Author: Aidan Lee

Aidan Lee is a Fourth Year at the University of Virginia, and is completing a thesis in the History department’s Distinguished Majors Program, supervised by none other than BackStory’s Brian Balogh. Aidan is particularly interested in the philosophy of history and history writing, as well as the relationship between history and memory. Outside of academics, he enjoys literature, travel and cinema, and often spends weekday afternoons gallivanting around Charlottesville with UVA’s Running club.

 

PULL YOURSELF UP BY YOUR BOOTSTRAPS:
BOOKER T. WASHINGTON AND THE LASTING LEGACY OF TUSKEGEE UNIVERSITY

On September 18th, 1895, Booker T. Washington delivered  a speech calling for racial co-operation in front of a predominantly white crowd at the Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta, Georgia. This address, now known as the “Atlanta Compromise,” was given at a time when race-related terrorism and oppression against African-Americans was at an all time high. >>READ MORE

THE KLAN AND THE CATHOLICS

Alfred E. Smith was the first American Catholic to run for presidential office when he secured the Democratic nomination in 1928. A strong opponent of prohibition, Smith doubted that it could be effectively enforced and feared it might lead to an erosion of faith in the rule of law. As a result, he advocated for the law’s repeal. But many Americans supported it and in addition to his Irish heritage, New York background, and Catholic faith, many voters found him off-putting. Smith ended up losing–badly–to Herbert Hoover, who took 58.2 percent of the vote and all but 8 of the 48 states. Most painful of all for Smith, however, was the discovery that his home state of New York hadn’t voted in his favor. >>READ MORE

BALDWIN V. BUCKLEY:
CONFLICTING REALITIES

On Oct. 26, 1965, James Baldwin and William F. Buckley debated at the Cambridge Union debating society for and against the following motion: “The American Dream is at the Expense of the American Negro.” >>READ MORE

A THING OF BEAUTY:
THE TIMELESS APPEAL OF PORCELAIN

Porcelain teacups might not mean much today, but in early America, “porcelain was something as luxurious and expensive and desirable as sterling silver,” said Alexandra Kirtley of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Porcelain looked, felt, and even sounded different from more affordable, heavy earthenware pottery. >>READ MORE

‘NATURAL’ OR ‘ACQUIRED’ CRIMINALITY?:
PSEUDOSCIENCE, POP FICTION, AND CRIMINOLOGY

In BackStory’s show “Bridge For Sale,” Geoff Bunn, a professor of Psychology at Manchester Metropolitan University, explained that by the late 1800s, “European criminologists were trying to discern what made somebody a criminal. They had a very biological view of that,”  Bunn said, “They thought that there were born criminals, and that if you were born a criminal, you are kind of an evolutionary throwback to a previous age.” >>READ MORE

INVENTIONS PEOPLE THOUGHT WOULD CHANGE THE WORLD FOR THE BETTER (BUT DIDN’T)

  1. The Candy Bar. In BackStory episode  “Sweet Talk: A History of Sugar,” guest Steve Almond explained that products like the “Chicken Dinner Candy Bar” were sold and advertised as meal replacement bars. “The essence of the idea of the candy bar,” said Almond, “was that it’s quick, and it’s portable. You can eat it while you’re working, and the way candy bars were advertised was as quick energy, a replacement for lunch. [They were great for when] you’re on the go–you don’t have time to sit down and have a whole meal.” Chicken Dinner Candy Bars epitomized the successful early candy bar. Although they contained no chicken–they were made of nuts and chocolate–the imagery on the package suggested wholesome, nutritious food, which was especially tantalizing for Americans strapped for cash after the Great Depression of 1929. Chicken Dinner bars were seen as a cheap (the price fell from 10 to 5 cents a bar after 1929) alternative to a “real” meal in an age before America’s obesity epidemic. >>READ MORE