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.
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.
Is your neighbor being annoying? Too loud? Coveting another neighbor's wife? What do you do about it?
Just in time for election day, OZY published my piece on how early feminists in the U.S. got inspiration from women participating in the French Revolution. This story was inspired by an essay in Riot and Revelry in Early America, a book that explores the celebrations, parades, and traditions that helped create American culture, even if they have been forgotten.
Friday the 13th has enough scary stuff, so here are some cute photos of kids celebrating Halloween festivities!
This past April, I had the opportunity to attend the Brooklyn Folk Festival in New York City's most hipster borough. The event was co-founded and is produced by Eli Smith, the multi-instrumentalist string band musician of the Down Hill Strugglers. The music he booked was a curated experience of great folk and traditional bands from New York and across the country. His music is deeply rooted in the history of folk and traditional music in the United States, and he brings in the complexity of that history when he books other acts too. And through this type of music, he wants people to create, think, and resist.
You never know what you'll find in a box.
Last year, my friend Erik found a recording titled "Dr. Freeman's speech dedicating the Lee-Jackson Monument in Wyman Park" in a friend's record collection. The 33 1/3 LP was homemade, and the fact that it dealt with a seemingly out-of-place confederate statue in a city park about two miles from his house intrigued him.
He shared the recording with me, and I knew the story of the recording had to be told through audio. My radio-producer friend Nadia Ramlagan and I started researching the the speech, the event, the artist, the donation, and produced a radio piece that aired last week on the Marc Steiner Show.
The story explores the history of the statue, and how that history should be a part of the debate about what to do with the confederate monuments in Baltimore today.
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.
Here, pieces of material culture are examined in the light. The stacks are open. Read the stories behind objects and ephemera found in private collections, archives, and museums.
African American History
Banjo Collector's Gathering
"Freak Show" History
Native American History
New York City
South American History
Tri Racial Isolate
World War II