by Brian McNeil
Joseph Kony has been making waves across the Internet the past few days thanks to a slick, emotional video produced by Invisible Children, a nongovernmental organization based in San Diego, California. Who is Joseph Kony?
In his novel, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, Laurence Sterne describes the character Uncle Toby and his hobby-horse, the military. A hobby-horse, which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as “a favourite pursuit or pastime,” is something you’ve trotted out and ridden nearly to death. At the risk of losing the remainder of my friends, I am here to once again sing the praises of my hobby-horse, Twitter, and explain why you should be on it if you care about history.
The passion for recording our lives, fostered today by the availability of simple digital cameras and posting sites like Flickr, has a long history. African American leaders very early on understood the uses of photography for both self-expression and political struggle. Leigh Raiford notes, in her book Imprisoned in a Luminous Glare: Photography and the African American Freedom Struggle, that Sojourner Truth supported her cause by selling photos of herself at lectures and Frederick Douglass wanted to use photography to portray black life more accurately.
The “Spanish Flu” that dispatched poor Lavinia Swire on Downton Abbey last week killed more people in 1918-19 than died in World War I itself. The war took approximately 16 million lives, famously decimating an entire European generation of young men; the flu took 50 million and was truly a world phenomenon.
If Digital History is “using new technologies to enhance research and teaching,” as the excellent website from the University of Houston puts it, then African American history is being well-served digitally. In honor of African American History month, I survey here one enormous and useful website that gives us all access to a very wide variety of materials.
Southern musicians performed a staggering variety of music in the early twentieth century. Black and white artists played blues, ballads, ragtime and string band music, as well as the plethora of styles popular throughout the nation: sentimental ballads, minstrel songs, Tin Pan Alley tunes, and Broadway hits. They embraced pop music. Many performed any music they could, regardless of their racial or regional identities. Such variety could appear in the same set as a performer eased from one song to the next. Observers agreed that rural southerners loved all sorts of music. Yet they fought about whether that was a good thing.
In a recent Wikileaks revelation, a secret U.S. cable revealed that Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman promised to provide Muammar Gaddafi with military hardware in 2009. McCain and Lieberman were among the last high-level teams to have made such a promise, but they certainly weren’t the first.