A Poignant and Personal Story of Slavery and Its Aftermath: Zora Neale Hurston’s Barracoon

Hurston, Zora Neale. Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo.” New York: Amistad, 2018. Nearly a century ago, a young, not-yet-famous Zora Neale Hurston traveled to the small community of Africatown (now Plateau) just north of Mobile, Alabama, where she would interview a local man named Cudjo Lewis. Lewis had been born Olaule Kossola […]... Read More
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An Evolving Institution: John Groom’s Crippleage and the Interwar Years

Two years ago, I stumbled across an advertisement while reading Headway, the monthly bulletin of Britain’s League of Nations Union. It was an intentionally striking and provocative image featuring a silhouette of a young woman with the following caption: This is Helen . . . She paints beautiful flowers. We cannot show her full portrait. […]... Read More

Well, Yeah: Jeffrey A. Auerbach‘s Imperial Boredom

British Empire? Check. My alma mater’s world renowned university press? Check. As soon as I unwrapped Imperial Boredom over Christmas 2018, I was psyched. Here was an aspect of empire seldom talked about: what did it feel like to experience the British Empire on the ground? To settle it, to govern it, to sail or soldier for it? Unexciting, apparently, judging from the title. Of all the books Heather gave me that Christmas, I saved it for last as my grand finale. It was certainly nice to return to familiar material, though in keeping with its subject matter, it perhaps wasn’t as grand a finale as I had originally hoped.... Read More

Seasonal Affectation: The Curious Case of Romanticizing Weather in History

We all have our pet historical time periods. Whether we come to them in seminal moments as children or discover a newfound appreciation for them as adults, there’s always something beyond the basic facts, something ahistorical that resonates and calls us to patronize those particular eras more than others. You might call this the ‘essence’ of the period or subject, such as each individual understands it, and while this affection can lead people to become avid students of history, they can also contribute to all the implicit biases that make the field of history so perilously subjective. I’ve recently noticed a manifestation of my own biases that may sound ridiculously petty, but nonetheless plays a key role in my consumption of history: the weather.... Read More