n an ever-changing media landscape where the truth is
being contested, Kathryn Cramer Brownell, assistant
professor of history, seeks to bridge the gap between the
breadth of academia and the accessibility of traditional
news sources. She is a co-editor of Made by History, a
new website published by The Washington Post that adds
historical context to current events in the United States
through writings by historical experts and faculty from
around the country.
According to Brownell, people need to understand and
apply principles of American history now more than ever.
She intends to bring “the rigor of an academic journal”
and combine it with “with the reach and speed of a news
organization to facilitate engagement between historians
and the public.”
Her role in the operations of Made by History includes
editing, developing articles, and reviewing submissions. In
the site’s welcome post, the editors make clear that despite
the stereotype that historians care only about dates, they
really “aim to make sense of the debates of the past.”
As co-editor, Brownell has pushed for her colleagues
in the Department of History to become contributors, and
many have stepped up enthusiastically. Cornelius Bynum,
associate professor of history, recently explored President
Harry Truman’s Executive Order 9981, which desegregated
the military. Bynum breaks down the impact the law had
on the years following, particularly during the civil rights
era. In keeping with the vision of the Made by History
editors, Bynum links the history of desegregation to help
contextualize and understand racism and racial struggles
that remain today.
From a classroom perspective, Made by History
demonstrates how lessons learned in a classroom reach
beyond academic discourse to provide insight and
understanding in a contemporary political climate.
By Caroline Shanley.
University Hall, home of the Department of History. Photo by Trevor Mahlmann.