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:

The Nation Magazine columnist John Nichols, who was recently inter­viewed in the Prairie Independent, re­minded his audience at the North Da­kota Human Rights Coalition Summit that the progressive origins and pres­ent stability of the “socialist” Bank of North Dakota are sparking keen interest around the country. (See his recent book The “S” Word: A Short History of an American Tradition…Socialism). In a recent Dissent maga­zine article called “Neither Revolution Nor Reform, a New Strategy for the Left,” writer Gar Alperovitz also cites growing national interest in the pro­gressive legacy of the Non-Partisan League of North Dakota and the Bank of North Dakota, especially as a pos­sible model for other states struggling with serious economic crises. Lots to explore here, including the successes and contradictions in North Dakota’s economic history.

Frederick Herzog was a progres­sive Christian theologian long recog­nized as one of the first white scholars to advance the work of Black Theol­ogy in the United States. Herzog was born in Ashley, ND, in 1925 and spent his early childhood in North Dakota. Herzog’s family returned to Germany in the mid-1930s, and after WWII, while still living in Europe, Herzog served as assistant to the famous Prot­estant theologian Karl Barth, himself a democratic socialist and the prin­ciple author of the 1934 Barmen Dec­laration, a direct political-theological challenge to Hitler and the Nazi party. At the end of the 1940s, Frederick Herzog returned to Ashley and served as a pastor there while finishing his doctoral studies at Princeton. He left North Dakota to become a strong advocate for racial justice in Ameri­can churches and society, and later became an activist for global econom­ic justice, especially in Latin America. From North Dakota, comes anything and everyone: we’ll explore ways his North Dakota origins emerge in this international work and in the language he used regarding international human rights.

Vine Deloria, Jr., a Lakota writer and philosopher with tribal member­ship at Standing Rock, died in 2005, and is still known to many Americans as the author of Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto (1969). De­loria’s work was remarkably expansive and prolific, and he made an extraordi­nary impact on generations of Ameri­can Indian activists, scholars and edu­cators. We’ll hear from some of those activists, tribal leaders and educators in our region about the impact of Delo­ria’s work, and about the persistence of history “in the present.” 2012 marks the 150th anniversary year of the Da­kota War of 1862, which offers an op­portunity to look at hard questions about our region’s past, present and future.

So, here we go.

Feel free to contact me with topic ideas for “History Notes.”

Sharon Carson teaches literature, comparative religion and philosophy at the University of North Dakota, and works in public humanities and progressive media.

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