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Livia Gershon

Livia Gershon is a freelance writer in Nashua, New Hampshire. Her writing has appeared in publications including Salon, Aeon Magazine and the Good Men Project. Contact her on Twitter @liviagershon.

Octavia Butler

Octavia Butler’s Roots in Black History

The Parable books seem different yet familiar, their plots framed by a world shattered by racism, economic inequality, and climate change.
Film still from a 1960s drag cocktail party, picnic, and pool party, c. 1968-1969

The Battle over Drag in 1960s San Francisco

The organized struggle for rights has been shaped by debates over the relationship between gender presentation and sexuality.
Elvis Presley is shown during a karate workout, as seen in the film 'This Is Elvis', 1981.

Elvis and American Karate

Presley’s embrace of martial arts resonated with working- and middle-class Americans who felt alienated from the US justice system.
A group of holiday-makers sunning themselves on the beach at a South Coast resort, 1895

Inventing the Beach Read

Feeling guilty about kicking back with a paperback during vacation? There’s a precedent for escapist holiday reading, particularly during times of anxiety.
A meeting of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) leaders, c.1906 - c.1907

Can a Woman Be a Genius?

Many Edwardian progressives and utopians put their hopes in the exceptional individual who was able to overcome obstacles with a force of will.
The slave ship Diligente was engaged in the illegal slave trade when it was seized in 1838. A lieutenant in the British Royal Navy painted this scene from the ship.

The Unbearable Middle Passage

In the eighteenth century, doctors recognized melancholy as a disease endemic to groups forcibly displaced from their homes, particularly enslaved Africans.
A street dog in Varanasi city, India

How Street Dogs Spend their Days

Generally lazy, often friendly, the dogs of India know how to relax.
A woman breast feeding her child, 13th century

Paying Moms to Breastfeed in Medieval Europe

The idea of offering remuneration to women for breastfeeding—even their own children—wasn’t unusual in late medieval and early modern Europe.
Piggy bank sinking in water

How We All Got in Debt

Consumer debt shapes American lives so thoroughly that it seems eternal and immortal, but it’s actually relatively new to the financial world.
A colored etching of hands showing the sign language alphabet

Deaf Colonists in Victorian-Era Canada

In 1884, educator Jane Groom defied naysayers to found a community for working-class Deaf people on prairies of Manitoba.
Ceiling of Shah Mosque at Fatima Masumeh Shrine, Qom, Iran

Scientific Seances in Twentieth-Century Iran

Spiritism appealed to Iranian intellectuals who sought to reconcile their commitment to science with their pursuit of moral reform.
Sisters of the Holy Family, New Orleans

The Hidden History of Black Catholic Nuns

The lives and roles of African-descended women who joined predominantly white Catholic convents was deliberately hidden by congregational historians.
Studio portrait of American violinist Maud Powell, c. 1909

Women, Men, and Classical Music

As more women embraced music as a profession, more men became worried that the world of the orchestra was losing its masculinity.
Officers Blois, Godot and Catin and their dogs, Black, Job and Dick, in Neuilly-sur-Siene, 1900

Dogs, the Four-Legged Crime-Fighters of Paris

Now a familiar part of policing, the partnership between canines and cops developed in an unpredictable fashion.
A Spanish Nobleman, 17th century

Nostalgia for Manly Men in Seventeenth-Century Spain

Moralists found it easy to criticize Spanish men, particularly the high-born among them, for all sorts of supposed failures of masculinity.
Demonstrators during a march calling for safe legal abortions for all women, in New York City, New York, 1978.

Jewish Law and Abortion

A practicing physician reviews contributions of Jewish ethics and rabbinic thought to the issue of abortion.
A screenshot from a video of a woman speaking Gullah and English

The Cosmopolitan Culture of the Gullah/Geechees

Emphasizing the isolation enforced by Lowcountry geography erases the agency of Gullah/Geechee communities in the preservation of African culture.
Omar Khayyam, the horse that won the 1917 Kentucky Derby

Fast Horses and Eugenics

The breeding of race horses validated those aspiring to belong to an American elite while feeding into racist beliefs about genetic inheritance.
From the cover of a teacher's book on geography

Teaching Citizenship in the Falling Ottoman Empire

In the nineteenth century, the state used a new education system to shape young citizens' attitudes toward a shrinking empire and the emerging Republic.
Two Filipino men in Los Angeles

1930s Filipinos Were Hip to American Style. There Was Backlash.

Filipinos, newly arrived to West Coast cities, displayed a mastery over American cultural life thanks to their knowledge of Hollywood films.
Chlorella algae under a microscope

Algae: The Food of the Future of the Past

In the years following World War II, American and European food scientists hoped to feed the world with common pond scum supplemented with plastics.
An Easter card from Sweden

The Easter Witches of Sweden

Today's lighthearted Easter tradition traces its roots to the witch trials and conspiracy theories of the 16th and 17th centuries.
Three pence Colonial currency from the Province of Pennsylvania. Signed by Thomas Wharton. Printed by Benjamin Franklin and David Hall, 1764

Building an Economy on Paper Money

A shortage of coined currency led Pennsylvania to begin using paper money in the 1720s. The British didn't like it, but the colonists did.
Gathering Sap at a Maple Sugar Camp, Vermont

Praising Maple Sugar in the Early American Republic

In Early America, some prestigious residents advocated for the replacement of cane sugar, supplied by enslaved workers, with maple sugar from family farms.
Jim Allen (L), a self-described member of the Vice Lords street gang, gets a hug from former Gangster Disciple and current community activist Q. L. Anthony following a press conference September 2, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois.

What Do Chicago Gangs Provide to Their Members?

Confronted with discrimination and violence, gangs evolve and serve members differently, even when patterned after existing groups.