How a Humble Stone Carries the Memory of an 1851 African American Uprising Against the Fugitive Slave Law

The Excavation of a Christiana, Pennsylvania Field Shows How Free Black People Used Mutual Aid Societies for Defense

The muse for this story is a humble piece of stone, no more than an inch square. Sometime in the mid-19th century, it had been fashioned into a gunflint—an object that, when triggered to strike a piece of steel, could spark a small explosion of black powder and propel a lead ball from the muzzle of a gun with mortal velocity.

Archaeologists often come across gunflints. That’s because during the 19th century firearms were considered mundane items, owned by rich and poor alike. Gunflints, like shell casings now, were their disposable …

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When the Government Decided the Spread on Your Toast Should Be Pink | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

When the Government Decided the Spread on Your Toast Should Be Pink

The ‘Margarine Wars’ Explain the 19th-Century Struggle to Regulate Food

Tomatoes are red, margarine is yellow, and oranges, are, well, orange. We expect certain foods to be certain colors. What we don’t realize is that these colors are not necessarily …

The Bad News Behind California’s Good Times | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

The Bad News Behind California’s Good Times

Economic Busts Are Bad in the Golden State, but Booms Can Be Even Worse

Californians, being tougher than we look, have always found ways to survive our economic busts.

It’s the booms that bring us to our breaking point.

This essential truth is being missed in …

The World War II “Wonder Drug” That Never Left Japan | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

The World War II “Wonder Drug” That Never Left Japan

For Workers and Soldiers, Taking Methamphetamine Was a Patriotic Duty That Hooked a Generation

Amphetamines, the quintessential drug of the modern industrial age, arrived relatively late in the history of mind-altering substances—commercialized just in time for mass consumption during World War II. In fact, …

Why the 2020s Were California’s Golden Decade | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Why the 2020s Were California’s Golden Decade

A Letter From the Future Explains How a Series of Disasters Transformed the State

January 1, 2030

To My Sons:

I’m so proud of all three of you. I especially appreciate that, now that you’re 21, 18, and 16 years old, you no longer fight with …