Alexander the Great conquered Persia in 331 B.C. and ended the Achaemenid Empire founded by Cyrus the Great. For the next five centuries, the Iranian plateau became ruled by other empires, until a new Persian dynasty took power. Fiercely proud of their roots, these new kings—the Sassanians—restored the might of their ancestors, drawing on their…

When Hiram Rhodes Revels traveled to Washington in 1870, he brought a historic piece of paper with him: a handwritten document certifying his right to serve in the United States Senate. Revels was poised to become the first black person to serve in Congress. But despite his election to the post, the senator-to-be wasn’t welcomed…

The collective gasp that happens when a small child chooses an encounter with a supermarket cashier or her new doctor as the moment to notice racial differences is one that many parents can relate to. Kids often ask questions that adults wouldn’t dare—and that’s a good thing. “Children as young as three years old are…

Bright green and viscous, Morningside Pond looks like a vat of unappealing pea soup. Styrofoam cups and plastic bags cling to the pond’s edge, bound in place by bubbles of green foam. This is, perhaps, what’s to be expected of an artificial pond in the center of a New York City park. Still, there is…

On February 23, 1945, six U.S. Marines planted an American flag atop a battle-blasted hill on the island of Iwo Jima, a fiercely defended Japanese stronghold. Photographer Joe Rosenthal got lucky and captured the moment in a single, immortal image. Within weeks the photograph became the theme of the U.S. Government’s seventh War Bond drive.…

In a damp, darkened shoreside laboratory near the Yucatán hamlet of Sisal, Carlos Rosas Vázquez lifts one of the scores of small conch shells littering a black plastic tank. He coaxes its wary occupant out onto his hand. A mouse-size octopus with tentacles like knotted threads, ghostly pale save for big, black eyes, wriggles across…

There are two words no one wants to hear during an emerging outbreak: local transmission. Over the weekend, Italy became the European leader in cases of the disease officially known as COVID-19. Its tally increased sharply from 11 to 124, as several clusters of infections with no connection to the virus’s site of origin in…

Finding the roots of when Mardi Gras was first celebrated in America is as complicated as the act of celebrating it today is simple. Some historians say it first appeared in Mobile, Alabama, pointing to notebooks left behind by Pierre Le Moyne D’Iberville, who chronicled his turn-of-the18th-century journey to locate the mouth of the Mississippi…

Alexander the Great conquered Persia in 331 B.C. and ended the Achaemenid Empire founded by Cyrus the Great. For the next five centuries, the Iranian plateau became ruled by other empires, until a new Persian dynasty took power. Fiercely proud of their roots, these new kings—the Sassanians—restored the might of their ancestors, drawing on their…

When Hiram Rhodes Revels traveled to Washington in 1870, he brought a historic piece of paper with him: a handwritten document certifying his right to serve in the United States Senate. Revels was poised to become the first black person to serve in Congress. But despite his election to the post, the senator-to-be wasn’t welcomed…