[This article by the late Clifford J. Doerksen—who presented "bad news from the past" in his dark and witty blog, The Hope Chest—appeared in the November 2010 issue of The Readex Report. A brilliant historian and critic, Cliff died unexpectedly last month at the age of 47. Remembrances from his many fans and friends can be found at the Chicago Reader. ]
Washington Crossing the Delaware (1851) by American painter Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze (Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art)
No Christmas celebration would be complete without Santa Claus, carols and George Washington. Wait, George Washington? What does he have to do with Christmas, you might ask? Well, quite a bit if you live near the site where General George Washington and his soldiers crossed the Delaware River on Christmas night in 1776. Each year at Pennsylvania’s Washington Crossing Historic Park, a group of dedicated Revolutionary War re-enactors and history enthusiasts gather to recreate Washington’s famous Christmas-night river crossing. The participants brave the cold dressed in authentic reproduction clothing and use replicas of the same kind of boats Washington and his men would have used. This year will mark the 234th anniversary of their daring crossing and pivotal victory the next day at the Battle of Trenton.
In this issue: how digitized newspapers shine a brilliant light on past lives; the profound impact of religion on African-American identity; the Boston Tea Party as perceived by both Colonialists and those loyal to the Crown; and the humor, hype and horror behind the mysterious minced pie.
What do the following seven people have in common: Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah, Peter Ayodele Curtis Joseph, Modibo Keita, Shafie Ahmed el-Sheikh, Samora Machel, Agostinho Neto, Sam Nujoma and Nelson Mandela?
Well surely many things indeed. For example, if you said they were all important African leaders in the second half of the twentieth century, you would be correct. Each, however, in addition to any other commonalities, received the Lenin Peace Prize—the Soviet Union’s counterpart to the Nobel Peace Prize.
Articles and radio broadcasts monitored, translated, and published in the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) Daily Reports discuss the Lenin Peace Prize awards. By searching on the phrase “Lenin Peace Prize” and limiting results to items from Africa, one gets 22 results in the Readex digital edition of FBIS Daily Reports and Annexes, 1941-1996. Searching for “Lenin Peace Prize” in the Readex database without limiting results by location retrieves some 268 results.
Here is one example from the Accra Ghana Domestic Service on how the award was perceived in that country in 1962.
“The Police, in Revolt; the Jails, Open; the Nation, in Riot; the Families, in Dismay” – Thus runs the headline of Mexico’s El Diario on November 25th, 1911, as the Mexican Revolution raged in the capital. As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, it is both sobering and edifying to look back at the Revolution that shook Mexico a century ago, the reverberations of which would be felt across the Americas for decades.
It is especially edifying to look back at this revolution from the many perspectives that can be found in the newspapers of both Mexico and the United States. On the same day, November 25th, 1911, El Imparcial took a very different view of the situation—not surprisingly, as it was a propaganda organ of Mexico’s embattled dictator, Porfirio Diaz.