New at Zócalo

Essay

The Group of Florida Legislators Whose Attack on the NAACP Turned Into a Witch Hunt Against 'Liberal' Minorities

In the 1950s, the Johns Committee Spied On and Harassed Anyone They Saw as a Threat to Racial and Sexual Norms

By Stacy Braukman

    Across America, and particularly in the South, struggles over cultural values have often been rooted in race and sex. Yet some historical moments stand out as stranger than others.
    In 1956, Florida’s state legislature established a committee to investigate legal infractions by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, as well as any links that the organization might have to subversive groups. At the time, Florida was just one of several Southern states creating their own sovereignty and education commissions, as well as committees on un-American activities.
    The Florida committee, like the others, was part of the white South’s campaign of “massive resistance.” State and local governments deployed legal and procedural weapons against efforts to implement Brown v. Board of Education, ...

WHAT IT MEANS TO BE AMERICAN

How Chicago Lifted Itself Out of the Swamp and Became a Modern Metropolis

By Building Canals, Laying Sewers, and Jacking Up Buildings, the Windy City Spurred Its Miraculous Growth

By Joshua Salzmann

    In 1833, Chicago was a wilderness outpost of just 350 residents, clumped around a small military fort on soggy land where the Chicago River trickled into Lake Michigan. The site was known to local natives as Chigagou, or the “wild garlic place.” By the end of the century, this desolate swamp had been transformed into a modern metropolis of 1.7 million, known the world over for its dense web of railroads, cruelly efficient slaughterhouses, fiery blast furnaces, and soaring skyscrapers.
    Chicago’s rise was so sudden and so astounding that many observers concluded it must have been predestined by nature or God, a view that echoed the 19th-century belief in the inevitability of American expansion and progress known as Manifest Destiny. In 1880, for instance, the former lieutenant governor of Illinois, William Bross, told members of the Chicago ...

Connecting California Joe Mathews

Poetry

  • 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
    I-5
    Droughts
    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.