated for Freedom?

AMD: The book begins with Black students being told that they could never be fully American, and ends with one of those students speaking before Congress: that journey helps us understand the power of Black political organizing both in the public and private realms.  We can’t understand how the intertwined concepts of freedom and Americanness were transformed in the nineteenth century without fully recognizing the revolutionary work of African American students, parents and activists: people who were never meant to claim the role of free American citizens. 

JF: Why do we need to read Educated for Freedom?

AMD: Well, to start with, the lives of James McCune Smith and Henry Highland Garnet are incredibly exciting!  Smith and Garnet are far from household names, but they were players in many of the century’s most momentous events. The  impoverished sons of enslaved mothers, they managed to meet the Marquis de Lafayette, earn a Medical degree, fight off angry mobs, influence John Brown and his fateful raid, speak before crowds of thousands, challenge the terms of white abolitionism, and address Congress. Their lives and work allows us to reimagine  how we imagine the scope of African Americans’ influence in pre-Civil War America.

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

AMD: At first I thought I’d be a literary critic of the Renaissance! And then I enrolled in an early American literature class, and I was hooked. I was immediately intrigued by  how the New England settlers worked so diligently to place their suffering–and the suffering they imposed on so many others–within a coherent symbolic framework. Since then I’ve been fascinated with the stories we tell ourselves about the past, particularly about how often those stories return to the tableau of an endangered child.

JF: What is your next project?

AMD: I have two projects that I’m in the process of developing. The first, tentatively titled “American Orphans” builds on Educated for Freedom‘s argument that children are not bystanders in American history or rhetoric. Instead, they have been key to how the U.S. has explained itself symbolically. I’ll be researching schools, prisons, and other sites to chart how their  subjection to, and resistance of, their national role has shaped definitions of citizenship and freedom. I’m particularly interested in exploring how  the trauma of orphanhood became celebrated as an American rite of passage on the way to independence in ways that justified–even glorified–separating children of color from their homes and communities

My second project–in the very early stages–will be a developing series of biographies of the New York African Free School students aimed for younger audiences.

JF: Thanks, Anna Mae!

Robert Caro’s Papers Go to the New-York Historical Society

Robert Caro, author of "The Power Broker," a biography on Ro

The last time I checked, author and historian Robert Caro was still writing the fifth volume in his massive history of Lyndon B. Johnson.  I’ve written a few posts on Caro over the years because I am always fascinated by the way historians work.

Yesterday the New York Times reported that Caro’s papers will be deposited at the New-York Historical Society.  Here is a taste of Jennifer Schuessler’s piece at The New York Times:

Robert Caro is famous for colossal biographies of colossal figures. “The Power Broker,” his Pulitzer Prize-winning life of Robert Moses, weighed in at nearly 1,300 pages. His as-yet-unfinished biography of Lyndon B. Johnson — he likes to call the volume-in-progress “the fifth of a projected three” — totals 3,444 pages and counting.

The books are already monumental. And now Mr. Caro is getting monumental treatment himself.

The New-York Historical Society has acquired Mr. Caro’s papers — some 200 linear feet of material that will be open to researchers in its library. And just as important to the 84-year-old Mr. Caro, it will create a permanent installation in its museum galleries dedicated to showing how he got the job done.

Read the rest here.

 

The Tail of George III’s Horse

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On July 9, 1776, colonial soldiers pulled down a statue of George III on horseback located at Bowling Green, New York City.  It is a famous story of revolutionary resistance.  Most of the broken statue was sent to Litchfield, Connecticut where the lead was melted into musket balls.

But one part of the statue did not make it to Litchfield.  The blog of the New York Historical Society tells the story of the horse’s tail.  Here is a taste:

After the gold was removed, the broken statue was carted off to Litchfield, CT, where the 4,000 pounds of lead were supposed to be melted down into musket balls for the coming war. In all, over 40,000 balls were made, but some key segments went missing along the way: The head, for instance, was apparently returned to England, where it disappeared from record. As for other pieces, the legend goes that the cart’s drivers stopped in a tavern in Wilton, CT, and local loyalists took the opportunity to spirit some of the segments away—including the horse’s tail.

What happened to the tail after that is not known. Nearly 100 years passed before it and several other pieces were found in a swamp near a Wilton farm in 1871. They were irresistible artifacts of the American Revolution, and in 1878, members of the New-York Historical Society banded together to purchase the fragments for one hundred dollars. They’ve been in our collection ever since, and the horse’s tail is currently on view in our second floor Dexter Gallery.

Read the entire piece here.

The New York Historical Society Offers Free Civics and U.S. History Workshops for Immigrants

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The New York Historical Society has launched the Citizenship Project.  In conjunction with the City University of New York (CUNY) it will hold free civics and American history workshops for green card holders.

Here is a taste of Claire Voon’s article at Hyperallergic:

The museum, which hosts naturalization ceremonies in its auditorium, has been considering a program to help with studying for the naturalization exam for several years now, understanding that even American-born citizens would find it difficult to pass. But the need for one became more timely after President Trump’s incendiary January 27 executive order that restricted travel for thousands, from refugees to permanent residents.

“When the first travel ban initially included legal immigrants, we realized that we could put our skills to use helping green card holders learn the civics and history they need to know to pass the test, so that they could participate fully in American civic life as citizens and also be protected under the Constitution,” Mirrer said. “The project would draw attention, as well, for Americans, to the high bar set by our nation for citizenship.”

For citizens who want to see how they would fare on knowledge of American history and civics, questions and answers to the hunt will be on display at the museum’s entrance, on interactive tablets, and online.

Read the entire article here.

The New York Historical Society Will Open Center for the Study of Women’s History

From The New York Times:

…Planned events include an inaugural show on the role of American women in the 18th century in helping to create the first modern democracy and an exhibition that focuses on women and the Progressive movement of the 19th century.

The center also plans to explore subjects ranging from women’s suffrage to the modern women’s movement. “Notions about women’s rights are the product of particular historical circumstances,” Ms. Paley said. “There is no single women’s history but women’s histories.”

An interactive wall, called “Women’s Voices,” will explore women’s words and actions, encouraging visitors to participate by sharing their own stories.

A 15-minute immersive film, “New York Women in a New Light,” will use screens and projections on the ceiling and walls of a new auditorium and feature women like Eleanor Roosevelt; the writer Zora Neale Hurston; Frances Perkins, the first female cabinet secretary; and Margaret Sanger, the birth control activist. The space also will be used for teacher workshops, classes and small conferences.

In addition, the society will hold an annual Conference in Women’s History, the first of which is scheduled for March. It will focus on the female-dominated garment industry, covering subjects like production, shifting work force demographics, the role of female organizers and labor unions.

In addition to honoring Driscoll and the Tiffany Girls, the new glass gallery — curated by Margaret K. Hofer, the society’s vice president and museum director — will explore the history of Tiffany Studios, its marketing of luxury goods and the impact of electricity on Americans at the beginning of the 20th century.

The society will also establish three Andrew W. Mellon Fellowships in Women’s History; help host an online course on women and work, taught by Alice Kessler-Harris, a Columbia University history professor; and develop educational resources and opportunities for kindergarten through 12th grade on-site and online on the history of women’s labor and social reform in New York. A mobile app will offer a walking tour of historical sites in New York that welcomed or excluded women.

Read the entire article here.

New York Historical Society Exhibit on Emancipation Proclamation

It is running through the month of January.  Check out lectures by Louis Masur, David Blight, and Harold Holzer.  Learn more here.

A taste:

The New-York Historical Society commemorates the sesquicentennial of the Emancipation Proclamation with a display of rare documents from the Gilder Lehrman Collection, including an important 1864 printing of the Emancipation Proclamation and a congressional copy of the Thirteenth Amendment resolution, both bearing the signature of Abraham Lincoln.

While the Emancipation Proclamation stands as the most important accomplishment of Abraham Lincoln’s presidency, Lincoln realized as the Civil War raged on that that the issue of slavery could only be settled permanently by changing the Constitution itself. By the end of 1864, the Senate had approved the abolition amendment, although it was still two votes short of the two-thirds necessary for passage in the House of Representatives. At Lincoln’s urging, the amendment was re-introduced, and finally passed on January 31, 1865. Lincoln, felled by an assassin’s bullet on April 15, 1865, did not live to see the amendment become law. When it finally was ratified eight months later, the Thirteenth Amendment freed nearly one million slaves still held in bondage in the states not covered by the Emancipation Proclamation.