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Popular Culture, History, and Current Events

Don Don’t Take No Mess: Don Cornelius and His Very Own Soul Train Mission

By Sophie Schleimer


Photo credit: Daniel X. O’Neil Soul Train Photo Exhibition at Expo 72: Don Cornelius

Brown:        Brother, who’s backin’ you                       on this?

Cornelius:   James, it’s just me.

Brown:        Brother, who’re you with on                     this?

Cornelius:   James, it’s just me.

Brown:        Brother, who’s really behind                     this?

Cornelius:   James, it’s just me.


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.

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Voting Rights: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

By Sabrina Völz

Photo credit: Theresa Thompson

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.

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From Ronald to Donald: The Inaugural Speeches of Reagan and Trump

By Jan Gudlowski

By Ronald Reagan presidential campaign, 1980

“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?

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Eye of the Storm

By Michael Lederer

Hurricane Rita Peak. Source: Wikimedia Commons

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 »

Reconciliation with the Dakota Sioux in Mankato

By Roger Nichols


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 »

Getting to Know You

By Bobbie Kirkhart

my university school days – at least on the student side of the desk – are two decades past now, but I daresay this story is still playing out today, in graduate schools and other places where thinking people with different experiences collide.

On the first night of class, we started with an icebreaker: paired off, we were to interview each other and then introduce our colleague to the class. I was partnered with a woman who, as soon as the professor said “begin,” narrated her life story. I knew everything about her in 10 minutes without having asked a single question.  She concluded her soliloquy with the statement, “I’m very active in my church.”

When she interviewed me, I concluded, “I’m an atheist activist.” I was almost expecting a negative response, but she simply commented, “that’s interesting.”

When we were called on, she introduced me, my school, my specialty, my hobbies, and then turned to me and asked, “Shall I tell them the secret?” Read more »