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All Places > History Community > Blog > Author: Melissa (Famiglietti) Rodriguez

Before the horrific events of the Pulse nightclub shooting, the UpStairs Lounge arson attack was one of the deadliest assaults on the LGBQT community-- except hardly anyone heard about it. In honor of #PrideMonth, read into why this deadly attack is completely unknown to so many.  Read more here: https://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2019/05/06/upstairs-lounge-fire

 

In topical classes on gay and lesbian history, everyone covers Stonewall, but is this covered? What are you covering in your courses?

Exactly one year after the mind-boggling events of Charlottesville, VA, Spike Lee released his new film "The BlacKkKlansman." This past rainy Saturday I went to see it and it was clear why Lee thought this was the right story to release at this particular time.

 

Spoiler alert: in addition to the movie's eerily relevant and poignant political parallels sprinkled in throughout the movie, the movie ended with live footage from the Charlottesville protests. I'm sure I had seen this newsreel dozens of times, but seeing it abutted to the story of the Colorado Springs black police officer that infiltrated the KKK packed a punch. My husband and I left the theater in tears, angry and shaken, about how similar much of the story felt some 40 years later. If you haven't seen the movie yet, I'd highly recommend it. It won't be the easiest thing you process that day, but it's worth your time.

 

Additionally, here's an NPR story about the main actor, John David Washington, and his disbelief that the Ron Stallworth story was a true one: 'I Wasn't Sure If It Was True': John David Washington On The 'BlacKkKlansman' Story : NPR 

Ida B. Wells. Sylvia Plath. Diane Arbus. Henrietta Lacks. Madhubula.

 

What do these women have in common? They were all remarkable women that were overlooked in the NYT obituaries. In honor of Women's History Month, I'd like to share the article: Overlooked, where these women finally get their stories shared in the manner they deserve.

Have you ever come across something on the Internet that really shakes you-- not simply because it is incendiary or troubling (that is a daily occurrence in today's world), but because you couldn't believe you've never seen it before?

 

Recently, a friend shared an uncovered 1939 documentary-style video of American Nazis gathered at Madison Square Garden in New York City. My first thought was that it couldn't be authentic, especially since the first place I saw the 'share' was on Facebook. However, after finding the original article in The Atlantic and finding out that the footage was edited by award-winning documentarian Marshall Curry, it seems that the questions posed in the article were some of the same that I had myself. How come I was never shown this in high school? How have I never seen this and how could this have happened in the heart of New York?  Further still, when I was in NYC for work last week, I emerged from beneath Penn Station to face Madison Square Garden in awe of its seemingly forgotten dark past.

 

I thought about sharing this post, but then I thought "is this too dark, too deeply disturbing to dissect with college students?" I thought about it for a few days before realizing all that this information and analysis unlocked for me. It asked me to research the source, to critically analyze the footage-- its veracity, its intended audience, and its implications. Most shocking of all was how spookily relevant it felt to the current political climate. Themes included: discussions on the first amendment, when and how rallies of free speech can happen especially when it veers into hate speech; who really writes our histories; nationalism, and how national atrocities don't happen overnight -- all of these notions buzzed in my own head for days.

 

After a few days where it kept resurging, I realized I felt compelled to share. I had to hear what others thought about this unearthed piece of our own dirty history. Most importantly, I did not want to be complicit in burying history and then being surprised when frighteningly similar patterns emerge today. 

 

If you think you could bring this into the classroom, please share your stories on assignments created or discussions you had! Link below.

 

Footage of German American Bund Nazi Rally in Madison Square Garden in 1939 - The Atlantic - The Atlantic 

“It’s easier to impeach than invoke the 25th Amendment,” Rosen added, “which is why no president has ever been removed under the disability provision of the 25th Amendment.”

 

Are your students asking about the 25th amendment?  Will they have to Google it along with most of America? The answers are complicated.

 

Here is an interesting talk piece for the classroom: What is the 25th Amendment and why does it matter for Trump? | McClatchy Washington Bureau 

If you are a budding history-enthusiast like myself, you may also find yourself asking questions while watching the evening news. Questions such as: "has this ever happened before?" or "is this setting a new precedent in U.S. history?"

 

Yesterday, the evening news of former FBI director, James Comey's abrupt dismissal from his post circulated. Pundits were interviewed-- all sharing a sense of befuddlement and confusion. Again, I asked, has this ever happened before? [As an aside, I will sheepishly admit that, as someone in my early thirties, I did not live through the Nixon presidency.] Quickly and eagerly, I started reading into the 'Saturday Night Massacre' and further parallels were drawn for me between Trump and Nixon.

 

For example, this Op-Ed piece in the L.A. Times and its political cartoon was particularly helpful to me:

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/la-ol-the-saturday-night-massacre-20170130-htmlstory.html

 

And so, it got me wondering:

What questions are your students asking about Comey's dismissal? How do you handle political discussions contextualized in historical events in your classroom? What assignments, readings, or research would you recommend to better understand presidential precedent -- or the departure from presidential precedent?

According to Yale Daily News, History is back on top of the Majors list starting with the class of 2019!

http://yaledailynews.com/blog/2017/04/06/history-returns-to-the-top-major-for-class-of-2019/ 

 

As I visit various history departments across the country, I often see elaborate displays on the department walls showing famous figures that students may be surprised to learn majored in History (Conan O'Brien, Steve Carrell anybody?) However, we can all learn from one another on how to convey these applications to our students.

 

How are you and your department showing students the relevance of majoring in History?