New at Zócalo


The Cold War Government-Funded Publishing House that Took American Literature to the World

Though Driven by a Desire to Assert U.S. Values, Franklin Publications Was Viewed as Pushing Imperialist Propaganda

By Amanda Laugesen

    In 1952, a group representing the most important trade, university, and educational publishers in the United States met in New York City to incorporate Franklin Publications.
    Some of the men (and they were all men) had been active in the Council of Books in Wartime during the World War II. Then, they had helped to produce the Armed Service Editions that took popular books to the fighting troops, and the Overseas Editions that had taken American books in translation into liberated Europe.
    At this meeting, with the Cold War setting in, publishers once again decided to support the U.S. government. The new Franklin Publications would “win hearts and minds” across the globe.
    As in World War II, publishers initially thought this could help ...


How the Know Nothing Party Turned Nativism into a Political Strategy

In the 1840s and '50s, Secretive Anti-Immigrant Societies Played on National Fears Fed by the Spread of Slavery

By Michael Todd Landis

    Though the United States is a nation built by immigrants, nativism—the fear of immigrants and the desire to restrict their entry into the country or curtail their rights (or both)—has been a central strain in the national fabric from the beginning. Nativism waxes and wanes with the tides of American culture and politics, with some eras exhibiting more virulent anti-immigrant activism than others.
    But few eras have exceeded the 1840s and 1850s, when a ferociously anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant, and xenophobic secret society grew into a nativist political entity called the Know Nothing Party and briefly dominated the politics of a handful of states by stirring up violent outbursts before imploding over the slavery issue in 1855.
    Though the United States always enjoyed robust immigration, it was not until the 1840s and 1850s that it became a divisive issue in politics. ...

Connecting California Joe Mathews

  • What's So Wrong About Californians Colluding With This Russian?

    A River Reveals the Historical, Mystical Ties That Bind Our State to the Land of Putin and Tolstoy

        Take my guilty plea, Mr. Mueller. Because this Californian has been colluding with the Russians.
        To be sure, I didn’t subvert any elections. But one recent week this spring, when my colleagues were out of the office, I snuck away to visit ...

  • Let's Split up California Into Separate States of Mind

    Every Resident Should Get to Choose Their Personal Territory. Anyone for TaylorSwiftopia?

        All the many dozens of proposals to split California into multiple states share the same basic defect: a foolish fixation with geography.
        The new “Cal 3” ballot initiative, which would create three states, has roots in pre-Civil War days, when the proposal was to split us into a ...

  • 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.