The Power of Public Shaming: Cartographies of Protest in Boston and PR Stunts for Public Housing in the ATL (Best of UHA 2014, Part 3)

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In part three of ToM’s UHA coverage, the role of media in shaping advocacy and protest occupies center stage. Whether advocating for Atlanta public housing or protesting Massachusetts’s plans for new highway construction, politicians and activists cannily manipulated media to their own ends. Refreshingly, in each case, agency was rewarded with victory or, in the case of Katie Marages Schank’s talk on Maynard Jackson and the Bankhead Court Project, a temporary reprieve.   Karilyn Crockett, “Maps, Newspapers, Press Releases and the Anxiety of Movement Building: Struggles within the Boston Anti-Highway Movement, (1966-1987) “Pack up, I’m strayed, Enough/Oh, say, say, say say…. Wait, they … [Read more...]

What a Hagan Victory Would Mean for North Carolina

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North Carolina has long seemed to be on the verge of breaking from its reactionary past. Time and time again, the state has looked like it might actually depart from a historical legacy defined by low wages, poor education, and racial hostility, only to revert at the last minute to its old, conservative, Southern ways. In light of this past, the current effort of Sen. Kay Hagan to win reelection is freighted with great historical and political significance. It was only six years ago that North Carolina voters issued one of the most shocking upsets of the 2008 election, when Barack Obama narrowly won the state’s electoral votes. Obama was the first Democrat to do so since Jimmy Carter won … [Read more...]

The War on Poverty at 50: How Far Have We Come, and Where Are We Going? (A Conference Report)

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One goal of studying the past is not to be trapped by history but to transcend it. -- Historian Michael B. Katz (1939-2014) ToM regularly covers disciplinary conferences. Last week, the University of Pennsylvania hosted "The War on Poverty at 50: Its History and Legacy." Your ToM correspondent spoke at the event while furiously taking notes during all the panels to produce the write-up you have before you. Videos of the event will be up shortly and embedded below. (Panelists, if you're reading this, let me know if something's missing or distorted, and I'll modify this account immediately. I tried to keep these as brief as possible while conveying the major thrusts of the papers.) The … [Read more...]

Spitting Hot Fire: Malibu Wildfires and the Santa Anas

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"To live with the Santa Ana, is to accept consciously or unconsciously, a deeply mechanistic view of human behavior," reflected Joan Didion in 1968. Quoting Raymond Chandler, she noted the environment's deterministic control over Californians. On nights when the Santa Ana gust through the homes of Angelenos, Chandler asserted, "every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen."1 Though the winds alone might have inspired unpredictable behavior in people, every year from October through January, the Santa Ana's love affair with fire existentially pokes Los Angeles like a carving knife to a husband's … [Read more...]

“Taking Compton National”: Schools, Race, and Modern Suburbia in 20th and 21st Century California

1974 - Defender cites 6 of the new black mayors of '73

 “Our nation is moving toward two societies, One Black, One White – separate and unequal,” announced the 1968 Kerner Commission. In 1967, following riots that had erupted across urban America, President Lyndon B. Johnson enacted the commission, appointing former Illinois Governor Otto Kerner Jr as its chairman, to delineate the causes of American unrest; unsurprisingly, the report concluded that poverty, segregation, and lack of economic opportunities corroded urban minority neighborhoods while whites fled to middle and upper class suburban environs, taking income and businesses with them.Undoubtedly, the Kerner Commission correctly identified many of the systematic problems afflicting … [Read more...]

The American Military: Nineteen Histories about War, Society, and the U.S. Military’s Influence on the Nation

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Even today, the category of military history still elicits a bit of head scratching. Our own John Southard noted as much in a 2012 essay for ToM: “Crayons, Fraternities, and Military History.” Southard pointed out that in the last throes of the twentieth century and the first decade of the new millennium, there existed among historians a great deal of doubt regarding the efficacy of military history. At the 1997 meeting for the Society of Military History, John Lynn publicly confided that one of his University of Illinois colleagues inquired, in the best voice of academic condescension one can imagine, if military historians “write in crayon.” At the 2008 meeting of the American Historical … [Read more...]

“Capital within a Capital”: Covert Action, the Vietnam War, and Creating a “Little Saigon” in the Heart of Northern Virginia

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“That flag is the symbol of the spirit of the refu­gee,” Springfield resident and Vietnamese American talk show host Liem D Bui told journalists in 2012. The flag to which Bui referred is that of the fallen South Vietnam government and it along with an American flag fly over Eden Center shopping plaza in Falls Church, VA, a symbolic embodiment of Vietnamese American culture that some call “a capital within a capital,” for D.C.’s 80,000 residents of Vietnamese descent. Unfortunately, in recent years, the shopping center has garnered attention for more than its restaurants and markets. A murder-suicide left two men dead in July of 2012 and gambling raids in 2011 linked Eden Center and its flag … [Read more...]

A Dive into the Deep End: The Importance of the Swimming Pool in Southern California

Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks canoeing in the swimming pool at Pickfair. Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library

[Let Summer begin! This week we focus on the role of pools and beaches in American, specifically, SoCal life. On Wed. we'll look at how L.A.'s African American population demonstrated agency and carved out spaces of leisure for their communities through beaches in early 20th century Southern California. For more on pools check out our review of Jeff Wiltse's social history on the subject, Contested Waters and our own take on the narrative surrounding New York's McCarren Park Pool and its connection to NYC's 20th century history of aquatic leisure. Dive in kids!] Perhaps you've heard the story before. There was once a poor mountaineer, who could barely keep his family fed. One day, "while … [Read more...]

White Racial Innocence Goes to War: Forrest Gump at 20

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1994—it wasn’t that long ago.  Or was it?  It was a time before iPhones, YouTube, Monica Lewinsky, WMDs, and Honey Boo-Boo.  The tech bubble was still a glimmer in Alan Greenspan’s eye.  It was in the Spring of that year that I remember seeing a trailer for a forthcoming Tom Hanks film with the unlikely title Forrest Gump.  I figured it was some weirdo prestige project that a big-name actor was doing for some indie cred, and would never, ever be a commercial success.  But a few months later, I witnessed a crowd of teary-eyed viewers streaming out of a screening of Forrest Gump, clutching Kleenexes.  Something was clearly going on. As it turns out, Tom Hanks’s portrayal of a Candidean … [Read more...]

Shifting Lanes: The Demise of the Southern California Autotopia

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To understand the City of Angels, Joan Didion once wrote, one needed to immerse oneself in the freeway experience or, as she put it, "the only secular communion Los Angeles has."1 Between 1968 and 1979 Didion published three books -- two collections of non-fiction essays: "Slouching Toward Bethlehem" in 1968 and "The White Album" in 1979; and one work of fiction: "Play It as It Lays" in 1970 -- that depicted a modern Southern California, buffeted by "the weather of catastrophe, of apocalypse," but grounded by its highways and relaxed by its pools. Southern California combined the elemental extremes of nature with the rigidity of the decade's car-centric urban planning. For 1960s and early … [Read more...]

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