21 episodes

A podcast about people and events in American history you may not know much about. Yet.

Unsung History Kelly Therese Pollock

    • History
    • 4.5 • 8 Ratings

A podcast about people and events in American history you may not know much about. Yet.

    The Original Fight for the Equal Rights Amendment

    The Original Fight for the Equal Rights Amendment

    After the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920, enfranchising (some) women, lots of questions remained. If women could vote, could they serve on juries? Could they hold public office? What about the array of state-laws that still privileged husbands and fathers over wives and daughters in regard to property and earnings rights? 
    In February 1921, Alice Paul, head of the National Woman’s Party declared: “Now that political freedom has been won, we hope to wipe out sex discrimination in law, so that the legal status of women will be self-respecting.” Their strategy to accomplish this, on the advice of legal scholar Professor Albert Levitt of George Washington University was to push for a new constitutional amendment, which became known as the Equal Rights Amendment.
    Between 1923 and 1932, Congress held six hearings on the ERA, but it faced fierce opposition until the mid-1930s. By the mid-1930s, support for the ERA began to increase dramatically, as congressional subcommittees started to report the amendment favorably nearly every year after 1936.  In 1940 the Republican Party added the ERA to its party platform. Four years later the Democratic party did the same. 
    On October 12, 1971, the House of Representatives finally voted on the ERA, introduced by Michigan Democrat Martha Griffiths. The vote passed 354 to 24, with 51 not voting. On March 22, 1972, the Senate also passed the bill, 84-8, with 8 not voting. Then the fight moved to the states. As of October 2021, 38 states have ratified the amendment, the final three states coming long after the original deadline, but the amendment has not been added to the Constitution.
    I’m joined in this episode by Dr. Rebecca DeWolf, author of the new book: Gendered Citizenship: The Original Conflict over the Equal Rights Amendment, 1920–1963, who also graciously fact checked the introduction to the episode.
    Our theme song is Frogs Legs Rag, composed by James Scott and performed by Kevin MacLeod, licensed under Creative Commons. Episode image is: “A group of young members of the National Woman's Party before the Capitol. They are about to invade the offices of the senators and congressmen from their states, to ask them to vote for Equal Rights.“ Washington D.C, ca. 1923. Library of Congress. https://www.loc.gov/item/mnwp000193/.

    Additional Sources and Links:

    Equal Rights Amendment, Alice Paul Institute

    The Equal Rights Amendment Explained, The Brennan Center for Justice

    “Why the Equal Rights Amendment Is Still Not Part of the Constitution: A brief history of the long battle to pass what would now be the 28th Amendment” by Lila Thulin, Smithsonian Magazine

    “The Long Road to Equality: What Women Won from the ERA Ratification Effort,” Library of Congress

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    • 41 min


    Writer, musician, and political activist Zitkála-Šá, also known as Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, was born on February 22, 1876, on the Yankton Indian Reservation in South Dakota, where she lived until she was eight.
    When Zitkála-Šá was eight years old, missionaries came to the reservation to recruit children to  go to White's Indiana Manual Labor Institute. Despite her mother’s pleading, Zitkála-Šá begged to go to the school with her older brother. She later wrote that she regretted the decision almost immediately, but after three years in the boarding school she no longer felt at home on the reservation either.
    Throughout her life Zitkála-Šá continued to live in two worlds, using her writing and speaking to advocate for the rights of Native Americans. She taught at Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania, the most well-known of the off reservation boarding schools, where she came into conflict with the school’s founder and headmaster Colonel Richard Henry Pratt, whose motto was “Kill the Indian, save the man.” She studied violin and wrote articles in Atlantic Monthly and Harper’s Monthly, critical of the boarding schools and the trauma the children experienced. Prof. William F. Hanson of Brigham Young University she wrote an opera, the Sun Dance Opera, based on the sacred Sioux ritual that had been banned by the federal government. 
    In 1926, Zitkála-Šá and her husband, Captain Raymond Bonnin, who was also Yankton Dakota, co-founded the National Council of American Indians to "help Indians help themselves" in government relations. Many conflicts had to be resolved by Congress and the Bonnins were instrumental in representing tribal interests. Zitkála-Šá was the council’s president, public speaker, and major fundraiser, until her death in 1938.
    To help us learn more, I’m joined by Dr. P. Jane Hafen (Taos Pueblo), Professor Emerita of English at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and the editor of two books of Zitkála-Šá’s writings: ​​Dreams and Thunder: Stories, Poems, and the Sun Dance Opera and "Help Indians Help Themselves": The Later Writings of Gertrude Simmons-Bonnin (Zitkala-Sa), who graciously assisted in fact checking the introduction to this episode.
    Our theme song is Frogs Legs Rag, composed by James Scott and performed by Kevin MacLeod, licensed under Creative Commons. The episode image is: “Zitkala Sa, Sioux Indian and activist, c. 1898,” by Gertrude Kasebier, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.

    Recommended Organization for Donation:
    Native American Rights Fund

    Additional Sources and Links:

    American Indian Stories, Zitkála-Šá

    Impressions of an Indian Childhood by Zitkála-Šá

    Oklahoma's Poor Rich Indians: An Orgy of Graft and Exploitation of the Five Civilized Tribes, Legalized Robbery by Zitkala-S̈a, Charles H. Fabens, and Matthew K. Sniffen. Office of the Indian Rights Association, 1924. 

    Red Bird Sings: The Story of Zitkala-Sa, Native American Author, Musician, and Activist by Gina Capaldi (Author) and  Q. L. Pearce (Author)

    Zitkala-Ša (Red Bird / Gertrude Simmons Bonnin), National Park Service

    “Zitkála-Šá: Trailblazing American Indian Composer and Writer” [video], UNLADYLIKE2020: THE CHANGEMAKERS, PBS.

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    • 33 min
    Women in the U.S. Military during the Cold War

    Women in the U.S. Military during the Cold War

    Nearly 350,000 American women served in the US military during World War II. Although the women in the military didn’t engage in combat their presence was vital to the American effort, in clerical work as well as in driving trucks, operating radios and telephones, repairing and flying planes, and of course, in nursing.
    Women’s active duty was a temporary wartime measure, but when the war ended, Secretary of Defense James Forrestal, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and General Omar Bradley, among others, argued for the continued presence of women in the military. Rep. Margaret Chase Smith of Maine introduced the Women's Armed Services Integration Act to Congress in January 1948, and President Truman signed the bill into law on June 12, 1948.
    From the end of World War II through the Cold War, women in the United States military navigated a space that welcomed and needed their service but put limits on their participation. To help us learn more, I’m joined by Dr. Tanya Roth, author of the new book, Her Cold War: Women in the U.S. Military, 1945–1980.
    Our theme song is Frogs Legs Rag, composed by James Scott and performed by Kevin MacLeod, licensed under Creative Commons. The episode image is: “WAF Officer candidate salutes in front of US flag. Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. November 1952.” The image source is the U.S. Air Force, and it is in the Public Domain.

    Additional Sources:

    “Pregnant Women to Be Allowed To Stay in the Military Forces,” New York Times, July 8, 1975

    “Over 200 Years of Service: The History of Women in the U.S. Military,” uso.org.

    “Women in the Army,” U.S. Army.

    “Truman and Women’s Rights,” Truman Library Institute.

    “Women in the Military Academies: 40 Years Later,” Department of Defense.

    “Women in the Vietnam War,” History.com.

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    • 39 min
    Freedom Suits in Maryland & DC, 1790-1864

    Freedom Suits in Maryland & DC, 1790-1864

    Slavery was legal in Maryland until November 1, 1864, when a new state constitution prohibited the practice of slavery. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation the year before had declared slaves in the Confederate states to be free, but Maryland was in the union and not included in the proclamation. From the late 18th Century until the Civil War, enslaved families in Prince George’s County, Maryland, brought over a thousand legal suits against hundreds of slaveholding families, arguing for their freedom.
    In these freedom suits, enslaved individuals sued for their freedom based on issues of breach of contract or unjust detainment. When an enslaved person won a freedom suit the individual would be granted their freedom, and it could sometimes provide the basis for future lawsuits by family members, but the institution of slavery persisted.
    In 1791, Edward Queen, an enslaved man at the White Marsh Plantation in Prince George's County, sued Rev. John Ashton, a Jesuit slaveholder, for his freedom in the Maryland General Court. In Edward Queen’s petition he said he was “descended from a freewoman,” his grandmother, Mary Queen, and thus was being illegally held in bondage. In May 1794 the all-white jury decided that Mary Queen was not a slave, and thus Edward Queen should be freed and awarded 1997 pounds of tobacco, at least a third of which went to Queen’s lawyers.
    Despite legal maneuvering by slaveholders to make freedom suits more difficult for the enslaved, as many as 50 of Edward Queen’s enslaved relatives won their own freedom suits on the argument that Mary Queen was not a slave, and thus her descendants should not be enslaved.
    Joining me to help us learn more about freedom suits is William G. Thomas III, the Angle Chair in the Humanities and Professor of History at the University of Nebraska, and author of A Question of Freedom: The Families Who Challenged Slavery from the Nation’s Founding to the Civil War.
    Our theme song is Frogs Legs Rag, composed by James Scott and performed by Kevin MacLeod, licensed under Creative Commons. Episode image: "Twenty-eight fugitives escaping from the Eastern Shore of Maryland," Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division, The New York Public Library. The image is in the public domain.
    Additional Sources:

    O Say Can You See: Early Washington, D.C., Law & Family. William G. Thomas III, Kaci Nash, Laura Weakly, Karin Dalziel, and Jessica Dussault. University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 

    “Anna: One woman's quest for freedom in early Washington, D.C.,” Animating History, Michael Burton, Kwakiutl Dreher, William G. Thomas III. 2018.

    The Georgetown Slavery Archive

    “Rev. John Ashton,” Archives of Maryland.

    “Missouri’s Dred Scott Case, 1846-1857,” Missouri State Archives.

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    • 42 min
    Chef Lena Richard

    Chef Lena Richard

    Over a decade before Julia Child’s The French Chef appeared on TV, a Black woman chef hosted her own, very popular cooking show on WDSU-TV in New Orleans. At a time when families were just beginning to own televisions, Chef Lena Richard’s show was so popular that it aired twice a week.
    Richard started working as a cook as a teenager for the wealthy Vairin family who employed her mom as a domestic servant. When their cook left, Alice Vairin gave Richard a trial run as cook and was so impressed that she hired her on the spot. Vairin later sent Richard to cooking schools, first locally and then at the prestigious eight-week Fannie Farmer Cooking School in Boston.
    In addition to her television show, Richard’s storied career included launching a catering business; stints as head chef at the Bird and Bottle Inn in Garrison, New York, and the Travis House Restaurant and Inn, in Colonial Williamsburg; two of her own restaurants in New Orleans, Lena’s Eatery and Lena Richard’s Gumbo House; a cooking school; a frozen food business; and a best-selling Creole cookbook, New Orleans Cookbook.
    Joining me to help us learn more about Chef Lena Richard are two guests: Chef Dee Lavigne of New Orleans, owner of Deelightful Cupcakes and Assistant Production Producer for the Sunday Morning News Food Segment on WWL-TV4; and Dr. Ashley Rose Young, Historian of the American Food History Project at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
    Our theme song is Frogs Legs Rag, composed by James Scott and performed by Kevin MacLeod, licensed under Creative Commons. Episode images Courtesy of Newcomb Archive, Vorhoff Library Special Collections, Tulane University.


    “Meet Lena Richard, the Celebrity Chef Who Broke Barriers in the Jim Crow South,” by Lily Katzman, Smithsonian Magazine, June 12, 2020

    “The Story of Lena Richard,” by Sarah Nerney, Colonial Williamsburg, August 22, 2020.

    “Creole Cuisine: Lena Richard,” Google Arts & Culture, based on the exhibit in the Southern Food and Beverage Museum.

    “Learning from the best: Lena Richard’s Creole Cookbook,” Rachael Garder-Stephen, Adam Matthew: A SAGE Publishing Company Blog, March 12, 2021.

    “America's Unknown Celebrity Chef,” Sidedoor Podcast, June 9, 2020.

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    • 42 min
    African American AIDS Activism

    African American AIDS Activism

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC), in 2018, 13% of the US population was Black and African American, but 42% of new HIV diagnoses in the US were from Black and African American people. This discrepancy is not new. 
    On June 5, 1981, the CDC first published an article in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) titled “Pneumocystis Pneumonia” that suggested that there might be “a cellular-immune dysfunction related to a common exposure that predisposes individuals to opportunistic infections such as pneumocystosis and candidiasis” to explain a number of infections they were seeing among gay men.
    This early identification of HIV/AIDS as a disease of white gay men colored the response to the epidemic. As gay men organized AIDS education and support networks they built organizations staffed by white volunteers and situated in gay neighborhoods in major urban centers. Because of racism and segregation many of those gay neighborhoods were largely white, and the education and support campaigns didn’t reach the Black and brown communities that were also affected by the disease.
    In response, African American AIDS activists formed their own organizations from the beginning of the crisis. African American AIDS activism was diverse and creative from the early days of the pandemic, and it continues today, but it’s often been missing from popular media and historical writing about AIDS.
    In this episode, Kelly briefly tells the background of African American AIDS activism and interviews Dan Royles, Assistant Professor of History at Florida International University and author of To Make the Wounded Whole: The African American Struggle against HIV/AIDS, which was recently named a Finalist in the 2021 Museum of African American History Stone Book Award.
    Our theme song is Frogs Legs Rag, composed by James Scott and performed by Kevin MacLeod, licensed under Creative Commons. Episode image by Tobe Mokolo on Unsplash.

    To Make the Wounded Whole: The African American Struggle Against Hiv/AIDS, by Dan Royles, 2020.

    “Forty years after first documented AIDS cases, survivors reckon with 'dichotomy of feelings,'” by Alex Berg, NBC News, June 5, 2021.

    “Pneumocystis Pneumonia --- Los Angeles,” MMWR, Reported by MS Gottlieb, MD, HM Schanker, MD, PT Fan, MD, A Saxon, MD, JD Weisman, DO, Div of Clinical Immunology-Allergy; Dept of Medicine, UCLA School of Medicine; I Pozalski, MD, Cedars-Mt. Sinai Hospital, Los Angeles; Field services Div, Epidemiology Program Office, CDC. June 5, 1981

    “HIV and African American People,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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    • 44 min

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