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!”
Tag Archives: 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.
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.
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.”
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
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.”
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