Make Me Smart
Below is a copy of this the latest newsletter from Make Me Smart. Sign up to receive these directly in your inbox each week.

The News Fix

It’s a bad combination: A definitively American holiday weekend — characterized by big-group, multigenerational gatherings and an abundance of food and drink — takes place this year in the middle of a pandemic that’s hitting the United States particularly hard. As states started tentatively reopening their economies in recent weeks, bars, nightclubs and get-togethers became nodes for the virus' spread, and the average age of infected people has skewed younger as cases have spiked. Turns out the coronavirus loves a party.

Now many state and local leaders are reversing earlier decisions, instructing people to isolate once again and requiring masks in public places (which, by the way, could prevent a loss in gross domestic product). It’s not going over well. In Texas, where COVID-19 cases are on the rise, bar owners sued the state after Gov. Greg Abbott ordered them to close down again.

In a particularly sobering moment this week, the United States set multiple daily records of new cases of COVID-19 — each day topping the last. And no, the expansion of testing isn’t the reason case numbers are going up. As Johns Hopkins University epidemiologist Jennifer B. Nuzzo explained in the Washington Post: "The way to tell whether a rise in cases is indicative of increased spread in the population — rather than a byproduct of conducting more tests — is by seeing how many tests are identifying infections." In many states, positive test results are outpacing expanded testing.

So be safe out there. Here are a few ways to celebrate the holiday this weekend while keeping socially distant. 

In 1972, Shirley Chisholm campaigned as the first woman and first African American to seek the Democratic nomination for president of the U.S.
Rhonda Brown

Smart In a Shot

On our show this week we played a voice memo from listener Rhonda Brown, a Chicago-based artist who shared with us her painting of Shirley Chisholm (above). In 1968, Chisholm was the first Black woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, and in 1972, she became the first Black woman to seek the Democratic nomination for president.

Chisholm served seven terms in Congress and was a co-founder of the Congressional Black Caucus. She supported the Equal Rights Amendment as well as Title IX, which sought to end sex-based discrimination in education and sports. In 2015, she was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Brown said of Chisholm: "She made so many bold statements about her Blackness. She was the people's politician, she was 'unbiased and unbought' in her own words, and unapologetic about her mission in Congress. … As an artist, I feel really proud to have had the opportunity to paint an image of someone who means so much to so many and still inspires us today."

The Numbers

Beaches are closed, community celebrations got called off and lots of people are sticking close to home this Independence Day. 


That’s how many organized Fourth of July fireworks shows take place in an average year. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, many communities have canceled those displays, dealing a financial hit to the companies that typically put on the shows. Meanwhile, consumer sales of fireworks are up 200% to 300% as more people look to set off their own. 

43 million

That’s how many people in the U.S. traveled more than 50 miles from their homes over Independence Day weekend last year — the second-most on record, according to AAA. But this year it’s anyone’s guess how holiday weekend travel will stack up. With coronavirus cases rising and social distancing restrictions varying state to state, it was too hard for AAA to predict. 


One way to connect with the Founding Fathers while you’re cooped up at home this weekend: raise a glass of beer. Taverns were popular among politicians in the nation’s early days, as this piece from Smithsonian Magazine explains. And with 8,386 American breweries to choose from nationwide, there’s likely a taproom nearby to provide some celebratory suds (with or without alcohol) for the occasion. 

This week on the podcast

Varsha Thebo, 27, on the day of her graduation from Georgetown University, May 15, 2020.
Agnes Bun/AFP via Getty Images

Episode 220: A higher ed crisis is a terrible thing to waste

This fall is going to be tough on colleges and universities. But it's also an opportunity to increase budgets, cut costs and leverage technology to make higher ed as accessible as it used to be. (Listening time, 35:33)


None of us is as smart as all of us

Tell us what’s making you smarter at We'd love to include your recommendation in a future newsletter.

"It’s always been broken"

Marketplace’s Kimberly Adams recommends this Twitter thread from writer Jacqui Shine in response to a New York Times essay on work-life balance for mothers during the pandemic. "This isn't 'the COVID-19 economy,'" Shine writes. "This is how it works for many people all the time." 


How the American economy was built

Listener Jim H. recommends the book "The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism" by historian Edward E. Baptist. Using plantation records, personal narratives, newspapers, political speeches and other primary materials, the book lays out how the expansion of slavery in the early days after independence built American wealth and global power. "America was the fastest growing economy the world has seen, but it was built on slave labor working land stolen from the Native Americans," Jim writes. 


Getting smarter... at home

Newsletter reader Roger T. recommends reaching out to old friends and family during lockdown, adding that it’s making him smarter and helping him reconnect in meaningful ways. "It helps my disposition and maybe theirs too as we discuss a myriad of topics important to us," Roger says.
Elevate your understanding of what's trending, breaking and buzzing with Make Me Smart. Because none of us is as smart as all of us.
Marketplace Facebook      Marketplace Twitter      Marketplace Instagram
Marketplace Logo