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Matthew Wills

Matthew Wills has advanced degrees in library science and film studies and is lapsed in both fields. He has published in Poetry, Huffington Post, and Nature Conservancy Magazine, among other places, and blogs regularly about urban natural history at matthewwills.com.

Supper at Delmonico's, New York 1898

The First American Restaurants’ Culinary Concoctions

A study of historical fine-dining menus yields surprises. Like six preparations of frog, and delicious lamb testicles.
Two boys share candy on a New York street, circa 1925

How Residential Segregation Looked in the South

A longstanding idea about southern segregation is that it was more "intimate" than its northern counterpart. What's the truth?
President Lyndon Baines Johnson with some members of the Kerner Commission in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Washington, D.C., 1967

The Kerner Commission Report on White Racism, 50 Years On

In 1968, the Kerner Commission “explicitly identified white racism as the principal cause of the civil disorder evidenced across hundreds of U.S. cities."
Frances Wright, 1881

Nashoba: Not So Interracial, Not So Utopian

In the 1820s, Frances Wright established a community whose major project was the emancipation of enslaved people. Why did it crash and burn?
Grand procession of Wide-Awakes in New York, October 3, 1860

Abolitionist “Wide Awakes” Were Woke Before “Woke”

“Now the old men are folding their arms and going to sleep,” said William H. Seward while campaigning for Lincoln, “and the young men are Wide Awake.”
Bayard Rustin, 1965

Who Was Bayard Rustin?

And why is he left out of the history of the civil rights movement?

Fake Stone and the Georgian Ladies Who Made It

Coade stone was all the rage in late eighteenth-century architecture, and a mother-and-daughter team was behind it all.
Grapes on a vine

The Great Grape Graft That Saved the Wine Industry

Grape varieties from North America seemed harmless to French winemakers. But destructive bugs were imported with the plants.
South African police beating Black women with clubs after they raided and set a beer hall on fire in protest against apartheid, Durban, South Africa, 1959

The South African Experience with Changing the Police from Within

In states transitioning from authoritarianism to democracy, resistance to police abuses can make or break the larger democratic project, explains one social scientist.
A man nursing a sick person, circa 1850

Blaming People for Getting Sick Has a Long History

Four major theories of disease transmission dominated scientific discourse in the nineteenth century. As one scholar writes, all were political.
Members of the United Kingdom branch of the Gay Liberation Front carry placards during a street protest along Essex Street in London on 12th February 1971.

From Gay Liberation to Marriage Equality

One scholar explains how the LGBT movement became focused on advancing the rights of a narrow set of people at the expense of its once-radical vision.
Rear View Of Man Wearing Yellow Raincoat In Forest During Rain

Resilience: The Basics of a Concept

From the ecological to the social, “resilience” is a buzzword for our crisis-ridden age. But what is resilience exactly, and where did the idea emerge from?
An illustration of Charivari by Jean-Jacques Grandville, 1831

Ye Olde Morality-Enforcement Brigades

The charivari (or shivaree) was a ritual in which people on the lower rungs of a community called out neighbors who violated social and sexual norms.
Illustration of a woman walking with a book

The Library That Walked Across Belgium

What two scholar-artists learned from taking ninety books on a very, very long walk.
Sake Deen Mahomed by T. M. Baynes

Dean Mahomet: Travel Writer, Border Crosser

The author of what is considered the first English-language book by an Indian writer was neither a rebel nor an accommodationist.
Tim Robinson

Deep Mapping with Tim Robinson

By walking his way around an island off the coast of Ireland, the late artist broke with cartography's origins in marking ownership and conquest.
Capsicum annum peppers

Some Like Them Hot!

The long, wonderful history of the chili pepper.
Louis XIV, King of France by Hyacinthe Rigaud

Doctors Have Always Been Against High-Heeled Shoes

Every generation of medical professionals has issued the same warnings about high heels. For hundreds of years.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and former Russian President Boris Yeltsin attend an inauguration ceremony for Putin May 7, 2000 in the Kremlin in Moscow.

Was Russia Destined to Be an Autocracy?

The most important factors that steered Russia away from democracy, says one scholar, weren't inevitable.
A man with well-groomed hair

Why Some Men Go to Salons for Haircuts

The difference between a clipper cut at the barber shop and "pampering" at the salon has roots in gender ideology and class structure.
Casa Malaparte

Casa Malaparte Is a Strangely Awesome House

Built by a fascist-turned-communist writer in the 1940s, it belongs to no one architectural style. But the views!
The front and back cover of an edition of Miss MacIntosh, My Darling by Marguerite Young

Sick of Streaming? Try This Really Long Cult Novel

Marguerite Young's Miss MacIntosh, My Darling is a dense fusion of poetry and prose. One critic says it's unjustifiably forgotten.
A typist wearing an influenza mask in 1918

How Tucson Enforced Its 1918 Mask Requirement

During the influenza pandemic, the Arizona city's police force fined and arrested people for not wearing face masks.
A Pace College student in a gas mask "smells" a magnolia blossom in City Hall Park on Earth Day, April 22, 1970, in New York.

The First Earth Day, and the First Green Generation

The first Earth Day took place fifty years ago, so most people don't remember how it happened or what it accomplished. It's time for a look back.
Playwright Terrence McNally in 2010

How Terrence McNally Reimagined the Danse Macabre

The centerpiece of the prize-winning Love! Valor! Compassion! is a rehearsal for an affirming staging of Swan Lake—in drag.