The United States Didn’t Really Begin Until 1848

Forget 1619 or 1776—America's Origin Debate Has a California-Sized Blind Spot

America, you’ve got the dates wrong.

Your intense debate over which year marks the real beginning of the United States—1619 (slavery’s arrival) or 1776 (Declaration of Independence)—has become predictably polarizing. You might even say that this argument over how to understand our history, repeated ad nauseam in school board meetings and on cable TV, has come to resemble what this nation was like before California entered the Union:

Boring as hell.

If we want to find a compelling origin story for the country in which we actually live, then it makes little sense …

The Black Freedom Seekers Who ‘Managed to Shape Their Own Destinies’ | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

The Black Freedom Seekers Who ‘Managed to Shape Their Own Destinies’

The Many and Varied Attempts by African Americans to Escape Bondage in the Lower Mississippi Valley Tell a Larger Narrative

The Lower Mississippi Valley begins at Cairo, Illinois, where the Ohio River flows into the Mississippi, and extends south to the Head of Passes 100 miles below New Orleans, where …

A College Founded on an Antebellum Plantation Digs Into the Darkness of Its Past | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

A College Founded on an Antebellum Plantation Digs Into the Pain of Its Past

How Sweet Briar Is Finally Remembering the Enslaved People Who Built—And Were Buried Beneath—Its Campus

Twenty years ago, an equestrian instructor at Sweet Briar College in rural Virginia stumbled over a stone in one of the horseback riding rings. It turned out to be a …

Jefferson Davis’s Lesser-Known Nemesis | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Jefferson Davis’s Lesser-Known Nemesis

Henry Stuart Foote and the Confederate President Supported Slavery—But Loathed One Another

On Christmas morning, 1847, six important men assembled at a large boarding house in Washington, D.C., ostensibly for casual, after-breakfast conversation. In the parlance of the era, it was a …

How the ‘Yellow House’ Helped Make Washington, D.C., a Slavery Capital | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

How the Yellow House Helped Make Washington, D.C., a Slavery Capital

The Notorious Jail Lent Institutional Support to Slavery Throughout the South

Washington, D.C., was a capital not just of the United States, but of slavery, serving as a major depot in the domestic slave trade. In the District, enslaved men, women, …