Author Archives: Guest Blogger

US secretary of state John Kerry meets with Chinese president Xi Jinping in July 2014. Credit: US Department of State. Credit: Flickr

America’s Quest to Change China: Reflections on the History of US-China Relations

By Terry Lautz

The United States has held great ambitions for China for a very long time. Prior to the 1949 Communist revolution, the American public cherished the idea of China as a Christian, capitalist, and democratic nation.

Western religion would enlighten people who were perceived as backward and heathen; American business would lift the Chinese out of poverty; and liberal education would inspire progressive government. The long-standing missionary impulse to save the Chinese was reinforced when the United States allied with Chiang Kai-shek against Japan during the Second World War.

Augusta Savage at work on her famous sculpture, The Harp, commissioned by the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. New York Public Library Digital Collections

Far from the Harlem Crowd: Rediscovering the Work and Life of Augusta Savage in Saugerties, New York

By Eric Fitzsimmons and Sarah E. Elia

In 1945, Augusta Savage, a sculptor and a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance, traded the hustle of Harlem for a secluded house, 100 miles north, tucked at the end of a dirt drive in Saugerties, New York. For a long time, her story was said to end there in a retreat from society and the Harlem art world—a narrative that ignored her ongoing work and active social life in her adopted town.

"Clio" by Hendrik Goltzius, 1558-1617, currently held by the Los Angeles County Art Museum.  Clio is the muse of history.

Changing Course: The Flexibility of a History Degree

By Kamarin Takahara

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” Because I spent most of my time surrounded by teachers, I answered this question when I was young with: “Well, I want to be a teacher.” As I grew up and experienced new things, however, that question took on a greater significance.

The seeming irrevocability of the answer scared me—like in a final exam, you make a choice, turn it in, and because you can never change the answer, you are stuck with your decision forever.

Office_of_War_Information_research_workers_8d28682v

The Surprisingly Short History of American Secrecy

 By Sam Lebovic

Amid the recent hubbub about leaks and whistleblowers and Hillary Clinton’s rogue server, it has been easy to forget what a state secret actually is. Legal commentators and political pundits tend to think about state secrecy in the abstract terms of political philosophy. Perhaps secrecy is always undemocratic, appropriate only for absolutist or totalitarian states. Perhaps it is an unavoidable necessity in a hostile world—democratic governments find themselves forced to keep secrets to protect the security of the public.

The_National_Archives_UK_-_CO_1069-166-23

Teaching the End of Empire: Multidisciplinary Approaches to Decolonization

By Jessica Pearson-Patel

In the summer of 2013, I had the incredible fortune to participate in the National History Center’s 8th International Seminar on Decolonization in Washington, DC. I had just received my PhD in history and French studies at New York University and was about to start a postdoc at Tulane University. Although much of the seminar focused on helping participants advance their own research projects on the history of decolonization, I found that some of the most engaging conversations I had with both the seminar faculty and with my fellow participants centered on teaching.

Curry

The Aftertaste of Empire: Food and Decolonization

By Amanda Banacki Perry

“I’m not getting curry powder at all. Being a Brit, we eat a lot of curry, and I don’t taste it in this.” As I was watching Food Network’s Spring Baking Championship, this comment by Lorraine Pascale, one of the judges on the show, jumped out at me. Her comment, which drew on a legacy of presumed British culinary expertise concerning curry, carried a clear message: Brits know their curry.[1] And yet, the process by which curry became one of the most popular dishes in modern Britain is a complicated one of imperial appropriation, invention, and transformation.

FAAP_TW-promo_v1

African American History: Of Dreams and Struggles

By Adam Green 

“Do everything!” That was the exhortation from Nell Painter that closed the Future of the African American Past conference, jointly sponsored by the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) and the American Historical Association, with support from HISTORYTM and the National Endowment for the Humanities. And, if the breadth and the depth of the preceding conversation was any indication, the current generation of scholars and curators seem up to Painter’s challenge.

Rachel Feinmark leads a public tour at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in New York City.

Who’s Afraid of Being a Generalist? On Being a Historian outside the Academy

By Rachel Feinmark

After two years of endless academic job applications, Skype interviews, and harrowing job talks, I was exhausted from reinventing myself on a daily basis. For all the effort, I was starting to suspect that I might not even want any of the jobs I was working so hard to get. When I finally gave myself permission to apply for the public history positions I’d secretly been coveting, I felt a sense of relief. But as I revised my teaching statement for a museum studies role, I came to realize that I was less interested in refining my class on the history of display than I was in creating the display myself.