Old City Hall, Wall St., New York City.

Originalism and the Nature of Rights

When we try to recover the “original meaning” of constitutional amendments, we begin with deeply engrained premises about the nature of what we're looking for.
A diagram of the parts of a flintlock pistol.

Bad Facts, Bad Law

In a recent Supreme Court oral argument about disarming domestic abusers, originalism itself was put to the test.
Italian Americans watch a policeman arrest a man

The Surveillance of Immigrants Remade American Policing

Modern surveillance policing is rooted in approaches adopted a century ago.
Photo of a crowded street in NYC with carts and vendors blocking the roads

How the NYPD Attempted to Navigate Cultural and Linguistic Barriers in the Early 20th Century

One of the biggest challenges for the NYPD, especially in the years following the turn of the twentieth century, was policing the newcomer immigrants.

The Men Who Started the War

John Brown and the Secret Six—the abolitionists who funded the raid on Harpers Ferry—confronted a question as old as America: When is violence justified?
A white mob poses for a photograph in front of the charred remains of the Daily Record building they burned.

Majority-Black Wilmington, N.C., Fell to White Mob’s Coup 125 Years Ago

The 1898 Wilmington massacre overthrew the elected government in the majority-Black city, killed many Black residents and torched a Black-run newspaper.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Conservatives’ Favorite Legal Doctrine Crashes Into Reality

Originalism is all the rage on the right, but a gun case at the Supreme Court is exposing its absurdity—even to the conservative justices.

The War on Ecoterror

Environmental radicalism, left and right.
Gun safety advocates rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in 2019

What the Supreme Court Gets Wrong About the Second Amendment

Government, wrote Alexander Hamilton, should substitute “the mild influence” of the law for “the violent and sanguinary agency of the sword.”
Bayard Rustin speaking at an event.

Eclipsed in His Era, Bayard Rustin Gets to Shine in Ours

The civil-rights mastermind was sidelined by his own movement. Now he’s back in the spotlight. What can we learn from his strategies of resistance?
Still from "Rustin" film, on steps of Lincoln Memorial.

The Real History Behind Netflix's 'Rustin' Movie

A new film finally spotlights Bayard Rustin, the gay civil rights activist who organized the 1963 March on Washington.
The front of the Midgeville asylum in Georgia

What Makes a Prison?

Wherever we find the state engaged in potentially lethal repression, we find prison.
Prison hallway

The Silent Treatment: Solitary Confinement’s Unlikely Origins

Characterised today by the noise of banging, buzzers, and the cries of inmates, solitary confinement was originally developed from Quaker ideas.
African American factory worker assembling an automobile engine.

How the UAW Broke Ford’s Stranglehold Over Black Detroit

The UAW's patient organizing cemented an alliance that would bear fruit for decades.
Still from the film "Killers of the Flower Moon."

The Real History Behind 'Killers of the Flower Moon'

Martin Scorsese's new film revisits the murders of wealthy Osages in Oklahoma in the 1920s
Samuel Ringgold Ward

The Many Lives of Samuel Ringgold Ward

A new biography examines the life of the abolitionist, newspaper editor, activist, and globetrotter.
A Newton's Cradle where a black ball prepares to swing into 4 white ones.

Black Success, White Backlash

Black prosperity has provoked white resentment that has led to the undoing of policies that have nurtured Black advancement.
Lithograph of the brig Acorn leaving port with Sims on board.

Underground Railroad’s Forgotten Route: Thousands Fled Slavery by Sea

Despite depictions of the Underground Railroad, escaping over land was almost impossible in the South. Thousands of enslaved people found allies on the water.
Madame Restell

‘Hag of Misery’

The abortionist Madame Restell is central to the story of how American women’s reproductive freedom was dismantled in the second half of the nineteenth century.
Labor day parade

Just Transition: Learning From the Tactics of Past Labor Movements

It is time to recognize the power that organized labor can wield to fight for environmental, economic and social justice.
Victims of AIDS participate in the National March for Gay Rights in Washington D.C. in 1987.

The First National Coming Out Day 35 Years Ago Took on Reagan and AIDS Stigma

On Oct. 11, 1988, at the height of the AIDS crisis and a wave of homophobia, people were asked to take a daring step by declaring publicly that they were gay.
Clyde Warrior and others displaying the Red Power sign at the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) parade, 1966.

"Let's Raise Some Hell": Clyde Warrior and the Red Power Movement

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Siege of Wounded Knee, the 71-day occupation of Wounded Knee by American Indian Movement (AIM) activists.
Barack Obama presents Sylvia Mendez with the Medal of Freedom in 2010.

How an 8-Year-Old Hispanic Girl Paved the Way for Desegregation

Sylvia Mendez’s role in setting the stage for Brown v. Board of Education has been forgotten and overlooked.
A librarian protects a book from a fat man in a suit who is burning books that don't look "American."

How Librarians Became American Free Speech Heroes

In the past and present, librarians have fought book bans and censorship.
Flag that says: "Rights for Disabled People Now!"

Fighting for Rights: An Overview of Urban Disability

This is the first post in our theme for October 2023, Urban Disability focusing on the role of cities in fostering disability rights.
Close-up of the safety trigger on a handgun

“Come and Take It”: How the Aftermath of Sandy Hook Led to More AR-15s Being Sold Than Ever Before

Chris Waltz was appalled. He felt Democrats were using the Sandy Hook tragedy to tell him he wasn’t responsible enough to own an AR-15.
From left: schoolchildren, their teacher, and Nancy Reagan look on as a police officer talks about the DARE program

The Kids Who Snitched on Their Families Because DARE Told Them To

The program was about education. But it was also about surveillance.
Martin Luther King Jr.


A journalistic view of Martin Luther King Jr.'s life, work, and representation in American society.
Tuskegee Airmen, Ramitelli, Italy, March 1945; photograph by Toni Frissell. From left to right: Richard S. ‘Rip’ Harder, unidentified airman, Thurston L. Gaines Jr., Newman C. Golden, and Wendell M. Lucas.

‘We Return Fighting’

The ambivalence many Black soldiers felt toward the U.S. in WWII was matched only by the ambivalence the U.S. showed toward principles on which WWII was fought.
Book cover of "Before the Movement" by Dylan C. Penningroth

What the Conventional Narrative Gets Wrong About the Civil Rights Movement

A new book illuminates how Black Americans used property ownership, common law and other methods to assert their rights.