Presidents, Politics, and History: Upcoming Talks in NYC

By Alison Durkee

Presidents Day is coming up, and though the country’s current relationship with the Executive Branch may be a fraught one, there’s plenty about America’s history that’s worth celebrating. Delve into the histories of our past Commanders-in-Chief and shared American history with these upcoming historical talks and events.

Celebrate the president who started it all 19th century style at Washington’s Birthday Ball, an era-specific party on February 19. You can also get insight into the life of Washington’s second successor, Thomas Jefferson, at Monticello: A Daughter and Her Father on February 21, or explore the dealings behind Ronald Reagan’s foreign policies at Reagan/Gorbachev: Reykjavik, 1986 on February 27. To learn about the African-Americans who have been serving the Presidents throughout the years, meanwhile, head to The President’s Kitchen Cabinet: The Story of the African Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families From the Washingtons to the Obamas on February 23. For a look at the darker side of presidential politics, on the other hand, hear about the Watergate scandal from the journalist who helped to uncover it at An Evening with Bob Woodward on February 21. On March 13, delve into the Constitution and the recent events that have put it to the test, from Bill Clinton’s impeachment and George W. Bush’s election to Obama’s passage of the Affordable Care Act.

Other upcoming events will take on one of the struggles of many presidencies: war. To get a detailed look at under-explored aspects of the Revolutionary War, make your way up to The Road to Concord, which delves into the four stolen British cannon that ignited a battle, or learn more about the British army’s stand in New York City at Grand Forage 1778 on March 16. The medicinal side of the Civil War and the differences between medical treatment in the North and South will be the focus of The Marrow of Tragedy: Disease and Diversity in Civil War Medicine, which takes place on February 21. For an international look at World War II and the human struggle of those affected, attend Through My Parent’s Eyes: Second Generation Memories of WWII on March 5.

While we still don’t have a woman in the Oval Office just yet, the history of women and their basic equal rights will also be explored this February and March at the New-York Historical Society. Reproductive rights will be at the center of a day-long event, Reproductive Rights in Historical Context, on March 5, as well as an exploration of Roe v. Wade and its enduring legacy on February 18. The entire daunting history of gender equality, meanwhile, will be the focus of The Ascent of Woman, which takes place on March 1.

In addition to gender equality, race will also be at the center of many upcoming historical events. Learn more about the struggles African-Americans have historically faced at an event with Daina Ramey Barry on her slavery-centered book The Price of Their Pound of Flesh (February 17), a dramatic presentation reflecting on the 1919 Elaine Race Massacre (February 19), and a 30th anniversary celebration of Eyes on the Prize (February 25), a television series that opened Americans’ eyes to the civil rights movement. For a look at New York City’s own racial history, hop on a trolley at the Green-wood Cemetery for their Black History Month-themed trolley tour across Brooklyn (February 25), or learn more about African-American life in the Bronx in the 1930s to 1960s on February 27.

Image: Antonin Rémond/Flickr

For more NYC history, delve into the history of its transportation system at an event with Prospect Heights Brainery on February 23, or join the Brainery for a more macabre look at NYC’s cemeteries and dearly departed residents on February 21. To get an insight into specific New York spots, the Brainery will also host a history of Prospect Park on March 8, while the New York Public Library will bring the activist history of Housing Works to life on February 21.

If you’re looking for more of a cultural look at America beyond New York City, explore the history of one of the most American art formsjazzand its impact at Lincoln Center’s Jazz 101 sessions on the Jazz Age (February 22) and the Swing Era (March 1). A more technical view of postwar America, meanwhile, will be provided at Columbia University on February 22, with an event centering on the history of computing and mathematical reasoning in the latter half of the 20th century. On February 24, Professor Edward Balleisen will provide a historical look at another national trend: fraud, from the dishonest exploits of PT Barnum to Bernie Madoff.

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