Editor's Note — May 15, 2014, 1:45 pm

Introducing the June 2014 Issue

Maud Newton reflects on America’s ancestry obsession, Randall Kennedy revisits the Civil Rights Act, Scott Horton reveals a possible coverup at Guantánamo Bay, and more

Harper’s Magazine (June 2014)When I walk through the doorway to my house, the first thing I see is a wall of my ancestors depicted in old photographs, some of them from a century ago. These family members — grandfathers and grandmothers, great aunts and uncles, my mother and father as infants — give me a sense of where I’ve come from. And that’s somehow reassuring in an era when everyone seems to value newness over the past. In fact, this very sense of historical alienation may have fueled a renewed interest in genealogy, a phenomenon explored by Maud Newton in our June 2014 cover story, “America’s Ancestry Craze.” You can now send samples of your DNA to websites such as Ancestry.com and 23andMe, and for about a hundred dollars the sites will analyze your genetic history and put you in touch with people who are likely relatives. Has the riddle of identity been solved, then? Not exactly. Since a family tree’s branches tend to expand until everyone is related to everyone else, Newton suggests that the answer to who we are may lie more in philosophy than in genealogy.

In 1964, when the Civil Rights Acts was passed, it promised change, particularly in those Southern states where change was slow to come. I was in college in Maryland at the time, and coming from New York City, I was startled to find that African-Americans were confined to sitting in the balcony of the local movie theater, and that drinking fountains were still designated “white” and “colored.” The Civil Rights Act promised to end segregated access to public accommodations, declaring that all persons “shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment” of such facilities. In celebration of the act’s fiftieth anniversary, Randall Kennedy considers its impact in light of his own experiences as a child traveling with his parents through the segregated South of the 1960s. The act may have failed to relieve discrimination in such important areas as education and employment, but it was nonetheless a huge symbolic achievement, argues Kennedy, mandating a policy of racial inclusion.

Scott Horton revisits the supposed detainee “suicides” that took place at Guantánamo Bay Naval Base in 2006. New documents included in a Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) report, and uncovered recently through the Freedom of Information Act, punch even more holes in the official story, while suggesting that the prisoners were likely tortured to death in an effort to “turn” them into intelligence assets.

In “Northern Exposure,” Masha Gessen, the author of a much-acclaimed book about Vladimir Putin, reviews the case of the Arctic 30, a group of Greenpeace activists arrested and jailed by the Russian president on the spurious charge of piracy. It was dangerous, the activists learned, to antagonize Gazprom, the state’s energy monopoly — and even more dangerous to challenge Putin’s dream of a Russian Arctic. Although the activists were released just before the Olympics began in Sochi, their experience was an education in the brutality and corruption of Russia’s prison system.

Scott Korb’s father was killed by a drunk driver when he and his family were on holiday in Florida in 1982. Because almost no event in his life has affected him so profoundly, the author decided to search for the culprit. After repeated trips to Florida and many hours spent poring over newspaper stories and police reports, Korb eventually confronted the man — and found himself pondering at least the possibility of mutual redemption: “Without hope for another world,” he writes, “Christianity has become for me about forgiveness in this one.”

In another poignant excursion into the past, Geoff Dyer and the photographer Chloe Dewe Mathews revisit the Europe of World War I, which began nearly a hundred years ago, in July 1914. The images are part of a series called Shot at Dawn, for which Dewe Mathews visited sites where soldiers were executed for desertion or cowardice in the face of the enemy. She took the photographs as close to the time of day that the executions took place as possible — usually at dawn or dusk — and the muted, mostly bucolic scenes make conspicuous what is absent: the dead.

Also in this issue: Hilton Als on his experience of islands; Gideon Lewis-Kraus on a hole-digging competition in Japan; James Marcus on the failure of border fencing to solve our immigration problem; and a new short story by Daniel Mason.

Share
Single Page

More from Ellen Rosenbush:

Editor's Note July 21, 2016, 3:35 pm

Inside the August Issue

Martin Amis on the rise of Trump, Tom Wolfe on the origins of speech, Art Spiegelman on Si Lewen, fiction by Diane Williams, and more

Editor's Note June 16, 2016, 3:38 pm

Inside the July Issue

Tom Bissell on touring Israel with Christian Zionists, Joy Gordon on the Cuban embargo, Lawrence Jackson on Freddie Gray and the makings of an American uprising, a story by Paul Yoon, and more

Editor's Note May 13, 2016, 1:31 pm

Inside the June Issue

Helen Ouyang on the cost of crowd-sourcing drugs, Paul Wood on Trump’s supporters, Walter Kirn on political predictions, Sonia Faleiro on a man’s search for his kidnapped children, and Rivka Galchen on The People v. O. J. Simpson.

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

December 2016

Prose by Any Other Name

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The New Red Scare

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Separated at Birth

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Priest in the Trees

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Lightness

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

With Child

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
With Child·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. 'Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.'"
Photograph (detail) by Lara Shipley
Article
Swat Team·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"As we shall see, for the sort of people who write and edit the opinion pages of the Post, there was something deeply threatening about Sanders and his political views."
Illustration (detail) by John Ritter
Article
Escape from The Caliphate·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"When Matti invited me on a tour of the neighborhood, I asked about security. 'The message has already been passed to ISIS that you’re here,' he said. 'But don’t worry. I guarantee I could bring even you in and out of the Islamic State.'"
Photograph (detail) by Alice Martins
Article
In This One·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. 'Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.'"
Illustration (detail) by Shonagh Rae
Article
“Don’t Touch My Medicare!”·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Medicare’s popularity, however, comes with almost no understanding of what the program is and how it works."
Illustration (detail) by Nate Kitch

Estimated number of people who watched a live Webcast of a hair transplant last fall:

8,000

A rancher in Texas was developing a system that will permit hunters to kill animals by remote control via a website.

A man in Japan was arrested for stealing a prospective employer’s wallet during a job interview, and a court in Germany ruled that it is safe for a woman with breast implants to be a police officer.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Who Goes Nazi?

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

By

"It is an interesting and somewhat macabre parlor game to play at a large gathering of one’s acquaintances: to speculate who in a showdown would go Nazi. By now, I think I know. I have gone through the experience many times—in Germany, in Austria, and in France. I have come to know the types: the born Nazis, the Nazis whom democracy itself has created, the certain-to-be fellow-travelers. And I also know those who never, under any conceivable circumstances, would become Nazis."

Subscribe Today