Upcoming NYC Talks on History

By Alison Durkee

It’s July, the time of year where we break out the fireworks and fondly remember America’s storied beginnings. But even after July 4 has come and gone, there are still plenty of opportunities to reflect on the country’s varied past. Celebrate the twists and turns of American history with these upcoming historical talks and events.

Learn more about the men who have held the highest office in the land this summer at several presidential-themed events, including the tale of PT 109 (July 18), one of President John F. Kennedy’s wartime exploits at sea that the president commemorated with a plastic-coated coconut on his Oval Office desk. Go back to the 1930s with a thorough look at Herbert Hoover’s presidency (July 12), or celebrate the long history of connections between Trinity Church Wall Street and the White House with a new exhibition at St. Paul’s Chapel. Of course, women have also played a big role in the country’s political history, and attendees can learn how women’s fight for their own rights became a political issue at an event on July 19. On July 26, Federal Hall will mark the 2017 New York State Centennial of Women’s Suffrage with a talk exploring the history of women’s rights.

Another centennial being celebrated this year is the anniversary of World War I, and those hoping to discover more about the Great War will have plenty of chances to do so this summer at the New-York Historical Society. Learn more about NYC’s role in the war at an event with author Kevin Fitzpatrick on July 28, or discover the impact the war had on American fashion at a talk on July 21. The war will also be commemorated through the performing arts with a screening of All Quiet on the Western Front (July 7), as well as A Silent Night (July 14), a performance featuring the music of both European and American composers who lived through, fought or died in World War I.

Regardless of what’s going on in politics at the time, America has always been known for its thriving food culture – but the two may be more intertwined than we realize. On July 20, the Museum of Food and Drink will host a talk exploring how America’s shifting immigration policies have impacted the country’s food culture, revealing just how connected food and politics can be (July 20). To discover the delicious culinary influence that America’s Chinese immigrants have had on our food culture for themselves, New Yorkers can take a food tour of Flushing, Queens (July 29), which will delve into the neighborhood’s rich history, or learn more about the wok in America and the history of this essential cooking tool (July 18).

There’s plenty to discover about America’s cultural history beyond food, though. Look back on the often-romanticized era of the 1950s without your rose-colored glasses at Evoking the 1950s on July 8, which will examine the era’s major developments and the popular notion that these were the “good old days” of America’s past. For some more recent history, meanwhile, go back to the late 90s and explore how media has developed over the past 20 years at From Napster to Netflix on July 10.

As one of America’s most iconic cities, New York City has plenty of historical tales of its own to discover. Learn about the men behind some of the city’s greatest landmarks at Chief Engineer: The Man Who Built the Brooklyn Bridge (July 11) and Olmsted and America’s Urban Parks (July 24), a screening and discussion celebrating the designer behind Central and Prospect Parks. As long as you’re in Brooklyn, discover the Crown Heights neighborhood of past and present at a talk on July 18, or head over to Green-Wood Cemetery for an atmospheric twilight tour of the final resting spot for many of the city’s renowned historical residents (July 14 & 28). For a look at some of the darker sides to New York’s history, meanwhile, get out to Roosevelt Island for a tour centering on the island’s “mad” past as the home of the city’s “undesirables” (July 15), or learn about the city’s history of being on the brink of financial collapse at Fear City: New York’s Fiscal Crisis and the Rise of Austerity Politics on July 12.

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