Excerpts Archive

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Excerpt: The Last Cavalryman: The Life of General Lucian K. Truscott, Jr.

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Day of the Dead—Día de los Muertos

Art and photographs by Astrud J. Reed, Enrolled Cherokee Multimedia Artist specializing in Gourd, Indigenous, and Cultural Art

Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) has become one of the biggest holidays in Mexico, and celebrations are becoming more common in areas of the United States with a large Hispanic population. Family and friends gather together to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. Its origins are distinctly Mexican—during the time of the Aztecs, a month long summer celebration was overseen by the goddess Mictecacihuatl, the Lady of the Dead. After the Aztecs were conquered by Spain and Catholicism became the dominant religion, the customs became intertwined with the Christian commemoration of All Saints’ Day on November 1 and All Soul’s Day on November 2.

People go to cemeteries to be with the souls of the departed and build private altars that include sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages as well as photos and memorabilia of the departed. The intent is to encourage visits by the souls, so that the souls will hear the prayers and the comments of the living directed to them. Some families build altars or small shrines in their homes and these usually include the Christian cross, statues or pictures of the Blessed Virgin Mary and pictures of deceased relatives, candles, and offerings.

Rudolfo Anaya, master storyteller and “the godfather of Chicano literature”, draws inspiration from these and other Mexican traditions in his writings including his nonfiction compilation The Essays and in The Man Who Could Fly and other Stories, a collection of short stories.  In the story “Jeronimo’s Journey,” Anaya tells the story of a gardener who returns to his village in Mexico on the Day of the Dead and captures the sights, smells, and sounds of the poor villagers as they prepare for a funeral and for the Day of the Dead celebrations. He conveys the young man’s questions about death and the contrast between his life as a gardener for the rich and the simple traditions that make his home still familiar.

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African American Scholar Recalls an Academic Civil War

Race and the University imageIn 1967, George Henderson, the son of uneducated Alabama sharecroppers, accepted a full-time professorship at the University of Oklahoma, despite his mentor’s warning to avoid the “redneck school in a backward state.”

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