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

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.

Interview: Sherie M. Randolph on Black Feminist Radical Florynce “Flo” Kennedy

Taylor Humin: This is the first full-length work written about Flo Kennedy; meanwhile, Gloria Steinem, her contemporary and fellow activist, is a household name. Why isn’t Kennedy better known?

Sherie M. Randolph: Despite Kennedy’s willingness to seek the media’s spotlight, the media often ignored her leadership in the women’s movement. She was black and middle-aged, and her image did not fit neatly with the media’s fascination with the “young,” “hip” new women’s movement of the 1960s and 1970s. The media had a bias toward stereotypically attractive women (read white and young) and often preferred to center or elevate in the press those women who fit this category (Gloria Steinem and Ti-Grace Atkinson, for example).

Often the media coverage of Kennedy’s actions did not mention that she was even a member (or an early or founding member) of organizations such as NOW or that she was a feminist. Instead, Kennedy was often portrayed as an organizer who was working alongside NOW or other feminist groups, but not as a leader of these organizations and actions. Some scholars have repeated this bias by ignoring or under-analyzing black feminism and Flo Kennedy.

Kennedy was well known to most radical activists during the 1960s and 1970s because she was a lawyer, fundraiser, and very skilled at drawing media attention to her causes. As a media-savvy activist, she was skillful in gaining the media’s attention for her actions; which ranged from pee-ins to protest Harvard Law School’s lack of bathroom facilities for women to marches down Fifth Avenue to protest the assassination of Martin Luther King. She relied on street theater to draw the notice of the media (and therefore advertisers, etc.) and potential organizers. Yet, until my book, history has forgotten her.

Interview: Cecelia Tichi on Jack London’s Fight for a Better America

Gina Mahalek: Jack London is well known for his adventure novels, like The Call of the Wild. But apart from tales such as the one about a dog in the Yukon, who was he? And why does he matter today?
Cecelia Tichi: Jack London (1876-1916) was the most popular U.S. writer of the early 20th century, the first to earn $1 million. In a career spanning twenty years, he published fifty books, hundreds of short stories, and numerous essays. His books sold well internationally and have been translated into several languages. He continues to be one of the most famous and esteemed writers in the world—arguably better known and respected abroad than here in the United States.

Interview: David Gilbert on the birth of the Manhattan musical marketplace

Gina Mahalek: What was the Manhattan Musical Marketplace that you discuss in your book?

David Gilbert: This is a term that I coined to explain the historical formation of New York City as the center of American popular culture at the turn of the twentieth century. I think that many music fans, musicians, and scholars kind of take for granted that NYC has always been America’s capital of popular entertainment, and I wanted to tell the story about how this came to be. Rather than assume Broadway Theater and Tin Pan Alley song publishing just naturally developed into leading culture industries, I want to call attention to the moment in which these spaces—and their connotations—developed. And I want to emphasize African Americans’ roles in creating both New York’s unique culture markets and important facets of American popular culture.

Interview: Kimberly Marlowe Hartnett on Harry Golden, ‘Carolina Israelite’

A favorite trick of Golden’s was to add a well-known author, philanthropist, politician, or actor to the circulation list of the Carolina Israelite without the celebrity’s knowledge, then mention the famous person in print as one of the newspaper’s loyal subscribers. It’s amazing how often this led to real friendship! The famous and powerful liked Golden for the same reasons so many regular folks did—his straight talk, his encyclopedic knowledge on politics and history, and his refreshingly tart humor.

Interview: Charles L. Hughes on Country Soul

Musically, there continues to be a deep stylistic overlap between country and soul. Some of the biggest country stars of today utilize the sounds and songs of R&B, while many contemporary soul and hip-hop artists (particularly from the South) bring the characteristics of country onto their records. Then there are the folks in the middle—many of whom, like Jason Isbell or Valerie June, are from the triangle—who draw from both traditions and blend them together in new and interesting ways. It remains one of the deepest wells of American music.

Book Trailer: The Stigma of Surrender, by Brian K. Feltman

In the video, Feltman shares what initially sparked his interest in the military and social history surrounding prisoners of war during and after World War I and he discusses the psychological impact of captivity on a soldier’s sense of manhood at a time when honor was defined on the battlefield.

Interview: Rod Phillips and the world history of alcohol

Brewsters were female brewers. They were important because during the Middle Ages (and later in the American colonies) women brewed the beer their families needed. Brewing was seen as a woman’s task, like baking. Beer was liquid bread, and very nutritious. But as brewing became more commercialized, women were pushed out. The world of big business was seen as no place for women, and women didn’t have access to the financing needed for a commercial brewery. So brewing became a male occupation, and it’s really only with the rise of craft breweries in the last decade or two that women have started to re-enter the industry.

Interview: Fiona Ritchie and Doug Orr on the Music of Appalachia

In Scotland, Ulster and Appalachia, the songs have always been viewed as more important than any one individual singer. The anonymous authorship of much of the repertoire meant that no one questioned the fact that people often had their own family versions of ballads, or that they varied in different geographical areas. The tradition of singing and passing songs on has had an unbroken momentum across time and place. In fact, the urge to make music and share it has been even more vital than the repertoire itself. Like any good story, a good song (and the ballads are all stories after all) will live on. It’s the same with strong melodies: they also often have independent lives and may be paired up with many songs and different dances. No one owns this stuff. It belongs to everyone.

Interview: Marcie Cohen Ferris on The Edible South

Southern cuisine was a key component in historic preservation efforts in the early twentieth century to promote and sell the South and its racial mores to both tourists and locals. Through constructed memories of southern food from the plantation to the mountain South, sophisticated campaigns were launched to promote the “taste” of the Old South in Williamsburg, Virginia, the Lowcountry flavors of Savannah and Charleston, the fashionable Creole cuisine of New Orleans, and the “authentic” “hillbilly” and “Highlands” foods of the mountain South.

Interview: Christopher Norment on the beauty of the desert ecosystem

The amount of surface water in the Basin and Range country of California and Nevada, where my book is set, has fluctuated tremendously over the last several million years and the fortunes of the salamanders, toads, and pupfishes have waxed and waned with the advance and retreat of these waters. Imagine standing above Death Valley 150,000 years ago and looking out over ancient Lake Manly, which was six hundred feet deep and eighty miles long. Lake Manly—and Searles Lake, Panamint Lake, and Tecopa Lake, on and on—would have been stunningly beautiful, part of a widespread Pleistocene “sea.” The fishes and amphibians that lived in or near these lakes, or along feeder streams, must have prospered. Now these waters have been replaced by desert and salt pan playas, and “my” species have retreated into refugia, where they persevere, sometimes against great odds.

What Ken Burns’s ‘The Roosevelts’ doesn’t tell us (but viewers should know) about Josephus Daniels

Lee A. Craig, author of Josephus Daniels: His Life and Times, talks to Publicity Director Gina Mahalek about his reaction to the portrayal of Josephus Daniels (who was, at the time, one of the most influential men in the world) in the latest Ken Burns PBS documentary series The Roosevelts: An Intimate History.

Interview: Sahar Amer on ‘What Is Veiling?’

The greatest misunderstanding about veiling is that it is imposed by an outside party, not willingly adopted by women. To be sure, some women are forced to veil because of parental pressures or because of the government of the country in which they live. But they are the minority, not the majority, as much of the media wants us to believe.

Interview: Shabana Mir on College Experiences of Muslim American Women

Recently, I took (and passed) my citizenship test, and the interviewer asked me if I had a middle name. When I said no, she asked if I wanted to change my name. Hmm, I thought, am I supposed to, to become an American? For many Americans, including those born and raised here, there’s an assumption that they must prove just how American they are. My research participants felt that way much of the time, but those who practiced certain kinds of behaviors—drinking, dating, dressing in mainstream Western fashion—felt the pressure less. Diya was relatively indistinguishable from her White American friends in terms of lifestyle, but then she came under question for just how Muslim she was. If she didn’t wear hijab, was she a nominal Muslim? Amber, a hijabi, was on the other hand perpetually being required to speak up for Muslims in classroom discussions on Islam and terrorism, or Islam and gender. Almost all of my research participants felt that because of the pervasive nature of Muslim stereotypes, they were always or often having to prove that they were really American, normal, empowered, peaceful Muslims.

Interview: Mario T. Garcia on The Latino Generation

The stories of these young Latinos reveal them as ordinary young Americans with many of the same experiences and hopes and aspirations as other young Americans of other ethnic backgrounds. Latinos are no different and perhaps here is what I want to convey in this book. Latinos are us and we are they. There should be no basis for irrational fears or hysteria that Latinos will fundamentally change American life and culture. Yes, they will add to it and the country will become to some extent Latinized but not in a way that fundamentally changes the culture. All ethnic groups contribute to what we mean by being “American” and the same has been true of Latinos. They change and we change and that is the process of social life.

Interview: Joe Miller on Adventure Sports in the Carolinas

I’m targeting the person who has dreamed of diving a sunken U-boat, or mountain biking a twisty trail in the Pisgah National Forest, or paddling his or her way down a mountain creek, but thought, “Nah. I could never do that.” My goal is to tell you that you can. All the reader needs is a spark of adventurous spirit. The book will, hopefully, ignite that spirit and push the reader into action.

Interview: Deirdre Clemente on Fashion Trends and College Students

College students were a primary part of the push towards casual dress—there were other factors, including Hollywood and the rise of California as a fashion trendsetter, for example. But college students had the critical mass to initiate widespread change. In many ways they were the foot soldiers of casual dress. In addition to having the numbers, college students lived in a largely self-regulated environment that allowed them to flout convention. Their fashion choices were not driven by social standards prescribed by parents or fashion editors. Rather, they chose clothing that was practical and comfortable—and those two qualities have come to define the modern American wardrobe.

Interview: Walt Wolfram and Jeffrey Reaser on the Dialects of North Carolina

Language and dialects are culture, but like other aspects of our heritage, they have sometimes existed under the cultural radar. In part, this is due to the historical and political subordination of the South. Southern speech has become increasingly different from Northern speech since the Civil War, but it was interpreted as inferior due to the stereotypes of the South by outsiders. The effects of linguistic prejudice are just as harmful as other types of prejudicial attitudes, perhaps more so because their workings are often invisible. It takes time to raise linguistic awareness by countering myths and stereotypes with formal and informal education about the legacy of dialects. North Carolinians deserve to know and understand the truth about its distinct dialect and language legacy.

Interview: Johnny Molloy on Hiking North Carolina’s National Forests

As we continue to bind ourselves to the electronic universe it is more important than ever to reconnect with nature, and North Carolina’s national forests are an ideal destination to enjoy the the scenic splendor included within. So make some time to get back to nature on nature’s terms. Not only will it refresh your mind and exercise your body, it is a spiritually renewing experience to see the unimproved works of God laid out before us.

Interview: Jodi Helmer on Farming and Agritourism in Georgia

We’ve become so disconnected from the source of our food! While I was traveling through Georgia, several farmers told me that kids who visited their farms had no idea that chickens laid eggs and carrots came out of the soil. Agritourism provides a great opportunity to learn where our food comes from and meet the farmers who grow and raise it. Farmers work incredibly hard to put food on our tables; visiting farms shows that we value their dedication to growing fresh, local foods and want to support their work. If we want small farms to survive, we need to support the farmers.