Kelly Miller

History lives on, I wrote in my last post, not just in museum and books but in stories our neighbors tell and in the names of parks and schools. Well, case in point — an article in this morning’s Washington Post talks about the new longer academic year being instituted at ten DC public schools including Kelly Miller Middle School.  How many people reading the piece know who Kelly Miller was? I wonder.

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History Matters!

A favorite among the t-shirts I cycle through at this muggy time of year is a bright turquoise blue one.  I like its refreshing color but I also appreciate what it says —  on the front ROSENWALD (it promotes the documentary film of that name); on the back HISTORY MATTERS.  I’ve thought of this epigram often in the last few weeks as I absorb the news about shootings in our cities and experience sorrow, disbelief, anger, frustration. I ask myself all the questions many are asking — what can we do as a country, as states, as cities and towns, neighborhoods and individuals, to reduce racial hostility, affirm support for black lives, make people feel safe, honor men and women in law enforcement yet hold them to the highest standards of impartiality? So much feels broken.  How can we make it better?

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Muhammad Ali & Emmett Till

Reading in today’s paper the biography of a writer named Barbara Goldsmith made me think about Emmett Till.  Goldsmith, who wrote a best-selling account of the Gloria Vanderbilt custody trial in 1934, remembered that as a child of wealthy parents she was scared of being kidnapped.  The year after her birth in New York City, the baby of famed aviator Charles Lindbergh and his wife, Anne, was stolen out of his crib in a second story bedroom in the family home in New Jersey. The ensuing two month search,the discovery of the dead child, then the arrest, trial and execution of the abductor were all widely publicized.  Goldsmith is quoted as telling an interviewer that, “I used to go to bed a night and wait for the sound of the ladder plopping against my bedroom window. I’ve since found out that a lot of people who grew during the Depression had these same fears, because of the Lindbergh baby’s kidnapping.”

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