This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

Marc-William Palen
History Department, University of Exeter
Follow on Twitter @MWPalen

From globalizing ‘Gym Crow’ to the untold story of American isolationism, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.

1968 protests at Columbia University called attention to ‘Gym Crow’ and got worldwide attention

Stefan M. Bradley

“If they build the first story, blow it up. If they sneak back at night and build three stories, burn it down. And if they get nine stories built, it’s yours. Take it over, and maybe we’ll let them in on the weekends.”

This is what Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and Black Panther Party affiliate H. Rap Brown told a crowd of Harlem residents at a community rally in February 1967.

They were there to protest Columbia University’s construction of a gymnasium in Morningside Park, the only land separating the Ivy League university from the historic black working-class neighborhood. The gym, along with the discovery that Columbia was affiliated with the Institute for Defense Analysis – a national consortium of flagship universities and research organizations that provided strategy and weapons research to the U.S. Department of Defense – stirred students to protest for more decision-making power at their elite university. When considering the key events of 1968, such as the Tet Offensive, the assassinations of national leaders, demonstrations at the Democratic National Convention and the Olympics, as well international events concerning democracy, the Columbia uprisings merit attention. [continue reading]

Populism is the true legacy of the global financial crisis

Philip Stephens
Financial Times

Mr Trump et al do not have any answers. To the contrary, the US president’s fabled “base” will be losers from his trade wars. They have already been robbed by his tax cuts for the very rich. British workers will be worse off as a consequence of Brexit. The League in Italy and National Rally, formerly the National Front, in France are selling the same snake oil. But many of the grievances they identify are real.

Historians will look back on the crisis of 2008 as the moment the world’s most powerful nations surrendered international leadership, and globalisation went into reverse. The rest of the world has understandably concluded it has little to learn from the west. Many thought at the time that the collapse of communism would presage the permanent hegemony of open, liberal democracies. Instead, what really will puzzle the historians is why the ancien régime was so lazily complacent — complicit, rather — in its own demise. [continue reading]

“I Lifted Up Mine Eyes to Ghana”

Keisha N. Blain

On August 27, 1963, W. E. B. Du Bois passed away in Ghana at the age of ninety-five. The famed civil rights leader had relocated to Ghana just two years earlier, but it was only fitting that he should find his final resting place in the West African country, a nation that held deep symbolic significance for black people the world over. Following its independence in March 1957, Ghana had emerged as a symbol of triumph and hope for people of African descent, and over the next decade, thousands of black activists and intellectuals, including Martin Luther King Jr, Maya Angelou, Pauli Murray, and Julian Mayfield, would visit or move to Ghana.

Du Bois’s journey to Ghana can be understood as part of this wave of migration. Yet Du Bois stood out even in this distinguished company — few figures were more influential in shaping anticolonial ideas and movements. Alongside a vanguard of black activists and intellectuals — including C. L. R. James, Marcus Garvey, Jeanne and Paulette Nardal, Claudia Jones, Amy Ashwood Garvey, and George Padmore — Du Bois was one of the chief progenitors of the anticolonial struggle that swept the globe during the twentieth century. [continue reading]

On the Kidnapped African Boy Who Became a German Philosopher

Kwame Anthony Appiah
Literary Hub

In 1707, a boy no more than five years old left Axim, on the African Gold Coast, for Amsterdam, aboard a ship belonging to the Dutch West India Company. In those days, the trip to Europe took many weeks, but his arrival in the Dutch port was not the end of his long journey. He then had to travel another few hundred miles to Wolfenbüttel, the home of Anton Ulrich, Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel. Anton Ulrich was a major patron of the European Enlightenment. His librarian was Gottfried Leibniz, one of the leading philosophers, mathematicians, and inventors of his era, and co-creator, with Isaac Newton, of calculus; and the ducal library in Wolfenbüttel housed one of the most magnificent book collections in the world.

The child had apparently been offered as a “gift” to the duke, who, in turn, handed the boy on to his son, August Wilhelm; and we first hear of him as a member of August Wilhelm’s household. From his baptism until 1735, the boy continued to receive the patronage of the dukes of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, as Anton Ulrich was succeeded by August Wilhelm, and August Wilhelm was succeeded by his brother, Ludwig Rudolf, in turn. And, as a child, he would no doubt have met Leibniz, who lived, as he did, under their patronage. [continue reading]

The Untold Story of American Isolationism

Christopher Nichols

In a country today that feels more divided than ever, what better time to look beyond our immediate reactions and dig deeper? To search our past for greater understanding? In this masterful Talk, Christopher Nichols PhD, dives into the origins of America Isolationism and “America First.” The parallels to today and “Make America Great Again” provokes and creates an informed debate. He passionately explains that history is a vaccine against superficiality. When we take time to unearth the full story, time to understand it, we gain a new depth of insight which can create a better tomorrow.

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