By Sean Dwyer Griffin
As a historian, I’m often wary of making direct connections between the past and the present. To paraphrase Richard Hofstadter, writing history out of one’s engagement with the present can be a risky business -- all the more so when the imperatives of the present demand that we get the history right.
But with the latest in a seemingly-endless string of highly publicized shootings of black men by police, together with the retaliatory killings of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, I couldn’t help but be reminded of this short letter to the editor from 1847. Published in the Subterranean newspaper in January of that year, the letter is one of those rare documents that both challenges our expectations about what we think we know about the past -- in this case, about the salience of race and racism in the United States -— and reminds us of just how much hasn’t changed.
is a blog for
independent and professional scholars of New York City
Send inquiries to the Managing Editor,
Jennifer E. Steenshorne
View our past contributors here
Visitors looking for
"The Gotham Blotter" (2006-2015)
will find it here,
revised as blog posts
in The Gotham Center's research seminar and workshop should contact Martin Lund for more information