Excerpts

Curated stories from around the web.
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A photograph of the Arizona desert at sunset with cacti in the foreground.

I Want Settlers To Be Dislodged From the Comfort of Guilt

My ancestors were the good whites, or at least that’s what I’ve always wanted to believe.
A high school yearbook photo of Elizabeth Prewitt.

I Never Saw the System

As a white teenager in Charlotte, Elizabeth Prewitt saw mandatory school busing as a personal annoyance. Going to an integrated high school changed that.
"The Book of Jewish Food" by Claudia Roden.

The Desk Dispatch: Layla Schlack on What Jewish Food Means to Her

"Frustratingly, Talmudically, Jewish food is simply what Jews eat," she writes.
Illustration by Yannick Lowery. A drawing of watermelons between hills and valleys

Tell Me Why the Watermelon Grows

Throughout its botanical, cultural, and social history, the watermelon has been a vehicle for our ideas about community, survival, and what we owe the future.
Nicki Minaj and the autobiography of Malcolm X written by Alex Haley.

It’s Bigger Than Hip-Hop

We cannot understand the last fifty years of U.S. history—certainly not the first thing about Black history—without studying the emergence and evolution of rap.
Sunrise over the Appalachian Mountains

Thicker Than Water: A Brief History of Family Violence in Appalachian Kentucky

Knowing I come from people who lived hard lives and endured terrible things is difficult. Knowing that I come from someone who ruined lives haunts me.
Statue of Paul Revere on Boston's Freedom Trail.

On the Trail—to Freedom?

Touring the palimpsests of cities.
A photograph of four people on donkeys from the late 1800s.

A Question of Legacy

Some of my ancestors had money, and some held awful beliefs. I set out to investigate what I once stood to inherit.
Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising their fists on the Olympic podium in 1968.

Be Realistic: Demand the Impossible

The revolutionaries of 1968 didn't succeed, but the world still needs turning upside down.
Two women walking side-by-side.

Not White But Not (Entirely) Black

On the complex history of “passing” in America.
John Abraham Davis and his family in front of their farm.

What Woodrow Wilson Cost My Grandfather

My grandfather lost his prestigious job after President Wilson segregated the government.
Collage of a shirtless performer and a cutaway image of an egg.

My Generation

Anthem for a forgotten cohort.
Family photo.

Where Do Children’s Earliest Memories Go?

Our first three years are usually a blur and we don’t remember much before age seven. What are we hiding from ourselves?
Henry Kissinger in the table in the White House situation room.

Kissinger, Me, and the Lies of the Master

‘Off off the record’ with the man who secretly taped our telephone calls.
The aftermath of U.S. bombs in Neak Luong, Cambodia, on Aug. 7, 1973.

Kissinger's Bombings Likely Killed Hundreds of Thousands of Cambodians and Set Path for Khmer Rouge

A Cambodian scholar who fled the Khmer Rouge as a child writes about the legacy of Henry Kissinger, who died at the age of 100 on Nov 28, 2023.
Group of African-American World War I veterans

The Meaning of ‘Sir’ and ‘Ma’am’

“I’d assumed this practice was a manifestation of military decorum.”
Collage of Black woman and marriage certificate.

Why Is America Afraid of Black History?

No one should fear a history that asks a country to live up to its highest ideals.
The Cross-Bronx Expressway, April 1971. Photo by Dan McCoy/Environmental Protection Agency/National Archives

How the New York of Robert Moses Shaped my Father’s Health

My dad grew up in Robert Moses’s New York City. His story is a testament to how urban planning shapes countless lives.
Shemp Howard and Tiny Brauer in "Fling in the Ring"

The House Next Door to the Stooges

A visit to the old neighborhood.
Sparkles in light coming through windows of an empty room.

Signs of Ghosts

What do we do when there are whole cities full of ghosts, each one with their own unique story to tell, each one with something left undone?
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.
Crowd holding shirts with names of Triangle Fire victims

A Memorial Restores Humanity To The 146 Ghosts of the Triangle Fire

Over a century after one of New York City’s deadliest industrial accidents, the names of its victims, most of them women, are being enshrined in steel.
Henry Louis Gates Jr., Great Zimbabwe, circa 1996; photograph by Graham Smith.

Finding My Roots

The storytellers who taught me over the course of my career all knew how to bring Black history vividly to life.
Cotton plant in the form of a cross.

How the Faith That Arose From the Cotton Fields Challenges Me

I have struggled with the collision of racial consciousness and spiritual doubt, but Christianity remains my home.
Smoke pours from La Moneda, the Chilean presidential palace, during the military coup.

50 Years After “the Other 9/11”: Remembering the Chilean Coup

Some personal reflections on history, memory, and the survival of democracies.
A worker in the Shinkolobwe mine.

The Dark History ‘Oppenheimer’ Didn't Show

Coming from the Congo, I knew where an essential ingredient for atomic bombs was mined, even if everyone else seemed to ignore it.

We Carry the Burden of Repatriating Our Ancestors

Here’s what it’s like to report on the process as an Indigenous journalist.
A sign once carried by a victim of radiation from the 1945 atomic bomb test in New Mexico on display at the New Mexico History Museum in Santa Fe in 2019.

What ‘Oppenheimer’ Doesn’t Tell You About the Trinity Test

As a new generation of Americans learns about the world’s first nuclear test, the people who lived through it are being left out of the story again.
Rural landscape in West Virginia.

The Redneck Army Refuses to Stay Buried

Proud resistance is our secret birthright.
Connie Chung with other Asian-American women named after her.

Why Are There So Many Asian American Women Named Connie?

I thought my story was special. Little did I know it was the story of a generation.
Illustrated silhouette of a person writing, with handwriting layered over the photo.

How Handwriting Lost Its Personality

Penmanship was once considered a window to the soul. The digital age has closed it.
Illustration of a church against the backdrop of slave records.

My Church Was Part of the Slave Trade. This Has Not Shaken My Faith.

Enslaved people have been largely left out of the origin story traditionally told about the emergence of Catholicism in the United States.
A rainbow over a waterscape.

Queer History Detective: On the Power of Uncovering Stories from the Past

With more queer history detectives, what could our future look like?
Sonia Manzano and the Muppet Grover launch the Super Grover sandwich in honor of the 4,000th "Sesame Street" episode on Feb. 27, 2002, at a New York City deli.

I Was the First Latina on Sesame Street. Now I Have My Own Ideas About Bringing Representation to TV

"I thought, surely after the success of 'Sesame Street' and my contribution to it, all kinds of Latinx talent would flood the media. Not so."
The Osterizer’s Spin Cookery Blender and Cook Book.

Of Potato Latkes and Pedagogy: Cooking for the History Classroom

A cooking assignment helps illuminate the lives of Jewish women in the past for students.
Portrait of an elderly Harriot Jacobs.

I Was Determined to Remember: Harriet Jacobs and the Corporeality of Slavery’s Legacies

How a folklorist encourages people to experience the past and present of a place.
Illustration of a person reading, sitting on a giant stack of books.

Is Writing History Like Solving a Mystery?

Why historians like to think of themselves as detectives.
Phyllis McLaughlin in her Red Cross Clubmobile uniform.

My Mother Returned From World War II a Changed Woman

In her World War II photographs and those of her friends, my mother is laughing and bright-eyed in every single one. I almost don’t recognize her.

Iowa: A Pastor's Son Notes When Politics Came to the Pulpit

A pastor's son reflects on his evangelical father's beliefs regarding politics in the pulpit.
The men of the Dawahares family, a Syrian immigrant family who founded a clothing business in Kentucky.

Moses of Cairo (Illinois)

The idea that non-white immigrants are, generally speaking, new to the Midwest could not be further from the truth.
A cut out from the magazine New Masses with the headline "For College Student H.H.C," pasted over a photo montage of an archive.

“H.H.C.”: The Story of a Queer Life—Glimpsed, Lost, and Finally Found

My hunt for one man across the lonely expanse of the queer past ended in a place I never expected.
Food writer Edna Lewis.

What Is Southern?

A food writer's reminiscences of local cuisine in the springtime.
Illustration of a wood-paneled formal bathroom.

The Bathrooms of Old New York

On the enormous, ornate, and extremely impractical bathtub in his family’s old-fashioned brownstone home.
Composite by Hannah Yoest of images relating to the Iraq War.

Moral Injuries

Remembering what the Iraq War was like, 20 years later.
Daniel Ellsberg at a press conference in New York City, 1972.

My Fifty Years with Dan Ellsberg

The man who changed America.
The author (left) talks with a student at the dedication ceremony for Annette Gordon-Reed Elementary School, October 2022.

A Historian Makes History in Texas

In the 1960s, Annette Gordon-Reed was the first Black child to enroll in a white school in her hometown. Now she reflects on having a new school there named for her.
Norma and Mel Gabler, holding a textbook
partner

50 Years Ago, Anti-Woke Crusaders Came for My Grandfather

Christopher Rufo's polemical attacks against Critical Race Theory are not a new phenomenon. Public schools have long been a battlefield for ideological warfare.
Black writers Askia Toure, Lorenzo Thomas, and Ismael Reed seated at an Umbra meeting.

A New Flame for Black Fire

What will be the legacy of the Black Arts Movement? Ishmael Reed reflects on the transformation and growth of Black arts since the 1960s.
Students walk in the streets of Uvalde, Texas during the 1970 Uvalde School Walkout.

Remembering the Uvalde Public School Walkout of 1970

During the heyday of the Chicano Movement, school walkouts were organized to disrupt what activists called “the ongoing mis-education of Chicano students.”
Oil painting by Claire Lehmann called "Painter’s Hand, Patron’s Hand."

Learning and Not Learning Abortion

The fact that most doctors like me don't know how to perform abortions is one of the greatest scandals of contemporary medicine in the US.
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