What We’re Reading: November 15, 2012

In this week’s What We’re Reading, we feature historians’ reactions to Stephen Spielberg’s Lincoln, a recently launched military history blog, and a contest for the new Colonial Idol!

Click the image to view the Lincoln trailor

Historians React to Spielberg’s Lincoln
In Spielberg’s Lincoln, Passive Black Characters
In an op-ed article published in the New York Times, Kate Masur, associate professor of history at Northwestern University, AHA member, and author of An Example for All the Land: Emancipation and the Struggle Over Equality in Washington, D.C., takes a close, critical look at the interpretive choices that Steven Spielberg could have made, but did not. Spielberg’s Lincoln, Masur argues, failed to portray the active agency of slaves in their emancipation, and by depicting them instead as the passive recipients of white generosity, the film turned out to be, as she puts it, an “opportunity squandered.”

Lincoln, Hollywood, and an Opportunity for Historians
AHA Executive Director James Grossman discusses some of significant issues the film raises, including that the Civil War was, first and foremost, a conflict over slavery. In addition, Grossman encourages colleagues “to engage the film in the public realm—in newspapers and blogs and on the radio—in language that is accessible, and in a voice that speaks especially to people who might not readily accept concepts and perspectives taken for granted within the academy.”

Historical Sound Effects Captured in Spielberg’s Lincoln
On a different note, DeNeen Brown for the Washington Post provides an interesting read on the importance of historical sound effects in Spielberg’s movie.

Reactions to the 2012 Election
Political Racism in the Age of Obama
Steven Hahn on the election and the reaction: “The white students at Ole Miss who greeted President Obama’s decisive re-election with racial slurs and nasty disruptions on Tuesday night show that the long shadows of race still hang eerily over us.”

Predictable in Retrospect
The Columbia Journalism Review examines “hindsight bias” in the media narrative, which radically shifted from reporting the election as “neck and neck” on Tuesday to reporting on the “inevitable” Obama victory on Wednesday. Seems many outlets and analysts write their “first draft of history” before that history has happened, shoring up a particular conventional wisdom about the election before any data on the election has a chance to emerge.

Who’s in Charge?
Libby Nelson for Inside Higher Ed discusses possible appointees in higher education policy for President Obama’s second term. 

2012 Election Turnout
An interactive map sponsored by New America Foundation re-sizes the 50 states in proportion to their state’s voter turnout.

History in the News
Archival Diplomacy
Rob Gee at Stillwater Historians on the “often tenuous relationships between archivist and historian.”

The Society for Military History Official Blog
A recently launched group blog, with posts such as “The Cultural History of War,” “On Counterfactual History,” and “The Hydroairplane-Supersubmarine Threat to New York.”

Image courtesy of Chronicling America

Fun and Frivolous
Who Is Your Colonial Idol?
Colonial Williamsburg is sponsoring an “exciting talent showcase” featuring five finalists representing historical profiles in Colonial Williamsburg. You can watch videos of each finalist performing a song, and vote on your favorite.

Mars Peopled by One Vast Thinking Vegetable
At Chronicling America, news from the red planet, as reported in the Salt Lake Tribune, October 13, 1912.

30 Pieces of Wisdom from Stephen King Novels
Scroll over the book jacket and read an inspiring quote taken directly from a Stephen King novel

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