J. Samaine Lockwood: Nineteenth-Century New England’s Queer Thanksgivings

Archives of Desire: The Queer Historical Work of New England Regionalism, by J. Samaine LockwoodWe welcome a guest post today from J. Samaine Lockwood, author of Archives of Desire: The Queer Historical Work of New England Regionalism. A thought-provoking study of nineteenth-century America, Archives of Desireoffers an important new interpretation of the literary movement known as American regionalism. Lockwood argues that regionalism in New England was part of a widespread woman-dominated effort to rewrite history. Lockwood demonstrates that New England regionalism was an intellectual endeavor that overlapped with colonial revivalism and included fiction and history writing, antique collecting, colonial home restoration, and photography. The cohort of writers and artists leading this movement included Sarah Orne Jewett, Alice Morse Earle, and C. Alice Baker, and their project was taken up by women of a younger generation, such as Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins, who extended regionalism through the modernist moment.

In the following post, Lockwood explores the history of Thanksgiving as shaped by nineteenth-century regional, social, sexual, and political imperatives.

This week many Americans will be on the move. By plane, bus, car, and train, they will return to the place they call “home” to celebrate Thanksgiving with their families. Of those already at home, many will be crafting a meal for family and/or community members. And there will be other articulations of belonging such as the Indigenous Peoples Sunrise Ceremony on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay to protest the celebration of Thanksgiving and honor the American Indian Occupation of Alcatraz of the late 1960s and early 1970s. For, of course, the notion of home, including who has the right to call the land that comprises the United States home, is far from simple; condensed in the notion of home are contested ideas about individual, familial, collective, racial, and national identity. We experience such contestations especially during holidays such as Thanksgiving, which, premised on the idea of a return home, can be not only joyous but variously mournful, painful, and awkward, an idea well captured and leveraged in GLAAD’s 2011 campaign for members of the LGBT community, “I’m Letting Aunt Betty Feel Awkward This Thanksgiving,” which involved individuals committing to bring up LGBT issues at the Thanksgiving table. Gathering with family at home, defining home in the first place, can be particularly vexed for anyone who understands herself as outside mainstream forms of belonging.

Thanksgiving was institutionalized in the nineteenth century and primarily involved the reinscription of mainstream forms of belonging, including belonging to a heteronormative family. Thanksgiving began to be celebrated more regularly in the early national period as many white New Englanders left their home region to seek new opportunities within expanding imperial frameworks: on the western frontier, abroad, and in expanding urban centers.[1] A sense of identification with the culture of New England, particularly a sense of its historical import, shaped the spread of Thanksgiving across the nation. As Harriet Beecher Stowe represents in her novel Oldtown Folks, Thanksgiving was a significant holiday in early national Massachusetts, requiring culinary preparations that spanned weeks.[2] By 1817, Thanksgiving was celebrated as an annual event in New York and by 1824 the same was true of Michigan.[3] It continued to spread across states during the 1850s and was declared a national holiday by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, during the Civil War.[4] Like Christmas, Thanksgiving became increasingly standardized in the late nineteenth century, losing some of its important, contestatory aspects such as the tradition of poor children begging for money and the masquerading of the Fantastics, groups of cross-dressed men going door to door to ask for treats from the upper classes.[5] (The tradition of the Fantastics appears to have morphed into a ball thrown and attended by gay men in early twentieth-century Greenwich Village.)[6]

Depictions of Thanksgiving in the nineteenth century featured a family patriarch at the head of the table, but the holiday was deeply linked to the home as a physical and symbolic space associated with women. Much of the effort to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday came from Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of the Godey’s Lady’s Book, who well understood the powerful connection between the domestic sphere, women’s influence, and ideas about national belonging. Lincoln’s proclamation of Thanksgiving as a national holiday in 1863, like other of Lincoln’s proclamations, had much to do with regional power, particularly the Union’s assertion of a cultural power to match its military might. Thanksgiving was part of the North’s effort to instantiate itself, and New England in particular, as the center of a dominant historical narrative of the United States. It makes sense, then, that New England regionalist literature, which blossomed in the last half of the nineteenth century and was part of the same sectionally driven project, included among its types of short stories the Thanksgiving tale.

In the Thanksgiving tale as rendered by New England regionalists, an implicit claim is made to the centrality of New England to national history and the primacy of New England as the national home. At the same time, and perhaps surprisingly, these Thanksgiving tales often sought to put pressure on an institution central to the established Thanksgiving mythos: the heteronormative nuclear family. As I argue in my book Archives of Desire: The Queer Historical Work of New England Regionalism, New England regionalism had at its heart a queerly historical sensibility. The fiction writers who wrote regionalist literature were predominantly women: Rose Terry Cooke, Mary Wilkins Freeman, Annie Trumbull Slosson, Sarah Orne Jewett, and Alice Brown. Across their works unmarried women are the protagonists, engaging their late-nineteenth-century worlds with the grit and independence associated with colonial and Revolutionary male precursors. In the Thanksgiving tale we see not only the sectionalist investments of the New England colonial revivalist historical imagination, but the ways in which traditional notions about gender, history, sexuality, and belonging were being renegotiated by women writers of the period.

The conventional Thanksgiving tale involves a young, rural New England man leaving the women he loves (mother, sister, betrothed or wife) to seek his fortune elsewhere, and he eventually returns for Thanksgiving. In that return, in coming back to the home place associate with women, he is transformed. Such is the case in Rose Terry Cooke’s stories “Home Again” and “A Double Thanksgiving.”[7] Yet, significantly, the absence of the man often opens a space for the remaking of women’s lives, too. In Cooke’s “An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving,” set in Revolutionary-Era New England, the mother, Hannah, must transform her labor and assume family leadership when her husband and oldest sons go to war. The transformation of Hannah’s labor makes her like General Washington himself: “There was no father to superintend the outdoor work; so Hannah took to the field, and marshaled her forces . . . much as the commander-in-chief was doing on a larger scale elsewhere.”[8] Similarly, in Cooke’s first-person narrative “My Thanksgiving,” the narrator, Annie, shares how the absence of her fiancé, Jo, who is serving in the Civil War, requires a transformation of her character. When the family patriarch becomes nonresponsive because he believes Jo is dead, Annie chooses to continue on, forging deeper familial ties with her extended family and moving from self-loathing to assertive self-loving.[9]

Emergent in the New England regionalists’ Thanksgiving stories, however, is an idea of the reconfiguration of family and identity, what we might fairly call a representation of queer family formations understood as part of New England and New England history. Continue reading ‘J. Samaine Lockwood: Nineteenth-Century New England’s Queer Thanksgivings’ »

  1. [1] James W. Baker, Thanksgiving: The Biography of an American Holiday. (Lebanon, NH: University of New Hampshire Press, 2009), 62-63.
  2. [2] Harriet Beecher Stowe, Oldtown Folks. (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1987), 284-85.
  3. [3] Ibid., 69.
  4. [4] Ibid., 69, 71.
  5. [5] Elizabeth Pleck, “The Making of the Domestic Occasion: The History of Thanksgiving in the United States,” Journal of Social History 32, no. 4 (1999): 776.
  6. [6] Ibid., 778.
  7. [7] “An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving,” “A Double Thanksgiving,” “Home Again,” and “How Celia Changed Her Mind” are all from Rose Terry Cooke, Huckleberries Gathered from New England Hills. (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1892).
  8. [8] Cooke, Huckleberries Gathered from New England Hills, 128.
  9. [9] Rose Terry Cooke, The Sphinx’s Children and Other People’s. (Boston: Ticknor and Company, 1886), 257-289.

John Ryan Fischer: Indian Cowboys in California

fischer_cattleWe welcome a guest post today from John Ryan Fischer, author of Cattle Colonialism: An Environmental History of the Conquest of California and Hawai’i. Environmental historians have too often overlooked California and Hawai’i, despite the roles the regions played in the colonial ranching frontiers of the Pacific World. In Cattle Colonialism, Fischer significantly enlarges the scope of the American West by examining the trans-Pacific transformations these animals wrought on local landscapes and native economies.

In a previous post, Fischer connects recent disputes over the Mauna Kea landscape to a long history of colonial conflict on the islands. In today’s post, Fisher examines the little-known history of California’s Indian cowboys, or vaqueros.


As I researched the spread of cattle into Pacific regions and the reactions of indigenous people to the new animals in those regions for my book Cattle Colonialism, I was struck by one modern difference between the two main regions of my research, California and Hawaiʻi. The traditions and history of Hawaiian cowboys, known as paniolo, are widely celebrated in Hawaiʻi today. This indigenous cattle culture began in the 1830s when Spanish-speaking vaqueros from the North American mainland trained native Hawaiians to harvest the longhorn cattle that roamed wild on the islands after explorers had brought a small breeding population. On my research trips to Hawai’i, I would often see paniolo in parades, I could eat a beef “paniolo pizza” at a brewery, and there were tourist sites dedicated to the tradition. The Paniolo Preservation Society helps to keep the history of the tradition alive and visible.

In contrast, the important history of California Indian cowboys is far less visible in California. While California does celebrate an often romanticized past of the Spanish missions and ranchos, Indians often take a background role in favor of Spanish missionaries and colonists. In my own experience touring several of the missions, I noted that few concentrated on Indian life, and even fewer on Indian labor. The stories of Indian laborers often feel secondary to the spaces and stories of the Franciscan fathers, despite the fact that the missions were primarily centers of Indian work. The fathers hoped that productivity would lead to a surer conversion while they also made a profit, especially from the products of cattle in the form of hides and tallow that they sold to British and American ships along the Pacific coast. There are certainly signs of this work throughout the missions—from tallow vats to tanneries—and La Purisma stands out to me as a site that focuses on the type of work that its mostly Chumash inhabitants did on a daily basis. Beyond the missions, Indians as workers are even less visible in public presentations of California’s historical memory. Vaquero parades, rodeos, and festivals are rare, and the role of Indians in those festivals is small to nonexistent.

There are a few likely reasons for this omission. Continue reading ‘John Ryan Fischer: Indian Cowboys in California’ »

Toby L. Parcel: Exploring Attitudes toward Public School Desegregation Over Time

parcel_end_PBWe welcome to the blog a guest post by Toby L. Parcel, coauthor, with Andrew J. Taylor, of The End of Consensus: Diversity, Neighborhoods, and the Politics of Public School Assignments. One of the nation’s fastest growing metropolitan areas, Wake County, North Carolina, added more than a quarter million new residents during the first decade of this century, an increase of almost 45 percent. At the same time, partisanship increasingly dominated local politics, including school board races. Against this backdrop, Parcel and Taylor consider the ways diversity and neighborhood schools have influenced school assignment policies in Wake County, particularly during 2000–2012, when these policies became controversial locally and a topic of national attention.

In a previous post, Parcel sees common—rather than competing—interests in some school assignment decision making. In today’s post, Parcel discusses new research exploring ongoing attitudes toward public school desegregation in several southern cities.


Why have some school districts sustained school desegregation over many years while others have resegregated by race and income? Can we tie these differing histories to the attitudes and values of residents in these areas? Have attitudes and values in Wake County, North Carolina, regarding school desegregation changed over the last few years?

These are some of the questions I am investigating following the 2015 publication of my book with Andy Taylor, The End of Consensus: Diversity, Neighborhoods, and the Politics of Public School Assignments. In that work Andy and I reported the results of a mixed-methods study that used interviews, focus groups, archival data, case studies, and a 2011 representative survey of Wake County adults to understand school assignment policy change in the county. We wondered why in 2009—after many years of successful, voluntary school desegregation—had Wake citizens elected a school board committed to returning the county to neighborhood schools? Indeed, upon election, the new board discarded the student assignment policy based in part on promoting economically diverse schools, although they did not get very far in their quest to return most students to attending schools close to home.

We found several answers explaining the school board election and subsequent policy change. First, Wake County had experienced rapid population growth, making it very difficult to keep up with the influx of school-aged children. In turn, this growth prompted longer bus rides, and at times essentially mandatory attendance at year-round schools, both of which many parents resisted. In addition, the board increased student reassignments both to promote diversity and fill new schools the county was able to build. These were controversial. Second, the Republican Party was growing stronger in Wake, its members less committed to diversity and more invested in neighborhood schools than other residents. Third, citizens were worried that reassignments threatened both children’s learning and their school friendships. They believed reassignments were challenging for parents and children, and they worried about the sometimes unclear process the school board used to decide which children would be reassigned and when.

In writing this book, we also seriously engaged with another key question: was Wake unique? What was going on in other large districts, both in the South and elsewhere? Were they resegregating, and, if so, why? To address this, Andy I reported the results of studying both archival data and case studies of many school districts, large and small. We concluded that Wake was the largest school district in the country that had sustained school desegregation over many years, the recent debates and changes from 2009-2015 notwithstanding.

But I wanted to go further. Continue reading ‘Toby L. Parcel: Exploring Attitudes toward Public School Desegregation Over Time’ »

Book Trailer: Haitian Connections in the Atlantic World by Julia Gaffield

gaffield_haitian_PBOn January 1, 1804, Haiti shocked the world by declaring independence. Historians have long portrayed Haiti’s postrevolutionary period as one during which the international community rejected Haiti’s Declaration of Independence and adopted a policy of isolation designed to contain the impact of the world’s only successful slave revolution. Julia Gaffield, author of Haitian Connections in the Atlantic World: Recognition after Revolution, however, anchors a fresh vision of Haiti’s first tentative years of independence to its relationships with other nations and empires and reveals the surprising limits of the country’s supposed isolation.

Gaffield frames Haitian independence as both a practical and an intellectual challenge to powerful ideologies of racial hierarchy and slavery, national sovereignty, and trade practice. Yet that very independence offered a new arena in which imperial powers competed for advantages with respect to military strategy, economic expansion, and international law. In dealing with such concerns, foreign governments, merchants, abolitionists, and others provided openings that were seized by early Haitian leaders who were eager to negotiate new economic and political relationships. Although full political acceptance was slow to come, economic recognition was extended by degrees to Haiti—and this had diplomatic implications. Gaffield’s account of Haitian history highlights how this layered recognition sustained Haitian independence.

In the following video produced by Jeff Young, Gaffield navigates a history wrought with slavery, colonialism, racial stereotyping, and global power politics, and reveals how her book answers the question: What happened after the Haitian revolution? (running time 2:19)

Julia Gaffield is assistant professor of history at Georgia State University. Her book Haitian Connections in the Atlantic World: Recognition after Revolution is now available. Connect with Gaffield on her blog Haiti and the Atlantic World or follow her on Twitter @JuliaGaffield.

Holiday Sale!

Our Biggest Holiday Sale Ever! Save 40% on ALL books, plus free shipping on orders of $75 or more!

Let it snow . . . books! At 40% off, it’s easy to find a gift for everyone on your holiday list. All UNC Press books in print are on sale—no exceptions! Just enter 01HOLIDAY at checkout. And if you order $75 or more, shipping is FREE.

But there’s more! Get 40% off any Spring 2016 book in our new catalog when you pre-order using 01HOLIDAY at checkout. (Books not yet published will be shipped as soon as they are available.)

See below for some great gift ideas. Remember to browse our website to view the complete book blizzard!

Happy holidays, happy shopping, happy gifting!

Gulf Stream Chronicles: A Naturalist Explores Life in an Ocean River, by David S. LeeFlorynce "Flo" Kennedy: The Life of a Black Feminist Radical, by Sherie M. RandolphLittle Rivers and Waterway Tales: A Carolinian's Eastern Streams, by Bland SimpsonSunday Dinner: a Savor the South® cookbook, by Bridgette A. LacyLittle Dreams in Glass and Metal: Enameling in America 1920 to the Present, by Bernard N. Jazzar and Harold B. NelsonCrabs and Oysters: a Savor the South® cookbook, by Bill SmithCold Harbor to the Crater: The End of the Overland Campaign, edited by Gary W. Gallagher and Caroline E. JanneyBeans and Field Peas: a Savor the South® cookbook, by Sandra A. GutierrezSt. Francis of America: How a Thirteenth-Century Friar Became America's Most Popular Saint, by Patricia AppelbaumThe Battle of Ezra Church and the Struggle for Atlanta, by Earl J. HessAmazing Place: What North Carolina Means to Writers, edited by Marianne GingherWaterfalls and Wildflowers in the Southern Appalachians: Thirty Great Hikes, by Timothy P. SpiraShrimp, a Savor the South® cookbook, by Jay PierceChesapeake Gardening and Landscaping, by Barbara Ellis

Patricia Appelbaum: Pope Francis and the 1967 Theologians

appelbaum_stFrancisWe welcome to the blog a guest post by Patricia Appelbaum, author of St. Francis of America: How a Thirteenth-Century Friar Became America’s Most Popular Saint. How did a thirteenth-century Italian friar become one of the best-loved saints in America? Around the nation today, St. Francis of Assisi is embraced as the patron saint of animals, beneficently presiding over hundreds of Blessing of the Animals services on October 4, St. Francis’s Catholic feast day. Not only Catholics, however, but Protestants and other Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, and nonreligious Americans commonly name him as one of their favorite spiritual figures. Drawing on a dazzling array of art, music, drama, film, hymns, and prayers, Appelbaum explains what happened to make St. Francis so familiar and meaningful to so many Americans.

In today’s post, Appelbaum discusses Pope Francis’s climate change encyclical, placing it within a larger conversation by theologians of the 1960s Christian ecology movement.


This past summer, Pope Francis released his very welcome encyclical on climate change. Supporters and opponents have both noted his attention to science. What I find more interesting is his attention to theology and religion.

In those areas, the encyclical is thoughtful and thorough. Pope Francis considers the interconnectedness of all things—in ecosystems and in social and spiritual life. He insists that creation belongs to God, not to us. He advocates human humility. He says that humans are part of a web of life and that every creature has value. He points out that the Bible has far more to say about the created world than the one famous commandment in Genesis—“have dominion over the earth and subdue it.” He challenges the idea that Christianity encourages environmental destruction. He attends to the economic and political systems that make such destruction possible. He describes the effects of pollution and climate change on the poor. He says that we need both individual transformation and collective public action. In all of this he invokes his namesake, Francis of Assisi.

I don’t know whether he knows it, but Pope Francis is reiterating religious themes that surfaced with the first “ecology” movement in the 1960s. Christian theological discussions began around the time that Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, in 1962. Roman Catholics took note of Carson, and some younger Protestant theologians formed a study group. No one was talking about climate change yet, but these theologians were concerned with humanity’s relationship to nature and with what the Bible and the church had to say about it.

The issue took on a much higher profile after 1967. Continue reading ‘Patricia Appelbaum: Pope Francis and the 1967 Theologians’ »

University Press Week 2015: Blog Tour Day 5

UPW banner 2015

University Press Week concludes with blog tour day 5’s theme of #PublishUP: Presses in Conversation with Authors. Today’s posts:

See links to posts from blog tour day 1, theme: Surprising!

See links to posts from blog tour day 2, theme: The Future of Scholarly Publishing (including our feature post from director John Sherer: The Case for Financial Support of Your University Press).

See links to posts from blog tour day 3, theme: Design in University Press and Scholarly Publishing.

See links to posts from blog tour day 4, theme: #TBT (Throwback Thursday).

See the complete University Press Week Blog Tour schedule. On Twitter, keep up with posts and events tagged #UPWeek and #ReadUP.

University Press Week 2015: Blog Tour Day 4

UPW banner 2015

University Press Week continues with blog tour day 4’s theme of #TBT (Throwback Thursday). Today’s posts:

See links to posts from blog tour day 1, theme: Surprising!

See links to posts from blog tour day 2, theme: The Future of Scholarly Publishing (including our feature post from director John Sherer: The Case for Financial Support of Your University Press).

See links to posts from blog tour day 3, theme: Design in University Press and Scholarly Publishing.

See the complete University Press Week Blog Tour schedule. On Twitter, keep up with posts and events tagged #UPWeek and #ReadUP.

University Press Week 2015: Blog Tour Day 3

UPW banner 2015

University Press Week continues with blog tour day 3’s theme of Design in University Press and Scholarly Publishing. Today’s posts:

See links to posts from blog tour day 1, theme: Surprising!

See links to posts from blog tour day 2, theme: The Future of Scholarly Publishing (including our feature post from director John Sherer: The Case for Financial Support of Your University Press).

See the complete University Press Week Blog Tour schedule. On Twitter, keep up with posts and events tagged #UPWeek and #ReadUP.

University Press Week 2015: Blog Tour Day 2: John Sherer: The Case for Financial Support of Your University Press

UPW banner 2015

University Press Week continues with blog tour day 2’s theme of The Future of Scholarly Communication. Today’s posts in the tour are all linked below our special feature, which comes from UNC Press director John Sherer.

The Case for Financial Support of Your University Press

by John Sherer

When universities are asked to be more entrepreneurial, when costs associated with the system of higher education are under greater scrutiny, and when publishers have access to new digital workflow and dissemination tools that make their work more efficient, it is an appropriate time to ask whether university presses should still be receiving subsidies from their parent institutions. And it is understandable that these questions would be particularly focused on public university presses, where subsidies are especially tied to taxpayer funds.

Of course most university presses already operate as one of the more business-like units within a university. At the University of North Carolina Press, our subsidy is at a historic low-point as a percentage of our costs. But there is a critical aspect of our work that market activity cannot—and should not—be supporting: the system of peer review that is an essential hallmark of university press publishing.

In the case of UNC Press, state financial support is not used to directly support individual titles, or even series of books. Rather, these funds are used to subsidize a crucial set of editorial activities that work to guarantee the exceptionally high quality of our publications. As a result, the Press is protected from an array of potential hazards regarding favoritism toward individual authors, disciplines, or modes of scholarship.

Here’s a glimpse of what that editorial process looks like.

Our mandate for scholarly excellence at UNC Press requires that we reject the vast majority of the submissions we receive. We use a rigorous in-house editorial review process that is paired with a blind external peer review. Often reviewers consider manuscripts in original and revised forms over the course of many months. The process then culminates in a third review by our Board of Governors. No marketplace can deliver an ROI on these multiple levels of review. And no outside business consultant would recommend that we perform these activities if we wanted to improve our bottom line.

So if we’re being asked to operate in a market-driven environment, why do we review manuscripts in this way? Continue reading ‘University Press Week 2015: Blog Tour Day 2: John Sherer: The Case for Financial Support of Your University Press’ »

University Press Week 2015: Blog Tour Day 1

UPW banner 2015

This week, November 8-14, the Association of American University Presses (AAUP) and its constituent presses celebrate University Press Week. UNC Press and 50 other presses will unite for the AAUP’s annual blog tour to highlight “the extraordinary work of nonprofit scholarly publishers and their many contributions to culture, the academy, and an informed society.” Monday through Friday, several individual presses will post articles about a different theme each day, including: surprising aspects of university press publishing, the future of scholarly publishing, design in university press and scholarly publishing, #TBT (Throwback Thursday), and conversations with authors.

UNC Press blog will contribute to the tour on Tuesday, November 10, with a post from UNC Press director John Sherer on the future of scholarly publishing. On the other days this week, we’ll post links to the other articles appearing as part of the tour each day.

Today’s blog tour theme is Surprise! Today’s posts:

Check back each day this week for links to more great features from university presses. You can see the running blog tour roundups on the AAUP website. Follow along on Twitter with #UPWeek or #ReadUP.

Interview: Tanisha C. Ford on Black Women, Style, and Politics in the 1960s and ’70s

Author Tanisha C. Ford talks with Gina Mahalek about her new book, Liberated Threads: Black Women, Style, and the Global Politics of Soul.


Gina Mahalek: Very briefly, what is Liberated Threads about?

Tanisha C. Ford: Liberated Threads is about how everyday women turned getting dressed into a powerful political act that transformed the cultural and political landscape of the 1960s and ’70s around the world. Often, when we study the social movements of the mid-twentieth century, we focus on policy issues, the fight to integrate public spaces, and big events, such as marches and protests. But, in Liberated Threads, I argue that we need to focus on everyday acts such as getting dressed in order to understand how everyday people engaged in movement politics. Most people were not involved in formal political organizing. They were not members of Black Freedom movement organizations. But, they were engaged in the fashion culture of the time. I wanted to explore the various ways that fashion and style connected people to the global movement for black freedom.

GM: What does the title allude to?

TCF: The title is a play off of a colloquial term for hip clothing used within the black community. People in the 1970s would call their fine wear “threads” as a way to signify that they believed they were dressed sharp and that their clothes reflected their impeccable taste and upward mobility. By pairing the words “liberated” and “threads” I am acknowledging that there was a political language around dressing stylishly and that clothing was a key aspect of both personal and community freedom. Black people around the globe were invested in how they dressed because they understood that the clothes they wore communicated a powerful message. And they took great pleasure in dressing stylishly. The word “threads” also refers to the material culture aspect of the book. During the peak of the Black Freedom movement, the fashion industry put a premium on African-inspired prints. I’m interested in exploring how community-level political engagement affected global fashion trends. Lastly, I used Liberated Threads as a language for the African diaspora. I am invested in thinking through how people of African descent created these real and imagined ties based on their deployment of terms like “black” and “soul” that were coded through the clothes they wore.

GM: Your book begins in South Africa and is international in scope. Why is this important?

TCF: Soul was an international culture. It was the product of the intermixing of people of African descent from around the globe. I wanted to foreground its global dimensions by beginning the book in a non-U.S. context. South African singer Miriam Makeba’s career was in many ways emblematic of the international cultural ebbs and flows I discuss in the book. By centering on her, I could take the reader on this journey across the Atlantic to diverse, cosmopolitan cities. Places such as Johannesburg, London, and New York City have long, interesting histories of social movements and resistance. In many ways, these cities owe their popularity as global fashion capitals to the black folks who inspired the local fashions, though they are not often recognized for their style innovations. I wanted to explore how local movements and youth cultures influenced haute couture and ready-to-wear designers. But it was also important for me to examine these locales alongside cities such as Atlanta, Los Angeles, Bamako, Mali, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Port of Spain, Trinidad, to give a fuller picture of translocal and transnational fashion dynamics.

GM: How did soul become synonymous with black Americans? And what’s wrong with that picture?

TCF: One of my goals with Liberated Threads was to explain why black cultural forms become global phenomena. I wanted to challenge the idea that all styles, music, and political symbols we associate with the soul era originated in the United States and were circulated around the world. While this U.S.- centered story is popular, it is terribly overly simplistic. Yes, black American culture is highly influential, but there was much more cultural exchange than we have previously recognized. I use the imagery of a “soul circuit” to describe how black Americans and continental Africans borrowed from one another. International travel, print media, political broadsides, and technological innovations helped this growing soul culture gain more visibility, which in turn created a language around soul that was reflected in the advertisements, music, and films of the day. Because much of this content was produced in the United States, soul became synonymous with Black Americans, and the African and Caribbean influences became less apparent. Liberated Threads begins in South Africa to make these global cultural crosscurrents more visible.

ford_liberatedGM: What is your favorite story from the book?

TCF: There are so many great stories in this book—it’s hard to choose a favorite. I will say, there is a particular story that taught me something new. Late in the writing process, I stumbled across an interview with a woman who was a student activist in South Africa. She shared how she and her peers would dress in hot pants and stiletto heels when they participated in protests and marches. Her revelation was interesting Continue reading ‘Interview: Tanisha C. Ford on Black Women, Style, and Politics in the 1960s and ’70s’ »

Video: Julie Weise on the History of Mexicans in the U.S. South

Corazon de Dixie: Mexicanos in the U.S. South since 1910, by Julie WeiseWhen Latino migration to the U.S. South became increasingly visible in the 1990s, observers and advocates grasped for ways to analyze “new” racial dramas in the absence of historical reference points. However, as this book is the first to comprehensively document, Mexicans and Mexican Americans have a long history of migration to the U.S. South. Corazón de Dixie: Mexicanos in the U.S. South since 1910 recounts the untold histories of Mexicanos’ migrations to New Orleans, Mississippi, Arkansas, Georgia, and North Carolina as far back as 1910. It follows Mexicanos into the heart of Dixie, where they navigated the Jim Crow system, cultivated community in the cotton fields, purposefully appealed for help to the Mexican government, shaped the southern conservative imagination in the wake of the civil rights movement, and embraced their own version of suburban living at the turn of the twenty-first century.

Rooted in U.S. and Mexican archival research, oral history interviews, and family photographs, Corazón de Dixie unearths not just the facts of Mexicanos’ long-standing presence in the U.S. South but also their own expectations, strategies, and dreams.

This video was produced by the Oregon Humanities Center at the University of Oregon.

Julie M. Weise is assistant professor of history at the University of Oregon. Her book, Corazón de Dixie: Mexicanos in the U.S. South since 1910, is now available. Follow her on Twitter @JulieWeise.

Tiya Miles: Ghosts ‘R Us

miles_talesWe welcome to the blog a guest post by Tiya Miles, author of Tales from the Haunted South: Dark Tourism and Memories of Slavery from the Civil War Era. In this book Miles explores the popular yet troubling phenomenon of “ghost tours,” frequently promoted and experienced at plantations, urban manor homes, and cemeteries throughout the South. As a staple of the tours, guides entertain paying customers by routinely relying on stories of enslaved black specters. But who are these ghosts? Examining popular sites and stories from these tours, Miles shows that haunted tales routinely appropriate and skew African American history to produce representations of slavery for commercial gain.

“Dark tourism” often highlights the most sensationalist and macabre aspects of slavery, from salacious sexual ties between white masters and black women slaves to the physical abuse and torture of black bodies to the supposedly exotic nature of African spiritual practices. Because the realities of slavery are largely absent from these tours, Miles reveals how they continue to feed problematic “Old South” narratives and erase the hard truths of the Civil War era. In an incisive and engaging work, Miles uses these troubling cases to shine light on how we feel about the Civil War and race, and how the ghosts of the past are still with us.

In today’s post, Miles shares some of the slave ghost stories marketed at tourist sites around the South and argues for reverence, rather than caricature, of historic sites of slavery.


When comedian Wanda Sykes told talk show host Ellen DeGeneres that she had seen a black slave ghost in Richmond, Virginia’s Jefferson Hotel last summer, Sykes confessed that she didn’t want people to think she was “crazy.” But Sykes need not have fretted on that score. As sociologist Claude Fischer notes, citing Gallup surveys, over a third of Americans believe in spirits of the dead and nearly as many believe in haunted houses. Pew Research Center polling has found that 18% of Americans have seen or been near a ghost, and 29% have “felt in touch with someone who has died.” Among the multitude of Americans who believe in spectres, tens of thousands have visited historic sites in the Old South where the ghosts of black slaves are not only visible, but also marketed for a price.

The cultural phenomenon of ghost tourism, in which stories about supernatural encounters in the very places where they are said to have occurred, draws large enthusiastic crowds with wide-open wallets. According to those who lead these spectral experiences and the tourism scholars who study them, ghost tours are supposed to be “light” and “fun,” allowing participants to escape into a fantasy world, to experience a hidden and often forbidden side of history, and to feel the thrills of hearty frights and cultural taboos while resting assured that they are secure in the realm of the safe and the living. But this public frenzy for apparitional visitations has some historians concerned that in iconic American places, ghost tours have overtaken historical tours, replacing fact with fiction and trivializing consequential events. Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, is a prime example where ghost tours have gained in popularity and raised historians’ hackles. Critics feel that when ghost tours make a Civil War battlefield where approximately 50,000 men died seem like a romp with Casper, they undermine the ability of that place to teach us about the tragedy of a nation divided over the fate of an inhumane practice, and they belie the irreversible violence and extreme toll on humanity of this war, and all wars.

Judging by the sheer number of supernatural walking tours, bus tours, hearse tours, and reality TV shows proliferating across the country, America is host to manifold hauntings: at prisons, insane asylums, old hotels, historic sites and, of course, exceedingly Gothic haunted houses. It is perhaps not surprising that many of these hauntings are rooted in the South, the site of the American tragedy of slavery and the seat of the Civil War. In today’s Dixieland, enslaved ghosts join a cast of spectral characters: Confederate soldiers carrying muskets, young plantation belles in mourning, lovelorn barmaids done wrong, and profiteering pirates. But it is the ghosts of the enslaved who stand out. After experiencing several ghost tours in southern states as of late, I share other critics’ concern that ghost tours are crowding out critical engagement with the most difficult, most important moments of our collective past. Continue reading ‘Tiya Miles: Ghosts ‘R Us’ »

John Ryan Fischer: Land on Hawai’i’s Mauna Kea

fischer_cattleWe welcome a guest post today from John Ryan Fischer, author of Cattle Colonialism: An Environmental History of the Conquest of California and Hawai’i. Environmental historians have too often overlooked California and Hawai’i, despite the roles the regions played in the colonial ranching frontiers of the Pacific World. In Cattle Colonialism, Fischer significantly enlarges the scope of the American West by examining the trans-Pacific transformations these animals wrought on local landscapes and native economies.

In today’s post, Fischer explains how recent disputes over the use of Hawai’i’s Mauna Kea landscape are part of a long history of colonial conflict on the islands.


Since October of last year, dozens of protestors have been arrested near the peak of Mauna Kea, the large mountain formed by volcanic activity on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi. The peak is one of the most sacred sites to traditional native Hawaiian beliefs, and the protestors have demonstrated against the construction of a large astronomical observatory there.

The elevation and relative isolation of the Big Island’s highest peaks make them valuable sites for atmospheric and astronomical observation, and several observatories already stand on the peak. The land is controlled by the state government, which has allowed these projects since the mid-twentieth century, but not without opposition. The current project, also the largest, is the Thirty-Meter Telescope. Environmental groups argue that the telescope is a threat to an endangered species on Mauna Kea, the palila bird, and Native Hawaiians and allies have protested this latest incursion on their sacred land.

Mauna Kea is an important site in the history of Hawaiian colonization. Not only is it an imposing landscape—more than 4,200 meters above sea level and sometimes capped by snow even in its tropical location, it is taller than Everest when measured from its base on the sea floor—but it has also been a central site of habitation and colonialism. Much of my book Cattle Colonialism on the role of introduced cattle in Hawaiian history takes place on the dormant volcano’s slopes. These gentle slopes provided some of the largest rangelands for introduced cattle to graze after the British explorer George Vancouver introduced them to the island in 1793.

European explorers and missionaries often noted the animals’ effects on the crops of native commoners, some of whom were forced to abandon traditional ways of life to work in the burgeoning beef provisions, hides, and tallow industry. The Great Māhele land reform in 1850 allowed Americans and Europeans to buy up native Hawaiian lands, and before the era of sugar plantations, many of these accumulated lands became cattle ranches. It was in this same land reform that native Hawaiians lost control of most of their land, including much of the sacred territory of Mauna Kea. Even today, the slopes of Mauna Kea look more like western ranching lands than the beaches that Hawaiʻi usually evokes.

Astronomical research has value, and the Big Island’s peaks have played a notable role in the history of science. Continue reading ‘John Ryan Fischer: Land on Hawai’i’s Mauna Kea’ »

Kim Tolley: (Nearly) Equal Pay for Women in the Antebellum South

Heading South to Teach: The World of Susan Nye Hutchison, 1815-1845, by Kim TolleyWe welcome to the blog a guest post by Kim Tolley, author of Heading South to Teach: The World of Susan Nye Hutchison, 1815-1845. Susan Nye Hutchison (1790-1867) was one of many teachers to venture south across the Mason-Dixon line in the Second Great Awakening. From 1815 to 1841, she kept journals about her career, family life, and encounters with slavery. Drawing on these journals and hundreds of other documents, Tolley uses Hutchison’s life to explore the significance of education in transforming American society in the early national period. Tolley examines the roles of ambitious, educated women like Hutchison who became teachers for economic, spiritual, and professional reasons.

In a previous post, Tolley asked the question: What if there had never been a Confederate battle flag? In the following post, as debates about the gender wage gap continue to make headlines today, Tolley addresses a common myth about the wage gap of the antebellum era and how it differed from that of the twenty-first century.


Equal pay and greater opportunities for women in the workplace are hot topics today. The most recent U.S. Census statistics show that among full-time, year-round workers, the average female earns 78 cents to the average male’s dollar. Several presidential candidates have made the wage gap a key issue in the 2016 campaign.

Modern commentators often assume that earnings inequality has persisted throughout history and improved only recently, but this isn’t the case. During the antebellum era, women who established their own schools in the South could often earn as much as men. With access to education, a free woman could start out as a teaching assistant and eventually move up in position to become a teacher, head of a female department, and even the principal of an all-female school. Census data indicates that though a significant wage gap existed in northern schools, the gap was much smaller in southern schools, where women’s wages were typically 85-100 percent of men’s. And if a woman had enough ambition to open and operate her own school, that gap could disappear.

Susan Nye Hutchison’s story illustrates this kind of career trajectory. Starting in 1815 she taught for thirty years in North Carolina and Georgia, both as a single and a married woman. She became a very successful educational entrepreneur during her last dozen years in North Carolina, founding several schools and eventually helming all-female academies in Salisbury and Charlotte. Nor is her case particularly exceptional. Over the years, she educated hundreds of young southern women, and some of them went on to become teachers and heads of their own schools.

Teachers like Hutchison have been nearly invisible in histories of the South, Continue reading ‘Kim Tolley: (Nearly) Equal Pay for Women in the Antebellum South’ »

Video: The Life and Legacy of Bill Neal

The Southern Foodways Alliance has produced a wonderful video honoring the work and legacy of chef Bill Neal (1950-1991), founder of La Residence and Crook’s Corner restaurants in Chapel Hill and author of numerous books, including Bill Neal’s Southern Cooking and Biscuits, Spoonbread, and Sweet Potato Pie.

We’re delighted to see his contributions honored and preserved with this short film. Even if you already know him as a legendary southern chef and restaurateur, you might just learn something new here about Bill Neal, the man, from some of those who knew and loved him.

Want to know more? These books will help: Continue reading ‘Video: The Life and Legacy of Bill Neal’ »

Holly M. Karibo: Race and Violence on the Northern Borderline: The Case of the Windsor “Jazz Riot”

karibo_sin_PBWe welcome to the blog a guest post by Holly M. Karibo, author of Sin City North: Sex, Drugs, and Citizenship in the Detroit-Windsor Borderland. The early decades of the twentieth century sparked the Detroit–Windsor region’s ascendancy as the busiest crossing point between Canada and the United States, setting the stage for socioeconomic developments that would link the border cities for years to come. As Karibo shows, this border fostered the emergence of illegal industries alongside legal trade, rapid industrial development, and tourism. Tracing the growth of the two cities’ cross-border prostitution and heroin markets in the late 1940s and the 1950s, Sin City North explores the social, legal, and national boundaries that emerged there and their ramifications.

In today’s post, Karibo recounts a largely forgotten event that took place on the northern U.S. border, tying it into current conversations about riots, race, and borders.


It was a warm August in 1960 as residents of the border cities of Windsor, Ontario, and Detroit, Michigan, prepared to celebrate the annual Emancipation Day festival on the Canadian side of the Detroit River. The festival was established to commemorate the 1843 passage of the Emancipation Proclamation in Upper Canada, a move that freed slaves in the country and encouraged thousands of African Americans to escape slavery north. For decades, the festival had been run as a transnational event designed to celebrate this shared history among border residents. By 1960, the event had grown to several days long and included sporting events, a midway, Sunday sunrise services, a Miss Sepia pageant, and performances by top musicians.

It was the latter that sparked controversy on August 1. That evening, more than 4,500 people, many of whom were African Americans from Detroit, attended the headlining jazz show. In the middle of the performance, local papers reported, a fight broke out between African American gangs from Detroit. One man was stabbed in the chest and at least fifty others injured. Local Emancipation Day organizers were horrified by the incident, and worked hard to separate their celebration from the violence that took place. Walter L. Perry, Windsor’s “Mr. Emancipation,” accused Detroit “syndicates” of exploiting the festivities for their own personal gains and consequently giving Emancipation Celebration a bad reputation. For Perry, the fight only confirmed his fears—that Detroit criminals would reinforce negative racial stereotypes during the very festivities meant to celebrate racial equality and promote racial harmony.

In fact, Perry and the festival organizers had good reason to be worried. Continue reading ‘Holly M. Karibo: Race and Violence on the Northern Borderline: The Case of the Windsor “Jazz Riot”’ »

Bob H. Reinhardt: The Fascinating Puzzlement over Smallpox Eradication

reinhardt_endWe welcome to the blog a guest post by Bob H. Reinhardt, author of The End of a Global Pox: America and the Eradication of Smallpox in the Cold War Era. By the mid-twentieth century, smallpox had vanished from North America and Europe but continued to persist throughout Africa, Asia, and South America. In 1965, the United States joined an international effort to eradicate the disease, and after fifteen years of steady progress, the effort succeeded. Reinhardt demonstrates that the fight against smallpox drew American liberals into new and complex relationships in the global Cold War, as he narrates the history of the only cooperative international effort to successfully eliminate a disease.

In a previous post, Reinhardt argues for vaccination discussions that consider the past, present, and future. In today’s post, he discusses the phenomenon of smallpox eradication and the uneasiness created by the possibility of such a disease vacuum.


Whenever I mention that I have written a book about the eradication of smallpox, people usually look at me with equal parts fascination—“Wow, that’s a great story to tell!”—and puzzlement—“Wait a second . . . smallpox? Eradicated? Really?” I love seeing this reaction. After more than six years of working on the topic, I sometimes forget that that’s exactly where I started. My initial reaction of familiarity with smallpox quickly gave way to confusion about the disease’s past and present. That led to years of reading, research, and writing, and I’d like to think that the book that came out of it all addresses some of that puzzled fascination.

That fascination often starts with a vague sense of familiarity with smallpox. Despite the fact that the global smallpox eradication campaign—led by the World Health Organization (WHO) working in cooperation with the Communicable Disease Center (CDC, now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and dozens of other national health authorities—achieved success in 1980, smallpox seems oddly present. That presence comes partially from the repeated appearance of smallpox in pop culture—my favorite show, The X-Files, featured the smallpox eradication program as the tool of a vast global conspiracy preparing for alien invasion.

Smallpox also appears in the news media; my Google news feed for “smallpox” provides at least three new articles a week, ranging from alleged reappearances of the disease to the latest efforts to develop a smallpox drug, a millennia-old chimera. Smallpox has also developed a prominent, almost mythical, role in North American history, particularly the devastating role it played in decimating Native American populations. In these and other ways, smallpox—a disease that hasn’t been seen in more than thirty years—seems strangely present and familiar.

At the same time, people are also vaguely aware that smallpox no longer exists . . . maybe. Continue reading ‘Bob H. Reinhardt: The Fascinating Puzzlement over Smallpox Eradication’ »

Julia Gaffield: Dessalines Day, October 17

gaffield_haitian_PBWe welcome to the blog a guest post by Julia Gaffield, author of Haitian Connections in the Atlantic World: Recognition after Revolution. On January 1, 1804, Haiti shocked the world by declaring independence. Historians have long portrayed Haiti’s postrevolutionary period as one during which the international community rejected Haiti’s Declaration of Independence and adopted a policy of isolation designed to contain the impact of the world’s only successful slave revolution. Gaffield, however, anchors a fresh vision of Haiti’s first tentative years of independence to its relationships with other nations and empires and reveals the surprising limits of the country’s supposed isolation.

Jean-Jacques Dessalines, a man enslaved under French rule who played an important role in Haiti’s independence, became Emperor Jacques 1er of Haiti. His rule ended with his death during a military revolt in October of 1806, the anniversary of which is celebrated in Haiti as Dessalines Day, October 17. In today’s post, Gaffield argues that although Haitians mark the day as a celebration of the death of a tyrant, Dessalines’ legacy is actually more complex than that.



Otsego Herald, Cooperstown, New York, 29 March 1804, Vol. IX, Issue 470, Page 2.

Tomorrow, 209 years ago, generals of the Haitian army murdered Emperor Jacques 1er of Haiti. The military rebels then hacked his body to pieces before parading the corpse around the streets of Port-au-Prince. The emperor, one general reported, “believed that the art of government consisted of nothing but his tyrannical will and he indulged in the most villainous debauchery.”

Like his enemies on October 17, 1806, history has not been kind to Dessalines. Beginning with his ascent to power and continuing into the twenty-first century, Dessalines has been criticized for his use of violence during and after the Revolution as well as for his alleged political incompetence. Much of the criticism is a product of racist beliefs about his “African” character despite the fact that we do not know with certainty whether he was born in Saint-Domingue or in West Africa. His “Africanness” is almost always pitted against the “civility” and “moderation” of the earlier revolutionary leader Toussaint Louverture.

Dessalines’s abilities and successes have been “silenced in order to cast him as a bad apple in the (now) celebrated Haitian Revolution that changed the course of modern history. This oversimplified version of Dessalines as a revolutionary and state leader ignores his political achievements and reduces the Haitian Revolution to a palatable and whitewashed event during the Age of Revolution. It mirrors a reluctance to study the years after the Declaration of Independence. The revolution did not produce a democratic republic based on universalist principles of freedom and equality.

But we cannot pick and chose which parts of the revolution we remember. Continue reading ‘Julia Gaffield: Dessalines Day, October 17’ »