The 1619 Project by Nikole Hannah-Jones

“White Americans desire to be free of a past they do not want to remember, while Black Americans remain bound to a past they can never forget.”

The 1619 Project is a collection of essays, flash fiction, and poetry from a variety of writers concerning the experience of Black Americans. Black history is not well taught in US schools. Unbelievably, in 2017, only 8 percent of high school seniors named slavery as the central cause of the Civil War!

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The Word of the Lord by Harry Edgar Baker

There are three different texts titled The Word of the Lord used by different Mormon splinter groups. One was written by Otto Fetting between 1927-1933. Another was written by William Draves starting in 1933. However, I could find next to nothing online about about the text written by Harry Edgar Baker between 1916 to 1918. Wikipedia mentions the other two books sharing this title, but not this earlier one.

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Noise by Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Sibony, and Cass R. Sunstein

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When it comes to errors in human judgment, we tend to focus on bias, but noise is also a cause of error. Bias is the average of errors committed by a group. You need to know the right answer to know what the bias is. Bias is systemic and predictable. Noise, on the other hand, is variable amongst a group of judgements. You can tell there’s noise even if you don’t know the right answer. It’s unpredictable and not easily explained.

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Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker

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The world is better today because of the Enlightenment, yet people attack reason, science, humanism, and progress when these things should be celebrated.

One of the bits of wisdom from the Scientific Revolution is that misfortune is no one’s fault. Bad things sometimes happen for no reason other than the universe is indifferent to human suffering. There’s no point looking around for someone to blame when an earthquake happens. Entropy ensures there’s more ways for things to go wrong than for things to go right.

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The Principles of Nature by Andrew Jackson Davis

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In the introduction, we’re given a description of Andrew Jackson Davis which would appeal to a phrenologist, as well as testimonials from his acquaintances. We’re told he was poor and barely educated, only attending a few months of school, so he only knows the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Although we’re also told he knows all the technical medical terms, so maybe he’s not as ignorant as they want us to believe. He’s only 20 years old.

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Berossus and Genesis, Manetho and Exodus by Russell E. Gmirkin

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According to the Documentary Hypothesis, the Pentateuch was composed in stages. The first source, written sometime between 850-800 BC, is called J because it refers to God by the name Jehovah/Yahweh. The second source, called E because it uses the name Elohim to refer to God, was combined with J between 850-750 BC. The third source, mostly the book of Deuteronomy, is called D and was written in 621 BC, if you take 2 Kings 22-23 at face value. The final source is the priestly source, or P, and was written in 458 BC if you take Nehemiah 8-10 at face value.

However, one of the problems with the Documentary Hypothesis is that it uses the Bible to date itself, rather than using external evidence like archaeology and other ancient texts. Also, biblical source criticism tends to assume the earliest possible date a text could have been written is when the text actually was written. In this book, Gmirkin applies classical source criticism to the Pentateuch to consider not only the earliest possible date, but also the latest possible date, using not just the Bible itself, but also external references to the Bible.

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Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup

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Solomon Northup was born free in New York. He married and did various jobs to earn money, such as working on a canal, cutting up lumber, rafting, and playing the violin. He eventually earned enough money to buy a farm. His wife became known as a cook. He also worked driving a hack and did work on the railroad. He advised any slaves he spoke to to seek freedom whenever they found the opportunity. He had a ten-year-old and eight-year-old daughter, as well as a five-year-old boy.

One day, two men who claimed to work at a circus offered him a job playing violin. He went with them to Washington D.C. where he witnessed the funeral of President Harrison (the cannon fire which was part of the ceremony broke windows with the noise). He never saw the circus, though. The men offered him a drink which made him sick. He fell unconscious and woke up in chains, his money and free papers gone.

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A Promised Land by Barack Obama

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“If you wanted good government, then expertise mattered. You needed public institutions stocked with people whose job it was to pay attention to important stuff so the rest of us citizens didn’t have to. And it was thanks to those experts that Americans could worry less about the quality of the air we breathed or the water we drank, that we had recourse when employers failed to pay us the overtime we were due, that we could count on over-the-counter drugs not killing us, and that driving a car or flying on a commercial airplane was exponentially safer today than it had been just twenty or thirty or fifty years ago. The ‘regulatory state’ conservatives complained so bitterly about had made American life a hell of a lot better.

“That’s not to say that every criticism of federal regulation was bogus. There were times when bureaucratic red tape burdened businesses unnecessarily or delayed innovative products from getting to market. Some regulations really did cost more than they were worth.”

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Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Ann Jacobs

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This was originally published anonymously, so the author goes by the name of Linda. Her father was a carpenter. His master hired him out and allowed him to keep some of the money he earned. He saved up and wanted to buy his children’s freedom, but he wasn’t allowed to. Her maternal grandmother was freed at her master’s death, but she got captured and sold to another, so even if a slave master freed his slaves at death, that was no guarantee they’d stay free. Her grandmother, who made money selling crackers, also wanted to purchase the freedom of her children, but her mistress borrowed the money from her and never paid her back.

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