Your links to history: October Internet Essays and Articles

Map of the United States, 1803.  Courtesy of the Osher Map Library, University of Southern Maine.

Map of the United States, 1803. Courtesy of the Osher Map Library, University of Southern Maine.

Erstwhile blogger Caroline Grego presents a grab-bag of the most intriguing history and environmental writing from across the vasts of the Internet each month, according to her subjective and limited perspective.

The Ottoman Empire’s First Map of the Newly Minted United States by Nick Danforth

This remarkable map shows us how the Ottomans saw the newly birthed United States. While labeled “The Country of English People,” a disappointingly generic moniker, the map also includes the names and lands of a number of Native American nations. I am using this map as a teaching tool for my recitation sections this week, as we discuss Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act. My intention is both to demonstrate that American Indian tribes were recognized as official, national entities by governments around the world, to provide a sense of scale, and to stress that early American history involves the entire continent, not just the eastern seaboard, as I sometimes worry that my American history focus has become overly provincial.

The Ottoman Empire’s cartographic prowess is a fascinating story in itself, and I recommend Alan Mikhail’s Nature and Empire in Ottoman Egypt for further reading.

The Old Jim Crow by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Coates is regularly featured in this column, and with good reason. This month, he has been contemplating The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, and it is proving fertile soil for his essays (by the way, all of the hyperlinks in this essay are worth checking out). This was published halfway through October, and his subsequent articles this month have continued to elaborate on the subject—definitely follow him on this topic!

Here, he traces how black humanity was criminalized during slavery. Coates argues that because enslaved workers were banned from reading, writing, attending church services, and moving through the countryside without a pass, African-Americans were collectively made criminals. In fact, Coates says, the American government has thus criminalized every act of black resistance. He points to Frederick Douglass, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, and other African-American civil rights leaders and discusses their treatment as outlaws within the American justice system (“justice” being a loaded term here). Ultimately, then, African-Americans have reason to fear rather than trust officers of those laws—given that they have been the enforcers of a system historically seated in white supremacy.

Landrieu’s Reference to Race Issues in South Outrages Republicans by Melinda Deslatte

Democratic U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu (1997 – present, as she just successfully retained her seat) of Louisiana was running for reelection against Republican U.S. Representative Bill Cassidy. She has ruffled feathers, and has been criticized by Governor Bobby Jindal, third-party Senate candidate Rob Manness, and the chair of the state’s Republican Party for saying the following, in response to a journalist’s question about President Obama’s low approval rating in Louisiana:

‘”I’ll be very, very honest with you. The South has not always been the friendliest place for African-Americans. It’s been a difficult time for the president to present himself in a very positive light as a leader.”

State Republican Party Chairman Roger Villere has accused her of “denigrat[ing]” the Louisiana citizenry, and Gov. Jindal described her response as “remarkably divisive.”  We clearly aren’t in a post-racial America, and clashes such as this demonstrate the extent to which many Americans—no less candidates in a hotly contested election—are reluctant to think critically about and consider their role in America’s long, brutal history of racism.

How a Pro-Gun, Anti-Gay “Political Terrorist” Could Help Keep Colorado Democrats in Power by Andy Kroll

As of press time, the election results are a mixed bag here in Colorado. Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper barely held onto the governor’s office, but Republican candidate Cory Gardner toppled Democratic Senator Mark Udall from his seat. The control of the Colorado state senate is, as yet, unclear.

Kroll’s article traces the career of Dudley Brown, a “guns-rights crusader” who describes the National Rifle Association as toothless and uses virulent rhetoric to describe the right-wing tide in American politics. This article examines the history of political change in Colorado over the past couple decades, with Brown as a bulwark of right-wing values throughout. Since the mid-1990s, he has employed his political savvy to found Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, to star in a documentary about liberal conspiracies to take over Colorado, and to raise millions for conservative candidates across the nation—though his hard-line stances have alienated many more moderate factions within the Republican Party. What impact, then, do ultra-right-wing pundits have on elections? Kroll argues that Brown’s brand of conservatism alienates citizens from the Republican Party more than it attracts.

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