Category Archives: American Politics

All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance

By Danielle Prostrollo

mlkToday marks another Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: a welcomed day off for many, a few mattress and car sales, and another cursory glance at the I Have a Dream speech.

But King was more than his iconic speech. He was a normal person who believed poor and working people should have equal opportunity to live with dignity and decency – a conversation we are still having today.

In a sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church, King made it clear that “the ‘no D’ is as significant as the PhD and the man who has been to ‘No House’ is as significant as the man who has been to Morehouse” (King, p. 246).  In a recent Ted talk, Ken Robinson similarly chided the reality that certain jobs have been put on a pedestal and others disparaged.

To illustrate this point, Robinson recounts the story of a young firefighter:
“When I got to the senior year of school, my teachers didn’t take it seriously. This one teacher didn’t take it seriously. He said I was throwing my life away if that’s all I chose to do with it; that I should go to college, I should become a professional person, that I had great potential and I was wasting my talent to do that.” He said, “It was humiliating. It was in front of the whole class and I felt dreadful. But it’s what I wanted, and as soon as I left school, I applied to the fire service and I was accepted. You know, I was thinking about that guy recently, just a few minutes ago when you were speaking, about [the] teacher, because six months ago, I saved his life.”

The young firefighter pulled his former teacher and wife out of the wreckage of a car crash.

The world needs firefighters, garbage collectors, cleaners.  Every person deserves dignity and the chance to earn a decent wage.  Businessmen, lawyers, and the wealthy do not hold the monopoly on living value.  News stories about the minimum wage economy (e.g. Walmart wages and food stamps) put King’s belief in a current societal context.

We know the “I Have a Dream” speech but today we need to look beyond the myth at the imperfect man who battled the crushing pressures of fighting for what he believed in and can perhaps consider what we believe in and how we, too, might stand up for it.

A couple of books that help dispel the mythology of MLK, Jr.:
  • The Radical King, by Martin Luther King, Jr. edited by Cornel West
    This book is a collection of King’s speeches organized and introduced by West to highlight the progression of King’s values over time
  • Death of a King, by Tavis Smiley
    Smiley takes interviews of King’s widow, close friends, and scholars and puts together a realistic look at the last year of King’s life
A link to Ken Robinson’s whole Ted talk (video and transcript)


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Filed under American Culture, American History, American Politics, Books, Current Events, Uncategorized

Short thoughts on America during a recent visit to Seething Airfield

By Danielle Prostrollo

This past week Don and I had the chance to visit the very chilly, overcast WWII-era USAAF airfield at Seething.  Our tour guide Pat, well-versed in all areas of the base from the inner workings of the B24 to childhood games of dare played around the base, took us around the control tower filled with reminders of the Greatest Generation.  In an election season that has not brought out the best of my country, it is more than relieving to hear reminiscent stories of positivity and fondness toward the American people.  When Seething was a bustling airfield things were, in a way, simpler.  The goal was well-defined and, overwhelmingly, we worked together.

While the news pulls us in every direction, my hope for America on this Election Day is that whilst standing in line at your polling location you give up a chair to a weary laborer, let the harried mother-of-three ahead of you, or simply smile at the polling volunteers who carry a very important task on their shoulders.  None of us have all of the answers but we are all American.

In the forthcoming days, pictures and details of our trip to Seething will be published in a joint post by Don and myself. 


Filed under American Culture, American Politics, Current Events, World War 2

Who is Iwan Morgan?

On Wednesday Nov. 12, 2014 Professor Iwan Morgan from University College London will be kicking off our second instalment of the Autumn Lecture Series. So, who is Iwan Morgan?

Morgan is Professor of US Studies and Commonwealth Fund Professor of American History in UCL’s Institute of the Americas. With a PhD in International History from the London School of Economics, Morgan has published widely in various fields of modern US political history and in political economy. Much of his work has a presidential focus. He is currently working on a biography of Ronald Reagan that covers his life in Hollywood and political office.

Iwan Morgan teaches postgraduate courses on: The Rise of the Sunbelt since 1945; US Economic Policy from the New Deal to Obama; and US Presidents and the Presidency. He also teaches an undergraduate course on Richard Nixon and Watergate.

His Wednesday Nov. 12th lecture, ‘Before the Red Scare: Hollywood’s Nazi-Hunting Movies, 1945-47′ reviews Hollywood’s post-war Nazi-hunting movies, their representation of Nazis and Nazism, and their linkage to the film noir genre.

We hope to see you there! 6:30pm, Vernon Castle Room, book your space!

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Filed under American Culture, American History, American Politics, Current Events, Local Interest, Memorial Library, Public Events, Uncategorized

With Autumn Comes the Autumn Lecture Series

As we are once again confronted with the deluge of rain, falling ombre leaves, crisp air and the earlier arrival of night we know that Autumn is once again upon us. This means that the Memorial Library’s annual Autumn Lecture Series is also here.


This year we are looking at American Film, Politics and Popular Culture in our ‘Projecting America’ series. The program overall considers the many ways in which America’s politics, culture and history is ‘projected’ onto the big screen and by extension transported to audiences all over the world. It considers what narratives are being told, to what aim and to who? How do we see America?

12 years a slaveThe series features scholars from a variety of academic disciplines at the University of East Anglia and also from University College London. Opening the program we have our partners from the School of American Studies who will continue to honor Black History Month with a roundtable discussion on Steve McQueen’s film, 12 Years a Slave and Amma Asante’s film, Belle. These two very recent films document the legacy of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and its impact on blacks both in America and Great Britain.

Picture1Following this inaugural lecture, Professor Iwan Morgan from University College London will be reviewing Hollywood’s post-war Nazi-hunting movies, their representation of Nazis and Nazism, and their linkage to the film noir genre. Morgan is Professor of US Studies and Commonwealth Fund Professor of American History in UCL’s Institute of the Americas. His lecture, ‘Before the Red Scare: Hollywood’s Nazi-Hunting Movies, 1945-47’ will feature on November 12th.

Picture2On November 19th we are pleased to welcome Professor Yvonne Tasker from the Film Studies Department at UEA. Her research is broadly concerned with the politics of popular culture. She looks specifically at military culture on screen, action and adventure narratives and crime television. Her lecture, ‘Television Crime Drama and Homeland Security: From Law & Order to “Terror TV”‘  will explore themes of racial profiling, motive and political violence, coercion, and the ethics of interrogation within crime television.

Picture3Bringing our series to a close is Dr. Richard Maguire from the History Department at UEA who will deliver his lecture, ‘A few Good Men’. The Battle Over the American Military Through Film’ on November 25th. A former military serviceman himself, Dr Maguire’s research focuses on the history of western military culture. His lecture will consider how the American military is portrayed in film.

With the exception of the first lecture, this year each lecture will incur a small fee of £2. We would like to remind our visitors that the Memorial Library is a registered UK charity (No. 269047) and our ability to host the lecture series and other events is significantly bolstered by the contributions made from patrons.Because space is limited booking is required for all events and  can be made via email: or over phone: 01603 774747. All lectures are held in the Vernon Castle Room in the Millennium Library from 6:30pm-7:30pm. We hope to see you all there.

Until then keep warm and keep watching!



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Filed under American Culture, American History, American Politics, Current Events, Local Interest, Memorial Library, Public Events