July 31, 2011 |
WASHINGTON - In the Confederate circles he navigated, John Scobell was considered just another Mississippi slave: singing, shuffling, illiterate, and ignorant of the Civil War going on around him. Confederate officers thought nothing of leaving important documents where Scobell could see them, or discussing troop movements in front of him. Whom would he tell? Scobell was only the butler, or the deckhand on a rebel sympathizer's steamboat, or the field hand belting out Negro spirituals in a powerful baritone.
May 29, 2011
The Civil War Awakening By Adam Goodheart Alfred A. Knopf. 481 pp. $28.95 Reviewed by Edward Colimore The decision to leave didn't come easily. Maj. Robert Anderson had been ordered to command the federal garrison at Fort Moultrie, one of three forts protecting Charleston Harbor in South Carolina in 1860. More than 80 years earlier, the fort had been the scene of an American victory over the British just days before the Declaration of Independence. Anderson's father helped defend it. But as the nation edged closer to civil war, Moultrie was clearly vulnerable - not so much from foreign fleets, but from the secessionists on land.
May 20, 2011 |
For as long as people have labored in offices, architects have been promising to make the American workplace more bearable. Yet, more often than not, employees spend their days chained to their desks under a nimbus of fluorescent tubes. The only thing recycled is the air, and windows are a mere rumor. People must resort to their computers to find out if it's raining. The green movement has certainly brought some improvements to the world of the cubicle slave. Eager to win the sweepstakes run by the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED program, employers will gladly install energy- and dollar-saving heating and cooling systems.
May 13, 2011
Near the end of her recent lecture at the Academy of Natural Sciences, Andrea Wulf touched on the role slavery played in the agrarian and horticultural lives of our nation's early presidents. Too bad it came at the end of her talk. It's one of the most fascinating parts of her new book Founding Gardeners: The Revolutionary Generation, Nature, and the Shaping of the American Nation (Alfred A. Knopf, $30). For while she deftly conveys the idea that George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison were passionate to the point of obsession about their fields, crops, seeds, and - as they say in the trade nowadays - "ornamentals and edibles," Wulf also lays out the details of a disquieting and not altogether unfamiliar truth: that, for three of those presidents, a belief in liberty and equality coexisted with slave ownership.
April 28, 2011 |
Despite a keen interest in African American history, Warren Oree had never heard of the violent standoff that came to be known as the Christiana riot. Then Oree came upon a two-sentence summary of the 1851 confrontation, which involved three escaped slaves, a strong-willed free black man, and a slave owner intent on retrieving his property. That was enough to spark the bassist/composer's curiosity. "I don't knock the Underground Railroad," Oree says, "but for too long African Americans have been pictured as either running away or cowering, and that's not a true picture.
April 28, 2011 |
Most of the fanfare surrounding the 83d Academy Awards focused on the ceremony's young hosts, Anne Hathaway and James Franco, but it was 94-year-old screen legend Kirk Douglas who stole the show. On hand to present the supporting-actress Oscar, Douglas earned plenty of laughs from the stage, where he teased Hugh Jackman and Colin Firth, flirted with Hathaway and category winner Melissa Leo, and performed a comedic shtick with his cane with the help of Omar Sharif's grandson, who shares a name with his famous relative.
March 24, 2011 |
Leonard Weaver realized pretty quickly after his Comcast SportsNet interview aired Tuesday that fans weren't getting the message he had intended to send. In referencing and agreeing with the statement of Vikings running back Adrian Peterson that owners looked at the locked-out players as "slaves," Weaver set off a backlash that flooded his Twitter account. Yesterday, after apologizing via Twitter, the Eagles fullback made the media rounds, trying to explain himself. Weaver said he wanted to draw a parallel between workers who feel powerless when treated arbitrarily and NFL players, whose huge salaries might make them seem immune to such treatment.
December 12, 2010 |
After more than eight years of street demonstrations, arguments, haggling, and missed deadlines; after unprecedented public debate about the impact of slavery on life in Philadelphia and the United States and on the life and moral character of George Washington; after thousands of news articles, feature stories, and TV and radio programs, the site marking the intertwined lives of presidents and slaves is set to open to the public with a simple ribbon-cutting at...
November 9, 2010 |
I CAN BARELY listen to tales like those that Karen Fitchett tells of the horrors of the sex trade - the sexual enslavement of girls and women - in Mumbai, India. But if Fitchett is strong enough not to look away from a human-rights atrocity that needs international exposure, the least I can do is let her speak in this column. Fitchett, 48, is founder of the new, Philly-based U.S. chapter of Bombay Teen Challenge, an Indian charity that attempts, among other things, to rescue young prostitutes and their kids from misery in Mumbai.
October 10, 2010
A Journey Through Ancient Italy By Peter Stothard Overlook. 353 pp. $26.95 Reviewed by Frank Wilson Most Americans, if they think of Spartacus at all, remember him as the hero of Stanley Kubrick's 1960 epic film, starring Kirk Douglas as the leader of a major slave revolt against the Roman Republic that took place between 73 and 71 B.C. The Spartacus Road is the route along which the slaves fought their masters. It stretches through 2,000 miles of Italian countryside, from the Alps to Sicily.