How African American Spirituals Moved From Cotton Fields to Concert Halls

After the Civil War, Touring Groups of Black College Singers Popularized Slavery-Era Songs, Giving Rise to a New Musical Genre

“Swing low, sweet chariot….” These words are familiar to many Americans, who might sing them in worship, in Sunday school, around campfires, in school, and in community choruses. But the black singers responsible for introducing this song, and hundreds of other slave spirituals, to white America after the Civil War remain underrecognized almost 150 years later.

Spirituals are sacred songs composed anonymously by black Americans. Before the Civil War they were sung in the privacy of black spaces—the brush arbor, the praise house, the cotton field, the levee. After the …

fracturing American confederate flag

Today’s Battle Over the Confederate Flag Has Nothing to Do With the Civil War

Popular Well Beyond the South, It Is Now a Modern Symbol of White Grievance and Nostalgia for Crumbling Hierarchies

Three years ago, Dylann Roof murdered nine people in the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina and renewed a long-running debate about the meaning of the Confederate battle flag. …

Why Major League Baseball Tried to Rein in Babe Ruth

The Sultan of Swat Saved a Discredited Game, But the Sport's Establishment Sought to Tame Its Headstrong Superstar

Babe Ruth was baseball’s greatest hero. So why did the national pastime’s establishment turn against him?

The answer lies in the untold story of Ruth’s challenge to the authorities ruling …

Why Tariffs Have Backfired Throughout American History

As a U.S. Trade War With China Escalates, the Only Guarantee Is Unexpected Aftershocks

In a truly iconic scene from the 1980s comedy Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, a high school economics teacher played by Ben Stein fails to elicit even a muscle twitch from …

The Savvy Press Agent Who Invented Buffalo Bill

"Arizona John" Burke Perfected the Art of Hype That Converted a Bison Hunter Into a Symbol of National Character

To appreciate the wonder and luster of a star in the sky, one must look off to its side—“averted vision,” it is called.

So it was in the late 19th century …