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Category: History and Historians

Talking About Christianity and Native American Communities

Talking About Christianity and Native American Communities

I was raised in a Catholic household by parents who are now Unitarians.  I was never confirmed, was withdrawn by my parents from Our Lady of Assumption school after I finished sixth grade, and long ago left the church.  There is nothing that I can accept as true in the Apostles’ Creed I was expected to memorize as a child. I write this to let you know where I am coming from when I tell you I am nonetheless sometimes…

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It’s Finals Week!

It’s Finals Week!

Your final exam in Western Humanities, people.  Please discuss quietly in your groups.   Choose one of the following two options as the basis for your essay:   1).  Read closely and thoughtfully Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” A copy is available on the class Canvas Page in the “Martin Luther King” folder.  I would like you to read the letter very carefully and think seriously about it.   You will see from King’s letter that he…

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New York Historians and the State’s Freedom of Information Law–The Time to Act is Now

New York Historians and the State’s Freedom of Information Law–The Time to Act is Now

This morning’s Rochester Democrat and Chronicle included an editorial that should be of interest to all historians working in New York state and all historians anywhere interested in New York history.  According to the D&C editorial board, the bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Amy Paulin (D-Scarsdale) to strengthen New York’s FOIL (Freedom of Information Law) is a significant piece of legislation that is worthy of support. The bill has passed both the State Assembly and the Senate, has bipartisan support, and…

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Historians and the Problem of Evil

Historians and the Problem of Evil

Elzbieta Plackowska, forty-five years old, was convicted late in September for murdering her seven-year old son Justin and a five-year old girl, Olivia Dworakowski, who she was babysitting.  The crime occurred more than five years ago, on 30 October 2012. After telling the children to get down on their knees to pray, she started after them with a pair of kitchen knives. She stabbed Justin more than one hundred times, then slashed his throat. Olivia she stabbed more than fifty…

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My Imposter Story: Some Thoughts on Ralph Ketcham

My Imposter Story: Some Thoughts on Ralph Ketcham

A couple of weeks ago I attended a memorial service for one of my graduate school professors, Ralph Ketcham, who had died last spring.  A great and productive scholar and teacher, active up until the end.  A lot to admire. I wanted to finish Ralph’s final book, Public Spirited Citizenship: Leadership and Good Government in the United States, before I wrote more about my experience with him.  As in so much of Ralph’s scholarship, James Madison’s political writings, and Madison’s…

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Some More Thoughts on Why We Need Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Some More Thoughts on Why We Need Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to apologize for the damage done by residential schools for First Nations children in Newfoundland and Labrador.  He will do so on November 24.  Like many apologies, I suppose, it is not enough to erase the trauma suffered by so many First Nations families. In the end, however, there are limits as to what can be done to address the crimes and the mistakes of the past. Acknowledging, apologizing, and a pledge to…

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A Plea for Justice on Indigenous Peoples’ Day

A Plea for Justice on Indigenous Peoples’ Day

In Native American history, there are lots of guilty parties, but Christopher Columbus is guiltier than most. There is absolutely nothing edifying in this story of avarice, violence, and religious bigotry, save for the native peoples who at times and places survived the carnage. The continued celebration of Columbus Day does a historical injustice to the native peoples of two continents and the Caribbean. The Columbus Day holiday found its origins in the Italian-American community. Columbus, quite likely from Genoa,…

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One Ring to Rule Them All: Roanoke and that Signet Ring

One Ring to Rule Them All: Roanoke and that Signet Ring

Recently Smithsonian Magazine published a piece by Andrew Lawler on the signet ring found on Hatteras Island by archaeologist David Sutton Phelps. Phelps, who taught at East Carolina University, died in 2009. As Lawler correctly points out, The 1998 discovery electrified archaeologists and historians. The artifact seemed a rare remnant of the first English attempt to settle the New World that might also shed light on what happened to 115 men, women, and children who settled the coast, only to…

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We Are Teachers

We Are Teachers

Many years ago I served on a search committee for a position in the history of American Foreign Policy. For many reasons it was an odd search, and we ultimately did not succeed in hiring anyone for the opening.  We interviewed one candidate over the phone, with an exceptional record of publication, and a strong, Ivy League academic pedigree. He was doing a post-doc at some thinktank somewhere and, when asked about teaching said that, yes, he did enjoy it,…

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Creative Destruction: Or, Let’s Bash Some Monuments

Creative Destruction: Or, Let’s Bash Some Monuments

It’s what we do, at least metaphorically. For historians, the destruction of monuments can be a good thing, a visceral and often-times important act of revision. It is an opportunity to replace dated and damaging interpretations of the past with more complicated, nuanced, and correct stories. We do not necessarily need to destroy Confederate statues to do this, but certainly we can reinterpret them, knock them down a few pegs, and re-write the stories that these racist monuments to white supremacy…

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