Ferguson, the Eighteenth Century, and the Weapons of the Weak


Like many of you, I’ve spent the last few nights on Twitter, watching with a mixture of shock, outrage, sadness, and disbelief as the events in Ferguson, Missouri, unfolded on my timeline. There’s no two ways about it: this was a police occupation, or as a Philadelphia newspaper called it in an alarmingly accurate phrase, a “police coup.” In addition to my sadness and outrage, though, I encountered the occupational hazard of being a historian: I was struck by the parallels between the past and today. Specifically, I thought about the ways in which events were unfolding in real time on social media and an eighteenth-century equivalent to Twitter during a similar period of military occupation in an American urban area. Continue reading “Ferguson, the Eighteenth Century, and the Weapons of the Weak”

How I Learned to Love the Calendar

I stare back at you…silently mocking your good intentions.

In my undergraduate years, I took pride in never using a calendar, planner, or other sort of organizational method to keep on top of my work. Of course, I also took pride in such dubious feats as skipping 67 classes the Spring semester of my freshman year (We had a competition; I won going away), failing Calculus (not once, but twice!), and numerous engagements in petty larceny.  So “things I was proud of as an undergraduate” is not a list of academic success items, to say the least.  Continue reading “How I Learned to Love the Calendar”

They Shackled Children.


They’re on display in the “1863” half of the 1863/1963 exhibit in the African American History Gallery on the second floor of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. In a display case, next to the ads for a slave auction and text describing the ways in which humans were bought and sold as chattel in the American South, they sit: a petite-sized set of cast-iron leg shackles, the spare, stark description reading “shackles used for slave children.” Continue reading “They Shackled Children.”

A Detour into Medieval History

Thanks to enrollment-related course-schedule-shuffling, this fall I will be teaching a section of one of our world history surveys, “The Medieval World.” The rub: I am trained as a historian of 18th and 19th century US and Latin America. Welcome to the world of small-college teaching!

That’s me, toward the back.

Continue reading “A Detour into Medieval History”

Don’t Blame Me, I Voted Farmer-Labor.

The Supreme Court’s majority opinion in the “Hobby Lobby”case, announced earlier today, is another decisive step in a process that had the potential to fatally undermine our democratic civil society. If you haven’t read the opinion, or Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s powerful dissent, you can find them here and here. In a nutshell, the Court ruled that Hobby Lobby could deny coverage for birth control for its female employees because as a “closely held” corporation, it possesses the right to freedom of religion. And since contraception is against Hobby Lobby’s “religious beliefs,” the company doesn’t have to play by the rules of the Affordable Care Act when it comes to covering birth control on employees’ health insurance plans. Continue reading “Don’t Blame Me, I Voted Farmer-Labor.”

Now I am Become Death, Destroyer of Dustbunnies

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything in these parts; I’ve been transitioning into my new position as the Director of our Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning over the last two weeks, with all that involves– new office, staff retreat, oodles and scads of planning. It’s been a rich kind of busy, in that what I’m doing has substance and is setting the table for-hopefully-a great upcoming year.
Continue reading “Now I am Become Death, Destroyer of Dustbunnies”