Search Results for: washington post

America’s Post-Frontier Hangover

'American Progress' (1872), by John Gast, depicts settlers moving west, guided and protected by a goddess-like figure and aided by technology (railways, telegraphs), driving Native Americans and bison into obscurity. (Fotosearch / Stringer/Getty)

Will Meyer | Longreads | March 2019 | 17 minutes (4,498 words)

In the small New England town where I live, Hadley, Massachusetts, the common lies a few miles from the mishmash of corporate chains that make up the town’s economic center. A quiet residential neighborhood surrounds the common. It is a grassy patch, left vacant most of the year, save for occasional festivals and craft fairs; open space to be utilized as needed, hardly disturbed otherwise. Adjacent to the college towns of Northampton and Amherst, not much happens in Hadley. I go for walks around my neighborhood most days and seldom run into many people. The common feels like an oasis, a fleeting yet contained sliver of vastness.

In 1995, the Hadley Historical Commission installed a plaque on the side of a rock, near the end of the common, between where it meets the main road and a paved rail trail. The plaque commemorates the “17th Century Palisade,” a wall that was “3 fingers thick and 8 feet high” in 1676, 100 years before the American revolution. The “fortification,” the plaque states, “was one mile long by 40 rods wide.” Most saliently, however, “Hadley was then a frontier outpost which felt threatened by Native American attack.” In other words, the settlers built a wall (around the corner from where I live now) both to assert their settlement and ward off perceived threats — namely the brown-skinned Other the United States was founded, at least partially, to pacify and remove. Read more…

Ghost Writer: The Story of Patience Worth, the Posthumous Author

Original Parker Brothers Ouija Board elements from Dave Winer/Flickr CC, Photo illustration by Katie Kosma

Joy Lanzendorfer | Longreads | June 2018 | 18 minutes (4,948 words)

One day in 1913, a housewife named Pearl Curran sat down with her friend Emily Grant Hutchings at a Ouija board. Curran’s father had died the year before, and Hutchings was hoping to contact him. While they’d had some success with earlier sessions, Curran had grown tired of the game and had to be coaxed to play. This time, a message came over the board. It said: “Many moons ago I lived. Again I come — Patience Worth my name.”

This moment was the start of a national phenomenon that would turn Curran into a celebrity. Patience Worth, the ghost who’d contacted them, said she was a Puritan who immigrated to America in the late 1600s. Through Curran, she would dictate an astounding 4 million words between 1913 and 1937, including six novels, two poetry collections, several plays, and volumes of witty repartee.

The work attracted national headlines, serious reviews, and a movie deal. Patience Worth’s poetry was published in the esteemed Braithwaite’s anthologies alongside writers like Edna St. Vincent Millay. In 1918, she was named an outstanding author by the Joint Committee of Literary Arts of New York. Her novel, The Sorry Tale, was a bestseller with four printings. The New York Times said her poetry was a “high level of literary quality” with “flashes of genius.” Harper’s Magazine said that the “writings attributed to Patience Worth are exceptional.” The New Republic added: “That she is sensitive, witty, keenly metaphorical in her poetry and finely graphic in her drama, no one can deny.”

Literary Digest summed up the critical interest by writing: “It is difficult not to take Patience Worth seriously.” Read more…

The Slave Who Outwitted George Washington

The Washington Family, by Edward Savage, c. 1789 / Wikimedia

Erica Armstrong Dunbar | Never Caught: The Washingtons Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave Ona Judge | Atria / 37 Ink | March 2017 | 19 minutes (5,244 words)



Two years after the death of her owner, Betty learned her mistress was to remarry. She most likely received the news of her mistress’s impending second marriage with great wariness as word spread that Martha Custis’s intended was Colonel George Washington. The colonel was a fairly prominent landowner with a respectable career as a military officer and an elected member of the Virginia House of Burgesses. His marriage to the widowed Martha Custis would offer him instant wealth and the stability of a wife and family that had eluded him.

A huge yet necessary transition awaited Martha Custis as she prepared to marry and move to the Mount Vernon estate, nearly one hundred miles away. For Betty, as well as the hundreds of other slaves that belonged to the Custis estate, the death of their previous owner and Martha’s marriage to George Washington was a reminder of their vulnerability. It was often after the death of an owner that slaves were sold to remedy the debts held by an estate. Read more…

What We Saw in Washington, D.C.

Photos by Nate Gowdy for Longreads and The Stranger.

To cover this past weekend’s inauguration and Women’s March protests in Washington, D.C., Longreads teamed up with Seattle publication The Stranger. Armed with mood rings supplied by their editors, writers Sydney Brownstone and Heidi Groover, along with photographer Nate Gowdy, met those celebrating and protesting, shared their personal perspectives, and examined what it means for the next four years. Here’s their full diary from the events of January 18-23.

Read more…

In 1971, the People Didn’t Just March on Washington — They Shut It Down

L. A. Kauffman | Direct Action: Protest and the Reinvention of American Radicalism | Verso Books | February 2017 | 33 minutes (8,883 words)


Below is an excerpt from Direct Action, by L. A. Kauffman. This story is recommended by Longreads contributing editor Dana Snitzky.

* * *

If the government won’t stop the war, we’ll stop the government.

The largest and most audacious direct action in US history is also among the least remembered, a protest that has slipped into deep historical obscurity. It was a protest against the Vietnam War, but it wasn’t part of the storied sixties, having taken place in 1971, a year of nationwide but largely unchronicled ferment. To many, infighting, violence, and police repression had effectively destroyed “the movement” two years earlier in 1969.

That year, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the totemic organization of the white New Left, had disintegrated into dogmatic and squabbling factions; the Black Panther Party, meanwhile, had been so thoroughly infiltrated and targeted by law enforcement that factionalism and paranoia had come to eclipse its expansive program of revolutionary nationalism. But the war had certainly not ended, and neither had the underlying economic and racial injustices that organizers had sought to address across a long decade of protest politics. If anything, the recent flourishing of heterodox new radicalisms—from the women’s and gay liberation movements to radical ecology to militant Native American, Chicano, Puerto Rican, and Asian-American movements—had given those who dreamed of a world free of war and oppression a sobering new awareness of the range and scale of the challenges they faced.

On May 3, 1971, after nearly two weeks of intense antiwar protest in Washington, DC, ranging from a half-million-person march to large-scale sit-ins outside the Selective Service, Justice Department, and other government agencies, some 25,000 young people set out to do something brash and extraordinary: disrupt the basic functioning of the federal government through nonviolent action. They called themselves the Mayday Tribe, and their slogan was as succinct as it was ambitious: “If the government won’t stop the war, we’ll stop the government.” The slogan was of course hyperbolic— even if Washington, DC were completely paralyzed by protest for a day or week or a month, that would not halt the collection of taxes, the delivery of mail, the dropping of bombs, or countless other government functions—but that made it no less electrifying as a rallying cry, and no less alarming to the Nixon administration (Nixon’s White House chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman, called it “potentially a real threat”). An elaborate tactical manual distributed in advance detailed twenty-one key bridges and traffic circles for protesters to block nonviolently, with stalled vehicles, improvised barricades, or their bodies. The immediate goal was to snarl traffic so completely that government employees could not get to their jobs. The larger objective was “to create the spectre of social chaos while maintaining the support or at least toleration of the broad masses of American people.”

The protest certainly interfered with business as usual in Washington: traffic was snarled, and many government employees stayed home. Others commuted to their offices before dawn, and three members of Congress even resorted to canoeing across the Potomac to get themselves to Capitol Hill. But most of the planned blockades held only briefly, if at all, because most of the protesters were arrested before they even got into position. Thanks to the detailed tactical manual, the authorities knew exactly where protesters would be deployed. To stop them from paralyzing the city, the Nixon Administration had made the unprecedented decision to sweep them all up, using not just police but actual military forces.

Under direct presidential orders, Attorney General John Mitchell mobilized the National Guard and thousands of troops from the Army and the Marines to join the Washington, DC police in rounding up everyone suspected of participating in the protest. As one protester noted, “Anyone and everyone who looked at all freaky was scooped up off the street.” A staggering number of people— more than 7,000—were locked up before the day was over, in what remain the largest mass arrests in US history. Read more…

Postwar New York: The Supreme Metropolis of the Present

Demobilized soldiers returning to New York. Via Flickr.

David Reid | The Brazen Age: New York City and the American Empire: Politics, Art, and Bohemia | Pantheon | March 2016 | 31 minutes (8,514 words)


The excerpt below is adapted from The Brazen Age, by David Reid, which examines the “extraordinarily rich culture and turbulent politics of New York City between the years 1945 and 1950.” This story is recommended by Longreads contributing editor Dana Snitzky

* * *

Probably I was in the war.

—NORMAN MAILER, Barbary Shore (1951)


A hideous, inhuman city. But I know that one changes one’s mind.

In march 1946 the young French novelist and journalist Albert Camus traveled by freighter from Le Havre to New York, arriving in the first week of spring. Le Havre, the old port city at the mouth of the Seine, had almost been destroyed in a battle between its German occupiers and a British warship during the Normandy invasion; huge ruins ringed the harbor. In his travel journal Camus writes: “My last image of France is of destroyed buildings at the very edge of a wounded earth.”

At the age of thirty-two this Algerian Frenchman, who had been supporting himself with odd jobs when the war began, was about to become very famous. By 1948, he would become an international culture hero: author of The Stranger and The Plague, two of the most famous novels to come out of France in the forties, and of the lofty and astringent essays collected in The Myth of Sisyphus.

Camus’s visit to the United States, sponsored by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs but involving no official duties, was timed to coincide with Alfred A. Knopf’s publication of The Stranger in a translation by Stuart Gilbert, the annotator of James Joyce’s Ulysses. In the spring of 1946 France was exporting little to the United States except literature. Even most American readers with a particular interest in France knew of Camus, if at all, as a distant legend, editor of the Resistance newspaper Combat and an “existentialist.”

Reviewing The Stranger in the New Yorker, Edmund Wilson, usually omniscient, confessed that he knew absolutely nothing about existentialism except that it was enjoying a “furious vogue.” If there were rumored to be philosophical depths in this novel about the motiveless murder of an Arab on a North African beach, they frankly eluded him. For Wilson the book was nothing more than “a fairly clever feat”—the sort of thing that a skillful Hemingway imitator like James M. Cain had done as well or better in The Postman Always Rings Twice. America’s most admired literary critic also had his doubts about Franz Kafka, the writer of the moment, suspecting that the claims being made for the late Prague fabulist were exaggerated. But still, like almost everyone else, especially the young, in New York’s intellectual circles Wilson was intensely curious about what had been written and thought in occupied Europe, especially in France.

“Our generation had been brought up on the remembrance of the 1920s as the great golden age of the avant-garde, whose focal point had been Paris,” William Barrett writes in The Truants, his memoir of the New York intellectuals. “We expected history to repeat itself: as it had been after the First, so it would be after the Second World War.” The glamorous rumor of existentialism seemed to vindicate their expectations. Camus’s arrival was eagerly awaited not only by Partisan Review but also by the New Yorker, which put him in “The Talk of the Town,” and Vogue, which decided that his saturnine good looks resembled Humphrey Bogart’s. Read more…

Editor’s Roundtable: Cities, And How They Used to be Good (Podcast)

Robyn Beck / AFP / Getty Images

On our May 24, 2019 roundtable episode of the Longreads Podcast, Fact-checker Ethan Chiel, Editor-in-chief Mike Dang, Contributing Editor Aaron Gilbreath, and Senior Editor Kelly Stout share what they’ve been reading and nominate stories for the Weekly Top 5 Longreads.

This week, the editors discuss stories in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The CT Mirror, and Engadget.

Subscribe and listen now everywhere you get your podcasts.

00:49 “They Were Conned: How Reckless Loans Devastated a Generation of Taxi Drivers” (Brian M. Rosenthal, May 19, 2019, The New York Times

“There was absolutely no one who was there looking on the side of these low-income drivers.” – Mike Dang

To drive a cab in New York City, you need a taxi medallion. The medallions are valued at over a million dollars, are marketed by lenders as a better investment than the stock market, and represent financial freedom to drivers who want to own their own business. This two-part investigation from Pulitzer-nominated Rosenthal looks at the predatory lenders who entrapped low-income taxi drivers into shady loans.

The team discusses the ethics of loans that overlook how much drivers earn, the complicity of regulators and politicians, and the idea of American greed versus the American dream.  

9:38 “How San Francisco Broke America’s Heart” (Karen Heller, May 21, 2019, The Washington Post)

“I’m really homesick for San Francisco… I feel like it doesn’t exist anymore.” – Kelly Stout

The Post offers another look at the untenable cost of real estate and rising inequality in San Francisco, inspiring the team to discuss whether these stories function to unmask the status quo and inspire readers to question capitalism, or are merely elegies for a way of living that no longer exists.

They talk about the microcosms of late-stage capitalism, the rise of socialist sentiment, and a desire for more regulation, even among some tech capitalists. They also draw a parallel between responses to climate change stories that cause concern without successfully spurring us to change the way we go about our daily lives.

17:00Separated by Design: How Some of America’s Richest Towns Fight Affordable Housing” (Jacqueline Rabe Thomas, May 22, 2019, The CT Mirror)

“If you make racism really expensive, it’s one way to help force people’s hands.” – Aaron Gilbreath

It’s basically impossible to get affordable housing built in Westport, Connecticut — home to the highest wealth disparities between rich and poor in the entire country. Co-published with ProPublica, this investigation looks at the dynamics between the residents, developers, lawyers, and law-makers that maintain a system built around keeping black and Hispanic people out of these extremely wealthy white towns.

24:04Impossible Foods’ Rising Empire of Almost-Meat” (Chris Ip, May 19, 2019, Engadget)

“The problem is on such a different scale.” – Ethan Chiel

Stanford biochemist Patrick Brown and his wife, both long-time vegans, have created Impossible Foods, a tech company looking to disrupt the food system by targeting carnivores and eliminating the meat industry.

The team rates Impossible’s flagship burger, which, according to some, tastes just like the real thing. They touch on the role the meat industry plays in greenhouse gas emissions (it’s responsible for 14.5% of the world’s total) and debate the impact of such a product. They weigh the burger’s health benefits in relation to its environmental benefits, and the strategy of a vegan product that appeals not to morality, but gluttony.


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Produced by Longreads and Charts & Leisure.

The Thrill (and the Heavy Emotional Burden) of Blazing a Trail for Black Women Journalists

Dorothy Butler Gilliam at her desk in the fall of 1961 or early in 1962, soon after she arrived at The Washington Post. (©1962, Harry Naltchayan, Washington Post)

Dorothy Butler Gilliam | an excerpt from Trailblazer: A Pioneering Journalist’s Fight to Make the Media Look More Like America | Center Street | January 2019 | 17 minutes (4,927 words)

When I arrived in Washington, D.C., in 1961, the city, the entire country, and the African continent were all on the threshold of change. The dashing, young John F. Kennedy had just begun his presidency promising “a new frontier.” The Civil Rights Movement was kicking into high gear with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. now urging young people like me to pursue professions we’d been excluded from and to excel. It was thrilling to be in the nation’s capital to begin my career as a daily newspaper journalist in the white press.

I brought a pretty placid nature to that career. When I later looked back, I surprised myself. I was so conservative politically! For example, only six years earlier, when I wrote about school integration in the student newspaper while attending Lincoln University from 1955 to 1957 (the Negro college in Missouri that provided higher education for colored students, allowing the state to keep all its other colleges and universities white), I indicated reasons we should go slowly with integration. But reporting for The Tri-State Defender in Memphis as the Civil Rights Movement dawned had begun to change me. The bus boycott victories had begun to liberate my thinking. And added confidence came from my faith, strengthened my spirit, and pushed me to do things that other people in my family didn’t do. Read more…

The 2018 Pulitzer Prize Winners

From left, writers Alice Crites, Stephanie McCrummen, Amy Gardner, and Beth Reinhard embrace in the newsroom after The Washington Post wins two Pulitzer Prizes. The Post shared a Pulitzer with the New York Times for their coverage of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and contacts between President Donald Trump's campaign and Russian officials and won a second Pulitzer for uncovering the decades-old allegations of sexual misconduct against Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

As expected, the New York Times and The New Yorker dominated much of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize fanfare, and while it is necessary to honor the award-winning reporting undertaken by Jodie Kantor, Meghan Twohey, and Ronan Farrow, some of the most-talked about features from this past year were also celebrated. Including, Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, whose in-depth reporting on Dylann Roof for GQ won for feature writing (Ghansah also won a National Magazine Award for this story). And the staff of the Cincinnati Enquirer, which provided a brutal examination of the effects of heroin during a week-long period.

The entire list of the other Pulitzer recipients can be found here, but below is a list of some of the honored works. Read more…

‘The Lily’ Would Like to Provide a Digital Media Repackaging of One’s Own

Hero Images / Getty

In “A Room of One’s Own,” Virginia Woolf writes:

Women have served all these centuries as looking glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size.

The Washington Post announced Monday they are launching a new “for women by women” website called The Lily, named for the first newspaper “devoted to the interests of women.”

It’s no secret that journalism has long been, and continues to be, far more closed off to women than to men. A now-retired female investigative journalist once told me that when she was working at the New York Times in the 1970s and 80s, if she collaborated with a man on a story, the story could only be double-bylined if it ran on the front page. Otherwise, her name would be dropped, as editors felt a man needed the byline more than she did.

Read more…