Excerpts

Curated stories from around the web.
New on Bunk
Robert Frost on his farm near Ripton, Vermont.

America’s Great Poet of Darkness

A reconsideration of Robert Frost at 150.
Uncle Sam on ladder hanging up Postal Savings Bank sign
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A People’s Bank at the Post Office

The Postal Savings System offered depositors a US government-backed guarantee of security, but it was undone by for-profit private banks.
William F. Buckley Jr. at a press conference.

An Implausible Mr. Buckley

A new PBS documentary whitewashes the conservative founder of National Review.
Nurses with babies

Legacies of Eugenics: An Introduction

Despite assumptions about its demise, it is still enmeshed in the foundations of how some professions think about the world.
Starbucks workers on strike.

The Paradox of the American Labor Movement

It’s a great time to be in a union—but a terrible time to try to start a new one.
Women's suffrage march

When Feminism Was ‘Sexist’—and Anti-Suffrage

The women who opposed their own enfranchisement in the Victorian era have little in common with the “Repeal the 19th” fringe of today.
Clara Bow

Taylor Swift’s Homage to Clara Bow

The star of the 1920s silver screen who appears on Taylor Swift’s new album abruptly left Hollywood at the height of her success.
Commemorative marker about the "Lynching of Howard Cooper."

Efforts to Memorialize Lynching Victims Divide American Communities

Activists around the country are debating the best ways to acknowledge lynchings. But they often meet resistance from local residents — both Black and White.
Tennessee Valley Authority.

The Dam and the Bomb

On Cormac McCarthy.
Sheet music for "Massa's in de Cold Ground" as sung by Christy's Minstrels.
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Christy’s Minstrels Go to Great Britain

Minstrel shows were an American invention, but they also found success in the United Kingdom, where audiences were negotiating their relationships with empire.
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The Eternal Inflation of the Spotless Grade

For more than 50 years, we've been worrying about "grade inflation" at elite American universities. It's time to move on.
flickr.com/photos/dalelanham
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Playing to the Cameras

The prominence of politicos-turned-pundits is a product of cable news' turn to opinion commentary as a cheap and easy way to meet the needs of 24/7 coverage.
Ella Fitzgerald performs at Lorton Reformatory in 1959.

In the 1960s, Prison Chaplains Created a Star Studded Music Festival at Lorton Reformatory

Syncopation and swing reigned supreme at the annual Lorton Reformatory Jazz Festival in the 1960s.
A hallway in the Greenbriar bunker, lined with steel and cement walls

The Town That Kept Its Nuclear Bunker a Secret for Three Decades

The people of White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, helped keep the Greenbrier resort's bunker—designed to hold the entirety of Congress—hidden for 30 years.
Automobile with Maryland and Washington, DC, license plates, 1910
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Plate Tectonics

A brief history of the license plate.
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Should a Colombian Buy a Banjo?

How preparation for a big purchase turned into an adventure through history.
A parade in Rio de Janeiro consisting of Brazilian Expeditionary Force soldiers and American 10th Mountain Division soldiers.

Skis, Samba, and Smoking Snakes: An Unlikely World War II Partnership

What happened when glacier-goggled American ski troops and samba-loving Brazilian soldiers fought side-by-side halfway across the world?
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Why Does American History Feel Like Ancient History to High School Students?

An argument for returning the recent past, and the history of modern conservatism, to classrooms.
University of Michigan women’s basketball team, 1977
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This Is Standby Alert

The history of the battle to keep Title IX out of college sports.
Painting of babies sitting at a table, holding spoons, with a can of condensed milk in the middle
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The Sweet Story of Condensed Milk

This nineteenth-century industrial product became a military staple and a critical part of local food culture around the world.
Marvin Gaye walking on a basketball court, with players and the crowd behind him.

Marvin’s Last Protest

In 1968 Gaye shifted his musical vision to give voice to impoverished Black urban communities and the rising dissent against involvement in the Vietnam War.
Rows of shelves in a historical archive.

Archival Shouting

Silence and volume in collections and institutions.
Edward R. Murrow on the telephone.

Edward R. Murrow Wasn’t the First Journalist to Question Joseph McCarthy’s Communist Witch Hunts

As the fear of communist subversion spread throughout America, McCarthy launched hearings that were based on scant evidence and overblown charges.
Title page of the "Manual of the Corporation of The City of New York."

The Bittersweet Legacy Of David T. Valentine

Valentine devoted his time to writing the Manual of the Corporation of the City of New York. These were annual compendiums of data about the city.
Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Lyndon B. Johnson.
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The Border Presidents and Civil Rights

Three US presidents from the South’s borders—Truman, Eisenhower, and Johnson—worked against Southern politicians to support civil and voting rights.
Covers from Lippincott's and Harper's from the 1890s.

Advertising as Art: How Literary Magazines Pioneered a New Kind of Graphic Design

Allison Rudnick on the rise and fall of the 19th century "Literary Poster."
People celebrating the construction of the transcontinental railroad.

Lincoln’s Imagined West

In Lincoln’s view the West represented a space for opportunity, especially for the citizen-soldiers returning to their prewar pursuits.
A gun shop in Dunedin, Florida.

America Fell for Guns Recently, and for Reasons You Will Not Guess

The US today has extraordinary levels of gun ownership. But to see this as a venerable tradition is to misread history.
Henry Ward Beecher.

When Preachers Were Rock Stars

A classic New Yorker account of the Henry Ward Beecher adultery trial recalls a time in America that seems both incomprehensible and familiar.
Cesar Chavez standing next to Luis Valdez.

Cesar Chavez, Family and Filmmaking with Luis Valdez

Luis Valdez on his friendship with Cesar Chavez, his works in the National Film Registry, and a lifetime of activism.
A photograph of two Guatemalan women infected with syphillis in U.S. experiements, their eyes covered by black bars.

The Hidden U.S. Experiments in Guatemala

The U.S. purposefully infected thousands of Guatemalans with sexually-transmitted diseases in the 40s and 50s. Their grandchildren still carry the trauma.
Two people look at a native artifact behind glass in a museum

Indigenous Artifacts Should Be Returned to Indigenous People

It’s time to start learning about Native history from museums and cultural centers that are run by Native nations.
Boiling House at the Sugar Plantation Asunción, Cuba, 1857.

Slavery Was Crucial for the Development of Capitalism

Historian Robin Blackburn has completed a trilogy of books that provide a comprehensive Marxist account of slavery in the New World.
Drawing of a memorial, with two cutout, brown walls at the front of a walkway that read: reckoning. At the end of the walkway is a monument with a picture of Fred Rouse, and an inscription below it.

Fort Worth's Forgotten Lynching: In Search of Fred Rouse

Retracing the steps of a Texan lynched in 1921 requires a trip through dark days in state history.
Demonstrators protest outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, March 26, 2024.

The Truth About the Comstock Act

The anti-obscenity law is unenforceable and probably unconstitutional. Conservatives still want to use it to ban medication abortions.
Map of the United States of America.

Remembering John Hope Franklin, OAH’s First Black President

The 2024 OAH Conference on American History falls almost fifteen years after the renowned historian, teacher, and activist's death.
Oprah Winfrey speaking at a podium.
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Oprah’s Shows on the L.A. Riots Reveal What We’ve Lost Without Her Program

The power of daytime talk shows — especially “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”
Nini Nguyen and a Bahn Mi sandwich.

How the Vietnamese Made Their Mark on Cajun Cuisine

Top Chef contestant Nini Nguyen shares the history of the Viet diaspora and how two cultures combined to create a whole new delicious Southern flavor.
Image of the University of Birmingham's campus, with the sun setting in the background.

The 'Nyasaland Bicycle' (c. 1900): A History of Technology and Empire

Tracing the histories and legacies of technology and empire through a wooden bicycle at Thinktank Birmingham Science Museum.
USA. Mardi Gras. New Orleans. 1990.
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How Mardi Gras Traditions Helped LGBTQ New Orleans Thrive

The celebrations created space for people to subvert gender norms, as New Orleans' LGBTQ communities built new traditions of their own.
A collage of red beans and rice with a "Welcome to Louisiana" sign, celebrities from New Orleans, and a Haitian flag.

Red Beans and Rice: A Journey from Africa to Haiti to New Orleans

“It was an affirmation of our city,” says New Orleanian food historian Lolis Eric Elie.
Fr. Daniel Berrigan, left, and his brother, Fr. Philip Berrigan, outside the Montgomery County Court House in Norristown, Pennsylvania, 1981 (AP Photo/Paul Shane).

When the FBI Feared the Catholic Left

Even if today's anti-war protestors couldn’t tell you who the Berrigan brothers were, the Catholic Left’s shadow looms large.
A collage of dance performances.

Dance, Revolution

George Balanchine and Martha Graham Trade Places.
A masculine caricature of an Irish-American woman threatening an American woman in a kitchen.
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From Saint to Stereotype: A Story of Brigid

Caricatures of Irish immigrants—especially Irish women—have softened, but persist in characters whose Irishness is expressed in subtle cues.
The radioactive plume from the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, dropped by a US B-29 superfortress Bockscar.

Slave to the Bomb

We don’t need to imagine a world ravaged by nuclear war – we’re already living in it.
George Caleb Bingham, Stump Speaking (1853–54).

How the American Jeremiad Can Restore the American Soul

One of the country’s greatest rhetorical traditions still has the power to remind us of our founding principles.
Pregnant woman.

What the Shadowy History of Women’s Health Tells Us About Its Uncertain Future

Clare Beams on the dark legacy of a purported pregnancy miracle drug.
Aaron Douglas, detail from painting Aspects of Negro Life: From Slavery to Reconstruction, 1934.

The Cosmopolitan Modernism of the Harlem Renaissance

The world-spanning art of the Harlem Renaissance.
Emily Brooks.

When NYC Invented Modern Policing: On WWII–Era Surveillance and Discrimination

From the 1880s to the 1940s, New York City was transformed—and so too was the New York City Police Department.
Jelly Roll Blues: Censored Songs & Hidden Histories

Jelly Roll Blues: Censored Songs & Hidden Histories

From the beginning of the recording industry, many voices have been suppressed and significant cultural history has been lost to prudery and censorship.
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