Upcoming UNC Press Author Events

Rebecca Sharpless
Grain and Fire
June 30, 2022 | 6pm ET
Malaprop’s Bookstore (Virtual)

Sarah Purcell
Spectacle of Grief
June 30, 2022
American Antiquarian Society (Virtual)

Ricardo A. Herrera
Feeding Washington’s Army
July 6, 2022 | 6:30-8:30pm ET
The American Revolution Institute of The Society of the Cincinnati (Washington, DC)

Nicole Myers Turner
Soul Liberty
July 7, 2022 | 7pm ET
Baptist History & Heritage Society (Virtual)

Marcie Cohen Ferris
Edible North Carolina
July 9, 2022 | 11am ET
McIntyre’s Books
(Pittsboro, NC)

J. Brent Morris
Dismal Freedom
July 12, 2022 | 5:00pm ET
Malaprop’s Bookstore (Virtual)

Ricardo A. Herrera
Feeding Washington’s Army
July 13, 2022 | 1pm ET
National Archives (Virtual)

Marcie Cohen Ferris
Edible North Carolina
July 14, 2022 | 7pm ET
Quail Ridge Books (Raleigh, NC)

Robert G. Parkinson
Thirteen Clocks
July 20, 2022 | 2pm ET
National Archives (Virtual)

Marcie Cohen Ferris
Edible North Carolina
July 21, 2022 | 6pm ET
Letters Bookshop
(Durham, NC)

Ricardo A. Herrera
Feeding Washington’s Army
July 22, 2022 | 1:25pm CT
American Battlefield Trust’s 2022 National Teacher Institute (Mobile, AL)

Angela Esco Elder
Love and Duty
July 28, 2022 | 6:30pm ET
The American Civil War Museum (Virtual)

J. Brent Morris
Dismal Freedom
July 28, 2022 | 12:00pm ET
Virginia Museum of History and Culture (Richmond, VA)

J. Brent Morris
Dismal Freedom
July 28, 2022 | 5:30pm ET
Flyleaf Books (Chapel Hill, NC)

Ricardo A. Herrera
Feeding Washington’s Army
August 18, 2022
National Museum of the United States Army (Fort Belvoir, VA)

Berkley Hudson
O.N. Pruitt’s Possum Town
August 20, 2022 | Time TK
Mississippi Book Festival

Marcie Cohen Ferris
Edible North Carolina
August 20, 2022 | Time TK
Mississippi Book Festival

Elizabeth Leonard
Benjamin Franklin Butler
September 8, 2022 | 7:15pm ET
Old Baldy Civil War Round Table, Philadelphia
(Virtual)

Elizabeth Leonard
Benjamin Franklin Butler
September 16, 2022 | 7:15pm ET
Civil War Round Table of New Hampshire
(Epping, in person)

Ricardo A. Herrera
Feeding Washington’s Army
September 24, 2022 | 1:30pm-2pm ET
Eighteenth Annual Seminar on the American Revolution (Ticonderoga, NY; Hybrid)

Marcie Cohen Ferris
Edible North Carolina
September 24, 2022 |3pm ET
Bookmarks 17th Annual Festival of Books & Authors (with Sandra Guttierez and Ricky Moore; Winston-Salem, NC)

Elizabeth Leonard
Benjamin Franklin Butler
October 19, 2022 | Time TBA
Kennebec Historical Society (Augusta, Maine, in-person)

Elizabeth Leonard
Benjamin Franklin Butler
November 17-18, 2022 | Time TBA
Lincoln Forum Symposium (Gettysburg, PA, in-person)

Celebrating a Century of Excellence: The University of North Carolina Press Turns 100, Part Five

2022 marks the one hundred year anniversary of the founding of the University of North Carolina Press.

This fourth blog post of a series of five is taken from an essay on the history of UNC Press written by Advancement Council member the Rev. David C. (Kirk) Brown, first delivered to the Pen and Plate Club of Asheville.

Read parts one, two, three, and four


So bold was the UNC Press under Couch’s leadership that scarcely a decade after its founding, it was garnering attention among scholars throughout the country. In 1934 Allan Nevins, eminent historian at Columbia University, stated flatly that the UNC Press was “easily at the head of the university presses of this country.” Many others agreed, and the UNC Press suddenly found that other presses were looking to it for guidance. Consider just a sampling of the landmark titles published under Couch’s tenure as director: Human Geography of the South by Rupert Vance; Culture in the South, edited by Couch himself; Southern Regions of the United States by Howard Odum; The Lost Colony by Paul Green; The Free Negro in North Carolina by John Hope Franklin; What the Negro Wants, edited by Rayford W. Logan.

When in 1945 Couch left to serve as director of the University of Chicago Press, he was succeeded by Thomas J. Wilson, who had extensive experience in commercial publishing at Henry Holt. Wilson was followed by Lambert Davis, who served as Press Director from 1948 to 1970. Like Wilson he brought a wealth of experience in publishing, having edited the Virginia Quarterly Review, and worked at Harcourt Brace. Under Davis the Press strengthened its commitment to publishing for the region, as it also built upon its growing national reputation, demonstrated by the awards its books were winning: North Carolina: the History of a Southern State, for example, was widely praised as the very model of state history and won the Mayflower Award.

Matthew Hodgson assumed the Director’s duties in 1970. A UNC alumnus, he had worked for two decades in commercial publishing. It is said that when he arrived, he was greeted by the faculty his first week, and by debt collectors the second. Hodgson set out at once to retire the debt and build the endowment. Under his watch the list of books expanded dramatically, as did the awards those books were winning. The Press became a leader in publications related to Black studies, women’s studies, Indigenous studies, and gender and culture. Among the most important titles to emerge during those years were trade books with very broad appeal, such as southern travel guides, cookbooks, and field guides. Landmark publications that bolstered the Press’s national reputation included the hugely successful Encyclopedia of Southern Culture. These were also the years when the Press began to lead the way in technical advances in publication. When Hodgson retired in 1992, book sales were fifteen times higher than they had been in the 1970s, the Press was now debt free, and the endowment stood at a staggering $7 million.

Logo unveiled in Jan. 2022; designed by Lindsay Starr, UNC Press Art Director

Yet it all came close to crashing down in December of 1990 when a fire destroyed the offices of UNC Press, burning Brooks Hall to the ground. Kate Torrey, who was then Editor-in-Chief, and who would succeed Hodgson as the next Director, recalls that with the unflagging energy of the staff and the sense of solidarity, the Press hardly missed a beat. Of all the many books in the publishing pipeline, manuscripts were recovered for all but one. Even the data on the waterlogged computers was ultimately recovered. And because it occurred during the season of conventions for academic associations, the books and materials needed for those displays had already been sent and thus were spared. UNC Press had learned how to manage crises over its existence. This was but the latest.

Kate Torrey’s two decades as director were marked by some of the most dramatic challenges, chief among them transition into the digital age. Even though the Press had already taken some initial steps, such as in-house copy editing on computers and building its own databases, this was a fast-changing landscape. Marketing and distribution entered entirely new realms, particularly in the age of Amazon.com. In order to remain relevant, the Press soon realized that it would need to diversify its efforts and network with other university presses. Longleaf Services was borne out of this realization. It is a subsidiary of UNC Press that provides a suite of services to other presses while pooling their collective resources to make publishing more efficient. Today some 18 university presses use Longleaf to help with design, production, marketing, and distribution. This is yet more evidence of the spirit of collaboration that characterizes the university press world.

Meanwhile, the list of UNC Press publications was stronger than ever. Mama Dip’s Kitchen, a regional cookbook, was a runaway bestselling trade book. And many will recall that North Carolina Atlas: Portrait for a New Century by Doug Orr and Alfred W. Stuart came out in 2000.

John Sherer, the current Press Director, has been serving since 2012. Like his predecessors, John brings a wealth of experience in commercial publishing to the UNC Press. Those enterprises may be worlds apart, but there is much that university presses can learn from their commercial counterparts. Recently, the Press has launched another venture, the Office of Scholarly Publishing Services, which seeks to make the Press resources and expertise available to all 16 member institutions of the consolidated UNC system.

The chief crisis facing the UNC Press under John Sherer’s watch is the crisis we have all had to face: this Pandemic. The past two years have been trying, but they have also revealed new opportunities. In early 2020 students suddenly had to vacate their dorm rooms, often leaving behind their books. The Press made the decision to try a three month long experiment: make many of their texts available to students without charge. Open Access, as it is called, seems at first to be anathema to publishing. Giving away content for free would surely mean that book sales would suffer. But something interesting happened. First, the number of digital downloads skyrocketed, which meant that books were now available to many who could not have afforded them or who would not have had access to them otherwise. And in many cases, that greater availability translated to even greater book sales, as many wanted a hard copy. Similarly, in the summer of 2020, when the Black Lives Matter movement found traction, much of the UNC Press list took on special relevance and Open Access made many relevant titles available. Sales of books during the Pandemic has surpassed all expectations.

Today, UNC Press is regarded as one of the premier university presses. In its first century, it has published over 5400 titles, nearly 4000 of those still in print. Many of these have been ground-breaking contributions to their field of scholarship, as well as many of general and regionally-specific interest. The books have won hundreds of awards, including the Pulitzer Prize in History, the National Book Award, and the Bancroft Prize. On average 125 new books are published annually, which means a new title is released every three to four days. A look at the catalogue reveals a mix of fascinating popular trade books alongside highly scholarly monographs in wide-ranging fields: southern studies; African American studies; literary criticism; feminist studies; Native American and Indigenous studies; documentary studies; creative nonfiction, literature and poetry; environmental studies; gender and sexuality; international and global studies; Latin American and Caribbean studies; religion; science; and, of course history. UNC Press has become the benchmark for academic press publishing. This is all the more remarkable for a medium sized university press.

What really sets the UNC Press apart from so many others is the ongoing sense of partnership it develops. A number of authors who have experience publishing with multiple university presses frequently mention how special their relationship with the UNC Press is—not only in the support they have experienced in the actual publication, but in the ongoing support they have experienced in marketing. UNC Press stands by its authors. The same holds true for independent bookstores who value their relationship with the Press.

I have come to believe that UNC Press, like other university presses, is more valuable now than ever. As we seek to sort out the complexity of modernity—the consequences of COVID, our reckoning with race, intense culture wars that threaten democracy, the climate crisis, the resurgence of autocratic rule around the globe—we desperately need voices we can trust. All of this calls for more than mere opinion; it calls for the deliberate and ongoing conversation fostered by university press publishing. And in North Carolina we have the very model of such excellence.

I wonder if 100 years ago the founders could possibly have imagined what a gift they were bestowing on the state of North Carolina. In a certain sense they were very much aware of what they were launching. But as one of the founders wrote to another some fifty years later:

We had in Chapel Hill in the early Twenties in my judgment a most exceptional situation. We had, as you say, a band of young men who were quite willing to stick out their individual necks and work together for the benefit of the University, and together we accomplished more than I for one believed we could.

And I, for one, am so grateful they did. The last word goes to current Spangler Family Director John Sherer, who offers this reflection:

In our first hundred years, we showed the nation what it meant to live and thrive in the American South. In our second century, we will build on that base, showing how North Carolina and the South writ large are infused daily with global influences. And in turn, the globe is learning more and more about the work being done and the lives being lived in the South.


The Rev. David C. (Kirk) Brown is the recently retired chaplain of Christ School. Kirk received his A.B. from Davidson College, his M.A. from the University of Virginia, and his M.Div. from Virginia Theological Seminary. He is a life-long educator. Having taught German and English for 12 years at Virginia Episcopal School, he then attended seminary and was ordained an Episcopal priest. After serving three years at St. John’s Church in Roanoke, VA, he returned to school work, serving 24 years as Chaplain at Christ School and teaching religion. Kirk lives with his wife, Shelley, on a farm in Fletcher, NC.

Grain and Fire

Rebecca Sharpless’s Grain and Fire: A History of Baking in the American South is on sale this week wherever ebooks and books are sold.

Sharpless weaves a brilliant chronicle, vast in perspective and entertaining in detail, revealing how three global food traditions—Indigenous American, European, and African—collided with and merged in the economies, cultures, and foodways of the South to create what we know as the southern baking tradition.

Please enjoy the following excerpt taken from chapter one of Grain and Fire.


While Southeastern Native American women gathered and grew their families’ sustenance, a new plant was making its way northeast from Mexico. Zea mays, known in English as corn or maize, was the product of agriculture: human intervention in its growth. For centuries before Europeans appeared, Native American women sowed corn every spring. They cultivated it using tools made of wood, stone, or bone, then harvested, dried, and pounded it into meal. In sum, they participated in the cycle of events that sustained most human life in Native America for a thousand years: growing and processing the most favored baked food of generations of southerners.

Images
Corn botanical illustration showing stalk, kernel, and ear. iStock.

Corn arrived fairly late in the story of humans. Botanical geneticists generally agree that corn descended from a wild grain called teosinte and that it developed as the result of plant breeding by humans in the highlands of southwestern Mexico perhaps around 7000 BCE. From its Mexican origins, corn spread throughout the Americas, stopping only where the climate became too cold, dry, or wet. Corn, amazingly adaptable, grows in almost any moderate climate (tolerating a growing season as short as 120 days), and neither drought nor frost will completely kill it. In milder climates, staggered planting allows for two harvests. Because it has no tap root, it can thrive in shallow soils. Every corn plant is extremely productive. A stalk emerges from a single seed and produces two or three seedpods, known as ears, each with hundreds of kernels of grain. It stores easily for long periods of time. Ripe corn can stay in the shuck, or outer husk, indefinitely and once dry will remain edible for years. And, unlike industrially produced corn, these early grains provided good, though incomplete, nutrition—vitamins A, C, and E and carbohydrates. The Native Americans also discovered that soaking corn in water mixed with lye, made from ashes, made it more nutritious. (Today we call the process nixtamalization, and we know that it releases niacin, vitamin B3, from the corn. We most often see lye-treated corn as hominy and as grits. The Native Americans figured it out without chemistry labs.) With all of these attributes, it is no wonder that corn became the centerpiece of the southeastern American diet.

The marvelous grain arrived in north-central Florida by 750 CE, eastern Tennessee by perhaps 800 CE, and as far north as the Chesapeake by 900 CE. When Europeans arrived at the end of the sixteenth century, Native American women were growing corn almost everywhere in the South. While the men still hunted and gathered, southeastern Native Americans drew increasing amounts of their nutrition from the plants that women purposefully cultivated and stored for future use.

As corn increased in significance to southeastern Native Americans, it took on strong cultural meanings. Sacred stories demonstrate the importance of corn to southern Native Americans. Perhaps the best-known tale is that of the Cherokee, in which Selu, the Corn Mother, produced corn from her blood. The Cherokee used the story of Selu to explain their division of labor, in which women bore responsibility for almost all agricultural tasks. Other Natives across the South also acknowledged the significance of corn with numerous rites asking their gods for fertility and celebrating harvest. In Mississippi, each Natchez bride presented a stalk of corn to her new husband as part of their pledges to one another. During their fertility rites, the Creek offered the gods thick cakes made of corn. Spanish observer Pietro Martire d’Anghiera noted in 1530, “The natives are convinced that their prayers for harvests will be heard, especially if the cakes are mixed with tears.”

People worked diligently to adapt Mexican corn to their best advantage. From region to region, it varied dramatically: tall, short, many-colored, early- or late-ripening, with eight, ten, or twelve rows of kernels, and everything in between. Many varieties flourished with specific soils and rainfall, so that corn grown on the Atlantic coast differed from that in eastern Texas, for example. Planting several types worked to the Native Americans’ benefit: the labor required for harvest could be spread out over time, and if one kind failed to thrive, another might produce plentifully. In the South, corn fell generally into two categories: flint and dent. Flint corns are harder, ripen earlier, and keep better than dent. Dent corns are softer and ripen later, and they were historically preferred for cornmeal.

The corn of the fifteenth century was not the sweet, tender delicacy that we enjoy during the summer. The only time that Native Americans ate corn fresh off the cob was when it was still green. Women sliced the soft, milky corn off the cob and pounded it. They then wrapped the juicy grains in leaves from the stalk and boiled the bundles. The appearance of green corn in early summer touched off annual celebrations. In Louisiana, the Great Corn Feast featured “shouts of joy,” a “general feast,” games, and dancing through the night. For the Cherokee, the Green Corn Festival marked a time of renewal and reconciliation, with the ritual cleaning of their towns’ public spaces. Women also scrubbed their houses, washed their cooking utensils, and disposed of ashes and leftover food. The Cherokee fasted, then feasted and danced.

After the green corn celebrations, Native Americans settled down to wait for the grain to ripen. As the kernels darkened and the tassels dried, they harvested the ripe ears by hand, simply pulling them from the stalk. For the most part, Native Americans refrained from processing their corn until they were ready to use it. Once it is ground, corn turns rancid quickly, so Natives either left it in on the cob to dry or parched it immediately after grinding. Across the South, Native Americans built structures dedicated to keeping corn dry and free from would-be thieves like rats and raccoons. The Choctaw, for example, stored grain in particular edifices raised eight feet from the ground. Others kept their corn in pits in the ground, lined with bark and layered with dry grass, bark, and dirt. At some point, they would remove the husks and strip the corn from the cob, a process later known as shelling. Whatever their means, Native Americans carefully provided for their families’ continued sustenance.

The onerous task of grinding corn, like nuts, was women’s work, and it consumed many hours each day. Sometimes women lightened their labor by doing it in the company of others, creating a rhythm as each worked at her separate mortar. Englishman John Lawson commented, “The Savage Men never beat their Corn to make Bread; but that is the Womens Work, especially the Girls, of whom you shall see four beating with long great Pestils in a narrow wooden Mortar; and every one keeps her stroke so exactly, that ’tis worthy of Admiration.”


Rebecca Sharpless is professor of history at Texas Christian University. Her most recent book is Cooking in Other Women’s Kitchens: Domestic Workers in the South, 1865–1960.

UNC Press at AUPresses 2022

Once a year, academic publishing professionals convene for the Association of University Presses Annual Meeting. Following CDC guidelines and in an effort to limit the spread of Covid-19, the 2020 and 2021 meetings were held virtually. This year, the AUPresses Annual Meeting resumed in person in Washington DC. Members of UNC Press staff traveled to DC to attend, and here’s what some of them had to say about the conference:

#AUPresses22: a smashing success for all the things, including compelling sessions, an excellent number of mix/mingle meetups, top of the line guest speakers, and smart pandemic protocols for being in person attendees. Having the opportunity to reconnect with, and meet new university press people (including ones from UNC Press!) has a value that extends far beyond the three days spent in DC.—Peter L. Perez, Director of Public Relations and Communications

“A wonderful reintroduction to in-person conferences. Taking advantage of the walking tours that AUP coordinated, meeting up with former colleagues, and meeting a host of individuals in the same early to mid-career phase as me was not only engaging, but it provided a great sense of support, community, and purpose for what we do in publishing.”—Andrew Winters, Editor

“With an opening reception at the Library of Congress, AUP returned to in-person conferences in style! As an early career professional attending for the first time, I found it to be a truly invaluable experience. The sessions were engaging and informative, and I enjoyed connecting with people from different presses in multiple stages of their careers. I left feeling motivated and excited.”—Brock Schnoke, Digital Marketing Specialist

Opening reception at the Library of Congress.

“AUP was as energizing as it was informational. Graduating and starting my first job during the pandemic meant a persistent lack of social and professional spaces for me to experience personal growth and foster interpersonal connections. As an extrovert, this meant feeling drained at school and at work, and sometimes left me wondering if I was in the “right place.” The experience of meeting other young people who work in academic publishing, learning about their interests, and forming relationships based on our commonalities gave me a sense of stability regarding where I am in my position, and a sense of certainty about how I’d like to conduct my professional life from here on out. If I could go once a month to socialize, compare notes, and form bonds with the people I met in DC, I would!”—Carol Seigler, Acquisitions Assistant

Photo by @BethanyWasik on Twitter.

“There was the expected pleasure of seeing friends and colleagues for the first time in three years and the opportunity to feel about as close to normal as one can these days. It was both familiar and exotic. But I also sensed an unexpected shift in the collective attitudes about open access, an area I have been focused on as chair of the association’s OA Committee. While there remains significant challenges in developing sustainable OA models, it was clear that OA no longer resides on the fringes of our work. Expanding access must be at the core of the mission for any organization that claims to be focused on equity and inclusion.”—John Sherer, Spangler Family Director

Five Myths about Roe v. Wade

Originally published on the UNC Press Blog on the 40th anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, the following is a guest post written by Marc Stein, author of Sexual Injustice: Supreme Court Decisions from Griswold to Roe. In the book, Stein focuses on six major Supreme Court cases, examining the more liberal rulings on birth control, abortion, interracial marriage, and obscenity in GriswoldFanny HillLovingEisenstadt, and Roe alongside a profoundly conservative ruling on homosexuality in Boutilier during the 1960s and 1970s. Stein debunks five popular misconceptions about the Roe decision.


On 22 January 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court announced its decision in Roe v. Wade, the abortion rights case that culminated in one of the most controversial legal rulings in the country’s history. Forty years later, numerous myths continue to circulate about the contents and meanings of Roe. Here are five of the most significant:

MYTH #1: ROE ENDORSED ABORTION ON DEMAND.

The Supreme Court’s majority opinion in Roe, authored by Justice Harry Blackmun and supported by seven of the nine justices, recognized three important interests at stake in decisions about abortion: (1) the privacy rights of the pregnant woman (often problematically called “the mother” by the Court); (2) the state’s interest in the health of the pregnant woman; and (3) the state’s interest in what the Court termed “potential life,” which was compromise language that avoided the problems associated with other obvious choices such as “unborn child,” “life,” or “embryo and fetus.” In some parts of the Court’s opinion, the justices mentioned a fourth important interest, that of medical doctors, and in several passages the Court privileged the decision-making of doctors rather than the women under their care, but ultimately the ruling focused on the woman’s privacy rights, the state’s interest in promoting public health, and the state’s interest in protecting “potential life.”

This became the basis for the Court’s complex trimester framework, which rejected both restrictive abortion bans and liberalized abortion on demand. According to the Court, in the first trimester, when abortion procedures are relatively safe and when the “potential life” is more potential than life, the pregnant woman’s reproductive rights are preeminent and therefore the states may not impose major restrictions on abortion. For the Court, the second trimester is different in that abortion procedures become somewhat more dangerous and the “potential life” is closer to “life.” On this basis, the Court ruled that states may regulate but not ban second-trimester abortions (for example, by requiring that they be performed in specific types of medical facilities). According to the Court, in the third trimester, when abortion procedures become more complicated and when the fetus is often able to survive outside the pregnant woman’s body, the state’s interests in promoting the health of the woman and protecting the “potential life” become sufficiently compelling that more state restrictions on abortion are constitutionally permissible. Significantly, the Court ruled that even in the third trimester, abortions could not be banned when they were necessary to preserve the life or health of the pregnant woman.

The decision in Roe thus satisfied neither opponents of all abortions or advocates of abortion on demand. This was a compromise ruling. To be sure, Roe liberalized abortion law in the United States, but U.S. Americans need only look north to Canada, which more fully decriminalized abortion in the 1980s, to understand that Roe, for better or for worse, did not recognize a legal right to abortion on demand.

MYTH #2: ROE REJECTED TRADITIONAL RESTRICTIONS AND RELIGIOUS PROHIBITIONS ON ABORTION.

Blackmun devoted a substantial part of his Supreme Court opinion to a broad historical overview of the legal status of abortion in the West, which led him to conclude that the restrictive abortion laws under consideration by the justices were “of relatively recent vintage” and “not of ancient or even of common-law origin.” They were derived, he argued, from state statutes that were first enacted in the second half of the nineteenth century. English common law, for example, did not criminalize abortions before “quickening,” which effectively meant that abortions in the early months of pregnancies were legal. English common law was the basis for most U.S. state laws on abortion until the mid-nineteenth century. This led Blackmun to the conclusion that “at common law, at the time of the adoption of our Constitution, and throughout the major portion of the 19th century, abortion was viewed with less disfavor than under most American statutes currently in effect.”

The Supreme Court’s decision also addressed religious perspectives on abortion, noting the “wide divergence of thinking on this most sensitive and difficult question” and specifically referring to substantial Jewish and Protestant denominational support for “the view that life does not begin until live birth” and the notion that abortion is “a matter for the conscience of the individual and her family.” Religious opponents of abortion, Blackmun was reminding his readers, did not have a monopoly on religious opinions. For better or for worse, Roe was aligned with traditional and religious support for abortion rights in the United States.

MYTH #3: ROE WAS A STRONGLY FEMINIST DECISION.

For decades, Roe has been celebrated and criticized as a feminist ruling that was based on the Supreme Court’s support for women’s rights. Blackmun’s majority opinion, however, had very little to say about women’s rights (beyond abortion rights) and it avoided most of the feminist arguments made by the lawyers who litigated the case. In several passages that addressed the doctors who performed abortions, Blackmun emphasized “his” rights to practice medicine more than the rights of the pregnant woman. In one, the Court concluded that during the first trimester “the attending physician, in consultation with the patient, is free to determine, without regulation by the State, that, in his medical judgment, the patient’s pregnancy should be terminated.” Summarizing its findings, the Court declared that in this stage of pregnancy “the abortion decision and its effectuation must be left to the medical judgment of the pregnant woman’s attending physician.” In this formulation, the pregnant woman was not even given a consultative role; the decision seemed as if it were the doctor’s alone to make. More generally, the Court set aside the arguments of those in Roe who emphasized that abortion rights were necessary to secure women’s autonomy, empowerment, and equality.

In subsequent years, as Roe was attacked by antifeminists and as Blackmun defended his work, he depicted his majority opinion as far more feminist than it was. As journalist and biographer Linda Greenhouse has written in Becoming Justice Blackmun, “The reality of Roe itself, the extent to which its author’s focus was on doctors rather than on women, was largely lost to myth and the mists of memory.” Roe certainly can be interpreted as a ruling that was influenced by feminist activism and that had feminist effects. For better or for worse, however, the ruling itself was based on other types of arguments.

MYTH #4: ROE RECOGNIZED CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS OF SEXUAL PRIVACY.

Supporters and opponents of Roe have had good reasons to depict Roe as a sexual privacy decision, the former to defend it and the latter to attack it. In that context, it may come as a surprise to many that the decision in Roe had almost nothing to say about sexual privacy and never endorsed the concept. Roe was a decision about reproductive rights, not sexual rights.

In one passage, for example, Blackmun’s opinion noted that the Court’s precedents had made it clear that the right to privacy, which was based in part on the Constitution’s references to freedom and liberty, had important applications in cases concerning marriage, procreation, contraception, family relationships, child rearing, and education. Now the Court was declaring that this right was “broad enough” to encompass abortion. Notably the majority did not include sex or sexuality on this list. Blackmun also cautioned, “It is not clear to us that the claim asserted by some amici that one has an unlimited right to do with one’s body as one pleases bears a close relationship to the right of privacy previously articulated in the Court’s decision.” Elsewhere in the Court’s opinion, Blackmun noted that Roe’s lawyers had argued that the constitutional basis of the right to terminate a pregnancy was “the concept of personal ‘liberty’ embodied in the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause” or the “personal, marital, familial, and sexual privacy said to be protected by the Bill of Rights or its penumbras.” This passage has been used by many journalists and commentators to suggest that the decision in Roe recognized a right of sexual privacy, but here Blackmun was describing the arguments, not announcing the Court’s conclusions. When Blackmun’s opinion later presented the Court’s views on the nature of privacy, it referred to “marriage” and “family” but not sex.

What about the Court’s conclusions about the relationship between laws on abortion and laws on sex, which in the 1970s included laws against adultery, cohabitation, fornication, and sodomy? According to Blackmun, it had been argued by some that anti-abortion laws such as the Texas statute challenged in Roe “were the product of a Victorian social concern to discourage illicit sexual conduct.” This idea was based on the notion that legal restrictions on abortion discouraged nonmarital sex by foreclosing the option of ending an unwanted pregnancy. Blackmun responded that Texas had not made this claim and “no court or commentator has taken the argument seriously.” Nevertheless, he observed that Roe’s lawyers and friends of the court had asserted that “this is not a proper state purpose at all” and argued that “if it were, the Texas statutes are overbroad . . . since the law fails to distinguish between married and unwed mothers.” Here, too, the Court was describing arguments, not announcing conclusions. At most, the Court was suggesting that it did not see a relationship between laws against abortion and laws against sex, but it was not endorsing the notion of a constitutional right to sexual privacy. Over the course of the last forty years, the media and the public have come to believe that Roe was a sexual privacy decision, but the Court did not recognize a constitutional right of sexual privacy until the Lawrence decision of 2003.

MYTH #5: ROE WAS ONLY SUPPORTED BY BIG-GOVERNMENT DEMOCRATIC LIBERALS AND IT WAS INVARIABLY OPPOSED BY SMALL-GOVERNMENT REPUBLICAN CONSERVATIVES.

For decades, Republican conservatives have successfully presented themselves as opponents and Democratic liberals as supporters of big government. This has been so effective in the court of public opinion that Democrats often take great pains to emphasize that they, too are opponents of big government. Only occasionally do dissident voices break through, as is the case with historian Steve Conn’s recent book To Promote the General Welfare: The Case for Big Government (2012). In truth, both major political parties support big government. Most Republican conservatives support a strong role for the federal government in national defense, immigration control, and law and order. In the last several decades, most have favored substantial government restrictions on homosexuality, obscenity, and sex education. Today, most Republican conservatives support the Defense of Marriage Act, which dictates whose marriages are recognized by the U.S. federal government. Conservative Republicans who oppose Roe because they support major restrictions on abortion are advocates of big government.

In fact, while support for abortion rights is stronger among Democrats than Republicans, many Republicans support abortion rights. Abortion was not mentioned in the Republican Party presidential platform of 1972 and in the 1970s a significant number of Republican politicians supported abortion rights. Roe‘s primary author, Blackmun, was appointed by Republican President Richard Nixon. Of the seven justices who endorsed Blackmun’s majority opinion in Roe, four were appointed by Republican presidents, three by Democratic ones. Of the two dissenters, one was appointed by a Republican, one by a Democrat. In the 1992 Casey decision, three Republican appointees, Justices Kennedy, O’Connor, and Souter, reaffirmed the central holding of Roe. From 1975 until 2009, the Supreme Court consistently had seven or eight Republican appointees and just one or two Democratic ones. For more than three decades, Republican appointees had an overwhelming majority of seats on the Supreme Court, yet the justices did not overturn Roe. Republicans, including some who support big government, some who criticize big government, and many who do both, have joined together with Democrats and independents to support abortion rights.

The popular press bears partial responsibility for these and many other myths about Roe v. Wade. In her 1992 autobiography, Sarah Weddington, the lawyer who defended abortion rights in Roe, recalled that in 1973 she was “disappointed that so few of the journalists described the legal arguments accurately.” In 1979, Chief Justice Warren Burger expressed concern that lower court judges “might be misreading” recent decisions by the Supreme Court and suggested that the misrepresentations of Washington reporters might be responsible for this. A few days later, Justice Lewis Powell reportedly stated that the Court was “totally dependent on the media to interpret what we do” since “that’s all the public knows about us.” Unfortunately, he observed, “sometimes, ‘under the constraint of deadlines, we find that what is written appears to bear little relationship to what we did decide.’” In 1991, Justice William Brennan told reporter Nat Hentoff that he was disappointed by press coverage of the Court and specifically by “the inaccuracy of the reporting and the placing of decisions out of context.” Weddington and Brennan did not exactly see eye to eye with Burger and Powell on many issues, but they all expressed concern about how the media reported on Supreme Court decisions.

Notwithstanding the validity of these concerns, there is another useful way to think about the myths that surround Roe. For the last several years, an influential group of scholars has been discussing, developing, and debating the concept of popular constitutionalism, which holds that the meanings of the U.S. Constitution are generated in the public sphere and not just in the text of the Constitution or the decisions of the Supreme Court. Extending this notion, we might also say that the meanings of U.S. Supreme Court decisions are generated in the public sphere and not just in the texts of the Court’s rulings or the justices’ subsequent depictions of their earlier work. Instead of discounting the myths that I have discussed, we might better be served by asking questions about the purposes they serve and the effects of these myths in the past, present, and future.


Marc Stein Marc Stein is the Jamie and Phyllis Pasker Professor of History at San Francisco State University. He is author of City of Sisterly and Brotherly Loves: Lesbian and Gay Philadelphia and editor-in-chief of the award-winning Encyclopedia of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History in America.

Celebrating a Century of Excellence: The University of North Carolina Press Turns 100, Part Four

2022 marks the one hundred year anniversary of the founding of the University of North Carolina Press.

This fourth blog post of a series of five is taken from an essay on the history of UNC Press written by Advancement Council member the Rev. David C. (Kirk) Brown, first delivered to the Pen and Plate Club of Asheville.

Read parts one, two, and three


The head of operations would be known as the Director. The history of the UNC Press could perhaps best be told from the perspective of its directors—the challenges each faced, and the contributions each made. Every one of the seven directors thus far has built upon the work of his or her predecessors, and every one has left an indelible mark. Each is deserving of an essay. For our purposes this evening, and in the interest of time, I have chosen to emphasize the founding of the UNC Press, so will focus mainly on the first two directors who helped chart the course for the Press’s first century.

Louis R. Wilson, who likely provided most of the vision for the founding, was named the first Director, and initially undertook much of the work himself: securing manuscripts, arranging contracts with printers, editing proofs, sending the manuscripts out for peer review, arranging for appropriate advertising, fulfilling orders, all while maintaining the financial records. His vast experience in growing the UNC library from 32,000 to 235,000 volumes must have given him some insight into this new venture. But to truly understand the craft, he traveled to established university presses in the East to learn the specifics of such publishing. This speaks to the ethos of collaboration that has long existed among university presses. Far from guarding trade secrets, presses have willingly worked with other presses to help.

The enduring obstacle for this fledgling press would be how to fund it. Again, a university press is driven first by quality of publication, not by profitability. As one Director would later quip, the Press should strive for “the publication of the maximum number of good books this side of bankruptcy.” Over the next few years, UNC Press was kept afloat by a patchwork of modest book sales, the publication of journals, a subsidy from the University, support from Howard Odum’s Institute for Research in Social Science, support from the Alumni Loyalty Fund, and key grants. Notable and noteworthy though they might have been among scholars, sales of books and journals alone would never suffice.

To illustrate how profit most assuredly was not the motive, consider the first monograph published by the UNC Press and authored by one of the founding members: a book about water molds in North America. It is a standing joke that no one can pronounce the title: The Saprolegnicaceae. That first year a total of three titles appeared, along with publication of several university journals. At the end of the second year ten titles were in print. By the end of the third, there were eighteen. Despite his own progressive thinking, Director Wilson steered a course of relative safety, especially in an age of growing social and political strife in North Carolina. The early 1920s saw a rise in Klan membership, the rise of anti-evolutionary protests against the perceived secularism of higher education, the suspicion of anything that smacked of socialism (including a newfangled Department of Sociology!), and a general disdain for liberal thinking. As the University had already become a lightning rod for conservative criticism, its Press had to be careful not to draw undue attention.

UNC Press’s most recent, no longer in use logo, utilized until Dec. 2021

In 1925, ordered by his doctors to take a medical leave of absence, Wilson turned the operation of the Press over to a young undergraduate library assistant, William Terry Couch. In essence he pointed the 23 year old to the file cabinet that held the Press records, then left him in charge. If Wilson had known little about publishing, Bill Couch knew absolutely nothing and had to learn on the job. But as he would demonstrate, whatever he lacked in experience he more than made up for in passion and energy.

Initially serving as Interim Director, Couch would later be named second Director in 1932 when Wilson left UNC to establish the Graduate Library School at the University of Chicago. Convinced that the UNC Press was squandering the opportunity to be bold and progressive, the scrappy young assistant director threw caution to the wind and forged ahead with an audacity that often left the Press’s board of governors both uneasy about unwanted scrutiny of critics, and struggling to keep up. Couch took the Press, which had been relatively timid thus far, into much greater regional and national prominence. Notes one scholar, “Conflict for him, as with other Modernists, was a positive good; it was not a threat to scholarship but rather its lifeblood. . . . What made the intellectual game worth playing was the chance to move to the cutting edge, to make the sparks fly.”

One story of those early years may serve to show how Couch was pressing the envelope. In 1927, only 25 years old and still serving as Assistant Director, Couch was summoned to the university president’s office where the board of governors had convened an emergency meeting. The issue at hand was a book about to go into circulation, Congaree Sketches, which was a collection of tales told by African Americans living in rural South Carolina. The book manuscript had already been duly reviewed and approved by the board. What had not been approved was the fiery introduction commissioned by Couch and written by Paul Green, recent recipient of a Pulitzer Prize for his play, In Abraham’s Bosom. The emotionally charged introduction proposed that racial harmony would only be achieved when there was a fundamental shift in attitude of Whites toward Blacks, a shift that could happen only with desegregation. The board of governors was convinced that such a beginning was too inflammatory and that the book should be pulled from production, the introduction rewritten, and only then released. Finally Couch spoke up, telling those assembled that 100 advance copies had already been sent to several prominent reviewers, literary figures, and bookstores. To recall those copies now would only bring more attention to the introduction. He persuaded the board to allow the book to move forward. They steeled themselves for the backlash sure to come. Instead, there were only accolades from across the country. Couch would always consider that moment to be a defining moment for the Press:

I did not know that the Press could allow the expression of unorthodox opinions and survive. I wanted to find out and there was only one way to find out: publish some unorthodox opinions and see what happened…. So far as I was concerned, the decision to have a press was a decision to exercise freedom of this kind; otherwise the whole affair was a fraud. I was willing to take my chances on the notion that Southerners were not essentially different from people elsewhere, that they could stand as much freedom of opinion as anybody could.

Couch’s decision helped launch a new trajectory for the UNC Press, now emboldened to publish works that challenged prevailing attitudes, even when they invited controversy. Following his lead, more and more books came to publication that allowed for more voices in the South to emerge. Nor were these books simply intended for the academy. There was a long-standing bias among university presses to publish research primarily for fellow scholars. Couch realized that there was also a broad base of readership among the public who wanted access to such scholarship. The UNC Press was among the first university presses to realize this, and the very first to embrace the idea of focusing attention on the surrounding region. Other presses would eventually follow their lead. Couch would later write:

Original thinking, writing, and publishing are as necessary to the development of a society as air, water, and food to the life of the individual….To serve their functions fully and completely, to escape stagnation, institutions engaged in higher education must do more than conserve and transmit knowledge inherited from the past. They must do this, but they must also stimulate invention, creation, discovery.

Of course, boldness had to be balanced with the reality of staying afloat. Finding ways to survive the severe fiscal constraints imposed during the Great Depression forced the Press to be creative in its list. When Couch was named Director in 1932 he set out to find a model that could ensure success, especially since funding sources were shrinking. Trade books about the region, some children’s books, and text books for public schools provided some relief. And reliance on Howard Odum’s Institute provided much of the material for publication, most of which was extremely critical of prevailing attitudes in the South. Books that earlier might have seemed too risky or taboo for this new southern press were now being published, with topics ranging from lynching, to racial and economic disparity, to sharecropping, to oppressive labor policies of industry. Indeed of the 450 titles issued during Couch’s tenure, 170 dealt chiefly with Southern topics. And among these were some of the seminal studies about race, authored by African Americans about the African American experience. John Hope Franklin, Rayford W. Logan, and other Black authors were among those published.


The Rev. David C. (Kirk) Brown is the recently retired chaplain of Christ School. Kirk received his A.B. from Davidson College, his M.A. from the University of Virginia, and his M.Div. from Virginia Theological Seminary. He is a life-long educator. Having taught German and English for 12 years at Virginia Episcopal School, he then attended seminary and was ordained an Episcopal priest. After serving three years at St. John’s Church in Roanoke, VA, he returned to school work, serving 24 years as Chaplain at Christ School and teaching religion. Kirk lives with his wife, Shelley, on a farm in Fletcher, NC.

New in Paperback for Spring 2022

The following titles are all newly available in paperback from your favorite bookseller. And, if purchasing direct from UNC Press, take 40% off during our 100th Anniversary Sale using promo code 01DAH40 at checkout, and ground shipping is free on U.S. orders that are $75+ (also good on any print book, as well as preorders; a few restrictions apply).


Stone Free: Jimi Hendrix in London, September 1966–June 1967
By Jas Obrecht
“Jas Obrecht captures the frenzy and the excitement of the most extraordinary moment in rock guitar’s history, when Jimi Hendrix reinvents the electric guitar, becomes an international superstar, and stuns his contemporaries into humble self-reevaluation. Each chapter is full of wonderful stories, details, and revelations about Jimi’s surprising yet inevitable journey to stardom. I know I’ll be re-reading this book for years.”—Joe Satriani

Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth
By Kevin M. Levin
“Excellent. . . . a bracing corrective, a slender yet vital volume in the growing library of texts dedicated to dispelling white supremacist talking points.”—New Republic

The Young Lords: A Radical History
By Johanna Fernández

“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

A South You Never Ate: Savoring Flavors and Stories from the Eastern Shore of Virginia
By Bernard L. Herman

“A magnificent book. . . . [Herman’s] easily flowing, descriptive prose takes center stage. This publication is fun, enlightening and significant and overall it’s an Eastern Shore encyclopedia — emphasizing people, places and foods. . . . Take time to read, cook and enjoy this tasty morsel.”—Virginia Gazette

Julius Chambers: A Life in the Legal Struggle for Civil Rights
By Richard A. Rosen & Joseph Mosnier

“This first biography of Chambers captures his personality, character, and self-effacing determination. . . . Though books on legal topics are hardly known for their readability, this one is an exception. More than a simple biography of a lawyer, this account chronicles an entire law firm and how civil rights are achieved in the real world. Verdict: Essential.”—Library Journal, Starred Review

Down the Wild Cape Fear: A River Journey through the Heart of North Carolina
By Philip Gerard

“Equal parts historical survey, river adventure and nature walk, it’s a fascinating trip down North Carolina’s most storied river.”—News & Observer

Climate & Hurricanes: Future Storms in the Carolinas, Part Two

The following is the second part of a two-part guest blog series by Jay Barnes, author of Fifteen Hurricanes That Changed the Carolinas: Powerful Storms, Climate Change, and What We Do Next. In the first part of this blog series, Jay discussed climate change and its influence on tropical storms.

Hurricanes of the future will challenge the Carolinas, inevitably costing lives and wrecking property, just as they have for centuries. The fact that their winds, tides and rains will be enhanced by climate change is a real concern. But there are arguably other factors to consider that will have a far greater influence on the scale of property damages and human losses we should expect from hurricanes in the decades ahead.

The biggest factors: population growth and our communities’ ability to adapt and become more resilient to the hurricane threat.

Powerful hurricanes swept the Carolinas through the colonial period, wrecking fleets and destroying coastal settlements. As potent as they might have been, similar storms today have a far greater impact on people and communities. In simple terms, steady population growth has put more people and property in harm’s way, and today North and South Carolina each rank among the nation’s fastest growing states. 

Population growth in U.S. is greatest near the shore; the Carolinas are no exception. That trend is expected to continue, as popular vacation destinations such as Hilton Head, Myrtle Beach, Wrightsville Beach, and the Outer Banks attract more year-round residents, and surrounding communities fill with retirees and supporting workers. Higher populations at the coast practically guarantee escalating property damages during future hurricane strikes, partly due to the sheer number of people and structures. The growth of wealth also plays a role—today’s homes, cars and boats are far more costly than those of just a few decades ago.

The Tar River swallowed whole communities in the days following Hurricane Floyd, forcing many onto their roofs. Members of this Pactolus family could only reach their home by boat. (Photo by Dave Gately; courtesy of FEMA)

Our greatest vulnerabilities may lie farther inland, across the Carolinas’ broad coastal plain. These mostly-rural counties are growing too, and they’re crisscrossed by rivers and streams that have already proven lethal and destructive when hurricane rains push them beyond their banks. More populous inland counties near Raleigh, Greensboro, Charlotte and Columbia are vulnerable too, each suffering through destructive hurricane floods in recent years.

At more than $24 billion, 2018’s Hurricane Florence was the Carolina’s most costly hurricane disaster. Though widespread, its greatest flooding impact was in these inland areas. Continued growth brings urbanization, as forests and farmlands are converted for streets and structures—often inhibiting natural runoff and enhancing flooding risk.

The growth trend will continue. In 2019, South Carolina’s Floodwater Commission reported that by 2100, 5.8 million acres of the state’s urban and suburban land will have been developed, a 305 percent increase over developed areas in 2010. North Carolina expects similar steady growth.

That growth will have a positive economic influence that will be welcomed by most. But with it will come the responsibility of managing the what, where, when, and how of land development. Community leaders across the Carolinas, at the federal, state and local levels will be challenged to plan for what future storms will deliver. Revised land use plans, building codes, and other regulations will be needed to help minimize the vulnerability of new development projects.

Gavin Smith, professor at NC State University’s College of Design, teaches classes focused on natural hazards, disasters, and climate change adaptation. He sees a future where local leaders can do a lot to mitigate the impact of future hurricanes.

“In many cases communities have designed themselves, I would argue, in ways that reflect the climate of the past,” says Smith. “Creating more resilient communities is all about good governance . . . Local governments have within their toolkits a whole slew of land-use tools and techniques they can employ to reduce risks . . . They can make choices about where and how building should take place . . . But we find that after the disasters it’s not about the tools they possess; it’s also about the political will to take action. Sometimes that’s difficult to achieve in the aftermath of a disaster.”

In years to come, this will be the challenge: how can communities most vulnerable to hurricane floods become more resilient? Experts in the field contend that effective resiliency takes many forms and is not limited to physical projects like flood gates and seawalls. Communities large and small are now exploring what it means to be hurricane resilient, learning how to protect the environment and enhance their economic and social capacities while planning for growth and the necessary physical improvements that come with it.

And in preparing for that future, we can look to the past to be reminded of what kinds of threats to expect. For most, it will again be rising water. Carolina residents would be wise to remember these truisms from our experience with Hurricane Florence: “Just because it’s never flooded before doesn’t mean it can’t” and “If it’s flooded before, it will flood again!”

Jay Barnes, president and CEO of the North Carolina Aquarium Society is author of several books on hurricanes and often appears on media outlets such as the Weather Channel, NBC Nightly News, and the Discovery Channel. 

Celebrate Juneteenth by Reflecting on Enslavement in the American South

Happy Juneteenth(observation day)! As we take today to commemorate the end of slavery in the US, we are sharing an excerpt from Closer to Freedom: Enslaved Women and Everyday Resistance in the Plantation South by Stephanie M. H. Camp.


1 A GEOGRAPHY OF CONTAINMENT

The Bondage of Space and Time

THE PRINCIPLES OF RESTRAINT

At the heart of the process of enslavement was a spatial impulse: to locate bondpeople in plantation space and to control, indeed to determine, their movements and activities. Enslaved people in the nineteenth century were trapped in more than an exploitative labor relation; they were the captive losers in a battle for power that had begun centuries earlier in the Atlantic maritime world. As outsiders, heathens, perhaps even beasts, Africans were, unlike Europeans (no matter how debased), viewed as fundamentally enslaveable by the European merchants, planters, travelers, and adventurers who traversed the Atlantic world. Once enslaved, Africans were considered more like the captives of war to whom they were compared in the early, formative years of American slavery than to the indentured servants to whom they are sometimes compared now. In the minds of the earliest participants in and witnesses to the African slave trade, as historian Winthrop Jordan has put it, “enslavement was captivity.”

Slavery’s roots as a form of captivity lived into the nineteenth century. Enslavement in the American South meant cultural alienation, reduction to the status of property, the ever-present threat of sale, denial of the fruits of one’s labor, and subjugation to the force, power, and will of another human being. It entailed the strictest control of the physical and social mobility of enslaved people, as some of the institution’s most resonant accouterments— shackles, chains, passes, slave patrols, and hounds—suggest. These effects were as much a part of abolitionism’s image-based protests against bondage as were depictions of the lash, the auction block, or stooped slaves in the field. These same images have persisted into our own visual culture of bondage, testaments to slavery’s denial of a medley of freedoms.

By the nineteenth century, lawmakers and slaveholders had laid out, in their statutes and in their plantation journals, a theory of mastery at the center of which was the restriction of slave movement. Passes, tickets, curfews, and roll calls all limited slave mobility. In his remarkable memoir of life in bondage, Charles Ball called the legal and day-to-day regulations that governed black movement “principles of restraint.” “No slave dare leave” the plantation to which she or he belonged, Ball wrote, not for a “single mile” or a “single hour, by night or by day,” except at the risk of “exposing himself to the danger of being taken up and flogged.” Bondpeople everywhere were forbidden by law and by common practice to leave their owners’ property without a pass, and slave patrols attempted to ensure obedience to the law and to plantation rules. Formerly enslaved people compared bondage to another form of confinement: “I was a slave,” Henry Bibb wrote in his autobiography, “a prisoner for life.” Fountain Hughes agreed, saying of enslavement that it was a “jail sentence, was jus’ the same as we was in jail.”

Antebellum principles of restraint rested on a legal bedrock laid in the colonial and early national periods. Between the seventeenth and the early nineteenth centuries, as colonists and settlers seized and organized land that would become states, elites passed laws to govern the people who populated these new societies. Slaveholders everywhere in the slave South shared a common interest in constricting black mobility; intraregional differences of crop, demographics, and culture modulated but did not fundamentally alter this investment. Virginia was the first colony to pass laws governing bond-people’s behavior. Among the colony’s earliest slave laws was the act of 1680 “for preventing Negroes Insurrections.” The concerns expressed in this ordinance indicate a sense of urgency in regard to controlling black mobility. To prevent “Negroes Insurrections,” the colonial legislature prohibited enslaved people from possessing weapons and, in the same breath, from leaving their place of work without a pass, or “certificate.” The law read: “It shall not be lawfull for any negroe or other slave to carry or arme himselfe with any club, staffe, gunn, sword or any other weapon of defence or offence, nor to goe or depart from of his masters ground without a certificate from his master, mistris or overseer, and such permission not to be granted but upon perticuler and necessary occasions.” Judging independent slave movement to be akin to the possession of arms, the Virginia legislature banned both. This law also established the punishment for errant movement away from the “masters ground:” “twenty lashes on his bare back well layd on.” From fairly early in colonial history, slaveholders’ control depended on the confinement of slaves.

A Century of Publishing: UNC Press

We are delighted to share the following video that’s been created to celebrate and commemorate the University of North Carolina Press’s centennial, A Century of Publishing: UNC Press

Featured in the video are UNC Press authors Malinda Maynor Lowery, Blair L.M. Kelley, Glenda Gilmore, and Bland Simpson, as well as UNC Press Spangler Family Director John Sherer. And thanks to Alena Jones from Seminary Co-op Bookstores in Chicago for her participation as well (without the support of independent booksellers and bookstores, we wouldn’t have made it to our 100th birthday).

And, don’t forget to shop our Anniversary Sale: save 40 percent on all UNC Press print books, including preorders (a few exceptions apply)—and if you spend $75+, U.S. shipping is FREE!

Climate & Hurricanes: Future Storms in the Carolinas, Part One

The following is the first of two guest blogs by Jay Barnes, author of Fifteen Hurricanes That Changed the Carolinas: Powerful Storms, Climate Change, and What We Do Next.

No matter where you get your news, it’s likely you’ve seen a recent uptick in the number of stories about climate. In 2021, historic wildfires, killer heat domes, widespread tornado outbreaks, and deadly urban flooding disasters made headlines, and 2022 is turning out to be no different. Earth’s seven hottest years have all occurred since 2014, and the connection between that heat and our worst weather disasters seems obvious. Scientists around the globe are on the case, offering new research in ever-more startling detail about the consequences of a warming planet and what to expect in the years to come.

The threat of more devastating hurricanes is often presented as one of the most serious climate-related perils we face. After his Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth was released in 2006, Vice President Al Gore famously said, “What changed in the United States with Hurricane Katrina was a feeling that we have entered a period of consequences.” Since that time, climate change and its influence on tropical cyclones have remained in the news. More recently, some pundits and advocates for climate action have put forward the idea that epic hurricane disasters such as Sandy, Harvey, and Florence were the result of global warming.

From a historian’s perspective, that thinking seems flawed. Big, powerful, and destructive hurricanes are nothing new. The Carolinas have always been a hotspot, with Hazel, Hugo, Fran, Floyd, Matthew and Florence just some of the familiar names. Dozens of other big storms have battered the Carolinas for centuries, most unnamed and relatively unknown. North Carolina ranks fourth in the U.S. for hurricane landfalls since 1851; South Carolina ranks fifth (Florida, unsurprisingly, is first).

A closer look at the science reveals some unexpected ideas about what future hurricanes might be like in the U.S. Researchers use an array of ever-more-sophisticated computer forecast models, run out over decades, which factor increasing amounts of carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gasses to simulate conditions for future hurricane development.

Chris Landsea, chief of the Tropical Analysis and Forecast Branch of the National Hurricane Center, confirms one finding that may come as a surprise: it’s unlikely warming oceans will generate more storms, as the number of tropical cyclones is expected to remain the same or even decrease due to increased dry air and wind shear in tropical regions. Landsea says the highest category storms, the cat 4 and cat 5 hurricanes that do the most damage, may increase in number. But even if the number of storms doesn’t increase, the status quo is nothing to celebrate—each Atlantic hurricane season could still average fourteen named storms and seven hurricanes for decades to come.

And future hurricanes will be stronger, but only moderately so: “We’re looking at 3 to 5 percent stronger [storms] by the end of this century,” says Landsea. “So as an example, a 100 mph hurricane [today] might be a 105 mph hurricane at the end of the century because of global warming.” That’s a fairly small increase in strength, offering slightly more destructive potential, especially for those hurricanes where wind and tide are the primary factors.

It’s mostly been hurricane rainfall, though, that has swamped the Carolinas in recent years and caused ruin for so many. Record floods in central South Carolina in 2015 were followed by more devastating floods in the Carolinas during Hurricane Matthew in 2016—only to be topped by those of Hurricane Florence in 2018. Florence was poised to strike near Wilmington as a category 4, but it weakened and slowed as it made landfall, dumping record rains across a broad area. After the storm, 59 deaths and more than $24 billion in losses were reported in the Carolinas—making Florence the costliest hurricane in the history of either state.

Search and rescue teams from across the Carolinas and from other states were deployed throughout flooded communities during Hurricane Matthew. This team from Missouri plans their next move on a flooded Lumberton, N.C. street. (Photo courtesy of FEMA)

Future storms will bring more record-breaking floods. Researchers are focusing on how climatic changes might slow tropical cyclone movement and produce stronger blocking weather patterns, yielding more rain. In 2019, researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill published a study of high-precipitation events in North Carolina since 1898. They found that six of the seven greatest totals occurred in the last twenty years. Three of those: Floyd, Matthew and Florence. The authors concluded that “…either North Carolina has been very unlucky, or the historical record used to define storm statistics is no longer representative of the present climate regime.”

So, we might expect future hurricane seasons to have roughly the same storm frequency, but those storms that do strike will pack slightly stronger winds and be even bigger rainmakers. Across the Carolinas, inland floods will again sink homes and businesses, and homeowners—especially those without flood insurance—will again suffer dearly.

At the coast, residents will wrestle with another unavoidable consequence—rising sea levels, which over time will enhance any arriving hurricane’s destructive potential. Global ocean levels have been rising about one inch per decade over the last century, but the rate of increase is accelerating—alarmingly so—with the fear that as more polar ice melts, ocean levels could rise two or three inches per decade. “It doesn’t sound like much, but in areas where the terrain is pretty low-lying, even a foot over several decades is a big deal,” says Steve Pfaff, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Wilmington. “Places that don’t have much elevation, that are less than a few feet above sea level, are the ones at risk for having more flooding, more often.”

Hurricanes of the future will challenge the Carolinas, claiming untold lives and property, just as they have for centuries. The fact that their winds and rains will be enhanced by climate change is a real concern, and coastal areas grappling with sea level rise will become increasingly vulnerable. But it’s helpful to keep these changes in perspective, as there are arguably other factors—unrelated to climate—that will have far greater influence on the impact of future hurricane disasters in the Carolinas.

The second post in this blog series will discuss these other factors and their impact.

Jay Barnes, president and CEO of the North Carolina Aquarium Society is author of several books on hurricanes and often appears on media outlets such as the Weather Channel, NBC Nightly News, and the Discovery Channel. 

2022 Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations Conference

UNC Press is excited to be exhibiting both in-person & virtually at SHAFR 2022. If you are at the conference, we hope you’ll stop by our booth to say hello to editor, Debbie Gershenowitz! If you can’t make it in person, you can always browse our virtual booth.


To browse these titles and more, be sure to stop by our virtual booth. Use promo code 01DAH40 at checkout to receive our 40% conference discount. And if your order totals over $75, domestic U.S. shipping is FREE.


Continuing the Dialogue on Chaplaincy Education 

The following is a guest blog post by Michael Skaggs, Director of Programs at the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab at Brandeis University.

With support from the Henry Luce Foundation, leadership from the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab at Brandeis University partnered with Professor Shelly Rambo of Boston University School of Theology and Trace Haythorn of ACPE: The Standard for Spiritual Care and Education on a project to enhance how chaplains are trained in the United States. Among many other things, one of the project’s results is the textbook Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care in the Twenty-First Century, out now from the University of North Carolina Press.


My colleague Grace Tien wrote at The Aspen Institute that “the future of religious care will be dominated by chaplains.” Taylor Paige Winfield speaks to this dynamic in her chapter “Chaplaincy Work and Preparation across Sectors.” It’s not only researchers who are taking note of these trends: the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab’s free educational series, Field Guide for Aspiring Chaplains, has seen interest from an enormous number of students and prospective chaplains from all over the United States and is sponsored by the some of the leading educational institutions in the field today. 

It’s important to note that what chaplains do is often misconstrued. Often those outside the field, or those who have not encountered a chaplain recently, will associate chaplaincy with someone like Fr. Mulcahy of MASH, or otherwise a religious leader who prays with individuals or provides religious services or sacraments. The reality today is far different. While professional chaplains will indeed provide those services if asked, more often they exercise what Winnifred Sullivan called a “ministry of presence,” in hospitals, prisons, the military, colleges and universities, and more. More directly, chaplains are involved in addressing some of the most pressing social and cultural issues of our day, including social justice advocacyinterpreting individual religious freedom within the common good, and the role of law enforcement in communities. Speaking to Francine Orr of the LA Times, Chaplain Kevin Deegan of Providence Health care said of his hospital service during the COVID-19 pandemic “I had to be in person. I had to be with them. Donning and doffing PPE just like them. Witnessing patients in their worst of times. I had to be present. There is no other place for me but to be here. If I wasn’t going to be here, I wasn’t a chaplain because a chaplain is present.”

Why write a textbook? After all, educational institutions like theological schools, seminaries, and divinity schools have enjoyed success for quite some time producing religious and spiritual leaders. We wanted to go beyond that success – to capitalize on the impulse that individuals and institutions have to serve others as effectively as possible, and with one eye firmly on the spiritual needs not only of people today but tomorrow. Recent research indicates that “most theological schools offering degree programs in chaplaincy today have developed independently of one another, have little consensus around the curricular structure of their programs, and have limited conversations among themselves that could begin standardizing chaplaincy training. Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care in the Twenty-First Century is one starting point to begin that shared conversation.

Crucially, the book is not an attempt to codify chaplaincy training according to any one institution’s paradigm or outlook. Instead, the chapters speak to competencies that can be taught across the board, in any institution, by any educator committed to responsible spiritual care. For example, Rochelle Robins and Danielle Tummino Hansen contributed a chapter on meaning making through ritual and public leadership; Carrie Doehring and Allison Kestenbaum wrote on cultivating genuine spiritual trust, especially in circumstances susceptible to suspicion of ulterior motives. 

While Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care in the Twenty-First Century is intended primarily for an audience of educators in the classroom or in clinical pastoral education (CPE), the book is also fruitful for anyone seeking meaningful engagement in the organizations they serve. The whole of Part 4 treats what we call organizational competencies, with chapters on chaplains fostering organizational well-being (Nathan White), organizational leadership (Su Yon Pak), and the strong emotional undercurrents running through every organization (Laurie Garrett-Cobbina). 

We are grateful for the opportunity to help bring together spiritual care educators in thinking about the future of this vital profession, and we are eager to continue the dialogue about chaplaincy education.

Michael Skaggs is the Director of Programs at the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab and a visiting scholar at Brandeis University.

Adrian Miller Wins Second Beard Foundation Award for “Black Smoke”

Congratulations are in order for Adrian Miller, aka Soul Food Scholar, for winning the 2022 James Beard Foundation Media Award for Reference, History, and Scholarship for Black Smoke: African Americans and the United States of Barbecue Miller previously won a Beard Award in 2014 for Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time.

About Black Smoke: African Americans and the United States of Barbecue:

In Black Smoke, Miller chronicles how Black barbecuers, pitmasters, and restauranteurs helped develop this cornerstone of American foodways and how they are coming into their own today. It’s a smoke-filled story of Black perseverance, culinary innovation, and entrepreneurship. Though often pushed to the margins, African Americans have enriched a barbecue culture that has come to be embraced by all. Miller celebrates and restores the faces and stories of the men and women who have influenced this American cuisine. This beautifully illustrated chronicle also features 22 barbecue recipes collected just for this book.

About Adrian Miller:

Adrian Miller is a certified Kansas City Barbecue Society judge and recipient of a James Beard Foundation Book Award for Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American CuisineOne Plate at a Time. A consultant on Netflix’s Chef’s Table BBQ, Miller’s previous book is The President’s Kitchen Cabinet: The Story of the African Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families, from the Washingtons to the Obamas.

Celebrating a Century of Excellence: The University of North Carolina Press Turns 100, Part Three

2022 marks the one hundred year anniversary of the founding of the University of North Carolina Press.

This third blog post of a series of five is taken from an essay on the history of UNC Press written by Advancement Council member the Rev. David C. (Kirk) Brown, first delivered to the Pen and Plate Club of Asheville.

Read parts one, two, and four


A series of inspired and progressive presidents had helped shape a new vision of what the University of North Carolina could and should be. Among them was one of the most beloved and charismatic presidents, Edward Kidder Graham (1914-18). Graham had already established himself as one of the most popular professors on campus, then as the Dean, so his selection as president was hailed by all. Under his leadership, the University for the first time began to appreciate its calling to be the “university for all the people” in the state. North Carolinians began to take pride in their university. Graham, a proponent of the New South, saw the role of the University as lifting North Carolina to a new level of excellence. But just as he was finding his stride, when all seemed to be going well, suddenly he died, a victim of the 1918 Influenza pandemic.

Enter Harry Woodburn Chase, appointed president in 1919. He had come to the university in 1910, joining the Education department. His vision for UNC carried beyond Graham’s vision for UNC as the university of the state; now he asked that it be seen as the university for the South. Chase was ready to put into the past the dreary post Civil War era and the devastation of World War I. In his mind the New South had arrived, and it needed a university up to the challenge of preparing students for the new reality. On the one hand he was able to build upon the wave of optimism ushered in by his predecessor, Graham. On the other, postwar growth drove home new challenges and opportunities: in just one year, the first of his presidency, the student body grew by 60%. Graduate school programs were springing up and expanding rapidly. Yet the facilities and faculty were woefully strained. In the fall of 1919, in his first Opening Day address to the students, he articulated the challenge to the University:

Since the end of the war you have been living in a world which has not found itself, in a world which is as confused as the world of the last generation was orderly. Your world—the world you are getting your education in, the world you will soon have to face—is in an intellectual and moral ferment. Ideas and ideals are in flux, and your minds are open to the good and evil in it all….Bolshevism and industrial unrest, and moral confusion, and red radicalism, and city slums, are just as truly creations of modern civilization as are the achievements of science, or good roads, or public schools….The march of events will be too swift, the situation too critical, for drifting and temporizing.

In order to build a first-rate university, Chase set out to attract a first-rate faculty. Top on his list was Howard Odum, longtime friend and colleague, whom he now invited to join him in developing a Department of Sociology at UNC. The two had met as fellow students at Clark University, where both were pursuing their study of psychology. Clark had only recently been founded, calling itself the first graduate school-only research university. Perhaps this was the model for what the University of North Carolina could become.

Mid- 20th century UNC Press colophon

And so in 1922, there was a lot of excitement in the air. In addition to Chase and Odum, who brought with them a vision of making UNC into a research university of renown, the other scholars present also were eager to put their university on the map. Establishing the first university press in the South would be a huge step forward. Notes from those early meetings in 1922 reveal their reasons: it was time for the University of North Carolina to claim its place as a leading research university—not only regionally, but nationally. It was time to consolidate the many disparate publishing efforts already being undertaken—bulletins, catalogs, journals of various departments. It was time to start keeping in house manuscripts which were otherwise being published elsewhere, and to present them in the most attractive design. And it was high time to give North Carolina and the southern region a voice in publishing. In reading minutes from the earliest meetings, one cannot escape the sense of surprise that UNC suddenly and unexpectedly found itself poised for excellence:

In recent years the University has become, without a special consciousness of the fact, a great publishing organization…The method of the University is casual and haphazard, without a business organization. The fundamental need, therefore, is to bring into clear-cut organization the publishing activity of an institution which is outstanding among American universities for what it has done despite handicaps.

And as they noted, “it would be an immense advantage to the prestige of our University were we able to produce these books here.” But particularly important in their deliberations was the awareness that such a press would serve the South at large:

Our unique advantage is in our geographical situation as an intellectual center in a region ripe for expansion in things of the mind….Part of the function of a great University in a region that is now passing with unimaginable rapidity from poverty to immense wealth is to see that the intellectual and spiritual interests do not suffer from the pressure of material things. A University Press would be a sturdy force in making our progress a well-rounded progress, not a matter only of bank and trade balances.

Never mind that no one present had any real publishing experience. The time was ripe to launch the University of North Carolina Press. As to its organization, the Press would be incorporated as a non-stock corporation, the founders comprising the first board of governors. It would be at once independent of the University and yet very much allied with the University’s mission. That sense of independence would prove ingenious in the years to come: should the Press take on delicate or politically risky publications, the University could distance itself, thus allowing the Press the freedom it needed to maintain integrity.

Even from the outset it is striking how bold and self-aware the founders were.

The University is in a strategic position for the development of such an enterprise. The Yale and Harvard Presses come into direct competition with the great Boston and New York publishers; there is no special differentiation. A University Press in Indiana or Illinois or Wisconsin has harder competition to meet and less reason for existence. But the South is a virgin field. The University Press of Sewanee is the only rival, and it has neither the funds nor the faculty to enable it to cover the field as completely as would be possible here.

Having thus determined that they would found the Press, it was now time to learn just what that meant practically.


The Rev. David C. (Kirk) Brown is the recently retired chaplain of Christ School. Kirk received his A.B. from Davidson College, his M.A. from the University of Virginia, and his M.Div. from Virginia Theological Seminary. He is a life-long educator. Having taught German and English for 12 years at Virginia Episcopal School, he then attended seminary and was ordained an Episcopal priest. After serving three years at St. John’s Church in Roanoke, VA, he returned to school work, serving 24 years as Chaplain at Christ School and teaching religion. Kirk lives with his wife, Shelley, on a farm in Fletcher, NC.

2022 Southern Association for Women Historians Conference

UNC Press is excited to be exhibiting in-person at the 2022 Southern Association for Women Historians Conference! We hope you’ll stop by our booth to say hello to editor Andrew Winters and to browse our recent titles on display. If you can’t join us in-person, please visit our virtual booth!


To browse these titles and more, be sure to stop by our virtual booth. Use promo code 01DAH40 at checkout to receive our 40% conference discount. And if your order totals over $75, domestic U.S. shipping is FREE.

NCSSM & UNC Press Make Precalculus Textbook More Accessible for NC Schools

North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics is releasing a new edition of its popular precalculus textbook, Contemporary Precalculus through Applications, Third Edition in partnership with UNC Press, and making it available electronically to North Carolina high schools and colleges free of charge.

Used copies of the previous edition of the NCSSM textbook, published by an imprint of textbook giant McGraw-Hill, currently sell for $97+ from online booksellers. For the new third edition, in addition to being free electronically, print copies are also available at a more accessible price point of $38 for schools which desire that format.

Besides being affordable—some digital versions of math textbooks currently retail for $150—the textbook is aligned with North Carolina precalculus curriculum standards and what NC community colleges are teaching, making it an excellent resource for schools and colleges in the state. Additionally, the NC Community College system is making the ebook available on its website.

John Sherer, Spangler Family Director of UNC Press, says these advantages are designed to help the book make a big impact. “This is an excellent example of collaboration between UNC Press and the UNC System and in particular with NCSSM, a statewide high school serving students with talents and interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and the only non-university member institution of the System,” he said. “Yet this open educational resource, or OER, is pitched to be useful at the high school and community college level and takes an approach that engages students to gain true understanding.”

Unlike a typical high school math book, Contemporary Precalculus through Applications, Third Edition has a lot of narrative explanations rather than being “a collection of a million math problems,” says NCSSM Mathematics Dean Taylor Gibson, who also stated that the book instead embodies NCSSM’s math modeling approach to teaching mathematics. “That is, topics are introduced and reinforced by using math concepts and techniques for solving problems in the context of a real-world scenario,” Gibson says, “for instance, how to predict the path through space of a person riding the double ferris wheel at the state fair, deciding who has the better investment plan for retirement, or determining the relationship between the size of your dog and how much food it needs to eat.”

“The data provided to students and used to set up a problem is real whenever possible—and always realistic when it needs to be fabricated,” Gibson says. “It gives students practice not only solving problems, but assessing whether their answers are reasonable by being able to compare to what they already know about real-life situations.”

Producing a new edition of an existing textbook is an enormous, years-long project. NCSSM did this as a public service, not a revenue generator, Gibson stated, with faculty producing the update around the edges of their regular work. Some limited grant funding from UNC Press was used to cover NCSSM faculty time to contribute to the project.

“This is a really important way that NCSSM can be of service to math and science education in every corner of North Carolina,” says Chancellor Todd Roberts. “If we could identify some sources of funding to make it sustainable, this is the kind of thing we would love to be able to do more of. I’m very proud of the math department for sharing this approach to precalculus freely across our state.”

UNC System President Peter Hans said such service to students in North Carolina, even those not currently enrolled in UNC System institutions, is central to the system’s mission.

“This is a perfect example of how the UNC System and its constituent institutions render a great service to public education in North Carolina,” Hans said. “This textbook will now be more accessible at state high schools and community colleges to benefit tens of thousands of students. I commend UNC Press and NCSSM for partnering to expand access and opportunity for all.”


About North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics: NCSSM inspires talented young North Carolinians to pursue studies in science, technology, engineering, and math. NCSSM models how a statewide approach to collaboration and the use of physical and virtual spaces can create tremendous innovation in public education.

What Ever Happened to Sheppard Mallory, Frank Baker, and James Townsend?

The following is a guest blog post by Elizabeth D. Leonard, author of Benjamin Franklin Butler: A Noisy, Fearless Life.

Benjamin Franklin Butler was one of the most important and controversial military and political leaders of the Civil War and Reconstruction eras. Remembered most often for his uncompromising administration of the Federal occupation of New Orleans during the war, Butler reemerges in this lively narrative as a man whose journey took him from childhood destitution to wealth and profound influence in state and national halls of power. Prize-winning biographer Elizabeth D. Leonard chronicles Butler’s successful career in the law defending the rights of the Lowell Mill girls and other workers, his achievements as one of Abraham Lincoln’s premier civilian generals, and his role in developing wartime policy in support of slavery’s fugitives as the nation advanced toward emancipation. Leonard also highlights Butler’s personal and political evolution, revealing how his limited understanding of racism and the horrors of slavery transformed over time, leading him into a postwar role as one of the nation’s foremost advocates for Black freedom and civil rights, and one of its notable opponents of white supremacy and neo-Confederate resurgence.

Butler himself claimed he was “always with the underdog in the fight.” Leonard’s nuanced portrait will help readers assess such claims, peeling away generations of previous assumptions and characterizations to provide a definitive life of a consequential man.


Ever since I began work on my biography of Benjamin Franklin Butler, it has become clear that the one positive thing folks today who know anything about him typically associate with the man is his “contraband policy.” This policy, of course, stemmed from Butler’s refusal, while commanding U.S. forces at Fort Monroe in May 1861, to surrender three enslaved men who had escaped to the fort and requested Butler’s, and the army’s, protection. A brilliant and wily lawyer, Butler carefully reasoned his way to saying “no” when the slaveowner’s agent came to reclaim his human property. And so was born Butler’s contraband policy, a significant milestone on the nation’s path to emancipation.

Some folks familiar also know the names of the first three runaway bondsmen who inspired Butler’s contraband policy: Sheppard Mallory, Frank Baker, and James Townsend. Meanwhile, a new children’s book, Seeking Freedom, examines the May 1861 events at Fort Monroe in conjunction with the story of a presumably historical beneficiary of the policy named George Scott. To date, however, I am unaware of anyone (including me) having followed up on what happened to Mallory, Baker, and Townsend after their stunning, historically transformative act of courage, and recently I’ve been wondering what happened to them.

Sadly, for a multitude of reasons, unearthing the details of the lives and experiences of specific enslaved individuals prior to the war remains a challenge. Beginning with the 1870 U.S. census, however, significantly more concrete information became available. Moreover, ongoing advances in computer technology combined with the advent of digital databases have further expanded what we can know. A great example of the latter is Ancestry.com, which one might more accurately call a “meta-database” because it assembles so many smaller databases into one giant one. Using Ancestry, I decided to see what I could find out, with a reasonable amount of certainty, about just one of the men who first showed up at Fort Monroe on May 23, 1861: Sheppard Mallory.

Mallory was born in approximately 1835 in Hampton, Virginia. His mother was named Sarah, and—given that he is described in various records as “mulatto”—his father was most likely a White male member of the Mallory family whose patriarch, Charles Mallory, claimed both Sarah and her son as his property. In the mid-1850s, well before he escaped to Fort Monroe, Sheppard Mallory married Fannie Randall, an enslaved woman who, following the war,  “kept house” for her family and also worked as a dressmaker and laundress. Sheppard and Fannie had at least four children: Sheppard Jr., born in 1862; William (or Willie), born in 1864; Frank, born in 1870; and Lucy (or Louisa), born in 1878. Of these four children, Sheppard Jr is the only one we know attended school as a youth, though the entire family could read and write. In 1891, Sheppard Jr. married Mary Morris, a laundress, who died of diabetes in January 1922. As for the other children: Frank died of unknown causes before he reached the age of ten; William spent his life working as a servant and laborer, and died in 1949; and Lucy became a dressmaker like her mother, married a man whose last name was Brown, and died of bladder cancer in Hampton in 1948. While they lived, Sheppard Mallory Sr., his children, and their families all remained in Hampton (the family home was at 260 Lincoln Street). Mallory himself took postwar jobs as an oysterman, a house carpenter, and school janitor. At some point between 1900 and 1903, his wife Fannie died of unknown causes, for in September 1903, he married again, this time to Leila J. Smith. Sheppard Mallory died in December 1924 of myocarditis and is buried in Hampton’s Elmerton Cemetery, as are Sheppard’s son, Willie, and Leila.

Just as the names of individuals from the civil rights era are often deployed simply to point us in the direction of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Sheppard Mallory, Frank Baker, and James Townsend appear in the historical record as if all that matters is their (albeit, heroic) role in pointing us to what Benjamin Butler did, the decision he made, and the dramatic developments that flowed from his contraband policy. Fortunately, these days it is much easier than it once was to learn about the complex, interesting, and revealing lives of these men and their descendants, beyond that dramatic and influential moment in May 1861 when their worlds intersected with Benjamin Butler’s. 


Elizabeth D. Leonard’s previous books include Lincoln’s Forgotten Ally: Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt of Kentucky, winner of the Lincoln Prize. 

Samantha Rosenthal on Living Queer History

In case you missed last week’s online discussion, presented as part of the Shelf Life series of virtual events from the Virginia Festival of the Book, a program of Virginia Humanities: Samantha Rosenthal discussed Living Queer History: Remembrance and Belonging in a Southern City and the LGBTQ community in Roanoke, Virginia, that their book documents and celebrates. Interweaving historical analysis, theory, and memoir, Rosenthal tells the story of their own journey—coming out and transitioning as a transgender woman—in the midst of working on a community-based history project that documented a multigenerational southern LGBTQ community. Rosenthal was in conversation with Sarah Calise.


Samantha Rosenthal is Associate Professor of History at Roanoke College and co-founder of the Southwest Virginia LGBTQ+ History Project.

“Black Faces, White Spaces” by Carolyn Finney : Now Available as an Audiobook

Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors by Carolyn Finney, a critically acclaimed bestselling UNC Press title, is now available as an audiobook via Libro.fm, Kobo, and Audible.com.

“Weaving scholarly analysis with interviews of leading black environmentalists and ordinary Americans, Finney traces the environmental legacy of slavery and Jim Crow segregation, which mapped the wilderness as a terrain of extreme terror and struggle for generations of blacks—as well as a place of refuge.”—Boston Globe

“A must-read for those who hope to make the parks matter to diverse populations.”—Sierra

Why are African Americans so underrepresented when it comes to interest in nature, outdoor recreation, and environmentalism? In this thought-provoking study, Carolyn Finney looks beyond the discourse of the environmental justice movement to examine how the natural environment has been understood, commodified, and represented by both White and Black Americans. Bridging the fields of environmental history, cultural studies, critical race studies, and geography, Finney argues that the legacies of slavery, Jim Crow, and racial violence have shaped cultural understandings of the “great outdoors” and determined who should and can have access to natural spaces. 

Drawing on a variety of sources from film, literature, and popular culture, and analyzing different historical moments, including the establishment of the Wilderness Act in 1964 and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Finney reveals the perceived and real ways in which nature and the environment are racialized in America. Looking toward the future, she also highlights the work of African Americans who are opening doors to greater participation in environmental and conservation concerns.

Carolyn Finney is assistant professor of geography at the University of Kentucky.

2022 Society of Civil War Historians Conference

UNC Press is excited to be exhibiting in-person at the 2022 Society of Civl War Historians Conference! We hope you’ll stop by our booth to say hello to editors Mark Simpson-Vos & Debbie Gershenowitz and to browse our recent titles in Civil War history. If you can’t join us in-person, please visit our virtual booth!


UNC Press is proud to publish The Journal of the Civil War Era. Be sure to stop by our booth on Friday, June 3 between 4:45 – 5:30 pm to meet with some of the JCWE editors – this is for past, current, and prospective contributors!


Stop by our virtual booth for more information and to browse all of our titles on display. Be sure to use promo code 01DAH40 at checkout to receive our 40% conference discount. And if your order totals over $75, domestic U.S. shipping is FREE.