Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Article Link: Roméo Dallaire

General Roméo Dallaire was the Force Commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR) in 1994.  In January 1994, the Canadian general's mission received information from a Hutu informant about Hutu extremists stockpiling arms in preparation for mass killings.  Gen. Dallaire informed UN headquarters that he planned to raid the arms caches and break up the genocide planning.  UN headquarters overturned his plans.  He repeated his request the next month.  Again, he was turned down.  By April, Rwanda was in crisis.  Eventually 850,000 would die, with millions of people displaced and thousands raped and subjected to other atrocities.*

Gen. Dallaire has published a piece in the Washington Post arguing that the international community is making the same mistake in Iraq.  In particular, he is deeply concerned about the role played by children in this crisis.  The record demonstrates that we should have listened to Gen. Dallaire in 1994.  I'd argue it's well worth listening to him now.

* Information taken from Bruce W. Jentleson, American Foreign Policy, 5th ed. (New York: W. W. Norton, 2014), 574-575.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Today in History: Orville Wright

Orville Wright, the younger of the famous Wright brothers who designed the first airplane to make a sustained flight, was born on this date in 1871.  His brother Wilbur was four years older.  See here for an interesting biography of Orville (and the opportunity to connect to interesting biographies of other members of the Wright family -- click on "History and Culture" to the left and then on "People").

I, at least, tend to think of events like the Wright brothers' historic flight as feats of adventure.  An adventure it was, but the Wright brothers were practical; not only did they study the work of other aviation pioneers, even going so far as to write the Smithsonian Institution that would one day own their historic airplane, but they were so wary of competitors that they refrained from conducting flight tests between late 1905 and spring 1908 while some of their patents pended.  The romance of the skies, tempered by a dose of business-world reality.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Images from the Past: Fire Hydrant Fun

It's hot, and I'm hot (and very thankful for modern air conditioning), and just looking at these historic images of children playing in New York fire hydrants makes me cooler.  Enjoy!


Harlem, 1939


Lower East Side, 1957


Block Party, 1970

For more great photos, click on this link (also the source of the images shared above).

Friday, August 15, 2014

Reflection on the Week: Fun Charts

It has been a busy week, and I seem to have used the last vestiges of the "deep reflection" part of my brain attempting final revisions on a journal article.  Happily, the New York Times has provided light stimulation for my tired brain by publishing a fascinating interactive feature graphically demonstrating U.S. population movement since 1900: find it here.  It's a wealth of information, some predictable (14 percent of Oregonians are successful California escapees) and some rather surprising, at least to me (only 40 percent of current Wyoming residents were born in the state!).  Seventy-two percent of Mississippians were born in the state, while only 55 percent of Georgia residents are natives -- statistics very much in keeping with Atlanta's status as a "Sunbelt" migrant draw.  Late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century immigration trends are especially clear in states such as the Dakotas, where influxes of Scandinavian settlers were not countered by new immigrant streams in the latter part of the twentieth century (the charts tabulate population movement from "outside the United States" but don't break that down by country or region).  Take a look -- I'd love to hear of any surprises you find in the data.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Article Link: John Dean

The Daily Beast recently ran an interesting interview with John Dean, available here.  I don't particularly agree with his characterization of the skills of lawyers versus historians (no problem with lawyers; just think he should give historians more credit).  It's fascinating that one of the key figures in the Watergate affair has become perhaps the authoritative expert on Nixon's role in the cover-up.  The interview includes a link to Bob Woodward's glowing review of Dean's The Nixon Defense.  

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Today in History: Windy City

Chicago was incorporated as a town on this date in 1833.  It would be incorporated as a city four years later.  As historian William Cronon so eloquently explained in his Nature's Metropolis, the Windy City became the locus point for the development of the United States as breadbasket -- and side of beef, and so on -- to the world.

Chicago's first permanent non-Native resident was a man named Jean Baptist Point du Sable.  He was a free black man, probably from Haiti, who arrived in the 1770s.  Chicago's checkered racial legacy -- burgeoning African American culture spurred by the Great Migration of the World War I era coupled with insidious residential "red-lining" -- makes this origin story all the more fascinating.

See this history provided by the City of Chicago for more information and anecdotes regarding this central location, literally and figuratively, in the development of American political, economic, and cultural life.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Images from the Past: Summer Camp


Here's a nice little colorized number in honor of day camp week here at the Gifford household, a blessed time of fun for the 8-year-old and lesson planning/article editing for me.  This hand-tinted vintage postcard from the 1950s (available for purchase from a Eugene, Oregon artist via the link) demonstrates that while styles may change, the goofy faces children of this age make for photographs remain constant...