Category Archives: Political History

August 30, 2008, 1:57 pm

Is Sarah Palin Good For Women?

A commenter who can only be known as Anonymous 7:50 (choose names, people! it’s half the fun of blogging!) asked yesterday on my Obama post, “So, given all that, what didja think of the Palin selection today? Another historic step in the advancement of
women?” I hope this person is one of my students, because it is one of the best questions I have been asked lately and the idea that I might encounter Anonymous 7:50 in the classroom sounds fun.

My answer, less direct than you might like, is: Yes. I Suppose. And No. Not Really. And — Good For Her! Let’s Crack Open A Cold One!

For details on Sarah Palin’s career, you can go to this article in the Los Angeles Times. For her official bio, including pictures of her family and of the Governor holding a dead caribou by its rack, click here. For a checklist of why Palin strengthens the McCain ticket among conservatives, go to the…

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June 29, 2008, 2:36 pm

Until Florida Is Free, None Of Us Is Free

One of the workshops at History Camp featured three wonderful young southern historians who are writing about late twentieth-century political mobilizations in the former Confederacy. A conversation which I love to have, with colleagues and with students, is: does the South still cohere as a region? If so, what is “regional” about it and — given the vast emigration of black and white southerners to northern and western industrial cities in the twentieth century, what characteristics of the “south” are shared by other places? And to what extent does the contemporary South draw on its past for distinctiveness?

I thought of our conversation when I saw this story on the Associated Press wire, which describes an attack last night on city-owned vehicles in Orlando, Florida. Cars were sprayed with anti-Obama slogans such as “Obama smokes crack” and what the AP reporter described as “a…

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April 21, 2008, 1:04 pm

Be Afraid of Your Wife: Feminism and the History of Everyday Rage

(Crossposted at Cliopatra)

A Vietnam-era suburban housewife is standing in front of a kitchen counter. She stares calmly and without expression into the camera, as if she is the star of her own cooking show. “Knife,” she intones, displaying a knife in her right hand. With short, violent strokes she stabs the cutting board in front of her. She puts the knife aside. “Measuring cup,” she intones, and begins to flip an invisible liquid into the face of an invisible person. “Nutcracker,” she says, holding up the new implement and snapping it together sharply three or four times before setting it down.

Ouch. “Semiotics of the Kitchen” (1975), one of five short performance pieces produced and filmed by Lynda Begler, shows how ordinary kitchen implements express a woman’s rage, or what Betty Friedan famously called “the problem that has no name.” But Friedan – and…

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January 19, 2008, 1:30 pm

Another Reason for Historians to Become Activist Intellectuals: National Religious History Week

In this week’s edition of The Nation, Chris Hedges points us to House Resolution 888 intended, among other things, to establish National Religious History Week. Unfortunately, you can only access the full story if you are a subscriber to the Nation, but the bill, according to Hedges, “is an insidious attempt by the radical Christian right to rewrite American history, to turn the founding fathers from deists into Christian fundamentalists, to proclaim us officially to be a Christian nation.”  Skillfully deploying a tactic invented by historian Carter Woodson in 1926, when he created National Negro History Week (now Black History Month) as a way of addressing the absence of African-Americans from school curricula, HR. 888 also — by adopting a progressive intellectual tactic and turning it to its own purposes — implicitly represents evangelical Christians as an oppressed minority on the…

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January 13, 2008, 1:55 pm

Look! A Black Woman; or, Re-interpreting the History of Black Men and White Women in Politics

I read the Sunday New York Times in this order: sports section, Styles section (quick jump to the “Modern Love” feature, then a scan of the marriage announcements to see if there is anyone I know who is Doing It), “A” section, Metro section, Connecticut section. If, as I do, you live outside the metropolitan area — in Connecticut, Minneapolis or Bahrain — the magazine and the Book Review come on Saturday. This is not only distinctly un-festive, it causes us in this household to miss Sundays with the paper and deli from Russ and Daughters on East Houston Street in New York. But it matters less than it might have in the past.  I have come to dislike the Magazine and the Book Review section; the former is badly edited from my perspective and the stories inane, while the latter tells you nothing you wouldn’t learn from looking up the book on Amazon.com.

I almost never read the “Week in…

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July 15, 2007, 1:11 pm

Big City Comes to the Radical: Notes on Shoreline, New York and Change Over Time (Also Known As History)

One feature of middle age for me is not just being able to reflect on my youth and see the turning points, but also to see turning points as they are occurring. Historians will recognize this as “periodizing,” something we are taught to do when we prepare for our general exams as graduate students, and which is a traditional way of organizing historical knowledge: i.e., the Age of Jackson begins here, with this event, and ends here with this event. The events on either end are turning points in which something fundamentally changes, and that change is something that the Jacksonians perhaps did, or did not, perceive as something very significant at the time. So for example, probably everyone who was sentient and following politics knew that it was a Big Deal when Andrew Jackson successfully intimidated South Carolinians into paying federal taxes and resolved the Nullification Crisis i…

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May 1, 2007, 2:12 pm

The Past Revealed: Why Sex Matters to Political History

I am doing my best to catch up on all the television I have TIVO’d, but it won’t really be possible until I have finished grading the set of papers on my desk. And perhaps not even then, given that classes do not end until next week and I have not even begun handicapping the Kentucky Derby.

However, everyone has to eat dinner. So last night I got to the next episode of “The Tudors,” where I learned an astonishing fact: the wheels of fate began to turn for Henry the Eighth only partly because of his urgent political need for a son. Indeed, in episode two he gets a son by Lady Thingumajig, Henry Fitzroy, who could have been made legitimate down the line if necessary. This convinces the lusty monarch, as he says at the top of his lungs while galloping back to court from the lying in, that Katherine of Aragon’s difficulty conceiving “Is Not My Fault!” This is arguable, of course, since…

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