Was Leland Stanford a ‘Magnanimous’ Philanthropist or a ‘Thief, Liar, and Bigot?’

The Railroad Baron and Governor of California Was Starkly Contradictory and Infamously Disruptive

Born in his father’s East Coast backwoods bar, dying in a magnificent West Coast mansion built from his self-made fortune. Condemned as the complete robber-baron, consecrated as a singular titan of American enterprise. Exalted as the magnanimous founder of a world-class university, damned as a thief, liar, and bigot.

With all of the stark contradictions in his character, Leland Stanford—a man best known as a railroad magnate, California governor, and putative philanthropist—embodies American typecasts that have bedeviled us for centuries. Today’s infamously disruptive, get-rich-quick, world-altering, ill-mannered, entrepreneurial culture traces …

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The Heartbreaking Love Letters That Spurred an Ohio Blacksmith to Join John Brown’s Raid | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

The Heartbreaking Love Letters That Spurred an Ohio Blacksmith to Join John Brown’s Raid

Dangerfield Newby’s Enslaved Wife Wrote Increasingly Desperate Missives That Inspired Her Husband to Join the Abolitionist Rebellion

Every October 16 marks the anniversary of John Brown’s historic raid on Harpers Ferry in West Virginia in 1859. Accompanied by 18 supporters, Brown, a radical abolitionist, hoped to …

How Museums Help Diverse Nations Reimagine Themselves | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

How Museums Help Diverse Nations Reimagine Themselves

By Embracing the Ambiguity of Old Myths, the Best Exhibits Broaden a People’s Sense of Belonging

Museums are often dismissed as irrelevant diversions, as places apart, as tombs for pasts that don’t have much to do with the present.

But I study the world’s heritage museums—the …

When Did Americans Go Crazy for Celebrities? | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

When Did Americans Go Crazy for Celebrities?

In 1849, a Riot Between 10,000 Fans of Two Rival Actors Left 22 People Dead

May 10, 1849, New York City. Twenty-two people lay dead and 150 were injured in the deadliest event of its kind in the city up to that point. The …

To Have a ‘Better Death,’ Play With These Cards | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

To Have a ‘Better Death,’ Play With These Cards

Sandy Chen Stokes Wants Everyone to Talk About Their Own Mortality

How can you get people to talk about what they would like the end of their lives to be like?

Here’s one technique I’ve used: get them to play cards.

For …

‘When the Baby Has Colic I Talk With the Grandmother’ | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

‘When the Baby Has Colic I Talk With the Grandmother’

As a Mexico-Trained Doctor in San Diego, Brenda Green Gets the Whole Family Involved

I practice family medicine at a clinic just a few miles away from the Tijuana medical school where I earned my medical degree. But the journey from medical school to …