In 2017, while at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Pete Ross and I made an amazing discovery. A diorama made in Suriname by a free man of Color named Gerrit Schouten looked stunningly like a watercolor from South Carolina painted by a white man named John Rose. When I went into the archives and learned more about the dance in the diorama, the Banya Prei, and then compared that against early accounts of the banjo, I was floored. What we saw in Suriname cropped up all over the Americas.
At the 2018 Banjo Gathering, Pete and I presented about the Banya discovery.
The name John Gabriel Stedman may not mean a lot to a lot of people today, but the memoir he wrote and the images that were produced from his drawings for his book still influence how we envision slavery today. Read more about Stedman's legacy and Suriname.
Read my article on Het Koto Museum on OZY.
Located in a quiet neighborhood near the center of historic Paramaribo, Suriname, Het Koto Museum celebrates the lives and legacy of Afro-Surinamese women. The museum is founded and run by Christine Van Russel-Henar, who is reviving the tradition of the Koto outfit. She shared her knowledge and passion with me during a visit the the museum.
In June, I was invited to the Legacy of Slavery and Indentured Labor Conference at the Anton de Kom University in Paramaribo, Suriname.
I presented a paper on the ritual dances in the Americas, expanding on research I presented at The Banjo Gathering in 2017. While we spent a week at the conference, I was also able to explore the city of Paramaribo, the jungle and Maroon villages, and Papillon's famous prison in French Guiana. I was able to share three stories from Suriname on OZY's Around the World, and will be sharing those and more stories of museums and historic sites here on the blog.
In the 1880s, a woman from the East Coast fascinated by the culture of the Plains tribes set out to record their music. At the same time, she championed a policy that would destroy Native American ways of life in the West.
Read more about Alice Cunningham Fletcher in my article on OZY and check out my sources and more images below.
When I first learned Kara Mae Harris's blog Old Line Plate, my first thought was that she had a huge task before herself. I tried my hand at cooking some Victorian vegetarian recipes-- the blogging thing is hard, the food blogging thing is really time consuming and requires a lot of research and planning.
When I then learned that Kara is working to preserve and share the history of Maryland's culinary traditions, I knew I had to write a piece on her. Thankfully, she was into the idea, and so was the editor at Atlas Obscura's new food section, Gastro Obscura.
On the Sunday afternoon when I was hanging out with Kara, she made pickled oysters, and as she pointed out, "This sounded like just the perfect somewhat repulsive thing to make when I recently interviewed for Atlas Obscura." Strange, lost recipes like this aren't the only thing Kara makes for her blog, but they all come with a little bit of Maryland spice.
What would happen if you raised your baby and a baby chimp together, as brother and sister, in the name of science?
Don't worry, you don't have to try. In 1930, scientist Dr. Winthrop Niles Kellogg did just that. Read more about the crazy (bad) experiment in my article on OZY.
If you want to check out the full report on the experiment, Kellogg's book is available via HathiTrust, and there are some good newspaper articles from when the research was made public in 1932.
Inspiring women, innovative approaches to living and learning, and pioneering social justice work: sound like something from the #metoo or #TimesUp movements? Maybe, but it was also how women at the Hull-House in Chicago lived and worked over 100 years ago.
While I was in Chicago in February, I had a chance to visit the Hull-House and be totally amazed by these women, who I already knew a little bit about. Here is a tour and brief history of the settlement house.
Think hockey is a white sport? The fast-paced action and some signature moves are thanks to a pioneering Black Hockey League that changed the game forever.
The Coloured Hockey League of the Maritimes was truly innovative in so many ways, and I'm glad that George and Darril Fosty researched the story in their book Black Ice: The Lost History of the Colored Hockey League of the Maritimes, 1895–1925. I can't remember where I first heard about the anecdote that led me to the Fostys' book, and I didn't know much about the history of Black Canadians in Nova Scotia or the Maritimes, but I've found some cool research of which I hope to share more.
Come in, the stacks are open.
Away from prying eyes, damaging light, and pilfering hands, the most special collections are kept in closed stacks. You need an appointment to view the objects, letters, and books that open a door to the past.