Book Brief: WEB Du Bois, Jack Kerouac

In the digital age, the concept of a physical archive may seem outdated. Taking multiple trips to the library is of no use searching for information online. But digitizing records is not an ideal solution, Written by Alexis C. Madrigalbecause it may make researchers feel more confident than what they have seen everythingAnd, as historian Lara Putnam puts it, it “separates the data from the place.” However, whether examined in person or on a computer, archives have preserved historical moments – through notes, letters, and photographs – for hundreds of years.

Jack Kerouac archive for a short time Digital parts of his collection in 1998, but spending time with his diaries and notebooks in person provides a detailed picture of him, including his way of thinking as he travels across the country for his second novel, On the road, He found Douglas Brinkley. Physical documents can help us understand individuals from the past, while depicting the world in which they lived. Stephen Kotkin attempts to address both the man and his moment in his autobiography Joseph Stalin, taking advantage of Soviet archives, which were not opened until many decades after he took power. He paints a colorful portrait of Stalin himself, as well as of his contemporaries, such as Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky.

Like Kerouac, photographer Baldwin Lee also set out to see what America had in store for him. But this is where any potential similarity ends, Casey Gerald writesLee’s portraits of Black Lives Matter in the American South represent the work of “Man He knew He didn’t know the damned thing – and chose to change that. Capturing ordinary moments in life is a powerful endeavour, especially when it highlights people not recorded by historians; William Henry Dorsey books It depicts the world of Philadelphia in the nineteenth century and was a source of inspiration for intellectuals such as W.E.B. Du Bois. Lee and Dorsey, like many others, made a conscious effort to create time capsules of the future—ones we could look at long after they died.

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Painting of an old man looking at a book and an iPhone

Print Collector / Getty / Farknot Architect / Shutterstock / Atlantic Ocean

The way we write history has changed

“I’ve spent a lot of time in the archives. They make me feel like a pilgrim of a very mysterious religion, and the process shares features of other sacred journeys. You put your things in a special locker, and you only keep your laptop, phone, and pencil. You are checked for purity on the way to Sanctuary and you are guided through a series of mysterious rights and responsibilities that relate to touching this very special paper. The rooms are beautiful. Nobody talks. Everyone is on a secret mission, just like you.”


Jack Kerouac drawing

Katie Martin / The Atlantic

In the Kerouac archives

“But if Kerouac was not unfamiliar, he might nevertheless be unknown. Much of what he wrote has not been published. Indeed, much of what he wrote has been read by only a few people. This unpublished material, including letters, notebooks, and voluminous notes which He started it at the age of fourteen, kept in a bank vault in the town of Kerouac, Lowell, Massachusetts.”


Joseph Stalin painted in red and orange, surrounded by butterflies with communist symbols on their wings

Simon Bradys

Understanding Stalin

‘Politics still affects how [Stalin] It is publicly remembered: in recent years, Russian leaders have downplayed Stalin’s crimes against his own people, while celebrating his military conquest of Europe. But the availability of thousands of once-secret documents and caches of previously hidden notes and letters made it possible for serious historians to write down the most interesting truth.”


Young woman standing outside a wooden house with her hands on the balcony frame looking at the camera

Untitled (1983-1989) (Copyright Baldwin Lee. Courtesy of Hunters Point Press/Howard Greenberg Gallery.)

More complete archive of the American South

“He made those 10,000 pictures of me because he knew the limits of one frame. He knew that even 10,000 couldn’t tell everything. This, I think, promised to restore the archive: we could get a fuller glimpse into a life like White’s, which often It is settled into stock numbers, if not an outright farce. We can begin to understand its complexity.”


Scrapbooking materials, such as newspaper, pictures, scissors, and thread

Leonard Smith

An invaluable archive of ordinary life

Today, writers and other scholars recognize the profound importance of materials such as the Dorsey Collection—resources collected and preserved unofficially by African Americans at a time when white historians claimed African Americans had no history to speak of. Nor did these historians care. a lot in the lives of ordinary people.”


information about us: This week’s newsletter written by Elise Hannum. The book you will read next is Sweet Grass Braidingby Robin Wall Kemerer.

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