Excavating the Colonial War on D.C. Alleys in the Making of Imperial Washington

Simultaneously a symbol for the nation and a longtime major Black city without political representation, Washington, D.C., has appeared to many—in the words of blues poet Gil Scott-Heron—as “a ball of contradictions” between affluent white political elites “who come and go” and the predominantly Black poor and working-class “who’ve got to stay.” Perhaps nowhere is this entanglement better illustrated than the McMillan Plan’s Progressive Era redesign of “Imperial Washington” made possible by the racialized slum clearance of the Metropolitan Police Department’s “war on alleys” at the turn of the twentieth century.

Britain, the United States, and the Danish West Indies, 1916-17

The islands of St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John are surrounded by Puerto Rico—once a Spanish colony—and the British Virgin Islands. Between the early eighteenth century and the early twentieth, the three main islands, combined with smaller minor islands in the surrounding archipelago, formed a single Danish colony: the Danish West Indies. In March 1917, sovereignty over the Danish West Indies was transferred from Denmark to the United States. This was because the Americans had purchased the islands for $25 million (the most they had ever spent on new territory) and, in doing so, created the territory of the US Virgin Islands.

Lessons from 1911: Taal Volcano, American Colonialism, and Philippine Disaster Nationalism

When Taal erupted in January of 1911 the Philippines were the largest overseas colony of the United States. Residents on what was then called Bulkan ng Isla—Volcano Island—awoke to a strong earthquake on January 27… Bulkan ng Isla, wrote an observer, “was devastated, not a blade of grass escaping,” and an estimated 1200-2000 people lost their lives. As Taal quieted, a new storm over the American response brewed.

The Greatest Show on Earth: Power, Spectacle, and Performance in the Traveling Circus

At every turn, the traveling circus in the United States was an exercise in hyperbole and spectacle; the Barnum & Bailey circus did, after all, refer to itself as the “Greatest Show on Earth!” To Americans, spectacle and power were nearly synonymous, and the circus was an incomparable experience and a force to be reckoned with. The circus, through methods sometimes as simple as using opera chairs, came to serve as a symbol of the United States’ industrial prowess and ever-growing significance on the world stage.