Free Scholarship on Guns in America

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Earlier today we posted a syllabus on guns in America.  One of our readers directed me to a Project Muse website called Muse in Focus: Addressing Gun Violence.

Here is what it is all about:

Gun violence remains a pervasive public health crisis in the United States. As the country grows all too familiar with the cycle of violence, mourning, and inaction that takes place after any mass shooting, evidence-based research from experts and scholars is essential for any meaningful policy solutions to take place. In this spirit, and in collaboration with our publishers, we have decided to temporarily open up select content on Project MUSE that address the complex challenge of gun violence.

“MUSE in Focus: Addressing Gun Violence” is a selection of recent scholarship from Project MUSE publishers on gun violence, its effect throughout the culture, and its possible solutions. Our hope is that bringing these pieces together, and broadening their reach beyond the limits of our subscribing institutions, will help to inform the policymakers responsible for solving this crisis, as well as to educate researchers and other concerned citizens who seek evidence-based work on this topic.

Click here to access books published by Johns Hopkins University Press, University of Michigan Press, University of Massachusetts Press, University of North Carolina Press, Penn State University Press, Michigan State University Press, and University of Pennsylvania Press.   Authors/editors include Saul Cornell, Craig Rood, Angela Stroud, Nathan Kozuskanich, and Michael Hogan.

More on the New Independent Fundamentalist Baptists

Stedfast

Earlier this month we did a post on Hailey Branson-Potts’s Los Angeles Times piece on the New Independent Fundamental Baptist Movement.

Over at Slate, religion writer Ruth Graham also has a piece on this brand of ultra-fundamentalism.  Here is a taste of  “The New Hate Pastors.”

A video clip circulated online last week that was so cartoonishly vile it might have at first scanned as poorly scripted fiction: A man in a pulpit rails against the comedian Sarah Silverman as a witch and “a God-hating whore of Zionism,” to shouts of apparent approval from an unseen audience. “I hope that God breaks her teeth out, she dies,” the pastor adds. “She’s the perfect representation of religious Judaism….”

When obscure pastors make national headlines for rhetoric like this, it’s sometimes a stretch to call them religious “leaders.” Another Florida pastor named Terry Jones dominated multiple national news cycles in 2010 for threatening to burn a copy of the Quran, and his independent church turned out to have no more than 50 members. Vice found him working at a fry stand at the mall five years later. Anyone can declare themselves a “pastor,” no matter how small their flock. The most virulent voices are typically fringe characters who do not represent—or even appeal to—very many people.

Sure enough, Stedfast Baptist Church, founded in 2017, is not a large or well-known church. Google Maps shows it located in a modest strip mall in Jacksonville, Florida, alongside an arcade, a barber shop, another church, and a raw-meat store for pets called Paw Lickin’ Good. Fannin himself is no longer a pastor there. He was ousted in a power struggle earlier this year, and according to an online directory, he is now preaching at a different Baptist church in Florida.

But Fannin is not just a random voice in a strip mall. He has ties to a small but growing network of ultra-fundamentalist Christian churches headed by young pastors whose noxious rhetoric has gone viral multiple times in the past few years.

Read the rest here.

A Gun Studies Syllabus

Gun Show

The history website Bunk recently directed me to Caroline Light and Lindsay Livingston‘s “Gun Studies” syllabus at Public Books.

Here is a taste:

WEEK 1

“To Keep and Bear”: An Introduction to Gun Culture in the United States

This week’s readings seek to demystify and question what is meant by “gun culture” and to introduce some popular databases by which gun ownership and gun violence have been tracked and studied in the contemporary US.

Secondary Readings

Primary Sources and Multimedia

WEEK 2

“A Well-Regulated Militia”: Legal Foundations of “Gun Rights”

The week’s readings address the nation’s unique legal foundations, particularly the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, in which a right to “have and bear arms” was articulated, while exploring some of the transitions and exclusionary frames through which “Second Amendment Rights” have taken shape over time.

Secondary Readings

Primary Sources and Multimedia

 

WEEK 3

“To Secure These Freedoms”: Colonization, Slave Patrols, and Early Police Forces

How has firearm ownership and use been protected—or not—via the Second Amendment? Which populations have been excluded from the right to have and bear arms, and in the interest of which power structures?

Secondary Readings

Primary Sources and Multimedia

 

Read the entire syllabus here.

Carpe Diem: “Plucking the Day!”

Sieze

Chi Luu of JSTOR Daily reminds us that “Carpe Diem,” the phrase made famous by the Robin Williams character in Dead Poet’s Society, does not actually mean “sieze the day.”  A more proper translation is “plucking the day.”  Here is Luu:

Meanwhile, pedantic Latin teachers have been gritting their teeth trying not to sound their barbaric yawps because (surprise!) “carpe diem” doesn’t really mean “seize the day.” As Latin scholar Maria S. Marsilio points out, “carpe diem” is a horticultural metaphor that, particularly seen in the context of the poem, is more accurately translated as “plucking the day,” evoking the plucking and gathering of ripening fruits or flowers, enjoying a moment that is rooted in the sensory experience of nature. “Gather ye rose-buds while ye may” is the famed Robert Herrick version. But let’s not be persnickety; aren’t these merely two different metaphors that mean essentially the same thing?

Well, yes and no. It’s an example of one of the more telling ways that we mistranslate metaphors from one language to another, revealing in the process our hidden assumptions about what we really value. Metaphors may map to similar meanings across languages, but their subtle differences can have a profound effect on our understanding of the world.

Read the entire piece here.

Slavery and Antislavery at the Nation’s Founding

Wilentz PropertyThe title of this post is the subtitle of Princeton historian Sean Wilentz‘s recent book No Property in Man.  Writer Paul Berman reviews it at Tablet.  Here is a taste:

The immediate topic is the several clauses of the Constitution that bear on slavery, and how to interpret them. Those are the barbarous clauses—the clause that distinguishes between “persons” who are “free,” and “persons” who are not, with the latter to be tabulated as three-fifths of the former; the clause mandating that any “person” who is “held to service or labor” in one state and escapes to another state shall be returned; and, among other stipulations, the clause forbidding Congress for 20 years from interfering, except in a small way by taxation, with the “Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit”—which was a delicate reference to the African slave trade.

The clauses were approved at the Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia in 1787, principally on the demand of pro-slavery zealots from the Lower South. And the dispute over how to interpret them began at once, with the pro-slavery zealots taking an expansive view. The clauses, in their interpretation, signified a larger constitutional endorsement of slavery, which rested on respect for slavery’s underlying principle, which was a right to an extreme version of private property, with property deemed to extend to the ownership of human beings.

Wilentz tells us that, after the convention, the pro-slavery zealots launched something of a campaign to sell the world on their interpretation. And the campaign had successes. The leaders of the white South as a whole came to insist on those particular understandings, and Federal judges ended up accepting the interpretation. Eventually the Supreme Court itself agreed and, in the Dred Scottdecision in 1857, imposed a broadly pro-slavery interpretation of the Constitution on America as a whole, and not just on the slave states, as if branding a giant S on America’s forehead.

Nor was it only slavery’s proponents who accepted these views. The intransigents of the abolitionist cause were known as the “immediatists,” and they, too, ended up subscribing to the same interpretation, except in an upside-down version, which led them to reason that, if the Constitution legitimated slavery, slavery must surely delegitimate the Constitution. The immediatists responded by disavowing the Constitution in toto, and disavowing the government that came out of the Constitution, and disavowing the government’s procedures, too, such as voting.

Read the entire review here.

 

*The New York Times* Introduces the “1619 Project”

1619

Here is what it’s all about:

The 1619 Project is a major initiative from The New York Times observing the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.

Learn more here.

The National Endowment for the Humanities Announces Grant Recipients

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Here are a few that caught my eye:

Stanford University 
Project Director: Clayborne Carson
Project Title: The Papers of Civil Rights Leader Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929–1968)

Elizabeth Fenn
University of Colorado, Boulder
Project Title: Sacagawea’s World: Window on the American West

American Historical Association
Project Director: Dana Schaffer
Project Title: History, the Past and Public Culture: An Exploratory Survey

Association of American Medical Colleges 
[Cooperative Agreements and Special Projects (Education)]
Project Director: Alison Whelan
Project Title: The Fundamental Role of the Humanities and Arts in Medical Education

Theresa Runstedtler
American University
Project Title: Black Ball: Rethinking the “Dark Ages” of Professional Basketball (1970s)

Jane Calvert
University of Kentucky
Project Title: A Biography of John Dickinson (1732–1808)

Endicott College
Project Director: Mark Herlihy
Project Title: The Salem Witch Trials: Their World and Legacy (Summer seminar for teachers)

Norman B. Leventhal Map Center, Inc. 
Project Director: Michelle LeBlanc
Project Title: Mapping a New World: Places of Conflict and Colonization in Seventeenth -Century New England (Summer workshops for teachers)

Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association
Project Director: Lynne Manring
Project Title: Living on the Edge of Empire: Alliance, Conflict, and Captivity in Colonial
New England (Summer workshops for teachers)

Plimoth Plantation, Inc. 
Project Director: Darius Coombs
Project Title: Beyond the Mayflower: New Voices from Early America, 1500–1676 (Summer workshops for teachers)

American Antiquarian Society 
Project Director: James Moran
Project Title: The News Media and the Making of America, 1730–1865 (Summer seminar for teachers)

New-York Historical Society 
Project Director: Marci Reaven
Project Title: Religion and the American West

University of South Carolina, Columbia
Project Director: Joseph Morris
Project Title: America’s Reconstruction: The Untold Story (Summer seminar for teachers)

Vermont Archaeological Society, Inc. 
Project Director: Angela Labrador
Project Title: Freedom and Unity: The Struggle for Independence on the Vermont
Frontier (Summer seminar for teachers)

University of Virginia
Project Director: Jennifer Steenshorne
Project Title: The Papers of U.S. President George Washington (1732–1799)

University of Virginia
Project Director: John Stagg
Project Title: The Papers of U.S. President James Madison (1751–1836)

Montpelier Foundation 
Project Director: Terry Brock; Mary Minkoff (co-project director); Matthew Reeves (coproject director)
Project Title: Understanding the Overseer: Using Archaeology to Examine Status and
Identity at James Madison’s Montpelier

Click here for an entire list of August 2019 winners.  Congratulations!

The Perpetrators in 36 Cases of Violence and Assault Invoked “Trump”

Trump

Here is a taste of an ABC News report:

…a nationwide review conducted by ABC News has identified at least 36 criminal cases where Trump was invoked in direct connection with violent acts, threats of violence or allegations of assault.

In nine cases, perpetrators hailed Trump in the midst or immediate aftermath of physically attacking innocent victims. In another 10 cases, perpetrators cheered or defended Trump while taunting or threatening others. And in another 10 cases, Trump and his rhetoric were cited in court to explain a defendant’s violent or threatening behavior.

Seven cases involved violent or threatening acts perpetrated in defiance of Trump, with many of them targeting Trump’s allies in Congress. But the vast majority of the cases — 29 of the 36 — reflect someone echoing presidential rhetoric, not protesting it.

ABC News could not find a single criminal case filed in federal or state court where an act of violence or threat was made in the name of President Barack Obama or President George W. Bush.

Read the entire piece here.

Will Evangelicals Rally Around Trump in 2020?

trump-evangelicals

The Washington Post has published a long-form piece by writer Elizabeth Bruenig on Trump and evangelicals. Her work is based on some shoe-leather reporting in Texas during Easter weekend, 2019.  Bruenig talked to court evangelical Robert Jeffress, evangelicals at a small Baptist church, progressive Christians, and members of her own family.

Here is a taste:

However he reached them, Trump has undoubtedly made greater inroads with his evangelical adherents. Jeffress predicted an even bigger win for Trump among evangelicals this time around, surpassing his record-setting success last time; all of the Farmersville Christians were prepared to vote for him in 2020, as was Joe Aguilar. Much depends on the many months between now and the general election, but I would no longer underestimate the possibility that evangelicals will turn out in stronger numbers for a second Trump term than they did in 2016, partly to ensure another Supreme Court pick and partly because the backlash against them has cemented so much of what they already suspected about liberals’ attitudes.

Which raises a series of imponderables: Is there a way to reverse hostilities between the two cultures in a way that might provoke a truce? It is hard to see. Is it even possible to return to a style of evangelical politics that favored “family values” candidates and a Billy Graham-like engagement with the world, all with an eye toward revival and persuasion? It is hard to imagine.

Or was a truly evangelicalpolitics — with an eye toward cultural transformation — less effective than the defensive evangelical politics of today, which seems focused on achieving protective accommodations against a broader, more liberal national culture? Was the former always destined to collapse into the latter? And will the evangelical politics of the post-Bush era continue to favor the rise of figures such as Trump, who are willing to dispense with any hint of personal Christian virtue while promising to pause the decline of evangelical fortunes — whatever it takes? And if hostilities can’t be reduced and a detente can’t be reached, are the evangelicals who foretell the apocalypse really wrong?

Read the entire piece here.

The Church as the “GOP Farm Team”

Liberty U

Over at The Week, Bonnie Kristian has a brief piece chronicling the role that evangelicals are playing in propping-up the Republican Party.  She writes in the wake of this event at Liberty University.  Here is a taste:

That such an event would exist, and that it would be hosted at Liberty, is hardly surprising. But, as I feel I am constantly saying about the intersection of religion and politics in America these days, what does not surprise still should shock. Pastors and Pews may be the natural evolution of the religious right, the logical next step in Republican politicians’ use of church infrastructure for political ends, but that makes it no less worthy of protest.

This is not the point of church.

This is not why we gather together. This is not how we grow the kingdom of heaven. This is not how we incarnate the new reality started at the cross. This is not a way to spread the hope of Christ.

The Republican Party platform is not the Gospel. No politician of any party can, in that sense, offer good news. Seeking political power is not a pastor’s job. And to thus subvert church into a partisan political resource is to make it cease to be the church, to take that third temptation — “all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor” — where Jesus turned it down. It makes Christianity a means to a far lower end.

Read the entire piece here.

Some Evangelicals Did Not Like Trump’s Use of Profanity at a Recent Rally

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump blows a kiss to supporters following a campaign rally in Akron

In 1982, the evangelical activist Tony Campolo gave a sermon to an evangelical conference called Spring Harvest.  Here is how he began his talk:

I have three things I’d like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 45,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a shit. What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact that I said ‘shit’ than the fact that 45,000 kids died last night.

I thought about Campolo’s line again as I read about evangelicals in West Virginia who were upset that Trump used profanity at his recent Greenville, NC rally.  Here is a taste of Gabby Orr’s piece at Politico:

Paul Hardesty didn’t pay much attention to President Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Greenville, N.C., last month until a third concerned constituent rang his cellphone.

The residents of Hardesty’s district — he’s a Trump-supporting, West Virginia state senator — were calling to complain that Trump was “using the Lord’s name in vain,” Hardesty recounted.

“The third phone call is when I actually went and watched his speech because each of them sounded distraught,” said Hardesty, who describes himself as a conservative Democrat.

Here’s what he would have seen: Trump crowing, “They’ll be hit so g–damn hard,” while bragging about bombing Islamic State militants. And Trump recounting his warning to a wealthy businessman: “If you don’t support me, you’re going to be so g–damn poor.”

To most of America, the comments went unnoticed. Instead, the nation was gripped by the moment a “send her back” chant broke out as Trump went after Somali-born Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, an American citizen. But some Trump supporters were more fixated on his casual use of the word “g–damn” — an off-limits term for many Christians — not to mention the numerous other profanities laced throughout the rest of his speech.

Read the entire piece here.

*Blinded by the Light*: A Review

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I saw Blinded by the Light last night at a special “Fan Event” premiere.  (The movie officially opens tomorrow night).  While I don’t think this movie will win any Academy Awards (at least in the major categories), it was a lot of fun to watch.  Blinded by the Light is the very definition of a “feel good movie.”

The film explores the tensions between the Old World and the New World through the life of Javed Khan, a sixteen-year-old Pakistani boy in Margaret Thatcher’s England.  Javed wants to become a writer.  He feels oppressed by the traditions of his Pakistani home and his authoritarian father who is struggling to provide for his family during a period of recession.

This is all a pretty standard story line for immigrant movies until Javed encounters (through a Sikh friend) the music of Bruce Springsteen.  (He listens to Born in the USA and The River on cassette via his Walkman).  Springsteen speaks directly to Javed’s circumstances, but in the end Javed also realizes that the sense of longing and ambition in the Boss’s music must be balanced with roots, tradition and place.

The script is corny at times, and the plot is a pretty tired one, but the characters (especially Javed’s father) are very likable and the Springsteen soundtrack is worth the price of a ticket.  If you are Bruce fan, you will leave the theater with a smile on your face!

 

Blinded

Caroline liked *Blinded by the Light*

*Why Study History*-Inspired Bulletin Boards

Why Study History

I love it!  High school and middle school history teachers are reading Why Study History: Reflecting on the Importance of the Past and finding bulletin board material.

Matt, a seventh-grade history teaching in Illinois, posts this (with additional inspiration from Stanford history education guru Sam Wineburg):

Historical Thinking

Here are some pics from Tom, a high school history teacher in the Fort Wayne, Indiana area:

Grayam

Grayam 2

Of course I am not the author of the “5cs of historical thinking.”  That honor belongs to Thomas Andrews and Flannery Burke.  But I do write about them extensively in Why Study History?

If you are using Why Study History? in your class this year, or have some bulletin board material you would like to share, I would love to hear from you!

“Hamilton: The Exhibition” Comes to an End in Chicago

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“Northerly Island, though, proved farther than the Hamilfans were willing to go.”

I guess the popularity of Alexander Hamilton and the musical named after him only goes so far.

Here is a taste of Chris Vire’s piece at Chicago Magazine:

Jeffrey Seller, the producer behind both the 35,000-square-foot attraction and the massively successful musical from which it spun off, said the exhibition would close August 25, two weeks before the initial end date of September 8. Tickets already sold for the final two weeks are being refunded. And plans to tour the exhibit to other cities have been scrapped, Seller told the Chicago Tribune.

In announcing the early close, producers cited traffic-snarling events that would “complicate access” to the exhibition, which is housed in a giant shed plopped in the middle of Northerly Island. Among those events: the North Coast Music Festival at Huntington Bank Pavilion on August 30 and 31 and a Bears preseason game at Soldier Field on August 29.

Neither of those events is exactly a surprise. North Coast’s move to Northerly Island from Union Park was announced in April, weeks before the Hamilton exhibition opened. And the Bears’ Thursday night matchup with the Titans isn’t even their first home game of the season; that would be next week, when they host the Panthers on August 8.

Read the entire piece here.

Religion and Space at a Presbyterian Church

Webster

Webster Presbyterian Church

Over at The Outline, Allyson Gross, a Ph.D student in rhetoric, politics, and culture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, writes about Houston’s Webster Presbyterian Church, the so-called “Church of the Astronauts.”

Here is a taste of “Finding God on the Moon“:

Retired astronaut Clayton Anderson, 60, had returned to Webster Presbyterian, his former church, to deliver his first sermon on the anniversary of a special event in the community’s history. Fifty years ago, on July 20, 1969, Buzz Aldrin consumed the symbolic body and blood of Christ on the lunar surface in an act of Holy Communion. In the Moon’s 1/6th gravity, the wine “curled slowly and gracefully up the side of the chalice,” as Aldrin later recalled. Inside the Lunar Module, Neil Armstrong watched quietly. But instead of following along across millions of radios, the world was none the wiser.

Webster Presbyterian isn’t just any church: It’s the “Church of the Astronauts,” located just down the road from NASA’s Johnson Space Center, the home of space flight control since 1961 and the “Houston” in “Houston, we have a problem.” Like many other astronauts, Aldrin was a member. According to the 1970 book First on the Moon, he had approached the late Reverend Dean Woodruff in the weeks before the flight for help coming up with a symbolic gesture that “transcended modern times.” Woodruff believed that “God reveals Himself in the common elements of everyday life,” and suggested that Aldrin bring along with him a little silver chalice, a sachet of wine, and a piece of bread.

But 1969 was a tough year for NASA and religion. In an international radio broadcast on December 24, 1968, the crew of Apollo 8 had taken turns reading from the first 10 verses of Genesis upon completion of the Moon’s first circumnavigation. Activist Madalyn Murray O’Hair then sued the U.S. government, claiming the reading violated the First Amendment. “That’s the reason the communion was kept secret,” church archivist Pat Brackett told me. “[Chief of the Astronaut Office] Deke Slayton said, okay, go ahead with your plans, but keep it quiet.”

So in the moments before Neil exited the Lunar Module and took one small step, Buzz called for radio silence, and requested that all listening “contemplate for a moment the events of the past few hours, and give thanks in his or her own way.” He then read John 15:5 from a small slip of paper, ate the consecrated bread, and drank the wine. “The ‘silver chalice’ [was] actually a shot glass,” Associate Pastor Helen DeLeon told The Outline. “It just happens to have the right shape, and it was small enough that he could take it.” This was, for DeLeon, both the beauty of the event and the lesson at its center: “We take ordinary things, and we imbue them with meaning.”

Read the entire piece here.

The Author’s Corner With William Nelson

Nelson pluribusWilliam E. Nelson is Judge Edward Wienfeld Professor of Law at New York University. This interview is based on his new book, E Pluribus Unum: How the Common Law Helped Unify and Liberate Colonial America, 1607-1776 (Oxford University Press, 2019).

JF: What led you to write E Pluribus Unum?

WN: I decided to write a multi-volume history of colonial American law, of which E Pluribus Unum is a one-volume summary, because I knew that a massive amount of colonial courts records existed, that someone should study them, and that NYU Law School would support my study. Courts were the primary instrumentality of colonial government, and I believe the most important job of historians is to explain how government has worked in the past so that the people can better appreciate how to make it work for them in the present.

JF: In 2 sentences, what is the argument of E Pluribus Unum?

WN: The book traces how the early colonies had a variety of legal systems and how King Charles II and King James II for lack of other means decided to use lawyers and the common law to bring unity and effective governance to their colonies. For half a century, lawyers governed effectively on behalf of the Crown, but beginning with the Zenger case in 1735 and continuing in a series of cases thereafter, lawyers assumed an increasingly oppositional role, with the result that by the 1770s they were the leaders of the Revolutionary movement.

JF: Why do we need to read E Pluribus Unum?

WN: One reason to read the book is to understand the importance of law and local power in the DNA of the American nation; the nation still does not have bureaucratic national institutions that are capable of governing without the help of law and local power. The book also reports on significant details, such as the origins of judicial review of legislation during the Stamp Act controversy and the role of debt collection in the breakup of slave families and communities.

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

WN: In my last year of college, I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to practice law or become a history professor. The minute I arrived at law school, it became clear that the right path for me would be to become a law professor whose scholarly focus was on history.

JF: What is your next project?

WN: My next book is a comparative study of New York and Texas law in the 20th century, with a goal of striving to better understand what differentiates conservatives in places like Texas from liberals in places like New York.

JF: Thanks, Bill!