Originally published 07/08/2013
Jim Downs teaches history at Connecticut College.Francis Dufrene lived for Sunday nights. tall and lean with a pile of blond hair, the 21-year-old would take two buses from his home in the New Orleans suburbs to make it to the Upstairs Lounge by 5 p.m., when the French Quarter bar held its weekly beer bust--two hours of all-you-can-drink drafts for $1.From the outside, the Upstairs didn't look much different from the other gay bars on a particularly seedy stretch of Iberville Street. But up 13 steps on the second floor was a refuge....
Originally published 06/06/2013
Jim Downs is an associate professor of history and American Studies at Connecticut College, specializing in African-American studies and nineteenth-century American history. His book, Sick from Freedom: African-American Illness and Suffering during the Civil War and Reconstruction, was just published by Oxford University Press.On June 4, 2013, Ellen Sturtz, a gay rights activist, heckled first lady Michelle Obama at a meeting of the Democratic National Convention. Ms. Obama allegedly responded by saying that she would leave if the heckler did not stop. The audience, however, cajoled the first lady to stay and the gay rights activist was purportedly escorted out of the venue. Mrs. Obama continued her speech by talking about the future of children.
Originally published 08/05/2012
Jim Downs: Civil War and Emancipation the "Greatest Biological Catastrophe of the Nineteenth Century."
Contraband during the Civil War. Credit: Wiki Commons.January 1, 2013 will mark the one hundred fiftieth anniversary of the effective date of the Emancipation Proclamation.We tend to think of the emancipation of African American slaves in the South as a celebratory moment of jubilation and ecstasy. But there is a darker, bitterly ironic side to this triumphant story -- a grim story of neglect and indifference to a vulnerable population of uprooted men, women and children left to negotiate their freedom in a hostile, war-torn, disease-plagued land.
Originally published 05/26/2012
"Contrabands at Headquarters of General Lafayette," by Mathew Brady, 1862.As Americans enjoy the holiday weekend, does anyone know how Memorial Day originated?On May 1, 1865, freed slaves gathered in Charleston, South Carolina to commemorate the death of Union soldiers and the end of the American Civil War. Three years later, General John Logan issued a special order that May 30, 1868 be observed as Decoration Day, the first Memorial Day -- a day set aside "for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land."
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