Thoughts on Community (Health) at Brown and beyond


The Public Health Program announced in a Tuesday press release that Community Health concentrators after 2014.5 will be required take three community-based methods courses, from the previous two.

Acting Community Health Concentration Advisor Mitchell Ray, who was wearing a slim-fitting beige sports coat when I met with him on his fourth-floor South Main Street Office, said that the increase in the number of community-based courses is a “good” one.

“With more emphasis on community-based approaches, we’re making our curriculum more in sync with recent trends in public health and medical anthropology,” Ray said, boyishly tucking a lock of goldish-brown behind his ear, as light poured in from the North-facing bay window.

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“Community.” We hear that word a lot around Brown, but what does it mean? Are communities real? Continue Reading

Professors who do cool things: Michael Vorenberg, the unsung hero of ‘Lincoln’?

In an article on The New Republic website, Timothy Noah suggested that Brown University superhero history professor Michael Vorenberg and his book, Final Freedom, were likely the “principal source” for the Oscar-nominated Lincoln. Vorenberg’s book is widely regarded as the most comprehensive account of the passage of the 13th Amendment, which is the main focus of the film.

Noah also expressed dismay that Lincoln‘s screenwriter, Tony Kushner, and the film’s producers had not publicly recognized Vorenberg’s contribution. Lincoln’s promotional materials and final credits state that the film is based “in part” on Team of Rivals, the Pulitzer Prize-winning book written by Doris Kearns Goodwin, who also served as a historical advisor to Kushner. The problem, according to Noah, is that Goodwin’s book provides only a brief description of the most important historical events in the film—in particular, the legislative battles surrounding the 13th Amendment.

Vorenberg’s Final Freedom, which was a finalist for the 2002 Lincoln Prize, has been commended by many historians for demonstrating the crucial role of 13th Amendment in the abolition of slavery. Both scholarly works and popular narratives had often given the Emancipation Proclamation the principal role, though the wartime measure affected only those Confederate territories in active rebellion and outside of Union military control. It was the 13th Amendment—which, as the film shows, was from far from a foregone conclusionthat formally abolished slavery in all of the United States. (Yes, like almost everyone else at this school, I took Vorenberg’s blockbuster “Civil War and Reconstruction.”) Continue Reading