TalkThese Truths, by Jill Lepore - Part Three - March

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These Truths, by Jill Lepore - Part Three - March

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Edited: Mar 11, 2019, 4:38am

Edited: Mar 31, 2019, 8:35pm

Each month, January - April, we will read one section. This thread is a chance to talk about lots of things: what you knew, what you learned, what surprised you, the pictures, the people, the places....

I am not sure spoilers are needed, but it would be nice to start off your comments with a page number or a year, so others can look up what you are talking about.

The Breakdown of Sections...

January--Part One, The Idea, pages 1-149 (1492-1799)

February--Part Two, The People, pages 153-310 (1800-1865)

March--Part Three, The State, pages 311-520 (1866-1945)

April--Part Four, The Machine, pages 521-789 (1946-2016)

Feb 27, 2019, 5:58pm

pages 311-520

Feb 27, 2019, 5:59pm

Literary Arts' podcast of Jill Lepore's visit can be found on iTunes for free. You can also follow the link from here:

and then click on the green highlighted line in the main paragraph: "Click here to visit The Archive Project on iTunes.

Feb 27, 2019, 6:02pm

I am still working on the second part, but I know several of you are ready to go on Part 3!! I'll catch up soon. : )

Mar 3, 2019, 3:52pm

Thanks, Kim! I am starting Part 3, using the 10 pages a night system. Lepore is such a good writer than sometimes I get more than 10 pages in.

Mar 4, 2019, 1:45am

>6 banjo123: Man, I need to adopt your method! LOL. Carry on and enjoy. : )

Mar 5, 2019, 9:52am

Page 320 referring to The Civil Rights Act of 1866
In March, after the House passed the Civil Rights Act, Johnson vetoed it. In April, Congress, wielding its power, overrode Johnson's veto. A landmark in the history of the struggle for power between the executive and legislative branches of the federal government, Congress's stand marked the first time that it had ever overridden a presidential veto.
I find it interesting that The Civil Rights Act of 1866 was vetoed by President Andrew Johnson and overridden by Congress and The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law by another President Johnson - Lyndon Baines.

Edited: Mar 8, 2019, 8:11pm

Okay...gettting back in to my TT habit and starting Part 3. Already a few suprises for me:

I never knew that the word "citizen" was not originally defined in the Constitution. And that is was eventually broadened to include "blacks," but that only meant men. Even though women campaigned to include all races (and women).

Where the white robes for the Klu Klux Klan came from (ghosts of the Confederate dead) (p. 319) -- ugh.

First time Congress overrode a Presidential veto (p. 320)

I had no idea the Chinese immigrants were so heavily involved in mining on the West coast, nor that they came so quickly and often comprised a fairly high portion of the working people. (p. 324...)

When trying to provide rights for black men, debate about the incoming Chinese occurred. Many were against including them. Douglas speaks of a '"composition nation," one where citizenry is "made better, and stronger, not in spite of its many elements, but because of them." (p. 327) Yes!!!


Mar 8, 2019, 11:14pm

Chapter 9 is very difficult to read.

"For a minor and petty political win over the Democratic Party, Republicans first committed electoral fraud and then, in brokering a compromise, abandoned a century-long fight for civil rights."

Mar 9, 2019, 12:56am

I saw that and was so saddened.

Mar 11, 2019, 12:08pm

>9 Berly: The Chinese understood explosives - sometimes better than the American's did.

The cruelty of the Chinese Exclusionary Acts is still hard to read about these many years later

Mar 11, 2019, 1:19pm

I should not be surprised, but I am surprised that so many of the issues we struggle with today were present in the years between the Civil War and WWI. I was especially distressed to find that the identification of corporation with person was already an issue in the 19th century.

So far book three is pushing me to consider anew the moral foundations of this country, as well as heightening my awareness of the dangers of unchecked capitalism. Morally and practically, concentrations of wealth are barriers to justice, creativity, productivity - all the values the U.S. would like to be associated with. Add to that the scientific studies that determined that creativity rises with diversity, and we are well on our way to shooting ourselves in the foot - or maybe some more significant place.

Mar 11, 2019, 5:00pm

>13 ffortsa: "So far book three is pushing me to consider anew the moral foundations of this country" Me, too!

Mar 11, 2019, 8:41pm

>13 ffortsa: Well said.

Mar 11, 2019, 9:03pm

>13 ffortsa:. Completely agree Judy. Also, I didn't realize that a century ago we were already the only nation in the modern world that didn't provide health insurance for all. A century!

Edited: Mar 12, 2019, 7:23am

>13 ffortsa: ditto Kim -- well said. And when we "consider anew the moral foundations of this country," I think we also have to challenge the notion of American exceptionalism, which is deeply ingrained in the American psyche. Here's a short explanation, an excerpt from a longer piece on the subject:
American exceptionalism is not the same as saying the United States is "different" from other countries. It doesn't just mean that the U.S. is "unique." Countries, like people, are all different and unique, even if many share some underlying characteristics. Exceptionalism requires something far more: a belief that the U.S. follows a path of history different from the laws or norms that govern other countries. That's the essence of American exceptionalism: The U.S. is not just a bigger and more powerful country — but an exception. It is the bearer of freedom and liberty, and morally superior to something called "Europe." Never mind the differences within Europe, or the fact that "the world" is bigger than the U.S. and Europe. The "Europe" versus "America" dichotomy is the crucible in which American exceptionalist thinking formed.

This mindset permeated my K-12 education, and to varying degrees has been espoused by our modern-day politicians. As the article points out, Ronald Reagan was a strong proponent, but we can talk about him at length next month LOL.

Anyway, even though I'd like to be able to stand proud and say "I don't believe in American Exceptionalism," from time to time that bias still crops up in my thinking and/or my internal response to world events. These Truths shows the country for what it is, which is certainly not "exceptional."

Mar 13, 2019, 5:13pm

I finished Part 2 on Monday and am finally on Part 3. I knew about the many black politicians who held office right in the South right after the Civil War and always wondered how that had changed. Sadly, it didn't take long for the first Jim Crowe law to be passed in 1881, the first blow for segregation.

Mar 16, 2019, 4:58pm

I read up to page 408 yesterday, getting angrier and angrier at the venality, immorality, and simple ethical blindness recorded here, year after year. It's hard to know what to do with this anger, as all this #$%@ is still going on, again going on, in the U.S. and elsewhere. Exceptionalism - another example of an opiate of the people.

Mar 22, 2019, 11:32am

I'm only on page 379 but agree with you, Judy. The same issues face us today that faced us 100 years ago. Laissez-faire economics still reigns supreme, with greed and profit overriding moral and ethical considerations.

Mar 24, 2019, 12:11am

I had to give my head a shake when I got to page 380 and read, 'Opponents called universal health insurance "UnAmerican, Unsafe, Uneconomic, Unscientific, Unfair and Unscrupulous."' Not exactly farsighted, were they?

Edited: Mar 26, 2019, 3:54pm

I am still behind on my March read of the book but posted this on my thread that I wanted to share with the group.

One of my current reads is Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women's Anger. I came to a part of the book under the subtitle A Repressed Majority and speaking of female rage, it says:

"It is a loud and livid objection to the kinds of control that have long been in place in a nation built by white men who, when they angrily broke free of imperialist control themselves, promptly encoded projections of liberty and independence only for themselves, building their new nation on slavery and the oppression of women, on the legal and civic subjugation of that nation's majority."

This is so similar to what I have read in Jill Lapore's These Truths.

Mar 27, 2019, 6:15pm

"A man like Kane, {Orson} Welles said, believes that 'politics as the means of communication, and indeed the nation itself, is all there for his personal pleasuring."


Mar 28, 2019, 11:14am

Still marching through book three, still getting angry, wondering where on earth I might want to live if I don't live here in fantasy-land.

Mar 29, 2019, 6:29pm

At the end of section 9, pp 359-360

Plessy v. Ferguson. One of the worst mistakes the judicial system and America made.

"A century had passed since Jefferson had cellared all men equal. Three decades has passed since the Fourteenth Amendment had declared all person born or naturalized in the United States to be citizens. And now the Supreme Court ruled that those who would set aside equality in favor of separation had not violated the nations's founding truths."

"A Chinaman (who were not allowed to be citizens under the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act) can ride in the same passenger coach with a white citizens of the United States, while citizens of the black race in Louisiana...are yet declared to be criminals, liable to imprisonment, of they ride in a public coach occupied but citizens fo the white race."

All these laws were based on race.

Mar 29, 2019, 6:54pm

And Section 10 pp 376-377

Just remember as we approach April 15th, tax day, that Americans really wanted Federal Income Tax and the Sixteenth Amendment was ratified by 42 of 48 states (six more than required) with the wild approval percentages of 89% in the state senates and 95% in the state houses.

The first 1040 was only three pages long. Wouldn't that be easy!

Mar 31, 2019, 12:19pm

Ah, you remind me that i t's the end of the month and I should finish this part of the book. It continues to make my blood boil. I can't tell if I am glad we've lived through all this before or if I fear will will continue to live through it. Sometimes I want to wipe my citizenship off my skin as if it were a creepy spider.

Mar 31, 2019, 2:52pm

Judy, I am feeling your pain. It hurts to read about how blemished our past was yet it is somehow comforting to know that these confusing times we are living in today is nothing new in our country's history. I finished Part 3 ten days ago and I'm sufficiently recovered to carry on into modern times.

Mar 31, 2019, 7:20pm

Have I missed the thread for Part IV?

Mar 31, 2019, 8:43pm

Nope, it's right here!!

Part IV
The Machine, 1946-2016
pages 521-789

Apr 1, 2019, 8:12pm

I'm still working on part 3 and hope that part 4 is shorter? I am leaving for a trip on April 30 so better get a move on. There is no way I am lugging the big hard cover book with me!

Apr 2, 2019, 12:33am

Part 4 is about 250 pages. Get cracking, woman!! : )

Apr 2, 2019, 1:42am

Yes ma'm!

Apr 2, 2019, 2:12am

: )

Apr 6, 2019, 5:50am

>17 lauralkeet: I guess the history of the (settled) US as the place where pioneers and free thinkers went to forge new lives really laid the foundations of pride. Maybe that morphed into exceptionalism in later years. We in New Zealand never had any such illusions about our country, maybe only for our ability to beat Australia from time to time at sport!!!

Apr 6, 2019, 8:00am

>35 LovingLit: Megan, you're correct about the foundations of pride, although I think exceptionalism was present and actually a driver for the westward expansion. The concept of Manifest Destiny (something we all learned in school here), stated that "the expansion of the US throughout the American continents was both justified and inevitable." (wikipedia). It was seen as right and proper to oust the native people. *shudder*

Apr 11, 2019, 11:28am

Tagging along behind with still a hundred pages to go in this section....

I was really struck by quite a bit in the account of the Scopes evolution trial.

p. 418 "Mencken confessed that he was terrified of the people he'd met on the courthouse lawn in Dayton - their bigotry and fury set him shuddering. 'I set out laughing,' Mencken wrote to a friend, 'and returned shivering.' "

more p 418 " For Lippman, the battle between Bryan and Darrow wasn't about evolution, it was about how people decide what's true - does truth derive from faith or from reason? - and, more deeply, what happens in a democracy when people can't agree about how they decide what's true. Does the majority rule?"

p.420 "If the common people hate reason, Lippmann concluded, there's no way a government of the people can protect the freedom of thought. The person of faith cannot accept reason as the arbiter of truth without giving up on faith; the person of reason cannot accept that truth lies outside the realm of reason. "

Ever had a FB conversation with someone who disputes every fact you produce? I have.

I'm glad I purchased a copy of this book - I have lots of underlining and comments in margins, even if it is a slow read for me.

Apr 11, 2019, 12:38pm

>37 streamsong: I am still chugging along, too. Those are great quotes and, yes, I have had someone dispute my facts or call me out on my source but refuse to reveal theirs. Ugh. Glad you are enjoying.

Edited: Apr 11, 2019, 6:23pm

>37 streamsong: I love the way Lepore combines summarizing with details. I'd known quite a bit about the Scopes trial, but not the politics behind it.

>38 Berly: I'm still 'chugging along, too', Kim.

I just read the following on page 479 and was struck by the following:
In September of 1940, Churchill refused to surrender to Germany, even after the German blitz took the lives of forty thousand Londoners.
I knew the German blitz took lives, but 40,000 just in London alone by 1940? Churchill was definitely the right man for the times.

Edited to add: Finished part 3. My dad served in WWII in the US Army. He never spoke of the war except to tell two funny stories; I did ask him in 1990 whether he had killed anybody in the war and he said "Oh, yes." He did not elaborate. He was glad that Truman dropped the bombs on Japan because he was going to go from winning in Europe straight to the Pacific theater of the war.

Apr 11, 2019, 9:51pm

I finally finished part 3 a few days ago and am on to part 4. Its getting close to times that I remember (somewhat).

Apr 13, 2019, 1:28pm

>37 streamsong: great quotes. This is part of what upsets me so much in this book. We are still fighting across the divide of faith and reason, and often it's not faith in a religion, but faith in what you yourself believe against all evidence. I recall Frost's "Mending Wall", which some people think is a poem in praise. But the significant line is "He will not go behind his father's saying." Closed minds.