Culture & Literature
American History

American History October 2019

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6 Issues

in this issue

1 min.
explore the history of alabama’s gulf coast

Visit historic Fort Morgan and travel back in time when the thundering boom of cannons protected the turquoise waterways guarding Mobile, Alabama. And imagine Union Admiral David Farragut’s immortal shout of “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” as he led his ships through a treacherous stretch of mined water in Mobile Bay while under fire from Fort Morgan’s guns. The picturesque fort, built between 1819 and 1823, is a site not to be missed on any visit to Mobile Bay. Another point of interest is the Mobile Bay Civil War Trail, an impressive, historic passageway stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to North Mobile County. Tour the many unique, historical museums and sites throughout Alabama’s Gulf Coast, including Native American museums and mounds; lighthouses; plantations and antebellum mansions; military history,…

8 min.

Slavery’s Start Four centuries ago White Lion, a British privateer flying a Dutch flag, landed at Old Point Comfort on Chesapeake Bay. Today the site of Fort Monroe National Monument, the point was where the White Lion crew delivered some 20 people kidnapped by Portuguese colonists and Imbangala mercenaries from Ndongo, a village in what is now Angola—the first Africans forced to toil in an English colony in North America. The quadricentennial of this transaction, prelude to nearly 250 years of African enslavement in English North America, is being remembered all year at Fort Monroe. Activities August 23-25 will highlight the captives’ arrival and promote a newly opened visitors’ center. The Africans had been aboard San Juan Bau-tista, a Spanish slaving ship White Lion had seized thinking it bore treasure. Records show…

1 min.

Joseph Connor (“Give ’Em Healthcare, Harry,” p. 40) is a former prosecutor who lives in New Jersey. His most recent article was “Born in the USA” (June 2019). Mike Coppock (“The Weight of Gold,” p. 32) is a seasonal historic interpreter at Denali National Park in Alaska, where from May to October he informs visitors about the history and activities of winter dogsled patrols that discourage poaching and supply facilities around the park. Barbara Finlay (“Shell Game,” p. 56), professor emerita at Texas A&M University, wrote “The Best Kind of Cultural Collision” (August 2018). “Ya Basta!”, a 1991 paper by the late activist Texas attorney Emily Jones, inspired Finlay to research and write “Shell Game.” Raanan Geberer (“Off the Rails,” p. 48), a writer based in New York City, most recently wrote “Yanks…

1 min.

Common Knowledge “Little Ice Age Linked to Die-Off in the Americas” (June 2019) explains the abbreviation “CE” as meaning “Christian Era,” ignoring the term’s other meaning, “Common Era.” Replacement with BCE (“Before the Common Era”) and CE of BC and AD are an attempt to get away from the Christianization of dating events. Toby KurtzSpicewood, Texas Immigrant Song Jus soli, the law of the soil (“Born in the USA,” June 2019), is not unusual; in the Western hemisphere it predominates. Among crimes the Declaration of Independence attributed to Great Britain’s king were “obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners” and “refusing to pass others to encourage their Migrations hither.” The author cites as a source the Center for Immigration Studies, which the Southern Poverty Law Center identifies as a hate group whose statements “have…

5 min.
echoes of empire

Daniel Immerwahr, associate professor of history at Northwestern University, is author of How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2019). His first book, Thinking Small: The United States and the Lure of Community Development, won the Organization of American Historians’ Merle Curti Award. You assert that the United States has a long unacknowledged history of empire. Often, when we talk about “American empire,” we talk about imperialism, from Manifest Destiny to military interventions in the Middle East. When I say the history of the United States is one of empire, I’m referring not to imperialism but to territory, not to the character of the country but to its shape. Ever since gaining independence from Britain, the United States has contained not only…

6 min.
pass the bucks

Americans want presidents who are leaders—that is, special—but we also want presidents who are like us: apotheoses of averageness. So every presidential campaign sees a round of passing the bucks, with wealthy candidates explaining away their good fortune—in both senses of the word—while rivals blazon it. Sometimes hijinks ensue. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), the socialist who runs as a Democrat, turned out to be a millionaire. Critics pounced. “I wrote a best-selling book,” he snapped. “If you write a best-selling book, you can be a millionaire too.” Democratic front-runner Joe Biden labels himself “Middle Class Joe.” Yet he too belongs to the millionaire’s club, thanks in part to a multi-book deal. Sniffs Adam Green of the Progressive Campaign Committee: “Joe Biden is the opposite of someone who will challenge big corporate…