Tom Rice is Senior Lecturer in Film Studies at the University of St Andrews and the author of White Robes, Silver Screens: Movies and the Making of the Ku Klux Klan (2015). In this book, he examines the integral role of cinema in the formation, development, and demise of the Ku Klux Klan between 1915 and 1944. Through a range of sources – including Klan newspapers, censorship files, and personal papers – the book explores the ways in which the Klan used, produced, and protested against the film industry in order to recruit members, generate publicity, and define itself as a traditional Protestant American organization.
The following interview took place in December 2016 (note the Advent wreath).
August 1970, late afternoon: Something legendary is unfolding right before the eyes of just about every black household in Chicago: “This is Soul Train, the hippest trip in America, 60 non-stop minutes over the tracks of your mind into the exciting world of Soul!” is heard for the very first time on local television. The show’s owner, producer, and hippest host in history, Mr. Don Cornelius, steps on stage and starts a new era in African American history. He has no idea his train is heading for television heaven.
After yet another election season with a number of glitches, the problems with America’s voting system have been all over the news once again. Will the fuss die down after a few months like it has in past elections? Somehow I don’t think it will. In recent months, it has become increasingly evident that some of the same rights that were fought for and won during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and ‘60s have come under fire. The movement, once considered a done deal, has recently gained new urgency.
“Make America Great Again.” Again. Despite what the media coverage lead us to fear, the world did not end with the election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States. No candidate in the 2016 presidential campaign was as omnipresent in the public perception as Trump. It has been said that the speech Trump gave on January 20 did not foreshadow a good presidency; it was aggressive, simple, and populist. But is that really something new?
History never crawls or walks. It runs. Sometimes silently as if on the softer sands of time. Sometimes we can hear its footsteps louder as they hit the hot pavement.
As I write this on January 19, 2017, Barack Obama is still the President of the United States. But only just. Great Britain is still a member of the European Union. But only just. And after the painful lessons of the 20th century, nationalism is still a sleeping giant. But only just. The giant is waking.
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 to the vote for Brexit in 2016, Europe and the United States have known over a quarter century of relative peace. No wars, hot or cold. Some exceptions: Sarajevo, Srebrenica, 9/11. But for the most part, some 10,000 mornings, afternoons, and evenings have unfolded in secure calm. But as in the eye of a storm, calm can be deceptive. And temporary. Read more »
Everyone reading this blog has seen monuments to historical events or national heroes. But how many of you have seen a memorial to a mass hanging? Outside the movies or TV, few people today have ever seen a public hanging. That was not true a hundred years ago when criminals’ lives often ended at the end of a noose. The largest public hanging in American history took place on December 26, 1862, in Mankato, Minnesota. That day, federal troops executed 38 Dakota Sioux Indians for their part in the Minnesota Sioux War that had just ended. By some accounts, up to 4,000 whites jammed the town square or sat atop nearby buildings to watch the mass execution. The crowd cheered loudly when the trapdoors opened and all 38 men hung at the end of the ropes. Why not take a few minutes to find out why this gruesome spectacle happened 134 years ago and how the city of Mankato – often associated with the Little House on the Prairie TV series – has dealt with this legacy? Read more »