Long Reads, Blogging, a New Way to Learn History

In my Global Cities and Black Labor House courses we didn’t write term papers. Although the term paper is the standard assignment for almost all history courses, my two professors decided to take different approach.

They asked us to create a website, make some blog posts, and write a “long read,” similar to New Yorker type essays.

A good chunk of our readings for the classes were long reads from publications such as The Atlantic, New York Times, and the like. These pieces were written by historians or journalists, and taught us a new way to research and write about history.

I made two blogs.

The first, “The Blog of Baghdad,” attempts to research global urban history using Baghdad as a case study. I wrote about everything from the meanings of billboards and street art to Indian troops occupying the city during the second world war.

The second, “Labors of the Mind,” investigates that history of African American intellectual labor history. I wrote about James Baldwin, Ida B. Wells, and concluded the blog with a 3,500 word piece on Black Studies and the San Francisco State College strike of 1968.

Writing these blogs taught me many things.I had to figure out a way to write about this history in an entertaining yet informative way. Although I had trouble at first straying away from the normal term paper format, I finally loosened up some of the tight rules and it allowed me to express my historical research in different ways. Additionally, the usage of multimedia opened up a lot of doors for my research, as I found out that including videos and pictures help transmit your argument just as much as a thesis statement would.

There is a history hungry public out there, and the lessons I garnered from these two classes will stick with me when I become an academic myself. No matter what you research, there is always a way to make it accessible, entertaining, and informative.

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