Archive for febrero 2021

La Dra. Karin Wulf, directora del Omohundro Institute en el William & Mary College, pidió a un grupo de especialistas de la historia temprana de Estados Unidos que comentarán cómo  estaban experimentando el periodo de crisis pandémica y política, y cuál consideraban era la relevancia de su trabajo   y publicaciones.  El resultado es un grupo de interesantes reflexiones que comparto con mis lectores. Estas vienen acompañadas con  imágenes de las publicaciones más recientes de los investigadores consultados.

History typed on an vintage typewriter, old paper. close-upHistorians in Historic Times


The Scholarly Kitchen   January 14, 2021

A historian will tell you that every era, every group of people, every subject, and every last fragment of material about the past is historical. We are always living through history. We always benefit from rigorous historical research and scholarship.  And while history has conventionally been written from a privileged position, and about politics, wars, and economies, most of us work from more complex situations and on a more complex combination of phenomena that could any moment be reflected in the present. Historians of medicine, for example, have been working overtime explaining how socio-economic inequalities mapped onto historical pandemics and parallel what we see with COVID19. Historians of authoritarianism and white supremacy have been working overtime to show us how these movements have proliferated and been sustained over decades — even centuries. Historians of race, and particularly of slavery and Jim Crow in the United States, have been pointing to the iterative quality of politics and policy that have led to dynamics we saw play out last summer in episodes of police violence and protest. Last week’s riot and insurrection at the U.S. Capitol seems a particularly stark moment that will likely be pointed to for generations to come, either as a culmination or an origin or both.

I asked historians of the early Americas and United States who have published books in this year of pandemic and political crisis how they are feeling about living through this moment of pandemic and political crisis, and how the subject of their scholarship and/or the practice of history feels relevant and resonant. It’s a remarkable set of reflections, and I’m grateful to these scholars for taking the time and energy — when there is so little of either to spare — to contribute.

VSurviving Southampton: African American Women and Resistance in Nat  Turner's Community (Women, Gender, and Sexuality in American History):  Holden, Vanessa M.: 9780252085857: Amazon.com: Booksanessa M. Holden, University of Kentucky, author of Surviving Southampton:  African American Women and Resistance in Nat Turner’s Community (2021)

Like many Americans, I woke up on the morning of Wednesday, January 6th, to the news that Georgia would have at least one (likely two) Democrats as U.S. Senators as the result of runoff elections held on Tuesday the 5th. A coalition of activists and organizers had triumphed after years of hard-fought efforts to get out the vote, register new voters, and combat voter suppression. Black women and femmes knew Georgia could be blue and, after years of hard work, had realized their vision. In a state where most Americans unfamiliar with Black women’s history saw only solid red, they’d made a way out of possibility. That same afternoon I spoke with a colleague via Zoom. She was hopeful. I was cautious. “Violence,” I said, “I’m worried about the violent backlash. It has already started. It is going to get worse.” In the few seconds of silence that passed between us across computer screens my phone buzzed. My brother was texting to tell me that Vice President Pence was being removed from the senate chamber. On Twitter, raw footage of a Black Capitol police officer swatting at a white mob with a nightstick lit up my timeline. What had happened to him after he’d exited the camera frame?

Like many Black Americans I watched the day unfold while thinking of Black residents of Washington, D.C., the people of color who work as custodians, food service workers, and staff at the Capitol building, and the sharp contrast in law enforcement’s non-response to the invasion of the Capitol by white insurrectionists in comparison to militarized violent police responses across the country to peaceful protest by BIPOC and our allies. At the end of the day, photos of security standing near custodial staff (all apparently people of color) as they swept up broken glass began to circulate. Later we learned that insurrectionists smeared human excrement throughout the building.

How much had custodial staff been exposed to the deadly virus that day?

Like many historians I thought about my work. For me, completing and publishing a book about America’s most famous rebellion against slavery and enslavers, took on additional immediacy. The women, children, and men who I write about in Surviving Southampton: African American Women and Resistance in Nat Turner’s Community, found ways to preserve their community amidst overwhelming white violence in 1831. This year the Covid-19 pandemic brought into sharp focus systemic racial inequalities that Black historians have innovated entire historical fields to explore, document, and combat. Black death, from Covid-19 and police violence, has been ever present in our kinship networks, communities, neighborhoods, and on our newsfeeds. Survival requires labor: the day-to-day work, choices, and determination to endure. But, as I write in my book, the word survivor has more than one meaning. It is our word both for those who endure and for those who are bereaved. In Georgia, Black women and femmes did exhausting survival work to flip the Senate — work that will endure. In Kentucky, where I live, Black Lives Matter activists are raising funds to stave off the eviction crisis for vulnerable Black women and femmes even as armed militias plague the state capitol in Frankfort. When the camera moves on, what work of survival will we take up? What ways will we endure bereavement? And what of our work will endure?

Unworthy Republic : The Dispossession of Native Americans and the Road to Indian  Territory (Hardcover) - Walmart.com - Walmart.comClaudio Saunt, University of Georgia, author of Unworthy Republic:  The Disposssession of Native Americans and the Road to Indian Territory(2020)

“Unworthy Republic,” the title of my recent book on the expulsion of Native Americans from the eastern half of the United States in the 1830s, comes from a letter written by James Folsom, a Choctaw student studying at Miami University of Ohio in 1831. The United States had mistreated the Cherokee Nation, he wrote, and the American Republic would “go down to future eyes with scorn and reproach on her head.” As I was writing Unworthy Republic, the politics in the United States were changing around me, and the book’s subject — white supremacy, political cowardice, and economic opportunism — became more tightly relevant. That served as a motivating force, and I think made the work more present and urgent. In the 1830s, white supremacists threatened to take up arms to defend a grotesque vision of their rights, politicians pretended to take principled stands that were transparently self-serving, and profit-seekers disregarded everything but the dollars they coveted.  Folsom asserted that the United States would feel the legacy of injustice “in her legislative halls,” a prediction that came true on January 6. That injustice, he wrote, “never will be eradicated from her history.” I would like to think that if we had faced that history more fully, we would not have seen rioters in the U.S. Capitol building proudly bearing the Confederate flag and other symbols of white supremacy.

THE BOSTON MASSACRE: A Family History - HamiltonBook.com

Serena Zabin, Carleton College, author of The Boston Massacre: A Family History (2020)

On the night of March 5, 1770, armed agents of the state – British soldiers – shot into a crowd gathered in the street before the seat of imperial power in Boston. When the smoke cleared, five men lay dead or dying in the snow. This year, I published The Boston Massacre: A Family History for the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of an event that is often characterized as the first bloodshed of the American Revolution. By March 5, 2020, the world was already swept up in the first wave of COVID-19, and the murders of George Floyd, Breanna Taylor, and others were soon to come. I had not written my book to speak to the contemporary issue of police brutality or to address what happens when the military and the police collapse their functions into each other. Nor had I intended to weigh in on violence done in the name of liberty. The heart of my book is about the personal relationships between neighbors, and even within families, that were splintered in the political and social upheavals of the American Revolution.  And yet, this family history of the eighteenth century clearly does have something to say about the events of the past nine months, something that is no less useful for being unintentional. As I began researching this event more than ten years ago, I had to trust that readers in the present would find it relevant. I just had no idea how right I would be.

City of Refuge: Slavery and Petit Marronage in the Great Dismal Swamp,  1763–1856 (Race in the Atlantic World, 1700–1900 Ser.): Nevius, Marcus P.:  9780820356426: Amazon.com: BooksMarcus Nevius, University of Rhode Island, author of City of Refuge: Slavery and Petit Marronage in the Great Dismal Swamp, 1763-1856 (2020)

On January 6, 2021, I observed the flood of white supremacist terrorists who “stormed” the U.S. Capitol building. On Twitter, I reacted in real time. About an hour before “breaching” the Capitol ground’s outer perimeter (mere yards from the west and east entrances to the building), the mob attended a rally, led by an incumbent lame duck president, near the White House. That president amplified yet again the baseless claims that the presidential election of 2020 had been “stolen” from him and his supporters. Injuring tens of U.S. Capitol police officers and other law enforcement officials, the mob feloniously broke into the Capitol building. While inside, they paraded about, carrying Confederate flags, chanting “Stop the Steal,” and targeting U.S. legislators who scurried to evacuate as the mob broke into their offices. One woman lost her life; at least one police officer paid the ultimate sacrifice in the duty to protect the Capitol; several in the mob lost their lives. The mobs’ actions took shape on national television, as awed newscasters on stations of all stripes nationally and internationally broadcast live the mob’s figurative and literal desecration of the nation as we know it.

This mob, however, did not storm the Capitol. It did not breach the building. To say either is to imbue the mob’s actions with the connotations of protest, of a war for a valiant cause. To do that is to validate the very rhetoric that animated the mob, instigated by a lame duck president, that believed it was disrupting an “illegal” (re: totally legitimate) process of confirming the votes that the independent states submitted to Congress by way of the Electoral College. The mob’s felonious entry into the Capitol was not valiant. If anything, it was, at base, a COVID-19 superspreader event.

A few days’ reflection have reminded me that my visceral reaction on January 6th, that “it should NEVER have come to this…” was wrong. As an historian of slavery, slave based economies, and black resistance in early America, I know all too well the examples that are not known widely enough — the 3/5ths Compromise; the Federal Fugitive Slave Law of 1793; the Missouri Compromise; the several bills comprising the Compromise of 1850; the Dred Scott decision of 1857 — the list goes on. Political compromises from 1787 to 1850 did not save the nation from Civil War; postbellum political compromises did even less to quell the nation’s sordid racial history. The truth, as scholars of many stripes know all too well, is that what we observed on January 6th was our nation’s deep seeded politics of hatred, borne of the nation’s original sin — slavery. The mob’s actions were a demonstration of this very truth. And a poignant warning that, as yet, we have much with which to reckon.

Past and Prologue : Politics and Memory in the American Revolution  (Hardcover) - Walmart.com - Walmart.comMichael D. Hattem, Yale University, author of Past and Prologue: Politics and Memory in the American Revolution (2020)

Part of the reason the power of history and historical narratives are so deeply embedded in our national political culture is because it was such an important part of the founding of the nation. We are the inheritors of that tradition, for better and worse. In just the last year, I have watched contemporary events and debates — such as The 1619 Project, the removal of Confederate monuments, the White House Conference on American History, and the 1776 Commission, to name just a few — and have been able to understand them as not just expressions of our contemporary politics but as part of our nation’s long-standing relationship between politics and history. That context that my work has offered has been important because it has not only made me more attuned to when politicians and political parties of both sides use representations of the past to manipulate their audience by drawing on their emotions and previously held beliefs, but has also made it possible for me to then ask important questions such as: who is the intended audience for specific depictions of American history, for what purposes are those depictions being used, and why do those depicting it expect it to resonate with their specific audience? Therefore, I think my work as a historian of memory and politics has made me a more critical “consumer” of history as used in the public square and I would like to think my book would do the same for its readers.
Slavery in the Age of Memory: Engaging the Past: Araujo, Ana Lucia:  9781350048485: Amazon.com: BooksAna Lucia Araujo, Howard University, author of Slavery in the Age of Memory: Engaging the Past (2020)

I have been studying the history and the legacies of slavery in the Atlantic World for nearly twenty years, and we know that the growing interest about the slavery past is closely associated with the persistence of racial inequalities, racism, and white supremacy. But all this could be perceived as an abstract idea. Of course, we have seen black social actors and their academic allies decrying the absence of public markers memorializing this past for several decades, but in the summer 2020 it was the first time that anti-racist public demonstrations (reacting to the assassination of George Floyd) reenacted these debates in tangible ways, not only in the United States, but also in Britain, France, Belgium, Portugal, and many other countries. Living through this time is a strange experience. As these monuments became the target of demonstrators denouncing anti-black racism, it is much more evident on how these devices embody the values of white supremacy. Suddenly, the topics that I discussed in a book to be released in October 2020, were popping up on my computer screen as current events in the summer 2020. The attack by white nationalists, white supremacists and nazis on the US Capitol of January 6, 2021 is also an expression of this context. It’s the culmination of a long history of slavery and racial violence that started centuries ago, but that reemerged in recent years through the actions of white terrorists such as Dylan Roof in Charleston and the mob to defend the statue of Robert E. Lee that happened in Charlottesville in 2017. The speed of the events and the fact that we are physically and emotionally tired make the task of the historian harder. But it offers me a great opportunity to see this history of the present, on which I worked for several years, unfolding before my eyes. At the same time, as someone researching the memory of slavery, I know that working on topics close to the present poses many challenges. And in the present context, it’s very hard to see these events from a broad enough perspective. Still, scholarship and the search for truth, no matter how challenging, are the best path forward.

Remembering the Enslaved Who Sued for Freedom Before the Civil War - The  New York TimesWilliam G. Thomas III, University of Nebraska and author, A Question of Freedom:  The Families Who Challenged Slavery from the Nation’s Founding to the Civil War (2020)

When I was researching and writing A Question of Freedom, a reckoning with the history of slavery and racism in the United States was already underway. I saw the book was one means to repair American history and confront the terrible menace of white supremacy unfolding at the time — the murder of Black church members at Emmanuel African Episcopal in 2015, the police shootings of unarmed Black men and women, and the violence of Charlottesville in 2017. I set out to write A Question of Freedom because I wanted to understand how slavery had gained sanction under the law and in the Constitution despite its obvious incompatibility with the founding principles of equality and natural rights. Slavery was a moral problem. And Revolutionary Americans knew it. What I did not realize at first was that slavery was always a dubious institution in the law. It had been fought and contested in the law from the nation’s founding and before. One of the main points I try to make is that particular families experienced slavery. Many Americans see slavery as an abstract institution, faceless and nameless. In most textbooks Black families are almost never mentioned by name. But there was nothing abstract about slavery. And Black families, like the Queens and the Mahoneys, who sued slaveholders for their freedom were at the center of the nation’s founding in a way most Americans have not acknowledged. Their freedom suits amounted to a concerted effort to bring the problem of slavery before the nation. Once I met with the descendants of these families, I wanted to tell the story in a way that made it clear that this history is still with us today, that this is palpably felt history. It affects real people, real families. In A Question of Freedom I wanted readers to experience what I was experiencing: the vibrant immediacy of the past, the heightened awareness that events 240 years ago have profound, indeed personal, consequences in our world today.

The Lost Tradition of Economic Equality in America, 1600–1870: Mandell,  Daniel R.: 9781421437118: Amazon.com: BooksDaniel Mandell, Truman State University, author of The Lost Tradition of Economic Equality in America, 1600-1870 (2020)

Quite clearly the subject of my book, American concerns about economic inequality, has been woven throughout this year’s crises in the U.S. This was particularly true of the pandemic, during which the stock market and the numbers of homeless and hungry have both skyrocketed; with the political wars, as one party pushed for massive federal assistance and the other insisted that low-wage workers should essentially be forced back to work regardless of the danger; and (perhaps a little less obviously so) with efforts to confront the racial inequalities imbedded in so many of our country’s concerns. But I was disappointed that the many speeches and extensive commentary on these issues never acknowledged that this country had a long tradition, going back to before its founding, that the health of our republic required avoiding extremes of great wealth or terrible poverty. In fact, I started on that book a decade ago because that history was never mentioned even as the widening wealth gap became a chasm with the Crash of 2007-2008. Alas my hope that the book would help revive that tradition seems, like so many other (and more significant) hopes and dreams, to be steamrollered by the crises of this moment. 

Hearing Enslaved Voices: African and Indian Slave Testimony in BritishSophie White, University of Notre Dame and author, Voices of the Enslaved: Love, Labor, and Longing in French Louisiana (2019); co-editor, Hearing Enslaved Voices: African and Indian Slave Testimony in British and French America, 1700–1848 (2020)

As an historian of race and slavery, I am constantly struck by lasting legacies, not least in the perpetuation of formal and informal rules aimed at continued disenfranchisement. I am just as struck by the recurring attempts to repudiate this disenfranchisement, and how this disavowal manifested itself both then and now. My research delves into the ways that enslaved individuals in colonial America spoke up, in courtroom testimony, about their subjugation. Thanks to archives that put these individuals’ words front and center, I show how, just as with the Black Lives Matter movement, they used their voices to call out inequities. And if we listen to what they had to say, we hear in their testimony a demand to be heard, to be seen, to be named, and above all, in a damning rebuttal of the premise of slavery, we see them put their full humanity on display.

Peter Alegi on Twitter: "https://t.co/LveH8EPAJP… "

Daryle Williams, University of Maryland, Co-PI enslaved.org and Editor, Journal of Slavery and Data Preservation (both launched, 2020)

2020 was a year when I spent a lot of time staring at Google Sheets. In the shorthand of morning domestic chatter, I merely needed to say “spreadsheets” in response to my husband’s query “what are you working on today?” A few dozens of those Sheets were created by me, for the Free Africans of Brazil Dataset, and many more were part of the terrific datasets published online for the launch of Enslaved: Peoples of the Historical Slave Trade. In time, Enslaved.org seeks to reshape the fields of slavery studies and inclusive scholarly communications, unleashing the power of linked open data to more fully see and understand experiences of enslavement for named individuals and their families. This important, collaboratively produced site aims to be a space where humanists and data scientists, academics and family historians, as well as continental Africans and people of the Diaspora re/un-cover black life matters in a fullness denied them by the archives of the transatlantic trade and its aftereffects. But in a year in which black peoples and allies took to the streets in revolt against the algorithms of oppression, I also wrestle with the fact all this work relies heavily upon the historical anti-black technologies of identification, tracking, and surveillance. From the musty ledger book and nominal registry to the stultifying and disciplining tedium of the spreadsheet, I wonder often, what are we to do when we make people into data.

To read more historians contextualizing this historical moment, I recommend first the excellent Made By History series on the Washington Post. It is edited by expert historians and sometimes they publish multiple op-eds a day written by expert historians. On the events on January 6th, Megan Kate Nelson has created a round-up of ongoing writing by historians, and Lindsay Chervinsky one for historians who have been writing about the political and other fallout including impeachment. On pandemic, Monica Green and other historians of medicine (with links) included her own and other work in this recent Twitter thread. The American Historical Association has collected a bibliography of COVID-related responses by historians.

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En este interesante artículo, el periodista especializado en Estados Unidos, Carlos Hernández-Echevarría, analiza la historia del sentimiento anti-católico en la nación estadounidense.

Resultado de imagen de pablo Vi y jfk

Cuando Estados Unidos odiaba y temía a los católicos

Carlos Hernández-Echevarría

La Vanguardia   4 de febrero de 2021

Cuando John Kennedy se presentó a la presidencia en 1960, tuvo que aclarar que, si ganaba, no dejaría que el papa Juan XXIII le dictara desde el Vaticano cómo gobernar. Joe Biden, desde hace unos días el segundo presidente católico de la historia de Estados Unidos, no ha pasado por nada parecido. Hoy ese discurso parecería ridículo, y eso es todo un signo del progreso de un país con una larga tradición de maltrato y discriminación hacia los católicos.

El anticatolicismo estaba presente en EE. UU. desde antes incluso de que se fundara el país. Hasta hace no mucho, los libros de historia de los niños estadounidenses empezaban con el relato de cómo los primeros colonos llegaron desde Inglaterra a las costas de Massachusetts para poder practicar su religión en libertad. Sin embargo, esos mismos libros olvidaban contar que los que habían huido de la opresión religiosa no tardaron mucho en convertirse en opresores.

Los colonos transportaron al “nuevo mundo” los prejuicios que en Inglaterra eran comunes contra la minoría católica. En 1700, la colonia de Massachusetts aprobó una “Ley contra los Jesuitas y los Curas Papistas” que los declaraba “incendiarios y perturbadores de la paz y la seguridad pública” y también “enemigos de la verdadera religión cristiana”. Por eso daba a esos sacerdotes un corto plazo para abandonar el territorio o serían condenados a cadena perpetua. Si a alguno se le ocurría escapar de prisión, recibiría la pena de muerte.

No es un caso único. El futuro estado de Rhode Island fue fundado por un hombre que había escapado de Massachusetts buscando más libertad religiosa, pero la colonia también acabó prohibiendo a los católicos ocupar cargos públicos.

En Maryland, fundada por un aristócrata católico para refugiar a los que compartían su fe, la ley pasó en unas décadas de reconocerles la libertad religiosa a imponerles todo tipo de restricciones: no podían ser profesores o abogados y tampoco votar. Tenían prohibido celebrar misa fuera de sus casas y bautizar a cualquiera que no fuera hijo de católicos.

Caricatura dibujada por Thomas Nast en 1876 en la que se presenta a obispos católicos como cocodrilos atacando a las escuelas públicas en connivencia con los políticos católicos irlandeses.

Caricatura de 1876 que presenta a obispos católicos como cocodrilos atacando a las escuelas públicas en connivencia con los políticos católicos irlandeses.
 Dominio público

Muchas de estas restricciones, por ejemplo en Nueva York, siguieron en vigor incluso tras ganar la independencia de Gran Bretaña y durante los primeros años de vida de los nuevos Estados Unidos de América. Solo en 1789 la nueva constitución estableció que el país no tendría religión oficial y que tampoco restringiría la práctica de ninguna fe. Además, especificó que las creencias religiosas “no pueden ser nunca un requisito para acceder a un cargo público” federal.

Los llamados “padres fundadores” habían creado un estado aconfesional, pero los prejuicios contra los católicos estaban muy lejos de desaparecer.

Inmigración y ‘fake news’

Entre 1820 y 1930, llegaron a EE. UU. unos 4,5 millones de inmigrantes irlandeses católicos. Esta inmensa oleada migratoria puso nerviosos desde el principio a muchos protestantes, que recibieron a los recién llegados con los prejuicios heredados de los primeros colonos y algunos nuevos. Era habitual acusarlos de querer derribar al gobierno por orden del papa, y sobre ellos se difundían las fake news más exageradas, a veces con consecuencias dramáticas.

En 1834, una turba le prendió fuego a un convento cerca de Boston. Habían corrido rumores de que la congregación había asesinado a una de sus monjas por intentar abandonar la orden, aunque resultó que estaba tan viva que testificó en el juicio contra los incendiarios.

Todos los edificios del complejo quedaron completamente arrasados, en parte por la pasividad de los bomberos, que no pusieron mucho esfuerzo en apagar el fuego. Solo un hombre fue a prisión por el crimen, pero después fue indultado.

Dibujo que representa las ruinas del convento quemado en 1834.

Dibujo que representa las ruinas del convento quemado en 1834.
 Dominio públic

Los bulos anticatólicos estaban a la orden del día y además eran un negocio muy rentable. Maria Monk, una mujer canadiense que había pasado por un albergue católico para prostitutas, vendió durante la década de 1830 cientos de miles de libros en los que decía falsamente que había sido monja y contaba toda suerte de historias sobre asesinatos de bebés en conventos.

Para difundir sus libros, Monk se asoció con algunos pastores protestantes radicales, aunque no está muy claro quién se quedó con los beneficios, porque ella murió en un hogar para indigentes después de ser detenida por robar a un cliente en un burdel.

A veces la violencia no se desataba por un rumor, sino por disputas políticas, sobre todo en las grandes ciudades, donde la población migrante católica iba creciendo y quería hacer valer su fuerza electoral. En 1844, el debate sobre qué biblia debía usarse en las escuelas públicas de Filadelfia provocó unos disturbios en los que ardieron varias viviendas de católicos y dos de sus iglesias y murieron al menos veinte personas.

Al enterarse de ello el arzobispo de Nueva York, un inmigrante irlandés, advirtió a las autoridades de que no consentiría lo mismo. “Si una sola iglesia católica se quema, Nueva York será un nuevo Moscú”, dijo en referencia al incendio de la capital rusa durante la invasión de Napoleón.

El partido que no sabía nada

Los católicos empezaban a organizarse políticamente, pero también los anticatólicos. Fue en esa época cuando surgió el partido Know-nothing, “no sé nada”. Tomó ese nombre porque en sus inicios era una sociedad secreta cuyos miembros debían responder así cuando se les preguntara por ella.

Unos años después se organizaron abiertamente bajo el nombre de Partido Nativo Americano o Partido Americano, y predicaron con bastante éxito el odio a los inmigrantes en general y a los católicos en particular. Sobre todo a los de origen irlandés y alemán.

En la década de 1850, el partido xenófobo llegó a tener más de un centenar de representantes en el Congreso, donde defendía que se prohibiera a los católicos desempeñar cargos públicos y abogaba por las deportaciones masivas de inmigrantes.

Además, gobernaba en ocho estados y en la ciudad de Chicago, donde el alcalde Levi Boone impedía a los católicos trabajar para el ayuntamiento o entrar en la policía. Pero los Know-nothing no se limitaban a impulsar el racismo en las instituciones, también lo hacían en la calle.

En una jornada electoral en agosto de 1855, los militantes del partido en Louisville, Kentucky, estaban decididos a que solo los “verdaderos americanos” votasen. Un tercio de la población de la ciudad eran católicos de ascendencia alemana o irlandesa, así que los Know-nothing desplegaron patrullas en el exterior de los centros electorales que pedían a los votantes una contraseña difundida de antemano entre los protestantes. A los que no la tenían les impedían el paso y a los que no se iban a casa, les daban una paliza.

Imagen del ciudadano ideal estadounidense según el movimiento Know Nothing.

Imagen del ciudadano ideal estadounidense según el partido Know-nothing.
 Dominio público

Por supuesto, el candidato a la alcaldía de los Know-nothing ganó aquellas elecciones, pero además el llamado “lunes sangriento” dejó 22 muertos. La catedral católica de la ciudad, construida tres años antes, fue destruida, y más de un centenar de casas y negocios de católicos acabaron ardiendo. Los tribunales no condenaron a nadie por ello.

Aquella década de 1850 fue el pico del poder del partido anticatólico, que en los siguientes años se partiría en dos por el debate sobre la legalidad de la esclavitud que empujó al país a una guerra civil. Sin embargo, otros grupos extremistas no tardarían en reclamar su legado.

Una ley seca contra los católicos

La siguiente gran oleada de inmigrantes no fue tan irlandesa, pero también fue católica. Entre 1880 y 1914, más de cuatro millones de italianos se trasladaron a EE. UU. y sufrieron los prejuicios que ya existían sobre su religión, además de una mayor dificultad para aprender el idioma.

Aparte de las acusaciones ya tradicionales de que iban a derribar la democracia por orden del papa, los católicos de la época se vieron arrastrados al gran debate de la época: la prohibición de la venta y consumo de alcohol.

El movimiento a favor de la ley seca tenía su mayor fortaleza en las zonas rurales de EE. UU., que contaban con muchos menos católicos que las grandes ciudades. Si uno busca entre los principales líderes abolicionistas de aquella era, encontrará muchas declaraciones anticatólicas.

El fundador de la Liga Anti Salones, William H. Anderson, decía que si las ciudades no apoyaban la ley seca era por “los extranjeros que no se lavan” y porque la Iglesia católica estaba “indignada por lo que consideran una victoria protestante”. El obispo episcopaliano James Cannon Jr. decía que los italianos o los polacos le daban “dolor de estómago” y que había que cerrarles la puerta del país.

Ningún lugar era tan odiado por los líderes abolicionistas como Nueva York, y no despreciaban a ningún líder político tanto como a su gobernador, el católico Al Smith. A la ciudad, donde un tercio de sus casi seis millones de habitantes había nacido en el extranjero, la llamaba el obispo Cannon “la sede de Satán”. También decía que sus habitantes católicos eran “la gente que quiere Smith, las personas sucias que encuentras por las aceras de Nueva York”.

Al Smith dando un discurso.

Al Smith dando un discurso.
 Dominio público

En 1924, cuando el Partido Demócrata se planteó por primera vez hacer a Al Smith candidato a presidente, su convención nacional fue una batalla campal. Primero los delegados discutieron agriamente sobre si condenar o no las actividades del Ku Klux Klan, que acababa de resurgir con enorme fuerza gracias, entre otras cosas, a su discurso anticatólico. Después de no lograrlo, tuvieron que votar 103 veces a lo largo de dos semanas para elegir entre el católico Smith y otro candidato apoyado por el KKK. A la vista de que el bloqueo era insuperable, ambos se retiraron para permitir la elección de un candidato desconocido.

Cuatro años después, Smith sí que consiguió ser el primer católico en convertirse en candidato presidencial de uno de los grandes partidos. Durante aquella campaña se le acusó de querer imponer el catolicismo como religión oficial y se imprimieron panfletos que lo acusaban de haber construido un túnel submarino entre el Vaticano y Nueva York para recibir órdenes del papa. Varios predicadores protestantes pidieron a sus fieles que no le votaran, y el obispo episcopaliano Cannon lo definió como “el clásico intolerante de la jerarquía católica romana irlandesa de Nueva York”.

El esfuerzo funcionó. La ley seca era impopular y le quedaban cinco años para la derogación, pero Smith se derrumbó en el Sur protestante y sufrió una derrota arrasadora. El recuerdo de esa catástrofe política pesó mucho durante años en el Partido Demócrata y muchos de sus líderes lo tenían en mente cuando, 32 años después, el católico John Kennedy se presentó a la presidencia. ¿Estaba EE. UU. preparado por fin?

De Kennedy a Biden

En 1960, muchos de los líderes demócratas más importantes eran católicos, jefes políticos de grandes ciudades donde los descendientes de los inmigrantes irlandeses o italianos ya eran mayoría. Sin embargo, temían que el resto del país diera a Kennedy el mismo trato que había dado a Smith.

El candidato logró disipar sus dudas venciendo en las primarias demócratas de West Virginia, donde el 95% de la población era protestante, después de pronunciar su famoso discurso sobre el catolicismo: “¿Vamos a decir que un tercio de la población de EE. UU. tiene vedada para siempre la Casa Blanca?”.


Jonh Fitzgerald Kennedy, el primer presidente católico de Estados Unidos.

Kennedy aún tuvo algunos problemas más. Un grupo de 150 ministros protestantes declaró antes de las elecciones que no sería independiente del papa salvo que renunciara abiertamente a su catolicismo.

La campaña de Nixon obtuvo un mejor resultado de lo esperado en algunos estados de fuerte tradición protestante, pero Kennedy ganó, y abrió el camino a que Joe Biden ni siquiera haya tenido que responder a muchas de las preguntas con las que él se encontró.

El anticatolicismo en EE. UU., que el historiador Arthur Schlessinger llamó “el sesgo más profundo de la historia del pueblo americano”, ha quedado aparentemente para los libros de historia.

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Resultado de imagen para gilder lehrman institute of american history digital collection

El Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History acaba de anunciar sus cursos gratuitos de historia de Estados Unidos para estudiantes de escuela elemental, media y superior. En total son seis: un curso en el que el elenco del musical Hamilton leerá libros de historia estadounidense para niños, un curso sobre la vida de los esclavos en la era de los Padres Fundadores, un curso sobre el uso dramático de fuentes históricas, Joe Welch (2018 National History Teacher of the Year) enseñará un curso sobre la guerra fría, un curso preparatorio para los exámenes avanzados de historia estadounidense y por último, un curso sobre la constitución de Estados Unidos.

Quienes estén interesados pueden ir aquí por más información.

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En Estados Unidos se dedica el mes de febrero a conmemorar y celebrar la historia de los afroamericanos, tema que no es ajeno a esta bitacora. ¿Qué mejor manera de comenzar este mes que con un artículo que busca rescatar la profundidad de uno de los íconos del movimiento de los derechos civiles? En este escrito que comparto con mis lectores, la politóloga estadounidense Jeanne Theoharis nos recuerda que la labor y el legado de  Rosa Parks no se limitan a su desafío a la segregación racial de la transportación pública en la Alabama de los años 1950. La figura de Parks es mucho más grande que eso. Según la Dra. Theoharis, la Sra. Parks dedicó muchos años de su vida a luchar contra el racismo en  los estados del norte. También resalta sus simpatías con los Black Panthers y su admiración por Malcolm X. 

En otras palabras, Rosa Parks -como tambien el Dr. King- es un personaje mucho más complejo  del que los medios, los libros textos y los políticos usualmente proyectan en un esfuerzo de apropiación que busca diluir su mensaje y su ejemplo, y hacerlos así aceptables.

A  booking photo of Rosa Parks taken on Feb. 22, 1956, at the county sheriff’s office in Montgomery, Ala.

Credit…Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, via Associated Press

The Real Rosa Parks Story Is Better Than the Fairy Tale

The New York Times   February 1, 2021 


Mug shot No. 7053 is one of the most iconic images of Rosa Parks. But the photo, often seen in museums and textbooks and on T-shirts and websites, isn’t what it seems. Though it’s regularly misattributed as such, it is not the mug shot taken at the time of Mrs. Parks’s arrest in Montgomery, Ala., on Dec. 1, 1955, after she famously refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger. It was, in fact, taken when she was arrested in February 1956 after she and 88 other “boycott leaders” were indicted by the city in an attempt to end the boycott. The confusion around the image reveals Americans’ overconfidence in what we think we know about Mrs. Parks and about the civil rights movement.

Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks dominate the Civil Rights Movement chapters of elementary and high school textbooks and Black History Month celebrations. And yet much of what people learn about Mrs. Parks is narrow, distorted, or just plain wrong. In our collective understanding, she’s trapped in a single moment on a long-ago Montgomery bus, too often cast as meek, tired, quiet and middle class. The boycott is seen as a natural outgrowth of her bus stand. It’s inevitable, respectable and not disruptive.

But that’s not who she was, and it’s not how change actually works. “Over the years, I have been rebelling against second-class citizenship. It didn’t begin when I was arrested,” Mrs. Parks reminded interviewers time and again.

Rosa Parks papers give insight into the civil rights icon

Born Feb. 4, 1913, she had been an activist for two decades before her bus stand — beginning with her work alongside Raymond Parks in 1931, whom she married the following year, to organize in defense of the “Scottsboro Boys” (nine Black teenagers who were falsely accused of raping two white women). Indeed, one of the issues that animated her six decades of activism was the injustice of the criminal justice system — wrongful accusations against Black men, disregard for Black women who had been sexually assaulted, and police brutality. With a small group of other activists, including E.D. Nixon, who would become branch president, she spent the decade before her well-known bus stand working to transform the Montgomery NAACP into a more activist chapter that focused on voter registration, criminal justice and desegregation. This was dangerous, tiring work and Mrs. Parks said it was “very difficult to keep going when all our work seemed to be in vain.” But she persevered.

Dispirited by the lack of change and what she called the “complacency” of many peers, she reformed the NAACP Youth Council in 1954 and urged her young charges to take greater stands against segregation. When 15-year-old Claudette Colvin was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus in March 1955, many Black Montgomerians were outraged by Mrs. Colvin’s arrest, but some came to decide that the teenager was too feisty and emotional, and not the right test case. Mrs. Parks encouraged the young woman’s membership in the Youth Council and was the only adult leader, according to Ms. Colvin, to stay in touch with her the summer after her arrest. Mrs. Parks put her hope in the spirit and militancy of young people.

The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks (Young Readers Edition) by Jeanne  Theoharis: 9780807067574 | PenguinRandomHouse.com: BooksThat evening on the bus, Mrs. Parks challenged the police officers arresting her: “Why do you push us around?” There are no photos from the arrest — no sense this would be a history-changing moment. But networks that had been built over years sprang into action late that night when Mrs. Parks decided to pursue her legal case and called Fred Gray, a young lawyer and fellow NAACP member, to represent her. Mr. Gray called the head of the Women’s Political Council, Jo Ann Robinson, who decided to call for a one-day boycott on Monday, the day Mrs. Parks would be arraigned in court.

Braving danger, Ms. Robinson left her home in the middle of the night to run off 50,000 leaflets with the help of a colleague and two trusted students. In the early-morning hours, the women of the W.P.C. fanned out across the city, leaving the leaflets in churches, barbershops and schools. Mr. Nixon began calling the more political ministers to get them on board. Buoyed by the boycott’s success that first day, the community decided to continue. The boycott succeeded in part because the Black community organized a massive car pool system, setting up some 40 pickup stations across town, serving about 30,000 riders a day, and in part because of a federal legal case challenging Montgomery’s bus segregation that Mr. Gray filed in February with courageous teenagers, Ms. Colvin and Mary Louise Smith, serving as two of the four plaintiffs.

The boycott seriously disrupted city life and bus company revenues. Police harassed the car pools mercilessly, giving out hundreds of tickets — and then, when that didn’t work, the city dredged up an old anti-syndicalism law and indicted 89 boycott leaders. Refusing to be cowed or to wait to be arrested, Mrs. Parks, along with others, presented herself to the police while scores of community members gathered outside. Mug shot No. 7053.

The Rosa Parks fable also erases the tremendous cost of her bus stand and the decade of suffering that ensued for the Parks family. They weren’t well-off. The Parkses lived in the Cleveland Court projects, Mrs. Parks’s husband, Raymond, working as a barber at Maxwell Air Force Base and Mrs. Parks spending her days in a stuffy back room at Montgomery Fair department store altering white men’s suits. Five weeks after her bus stand, she lost her job; then Raymond lost his. Receiving regular death threats, they never found steady work in Montgomery again. Eight months after the boycott’s successful end, the Parks family was forced to leave Montgomery for Detroit, where her brother and cousins lived. They continued to struggle to find work, and she was hospitalized to treat ulcers in 1959, which led to a bill she couldn’t pay. It was not until 1966, 11 years after her bus arrest, after she was hired to work in U.S. Representative John Conyers’s new Detroit office, that the Parks family registered an income comparable to what they’d made in 1955. (Mrs. Parks had supported Mr. Conyers’s long-shot bid for Congress in 1964.)


Mrs. Parks spent the next several decades of her life fighting the racism of the North — “the Northern promised land that wasn’t,” she called it — marching and organizing against housing discrimination, school segregation, employment discrimination and police brutality. In July 1967, on the fourth day of the Detroit uprising, police killed three Black teenagers at the Algiers Motel. Justice against the officers proved elusive (ultimately none of them were punished for murder or conspiracy) and Detroit’s newspapers grew reluctant to press the issue. At the request of young Black Power activists who refused to let these deaths go unmarked and the police misconduct be swept under the rug, Mrs. Parks agreed to serve as a juror on the “People’s Tribunal” to make the facts of the case known.

Credit…Michael J. Samojeden/Associated Press

“I don’t believe in gradualism,” she made clear, “or that whatever is to be done for the better should take forever to do.” In the 1960s and ’70s, she was part of a growing Black Power movement in the city and across the country. Describing Malcolm X as her personal hero, she attended the 1968 Black Power convention in Philadelphia in 1968 and the 1972 Gary Convention, worked for reparations and against the war in Vietnam, served on prisoner defense committees, and visited the Black Panthers’ school in 1980. “Freedom fighters never retire,” she observed at a testimonial for a friend — and she never did.

But this Rosa Parks is not the one most of us learned about in school or hear about during Black History Month commemorations. Instead, we partake in an American myth, as President George W. Bush put it after her death in 2005, that “one candle can light the darkness.” A simple seamstress changes the course of history with a single act, decent people did the right thing and the nation inexorably moved toward justice. Mrs. Parks’s decades of work challenging the racial injustice puts the lie to this narrative. The nation didn’t move naturally toward justice. It had to be pushed.

The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks – Race, Politics, Justice

The boycott was a tremendous feat of organization that drew on networks built over years. Understanding the demonization, death threats and economic hardship Mrs. Parks endured for more than a decade underscores the costs of such heroism. Most Americans did not support the civil rights movement when it was happening; in a Gallup poll right before the March on Washington in 1963, only 23 percent of Americans who were familiar with the proposed march felt favorably toward it.

Reckoning with the fact that Mrs. Parks spent the second half of her life fighting the racism of the North demonstrates that racism was not some regional anachronism but a national cancer. And seeing how she placed her greatest hope in the militant spirit of young people (finding many adults “complacent”) gives the lie to the ways commentators today have used the civil rights movement to chastise Black Lives Matter for not going about change the right way. Learning about the real Rosa Parks reveals how false those distinctions are, how criminal justice was key to her freedom dreams, how disruptive and persevering the movement, and where she would be standing today — an essential lesson young people, and indeed all Americans, need to understand to grapple honestly with this country’s history and see the road forward.

Jeanne Theoharis is a professor of political science and the author of eleven books on the civil rights and Black Power movements including “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks” and “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks Young Readers’ Edition,” co-adapted with Brandy Colbert.

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