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, 2015, 10:43 am

Introducing the August Issue

Kai Wright spends two years in a town where the Great Recession never ended; Mya Frazier explores the discomfiting economics of police brutality; Sarah Manguso, Michelle Tea, and eight other contributors discuss parenthood; and Harpers.org launches a metered paywall

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

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

August 2015

In the Shadow of the Storm

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Measure for Measure

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Trouble with Israel

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A Camera on Every Cop

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
“The campaign music stopped. Hundreds of people, their faces now warped by the dread of a third bomb, began running for cover.”
Photograph © Guy Martin/Panos.
Article
Part Neither, Part Both·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Eight months pregnant I told an old woman sitting beside me on the bus that the egg that hatched my baby came from my wife’s ovaries. I didn’t know how the old woman would take it; one can never know. She was delighted: That’s like a fairy tale!”
Mother with Children, by Gustav Klimt © akg-images
Article
What Recovery?·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Between 2007 and 2010, Albany’s poverty rate jumped 12 points, to a record high of 39.9 percent. More than two thirds of Albany’s 76,000 residents are black, and since 2010, their poverty rate has climbed even higher, to nearly 42 percent.”
Photograph by Will Steacy
Article
Rag Time·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

From a May 23 commencement address delivered at Hofstra University. Doctorow died on Tuesday. He was 84.
“We are a deeply divided nation in danger of undergoing a profound change for the worse.”
Photograph by Giuseppe Giglia
Article
The Trouble with Israel·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“We think we are the only people in the world who live with threat, but we have to work with regional leaders who will work with us. Bibi is taking the country into unprecedented international isolation.”
Photograph by Adam Golfer

Acres of mirrors in Donald Trump’s Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City:

10

Rhesus macaques, who normally are not self-aware, will, following brain surgery, examine their genitals in a mirror. Similar evidence of self-awareness was previously limited to higher primates, dolphins, magpies, and an elephant named Happy.

In New Hampshire, Huckleberry Finn was arrested for sexual assault.

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

HARPER’S FINEST

Subways Are for Sleeping

By

“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”

Subscribe Today