Don't Know Much About
Summary: These videoblogs feature popular historian Kenneth C. Davis, author of Don’t Know Much About® History, which spent 35 consecutive weeks on The New York Times bestseller list, and gave rise to the Don’t Know Much About series, which has a combined in-print total of 4.3-million copies. Kenneth Davis was dubbed The King of Knowing by Amazon.com because he becomes a subject expert in all of the areas he writes about – the Bible, Mythology, the Universe, the Civil War, for example. Kenneth C. Davis’ success aptly makes the case that Americans don’t hate history, just the dull version they slept through in class. But many of them want to know now because their kids are asking them questions they can’t answer. Davis’ approach is to refresh us on the subjects we should have learned in school. He does it by busting myths, setting the record straight and always remembering that fun is not a four-word letter word.
It is the day for the “wearing of the green,” parades and an unfortunate connection between being Irish and imbibing. For the day, everybody feels “a little Irish.” But it was not always a happy go lucky virtue to be Irish in America. Once upon a time, the Irish –and specifically Irish Catholics– were vilified by the majority in White Anglo-Saxon Protestant America. The Irish were considered the dregs by “Nativist” Americans who leveled at Irish immigrants all of the insults and charges typically aimed at every hated immigrant group: they were lazy, uneducated, dirty, disease-ridden, a criminal class who stole jobs from Americans. And dangerous. The Irish were said to be plotting to overturn the U.S. government and install the Pope in a new Vatican. One notorious chapter in the hidden history of Irish-Americans is left out of most textbook– the violently anti-Catholic, anti-Irish “Bible Riots” of 1844. In May 1844, Philadelphia –the City of Brotherly Love– was torn apart by a series of bloody riots. Known as the “Bible Riots,” they grew out of the vicious anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic sentiment that was so widespread in 19th century America. Families were burned out of their homes. Churches were destroyed. And more than two dozen people died in one of the worst urban riots in American History. The story of the “Bible Riots” is another untold tale that I explore in my book A NATION RISING
Eighty years ago, on March 3, 1931 President Herbert Hoover signed into law the bill that made “The Star-Spangled Banner” the National Anthem It has been officially butchered at baseball and football games ever since. Just ask Christina Aguilera who had some trouble with the part about those annoying ramparts at the most recent Super Bowl. But the history of the song that has confounded singers for so long goes back much farther. To trace that history, I took a field trip to the song’s birthplace, Fort McHenry, in Baltimore, Maryland. It was September 13, 1814. America was at war with England for the second time since 1776. Francis Scott Key was an attorney attempting to negotiate the return of a civilian prisoner held by the British who had just burned Washington DC and had set their sights on Baltimore. As the British attacked the city, Key watched the naval bombardment from a ship in Baltimore’s harbor. In the morning, he could see that the Stars and Stripes still flew over Fort McHenry. Inspired, he wrote the lyrics that we all know –well some of you know some of them. But here’s what they didn’t tell you: Yes, Washington, D.C. was burned in 1814, including the President’s Home which would later get a fresh coat of paint and be called the “White House.” But Washington was torched in retaliation for the burning of York –now Toronto—in Canada earlier in the war. Yes, Key wrote words. But the music comes from an old English drinking song. Good thing it wasn’t 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall. Here’s a link to the original lyrics of the Drinking song via Poem of the Week http://www.potw.org/archive/potw234.html The Star Spangled Banner did not become the national anthem until 1916 when President Wilson declared it by Executive Order. But that didn’t really count. And finally, in 1931, it became the National Anthem by Congressional resolution signed by President Herbert Hoover, on March 3. Now, here are a couple of footnotes to the Francis Scott Key story—his son, Philip Barton Key, was a District attorney in Washington. DC. He was shot and killed by Congressman Daniel Sickles. Sickles was acquitted with the first use of the defense of temporary insanity in 1859. And went on to serve as a Civil War general –and not a very good one. And speaking of the Civil War, Key’s grandson was later imprisoned in Fort McHenry along with Baltimore’s Mayor and other pro-Confederate sympathizers. Here are some places to learn more about Fort McHenry, Key and the Flag that inspired the National Anthem. http://www.nps.gov/archive/fomc/home.htm The images and music in this video are courtesy of the Smithsonian Museum of American History: http://americanhistory.si.ed/starspangledbanner/ This version of the anthem in the video is performed on 19th century instruments: http://americanhistory.si.edu/starspangledbanner/mp3/song.ssb.dsl.mp3