Monday, February 25, 2008

World War 2

Visit this site to read and answer questions about "Helen L." and go here to analyze the paintings of Jan Komski.

As a reminder, this assignment is due on Wednesday in class.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Bringing the Great Depression into View

Check out this photo essay and this on-line art gallery, and in the comments section pick a photo and/or a painting to discuss. And, pardon the pun, but "picture this:" Explain why it impacts you, and why you think it is important.

Brush up using your thesaurus if you need to, and paint a picture in words.

[Photo credit here.]

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Harlem Renaissance in Literature and History

Tomorrow's collaboration between U.S. history and American literature classes, the subject of which will be the Harlem Renaissance, will feature a discussion of the poetry of Langston Hughes, and dramatic, cinematic renderings of "The Weary Blues." We will also see a version of "Strange Fruit."

In addition, we'll survey some of "The Black Christ," (1929) a famous Countee Cullen piece, as well as other representations of a Black Jesus during this period and beyond.

W.E.B. Du Bois, for example, wrote short stories for The Crisis that featured Black Christs as prophetic, redemptive figures, either teaching about hard work and economic equality, such as in a story titled "The Sermon on the Tower," or as a lynched figure where the noose is considered a sign of salvation (i.e., "The Son of God" from a 1933 Crisis issue).

We will discuss the importance of these stories in light of recent "noose incidents" (see map) and images of a Black Jesus in 20th and 21st century culture. This provides an interesting contrast to Mel Gibson's depiction of a European-looking Jesus in The Passion of the Christ.

These topics and many more will complete the discussion by analytically incorporating art, culture, and religion.

We will examine selections from the Countee Cullen pieces below.

"Christ Recrucified" (1922)

The South is crucifying Christ again

Christ's awful wrong is that he's dark of hue
The sin for which no blamelessness atones;
But lest the sameness of the cross should tire,
They kill him now with famished tongues of fire,
And while he burns, good men, and women, too,
Shout, battling for his black and brittle bones.


"The Black Christ" (1929)

O Form immaculately born,
Betrayed a thousand times each morn,
As many times each night denied,
Surrendered, tortured, crucified!
That love which has no boundary;
Our eyes have looked on Calvary (135-136).

[Source: James H. Smylie, “Countee Cullen’s ‘The Black Christ,’” Theology Today 38/2 (July 1981): 160-73]

Here's a link to the slideshow about images of Christ, as well as a BBC story that asks why so many depictions of Christ are "white."

[Photo credits here and here.]

Monday, February 11, 2008

A Holy Cause for Clemens?: The War Prayer

Mark Twain, in addition to writing about Huck Finn and other adventures, also wrote a fascinating short story called "The War Prayer." Twain penned this story in response to America's imperial adventures in the Spanish-American War, but it wasn't published until after his death--ironically in November 1916--the month Woodrow Wilson was elected with a campaign slogan about keeping the U.S. out of World War I. Timely indeed.

Twain is his usual satirical self here, and perhaps even a bit prophetic. This story provides ways to think about the religious dimensions of nationalism and patriotism, the spiritual fervor with which it is was and is often communicated--particularly in times of war, and the power of criticism.

Read "The War Prayer" and the view the short story animated and illustrated. (Read more about the illustrated version here.)

On a related note, evangelical theologian Charles Marsh recently published a book titled Wayward Christian Soliders, a study that addresses the kind of religious patriotism Twain criticized in "The War Prayer." Marsh's book is not satire, but a theological plea for Christian ideals of hospitality, peace, and loving one's enemy (and neighbor).

Given your knowledge of Twain from your American Literature class, your study and understading of WWI from your favorite history teacher, and living in our own day of war and conflict, what do you think Twain wish to communicate through the story? What might one learn from Twain's story? Is it still relevant for the 21st century? What are your thougths about the illustrated "The War Prayer"?

[Photo credit here.]

Thursday, February 7, 2008

World War "One": History Rocks 1.0

In order to stay in tune with today's discussion of music and culture and WWI, I offer this post both as a learning tool and as a way to highlight one of my favorite bands (in addition to this musician): Metallica.

Metallica's 1989 song "One" was inspired by the novel "Johnny Got His Gun." Published in 1939, this anti-war story is about a soldier injured during WWI. The phrase "Johnny Got His Gun" comes from the George Cohan song "Over There" we listened to in class.

The novel has been adapted to the stage (the 1940s) and the screen (the 1970s), and a new film version is scheduled to debut this year.

Metallica's music video for "One" won a Grammy in 1990 and is quite famous; it musically depitcs tension, conflict, and via drums, machine guns. Check it out here and read the lyrics here.

A couple of questions......

What is significant about the historical context of the book's publication in the late 1930s, and about the film version of the book (both during the 1970s and today)? What does the song say about wartime experiences, and how does this relate to what we've read and discussed in class?

[Photo credit here.]

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Chapter 30: World War I

Tonight's reading is pp. 696-705, and below you will find the key terms list for ch. 30. This serves as your study guide for Monday's quiz.

Causes of World War I
Zimmerman Note
Wilson’s 14 Points
League of Nations
George Creel
Bolshevik Revolution
Vladimir Lenin
War Industries Board
Committee on Public Information
Espionage Act (1917)
Sedition Act (1918)
Industrial Workers of the World
John J. Pershing
Treaty of Versailles
18th Amendment
19th Amendment
Female Suffrage
“Big Four” (Wilson, Orlando, Clemenceau, George)


As you prepare to assemble a project on the 1920s, you may find these various links helpful.

Click here for a link to primary documents related to major controversies of the 1920s, and follow this link to a timeline of the 20th century. If you like music, check out this link and this link to, pardon the puns, get in step and stay in tune with 1920s music. Check out the Ken Burns documentary on jazz, too. If you like cultural history--things like art, architecture, fashion, shopping, and literature--find the 1920s here.

For broad coverage of the 1920s, from the rise of baseball to Prohibition, visit here and here. Let your interests take flight with Charles Lindbergh, or Amelia Earheart. And if you want to return to W.E.B. Du Bois or Helen Keller, you may do so.

If you like poetry, spend the time to check out the rhymes (and stories) of Langston Hughes (and here and here) and Countee Cullen (and here).

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

"Picturing" World War One

Spend some time at this photo exhibit, as well as these on trench warfare (and here too), select an image that impacts you and explain why. Leave your thoughts in the comments section and/or be prepared to discuss tomorrow.
You may want to view this video about propaganda and World War I. For footage of shellshock victims, watch this.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Black History Month 2.0: Africans and America

A new film premieres Monday, February 4 called "Prince Among Slaves."

Here's a brief synopsis from the film's website:
1788. The slave ship Africa set sail from the Gambia River, its hold laden with a profitable but highly perishable cargo—hundreds of men, women and children bound in chains--headed for American shores. Eight months later, a handful of survivors found themselves for sale in Natchez, Mississippi. On the slave auction block, one of them, a 26-year-old male named Abdul Rahman Ibrahima made an astonishing claim to Thomas Foster, the plantation owner who purchased him at auction: As an African prince, highly educated and heir to a kingdom, this bedraggled African’s father would gladly pay gold for his return. Foster dismissed the claim as a tissue of lies.

Follow this link for coverage of the major historical figures that factor into Abdul Rahman Ibrahima's life including John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, Francis Scott Key and David Walker. The film is based on Terry Alford's Prince Among Slaves (Oxford University Press, 2007; Thirtieth Anniversary Edition).
Watch clips of the film here and read some press clippings about the film. And the rapper Mos Def is the film's narrator.

In addition to Alford's book, this film appears as if it will work in tandem with Sylviane Diouf's work on the ship Clotilda, and much of Michael Gomez's outstanding scholarship on Africans in the Americas. Check out this on-line exhibit about Africans in the Americas from the Schomburg Center.

Watch the film and leave your comments.

[Photo credit here.]

Friday, February 1, 2008

Black History Month 1.0

On this, the opening day of Black History Month, let us reflect on this month's history.

Read about Carter G. Woodson, and the origins of commemoration and recollection. Here are some more links to Woodson sites: his home, his papers, his legacy.

And check out some biographies here.

[Photo credit here.]