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Kendrick Lamar becomes the first rapper to win the Pulitzer Prize

November 12, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

On April 16, 2018, the Pulitzer Prize Board awards the Pulitzer Prize for Music to rapper Kendrick Lamar for his 2017 album, DAMN. It was the first time the award had gone to a musical work outside the genres of classical music and jazz, a watershed moment for the Pulitzers and Lamar and a sign of the American cultural elite’s recognition of hip-hop as a legitimate artistic medium.

Born and raised in Compton, California, Lamar grew up in a community with a singular connection to the genre, and even witnessed two idols of 90s rap, Tupac Shakur and Dr. Dre, filming the video for their legendary single “California Love” in his neighborhood as a child. Even as rap took over the American music scene, many music and art critics refused to take it seriously, an attitude that only began to change in the 2000s as artists like Kanye West—whose 2013 tour featured Lamar as an opener—pushed it to new heights of musical complexity and social relevance. Lamar became known for the social commentary in his music, which Pitchfork has called “radio-friendly but overtly political,” as well as the breadth of his influences, which range from the West Coast rappers of his youth to jazz and spoken word. Plenty of Lamar’s lyrics referenced police brutality, systemic racism and other political topics, but many critics have praised his albums, DAMN. in particular, for placing personal stories within this context of societal conflict.

The Pulitzer committee called DAMN. “a virtuosic song collection unified by its vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism that offers affecting vignettes capturing the complexity of modern African-American life.” Administrator Dana Canedy said that the decision to give the award to Lamar was unanimous, adding that it was “a big moment for hip-hop music and a big moment for the Pulitzers.” Lamar’s win was widely seen as a deserved recognition of his talent as well as an overdue acknowledgement of hip-hop’s contributions to American culture. Although some in the classical music community criticized the selection, former winners and nominees praised it. Ted Hearne, a composer who was nominated alongside Lamar, called him “one of the greatest living American composers, for sure.”

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Source: HISTORY

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When Harry Truman Pushed for Universal Health Care

November 12, 2019 in History

By Sheila Mulrooney Eldred

Truman felt the middle class was left out when it came to health care coverage and fought to institute a federal health plan paid for through a payroll tax.

When Harry S. Truman enlisted in the army in World War I, he was struck by the number of men deemed unfit for service due to poor health.

“He felt it was a reflection of inadequate health care for parts of the population,” says Randy Sowell, an archivist at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum.

Poor people could receive assistance for health care from charity programs, and wealthy people could afford it—but Truman felt the middle class was left out and ill-served, Sowell explains. So shortly after Truman took over the presidency in 1945, he proposed what he considered to be a practical and reasonable solution: health care for all, paid for through a type of payroll tax.

In a draft message to Congress in 1947, Truman wrote: “Healthy citizens constitute our greatest natural resource, and prudence as well as justice demands that we husband that resource. … as a nation we should not reserve good health and long productive life for the well-to-do, only, but should strive to make good health equally available to all citizens.”

The details of the plan, which became the Wagner-Murray-Dingell Bill, were never hashed out because it never even made it to a vote. Truman later called it the greatest disappointment of his presidency.

American Medical Association Lobbies Against Reform

This letter is President Harry S. Truman’s response to a letter from his friend, Ben Turoff, in which Turoff criticized Truman’s proposal for national health insurance. In his reply, Truman denies that his program is “socialized medicine,” and asserts that the American Medical Association has misrepresented his efforts to provide government health insurance for middle-income Americans.

Truman saw his plan as an expansion of some aspects of the New Deal, a continuation of what he felt President Franklin Roosevelt would have done if he’d lived. But during a time of mounting fear of socialism, the American Medical Association (AMA) campaigned against the plan, concerned about doctors losing autonomy to government.

It even hired a P.R. firm to fight the idea, signaling the beginning of modern political propaganda campaigns, Hoffman says. It was the largest and most expensive campaign of its time. Some of the propaganda took the form of …read more

Source: HISTORY

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King Charles VI of France orders all Jews expelled from the kingdom

November 12, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

King Charles VI of France orders the expulsion of all Jews from his kingdom. The culmination of a series of anti-Semitic orders from the monarchs of France, the order outlived the monarchy and remains one of the major contributing factors to the tiny percentage of the French population that identifies as Jewish.

As with most European nations, France had been home to Jews since antiquity. Also as in the rest of Europe, the Jews of France faced frequent discrimination and persecution. French Jews had already suffered through burnings of their religious texts, discriminatory taxes and other fiscal policies targeted at Jews, being scapegoated for the Black Plague, and multiple prior attempts to expel them from France. Various cities in France independently expelled their Jews throughout the 13th and 14th centuries. They were formally expelled from the country 1306 and had their lands confiscated by the government, only to be recalled in 1315 and made to pay for the privilege of returning. Under the rules set in 1315, Jews were ordered not to discuss their religion publicly, made to wear a badge identifying themselves, and cautioned against committing usury, an accusation often leveled at Jews based on racist stereotypes.

For a time, the Crown was happier to have Jews in its lands paying taxes, but in 1394 Charles VI suddenly demanded they leave once again. France’s Jews were given a bit of time to sell to their possessions before being escorted out of French lands. There was not a major Jewish population in France again until the 1700s, when Jews fleeing violence and discrimination further East arrived in Alsace and Lorraine. By the eve of the revolution, there were roughly 40,000 Jews in France. Over the course of the turbulent years that followed 1789, the newly “enlightened” governments gradually restored Jews’ rights to live in France, but they continued to face discrimination and their numbers were further decimated during the Nazi occupation of France. Today, roughly one percent of France is Jewish.

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Source: HISTORY

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Metropolitan Museum of Art opens in New York City

November 12, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

On April 13, 1870 the Metropolitan Museum of Art is officially incorporated in New York City. The brainchild of American expatriates in Paris and a number of wealthy New Yorkers, the Met would not put on an exhibition until 1872, but it quickly blossomed into one of the world’s premier repositories of fine art, a position it holds to this day.

In 1866, a group of Paris-based American socialites that included the lawyer John Jay resolved to create “a national institution and gallery of art.” Jay and his friends appealed to the Union League Club of New York, which in turn gathered the social and political clout, as well as the financial backing, necessary for such an endeavor. On this day in 1870, the city granted them an Act of Incorporation, stipulating that the collection be kept open to the public year-round and free of charge.

The Met acquired its first object, a Roman sarcophagus, the following November. Its subsequent purchase of the Cesnola Collection of Cypriot Art, completed in 1876, made the Met North America’s premier destination for artifacts and artwork from Antiquity. Thanks in part to the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War, Jay was able to acquire a stunning 174 pieces by the Dutch Old Masters in 1871, giving the museum a substantial collection by the time it opened at its first location in 1872. In 1880, ten years after its founding, the Met moved to its current location on Fifth Avenue at 82 Street. The Met continues to display some of the world’s largest collections of European and Antique art, and has expanded to include works from every continent and nearly every medium. Today, the Met is not only one of the leading artistic and social institutions in New York but one of the best-known and most-visited museums in the world, hosting around 7 million visitors a year.

READ MORE: 10 Works of Art That Made People Really Mad

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Source: HISTORY

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Barack Obama and Raúl Castro meet in Panama

November 12, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

For the first time in over 50 years, the presidents of the United States and Cuba meet on April 11, 2015. Barack Obama and Raúl Castro, President of Cuba and brother of Fidel Castro, with whom the United States broke off diplomatic contact in 1961, shook hands and expressed a willingness to put one of the world’s highest-profile diplomatic feuds in the past.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower had cut diplomatic ties with Cuba after the Castro-led revolution overthrew a U.S.-backed dictator and installed a regime that was friendly with the Soviet Union. For the next five decades, the U.S. sought to isolate Cuba economically and politically; though it failed to get other nations to join its embargo, it did manage to severely hamstring Cuba’s economic development. Fidel Castro stepped down as president in 2008, the same year that Obama was elected. Early in his administration, Obama signed laws and executive orders that eased the U.S. embargo of Cuba and made it easier for Americans to travel to the island nation. Taking over for his brother, Raúl Castro expressed a willingness to reciprocate, and the two shook hands at a memorial service for Nelson Mandela in 2013. That year, officials from the two nations discussed normalizing relations at secret talks facilitated by Pope Francis I in Canada and at the Vatican.

The following April, Castro and Obama met, shook hands, and posed together for photographs in Panama City, Panama. Both leaders stressed their desire to work together, but warned that their meeting was only the beginning of what would have to be a long dialogue. A short time later, the Obama administration removed Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terror, and the diplomatic relationship was officially re-established in July.

The “Cuban Thaw,” along with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action between Iran, the U.S., and its allies, was one of the major foreign policy accomplishments of Obama administration, and as such its reversal was priority for his successor, Donald Trump. The Trump administration has sought to impose more restrictions on Cuba, but it has not ended commercial travel between the two countries, nor has it closed the U.S. embassy in Cuba or asked Cuba to vacate its embassy in Washington, D.C.

READ MORE: How the Castro Family Dominated Cuba for Nearly 60 Years

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Source: HISTORY