The Week in Early American History

TWEAHHappy Memorial Day to our readers in the United States. This week’s links begin with reminders about the origins of the holiday. BackStory, with Peter Onuf, Ed Ayers, and Brian Balogh, rebroadcast an episode on American death and mourning, featuring interviews with Drew Gilpin Faust and Kate Sweeney. On PBS, American Experience re-aired Death and the Civil War, which is currently available to stream for free.

In awards news, Andrew Jackson O’Shaughnessy received the George Washington Book Prize for The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of the Empire. The other two finalists were Jeffrey L. Pasley, for The First Presidential Contest, and Alan Taylor, for The Internal Enemy.

In news of political controversy, Ta-Nehisi Coates published “The Case for Reparations,” a long essay exploring the history of American racism and its structural legacies today. Among the responses Coates’s work generated were Alyssa Rosenberg’s essay on how artists effect culture change, and on the other hand, N.D.B. Connolly’s argument that the case for reparations needs to pay more attention to capitalism and the tangible structures of oppression.

In marine archaeology news, researchers with the National Marine Sanctuary Program may have located the wreckage of the Planter, a Confederate ship commandeered by Robert Smalls and other slaves in Charleston in 1862.

In news of religion and race, Carol Faulkner reviewed John Demos’s new book The Heathen School, a history of the Foreign Mission School in Connecticut, where marriages between Cherokee students and white women strained evangelicals’ commitment to Indian missions and uplift.

In public history news, Colonial Williamsburg bid $7.4 million to purchase Carter’s Grove Plantation, which it sold in 2011 for $15.7 million. And Governor Terry McAuliffe of Virginia visited Werowocomoco, for which reports say the Obama administration is requesting funds to incorporate it into the National Park System.

In news of recontextualized founding documents, Cass Sunstein reviewed a book by retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who is proposing six new constitutional amendments. The political philosopher Danielle Allen reflected on the egalitarian implications of teaching the Declaration of Independence to night-school students.

Finally, in news of academic advice as Father’s Day approaches, David Perry discussed the challenges and advantages of being an academic dad, which, he said, carries different connotations from those of being an academic mom.


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