The oldest known US electoral map, of the 1880 presidential election. Source: LA Times/Library of Congress
Join us on Monday, November 21 at 11:30 in the Keating 1st auditorium for a panel of Fordham historians discussing the 2016 Presidential election in historical perspective. Participants will include: Salv Acosta, Kirsten Swinth, Christopher Dietrich and Magda Teter
A Reflection on the 2016 Presidential Election from W. David Myers, Chair of History at Fordham University.
So it is Election Day, 8 November—Fordham and the history department are closed, and the department chair is in El Paso, Texas, to watch the scene and celebrate his mother’s 98th birthday—more on that later. For now, while everyone votes, watches, and waits, it is a good moment to note that members of the Fordham history department have been and are involved in this election, both practically and intellectually. Nick Paul and family went to Pennsylvania in October to register voters. Recently, Kirsten Swinth gave a scintillating lecture and program on the history of sexual harassment in America—not just the fact of harassment, which sadly seems not about to end, but the reaction to it and attempts to define, control, and eliminate it. The tale that emerged from Kirsten’s discussion was a century-old set of disparate campaigns with different angles and motives leading to today’s intense efforts. It’s a messy history, but what Kirsten’s presentation demonstrated is that the fight isn’t new, and sexual harassment isn’t a distraction from more important issues this election year—it IS an important contemporary political matter, one that this ugliest of campaigns has brought to the forefront.
Others have been just as active—Saul Cornell’s tireless efforts politically and academically on the Second Amendment have taken him from Cambridge, England, to Palo Alto California. For me, though, one of the most enlightening moments from my colleagues was Sal Acosta’s discussion last February of voter restriction efforts in states with a long history of discrimination against African Americans—this time targeting a rising Latino population and using the same language of fear and criminality that disfranchised the black population. As I watch from El Paso, surrounded by my Latino friends and relatives, I note that those same states in the southeast and southwest are witnessing a surge in voting from a determined Latino population infected with the “audacity of hope,” as President Obama has described it. Sal Acosta has proven to be an astute observer and analyst of American politics.
And then there is a personal note–Catherine, my mother, about to celebrate her 98th birthday. While presenting her with a rosary chosen by my students on the Camino de Santiago last June, I was struck by a number—1918. That was the year of her birth during a devastating worldwide influenza epidemic and at the very end of World War I. Focus on the year–in 1918, women could not vote, nor could they fight for their country. In 1918, patriotic African Americans could not fight alongside their white comrades in the U.S. Army. In 1918, African Americans could not play in the major leagues. And in 1918, the Chicago Cubs had already been without a World Series victory for a decade . . .
So as I celebrate my courageous mother with my equally courageous (and Hillary-deranged sisters, I must add!), I realize that in the last decade, she has proudly voted for and seen an African American man become the President of the United States. She has seen gay marriage legalized and thus been able to greet and welcome her granddaughter’s spouse. Last Tuesday she voted for a woman to become the President of the United States. And on Wednesday, the Cubs took the series—with an African American leadoff hitter.
In all of these events, the “arc of history” didn’t necessarily bend gradually toward justice in some inevitable way. None of this seemed likely just a decade ago, at least not for the near term. But human beings seized the opportunities presented to them by accident, or disaster, or just dumb luck. The audacity of hope is the element that disrupts our theoretical and scientific thinking and we frequently overlook it. But our best moments as people, and as a people, must surely depend on it. That is one lesson for history and historians today.
The 2nd Amendment in an Age of Terror
A conversation with two Fordham professors
Nicholas Johnson, author of Negroes and the Gun
Saul Cornell, author of A Well-Regulated Militia
Moderated by Eric Sundrup, S.J., of America magazine
Wednesday, November 16, 2016
4:15 p.m. | Room 2-01A
Fordham Law School
150 W62nd Street, NYC
Refreshments will be served.
On Thursday, October 13 at 6:15 a chill will fall over the Fordham Rose Hill campus. Scott G. Bruce, professor of medieval history at the University of Colorado at Boulder will bring us into the shadows with his collection of historical ghost stories. The stories, published in the prestigious Penguin Classics series as The Penguin Book of the Undead: Fifteen Hundred Years of Supernatural Encounters. Bruce will read selections from his spooky collection at 6:15PM between the cemetery and the the university church. A reception at Rodrigue’s Coffee House will follow, where signed copies of the book will be available for purchase. In the case of inclement weather, the event will take place at Rodrigue’s Coffee House.
Ring in the Halloween season with the scariest event ever held at Fordham… Continue reading
Professor Magda Teter introduces school children in Harlem to the history of the book
So far our series of summer postcards has highlighted how Fordham historians used the summer months to visit archives, go to conferences, and work on projects. In this installment, Professor Magda Teter tells us about how she used her summer time to bring her knowledge and teaching skills to her community, visiting an elementary school in Harlem and teaching two classes for 6-9 year olds about the history of the book. As Professor Teter writes: “Books are more than text, they are also objects. How did book come to have title pages? Beautiful colors and eye-catching binding. The two sessions covered the history of the book, from the ancient scrolls to modern books. The book, as we know it, is a historical artifact that changed over long centuries in format and content. We looked at Jewish and Christian books printed and in manuscript, on parchment scrolls and on paper. Students touched books that were printed hundreds of years ago, even in the 1460s. Technological advancements, like the introduction of paper and the moveable type, and local contexts have influenced the way information was preserved and accessed. We looked at books as an object and examined the influence of the material aspect of the book for the transmission and access to information. The young students touched real history.”