This is a NYT Magazine that I missed. I was in Wisconsin.
“Last month, the historian and biographer Jon Meacham got an unusual request from Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s campaign. The campaign wanted him to speak at the Democratic National Convention — not to endorse Mr. Biden, but to put the stakes of this election in historical context.
“The request was, define the soul of America, and do it quick,” Mr. Meacham said.
Mr. Meacham is not a Democrat. He has voted for candidates of both parties, and his work has focused his attention on studying past presidents rather than endorsing modern-day ones. When he gave his four-minute address Thursday evening from his home in Nashville, he sat in his library with two portraits mounted behind him: one of Representative John Lewis and one of former President George Bush, painted by his son former President George W. Bush.
It was a rare, high-profile appearance in the political arena for a Pulitzer Prize-winning author. Mr. Meacham has spent much of his career steeped in the country’s past, studying the lives of presidents such as Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
His speech also marked a public moment in a long-running friendship with Mr. Biden, with whom he has had periodic, spirited conversations about American history and how the country’s sometimes-troubled past shapes the present and future.”
“The fact that Harriet is the first feature-length film to tell the story of one of the most famous women in American history may sound improbable, but it’s no less improbable than many of the facts of her life. The new biopic is mostly true to what we know of the real Harriet Tubman, though writer-director Kasi Lemmons (Eve’s Bayou) and co-writer Gregory Allen Howard (Remember the Titans, Ali) take some considerable liberties with both the timeline of events and the creation of several characters. We consulted biographies, articles, primary sources, and a few contemporary historians so we could break down what’s historical record and what’s artistic license.
Tubman’s Early Life as Araminta “Minty” Ross
Just as in the movie, Tubman (played here by Cynthia Erivo) grew up on a farm in Dorchester County, Maryland, where she was born Araminta “Minty” Ross. Though the movie may leave the impression that she only took on the name Harriet Tubman when she reached freedom, she seems to have taken it when she was married, taking Harriet from her mother, Harriet Ross, and Tubman from her husband, a free black man named John Tubman. Despite that, her owners still called her by the name they gave her, as evidenced by the Oct. 3, 1849, advertisement for the return of “Minty” taken out by Tubman’s mistress Eliza Brodess when she eventually escaped.”
“LOS ANGELES, May 13 — The prosecutor who put Charles Manson behind bars now wants to solve another crime — a really simple one, he insists. So simple that it takes only 1,612 pages to prove his case.
Vincent Bugliosi, whose prosecution of Charles Manson in 1970 led him to write one of the best-selling true-crime books of all time, “Helter Skelter,” has now turned his attention to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
And that is his full attention: 20 years of research, more than one million words, hundreds of interviews, thousands of documents and more than 10,000 citations. The result, “Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy” (W. W. Norton), is due out tomorrow. His conclusion: Lee Harvey Oswald killed Kennedy, and acted alone.
Why would such a simple conclusion require so much argument?
“Because of the unceasing and fanatical obsession of thousands of researchers over the last 43 years, from around the world but mostly in the United States,” Mr. Bugliosi said in an interview at the cafe of the Sportsmen’s Lodge Hotel in Studio City, Calif. “Examining under a high-powered microscope every comma, every period, every detail on every conceivable issue, and making hundreds and hundreds of allegations, they have transformed this simple case into its present form.”
Mr. Bugliosi likes to tell a story illustrating why he believes this book is necessary. In 1992, less than a year after the debut of Oliver Stone’s conspiracy-minded film “J.F.K.,” Mr. Bugliosi was addressing a group of trial lawyers when a member of the audience asked him about the assassination.”
David Lindsay: Today, I attended the Yale SEA brown bag lecture by Michele Thompson on Tue Tinh of 14th century Vietnam. At the lunch after, I talked with two of her graduate students from Southern CT State U., one of whom named Matt, mentioned this book above, which he used in his master’s paper on Richard Nixon and the history of the Republican Party through Nixon’s presidency. Matt insisted that it was impossible to read this book and not agree that Oswald did, in fact, like the Warren Commission found, acted alone. I should not be surprised that the Warren Commission did a good job, since my uncle, John Lindsay, the mayor of NYC, and my father, David Lindsay, thought highly of it. From Wikipedia I found:
- Earl Warren, Chief Justice of the United States (chairman) (1891–1974)
- Richard Russell Jr. (D–Georgia), U.S. Senator, (1897–1971)
- John Sherman Cooper (R–Kentucky), U.S. Senator (1901–1991)
- Hale Boggs (D-Louisiana), U.S. Representative, House Majority Whip (1914–1972)
- Gerald Ford (R-Michigan), U.S. Representative (later 38th President of the United States), House Minority Leader (1965-1973)
- Allen Dulles, former Director of Central Intelligence and head of the Central Intelligence Agency (1893–1969)
- John J. McCloy, former President of the World Bank (1895–1989)
With your American citizenship on the line, could you answer the following question? Take a moment. Because, according to a 2011 study, this is the hardest of the 100 possible questions asked on the United States citizenship test.”
You need to get 6 out of 10 questions to become an American citizen. Here are some of the very hardest. I got 7, Kathleen got a 8. Warning, It is hard. Take away, researchers find that testers can make any random set of questions ridiculously hard for an immigrant.
AMERICAN ULYSSES A Life of Ulysses S. Grant
By Ronald C. White Illustrated. 826 pp. Random House. $35
“Gore Vidal did not expect Ulysses S. Grant to be funny. In the novel “1876,” Vidal’s protagonist, Charles Schermerhorn Schuyler, hears an anecdote about President Grant’s disgust with Senator Charles Sumner’s ego. It was said that Sumner did not believe in the Bible. “No, I suppose not,” Grant replied; “he didn’t write it.”
“I laughed spontaneously, and with some surprise,” Vidal wrote, in the voice of Schuyler. “I had not thought General Grant a wit.” Few did, or do. When Grant came to Washington to take overall command of the Union armies in early 1864, he struck one officer as “stumpy, unmilitary, slouchy.” Maj. Gen. George Meade wrote that Grant “is very reticent, has never mixed with the world and has but little manner, indeed is somewhat ill at ease in the presence of strangers; hence a first impression is never favorable.”
“The world” Meade wrote of was less a sphere than a stratum, one of sophistication and social standing — for this was the era evoked in Edith Wharton’s “Age of Innocence” as much as Mark Twain’s “Roughing It.” Grant was roughing it. The Ohio-born son of a tanner, he survived West Point, did well at war in Mexico, then resigned from the Army amid rumors of heavy drinking. He failed in business, failed in farming and finally fell into his father’s leather shop in Galena, Ill. The Civil War slid him back into uniform. When he fought, he rose. However high his rank, though, he remained a nobody from nowhere, and he knew it. Grant hardened the membrane of contact between himself and “the world” into awkward armor plate, stiff layers of silence.”
Allen Guelzo, NYT: ” “Mr. Lincoln hated Thomas Jefferson as a man,” wrote William Henry Herndon, Lincoln’s law partner of 14 years — and “as a politician.” Especially after Lincoln read Theodore F. Dwight’s sensational, slash-all biography of Jefferson in 1839, Herndon believed “Mr. Lincoln never liked Jefferson’s moral character after that reading.”
True enough, Thomas Jefferson had not been easy to love, even in his own time. No one denied that Jefferson was a brilliant writer, a wide reader and a cultured talker. But his contemporaries also found him “a man of sublimated and paradoxical imagination” and “one of the most artful, intriguing, industrious and double-faced politicians in all America.” ”