Billie Holiday, “Strange Fruit”
HT: Don Lemon
This weekend (Sunday and Monday) I made my first visit to Wichita, Kansas. The Kansas Council of History Education (KCHE) invited me to deliver the keynote address at their annual meeting. It was held this year on the campus of Newman University.
My address was titled “History for a Democracy.” I began the talk with three introductory premises:
I then spent some time discussing the debate over whether history educators should be teaching “knowledge” or “skills.” This is a debate that culture warriors, radio talk show hosts, politicians, and elected officials lose sleep over, but teachers know that the pundits and bureaucrats often understand very little about what happens in their history classrooms. Good history teachers integrate facts and skills seamlessly in the history classroom through what we call “historical thinking.”
I concluded the talk with Flannery Burke and Thomas Andrew’s famous 5 “Cs” of historical thinking: change over time, context, causation, contingency, complexity. I explored the ways these “Cs” are present, and not present, in our public discourse. We talked about:
Thanks to Emily Williams and Nate McAlister of the KCHE for the invitation. It was also good to see Dave McIntire and Diana Moss, alums of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History “Princeton Seminar” on colonial America. And thanks to George Washington’s Mount Vernon for sponsoring the lecture.
Here are some pics:
Harvard historian Jill Lepore asks this question at The New Yorker. Here is a taste:
Bird-eyed Aaron Burr was wanted for murder in two states when he presided over the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase in the Senate, in 1805. The House had impeached Chase, a Marylander, on seven articles of misconduct and one article of rudeness. Burr had been indicted in New Jersey, where, according to the indictment, “not having the fear of God before his eyes but being moved and seduced by the instigation of the Devil,” he’d killed Alexander Hamilton, the former Secretary of the Treasury, in a duel. Because Hamilton, who was shot in the belly, died in New York, Burr had been indicted there, too. Still, the Senate met in Washington, and, until Burr’s term expired, he held the title of Vice-President of the United States.
The public loves an impeachment, until the public hates an impeachment. For the occasion of Chase’s impeachment trial, a special gallery for lady spectators had been built at the back of the Senate chamber. Burr, a Republican, presided over a Senate of twenty-five Republicans and nine Federalists, who sat, to either side of him, on two rows of crimson cloth-covered benches. They faced three rows of green cloth-covered benches occupied by members of the House of Representatives, Supreme Court Justices, and President Thomas Jefferson’s Cabinet. The House managers (the impeachment-trial equivalent of prosecutors), led by the Virginian John Randolph, sat at a table covered with blue cloth; at another blue table sat Chase and his lawyers, led by the red-faced Maryland attorney general, Luther Martin, a man so steady of heart and clear of mind that in 1787 he’d walked out of the Constitutional Convention, and refused to sign the Constitution, after objecting that its countenancing of slavery was “inconsistent with the principles of the Revolution and dishonorable to the American character.” Luther (Brandybottle) Martin had a weakness for liquor. This did not impair him. As a wise historian once remarked, Martin “knew more law drunk than the managers did sober.”
Impeachment is an ancient relic, a rusty legal instrument and political weapon first wielded by the English Parliament, in 1376, to wrest power from the King by charging his ministers with abuses of power, convicting them, removing them from office, and throwing them in prison. Some four hundred years later, impeachment had all but vanished from English practice when American delegates to the Constitutional Convention provided for it in Article II, Section 4: “The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
It’s one thing to know this power exists. It’s another to use it. In one view, nicely expressed by an English solicitor general in 1691, “The power of impeachment ought to be, like Goliath’s sword, kept in the temple, and not used but on great occasions.” Yet this autumn, in the third year of the Presidency of Donald J. Trump, House Democrats have unsheathed that terrible, mighty sword. Has time dulled its blade?
Read the rest here.
I agree with David French here:
About that recent polling showing zealous Evangelical opposition to impeachment — The “lesser of two evils” mask is off. The alternative here isn’t Hillary but Pence.
Under similar facts for a Democrat, they’d want to remove.
These Evangelicals are just Trumpists now.
— David French (@DavidAFrench) October 21, 2019
I think French is referring to this recent PRRI survey.
Emma Green provides some context at The Atlantic.
A few things online that caught my attention this week:
Karl Jacoby reviews H.W. Brands, Dreams of El Dorado: A History of the American West
The court evangelicals should endorse Augustine, not Paula White
Should Washington D.C. have a Latino history museum?
African evangelicals and the Nobel Peace Prize
Mark Silk on William Barr‘s recent speech at Notre Dame
Robert Caldwell III reviews Michael Winship, Hot Protestants: A History of Puritanism in England and America
On history students writing letters to future students
Al Smith: Catholic politician
Chris Gehrz on tax exemptions and Christian colleges
Eric Herschthal reviews Richard Bell, Stolen: Five Boys Kidnapped into Slavery and Their Astonishing Odyssey Home and Caleb McDaniel, Sweet Taste of Liberty: A True Story of Slavery and Restitution in America
“The parchment text of the Bill of Rights is not meant to be readable”
Islamophobic rhetoric and the American Revolution
Who knew that evangelical Christianity and the emergence of the American oil industry were so intimately linked? In this episode, host John Fea explores what it means to be an evangelical and whether scholarly debates over the term help us to better understand the role played by evangelicals throughout American history. He is joined by Notre Dame historian Darren Dochuk, who discusses his new book, Anointed with Oil: How Christianity and Crude Made Modern America.
Many of us use Paul Revere’s image of the Boston Massacre when we teach the American Revolution.
Pelham came from prominent Boston family and was the half-brother of the artist John Singleton Copley, one of the most renowned painters in 18th-century America. (A teenage Pelham is the subject of one of Copley’s famous early works, the 1765 portrait The Boy With the Squirrel.) It’s not known if Pelham witnessed the Massacre. But as a Bostonian and engraver by trade, he certainly understood how earth-shattering it was. He quickly produced a copperplate engraving depicting the events. At some point in the days afterwards, he showed a colleague a version of it, perhaps an early proof. The image, called Fruits of Arbitrary Power, or the Bloody Massacre perpetrated in King Street Boston, on March 5th, 1770, was highly inflammatory—more propaganda than journalism—showing an organized British squad following an order to fire on the colonists, several of whom fall wounded in the street. It leaves no doubt of the patriot point-of-view: This was cold-blooded murder.
Pelham’s intent was to get the engraving printed and disseminated as widely as possible. There was only one problem: He got scooped. The colleague he conferred with was silversmith, fellow engraver, and Son of Liberty Paul Revere, who quickly realized how powerful the image was and set about engraving one of his own that was remarkably similar to Pelham’s. Revere called his version The Bloody Massacre, Perpetrated in King Street Boston on March 5th 1770 by a Party of the 29th Regt and rushed it to press, beating Pelham by several days.
Read the entire piece here.
Sarah Bond of the University of Iowa History Department and Kevin Gannon (aka “The Tattooed Prof”) of the Grandview University History Department help junior faculty decide if they should write for public audiences. I am glad to see the reference here to former Messiah College student Ernie Boyer. Here is a taste:
A recent advice column in The Chronicle — “Which Publications Matter at Which Stages of Your Career?” — argued that junior colleagues are devoting too much time to op-eds, blog posts, and other types of “less than impressive” public writing not published in top-tier academic journals or written in service to monographs or grant proposals. Instead, it said, they should “be calculating” about which publications will actually lead to tenure, and which won’t, and focus more on the former.
That advice certainly applies to faculty at major research universities or elite liberal-arts colleges (like the one where its author teaches). Trouble is: Most faculty positions aren’t within that small (and getting smaller) slice of academe. Compared with those lavishly resourced institutions, the rest of higher education evaluates faculty publications through a fundamentally different set of lenses.
Lower-tier liberal-arts colleges, teaching-oriented universities, and community colleges — where the vast majority of academic jobs are found — have long championed the need for their faculty to pursue public outreach together with effective teaching. So telling graduate students to eschew public-facing writing and outreach in favor of “impressive” or “legitimate” publications is the wrong advice for the many job candidates who will end up employed outside of the select circle of wealthy institutions.
In fact, even some departments at R1 universities are starting to use public writing and outreach in tenure cases, as an indicator of a scholar’s impact. We believe that the very survival of academe is, in part, predicated on encouraging both graduate students and junior scholars to engage in activities that speak to and for the public.
The Boyer model. Many liberal-arts colleges use the Boyer model of scholarship, or something very close to it, as the evaluative criteria for faculty publishing. The Boyer model — in its framing of four types of scholarly domains such as the “scholarship of teaching and learning” and the “scholarship of application” — speaks most directly to the missions and interests of these types of institutions. They emphasize engagement and service, and their faculty are expected to perform — and are rewarded for — scholarly work that fits within that mission. Some departments at these colleges might remain exclusively wedded to the traditional “scholarship of discovery” (Boyer’s term), above all else, but they are outliers swimming against a more powerful institutional tide.
Read the entire piece here. I find myself solidly in the Bond-Gannon camp here. And as long as we are writing about Kevin Gannon, check out our conversation on teaching history on Episode 26 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast.
COLTS NECK, N.J. — “Ahh, it’s early!” Shortly after 9:30 on a warm autumn morning, Bruce Springsteen walks into the cozy kitchen-sitting area of Thrill Hill, the recording studio nestled into a corner of his Monmouth County farm. “For the first interview of my 70s, it’s early!”
A few days after turning 70, Springsteen looks tan and fit as he settles into a leather slingback chair, stretches his arms and runs his hands through brush-cut hair the color of steel shavings. This is the same room where “Western Stars,” a movie based on his recent album of the same name, was in postproduction over the summer, with co-director Thom Zimny editing at a nearby dining table as he listened to Springsteen working on the score in the next room. The movie had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September; it opens in theaters on Oct. 25.
Springsteen makes his feature directing debut with “Western Stars,” sharing a credit with Zimny and making official a fact that has been obvious to anyone who’s ever listened closely to his music: Bruce Springsteen — singer, songwriter, rock star, consummate showman, American icon — has always been a filmmaker. Whether in the form of widescreen, highly pitched epics or low-budget slices of daily life, Springsteen’s records have been less aural than immersive, unspooling with cinematic scope, drive and pictorial detail. Phil Spector might have built a wall of sound, but Springsteen used sound to build worlds.
He greets the suggestion that he’s an auteur with one of his frequent self-effacing chuckles. But Springsteen admits that a cinematic point of view came naturally to him. “Movies have always meant a lot to me,” he says in his familiar rasp. “It’s probably just a part of being a child of the ’50s and ’60s and ’70s, when there was so much great filmmaking.”
He grew up in a blue-collar, Irish Italian family at a time when the local bijou was still a vital community hub. “The Strand Theatre in Freehold, N.J., was dead in the center of town,” he recalls. “It was your classic old, small-town movie theater. Its main attraction was, ‘Come on in, it’s cool inside.’ ”
He laughs again.
Read the rest here.
Stretch your mind and imagine a POTUS who supports religious liberty but who also pursues reckless, thoughtless, and inconsistent policies both domestically and abroad. Imagine that he is cruel to the helpless, treacherous to longstanding allies, cozy with authoritarian regimes, incapable of sticking with a plan, prone to judge everyone he meets strictly by their willingness to praise and defer to him. Imagine that he is colossally ignorant of domestic and foreign realities alike and yet convinced of his matchless wisdom.
You might, first, ask whether such a President is a reliable ally of religious freedom. Would he work to guarantee liberty of conscience for those who on religious grounds criticized his own policies? Don’t make me laugh.
But let’s say he can be counted on. Even so, should religious believers care about their own well-being above that of their neighbors? If, per argumentum, our religious liberty comes at the cost of great suffering for others, is that a deal we should make? Should we place our good ahead of the common good?
Read the rest here.
Here are the most popular posts of the last week at The Way of Improvement Leads Home:
Here is Trump at his rally tonight in Dallas talking about Turkey and the Kurds. Yeah, sometimes you just got let them kill each other for a few days. Let the Turks have their way with Syrian Christians. No big deal. We’ll throw $50 million at the problem–that should appease the evangelical base.
WATCH: President Trump on Turkey attacking the Kurds: “Sometimes you have to let them fight, like two kids in a lot. You have to let them fight, and then you pull them apart!” pic.twitter.com/OZAxslo0xZ
— NBC News (@NBCNews) October 18, 2019
What did the Dallas court evangelicals think about Trump’s blatant disregard for human life? Apparently they loved it:
With Amy at Dallas Trump Rally—largest ever! Just visited with President @realDonaldTrump prior to rally. Never seen him more upbeat! Will be discussing on @foxnewsnight tonight at 10:30pm CT. Tune in! pic.twitter.com/rE1Ll0OORE
— Dr. Robert Jeffress (@robertjeffress) October 18, 2019
With Prestonwood Espanol vocalist Stephanie Valderrama stephaniev.music before President Trumps rally in Dallas. Stephanie is singing the National Anthem and I’m giving the invocation. Praying God will use us… https://t.co/sk0AYNrtIy
— Jack Graham (@jackngraham) October 17, 2019
Kim grew up in Appalachia. He is a graduate of Northwestern University where he was a history major. He has an M.Div from Regent College in Vancouver, and a Ph.D in Near Eastern languages from Harvard. It is an impressive resume. He is a currently pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville, Virginia and previously served as lead pastor at Boston’s Park Street Church. (My former pastor, Phil Thorne, is currently the Interim Senior Minister at this historic evangelical church).
Kim replaces Minnesota pastor Leith Anderson.
According to Kate Shellnut’s piece today at Christianity Today, Kim hopes to “bring together a movement in crisis.”
Here is a taste of that piece:
Kim will maintain his position at Trinity Charlottesville, a prominent PCA congregation with over 1,000 members, noting the bivocational precedent for the presidency, as past leaders have also continued their roles in their local churches.
“Throughout this process, my prayer has been that if I trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding, he would make my path straight (Prov. 3:5-6),” said Kim, who is married with two teenage kids. “I’m also grateful for the godly counsel of family, dear friends both old and new, and a discernment committee at Trinity. These resulted in a growing conviction to accept this appointment—knowing that even though I am a jar of clay, the all-surpassing power is from God (2 Cor. 4:7).”
Prior to Trinity Charlottesville and Park Street, Kim served as a chaplain at Yale University, and taught at Boston College and Harvard University, where he received his PhD in Near Eastern languages and civilizations. He has previously described being raised in a loosely Christian home and “backing into evangelicalism” as his faith affirmations and experience grew deeper.
Read the entire piece here. This looks like a good move.
I find myself in agreement with a lot of Barr’s speech. Watch and decide for yourself:
Here are a few quick thoughts:
Wallace Henley is the Associate Pastor at Houston Baptist Church, a 69,000 member megachurch. He worked as a White House aide in the Nixon administration, served as president of the Alabama Baptist Convention, and was an award-winning journalist for The Birmingham News. He writes Christian books and seems to have a following on the Christian Right. Henley is a columnist at the Christian Post website. His forthcoming book The Trump Enigma (Thomas Nelson, 2020) appears to be a defense of Trump.
In his 2005 book, Alabama Baptists: Southern Baptists in the Heart of Dixie, historian Wayne Flynt writes about Henley:
President Richard Nixon had portrayed himself as a deeply religious man by bringing ministers to the White House to preach . The impressive surroundings and aura of power overwhelmed visiting Baptist ministers as normally cautious as Billy Graham. One young Alabama Baptist flew particularly close to the alluring flame of presidential power. Wallace Henley was a Samford University graduate, minister, and religion reporter for the Birmingham News when he became active in the 1968 campaign. Three years later the White House invited Henley to become assistant director of the cabinet committee on education. Later he became director of public and congressional affairs in the Justice Department. Although Henley could not have known it at the time, he was also a pawn in a political strategy. Nixon believed that Alabama governor George Wallace was the chief barrier to his reelection in 1972. By splitting the antiliberal vote between himself and Wallace, Nixon feared a Democratic victory. The appointment of southerners like Henley was designed to appeal to Southern Baptists and neutralize Wallace’s popularity in the South. Like John Buchanan, Henley initially defended the president during the Watergate scandals but quickly realized the ethical quagmire in which he found himself. He resigned in 1973 and wrote a book (Enter at Your Own Risk, 1974) to explain how he had allowed his support of Nixon’s political ideology and the trappings of presidential power sucked him into a cynical world where politicians used religion to manipulate a gullible public. The autobiography was the first step on a path that led Henley back into the pulpit, to the presidency of the state convention, and ultimately into the charismatic Baptist ministry.
Henley does not seem to have any real beef with Donald Trump’s policies, but he is upset about his language. He recently wrote an “Open Letter” to Trump at the Christian Post. Here is a taste:
Along with millions of people of many faiths I thank you for the bold stand you have taken for religious freedom. The eloquent speech you gave at the United Nations was one of your finest moments—in fact, one of the finest of any president.
I have worked in the White House, and I have written about the presidency since the 1970s, but have never seen nor heard a president of the United States so powerfully defend the right of people to choose what they believe about God and to worship freely.
I also join my voice to the millions so grateful to you for your unrelenting defense of the fundamental right to life of the unborn. Your firm stance against the abortion movement that has escalated to shocking levels is crucial. It is unconscionable that there are those in the industry who are willing to take human life almost at the point of birth.
Christians of many denominations and movements, along with many in other religions are thankful for your leadership in these areas.
Nevertheless, many Christians remain troubled by your careless speech….
You are in the Oval Office largely on the strength of the conservative Christian vote, and I appeal to you not to continue to insult and embarrass us through your speeches and actions. Rather than contributing to the coarseness of contemporary culture, set a presidential example that elevates discourse.
In short, sir, you need to clean up your act.
Last summer, at a rally in Greenville, North Carolina, you invoked the darkest of imprecations when you twice used the G-damn word in your speech. The evangelical Christians who support you have as their greatest passion that of helping people escape eternal damnation through the grace of Jesus Christ.
Many, when they heard or read that horrible curse coming from your mouth felt literal pain. Democrat Paul Hardesty, a state senator from a coal-mining district, who, though a Democrat, supports you, spoke for many of us when he wrote you that there is “no place in society… where that type of speech should be used or handled. Your comments were not presidential.”
Nor were they Christian.
Mr. President, you said once that you had never felt a need to ask forgiveness. You have one now. And maybe more as you allow the Spirit of God to search your soul. (Psalm 139:23)
Many evangelicals and other Christians take seriously Daniel 2:21 that says that it is God who “removes kings and establishes kings.” If that verse is true and conveys a principle applied across history, then bring yourself completely under His rulership, and you will be a blessing to the nation and world.
Read the rest here.
Henley talks about the letter in the video above. I am not sure if this interview is noteworthy, but it is interesting to see pro-Trump Christian Righters speaking-out against Trump’s discourse. Henley’s line about the Old Testament prophet Amos is worth considering. He seems to have learned something from his days in the Nixon White House.
Context. A CNN expert just said he “felt sorry for the horse.”
Reminds me of this from a few years ago:
I was on the NPR show “The Takeaway” today for a segment on Trump, evangelicals, and Syria. Listen here.
50 years ago today:
FRC’s Tony Perkins brags that the Religious Right is running the Trump administration: “We’re not on the outside looking in, we’re on the inside working out.” pic.twitter.com/2UuCj6JkiQ
— Right Wing Watch (@RightWingWatch) October 11, 2019