Magazine article Humanities

Editor's Note

Magazine article Humanities

Editor's Note

Article excerpt

How many conceivable answers are there to the question Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey once posed: "Who are you?" Most of the ones that come up in these pages involve some form of group identity.

We never decided that this issue should be about identity. It's simply a credit to its power that a magazine about history and culture might appear to focus on identity without the editors having given it any thought.

Two articles discuss Africans taken to the Americas to be sold as slaves. One, about the beautiful exhibition "Bandits and Heroes, Poets and Saints" at the Charles H. Wright Museum in Detroit, describes the amazing art and iconography created by poor Brazilians living in the sertäo. The other discusses the history of African Americans, and how it is portrayed in a new six-part documentary hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr. In episode one, Gates discusses the very moment when American law overrode the variety of local circumstances to codify the identity of slaves as slaves.

An essay on the diphtheria outbreak in Nome, Alaska, in 1925 specifies the identities not only of Eskimos and other indigenous tribes, but the minute differences between American fortune-seekers who arrived in two separate waves only two decades apart The earlier ones were called "sourdoughs," and the newer ones were called "cheechakos. …

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