Friday, September 25, 2015

Ken Burn’s “The Roosevelts”

I love Ken Burns.  Yes, yes, I admit it. So when I heard he was doing a documentary on the Roosevelts, I was thrilled.  This was very good, but I do wish there was more on Eleanor after Franklin’s death (Edith, too) as well as some of the other females in the family.   (If you are like me and interested, check out my review of The Roosevelt Women.)  So that’s my biggest critique.

Otherwise, I think this did a great job of dealing with the major issues and didn’t fall into the trap of sensationalizing FDR and the affairs issues.  I was also glad to see Alice (both of them) to minor roles.  Definitely well worth the time investment to watch! 
Now I watched this about the same time as I watched the PBS American Experience documentary, so I did get a lot of repeat, but still both are worth the time. I would say that if you want only want to watch one, watch this one as you get Franklin AND Teddy with this one (it is longer….much longer….) whereas with the other one, just Franklin obviously.  This also has more Eleanor.   I happen to really enjoy Teddy, so that is a major plus for me and also this really brings out the connections between Teddy and Franklin and the influence that Teddy has on Franklin, which I don’t think is often well explored. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Andrew Jackson: Good, Evil and the Presidency

This documentary explores the life and presidency of Andrew Jackson.  This explores both sides of Jackson.  Obviously, Jackson is our first “common” president and thus helps to bring the “common man” into politics more fully.  Yet he oversees some of the most controversial decisions, like Indian removal and is extremely vicious in all his dealings with Native Americans.  He was also a slave owner.  There is also the scandals with his wife and Peggy Eaton.

This is a good look into the many sides and faces of Jackson.  A good basic overview of his Presidency.  
Also, because it was the news a bit ago with all the talk about changing the heads on currency, check out the history of Jackson on the $20, at Smithsonian Magazine.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Tea and Equality

This article was in the Summer 2015 edition of Prologue.  It deals with the invitation to tea that Mrs. Hoover sent Mrs. DePriest, the only African American member of Congress.  Mrs. DePriest came to tea and a flood of complaints flooded Mrs. Hoover over this invitation. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

FDR Visits Alaska

I actually read this article in the "real" paper last fall and am just getting around to posting it.  This talks about the fishing he did while in Alaska.  He didn't visit much of the state during this 1944 trip.

When I think of FDR and Alaska, I actually think of his New Deal program which sent colonists to Alaska in 1935 from Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.  The reason is that two of those colonists were my great-grandparents.   My grandmother was six months old when she arrived with them. 

Monday, June 08, 2015

American Experience: FDR

So I've been on a history documentary kick and thought I'd try to get some posts up about them.  I recently watched the American Experience on FDR.  I really haven't seen an American Experience I didn't like and this was no exception  I really learned quite a bit about his early career (like he ran for VP in the 1920s!) or how and when he got polio.  I guess I somehow thought he got it as a kid and it just didn't incapacitate him until later (yes, my medical knowledge...not so great!).

I thought this did a great job of talking about Eleanor and her contributions as well.  I really enjoyed the segment on the lead up to WWII and how he was trying to push the nation into supporting Britain.  I also thought they dealt with the infidelity issue well - it is there, but not out of proportion. 

I've actually already put some of the bonus videos that are on the PBS website into my required reading for my modern US class about the lead up to WWII. 

I definitely recommend this documentary, whether you like FDR or not. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

FDR Decides Thanksgiving

Are you ready for Thanksgiving?  Here is a fun article talking about setting the date for Thanksgiving and the furor FDR created in 1939 when he set the date for Thanksgiving!
American Thanksgiving is the fourth Thursday in November. Countless institutions depend on this date being predictable year in and year out: football teams planning their "Turkey Bowl" games, schools setting their vacation schedules, department stores deciding when to put up their Christmas decorations.

But the Thanksgiving date wasn't always so reliable. For decades, the president got to decide when the holiday fell each year. They tended to follow the example of Abraham Lincoln, who in 1863 set Thanksgiving on the final Thursday of November—until Franklin D. Roosevelt went rogue. In 1939 there were five Thursdays in November, so according to Lincoln's example, Thanksgiving would have been on the last day of the month. Roosevelt worried that such a late Thanksgiving would mean that Christmas shopping season would be too short, which would be hard on merchants already hurting from the Great Depression. So he declared that Thanksgiving that year would fall on the second-to-last Thursday, November 23rd. 

Though the change was intended to help a struggling nation, it ended up dividing the country. Twenty-two states refused to go along with Roosevelt's decision and instead celebrated Thanksgiving on the 30th. Almost all the other states sided with the president and feasted the week before. (Texas, Mississippi, and Colorado couldn't make up their minds and declared both the 23rd and the 30th holidays.)

Friday, November 21, 2014

President Kennedy's Election: Vote Counting Fraud?

I bookmarked this article back during the election, but am just getting around to post it (much like my state on finally deciding important races....seriously, do we have a governor or senator yet? And yes, both were finally settled).   What was interesting about this article is that it mentioned some vote counting controversies that I didn't know about.  When I teach the 1960 election, I tend to really emphasis the use of media and how that changed the outcome, but the vote counting is interesting as most students automatically think of the 2000 election with that now:
Kennedy defeated Nixon when votes were finally counted in the Electoral College, by a margin of 303 to 219. But in the popular vote, Kennedy won by just 112,000 votes out of 68 million cast, or a margin on 0.2 percent.

So arguments persist to this day about vote-counting in two states, specifically Illinois (where Kennedy won by 9,000 votes) and Texas (where Kennedy won by 46,000 votes). If Nixon had won those two states, he would have defeated Kennedy by two votes in the Electoral College.

That fact wasn’t lost on Nixon’s supporters, who urged the candidate to contest the results. At the time, Kennedy was also leading in the critical state of California, which was Nixon’s home state. But a count of absentee ballots gave Nixon the state several weeks later, after he conceded it to Kennedy.
In Illinois, there were rampant rumors that Chicago’s Mayor Richard Daley used his political machine to stuff the ballot box in Cook County. Democrats charged the GOP with similar tactics in southern Illinois. Down in Texas, there were similar claims about the influence of Kennedy’s running mate, Lyndon B. Johnson, over that state’s election.

On Wednesday afternoon, November 9, 1960, Nixon officially conceded the election to Kennedy. He told his friend, journalist Earl Mazo, that “our country cannot afford the agony of a constitutional crisis.” (Mazo had written a series of articles about voter fraud after the 1960 election, which he stopped at Nixon’s request.)

In later years, Nixon also claimed in an autobiography that widespread fraud happened in Illinois and Texas during the 1960 election.