Run-DMC and the Beastie Boys, atop a restaurant in midtown Manhattan, 1987.

The Breaks of History

We might say that these books are recording a life with music, and that they are worth listening to.
Jimi Hendrix at Monterey Pop Festival, 1967.

Fifty Years Ago, Hendrix’s Woodstock Anthem Expressed the Hopes and Fears of a Nation

It also inspired my own scholarship on the national anthem.
Illustration from an early edition of Moby-Dick, ca. 1892.

The Literal (and Figurative) Whiteness of Moby Dick

For Herman Melville, the color white could be horrifyingly bleak.

How Davy Crockett Became an American Legend

Was Davy Crockett a sellout? And does it matter?
Truman Capote's photo portrait of Harper Lee from the back cover of the first-edition dust jacket for Lee's novel

On the Beat with Harper Lee

A review of Casey Cep's new book on Harper Lee's never written true crime book, "The Reverend."
Two paintings by Gabriël Metsu,

How Personal Letters Built the Possibility of a Modern Public

The first newspapers contained not high-minded journalism, but hundreds of readers’ letters exchanging news with one another.
A 1970 FBI Wanted poster for political activist Angela Yvonne Davis.

Why Were the 1970s So… Weird?

When the counterculture optimism receded, things got ugly.
Young men play a shooting video game in a French arcade (2009).

Why We Scapegoat Video Games for Mass Violence and Why It’s a Mistake

It lets us avoid harder questions about our culture.

Woodstock’s Contradictions, 50 Years Later

With five decades of hindsight, the festival still poses questions about its utopian ideals and our relationship to them today.
The streets of New York’s World’s Fair are jammed with cars and trucks as traffic is snarled on the eve of opening day on April 21, 1964.

Was the Automotive Era a Terrible Mistake?

For a century, we’ve loved our cars. They haven’t loved us back.

American Green

How did the plain green lawn become the central landscaping feature in America, and what is the ecological cost?
The fourth Negro League All-Star Game, a battle between the best of the East and West at Chicago's Comiskey Park on August 23, 1936.

The Forgotten All-Star Game That Helped Integrate Baseball

The battle for the integration of Major League Baseball started long before Jackie Robinson.