A few online and in-print readings caught my eye since the start of July. Here’s just a quick rundown of them, including blog posts from the Society of U.S. Intellectual Historians:
Readings on the Confederate Flag: With the furling of the flag in Columbia, South Carolina, we see an end to over fifty years of the flag of secession and Jim Crow flying in South Carolina’s capital city. The last four weeks of dialogue and discussion have given many readers much to think about when it comes to the Confederate flag and its place as an icon of the American South. Brian Purnell wrote a fascinating piece over at the African American Intellectual History Society’s blog about the history of the Confederate flag being used in the Northern United States as a symbol of racism. It is definitely worth a read, and after that you should read Jessica Marie Johnson’s post today at AAIHS about the ways in which African American intellectual history represents both a reckoning with the past and imagining better futures.
Television and Intellectual History: Andy Seal’s post on television and intellectual history has been on my mind a lot since he first posted it. While I have written a few times about television, film, and intellectual history, I believe Andy’s post brings up some really good points about how we can continue to write and argue about the intersection of intellectual history and television. Considering that many of the writers for this blog work with the twentieth century, television is a topic of discussion we can all wrestle with. I would only add that we should also think about radio and why it is important to intellectual history. Sooner or later, someone is going to write a history of conservative talk radio (or at least attempt it), and intellectual history no doubt will play a major role in how that history is structured.
Modern Fiction and Intellectual History: Within that same vein of thinking about how modern media affects intellectual history, we should also think about literature. Of course there’s been considerable talk about Go Set a Watchman, the sequel/first draft re-write by Harper Lee of her work, To Kill a Mockingbird. There has already been discussion about the turn in character of Atticus Finch in this book, and whether or not it makes sense from a historical standpoint. All I can say, without reading the book, is this: It’s not outside the realm of possibility for Mr. Finch, a kind and decent man in To Kill a Mockingbird to be, several decades later, an ardent racist afraid of the world around him. In some ways, the two books may be a meditation by Ms. Lee on the perils of being a southern white liberal in mid-twentieth century America.
This year is also the twenty-fifth anniversary of Charles Johnson’s The Middle Passage. As chronicled here by the New York Times, Johnson’s book is still a thought-provoking read about America’s long struggle with race. Speaking of which….
Between the World and Me, essays, and intellectual history: This week might very well be seen by future intellectual historians as an important moment in American publishing on race relations. Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, a work that has already received considerable praise from prominent writers such as Toni Morrison, promises to be another moment for Americans to think about race in 2015. But history is also at the heart of Mr. Coates’ work, something that has been mentioned in several reviews of his book.
The last few weeks have offered new reasons for why history is still an important part of any debate within the public sphere. Public historians, in particular, have much to say about the current debate about Confederate memorials and their place within the American consciousness. Tonight’s book review, part two of a review essay written by Nick Sacco, deals with the importance of public history. Part one of that review can be found here.