View of Brooklyn from Trinity Church, 1853.

Mettlesome, Mad, Extravagant City

In the streets of New York, we try to imagine the city as Walt Whitman, and other artists of his time, experienced it.
Album cover for “Tim,” the "Let It Bleed" edition, by The Replacements.

The Replacements Are Still a Puzzle

The reissue of “Tim” shows both the prescience and the unrealized promise of the beloved band.
Sly Stone performing at a concert.

The Undoing of a Great American Band

Sly and the Family Stone suggested new possibilities in music and life—until it all fell apart.
Hand placing vinyl record into filing cabinet.

Hip-Hop Is the Music of Vinyl Librarians

Hip-hop tracks became a retelling of parents’ and grandparents’ histories; each discovery of a sample source was like finding an ancestor.
"Spy vs. Spy" pointy-headed characters facing each other

Rethinking Spy vs. Spy: A Hand From One Page, A Bomb From Another

Like the spies themselves, the image we have of something is often what gets us in trouble.
Drawing of Josiah Henson

The Man Who Became Uncle Tom

Harriet Beecher Stowe said that Josiah Henson’s life had inspired her most famous character. But Henson longed to be recognized by his own name.
Chairs on top of tables in an empty classroom

Are A.P. Classes a Waste of Time?

Advanced Placement courses are no recipe for igniting the intellect beyond high school. They’re a recipe for extinguishing it.
An uncredited performer with a member of the Delta Rhythm Boys in Give Me Some Skin (1946).

Jammin’ in the Panoram

During World War II, proto–music videos called “soundies” blared pop patriotism from visual jukeboxes across American bars.
Tammy Wynette singing and playing guitar at a concert.

Are We Finally Ready to Take Tammy Wynette Seriously?

The unsung godmother of so-called “sad girl” music — and one of pop’s most wrenching chroniclers of feminized pain — has long been misunderstood.
Portrait frame of the United States.

Trump Joins George Washington, John Quincy Adams and Barack Obama

Whether their portraits were in oil paint or digital photography, presidents have always sought the same thing: control.
Lady Columbia drawing from 1890.

Before Lady Liberty, There Was Lady Columbia, America's First National Mascot

The forgotten figure symbolized the hopes—and myths—of the early United States.
A colorized photo of a woman in the 1850s.

The Past in Color

A short history of hand-colored photos during the Civil War era.

The Ultimate Road Trip

On the Road with Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and John Burroughs.
Hip hop nightclub.

Golden-Era Rap Music and the Black Intellectual Tradition

In Hip hop’s “golden era,” the period from 1987 to 1994, rappers used their platforms to bring attention to issues plaguing poor and working-class Black communities.
August Wilson

The Man Who Transformed American Theater

How August Wilson became one of the country’s most influential playwrights.
Collage of people in "preppy" clothing.

We’re All Preppy Now

How a style steeped in American elitism took over the world.
A scene from the “Lost Colony,” an outdoor historical drama in Manteo, N.C., in 2017.

A North Carolina Town’s Historic Play Ends Redface and Hires Native Actors

“The Lost Colony” had dramatized American mythology in the Outer Banks since 1937 with White actors as Indians. Now, Native performers are rewriting the story.
Bruce Lee in a classic pose from the movie ‘Enter the Dragon.'

The Fighting Spirit of Bruce Lee

The actor and martial arts star also wanted to be regarded as a poet-philosopher.
Universal HipHop Museum construction site.

On 50th Anniversary, Hip Hop Rises Again in the Bronx

The Universal Hip Hop Museum is poised to bring an economic and cultural infusion to the borough where the genre was born and bred.
Harry Smith.

‘Cosmic Scholar’ Review: Harry Smith’s Strange Frequencies

Smith collected rare books, paper airplanes, Pennsylvania Dutch tools—and harvested the folk music recordings that changed a generation.
Max Fleischer’s Superman

On the Men Who Lent Their Bodies (and Voices) to the Earliest Iterations of Superman

A wrestler, a Sunday school teacher, and a mystery man walk into a studio.
The Milwaukee Turners acrobatic team, 1866.

Socialist Gym Rats Fought to End Slavery in America

Veterans of the 1848 German revolution immigrated to America with three passions burning in their hearts: barbells, beer, and socialism.
The Sugarhill Gang's Wonder Mike, Master Gee and Hen Dogg in November 2019.

The Unlikely Origins of ‘Rapper’s Delight,’ Hip-Hop’s First Mainstream Hit

The Sugarhill Gang song remains one of rap's most beloved. But it took serendipity, a book of rhymes, and an agreement to settle a lawsuit for it to survive.
Drawing from two perspectives of an African American man and a Jewish woman between a grocery store and a theater.

Lost Histories of Coexistence

James McBride’s new novel tells a story of solidarity between Black and Jewish communities.
Cover of "Playing for the Man at the Door" album.

Smithsonian Releases an Unheard Treasure Trove of Blues Music

A Smithsonian curator John Troutman and a blues musician discuss a new folk album, "Playing for the Man at the Door," from late chronicler Mack McCormick's collection.
DJ Premier, Nas, and Q-Tip perform hip hop.

A Hip-Hop Love Story in Lyrics

For hip-hop's 50th anniversary, a love letter to the genre, composed entirely of lyrics both beloved and obscure.
American blues singer and guitarist Leadbelly performs for a room full of people, 1940.

Is the History of American Art a History of Failure?

Sara Marcus’s recent book argues that from the Reconstruction to the AIDS era, a distinct aesthetic formed around defeat in the realm of politics.
LGBTQ+ Pride balloon arch at parade

Who's Afraid of Social Contagion?

Our ideas about sexuality and gender have changed before, and now they’re changing again.
Mascot character that is half lemon half lime, holding a can of Sprite.

All Soda Is Lemon-Lime Soda

It’s not a flavor; it’s a vibe.
Movie poster for "Bad Day at Black Rock."

Buried in the Sand

On John Sturges’s “Bad Day at Black Rock” and Japanese America.