Nicholas Lemann is a Professor at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and a staff writer at The New Yorker.
 He is the author of The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy and The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and How It Changed America, among other books.
 (March 2016)


Reagan: The Triumph of Tone

Ronald Reagan being welcomed by Puerto Ricans and Cubans in Tampa, Florida, during his 1980 presidential campaign

Killing Reagan: The Violent Assault That Changed a Presidency

by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard

Ronald Reagan

by Jacob Weisberg
The Republican presidential candidate debates, which have shown non-Republicans just how factionalized the party is and how many possible meanings of the term “conservative” there are, have produced one point of general agreement among the many contenders: Ronald Reagan was a great president. For a committed Republican audience, Reagan stands …

Unhappy Days for America

‘Baby Toss,’ 2009; photograph by Julie Blackmon from her book Homegrown. It includes an introduction by Billy Collins and an interview with Reese Witherspoon, and is published by Radius Books.

Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis

by Robert D. Putnam
Robert Putnam is convinced that today relative mobility, as well as absolute mobility, is declining alarmingly—that most Americans are more firmly destined to remain where they started out than they were when he was young. His passion about the need to change this situation overwhelms his social scientist’s epistemological caution.

Who Was W.E.B. Du Bois?

Lines of Descent: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Emergence of Identity

by Kwame Anthony Appiah
W.E.B. Du Bois’s very long life coincided almost exactly with the period in African-American history between slavery and citizenship. Du Bois was born, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, five years after the Emancipation Proclamation, and, as he liked to point out, almost exactly coincident with the impeachment of Andrew Johnson, which …

The New Deal We Didn’t Know

An African-American entering a movie theater through the segregated back entrance, Mississippi, October 1939; photograph by Marion Post Wolcott for the Farm Security Administration

Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time

by Ira Katznelson
The New Deal, the apogee of liberal political power in American history and a story with a relatively happy ending—the Great Depression vanquished, World War II won—has usually had its history presented, except by conservatives who disapprove of the expansion of central government and taxation in the 1930s and 1940s, as an uplifting, inspiring one. That is not how Ira Katznelson presents it.

The Voice of Big-Time Sports

Howard Cosell and Muhammad Ali before the start of the Olympic boxing trials, West Point, New York, August 7, 1972

Howard Cosell: The Man, The Myth, and the Transformation of American Sports

by Mark Ribowsky
Two years ago The Wall Street Journal calculated that in a typical National Football League game, the ball is live for only eleven minutes. The game clock runs for an hour, but most of that time is spent between plays; and the television broadcast of a game, which includes advertising …

The New New Orleans

2520 Deslondes Street, New Orleans, Louisiana, 2005; photograph by Robert Polidori from his book Points Between...Up Till Now, which includes his images of post–Hurricane Katrina New Orleans along with work from the rest of his career. It has just been published by Steidl.

If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don't Rise

a film directed by Spike Lee

When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts

a film directed by Spike Lee
Spike Lee’s latest long documentary film about New Orleans, If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise, which aired on HBO last summer, begins with a set piece on the outburst of ecstasy occasioned by the Saints winning the 2010 Super Bowl. Louisiana is football-mad and Saints fans were being redeemed after decades of suffering through losing seasons, but there was a special intensity to the celebration because, plausibly, it could have marked the beginning of the post–Hurricane Katrina era in New Orleans—the moment when rebirth rather than tragedy became the reigning local metaphor.