Emancipation ratified; Wilson debate continues; police get a history lesson; Prohibition & cocktails; who’s to blame for Bay of Pigs?



I’m back! It was a rough end to the semester here for me wrapping up my classes, so I had little time for this site. I have no doubt you folks still found all the good stories without my help, but I appreciate those of you that contacted me to let me know that you missed my more frequent updates! I’m back on the case now, though ūüôā

Today is the anniversary of the ratification of the 13th amendment that ended slavery. Not only has this not received much attention in the press, but the ratification process rarely gets much attention even from historians. Lest we forget, the end of slavery did not come immediately after the passage of the legislation by Congress (events memorably portrayed in Spielberg’s¬†Lincoln).¬†Kevin Levin has a nice piece today providing the “rest of the story” about¬†the 13th amendment’s contested ratification, reminding us that it was far from a done deal at the end of the war.

The debate over Woodrow Wilson’s regressive views on race continues. (Personally, I think this is a good thing, and the students at Princeton are to be commended for creating this debate in the popular press). Now, NPR’s wonderful show, “All Things Considered” engages in the discussion by talking to historians¬†Brian Balogh and Peter Onuf. How can such an icon of liberalism also be such a racist? Was he just a “product of his time,” or did he actually stand in the way of racial progress that was underway during his time? What does it tells us about America that for the last 100 years we’ve not had a problem with Wilson’s views and that it is just now becoming an issue? And what does it tell us about America now that black college students are speaking up and making an issue on their campuses about these sorts of things? Sadly, this is only a 6 minute piece that raises good questions (particularly that last one), but doesn’t have time to discuss. Perhaps that ¬†is our job.

Something interesting going on in Philadelphia: police are getting a crash course in American history so that they can better understand  not only constitutional issues and citizen rights, but also the historical context for distrust of law enforcement. I wish there was some way to get all police in this course.

And speaking of law enforcement,¬†We’re History¬†has a piece from University of Alabama Associate Dean Lisa Lindquist Dorr about¬†Prohibition and the reasons that it failed.¬†Did you know that the movement is largely responsible for our sophisticated and fruity cocktails that help cover the hard liquor taste?

The standard story of the Bay of Pigs tells us that JFK inherited the plans from Ike. Now, writer¬†Irwin F. Gellman tells us that historians like Howard Jones (one of my mentors) have gotten it all wrong, and that the problem comes from historians that only look at JFK documents, and not Ike’s. This is aggressively argued, but in many ways sets up a straw man. Doesn’t the standard account tell us that it was Ike’s plan, but that JFK blew it because he withdrew the air support? This guy says Ike would have never agreed to such a “sloppily planned” operation. True, but wasn’t the problem in the sloppy execution, not the plan? Further, Gellman writes, “The time has come for everyone‚ÄĒeven the Kennedy Library‚ÄĒto acknowledge that this debacle belongs solely to JFK.” Actually, JFK would agree with that statement, and HE DID so publicly.

Anyone that has ever taught or taken a basic Western Civ class knows that the Etruscans helped lay the groundwork for the Roman Republic, but that we actually know little about them. Well, a farmer in Italy has recently uncovered a tomb that might help to fill in some details.


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