Tuesday, July 4, 2017
Independence, Frederick Douglass, and Struggles for a Freer and More “Informed Republic”
10:10 am edt
On this morning of Independence Day, my
family’s plan for celebration includes not only gathering with a few friends to eat, drink, and watch fireworks but
also reflecting on the reason for this holiday.
consider the Declaration (a 1776 print of which is on display at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript
Library) and listen to at least a partial rendition of the powerful protest speech of Frederick Douglass from July 1852. To
lighten the mood, we’ll find a broadcast of the holiday special of the Capitol Steps comedy group.
Also available via audio is a discussion
of “An Informed Republic,” first mentioned on this blog in July 2012 (July 4) as part of a PRX playlist for the holiday. This program, produced by David Freudberg for his series Humankind, includes
Sandra Day O’Connor and scholars such as Annette Gordon-Reed, Gordon S. Wood, and Richard D. Brown.
Richard Brown (my father) is author most recently of a book that draws its title from the Declaration:
Self-Evident Truths: Contesting Equal Rights from the Revolution to the Civil War.
In the last couple of weeks, he
published a related essay on religious liberty – via Aeon and Medium – and was the subject of a UConn feature on “America’s Ongoing Struggle for Equal Rights.”
Saturday, June 24, 2017
Advancing Accurate News and Historical Literacy
12:14 pm edt
The daily assault on truth, and on the free press, is extreme
but hardly without precedent. Dismayed by a letter falsely asserting that “Islam was already banned in America” under a 1952 law, I wrote a rejoinder that the New Haven Register published this week.
Linda Qiu of the New York
Times listed “12 inaccurate claims” from the U.S. president at a single Iowa rally.
The News Literacy Project is concerned with the kind of issues that the Stanford History Education Group has exposed and likewise aims to address.
Kevin Levin, in
the Smithsonian, recognizes the importance of history teachers as “the remedy for the spread of fake news.” He writes, “There is no denying that access to
primary sources from the Library of Congress and other research institutions, along with secondary sources from the scholarly
community, has enriched the teaching of history, but their availability means little if they cannot be accessed or distinguished
from the vast amount of misinformation that awaits the uneducated user online.... The history classroom is an ideal place
in which to teach students how to search and evaluate online information given the emphasis that is already placed on the
careful reading and analysis of historical documents. Even the most basic guidelines can steer students away from misinformation....
Healthy and well-deserved skepticism can go a long way. The ease with which we can access and contribute to the
web makes it possible for everyone to be his or her own historian, which is both a blessing and a curse. The internet is both
a goldmine of information as well as a minefield of misinformation and distortion. Teaching our students how to discern the
difference will not only help them steer clear of fake history and fake news, but reinforce the importance of a responsible
and informed citizenry. In doing so, we strengthen the very pillars of democracy.”
Here are three sources of historical context:
James W. Cortada, at the Oxford University Press blog;
Jacob Soll, at Politico Magazine; and
Richard D. Brown (my father), via the Yale University Press blog. His previous books include Knowledge Is Power: The Diffusion of Information in Early America, 1700–1865 and The Strength of a People: The Idea of an Informed Citizenry in America, 1650-1870. His most recent book is Self-Evident Truths: Contesting Equal Rights from the Revolution to the Civil War.
Saturday, June 10, 2017
Fifty Years After the "Loving" Case
8:17 pm edt
As the June 12 fiftieth anniversary of the Loving v.
Virginia decision approaches, I published a piece at Medium that adapts earlier reflections at This I Believe.
Among the updated observations are references
to law professor Sheryll Cashin, who has written a new book called Loving: Interracial Intimacy in America and the Threat to White Supremacy,
and to the anthology Mixed, a collection of short stories that Chandra Prasad edited.
Sunday, June 4, 2017
Some Comforting Climate News
9:22 am edt
Sunday, May 14, 2017
“Philanthropy, Literacy, and Youth Development Explored”
8:47 am edt