Category: Advocacy

A slave state – how blackbirding in colonial Australia created a legacy of racism

Reading time: 46 minutes
The French historian Ernest Renan described forgetting as “an essential factor in the creation of a nation”, since patriots do not want to remember the “deeds of violence” at the origin of all political formations. In the Australian context, a strange contradiction contributes to the ongoing amnesia about slavery and its consequences. From the very beginning, enslavement shaped white settlement in Australia – and so, too, did abolitionism. That paradox, a peculiar entwinement of two ostensibly antagonistic impulses, makes for a complicated narrative, one that cannot be grasped simply as a local version of the better-known American story.

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A white supremacist coup succeeded in 1898 North Carolina, led by lying politicians and racist newspapers that amplified their lies

Reading time: 6 minutes

Those who study Reconstruction and its aftermath know the U.S. has deep experience with political and electoral violence. Reconstruction was the 12-year period following the Civil War when the South returned to the Union and newly freed Black Americans were incorporated into U.S. democracy.

The news media, it turns out, have often been key actors in U.S. electoral violence. This history is explored in a chapter one of us – Gustafson – wrote for a book the other – Forde – co-edited with Sid Bedingfield, “Journalism & Jim Crow: The Making of White Supremacy in the New South,” which comes out later this year.

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Safeguarding our Heritage – Why we must fund Trove

Reading time: 2 minutes
Trove, the National Library of Australia’s (NLA) public online database, has grown to include over 6 billion individual items. These include everything from newspapers and magazines to photographs, parliamentary papers, government and organisational reports, theses and research, audio, video and books. These are items from the NLA’s archives as well as contributions from over 1,000 organisations across Australia. These groups have been contributing thousands of volunteer hours to the task of preserving, collating, digitising and describing important artefacts from Australia’s history. They did this safe in the knowledge that it would then be maintained and safeguarded for future generations.

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Roman Britain was multi-ethnic – so why does this upset people so much?

Reading time: 4 minutes
Mary Beard, professor of classics at the University of Cambridge, has recently been at the receiving end of a “torrent of aggressive insults” for suggesting that Britain under the Roman empire – which at its height stretched from northern Africa to Scotland – was ethnically diverse. The trouble started when Beard described an educational cartoon produced by the BBC, which included a black Roman solider in Britain, as “pretty accurate”.

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Why we must better understand our history

Reading time: 5 minutes
History never repeats itself, but it does often rhyme. Mark Twain.
As a society it is vitally important that we understand our own history, as well as the history of other peoples throughout time. This is the only way we can make informed decisions about how we should approach the challenges that we face in the present and the future.

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Popular Histories Have Influenced World Leaders, Sometimes For the Better

Reading time: 6 minutes
Sometimes presidents are influenced by history books. Bill Clinton consulted Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History by Robert Kaplan when dealing with conflicts in southeastern Europe. In 2008 Barack Obama consulted Jonathan Alter’s The Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope for ideas about launching a strong presidency. Joe Biden liked The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels so much that he made its author, Jon Meacham, a key adviser. No historian, however, has made a more significant impact on an American president’s thoughts and actions than Barbara Tuchman. President John F. Kennedy drew important lessons from one of her books when seeking a peaceful resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

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