Plus: The Great Depression and being Asian-American |

May 28, 2020

By Lily Rothman

People in Minneapolis have taken to the streets this week to protest the May 25 death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck while arresting him. While anger about Floyd’s death has been felt across the country, Minneapolis—like so many American cities—has its own unique racial history that’s influencing the reaction there.

In the wake of Floyd’s death, TIME’s Olivia B. Waxman spoke to two Minnesota historians about what we need to know about that history—and how the racist policies of decades past can still reverberate to this day. Click here to read more.

Here’s more of the history that made news this week:

The Overlooked Black History of Memorial Day

Historians like the Pulitzer Prize winner David Blight have tried to raise awareness of freed slaves who decorated soldiers' graves in 1865

From the Great Depression to Today, There Is a Long History of Food Destruction in the Face of Hunger

Even as the world faces a COVID-19 hunger crisis, food is being destroyed—just as it was in the 1930s. Have we learned from that past?

The Tragic History of How Disease Disrupts Mourning

The horror of rushed goodbyes is a defining feature of the COVID-19 pandemic—and a tragedy people have struggled with throughout history

The History of Guns in America Was Never One-Sided

American history can be an antidote to the entrenched positions we tend to assume when it comes to thorny issues like guns, argues scholar Jim Rasenberger

The Activist Origins of the Term 'Asian American'

Before the 1960s, people of Asian descent in the U.S. would generally refer to themselves by their specific ethnic subgroup, and activism was likewise separate


May 28, 1979

Today in 1979: Medical Costs

“Senator Edward Kennedy chose the setting with an eye for drama, and history: the Senate Caucus Room, where his brothers John and Robert formally launched their runs for the presidency. Teddy's purpose was not to announce his own candidacy—yet—but to seize the initiative on an issue that seems sure to bulk large in the 1980 campaign: the skyrocketing cost of medical care. Before TV cameras last Monday he outlined the latest version of his national health insurance plan, designed to enable every American to have medical insurance regardless of age or state of health.” (May 28, 1979)

Read the full story

May 28, 1965

This Week in 1965: An Artificial Heart?

“To Dr. DeBakey both Presidents Kennedy and Johnson turned when they needed a man to head committees and commissions to recommend means by which Americans can get the best of medical and surgical care when they fall victim to heart disease, strokes or cancer. While admiring colleagues boggle at the versatility and variety of his accomplishments—the arterial-replacement surgery, the delicate work inside the heart, the bold approach to stroke—DeBakey races on toward more imaginative goals. Now from his busy laboratories comes the confident prediction that surgical skills may soon be equal to the ultimate achievement—the implantation in a human of an artificial heart.’" (May 28, 1965)

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May 28, 1934

Today in 1934: Irving Berlin

“‘Berlin, the businessman, has a log kept to show the number of times his songs are broadcast over the three major networks. But he forgets to call for it the days he arrives downtown with a song in his head. Then he paces the floor and dictates the lyric, rushes to his big old piano, strikes an F sharp chord and painstakingly picks out the tune while a musical stenographer writes down the notes. Irving Berlin never had a music lesson. He plays by ear, in only one key. If he wants the effect of another, he turns a crank and the keyboard shifts.” (May 28, 1934)

Read the full story


Collaborative Records At Slate, Stephen Harrison argues that future historians will turn to a surprising tool for understanding the coronavirus pandemic: the editing and discussion records for Wikipedia pages.

The Darndest Things Speaking of future historians, Sahalie Donaldson at the Deseret News looks at an initiative from the Utah Division of State History that asked kids to submit records of their experiences with the pandemic.

On Canvas Diego Arguedas Ortiz writes for the BBC about what experts are finding when they look at art history with an eye to climate change.

Undercover An amazingly preserved ancient Roman mosaic has been uncovered at an archaeological site in Italy, and Angela Giuffrida at The Guardian has the story.

Then and Now Joe Heim at the Washington Post spoke to historian John M. Barry, an expert on the 1918 flu pandemic, about the most important lesson that moment holds for today.

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