Today we’re reflecting on what The Atlantic covered in 2021. Below you’ll find stories that are both cautionary and hopeful—and that cover both the natural world and our digital one.

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What Bobby McIlvaine Left Behind

McIlvaine was 26 years old when he died in the September 11 attacks. Two decades later, his loved ones are still grappling with the loss. In our September cover story, Jennifer Senior examines grief, conspiracy, and one family’s search for meaning.

Why Health-Care Workers Are Quitting in Droves

About one in five health-care workers has left their job since the start of the pandemic, Ed Yong reported this fall, and a bigger exodus may be coming.

Trump’s Next Coup Has Already Begun

Millions of Americans still believe the 2020 election was rigged in favor of Joe Biden. For our latest cover story, Barton Gellman spoke with Big Lie supporters to understand their convictions. They are, he reports, the primary source of Donald Trump’s power to corrupt the next election.

Not Enough Has Changed Since Sanford and Son

For decades, Black writers and producers have had to tell stories that fit what white executives deemed “authentic.” In our October cover story, Hannah Giorgis maps the slow, cyclical, and uneven progress of Black representation on television.

illustration of a machine eating mad emojis

‘History Will Not Judge Us Kindly’

In October, leaked internal documents revealed that Facebook has a highly sophisticated understanding of how it could make the platform safer from extremism and misinformation. The company “wants people to believe that the public must choose between Facebook as it is, on the one hand, and free speech, on the other,” Adrienne LaFrance wrote. “This is a false choice.”

The Roe Baby

Norma McCorvey, the plaintiff in Roe v. Wade, never had the abortion she sought. Today, the baby at the center of the case is an adult. After decades of keeping her identity a secret, Jane Roe’s child chose to talk with the journalist Joshua Prager about her life.

Why Confederate Lies Live On

Before the pandemic, Clint Smith set out to answer a question: Why does the myth of the Lost Cause persist? For some Americans, he wrote in our June cover story, Confederate history isn’t the story of what actually happened; it is just the story they want to believe.

Four generations of the women of the Schildt family at a sacred medicine rock on their property on the Blackfeet Reservation, with Glacier National Park in the background. The photographs that accompany this article are portraits of members of the Blackfeet Nation and the lands around them. They were taken on the Blackfeet Reservation and in Glacier National Park, in Montana, over two weeks in March. The Blackfeet’s homelands once encompassed part of the Rocky Mountains and what became the park, before the tribe was dispossessed of its land.

Return the National Parks to the Tribes

“For Native Americans, there can be no better remedy for the theft of land than land,” David Treuer writes in our May cover story. “And for us, no lands are as spiritually significant as the national parks.”

The Terrifying Warning Lurking in the Earth’s Ancient Rock Record

Many of the current climate models are missing something big, Peter Brannen writes. For our March issue, Brannen sifted through Earth’s deep past to understand just what kind of “ill-tempered planet we’re dealing with.”

One by One, My Friends Were Sent to the Camps

In 2017, the poet Tahir Hamut Izgil and his family escaped the Uyghur genocide in China. In an unprecedented, five-part series, he shares a rare firsthand account of the ongoing humanitarian crisis.

Thanks for reading. This email was written by Mara Wilson, whose favorite story this year was about Happy, the elephant at the center of the most important animal-rights case of the 21st century.

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