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.