UNC Press October 2021 Author Events

Stephen Cushman
The Generals’ Civil War
October 2, 2021 | 4:00pm ET
New Dominion Bookshop (Charlottesville, VA)

Caroline Janney
Ends of War
October 3, 2021 | 2:00pm ET
Quail Ridge Books (Virtual)

Wyatt Williams
Springer Mountain
October 5, 2021 | 7:00pm ET
Prairie Lights (Virtual)

Warren Milteer
Beyond Slavery’s Shadow
October 5, 2021 | 7:00pm ET
Quail Ridge Books (Virtual)

Jonathan White
To Address You as My Friend
October 6, 2021 | 1:00pm ET
National Archives Museum (Virtual)

Jonathan Todd Hancock
Convulsed States
October 7, 2021 | 6:00pm ET
The Filson Historical Society (Virtual)

Daniel Chard
Nixon’s War at Home
October 7, 2021 | 6:00pm ET
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Tanya Roth
Her Cold War
October 8, 2021 | 7:30pm ET
Libations in the Library – Virtual Book Party

Georgann Eubanks
Saving the Wild South
October 9, 2021 | 1:00pm ET
Southern Festival of Books (Virtual)

Adrian Miller
Black Smoke
October 10, 2021 | 1:15pm ET
Southern Festival of Books (Virtual)

Rebecca Davis
Public Confessions
October 12, 2021 | 7:00pm ET
Book launch celebration, hosted by University of Delaware, Swarthmore Campus & Community Store, and UNC Press: in-conversation with Kristin Kobes Du Mez (Virtual)

Kenneth Robert Janken
The Wilmington Ten
October 13, 2021 | 11:00am ET
NC Department of Natural & Cultural Resources (Virtual)

Kevin Waite
West of Slavery
October 14, 2021 | 4:00pm PT
Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West (Virtual)

Van Gosse
The First Reconstruction
October 15, 2021 | 3:30pm CDT
University of Missouri

Lytton John Musselman & Peter W. Schafran
Edible Wild Plants of the Carolinas
October 15, 2021 | 6:00pm ET
Malaprop’s Bookstore (Virtual)

Caroline Janney
Ends of War
October 17, 2021 | 1:45pm ET
Gilder Lehrman’s Book Breaks (Virtual)

Lytton John Musselman & Peter W. Schafran
Edible Wild Plants of the Carolinas
October 17, 2021 | 2:00pm ET
Bookmarks (Winston-Salem NC)

Hannah Farber
Underwriters of the United States
October 19, 2021 | 12:00pm ET
OI Author Conversation

Jonathan White
To Address You as My Friend
October 19, 2021 | 6:30pm ET
The American Civil War Museum (Richmond VA)

Johanna Fernández
The Young Lords
October 21, 2021 | 6:00pm ET
The New York Society Library
(New York; hybrid event)

Allyson Brantley
Brewing a Boycott
October 22, 2021 | 7:00pm ET
Beer Histories, Now, in collaboration with the National Museum of American History (Smithsonian Associates Streaming series virtual event)

Adrian Miller
Black Smoke
October 23-31, 2021
Texas Book Festival (Virtual)

Van Gosse
The First Reconstruction
October 23, 2021 | 1:00pm ET
Union County (PA) Historical Society

Kristy Nabhan-Warren
Meatpacking America
October 23, 2021 | 1:00pm CT
Iowa Book Festival, in partnership with Prairie Lights (Iowa City Public Library)

Georgann Eubanks
Saving the Wild South
October 24, 2021 | 2:00pm ET
Quail Ridge Books (Raleigh NC)

Jason Vuic
The Swamp Peddlers
October 26, 2021 | 8:00pm ET
Tombolo Books
(St. Petersburg FL)

Jodi Eichler-Levine
Painted Pomegranates and Needlepoint Rabbis
October 27, 2021 | 1:00pm ET
Jewish Museum of Maryland

Caroline Janney
Ends of War
October 29, 2021 | 7:00pm ET
New Dominion Bookshop (Charlottesville VA)

Schomburg Center’s Conversations in Black Freedom Studies Series, “Understanding Policing and Surveillance in America” with Daniel S. Chard, Victoria Law, Marisol LeBrón and Stuart Schrader

Last week, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture hosted a conversation titled “Understanding Policing and Surveillance in America” for their Conversations in Black Freedom Studies series. Moderated by Dr. Jeanne Theoharis and Dr. Robyn C. Spencer, UNC Press author of Nixon’s War At Home: The FBI, Leftist Guerrillas, and the Origins of Counterterrorism Daniel S. Chard spoke with authors Victoria Law, Marisol LeBrón and Stuart Schrader. Transforming the nature, role, and function of policing has emerged as an urgent demand by a new generation of activists. This panel traces the history that got us here. These four authors will consider the global impact and historical roots of policing and surveillance in the US.

During the presidency of Richard Nixon, homegrown leftist guerrilla groups like the Weather Underground and the Black Liberation Army carried out hundreds of attacks in the United States. The FBI had a long history of infiltrating activist groups, but this type of clandestine action posed a unique challenge. Drawing on thousands of pages of declassified FBI documents, Daniel S. Chard shows how America’s war with domestic guerillas prompted a host of new policing measures as the FBI revived illegal spy techniques previously used against communists in the name of fighting terrorism.

Daniel S. Chard is visiting assistant professor of history at Western Washington University.

Frank Porter Graham and Academic Freedom

The following is a guest blog post by William A. Link, author of Frank Porter Graham: Southern Liberal, Citizen of the World. Frank Porter Graham (1886–1972) was one of the most consequential white southerners of the twentieth century. Born in Fayetteville and raised in Charlotte, Graham became an active and popular student leader at the University of North Carolina. After earning a graduate degree from Columbia University and serving as a marine during World War I, he taught history at UNC, and in 1930, he became the university’s fifteenth president. 

Brimming with fresh insights, this definitive biography reveals how a personally modest public servant took his place on the national and world stage and, along the way, helped transform North Carolina.

Happy Book Birthday to Frank Porter Graham: Southern Liberal, Citizen of the World, officially on sale today!

In the early twenty-first century,  American colleges and universities are facing a sustained attack from conservative foes in print and in legislatures.  In recent months, legislatures—especially those in states which Donald Trump carried in 2020—have enacted new measures to uproot supposed higher education’s “liberal” indoctrination.  During World War I, university faculty who were opponents of American participation in the war faced censure and even dismissal.  During the early 1960s, the notorious Johns Committee investigated Communist infiltration by closeted gay people that led to firings on the campuses of Florida’s public colleges and universities.

Frank Porter Graham

How campuses became a battlefield in cultural wars has a long history. In November 1931, Langston Hughes, black poet and Harlem Renaissance figure,  visited the University of North Carolina campus.  Hosting a black man at a southern white university was a daring move.  Hughes contributed an essay and a poem to a literary journal edited in Chapel Hill, Contempo.  In the essay, entitled “Southern Gentlemen, White Prostitutes, Mill-Owners, and Negroes,” Hughes addressed the “absurd farce” that was Alabama justice.  Citing traditions of white southern honor, Hughes urged white southerners to “rise up” and free the accused defendants.  He described how the “half-black . . . children of the Southern gentleman” were products of their environment.  His essay traversed numerous racial taboos about white womanhood, but he went even farther in his poem, “Christ in Alabama,” appearing in the same Contempo issue.  “Christ is a Nigger,/Beaten and black,” it read, and “Mary is His Mother—/Mammy of the South,” with “God’s His Father—/White Master above.”  Hughes concluded with the verse, “Most holy bastard/Of the bleeding mouth:/Nigger Christ/On the cross of the South.

On November 19, 1931, Hughes, without incident, visited three classes and that evening delivered a talk before an audience of about 250 students and faculty.  The event provided fodder for David Clark, conservative critic and editor of the Textile Bulletin.  The Scottsboro defendants, Clark maintained, were fairly tried and convicted; he claimed that what occurred at Scottsboro involved “negro fiends” who assaulted unprotected white girls. Abernethy, Clark contended, was a “rabid advocate of communism and constantly a troublemaker.”  Denouncing Contempo for publishing “scurrilous and blasphemous articles,” Clark attacked Hughes for violating racial taboos about sex and race by suggesting that interracial contact might have been consensual.  Morever, UNC liberals, in effect, endorsed the violation of white womanhood, while Communists were using the event to promote subversion of the racial order.  In most of the South, Clark continued, anyone writing such articles would be driven out and “fortunate to escape bodily harm.”  At UNC, in contrast, Hughes was welcomed.

The charge of UNC campus radicalism had a flimsy basis; in the 1930s, radicals remained few and isolated on campus.  In October 1931, a John Reed Club chapter was formed in Chapel Hill, with the purpose of organizing a “cultural movement dedicated to advancing the interests of the working class.”  John Reed Clubs were founded in 1929 as a national organization that was affiliated with the Communist Party and attracted cultural and political radicals.  Sympathizing with Communists’ labor organizing and the defense of civil rights, the Chapel Hill chapter hosted talks by anarchist Marcus Graham and New Masses editor Michael Gold.  The formation of the John Reed Club chapter at UNC encouraged a popular perception of student radicalism.  As the Burlington Times put it, public taxes permitted “the communistic party to organize on the Hill.”  The Daily Tar Heel ridiculed the Times’s concern with the group, an organization of “eight or ten literarily minded idealists” who “occasionally discuss Karl Marx and the Russian experiment over peaceful cups of coffee.”

Though UNC President Frank Porter Graham did not mind controversy, he also believed that opposing forces could be reconciled.  Although he blamed Contempo for providing ammunition to critics of UNC liberalism, Graham defended the principle of academic freedom.  UNC was caught in a crossfire between student radicals and conservative critics and was forced to defend free speech. 

William A. Link is Richard J. Milbauer Professor of History at the University of Florida.

In Memoriam: Stephen V. Ash

We are saddened to learn that noted Civil War historian and UNC Press author Stephen (Steve) V. Ash passed away on October 10, 2021.

“Steve was a skilled social historian of the South in the Civil War era, and one who mastered the art of writing deeply researched books that were approachable for the trade while still earning the respect of scholars. I often speak of translational scholarship—work that takes the best methods of the academy and communicates it to readers outside—and Steve is one of those people who helped me understand what it looked like in practice.”—Mark Simpson-Vos, UNC Press Editorial Director.

Steve’s first UNC Press book, When the Yankees Came: Conflict and Chaos in the Occupied South, 1861-1865, was originally published in 1995. According to the Journal of Southern History, “Ash’s scholarship is impeccable, as he has refreshingly applied to the war years recent southern historiography on race and gender relations, on notions of honor, and on community structure. . . . This is a very good book that combines extraordinary detail with close analysis of the experiences and the meanings of the encounters between Yankee soldiers and Confederate civilians during the Civil War.”

More recently, Steve returned to the UNC Press fold with Rebel Richmond: Life and Death in the Confederate Capital in 2019. Library Journal called it “deeply researched, revealing, and compelling. . . . Will set the standard for other much-needed intensive, close-up examinations of what the Civil War meant on the ground.”

All at UNC Press offer our deepest condolences to Steve’s family and colleagues.

Grampa Fed Me Nettles

The following is a guest blog post by Lytton John Musselman, co-author of Edible Wild Plants of the Carolinas: A Forager’s Companion. With Edible Wild Plants of the Carolinas, Lytton John Musselman and Peter W. Schafran offer a full-color guide for the everyday forager. Edible Wild Plants of the Carolinas is designed to help anyone enjoy the many wild plants found in the biodiverse Carolinas.

Happy Book Birthday to Edible Wild Plants of the Carolinas: A Forager’s Companion, officially on sale today!

Edible wild plants have interested me my entire life starting with family foraging in southern Wisconsin collecting walnuts, hickories, raspberries, blackberries, and grapes.  As a result, I always felt I never really knew a plant unless I was aware how it was used, especially for food.  This prompted a lifetime pursuing edible wild plants, teaching and learning about them in a variety of places.

This included field botany courses in Wisconsin, North Carolina, Michigan, New York, and Virginia for university students, the general public, and military personnel. Working through Fort Bragg, my wife and I wrote the edible plants portion of a U S Army survival manual. Further afield, I was privileged to teach field botany as a Visiting Professor in Sudan, Palestinian Territories, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Brunei Darussalam.  The most unusual venue was being the botanist on Prairie Home Companion cruises. Coming to the end of more than fifty years promoting these plants, I wanted to share some of what I had learned.

That time span allows for an overview of foraging from an era when there were still typewriters and rational political discourse. This book is one of the outcomes of that perspective which I was privileged to write with an enthusiastic capable forager from a different generation, Peter Schafran. 

How edibility is determined fascinates me.  A passion for plants and a temerity for tasting new and different things are important as well as familiarity with the literature. This information is in books, brochures, “grey literature”, blogs, and websites. It is surprisingly vast and increasingly easily accessed.  Earlier authors mainly used the words “edible plants” while the newer, more yuppified treatments favor the word “foraging”.  That term is a more inclusive, more millennial term embracing a wider community than just botanists. Perhaps it is reflective of a return to local foods, part of the locavore movement –selecting foods deemed healthier because they are collected in nature.

Another way to learn new edible plants is to find their kin eaten in other parts of the world.  Here are two examples.  When visiting the World Vegetable Center in Arusha, Tanzania I saw an edible shrub called chaya, a relative of the spurge nettle found in sandy woods of the Coastal Plain. This conflicted with my understanding of this group of plantsI had presumptuously assumed spurge nettle was toxic, like many members of the spurge family. But chaya was being promoted for small holders because of its exceptional nutrition.  What about spurge nettle?  Gingerly– because of the stinging hairs—I collected and steamed it.  Tasty. The seeds, though small, have a nut-like flavor. This spring I collected leaves, cooked them, and served them when my granddaughter was visiting. She thought they were good and now enjoys telling her friends her grandfather fed her nettles.

The second experience of beneficial botanical kinship was a visit to the labyrinthic market in Miri, Malaysia where one of the warrens sold greens, including sessile joyweed, Alternanthera sessilis. Could alligator weed, A. philoxeroides, an invasive weed clogging canals in the Southeastern United States, be edible? I steamed some. The taste was underwhelming and the texture slimy but the experience informative.  

A new and salutary aspect of harvesting wild plants is ethical foraging. This stresses the importance of conservation, respect for the cultures using wild plants, adherence to collecting permits, as well as other ethical concerns.

Lytton John Musselman is the Mary Payne Hogan Distinguished Professor of Botany at Old Dominion University. 

2021 American Studies Association Annual Meeting

We hope you’ll visit our virtual booth for the American Studies Association 2021 annual meeting. There you can browse our new and recent titles in American Studies and connect with editors Mark Simpson-Vos, Brandon Proia, and Lucas Church.

In addition to all of the great titles on display, we also have several relevant series that we want to be sure to highlight:

Critical Indigeneities Series

Gender and American Culture Series

John Hope Franklin Series in African American History and Culture

Justice, Power, and Politics Series

Studies in Social Medicine Series

Studies in United States Culture Series

Where Religion Lives Series

And our forthcoming Latinx Histories Series

Please be sure to visit our ASA 2021 virtual booth to browse our new and recent titles in American Studies – available at our ASA conference discount. Just use promo code 01DAH40 at checkout to receive a 40% discount. And if your order totals over $75, domestic U.S. shipping is FREE.

Race, Removal, and the Right to Remain: Removal and the British Empire

Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day! We’re happy to be celebrating the first-ever presidential proclamation of this day in which we appreciate Native Americans and their land that we colonized and continue to occupy. In an effort to help celebrate this new proclamation, read an excerpt from Samantha Seeley’s Omohundro Institute and UNC Press recently published book, Race, Removal, and the Right to Remain: Migration and the Making of the United States. In the country’s founding decades, federal and state politicians debated which categories of people could remain and which should be subject to removal. The result was a white Republic, purposefully constructed through contentious legal, political, and diplomatic negotiation. But, as Samantha Seeley demonstrates, removal, like the right to remain, was a battle fought on multiple fronts.

The seventeenth-century English Atlantic world was a world of motion, as colonial projects sent people toward the Americas. Atlantic crossings were largely made by those who were bound to labor for someone else. Demands for labor in the Caribbean and North America brought three hundred thousand English, upward of twenty thousand Irish, and seven thousand Scottish migrants to the English colonies over the course of the century. Half of them were indentured servants with contracts that obligated them to remain in service for a set number of years, while a much smaller number were convicted prisoners from England and Scotland also subject to terms of indenture. By the eighteenth century, the great majority were forced African migrants. Enslaved Africans taken to the English colonies far outnumbered indentured servants.

Removal and seventeenth-century English colonization went hand in hand. Migration was calculated, something to be managed by the monarch toward the ends of empire. In vagrancy statutes, Elizabethan poor laws, and criminal transportation, expulsion was the punishment and solution for a variety of social ills. English monarchs, their counselors, and colonial promoters believed that the transportation of large groups of people to new colonies would reform those convicted of crimes, suppress rebellion, support claims to territory, and mitigate poverty while funneling laboring men and women to North America. English traders took thousands of Africans into bondage in the English colonies, in part by defining them as removable. In the colonies themselves, English migrants used removal once again as they attempted to dispossess Native people.

Whether forced, coerced, or free, transatlantic migrants entered a Native world that had also been in motion long before Europeans appeared. In the early thirteenth century, Mississippian societies—characterized by concentrated towns surrounded by villages and centered on maize agriculture—had predominated across the Eastern Woodlands for centuries. On the eve of European arrival in the Americas, those centralized communities had begun to disperse and form new confederacies that would dominate the eastern half of the continent by the seventeenth century. Those polities already sought to expel outsiders to their benefit. When the English set foot in what is now Virginia, the Powhatan Confederacy was in the process of replacing rival chiefdoms along the Chesapeake Bay’s coastal plain with those they had subjugated. Haudenosaunees would similarly displace outsiders, broadening the boundaries of Iroqouia in what is now New York. Up and down the Atlantic seaboard, seventeenth-century Native people fought English colonization and defended their borders by keeping colonial settlements to the coasts. For Indigenous people, as for transatlantic migrants, who moved and where had enormous consequences.

Before the United States appeared on any map, removal had an extensive history in North America. British imperial officials relied on it as an instrument of colonization. Fueled by removal, the British Empire expanded dramatically by the eighteenth century. Removal made population serve the growing empire. Later, it would come to inform early national debates about population and who constituted the people in the new United States. British precedents lay the groundwork for those early national debates.

Early modern English thinkers vaunted removal as a crucial tool of governance—a way to harness population to the ends of state building. Accounting for population, however, had not always been important to how the English made sense of the world. Before the seventeenth century, European writers debated whether counting people was desirable or even useful. The first censuses taken in Europe were accounts made after the plagues of the Middle Ages, as societies sought to comprehend the devastation of epidemic disease. More routine curiosity in population only emerged later, in the seventeenth century. Colonization drove an interest in demography—a field for which European writers had no name. In an era of Atlantic connection and migration, counting people suddenly seemed important. What Molly Farrell has called “human accounting” lay at the center of English ventures in North America. As Native people grappled with the arrival of Europeans on their shores, they also used population counts to make sense of the changes the outsiders brought with them. Counting people provided a way to comprehend the vast new epidemiological, political, and cultural worlds that Europeans, Africans, and Natives had created by the seventeenth century.

Sixteenth-century English colonial promoters took advantage of this newfound preoccupation with counting people to propose North American ventures as solutions for the social ills they associated with high population density. Between 1560 and 1600, England’s population increased from three to four million people. Enclosures, poor harvests, and declining wages prompted the long-distance migration of people from rural areas to towns. English thinkers argued that these changes caused poverty and criminality, two mounting social ills that needed to be managed. Most dangerous in their eyes were those they called vagrants, the able-bodied poor who traveled looking for work and opportunity beyond their home counties. Vagrancy had been categorized as a criminal offense in the fourteenth century, but vagrancy statutes proliferated as long-distance migration became more prominent. From the late sixteenth to the seventeenth centuries, a series of thirteen poor laws defined the poverty of the able bodied as lawlessness.

Samantha Seeley is assistant professor of history at the University of Richmond. 

Executive Editor Elaine Maisner’s interview with Jean Casimir, author of The Haitians: A Decolonial History

The following is a Q&A between UNC Press Executive Editor Elaine Maisner and Jean Casimir, author of The Haitians: A Decolonial History. The Haitians: A Decolonial History, which opens with an eloquent foreword by Walter Mignolo, was translated by Laurent Dubois. The original book, Une lecture décoloniale de l’histoire des Haïtiens de 1697 à 1915, was published in 2017 by Imprimerie Lakay in Port au Prince, Haiti. In this sweeping history, leading Haitian intellectual Jean Casimir argues that the story of Haiti should not begin with the usual image of Saint-Domingue as the richest colony of the eighteenth century. 

The Haitians is in our series Latin America in Translation. The Haitians was also featured on our Understanding Haiti’s Past and Haitian Heritage Month reading lists.

When I acquired Jean Casimir’s book for publication—for publication in English for the very first time—I learned about Professor Casimir’s concept of lakou. In Haiti, lakou, small plots of land often inhabited by generations of the same family, were and continue to be sites of resistance even in the face of structural disadvantages originating in colonial times, some of which continue to be maintained by the Haitian government with support from outside powers. Having now read the book, titled The Haitians: A Decolonial History in UNC Press’s English-language edition, I understand not only the centrality of lakou for Haiti’s moun andeyo—the largely African-descended rural peasantry—but, in turn, the centrality of lakou for understanding Haiti’s modern history and contemporary realities. 

I also have come to understand that, just as lakou are central to Haiti’s history, so Haiti is central to global history. As Gerald Horne puts it, after 1776, “the unpatriotic settlers who had broken from the British Empire were busily developing ties with the French Caribbean, heightening the profitability—and the exploitation—of those enslaved in what became Haiti. It was a process that would backfire spectacularly with the transformative revolution sparked in 1791; indeed, this was the revolution that led to abolition.” (As Horne wrote in his review in The Nation of UNC Press’s new third edition of Eric Williams’s Capitalism and Slavery https://www.thenation.com/article/society/eric-williams-capitalism-slavery/.)

I hope you’ll enjoy listening to Professor Casimir’s own recent remarks on Haiti’s past and present, in the following Q&A. Thank you, Jean, for taking the time to do this with me.

Elaine Maisner

Elaine:  My first question is: Where did you grow up and how did you become a scholar of Haiti?

Jean: I grew up in Haiti during World War II. My years as a teenager corresponded to the outbreak of the fever of economic and social development that was prevalent in the post-World War II era. Destined to be a cleric, then a physician, I chose to be a social sciences schoolteacher. Later, I became a trained scholar.

  Elaine: What are your connections with Haiti today, and how are you getting information from your contacts in Haiti at present?

Jean: At the dawn of the Duvalier dictatorship, I left my country to initiate my academic studies. I returned to Haiti after thirty years and then witnessed twenty-five more years of efforts to set up a minimum of democratic governance. I live in Haiti, where I spend most of my time.

Elaine: What are the current conditions regarding people’s health, safety, and economics in Haiti right now?

Jean: The current conditions regarding people’s health, safety and economics differ from what obtained during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, due to the acceleration of failing conditions since 1915, with the occupation of the Haiti by the United States. Health, safety, and economic conditions have been the responsibility solely of the general population, without any outstanding participation by governing institutions. Efforts to develop the domestic market and to achieve food sovereignty have been curtailed by unfair competition originating in the international market and by stances taken by the political authorities. 

Health was and is mainly entrusted to community-based professionals: urban private practitioners, midwives, and barefoot doctors. Private hospitals, as well as private educational institutions, are mushrooming in urban centers. Rural institutions have tended to be self-sufficient in these matters. As far as security is concerned, government was and remains the main source of insecurity since the times of enslavement. And since 1915, with the hold that the United States has on Haiti, the uncertainties of daily life have only increased. 

Elaine: What do you think are Haitians’ greatest needs and responsibilities in the coming year?

Jean: Readers cannot understand the Haitian situation if they do not realize that since 1492 the Taïnos, the inhabitants of Saint-Domingue and of Haiti have never been governed in a language and by laws they understand, appreciate, let alone discuss and challenge. So, the greatest need and responsibility of Haitians in the coming year is to enhance their presence in all public spheres and to progress toward self-expression and local governance. On a basic level, too, the vast majority of the Haitian population does not speak French on a wide scale, and so it is urgent to assess in the coming years what percentage of Haitians are able to converse and negotiate their well being in the language—French—by which they are ruled.

Elaine: What do you think non-Haitians can do to best support Haitians in respect to their greatest needs and responsibilities in the coming year?

JeanThe Haitians was originally written for Haitians themselves, and to have it now widely available in UNC Press’s English-language edition gives me to hope that the book will lead non-Haitians to see Haiti and its people with new respect. I hope that the book will help to put an end to the eternally patronizing attitude of the powers that be. I hope that the book will help to expose the lies that those in power—both locally and internationally—employ to disguise their mischiefs.

Elaine: Tell us how your book may have predicted Haiti’s current realities, and how it may provide guidance for Haiti’s future course.

JeanThe Haitians: A Decolonial History shows how our nation crafted its sovereignty despite the policies of the colonized, modern, and now supposedly independent national state. With our diminutive size and our enormous fragility, we have been fighting an unfair war against the modern state. 

Originally, the nation coalesced while opposing the enforcement of policies formulated by an emerging western bourgeoisie against its own proletariat. Having had the opportunity and means to sever its links with these outside modern states as they were moving toward global imperialism, the Haitians did not have the need to negotiate their well-being with the external powers of the era—and they do not seem to have subsequently learned how to do that, either. Rather, they created their own confederation of stateless communal authorities that took care of the well-being of their village system—at the very time when human and material resources of the Caribbean colonies were being squandered by modern empires. 

Subsequently, during the nineteenth century, succeeding Haitian governments were handcuffed by a lack of international support, in part due to the nation’s insularity. Simultaneously, Haitian authorities were, strikingly, ignored by the rural populations; this was possible because, even while the population multiplied fivefold, a near totality of Haitians lived as moun an deyò, in their vernacular languageThis is an expression I translate as “inhabitants” or “settlers.” The settlers resisted and nullified the policies crafted by a citizenry restricted to large landowners and French-speaking, middle-class city dwellers. The settlers perceived themselves as alien, living outside the values and principles of a state-administration mimicking the imperialist community. 

During this period, rural Haitians singlehandedly achieved food sovereignty, and structured their village society to safeguard their private lives. This is the key point. Their communities, engineered to care for participating members, ensured their joie de vivre even in the face of the real precarity of their existence. 

Over time, traditional Haitian oligarchies were renewed but now they were infiltrated slowly by the settlers, notwithstanding recurring conflicts between the groups. Indeed, the miniscule oligarchic class was on the verge of being completely absorbed by the settlers, when, for its own reasons and purposes, the United States occupied Haiti and transformed its power structure into a political-client body. Formal democracy around a centralized bureaucratic nucleus became more and more unpracticable, given the original divide between government and nation. The outward orientation of the traditional oligarchs led them to welcome the U.S. occupation, which initiated a gradual destruction of the village economy. 

The state administration moved toward implementing a totally outwardly oriented political system, and an imported oligarchy was superimposed on the traditional one. The occupying newcomers, who became known as the MRE—Most Repugnant Elite—came under the guidance of all-powerful U.S. military and civilian advisers. The MRE shared the racial prejudices prevalent in the Euro-American world and had no true relationship to the historical processes through which the Haitian nation and society had emerged. 

Meanwhile, the village society—what I call our counter-plantation system—aimed to achieve a non-negotiable equality among its participants and could not compromise with the new political and economic structure that was designed to produce and reproduce inequalities. The landing of the Marine Corps in Haiti initiated the decline of the moun an deyòand their way of living, while the urban political class, along with religious, educational, judicial, and media institutions, became enthusiastic intermediaries between the foreign occupying sponsors and the settlers.

By extrapolating the ideas developed in The Haitians, A Decolonial History, I would first emphasize how the efforts made by a nation of moun an deyò settlers to freely express their political will were stifled from the first years of U.S. occupation. Further attempts at self-expression were defeated by increasingly efficient policies implemented by the United States, assisted faithfully, after World War II, by France, Canada, and the so-called friends of Haiti, including Caricom and OAS.  

To conclude, I would point out that Haitians will never be powerful enough to achieve on their own the kinds of local structural changes that would fundamentally support their sense of equality and the way of life that is more beneficial for them. But if they keep to their course, I am convinced that they will overcome what seems to be a hopeless repetition of the conditions that repress them. If they adamantly maintain their orientation until they occupy the national public sphere, then they may wish to knock at the doors of the oppressed groups that are burgeoning in the rich countries and participate in the struggles of those groups to express their political will and sovereignty. This alliance may devise strategies that can lead out of the common condition of worldwide exploitation. Haiti will salvage its sovereignty, or it will perish, not alone but together with the Global South.

Jean Casimir, who served as Haitian ambassador to the United States and as a United Nations official, is Professor of Humanities at the University of Haiti.

Elaine Maisner is Executive Editor at UNC Press.

Cuban Memory Wars: An Evening with Michael Bustamante

Back in April, author of Cuban Memory Wars: Retrospective Politics in Revolution and Exile, Michael J. Bustamante held a virtual talk in partnership with Books & Books and The Cuban Research Institute. In this talk, Bustamante speaks with Dr. Jorge Duany, the Director of the Cuban Research Institute and Professor of Anthropology in the Department of Global & Sociocultural Studies at Florida International University.

For many Cubans, Fidel Castro’s Revolution represented deliverance from a legacy of inequality and national disappointment. For others—especially those exiled in the United States—Cuba’s turn to socialism made the prerevolutionary period look like paradise lost. Michael J. Bustamante unsettles this familiar schism by excavating Cubans’ contested memories of the Revolution’s roots and results over its first twenty years.

Bustamante’s Cuban Memory Wars was also featured on our recent “National Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month” reading list.

Michael J. Bustamante is associate professor of history and Emilio Bacardí Moreau Chair in Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami.

Retaliation in the Headlines

The following is a guest blog post by Lorien Foote, author of Rites of Retaliation: Civilization, Soldiers, and Campaigns in the American Civil War. Blending military and cultural history, Lorien Foote’s rich and insightful book sheds light on how Americans fought over what it meant to be civilized and who should be extended the protections of a civilized world.

Happy Book Birthday to Rites of Retaliation: Civilization, Soldiers, and Campaigns in the American Civil War, officially on sale today!

Journalists covering the myriad military conflicts around the world use the word “retaliation” regularly in headlines and articles to describe the behavior of combatants.  In its June 16, 2021 on-line coverage of conflict in the Middle East, for example, The Washington Post ran a headline that read “Israeli airstrikes hit Gaza in retaliation for incendiary balloons.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2021/06/15/israel-gaza-airstrikes-hamas/.  The AP’s story about five days of violence in Johannesburg in September, 2019, was entitled “Nigerians attack South African businesses in retaliation.” https://apnews.com/article/africa-south-africa-international-news-ibadan-nigeria-4dfdc31446b44ef98645420afff74550.

 The current use of retaliation often connotes a violent action that is tinged with an element of revenge, although the word is often used simply to mean a counterattack.  Americans in the nineteenth century understood retaliation very differently than its modern usage.  Retaliation during the American Civil War was a ritual derived from the international customs of war.  Its purpose was to restrain the violence of war and to give combatants a way to hold their enemy accountable for fighting war according to the rules.  Confederate and Union military commanders used retaliation in nearly every campaign of the conflict.

 Civilian leaders and military commanders in the United States and the Confederacy believed the world was watching their war in order to judge if it was fought according to “civilized” standards.  To gain international legitimacy in the eyes of European nations, both combatants had to show that they followed contemporary practices in war that were intended to limit its impact on noncombatants, to ensure kind treatment of prisoners of war, and to restrict fighting to uniformed soldiers in the pay of the nation-state.

From the beginning of hostilities, however, both Union and Confederate officials believed the other side committed atrocious acts that violated the customs of civilized warfare.  Retaliation provided the remedy.  It worked like this.  A commander of an army wrote a formal letter accusing his counterpart of violating the civilized customs of war.  He named the specific atrocity, such as murdering a prisoner of war, bombarding a city without giving notice in advance, or pillaging private property.  He gave his enemy a set period of time to provide a satisfactory explanation.  The best explanation would be that rogue individuals had committed the atrocious acts without the sanction of governing authorities and would be punished.  But if no explanation were forthcoming, such letters always stated, then the army commander would retaliate in a specified way.

Americans from all social groups and geographic regions, through military correspondence, legal treatises, private letters and diaries, and newspaper articles, showed that they shared a common understanding of proper retaliation.  They believed it should never be implemented in a spirit of revenge, but rather with the reforming purpose of preventing what they termed “savage” behavior in war.  If retaliation was justified and proportional to the offense, it should serve to keep soldiers and their commanders in line. 

The American press widely covered the numerous retaliation episodes that occurred during the Civil War.  At times it did work to change a combatant’s behavior.  When the Confederate government refused to treat Black U.S. soldiers who were born in northern states as prisoners of war, the Abraham Lincoln administration issued a retaliation order and set aside hostages from South Carolina.  It worked.  The Confederacy amended its legislation and put free-born Black prisoners in military prisons with white POWs.

But the retaliation ritual had notorious failures.  When William Tecumseh Sherman’s Federal army marched through South Carolina, Confederate citizens and soldiers were outraged that Union soldiers pillaged and burned private houses.  Confederate soldiers murdered after capture some Union soldiers who were detailed as foragers, slit their throats, and left their bodies by the side of a road with a sign indicating what happened to them.  In retaliation, Sherman ordered the execution of forty-three Confederate prisoners of war.  This incident increased the hatred of both sides, but did not stop the escalating wave of atrocities that marked the war in South Carolina. 

The retaliation ritual was supposed to restrain the violence of war.  During the American Civil War, it often became an opportunity for headlines to proclaim the atrocious behavior of the enemy.  After the Civil War, international conferences created treaties, tribunals, and war crime commissions to take the place of formal retaliation.  Its rituals faded out of practice.  Journalists still use the word, but nineteenth century Americans would no longer understand the headlines. 

Lorien Foote is Patricia & Bookman Peters Professor of History at Texas A&M University, and author of The Yankee Plague: Escaped Union Prisoners and the Collapse of the Confederacy.

Mark Twain, Publisher, and His Confederate Masquerade

The following is a guest blog post by Stephen Cushman, author of The Generals’ Civil War: What Their Memoirs Can Teach Us Today. In this insightful book, Stephen Cushman considers Civil War generals’ memoirs as both historical and literary works, revealing how they remain vital to understanding the interaction of memory, imagination, and the writing of American history. 

Why did Mark Twain’s New York firm, Charles L. Webster and Company, buck the postwar trend of publishing Civil War memoirs from both sides, as his major competitors did? Profit mattered to Twain, but profit-motive alone cannot explain why he stuck closely to United States generals for all seven titles in the Great War Library published by Webster. Ulysses S. Grant’s Personal Memoirs (1885-86) launched the series with a bestseller, but the later books by or about Samuel Crawford, George Armstrong Custer, and Winfield Scott Hancock (all 1887) did not guarantee greater profits than Twain could have realized by soliciting memoirs from Confederates Edward Porter Alexander, John B. Gordon, Jubal A. Early, James Longstreet, or John Singleton Mosby, all of whom had books to come. In approaching these former Confederates, Twain could have had the advantage of playing his fellow-southerner card.

We know Mark Twain held that card. On February 11, 1901, at Carnegie Hall, he delivered introductory remarks at a benefit for Lincoln Memorial University, established in 1897 in Harrogate, Tennessee. At the benefit, which coincided with the celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s ninety-second birthday, Twain opened by proclaiming, “I was born and reared in a slave state; my father was a slave owner; and in the Civil War I was a second lieutenant in the Confederate service,” After a pause in the theatrical style of his early model, the humorist Artemus Ward, he added slyly, “For a while.” Twain’s mocked his two-week service with the Marion Rangers, an irregular pro-Confederate band raised in Marion County, Missouri, in the short piece “The Private History of a Campaign That Failed” (1885).  More to the point here is the move he made next in 1901 remarks at the benefit in Tennessee. “We of the South were not ashamed,” he continued. Then, asserting his sectional identity, he waved the Stainless Banner as vigorously as any former Confederate could have wished: “like the men of the North, we were fighting for flags we loved; and when men fight for these things, and under these convictions, with nothing sordid to tarnish their cause, that cause is holy, the blood spilled for it is sacred, the life that is laid down for it is consecrated.” By the end of his remarks, however, the shape-shifting Twain was reassuring his audience he was not an unreconstructed rebel; he believed firmly in reconciliation: “The old wounds are healed; you and we are brothers again.”

Had he solicited books from high-ranking Confederates, Mark Twain could have adjusted his mix of Lost Cause rhetoric with reconciliation rhetoric to suit a particular prospect. But he approached none of them. Even more revealing, he does not seem to have read many Confederate writers or owned their books. He did own John Scott’s Partisan Life with Col. John S. Mosby, published by Harper and Brothers in 1867, and in 1905 he asked his secretary, Isabel Lyon, to search his recently moved library for Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee by His Son, Captain Robert E. Lee, published in New York by Doubleday, Page and Company in 1904. But Lyon noted in her journal that she did not find it, and we have no evidence he had read the book before it went missing. Twain’s library included Julian Ralph’s Dixie; or, Southern Scenes and Sketches, published in 1896, also by Harper and Brothers, and in the notebook he kept during his Mississippi River trip of April and May 1882, he jotted, “Gen Dick Taylor’s book,” apparently because someone, perhaps his publisher and traveling companion, James Osgood, mentioned Richard Taylor’s Destruction and Reconstruction; yet whether he later owned or read the book is unclear.

For a self-proclaimed son of the Lost Cause, this is not an impressive record. It raises suspicion about the sincerity of Mark Twain’s Confederate affiliation, which has the mark of a costume donned for the occasion of Lincoln’s birthday. By contrast, Twain’s loyalty to Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant was authentic and staunch, and this loyalty may account in part for the all-Union booklist that followed. When he pursued Grant, persuading him to break off negotiations with the Century Company and sign a contract with Webster in February 1885, his primary motive may have been mercenary, on both his own behalf and that of the former president fleeced of all his money by a Wall Street swindle. But after Grant died of cancer in July 1885, and after his posthumously published memoirs conquered the Civil War memory market, Mark Twain knew Grant had given him more than money. He had given him a major work of American literature. Whatever Twain might have pretended in public performance from behind a podium on a particular occasion, over the course of his publishing career the man of letters proved an unswerving literary loyalist.

Stephen Cushman is Robert C. Taylor Professor of English at the University of Virginia. 

The Shadow of El Centro: Introduction

The following is an excerpt from the introduction of Jessica Ordaz’s The Shadow of El Centro: A History of Migrant Incarceration and Solidarity. Bounded by desert and mountains, El Centro, California, is isolated and difficult to reach. However, its location close to the border between San Diego and Yuma, Arizona, has made it an important place for Mexican migrants attracted to the valley’s agricultural economy. In 1945, it also became home to the El Centro Immigration Detention Camp. The Shadow of El Centro tells the story of how that camp evolved into the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service Processing Center of the 2000s and became a national model for detaining migrants—a place where the policing of migration, the racialization of labor, and detainee resistance coalesced. Ordaz’ book was also featured on our recent “National Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month” reading list.

Immigration detention has become daily news across the United States, from cases of death inside detention centers, to the separation of migrant children from their families, to hunger strikes protesting deportation. Currently, hundreds of thousands of migrants sit in migrant detention centers as people across the world isolate to avoid the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Detention conditions are so deplorable that in June 2019 U.S. representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez accused Donald Trump of holding migrants in “concentration camps.” She wrote, “This administration has established concentration camps on the southern border of the United States for immigrants, where they are being brutalized with dehumanizing conditions and dying. Although these national conversations have been critical in exposing the violent realities faced by migrants, the media has emphasized shock at the expense of presenting a more nuanced and historical context. As philosopher Giorgio Agamben cautioned, “The correct question to pose concerning the horrors committed in the camps is, therefore, not the hypocritical one of how crimes of such atrocity could be committed against human beings.” Instead, Agamben asserted that “it would be more honest and, above all, more useful to investigate carefully the juridical procedures and deployments of power by which human beings could be so completely deprived of their rights and prerogatives that no act committed against them could appear any longer a crime.” The Shadow of El Centro reveals that antimigrant violence is central to the development of immigration detention in the United States.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) currently detains migrants in jails, service processing centers, Bureau of Prisons centers, and facilities managed by private prison companies. Human rights violations have been found in all these sites. In 2000, 10 percent of the women detained inside the Krome Immigration Detention Center in Miami, Florida, declared that guards had raped them. Their claims became news when two of the women became pregnant while still in detention. In the words of immigration lawyer Cheryl Little, “A lot of women at Krome don’t feel they can question sexual demands by guards. Basically, they are at the mercy of their offenders.”

That same year, on January 12, 2000, a guard by the name of Officer White attacked Luis A. Ogilvie, a Panamanian migrant being held at the Krome facility. Ogilvie, a disabled man with diabetes who had arrived in the United States in 1980, requested an evening snack, a meal he was entitled to because of his condition. White responded by kicking Ogilvie’s wheelchair, slamming him against the wall, and calling him a “fuckin cripple.” This assault left Ogilvie with severe back pain and bruises. Ogilvie recounted the beating’s lasting effects: “My back snapped during the assault and it is causing me a great deal of pain. I have bruises on my shoulder and my neck still hurts from Officer White’s assault.” Despite the glaring abuse, immigration officials requested that Ogilvie be deported to Panama.

The mistreatment and neglect of detained migrants have also resulted in the loss of life. In 2008 Hiu Lui “Jason” Ng died inside the privately run Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, Rhode Island. Ng had originally arrived in New York as a teen and overstayed his visa. He married a U.S. citizen, had two children, and worked as a computer engineer. ICE agents detained Ng the moment he completed his final interview requesting permanent residency. Although Ng did not have a criminal record and was in the process of adjusting his status, immigration agents sent him to a detention center. While inside the Wyatt facility, Ng complained of excruciating pain. Detention staff dismissed his claims and accused him of faking his ailments. It was not until Ng’s family sued ICE four months later that he received medical care, but unfortunately it was too late. Five days later Ng died of liver cancer at the age of thirty-four.

Ng’s death was not an isolated incident. In 2009 the Washington Postreported that since 2003 there had been eighty-three deaths of people in immigration custody. More than twenty-four migrants have died in the custody of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) during Trump’s administration, including seven-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin, two-year-old Wilmer Josue Ramírez Vásquez, and sixteen-year-old Juan de Léon Gutiérrez. These examples of antimigrant violence not only demonstrate the widespread brutality within the system; they also reflect the geographic spread of migrant detention throughout the entire country. Initially, immigration detention camps like the one in El Centro were largely situated along the U.S.-Mexico border region, but today migrants are held throughout the interior, including in states such as Wyoming, Iowa, and Oklahoma. This growing carceral landscape has resulted in the confinement and punishment of more people.

Jessica Ordaz is assistant professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado Boulder. 

Mental Illness Awareness Week Reading List

Today’s reading list is focused on mental health as we enter Mental Illness Awareness Week, recognized from October 3rd to October 9th. “Since 1990, when Congress officially established the first full week of October as MIAW, advocates have worked together to sponsor activities, large or small, to educate the public about mental illness.” Below you’ll find a list of various titles that touch on mental illness (or lack thereof) and the study of mental health in different communities. If you or anyone you know needs some help, visit the National Association of Mental Illness’ website for 24/7 crisis support via text, a NAMI HelpLine for calls and even an online live chat.


(awarded the 2021 Alison Piepmeier Book Prize by the National Women’s Studies Association)


Between 1902 and 1934, the United States confined hundreds of adults and children from dozens of Native nations at the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians, a federal psychiatric hospital in South Dakota. But detention at the Indian Asylum, as families experienced it, was not the beginning or end of the story. For them, Canton Asylum was one of many places of imposed removal and confinement, including reservations, boarding schools, orphanages, and prison-hospitals. Despite the long reach of institutionalization for those forcibly held at the Asylum, the tenacity of relationships extended within and beyond institutional walls. 

In this accessible and innovative work, Susan Burch tells the story of the Indigenous people—families, communities, and nations, across generations to the present day—who have experienced the impact of this history. 



From Asylum to Prison definitively shows that asylums must be considered part of the carceral state—and that their ‘deinstitutionalization’ was less about shuttering asylums than it was repurposing them into prisons. The story of the country’s move from asylum to prisons is one of reinstitutionalization rather than deinstitutionalization, not one of emptying institutions but shifting their function toward even more punitive ends.

Reviews in American History



In the 1960s, policymakers and mental health experts joined forces to participate in President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. In her insightful interdisciplinary history, physician and historian Mical Raz examines the interplay between psychiatric theory and social policy throughout that decade, ending with President Richard Nixon’s 1971 veto of a bill that would have provided universal day care. She shows that this cooperation between mental health professionals and policymakers was based on an understanding of what poor men, women, and children lacked. This perception was rooted in psychiatric theories of deprivation focused on two overlapping sections of American society: the poor had less, and African Americans, disproportionately represented among America’s poor, were seen as having practically nothing.



This is a timely, intriguing, and deeply researched social history, telling the story of how a racially hierarchical, internally segregated, asylum set at the heart of chattel slavery was absorbed into perhaps an even bleaker carceral system following the Civil War.

Bulletin of the History of Medicine



Junius Wilson (1908-2001) spent seventy-six years at a state mental hospital in Goldsboro, North Carolina, including six in the criminal ward. He had never been declared insane by a medical professional or found guilty of any criminal charge. But he was deaf and black in the Jim Crow South. Unspeakable is the story of his life.

Using legal records, institutional files, and extensive oral history interviews–some conducted in sign language–Susan Burch and Hannah Joyner piece together the story of a deaf man accused in 1925 of attempted rape, found insane at a lunacy hearing, committed to the criminal ward of the State Hospital for the Colored Insane, castrated, forced to labor for the institution, and held at the hospital for more than seven decades. Junius Wilson’s life was shaped by some of the major developments of twentieth-century America: Jim Crow segregation, the civil rights movement, deinstitutionalization, the rise of professional social work, and the emergence of the deaf and disability rights movements. In addition to offering a bottom-up history of life in a segregated mental institution, Burch and Joyner’s work also enriches the traditional interpretation of Jim Crow by highlighting the complicated intersections of race and disability as well as of community and language.



This well-researched study of the psychological sciences in the first six decades of the twentieth-century South is a subtle and original contribution to southern studies. . . . [It] deserves the attention of all scholars interested in the intellectual and cultural history of the modern South or in the history of the human sciences in the twentieth century.

American Historical Review

Caribeños at the Table: Setting Hispanic Caribbean Tables in New York City

The following excerpt is from “Setting Hispanic Caribbean Tables in New York City” in Melissa Fuster’s Caribeños at the Table: How Migration, Health, and Race Intersect in New York City. People in Hispanic Caribbean communities in the United States present high rates of obesity, diabetes, and other diet-related diseases, conditions painfully highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic. Both eaters and dietitians may blame these diseases on the shedding of traditional diets in favor of highly processed foods. Or, conversely, they may blame these on the traditional diets of fatty meat, starchy root vegetables, and rice. Applying a much needed intersectional approach, Fuster shows that nutritionists and eaters often misrepresent, and even racialize or pathologize, a cuisine’s healthfulness or unhealthfulness if they overlook the kinds of economic and racial inequities that exist within the global migration experience. Fuster’s book was also featured on our recent “National Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month” reading list.

Bernardo Vega left the inland Puerto Rican town of Cayey early one morning in 1916. He left for the capital, the port of San Juan, where the steamboat Coamo(named after another inland Puerto Rican town) awaited to take him to a new life in New York City. He arrived along with hundreds of fellow tobacco workers, all dreaming of a new life in the big city and the improved life their families would have back home. The voyage took four days, and Bernardo finally saw the lights of New York City peeking from behind the morning fog. The iconic Statue of Liberty came into view, along with skyscrapers he had seen only on postcards. As he landed in lower Manhattan, “the jaws of the iron dragon” opened for him and his fellow passengers as they entered the immense urban landscape that is New York City (Vega 1994, 23).

Bernardo arrived in a booming city, a melting pot of global food cultures. He settled in a growing Puerto Rican neighborhood alongside East Harlem, bordering the then Italian area. Plantain bunches hung at entrances of local businesses. Viandas and vegetables were readily sold on the sidewalks. Spanish was audible in the streets and the stores (Vega 1994). The smell of arroz con gandules and carne guisada permeated the streets. Bernardo had joined a burgeoning Puerto Rican community, the result of a gradual but steady influx of caribeños before him.

The presence of caribeños in New York City dates to the start of the city itself. Juan Rodríguez, a Dominican mulatto, arrived on Manhattan Island in 1613 aboard a Dutch ship, working as a translator. He stayed behind, becoming the first immigrant (and first person of both African and European heritage) to settle in Manhattan (Stevens-Acevedo, Weterings, and Álvarez Francés 2013). Cubans and Puerto Ricans have been settling in the city in sizable numbers since the nineteenth century. The islands were the last remaining colonies of Spain in the Americas. During the dwindling years of the Spanish empire, Cubans and Puerto Ricans developed close commercial connections with the United States, particularly New York City. Many, like Bernardo, came to work in the tobacco industry. Cubans and Puerto Ricans worked alongside one another in these factories, rolling cigars. 

Many were also linked by the fight for independence from Spain, with New York serving as the headquarters to plan insurgencies in the Caribbean (Baker 2002).

While there was unity in these early years, differences in socioeconomic status were already being applied to Cubans and Puerto Ricans. A significant number of Cubans who arrived in New York City in the mid-nineteenth century were either wealthy merchants coming for business or vacation, or the offspring of wealthy merchants coming to further their education. Cuba had also become a prime tourist destination for Americans, with a thriving culinary scene. These factors combined to create an image of opulence associated with Cuba and its community in the States (Pérez 2018). This stood in sharp contrast with the image associated with Puerto Ricans. While some were from higher socioeconomic strata, most were members of the working class and of mixed racial heritage (Vega 1994), lowering their status compared with Cubans.

The Spanish-Cuban-American War of 1898 further solidified the connections between New York and the Caribbean. After Cuba became a sovereign country in 1902, close ties to the United States remained.1 For instance, in the early 1900s, U.S. companies controlled 80 percent of Cuba’s exports and owned most of the sugar and cigarette factories (Cantón Navarro 2000). Puerto Rico, on the other hand, became a territory of the United States in 1898, and the island inhabitants became statutory U.S. citizenship in 1917.2 Puerto Rico became the target for Americanization and intervention. U.S. authorities made concerted efforts to assimilate Puerto Ricans to U.S. values and customs, including shifting education from Spanish to English, spreading Protestantism, and redirecting the island’s foodways toward sugar and tobacco production, while the production of other foods diminished. The situations on the islands in this period of transition created distinct migratory flows in the early twentieth century that became the base of how the communities were perceived (and stereotyped) in later years.

More than a century has passed since caribeños like Bernardo Vega arrived at the shores of New York City looking for a better life. Yet their stories continue to have relevance today, as the same status differentials experienced at the turn of the century persist. The differences are, of course, reflected in how these cocinas caribeñas have traveled and been received in the city. This chapter outlines the distinct trajectories of Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and Dominicans between the Caribbean and New York City. This history serves as a tablecloth in which caribeños set their distinct tables in the city, framing how these comidas caribeñas (and its eaters) are perceived today. How these caribeños gradually built their traditional foodways in New York City provides a lens for understanding their experiences in the city and the resulting socioeconomic and health condition of these communities.

Melissa Fuster is associate professor of public health nutrition at Tulane University.

The Evolution of an Ideal: Servicewomen and Equality in the U.S. Military

The following is a guest blog post by Tanya L. Roth, author of Her Cold War: Women in the U.S. Military, 1945–1980. The 1948 Women’s Armed Services Integration Act created permanent military positions for women with the promise of equal pay. Her Cold War follows the experiences of women in the military from the passage of the Act to the early 1980s.

Her Cold War was also featured on our recent Women’s Equality Day Reading List.

Happy Book Birthday to Her Cold War, officially on sale today!

Since the eighteenth century, Americans have endorsed “equality” as a fundamental element of the nation’s identity. Yet while the Declaration of Independence boldly declares the belief that “all men are created equal,” this belief has never been fully realized. For centuries, Americans have fought for and fought over what it means to be equal. How Americans defined “equality” two hundred or fifty years ago is much different than the definitions Americans apply today.

After World War II, members of Congress created a specific definition of equality for women when they agreed that women should be able to serve in the military on an equal basis with men. In the 1940s, “equal” meant offering women the same pay and same ranks that men could hold. A woman private would be paid the same as a male private. But members of Congress also created rank limitations because they did not believe that women would ever be needed as, say, generals or admirals. Nonetheless, allowing women to join the armed forces with equal pay and equal rank (even though limited) was an important step. At a time when equal pay for women was almost unheard of in civilian jobs, the military’s equal pay policies put the institution at the forefront of an important change. No one at the time believed these limits were obstacles to equality. Instead, “equal” meant finding the jobs women could do as well or better than men, capitalizing on what were perceived to be women’s unique abilities. No one imagined that those abilities might include women becoming generals or admirals.

But “equality” is a malleable concept that depends on the circumstances and times in which it is defined. Yesterday’s definition of equality can soon become insufficient, and in the Cold War, servicewomen soon began to protest the government’s version of equality.

During the Cold War servicewomen pushed back and created new definitions of what it would mean for them to be equal in the armed forces. Equal pay was no longer enough by the 1960s, especially when women’s careers were capped due to rank restrictions, or when they became mothers, or when they could not apply for spouse benefits because they could not prove their spouses were dependent on them for at least fifty percent of their support. Servicewomen used all these limitations as evidence to show that they were not, in fact, seen as equal.

Rank limitations disappeared. LImitations on the numbers of women in service evaporated. Leaders begrudgingly agreed that mothers could remain in uniform if they chose. The Supreme Court decreed that it was fundamentally unequal to prevent servicewomen from obtaining spousal benefits.

Even with these gains, the definition of “equality” for servicewomen kept evolving. By the 1970s, leaders began pressing for definitions of “combat” in order to better understand why laws prohibited women from combat roles. Why, they asked, were women excluded from these positions, and what types of jobs fit that classification? Within a few years, the military academies opened to women, too. While some protested that women did not belong at the academies because they prepared graduates for combat leadership – roles not available to women – others recognized that an academy education offered access to important military leadership positions. Without access to that education, advocates argued, women could not be equal partners in defense.

By the 1980s and 1990s, servicewomen were more “equal” than they had ever been before, serving in a wider array of roles than ever. These roles put them closer to combat in military engagements in Latin America and the Middle East, although technically, they still could not serve in combat. In the 1990s, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell meant that gay and lesbian servicemembers would not face automatic discharge for their sexuality, but this “equality” came at a price, forcing gay and lesbian servicemembers to remain in the closet if they wanted to serve.

Today, equality in the armed forces has been further redefined. Gender-based combat restrictions have been removed. Gay and lesbian servicemembers are welcome to serve openlyTransgender Americans may serve, and may remain in the military if they transition while in service. In so many ways, servicewomen have gained a greater share of equality than ever before.

Servicewomen continue to fight for their equality, however, because removing legal restrictions is just one part of the fight for equality. Since the murder of Vanessa Guillen in 2020, military leaders have begun to reassess how they manage military sexual assault and have been criticized for patterns of mismanagement in the past. In September 2021, an Air Force review showed that servicewomen and minorities continue to be treated differently, and servicewomen continue to speak out about problems they encounter during pregnancy and as mothers.

All these concerns demonstrate that servicewomen, like all Americans, are still on a journey to equality. Just as we seem to be able to define it, achieving it remains elusive. 

Tanya L. Roth received her Ph.D. in history from Washington University. She teaches history at Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School. 

U.S. Counterterrorism was Counterproductive before 9/11

The following is a guest blog post by Daniel S. Chard, author of Nixon’s War at Home: The FBI, Leftist Guerrillas, and the Origins of Counterterrorism.  Drawing on thousands of pages of declassified FBI documents, Daniel S. Chard shows how America’s war with domestic guerillas prompted a host of new policing measures as the FBI revived illegal spy techniques previously used against communists in the name of fighting terrorism.

Happy belated Book Birthday to Nixon’s War at Home, officially on sale now!

The twentieth anniversary of 9/11 has offered opportunity for reflection not only on the meaning of the terrible attacks that day, but also on the legacy of the U.S. War on Terror, which has taken even more lives and has arguably had an even greater influence on the course of world history. Few realize, however, that U.S. counterterrorism did not start with 9/11, but decades earlier, in the 1960s and 1970s, when the government battled homegrown armed revolutionary groups opposed to racist policing, capitalism, and the war in Vietnam.

U.S. counterterrorism, first developed in its nascent form by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) during the presidency of Richard M. Nixon, was not as far-reaching as the post-9/11 War on Terror, which has sought to preempt and destroy accused terrorists through foreign military invasions, incarceration, torture, drone strikes, and mass electronic surveillance. However, Nixon’s war at home laid the groundwork for twenty-first century counterterrorism. The FBI and Nixon administration shifted national security priorities from anticommunism to antiterrorism, revived illegal surveillance tactics of the early Cold War, and expanded preemptive mass surveillance, casting leftists and people of Arab descent as political and racialized suspect communities. 

Federal authorities initiated these efforts in the early 1970s in hopes of eliminating insurgent political violence, but U.S. leaders did not address the underlying concerns motivating such violence. Moreover, much like after 9/11, counterterrorism operations in the 1970s had limited success achieving their stated goals and triggered a host of unintended consequences.

The first people whom the Nixon White House and Director J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI referred to as “terrorists” were those in and around armed groups like the Weather Underground and the Black Liberation Army (BLA). These groups splintered off from the era’s wider leftist movements and imported urban guerrilla tactics popularized by Latin American revolutionaries, carrying out hundreds of bombings and several shootings of police officers. The FBI had infiltrated plenty of leftist organizations in the past, but America’s new urban guerrillas generated a unique crisis because they were clandestine. Leftist guerrillas flaunted their evasion of state surveillance by taking on assumed identities, forging fake IDs, and developing networks of “safe-houses” throughout the country while carrying out their attacks. The Weather Underground even bombed the U.S. Capitol (1971) and the Pentagon (1972).

In response, the Nixon administration developed the United States’ first institutions explicitly dedicated to fighting “terrorism,” though neither lasted long. The first was the Huston Plan, a secret proposal drafted by Nixon’s young aid Tom Huston that would have consolidated all federal intelligence agencies under the direct command of the White House and revived break-ins, mail-opening, and warrantless wiretapping, tactics the FBI had used widely against the Communist Party but banned during the mid-1960s. Nixon authorized the Huston Plan in June 1970 but withdrew it after only five days when Hoover, who disagreed with the president over issues of jurisdictional power, refused to go along. The second institution was the Cabinet Committee to Combat Terrorism (CCCT), formed in September 1972 after Palestinian nationalist commandos killed eleven Israeli athletes amid a hostage stand-off at the Munich Olympics. Formed while Nixon was embroiled in the Watergate scandal, the CCCT had little power but served as an important funding source for terrorism research.

Huston drafted plans for the nation’s first institution dedicated to fighting terrorism, but it was scrapped due to a bureaucratic conflict between Nixon and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. June 18, 1971.

Meanwhile, desperate to destroy the Weather Underground, Hoover’s FBI renewed break-ins, mail-opening, and warrantless wiretapping and cast an expansive surveillance net that targeted leftists throughout the country, encompassing the antiwar movement, the feminist movement, Black Power radicals, and supporters of Puerto Rican independence. After the Munich attack, the government effectively viewed all Arab Americans and other Arabs in the United States as terrorism suspects. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) investigated each of the approximately 80,000 foreign Arabs in the country and deported over one hundred for minor violations while FBI agents harassed and interrogated an unknown number of Arabs, both foreign and American. 

These efforts forged a template for counterterrorism in the post-9/11 era. Both the Huston Plan and the CCCT informed the drafting of the USA PATRIOT Act (2001) and the Homeland Security Act (2002). The Arab scare of 1972-73 was a precedent for law enforcement agencies’ dragnet surveillance and harassment of Muslims after 9/11.

Nixon-era counterterrorism did not make the world safer, more peaceful, or more just. Indeed, the bulk of this activity backfired—the FBI had limited success thwarting guerrillas, but exposure of classified documents undermined the bureau’s popular legitimacy while a bureaucratic conflict between FBI officials and the Nixon administration fueled the Watergate scandal that brought down the president.

Moreover, American counterterrorism was never politically neutral. Political operatives, law enforcement agents, and a new crop of terrorism experts developed counterterrorism in the 1970s in the midst of a broader “punitive turn” in American politics, as leaders steered the country away from the limited social democracy of the New Deal and Great Society towards mass incarceration, neoliberalism, and growing economic inequality. Underlying problems of police violence and U.S. imperialism remained unaddressed. Rather than providing solutions, the post-9/11 War on Terrorism only supercharged these problems, and the consequences have been nothing less than calamitous. 

Daniel S. Chard is visiting assistant professor of history at Western Washington University.

Civil War Memory and the Twain Effect

The following is a guest blog post by Stephen Cushman, author of The Generals’ Civil War: What Their Memoirs Can Teach Us Today. In this insightful book, Stephen Cushman considers Civil War generals’ memoirs as both historical and literary works, revealing how they remain vital to understanding the interaction of memory, imagination, and the writing of American history. 

Happy Book Birthday to The Generals’ Civil War, officially on sale today!

Since Calvin Coolidge left office in 1929, most U.S. presidents have published autobiographical books.  So have many Supreme Court justices, cabinet secretaries, and ambassadors.  Some of these books have earned large amounts as they climbed bestseller lists.  The step from prominent leadership to lucrative memoir-writing now appears so natural that we the people take it for granted.

  It has not always been this way.  “The English language is singularly barren of autobiographies or memoirs by leading actors in the public events of their times,” General Winfield Scott announced in the introduction to his 1864 memoir.  “Statesmen, diplomatists, and warriors on land or water, who have made or moulded the fortunes of England or the United States, have nearly all, in this respect, failed in their duty to posterity and themselves.”  

Arguing that the situation “was otherwise with very eminent men of antiquity,” among them Xenophon and Caesar, Scott dated his introduction July 5, 1863, two days after the Picket-Pettigrew charge at Gettysburg and the day after Vicksburg surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant.  When Scott’s book appeared in 1864, he sent a copy to Grant, then with the army besieging Petersburg.  Scott’s inscription read, “From the Oldest to the Greatest General.”

Twenty-five years after Winfield Scott dated his introduction at West Point, New York, Mark Twain’s Webster and Company published Philip H. Sheridan’s two-volume Personal Memoirs.  During the quarter-century beginning in 1863, the year Ralph Waldo Emerson visited Winfield Scott at West Point and pronounced him a “huge old lion, at seventy-seven,” the barrenness of memoirs by leading actors in the public events of their times, especially warriors on land and water, yielded to superabundant fruitfulness in the United States.  

No one person can take sole credit for this sudden surge in the productivity of high-ranking officers fulfilling what Winfield Scott saw as their duty, or for the corresponding surge in the receptivity of their American audiences.  Both this productivity and this receptivity arose from numerous converging factors and circumstances, social, political, economic, and literary.  

But if it is true that no one person can take sole credit, it is also true that no one person singlehandedly did more to boost productivity and receptivity than Mark Twain.  Without Mark Twain in his public persona, or Samuel Clemens in his behind-the-scenes business one, the Civil War memory market, expanded dramatically with books written by generals during the 1870s and 1880s, would not have developed as it did.  

Mark Twain proved an especially canny and effective force in the Civil War memory market, as he observed how his fellow citizens were at work making sense of their recent disruption by turning to personal accounts of it.  No one devoted more of himself than Twain to braiding the business of publishing with memory, imagination, history, and literature or to braiding it with the expectations of reading audiences.

The story of generals’ narratives and the Civil War memory market is incomplete without what we might call the Twain Effect.  The Twain Effect was particularly obvious in the cases of memoirs by Ulysses S. Grant, George B. McClellan, and Philip H. Sheridan, all of which Twain published.  But it made itself felt beyond the immediate productions of his publishing firm, Charles Webster and Company.  

Twain did not operate in an entrepreneurial vacuum.  He pushed himself into the midst of intense competition with other nineteenth-century publishing powers, among them D. Appleton, Scribner’s, Harper and Brothers, Century, and J. B. Lippincott.  These northern firms competed for authors; U. S. Grant agreed to publish with Century before Twain convinced him to accept a better deal from Webster.  They competed with products, as a Civil War series undertaken by one house prompted publication of a Civil War series by another.  And they competed for often-not-so-reconciled readers by offering titles from both sides of the sectional divide. 

In debates about Civil War memory we should not underestimate the workings of the Civil War book-publishing market.  Where conflicts arise over politically, socially, and emotionally charged issues, we may prefer not to admit the influence of publishers’ coldly calculated profits and losses on the warmth of our convictions, whether in the nineteenth century, the twentieth, or the twenty-first.  Our preferences do not change that influence, however.  We can choose not to see it.  We can see it and pretend it does not matter.  What we cannot do is delete all traces of the memoir market and its motives from the history of Civil War memory.

Stephen Cushman is Robert C. Taylor Professor of English at the University of Virginia. 

Happy National Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month: A Reading List

September 15th—October 15th marks National Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month, celebrating the achievements and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. Last Friday we shared a virtual conversation hosted by the Center for Political Education featuring UNC Press author Johanna Fernández in acknowledgement of this month, and now also share a recommended reading list that touch on the diverse histories and experiences of Hispanic/Latinx communities and individuals in America.



Johanna Fernández has not only produced the definitive history of the Young Lords; she also has single-handedly shifted our understanding of the post-1968 political landscape. Richly documented, beautifully written, and brutally honest, this book moves the Young Lords from the margins of the New Left and Puerto Rican nationalism to the very epicenter of global struggles against racism, imperialism, and patriarchy and for national self-determination, medical justice, reproductive rights, and socialism. A work as monumental and expansive as the Young Lords’ vision of revolution.

Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists during the Great Depression



Melissa Fuster thinks expansively about the multiple meanings of comida, food, from something as simple as a meal to something as complex as one’s identity. She listens intently to the voices of New York City residents with Cuban, Dominican, or Puerto Rican backgrounds, as well as to those of the nutritionists and health professionals who serve them. She argues with sensitivity that the migrants’ health depends not only on food culture but also on important structural factors that underlie their access to food, employment, and high-quality healthcare.



Mario García’s The Latino Generation is based on thirteen oral histories that he conducted over the span of several years with University of California, Santa Barbara, students. By historicizing the lives of these young people, García places them within the continuum of Chicano/Latino history, and thus emerges a portrait of a specific era from the perspective of those who lived it. García makes clear that history is–not was, but is–and that everyday people are the engines of change. This book will become a major contribution and enhance our understanding of the experiences of this Latino Generation of the early twenty-first century.

Ernesto Chavez, University of Texas at El Paso



Whether valorized as the heartland or derided as flyover country, the Midwest became instantly notorious when COVID-19 infections skyrocketed among workers in meatpacking plants—and Americans feared for their meat supply. But the Midwest is not simply the place where animals are fed corn and then butchered. Native midwesterner Kristy Nabhan-Warren spent years interviewing Iowans who work in the meatpacking industry, both native-born residents and recent migrants from Latin America, Africa, and Asia. In Meatpacking America, she digs deep below the stereotype and reveals the grit and grace of a heartland that is a major global hub of migration and food production—and also, it turns out, of religion.



The Shadow of El Centro casts new light on America’s dark history of migrant detention. Far from simply being the infrastructure for enforcing the nation’s deportation powers, Ordaz shows us that detention centers are in fact durative carceral institutions that shape the everyday geographies of economy, community, and power of the places in which they are erected. A first of its kind, this seventy-year history of the El Centro Detention Center revises how we think about migrant detention, revealing the power and resources it creates for capitalist society and the contradictions that give rise to migrant resistance. As a history at the important nexus of immigration, carceral, and labor studies, this is an indispensable book for anyone interested in the history of twentieth-century racial capitalism.

Chandan Reddy, University of Washington, Seattle



For many Cubans, Fidel Castro’s Revolution represented deliverance from a legacy of inequality and national disappointment. For others—especially those exiled in the United States—Cuba’s turn to socialism made the prerevolutionary period look like paradise lost. Michael J. Bustamante unsettles this familiar schism by excavating Cubans’ contested memories of the Revolution’s roots and results over its first twenty years. Cubans’ battles over the past, he argues, not only defied simple political divisions; they also helped shape the course of Cuban history itself. As the Revolution unfolded, the struggle over historical memory was triangulated among revolutionary leaders in Havana, expatriate organizations in Miami, and average Cuban citizens. All Cubans leveraged the past in individual ways, but personal memories also collided with the Cuban state’s efforts to institutionalize a singular version of the Revolution’s story.

Center for Political Education’s “Writing the Third World” series with UNC Press Author Johanna Fernández and Nadya Tannous

In celebration of National Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month, we’ve decided to share a virtual conversation hosted by the Center for Political Education featuring UNC Press author Johanna Fernández and Nadya Tannous from the Palestinian Youth Movement. Johanna Fernández is the author of The Young Lords: A Radical History. Utilizing oral histories, archival records, and an enormous cache of police surveillance files released only after a decade-long Freedom of Information Law request and subsequent court battle, Johanna Fernández has written the definitive account of the Young Lords, from their roots as a Chicago street gang to their rise and fall as a political organization in New York. This was the third event in CPE’s “Writing the Third World” series, in which authors and organizers discuss a recent work of scholarship on internationalist struggles for liberation.

Johanna Fernández also recently wrote a piece about the Young Lords for History.com entitled “When the Young Lords Put Garbage on Display to Demand Change”.

Johanna Fernández is associate professor of history at Baruch College of the City University of New York and editor of Writing on the Wall: Selected Prison Writings of Mumia Abu-Jamal

Wayfaring Strangers: Spotify Playlist

Celebrating the second edition of Wayfaring Strangers: The Musical Voyage from Scotland and Ulster to Appalachia, our Spotify playlist offers a soundtrack for the migration saga chronicled in the book. Some of the artists included here are mentioned or quoted within the pages, and they combine to create an accompaniment well worthy of the epic story.  The running order follows themes as they unfold in Wayfaring Strangers, and Spotify shuffle offers an intriguing sonic setting for anyone just dipping into the book.

“Barbara Allen”

 by Dolly Parton with Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh and Altan

(Traditional arranged by Dolly Parton)

from Heartsongs: Live from Home (Columbia/Sony Music)

In his famous seventeenth century diary, Samuel Pepys speaks of hearing the actress Elizabeth Knepp singing the “little Scotch song of Barbary Allen.” This is the earliest existing reference to the song, well loved on both sides of the Atlantic. After crossing the ocean, “Barbara Allen” appeared on American broadsides and in songbooks such as the Forget Me Not Songster (along with “The Farmer’s Curst Wife,” track 12). American music icon Dolly Parton acknowledged the ballad’s transatlantic journey and timeless appeal in this live recording. Trading verses in English matched to Irish ones sung by Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, Parton creates a magical pairing that encapsulates the Wayfaring Strangers music migration.

“It Was a’ For Our Rightfu’ King”

by Dougie MacLean

(Traditional arranged by Dougie MacLean)

from Craigie Dhu (Dunkeld Records)

Beginning in 1610, King James VI (Scotland) and I (England, Wales and Ireland) decided to pacify his Irish kingdom by “planting” English-speaking Presbyterians there. Border Scots and northern English, scraping a living from depleted lands, were offered arable farmland. People had been navigating back and forth between Scotland and Ireland for thousands of years, but the Plantation policy created a substantial Scottish presence in Ulster and set off waves of migration. When his son James II was deposed, Jacobite Scots rallied in Scotland and Ulster to support his cause. Contemporary Scots songwriter Dougie MacLean sings these verses, set by Robert Burns to a traditional tune he had collected.

“Bidh Clann Ulaidh” (The Clans of Ulster)  

by Catherine-Ann MacPhee

(Traditional arranged by Catherine-Ann MacPhee)

from Chi Mi’n Geamhradh (Greentrax Recordings)

“The Clans of Ulster will be at your wedding” promises the singer of this traditional Scots Gaelic lullaby, as she blesses her child’s imagined marriage.  The families she names attest to the ancient links between the west of Scotland and Ireland, and the blood ties between some Ulster and Scottish clans, including Clan Donald.  From Barra in the Outer Hebrides, Catherine-Ann MacPhee began her singing career at candle-lit ceilidhs in her native village and now resides in Nova Scotia, another location with historic links to Scotland through migration.

“Benton’s Jig/Benton’s Dream”

by Patrick Street

(Jacky Daly/Benton Flippen)

from No. 2 Patrick Street (Green Linnet Records)

There had been a modest flow of emigration from Ulster to America before 1718; in that year, it began in earnest.  An estimated 250,000 people departed Ulster for America between 1718 and 1800, and 85 percent were Ulster Scots emigrating into Philadelphia and the Delaware valley ports. Onboard the emigrant vessels, music and dance became a mainstay of passengers’ lives at sea, and the fiddle accompanied many an Atlantic crossing.  Irish band Patrick Street, with fiddler Kevin Burke and Jacky Daly on accordion, capture the spirit of the voyage. The music shifts from Irish-jig time to Appalachian old-time as Daly’s “Benton’s Jig” blends with North Carolina fiddler Benton Flippen’s composition “Benton’s Dream”.  In this way, the tune crosses into the more-syncopated and rhythmic Appalachian style, which evolved from New World banjo-fiddle pairings.

“The Rambling Irishman”

by Arcady


from Many Happy Returns (Shanachie Records)

A variety of threads and textures colored the musical fabric of Ulster as smaller ethnic groups were attracted there by the linen industry—Welsh, French Huguenots, and English Plantation settlers among them. So over time, people embraced other forms of singing, including two or more a capella singers joining in unison. This became a hallmark of the Ulster singing style that the Scots-Irish carried to the New World.  Although homesickness was often the theme in emigration songs, other verses give the impression of maintaining a brave face as thoughts turned to anticipating the life that lay ahead.  Here the song is sung by Niamh Parsons (with Arcady) as she is joined by The Voice Squad who do add harmonies in this recorded version. 

“The Winding River Roe”

by Cara Dillon

(Traditional arranged by Cara Dillon and Sam Lakeman)

from Sweet Liberty (Charcoal Records)

The first arrivals in Pennsylvania held clear images of home in their minds and fond memories of family close to their hearts. Not all Scots-Irish immigrants were able to settle though, and their lingering homesickness might find an outlet in sad songs. Especially poignant are the verses avowing that one day, the immigrant would return to the old home place. If they accepted that it would not happen in the physical realm, they might yet hope for return from exile in the spirit world and, until then, in their dreams. Irish vocalist Cara Dillon originally comes from Dungiven, County Londonderry, near the spot where the Rivers Roe, Owenreagh, and Owenbeg meet at the foot of Benbradagh. The gentle Northern Irish countryside provides the setting for this sad song, arranged by Cara and her husband and musical partner, Sam Lakeman.

“The Gypsy Laddies”

by Jeannie Robertson


from The Great Scots Traditional Ballad Singer (Topic Records)

(paired with track 8). In Wayfaring Strangers, singer Jack Beck notes that of the top ten ballads collected in southern Appalachia, seven were Scottish, and the second most commonly sung was “The Gypsy Laddie.” Emerging hundreds of years ago in Scotland, the ballad is known throughout the British Isles, Ireland, and North America. It is associated with the Ayrshire house of Cassilis (pronounced “CA-sels”) and sometimes held to be based on a true elopement incident, although it is probably an amalgamation of historical strands. The story of handsome gypsies enthralling a noble lady with their sweet singing has made it very popular with the Scottish Travellers. More than a hundred versions have been collected in Britain, Ireland, and North America. Jeannie Robertson (1908-1975), who grew up in the traveller life, had a vast store of songs and stories and is recognised as a traditional singer of international standing.

– paired with –

“Gypsy Davy”

by Julee Glaub

(Traditional arranged by Julee Glaub)

from Blue Waltz (Toubadouress Music)

(paired with track 7). The song that originated in Scotland as “The Gypsy Laddie” or “The Earl o’ Cassillis Lady” traveled through Ireland as the “Raggle Taggle Gypsy” or “Seven Yellow Gypsies” and settled on American shores as “Black Jack Davy” and “Gypsy Davy.” It is one of the most popular and well traveled of the ballads, and a good example of what can happen to songs as they migrate, with the magical elements in this Scottish version brought back down to earth in Appalachia. The song’s narrative remains strong across the miles, although by the time it evolved into “Gypsy Davy,” it had moved among song cultures from other parts of the world, both old and new. Woody Guthrie recorded “Gypsy Davy,” and Bob Dylan included “Blackjack Davey” on “Good As I Been to You” (1992). Swannanoa Gathering Traditional Song Week Coordinator Julee Glaub Weems draws upon her North Carolina roots and Irish travels in her music. Pete Sutherland accompanies Julee’s singing and offers a clawhammer banjo welcome to the southern Appalachians for “Gypsy Davy.”

“Pretty Saro”

by John Doyle

(Traditional arranged by John Doyle)

from Evening Comes Early (Shanachie Entertainment)

Newfound freedom rarely brought immediate benefits. House and land ownership could be a long time coming to the Scots-Irish. Families struggling to find farmland and newly released indentured servants would dream of gaining the privileged “freeholder” status mentioned in the old ballad “Pretty Saro.” The term gives a clue to the British Isles origins of the ballad, originating in early seventeenth-century England. Early twentieth-century songcatchers, including Dorothy Scarborough, rediscovered it in the North Carolina mountains, where it is still widely sung. Bob Dylan had recorded the song in his “Self Portrait” sessions in 1970, but it did not make the final cut for the album. It was eventually released on Dylan’s box set “Another Self Portrait” in 2013. Singer and guitarist John Doyle—Irish native and Asheville, North Carolina, resident—bestows a dreamy quality upon his arrangement and notes the similarity between “Pretty Saro” and the Irish song “Bunclody.”

“Indian Whoop”

by James Bryan and Carl Jones


from Two Pictures (Martin Records)

One of the very earliest American fiddle tunes, this one was included in G. P. Knauff’s Virginia Reels, an old collection of southern fiddle music with many tunes of Scots-Irish origin. Mississippi string band Hoyt Ming and his Pep Steppers recorded the tune named “Indian War Whoop” in the 1920s with Rozelle Ming flatfoot dancing to the rhythm. Historians of old-time music sometimes point to this tune as an example of “hollering,” as fiddlers would often shout along with the high notes at the end of phrases, with each player having a trademark whoop. A version of the tune was recorded by John Hartford for inclusion in the Coen brothers’ film O Brother, Where Art Thou?  From Alabama, James Bryan is held to be the finest southern-style fiddler of his generation and was inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. He has taught on the staffs of the Augusta Heritage Center and the Swannanoa Gathering, as has songwriter-musician Carl Jones.

“The Devil and the Farmer’s Wife”

by Connie Dover

(Traditional arranged by Connie Dover, Roger Landes)

from The Road from Erin (Sono Luminus)

(paired with track 12). Versions of this lively ballad have been traced back to the early seventeenth century throughout the British Isles and Ireland. Usually known as “The Farmer’s Curst Wife,” “Kellyburnbraes” is a Scottish variant collected by Robert Burns for The Scots Musical Museum, Vol IV. Folktales in many European countries tell of a wife so fierce that she terrorized the devil himself. Seosamh Ó hÉanaí (Joe Heaney), the great Irish traditional singer from Connemara, County Galway, was the original source for this particular version, sung by American folk singer Connie Dover, an inductee into the Missouri Music Hall of Fame.

– paired with –

“The Farmer’s Curst Wife”

by Pete Seeger


from American Favorite Ballads, Vol. 2 (Smithsonian Folkways Recordings)

(paired with track 11). The tale of a fearsome wife who terrifies even demons is ancient and widespread, appearing in a sixth-century Hindu fable collection, the Panchatantra. It seems to have traveled westward through the Middle East into Europe and onward to America early in the Scots-Irish emigration era. As with “Gypsy Davy” (track 8), the American version of the tale lightens up the story a bit, removing references to the terrifying spouse’s more violent acts toward the demons she encounters. Pete Seeger’s arrangement locates the ballad firmly within America’s folk song canon, his trademark long-neck banjo contrasting with the more urgent Irish instrumentation of track 11.

“Young Hunting/Elzig’s Farewell”

by Sheila Kay Adams

(Traditional arranged by Sheila Kay Adams)

from All The Other Fine Things (Granny Dell Records)

English variants of the song titled “Earl Richard” and “The Proud Girl” remain closely tied to the Scottish original, all detailing the violent act of a scorned woman. The song appears in Motherwell’s Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, so it would have likely been in the repertoire of Scots who migrated to the Ulster Plantations. In all the Scottish versions, a bird witnesses the murder, but it seems to have flown before the song arrived on U.S. shores, where it is often sung as “Henry Lee” and “Love Henry.” Sheila Kay Adams of Sodom, North Carolina sings her family’s version, passed through seven generations of ballad singers.  She accompanies herself on banjo, with Josh Goforth, fiddle and John Doyle, guitar.

“Black is the Colour”

by Sara Grey

(Traditional arranged by Sara Grey)

from Sandy Boys (Fellside Recordings)

Musicologist and collector Alan Lomax asserted this song’s Scottish origins, calling the American versions “re-makes.” John Jacob Niles retained a modal setting when he contributed one of its more popular melodies. When African American spiritual singing spilled over from plantations, it flowed throughout other regions, including the Appalachians. Sara Grey identifies this song as a Scottish “parlour ballad” that traveled in and out of the African American tradition. She based her version on the singing of Dellie Norton—“Granny Dell” to Sheila Kay Adams—feeling that her treatment of the song was strongly influenced by the African American singing style.

“Nottamun Town”

by Jean Ritchie


from Mountain Hearth & Home (Greenhays Recordings)

Jean Ritchie learned this song from her Uncle Jason Ritchie. It was one of many family songs she carried back to England, Scotland and Ireland in 1952-53 on her Fulbright scholarship travels, to trace their origins.  English folk singer Shirley Collins learned it from Jean and recorded it in 1964, with Scottish guitarist and singer Bert Jansch following her in 1966 on his influential album “Jack Orion”.  When Fairport Convention recorded the song with Sandy Denny in 1968, its return back across the Atlantic was complete.  It is one of a number of ballad versions that were effectively repatriated by Jean.  Back in the U.S., Bob Dylan heard Jean’s version of “Nottamun Town” and used the melody to record  his own song “Masters of War” in 1963.  Although a traditional song, this particular arrangement had been in the Ritchie family for generations.  His lawyers paid Jean a legal settlement against any future writing credit claims.  “Nottamun Town” is a great example of old songs continuing to influence contemporary writing, and of the music migration flowing in both directions.

“Single Girl, Married Girl”

by Atwater Donnelly


from The Blackest Crow (Rabbit Island Music)

This early frontier favorite has many relatives, including the Irish song “Do You Love and Apple” and “Still I Love Him,” collected by Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger for their anthology Travellers’ Songs from England and Scotland. The Carter Family made the song famous as their “Single Girl, Married Girl,” released in 1928 on a 78-rpm record. They re-recorded it during the last months of Sara and A. P. Carter’s marriage in 1935 at a slow pace, with Sara Carter singing at a much lower pitch. Aubrey Atwater and Elwood Donnelly explore the song in one of several collections they’ve recorded of traditional American/Celtic songs and Carter Family favorites, many collected during their performances throughout Appalachia. With Aubrey Atwater on Appalachian dulcimer, the song is very much at home.

“Shady Grove”

by Doc Watson and David Holt

(Traditional arranged by Doc Watson and David Holt)

from Legacy (High Windy Audio)

The English ballad “Matty Groves,” dating from the seventeenth century or perhaps even earlier, describes an adulterous tryst that ends in murder. When Francis James Child collected the ballad, he listed it as “Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard”. On its transatlantic travels, the melody ended up covering more ground than the ballad narrative; “Shady Grove,” based upon the “Matty Groves” melody, arose in the southern Appalachians around the time of the Civil War. The popular American descendant is noteworthy for its many lyric variations, all in a gentler, brighter vein than the root ballad. Doc Watson sang it as a courtship song to his wife, Rosa Lee, in the early 1940s when he was perfecting his signature flat-pick guitar style. This version, with David Holt partnering on clawhammer banjo, was recorded live at the Diana Wortham Theatre in Asheville, North Carolina, in 2001.

“Willie’s Lady”

by Anaïs Mitchell and Jefferson Hamer

(Traditional arranged by Anaïs Mitchell and Jefferson Hamer)

from Child Ballads (Wilderland Records) 

Ballads flowed freely between Sweden, Denmark, and Norway and crossed into Aberdeenshire in Scotland’s North East. Scandinavian variants with similar plots to “Willie’s Lady” mark this ballad as an example of those music migrations, and it has all the hallmarks of classic North East balladry. James Francis Child collected only one version of this ballad from Scotland, but he cites a few other stories in his notes, including tales in “classic mythology” where women are prevented from giving birth. Child’s source was Anna Gordon, better known as Mrs. Brown of Falkland, who held one of the most significant and oldest ballad collections drawn from her family’s oral tradition. With all their twisting story lines and hypnotic melodies, the Child Ballad canon continues to captivate musicians. “Willie’s Lady” is one of many that endure in this way, having been recorded by English folksinger and guitarist Martin Carthy among others. Attracted by the archetypes and psychological dramas, Anaïs Mitchell and Jefferson Hamer take the material to new audiences by reclaiming the songs in their own voices and allowing the stories to build in their vocal/guitar duo.

“Wayfaring Stranger”

by Johnny Cash

(Traditional arranged by Johnny Cash)

from American III: Solitary Man (American Recordings)

Although the exact origins of this popular spiritual are unknown, the lyrics of “Wayfaring Stranger” were first published in 1858 in The Christian Songster.   Also known as “(I Am a) Poor Wayfaring Stranger”, the ancient Scottish ballad melody of “The Dowie Dens of Yarrow” is held to be the source spring of a tune stream that flows through this American spiritual.  Its timelessness is reflected the number and range of artists to record the song, from Burl Ives and Emmylou Harris to Dolly Parton and Ed Sheeran.  Johnny Cash recorded this version towards the end of his life, capturing the sense of vulnerability that infused many of his latter recordings.

“Wayfaring Stranger/British Field March” (instrumental version)

by Timothy Cummings

(Traditional adapted and arranged by Timothy Cummings, Caleb Elder, Pete Sutherland) from The Piper in the Holler (birchenmusic.com)

More than a few sets of bagpipes must have crossed the ocean from Scotland and Ulster, but they never became established on the Pennsylvania frontier or in southern Appalachia. Most theories explaining this settle around the timing of Scots-Irish emigration: in seventeenth-century Ireland, Oliver Cromwell’s troops destroyed many sets of pipes, while the instrument was sidelined for a while after the 1745 defeat of the clans in Scotland. Moreover, pioneers would surely have found them difficult to maintain in the New World, and pipe makers would have needed access to materials and some community of players to sustain their craft. So in Appalachia, it was left to fiddlers, dulcimer players, and banjo pickers to express the drones and modal moods of pipe music. Timothy Cummings is committed to reconnecting the musical traditions of Appalachia and Scottish piping, recording what may be the first bagpipe album devoted to Appalachian music including our book’s signature tune, “Wayfaring Stranger.”  Alan Jabbour collected the “British Field March” from Henry Reed. According to folklore, this tune was played as British soldiers retreated from the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. Attuned to the Scottish Lowland heritage of the Scots-Irish, Tim plays Border pipes, with Pete Sutherland on clawhammer banjo and Caleb Elder on fiddle to present the sound of old-time piping.

“The Parting Glass” (instrumental version)

by Al Petteway

(Traditional arranged by Al Petteway)

from Mountain Guitar (Fairewood Studios)

“The Parting Glass” belongs to a family of songs that can be traced back to the early 1600s in Scotland, originally as “Good Night And Joy Be Wi’ You A’”.  Most of the text of the modern “Parting Glass” came from these Scottish versions, sung to a different tune that was popular for over 300 years.  Eventually an Irish melody of unknown origin became the preferred one, settling with the song in a farewell anthem for emigrants leaving for a new life in America. North Carolina’s Grammy-winning instrumentalist Al Petteway is known for his sensitive arrangements of traditional and original tunes on guitar and other stringed instruments. His version of the melody captures the emotion of the bittersweet farewell.

“The Parting Glass”

by Hozier

(Traditional arranged by Hozier)

from The Parting Glass (Live from the Late, Late Show)

Still widely sung on both sides of the Atlantic, “The Parting Glass” was well known in Scotland and Ireland long before Robert Burns’s universal song of farewell, “Auld Lang Syne” came into the popular repertoire. As an eighteenth-century broadside, it would likely have been distributed among the inns and taverns close to the quays where the immigrant sailing ships were docked.  It has been sung innumerable times since then, from Scotland to Ulster and Appalachia. The 1959 recording by The Clancy Bothers and Tommy Makem has been most influential and Bob Dylan used this as a model for his own song “Restless Farewell.”  In more recent times, “The Parting Glass” has become a song of tribute to lost comrades or loved ones and many people have been drawn to it to during the Covid-19 pandemic. Irish singer Hozier performed this version on Irish television’s Late, Late Show as dedication to everyone who lost their lives to Covid-19.  

“A Mountaineer is Always Free”

by Tim O’Brien

(Tim O’Brien and Pierce Pettis)

from The Crossing (Fairewood Studios)

Grammy-winner Tim O’Brien is a native of West Virginia. The seal of his home state bears the inscription “Montani Semper Liberi” –  “Mountaineers Are Always Free”.  Like this song, the motto captures the sense of pride immigrants must have felt, building their lives in the wilderness of the Appalachian frontier and demonstrating their legendary resilience in the face of many a challenge.  Multi-instrumentalist, singer, and songwriter O’Brien co-wrote the song with Alabama singer songwriter Pierce Pettis.  He recorded it as part of “The Crossing”, a collection in which O’Brien explored the Irish and Scottish roots of American Bluegrass and Country music. It serves as a tribute to the indomitable spirit of the Scots-Irish and to all immigrants across time.. Each has their own migration story worthy of a song.

Doug Orr and Fiona Ritchie

[The Wayfaring Strangers Spotify Playlist is curated by Fiona Ritchie for the second edition of “Wayfaring Strangers: The Musical Voyage from Scotland and Ulster to Appalachia”, foreword by Dolly Parton with a new Afterword by the authors.]

Fiona Ritchie MBE is the founder, producer, and host of National Public Radio’s The Thistle & Shamrock and an inductee into the Folk DJ Hall of Fame. Her books include The NPR Curious Listener’s Guide to Celtic Music and Wayfaring Strangers: The Musical Voyage from Scotland and Ulster to Appalachia

Doug Orr is president emeritus of Warren Wilson College, where he founded the Swannanoa Gathering music workshops. His books include The North Carolina Atlas: Portrait for a New Century and Wayfaring Strangers: The Musical Voyage from Scotland and Ulster to Appalachia