It is one of the most iconic photographs of the twentieth century. I would argue that for many, it tells the story of the American war in Vietnam, or the Vietnam War, more eloquently than any other image. The picture is often called simply, "the napalm girl."
And Facebook decided to censor it. Because the child depicted is not wearing any clothes.
Because she was burned so badly that she was basically on fire.
She took it at her dry cleaners. It led to a very funny thread on her Facebook wall:
"Someone might need a tutorial on holidays?"
"Police? Well, they are usually unionized, right?"
"Union organizers! They keep us strong and free."
"My shop steward definitely keeps me safe from management."
And it went on from there. One person made the case that the dry cleaners' experience was directly connected to the events at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York and made them, possibly, more amenable to learning the stories of America's labor organizing histories. "History is a weapon."
Several people mentioned American flags flying everywhere in honor of Labor Day. Here in Tennessee, college classes ran on schedule and even the campus post office was open for half the day.
Labor Day seemed a non-event.
Are we erasing Labor Day from our national commemorative calendar? Are we in danger of forgetting the importance of organized labor to our history?
One grant was awarded to an organization called Diversity Challenges, whose mission is "to assist culturally specific groups in integrating community relations principles and considerations within all aspects of their work." (No, I don't actually know what that means either.)
According to the Sites of Conscience the grant will fund “Voices from the Vault,” a project that collects stories from former police officers in two police forces on either side of the (Northern Ireland) conflict. The work is groundbreaking in the sense that it is uncommon for state agents in any dispute to talk about their experiences."
As a public historian, I tend to dismiss academics who get petty about semantics. They always seem to have an air of the kid in the front of the room just dying to get the answer right. (The kid waving their hand in the air so hard you think they might pee themselves.)
As an historian of Northern Ireland, though, this term "on both sides of the conflict" jarred.
An expert on the peace process, the late John Darby explained, the conflict was a low intensity triangulated one. "The protagonists were the British state (represented by its army, locally recruited regiments and a militarized police force), republican paramilitaries (mainly the PIRA, but including smaller groups like the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA)) and loyalist paramilitaries (the Ulster Defence Association/Ulster Freedom Fighters (UDA/UFF) and the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF))."
There. Was. No. Police. Force. On. The. Other. Side. Of. The. Conflict.
There were NOT TWO SIDES TO THE CONFLICT. Of course, what this means is that Diversity Challenges will interview members of the Gardai Síochána, the Irish name for the police forces of the Republic of Ireland. Not a bad idea. (Although fabulous border work has already been done by Catherine Nash and Bryonie Reid.)
It's been less than 20 years since the Good Friday Agreement. In the face of Brexit, the situation is in Northern Ireland is more fragile than it has been in a decade. For organizations to run fast and loose with language around complicity and the shape, tenor and history of the conflict ----- and for funders to support them in this ----- is just plain wrong.
It offends people. It denies history. It recasts the conflict.
It also smoothes, reshapes, redefines and remodels the past in a way that is at odds with both history and historical consciousness.
According to Northern Ireland elections statistics, only 56% of registered voters in the Foyle District turned out to vote in last month's elections. As an historian of Derry, this breaks my heart a little. Look at the photo to the left. Those are real people. Historical figures, some of them, like Eddie McAteer and Bernadette Devlin McAliskey. Civil rights steward Vinnie Coyle. Others, probably, not known to me. And then the faces of the young, the hopeful, the indignant, the worried. The faces of the civil rights movement. Which -- of course -- was in large part a movement for for the right for every adult citizen to have a vote.
Sewanee Students Offer Historical Tours of the Highlander Folk School
If you have ever wanted to learn more about the Highlander Folk School in the Summerfield community of Grundy County, now is your chance to learn.
University of the South students enrolled in courses offered through the Collaborative for Southern Appalachian Studies will offer free historical tours of the Highlander Folk School site on Saturdays throughout April. Tours will be offered at 1 and 3 p.m.April 9, 16, 23, and 30, weather permitting. Tours last approximately one hour and leave from the Highlander Folk School Library on Old Highlander Lane in Monteagle, Tennessee. If you are interested in attending a tour, please plan to arrive 10 minutes before it is scheduled to begin.
Student tour guides will share the history of the site and the vision and ethos of its founders and staff. They will introduce the historic programs and work of the school and relay its contributions to U.S. labor, civil rights, and social justice movements. They will highlight key figures who participated in Highlander's programs, and will explain how and why controversies led to the forced closure of the folk school. The continued work and legacies of Highlander and efforts to preserve the site in Summerfield will be included in the tour.
Dr. Margo Shea, a visiting fellow with the Collaborative, has worked with Sewanee students in two courses, Introduction to Public History and Place-Based Research Methods, to conduct research and find creative ways to interpret the site in partnership with the Tennessee Preservation Trust. (Both courses are part of the university’s community-engaged learning program.) In 2013, the Tennessee Preservation Trust purchased the buildings and land associated with the school, which closed in 1961 and has since relocated to New Market, Tennessee.
It is the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising. Events throughout the week, indeed throughout the year, are scheduled in Dublin. It is an interesting moment of looking back and looking forward, as commemorations generally tend to be. I, for one, think the Republic has only healed from its turbulent history in the wake of the Northern Ireland peace process. Until then, there were still schisms and wounds. What kind of nation is Ireland and what kind of nation will it be? The centenary of the Rising is a good time to ask these questions, a good time to transcend post-colonial collective traumas and still, to carry the lessons of the past to continue to construct a democratic, progressive, welcoming nation that puts the wellbeing of its citizens before everything else.
At about 11:00 am on Easter Monday, 100 years ago today, the Irish Volunteers, along with the Irish Citizen Army, assembled at various prearranged meeting points in Dublin, and before noon ambushed and occupied seats of British and Ascendancy power in the city. These had been selected to command the main routes into the capital, and also because of their strategic position in relation to the major military barracks. They included the General Post Office, the Four Courts, Jacob’s Factory, Boland’s Bakery, the South Dublin Union, St. Stephen’s Green and later the College of Surgeons. The properties targeted were taken virtually without resistance and immediately the rebels set about making them defensible. The GPO was the nerve centre of the rebellion. It served as the rebels’ headquarters and the seat of the provisional government which they declared.”
Here is an image of the General Post Office during the Rising:
The rising was crushed almost immediately, its leaders executed and imprisoned. All over Britain, and indeed in Ireland itself, the events were mocked and trivialized. The Manchester Guardian had this to say 100 years ago: “It is the nature of a riot rather than a rising,” dubbing it “a show – for it cannot be regarded as more than this – of rebellion”. Today, historians still consider the rebellion a failure, but the harsh and merciless treatment of its leaders by British forces changed public opinion and laid the foundation for a protracted war of independence --- Ireland's fight for sovereignty was the first crack in the facade of Empire. William Butler Yeats, was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1865, the son of a well-known Irish painter, John Butler Yeats. Born into the Anglo-Irish landowning class, Yeats became involved with the Celtic Revival, a movement against the cultural influences of English rule in Ireland during the Victorian period. Deeply involved in politics in Ireland, he wrote numerous poems like this one, giving voice to the struggles and price of Irish independence, the yearning and doubt so much a part of the movement.
I’ve only included about half this poem but you can find it in its entirety by clicking here
Easter 1916 W. B. Yeats
I have met them at close of day Coming with vivid faces From counter or desk among grey Eighteenth-century houses. I have passed with a nod of the head Or polite meaningless words, Or have lingered awhile and said Polite meaningless words, And thought before I had done Of a mocking tale or a gibe To please a companion Around the fire at the club, Being certain that they and I But lived where motley is worn: All changed, changed utterly: A terribly beauty is born…
…Too long a sacrifice Can make a stone of the heart. O when may it suffice? That is Heaven's part, our part To murmur name upon name, As a mother names her child When sleep at last has come On limbs that had run wild. What is it but nightfall? No, no, not night but death; Was it needless death after all? For England may keep faith For all that is done and said. We know their dream; enough To know they dreamed and are dead; And what if excess of love Bewildered them till they died? I write it out in a verse -- MacDonagh and MacBride And Connolly and Pearse Now and in time to be, Wherever green is worn, Are changed, changed utterly: A terrible beauty is born.
I love that public history got recognition. I very much love that the Six Word Memoir Project got recognition. I do not love the quote, which I cannot quite believe I said and certainly don't remember saying, "History is pointless and useless if the public doesn't engage."