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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.

Victims of the Zoot Suit Riots

The Zoot Suit Riots Were Race Riots

In 1943, white servicemen attacked young people of color for wearing the ultimate in street style—on the pretext that they were shirking wartime duty.
Mariel Refugees

How Gay Marielitos Changed Immigration

In 1980, the policy of denying entry into the US based on homosexuality ran smack into anticommunism.
Six Children Killed in Regensburg, from Bavaria Sancta: The Life and Martyrdom of Holy Men and Women (Vol. III)

On the Origins of the Blood Libel

The ultimate conspiracy theory may be the charge of Jews killing Christian children.
Mural by Diego Rivera of the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan and life in Aztec times, 1945

Indigenismo in the United States

The adoption of Aztec cultural iconography by modern activists has roots in Mexican nationalist policies of the 1920s.
Woodcut illustration of chess c. 1480

Knights and Kings: Medieval Chess as Male Bonding

Scholar Jenny Adams examines the homosocial facets of the game through literature of the Middle Ages.
An aerial view of the prehistoric White horse carved into the hillside at Uffington,Berkshire

Whence the White Horse of Uffington?

A white horse of chalk both defines and defies a common understanding of what English heritage is, and is not.
Ground mustard

The Mystery of the Mustard Family

An archaeological dig turned up eight bottles of mustard powder in one eighteenth-century homestead. Why the condiment love?
This statue in front of US Steel's Edgar Thomson Works in Braddock, PA depicts Joe Magarac, a mythical steelworker deriving from local legend.

Joe Magarac, a Boss’s Idea of a Folk Hero?

The Paul Bunyan of the steel industry never went on strike. He was too tied up working the twenty-four-hour shifts that unions were fighting.
A rather reluctant-looking girl is given an injection of vaccine

What Makes Vaccine Mandates Legal?

Historically, the Supreme Court has held that forgoing vaccines is a threat to public health and therefore beyond the bounds of liberty.
Woodrow Wilson

Woodrow Wilson and American Empire

After World War I, it looked like President Wilson's ideas about preserving democracy would mean decolonization. But the age of empires wasn't quite over.
Join or Die

The Serpents of Liberty

From the colonial period to the end of the US Civil War, the rattlesnake sssssssymbolized everything from evil to unity and power.
A Rosy-breasted Longclaw specimen

How Ornithologists Figured Out How to Preserve Birds

A very nineteenth-century-science problem: lots of decaying avian specimens.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) wears a traditional Afghani burqa while giving a speech in support of Afghan women's rights and American involvement against Taliban in the United States House of Representatives, October 16, 2001

A War of Liberation for Afghan Women?

The Taliban's gender-based repression was part of the US argument for invading Afghanistan.
Berea College sends its extension workers into remote communities

How a Southern College Tried to Resist Segregation

The founder of Kentucky's Berea College was an abolitionist. While he was alive, the school offered a free education for both Black and white students.
Dr. Schreiber of San Augustine giving a typhoid innoculation at a rural school

Do Schools Make Good Vaccination Sites?

The influenza virus is a problem student, but vaccinations get extra credit.
Freeways in Los Angeles

The Permanent Crisis of Infrastructure

Ever since it entered public consciousness in the 1980s, infrastructure has been synonymous with decline.
Damien Hooper of Australia listens to advice from his corner during the bout with Juan Carlos Carrillo of Colombia in the Boxing Men's Middle 75kg division on day 11 of the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympics at the International Convention Centre on August 25, 2010 in Singapore

How Do Indigenous Athletes Fit into the Olympics?

Olympic athletes are divided into teams of nations. To Indigenous competitors, though, that can mean representing oppressive settler-colonial states.
Blind men working on boxes for Elizabeth Arden cosmetics at the Lighthouse, an institution for the blind in New York

How Blind Activists Fought for Blind Workers

The National Federation of the Blind was the first major group of its kind to be led by visually impaired people.
Bob Moses at Mississippi Freedom Summer, 1964

How the Freedom Vote Mobilized Black Mississippians

When civil rights activists needed new tactics, they came up with a strategy that would get national and international attention.
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mumler%27s_photographs_in_Harpers_Weekly.jpg

The Dressy Ghosts of Victorian Literature

Realism was exceptionally well suited (heh) for elaborate descriptions of spectral clothing.
An anti-vaccination pamphlet from 1911, a rally of the Anti-Vaccination League of Canada, 1919, and an Anti-Vaccination Society of America advertisement from 1902

Vaccine Hesitancy in the 1920s

As Progressive Era reforms increased the power of government, organized opposition to vaccination campaigns took on a new life.
Shucking Oysters, Biloxi, Miss.

How Oysters Became a Food Fad Way out West

Oysters in Wyoming and Arizona? In the nineteenth century? Yes, and mighty tasty too!
Leading Kentucky hemp farmer Joe "Daddy Burt" Burton with a harvested hemp plant.

The Return of Hemp

Even though it's made from cannabis plants, you can't get high on hemp. But it was classified as an illicit drug for nearly 50 years.
The sun in an orange sky

How Do Scientists Define a Heat Wave?

It seems that every summer brings record temperatures. But there's more to a heat wave than daytime highs.