Democratic governments often have a hard time changing their minds, as recent U.S. decision-making about Iraq and Afghanistan has made clear. Even when the United States encountered monumental frustrations and setbacks, Washington kept fighting, adjusting its strategy and tactics but not its overall goals or the assumptions that underpinned them.
In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court in Furman v. Georgia struck down state death penalty laws nationwide on grounds they violated the Eighth Amendment’s protection against “cruel and unusual punishment.” The 5-4 decision was extremely controversial. Each justice wrote a separate opinion; not one could be persuaded to join with another. The combined verbiage filled 232 pages, making Furman the wordiest decision the Court had ever released. And the implications were stunning. Not only were 587 men and two women immediately removed from death rows across the country and re-sentenced to life in prison, but capital punishment itself now seemed a relic of the past.
“In the Baggage Coach Ahead” is a great example of the sentimental ballads that became popular in the United States during the 1890s. The classic ballads were maudlin tearjerkers, narrative tales of lost love or dead mothers designed to pull at the heartstrings.
The Book of Negroes is an extraordinary historical resource, a meticulous list drawn up by the British authorities between May and November 1783, in which they recorded the personal details of some 3,000 African Americans evacuated from New York.
Rick Perlstein traces the antecedents of contemporary American politics to the period 1965-1972, presenting Richard Nixon as a central figure in creating a foundation for today’s bitter partisanship.
As one of the students in my U.S. women’s history class put it, “Women are just like men; except that they are different.” For all that men and women have had in common these many millenia, women’s experience has often been different.
More Reading on the rise of American Capitalism
During the quarter millennium since American independence, two institutions and sets of values have come to characterize American society: democracy and capitalism.
The War of 1812 was not a war between two nations, but rather a civil war, in which “brother fought brother in a borderland of mixed peoples.” Alan Taylor focuses on the U.S.-Canada borderland, which stretched from Detroit to Montreal. Before the war, the distinctions between British subjects and American citizens in the region remained uncertain.
History can sometimes surround us – sometimes it’s even underfoot. This rug, from the Art and Art History Library Collection at the University of Texas, represents the kind of textiles that were made by skilled Navajo weavers and sold on the Navajo reservation from the late 19th into the early 20th century.