Category Archives: History Notes by Sharon Carson

Marking Time

By Sharon Carson

History Notes was on summer break last month, and it’s good to be back after driving across the Dakotas: Stopped to get a fast-flattening tire fixed in Hettinger (many thanks to “Steve’s Service Plus”!), waved along the way to the lovely bovine “Salem Sue,” and returned to the Red River Valley, a.k.a. The Valley of Didac­tic Billboards: “Smile!” “Be Kind!”

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Northern Lights

By Sharon Carson

By the time you read the June issue of Prairie Independent, voters in Wisconsin will have decided whether or not to recall Governor Scott Walker in the wake of his aggressive legislative attacks on public employee unions, public education, and critical social services. The Wisconsin vote on June 5th will be historic on many levels, not least as a plumb measure of the current strength of progressive grassroots political organizing in the Midwest.

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The “S” Word

By Sharon Carson

Remember this scene from the 1962 movie The Manchurian Candidate?

It’s the 1950s, and right-wing Senator John Iselin is talking to his wife, a.k.a. his political handler and a secret Soviet agent (played with excellent ick by Angela Lansbury). Senator Iselin says to Evil Spouse:

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Views of Fort Laramie

By Sharon Carson

History Notes is on the road this month, looking at the Fort Laramie National Historic site in Wyoming. Like all war memorials and regional markers of shared and contested history, the physical site itself means profoundly different things to different people today.

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Separation of church and state

By Sharon Carson

Journalist Bill Moyers recently tackled the controversy over federally mandated health in­surance coverage for contra­ception. In a piece called “Freedom of and From Religion” (http://bill­moyers.com) Moyers said: “So here we are once again, arguing over how to honor religious liberty without it becoming the liberty to impose on others moral beliefs they don’t share.”

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Minority Report

By Sharon Carson

One enduring national (and lo­cal) stereotype about North Dakota is that unlike the rest of the country, our state is racially homogeneous: “lily white.”

This would of course come as odd news to thousands of regional tribal members whose communities go back centuries, not to mention several thou­sand state residents counted in the 2010 Census as “Black,” “Asian,” “Hispanic/ Latino” and “Two or More Races.” Add to this number many immigrants and political refu­gees arriving each year from coun­tries all over the world. This means there are over 76.000 people in North Dakota who should put the ste­reotype to rest. Continue reading

History Notes: The Story Behind Amidon

by Sharon Carson

Amidon, North Dakota, the county seat for Slope County, is a town long known to drivers along Highway 85 for the life-sized but fake police officer who sat mo­tionless in an old patrol car parked along the highway at the edge of town. This of­ficer was an exceedingly compliant pub­lic employee who served for years as a low-cost speed bump.

In contrast to such a static symbol of the law, Amidon is named after Charles Fremont Amidon, a decidedly non-compliant federal judge who was born in 1856 to abolitionist parents and came to the Dakota Territory in 1882 to become the new and only high school teacher in Far­go. Amidon soon left teaching to study law in Fargo, and was ap­pointed Federal Judge for the District of North Dakota in 1897, serving in that capac­ity until 1928. He died in 1937, with an obituary in the New York Times reminding readers that Amidon “was an ardent advocate of judicial re­form, a supporter of the Constitution as a living document and a defender of the civil rights guaranteed by the Constitu­tion.”

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New Column Explores Progressive Past, Present and Future

By Sharon Carson

Editors note: North Dakota’s past is rich in progressive ideas. From the origins of the Non-Partisan League to Governor Link’s “When the Landscape is Quiet Again” speech, the state has a tradition of looking out for the prairie and its peo­ple.

In the Prairie Independent’s new column, “History Notes,” UND pro­fessor Sharon Car­son and others will explore that past – pointing readers to important books and other media that bring our history into sharper focus – and the many ways it resonates today.

Here is the first set of notes from Sharon Carson: Continue reading