Readers of The Exchanged –
We hope you are having a nice May so far! For this issue, we have two important announcements.
First, we are excited to announce our leadership team for next school year! Please welcome Spencer Hall ‘22, Alyssa Bui ‘23, Sasha Perkins ‘22, and Henry Brown ‘23. They will be handling operations starting this summer, so please direct your questions to them.
Second, this week we have collaborated with the St. Albans Alliance of White Anti-Racist Students (AWAR) to publish a three-part series that examines racism’s legacy at STA. AWAR is an affinity group whose goal is to support diversity, equity, and inclusiveness efforts at St. Albans. You can find more about this group and read more about STA’s history at the end of the third article. We encourage all of our readers to take the time to read these important pieces.
Enjoy the History Issue!
– Your Editors-in-Chief
Henry Brown '23, Jack Thomas '23, & Teddy Palmore '23
The story doesn’t end with Frank Snowden. Through the 50s and 60s, DC-area private schools slowly began to integrate. The Episcopal Church’s influence and growing support for integration succeeded in motivating all DMV independent schools to integrate when the Episcopal School accepted its first Black student in 1968. However, integration did by no means mean the end of segregation-era problems.
Throughout the process of integration, the state of St. Albans was a microcosm of American society at the time. The administration and the Board of Directors, like many American politicians, seemed to believe that integration was a silver bullet: a final, definite change that would repair any and all problems surrounding systemic racism. In reality, the struggle for Black students was far from over.
Many of the first Black students to attend DC-area schools in the 60s and 70s recount the great pain they felt when they had no way to report racism and harassment against them. Black students who reported offenses against them were often punished. Some were even suspended or expelled. One can only imagine the pain they had to endure: attending schools that boasted racial equality while facing persistent racism and harassment, unable to freely voice their grievances.
Another great struggle was that the faculty remained vastly and disproportionately white, so very few Black students had trusted adults who could relate to their struggles. In 1970, 13 years after Frank Snowden was accepted to St. Albans, Mr. Brooks Johnson, a track coach, and Dr. Marie Racine, a French and Spanish teacher, were the only Black faculty. More than a decade after integration, the School struggled with employing a diverse faculty, which only made the struggle for the first Black students even more profound.
If some of these issues sound familiar, that’s because they still exist. Black at STA, an Instagram account created at the start of the 2020-21 school year, helped amplify the struggles of Black students and alumni at St. Albans. With the anonymous testimonies on the account, it became crystal clear that the prevalent struggles of Black students in the early days of integrated St. Albans continue to afflict Black students to this day. St. Albans was segregated for 50 years, and structural racism is still present here. Educating students about the racism that has plagued this institution for more than a century should be a no-brainer.
Yet, few know the full story of integration at St. Albans. Throughout the past few decades, the school has hosted various events with speakers, including Dr. Snowden, and includes selections of this history in the illustrated publication St. Albans School: The First Hundred Years. While these are steps in the right direction, St. Albans still falls short of providing an in-depth, easily accessible history of its transition away from an all-white institution.
One of the primary shortcomings of the Illustrated History is that it is told from the School’s point of view. After Frank Snowden was admitted in 1957, the book states that “enrollment did not suffer, applications continued to pour in, [and] Annual Giving, still in its infancy, grew each year.” The Board of Governors had expected massive retaliation, but there wasn’t. The Illustrated History concludes the section with the statement: “with little real difficulty, St. Albans had officially become an integrated school.”
However, to this day, STA continues to grapple with the real problems facing students of color. Does the financial solvency of the institution dictate whether integration was successful? Or to put it another way, do the reactions of white parents determine whether St. Albans integrated without issue? Of course not. Racism’s legacy at St. Albans does not end with Frank Snowden as the Illustrated History suggests.
Additionally, when discussing the admissions processes, the book states that “as far as anyone could recall, no black student had ever applied.” This begs the question: were there Black applicants that went unnoticed? The uncertainty demonstrates a lack of attention to this section. Even if no Black students had applied, the Illustrated History never examines why the School was unappealing for students of color. Was it the location of STA? Did St. Albans seem unappealing to these potential applicants? How so?
The oversimplification of St. Albans’ integration paints the School in a better light than perhaps it should be. What little is shared with the community is only concerned with the heroics of the School. Frank Snowden’s well being, or lack thereof, is left out. When only one side of this story is told, the white side of the story, we are blinded to racism at St. Albans.
The first steps to reconciling with our School’s racist past is to acknowledge its failures. St. Albans, as an institution, has yet to honestly tell the story of Frank Snowden’s integration to its students and the broader community. And until that happens we should not be surprised the racism and microaggressions persist.
In acknowledging the School's past, we open ourselves up to the hard truths about St. Albans. Once the whole school community knows of them, we can work together to address these faults. It is important that articles and actions, such as this piece, continue to happen in order to continue an open dialogue about St. Albans’ history. Furthermore, it is important that this reconciliation comes from the top to show the School’s commitment to the issue.
While St. Albans has not started a conversation specific to the history of its integration, it has gotten better at recognizing racism within the community. In response to reports of microaggressions reported to the administration, the School created affinity groups where students of the same ethnic background, sexual orientation, or religion can discuss their identity freely. In addition to affinity groups, the School also held an assembly this fall in response to the Black at STA Instagram account. The student-led assembly helped students understand the posts of examples of racism, and why it was important for the account to exist.
These are hard conversations to have, but they are also necessary ones. The fact that these discussions will be difficult and uncomfortable should not deter us. St. Albans prides itself on taking the hard right over the easy wrong. These dialogues about racism in our community are the hard right that we must take.
Private Schools' Shift Was Slow, Painful for First Enrolled Blacks – Washington Post
Racism at St. Albans – 1970 Yearbook Article, Jon Farmer
St. Albans School: The First Hundred Years – An Illustrated History – Updated History of STA
What is the Alliance of White-Anti-Racist Students?
The Alliance of White Anti-Racist Students (AWAR) is a new affinity group established at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year lead by Mr. Ehrenhaft. The group consists of students who want to play an active role in supporting diversity, equity, and inclusiveness efforts at St. Albans. One of its core principles is being anti-racist, which means taking an active role in combating racism as opposed to simply “not being racist.” If you would like to join AWAR for next year, please reach out to Mr. Ehrenhaft at email@example.com
Special thanks to:
Jake Fife '23 & Will Spector '23
In 1964, Dr. Frank M. Snowden III graduated from St. Albans. Dr. Snowden was the first Black student to attend St. Albans following the decision of the school to integrate. Despite the reassuring nature of an article presented in the Illustrated History of St. Albans, which suggests that Dr. Snowden's experience at the school had "little real difficulty," he himself confessed that his life as a Black student at STA in the 1960s was anything but easy.
In March 2021, Dr. Snowden addressed the viewers of St. Albans' annual alumni dinner over Zoom. He began his speech by providing a synopsis of his views on the COVID-19 pandemic as a long time epidemiologist. Later in the dinner, alumnus Dr. Carter Mitchell '93 presented the "2021 Gillchrist-Holleman" award to Dr. Snowden, inviting him to share his experience as the first Black student at St. Albans. The following stories are taken from Dr. Snowden's speech succeeding the award ceremony.
Dr. Snowden matriculated at St. Albans coming into A Form after leaving “The Slow School,” which was all-Black. He also attended an international school during his youngest years. At neither school did Dr. Snowden think about the concept of race. In his talk, he revealed that his father's goal for him at St. Albans was to prove that a Black child could find success in a rigorous academic environment – a situation which was not believed to be possible by many at the time. He was thought of as a social experiment. Dr. Snowden made friends quickly upon his arrival at St. Albans, but faced numerous challenges especially concerning racism. He was in a world he had never known before, a world dominated by racial stereotypes. As a middle schooler, Dr. Snowden received notes in his desk saying "Go back to Africa," and was regularly challenged to physical fights by classmates. He had no desire to engage in these fights because he felt as though he needed to reflect a positive image. He was often denied participation in athletic events with schools that had not integrated yet. Dr. Snowden felt that the school did not stand up for him in these instances, as he was often “unceremoniously dropped” from his teams. When Dr. Snowden was in Form II (eighth grade), he started a science fair project with a friend, and visited the friend's house to discuss the project. After his arrival, the parents of the white friend approached Dr. Snowden. He was no longer welcome at their home. "Before you know it, there are mixed race marriages, and mixed race children," they said. He was only 12 at the time.
In his senior year, Dr. Snowden was approached by a student who had been the most “viscerally racist” towards him every day for seven years of his St. Albans life. In Dr. Snowden’s senior year, the student embraced him, asking "can you forgive me?" At that moment, Dr. Snowden understood for the first time that racism not only hurts its victims, but is also detrimental to those who employ it as a weapon. He saw that this student had been damaged by his years of racism; by his years of looking in the mirror and seeing hatred staring back at him. The two students had a peculiar bond, both of them aware that learning only comes after suffering – in this case, the suffering caused by very different reasons. Dr. Snowden's response to the student was spontaneous: "Oh, but I already have."
William O’Brien '21 & Jason Lach '21
Anyone who has taken a US History course knows at least vaguely of the unashamed racism present across our country in the 20th century. Jim Crow laws controlled southern states under the guise of “separate but equal.” In the North, although not always written directly into law, discrimination, prejudice, and outright hatred towards people of color existed to an extent hard to fathom today. It comes as no surprise, then, that the racism that perfused all of society had spread to the Episcopal Church and, more specifically, the St. Albans community. Our foundational tenets of brotherhood, compassion, and community were not available to everyone equally.
The School had been segregated since its inception in 1909. A slight exception worth noting is the enrollment of a few sons of foreign diplomats who would be considered today as “people of color” but somehow were acceptable in the racially segregated community. Race issues were not completely ignored, however, and, as the traditional home for political and social debate on campus, Government Club occasionally hosted discussions around desegregation and civil rights. Records of club meetings show a unanimous vote against Black enfranchisement in 1942 and a 1948 argument on civil rights which ended in a similar result. A 1948 Albanian article said about the school, “It is also true at St. Albans, just as in almost any other private school, we have associated with boys from our own class of society, and thus we have become somewhat narrow-minded concerning many vital issues. And yet the boys we knew at school are the men we will be associating with all our lives, so there is really no need for knowing the opinions of those not so gifted as ourselves.” Although race is not mentioned explicitly, the widespread and “narrow-minded” outlook of the community at the time is evident.
The idea of desegregation at St. Albans had first been introduced by headmaster Canon Lucas, suggesting to the Board of Governors the need “to anticipate the issue” of adopting “an open admissions policy.” One Board member feared it dangerous to admit Black students “not as individual American citizens, but as members of subversive groups.” Without any real support, the proposal was quickly shot down.
The greater push for desegregation was born not in the school community itself but rather the wider Episcopal Church. After the historic 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling desegregated the nation’s public schools, conversations within the Church leadership began regarding their stance on the integration of private, Episcopalian schools.
Eventually, in 1955 the Episcopal Church urged all Episcopal institutions to racially desegregate, yet most schools took many years to put this order into practice. St. Albans’ close relationship with the Diocese meant they were the first of the area’s Episcopalian schools to integrate, earlier than St. Stephens and Episcopal. That being said, St. Albans still faced many obstacles and often pushed back at the idea of integration and open admission policy. Internally, the push for integration solely came from Bishop Angus Dun and his Cathedral Chapter. The Chapter did have some power over the Board of Governors, created in 1948, such as the ability to overrule any decision made by the Board and oversight on transfers of power at the school.
In early 1954, after numerous suggestions for integration had been ignored by the Board, the Chapter ordered the Board produce a serious plan to integrate by that Fall. It may not surprise you that this mandate was met with serious grievance by many in the STA community. Concerns of decreased enrollment, loss of donations, and alumni anger all caused great distress in the community, while the underlying backdrop to it all was still the outright racism that remained strong across the country. In the end, the strong and courageous work of Bishop Dun, Canon Lucas, and Canon Martin prevailed and the school began a gradual integration process in 1956. That year, the C Form officially used an open admissions policy and all other Forms followed the next year. Many years after the fight for integration first began, Frank Snowen ‘64 enrolled as an A Former in 1957, becoming the first Black student to attend St. Albans.
Holden Lombardo '23
Here are some words: there is a city that lies in the west of Russia on the banks of the Neva River bordering the Baltic Sea. In the 18th century, this city, Saint Petersburg, stood as the shining capital of the Russian Empire and the nucleus of its art, politics, business, and culture. However, the 20th century brought war and with it revolution. In 1917, Vladimir Lenin and the Communist Party came to power, replacing the Russian Empire with the Soviet Union and its new capital city of Moscow. Nevertheless, Saint Petersburg, renamed Leningrad after the Communist leader, remained an important Soviet city, both politically and economically, but above all as a symbol of Russian culture and history. The city’s symbolic value as the birthplace of the Russian Revolution became an important motivator for Nazi Germany’s plan to capture Leningrad during World War II. After Germany’s surprise invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, the Nazi Army Group North moved swiftly through Russia with the final goal of seizing the city. In anticipation of the siege, almost two million people, or half the population, fled Leningrad in a mass evacuation. Once the Germans reached the city on September 8th, 1941, the siege of Leningrad began: the most intense and casualty inducing attack on a modern city ever.
For two and a half years the Germans bombarded the city, destroying much of the its infrastructure and buildings, decimating the homes of millions of civilians. All in all, the bombardments destroyed half of all the buildings throughout the entire city, including 78% of hospitals which were needed more and more to receive injured, sick, and starving citizens. Additionally, the Germans established a firm blockade on Leningrad, so food and supplies could only be brought into the city during short windows when the lake that bordered the city, Lake Ladoga, froze over in the winter. From the very start of the siege, the limited supply of food rapidly decreased since food warehouses were primary targets for the Germans, who wanted to starve the city into submission. The government drastically reduced food rations five times in only the first year of the siege, causing mass starvation. If not from starving, thousands died of the cold during the winters since the majority of indoor areas were at least partially, if not fully, destroyed. As death rates skyrocketed, all basic societal and legal norms disappeared and the local government ceased to function. The extreme lack of food caused many citizens to seek other sources of sustenance from the ravaged streets and crumbling buildings. Many people began to eat leathers or wallpapers that contained potato starch, and yet others, more desperate for food, succumbed to eating pets, zoo animals, and even the human corpses that increasingly littered the roads. Conditions only worsened as the siege continued until finally a Soiet offensive ended the German siege and freed the city after almost three years. Estimates approximate that overall around 1.2 million Russians died, the vast majority of whom were civilians.
The unbearable conditions of the siege brewed in the people of Leningrad a desperation seldom seen throughout all of history: people so reduced to their basic instincts of survival as to be capable of terrible and unthinkable acts of violence and inhumanity. The prolonged starvation of an entire city tested the limits of human nature, exemplifying the potential for immorality contained in every person under extreme conditions. It is easy to judge and to condemn. It is easy to denounce the acts of murder and cannibalism during the siege as the evils of “bad” people. It is not easy, however, to even begin to fathom the atrocious circumstances undergone in Leningrad. To us, the siege is nothing more than a fact of history, to be read about and to talk about, but never any more real than words on a page.
Sascha Hume '23
In President Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress on April 29th, he boasted that his “American Rescue Plan” would lift more than five million children out of poverty this year alone, which would “cut child poverty in half”. His words reminded me of the most famous effort by an American President to eliminate poverty in the United States, the “War on Poverty” launched by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
In his 1964 State of the Union Address, President Johnson declared “unconditional war on poverty in America”. He was inspired by The Other America (Michael Harrington’s study of poverty in the United States), the late President Kennedy’s New Frontier initiative, and his own experience teaching impoverished children in Texas. He called on Congress to assist him in the anti-poverty effort, and, starting in August of the same year, the Democrat-controlled House and Senate followed suit. The War on Poverty encompassed many different federal and local initiatives, but it can be summarized largely by discussing four of the major pieces of legislation passed from 1964-1965.
First, the Economic Opportunity Act (or “Poverty Bill”), passed in August of 1964, created several agencies to fight poverty at the community level, such as the Job Corps and Urban and Youth Community Action. Rather than redistributing wealth, these programs were intended to provide low-income citizens with the skills necessary to find work, so that they could eventually provide for themselves. Most of the federal programs created by the Act were administered by the Office of Economic Opportunity, which was created alongside the programs.
Next, the Food Stamp Act, passed in the same month, turned the Pilot Food Stamp Program (which had been administered since 1961) into a permanent program, and brought it under congressional control. The program was appropriated with a budget of $75 million (to expand to $200 million after two years).
Third came the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which was passed in April of 1965, following the Democrats’ landslide victory in the 1964 presidential and congressional elections. The Act primarily provided additional funding for state public school systems, but also created new federal grants, scholarships, and education centers, with a focus on low-income and special-needs students.
Last and arguably the most important of the four main programs was the Social Security Act (or Social Security Amendments), passed in July of 1965. It created the United States’ first ever public health insurance programs, Medicare and Medicaid.
And now, the question which is invariably brought up whenever the War on Poverty (or any of LBJ’s programs) is brought up: Did it work?
Such a question cannot be answered in full without an in-depth analysis of all of the programs, and an estimate of poverty rates had the programs never been implemented. In this article, I will focus only on a few important statistics which shed some light on the effectiveness of the programs.
Given that the “war” was fought against poverty, assessing the changes in the poverty rate since the implementation of the War on Poverty programs can provide some general insight on their levels of success. (While diving into the nitty-gritty of each specific policy would provide a more robust analysis, that is beyond the scope of this article). There is no one “correct” metric for measuring poverty, so several different metrics are compared in most analyses. According to the Census Bureau's Official Poverty Measure (OPM), the percent of the US population living in poverty fell from 19 percent in 1964 to 12.2 percent in 1969, when LBJ left office. The rate continued to decrease, bottoming out at 11.1 percent in 1973 before recessions caused it to increase again. It has fluctuated ever since, standing at 10.5 percent in 2019 (the most recent year for which we have data for) after several consecutive years of decreases.
Some economists and statisticians consider the OMP to be an inaccurate measurement of the real level of poverty present in the United States, due to the rate not accounting for non-cash benefits, and for having a poor updating threshold. In response to the criticisms, the Census Bureau adopted the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) in 2011. The SPM includes non-cash benefits, but also has a more accurate, area-specific, higher threshold for necessary purchases than the OPM. A paper published by the Institute for Research on Poverty (IPR) in 2013 used the SPM to estimate the poverty rate from 1967 - 2012. The paper reported a drop from 25.6 percent in 1967, to around 22 percent in 1969, 19.2 percent in 1973, and around 17.5 percent in 1979, before an increase from which it did not recover until 1999. The rate in 2012 (the most recent data point when the paper was written) was 16 percent, meaning that the 1967 poverty rate had been cut by over 40 percent.
But wait, you might be saying, that’s simply the overall poverty rate. How do we know what role government programs had in that decrease? The same IPR paper also estimated the poverty rate for 1967 - 2012 with government taxes and transfers removed from the SPM, and actually found an overall increase, from 27 percent to 29 percent. Economists can only make educated guesses and estimates as to what the poverty rate would have been had the War on Poverty programs never been implemented, so this statistic is not necessarily a slam dunk in the initiative’s favor. One could argue that, absent all of the programs, higher economic growth would have led to an even larger decrease in poverty. However, the statistic does show clearly how much the reduction in American poverty since 1967 has been due specifically to government programs.
It is important to try to assess the specific effects of certain policies rather than just look at an overall change, if one wants to assess the policies’ effectiveness. Three War on Poverty policies which represent well the different aspects of the policy initiative as a whole are Medicaid, Food Stamps, and Head Start (a program which provides early childhood education for low-income children). In a 2017 study published in Health Affairs, researchers created a health-inclusive poverty rate, and found Medicaid to reduce said rate by 3.8 percentage points. A 2018 study from the Urban Institute found the Food Stamp Program to reduce the SPM by 2.6 percentage points, or a 17 percent change from 15.4 percent to 12.8 percent. Another 2018 paper, from the University of Michigan, studied disparities between children who attended Head Start and children who did not. Attendees were found to be 12 percent less likely to fall into poverty as adults than non-attendees.
In conclusion, there is a lot to be learned from studying the effects of the Johnson Administration’s anti-poverty legislation, and our legislators today ought to pay attention to such research as they craft the social programs of the future.
Sage Stretch ‘24
They emerge from underground, they scream in search of a partner, then they leave their carcasses on our sidewalks. Spring of 2021 brings the heavily anticipated return of Brood X, the colossal batch of cicadas that return every seventeen years. They stare at us with those red beady eyes, so we have to ask: what are they seeing? And how is it different from the last time they were here? The world is a vastly different place from what it was in 2004, and even more so from seventeen years before that, in 1987. However, they may notice that much has also stayed the same.
This year, as the cicadas emerge, they watch people staring at tiny smartphones, the super computers that can fit in our pockets. They see social media having expanded from one dominant platform (Myspace had one million users and Facebook was still in Mark Zuckerberg’s dorm room) to dozens that shape our lives today. They hear complicated conversations about artificial intelligence and cryptocurrencies, all new to them. They might find fences and blockades around the Capitol, still recovering from the insurrection on January 6th.
Although they are stunned by the changes, not everything is different from their last visit. In 2004, the cicadas might have heard announcers on ESPN explain events that sound remarkably familiar to us in 2021: Tom Brady leads his team to the Super Bowl and wins MVP; LeBron James stuns the NBA despite his age; Both Rodger Federer and Serena Williams competed in Wimbledon championship matches, just as they did in 2019 (the last time Wimbledon was played due to the pandemic). Even a news channel might sound the same: violence in the Middle East terrorizes many and sparks protests.
But not everything is the same. In 2004, the cicadas saw a peaceful election with a Republican winner, George W. Bush. Skype was launched, bringing us closer to The Jetsons and paving the way for the dozens of video chat services available now. Facebook was just starting out, yet now it is a multi-platform company with billions of users. Ronald Reagan died during the 2004 cicada visit, which may have saddened the cicadas, as he was president during their previous visit in 1987.
In 1987, East Coasters greeted the same cicada brood as well. When they emerged in 1987, they saw people glued to their box televisions watching The Cosby Show. Once again, the cicadas were stunned by the transition in technology. For the first time, the cicadas saw Microsoft 2.0 computers in use. Yet again, not everything changes during the cicada's hibernation. One comfort for the cicadas is Monday Night Football. When they appeared in 1987, Monday Night Football was one of the top-rated programs in the United States along with 60 Minutes. Both programs have withstood the decades, and both still have high ratings.
As they reflect, the cicadas might be overwhelmed by the rapidly changing world. They only have a couple of weeks to catch up on everything they miss over seventeen years.
Sophie Andersen ‘21
In my humble opinion, Avatar: The Last Airbender is the greatest show of all time and I firmly believe everyone should watch it. The American animated television series, which aired on Nickelodeon for three seasons (2005-2008), was created by Michael Dante Dimartino and Bryan Konietzko. The show reached and has maintained astounding success: according to research by the NDP Group, it was Netflix’s most popular kids’ animated show in America in 2020. While it was originally geared towards children, people in every demographic have come to enjoy the captivating show. This should come as no surprise: despite the show being seemingly lighthearted and funny, it also includes themes such as totalitarianism, genocide, imperialism, gender discrimination, disability, oppression, and marginalization.
The series depicts a world in which individuals have the ability to “bend” one of the four elements: water, earth, fire, or air. Four eponymous nations emerge as a result, all of which draw inspiration from mostly Asiatic cultures: the water tribe is inspired by Indigenous Arctic cultures like the Inuits and Yupiks, the Earth Kingdom by monarchical China, the Fire Nation by imperial Japan, and the Air Nomads by Tibetan Buddhist monks. The only person who can bend all four elements is the Avatar, the bridge between the physical world and the spirit world who is responsible for maintaining harmony. When one Avatar dies, their spirit is reincarnated into a new body. The protagonist is Aang, a 12-year-old Avatar who has been frozen in ice for 100 years. Two teenagers of the Southern Water Tribe, Sokka and Katara, accidentally discover the iceberg near the South Pole and revive him. In the absence of the Avatar, Fire Lord Sozin, the totalitarian monarch of the Fire Nation, has launched a world war and carried out a genocide of the Air Nomads, making the Aang the sole survivor of his nation. Alongside his friends and his flying Bison Appa, Aang races to master all four elements and stop the Fire Nation from achieving global domination.
It is possible that the success of Avatar: The Last Airbender can be largely attributed to its historic parallels and ability to transcend boundaries. While it is based largely on the conflicts between Imperial Japan and China in the 19th and 20th centuries, it is still palatable for kids.
The 1867 Meiji Restoration led to Japan becoming industrialized and the establishment of a government that strived to follow in Europe’s footsteps. We see this portrayed in the powerful naval force and weaponry of the Fire Nation. The subsequent Taishō Era of Japan mirrors the Fire Nation’s rapid militarization and colonization of other countries. Furthermore, just as China failed to industrialize, the Earth Kingdom lacks advanced technology. The Hundred Year War, a conflict initiated by the Fire Nation attacking the Earth Kingdom, is based on the First Sino-Japanese War. This war between the Qing Dynasty of China and the Empire of Japan started because Japan wanted influence over Korea due to their natural resources and geographic position. These are just two of the numerous historic parallels in the show that add crucial depth to the plotline.
An integral aspect of the show is that the viewer is given many insights into the complex narratives of people struggling to survive the ramifications of the war. We see the damage of Imperial Japan indoctrination in Fire Prince Zuko who says “Growing up we were taught that the Fire Nation was the greatest civilization in history. And somehow, the war was our way of sharing our greatness with the rest of the world. What an amazing lie that was.” Through Katara and Sokka, we see the grief of two adolescents who lost their mother to the war. But, every episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender contains a valuable lesson and conveys a message of hope that good will prevail. The show teaches children and adults alike to keep fighting for change.