The Democrat and Chronicle's Justin Murphy wrote a detailed story about the history of the founders of Rochester and surrounding towns. As Murphy reports, historians have used historical documents to confirm that Nathaniel Rochester enslaved people and was not the abolitionist that some of the city's lore has suggested. As a result, activists have debated whether to strip the name of Rochester and other racist founders off of parks, buildings, and even the city itself.

Our guests discuss it:

  • Justin Murphy, education reporter for the Democrat and Chronicle
  • Bill Johnson, former mayor of the City of Rochester
  • Justin Behrend, professor and department chair of history at SUNY Geneseo
  • Victoria Schmitt, local historian

Remembering David Hochstein

May 24, 2020
Courtesy of The Hochstein School

 The Hochstein School is named for musician David Hochstein, whose legacy continues to live on more than a century after his death.

This musically inclined young man from Rochester was on his way to a successful international career, thanks to a chance encounter that changed his life.

NYS Parks

The Park Avenue area in Rochester is historic and now it has a federal designation to back that up.

Officials with the Landmark Society of Western New York say that the Park Ave neighborhood recently was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Landmark Society Director of Preservation Caitlin Meives says that is something that has been in the works for about three years now. Meives says the Park Avenue neighborhood has some important architectural features.

We're joined by RIT professor Sarah Burns, who has written a new book called "The Politics of War Powers." She argues that the U.S. Constitution creates an invitation to struggle between the legislative and executive branches of government, but the president has little checks and balances when it comes to how he uses the U.S. military.

She joins us to discuss her research, and how it relates to recent events in Iran. In studio:

  • Sarah Burns, associate professor in the Department of Political Science at RIT, and author of “The Politics of War Powers: The Theory and History of Presidential Unilateralism”

Civil War-era scholar Robert May is back in Western New York – this time, to discuss reality versus fables about how enslaved people were treated during the Christmas season. The last time May was here, he led a discussion about the removal of Confederate monuments and memorials. This time around, he discusses the theme of tearing down fairy tales of the Confederacy, and instead dealing with the true nature of American history. He'll give a presentation at the Seward House Museum.

May's new book is "Yuletide in Dixie: Slavery, Christmas, and Southern Memory". He describes the book as "an assault on lingering beliefs that southern slaveholders treated their slaves humanely and that slaves were content with their bondage. May joins us on Connections. In studio:

We sit down with one of the most innovative podcasters in the country. Nate DiMeo launched his podcast called "The Memory Palace" back in 2008, before most people knew what podcasts were. He tells short, true stories that bring out our common humanity.

DiMeo is in Rochester to gather material for future podcast episodes, but also to prepare for his September listening experience (called "High Falls") with the Rochester Fringe Festival. We talk about podcast success, the power of memory, and which stories in Rochester have inspired him.

Should place names that are racist or offensive be changed? WXXI reporter and producer Veronica Volk traveled to places throughout the Greater Rochester area, asking residents that question. The responses were varied, and in some cases, controversial.

She joins us to discuss her reporting, and we talk about when and why names should be changed and how the history of those places should be taught. In studio:

Hamilton just wrapped up a sold-out run in Rochester. This hour, we dig into the history on which the show is built. Essentially, we're asking whether Hamilton is accurate. Or perhaps better put, is it accurate enough?

There's always creative license taken with these kinds of shows or films, but historians point out that many Americans are getting their understanding of historical figures through the stage or screen. Our guests discuss it:

  • Michael Oberg, distinguished professor of history at SUNY Geneseo
  • LindaSue Park, award-winning author
  • Miriam Burstein, professor and associate chair of the Department of English at the College at Brockport

As the world watches France attempt to rebuild Notre Dame, experts tell us that there are historical parallels. Katherine Clark Walter, from the College at Brockport, says, “The major Gothic cathedrals of Europe were often born of renovations necessitated by devastating fires just such as this one and their renovation often foregrounded the relics these churches held as key to their spirituality and identity, so there is a fascinating meeting of past and present as the whole world now watches to see what survived from Notre Dame.”

We talk about the meaning of those relics, the process of rebuilding, and more. Our guests:

  • Katherine Clark Walter, associate professor in the Department of History at The College at Brockport
  • Jean Pedersen, associate professor in the Department of Humanities at the Eastman School
  • Sarah Thompson, associate professor of art history at RIT

White supremacist groups often point to medievalism and the Middle Ages in an attempt to justify their prejudices. They say during that time in history, Europe was quintessentially white.

University of Pennsylvania medievalist David Wallace studies how contemporary hate groups misappropriate the Middle Ages. He's in town for presentations at the University of Rochester, but first, he joins us on Connections to talk about the history of race. In studio:

  • David Wallace, Judith Rodin Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania
  • Tom Hahn, professor in the Department of English at the University of Rochester