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Ashawnta Jackson

Ashawnta Jackson

Ashawnta Jackson is a writer living in Brooklyn, NY. Her writing has appeared in Atlas Obscura, Timeline, Downbeat, and others. You can find her tweeting infrequently @_heyjackson.

Along the highway near Bakersfield, California. Dust bowl refugees by Dorothea Lange

The Photographers Who Captured the Great Depression

The Farm Security Administration had photographers fan out across the country to document agricultural conditions. But they brought back much more.
Two Girl Scouts collecting magazines

When the Girl Scouts Were Accused of Being Commies

In response to right-wing attacks during the Cold War, the Girl Scouts changed their tone. Somewhat.
Black Swan record label of Alberta Hunter recording, 1921.

The History of Black-Owned Record Labels

Decades before Motown ruled the radio, labels like Black Swan and Black Patti put out records that didn't stereotype African American music.
1885-86 Cuban Giants

Integrating Baseball, before Jackie Robinson

Black players were banned from Major League Baseball during the Jim Crow era. Other players walked the color line—gently.
THREE GIRLS SISTERS EATING LUNCH AT KITCHEN TABLE PEANUT BUTTER & JELLY

What Happened to Peanut Butter and Jelly?

The rise and fall of the iconic sandwich has paralleled changes in Americans' economic conditions.
Family on outdoor picnic

The Sorry History of Car Design for Women

A landscape architect of the 1950s predicted that lady drivers would want pastel-colored pavement on the interstate.
A dollar bill with a portrait of Bach

Can Bach Make You Buy More Stuff?

Classical music carries an air of sophistication. One scholar tries to figure out whether it also translates into more ka-ching.
James Baldwin

James Baldwin and the FBI

The author was monitored for his political activities, but also for being gay. The surveillance took a toll on him.
A Jewish Welfare Board cookout for soldiers

Community Cookbooks and the Women Who Wrote Them

Before "local" became a foodie obsession, small groups of women published collections of their own recipes. And still do!
A poster for the Asian American Jazz Festival, 1984, by Zand Gee

Out of Black Liberation, Asian American Jazz

Inspired by Black artistic and political movements, musicians from diverse communities began expressing pan-Asian cultural belonging and freedom.
Alex Steinweiss

Album Cover Artwork Was Super Boring before Alex Steinweiss

Inspired by the Bauhaus and WPA posters, the midcentury designer all but invented the modern record-album cover.
The cover band "Piss"

How Tribute Bands Celebrate Music History

They're not just cheese! For some people, seeing a band play note-for-note covers of classic songs goes beyond nostalgia.
Jessie Maple (left) and Louise Tiranoff (right)

Black Camerawoman Jessie Maple’s Fight to Join a Union

Her climb into filmmaking began with programs designed to train African Americans. But to succeed, she needed to break into a mostly white male union.
Dizzy Gillespie

What Is Jazz Poetry?

The form flourished in the 1950s, as poets and musicians inspired each other to new heights.
The cover of an album by the Masked Marauders

How a Fake Supergroup Mocked the Real Thing

The Masked Marauders were the cockamamie creation of a bored rock critic. They still sold 100,000 albums.
Richard Wright sits in an armchair with his hand to his chin, 1950s.

The Haiku of Richard Wright

As he lay bedridden with dysentery, the author wrote an astonishing number of haiku. What inspired him?
Matt Robinson (as Gordon) and Loretta Long (as Susan) lean on a brick wall and speak with Roosevelt Franklin, 1970

Who Was Sesame Street’s First Black Muppet?

Since the beginning, the children's show has tried to represent the diversity of the nation. But Roosevelt Franklin was controversial.
From left to right: Arthur Davison, Marjorie Allen Sieffert, and Witter Bynner

Spectra: The Poetry Movement That Was All a Hoax

In the experimental world of modernist poetry, literary journals were vulnerable to fake submissions.
The front page of the exhibition catalog for "Womanhouse" (January 30 – February 28, 1972), feminist art exhibition organized by Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro, co-founders of the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) Feminist Art Program.

The Origins of the Feminist Art Movement

Before the Guerrilla Girls, Women Artists in Revolution pressured institutions to include women artists, inspiring similar groups around the U.S.
Four books published by Kitchen Table Press

How Kitchen Table Press Changed Publishing

Founded by and for women of color, the press issued such revolutionary works as This Bridge Called My Back.
Mary Fields c. 1895

How Mary Fields Became “Stagecoach Mary”

Born enslaved, she made her way to Montana and eventually became the first Black woman to deliver mail on a "star route."
Matilda Sissieretta Jones, known as Black Patti

The Life of Matilda Sissieretta Jones

Nearly forgotten today, Jones thrilled audiences with classical music performances at the end of the nineteenth century.
The cover of the February 1949 issue of Ebony Magazine

Black Images and the Politics of Beauty

How Black-owned charm schools and modeling agencies challenged stereotypes of African American women after World War II.
Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

How Has Hollywood Shaped the Presidency?

"Acting presidential" can mean fulfilling expectations that have been shaped by TV and the movies.
Phil Moore in New York City

The Amazing Story of Phil Moore, Hollywood Star Maker

As the first salaried Black musician at a major studio, he was a leader in shaping the sound of movies—though he was often uncredited.