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What it was like to be a Black patient in a Jim Crow asylum

In March 1911, the segregated Crownsville asylum opened outside Baltimore, Maryland, admitting only Black patients. It was the first to house Black people in the state, but when they arrived, their main role wasn’t to get support—it was to build the asylum. The combination of ableism and sanism—harmful beliefs about the nature and treatment of mental illness—with anti-Black racism in the Jim Crow South all but ensured that Black patients were treated worse than white ones held in other asylums t

The Feud Between Immigrant Newspapers in Arkansas

In 1892, the freshly founded German-language newspaper, the Arkansas Echo, found that their office had been vandalized. The type had been scattered and the frames of the finished inaugural edition were twisted and wrecked. Could Die Staatszeitung (known as SZ for short), a fellow German newspaper based in the same office building, be the culprit? Media—and personal—feuds are nothing new in the United States, and the fight between these two newspapers, both serving German immigrants, were fed by

The NYC -> RUS Yiddish Socialist Pipeline

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Workmen’s (now Worker’s) Circle and similar groups were formed to help recently arrived Jewish New Yorkers receive the aid needed as they settled in the city, as well as fighting for workers’ rights. Many of the new residents were fleeing pogroms in Russia, but retained ties and loyalties to their homelands. They decided to smuggle newspapers, pamphlets, and books in Yiddish to Russia, ones with ideas on how to organize for their rights on the other side o

Antisemitism at the 1932 Winter Olympics

The Olympic Games are rarely without controversy: boycotts of host countries, political exclusions of others, doping scandals, and poor refereeing have all occurred during the modern history of the games. The 1932 Winter Olympics were not unusual in this regard, but the specific reason was new. Lake Placid, New York had beaten California to host these games years before they were to be held. One major problem the site would need to overcome was the antisemitism of the Adirondack Mountains regio

What the Sterilization of a Wealthy White Woman Reveals About Eugenics

Throughout history, white women have thrown the rights of other women under the bus in order to retain social status. In her first book, The Unfit Heiress: The Tragic Life and Scandalous Sterilization of Ann Cooper Hewitt (out today from Grand Central Publishing), Audrey Clare Farley writes about the life of one such woman: Ann Cooper Hewitt, a wealthy white socialite and the daughter of inventor Peter Cooper Hewitt and his wife, Maryon.

The Royal Spy Who Became the Feminist Answer to Shakespeare

In 1695, theater audiences in Britain were riveted by the debut of a tale about two star-crossed lovers. After a bloody two-year war, Prince Oroonoko went to pay his respects to Imoinda, the daughter of a general who had died during the war. He brought slaves with him as a gift for the deceased general’s daughter, “trophies of her father’s victories.” Upon meeting the charming and beautiful Imoinda, Prince Oroonoko promptly fell in love. The two were engaged to be married, until Oroonoko’s grandfather, the King of Coromantee — in modern-day Ghana — became smitten with Imoinda as well. The elderly king, who already had many wives, moved Imoinda into his harem and decreed that she was to marry him.

How the IWW Grew after the Centralia Tragedy

On November 11, 1919, tensions came to a head between members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)—known as the Wobblies—and members of the American Legion in Centralia, Washington, at the first Armistice Day parade after World War I. The conflict between the two groups was deep-seated. The American Legion had been chartered as a patriotic veteran’s organization just after the war. Meanwhile, the IWW had opposed U.S. participation; it was the only American labor organization to do so. A

Anti-Imperialist Propaganda Posters from OSPAAAL

On January 3, 1966, 513 delegates representing 83 groups from countries across Latin America, Asia, and Africa gathered in Havana, Cuba for the first Tricontinental Conference. The meeting was organized by Moroccan politician Mehdi Ben Barka who was killed in 1965 before the conference took place. In attendance were two anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist groups, the Non-Aligned Movement—an organization of countries not associated with any power blocs—and the Afro-Asian People’s Solidarity Orga

The Indigenous Rebel Who Took the Fight to White Settlers

The rebellion would lead to Riel’s downfall, but it would also have a lasting impact on Canadian politics and Indigenous rights. Riel remains one of the most controversial figures in Canada’s history. In most accounts of the country’s history, he has been presented as a villain — a violent Indigenous rebel who challenged the Canadian government. But now, as Manitoba, the province he helped found, reaches its 150th anniversary this month, and as activists put a spotlight on Canada’s suppression of Indigenous rights — like their recent attempt to shut down and arrest Indigenous people protesting a pipeline on Wet’suwet’en land — the time has come for a reexamining of Louis Riel’s legacy.

The Pope Who Wrote an Erotic Novel

Aeneas Silvius Bartholomeus caught the attention of King Frederick III of Germany, the future Holy Roman Emperor, with his talent for words. King Frederick named Bartholomeus poet laureate in 1442 and commissioned him to write his own royal biography. The king may not have known that Bartholomeus had a far less regal side interest. According to Absolute Monarchs, by historian John Julius Norwich, over the next three years, while working in the royal chancery in Vienna, Bartholomeus wrote a large amount of “mildly pornographic poetry.” And then there was his magnum opus: The Tale of Two Lovers, or Historia de duobus amantibus, an erotic novel that he penned in 1444. This dalliance with erotic literature is even more surprising given that Bartholomeus later took on a much more high-profile position: In 1458, he become Pope Pius II.