Current Events in Historical Context

“We Came Here to Take the Bastille”: The Class of ’74 and the 2018 Election

By John Lawrence

A tense atmosphere is building in Washington, DC: an unpopular president in office, an election marked by criminal tampering, and a special prosecutor probing the clandestine hijinks of White House and campaign officials. Demonstrators are filling the nation’s streets, there’s a long and controversial war sapping America’s treasure in lives and dollars, and whispers are circulating about impeachment. Early special elections appear to signal that a wave of voter anger might be building toward a dramatic climax in the November off-year election.

Can We Right the Past? Memory and the Present

By Caroline E. Janney

Last night, the National Geographic Channel aired the first episode of Katie Couric’s new six-part documentary series, America Inside Out. In Re-Righting History, Couric investigated the contentious and at times violent battles that have erupted in the past three years over the removal of Confederate symbols and names from the public landscape. Beginning with extensive coverage of Charlottesville where Couric was on site for the far-right rally ostensibly to protect a statue of Robert E. Lee, the episode offers an opportunity to reflect on how contemporary Americans continue to both romanticize and struggle to come to terms with the more complex and less triumphant aspects of the nation’s history.

High School Student Activism: Past and Present

By Dionne Danns

As a child, I always enjoyed watching Eyes on the Prize on PBS during Black History Month. I was fascinated both by the history of discrimination and the courageous efforts of young people to fight back against what seemed like insurmountable odds. The images of young children in Birmingham being sprayed by water hoses during peaceful protests, college students rising up on their campuses, and students desegregating schools inspired me. From participating in sit-ins to freedom rides to efforts to desegregate schools, students were on the frontlines of many of the civil rights protests.

Placing the National School Walkout in Historical Context: A Lesson Plan

Tomorrow, many of my students will participate in what may be the largest single instance of high school activism in a generation. At 10 a.m. on March 14 they will participate in the #ENOUGH National School Walkout to protest Congress’s lack of action on gun violence. My class is currently in the midst of a unit on the Long Civil Rights Movement. Collectively, in class, my students and I have been exploring the ways that minority communities experienced, protested, and changed structures of racial oppression across the country.

How the Feds Reshaped Higher Education

The paradox of American higher education is that it is at once so successful and so controversial. Our best universities consistently stand at the top of international rankings, and more than a third of Americans now hold bachelor’s degrees, the highest rate on record. Yet colleges and universities have become lightning rods in the culture wars, and concerns about student debt have spurred increasing calls for colleges to control their costs. The House Committee on Education recently approved a sweeping overhaul of federal legislation related to higher education, including controversial provisions that critics charge will make student loans more costly.

Past Tense: History and Its Abuses in Washington

As I walk to work in the morning, the first thing I see as I head toward the AHA office is the US Capitol, which not only symbolizes a public sector gone awry but also shares the honor of host for the current orgy of disregard for the common good. This observation isn’t partisan, at least not in the current moment: both Republican and Democratic policy makers from previous administrations have noted that “Washington” is not operating as it should. Nor, even, as it usually has. 

Historians and Government Shutdowns

By Donald A. Ritchie

Federal government shutdowns are never in the best interest of historians. The unpredictable events are detrimental to research, closing down the Library of Congress, National Archives, presidential libraries, and myriad specialized resources within different agencies. Historians working for the government find shutdowns not only lock them out of their offices and disrupt their work, but add the stigma of being labeled “nonessential.”