Culture & Literature
American History

American History August 2019

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6 Issues

in this issue

8 min.

Highlander Center Burned The main office building at the Highlander Education and Research Center in New Market, Tennessee, burned down on March 29, 2019. Highlander, a center for civil rights and social justice, was founded in 1932. Near the ruins was found a white power symbol associated with an assailant accused of killed 50 and wounding 39 in attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, two weeks before. “We are not surprised that this space, one where marginalized people working across sectors, geographies and identities show up consistently, has been repeatedly targeted over our 87 years of existence,” the center said in a statement. Established by Tennessean Myles Horton as the Highlander Folk School to aid mine and textile workers in unionizing, the facility became a hub for civil rights campaigners…

1 min.

John Geoghegan (“Sky Stones,” p. 58) is director of the Siloe Research Institute’s archival division. His most recent article was “Last of the Red-Hot Steamers” (April 2017). Former San Francisco Weekly music critic Ian S. Port (“The Deep End,” p. 42) is the author of The Birth of Loud: Leo Fender, Les Paul, and the Guitar-Pioneering Rivalry that Shaped Rock ’n’ Roll. He has written for Rolling Stone, the Village Voice, and The Believer, among other outlets. He lives in New York City. Rosemarie Ostler (“Historic Hooch,” p. 50) writes about American English and other language-related topics. Her most recent book is Splendiferous Speech: How Early Americans Pioneered Their Own Brand of English. She lives in Eugene, Oregon, and tweets @Ostlerwords. Bruce M. Venter, PhD (“Desperate Hours,” p. 32), wrote The Battle of…

1 min.

Camel Parking Only “Camel Corps” (April 2019) reminded me of a print I bought many years ago. The photo was taken in 1863 by Rudolph D’Heureuse on a California Survey Expedition. The glass plate negative is owned by the Bancroft Library at the University of California. I blogged about this at tatteredandlostphotographs.blogspot.com/2012/08/deconstructingold-west-part-6.html. Linda Robertson Santa Rosa, California The editor replies: D’Heureuse’s image shows a U.S. Army dromedary at the quartermaster’s warehouse of the New San Pedro, California, government depot. During the Civil War, San Pedro, 30 miles south of Los Angeles, was a port for Union troops and supplies being directed against a Confederate incursion into the Southwest. D’Heureuse, a mining engineer, surveyor, and inventor, made multiple photographs while traveling with a camel-mounted U.S. Army surveying expedition. Ring a Bell? I have one of the bells…

5 min.
innovation and inspiration

James Whitman is a historian and professor at Yale Law School. His 2017 book, Hitler’s American Model, explores how racist legislation enacted by the United States influenced development of the Nazi-era statutes on race and citizenship in Germany that came to be known as the Nuremberg Laws. How did you come to this topic? I’m not the first to wonder if the Jim Crow era influenced the Nazis, but I looked a little harder than other people had and found what I think was real influence. I began by pulling Mein Kampf off the shelf; I found a passage in which Hitler describes America as the one state that is making progress toward creation of a healthy racial order. And I thought there must be more. Explain this startling link. Upon taking…

5 min.
bogus bill

He’d ride into town on a fancy rig pulled by fine horses. He’d draw a crowd by sticking a clay pipe into a manikin’s mouth, striding 200 paces, raising his rifle, and shooting the pipe out of the dummy’s yap. Then he’d whip out a $10 bill and offer it to anyone able to duplicate his feat. Few people could. That’s how the bearded stranger sporting flashy clothes and gold rings got folks’ attention in small upstate New York towns in the decades before the Civil War. Attention gotten, he’d introduce himself as an “herbal doctor” or a “botanic physician” and peddle bottles of his home-brewed patent medicine. The stuff could cure any ailment, he promised—even cancer. Sometimes he flogged purple pills he said were excellent for stomach complaints. However, he…

6 min.
unimpeachably yours

Since Donald Trump’s election, his most passionate opponents have been transfixed by the vision of impeaching him. Website Impeach-DonaldTrumpNow.org appeared as the inaugural confetti was being swept up. Trump’s Russophilia looked for months as if it might supply the legal MacGuffin. Former CIA director John Brennan declared Trump’s performance at a 2018 press conference with Vladimir Putin “imbecilic,” “treasonous,” and beyond the threshold of high crimes and misdemeanors. Once the Mueller report found no collusion, impeachers shifted focus to Trump’s tax returns, said to be as ugly as a yeti; they are certainly as elusive. In March The New Yorker, blue America’s Weekly Reader, ran a think piece titled “The Pros and Cons of Impeaching Trump.” To many New Yorker readers, the big reveal will be that there are cons. Two presidents,…