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Showing posts with the label social justice

Kavanaugh: This Was No Witch Hunt

I recently wrote this piece in response to the comparisons of Kavanaugh's hearings to the witch trials in Salem in 1692 on behalf of Voices Against Injustice, a Salem-based nonprofit organization:

The winds of Salem are rising.  From Canada’s Calgary Herald to Fox News, in blogs and tweets, 
reporters, columnists and pundits have compared recent Senate hearings on the confirmation of
 Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh to the witch trials that consumed Salem, Massachusetts 
in 1692.  Their claims, righteous and protective, defend Kavanaugh from his accusers and point to
 a “witch hunt,” an hysterical web of conspiracy and lies. “No evidence!”  They clamor that Kavanaugh is “a convenient scapegoat” for those who identify with 
the political left.  He is innocent, unjustly accused, caught in the turmoil of a political and cultural tempest 
much like the victims of Salem.  The notion that Kavanaugh is a victim has been splashed all over 
media. These claims are unfounded and historically …

Six Word Memoir Project Comes to Salem, Massachusetts

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Once upon a time, I had a particularly wonderful group of Intro to Public History students.  We were working with the idea of memoir as public history.  As a lark, really, I asked them to write their life story in six words, no more no less.  The idea came from  Smith Magazine and we all found it to be really compelling.  So compelling, in fact, that we decided to involve our campus in the process.  My students got hundreds of students involved.  They shared their experiences, from the mundane to the sacred and everything in between.


As public historians, we grappled with how to curate, to care for, other people's stories.  We came up with creative ways of getting people to contribute and we took turns gatekeeping content and dealing with difficult memoirs, painful ones, angry and sad ones.  We talked and debated and ultimately designed a series of arresting exhibits all over campus.  You can see them here.  From kitchen staff to the Vice President, so many members of our commu…

(White) Academia Needs Work

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Tiffany Martinez didn't need to add the "white" to her statement that "academia needs work." She experiences the power and exclusion of whiteness all the time. For her, the academy is white.  I hope you've already read her piece, Academia, Love Me Back, but if you haven't, you need to.  Anyone working in the academy needs to.  White people need to.

I needed to.  I know, from my own experiences and my own mistakes, that the worst injury a professor inflicts on a student is the false assumption that work they have submitted is not their own.

That is what happened to Martinez.  She used the word, "hence" in an essay.  Her professor insisted that this was not her word.  They underlined "not" twice.  As in, "no freaking way do you know this word."  Not to mention this young woman is a serious scholar  and can probably out-write every kid in that class.

 The damage we can wreak as professors by making assumptions about student…

Erasing Labor Day?

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A friend of mine posted this picture yesterday:

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 i…

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…

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.  

Honest Talk About Failure: When Public History Projects Don't Work Out

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Last year, colleagues and I hosted a roundtable discussion at the National Council on Public History's annual meeting on learning from failure in public history practice.  The blog post that inspired it is here: Do You Have a Problem with the Word Failure?

It was particularly memorable for me because we got to play Failure Bingo, which was pretty great:



The American Historian  was nice enough to publish a short piece on the wisdom that emerged from the roundtable on the ways we might best address failure in public history collaborations.

You can read it by clicking here.



Let me know what you think in the comments!