20,000 Americans Hold a Pro-Nazi Rally in Madison Square Garden in 1939: Chilling Video Re-Captures a Lost Chapter in US History

Our country’s bipartisan system ensures that every election will give rise to a winning side and a losing side—and depressingly, a sizable group who refrained from casting a vote either way.

There are times when the divide between the factions does not seem insurmountable, when leaders in the highest positions of authority seem sincerely committed to reaching across the divide….

And then there are other times.

Earlier in the year, the Women’s March on Washington and its hundreds of sister marches gave many of us reason to hope. The numbers alone were inspiring.

But history shows how great numbers can go the other way too.




With many American high school history curriculums whizzing through World War II in a week, if that, it’s doubly important to slow down long enough to watch the 7 minute documentary above.

What you’re looking at is the 1939 "Pro-American Rally" (aka Pro-Nazi Rally) sponsored by the German American Bund at Madison Square Garden on George Washington’s 207th Birthday. Banners emblazoned with such slogans as “Stop Jewish Domination of Christian Americans,” “Wake Up America. Smash Jewish Communism,” and “1,000,000 Bund Members by 1940" decorated the great hall.

New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia—an Episcopalian with a Jewish mother—considered canceling the event, but ultimately he, along with the American Jewish Committee and the American Civil Liberties Committee decreed that the Bund was exercising its right to free speech and free assembly.

A crowd of 20,000 filled the famous sports venue in mid-town Manhattan to capacity. 1,500 police officers were present to render the Garden “a fortress impregnable to anti-Nazis.” An estimated 100,000 counter-demonstrators were gathering outside.

Police Commissioner Lewis J. Valentine bragged to the press that “we have enough police here to stop a revolution.”

The most disturbing moment in the short film comes at the 3:50 mark, when another security force—the Bund’s Ordnungsdienst or "Order Service” pile on Isidore Greenbaum, a 26-year-old Jewish worker who rushed the podium where bundesführer Fritz Julius Kuhn was fanning the flames of hatred. Valentine’s men eventually pulled them off, just barely managing to save the “anti-Nazi” from the vicious beating he was undergoing.

Reportedly he was beaten again, as the crowd inside the Garden howled for his blood.

The uniformed youth performing a spontaneous hornpipe in the row behind the Bund’s drum and bugle corps is a chilling sight to see.

Director Marshall Curry was spurred to bring the historic footage to Field of Vision, a filmmaker-driven documentary unit that commissions short films as a rapid response to developing stories around the globe. In this case, the developing story was the “Unite the Right” white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, which had occurred a mere two days before.

“The footage is so powerful,” Curry told an interviewer, “it seems amazing that it isn’t a stock part of every high school history class. But I think the rally has slipped out of our collective memory in part because it’s scary and embarrassing. It tells a story about our country that we’d prefer to forget. We’d like to think that when Nazism rose up, all Americans were instantly appalled. But while the vast majority of Americans were appalled by the Nazis, there was also a significant group of Americans who were sympathetic to their white supremacist, anti-Semitic message. When you see 20,000 Americans gathering in Madison Square Garden you can be sure that many times that were passively supportive.”

Field of Vision co-founder Laura Poitras recalled how after meeting with Curry, “my first thought was, 'we need to put this film in cinemas,' and release it like a newsreel.”'  The Alamo Drafthouse cinema chain screened it before features on September 26 of this year.

The Atlantic has photos of the "Pro-American Rally" and other German American Bund-sponsored events in the days leading up to WWII here. Also read an account that appeared in a 1939 edition of The New York Times here.

The International Socialist Review covers the counter-demonstrations in many eyewitness quotes.

via PaleoFuture

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Hamilton Mania Inspires the Library of Congress to Put 12,000 Alexander Hamilton Documents Online

Remember when bloody, bloody Andrew Jackson seemed like a shoe in for Best Sepulchral Historical Figure Brought Back to Life by an American Musical?

Alas for the 7th President, a little juggernaut called Hamilton came along, and just like that, it was the first Treasury Secretary and author of the Federalist Papers who had a fan base on the order of Beatlemania.

Teachers, historians, and librarians thrilled to reports of kids singing along with the Hamilton soundtrack. Playwright and original star Lin-Manuel Miranda’s clever rap lyrics ensured that young Hamilfans (and their parents, who reportedly were never allowed to listen to anything else in the car) would become well versed in their favorite founding father’s personal and professional history.




Out of town visitors who spend upwards of a month’s grocery budget for Broadway tickets voluntarily side trip way uptown to tour Hamilton Grange. The insatiable selfie imperative drives them to Central Park and Museum of the City of New York in search of larger than life sculptures. They take the PATH train to Weehawken to pay their respects in the spot where Hamilton was felled by Aaron Burr

Hamilton merchandise, needless to say, is selling briskly. Books, t-shirts, jewelry, bobble heads commemorative mugs…

The Library of Congress is not out to cash in on this cultural moment in the monetary sense. But "given the increased interest in Hamilton," says Julie Miller, a curator of early American manuscripts, it's no accident that the Library has taken pains to digitize 12,000 Hamilton documents and make them available on the web. The collection includes speeches, a draft of the Reynolds Pamphlet, financial accounts, school exercises and correspondence, both personal and public, encompassing such marquee names as John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, the Marquis de Lafayette, and George Washington.

One need not be a musical theater fan to appreciate the emotion of the letter he wrote to his wife, Elizabeth Schuyler, on the eve of his fateful duel with Aaron Burr:

I need not tell you of the pangs I feel, from the idea of quitting you and exposing you to the anguish which I know you would feel. . . . Adieu best of wives and best of Women. Embrace all my darling Children for me.

Explore the Library of Congress’ Hamilton collection here.

And enter the online lottery for $10 Hamilton tickets because, hey, somebody’s got to win.

via Theater Mania

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Gonzo Illustrator Ralph Steadman Draws the American Presidents, from Nixon to Trump

In a 2012 interview with National Public Radio, cartoonist Ralph Steadman, best known for his collaborations with Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, lamented the quality of the candidates in that year’s Presidential race:

The problem is there are no Nixons around at the moment. That’s what we need — we need a real good Nixon to give something for other people to get their teeth into, to really ... loathe him, to become themselves more effective as opposition leaders.

Alas, his prayers have been answered.

Steadman, who has brought his inky sensibilities to bear on such works as Animal Farm and Alice in Wonderland, has a new American president to add to the collection he discussed several years ago, in the video above.




Steadman’s pen was the sword that rendered Gerald Ford as a scarecrow, Ronald Reagan as a vampire, and George W. Bush as a monkey in a cage of his own making.

Barack Obama, one of the candidates in that comparatively bland 2012 election, is depicted as a tenacious, slender vine, straining ever upward.

Jimmy Carter, somewhat less benignly, is a puppy eagerly fetching a stick with which to pardon Nixon, the Welsh cartoonist’s dark muse, first encountered when he accompanied Thompson on the road trip that yielded Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72.

And now…

Donald Trump has given Steadman reason to come out fighting. With luck, he'll stay out as long as his services are required. The above portrait, titled “Porky Pie,” was sent, unsolicited, to Gerry Brakus, an editor of the New Statesman, who published it on December 17, 2015.

At the time, Steadman had no reason to believe the man he’d anthropomorphized as a human pig hybrid, squeezed into bloody flag-print underpants, would become the 45th president:

Trump is unthinkable. A thug and a molester. Who wants him?

The portrait's hideousness speaks volumes, but it’s also worth looking beyond the obvious-seeming inspiration for the title to a reference few Americans would get. "Pork pie"—or porky—is Cockney rhyming slang for “a lie.”

See a gallery of Steadman’s portraits of American presidents on his website.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday

Artists Put a Hidden Message in Their Letter Resigning from President’s Committee on the Arts & the Humanities

It wasn't the most high profile mass resignation of last week. (The CEOs on Trump's business advisory councils got that distinction.) But it was arguably the most creative one. Last Friday, "all 16 of the prominent artists, authors, performers and architects on the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities resigned," reports The New York Times. And while their resignation letter didn't mince words (read it online here), it did take the added step of encoding in its text a short message for POTUS. Circle the first letter of each paragraph and what do you get? RESIST, the mantra of 2017.

In other related news, the administration announced that Trump will skip the annual Kennedy Center Honors this year--just the fourth time that a president has missed this annual national celebration of the arts. This year's honorees include Gloria Estefan, LL COOL J, Norman Lear, Lionel Richie, and Carmen de Lavallade.

via Boing Boing/Artnet

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People Are Planting Flowers in Potholes Worldwide: See the Creative Protest Taking Place in Montreal, Ukraine & Beyond

In 2015, Paige Breithart, an artist and student living in Hamtramck, Michigan, had grown tired of the countless potholes marring Hamtramck's streets. So she took matters into her own hands, and drove around town, filling the potholes with flowers, replacing the decay with symbols of growth and beauty. The story went viral, and Breithart's aesthetic treatment has since caught on. Look around Twitter, and you'll find stories about flowers filling potholes around the United States, and indeed around the world.

In some cases, these guerilla projects aren't just decorative, a simple way to spruce up a neighborhood. There's an activist element to them. In Bath, England, one flower pot vigilante said:

In an area of America there were a load of potholes filled in with pot plants, although that’s not what we are doing here. We think it’s a good thing to do but it’s more than about making people smile. Potholes are a real problem and have the potential to be death traps for bikers and cyclists and with cars there is an issue with blow-outs to wheels. The whole point is to raise awareness of them.

And local governments are taking notice, though not always happily. Concerned that drivers might get surprised or distracted by flowers suddenly appearing in the middle of a road, politicians are discouraging this form of protest. But you can't argue with the results. Once protesters call attention to them, the potholes have a magical way of getting properly paved and filled. Quickly.

Below you can see a gallery of potholes around the world that have gotten the flower treatment--from Missoula, Montana, to Montreal, Bath, Bosnia and Ukraine. Maybe the artist from Chicago (see image at bottom) is the one who got it right?

Wetzel County, West Virginia

 

Missoula, Montana

 

Montreal, Canada

 

Corner Brook, Canada

 

Bath, England

 

Berwickshire, Scotland

 

Edinburgh, Scotland

 

Ukraine

 

Bosnia

 

Chicago

via Twisted Sifter/My Modern Met

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Frederick Douglass’s Fiery 1852 Speech, “The Meaning of July 4th for the Negro,” Read by James Earl Jones

Every year on this day, Frederick Douglass’s fiery, uncompromising 1852 speech, “The Meaning of July 4th for the Negro,” gets a new hearing, and takes on added resonance in the context of contemporary politics. It has never ceased to speak directly to those for whom the celebrations can seem like a hollow mockery of freedom and independence. The American holiday commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence—next to the Constitution, the U.S.A.’s most cherished founding document, and a text, for all its rhetorical elegance, which cannot escape the irony that it was written by a slaveholder for an emerging slave nation.

Slavery had always been a contentious subject among the colonists. And yet the American Revolution was a war waged for the full freedom and enfranchisement of only a very few white men of property. Not only were black people excluded from the nation’s freedoms, but so too were conquered Native American nations, and in great part, poor white men and women who could not vote—though they were not chained in perpetual servitude as human chattel, with little hope of liberty for themselves or their descendants.




Douglass gave the speech in Rochester, NY, seventy-six years after the first July 4th and at a time when the country was riven with irreconcilable tensions between abolitionists, free-soilers, and the slaveholding South. The Compromise of 1850 and the Fugitive Slave Act—at least, in hindsight—made the impending Civil War all but inevitable. The speech reveals the celebration as a sham for those who were or had been enslaved, and who could not consider themselves American citizens regardless of their status (as Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney would affirm five years later.)

Just above, you can hear a powerful reading of Douglass’s speech by James Earl Jones, delivered as part of Howard Zinn’s Voices of a People’s History of the United States. Read an excerpt of the speech below.

What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is a constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes that would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation of the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of these United States at this very hour.

Douglass’s speech condemned the “scorching irony” of American independence even after the Civil War, as racist terrorism and Jim Crow destroyed the promise of Reconstruction. In our present time, writes Pulitzer Prize-winning author and professor Isabel Wilkerson, amidst the rash of high profile police killings and an ensuing lack of justice, events “have forced us to confront our place in a country where we were enslaved for far longer than we have been free. Forced us to face the dispiriting erosion that we have witnessed in recent years—from the birther assaults on a sitting black president to the gutting of the Voting Rights Act that we had believed was carved in granite.” We might add to this list the resumption of the failed "War on Drugs" and the federal government's announcements that it would do little to safeguard civil rights nor to investigate and prosecute the surge of white supremacist violence.

And yet the "self evident" mythology of American freedom and equality—and of American innocence—remains potent and seductive to many people in the country. As the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute put it a few days ago, “The birth of the United States was unique because it was a nation founded not on blood or ethnicity, but on ideas.” To this ahistorical fiction, which manages to erase the founders' own statements on race, the colonization of indigenous lands, and even the bloody Revolutionary War in its strangely desperate zeal to sweep the past away, Douglass would reply: “The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and the crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.”

Hear other readings of the speech by Morgan Freeman, here, and by Danny Glover, here.

via Boing Boing

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Animations Show the Melting Arctic Sea Ice, and What the Earth Would Look Like When All of the Ice Melts

It's no secret that climate change has been taking a toll on the Arctic. But it's one thing to read about it, another thing to see it in action. Above you can watch an animation narrated by NASA's cryospheric scientist Dr. Walt Meier. Documenting changes between 1984 and 2016, the animation lets you see the Arctic sea ice shrinking. As the important perennial sea ice diminishes, the remaining ice cover "almost looks gelatinous as it pulses through the seasons." For anyone interested, an updated version of this visualization can be downloaded in HD here.

If you're curious what this could all lead to--well, you can also watch a harrowing video that models what would happen when all the ice melts and the seas rise some 216 feet. It isn't pretty. The video below is based on the 2013 National Geographic story, "What the World Would Look Like if All the Ice Melted."

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

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