It has been 398 years since the first Thanksgiving in the New World: held in October, it occurred after the Pilgrims at Plymouth, Massachusetts Bay Colony completed their harvest. Fifty-three English people and 90 Wampanoags indigenous to the region partied for three days. Unlike other English colonies in Virginia, where the third sons of English noblemen refused to work and ended up starving, dying of disease, or – if they were lucky – catching the next boat home, the Pilgrims were determined to make a home here in North America. And in 1621, it looked pretty good for the ordinary English who had made the journey: their neighbors, Wampanoags also had a right to be optimistic in 1621, although that changed pretty quickly, as the English begin to build their walls and fences.
We at Public Seminar (whose 16th street address is on Leni-Lenape land) share that mix of optimism and caution that the three-day festival in 1621 embodied. It’s been a good year, with a new site, new friends, and new challenges. This year, we give thanks for our own kind of harvest, wonderful authors who give of their time to think about the pressing issues of the day, our editors who work tirelessly to prepare posts every day and an issue once a week, and the intellectuals and activists who join us in conversation on our podcast, Exiles on 12th Street.
This week’s harvest sets you up for a long vacation weekend with some serious thought, some listening to do in your car, and a few literary provocations. In our Democracy cluster, Ian Zuckerman looks at Evo Morales’s mixed record as President of Bolivia, Alistair Somerville puts British Prime Minister Boris Johnson under the lens, and historian Karl Schlögel looks back at 1989, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and what we really remember about the end of the Cold War.
Our latest podcast episode, “The New Negro,” asks the question: what happens when you look at New York’s cultural history as African-American history? For this episode of Exiles on 12th Street, we sat down with A’Lelia Bundles, the great-granddaughter of entrepreneur and activist Madame C.J. Walker; jazz man Craig Harris; and novelist Kaitlyn Greenidge. And in this week’s culture section, we look at literature in translation. We lead off with Val Vinokur’s translation of an Isaac Babel short story; follow that with David Stronberg’s thoughts about what the project of translating Babel entails; and end with Dorothy Potter-Snyder’s interview with Idra Novey, a poet, translator and novelist whose most recent work was featured as a “best book” across five major media platforms.
We hope you enjoy this week’s issue. Happy Thanksgiving.
Claire Potter is co-executive editor of Public Seminar and Professor of History at The new School for Social Research. You can tweet with her @TenuredRadical.