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Popular Culture, History, and Current Events

Beyoncé and Jay-Z at the Louvre: A Timely Reminder of Art Museums’ Racist Past

By Wiebke Kartheus

Beyoncé and Jay-Z posing in front of the Mona Lisa

The Louvre is the most famous and most visited museum in the world. Arguably, it is also the most prestigious one. So what does it mean when two of the biggest cultural icons of the 21st century shoot a music video there? What does it mean when Beyoncé and Jay-Z, under the name “The Carters,” present themselves in the Louvre in their “Apesh*t” video released in June 2018?

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Christmas Traditions in the U.S.

This year, the team of the American Studies Blog would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas by testing your knowledge of Christmas trivia. We hope that you will pass ‘and’ pass on our infotainment to your family, friends, colleagues, and students. It is interesting to ponder how much other cultures have enriched American Christmas traditions. Without further ado, here’s our Christmas quiz for you:

  1. Which one of America’s most beloved Christmas poems by Clement Moore appeared on Dec. 23, 1823?
  2. Which group of German immigrants introduced the Christmas tree to the United States in the 1800s?
  3. Which German American illustrator heavily influenced Santa’s popular image?
  4. Which two other holidays are celebrated in the United States during the month of December?
  5. Can you name at least 3 religious and 3 non-religious figures, icons, or symbols of the holiday?

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Aretha Franklin: Freedom, Respect, and the Moral Universe

By Christine Jones

Powerful and proud, Aretha Franklin’s music championed the ideas of freedom and dignity, making her voice an integral part of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States with songs like “Respect” (1967) and “Think” (1968). When I hear the word “freedom” sung repeatedly in the chorus of “Think,” I’m reminded of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, where he etched the words “Free At Last” into the vocabulary of the Civil Rights Movement. The song, “Respect”, unwaveringly and unapologetically demands just that and translates effortlessly into a voice for the feminist movement of the time. I was a child in that era, born in 1960, and the messages expressed by voices like Aretha Franklin’s have left an indelible imprint on me and many in my generation. Those voices made me feel that, as Martin Luther King put it, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” They made me feel that the United States was a place of social progress despite its struggles.

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National Comedy Center – It’s on THE Map!

By Sabrina Völz

When I started out as a teaching assistant at Syracuse University at the ripe old age of twenty, I instinctively knew I should get to know my students better. The obvious way to do that was to make small talk before or after class. My questions were nothing too personal or special, but the answers to one question puzzled me. “Well, what are you doing this weekend?” The responses varied, but they all had something in common: “Going to THE basketball game,” “Going to THE lake,” “Going to THE City” Okay. The first two were obvious. Basketball meant Syracuse University’s finest. THE lake meant Onondaga Lake, after all it was the closest one. But THE city? As if there is no other. Where, for crying out loud, is THE city? “Going to the City?” I asked meekly. “Yes, going to the City. You know, THE City.”

I felt like I was in the middle of a Laurel and Hardy routine. No, I really didn’t know. So I had to muster up a large dose of courage. After all, some of the students were actually older than me, and I, the new T.A. and graduate student from Iowa, obviously didn’t want to look stupid. After an excruciatingly long minute of silence passed, I finally spit out my question. Trying to keep a straight face, my student responded in slow motion, over enunciating his words: “New York City.”

Right then and there, I learned an important lesson: For most New Yorkers, there was, is, and never will be another city besides the Big Apple. Well, at least until now. Move over N.Y.C! Jamestown, N.Y., is on THE map. So what does Jamestown, a city with a population of roughly 30,000, have that THE City doesn’t? It has THE National Comedy Center.

photo credit: Steve Neilan

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