The Week in Early American History

TWEAHWelcome to your weekly roundup of early American history headlines. Now that you’ve aced your presidential history knowledge,  and reviewed this reading list of their lives, it’s on to the links! Continue reading

The Week in Early American History

TWEAH

I may be imagining things, but it seems that every time I take a turn with TWEAH there’s a major weather event going on outside my window. That may not be the case, but this edition comes to you with the first New England snow of the season. So if you’re stuck inside this morning, or just back from shoveling, take a few minutes to make a hot drink and see where The Junto may lead you.

Continue reading

Historical Heroes

Albert Gallatin (1848)I don’t like Abraham Lincoln. Working in Springfield, Illinois, that’s not an especially popular viewpoint to hold. Yet it is working in Springfield, Illinois, that has really led me to that conclusion. It’s almost impossible to escape the shadow of Honest Abe here. Bronze statues sit prominently in downtown; all sorts of programs and buildings at my university bear Lincoln’s name. His face even peers out from every license plate in the state. It’s a historical cult of personality that can feel alienating to a revolutionary specialist.

(Though he does have a good nose for sniffing out dodgy car dealers.) Continue reading

The Week in Early American History

TWEAHHappy Mother’s Day! Go call your Mom, then come back and take a look at our weekly round-up.

First, in honor of the holiday, one above-the-fold link: Heather Cox Richardson, writing at the Historical Society blog, looks at the origins of Mother’s Day. Hint: it’s not about “people be[ing] nice to their mothers.”

Continue reading

The Week in Early American History

Unearthing the Past - UVA MagazineThis week brings a rich harvest of material on slavery, memory, and public history.

First, we have two fascinating filmed conversations. At the Graduate Center at CUNY, James Oakes talks to  Sean Wilentz about his new book, Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861-1865. And at the New-York Historical Society,  Harold Holzer speaks with Tony Kushner on the subject of Lincoln (and, of course, Lincoln).

Next, we take a look into slavery at Jefferson’s university. In an article in University of Virginia Magazine and a blogpost for Encyclopedia Virginia, Brendan Wolfe contextualizes a recent archaeological discovery.

In the Washington Post, meanwhile, J. Freedom du Lac reports on Colonial Williamsburg’s difficulty recruiting slave interpreters. And how did 19th-century African American portray their own emancipations? Good interviews Deborah Willis and Barbara Krauthamer about their photographic history.

Continue reading

The Abolitionists Go to War: Part 3

Harpers FerryThe final episode of The Abolitionists aired this week on PBS. The entire three-hour documentary is now available online here (Part 3 begins at the 1:40 mark). A full transcript is also available. Kenneth Owen and Jonathan Wilson previously discussed the first two episodes for The Junto. Today, we discuss the final hour.

Jonathan Wilson:

We’ve been fairly hard on The Abolitionists thus far, so I’m happy to say I thought the final chapter of the film is the strongest, both historiographically and dramatically. This episode reflects recent scholarship on slave rebellions, and on John Brown in particular, by meditating in a fairly sophisticated way on the uses and languages of violence.

Continue reading

A Stack of Bibles

President Barack Obama takes the oath of office, Jan. 21, 2013.  <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/imagecache/embedded_img_full/image/image_file/20130121-oath.jpeg">Official White House photo by Sonya N. Hebert.</a>

As has been widely reported, on Monday President Obama swore on a stack of bibles to uphold the Constitution. On one hand, maybe doubling-up on the sacred iconography will reassure those on the right who doubt the President’s sincerity, but the primary purpose was to honor two periods of American history simultaneously. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, and the bibles were direct material links to those eras: one was the bible on which Abraham Lincoln took the oath of office in 1861, and the other belonged to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

United in this one event, they are very different books. The Lincoln bible has, for all intents and purposes, never been used.  Continue reading