Points Supports the National Endowment for the Humanities

Until last week, Points readers might have thought Donald Trump’s occasional and inconsistent public statements on marijuana represented his greatest stake in any of the blog’s more obvious topics of interest. His appointment of hardline – though increasingly embattled – Attorney General Jeff Sessions attested to his aloofness if not hostility toward the issue, even if several commentators believe cracking down on pot will be an uphill political battle.

However, the most alarming recent development from the White House is the president’s proposal to eliminate the National Endowment for the Humanities, a program that has supported several of the blog’s featured authors, contributing editors, and readers. We urge you to please call your Senate and House representatives to oppose de-funding critical projects by the NEH and other relevant grant-awarding government bodies.

NEH makes possible roaming exhibits of interest to the Points audience, such as Spirited: Prohibition in America (in addition to countless others). Please enjoy the summary below and follow the link to the Spirited homepage, which includes lesson plans for teachers, passages from relevant writings, and ideas for interactive events to be scheduled around the exhibit. We ask readers to please share any pertinent NEH-sponsored projects with the blog so that we can feature them in future posts.

Spirited: Prohibition in America

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In a tumultuous era spanning 13 years, Americans could no longer manufacture, sell, or transport intoxicating beverages. Prohibition was now a part of the Constitution, holding the same status as freedom of speech and the abolition of slavery. Ratified in 1919, the 18th Amendment stirred up a passionate and sometimes volatile debate between “wets” and “drys” that will forever cement Prohibition’s place in history.

Spirited: Prohibition in America brings visitors back to this period of flappers and suffragists, bootleggers and temperance lobbyists, and real-life legends, such as Al Capone and Carry Nation.

Adapted from the National Constitution Center’s flagship exhibition, Spirited explores the history of Prohibition, from the dawn of the temperance movement to the unprecedented repeal of a constitutional amendment in 1933. What made the country go “dry” and how did America change during this period in history? Visitors to Spirited will learn about the amendment process, the role of liquor in American culture, the cultural revolution of the roaring ’20s, and how liquor laws vary from state to state today.

The morality and illegalization of liquor split American opinion and created a subculture of rampant criminality. Organized crime grew from localized enterprises to a national network for manufacturing, distribution, and sales of alcohol. The issue catalyzed a number of federal regulations and the passing of the Volstead Act, but little resources were provided for enforcement. Spirited draws on histories told from both sides of the law. Through strong visual and interactive elements, the exhibition demonstrates how America went from a nation drowning in liquor in the 1800s, to campaigns of temperance, and the upswing and downfall of outlawing prohibition.

The exhibition surveys the inventive and ingenious ways lawmakers and the American public responded to Prohibition. Legal provisions for sacramental wine, medicinal alcohol, and the preservation of fruit and the efforts of breweries to stay in business led to popularization of products such as “Dr. Welch’s Unfermented Wine,” “near beer,” and Coca-Cola. Visitors will learn how transportation networks and clever disguises were used to run liquor from state to state, how speakeasies gave way to the popularization of jazz, and the Charleston dance craze.

Spirited features semi-immersive environments that encompass the sights, sounds, and experiences of this fascinating period in American history. Hosting venues will receive educational and public programming materials that outline ideas for interactive workshops on “speakeasy slang,” ’20s-themed socials, speaker suggestions for topics, such as the women’s suffrage movement, and lesson plans on today’s battle with drugs and alcohol.

 

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