A Metaphor for Life

Dr. Gloria Tseng shares her insights from taking on a challenging climb last year and what it illuminated her publishing process. She is the editor of Cross-Cultural Encounters: China and the Reformed Church in America, a text that includes research from Hope College History graduates.

Dr. Tseng climbing in Colorado, 2021.

“Hmm…, this experience is so far out of my comfort zone, I don’t quite have the words to convey it,” I said, sitting in my cousin’s car on our way back to his home from Eleven Mile Canyon, a national forest about an hour’s drive west of Colorado Springs. “It’s a metaphor for life,” he replied in his usual laconic fashion. We had gone rock climbing that morning, or more accurately, I had tagged along with him and his friend on their outing. They wanted to go rock climbing. I happened to be visiting from Michigan, so they invited me to join them. We got to a cliff by the beautiful South Platte River. Upon their friendly nudging, I put on a pair of rented climbing shoes and the extra helmet and harness brought by the friend. After a few minutes of crash coaching, I said a silent prayer for courage and started on the “easy” route they picked, my first and only time on a rock. To my own amazement, I eventually reached the anchor at the top of the route, and after some more coaching shouted from the ground by my cousin, who was belaying me, I started back down. When my feet stood on firm ground again, I thanked the two men and spent the rest of the morning recovering from my wired nerves and the mental and physical exertion involved, admiring the beauty of my surroundings and the strength and grace of these two climbers who went on to climb several other routes on the same cliff.

This was the second summer of the pandemic, a milestone in more ways than one. A project that began in the summer of 2013 with the first of two cohorts of students doing research in the Joint Archives on Reformed Church in America missionaries to China finally came to fruition. The research was conducted in the summers of 2013 and 2014 by a cohort of three students each summer, resulting in six essays. The students—Eric Dawson ’14, Rebekah Llorens ’15, Madalyn Northuis ’14 DeJonge, Katelyn Dickerson ’15, Victoria Henry ’15 Longfield, and Claire Barrett ’15—have since moved on to the next adventures in their lives. What followed for me was six years of painstaking editing, fact-checking, and revision. When I first embarked on the task of preparing these essays for publication in the fall of 2014, I did not know all the twists and turns the process would have. I signed a contract with Wipf and Stock in January 2017 and submitted the final manuscript in August 2019. After the publisher typeset the manuscript in December 2020, it had to be proofread. I returned the proofs with final corrections and changes in July of this year. This month the book, entitled Cross-Cultural Encounters: China and the Reformed Church in America, appeared in print.

Dr. Tseng nearing the top, 2021.

“Focus on the window where your arms and feet can reach. Always be thinking of your next two to three moves. Where your hands are in your current position is probably where your feet should follow next.” I hung on every word during my climbing crash course. Until I was almost at the anchor, I couldn’t see the end of the route. I only saw the rock and barely where my hands and feet could reach. Every move brought me a little closer to the top, but it was not a straight trajectory. At one point what looked like a good ledge for my next move just above was too far for my arm to reach. I had to back down a distance to go up a different angle. Finally, the anchor came in sight, and once at the top, the view was beautiful!

This project was about more than the final product. At its core were three professors and six students partaking in the labors of research and writing and the wonders of discovery together, like an invitation to go rock climbing. And in life, we all have opportunities to be both coaches offering crash courses and students saying a silent prayer for courage. 

You can read more about the student research project that led to Dr. Tseng’s book here. Dr. Tseng is teaching IDS 171 – 03 and IDS 171-05: Jews, Pagans and Christians: The Ancient and Medieval Worlds Reconsidered this semester. To learn more about Dr. Tseng, you can check out her faculty feature blog here.

2021 History Department Award Winners

This post is dedicated to our annual award winners. We are proud of all of them, and we are happy to recognize their hard work and their contributions to the History Department and to Hope College.

Future History Teacher Prize – Winner: Andre Joe (’21)

This award is given to the History student who is deemed as the most promising future teacher, based on commitment to the discipline and achievement in both history and education courses.

Dr. Lauren Janes has said the following of Andre: “Andre has a real passion for education and the importance of teaching history. This passion comes through in his capstone research on the history of education in the Philippines, which examines the role of American teachers in shaping Filipino education and culture.”

The Ray de Young History Prize – Winners: Autumn Balamucki (’21) & Laura Anthon (’21)

This award is given to the senior student(s) whose interest, achievement, and promise in history, as indicated by his/her academic record and a significant piece of historical research, most merit the award.

Dr. Lauren Janes has said the following of Autumn: “Autumn Balamucki has tackled challening research projects and educational adventures, including a semester in Peru, a summer research project in the Joint Archives of Holland, and an excellent history seminar paper on changing perceptions of the Spanish American War by local veterans.”

Dr. Lauren Janes has said the following of Laura: “Laura Anthon interned at the Smithsonian American History Museum in Washington, DC. Her current research takes a global history lens towards understanding the early twentieth-century boom in cocoa production in the small West African island of São Tomé.”

The Robert L. Melka Memorial Award – Winners: Kent Colbrunn (’24) & Luke Ruiter (’23)

This prize is awarded annually to a freshman or sophomore for an essay in European history that is judged superior by the faculty of the Department of History.

Dr. Janis Gibbs has said the following of Kent: “Kent Colbrunn used the Alexiad of Anna Comnena and a variety of secondary and graphic sources to create an excellent analysis of the role the Byzantine Empire played in the Crusades.”

Dr. Janis Gibbs has said the following of Luke: “Luke Ruiter skillfully analyzed the Albigensian Crusade of the thirteenth century, using Bernard Gui’s Manual for Inquisitors and Peter of Vaux-de-Cernay’s Historia Albigensis, as well as scholarly secondary sources.”

The Miles Award in Law – Winner: Jacob Woodford (’21)

This is an award established by Judge Wendell A. Miles in honor of his father, Judge Fred Thomas Miles, presented to a senior student whose promise in the study of law is judged superior by the faculty of the Department of History.

Dr. Jeffrey Polet has said the following of Jacob: “Jacob Woodford’s classroom work and LSAT scores all point to success both in law school and in the legal career. His many on campus activities and leadership roles have embodied elements of Hope’s mission.”

Metta J. Ross History Prize – Winner: Grace Pettinger (’22)

This award is given to the junior student whose interest, achievement, and promise in history, as indicated by academic record and career plans, in the judgment of the History faculty, most merit recognition.

Dr. Jeanne Petit has said the following of Grace: “Grace has fully engaged as a history major, both in classes and through her job in the archives. She has demonstrated creative thinking and an excellent work ethic.”

Bill Cohen Memorial Award – Winners: Maria Siedl (’22) & Mary Kamara-Hagemeyer (’22)

This is a new award this year and is honor of our beloved late colleague, Bill Cohen. This award honors the undergrad student(s) who have demostrated the most promising historical study thus far.

Dr. Jeanne Petit has said the following of Maria: “Maria took on a challenging topic in the World War I America class in her examination of the fight for citizenship by Native American soldiers. She found excellent sources and wrote a strong analysis of how these men made their case for national belonging.”

Dr. Fred Johnson has said the following of Mary: “Using the facts of America’s tortured history of race and racism, Mary wrote an unflinching analysis that examined the nation’s likely response if presented with the opportunity to, once and for all, remove African Americans from daily life. Her skilled use of sources to find details used for making her powerful, persuasive argument highlighted Mary’s critical-thinking strengths and her power of exposition.”

Congrats to all of our winners! These award winners will be honored at a private ceremony on May 4th.

Fall 2021 History Course Preview

We’re sharing some of our Fall 2021 course descriptions this week. Remember, Fall 2021 Registration starts Monday, March 29th!

HIST 141: The Historian’s Vocations | Dr. Lauren Janes | MW 12:00 pm – 12:50 pm

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What are you going to do with a history major? Join us to start articulating some answers. This course introduces students to vocational exploration and discernment; connections between historical thinking, research skills, and writing to jobs and careers; and the skills necessary for successful pursuit of experiential learning opportunities. Our course will include reading and writing about careers using historical thinking, conversations with Hope history alumni, help from the Boerigter Center on resumes and applications, and setting forth a plan for experiential learning for the rest of your time at Hope. Required of all majors and minors, we recommend you take this course by the end of sophomore year if possible. 2 Credits.

HIST 200 – 01: Global Food History | Dr. Lauren Janes | MW 9:30 am – 10:20 AM

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In this new class we will examine world history through the lens of global foods–foods and have moved from one part of the world to the other. These global foods have transformed diets, economies, and cultures around the world. This class will examine global connectivity through the history of potatoes, sugar, tacos, curry, corn and more. 2 Credits | GLI

HIST 200 – 02B:  20th Century Military History | Dr. Fred Johnson | TR 9:30 – 10:50 AM

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During the 20th Century, the United States’ military became a major force confronting threats to America’s international interests while symbolizing the struggle to achieve justice at home. This course examines the activities and impact of the women and men who shaped the U.S. military into one of contemporary human history’s most potent instruments of power. Along with examining the military’s purpose and performance during periods of conflict, assessment will also be made of the institution’s role in advancing or stifling domestic socio-economic and political justice; its successes and setbacks as an instrument of foreign policy; its relevance and function during peacetime; and the evolution of the strategies, tactics, and technology that have positioned the United States military as one of the most well-trained and equipped, lethal armed forces of the 21st century. 2 Credits.

HIST-207: Introduction to World History to 1500 – Dr. Wayne Tan | MWF: 9:30-10:20 AM | Online Synchronous

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What is world history? This is a question of great interest among historians across the fields and of relevance to all of us today. In this course, we will discover details and the broad canvas of world history. We will study major themes in world history from the ancient times until around 1500—from the foundations of the ancient civilizations through the rise of medieval empires and the early modern maritime global order. Who were the Greeks, Arabs, Mongols, and Chinese? How did various foreign cultures interact with one another? How were empires built and why did they go to war? These are some questions related to the themes we will regularly consider throughout this course. By the end of this course, we will learn that the world we live in today is (and continues to be) shaped by events from the distant past, and appreciate how texts, art, and digital media can help us tell our shared histories. 4 Credits| CH1, GLI

HIST 208: Intro World History since 1500 | Dr. Lauren Janes | Online Asynchronous

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This course examines global connectivity in the last 500 years of world history. An online asynchronous course, students engage with the material through readings, asynchronous discussions of texts, video lectures, podcasts, and a digital textbook. Students also meet once a week, at a set and consistent time, in a required Google Meet with Dr. Janes for a small group tutorial session discussing the week’s material. 4 Credits | CH2, GLI

HIST-268: Russian History: Russia from Peter the Great to the USSR – Dr. Wayne Tan | MWF: 1-1:50PM | Online Synchronous

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Russia is one of the most influential nations on the global stage today. With humble beginnings as a conglomeration of fragmented principalities, it grew into a vast empire spanning Asia and Europe by the 19th century and, as the core of the Soviet Union, dominated world politics for much of the 20th century. A land of untold riches, it was also a land of enigmas and contradictions. What is Russia’s identity today after the fall of the Soviet Union? What are the origins of Russia’s imperial traditions and institutions? How did the 1917 Revolution affect the rest of the world? What lessons does the story of Russia hold for the future of global diplomacy and conflict resolution? This course explores these questions by surveying Russian history from the reign of Peter the Great to the dissolution of the Soviet Union and recent developments in the 21st century. This course fulfills the regional requirement of the History major. 4 Credits | GLI

HIST 295: Classical Art and Archaeology | Maggie Burr | TR 1:30 – 2:50 PM

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The cultures of the ancient Mediterranean—i.e., the classical world—left behind a vast material record, in the form of sculpture, architecture, wall painting, mosaics, painted pottery, burials, and objects of daily life. This course is designed to introduce the student to the range and variety of Greek and Roman art and archaeology and to examine how scholars use those artifacts to build a picture of the ancient societies that created them. The course will focus both on well-known ‘heavy hitters’ (i.e., the Parthenon and the Roman Forum) and on the humbler objects left behind by people like you and me. Throughout, we will examine how ancient art and visual culture can be used to understand the complex societies of ancient Greece and Rome, and the multitude of individuals who lived their lives there. 4 Credits.

HIST 370: Modern Middle East | Dr. Janis Gibbs | MWF 2:00 – 2:50 PM

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To understand what is going on in the Middle East today, it is crucial that we understand its history. In this course, we will survey the social, political, religious, geographic, and economic history of the Middle East, broadly defined to include the regions of North Africa and Iran, as well as the core lands of the Middle East, from Turkey through the eastern Mediterranean to the Arabian Peninsula and Egypt. Most of our attention will be devoted to the modern period—that is, the period between the 19th century and the present. To understand the context of the history of the modern Middle East, we’ll spend the first few weeks considering the rise of Islam and some of the facets of the history of the earlier Middle East that influence the region today. 4 Credits |GLI

HIST 495: Seminar in History | Dr. Lauren Janes | T 6:00 pm – 8:50 PM

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Note: This course is offered Fall 2021 and will not be offered Sp 2022. In this capstone to the history major, students will use the skills and capabilities developed during their time at Hope College to research and write a significant research paper on some aspect of the history of modern imperialism (c. 1800-1994). Modern imperialism provides us with a global framework to look at history from a wide variety of approaches including social, intellectual, gender, political, religious, military, scientific, and cultural history. We will create a supportive researching and writing community. 4 Credits.

For a full list of the schedule, click here.

Summer Research Highlight: Autumn Balamucki (’21)

Autumn Balamucki (’21)

History major Autumn Balamucki (’21) began research with the Joint Archives this summer with Geoffrey Reynolds under abnormal circumstances. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, she had to do almost all of her work remotely. With some creative solutions and a lot of hard work, Autumn managed to transcribe decades’ worth of meeting minutes of the United Spanish War Veterans of Holland and write a great article for the Joint Archives Quarterly.

Below is an excerpt of Autumn’s completed research project, The Trials of Transcriptions: A Look Into the United Spanish War Veterans of Holland, Michigan.

Tucked away in Centennial Park, under a small bush near the Veterans’ Monument, sits a medium-sized boulder with a faded bronze plate, lying in dedication to the Spanish-American War Veterans from 1898–1902. Simple block writing provides the only dedication to these veterans in Centennial Park—a small point of recognition, remembering the United Spanish War Veterans (USWV), and solidifying their place in Holland’s history. As a student intern for the Joint Archives of Holland, my first interaction with this stone slab occurred while reading through the meeting minutes of the United Spanish War Veterans Camp No. 38.

As a student at Hope College approaching my senior year, I found the existence of this memorial surprising. How had I lived in Holland, as a history major no less, and never come across it? My initial response was to make sure that this boulder still actually existed in Centennial Park. What surprised me most was not only that it did, but that finding photos or information on it was so difficult. The only proof I could find of its existence was a small passage in the Digital Holland segment on Centennial Park, briefly mentioning it under the War Memorials section. I mention this small memorial because, as I spent my summer studying the United Spanish War Veterans Camp No. 38 of Holland, I found that their history is very much like that of this boulder—a little tucked away and hidden, but still buried in the heart of Holland.

My journey with the USWV and the Joint Archives began in January of this year, when Professor Petit of the history department at Hope College put me in contact with Geoffrey Reynolds, the Mary Riepma Ross Director of the Joint Archives of Holland, regarding a potential summer internship. At the end of the previous semester, I had briefly expressed my interest to Professor Petit in finding an opportunity to gain experience in my field over the summer, as the next year would be my last at Hope. This opportunity through the Joint Archives seemingly came out of nowhere for me, and I was as surprised as I was excited when it did. And although I had no idea what to expect, I jumped at the opportunity to work in Holland over the summer.

However, as we now know, plans shifted a bit for everyone when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, and my story is no different. It began in March earlier this year, when I was eating chifa (a Peruvian take on Chinese food) with two of my fellow students at a small restaurant on the Calle Marcavalle in Cuzco, Peru, about a month into my study-abroad term. The COVID19 scare hadn’t struck Peru with the persistence that it had the United States yet, but most of my group still harbored concerns that our program would send us home in the coming months, especially if the case count elevated. On that day in March 2020, Cuzco had just reported its first two positive cases of the virus (tourists no less), while Michigan’s numbers were quickly elevating. Rather than book an international flight home, it would have been safer to stay there, right? That was our line of thought anyway.

 Sitting in that restaurant, the three of us experienced one of those moments where all eyes are drawn to the news playing on the television, and, looking around, you slowly realize that everyone else, employee and customer alike, is watching as intently as you are. As the screen showed the words “FRONTERA CERRADA” (“BORDER CLOSED”) during the Peruvian president’s speech, each of us met each other’s eyes with confused shock on our faces and thought, “Well, what now?”

For the full article, check out the Joint Archives Quarterly page here.

Next Up: Spring 2021 Courses!

Registration for next semester courses starts the week of October 26th. Here’s a quick preview of what the History Department will be offering!

HIST 130 – Intro to Ancient Civilization – Maggie Burr

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Online Synchronous, TR 1:30 pm – 2:50

This course will focus on significant developments in history from its Mesopotamian, Egyptian, and Greek origins through the Renaissance. It is designed to introduce the student to the discipline of history.

HIST 140 – Disability History – Wayne Tan

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Online Synchronous, MWF 1 – 1:50 pm – First half of the semester

In view of current debates about racial and gender identities, the discussion of disability is more urgent than ever. This course takes an interdisciplinary approach to answer this overarching question: Why does disability matter to us? Each week, we will survey major themes in disability studies and the history of medicine that push the boundaries of disability as we know it—by drawing upon a range of historical, literary, and medical sources, as well as digital media archives. By comparing disability cultures in a broad global historical context, from the 19th century to the present, we will uncover the roots of the stereotypes and representations of disability in today’s popular media, and make sense of disability as “difference” in productive and constructive ways. The course is flagged for Global Learning International (GLI).

HIST 161 – U.S. History Since 1877 – Jeanne Petit

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Hybrid, MWF 11-11:50 am

This course surveys U.S. history from Reconstruction to the present. It examines the major social, cultural, political, and economic events that shaped the U.S. after the Civil War, focusing especially on industrialization, Progressivism, WW I, the Great Depression, the New Deal, WW II, the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement, the Sixties and Reagan Republicanism.

HIST 175 – Michigan History – Jeanne Petit

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Hybrid (Fri) MWF 2-2:50 pm

This course is a survey of Michigan History to the present and is primarily designed for students majoring in education. The main objective of History 175 is for students to demonstrate an understanding of the chronology, narratives, perspectives, and interpretations of Michigan history from its beginnings to the present. To this end, students will: examine relationships, including cause and effect, among important events from the era; identify the sequence of these events and describe the setting and the people affected; analyze and compare interpretations of events from a variety of perspectives; and assess the implications and long-term consequences of key decisions made at critical turning points in Michigan history.

HIST 200 – History of Global Pandemics – Wayne Tan

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Online Synchronous, MWF 1:00 pm – 1:50 pm – Second half of the semester

In this course, we will look at various sources for studying the history of pandemics. We will begin with the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and survey national and global responses to it. In our work, we will use data and make sense of the contexts of history and data, e.g. how do we use social media like Twitter to track real-time reactions? How do we write historical narratives about public health with statistical information? How do national and global responses to pandemics show the inequities of global systems of health? We will also look at other new initiatives in digital humanities (e.g. digital mapping) for studying pandemics in previous eras, e.g. the 1918 flu and the Black Death. For hands-on experiences with databases, the course will involve planned digital workshops. The course is flagged for Global Learning International (GLI).

HIST 207 – Intro to World History to 1500 – Wayne Tan

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Online Synchronous, MWF 9:30 am – 10:20 am

We will study major themes in world history from the ancient times until around 1500—from the foundations of the ancient civilizations through the rise of medieval empires and the early modern maritime global order. Who were the Greeks, Arabs, Mongols, and Chinese? Who were “barbarians”? How did various foreign cultures interact with one another? How were ancient empires built and why did they go to war? What lessons can we draw from victory and defeat? These are examples of some of the questions related to the themes we will regularly consider throughout this course. By the end of this course, we will learn to appreciate how the world that we live in today is (and continues to be) shaped by events from the distant past and how texts, art, and digital media can help us tell our shared histories. The course is flagged for Global Learning International (GLI).

HIST 208 – Intro to World History Since 1500 – Lauren Janes

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Online Asynchronous

An asynchronous online course that uses a digital textbook, social annotation, videos, podcasts, and weekly small group tutorials to examine the events that have shaped world history since 1500. How did Europe and America come to dominate the global economy and colonize much of the world by the beginning of the twentieth century? What are the impacts of trans-Atlantic slvavery? What is nationalism, and why is our world organized into nation-states? Did potatoes really change world history? We will examine these questions and more. (GLI, CHII History)

HIST 210 – The Greek World – Bram ten Berge

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Online Synchronous, MWF 12-12:50 pm

This course surveys the major cultural and historical developments of ancient Greece from preclassical times to the end of the Hellenistic period, starting with the Bronze Age and Homer’s Trojan War and ending with the incorporation of Greece and Hellenistic Egypt into the Roman Empire. This interdisciplinary course analyzes ancient Greece on the basis of a combination of literary, historical, archaeological, and art historical materials, looking at, among other things, the Bronze Age Collapse, the establishment of democracy in Athens, the Persian and Peloponnesian Wars, the revolutionary advances in Classical art and philosophy, and the conquests of Philip II and Alexander the Great.

HIST 221 – African Perspective Colonialism – Lauren Janes

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Traditional, TR 12-1:20 PM

This course explores the colonial experiences of Africans as well as the legacies of European colonial rule in Africa. We will examine the different ways Africans responded to European military conquest and political domination from the mid -1850s to the 1960s and the ways Africans struggled for independence. We will take an especially close look at Kenya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The course is flagged for cultural diversity and Global Learning International (GLI).

HIST 344 – Genocide in the Modern World – Janis Gibbs

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Hybrid, TR 1:20 – 2:50 pm

The 20th century has been called “The Century of Genocide.” This course will examine case studies of 20th-century genocide, selected from the Holocaust, Armenia, Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, and other less-famous examples. We will analyze different definitions of genocide, examine the international legal structures dealing with genocide and crimes against humanity, and investigate the historical context of the varied genocides in the modern world. The course is flagged for Global Learning International (GLI).

HIST 357 – U.S. Cultural History – Jeanne Petit

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Hybrid – MWF 9:30-10:20 am

In this course, students will consider cultural history on two levels. First, we will explore changes in the ways American men and women of different classes, races, and regions expressed themselves through popular and high culture—including forms like vaudeville, world’s fairs, movies, television, and literary movements like the Harlem Renaissance. Second, we will analyze the influence of cultural ideas on political, economic and social changes, such as fights for African-American and women’s rights, the emergence of consumer culture, class struggles during the Great Depression, participation in World War II, protesting in the 1960s, and the rise of conservatism in the 1980s. Students will learn the various ways historians interpret cultural phenomena and then do their own interpretations in a research paper. Flagged for Global Learning Domestic (GLD).

In Memoriam: Bill Cohen: Scholar, Teacher, Colleague, Friend

Emeritus History Department Professor Bill Cohen passed away on September 7, 2020. Professor Emeritus and former History Department Chair Marc Baer shares his memories of the late Professor below.

“I am currently revising an essay on Herbert Butterfield, perhaps the most important Christian historian of the twentieth century. My Ph.D. supervisor in graduate school did his doctorate at Cambridge University, working under Butterfield. My mentor repeated a story several times, a conversation in which Butterfield told him he was never satisfied with something he wrote until the fifteenth draft. And so, when I taught the History department seminar I, of course, repeated the story for my students.

Professor William Cohen—his colleagues only knew him as Bill—was the Hope History department’s Herbert Butterfield. Bill not only invented the department’s seminar in the 1970s, but so left his imprint on it that we often referred to it as the “Cohen seminar.” Bill cast a large shadow: Those who later taught the seminar, Professors Johnson, Gibbs and Baer, and now Janes, tried as hard as we could to emulate our colleague, both in terms of his rigor and emphases—getting structure, mechanics, and especially footnotes just right. Hence our departmental tee shirt, seen here; notice the footnote.

Departmental tee shirt, inspired by Bill Cohen.

Bill, who retired in 2001, died on September 7, 2020. During his time at Hope he taught his students in all his history courses and his colleagues to understand why standards matter. In my case when I taught the seminar, as I sat in my office thinking about a topic like evaluating evidence I would be addressing in a few hours, my mind would invariably take me to, “How would Bill have done this?” My guess is that my colleagues who taught the seminar did the same. Bill’s shadow, like Butterfield’s will last a very long time.

Reading the reminiscences of faculty in other departments brought smiles to our faces, as we lament that Bill is no longer with us. What they could not convey, but I hope I have, is that Bill took his calling as a scholar—getting the past right—so seriously that he never let us, his departmental colleagues and his students, forget what that meant. At a moment in our national history when truth no longer seems crucial to many people, Bill’s legacy matters more than ever.” – Dr. Marc Baer

Bill passed away peacefully on Sept. 7, 2020. He was a proud son of New York, who completed his B.A. at Brooklyn College, his M.A. at Columbia University, and his Ph.D. at New York University. He was a veteran of the United States Army, and served in the intelligence branch during the Korean conflict. He moved to Chicago, where he worked with the late Professor John Hope Franklin at the Center for Urban Studies at the University of Chicago. While there, he published “Thomas Jefferson and the Problem of Slavery,” a significant re-examination of Jefferson’s understanding of the institution of slavery.

In 1971, he came to Hope College, and remained a member of the faculty until his retirement in 2001. While at Hope, he published his 1991 monograph, At Freedom’s Edge: Black Mobility and the Southern White Quest for Racial Control, 1861-1915. He taught generations of Hope College history students in the History Seminar, a rigorous capstone experience which he designed and taught for many years. He also mentored Hope College students who applied for Rhodes and Marshall Scholarships. After his retirement from Hope College, he served as a Fulbright Scholar, teaching American history in Japan. He was a generous colleague, and his work made us all a better scholarly and collegial community. He is survived by his son, Alan (JuHong Lee) , and two daughters, Elizabeth (John Speiser) and Mia (Neal Franklin). He also had three beloved grandchildren, Soren, Miri, and Sonny

A virtual memorial will be held for Bill this Saturday, September 12th, 2020. If you are interested in attending, please email History@Hope.edu to get further details.

Get To Know Your Prof: History Department Edition!

We’re taking on a new challenge this semester, the #GetToKnowYourProf challenge! You may have noticed a similar challenge with our Lubbers 3rd Floor neighbors, the English Department, and we wanted in on the fun! We wanted to re-introduce ourselves to the student body through interesting facts about each of our faculty – we hope you learn something new!

Professor Margaret Burr

  • How long have you been at Hope? Two weeks!
  • Favorite subject to teach? HIST 130, naturally 😉
  • Favorite movie? Can I say TV show? I’m really into the Italian detective show Il Commissario Montalbano right now–Bram and I watch it whenever we have time, which is almost never these days (we have a 6 month old).
  • Favorite book? I like everything by Giorgos Seferis and Patrick Leigh Fermor. I’m reading Emily Wilson’s new translation of Homer’s Odyssey right now and it’s quickly becoming a new favorite. Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian is an exciting trip from Amsterdam to Oxford, Turkey to the Balkans, and I reread it every time I need to “get away” (although it’s about vampires, so I’m not sure I should admit to loving it as much as I do). And last but not least, Ann Shelton’s Sourcebook of Roman Literature, As the Romans Did, is an oldie but a goodie in my opinion, as it got me really interested in reading Roman literature and letters when I was younger. I bring it with me everywhere.
  • Favorite hobbies? Travel, hiking, photography, looking at old things in museums or in the ground, hanging out with my husband and baby. Not in that order, obviously 🙂

Dr. Janis Gibbs

  • How long have you been at Hope? 24 years
  • Favorite subject to teach? I like all my classes, so it’s hard to pick. Of course, I like teaching history, but I like the interdisciplinary Cultural Heritage courses and my First Year Seminar (which, this year, is basically political geography), too. Maybe I should say that my favorite subject is what I’m teaching at the moment.
  • Favorite movie? I saw Star Wars eleven times in the theater in 1977-78, so maybe that’s it. That would be the one that’s now called Episode IV: A New Hope. Back then, it was just Star Wars.
  • Favorite book? Can I have a triple header? Lord of the Rings.
  • Favorite hobbies? I like to cook. The pandemic has given me lots of new cooking opportunities. The only bad part is that I haven’t been able to cook for guests. I went on a cream of asparagus soup binge in the spring.

Dr. Lauren Janes

  • How long have you been at Hope? Starting my 8th year teaching at Hope. I was also a Hope student for four years!
  • Favorite subject to teach? Well, maybe this is cheating, but the Paris May Term is my favorite class and the one I am the most proud of. I LOVE sharing the city I love so much with students, many of whom have never left the US before our class.
  • Favorite movie? Best in Show
  • Favorite book? Well this is just too hard of a question! I will say King Leopold’s Ghost remains my favorite book to teach.
  • Favorite hobbies? Cooking, gardening, and yoga.

Dr. Fred Johnson

  • How long have you been at Hope? Twenty years as of August 2020.
  • Favorite subject to teach? Modern European History, the American Civil War, and Military History.
  • Favorite movie? ANY movie with Star Trek or Star Wars in the title.
  • Favorite book? The Bible, A Different Drummer, Chaneysville Incident, and This Present Darkness
  • Favorite hobbies? Hiking, Writing, Long Road Trips, and going to the Movies [and will be going lots when we’re allowed again].

Dr. Jeanne Petit

  • How long have you been at Hope? Twenty years this summer!
  • Favorite subject to teach? Oh, this is hard, since I love all my classes in their own special way. Instead I’ll say some of my favorite topics to teach: the populist movement of the 1890s, abolitionist debates, the tensions of the “roaring twenties,” and social movements of the 1960s. My favorite texts to teach: a tie between Coming of Age in Mississippi by Anne Moody and Frankenstein by Mary Shelly.
  • Favorite movie? I’m actually not much of a movie person, but some movies I always watch if they come on are The Godfather, Drumline, and Groundhog Day.
  • Favorite book? A Midwife’s Tale by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
  • Favorite hobbies? I enjoy running, even though I am pretty slow. My favorite race I did was the North Country Trail run in Manistee National Forest. I got a medal as big as my head!

Dr. Wayne Tan

  • How long have you been at Hope? 4 years
  • Favorite subject to teach? Disability history
  • Favorite movie? Aliens (sequel to Alien)
  • Favorite book? Natasha’s Dance (it’s about Russian cultural history)
  • Favorite hobbies? I love picking peaches!

Dr. Gloria Tseng

  • How long have you been at Hope? Since 2003
  • Favorite subject to teach? 20th-century Europe (this semester, ha!)
  • Favorite movie? I’m rather dated here–I know many lines in Le Chambon, a French historical drama about a small Protestant village in Vichy France whose inhabitants gave shelter to perhaps as many as 3,000 Jews, mostly children, in WWII.
  • Favorite book? The Gospel According to Luke
  • Favorite hobbies? Gardening, hiking, piano playing.

“And Then Came the Lion”: Remembering Congressman John Lewis

For most of 2020, I’d been able to hold it together, rolling with every punch and willing myself to stay positive as each month took more and more of the life I once called “normal.” Sometime in March, the pandemic came to America and bizarre became the status quo. Right around that time, as we learned more about how the virus was especially dangerous for people of a certain age, or those with compromised immune systems, I started paying more attention to the progress of Congressman John Lewis in his fight against pancreatic cancer.

Selfishly, I prayed for him to stay clear of the virus and keep his light shining to guide us through the cataclysmic chaos that had become the nation’s de facto response to COVID. Still, I knew nothing would keep him from the 55th Anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” commemorating the debacle that happened on March 7, 1965. On that day, just slightly more than a half-century earlier, Lewis and civil rights marchers had been clubbed and beaten by local law enforcement for daring to insist upon their right to vote. Lewis suffered a fractured skull, the first of what became many injuries he’d sustain for rejecting the second-class citizenship others had been trying to impose upon him.

As someone raised by parents, both from Montgomery, Alabama, and who matured into adulthood in the faded afterglow of the Civil Rights movement, I’d feasted on stories of the exploits of people like Rosa Parks, E.D. Nixon, Daisy Bates, Constance Baker Motley, Martin Luther King, Jr., Fred Shuttlesworth, and, of course, John Lewis. The blood spilled and lives lost from the harassment and abuse they’d suffered had literally transformed America into a somewhat less lethal nation for black people. But by March 8, 2020, something had happened, and was happening, to the transformation that Lewis and his contemporaries had given everything to achieve. He spoke of it in a CNN interview, sounding not tired but weary. Very weary.

The reporter said, “In your remarks, you talked about the importance of voting. You said, ‘Vote like you’ve never voted before.’ What did you mean by that?”[1]

Lewis: “I simply meant that we have the power to change things, and the vote is the most powerful non-violent instrument or tool we have in a democratic society and we must use it. If we fail to use it, we will lose it.”[2]

That was classic Lewis. A true believer in the untapped merits and virtues of America’s republican democracy, and certain that change was best achieved through non-violence, Lewis reaffirmed that the power citizens have to effect change lies in their vote. The son of sharecroppers, he’d seen and felt the violence those in power could wield when voters blessed them with the authority to inflict their cruelty. As such, voting wasn’t just a statement of who should be elected to a certain office but an inventory of a society’s moral strength or weakness; its commitment to fairness and justice; its extension of republican-democratic citizenship to all instead of the privileged few.

There was also the sober warning of “use it, or lose it.” Lewis had lived to see and suffer the possibilities of what the powerful were willing to do in suppressing the vote. He did not take for granted that those same elements were hard at work in the 21st Century and, because of them, democracy and democratic freedoms could never be assumed a perpetual certainty.  

Continuing the interview, the reporter said: “You also spoke about redeeming ‘the soul of America.’ What does that look like?”[3]

Lewis: “We have to make America better for all of her people, where no one is left out or left behind because of their race or their color, or because of where they grew up or where they were born. We are one people. We are one family. We all live in the same house. That’s the American house.”[4]

He was eighty years old. The year was 2020. America was marching into the third decade of the 21st Century and the forces that still sought to not make America better for all of her people, and meant to leave certain people out because of their race or color, or because of where they grew up, or where they were born; the forces that rejected John Lewis’ notion of America being one people, one family, living in the same house, the American house, they had resurfaced and were running out the clock on his life.

I quaked with rage as I reflected upon the fact that, here he was nearing the end, and John Lewis was fighting an updated version of the same battle he’d been waging all his life. The lines of conflict had been drawn long before his birth with 1903 being a watershed due to the publication of The Souls of Black Folk. Written by the brilliant sociologist, historian, and civil rights activist, W.E.B. [William Edward Burghardt] DuBois, it predicted that for the United States of America, the “problem of the twentieth century” would be “the problem of the color-line.”[5]

By the time of Lewis’ birth, on February 21, 1940, bigots could take immense pride in knowing that Jim Crow’s cancerous racism had reduced African Americans to a level of second-class citizenship far exceeding Dubois’ somber pronouncement. Shaped by a society that for nearly four-hundred-years, had found ever creative ways of denying blacks their humanity and freedom, there was little reason for Georgia-born John Lewis (and his contemporaries) to expect justice. Nothing so testified to the grim reality of that truth like the 1955 slaying of fourteen-year-old Chicago native, Emmett Till.

Visiting his cousins in Money, Mississippi, on August 24, 1955, the Chicago teen went into a grocery store and allegedly whistled at Carolyn Bryant, a white woman. Four days later, on August 28, Roy Bryant (Carolyn’s husband), and “brother-in-law, J.W. Milam, kidnapped, beat and tortured” the youngster “for hours before shooting him and dumping his body in the Tallahatchie River with a 75-pound cotton gin tied around his neck with barbed wire.”[6] During the subsequent trial, Moses Wright, Emmett Till’s grandfather, risked his life when he stood up in court and pointed out the men who’d invaded his home and kidnapped his grandson. An all-white jury deliberated for a mere hour before acquitting Bryant and Milam who later confessed to the murder during a paid interview with investigative journalist William Bradford Huie. Moses Wright left Mississippi and never returned, losing his home and livelihood along with his grandson.[7] 

Only fifteen years old at the time, John Lewis was “shaken to the core.”[8] For him and the people of his generation, the murder of Emmett Till and the subsequent colossal miscarriage of justice stood as grisly metaphors for the racist rot perverting people’s hearts and the nation’s justice, political, and economic systems. The message to John Lewis and his contemporaries was clear: No aspect of black life was safe from racist predators or the system in which they lurked.

There was nothing new about the message, but the messengers had miscalculated. They didn’t foresee Mamie Till’s decision to have an open-casket funeral so the world could see how they’d bludgeoned her son’s face into a grotesque horror. They didn’t count on Emmett Till’s ghost uniting black and white people into a movement of love and non-violence that would expose the cowardly weakness of hate-mongers. And they absolutely didn’t expect to awaken the lion in John Lewis who’d take the fight to them.

The young lion grew into an intrepid warrior who was eventually elected to Congress to help oversee the system which, in another set of hands, had remained idle throughout the 20th Century while black people had been getting lynched, bombed, pillaged, and mobbed. Ever vigilant and ever determined to safeguard the citizenship gains won with blood, injustice became the prey whenever it confronted John Lewis. He’d lived long enough to know that the constrictor, racism, never really slept, never really went away, and never tired of attempting to coil itself around other people’s liberty to choke the life out of their freedom.

And then, just like that . . . he was gone.

“What do we do now?” I wondered, surfing the net for articles on Lewis. “How much harder will it be to fight without this lion to check the enablers of chaos and injustice?”

As if he’d been listening to my thoughts, the words of John Lewis showed on my computer screen from a message he’d “tweeted” in 2018: “Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”[9]

The lion, John Robert Lewis, was gone but his words live to inspire lions in the rest of us. Onward!

Cover image is John Lewis in 1967. Photo Credit: Sam Falk/The New York Times

[1] From the CNN Interview and article “John Lewis Marches Across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to Commemorate 55th Anniversary of ‘Bloody Sunday’”. See: https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/08/politics/john-lewis-bloody-sunday-anniversary/index.html. Accessed on 20 July 2020. 

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] See Project Gutenberg found at the following web address: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/408/408-h/408-h.htm#chap02. Accessed on 18 July 2020.

[6] From the online San Antonio Express News on June 12, 2020, author Cary Clack refers to the book Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement, in which Congressman John Lewis recalled that Emmett Till’s murder had left him shaken to the core. See: https://www.expressnews.com/opinion/columnists/cary_clack/article/Clack-This-generation-s-Emmett-Till-moment-15336352.php. Accessed on 19 July 2020.

[7] YouTube Video from the documentary series “Eyes on the Prize,” Part I, “Awakenings: 1954 – 1956, America’s Civil Rights Movement”. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NpY2NVcO17U. Accessed on July 18, 2020. Also, in the episode “Brave Testimony” of PBS’s American Experience has an episode 

[8] See citation number six for source data.  

[9] From article “’Get in good trouble, necessary trouble,’ Congressman John Lewis in His Own Words”. USA Today [online]. See: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2020/07/18/rep-john-lewis-most-memorable-quotes-get-good-trouble/5464148002/. Accessed on July 21, 2020.

The AHA’s “Erasing History or Making History? Race, Racism, and the American Memorial Landscape” Facebook Live Discussion

If you have been following the news about decisions to remove Confederate monuments, or about direct action by crowds to remove monuments, you should take some time to listen to this discussion on “Erasing History or Making History?  Race, Racism, and the American Memorial Landscape.”   You’ll hear two eminent scholars, Annette Gordon-Reed and David W. Blight, discuss what we should memorialize, how we should understand past memorials, and how we should think about keeping or removing them.  If you are looking for definitive answers, you won’t find them here.  This is a thoughtful conversation about the ways in which we should approach the question of memorials.  If you’ve heard anybody say, “If we take down Confederate memorials, what’s next?  Washington? Jefferson?” there’s something in this conversation for you.  Given recent decisions like the one to remove the Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond, or the statue of John C. Calhoun in Charleston, this is a very timely discussion.  Check it out at the link below.

Gordon-Reed is the author of The Hemingses of Monticello, which won the Pulitzer Prize for HIstory in 2009, and Most Blessed of the Patriarchs: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination (2016).  Blight is the author of Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory (2001) and  Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom (2018).

Required Reading: The History of African Americans

Black lives matter. When we examine history, we see the myriad ways people made choices and set up institutions to demean and erase the lives of Black people. We also see people who stood up and put their lives on the line to assert the value of Black lives.

The events of the last ten days have felt like an inflection point, one that will determine the future direction of our nation. As historians, we see how times like this do not come out of nowhere, but are the result of a complex array of decisions and actions made by humans in the distant and recent past. Over the last week, the members of the History Department have collected some readings and resources we have found valuable to try to understand the moment we are in, and we’d like to share them in this blog post.

An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago by Alex Kotlowitz. This is about the current plague of violence in Chicago.

The Other Side of the River: A Story of Two Towns, A Death, and America’s Dilemma by Alex Kotlowitz.. This one’s about an investigation of a death in St. Joseph and Benton Harbor, MI.

The Cross and the Lynching Tree, by James Cone. American Christianity has been complicit in the brutality heaped upon black people from the earliest years of the colonial period. Cone squarely addresses a narrative too little known and discussed.

Stony the Road We Trod, edited by Dr. William Meyers. Africans and people of African descent have been systematically omitted from their presence in, and impact upon, the Bible. This source sets out to fill in some gaps.

The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander. After the Civil War and up to the mid-20th century, white supremacists did their best to reconstruct the antebellum status quo. Jim Crow segregation was the result. Their success was and has been updated for the new millennium.

Martin & Malcolm & America, by James Cone

Pillar of Fire, Parting the Waters, At Canaan’s Edge by Taylor Branch. Excellent narratives of the King Years and Civil Rights Movement.

The Narrative of the Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, by Frederick Douglass. A classic “must read” reading from, aside from Abraham Lincoln, one of the most important figures of the 19th century. His rise from slavery to abolitionist, newspaper editor, presidential advisor, ambassador, human rights activist, suffragist, and statesman draws shudders at the thought of the brilliance that was nearly crushed beneath the heel of bigotry.

Preserving the White Man’s Republic: Jacksonian Democracy, Race, and the Transformation of American Conservatism, by Joshua A. Lynn. The racist policies of Andrew Jackson and the nation of enablers that made it possible for African Americans to be enslaved, women silenced, and Native Americans kicked across the continent was brilliantly engineered by those who spared no effort to create a “white man’s republic”.

The Miseducation of the Negro by Carter G. Woodson. Straight talk from the man who inspired Black History Month.

The Souls of Black Folk, by W.E.B. Dubois. Dubois predicted that America’s chief problem in the 20th century would be the problem of the color line. He was bullseye correct and might as well have predicted the same for the 21st century.

Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom by David W. Blight. More about Douglass and is wonderfully written, awe inspiring.

When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America by Paula Giddings. In this pioneer work, Giddings writes United States history with Black women at the center.

Birthright Citizens: A History of Race and Rights in Antebellum America by Martha S. Jones. This book examines how African Americans battled in the courts and legislatures for citizenship rights during the slavery era.

Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow: Black Women, Work, and the Family from Slavery to the Present by Jaqueline Jones. Jones digs up a fantastic array of sources to tell the story of how Black women defined the meaning of their work throughout US history.

At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance: A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power by Danielle McGuire. McGuire re-writes the history of the Civil Rights Movement by linking it to the history of Black women’s fight against sexual violence.

Coming of Age in Mississippi by Anne Moody. In this autobiography, Moody relates the empowerment that came from her Civil Rights activism, but also the exhaustion and bitterness.

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X Kendi. This is a National Book Award winner by an American University historian. It examines the intellectual history of racist ideas in the US, and talks about how deeply they are embedded in our history. examines the intellectual history of racist ideas in the US, and talks about how deeply they are embedded in our history. Xendi uses five “tour guides” to lead us through the development of racist ideas in the United States: Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, William Lloyd Garrison, W.E.B.DuBois, and Angela Davis. The title comes from an 1860 speech by Jefferson Davis, when he said that the “inequality of the white and black races” was “stamped from the beginning.'”

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Ta-nehisi Coates combines memoir and history in beautiful and heartbreaking prose in the form of a letter to his son. It shows how racism shaped American history, but also how it shapes the lives of individuals today. This work is short and accessible. Read it with someone (a few friends, your parents, your church group) and discuss.

Twilight: Los Angeles 1992 by Anna Deavere Smith. This was a groundbreaking work of documentary theatre, based on interviews that Anna Deavere Smith conducted with people who lived through the Los Angeles riots of 1992. She performed it as a one-woman show. It’s a theatrical take on oral history–well worth reading.

Blue Dreams: Korean Americans and the Los Angeles Riots by Nancy Abelmann and John Lie. This looks at how and why Korean Americans were caught up in the Los Angeles racial riots in 1992.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture’s “Talking About Race” portal.

Additional note from Dr. Gloria Tseng

A Cry, a Lament, a Prayer of Anguish and Brokenness Offered up to God
“…the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words…the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8: 26-27).

I first met Ingrid at a conference organized by Andrew F. Walls Centre for the Study of African and Asian Christianity at Liverpool Hope University in Liverpool, England, almost ten years ago. She spoke of her experiences as a missionary co-worker of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in South Sudan, serving as a mobile trainer of adult literary teachers in Sudan. I remember being deeply moved by her lively and humorous presentation, which also made me laugh, most unusual for an academic conference. Subsequently a friendship developed between us, and I have appreciated her spiritual and academic encouragement and insights ever since. Ingrid had received her Ph.D. in Literature from Rutgers University and taught Black Feminist Theory and African Diaspora Literature at the University of South Carolina before becoming a missionary. Currently, she and her husband, Andrew F. Walls, missionary and pioneer scholar in the field of world Christianity, are an independent missionary couple affiliated with the Akrofi-Christaller Institute of Theology, Mission and Culture in Akropong-Akuapem, Ghana, and the Walls Centre in England. They are members of Crown Terrace Methodist Church in Aberdeen, Scotland. They also worship at Shiloh Church in Oakland, California, Ingrid’s home congregation, when their itinerant ministry brings them (back) to the US. Their passion is the development of Christian scholarship, especially among African brothers and sisters whose cultural roots are in primal religions. Ingrid’s current research focus is on the Christianity of the first African diaspora to the Americas.
Ingrid sent this prayer to me about a week ago. On the one hand, it is a lament offered up on behalf of the communities of color and a cry to God for justice long-deferred in this country; on the other hand, as the worldwide ripple effects of the demonstrations in American cities have shown, the cries of those long marginalized in our society and those who stand with them in this country have resonated with all who long for justice in their own communities around the world. She has generously agreed to let this prayer be shared here.

This World…
for the killing fields of American Streets

by Ingrid R. Walls
This, this is our world now, no sheltering for homo sapiens, no grasslands where humans roam free; this is our home now, where the predators are us, the ones set free to choose life…this is where now the lines between the evil and good are finer than silken thread…this is where the dead video their lives for us to see, to look and make calls to heaven from our mobiles…this is where generational tears will not do, unless they splinter the threads of gleaming hate and gloating murder still connected across time and space….this is where there is no haste to make amends, or to mend broken hearts too crushed to be mended…this, this is where holy wills must keep pumping the blood line of new life into the veins of a world kneed down, its head on the ground, its rib bones stark from the hunger within, its belly bloated and keep swelling by too much, too much just too many mass killings, and law reaper killings, and drive by killings, and killings that drain-out breath from the breathing, and aid from the disabled, and bury care for the elderly, and killings too that look like sanctioned changes to the status quo….this ground is grown dried, soaked right through to the bone marrow with the wounded fear that all this dying gives… …but dry bones can still live…they can still be knitted back together with the Word…the word in the limb, in the eyes, in the nose, in the mouth and the touch of the chosen…to see, and to keep watchful and to steer the way forward back into day light again, in this world, this world, that once used to be our home….
© 2020 ingrid reneau walls