David S. Brown: Jimmy Carter and the Origins of an Era of Democratic Party Dominance

Moderates: The Vital Center of American Politics, from the Founding to Today, by David S. Brown, cover imageThe fierce polarization of contemporary politics has encouraged Americans to read back into their nation’s past a perpetual ideological struggle between liberals and conservatives. However, in Moderates: The Vital Center of American Politics, from the Founding to Today, David S. Brown advances an original interpretation that stresses the critical role of moderate statesmen, ideas, and alliances in making our political system work. Beginning with John Adams and including such key figures as Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Cabot Lodge Jr., and Bill Clinton, Brown charts the vital if uneven progress of centrism through the centuries.

In today’s guest post, Brown explains how the Democratic Party under Jimmy Carter began to move closer to the political center.


Much of our conventional wisdom on Jimmy Carter’s presidency goes something like this: he was a failed one-termer who got steamrolled in the Reagan Revolution and stands in line with a number of similarly out-of-touch “liberal” Democratic candidates from the 1970s and 1980s including George McGovern, Walter Mondale, and Michael Dukakis. But there is another and, to my mind, more historically important way to view Carter’s brief leadership of the Democratic Party, and that is as a centrist who anticipated the type of to-the-center politics that did so much to embolden the Party’s fortunes in the 1990s and after. While Republicans have struggled in recent decades on the national stage—losing the popular vote in most national elections since 1992—Democratic candidates have been deemed by the electorate as more nearly right than their opponents on a number of vital cultural issues. And this is a huge turn-around from the party that Carter inherited in 1976.

That year, Democrats were still regarded in many quarters as the party of “Acid, Amnesty, and Abortion,” a smear hurled at McGovern four years earlier and one meant to more generally tag Democrats as radicals on the losing side of the 1960s culture wars. On the economic front, Democrats were attacked as advocates of tax-and-spend policies designed to finance a huge social welfare state. The party had gone through a number of permutations during its history, moving from the agrarian-states’ rights stance of Thomas Jefferson to the New Deal state of Franklin Roosevelt. But by the 1970s, the social welfare philosophy had lost much of its potency, even to many Democratic voters, and it was evident that if the party were to find political success in national elections, it would have to once again reinvent itself.

Carter had no deep loyalties to the New Deal. He ran for his party’s nomination as an outsider to the Washington establishment but also eschewed the radical race politics practiced by southern Dixiecrats who, as recently as 1968, had championed the third-party presidential candidacy of George Wallace. He resisted ideological labels and told reporters that he was a liberal on some issues (civil rights, the environment) and conservative on others (fiscal policy).  While in the presidency he sought to reduce government expenditures, balance budgets, and refused to push for a new New Deal. Anticipating a key theme of Ronald Reagan’s successful 1980 presidential bid, Carter, in his 1978 State of the Union Address, insisted, “government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.”

Continue reading ‘David S. Brown: Jimmy Carter and the Origins of an Era of Democratic Party Dominance’ »

D. H. Dilbeck: What is a Just War? How the Union’s “Lieber Code” Answered a Perennial Question

A More Civil War cover imageDuring the Civil War, Americans confronted profound moral problems about how to fight in the conflict. In his innovative book, A More Civil War: How the Union Waged A Just War, D. H. Dilbeck reveals how the Union sought to wage a just war against the Confederacy. He shows that northerners fought according to a distinct “moral vision of war,” an array of ideas about the nature of a truly just and humane military effort. Dilbeck explores how Union soldiers abided by official just-war policies as they battled guerrillas, occupied cities, retaliated against enemy soldiers, and came into contact with Confederate civilians.

In today’s guest post, Dilbeck explains how Lieber’s code for the Union Army attempted to define “just war” during the American Civil War.


We’re living through an age of rapid innovation in military technology. To cite only one of many possible examples, the swift embrace of “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles” over the past decade has transformed the United States’ military presence throughout the world. And yet, despite all the revolutions in technologies and tactics, an old question remains with us: What is a just war?

A century and a half ago, Civil War Americans pondered this question. Today’s wars would be practically unrecognizable to them, but the underlying moral dilemmas wrapped up in modern military conflicts would surely seem all too familiar. Historians have written a lot lately about how terribly destructive the Civil War was—a scholarly effort not without merit. But quite often overlooked are the sincere efforts made by Civil War Americans to define and wage a just war.

The most consequential example to do exactly that resulted in “Instructions for the Government of Armies of the United States in the Field,” a military code of conduct for Union soldiers issued in May 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln as General Orders No. 100. The document quickly became known informally as the Lieber code, named after its principal author, Francis Lieber.

Continue reading ‘D. H. Dilbeck: What is a Just War? How the Union’s “Lieber Code” Answered a Perennial Question’ »

Lon Kurashige: When Buddhism Was an Enemy Religion

Two Faces of Exclusion: The Untold History of Anti-Asian Racism in the United States, by Lon KurashigeWe welcome a guest post today from Lon Kurashige, author of Two Faces of Exclusion: The Untold History of Anti-Asian Racism in the United States. From the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to the Immigration Act of 1924 to Japanese American internment during World War II, the United States has a long history of anti-Asian policies. But Kurashige demonstrates that despite widespread racism, Asian exclusion was not the product of an ongoing national consensus; it was a subject of fierce debate. This book complicates the exclusion story by examining the organized and well-funded opposition to discrimination that involved some of the most powerful public figures in American politics, business, religion, and academia.

In a previous guest post, Kurashige considered how Teddy Roosevelt might approach today’s immigration debates. In today’s post, he blends his own family history with America’s history of the intersection of religion and politics.


My grandfather immigrated to the United States from Japan in 1928, four years after Congress banned the Japanese from doing so. As a Buddhist missionary, he was one of the few who could enter the country legally as a “non-immigrant” accompanied by his wife (my grandmother). This was a small concession Congress granted because it did not want Japan to enact quid pro quo exclusion against American missionaries. My grandfather was sent by one of Japan’s largest schools of Buddhism to minister to Japanese immigrants and spread the faith among them, all the while, in true missionary spirit, seeking to share his religion with an entire nation of not-yet-Buddhists. He ended up in Fresno, California, and after a brief return to Japan, settled in Seattle until World War II.

A few months after the Pearl Harbor attack, the FBI took my grandfather away from his wife and seven children and confined him and hundreds of other Buddhist priests apart from their families and congregations. Their main “crime” was to be leaders of an enemy religion. There was no evidence produced to implicate my grandfather or any Buddhist priest of wrongdoing.

The incarcerated priests were joined by leaders of many Japanese faiths, including Shinto (Japan’s state religion at the time), and new religions such as Tenrikyo and Konkokyo, but not Christianity. There were no Japanese Protestant ministers or Catholic priests incarcerated with my grandfather. They were not separated from their families and congregations, even though they were included in the mass incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans held by the government’s War Relocation Authority (WRA).

This view of enemy religion informed the WRA’s crucial determination of internee loyalty. Continue reading ‘Lon Kurashige: When Buddhism Was an Enemy Religion’ »

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Toby L. Parcel: School Assignment and the Emotional Investment of Mothers

The End of Consensus: Diversity, Neighborhoods, and the Politics of Public School Assignments, by Toby L. Parcel and Andrew J. TaylorWe welcome a guest post today from Toby L. Parcel, co-author 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, Toby Parcel and Andrew 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 today’s post, Parcel discusses her new research into survey results that reveal a gender distinction when it comes to concern and decision-making about school assignment. Read more about this new research in the journal Socius.


Are women more supportive of diverse schools than men? Do mothers bear more of the burden than fathers when children’s school assignments change? If so, what is worrying them?

These are some of the questions I am investigating following the 2015 publication of my book, The End of Consensus, with Andy Taylor. In that work, Andy and I reported 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 found that rapid population growth, which prompted longer bus rides and at times mandatory attendance at year-round schools, caused strong citizen reaction. The growth of the Republican Party in Wake was also a contributing factor because its members were less committed to diverse schools and more invested in neighborhood schools than other residents. In addition, we found that citizens worried that student reassignments from one school to another, a strategy the board used to manage growth and promote diversity, were damaging both to children’s learning and their school friendships; we found these reassignments were perceived as challenging for parents and children; citizens also worried about the sometimes unclear process the school board used to decide which children would be reassigned and when.

With colleagues Josh Hendrix and Andy Taylor I have followed up this work with a new publication that explores these issues for 547 Wake County parents with children enrolled in local public schools. We studied this subgroup because we thought these issues would be particularly salient for parents of children currently enrolled in Wake schools. We used as our foundation the qualitative work from the larger study that had highlighted parental concerns with diversity, neighborhood schools, and reassignments. For example, one pro-diversity advocate expressed her views this way: “It is not OK to segregate our schools. It is not OK to deliberately create high-poverty schools and claim that you are going to have all these fixes, whether it is funding or innovative programs, etc. It is just wrong, and that is why I am in this debate. My children will be fine regardless of where they go to school because I have the ability to make it fine for them, but not everybody has those resources, and it is not OK with me to leave other kids behind.”

Alternatively, diversity’s opponents argued that the policy did not further the system’s goal of providing children with a good education. One African American community leader stated, “I just don’t think diversity, shipping kids around, really matters as much as them getting a good education, and at the end of the day, there is a job.” Some comments indicated that moving away from neighborhood schools interfered with social connections between families and schools: “I do go back to when I was growing up,” said one conservative activist. “We had ownership of our school system and we were proud of it. I don’t get this sense of pride [here in Wake].” When children live far away from where they are educated, another argued, “parents are unable to play the kind of role that they want to . . . in their kids’ schools. . . . They cannot be in PTA; they cannot involve themselves.”

Building on this work, we used our survey data to study who favored diverse schools, who favored neighborhood schools, and who worried about school reassignments. Continue reading ‘Toby L. Parcel: School Assignment and the Emotional Investment of Mothers’ »

Michael Jarrett: Early Record Men: How Talent Scouts, Managers, Recording Supervisors, Publishers, and A&R Men Shaped Music

Pressed for All Time: Producing the Great Jazz Albums by Michael JarrettWe welcome a guest post today by Michael Jarrett, author of Pressed for All Time: Producing the Great Jazz Albums from Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday to Miles Davis and Diana Krall. In histories of music, producers tend to fall by the wayside—generally unknown and seldom acknowledged. But without them and their contributions to the art form, we’d have little on record of some of the most important music ever created. Discover the stories behind some of jazz’s best-selling and most influential albums in this collection of oral histories gathered by music scholar and writer Michael Jarrett. Drawing together interviews with over fifty producers, musicians, engineers, and label executives, Jarrett shines a light on the world of making jazz records by letting his subjects tell their own stories and share their experiences in creating the American jazz canon.

In the following post, Jarrett explores how the music industry, jazz in particular, was shaped by those who worked within it.


Let us now praise famous record men: the architects, engineers, and contractors—the early guys—who built the music industry. Better yet, before any hymns of praise, let’s come to terms with a theory of record production. For starters, production as commonly understood began in the mid-1950s. The designation “record producer” earned semi-official status only after studios adopted magnetic tape. That’s because the recording medium determines how and when an industry worker can shape the sound of a record. To get Phil Spector, Brian Eno, Timbaland, and next year’s Svengali, record makers—analogous to auteurist film directors—needed control over the recording process to extend to every phase of production. Magnetic tape, a spoil of World War II, was the first medium to afford this level of control.

Before the advent of tape and for a long time afterwards, technologies for recording and reproducing sound worked to the advantage of companies, not musicians. (An artist could hardly declare, “Hey, I think you’re screwing me! I’m gonna take my beeswax masters and shop them around to other record labels.”) Entertainment companies and their designates managed musical production by controlling all facets of preproduction. A&R men—and it was always men—were tasked with choosing “artists and repertoire.” They determined who recorded and, working with music publishers, what was recorded. Thus, their power, whether invisible or inaudible, was enormous. They functioned as agents of selection. In seeking to ensure the survival and profitability of corporate interests, they profoundly shaped popular music.

Early record men, therefore, most resembled movie producers, not movie directors. Continue reading ‘Michael Jarrett: Early Record Men: How Talent Scouts, Managers, Recording Supervisors, Publishers, and A&R Men Shaped Music’ »

Anne M. Blankenship: E Pluribus Unum?

Morality, Politics, and Compromise: The Plight and Prospects of the Moderate, Then and Now by Anne. M Blankenship
Today we welcome a guest post by Anne M. Blankenship, author of Christianity, Social Justice, and the Japanese American Incarceration during World War II. Blankenship’s study of Christianity in the infamous camps where Japanese Americans were incarcerated during World War II yields insights both far reaching and timely. While most Japanese Americans maintained their traditional identities as Buddhists, a sizeable minority identified as Christian, and a number of church leaders sought to minister to them in the camps. Blankenship shows how church leaders were forced to assess the ethics and pragmatism of fighting against or acquiescing to what they clearly perceived, even in the midst of a national crisis, as an unjust social system. These religious activists became acutely aware of the impact of government, as well as church, policies that targeted ordinary Americans of diverse ethnicities.

In today’s guest post, Blankenship’s study of Japanese American incarceration during World War II informs an understanding of the present political moment.


Headlines of racial violence and the unabashed racism within Donald Trump’s campaign for the U.S. presidency do not allow Americans to escape the fact that our nation’s value of pluralism lies on shaky ground. The U.S. Constitution, of course, did not originally allow for the full rights of women or people of African, Asian, or Native American descent, but the notion of America as a land of opportunity for all persists. Trump joined previously marginalized white supremacists to champion the white man over Mexicans, Muslims, the Black Lives Matter movement, and women of all creeds and colors. He and other politicians have attempted to recover popular memory of past injustices to legitimate their racial biases. Calls to ban Muslims from the United States hit home with me personally because I research religious responses to injustices such as race-based immigration quotas and the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II.

Popular pluralism during World War II included the deliberate omission of Japanese Americans, and government propaganda attempting to unite all Americans to support the war ignored the legal and social discrimination of African Americans. Continue reading ‘Anne M. Blankenship: E Pluribus Unum?’ »

Matthew Mason: Movement within Bounds on the Antislavery Political Spectrum: The Case of Edward Everett

apostle of union by matthew masonWe welcome a guest post today by Matthew Mason, author of  Apostle of Union: A Political Biography of Edward Everett. Known today as “the other speaker at Gettysburg,” Edward Everett had a distinguished and illustrative career at every level of American politics from the 1820s through the Civil War. In this new biography, Matthew Mason argues that Everett’s extraordinarily well-documented career reveals a complex man whose shifting political opinions, especially on the topic of slavery, illuminate the nuances of Northern Unionism.

In today’s post, Mason discusses how creditable claims to oppose slavery prior to the civil war actually were. This article was originally published on The Republic Blog at shear.org.


Several years ago I was at work on what I thought would be a group biography of the doughfaces, Northern politicians favorable to compromise with the South over slavery. I was prompted in large part by Leonard Richards’ book illustrating how instrumental doughfaces were in enabling Southern domination of the federal government. But as I contemplated their significance beyond that point, an insight from David Potter (brought to my attention by a conference panel commentary from Michael Morrison) proved provocative. Historians’ recognition that “slavery, in one aspect or another, pervaded all of the aspects of sectionalism,” Potter noted, has left them content to ask “a simple question: Did the people of the North really oppose slavery? rather than a complex one: What was the rank of antislavery in the hierarchy of northern values?” The complex version should help us perceive how the antislavery sentiment of the vast majority of Northerners conflicted with their love of a Union and Constitution that manifestly protected slavery. Thus the question became for them “not a choice of alternatives—antislavery or proslavery—but a ranking of values. . . . The difference between ‘antislavery men’ and ‘conciliationists’ in the North was not a question of what they thought about slavery alone, but of how they ranked these priorities.” I found this conceptual framework a real leap forward in my thinking, and started applying it profitably to understanding doughfaces of various stripes.

Pursuing Potter’s formulation via the genre of biography helps us understand antebellum Northern politicians who at first glance seem wildly inconsistent on the issue of slavery. Continue reading ‘Matthew Mason: Movement within Bounds on the Antislavery Political Spectrum: The Case of Edward Everett’ »

Bruce B. Lawrence: Daily Mercy: Allah in the Cracks

Who is Allah? by Bruce B. Lawrence We welcome a guest post from Bruce B. Lawrence, author of Who is Allah? This vivid introduction to the heart of Islam offers a unique approach to understanding Allah, the central focus of Muslim religious expression. Drawing on history, culture, theology, politics, and the media, Lawrence identifies key religious practices by which Allah is revered and remembered, illuminating how the very name of Allah is interwoven into the everyday experience of millions of Muslims.

In the following post, Lawrence offers some insight on how Muslims view Allah and what Allah truly means to them.


In this election year Muslims have become a hot topic, but not many people–either supporters of curtailed immigration or their opponents–have drilled down to see what are Muslim views on the most important topic in their lives: Allah. Allah is more than a deity, Allah is also the linchpin for everyday sensibilities that shape Muslims from Dakar (Senegal) to Djkarata (Indonesia) as well as Western Europe and North America. One of the most popular Muslim websites is a Facebook page titled ILoveAllaah.com. It has almost 10 million likes, and daily postings that quickly garner thousands of likes, as did this one posted on 1 October:

Ya Allah, Make this day for us a better day than yesterday. Make it a day of mercy, success, victory & full of blessings & guidance from You ya Rabb. Save us from all trials, diseases and distress.

Allahumma Aameeeen!

Much can be said about the wording of this prayer, but for those unacquainted with Islam the key invocation is the first: “Make it a day of mercy. . . .” The central, defining quality of Allah (phonetically spelled Allaah) is mercy. The phrase that flows through a Muslim day is Inshallah (If God will), just as the phrase that marks each meal is Bismillah (In the name of God). The immediate sequel to bismillah (aka basmala) is two qualifiers: Ar-rahmaan, ar-raheem. God the One full of Mercy, God the One ever giving Mercy.

And so to make each day a day of mercy is to look in each action and event, each moment and hour, for the source of Mercy, the fount and giver of Mercy, Allah.

It is difficult to imagine how Allah assists Muslim immigrants. Continue reading ‘Bruce B. Lawrence: Daily Mercy: Allah in the Cracks’ »

Greta de Jong: A Lesson from Black History for Angry White Men

You Can't Eat Freedom, by Greta de JongWe welcome a guest post from Greta de Jong, author of You Can’t Eat Freedom: Southerners and Social Justice after the Civil Rights Movement. Two revolutions roiled the rural South after the mid-1960s: the political revolution wrought by the passage of civil rights legislation, and the ongoing economic revolution brought about by increasing agricultural mechanization. In You Can’t Eat Freedom, de Jong focuses on the plantation regions of Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. She analyzes how social justice activists responded to mass unemployment by lobbying political leaders, initiating antipoverty projects, and forming cooperative enterprises that fostered economic and political autonomy. These efforts encountered strong opposition from free market proponents who opposed government action to solve the crisis.

In the following post de Jong offers a historical comparison between the job displacement and decline cited by white male Trump supporters and the similar displacement experienced by blacks in the mid-twentieth-century rural South.


In trying to understand the voters who support Donald Trump in this year’s election, some analysts have noted that many of Trump’s supporters are alienated white men who did not fare well in the economic transformations of the past few decades. They lost their jobs to automation and globalization, watched local small businesses struggle and eventually close, and saw their communities spiral into decline under the burdens of unemployment, poverty, drug abuse, and despair. All this at a time when the civil rights and women’s rights movements forced them to relinquish some of the privileges they had historically enjoyed as white men and allow a fairer allocation of resources to groups whose interests had long been subordinated to their own. Despite posing as an economic populist, Trump’s larger appeal to these voters is his racism and attacks on people of color. It was Trump’s denigration of Mexican immigrants, Muslims, and “political correctness” that drew the attention and cemented the support of his white male base.

Trump voters are not likely to look to African American history for help in making sense of their situation or forging solutions, but if they did they might find that they have more in common with black Americans than they thought. In the mid-twentieth century, rural communities in the South—and their predominantly black labor force—experienced processes of displacement and decline that foreshadowed those that afflicted white workers in later decades. Between 1940 and 1970, the mechanization of southern agriculture eliminated 3.7 million farm labor positions, leaving former sharecroppers without jobs, homes, or income. Restrictive policies and racial discrimination prevented many of these displaced workers from gaining access to public assistance, and efforts to attract new industries and jobs to rural poor areas were not very successful.

Large numbers of the unemployed migrated to northern cities in search of work, but others chose to remain in the places they called home. Continue reading ‘Greta de Jong: A Lesson from Black History for Angry White Men’ »

Emily Suzanne Clark: I Don’t Believe in No Ghosts: America and Spirits

A Luminous Brotherhood, by Emily Suzanne Clark, cover imageIn the midst of a nineteenth-century boom in spiritual experimentation, the Cercle Harmonique, a remarkable group of African-descended men, practiced Spiritualism in heavily Catholic New Orleans from just before the Civil War to the end of Reconstruction. In A Luminous Brotherhood: Afro-Creole Spiritualism in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans, the first comprehensive history of the Cercle, Emily Suzanne Clark illuminates how highly diverse religious practices wind in significant ways through American life, culture, and history. Clark shows that the beliefs and practices of Spiritualism helped Afro-Creoles mediate the political and social changes in New Orleans, as free blacks suffered increasingly restrictive laws and then met with violent resistance to suffrage and racial equality.

In today’s guest post, Clark recounts the history of spiritualism and reminds us that many Americans still believe in ghosts.


Summer 2016 saw the remake of a classic American film: Ghostbusters. The remake prompted a number of conversations about gender and misogyny but not many about ghosts. Belief in ghosts and the supernatural is not uncommon in the United States. According to a 2013 Harris Poll, 42% of Americans believe in ghosts. The same year, polling data in the UK indicated that a similar percentage of the population believed that interaction with the spirits of the dead is possible. In 2009 the Pew Research Center released data indicating that 29% of the U.S. population “have felt in touch with someone who has already died.” Just last year the Pew Research Center found that 18% of Americans believe that they have seen a ghost. Belief in the supernatural was even more common a few centuries ago. The 1692 witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts, attest to that, and many historians have written about the enchanted world that surrounded the Puritans. The creative and humid religious atmosphere of the early nineteenth century led historian Jon Butler to term it the “antebellum spiritual hothouse.” Some scientists thought the Enlightenment, scientific revolution, and secularism would lead to the end of supernatural belief, but these recent polling numbers indicate otherwise. Despite what Ray Parker sang back in 1984, many Americans believe in ghosts.

Whether or not you reading this post believe in them, ghosts fascinate Americans. A century and a half before the popularity of ghost-hunter shows on the SyFy Network and NBC’s award-winning show “Medium,” belief in spirit communication was serious and widespread in the United States. Spiritualism swept across the United States in the mid-nineteenth century and remained popular into the twentieth century. Put simply, a Spiritualist is one who believes that communication with the spirits of the dead is not only possible but also desirable. Popularized by the Fox Sisters and their “Rochester rappings,” Spiritualism interested Americans young and old, white and black, male and female, rich and poor. Much of this appeal came from Spiritualism’s ability to bridge the world of the living and the world of the dead.

Continue reading ‘Emily Suzanne Clark: I Don’t Believe in No Ghosts: America and Spirits’ »

Lon Kurashige: What Would Teddy Roosevelt Do?

Two Faces of Exclusion: The Untold History of Anti-Asian Racism in the United States, by Lon KurashigeWe welcome a guest post today from Lon Kurashige, author of Two Faces of Exclusion: The Untold History of Anti-Asian Racism in the United States. From the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to the Immigration Act of 1924 to Japanese American internment during World War II, the United States has a long history of anti-Asian policies. But Kurashige demonstrates that despite widespread racism, Asian exclusion was not the product of an ongoing national consensus; it was a subject of fierce debate. This book complicates the exclusion story by examining the organized and well-funded opposition to discrimination that involved some of the most powerful public figures in American politics, business, religion, and academia.

In his post today, Kurashige explores the immigration agenda of Teddy Roosevelt and considers how his approach might be applied to immigration debates today.


A little over one hundred years ago, much like today, immigration fears fueled heated political debates in the United States as the nation confronted the effects of (at the time) its largest wave of newcomers. These debates were part and parcel to widespread concerns that the United States had lost its way, derailed by a combination of greedy capitalists, corrupt politicians, radical labor movements, violent anarchists, and, of course, the damaging influence of largely southern and eastern European immigrants whose foreign tongues, customs, religions, and ideologies seemed to undermine the nation’s democratic tradition rooted in a White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant foundation. In September 1901 an American-born anarchist of Polish descent assassinated President William McKinley. This act thrust Theodore Roosevelt into the White House, where he served until 1909.

What did Teddy Roosevelt do about immigration?

It is important to recall Roosevelt’s positions on immigration because of the similarities between his day and our own. Immigration fears are a regular feature in today’s headlines as the United States (not mention the U.K. and European countries) wrestles with how much and in what ways to close its borders to newcomers. The same was true when Roosevelt became president. Three months after McKinley’s murder, Roosevelt urged Congress to “take into consideration the coming to this country of anarchists or persons professing principles hostile to all government. . . . They and those like them should be kept out of this country, and if found here they should be promptly deported to the country whence they came.”

Roosevelt also recommended the creation of a literacy test for immigrants. While admitting that this would not keep out intelligent criminals bent on harming the United States, he asserted that it would “decrease the sum of ignorance, so potent in producing the envy, suspicion, malignant passion, and hatred of order, out of which anarchistic sentiment inevitably springs.” Added to the list of excluded classes were prostitutes and other “persons who are of low moral tendency and unsavory reputation.” Finally, Roosevelt sought to strengthen barriers against immigrants who were likely to compete as unfair “cheap labor” against American workers. Thus the overarching themes guiding the new president’s immigration priorities were homeland security, selective screening based on education and morality, and protections for American labor.

Congress enacted most of Roosevelt’s agenda via the Immigration Act of 1903. The great exception here was the screening for education, the pet project of the president’s good friend and political ally Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, who eventually prevailed in 1918 with the enactment of a literacy test for immigrant admission.

Roosevelt’s other immigration priorities focused on Asian immigrants. The president continued the policy of Chinese restriction that since 1882 had hardened into near exclusion. He sided with U.S. labor unions that cast Chinese laborers as a pernicious and unlimited source of “cheap labor” injurious to American workers. With the president’s support, Congress in 1904 removed Chinese exclusion from its trial basis (subject to renewal every ten years), an action that further insulted a Chinese public already humiliated by America’s long-standing discrimination against Chinese immigrants. A series of boycotts of U.S. goods broke out in China to protest the latest indignity. Worried about U.S.-China trade and for the safety of U.S. missionaries and businesspersons in China, Roosevelt made gestures that showed uncharacteristic sympathy for protecting the treaty and civil rights of Chinese immigrants. But these proved temporary and ended when the boycotts ceased in 1906.

Roosevelt responded differently to Japanese immigrants, who U.S. labor unions saw as no less a threat than the Chinese. Continue reading ‘Lon Kurashige: What Would Teddy Roosevelt Do?’ »

Lorien Foote: Adding Prisoners of War to ‘Free State of Jones’

The Yankee Plague: Escaped Union Prisoners and the Collapse of the Confederacy, by Lorien FooteWe welcome a guest post today from Lorien Foote, author of The Yankee Plague: Escaped Union Prisoners and the Collapse of the ConfederacyDuring the winter of 1864, more than 3,000 Federal prisoners of war escaped from Confederate prison camps into South Carolina and North Carolina, often with the aid of local slaves. Their flight created, in the words of contemporary observers, a “Yankee plague,” heralding a grim end to the Confederate cause. In a fascinating look at Union soldiers’ flight for freedom in the last months of the Civil War, Lorien Foote reveals new connections between the collapse of the Confederate prison system, the large-scale escape of Union soldiers, and the full unraveling of the Confederate States of America.

In today’s post, Foote imagines the film Free State of Jones if it had been set in the Carolinas—with thousands of escaped prisoners of war.


When Free State of Jones becomes available on DVD today, potential viewers who visit www.rottentomatoes.com will discover that movie critics generally panned it while the theater audiences generally liked it. The film is based on the true story of Newton Knight, a Confederate deserter who led an inter-racial rebellion against Confederate authority in Jones County, Mississippi. Reviewers criticized the movie for being both simplistic and convoluted; they were dissatisfied with its crude portrayal of race relations and its attempt to cram together the Civil War, Reconstruction, and a 1948 miscegenation trial. Director Gary Ross had a fascinating and complicated story to tell, and if he had difficulty weaving the parts together for a two-hour movie, his problems would have been compounded had he tried to tell the story of the deserters in rebellion against the Confederacy in the Carolinas. Imagine Free State of Jones with nearly 3,000 escaped prisoners of war thrown into the mix.

In September 1864, after Sherman captured Atlanta, the Confederate government sought to move its Yankee prisoners of war out of prisons in Andersonville and Macon, Georgia, in order to keep the Union army from liberating the captives. There was no official in charge of coordinating the movement of prisoners and the Confederacy was suffering from bureaucratic breakdowns across the board as their war effort collapsed. No one notified the military commander in Charleston, South Carolina, that thousands of prisoners were on the way to his department. When they arrived, he sent them to Florence and Columbia and turned them out into open fields without buildings or fences. The result was the escape of more than 900 prisoners in September and October. When the Confederates tried to move the prisoners again in February, another 1900 escaped.

The Yankees fled into a landscape where thousands of deserters ruled the swamps and mountains in many counties of North and South Carolina. Continue reading ‘Lorien Foote: Adding Prisoners of War to ‘Free State of Jones’’ »

Video: Randy Johnson talks Grandfather Mountain on Bookwatch

Randy Johnson, author of Grandfather Mountain: The History and Guide to an Appalachian Icon, gives an interview on NC Bookwatch.

In the following video, Johnson tells the story of Grandfather Mountain as well as his own story of researching and writing this book.

Randy Johnson is an accomplished travel editor and writer. He founded Grandfather Mountain’s modern trail management program in 1978, was backcountry manager until 1990, and serves on Grandfather Mountain State Park’s Advisory Committee. His book, Grandfather Mountain: The History and Guide to an Appalachian Icon, is now available.

Recipe: Summer Anytime Bourbon Peach Chicken Thighs

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graubart_chickenEvery Tuesday for the past 19 weeks we’ve featured a new recipe on the blog from one of our Savor the South® cookbooks. Each little cookbook in our Savor the South® cookbook collection is a big celebration of a beloved food or tradition of the American South. From buttermilk to bourbon, pecans to peaches, bacon to catfish, one by one each volume will stock a kitchen shelf with the flavors and culinary wisdom of this popular American regional cuisine. Written by well-known cooks and food lovers, each book brims with personality, the informative and often surprising culinary and natural history of southern foodways, and a treasure of some fifty recipes—from delicious southern classics to sparkling international renditions that open up worlds of taste for cooks everywhere. You’ll want to collect them all.

We conclude our series today with a recipe from Cynthia Graubart’s Chicken. Cynthia Graubart is coauthor, with Nathalie Dupree, of Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking, which won a James Beard Book Award for American Cooking. Among Graubart’s other books is Slow Cooking for Two.  Follow Cynthia on Twitter @CynthiaGraubart.  Here’s a simple, delicious recipe that will let you enjoy the flavors of summer all year.

Don’t forget to “like” the Savor the South® book page on Facebook for more news and recipes. See all the recipes in the sampler at  Savor the South® Sampler and keep an eye out this spring for two new Savor the South® cookbooks!

Continue reading ‘Recipe: Summer Anytime Bourbon Peach Chicken Thighs’ »

Robert Alan McNutt, MD: What’s Wrong with Medical Care?

Your Health, Your Decisions: Hot to Work with Your Doctor to Become a Knowledge-Powered Patient, by Robert Alan McNutt, M.D.We welcome a guest post today from Robert Alan McNutt, M.D., author of Your Health, Your Decisions: How to Work with Your Doctor to Become a Knowledge-Powered PatientIn nearly every medical-decision-making encounter, the physician is at the center of the discussion, with the patient the recipient of the physician’s decisions. Dr. McNutt starts from a very different premise: the patient should be at the center. McNutt challenges the physician-directed, medical-expertise model of making decisions, presenting a practical approach augmented by formal exercises designed to give patients the tools and confidence to compare and contrast their health-care options so they can make their own choices.

In today’s guest post, Dr. McNutt argues that sick patients can be very wise patients.


What is wrong with medical care? Physicians, rather than patients, make decisions.

I have practiced medicine for over 40 years. I have yet to find a physician without a chronic disease who is smarter than a person with that chronic disease. I have been impressed that a patient’s numeric insights and intuitions when they are ill surpass their skills when they were not ill. All a patient needs is information, in all its glory and messiness, to know if the information is worth anything to them when they face a medical decision. Patients, in my view, are the best information managers and evidence experts I have ever seen, and I know a bunch of evidence experts to draw upon for the comparison. I have been doing shared consults with patients for twenty-plus years and I have learned that patients are smart. Consider the following:

  • The man had been advised to have surgery. The man and his wife stared in stunned silence at the data on prostate cancer treatment outcomes with surgery. The study was described in detail, including a description of the people who were studied. The wife finally spoke, “You mean to tell us you want my husband to have surgery when so few have been studied! You mean to tell us that not a single person of our cultural heritage has been tested in the study?” I responded and reminded, “I am not asking you to have surgery. We are going over information of potential benefit and harm that you must balance for your choice.” They were kind in response, refused to consider surgery or further discussion, and, instead, chose to enter a clinical study.

Continue reading ‘Robert Alan McNutt, MD: What’s Wrong with Medical Care?’ »

Recipe: Salted Caramel Bacon Brownies

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Bacon: A Savor the South Cookbook, by Fred ThompsonEvery Tuesday this summer we’re featuring a new recipe on the blog from one of our Savor the South® cookbooks. Each little cookbook in our Savor the South® cookbook collection is a big celebration of a beloved food or tradition of the American South. From buttermilk to bourbon, pecans to peaches, bacon to catfish, one by one each volume will stock a kitchen shelf with the flavors and culinary wisdom of this popular American regional cuisine. Written by well-known cooks and food lovers, each book brims with personality, the informative and often surprising culinary and natural history of southern foodways, and a treasure of some fifty recipes—from delicious southern classics to sparkling international renditions that open up worlds of taste for cooks everywhere. You’ll want to collect them all.

Today’s recipe is from Fred Thompson’s Bacon. Thompson is a well known cookbook author and food writer, the editor of Edible Piedmont magazine, and the author of Fred Thompson’s Southern Sides: 250 Dishes That Really Make the Plate, among other books

Don’t forget to “like” the Savor the South® book page on Facebook for more news and recipes. Also, check back here next Tuesday for another Savor the South® Sampler recipe!

Continue reading ‘Recipe: Salted Caramel Bacon Brownies’ »

Excerpt: Bonds of Union, by Bridget Ford

Bonds of Union cover imageThis vivid history of the Civil War era reveals how unexpected bonds of union forged among diverse peoples in the Ohio-Kentucky borderlands furthered emancipation through a period of spiraling chaos between 1830 and 1865.  Moving beyond familiar arguments about Lincoln’s deft politics or regional commercial ties, Bridget Ford recovers the potent religious, racial, and political attachments holding the country together at one of its most likely breaking points, the Ohio River.

In the following excerpt from Bonds of Union: Religion, Race, and Politics in a Civil War Borderland (pp. 124-130), Ford reveals the lives of black service workers in Cincinnati and Louisville, featuring the story of hairdresser Eliza Potter.



It was one thing to read an advice book but quite another to implement its vision of modish appearances and conduct, however much fashion magazines like Godey’s Lady’s Book promoted “simple and unobtrusive” styles reflecting a woman’s inner worth and justifying her claims to respectability.[ref]Halttunen, Confidence Men and Painted Women, 89.[/ref] Although far less fussy than romantic dress and hair of the 1830s, women’s fashions popular during the next two decades—labeled “Victorian” or “sentimental” today—remained sophisticated, expensive, and time consuming to construct.[ref]On the artisanship involved in women’s clothing, see Amneus, Separate Sphere.[/ref] In Cincinnati and Louisville, African American hairdressers and dressmakers employed by white elite women, as well as barbers catering to a white male clientele, created prosperous businesses with the steady demand for their services after 1840. While “working class,” these skilled black laborers enjoyed substantial prestige among other African Americans and became arbiters of style among whites. Even more, they coached, and sometimes admonished, white clients who failed to put together the whole package of genteel appearance and morally upright behavior suitable to their class aspirations.[ref]Santamarina, “Introduction,” in Potter, Hairdresser’s Experience, xix–xxii.[/ref]

In Cincinnati and Louisville, the height of black dominance in personal services for a white clientele appears to have been around 1850, before skilled workers from Ireland, Germany, and other European countries began to compete in the dressmaking and barbering trades. At midcentury, fully 55 percent of all barbers in Louisville were African American, and it was the second most frequently listed occupation in the 1850 census after “laborer.”[ref]Burckin, appendix 7 and appendix 2 in “Formation and Growth of an Urban Middle Class,” 641–42, 634.[/ref] By 1860, the percentage of barbers who were black had dropped to 34 percent, but as a class they controlled far more wealth in real and personal property than any other occupational category among African Americans.[ref]Burckin, appendix 12 in ibid., 650–52.[/ref] In 1860, census takers drew a finer picture of women’s occupations; as a consequence, two hairdressers, both African American, appeared in Louisville’s census for the first time, as did two dressmakers and a number of seamstresses.[ref]Aubespin et al., Two Centuries of Black Louisville, 58.[/ref] In Cincinnati, 136 black men worked as barbers, a larger number than in any other occupation. The number of black barbers dropped to 118 by 1860 but was surpassed only by the number of African American steamboat workers. As in Louisville, the livelihoods to be made from skilled dressmaking and hairdressing drew Cincinnati’s entrepreneurial black women into these occupational niches. Two black dressmakers appeared in the 1850 census, while nineteen African American women reported doing such work in 1860, along with close to one hundred skilled or semiskilled seamstresses. That same census year, four black women claimed the profession of hairdresser.

Clearly, this kind of skilled work remained exceptional for black women who were otherwise relegated to menial and physically demanding labor, such as “washerwoman,” but the 1840s and 1850s did mark a departure for African Americans who now could claim their own kind of elite status based on successful enterprises catering to a white bourgeois and middle-class clientele.[ref]Taylor, Frontiers of Freedom, 132–34, appendix 5, 209.[/ref] This stands in marked contrast to Daniel Aaron’s depiction of the place of black laborers prior to 1840: “At the bottom” of the economic scale, Aaron wrote, “forming a kind of lowest helot class and exploited by all, are the hated, disfranchised blacks.”[ref]Aaron, Cincinnati, Queen City, 55.[/ref] Aaron’s bleak assessment, as Nikki Taylor has argued, does not reflect the deep sense of accomplishment many of Cincinnati’s African Americans expressed after 1841, when they made a concerted “decision to stand and fight” for homes, schools, churches, and fledgling businesses, which they believed offered some reasonable hope of individual upward mobility and community well-being.[ref]Taylor, Frontiers of Freedom, 117.[/ref]

After 1840, the most successful of Cincinnati’s and Louisville’s black businesses, and the source of charitable underwriting for churches and schools, were barbershops serving white male customers. Despite the service nature of the work, barbering, along with women’s hairdressing and dressmaking, potentially offered African Americans steady incomes, as well as a measure of respectability.[ref]Ibid., 103–4.[/ref] In the two decades before the Civil War, Louisville’s barbers were consistently among the top black wage earners, with two barbers alone owning the greatest property holdings in 1860, amounting to a combined value of $36,450.[ref]Burckin, appendix 12 in “Formation and Growth of an Urban Middle Class,” 650.[/ref] In 1850, twenty-one black barbers in Cincinnati reported real estate worth over $50,000, and in 1860, a larger number of forty-three barbers still held onto real and personal property worth some $48,000, despite new competition from European immigrants.[ref]Taylor, Frontiers of Freedom, 133–35, appendix 18, 221.[/ref] Dressmakers and hairdressers were among the city’s wealthiest African American women, with one dressmaker owning $2,000 in property and Eliza Potter, the city’s most well-known hairdresser by virtue of her skill and the publication of a revealing professional autobiography, had an estate valued at $2,400. These service occupations were by no means guarantees of wealth, and a number of African American barbers, hairdressers, and dressmakers all earned considerably less than their highest-paid peers, but until the 1860s, African Americans maintained a professional monopoly in these fields. Those black Americans working in personal services fared much better economically than their unskilled compatriots and ultimately formed a middle-class nucleus for Cincinnati’s and Louisville’s African American communities.[ref]On the regional dimensions of barbering, and the somewhat more hospitable environment of the upper South for black barbers, see Bristol, Knights of the Razor, 71–79, 105–6.[/ref]

For the urban Ohio River valley, the richest source of evidence about African Americans’ personal service work derives from Eliza Potter’s singular autobiography, A Hairdresser’s Experience in High Life, published in Cincinnati in 1859. Born in New York, Potter moved to Cincinnati as a young woman in 1834. She worked as a child’s nurse in several wealthy white households and accompanied one family to Paris in 1841. After a dispute over wages, Potter left the family to learn the art of hairdressing. Returning to the United States after traveling and working in both France and England, she built a successful career dressing wealthy clients whom she dubbed “our aristocracy.”[ref]Santamarina, “Introduction,” in Potter, Hairdresser’s Experience, xiv–xvii; Potter, Hairdresser’s Experience, 55.[/ref] While maintaining a home in Cincinnati, Potter traveled widely—to Saratoga, New Orleans, Memphis, and New York City—earning her living. She eventually settled in Cincinnati in the 1840s, where she contributed to humanitarian projects, including the building and running of an orphanage for black children.[ref]For evidence of her work in social reform circles, see Managers of the Colored Orphan Asylum, Eleventh Annual Report. This report listed Eliza Potter as both a manager and a solicitor for the asylum.[/ref]

Continue reading ‘Excerpt: Bonds of Union, by Bridget Ford’ »

Recipe: Crab & Shrimp Calas

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Cover image for Crabs and OystersEvery Tuesday this summer we’re featuring a new recipe on the blog from one of our Savor the South® cookbooks. Each little cookbook in our Savor the South® cookbook collection is a big celebration of a beloved food or tradition of the American South. From buttermilk to bourbon, pecans to peaches, bacon to catfish, one by one each volume will stock a kitchen shelf with the flavors and culinary wisdom of this popular American regional cuisine. Written by well-known cooks and food lovers, each book brims with personality, the informative and often surprising culinary and natural history of southern foodways, and a treasure of some fifty recipes—from delicious southern classics to sparkling international renditions that open up worlds of taste for cooks everywhere. You’ll want to collect them all.

Today’s recipe is from Bill Smith’s Crabs and Oysters. Bill Smith is the chef at Crook’s Corner Restaurant in Chapel Hill, N.C., and author of Seasoned in the South: Recipes and Stories from Crook’s Corner and Home, a New York Times notable cookbook and Food & Wine Best-of-the-Best cookbook. You can follow him on Twitter @Chulegre. Whether you made it to the beach this summer or not, you can still enjoy this tasty seafood dish!

Don’t forget to “like” the Savor the South® book page on Facebook for more news and recipes. Also, check back here next Tuesday for another Savor the South® Sampler recipe!

Continue reading ‘Recipe: Crab & Shrimp Calas’ »

Excerpt: Not Straight, Not White, by Kevin J. Mumford

Cover image of Not Straight, Not WhiteThis compelling book recounts the history of black gay men from the 1950s to the 1990s, tracing how the major movements of the times—from civil rights to black power to gay liberation to AIDS activism—helped shape the cultural stigmas that surrounded race and homosexuality. In locating the rise of black gay identities in historical context, Kevin Mumford explores how activists, performers, and writers rebutted negative stereotypes and refused sexual objectification. Examining the lives of both famous and little-known black gay activists—from James Baldwin and Bayard Rustin to Joseph Beam and Brother Grant-Michael Fitzgerald—Mumford analyzes the ways in which movements for social change both inspired and marginalized black gay men.

In the following excerpt from Not Straight, Not White: Black Gay Men from the March on Washington to the AIDS Crisis (pp. 11-13), Mumford describes a meeting between Bobby Kennedy and Lorraine Hansberry, James Baldwin, and Jerome Smith that he considers the beginning of modern black gay activism.


Lorraine Hansberry, James Baldwin, and Bayard Rustin—each belongs to African American gay history while contributing to a turning point in the civil rights movement in the summer of 1963. Their queer intervention concerned, first, the federal government’s role in protecting southern demonstrators, during an important meeting between Baldwin, Hansberry, and an assortment of other celebrities with Attorney General Robert Kennedy in his Manhattan home, and, second, Rustin’s disputed role in the iconic mass demonstration the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. By this time Baldwin had published The Fire Next Time, the best-selling “disturbing examination of the consequences of racial injustice,” and Hansberry had distinguished herself as the youngest and first black woman to win the New York Drama Desk award for the Broadway sensation A Raisin in the Sun. The two writers were introduced during the workshop production of Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room, based on his controversial 1956 gay novel, and met again at the premiere of Hansberry’s play in Philadelphia. Though a box-office success, a few had criticized the drama for its apparent celebration of the American dream of upward mobility, but in a brief 1961 review Baldwin instead compared Hansberry to the radical novelist and essayist Richard Wright, emphasizing their shared critical vision of an American dystopia.[ref]Black and White Men Together Newsletter (BWMT ) New York 2, no. 7 (1982): 1, BWMT Ephemera Collection, John J. Wilcox Library, William Way Community Center, Philadelphia, Pa. (WW); James S. Tinney, “James Baldwin ‘Comes Out’ at Gay Forum,” Blacklight 3, no. 5 (1982): 1.[/ref]

Their meeting with Kennedy on May 24, 1963 was prompted in part by Baldwin’s essay “Letter from a Region in My Mind,” which appeared during the increasingly violent spring of police-demonstrator confrontations in Birmingham and other southern cities.[ref]“BWMT Celebrates Fifth Anniversary, March 7–13, 1986,” Philadelphia Gay News; “Ad Hoc Planning Report,” January 19, 1986, BWMT Ephemera Collection, WW; “BWMT—PHILA, 5th,” BWMT Ephemera Collection, WW.[/ref] Published in the New Yorker, the long piece meditated on American racism, seeing white prejudice as arising from the reality that the “white man’s masculinity depends on a denial of the masculinity of the blacks” and that therefore the nation subjected the “Negro” to many “horrors.” After reading the essay, Kennedy had reportedly contacted Baldwin and sought the meeting because he wished to hear “fresh” ideas on “coping with civil rights problems.” If he had invited only the older and more moderate celebrities, such as Lena Horne or Harry Belafonte, it seems unlikely that the meeting would have ended as it did, in frank disagreement and an acrimonious exit. But the presence of Jerome Smith, a participant in the southern Freedom Rides that continued to press for the desegregation of buses and stations, had raised the stakes. Baldwin referred to Smith as a “tremendous man,” recalling his police beating with brass knuckles in demonstrations in New Orleans. Smith’s presence attested to the need for stronger federal protection of demonstrators. Along with Smith, Baldwin and Hansberry became the most notable participants in the secret meeting, with photographs of the two published the day after, dubbed by the New York Times as the “ ‘angry young Negroes,’ ” which presented the public with a compelling combination of rebellion, celebrity, and creative genius.[ref]D’Emilio, Sexual Politics; Bérubé, Coming Out under Fire; Chauncey, Gay New York; Stein, City of Sisterly and Brotherly Loves; Houlbrook, Queer London; N. Boyd, Wide-Open Town; White, Pre-Gay L.A.; Avicolli, Smash the Church; Faderman and Timmons, Gay L.A.; Howard, Men Like That; Hoag, Same-Sex Affairs; Marcus, Making Gay History; Beemyn, Creating a Place for Ourselves; Stryker and Van Buskirk, Gay by the Bay.[/ref]

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