New at Zócalo


The African American ‘Hidden Figures’ Who Desegregated the South's Public Libraries

In Jackson, Blacks Endured Beatings and Dog Attacks to Gain Entrance, While in Birmingham They Used Sit-Ins to State Their Case

By Wayne A. Wiegand and Shirley A. Wiegand

    Historians of the civil rights era, between 1954 and 1968, have crafted an impressive body of literature focusing on the resolve of young black community activists who bravely resisted racial discrimination at lunch counters, on buses, and in countless other public venues throughout the Jim Crow South. But one particular site of their valor has remained largely hidden in the historical record: public libraries. Ubiquitous civic agencies that for nearly a century had justified local taxpayer support as valued educational institutions because they were “free to all,” libraries remained segregated in America’s South into the 1960s.
    The complexity of the struggle to desegregate public libraries can be seen in the way it played out very differently in two Southern cities: Jackson, Mississippi, and Birmingham, ...

Connecting California

California's Trees Need to Stop Just Standing There

With Humans Unable to Solve the Golden State's Forest Crisis, Our Woodsy Friends Must Step Up for Themselves

By Joe Mathews

    Dear California Trees,
    When are you going to stand up and take some responsibility for all the damage you do to this state?
    It’s not only the blue-purple blossoms that you jacarandas use to stain Californians’ cars, or the colonies of disease-carrying rats that you palms harbor, or even the roots you magnolias use to keep messing up the sidewalks on my street. It’s not even that your out-of-control-fires foul California’s air, destroy homes, and drain the state budget.
    No, what most upsets me is that, instead of being accountable for the trouble you cause, you leave us humans to solve all your problems. You trees are more aloof than any Hollywood star. Do you think the Lorax from Dr. Seuss is going to show up to speak for you? Or do you think you’re magical heroes, like the trees from The Lord of the Rings? ...

Connecting California Joe Mathews


  • By Stephanie Brown

    Cooked, the socks, the pantry stocked,
    Thanksgiving dinner for twenty.
    Crab apples around ...

  • By Blas Falconer

    The ruffled hem floats
    as you spin
    Of them all,
    the one you like
    most ...

  • By Irene Sanchez

    Freeways connect
    The Golden State
    Prisons ...

  • Video Highlights

    Looking Back at Four Years of “What It Means to Be American”

    The Smithsonian/ASU/Zócalo Project on U.S. History and Identity Is Just Getting Started

    Since its launch on April 14, 2014, the "What It Means to Be American" project has convened 12 events in seven cities and published more than 300 essays on American history and identity. And we're just getting started. Here's a look back at where we've been, and where we're going.