The Notorious, Mixed-Race New Orleans Madam Who Turned Her Identity Into a Brand

By Repackaging the Myths of the Tragic Octoroon and the Self-Made Woman, Lulu White Crafted a Persona That Haunts Beyoncé's "Formation"

In 2016, music and pop-culture idol Beyoncé released the album Lemonade to rapturous reviews. As a historian of New Orleans, I was especially intrigued by the video for one of the songs on the album, “Formation.” The video includes iconic images of the city: Katrina flood waters and post-flood graffiti; “second-lines”; marching bands; crawfish eating; and even a dancing “Mardi Gras Indian.” As we move through various neighborhoods, we visit a church service, a St. Charles Avenue mansion, and, in what appears to be a move through time into the …

What Kind of an American Am I?

From Witches to Baptist Ministers to Native Americans, My Family Heritage Holds Many Stories. But I'm Not Sure Which Ones Are Mine.

I am American. That much I know—but my life’s experience has never taken me beyond that in any way, up until this point. While many Americans embrace their ancestry …

A Cultural Touchstone Fends off the End of an Era

In the Age of the Angry Asian Man Blog, 113-year-old Japanese-American Newspaper 'The Rafu Shimpo' Reaches Out to New Readers

Long before I was the English editor of The Rafu Shimpo—the newspaper that covers Japanese-American communities up and down the Pacific Coast and other Japanese-American hubs like Denver, New York, …

Life in Iran Is a Wistful Elegy for the Past

On a Trip Back to My Father’s Homeland, I Found a Country Made Generous by Its Sorrow

It was late April, and the snow had only just melted in Meygoon, a mountain town north of Tehran.

I had arrived in Iran the night before and was staying …

America Is Still Fundamentally a British Colony

Adrian Wooldridge, an editor and columnist at The Economist, says that America has defined itself by accepting or rejecting elements of British culture. He spoke at a Smithsonian/Zócalo “What It …

Fretwork

By the time Mother took me to her birthplace—Bequia—
I was a fifth-grade wordsmith in a first-grader’s body.
H-o-m-e—too easy—was off my spelling list although

I didn’t know what home meant. …