The First Year of Founders Online: An Interview with Kathleen Williams

Founders OnlineFounders Online launched just over a year ago on June 13, 2013. Today, The Junto catches up with Kathleen Williams, the Executive Director of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), to get a sense of how Founders Online is being used, how much it is being used, and who is using it. We also discussed what the future may hold in store for Founders Online in terms of further website and content development. (NB: In my capacity as a Research Assistant at the Franklin Papers, I have been proofreading the Founders Online transcriptions of the Franklin volumes. I have also used the database for research, both for pieces I have written for the blog as well as my dissertation.)  Continue reading

Varieties of Heritage Interpretation

WashingtonMemorialChapelOver the last few days, I’ve joined tours of several historic sites around Philadelphia. It’s common for me to visit historic sites, of course, but these tours are different.

For once, I’m doing my best to act and perhaps think like a normal tourist. I’m seeking out the most mainstream experiences instead of trying to strike out alone. (“Tickets for the one o’clock trolley tour, please! And where’s your gift shop?”) Not coincidentally, I’m also visiting these sites in rapid succession, as if I were a vacationer and not a local resident. It’s been a lot of fun.

It has also tested one of my casual assumptions about these places.

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Slavery and Reparations: A Voice from Barbados and a Report from Ghana

atlanticYou’ve probably heard about Ta-Nehisi Coates’s powerful Atlantic cover essay, “The Case for Reparations,” which appeared two weeks ago and has ignited a nationwide political conversation about the legacy of slavery and racial oppression in the United States. The level of debate among Coates’s many academic admirers and critics—including political commentators on both the Left and the Right—has been very high. Continue reading

Guest Post: Dramaturging The Tower: A Historian’s Cannibalistic Adventures in Theater

TOWER_POSTCARD_FRONT-1 (2)Today’s guest post come from Maya Rook, a writer and artist living in Brooklyn, New York. She is pursuing her PhD in American Cultural History at Drew University. Collaborating on The Tower has inspired her to write her dissertation about the Donner Party. If she were to eat a piece of human flesh, it would likely be from the belly or rear—braised until the meat is tender and then broiled so the skin reaches crispy perfection. Check out her food blog and personal website. Continue reading

Godly Heritage and Plantation Chic: The Case of Vision Forum

Detail from a page of the Vision Forum 2014 catalogA recent news story has me thinking about the weird enduring appeal of the Lost Cause. It seems to me that this news story about a contemporary religious organization might lead us into an interesting case study. Why, at this late date, do so many Americans still want to see the antebellum South as a tragically vanished world of nobility and grace?

Most early Americanists are familiar with David Barton, a conservative activist who argues that the United States was founded as a Christian nation. He’s been mentioned here several times as the most visible proponent of a view that’s common among members of the “Religious Right.”[1] What’s less widely understood is how often his Christian-founding ideology overlaps with a claim advanced by a few other evangelical conservatives: that the Confederacy—and antebellum southern culture, if not slavery itself—are also part of “America’s Godly heritage.”[2] In these circles, in other words, the Founding is sometimes wrapped up with the Old South.

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Wood & Holton on the Constitution

Was the purpose of the constitution to protect democracy from being ruined by the people or to protect commerce from being ruined by democracy? This was one of the questions put to Gordon Wood and Woody Holton in a debate held a few weeks ago at the University of South Carolina. A full video of the event has just been released on YouTube, and is embedded below. For anyone familiar with the work of these two historians, the debate will constitute a useful recap of the distinction between their two interpretations of the origins of the federal constitution. And for others, I hope it might be a kind of teaser for their excellent books! Continue reading