The reverend has a new primetime show, but remains a polarizing figure:
"Sharpton has a long record of involvement in civil rights cases, but there are still those who want to remember him as the guy who defended Tawana Brawley, the teenage girl who claimed to be gang raped by a group of white men before a grand jury dismissed her claims as bogus and Sharpton was successfully sued for defamation. They want to remember him as the guy who said inflammatory things—the man who railed against 'diamond merchants' and an 'apartheid ambulance'—during the Crown Heights riots. Last year, he penned an apology in The New York Daily News for his language during the riots, and for failing to pay more tribute to Yankel Rosenbaum, an Australian graduate student who was killed in what some Jews remember as the worst episode of anti-Semitic violence in American history. 'I said things growing up. I used to use the 'N' word. I used to talk street language about a lot of things that you just can't do,' he says. 'And they'll bring it back to haunt you.'
"'The other thing I've learned, when I've had to deal with things I've said 20 years ago, 30 years ago, the first thing you should say is, 'I shouldn't have said it,'' he says. 'You don't justify something. If you said something that's wrong or that was stated wrongly, say that. The public can accept a mistake. What they can't accept is you digging in and it's an obvious mistake.'"
PUBLISHED: Sept. 17, 2012
LENGTH: 13 minutes (3282 words)
In the first four years as the first black president, Obama has largely avoided addressing race directly. Some historical context:
"Thus the myth of 'twice as good' that makes Barack Obama possible also smothers him. It holds that African Americans—enslaved, tortured, raped, discriminated against, and subjected to the most lethal homegrown terrorist movement in American history—feel no anger toward their tormentors. Of course, very little in our history argues that those who seek to tell bold truths about race will be rewarded. But it was Obama himself, as a presidential candidate in 2008, who called for such truths to be spoken. 'Race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now,' he said in his 'More Perfect Union' speech, which he delivered after a furor erupted over Reverend Wright’s 'God Damn America' remarks. And yet, since taking office, Obama has virtually ignored race.
"Whatever the political intelligence of this calculus, it has broad and deep consequences. The most obvious result is that it prevents Obama from directly addressing America’s racial history, or saying anything meaningful about present issues tinged by race, such as mass incarceration or the drug war. There have been calls for Obama to take a softer line on state-level legalization of marijuana or even to stand for legalization himself. Indeed, there is no small amount of inconsistency in our black president’s either ignoring or upholding harsh drug laws that every day injure the prospects of young black men—laws that could have ended his own, had he been of another social class and arrested for the marijuana use he openly discusses. But the intellectual argument doubles as the counterargument. If the fact of a black president is enough to racialize the wonkish world of health-care reform, what havoc would the Obama touch wreak upon the already racialized world of drug policy?"
PUBLISHED: Aug. 23, 2012
LENGTH: 38 minutes (9709 words)
So you have to understand, when Robert Jeffress says things like “Mitt Romney is not a Christian,” or “Islam is a false religion based on the teachings of a false prophet,” or that Oprah Winfrey is “a tool of Satan,” he’s not just trying to say something bombastic because he likes the attention. He says it out of love. He truly believes the culture is in decline and that he is slowing the decay and that this could prevent you personally from spending forever with your flesh on fire.
It’s the reason Jeffress has his own radio show, his own television show, and why he’s about to publish his 18th book, Twilight’s Last Gleaming: How America’s Last Days Can Be Your Best Days. It’s the reason First Baptist Dallas recently decided to undertake one of the most expensive church construction projects in modern American history. At a cost of $128 million, the new campus will feature a glass skywalk, a giant cross-shaped fountain, and a sleek 3,000-seat sanctuary that will rival Madison Square Garden.
PUBLISHED: Dec. 21, 2011
LENGTH: 25 minutes (6432 words)
In my study of African American history, the Civil War was always something of a sideshow. Just off center stage, it could be heard dimly behind the stories of Booker T. Washington, Ida B. Wells, and Martin Luther King Jr., a shadow on the fringe. But three years ago, I picked up James McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom and found not a shadow, but the Big Bang that brought the ideas of the modern West to fruition. Our lofty notions of democracy, egalitarianism, and individual freedom were articulated by the Founders, but they were consecrated by the thousands of slaves fleeing to Union lines, some of them later returning to the land of their birth as nurses and soldiers. The first generation of the South’s postbellum black political leadership was largely supplied by this class.
PUBLISHED: Dec. 4, 2011
LENGTH: 15 minutes (3835 words)
The most critical missing piece, Randolph explained as we sat in his office last fall, is character — those essential traits of mind and habit that were drilled into him at boarding school in England and that also have deep roots in American history. “Whether it’s the pioneer in the Conestoga wagon or someone coming here in the 1920s from southern Italy, there was this idea in America that if you worked hard and you showed real grit, that you could be successful,” he said. “Strangely, we’ve now forgotten that. People who have an easy time of things, who get 800s on their SAT’s, I worry that those people get feedback that everything they’re doing is great. And I think as a result, we are actually setting them up for long-term failure. When that person suddenly has to face up to a difficult moment, then I think they’re screwed, to be honest. I don’t think they’ve grown the capacities to be able to handle that.”
PUBLISHED: Sept. 14, 2011
LENGTH: 27 minutes (6952 words)
The American right presents homosexuality as something alien to the American experience—an intruder that inexplicably gate-crashed America in 1969 in the form of a rioting drag queen clutching a high heel in her fist as a weapon. The statements of Michele Bachman, Rick Santorum, or Mitt Romney insistently hint that the fag does not belong under the flag. But there's something odd here. For people who talk incessantly about honoring American history, they have built a historical picture of their country that can only be sustained by scrubbing it clean of a significant part of the population, and everything they brought to the party (if not the Tea Party).
PUBLISHED: May 23, 2011
LENGTH: 9 minutes (2344 words)
John Suther's investigations have involved a never-ending litany of 21st-century weirdness: thugs stealing dairy calves at knifepoint; a guy hauling stolen and hog-tied calves in the back of a Volkswagen Jetta; organized criminal operations laundering drug money through trade in stolen livestock; illegal immigrants running barbaric underground rodeo circuits; and, in one of the largest cattle scams in American history, a missing $865,000 from one of the highest-paid actors on TV.
PUBLISHED: June 1, 2010
LENGTH: 17 minutes (4331 words)
As we move into the next era of American history, let's take a moment to look back ten years and see how we got ourselves here — and discover the biggest thing we learned about ourselves
PUBLISHED: Feb. 1, 2010
LENGTH: 15 minutes (3818 words)
Why is American history so murderous?
PUBLISHED: Nov. 9, 2009
LENGTH: 40 minutes (10188 words)