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A Pilgrimage

1919-Commemoration-Plaque

The only existing marker of the event, as of today.

On a warm, sunny day like today, in 1919, a young black boy named Eugene Williams drifted, while swimming or on a raft, over an invisible, watery line of white supremacy just north of Chicago’s 31st street beach. For that transgression—likely enabled by waves similar to those I’m watching today—he was stoned to death by a white vigilante. His name was added to the list of black boys punished for being black, turned into an example and spectacle to remind residents who was in power. Read more…

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Telling our Students’ Stories

Of interest.

vocation matters

One of my favorite moments in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton (An American Musical) comes in Act I when General George Washington and friends reflect on the momentousness and frailty of leading people at war, in a song titled “History Has Its Eyes on You.” Sing along if you know the tune:

Let me tell you what I wish I’d known / When I was young and dreamed of glory. / You have no control: / Who lives, who dies, Who tells your story?

I know that greatness lies in you / But remember from here on in / History has its / Eyes on you.

Then at the end of Act 2 in the production’s finale, various members (Aaron Burr, Eliza Hamilton, etc.) sing a song titled “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story.” Therein Washington’s refrain enters…

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Scholarship in Volatile Political Times: Why I’m Forging Ahead

As a student of the history of anti-intellectualism, education, literacy, and books, the past two-plus years have had a perverse effect on my desire to pursue scholarly work.

I’ve wallowed, especially over the past year, as I’ve come to realize, in a deeper way than every before, how shallow our nation’s habits of reading and study have become. I always knew, of course, that audiences were small for scholarly work. But things have worsened over the past 10-15 years. After the 2016 election, a kind of depression, or extreme cynicism, arose. I had been able to combat those feelings with activism. That felt like the best way to make a difference. In relation to my scholarly work, however, the election cemented ongoing fears, based on studies of reading habits, about how the internet and social media have further decreased our attention spans. Read more…

An Iron Law of History

Maxim/Periodic Professional Reminder: There is not now, nor has there ever been, a safe haven from politics in the study of history. Not in queries of ancient history, the Medieval period, nor historical studies of science, flowers, space, geology, chemistry, love, sex, pictures, Antarctica, nor food. There is no endeavor involving historical matters that is immune from questions of race, gender, class, power, ethnicity, or some combination of each. Read more…

Opening Day 2019: Why I Still Care

Yes, the Cubs are now part of baseball’s oligarchy. And yes, the ownership team is populated by one neoliberal, Laura Ricketts, and a bunch of Trump sympathizers and supporters. And yes, Wrigley has been gentrified in a way that makes the team less accessible to the least privileged, economically speaking. The players, too, happily participate in a general capitalist individualism that contributes to wider inequalities in the game and beyond. The game, and one of my teams, hasn’t necessarily changed for the better in recent years. Read more…

The UChicago IOP Mayoral Candidate Public Safety Forum: Observations and Reflections

I decided to screen and take notes on the UChicago Institute of Politics mayoral candidate forum on public safety from last week (March 13). The event resulted in some backlash, from the left, against Lori Lightfoot because she floated the idea that some closed CPS schools could be used as police training facilities.

Despite that motivation for listening (i.e., to get the context and flow of the idea balloon), I felt a full screening, of the entire forum, would help me figure out—maybe once and for all—how I feel about both candidates. My goal here is to be a charitable, fair listener and observer. The issue of public safety spirals into many areas that illuminate the candidates’ political philosophies, policies, tactics, and assumptions.
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Leonard Wood: Then and Now

Growing up in western Missouri, I recall hearing a lot about Fort Leonard Wood. It’s located in a beautiful portion of the Ozarks, in Mark Twain National Forest on old Route 66 between Rolla and Lebanon (now Interstate 44). As a Boy Scout who attended a popular summer camp in the Ozarks, I’d meet people who knew those stationed at Leonard Wood. School acquaintances and friends who enlisted in the Army might receive training there. And finally, it was a recurring object of base closure speculation in the 1990s. Read more…