More than a thousand years ago, Egyptians noticed a shining red object that seemed to wander through the night sky. Fascinated, they painted the celestial body onto star charts and the ceiling of tombs. Chinese, Greek, Roman and other ancient astronomers also tracked the red planet, making up stories about it and attributing it with an array of astrological powers.
In more modern times, too, people obsess over Mars. It has stunning topography, with a volcano three times higher than Mount Everest and gorges four times deeper than the Grand Canyon. Massive windstorms shape its sands into ever-shifting, otherworldly dunes. Its surface temperature is 138 degrees Fahrenheit colder than Earth’s, and its atmosphere deadly thin. Although liquid water once pooled and coursed across the surface of Mars, that water seems largely locked up as ice today.
On Sunday, January 26, Readex will host a special breakfast presentation titled “Freedom Found: Untold Stories of the Civil War’s Refugees from Slavery” at the 2020 American Library Association Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia. An open discussion will follow the talk by acclaimed author Amy Murrell Taylor, Professor of History and winner of multiple outstanding teacher awards at the University of Kentucky.
About the Presentation
The liberation of four million men, women, and children from slavery in the United States is often told as a one-man, one-moment story centered on Abraham Lincoln’s issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation. This talk revisits that story by looking at the emergence of Civil War “contraband” camps, settlements of over 500,000 refugees from slavery who sought protection inside the lines of the Union Army. It tells the untold stories of the many people and moments that accomplished the real work of seeking freedom in the Civil War, and considers why an elemental part of Emancipation’s history has remained relatively hidden in American memory. What challenges lie in the way of reconstructing this history—and in reshaping the way that most Americans understand this momentous period?
In 2018, a Chinese scientist named He Jiankui secretly altered the DNA of a pair of human embryos to make them resistant to the HIV virus. When the twin babies were born and Dr. He announced what he’d done, scientists and governments around the world condemned him. One researcher called his actions “unconscionable...an experiment on human beings that is not morally or ethically defensible.” The Chinese government launched an investigation, and media circulated calls to ban or limit the technology that made the genetic engineering possible.
The CIA, no doubt, was paying attention to the whole hoopla. Although the twin babies represent the current apogee of genetic engineering, Dr. He’s work was predicated on decades of research and debate—much of which was monitored by the CIA, which has experimented with using genetically-engineered insects and other animals as instruments of espionage.