'A loss of understanding of ourselves'

In today’s newsletter, more moms along the border; U.K.’s oldest synagogue threatened; the two sisters who drove the Chinese from their homeland; reviving Cajun French … and a date with a Tibetan king.

This article is an adaptation of our weekly History newsletter that was originally sent out on September 7, 2021. Want this in your inbox? Sign up here.

By Debra Adams Simmons, Executive Editor, HISTORY

Nearly 3,000 people died on the morning of September 11, 2001, when two planes struck the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan. As the towers crumbled, pieces of debris tore into an adjacent building (pictured above, at left), turning it into a smoking crater.

In the basement of that building, called Six World Trade, sat more than a million historical artifacts excavated from sites across the city. These artifacts told the origin story of New York, and the history of the enslaved men and women and the immigrant working classes who built it into a global powerhouse, Nina Strochlic writes for Nat Geo.

A decade earlier two huge archaeological discoveries were made during construction projects in lower Manhattan. Graves from an early African burial ground provided evidence of a large early African community and revealed a brutal picture of slavery, where young, expendable labor was needed to build up an industrial city. Then, under a nearby parking lot, researchers unearthed the remains of Five Points, once one of the world’s most densely populated neighborhoods and 19th-century Manhattan’s most notorious slum.

On 9/11, both those collections were stored under Six World Trade. Thankfully, the human remains from the burial ground were safe at Washington’s Howard University, but the fate of the accompanying artifacts and thousands of educational materials they’d compiled into a research library, along with the excavations from Five Points, was unknown. (Below left, the head of a clay pipe excavated from Five Points; below right, children’s marbles found at Five Points.)

The African Burial Ground boxes were retrieved‚ allowing researchers to continue studying the lives of 419 enslaved men, women, and children who were buried there. But only 18 pieces of the Five Points collection survived that day.

“We have to remember that September 11 really did eclipse a record of that part of the city,” says Rebecca Yamin, who led the Five Points project. “The record of the past being lost is always a tragedy. It’s not the same as the tragedy of human lives. But it’s a loss of understanding of ourselves and where we came from.”

Related: The outsize importance of—and emotional wallop from—artifacts from the 9/11 attacks

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TODAY IN A MINUTE

More moms, more kids: It used to be that those crossing into the United States from Mexico were men looking for work. These days, more women fleeing abuse and misery in Central America end up in the Mexican city of Juárez, the last stop before El Paso. Tightened immigration rules make crossings more difficult, Nina Strochlic writes. However, stuck in a dangerous border town, some moms reluctantly choose to let their kids, who can enter the U.S. as unaccompanied minors, go in without them.

Don’t be that guy: You can take it to get rid of mites. Or roundworms. But there’s no proof that Ivermectin helps fight COVID-19, no matter what some podcaster claims. Sadly, misguided people are going to animal supply firms to buy the widely discredited drug at heightened, non-human doses—and they could be poisoning themselves, Priyanka Runwal reports for Nat Geo.

Targeted: Plans for a new London skyscraper threaten Britain’s oldest synagogue, the Guardian reports. The proposals for an office complex would increase noise and block natural lighting to the Bevis Marks synagogue, the only Jewish house of worship in Europe to have had continuous services since its construction in 1701. The synagogue was the first built since Oliver Cromwell, decades earlier, allowed Jewish people, banned from England in 1290, to settle.

Paralympic boom: The just-concluded Tokyo Games had the highest participation ever of athletes with physical impairments worldwide since that slightly later offshoot of the Olympics began in 1948. But organized sports for paralympic athletes had been going on since at least 1888, when sporting clubs for deaf athletes started in Berlin, Tucker C. Toole reports for Nat Geo.

PHOTO OF THE DAY

The King of Derge: Nat Geo caught up with this Himalaya royal a century ago for a report on the lives of people in eastern Tibet. Here, in an image we recently ran in our popular Photo of the Day feature, the king poses for a portrait with his two wives and the family's attendants.

SEE VINTAGE PHOTOS 

THE BIG TAKEAWAY

‘All French is good French’: Once forbidden, Cajun French is undergoing a revival. The dialect of aging grandparents and great-grandparents, often lost in the “standard” French taught in schools, is being taught in a local-run adult language and literacy school at the intersection of two bayous, Chelsea Brasted writes for Nat Geo. (Pictured above, young Cajun women attend a rice festival in the heart of Cajun country in 1938.)

READ MORE 

IN A FEW WORDS

LAST GLIMPSE

They overthrew China: The Trung sisters of ancient Vietnam (pictured above in this 1999 Vietnamese embroidery) leave a large legacy, if not adequately appreciated beyond the Vietnamese community. Often depicted riding horses, they commanded a successful rebellion that freed their land from Chinese rule. “For nearly 2,000 years, the sisters have served as spirit guardians to their homeland, which has called on the Trung sisters in times of need,” historian Nhung Tuyet Tran writes for Nat Geo’s History magazine.

SUBSCRIBER EXCLUSIVE 

Today's newsletter was curated and edited by David Beard and Monica Williams. Jen Tse selected the photographs. Have an idea or link to a story you think is right down our alley? Please let us know at david.beard@natgeo.com. Happy trails!

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