Lincoln Review: Devin Hunter

A Lincoln statue, on Lincoln Avenue, in Chicago’s Lincoln Square neighborhood, in the Land of Lincoln. (Flickr/Brad Heird)

In this five-part series, Lakefront Historian contributors respond to the critically acclaimed blockbuster Lincoln, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Daniel Day Lewis.

Lincoln as Challenge and Opportunity for Public Historians

Like all texts, Steven  Spielberg’s Lincoln should be critiqued on several levels. Film scholars will analyze the script and cinematography, while popular press movie critics will judge the work as both a creative and commercial product. Being a historical film, Lincoln has also attracted the attention of academic scholars. But what about Lincoln as a piece of public history? And what are its implications for public historians? These are no easy questions–and their answers can easily morph into an unwieldy meta-narrative of aesthetics, commercial production, and speculation on reception. Here, I offer a just an introduction to the public history context of Lincoln and encourage any expansion or complications of these impressions in comments below.

Continue reading “Lincoln Review: Devin Hunter”

Revising the “Fort Dearborn Massacre” [Roundtable]

For the 9th Annual Loyola History Graduate Student Conference, the LUC Public History Committee will host a roundtable on “Revisionist Public History.” This is a post that introduces a case study on the topic. The Committee welcomes participation both online and at the conference. If you have an example of “Revisionist” Public History, please feel free to mention it as a comment on the blog, or contact the blog editors to request the opportunity to author a guest post. For more information on the Conference and the Roundtable–to be held November 3 at Loyola’s downtown Water Tower Campus–click here

The Battle of Fort Dearborn Park (WBEZ/John Schmidt)

The bicentennial of the War of 1812 has received depressingly little notice even here in the Great Lakes region, home to several important sites of that conflict. An exception to this general apathy relates to a space on Chicago’s Near South Side where, on August 15, 1812, a band of Pottawatomie overwhelmed about 100 evacuees from the US Army’s nearby Fort Dearborn. The confrontation was a rout: 28 American soldiers were killed and 28 were captured. Civilian losses–a complicating matter in the ongoing memory of the event–amounted to 14 killed and 15 captured, including 3 women and 12 children.

The Anglo-American perspective of the event prevailed as the dominant interpretation of the violence, most notably in the seemingly undisputed appellation “The Fort Dearborn Massacre.” However, as many American Indians have sardonically noted over the years about white-Indian conflicts, ‘When the whites win, it’s a “battle,” when the Indians win, it’s a “massacre.”‘ Continue reading “Revising the “Fort Dearborn Massacre” [Roundtable]”

Call for Participants: Roundtable on Revisionist Public History

George Washington and slaves at Mount Vernon

The Public History Committee of the Loyola University Chicago History Graduate Student Association presents:

A Roundtable on Revisionist Public History

Saturday, November 3, 2012

In Conjunction with Afternoon Sessions of the 9th Annual Loyola University Graduate Student History Conference, 2:45pm-4:30pm

LUC Water Tower Campus

You are invited to participate in a roundtable designed to foster discussion of recent efforts to revise interpretations at historic sites.  This roundtable features Dr. Amy Tyson of DePaul University, graduate student conference participants, and public history professionals from the Chicago area.

 

How to participate: 

Follow this blog to view a detailed introduction to the roundtable, consider pre-circulated case statements, and offer your comments and contributions.

Attend the roundtable prepared to discuss your experiences with revisionist public history, either as a patron or a staff member of institutions that have undertaken efforts to align their interpretations with historical revisions.

Attend the roundtable, and be willing to informally engage participants and fellow audience members about the topic.

Simply attend the roundtable and listen.

What is “revisionist public history?”  Continue reading “Call for Participants: Roundtable on Revisionist Public History”

“Report to the Public: An Untold Story of the Conservative Vice Lords” [Exhibit Review]

Postcard for the exhibit opening, depicting Conservative Vice Lords, an alderman, and the Illinois State’s Attorney in front of a CVL social club, 1969. (Hull-House)

The horrific killing of 7-year old Heaven Sutton dominated the June 27 Chicago news, an inauspicious backdrop for my visit that day to a museum exhibit about the Conservative Vice Lords (CVL)—a West Side Chicago gang that went ‘legitimate’ in the 1960s. Today’s  crime statistics demand that only shootings involving extraordinary circumstances warrant significant attention from the mainstream media. In the Heaven Sutton case, these heart-wrenching details include the victim’s young age and that she was a victim of cross-fire while selling candy with her family—just after having her hair styled in anticipation of an upcoming trip to Disney World. There have been over 200 Chicago homicides thus far this year. During the 2011-2012 school year, 24 Chicago Public School children were killed, and an additional 319 were wounded by gunfire. Whether media coverage of shootings consists of short blurbs in the metro section or a Pulitzer-worthy serial expose, one theme remains: the vast majority of shootings are flatly depicted as “gang-related.” This persistent motif trains us to understand loose associations of urban youth (“gangs”) as the inevitable cause of violence and disruption, a convenient—even if unthinking—way to avoid many of the structural social and economic foundations of inner-city violence.

Continual “gang violence” also makes it difficult to remember a time when some street gangs shifted from illicit activities and violence to community service and legitimate political activity. History shows that gangs often embodied complex notions of resistance, consciousness-building, empowerment, and community. At times, dominant political and economic forces have even enlisted gangs in collaborative social welfare efforts. Certainly the actions of Heaven Sutton’s killers fall far from such aspects of  gangs. And it could be argued that the positive potential of street gangs happened in a historical moment, long since occluded by the national cocaine and heroin epidemic and the precipitous decline of Federal and municipal funding for urban social programs. Regardless, “Report to the Public: An Untold Story of the Conservative Vice Lords,” an offsite exhibit curated by the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, looks back to the 1960s when the urban crisis called for innovative partnerships between legitimate institutions and some of the gangs once assumed to be among the root causes of that very crisis. This timely exhibit questions the absolute ties between street gangs and destructive violence, suggesting that groups of frustrated young people are not destined to wreak the community havoc so prevalent on the evening news. Continue reading ““Report to the Public: An Untold Story of the Conservative Vice Lords” [Exhibit Review]”

Reflecting on 2011: One Presenter’s Review of the Loyola Graduate History Conference

Chicago’s famous Water Tower with Loyola’s downtown campus in the background–the site of the Loyola Graduate History Conference.

In preparation for the ninth annual conference, Loyola’s conference organizers have reached out to previous conference attendees in hopes of having them write up some thoughts about their experiences at our conference.  The following post was written by Brian Sarnacki, a graduate student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  You can learn more about Brian and his research here.

The conference, held this year on November 3, is an ideal setting for graduate presentations and especially welcomes public history content. Interested? See the call for papers.

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As a second year graduate student, last year I wanted to get more experience presenting my work in a conference setting. I figured a graduate conference was a good place to get some feedback and practice in a rather low pressure situation (when compared to presenting at a major conference). I had a number of various factors I took into consideration: I was organizing my own department’s conference in the spring so I needed to present in the fall. My brother lives in Chicago so I thought I would use a conference as a good excuse to visit. Other graduate students in my department had attended Loyola’s conference the year before and recommended it. When I applied I figured I would I have a nice opportunity for practice presenting. However, I ended up getting much more than a practice venue. Continue reading “Reflecting on 2011: One Presenter’s Review of the Loyola Graduate History Conference”

Around the Web (April 2012)

Depp’s Tonto (left) and Sattler’s “I Am Crow” (Gawker.com)

Periodically, a Lakefront Historian contributor surveys recent public history-related news that has made their way to the Internet. In this installment of “Around the Web,” Devin Hunter points to items ranging from Johnny Depp’s dubious Tonto get-up to the perilous economic condition of the Canadian national archives. Follow The Lakefront Historian on Twitter (@LakefrontHist) for news updates as they happen. Continue reading “Around the Web (April 2012)”