The Rest Is History

Subways disasters, W.E.B. Du Bois, and the fiftieth anniversary of the 1968 Democratic convention.

By Jaime Fuller

Friday, August 31, 2018

Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT) Construction, 25th Street and Fourth Avenue, New York City, 1906. Photograph by W.R.C. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Marlene Nathan Meyerson Family Foundation Gift, 2004.

• It’s the hundredth anniversary of the Malbone Street wreck, the worst subway disaster in New York history: “BRT electricians, not knowing the third rail had been ripped up in the wreck, assumed deliberate damage from union members and restored power—electrocuting dozens of survivors limping to safety. Ebbets Field became a makeshift hospital for the hundreds of injured. In all, the death toll clocked near 100.” (New York Post)

• On W.E.B. Du BoisBlack Reconstruction in America: “The premise of Black Reconstruction was as simple as it was rare: African Americans are living, breathing historical actors. As Du Bois explained in his prefatory note, ‘I am going to tell this story as though Negroes were ordinary human beings, realizing that this attitude will from the first seriously curtail my audience.’” (Jacobin)

• Romantic literature vs. romance novels: “As a capital-‘R’ Romanticist, I feel obligated to point out that the word ‘romance’ itself has a long and complicated history.” (Los Angeles Review of Books)

• That time when Plennie Lawrence Wingo had an idea: “If you’re working seventy hours a week for scraps, is it really that big a gamble to try to make money by walking backward around the world?” (Texas Monthly)

• The women who transformed Rolling Stone in the 1970s. (Vanity Fair)

• “In 1864, a black man named Benjamin T. Montgomery tried to patent his new propeller for steamboats. The Patent Office said that he wasn’t allowed to patent his invention. All because he was enslaved.” (Gizmodo)

• This week in discoveries involving gerbil teeth: “Roughly 5,300 years ago, a group of ancient sheep herders in East Africa began an extraordinary effort to care for their dead.” (The New York Times)

• Reading a report from the 1968 DNC convention fifty years later. (Texas Observer)

• This week in obituaries: John McCain, Neil Simon, a star of South African jazz, a “salvager of shipwrecks and a teller of tales about the treasures that still lie undiscovered at sea and on land,” and the first African American composer to win the Pulitzer Prize.