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The Faux “Sioux” Sharpshooter Who Rivaled Annie Oakley as a Wild West Sensation

By | May 5, 2017

At about 10:30 a.m. on the morning of August 3, 1901, more than 100,000 people jostled to catch a glimpse of Frederick Cummins’ Indian Congress parade at the Pan-American Exhibition in Buffalo, New York. The crowds shrieked with excitement when they heard the Carlisle Indian Band strike up a tune, and drew a collective gasp when three celebrities appeared on their respective steeds. There was …

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The Immigrant Activist Who Loved America’s Ideals, If Not Its Actions

By | April 28, 2017

On May 22, 1869, at age 59, the famous activist and orator Ernestine Rose became an American citizen in her own right.
Her decision to do so, at such a late stage of her life, was paradoxical. Rose had long admired the United States, working ardently to make it a better place whenever it fell short of its promise. Legally, she had been a citizen …

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The Passion for Ojibwe Culture I Inherited from My Native-American Mom—and Austrian-Jewish Dad

By | April 21, 2017

In my professional life, as a professor of the Ojibwe language and culture, I work to teach and revitalize the Ojibwe language, one of more than 500 tribal languages spoken here before Europeans arrived. I also travel frequently to run racial equity and cultural competency trainings.
My work is a passion and a calling. Sometimes it surprises people to hear that it grows out …

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The 1927 Mississippi Flood That Connected North and South

By | April 14, 2017

On May 1, 1927, The New York Times announced: “Once more war is on between the mighty old dragon that is the Mississippi River and his ancient enemy, man.” Illustrating the story was a reprint of an 1868 Currier & Ives lithograph called “High Water in the Mississippi,” to which had been added the phrase, “In Days Gone By.”
Through the curtain-like trees, the 1927 viewer—perhaps …

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How Andrew Carnegie’s Genius and Blue-Collar Grit Made Pittsburgh the Steel City

By | April 7, 2017

I’m a retired steelworker—third generation at the Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp. on the south side of Pittsburgh. Both of my grandfathers were steelworkers, and my father was a first helper, meaning he was in charge of one of the steelmaking furnaces in the plant. When my father was ill and dying and on a lot of pain medication, he would mystify doctors with certain …

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The Anti-Capitalist Woman Who Created Monopoly—Before Others Cashed In

By | March 27, 2017

For decades, the story of Monopoly’s invention was a warm, inspiring, Horatio Alger narrative. A version of it, tucked into countless game boxes, told the tale of an unemployed man, Charles Darrow, who went to his Great Depression-era basement desperate for money to support his family. Tinkering around, he created a board game to remind them of better times, and finding modest success selling it …

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How the Bloodiest Mutiny in British Naval History Helped Create American Political Asylum

By | March 24, 2017

The United States has a special history, and thus bears a unique stake, when it comes to the flight of foreign refugees, particularly those seeking sanctuary from oppression and violence. Political asylum has long been a defining element of America’s national identity, beginning most forcefully in 1776 with Thomas Paine’s pledge in Common Sense that independence from Great Britain would afford “an asylum for mankind.” …

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The “Greatest Show on Earth” Enthralled Small-Town Crowds and Inspired Shopping Malls

By | March 17, 2017

When Barnum and Bailey’s “Greatest Show on Earth” rolled into American towns in the 1880s, daily life abruptly stopped. Months before the show arrived, an advance team saturated the surrounding region with brilliantly colored lithographs of the extraordinary: elephants, bearded ladies, clowns, tigers, acrobats, and trick riders.
On “Circus Day” (as it was known), huge crowds gathered to observe the predawn arrival of “herds and …

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How Abolitionists Fought—and Lost—the Battle with America’s Sweet Tooth

By | March 10, 2017

Today, land developer and businessman William Cooper is best known for founding Cooperstown, New York, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame. But back in the 1790s, Cooper was a judge and a congressman who used his power to market a different sort of pleasure—American-made maple syrup—as an ethical homegrown alternative to molasses made from cane sugar, which was at that time farmed by slaves. …

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In Atlanta, Honoring Two Civil War Generals Opens a Discussion on Race and History

By | March 3, 2017

One hundred and fifty years ago, my colorful East Atlanta neighborhood sat two miles outside of the city limits. By July 22, 1864, Union troops had set up their front lines along a trail that later became our main street. When the Confederates decided to bring the fight to their enemy, these quiet woods became the location of the devastating Battle of Atlanta, where some …

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