97 Orchard Street – Lower East Side, Manhattan

The “Getting By” tour takes you through a typical day in the life of two families that lived at different times in the tenements at 97 Orchard Street. The building that I walked through was very dark with narrow hallways. The walls were lined with potato sacks and the ceiling was made of aluminum. There were paintings on the walls and it had a wooden banister. From downstairs it seemed like a regular apartment building that just needed some better lighting and a good cleaning. But once I went upstairs, I got the chance to step back in time and see how the tenants really lived. The quarters were tight and the views were nonexistent. The families had no privacy, and the children had nowhere to play. The tenements were by no means suitable living conditions, but they were in America – and to the residents of Manhattan’s poverty stricken, disease ridden, over populated Lower East Side, that meant that there was chance for a batter life. A chance that simply was not possible where they came from.

@ 97 Orchard Street

I’ve actually visited this museum on more than one occasion, once in elementary school, again in my first year of college for a sociology paper, and them a third time for this class. I chose to visit the tenement museum again for this assignment rather than one of the other sites in NYC with historic significance because I thought it would be a good idea for my 12 year old sister to get a look at how difficult the conditions were that our grandparents had to endure when they first came to this country to give us the opportunities that we now have in front of us. I think it would be a great idea for anyone who hasn’t been there to make it a point to get there at some point – I think you’ll  all really appreciate it.

-C. Salama


Protest Songs

We all know that “every action has an equal or greater reaction”, and as we take a look back at the past we see that anything significant enough to be spoken about 20, 30, 50, or even over 100 years later was more than likely a reaction that clearly stems either directly from a particular act or event.

The 1960s and 1970s are widely considered to be some of the most turbulent and radical times in history, so it should come as no surprise that the arts (music in particular) would reflect that. Wikipedia labels some particular eras of protest music under the following categories:

  1. 1940s- 1950s; The labor movement vs McCarthyism; Anti-Nuclear songs
  2. The 1960s: The Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, and Peace and Revolution
  3. 1970s: The Vietnam War, Soul Music
  4. In the Twenty-First Century: The Iraq War and the Revival of the Protest Song

I think that  we should consider those basic differences but more importantly the fact that, like we spoke about in class, today it seems like the message needs to be much more blunt to be noticed as ‘radical’ in any way. I’m posting here a song from 2001 called “In All Rwanda’s Glory” by Rx Bandits – if you listen to the lyrics, its very clear that the author is frustrated with the government’s response to human rights issues and is referencing the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

To contrast that song’s clear message, I’m also linking Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in The USA”. The song was released in 1984, but I think it takes on more of a 1970’s message in that it was written in response to the Vietnam war, but contrary to popular belief it isn’t the patriotic song that people think it is, it’s actually  a song depicting the horrors that were faced by returning vets.

-C. Salama




Freedom From the Grasp of Foreign Oil?

Over the course of any history class, it becomes quite apparent that any event, act, or regulation has a very direct cause . One issue that seems to constantly be making headlines and undoubtedly has a very clear and direct effect on each of us is the perpetually  rising oil prices. At it’s core, the principals that govern the fluctuation of oil prices are the most basic fundamentals of business – supply and demand. However, as our dependency on foreign oil rises, it becomes easier for oil producing countries to step beyond these fundamentals and take a more active role in setting their own prices and indirectly having their say in the direction of our economy.

An offshore oil rig in arctic Alaska

Any disaster as severe as the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 or the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon near the Gulf Coast this past summer is sure to stir up quite a scare when it comes to the dangers involved in the exploration and drilling of hard to reach oil fields, so it should come as no surprise that the government would subsequently put further exploration under a close watch. But the more you read into the benefits of increasing domestic oil production and therefore lessening our dependency on that of foreign countries the extent to which higher domestic output only becomes more and more apparent and it becomes irrefutably evident that it would be a major step in our ongoing quest toward economic recovery.

Over the past few weeks there have been many steps taken by the Federal Government to trying to ease the effects of these steadily rising prices on the pockets of the American people; and in fact, just yesterday “In his weekly radio and Internet address,” President Obama said that, “the administration would begin to hold annual auctions for oil and gas leases in the Alaska National Petroleum Reserve, a 23-million-acre tract on the North Slope of Alaska.” (John Broder, New York Times). It’s very clear that the president has real understanding of what’s actually going on in our country and is making an effort to show the people that he’s doing what he can to help us; and although I do not agree wit hall of his policies, I feel that I must commend him for his ability to speak to, and connect with, the average American citizen on very personal level.

This latest step in Washington’s stance on drilling within our nation’s border is sure to have a very direct and hopefully positive effect on each of us individually as well as on our economy as whole, and I encourage you all to take a few minutes to read the article that I’ve linked below – or at the very least watch the videos.

-C. Salama

Video: Obama on New Drilling Leases

\”Shrinking Oil Supplies Put Alaskan Pipeline at Risk\” – The Wall Street Journal

\”Shrinking Oil Supplies…\” Video

\”Obama Shifts to Speed Oil and Gas Drilling in U.S.\” – New York Times


Modern History

Rather than just focusing on one topic in particular that Foner discussed in chapter 27, I think that it would be very interesting to spend a nice amount of time talking about the progression of the world over the past 20 years or so.


I believe it was Confucius that cursed his enemies saying, “may you live in interesting times”, and while the times we are living now may not be the ‘worst’ that we’ve discussed over the course of the semester, there is no doubt that they have been some of the most faced-paced, constantly changing years in the history of our world and certainly the brief history of our country. From the fall of the communist Soviet Union and the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, to the Persian Gulf War and September 11th, to the bursting of the Internet Bubble in 2001 and the Crash in the housing market that led to the recession we read about everyday – we are certainly living in quite interesting times.


-C. Salama


Becoming “Green”

Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring"

One thing in chapter 25 that really stood out to me was the section about the expoansion of the idea of Environmentalism. Today, it seems very normal that we would consider the impact that our actions have on the planet – but as we probably already knew, it was’nt always a thought that was on the top of all of our minds.

At the end of chapter 24, while concluding his discussion on the 1950s and leading in to a discussion about the 1960s, Foner mentions briefly some of the the reasons that protecting the environment suddenly started to become such a major area of concern. He mentions how the emmissions from the growing number of cars on the road, along with the “improvement” of more efficient gasoline and other widely used products were all severely polluting the air and tearing a hole in the Earth’s ozone layer.

In 1962 a book entitled “Silent Spring” was written by a marine biologist by the name of Rachel Carson. This book vividly illustrated the effects of a particular chemical known as “DDT”, which was used to keep away insects and was killing birds and other animals as well as making humans sick. “Silent Spring” effectively launched the modern day environmentalist movement.

-C. Salama


“Federal Aid Weakens the Sturdiness of Our National Character”

I know that someone already used this cartoon, and that I also spoke about it during class, but i think that it helps to make a point that I happen to feel quite strongly about….
Much the same as what people have become increasingly afraid might today if the Federal Government becomes too involved in economic affairs by ‘over-regulating’ big business and the economy as a whole, this cartoon implies that some of the steps taken by FDR in the New Deal may have come dangerously close to a socialist state. Most notably, the National Recovery Administration (NRA) that was created to promote cooperation between big business and the government by implicating codes to regulate output, prices, and work conditions. Through the NRA, Roosevelt “Had repudiated the older idea of liberty based on the idea that the best way to encourage economic activity and ensure a fair distribution of wealth was to allow market competition to operate unrestrained by the government.”  – pretty much a survival of the fittest type of situation.
I think that President Grover Cleveland’s the idea that “The government should not support the people” and that, “Federal aid… weakens the sturdiness of our national character” speaks volumes about what true capitalism, for better or for worse, is really about. Actually, I believe quite strongly that many of the policies enacted by the New Deal are, today more than ever, serving as a crutch for the weak and lazy (for lack of a better term).
Don’t get me wrong, I do understand that we might not all have what it takes to become billionaires, and that much of it can sometimes be out of our hands, but things like social security, and welfare – which were created to help a devastated population during the Great Depression – seem to actually be hurting more than they’re helping by “weakening the sturdiness of not only our national cgaracter, but more importantly our character as individuals… And that’s why I decided to expound on the point that I made during class earlier today.

-C. Salama


Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

The roots of the “Roaring Twenties” can easily be traced to the unprecedented growth of the new American automotive industry. Basically created because of Henry Ford’s perfection of the process of mass production with his development of the moving assembly line in the early part of the 20th century, the rapid expansion of the industry gave way to one of the most prolific eras of economic boom in American history.

1920's Automobile Factory

In chapter 20, Foner mentions that “The automobile was the backbone of economic growth.” Citing that the production of cars had tripled annually during the 1920’s. What is the most significant aspect in measuring the success of the 1920’s with the explosion of the auto industry, however, is that although Automotive factories would seem to replace the steel and textile factories that were the driving force behind the inturstrial boom of the late 19th century, it would actually bring expansion and success to the production of  “steel, rubber, oil production, road construction, and other sectors of the economy. It prompted tourism and the growth of suburbs…” (Foner, 722)

Many economists believe that the production of steel is one of, if not the, most important factors in determining the health, and direction of the economy – high levels of steel production mean high levels of new construction, and in the production of cars. This still holds true today (for further explanation see,  \”Steel Industry Will Signal Recession\’s End\”).

-C. Salama


Not Dissimilar To Our MIstakes…

I think this picture pretty much speaks for itself - an image we came a little bit too close to in the past couple of years...

I’m posting here a very famous picture from The Wall Street Journal of what looks like a stock broker or investor who lost it all the day after the crash of October 29, 1929. This picture, to me, represents a hard fall very similar to the one that many of us felt just a few short years ago with the failure and bailing out of companies like Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs, AIG, and countless monstrous financial institutions. I’ve als0 posted a video that may be a little bit on the lengthly side, and much of it may sound rather elementary and pretty redundant to many of you; but I think that the person who made it simplifies very clearly the true causes of The Great Depression, puts into perspective just how close we actually came after the financial meltdown of 2008 to another one, and how we actually made MANY of the same mistakes this time around:

Video: What Caused The Great Depression

-C. Salama


Kiss the Flag!

I think the words in the image are a pretty adequate caption, but take a minute to think about what the flag means to us today - because according to what's written in chapter 19, its not even close to what it came to represent during WWI.

In chapter 19 there is section entitled “Coercive Patriotism”, wherein Foner briefly describes the extent to which the Patriotism of World War I era America was sometimes nothing more than a forced loyalty.

The American flag became more than just the sign of a nation, it became a symbol of commitment to democracy and a test of a person’s true patriotism. He even goes so far as to say that “Persons suspected f disloyalty were forced to kiss the flag in public; those who made statements critical of the flag could be imprisoned.”

Apparently, freedom of speech didn’t really apply to those speaking of anything other than freedom.

While Foner’s coverage of the topic does seem sufficient as compared to that of some other points (like the era’s rapid advancement of war technology), I feel that, especially when considering the book’s title ‘Give Me Liberty’, it would have made sense to go in depth to describe the extent to which the American People’s freedom seemed to be rather non existent. Maybe its just a modern ideal, but since when is forcing anything on the people of our nation really the American way…?

-C. Salama


King of Steel

A US Steel Bond from the early 1900's

Taking into account the fact that we do attend school in New York city, it’s more than likely that most of our families probably immigrated to the United States in just the past 100 years or so in search of a better life. America was free, and that meant opportunity for anyone to not only better their situation in life, but to really make it – to realize the “American Dream”.

To me, Andrew Carnegie represents better than anyone one else in history, the realization of this “American Dream”. He came here from Scotland in 1848 when his native land fell on hard times. He started as a worker in a cotton mill at the age of 13, working 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, earning $8 a month. At 15, he began work as a telegraph messenger boy; and by 1853, when he was just 18 years old he had worked his way up to heading the Pittsburgh division of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company – the perfect place to be to witness and take part in the creation of the world’s first big business.

Fast forward a couple of years to the mid 1870’s. After a considerable amount of successful investments, many of which returned over $1,000,000, Carnegie founds the Carnegie Steel Company. Carnegie Steel quickly becomes an industry leader and plays a major role in The United States becoming the world’s overwhelmingly largest producer of steel. In 1901 Carnegie Steel is integrated as part of the newly found US Steel Corporation, a conglomerate of the largest steel producers in the country created in an effort to maximize profit by minimizing cost and waste, and eliminating competition. The company becomes the world’s first Billion dollar corporation – worth over $1,400,000,000.

Andrew Carnegie’s Shares are bought out for $225,639,000 – thats about $5,741,789,168 in today’s terms.

From his humble begginings as a cotton mill worker to one of the richest, most significant, most influencial men in modern history, Andrew Carnegie is proof that hard work, dedication, and the right opportunities can give anybody a chance and greatness.

Andrew Carnegie IS the American Dream.

-C. Salama


Jack Kennedy

To me, John F. Kennedy represents the ideal American President. A man loved by all, who achieved what everyone said was not possible at the age that he did it. A man who had the ability to not only persuade people to do what he needed, but to influence them to his way of thinking; and he did it all with style, class, and true charisma.



Every so often, a piece of information comes along that, for whatever reason, triggers my interest in a manner just slightly different than the rest of the nonsense that floats by my mind day in and day out. From the looks of it, Eric Foner’s review of David Blight’s “Race and Reunion” very well just may be one of those sparks (whether or not Foner is just that good of a writer… well, that we’ll just have to wait and find out).

I’d never given much thought to the idea that history is so dependent on the memory of whoever writes it, or the extent to which it can be ‘manipulated’ by any particular bais – that, even what we’ve always regarded as fact can also have 2 (or more) sides to the story. What I found to be the clearest example of this was when Foner writes of the “Ironies”, that, “Abounded in the triumph of the reconciliationist outlook.” Particularly that, “Even Memorial Day, which had begun in 1865 when thousands of black South Carolinians laid flowers on the graves of Union soldiers, soon became an occasion for expressions of white nationalism and reconciliation.”

As far as I can see from this review, Blight seems to portray quite strongly the idea that History really is only as true as the memory of those who win the battle of having their side of the story brought to, believed, and accepted by the masses; and that may just be what it was about this review that seemed to spark my interest.

-C. Salama