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Articles on US history

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A dairy barn in Waitsfield, Vermont, built circa 1890. Thomas Visser

Why are barns painted red?

Barns are practical buildings, designed to safeguard farm animals and equipment. Why are so many of them painted to stand out from the landscape?
Sign at a boat ramp on Lake Mead, near Boulder City, Nevada, Aug. 13, 2021. The lake currently is roughly two-thirds empty. AP Photo/John Locher

As climate change parches the Southwest, here’s a better way to share water from the shrinking Colorado River

A Western scholar proposes allocating water from the Colorado River based on percentages of its actual flow instead of fixed amounts that exceed what’s there – and including tribes this time.
A gun rights advocate walks through the rotunda of the Kentucky Capitol. Some lawyers argue that the 1689 English Bill of Rights created the legal basis for public carry of weapons in the U.S. Bryan Woolston/Getty Images

Why are medieval weapons laws at the center of a US Supreme Court case?

Many gun rights advocates claim that the right to carry guns is a universal right that has spanned centuries and nations. History tells a different story.
Voting rights activists protest voter restriction laws being passed in states across the country, in Washington, D.C., July 15, 2021. Alex Wong/Getty Images

The first battle in the culture wars: The quality of diversity

Americans tend to think of diversity in demographic terms, but it has a qualitative element to it that reflects a fundamental battle between segregation and integration.
A man fishes the head of a statue of Queen Victoria from the Assiniboine River in Winnipeg. Her statue and a statue of Queen Elizabeth were toppled and vandalized on Canada Day. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Kelly Geraldine Malone

‘History wars’ in the U.S. and Canada provoked by a racial reckoning with the past

Movements that challenge former national icons demonstrate the importance of history-making in an age of racial reconciliation. But ‘history wars’ won’t get us anywhere.
Before satellites, fire crews watched for smoke from fire towers across the national forests. K. D. Swan, U.S. Forest Service

Big fires demand a big response: How 1910’s Big Burn can help us think smarter about fighting wildfires and living with fire

The US has learned that it cannot suppress its way to a healthy relationship with fire in the West. That strategy failed, even before climate change proved it to be no strategy at all.
A survey of U.S. history teachers found they teach about 9/11 primarily on the date of the anniversary. Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

What schools teach about 9/11 and the war on terror

The 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks is an opportunity for teachers to focus less on recreating the day and more on what students can learn from it, two curriculum experts argue.
Interstate 980 cuts off West Oakland, Calif., at top, from other Oakland neighborhoods. Jane Tyska/Digital First Media/East Bay Times via Getty Images

Removing urban highways can improve neighborhoods blighted by decades of racist policies

Two urban policy experts explain why taking down highways that have isolated low-income and minority neighborhoods for decades is an important part of the pending infrastructure bill.
An allegorical painting depicted the British Empire taking in American loyalists in 1783. Benjamin West’s portrait of John Eardley Wilmot, 1812. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Refugees after the American Revolution needed money, homes and acceptance

When people fled the new United States in the 18th century, they were taken in by the British Empire but became disillusioned by unfulfilled British promises.

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