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Through his music, Lead Belly rejected the stereotype that country music was the domain of white artists, while blues music was reserved for blacks. Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

Lead Belly’s music defied racial categorization

Lead Belly: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection depicts the fully-formed artist – a blues musician, yes, but also a performer of string-band, country and pop songs.
History is not just a few facts to be memorized. Greg Wass/Flickr

History is a process, not a pile of flash card facts

History is not a 'thing' to be memorized, as some in the Oklahoma legislature might believe, but a living process, to be understood in all its complexity.
In Samuel Roth’s time, there was no Constitutional protection for expression deemed subversive, obscene or indecent. Columbia News

An American Charlie Hebdo?

In 1957, publisher Samuel Roth spent his 63rd birthday in federal prison. His appeal denied by the United States Supreme Court, he would end up serving every day of his five year sentence. The crime? He…
Selma director and co-writer Ava DuVernay has crafted a new and important vision of an oft-examined era in our nation’s history. Stanley Wolfson/Library of Congress

Selma blurs line between past and present

Hollywood films that depict American history deeply influence our sense of national identity. Films that portray Civil Rights and Black Freedom history are particularly important. Beyond entertaining moviegoers…
The unfinished Crazy Horse memorial in Custer County, South Dakota. Bernd00/Wikimedia Commons

Crazy Horse: leader, warrior, martyr … artist?

More than a century after he died, the Lakota warrior Crazy Horse, who famously fought General Custer in the Battle of Little Bighorn, is thought of as transcendent force – attuned to the universe in a…
The movie Selma takes King – best known to Americans as an orator – and turns him into an organizer. Wikimedia Commons

How the movie Selma made MLK human again

It’s been almost 60 years since Martin Luther King, Jr. became a household name during the 1955-1956 Montgomery Bus Boycott, and some may find it astonishing that, until the recent release of Selma, he’s…
In 1984, British LGBT rights groups worked on behalf of striking miners. Flickr

Shared pride, then and now

The film Pride, which won the Queer Palm Award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, is based on the true story of what seems to be a rare occurrence in human history: two oppressed groups (in this case…
Prior to the introduction of jets, most commercial airplanes were propeller driven, like the DC-3 pictured here. These planes had a limited cruising altitude – and experienced much more turbulence. NOAA Photo Library

Longing for the ‘golden age’ of air travel? Be careful what you wish for

Sure, you got meals served on china. But planes were frequently delayed, hijacked, and prone to fatal crashes.
The Slave Trade painted by a French abolitionist artist.

Slavery in America: back in the headlines

Foundation essay: This article is part of a series marking the launch of The Conversation in the US. Our foundation essays are longer than our usual comment and analysis articles and take a wider look…
Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” set in the context of slavery, depicts stark racial stereotypes. AAP/ Facundo Arrizabalaga

How Quentin Tarantino unchained Django (and historical facts)

This year, America will celebrate the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, a presidential decree that effectively abolished slavery in all states in rebellion during the Civil…

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