The Greek-American R&B Legend Who Passed as Black

Johnny Otis Felt He Had Been ‘Saved’ by the Political, Spiritual, and Moral Force of African-American Culture 

If a role exists in black music that Johnny Otis couldn’t play, it would be hard to find. Known as the godfather of rhythm and blues, Otis was a bandleader, talent scout, singer, drummer, minister, journalist, and television show host. Between 1950 and 1952, Johnny and his band recorded 15 top 40 R&B blues hits. He discovered, produced and promoted a roster of stars, including Etta James, Little Esther, and Jackie Wilson.

Otis was not only a trailblazer in the world of music but also a religious leader and political …

Frederick Douglass’s Love-Hate Relationship With America

Historian David Blight Tackles the Great Abolitionist's Contradictions and His Enduring Legacy

From his youth, as a slave growing up in antebellum Maryland, Frederick Douglass saw the double-ness of American life. He recognized the gulf between the nation’s enlightened principles and its …

The Voodoo Priestess Whose Celebrity Foretold America’s Future

Marie Laveau, the Self-Invented New Orleans Prophetess, Blurred the Sacred and Profane While Presiding Over a Multiracial Following 

Any tourist who rolls into New Orleans’s French Quarter eventually finds themselves standing before a Bourbon Street botanica called Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo. It’s a small shop, and …

The Women Who Built Mayo Clinic

After a Tornado Wrecked a Minnesota Town, Franciscan Nuns and Physicians, Anesthesiologists and Social Workers Helped Create a Pathbreaking Medical Center

Several years ago, a few colleagues and I discovered a well-kept secret about Mayo Clinic, where we all worked.

We had decided to create a Jeopardy game for Women’s History Month …

The Postcards That Captured America’s Love for the Open Road

From Mid-Century Until Today, “Greetings From” Postcards Have Combined a ‘Fantastical View’ of the Country With Car Culture Obsession

The most prolific producer of the iconic 20th-century American travel postcard was a German-born printer, a man named Curt Teich, who immigrated to America in 1895. In 1931, Teich’s printing …

Why the ‘New Nationalism’ Can Only Flourish in Conflict

Built on Hatred, and the Need for an Adversary, It Thrives on Contempt for Other Cultures, Religions, and Even Languages

Nationalism as we know it today—a global movement of states led by strongmen decrying globalization—is a recent invention. But a brief and broad history of nationalism reveals its important paradoxes …