A selection of thought-provoking reads from the month that was…
Put simply, there is a plausible (in theory, at least) nonracist reading of King’s preoccupation with the preservation of “Western civilization” or the president’s belief that some countries, like Haiti, are “shitholes” whose residents should be kept off American soil. By contrast, blackface is an unambiguous form of racist mockery with clear origins in the virulent white supremacist history of the United States.
Within weeks, the social network would spread across the school; within months, the Ivy League. High schoolers arrived the next year, then college students across the globe, and finally anyone who wanted to in September 2006. Four years after it was founded, Facebook hit 100 million users. Four years after that, 1 billion. Now 2 billion people use Facebook every month. That’s 500 million more users than the total number of personal computers in use around the globe.
These books are usually lengthy; intellectual historians have read a lot, after all, and they want us to read a lot, too. But “The Ideas That Made America” by Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen is an anomaly in the genre. Its brevity is a point of pride, yet it aspires to do a little of everything. It covers various schools in America’s life of the mind, from transcendentalists to progressives, from the Harlem Renaissance to mid-20th-century conservatives. . . . “There is no period in American history when thinkers have not wrestled with the appropriate balance of power between self-interest and social obligation,” Ratner-Rosenhagen writes, identifying a central theme not just of her book but of the republic.
My personal favorite? The “Deadly Kiss,” a single-shot lipstick gun the museum claims was specifically designed for female spies to use against targets in the boudoir. Sex sells. And kills. However, on a return visit a few days later in the sober morning hours, the museum had a different feel. Donning a full-length leather commissar’s coat and military hat for the Instagram-ready photo at K.G.B. officer’s desk was kitschy fun in the moment, but the genocidal history of the Soviet regime that undergirds the history of it all can easily get lost in the whole Spy vs. Spy, Get Smart, “Moose and Squirrel” vibe.
And perhaps the greatest danger posed to literature is not any newfangled technology or whiz-bang rearrangement of our synapses, but plain old human greed in its latest, greatest iteration: an online retailer incorporated in the same year The Gutenberg Elegies was published. In the last twenty-five years, Amazon has gorged on late capitalism’s values of ease and cheapness, threatening to monopolize not only the book world, but the world-world. In the face of such an insidious, omnivorous menace—not merely the tech giant, but the culture that created and sustains it—I find it difficult to disentangle my own fear about the future of books from my fear about the futures of small-town economies, of American democracy, of the earth and its rising seas.
Clark’s book considers Frederick alongside three other German rulers: the 17th-century Elector Frederick William, Otto von Bismarck and Adolf Hitler. There is very little in Time and Power, though, about warfare or nation-building. Clark’s interest is not in what his chosen subjects did, but in how they positioned themselves in relation to past, present and future.
Edward Gay Robinson would have been 100 years old Wednesday. The only child of a sharecropper and a domestic servant, he was born in Jackson, Louisiana, 13 days after Jackie Roosevelt Robinson, another American icon who helped change the face of our nation. While Jackie operated on the national stage, Eddie worked in the universe of black college football, where he served as head football coach for an incredible 56 years.
Rather than honor the man who made the United States possible, we now – in effect – celebrate the legacies of all our “presidents,” including such notables as Martin Van Buren, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, and Warren G. Harding.
Along the edge of Money Road, across from the railroad tracks, an old grocery store rots. . . . Some residents in the area have looked on the store as a stain on the community that should be razed and forgotten. Others have said it should be restored as a tribute to Emmett and a reminder of the hate that took his life.
Every Sunday at 8 p.m. EST, Herbert and other historians, plus people who just enjoy history, watch the same movie. They tweet along, sharing insight, tidbits, and punchlines. They prepared for the 2019 Oscars, by watching Roma, a Best Picture nominee. On Sunday, they’ll live-tweet the awards ceremony — which will be fun and a break from the norm, Herbert says.