The History Thread (Lizi's Dank History Thread)

Compelling analysis. I wonder about how time is attenuating and clouding his story and impact on society, in the ways you point out. When I was growing up he was this figure that all the adults knew about and had experienced, at various stages of their lives whether I was hearing from someone my parent’s age or a retiree. Kids today are increasingly separated from people who have a lived experience with him on the scene, more likely to be influenced by the pop-culture references and jokes about Elvis than having experienced his stardom in the flesh.

Also I was reminded of this song by Paul & Storm:

The atomization of culture that has occurred over the last 60 years has certainly done no favors for more recent generations trying to grock the scope of his influence and prominence. This is part of why it’s so difficult to understand why he matters so much more than the black artists that pioneered rock and roll. It’s also hard for more recent generations to understand that record stores weren’t just segregated for customers, they were segregated in their record choices, so the cultural significance of a white man playing black music (which is how he was seen even at the time) can easily be lost as information becomes more freely accessible. All this only compounds the natural tendency of icons to decline in popular memory as time goes on.

I wonder how much longer we’ll even be talking about Elvis. I’ll obviously be talking about him for the rest of my life, but I’m a weird history and music wank who cares more about this stuff than I probably should. Give it twenty more years and he’ll probably be nothing more than the caricature you can see in Vegas. I certainly hope that’s what happens.

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So I’ve started trying to get whatever documents the FBI has on my grandfather. Given his proximity and involvement in things like the Haight-Ashbury acid scene, The Chicago 7, the SCLC, SNCC, and the Black Panthers, I can only assume there’s a wealth of documents on him in some of their archives. I submitted two different types of requests last week, an eFOIA response that only querries one database, and a proper FOIA request where humans have to actually dig through records. I’m not anticipating a response to the full one any time soon, and assume I’ll need to hound the FBI to actually get it, but I did get a response to my eFOIA request today that is… interesting.

This is in response to your Freedom of Information/Privacy Acts (FOIPA) request. Based on the information you provided, we conducted a main entity record search of the Central Records System (CRS) per our standard search policy. However, we were unable to identify records subject to the FOIPA that are responsive to your request. Therefore, your request is being closed. If you have additional information pertaining to the subject of your request, please submit a new request providing the details, and we will conduct an additional search. For more information about records searches and the standard search policy, see the enclosed FBI FOIPA Addendum General Information Section.

This is interesting to me because I have been able to find declassified documents through some public searches of government archives (including the FBI), indicating that documents dating back to the 1960s have been digitized. However, it’s also distinctly possible that those documents don’t exist in the CRS mentioned above. It’s possible that that database is purposefully tiny. It’s also possible that I needed to fill out the additional information section to get anywhere. I did that with the full FOIA request but for the eFOIA I figured the search would just need a name. Debating submitting a new request with additional info, but given that I have a full FOIA request submitted I’m leaning towards just pressing on that.

EDIT: Just realized this is the full FOIA request. Definitely further investigating.

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OK so I did a double check of the FBI public archives and I think I misremembered that his stuff was up there.

The only documents I have locally are from The White House so it’s actually just become possible that everything they have is still classified.

Somebody I have good reason to trust on this subject recommended I find a document proving the FBI has files on him to attach to the next request and I found a lead. Did some digging on the National Archives’ public search and found this within their FBI section.

It’s not digitized so it’s not a ton to go off of, but somebody has plans to be in the DC area early next January and can probably spend an extra day or two there to go try to get a copy of this and whatever else I can find there that could help me force the FBI to send me something.

Pro tip: Register for a research card before going down there. Once you have a card you can email the institution and ask to view the information firsthand once you are visiting them in January :wink:

Do I need any kind of credentials for that?

Depends on the place, I’d check the website to see if they have any details. Also having a card elsewhere helps if it is vague.

Where should I be checking on whose website?

Whatever facility has the record you are trying to pull whether its a library or archive facility, that’s the website you need to find what their visitor policy and requirements are.

Glad I’m able to get this in before Pride is over because it’s the most heartwarming video I’ve seen in recent memory. It’s an in depth record of a house in the Catskills that served as a haven for trans women* to safely express and explore themselves. It features extensive interviews with two women who frequented Casa Susanna about both their own journeys and the people they knew with in the community, as well as interviews with the grandson of the owner of Casa Susanna and the daughter of a notable attendee. It’s honestly astounding how much they were able to uncover and document about this place, which seems to have been a pretty significant part of the trans community at the time given how often it was advertised in the largest circulated trans magazine of the time and how far we know some of the attendees traveled to go there. It’s the kind of queer history that’s about to die and I’m so glad this much of it has been recorded.

*It’s way more complicated than that because our modern conception of “trans woman” was very much in it’s infancy at the time of Casa Susanna. The term used at the time and in the documentary is “crossdressers” because that is period accurate but that also given what how that term was used at the time it covers a wide variety of Gender Non Conforming experiences that we would use a variety of different labels for today. Those genuinely interested in these nuances should read Transgender History by Susan Stryker.

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Haven’t seen it yet but apparently there’s a new documentary out about some of the black pioneers of space exploration.

Unfortunately, since I haven’t seen it, I cannot tell how much it corrects for the erasure of the Negro American Space Society of Astronauts.

I saw it last year at a special screening. It’s very good, but NASSA was not represented, just regular old NASA.