What We Are Reading Today: Vanguard

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Updated 14 September 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Vanguard

Author:Martha S. Jones

Vanguard by Martha Jones is a nonfiction novel about how Black women fought for political power through America’s history.
“While Jones writes about some of the famous Black female activists like Sojourner Truth, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Harriet Tubman, she also writes about the many Black women who fought for rights who never made the front pages,” said a review in goodreads.com.
Jennifer Szalai said in a review for The New York Times that “suffrage may have been one goal, but there were more immediately pressing concerns. An issue that keeps coming up for the women in Jones’s book is transportation — or, as Jones says, ‘traveling while Black.’ When traversing the country to speak or preach, Black women often faced impositions on their freedom to move.”
In Vanguard, Jones writes about the 19th Amendment in a chapter she simply calls “Amendment.” The title is appropriately minimalist and matter-of-fact.
“For Black women, ratification of the 19th Amendment was not a guarantee of the vote, but it was a clarifying moment,” she says.

 


What We Are Reading Today: The Riddle of the Rosetta

Updated 18 September 2020

What We Are Reading Today: The Riddle of the Rosetta

Authors: Jed Z. Buchwald and Diane Greco Josefowicz

 

In 1799, a French Army officer was rebuilding the defenses of a fort on the banks of the Nile when he discovered an ancient stele fragment bearing a decree inscribed in three different scripts. So begins one of the most familiar tales in Egyptology — that of the Rosetta Stone and the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs. 

This book draws on fresh archival evidence to provide a major new account of how the English polymath Thomas Young and the French philologist Jean-François Champollion vied to be the first to solve the riddle of the Rosetta.

Jed Buchwald and Diane Greco Josefowicz bring to life a bygone age of intellectual adventure. Much more than a decoding exercise centered on a single artifact, the race to decipher the Rosetta Stone reflected broader disputes about language, historical evidence, biblical truth, and the value of classical learning. Buchwald and Josefowicz paint compelling portraits of Young and Champollion, two gifted intellects with altogether different motivations. Young disdained Egyptian culture and saw Egyptian writing as a means to greater knowledge about Greco-Roman antiquity. Champollion, swept up in the political chaos of Restoration France and fiercely opposed to the scholars aligned with throne and altar, admired ancient Egypt and was prepared to upend conventional wisdom to solve the mystery of the hieroglyphs.

Taking readers from the hushed lecture rooms of the Institut de France to the windswept monuments of the Valley of the Kings, The Riddle of the Rosetta reveals the untold story behind one of the nineteenth century’s most thrilling discoveries.