This Explains a Lot

A taste from this piece at Quartz:

The human race has collectively spent a perplexing amount of time watching Adam Sandler on Netflix.

Together, Netflix’s 99 million users worldwide have devoted more than half a billion hours of their lives to Adam Sandler’s lowbrow humor since the December 2015 debut of The Ridiculous 6, Netflix’s first original film featuring the US comedian, the company said yesterday. Never mind that his recent projects have bombed in theaters and been torn apart by critics.

Five hundred million hours may not sound extraordinary compared to the 1 billion hours of YouTube people watch per day. But it equates to about three movies for each Netflix subscriber—or, an astonishing 57,000 years worth of continuous viewing.

Actually, I have watched The WaterboyHappy Gilmore40 First Dates, and Billy Madison more than I care to admit.



National Parks Contributed $34.9 Billion to the U.S. Economy in 2016

It’s National Park Week and the U.S. Department of the Interior has some good news to report.

Here is a taste:

SAN FRANCISCO – Today, during National Park Week, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced that 2016’s record visitation of 331 million visitors at America’s 417 National Park Service sites contributed $34.9 billion to the U.S. economy in 2016 – a $2.9 billion increase from 2015. Zinke made his announcement while visiting the historic Presidio of San Francisco at Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Zinke marked Park Week by also visiting Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon, and Channel Islands national parks.

According to the annual peer-reviewed economics report, 2016 National Park Visitor Spending Effects, the strong economic output is attributed to record visitation and $18.4 billion that visitors spent in “gateway” communities near national park entrances. The report also found that visitor spending supported 318,000 jobs in 2016, with the vast majority of them defined as local jobs, including those in the hospitality, retail, transportation and recreation industries.

“National Parks are America’s treasure which provide magnificent outdoor recreation opportunities and serve as economic engines for local communities. In my own hometown of Whitefish, Montana, I saw how the popularity of Glacier National Park led to growth of the local outdoor rec and eco-tourism industry. And while traveling to Sequoia and Kings Canyon last week it was exciting to see tourism towns dotting the road to the park,” Zinke said. “This report is a testament to the tangible economic benefits our parks bring to communities across the nation. Visitation numbers continue to rise because people want to experience these majestic public lands.”

Zinke continued, “With continued record visitation it’s time to start thinking about accessibility and infrastructure. Last week, it was great to see the team at Yosemite opening up areas with new wheelchair accessible trails. In the coming years, we will look at ways to make innovative investments in our parks to enhance visitor experiences and improve our aging infrastructure. To ensure visitors continue to have great experiences, we will remain focused on increasing access and addressing the maintenance backlog to ensure we are on the right track for generations to come.”

More than 270,000 of the jobs supported by visitor spending in 2016 exist in the communities that lie within 60 miles of a park. These range from big parks like Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina, which attracted 11.3 million people and supported more than 14,600 jobs, to smaller parks like Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in New Hampshire that attracted more than 42,000 visitors and supported 34 jobs.

“National parks like Yellowstone, Zion, and Gettysburg connect us with nature and help tell America’s story,” said Michael T. Reynolds, acting director of the National Park Service. “They are also a vital part of our nation’s economy, drawing hundreds of millions of visitors every year who fill the hotels and restaurants, hire the outfitters and rely on other local businesses that help drive a vibrant tourism and outdoor recreation industry.”

Visitor spending in 2016 supported 318,000 jobs, provided $12.0 billion in labor income, $19.9 billion in value added, and $34.9 billion in economic output to the U.S. economy. The lodging sector provided the highest direct contributions with $5.7 billion in economic output to local gateway economies and 56,000 jobs. The restaurants and bars sector provided the next greatest direct contributions with $3.7 billion in economic output to local gateway economies and 71,000 jobs.

Read the entire report here.  Many of these parks are history-related.  Let’s hope they are still around in four years.


Old School

oldschool_large_395x600As I write this Bill O’Reilly’s recent book Old School: Life in the Sane Lane is ranked number 19 in sales at Amazon. That is pretty good.  I imagine O’Reilly’s firing from Fox might be energizing some of his so-called “base.”  It would be interesting to have some data on the overlap between fans who still stand behind O’Reilly after the sexual harassment allegations and those who voted, and continue to support, Donald Trump.

When I learned O’Reilly was in trouble I decided to learn a little bit more about Old School.  I read the free excerpt available on Amazon. In chapter 1, O’Reilly writes:

I will concede that America will never go back to the Old School curriculum that many Baby Boomers experienced.  Not gonna happen with so many lawyers running wild.

Here’s what I am talking about.

If I’d worn a bicycle helmet when I was a kid, I would have been mocked beyond belief, and the helmet would immediately have been taken off my head and placed somewhere far away.  Maybe Rhode Island.

If my mom had defended me after a kid-on-kid altercation, I could never have left the house again.

If my dad had yelled at the Little League coach, air might have left the tires of our family car.

If I’d borrowed money from another kid to buy a Three Musketeers and didn’t pay it back, no one would have played with me.

If a kid kicked someone in a fight, he was blacklisted.  Only fists, and no hitting when someone was down.

If a girl cursed, silence ensued.  For a long time.  And boys never bothered girls because of the “Brother and His Large Friends” rule

I definitely “get” the world of O’Reilly’s Long Island childhood. I can relate to some of it. It was similar to how I grew up as a working-class kid in northern New Jersey.  We can debate whether or not there was anything good or virtuous about this world, but that would require a few more posts.  Whatever the case, this world shaped people like me and O’Reilly.

At the end of chapter one of Old School O”Reilly writes: “It is not Old School to live in the past, but remembering how things were as opposed to how things are now is a required course. So let’s get started.”  This seems disingenuous.  I’ve watched some of O”Reilly’s television show and know that for all his talk about not living in the past he actually does believe that the world of his childhood was better than today’s world. He wants to reclaim it.

And perhaps there are some things to reclaim from this past.  But the former history teacher and writer of several books about “killing” historical figures fails to recognize that times change.

We know that bicycle helmets save lives.

It is a good thing for parents to step-in when bullying occurs.

Parents still yell at Little League games, but the kind of local justice and thuggery that might lead one to let the air out of the tires of a disgruntled Little League parent”s car makes for an unhealthy neighborhood.

And apparently the “girls” O’Reilly harassed at Fox didn’t have big brothers or “large friends.” Hey, maybe the “Brother and His Large Friends” rule is a good one.  If this rule was still in operation today O”Reilly would not only be out a job, but he might also have a bloodied nose and few broken bones. 🙂

O’Reilly is learning his lesson in change over time the hard way.  But I am guessing he’ll be back.  The audience for this kind of Baby Boomers nostalgia is huge.

Mapping Early American Elections


Check out Mapping Early American Elections, a brand new digital history project from the good folks at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University.

Here is a description:

Mapping Early American Elections will offer a window into the formative era of American politics by producing interactive maps and visualizations of Congressional and state legislative elections from 1787 to 1825. The project makes available the electoral returns and spatial data underlying those maps, along with topical essays on the political history of the period and tutorials to encourage users to use the datasets to create their own maps.

The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media received funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2016 to offer enhanced access to the early American election returns in the New Nation Votes collection at Tufts University. The New Nation Votes dataset is the only comprehensive record of elections in existence for the early American republic. Scattered in newspapers, state archives, and local repositories around the country, the election returns have been painstakingly gathered over the past forty-five years by Philip J. Lampi of the American Antiquarian Society.

Rosemarie Zagarri provides more information here.

Lincoln Mullen explains that difference between Mapping Early American Elections and A New Nation Votes.


Liberal Arts Colleges “Punch Above Their Weight”


Messiah College

I do not teach at a liberal arts college.  Messiah College is a comprehensive college that bills itself as a “private Christian college of the liberal arts and applied arts and sciences.” Faculty in the liberal arts, and especially in the humanities, sometimes have to remind our colleagues that the liberal arts are part of our mission.  But I digress.

On the “Technology and Learning” blog at Inside Higher Education, Joshua Kim, the Director of Digital Learning Initiatives at the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning,” reminds us that liberal arts colleges “punch above their weight when it comes to creating ideas and nurturing idea creators.”

If Kim’s name sounds familiar to the readers of The Way of Improvement Leads Home it is because he is one of the many former history majors we have featured in our “So What Can You Do With a History Major” series.  You can read his entry here.

Here is a taste of Kim’s piece on the liberal arts:

…The question is not if a liberal arts college is the best place to learn how to think – and then to think really hard about big questions – but why this is so?

We need a theory of small colleges.  

After living and working at a small liberal arts college with big global ambitions for over a decade, I have a couple of hypotheses.  

My first hypothesis has to do with conversations. If you live and work at a small liberal arts college, you end up having lots of conversations with experts from many different areas of thought. On any given day you will run into life scientists and computer scientists, instructional designers and professors of English. Philosophers and librarians, chemists and historians. Where else in the world do so many people who know so much about so many different things interact with each other on a daily basis than on the campus of a small liberal arts school?

My second hypothesis has to do with culture. People who gravitate to small liberal arts schools value questions over answers. They prize evidence, flexibility, and nuance over certitude and appearance. Substance over flash. A supportive environment for the open exchange of information is essential for the development of new ideas. A suspicion of the conventional wisdom is necessary to advance how we think about an issue. A healthy liberal arts campus is a contentious place of ideas, and a nurturing place of people. The best colleges are living examples that debate and disagreement are necessary components of advancing knowledge, but that a conflict of ideas can occur within a common set of values and cultural norms.

A third reason (my third hypothesis) why small liberal arts colleges are disproportionate generators of ideas – and hence playgrounds for the intellectually curious – has to do with the interaction between teaching and research. Nowhere are these two activities as symbiotic and intertwined as at a small liberal arts college. The best schools invite students into the theories and methods of our academic disciplines at every stage of their education. Professors teach the knowledge that they are creating in real time, using the classroom as a laboratory to test out new ideas and to share new results.  There is a certain excitement that happens when a critical mass of people are all buzzing around thinking new thoughts, exploring new ideas. This can only happen when everyone in the community we call a college is an active participant in the work of discovery.  

Read the entire post here.

Why Are College Students Rejecting Free Speech?

Zimmerman bookWhen Jonathan Zimmerman writes an op-ed I usually read it. As I have said multiple times at this blog, he is the master of the history-informed op-ed.

In his recent piece in The Philadelphia Inquirer, The University of Pennsylvania education and history professor, and the author of the soon-to-be released The Case for Contention: Teaching Controversial Issues in American Schools, tackles free speech on campus in the wake of Middlebury and Claremont-McKenna.

Here is a taste:

How did two ideas that used to run in tandem – free speech and racial diversity – get pit against each other? Part of the answer lies in the remarkable growth of diversity itself. Between 1976 and 2012, the number of African American college students in the United States tripled. And women now receive 57 percent of undergraduate degrees, nearly double their proportion of 50 years ago.

Over the same span, more and more students reported mental-health problems. That reflected a new and welcome awareness of psychological illness, which lost some of its longstanding stigma.

Finally, new technologies inhibited in-person communication. More than half of community college students and a third of four-year college students agree with the statement, “I pretty much keep to myself socially.” Even phone calls are avoided in favor of texting and social media, which give people more control over any interaction – and less anxiety about its outcome.

When you put these factors together, it’s easy to see why there’s less solicitude for free speech at colleges today. Arriving on campuses made up of diverse groups, students are warned that their comments and behavior could cause psychological distress to any of them. That’s a pretty distressing prospect, in and of itself, so we shouldn’t be surprised that many students would rather retreat to Facebook than risk offending someone to their face.

Read the entire piece here.

Morning Headlines

New York Times: “O’Reilly Out at Fox News as Harassment Claims Pile Up”

Washington Post: “Trump and his aides sow confusion with mixed signals on foreign affairs”

Wall Street Journal: “Ex-Arconic CEO Sent Vague Threat to Hedge-Fund Boss”

Harrisburg Patriot-News: “Vandals strike wall collapse site in Harrisburg”

BBC: “Iran accused of ‘alarming provocations'”

CNN: “Judge targeted by Trump gets high-profile case”

FOX: “Trump or Dare?: Trump’s ‘armada’ claim undermined, leaving South Koreans leery”

Academics as “Public Utilities”

giving-adviceI get about 3-4 requests like this a week:

I’m writing you today because as part of my Fine Arts Lab course, I am creating a theatrical design book for an imaginary production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. … I was hoping that you could answer a few questions I have on the direction/production of theatre: When directing with companies/schools, or do you work with shows that are selected for you? [sic] If the former, how do you go about selecting a show? If the latter, how do you start gathering your ideas for the show once it’s given to you? Do you create a design book for shows that you work on/direct? If so, describe it. How did you get involved with the directorial side of theatre? How long have you been directing shows? Do you have any advice for a person looking to direct their first show?

This is an e-mail that a theater professor recently received from a high school student whom she had never met.  It is the focal point of Harvard professor Robin Bernstein‘s piece at The Chronicle of Higher EducationYou Are Not a Public Utility.”

How should one handle this kind of request?  I get them a lot in January and February when students are working on National History Day projects.  But I also get them from adults whom I have never met.

Bernstein suggests some helpful things to consider when these e-mails come.

  1. You are not a public utility.  People are not entitled to your time.
  2. When deciding whether or not to respond consider how much care and time the e-mailer put into his or her request.  Does the correspondent say please?  (Is the correspondent e-mailing on the recommendation of another professor–perhaps someone that you do know).
  3. It’s OK to say no.

Since I have put myself “out there” as a blogger and an advocate for American history I always try to respond to these queries and help where I can.  I do not always respond immediately, but I do try to take these requests seriously.  If I do not respond it is likely that the e-mail got lost in my inbox and I forgot about it.  This sometimes happens.

Having said that, I get some requests from correspondents who do see me as a public utility.  For example, I recently received a twitter message (that’s right, a twitter message) from an undergraduate student at an unnamed Christian university who was writing a historiography paper on my work.  The student asked me if I could answer a series of questions and do so by the end of the day so she could finish her paper and hand it in on time.  I said no and tried to gently explain why contacting me in this way was not a good idea.

I should also add that these kinds of requests often take a lot of time to fulfill.  I think this must always factor into one’s decision as to whether or not to respond to them.  College and universities rarely reward this kind of public work (not even as a form of “service”), so be prepared to do it on your own time.

The Museum of the American Revolution Opens in Philadelphia

Speakers included Joe Biden, David McCullough, Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf, Cokie Roberts, Hamilton star Sydney James Harcourt, a representative from the Oneida Nation, and others.

Glad to see that this museum has finally opened.  I have been following the progress from afar and hope to visit soon.

Read Philly.Com’s coverage of today’s festivities here.

Here is McCullough:

Joe Biden:

Take a virtual tour of the museum here.

Addendum: Boston 1775 has some nice links here.

Intellectuals Catering to the Wealthy

DreznerThis morning I read Eric Alterman‘s review of Daniel Drezner‘s The Ideas Industry: How Pessimists, Partisans, and Plutocrats Are Transforming the Marketplace of Ideas.

Alterman’s review might be summarized in two sentences: “Drezner is a reliable and intelligent guide to the current state of play. But while focusing on the trees, he doesn’t always pay proper attention to the forest, which in this case is the power of money to corrupt and control literally everything which it comes into contact–most particularly the intellectual culture.”

Here is a further taste:

Today, our most famous purveyors of ideas sell themselves to the wealthy much like the courtiers of the Middle Ages. Drezner notes that these ideas are therefore shaped by the “aversion” that plutocrats share toward addressing the problems we face. Inequality? Global warming? Populist nihilism? An explosion of global refugees? From a Silicon Valley perspective, Drezner notes, such things are not a failure of our system but rather “a piece of faulty code that need[s] to be hacked.” Examining data from a survey of Silicon Valley corporate founders, Drezner notes their shared belief that “there’s no inherent conflict between major groups in society (workers vs. corporations, citizens vs. government, or America vs. other nations).”

“Intellectuals who wish to cater to this crowd will find it difficult to contradict the narrative of meritocratic achievement,” Drezner explains. His discussion of the function of the TED phenomenon is especially cogent: “TED talks are designed for thought leaders to appeal to plutocrats. At less than twenty minutes, they are mercifully short—a perfect format for potential patrons. The working rich are busy people operating on a compressed schedule. Time is their scarcest resource, and they have limited attention spans…. The format itself also rewards more utopian thinking. There are no discussants for TED talks, no critical feedback.” It’s important to remember that we are not talking about the Koch brothers’ spending or the corruption of traditional think tanks by corporate money or the purchase by foreign governments of this or that policy shop. This is what’s happening on the progressive side.

Read the entire review at The Nation.

Why Do People Go to Church?


According to a recent Gallup poll, 75% of Americans go to church, primarily, to hear a sermon.  As might be expected, sermons matter more to Protestants than Catholics.  (Interestingly enough, partaking of the sacraments or fulfilling a spiritual obligation does not appear to be listed as an option).

And why do people skip church?  They do so primarily because the prefer to worship individually.  (“Don’t like organized religion” was second).

Here is what the folks at Gallup have concluded about their poll:

Belonging to a church, synagogue or mosque provides people with important social benefits that Gallup research shows improve personal well-being. While social benefits are clearly important to majorities of those who worship regularly, what most motivates them to attend is learning more about the tenets of their faith, as well as connecting that faith to their lives. Protestants, who have more control over their church leadership and flexibility in where they worship, place even greater emphasis on the quality of sermons than do Catholics, although both groups rate sermons highly.

Fulfilling these expectations could be critical in order for religious organizations to survive. But to expand their ranks, reigniting the interest of lapsed members should be a priority. Converting those who say they aren’t very religious or who don’t like organized religion may be futile. But churches and others may find some success with the message that worshipping in communion with others has benefits that can’t be achieved worshipping alone — addressing the No. 1 reason non-attendees give for not attending.

Check it out here.



*How To Think*

jacobsThis is the title of Alan Jacobs‘s forthcoming book.

Here is what you can expect:

Hi. This is the site for my forthcoming book, How to Think, which will be published in the U.S. by Convergent Books, and in the U.K. by Profile Books, in October of 2017

Why did I write this book?

Across the political spectrum, people speak with a single voice on one point and one point only: our public sphere is a great big mess. Mistrust and suspicion of our neighbors, anger at their folly, inadvertent or deliberate misunderstanding of their views, attribution of the worst possible motives to those whose politics we despise: these are the dissonant notes we hear struck repeatedly every day, especially on social media. And while none of this began with the big political stories of 2016 — the Presidential election in the U.S., the Brexit decision in the U.K. — those events seem to have increased the volume pretty dramatically.

All this agitated hostility has grieved me, especially since I know and love people on all sides of the current culture wars. As someone who lives in both academic and religious communities, I am reminded every day of how deeply suspicious those groups can be of one another — and how little mutual comprehension there is. I’ve reflected a great deal on the major causes of our discontent and mutual suspicion, and I’ve wondered whether there might be some contribution I could make to the healing of these wounds.

Eventually two points occurred to me. The first is that many of our fiercest disputes occur because the people involved simply aren’t thinking: they’re reacting or emoting or virtue-signaling or ingroup-identifying. The second is that I have spent my entire career thinking and trying to teach others to think.

When those points became clear in my mind I understood what I needed to do. So I wrote this book.

Here are some of my key themes:

  • the dangers of thinking against others
  • the need to find the best people to think with
  • the error of believing that we can think for ourselves
  • how thinking can be in conflict with belonging
  • the dangers of words that do our thinking for u

Read more here.


Two Princeton American Historians Discuss the Election of 2016

KruseCheck out Princeton historians Sean Wilentz and Kevin Kruse discuss the 2016 presidential at a Princeton alumni event from back in February 2017.  (Thanks to History News Network for bringing this video to my attention).

Here is a taste of the transcript:

Sean Wilentz: I take it our charge is to be historians. Whether you reacted to the events of Nov. 8 with elation or despair or something in between, I think it’s been difficult to get our heads around what happened. Our charge is to try and lend some historical perspective, to put our own loyalties aside for a moment. Thinking historically means trying to understand where this all fits in the recent past, and everything that led up to the recent past, to try and understand the larger historical dynamics that brought us to the place that we were on Nov. 8, and what that portends for the future. I think that’s what we’re here for.

Kevin Kruse: Look, I get asked to comment on the present, or, God forbid, to make predictions about the future, and I always have to remind people that as a historian my professional training is in hindsight. As historians we can look back on snap opinions made after other big elections and see just how wrong those were. After 1964, lots of accounts had said, “My God, this is it for conservatism. You’ll never see a conservative president in America again. Barry Goldwater has killed it. Liberalism is here to stay.” After 1980, “Well, the New Deal is dead. It’ll never come back. It’s going to be swept off the face of the Earth by the Reagan revolution. Social Security is on its last legs.” After Obama in 2008, “Well, we’re now in a post-racial America. Racism is gone. Congratulations, we did it.” 

So there’s this trend of overreacting to a presidential election, and we have to remember that a presidential election, for all of the very real ramifications it has on contemporary politics and policy, is but one data point in a much larger stream. And it’s a data point that I think we need to take in its proper context, because we had 123 million votes cast in this election. If you moved 50,000 of those in just three states, we’d be talking about President Hillary Clinton today, and drawing a whole bunch of other wrong, big conclusions about what that meant. 

SW: Well, let’s look at the proper data point in order to start to understand this. Certainly something happened 50 years ago, and you mentioned the Johnson–Goldwater election. A rupture did occur, I think, in American political life about the time of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Vietnam War, and then Watergate. And I think, in some ways, anything we’re talking about is still a product of that rupture. 

Conservatism didn’t fade away at all. It was just clearing its throat, if you will. Certainly something happened, and it had to do with civil rights, and it had to do with foreign policy, and how the two collided. And it had to do, I think, with — and this is very pertinent to what happened in November — the legitimacy of the political parties and of the political system, between the credibility gap of the late ’60s that was laid at Johnson’s door, and then Watergate. And I think what we’re seeing today, in part, can be seen as the final denouement of the delegitimization that occurred back then. Wilentz

KK: That makes a lot of sense. If we think back to that period from the mid-’60s to the mid-’70s, you can see all sorts of … for lack of a better term, the establishment cracks up. First and foremost the political firmament, the kind of postwar consensus, for all of its flaws; people believed there was a certain center of gravity there, a certain trust in the political system that gets badly eroded first by Vietnam and then obliterated by Watergate. There had been a certain trust in the postwar economy, a sense that the industrial economy, in its kind of catering to a consumer culture, was constantly on the rise. That, too, peaks at about the same time for a different set of reasons: the rise of deindustrialization; the new competition from abroad, like West Germany and Japan; the shift of factories to places from China to Mexico. So the manufacturing economy starts to crumble, too. And then there are changes that I think we would regard as good: The crack of the old racial order and the old systems of segregation, the old systems of immigration restriction — those fall in ’64 and ’65, and set apace a brand new world, a world that is much more open but I think a lot more chaotic, too. And so the ground had shifted underneath people’s feet in a variety of ways, all at the same time. 

Read the entire transcript here.


David McCullough Talks About His New Book (and other things)

McCulloughOver at Time, Olivia Waxman interviews author and historian David McCullough about his new book The American Spirit: Who We Are and What We Stand For.  The book is an anthology of McCullough’s recent speeches.

In the course of the interview McCullough talks about the purpose of history, American exceptionalism, historical monuments, museums, and a bunch of other stuff.

Here is a small taste:

What name should historians give this period of history we’re living in?

It’s not my profession to judge things now. You’ve got to wait 50 years. But I’m sure they will wonder what in the world overcame us.

You were on the first board of scholars for the new Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia, which opens this week. What are its most valuable artifacts in your opinion, the ones that people should make sure to see…

I don’t think the artifacts are the most important.

So what is important about the museum’s collection?

What’s so important about it is it’s the first museum on the subject of the American Revolution that we’ve ever had. And, underline this, we can never know enough about the American Revolution if we want to understand who we are, why we are the way we are, and why we’ve accomplished what we’ve been able to accomplish that no other country has.

What do you think future historians will think of the material that we’ll leave them from today?

We’re producing so much for future historians that they may be just overwhelmed, because so much of it is redundant and boring. There’s a record of everything, every day. Facebook, for God’s sake! It’s like a landslide, every day, of stuff.

So the fact that we’re not writing letters to each other won’t hurt them?

Oh, that’s a huge loss. Huge loss, because no one in public life would dare keep a diary anymore. It could be subpoenaed and used against you in court. And nobody writes letters. If you’re interested in immortality, start keeping a diary, and when you get to the point when you think maybe the curtain is going to come down on you, give it to the Library of Congress, and you’ll be quoted forever because it will be the only diary ever in existence.

Is there a particular biography you wish you had written or would like to see a historian write? Some figure who you think is ripe for exploration?

I think there’s a good biography to be written about Gerald Ford. He was a far more interesting figure of depth as a leader than he’s given credit for.

What’s your favorite historical monument or museum in the U.S. or abroad?

The Shaw Memorial in Boston. A powerful one, in the extreme, because it gives the black troops that served in the [Civil] War a chance to be seen as individuals and not just mechanical figures.

Read the entire piece here.

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


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.

Are You Looking for A Literary Agent?

charlestonandtheemergenceofmiddleclasscultureintherevolutionaryamericaIn October 2016, Jennifer Goloboy, an independent scholar and literary agent, visited The Author’s Corner to talk about her book Charleston and the Emergence of Middle-Class Culture in the Revolutionary Era.

And yesterday The Junto published her post “Finding an Agent.”

Here is a taste:

As an agent and historian, I’m here to explain the process of finding an agent. Don’t worry—you can do this!

Before you initiate contact with agents, you need to collect the materials that an agent will likely request. If you’ve written a novel, you need to have the manuscript completely finished. Many agents will also want to read a synopsis of the novel. On the other hand, if you’ve written a work of non-fiction, all you’ll need are a book proposal and the first three chapters. The book proposal will compare your book to other books in the field, explain your plans for marketing the book, and outline the full manuscript. (You might consider writing a proposal for your novel, too—it never hurts to have a well-thought-out plan for publicizing your book.)

Then you need to write a query letter, which is the standard letter that you’ll send to all the agents who interest you. The information I particularly need to see is

  • The genre of the book, and its length (if unfinished, its projected length)
  • What the book is about.  
  • Your bio, with a focus on why you’re qualified to write this book.

Remember, the goal in this letter is to entice an agent to request more material from you. You don’t need to explain the entire book.  

Read the entire post here.

Georgetown University Apologizes


Yesterday Rev. Timothy Kesicki, president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, apologized to more than 100 descendants of slaves who were sold by Jesuit-run Georgetown University in 1838.  The apology was part of a “contrition” liturgy. It was a form of penance.  You can read Kesicki’s remarks here.

In 1838 Georgetown was involved in the sale of 272 slaves from Jesuit plantations in Maryland.  The slaves were sold to help the college pay off its debts.

Here is a taste of Adelle Banks’s article at Religion News Service:

The “Liturgy of Remembrance, Contrition, and Hope” was steeped in symbolism of time and space. It was held two days after Easter, when Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, and two days after Emancipation Day, a holiday that marks the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia in 1862.

The school decided to name one building Isaac Hawkins Hall, in honor of a slave who was 65 years old when he was sold in 1838. His name was the first of the slaves listed on the sale documents, and most of his children and grandchildren were also sold to Louisiana businessmen.

Hall’s labor and his value helped build Georgetown and rescue it from financial crisis, according to the working group report.

The day’s written program noted that Isaac was the name of a biblical figure who was spared by God, but that the now-honored slave with that name “was not spared. He was sold.”

A second building was designated Anne Marie Becraft Hall, in honor of a free African-American woman who founded a school for Catholic black girls in the Georgetown neighborhood and later joined the Oblate Sisters of Providence, the oldest group of nuns started by women of African descent.

Previously, those buildings were named for the Rev. Thomas Mulledy and the Rev. William McSherry, respectively, former university presidents who were priests and supporters of the slave trade. In 2015, the buildings were temporarily named Freedom Hall and Remembrance Hall.

Read the entire article here.

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