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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.

A dramatic portrayal of the 1856 attack and severe beating of Massachusetts senator Charles Sumner by Representative Preston S. Brooks of South Carolina.

Political Divisions Led to Violence in the U.S. Senate in 1856

The horrific caning of Charles Sumner on the floor of the Senate in 1856 marked one of the most divisive moments in U.S. political history.
A person's palms presented to the camera

The Trouble with “Native DNA”

Genetic testing to determine who is Native American is problematic, argues Native American studies scholar Kim TallBear.
A girl scout troupe marching in parade in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn in the 1960s

Desegregating the Girl Scouts

The Girl Scouts had always professed that they were open to all girls. But how did that play out in segregated cities?
Two arms with tattoos

Why Does the Bible Forbid Tattoos?

And have we been misinterpreting Leviticus?
Two boys selling newspapers outside of a saloon

How Women Lost Status in Saloons

During World War I, anti-vice crusaders marked women who liked the nightlife as shady. You can tell by the way men started talking about them.
Illustration: An illustration from the cover of Warm Worlds and Otherwise by James Tiptree, Jr.

Source: Ballantine

James Tiptree Jr. and Joanna Russ: Sci-Fi Pen Pals

The two feminist authors corresponded about writing and romance, especially after Tiptree's true identity leaked.
Two pages from the Kaufmann Mishneh Torah, 1296

How to Revive a Dead Language

Although it was the language of sacred texts and ritual, modern Hebrew wasn't spoken in conversation till the late nineteenth century.
Still Life with a Peacock Pie

The Joy of Eating in Utopia

The early socialist Charles Fourier had grand ideas about food. The pleasure of eating was right up there with sex.
A cowboy pulling a sleigh of gifts

The Rise and Fall of Montana’s Christmas-Tree Harvest

Douglas firs weren't great for lumber, but they once made the small town of Eureka the Christmas-tree capital of America.
Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl’s Anti-Black Racism

The first edition of the beloved novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory featured "pygmy" characters taken from Africa.
Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus

Santa and Mrs. Claus and the Christmas War of the Sexes

In the late nineteenth century, bachelor Santa got married. Unsurprisingly, Mrs. Claus contributed uncompensated labor to the Claus household.
A woman in a soviet house

Early Television in the Soviet Union

Communist Party officials saw potential in the new technology in the 1950s. So did ordinary people, but not always in the same way.
Two Khasi girls in traditional dress at the Shad Suk Mynsiem dance, Shillong, Meghalaya, India

What Does It Mean to Be a Matriarchy?

Using the definition that European theorists invented in the nineteenth century may not work for every society, like the Khasi.
A seminole town

The History of the Black Seminoles

The community's resilient history speaks of repeated invasions and resistance to enslavement.
An illustration from America's story for America's children, 1900

How (Not) to Teach Kids about Native Cultures

Even well-intentioned books for children can romanticize (or demonize) Native Americans. But better materials exist.

The Bizarre Theories of the American School of Evolution

The paleontologist Edward Drinker Cope condemned women's suffrage and Black Americans through an evolutionary lens.
Illustration: An arithmetic class at a school in London, England. Published in the Illustrated London News, October 3, 1891

Source: Getty

Why Would Parents Oppose Compulsory Education?

In Victorian England, reformers thought all children should go to school. That didn't sit well with everyone—and not just kids.
Pensive Caucasian man sitting on sofa near window

How the Internet Changed Chronic Illness

Online communities show that isolation doesn't have to define the experience of having a chronic disease.
Smokey Robinson and The Miracles Clockwise from left: Smokey Robinson, Pete Moore, Bobby Rogers, Ronnie White.

Music Education and the Birth of Motown

Music teachers in the Detroit public schools paved the way for the success of future Motown artists like Smokey Robinson and Mary Wilson of the Supremes.
Cinnamon sticks and powder

The Desperate Quest for American Cinnamon

Centuries ago, Europeans went to extreme and horrific lengths in search of the spice.
An illustration of a voodoo dance, 1883

Racism and the Fear of “Voodoo”

During Reconstruction, lurid tales of African-derived religious practices in Louisiana made news all over the country—especially when worshipers included white women.
Garlic

Garlic and Social Class

Immigrants from southern Italy were stereotyped for their use of the aromatic vegetable.
A man doing the dishes at home

An Effective Treatment for Diabetes? Try an Apartment

Subsidized housing promotes the kind of stability that makes it easier for people with type 2 diabetes to maintain their health.
Voters dropping their voting slips into the ballot box.

Why Do We Vote by Secret Ballot?

Election days used to be raucous affairs, with individual votes sometimes cast orally for all to hear.
The cover of the first edition of Slan by A.E. van Vogt

The Self-Styled Sci-Fi Supermen of the 1940s

Way before there were stans, there were slans. Too bad about their fascist utopian daydreams!