In an ever-changing media landscape where the truth is being contested, Kathryn Cramer Brownell, assistant professor of history, seeks to bridge the gap between the breadth of academia and the accessibility of traditional news sources. She is a co-editor of Made by History, a new website published by The Washington Post that adds historical context to current events in the United States through writings by historical experts and faculty from around the country.
According to Brownell, people need to understand and apply principles of American history now more than ever. She intends to bring “the rigor of an academic journal” and combine it with “with the reach and speed of a news organization to facilitate engagement between historians and the public.”
Her role in the operations of Made by History includes editing, developing articles, and reviewing submissions. In the site’s welcome post, the editors make clear that despite the stereotype that historians care only about dates, they really “aim to make sense of the debates of the past.”
As co-editor, Brownell has pushed for her colleagues in the Department of History to become contributors, and many have stepped up enthusiastically. Cornelius Bynum, associate professor of history, recently explored President Harry Truman’s Executive Order 9981, which desegregated the military. Bynum breaks down the impact the law had on the years following, particularly during the civil rights era. In keeping with the vision of the Made by History editors, Bynum links the history of desegregation to help contextualize and understand racism and racial struggles that remain today.
From a classroom perspective, Made by History demonstrates how lessons learned in a classroom reach beyond academic discourse to provide insight and understanding in a contemporary political climate.