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Showing posts with the label history

June 9 - the Feast of Saint Columba

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The celebrations of Saint Columba in Derry City represent one of my favorite examples of what Eric Hobsawm and Terence Ranger named "an invented tradition."  In 1897,  the Catholic residents of Derry began a tradition of honoring their patron saint publicly in the streets of the city, as well as in its Catholic chapels.

Here is an excerpt from my manuscript about the process, and reasons, for doing so.


The celebrations of the thirteen hundredth anniversary of the death of St. Columba scheduled to be held in Gartan, Donegal, provided the catalyst for Long Tower's Father Willie Doherty to expand his vision of Derry as a city inspired by Columba, and to invite the city’s Catholic population to join in reverence for their religion and in pride for their cultural heritage. Father Willie served as a conduit, providing the stimulus and organization that enabled local Catholics to express publicly a broader Irish community identity in a way that was respectable, even pious. Inv…

To Eric Schneider, With Gratitude

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I was nervous.  Standing backstage immediately before giving the student commencement address at the University of Pennsylvania's College of Arts and Sciences graduation, I was gulping air and peering out at the thousands of people in the audience.  Eric Schneider leaned in conspiratorially and said, "If it makes you feel better, in the scheme of things, you are just an infinistimal speck of dust.  We all are."

A few months later, Eric sent me a typed letter with a handwritten note.  The letter was one recommending me for an internship.  The note said, "Everyone should get at least one chance to read their eulogy while they are alive.  Here's yours."

Since when were the Gardaí on the other side of the Northern Ireland conflict?

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Today, the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience announced its grant awards for 2016.



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."


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."

Ummmm, what?

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, thou…

Tours at the Highlander Folk School Historic Site

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My students and I have been busy.  

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…

1916: The Centenary of the Easter Rising

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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 seat…

Salem State University History Spotlight

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Somehow, I never got the heads up that this little article got published over at Salem State.

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."

Really?  Do I even believe that?

The Salem Award for Human Rights and Social Justice

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Good news!  Nominations are open for the Salem Award.  This is a wonderful opportunity to provide recognition for an organization or individual doing good work to promote social justice and human rights locally, nationally or internationally.

As many of you know, I am a  board member of the Salem Award Foundation, a volunteer-run organization that educates and advocates for human rights and social justice as a way of memorializing the witch hysteria of Salem, MA in 1692.  The organization also serves as a steward for the Witch Trial memorial installation, a really beautiful site that is often over-shadowed by the tourist sham-tasticness of Salem.


For the past twenty- four years, the Salem Award has been awarded to individuals and organizations as a way of honoring the individuals in Salem circa 1692 who spoke up and pointed out the injustices and ludicrousness associated with the witch hysteria.  The organization has also been parter of a larger, city-wide effort to make…

May Ethan Schmidt Rest in Peace. The Rest of Us Should Not.

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And twenty four hours later, it is over. Thirty-nine year old historian and history professor Ethan Schmidt was shot and killed in his office yesterday morning on the campus of Delta State University.  Bright, hard-working, part of a constellation of many personal, professional and public circles and communities...

And now he is dead.  The most recent headline.  The flashiest of victims of gun violence this week.  Maybe.  The week is still young.  You never know.

But, hey, there's a candlelight vigil.  Before we move on.

Schmidt was murdered by a colleague.  All evidence points to this as a deeply personal killing.