In 1861, former South Carolina governor William Bull burned down his house because he was worried that the Yankees might get it. In studying Barbados, the American South, and the Greater Caribbean, I’ve become familiar with the ways the environment slowly chips away at the things that humans construct. Hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, termites, encroaching vines, and the simple decay of organic matter often make investigating the material past difficult. In their own way, however, human beings are more destructive—the house that Bull burned down had stood in that spot for more than 130 years.Read More
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.Read More
Mixtapes contained tiny archives. In the heyday of the portable cassette—which overlapped with King Vinyl before the great extinction-by-compact-disc of the 1980s—they allowed DJs and freestyle rappers to circulate their work to a micropublic. Unlike Grateful Dead concert bootlegs (which also united a public), mixtapes put individual virtuosity at the center of their aesthetic. As cassettes saturated suburban bedrooms and tape decks became fixtures in cars, young music fans created mixtapes for their own pleasure and to exchange with peers. Today, hip-hop artists still drop mixtapes (making new tracks or remixes available for download), and cassettes are fixtures in many prisons.Read More
AHA members are involved in all fields of history, with wide-ranging specializations, interests, and areas of employment. To recognize our talented and eclectic membership, AHA Today features a regular AHA Member Spotlight series.
Alex Zukas is a professor at National University, San Diego, California. He lives in San Diego, California, and has been a member since 1991.Read More
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.Read More
At the close of the Civil War in 1865, Dr. Robert Kells—then the superintendent of the Mississippi State Lunatic Asylum—warned state officials that widespread loss of property (including enslaved people), wounded pride, and the vices “contracted by so many of our best men . . . in the army” would unleash a wave of insanity in the state. I read Kells’s predictions during my first trip to the state archives as a new graduate student at the University of Southern Mississippi.Read More
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.Read More