Countdown to Memorial Day — A roundup of summer recipes from the Savor the South® cookbooks

Happy Memorial Day!

As we begin preparations for the summer’s first big blowout weekend, here’s a run-down of great summer recipe posts from the authors of UNC Press’s Savor the South® cookbooks. We hope you’ll find a recipe or two that you can add to your backyard, patio or poolside feasting this weekend.

Each little cookbook in our Savor the South® cookbook collection is a big celebration of a beloved food or tradition of the American South. From buttermilk to bourbon, pecans to peaches, bacon and barbecue to catfish and pie, one by one each volume will stock a kitchen shelf with the flavors and culinary wisdom of this popular American regional cuisine. Written by well-known cooks and food lovers, each book brims with personality, the informative and often surprising culinary and natural history of southern foodways, and a treasure of some fifty recipes—from delicious southern classics to sparkling international renditions that open up worlds of taste for cooks everywhere.

Check them all out here — including our latest releases, Pie, Ham, and FruitYou’ll want to collect them all.

Remember, you can order all of these books and save 40 percent right now, during our current online book sale.  Just use promo code 01DAH40 at checkout.

Happy Memorial Day weekend from all of us at UNC Press.

Enjoy!

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Graubart: ChickenSummer Anytime Bourbon Peach Chicken Thighs from Cynthia Graubart’s Chicken:  A Savor the South® Cookbook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shrimp cover photoShrimp Ceviche, from Jay Pierce’s Shrimp:  A Savor the South® Cookbook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barbecue Cover PhotoKaycee “Red Menace” Sauce from John Shelton Reed’s Barbecue:  A Savor the South® Cookbook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday Dinner: a Savor the South® cookbook, by Bridgette A. LacyGreen Beans with Fingerling Potatoes from Bridgette A. Lacy’s Sunday Dinner:  A Savor the South® Cookbook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buttermilk: A Savor the South Cookbook, by Debbie Moose

 

Summer Blueberry Cobbler from Debbie Moose’s Buttermilk:  A Savor the South®Cookbook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thompson: BaconSalted Caramel Bacon Brownies from Fred Thompson’s Bacon:  A Savor the South® Cookbook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peaches cover photoCaroline and David’s Peach Frozen Yogurt from Kelly Alexander’s Peaches:  A Savor the South® Cookbook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Evan Faulkenbury: What Does Tax Policy Have to Do with the Civil Rights Movement?

Poll Power: The Voter Education Project and the Movement for the Ballot in the American SouthToday we welcome a guest post from Evan Faulkenbury, author of Poll Power:  The Voter Education Project and the Movement for the Ballot in the American South, just published by UNC Press.

The civil rights movement required money. In the early 1960s, after years of grassroots organizing, civil rights activists convinced nonprofit foundations to donate in support of voter education and registration efforts. One result was the Voter Education Project (VEP), which, starting in 1962, showed far-reaching results almost immediately and organized the groundwork that eventually led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Though local power had long existed in the hundreds of southern towns and cities that saw organized civil rights action, the VEP was vital to converting that power into political motion. Evan Faulkenbury offers a much-needed explanation of the crucial role philanthropy, outside funding, and tax policy can play in the lifecycle of social movements.

Poll Power is available now in both print and ebook editions.

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What Does Tax Policy Have to Do with the Civil Rights Movement?

When I first started working on my dissertation that eventually led to my book on the Voter Education Project (VEP), my adviser, Jim Leloudis, told me to look into the Tax Reform Act of 1969. He had written about some of the law’s effects in his book, To Right These Wrongs: The North Carolina Fund and the Battle to End Poverty and Inequality in 1960s America, co-authored with Robert Korstad, and he thought it might have impacted the VEP, too. He was right. When I first set out on becoming a historian of the black freedom movement, the last thing on my mind was tax policy. But as I looked, I discovered an under-appreciated story about how congressional conservatives undermined the civil rights movement through the Tax Reform Act of 1969.

Between 1962 and 1969, the VEP helped spark and sustain a southwide registration movement, resulting in a massive shift of political power and the rise of African American political strength. White segregationist-turned-conservative politicians noticed, and being more limited in disfranchisement tactics after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, they began to follow the money trail. Their interest segued with the growth of public distrust in philanthropic foundations, especially the Ford Foundation, which in the late 1960s funded several controversial programs. Many conservative and liberal Americans alike believed that foundations often abused their tax-exempt status for personal gain, and President Richard Nixon entered office with a mandate to pursue tax reform immediately following his 1968 election. This bipartisan attitude toward reigning in philanthropic foundations afforded conservatives with the necessary cover to also attack the civil rights movement.

Continue Reading Evan Faulkenbury: What Does Tax Policy Have to Do with the Civil Rights Movement?

Author Interview: A Conversation with Samia Serageldin and Lee Smith

Mothers and StrangersSamia Serageldin and Lee Smith are the editors of a new collection of essays just published by UNC Press, Mothers and Strangers: Essays on Motherhood from the New South.

In this anthology of creative nonfiction, twenty-eight writers set out to discover what they know, and don’t know, about the person they call Mother. Celebrated writers Lee Smith and Samia Serageldin have curated a diverse and insightful collection that challenges stereotypes about mothers and expands our notions of motherhood in the South. The mothers in these essays were shaped, for good and bad, by the economic and political crosswinds of their time. Whether their formative experience was the Great Depression or the upheavals of the 1970s, their lives reflected their era and influenced how they raised their children. The writers in Mothers and Strangers explore the reliability of memory, examine their family dynamics, and come to terms with the past.

Mothers and Strangers is available now in both print and ebook editions.

As we get ready to celebrate Mother’s Day this weekend, Serageldin and Smith sat down recently with UNC Press publicity director Gina Mahalek to discuss their book.

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Q: This collection of essays focuses on the New South. Could you define exactly what the “New South” means in this case?

Samia: The New South is a broader, more inclusive, and less stereotypical view of the South that takes into account twentieth century immigration patterns from other parts of the country and from around the world. This diverse population has both integrated into the culture of the South and enriched it to create the mosaic we find today, beyond the binary of black and white.

Lee: The New South is today’s South where the writers of our book live and where most of us grew up and raised—or are raising—our own children.  This is not the fabled mythic South of yore, populated by Ladies with Help living in big white columned houses (though some of our mothers grew up there). Nor is this New South populated by Belles or Steel Magnolias or Mammies or Topsys or Scarletts or Hillbilly Hellcats or Good Ol’ Girls or any of the other tropes and stereotypes which our mothers inherited and struggled with and sometimes tried to pass on to us. (My mother even sent me down to my Aunt Gay Gay in Birmingham, Alabama for Lady Lessons.) The term “New South” means who we are now, no matter where or who we came from—though in our essays this South is necessarily viewed through the lens of our mothers’ own cultures, some of them very different from our own—such as Omid Safi’s Iranian mother, Melody Moezzi’s “Persian Mom,” Stephanie Elizondo Griest’s “chingona” mother, or Samia’s own mother, a powerful Egyptian aristocrat. Randall Kenan was raised by three wonderful “aunties” in the coastal community of Chinquapin, N.C. Clyde Edgerton was also raised by three women—his mother Truma and his aunts Lila and Oma, near Durham.  So our New South is not a snapshot, it’s a much bigger picture—it’s a quilt, a tapestry, and, like Samia said, a mosaic.

Q: How did you select the contributors?

Samia: Lee and I both had our wish list of contributors, with a view to include the iconic writers associated with Southern literature but also to encompass some more unexpected voices, as well as to achieve a balance between men and women contributors. We not only fulfilled our wish list but, as word of mouth spread, we had an embarrassment of riches to choose from.

Lee: That’s right. I too would say, friends and friends of friends, over lunch, on a walk, at yoga—this is the way women do things.

Q: Did you notice any differences in the way men and women write about mid-century Southern motherhood in this book?

Samia: If there is a difference, it may be that women tended to be more nuanced about their mothers, rarely setting them up as saints or sinners, whereas men could be more extreme, either adoring or highly critical.

Lee: I agree. Our women writers delve deeply into the complexities of the Mother Role—the “Mother knot,” as some have called it—perhaps more naturally than the men, who are often more symbolic in their images of motherhood, though just as emotional about their mothers.

Q: What was the most difficult part about writing the stories, however brief, of your own mothers for this collection?

Samia: Speaking for myself, it was two-fold: firstly, to exert strict self-discipline to resist the urge to write it all down, to describe in detail, to relate all the incidents and quirks; secondly, to guage what my mother would have wanted me to keep private and what to reveal of the journals she left behind. My mother was a private person, and for that reason, for instance, I never mention her name. I needed to respect her privacy while bringing her alive for the reader.

Q: What sorts of preconceptions about mothers are disabused by these essays?

Samia: I think they were different for each writer. Michael Malone for instance realized that his mother was actually a joyful person, in spite of the very real hardships she suffered all her life. Sharon Swanson realized that the mother she had been led to believe was emotionally fragile was no such thing. For myself, I came to appreciate just how much my mother had suffered, and how strong she had been throughout, and how much she’d tried to protect her children.

Lee: America’s traditional Hallmark conception of Motherhood (note the caps) takes a real beating in these essays.  The whole idea of motherhood is hampered by the stereotypes and preconceptions associated with it—mothers are selfless, right?  Automatically loving and giving and happy with their biological and limited role, making biscuits from scratch and sewing all our clothes, yadayada. Almost nobody had a mother like that…except me, I guess. Actually, my own sweet mother really did all these things, though she suffered terribly from depression when she quit teaching, which she had loved, to “stay home and take care of you.”

Each mother in these remarkable essays is unique, not a type, from Sally Greene’s muck-raking Texan  journalist mother; to Jill McCorkle’s mother still alive though lost to Alzheimer’s, the essay itself presented as a beautiful dialogue;  to Jaki Shelton Green’s maternal lament “I want to undie you” for her deceased daughter Amani; to Frances Mayes’ portrait of her mother Frankye, a self-absorbed belle; to Alan Shapiro’s chilling portrait of his own mother at her death…don’t forget that our title is Mothers and Strangers, right?

Q: How does the unreliable narrator come into play in this book?

Samia: Daniel Wallace and Philip Lopate, in particular, describe mothers who were unreliable narrators personified. Without giving too much away, let us just say they had to sort fact from fiction in what their mothers told about themselves and about others.

Lee: Certainly Daniel Wallace’s mother was the most unreliable narrator in this book and possibly in history—just wait until you read his essay!  But many of our mothers were unreliable narrators in one way or another, weren’t they?  They came from a time when certain things were just not talked about.  One of the Lady Lessons was, “You don’t have to tell everything you know.” So many events (such as my own grandfather’s suicide)—and even people (such as my mother’s cousin sent to the state mental hospital for being “over-sexed”)—were omitted from the family narrative.  This collection is filled with such omissions and revelations.

Q: You mention that Mothers and Strangers is about life itself. What did your work on these essays teach you in this regard?

Lee: Well, we are all writers—the writers of this book—and as writers we have all been deeply influenced by our mothers, the ones who literally gave us life through birth, surely the most intimate of all physical relationships. Hers was the first face we saw, the first voice we heard…surely this is important for a writer, how we first experience language. Who was she to us? Or we to her?  There are so many different stories here, of sons and daughters and mothers and mothering, and they are as varied and surprising as life itself… well, they ARE life itself, aren’t they?

Q: After editing this collection, do you have a different view of your mother or your childhood?

Samia: Definitely. Growing up, I had been closer to my father, and there had been considerable friction between me and my mother even when I was an adult. I had not fully appreciated her qualities, the circumstances she had to deal with or the role she had played in keeping our family together during decades of political persecution. I wish I could tell her now that I understand her better, and it was this desire to do her justice, to pay her homage, in a sense, that inspired this anthology. I suspect it was the same impulse that motivated many of our contributors as they wrote their essays.

Lee: Yes, definitely!  I had always thought that my father’s big raucous Appalachian family made me a writer, gave me my voice—those wonderful tales and anecdotes I grew up hearing long into the night, the way everything was told and retold endlessly, to everyone’s delight—the way everything became a story. But when I was editing this collection and writing about my own mother as “the outsider” in that tight-knit culture, that remote little Appalachian town—called a “foreigner” at her own funeral even though she had lived there for 60 years—I suddenly realized how very important her outside perspective had always been to me, and later to my own writing. She could see the story because she wasn’t deep inside it like the rest of them were. She could hear the story behind the story, the one they didn’t know they were telling.

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Samia Serageldin is the author of several books, including The Cairo House and Love Is Like Water, and is an editor of South Writ Large. She lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Lee Smith is the best-selling author of over a dozen books, including Dimestore: A Writer’s Life and Guests on Earth. She lives in Hillsborough, North Carolina.

Evan Faulkenbury: Who Deserves Credit for the Voting Rights Act of 1965?

Poll Power: The Voter Education Project and the Movement for the Ballot in the American SouthToday we welcome a guest post from Evan Faulkenbury, author of Poll Power:  The Voter Education Project and the Movement for the Ballot in the American South, just published by UNC Press.

The civil rights movement required money. In the early 1960s, after years of grassroots organizing, civil rights activists convinced nonprofit foundations to donate in support of voter education and registration efforts. One result was the Voter Education Project (VEP), which, starting in 1962, showed far-reaching results almost immediately and organized the groundwork that eventually led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Though local power had long existed in the hundreds of southern towns and cities that saw organized civil rights action, the VEP was vital to converting that power into political motion. Evan Faulkenbury offers a much-needed explanation of the crucial role philanthropy, outside funding, and tax policy can play in the lifecycle of social movements.

Poll Power is available now in both print and ebook editions.

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Who Deserves Credit for the Voting Rights Act of 1965?

Many of us know parts of the story. On March 7, 1965, police troopers and local white henchmen attacked peaceful protestors on the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, Alabama. Newspapers and nightly reports broadcasted violent images of wounded African Americans on the ground, shocking the nation, the world, and lawmakers in Washington, D.C. A week later, President Lyndon B. Johnson delivered an address before Congress on national television calling for new legislation to protect the franchise. Two days later, Congressmen introduced a voting rights bill in both the House and Senate, and after five months of debate and arm-twisting, President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law. History remembers many of the key players who capitalized off the horrors of Bloody Sunday to quickly pass the law, such as President Johnson, Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, Amelia Boynton, Emanuel Celler, Nicholas Katzenbach, and Everett Dirksen. And deservedly so. But history has had trouble remembering the grassroots groundswell that led to Bloody Sunday, the rising tide of black voting rights activism that swept the South beginning in mid-1962.

How did such a powerful, southwide movement begin, and why was it a factor securing the Voting Rights Act of 1965? The answer lies within the little-known history of the Voter Education Project (VEP), a small, discreet, behind-the-scenes civil rights organization headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. Housed within the progressive Southern Regional Council, the VEP formed in 1961 with help from civil rights leaders, Department of Justice officials, and philanthropic foundations. Liberal donors wanted to fund southern voting rights campaigns, but complex rules regarding federal tax-exemption delayed their charity. Meeting behind closed doors, interested parties charted a path that would enable the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to approve such a project, and in March 1962, the VEP began its work. Led initially by Wiley A. Branton (and later by Vernon Jordan and John Lewis), the VEP funded 129 separate voter registration movements across the 11 states of the Old Confederacy between 1962 and 1964, resulting in a whopping 688,000 newly registered African Americans—all before the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Continue Reading Evan Faulkenbury: Who Deserves Credit for the Voting Rights Act of 1965?

UNC Press partners with the Music Maker Foundation

UNC Press is proud to be partnering with the Music Maker Relief Foundation, a local North Carolina non-profit that was founded to protect the soul of America’s music by directly supporting traditional blues, gospel, jazz and folk musicians, so their voices will not be silenced by poverty and time. Music Maker ensures that our cultural heritage is passed on to the next generation through performance, exhibitions, documentation and education.

Check out their mission video here:

You can learn more about the foundation and their work at their website.

UNC Press has just published three books in conjunction with the foundation:

Blue Muse, Music Makers, and We Are the Music Makers! are all available now in both print and ebook editions.  And you can save 40 percent and get free shipping by using the promo code 01DAH40 on our website during our current online promotion.

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Timothy Duffy‘s photography is held in the permanent collections of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the New Orleans Museum of Art, and the Morris Museum of Art, among other museums and institutions. With his wife, Denise, he is cofounder of the Music Maker Relief Foundation. He lives in Hillsborough, North Carolina.

Cheryl Shelton-Roberts: The Geography of Hope: Restoring North Carolina’s Lighthouses

North Carolina Lighthouses, Revised and Expanded EditionToday we welcome a guest post from Cheryl Shelton-Roberts, co-author with Bruce Roberts, of the revised and expanded edition of North Carolina Lighthouses:  The Stories Behind the Beacons from Cape Fear to Currituck Beach, just published by UNC Press.

Of the over four dozen lighthouses that once marked the jagged shoreline of North Carolina, only nine still stand, watching over 300 miles of coast. These beacons are cherished monuments of North Carolina history. In addition to warning ships to safer waters, they now draw thousands of visitors each year. With this book, co-founders of the Outer Banks Lighthouse Society Cheryl Shelton-Roberts and Bruce Roberts provide a well-researched, human-centered, and beautifully illustrated history of these towering structures. The authors offer stories—including the misadventures of Civil War spies and the threat of looming German U-boats off the North Carolina coast—that provide important context and meaning to the history of North Carolina’s lighthouses. From Cape Fear to Currituck Beach, every still-standing lighthouse is lovingly described alongside their architects, builders, and keepers and the sailors who depended on the lighthouses to keep them from harm.

North Carolina Lighthouses is available now in both print and ebook editions.

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The Geography of Hope: Restoring North Carolina’s Lighthouses

Wallace Stegner, explorer of the American West and committed conservationist, remarked that national parks were a necessity in his far-reaching 1960 Coda: Wilderness Letter, “We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in. For it can be a means of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures a part of the geography of hope…. The reminder and the reassurance that it is still there is good for our spiritual health even if we never once in ten years set foot in it….”

The same type of experience as Stegner advocated can be had by visiting a North Carolina lighthouse while experiencing its ability to season our good humor with salty air; in fact, five of North Carolina’s nine lighthouses reside within national seashores while the others are also surrounded by water and abundant nature.

We might not be able to climb a tower, but we can stand in its imposing shadow and study its graceful details, explore its history, learn about our ties to its maritime past.

Continue Reading Cheryl Shelton-Roberts: The Geography of Hope: Restoring North Carolina’s Lighthouses

Cheryl Shelton-Roberts: North Carolina Lighthouses

North Carolina Lighthouses, Revised and Expanded EditionToday we welcome a guest post from Cheryl Shelton-Roberts, co-author with Bruce Roberts, of the revised and expanded edition of North Carolina Lighthouses:  The Stories Behind the Beacons from Cape Fear to Currituck Beach, just published by UNC Press.

Of the over four dozen lighthouses that once marked the jagged shoreline of North Carolina, only nine still stand, watching over 300 miles of coast. These beacons are cherished monuments of North Carolina history. In addition to warning ships to safer waters, they now draw thousands of visitors each year. With this book, co-founders of the Outer Banks Lighthouse Society Cheryl Shelton-Roberts and Bruce Roberts provide a well-researched, human-centered, and beautifully illustrated history of these towering structures. The authors offer stories—including the misadventures of Civil War spies and the threat of looming German U-boats off the North Carolina coast—that provide important context and meaning to the history of North Carolina’s lighthouses. From Cape Fear to Currituck Beach, every still-standing lighthouse is lovingly described alongside their architects, builders, and keepers and the sailors who depended on the lighthouses to keep them from harm.

North Carolina Lighthouses is available now in both print and ebook editions.

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North Carolina Lighthouses

I have been visiting lighthouses since I was six months old, my mother has told me. Raised as a beach-going, tree-climbing, book-loving kid, lighthouses were a natural draw for me. In fact, some favorite things that Bruce Roberts and I instantly shared when we met in 1991 was love of travel, photography, and—yes, you guessed it—lighthouses. He had already completed Southern Lighthouses and was working on West Coast Lighthouses at that time while he was director of photography and senior photographer for Southern Living magazine. I was teaching full time, creating academically gifted curriculum for intermediate elementary students. Six months into our friendship, Bruce called me from a pay telephone at the McDonald Observatory when I was taking a summer graduate course at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. He had tracked me down to pitch the idea of helping him with his book projects. I could barely hear him due to noise on the phone lines between Virginia and Texas, and I caught only every third word he spoke. But I got enough details to determine that I was being asked if I would consider including him and lighthouses in my future. I think I said, “Yes,” because, since then, we have photographed lighthouses on both coasts of the United States and Canada, the Great Lakes, and the Gulf Coast while gathering research and oral histories with keepers’ descendants for more than a dozen books.

When I proposed a rewritten and expanded edition of North Carolina Lighthouses: The Stories Behind the Beacons from Cape Fear to Currituck Beach to UNC Press, I felt confident that my problem would not be any lack for material … it would be the time-consuming task of sifting through my extensive collections to choose the most important details and interesting stories to include.

When I began researching North Carolina lighthouses thirty years ago, I honestly had no idea of the scope of history to which I’d be treated. They are just brick and mortar, right? Not quite. To our delight, Bruce and I have learned more American history than in any other educational experience on our research trips to study lighthouses. Our explorations led us to two National Archives and yielded frequent communication with librarians in numerous states as well as photographers, authors, lighthouse friends’ groups, and oral history interviews with keepers’ descendants who were born and raised at light stations.

Continue Reading Cheryl Shelton-Roberts: North Carolina Lighthouses

Author Interview: Lawrence N. Powell on the Power of Historical Memory

Troubled Memory, Second EditionLawrence N. Powell is professor emeritus of history at Tulane University and a founding member of the Louisiana Coalition against Racism and Nazism.  The new Second Edition of his book, Troubled Memory: Anne Levy, the Holocaust, and David Duke’s Louisiana, has just been published by UNC Press.

Troubled Memory tells the story of Anne Skorecki Levy, a Holocaust survivor who transformed the horrors of her childhood into a passionate mission to defeat the political menace of reputed neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. The first book to connect the prewar and wartime experiences of Jewish survivors to the lives they subsequently made for themselves in the United States, the book is also a dramatic testament to how the experiences of survivors as new Americans spurred their willingness to bear witness. Perhaps the only family to survive the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto as a group, the Skoreckis evaded deportation to Treblinka by posing as Aryans. The family eventually made their way to New Orleans, where they became part of a vibrant Jewish community. Lawrence Powell traces their dramatic odyssey and explores the events that eventually triggered Anne Skorecki Levy’s brave decision to honor the suffering of the past by confronting the recurring specter of racist hatred.

Here, Powell answers questions from UNC Press publicity director Gina Mahalek about the power of the individual to take a stand against intolerance.

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One can only hope that a history, told honestly and without preachiness, still possesses the power to shape the values of young people. It’s why a lot of us became professional historians.

Q: Troubled Memory, which was first published in 2000, tells the story of Anne Skorecki Levy, a Holocaust survivor who launched a passionate mission to defeat reputed neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. What was the response to the first edition?

A: The first edition was very well received, both in Louisiana and nationwide. An author always hopes for boundless sales, which, of course, rarely happens with university press books. But I have no complaints about how well Troubled Memory did out of the gate.

Q: Why is it time for a second edition?

A: American, not to mention global, politics have taken a dangerous turn in the last five years. And it’s gotten especially worse since the 2016 presidential election. I felt it was time to remind readers of the perilous path the country is hurtling down, what with the pell-mell erosion of democratic norms and the explosion of racial hate and xenophobic scapegoating. There is no question but that hate crimes are spiking, and white nationalism is on the march. Despite his many denials, Donald Trump is the glue holding the fractured racist movements together. The best antidote, in my opinion, is a mobilized opposition. To that end, it’s useful to be reminded that ordinary people can still make a difference.

Troubled Memory is a saga of family survival in the midst of a world-historical tragedy that seeks to understand how historical memory can empower personal courage. Josef Stalin once cynically observed that the murder of a million is a statistic, but the death of a single individual is a tragedy. That’s why Troubled Memory tries to make the survival of one family and an extraordinary daughter do the work of recounting the story of six million.

Continue Reading Author Interview: Lawrence N. Powell on the Power of Historical Memory

Alexander Rocklin: Draupadi through the Fire

The Regulation of Religion and the Making of Hinduism in Colonial Trinidad by Alexander RocklinToday we welcome a guest post from Alexander Rocklin, author of The Regulation of Religion and the Making of Hinduism in Colonial Trinidad, just published this month by UNC Press.

How can religious freedom be granted to people who do not have a religion? While Indian indentured workers in colonial Trinidad practiced cherished rituals, “Hinduism” was not a widespread category in India at the time. On this Caribbean island, people of South Asian descent and African descent came together—under the watchful eyes of the British rulers—to walk on hot coals for fierce goddesses, summon spirits of the dead, or honor Muslim martyrs, practices that challenged colonial norms for religion and race. Drawing deeply on colonial archives, Alexander Rocklin examines the role of the category of religion in the regulation of the lives of Indian laborers struggling for autonomy.

The Regulation of Religion and the Making of Hinduism in Colonial Trinidad is available now in both print and ebook editions.

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Draupadi through the Fire

In August 2018, at a People’s National Movement (or PNM) Sports and Family Day gathering in Tabaquite, a majority Indian Trinidadian area in central Trinidad, PNM members put on a skit portraying a dancer in a yellow sari being disrobed by two men in red gorilla costumes (fully revealing a red PNM shirt underneath the sari). In Trinidad and Tobago national politics, red is the color of the PNM (the party in power in 2018). The PNM is popularly identified as looking after the interests of Afro-Trinbagonian. The color yellow is the color of the United National Congress (the UNC), a party most often identified with Indo-Trinbagonians. (Although it should be noted that both parties have leadership and membership from various ethnoracial groups on the islands). Tabaquite PNM constituency Chairman Curtis Shade explained later that the skit was not meant to be insulting, racist, or to depict violence. It was meant to portray Tabaquite’s movement “away from the yellow of the UNC to the joyful red of the PNM;”[1] that is, it showed Tabaquite’s Indo-Trinidadians’s new support for the PNM. This, however, was not how it was interpreted by some. Critics of the skit focused on its portrayal of violence against women and the reification of ethnoracial tensions in the twin-island nation, [2] and many UNC-allied critics focused specifically on religious insult to Indo-Trinbagonians. These critics followed a variety of avenues to mount a convincing case that the PNM insulted Indian religion in order to elicit an apology, ultimately tying the events of the skit to the epic protagonist Draupadi. Examining the changing fortunes of Draupadi in colonial Trinidad will allow us to flesh out a longer history of the politics of Hinduism and the category religion informing this incident. It was through a textually oriented ideal of religion, and not an insult to Draupadi herself, I will argue, that was the basis for offense in this case.

By convincingly tying the skit’s insult to a “sacred text,” critics were ultimately able to elicit an apology from Prime Minster Dr. Keith Rowley and the PNM. Specifically, they compared the skit to the scene of the disrobing of Draupadi from the Indian epic the Mahabharata. A letter to the editor of the Trinidad Express from the pundit Satyanand Maharaj, published the day after the skit’s performance read: “At the PNM national event the Hindu population was horrified as a scene from the Mahabharata was played out with negative religious and racial overtones. As a practising Hindu pundit I stood aghast, frozen in one spot as a group describing themselves as PNM Gorillas disrobed what appeared as a defenceless woman in a yellow sari. This scene is identical to [that] of the disrobing of Drupadi in the Mahabharata.” [3]

At a PNM political meeting held at the Malabar Community Centre, almost a week after the skit, Rowley finally issued an apology, recognizing the religious hurt to the Indo-Trinbagonian Hindu community. “Tonight, on behalf of the People’s National Movement and all concerned, I unreservedly apologise to the Hindu community.” Rowley said he had not heard the story of the Mahabharata before, but now knew that the skit had mirrored the disrobing scene.[4] Rowley said that he had learned that the Mahabharata was “a serious, spiritual, religious expression, of something that is extremely significant to the Hindu population” and that the skit was a “serious insult to their religious mythology” and he now understood “how deeply hurt and offended they were.”[5] The successful transfiguration of the skit into a reference to a rarefied “sacred text” or “mythology,” understood to be the very basis for religious beliefs and practices, is what made the claim to hurt convincingly “religious” in nature in this context (an argument among elites on the national stage).Continue Reading Alexander Rocklin: Draupadi through the Fire

UNC Press Receives NEH/Mellon Humanities Open Book Program Grant

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The University of North Carolina Press has received a Humanities Open Book Program grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to reissue out-of-print works from the UNC Studies in Germanic Languages and Literatures series.

The Press will partner with UNC Chapel Hill’s Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and the UNC Library on the initiative which will republish more than 120 monographs, translations, and critical editions. This is the first time these works will be available in digital editions, which will be free in open access PDF and EPUB formats, as well as in new paperback editions.

“We are very thankful for the generous support of the NEH and Mellon that will enable us to bring this body of work back into print,” said John McLeod, director of the Office of Scholarly Publishing Services at UNC Press. “We are also excited to be working on this initiative with our partners in the library and the department.”

The series was started by the Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages in 1953, and it published scholarship in the Germanic languages for more than fifty years, covering an array of topics including medieval and modern literature, theater, linguistics, philology, onomastics, and the history of ideas.

Continue Reading UNC Press Receives NEH/Mellon Humanities Open Book Program Grant

Aram Goudsouzian: Politics, Old and New

The Men and the MomentToday we welcome a guest post from Aram Goudsouzian, author of The Men and the Moment:  The Election of 1968 and the Rise of Partisan Politics in America, just published by UNC Press.

The presidential election of 1968 forever changed American politics. In this character-driven narrative history, Aram Goudsouzian portrays the key transformations that played out over that dramatic year. It was the last “Old Politics” campaign, where political machines and party bosses determined the major nominees, even as the “New Politics” of grassroots participation powered primary elections. It was an election that showed how candidates from both the Left and Right could seize on “hot-button” issues to alter the larger political dynamic. It showcased the power of television to “package” politicians and political ideas, and it played out against an extraordinary dramatic global tableau of chaos and conflict. More than anything else, it was a moment decided by a contest of political personalities, as a group of men battled for the presidency, with momentous implications for the nation’s future. Well-paced, accessible, and engagingly written, Goudsouzian’s book chronicles anew the characters and events of the 1968 campaign as an essential moment in American history, one with clear resonance in our contemporary political moment.

The Men and the Moment is avaialble now in both print and ebook editions.

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Politics, Old and New

Throughout the presidential election of 1968, pundits buzzed about the “New Politics.” The term had no single meaning, but it adopted special significance amidst that year’s great upheavals. At heart, the New Politics represented a new way of selecting party nominees for the presidency – by taking politics right to the people. Although no candidate of the New Politics triumphed in 1968, the trend had profound implications for the nation’s future, showcasing both the promises and perils of popular democracy.

Under the “Old Politics,” party insiders controlled the nominating process. Only a handful of states had open primaries, where popular votes determined the delegation at the national party convention. In other states, a prominent politician ran as a “favorite son,” so he could control those delegates and trade political favors. In still other states, the primaries were “beauty contests,” with no effect on the actual delegation. Many states had no primary at all – just a convention of party officials. So the national delegates tended to be products of the party bureaucracy, often more loyal to party leaders than popular preference.

Continue Reading Aram Goudsouzian: Politics, Old and New

Alexander Rocklin: Caravan Politics

The Regulation of Religion and the Making of Hinduism in Colonial Trinidad by Alexander RocklinToday we welcome a guest post from Alexander Rocklin, author of The Regulation of Religion and the Making of Hinduism in Colonial Trinidad, just published this month by UNC Press.

How can religious freedom be granted to people who do not have a religion? While Indian indentured workers in colonial Trinidad practiced cherished rituals, “Hinduism” was not a widespread category in India at the time. On this Caribbean island, people of South Asian descent and African descent came together—under the watchful eyes of the British rulers—to walk on hot coals for fierce goddesses, summon spirits of the dead, or honor Muslim martyrs, practices that challenged colonial norms for religion and race. Drawing deeply on colonial archives, Alexander Rocklin examines the role of the category of religion in the regulation of the lives of Indian laborers struggling for autonomy.

The Regulation of Religion and the Making of Hinduism in Colonial Trinidad is available now in both print and ebook editions.

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Caravan Politics: Massacres and Islamophobia in the History of the Americas

On January 18th, 2019, during the government shutdown, President Donald Trump tweeted a quote from an unnamed rancher on the US Mexico border claiming, “We’ve found prayer rugs out here. It’s unreal.” The president went on to write that migrants were crossing “the Southern Border from many countries, some of which would be a big surprise.”[1] Trump was using this rumor as a dog whistle to spark Islamophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment to drum up support for a wall along the southern border. Months earlier, in the lead up to 2018 midterm elections, the Trump administration had again attempted to play on voters’ fears of illegal immigration by hyping the supposed danger of a migrant “caravan” coming to the US from Honduras, the arrival of which, they claimed, threatened the very fabric of American society. They made the (unfounded) claim that Islamic terrorists were using the migrant caravan as cover to sneak into the country. This played into ongoing Islamophobic, anti-Latinx, and antisemitic hatred on the right of the American political spectrum. Trump tweeted about the caravan that, “Criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in. I have alerted Border Patrol and Military that this is a National Emergy [sic].”[2] This was echoed by Vice President Mike Pence, who, in his comments, specifically referred to the threat coming from Middle Eastern terrorists at the US/Mexico border.[3] These conspiracy theories about hidden non-white, non-American, and non-Christian invaders has helped to justify Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s harsh treatment of vulnerable groups fleeing violence in Central America and looking for new opportunities in the US. It also has helped to fuel racist violence like the attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 27th, 2018 by a white supremacist who massacred 11 people. However, although islamophobia and anti-immigrant sentiments are pervasive in our political discourse, the conflation of the two is not new.

The details and uses of these conspiracy theories about the caravan in the 21st century have echoes in a longer history of Islamophobia and white supremacy in the Anglophone Americas and beyond. In the 19th century, media in England and British colonies in the Caribbean repeated narratives of secret Muslim invaders from afar bent on using large processions of people as cover to attack the social order. As I discuss in chapter 3 of my book, The Regulation of Religion and the Making of Hinduism in Colonial Trinidad, such stories helped to justify the repression and close control, and even the killing, of vulnerable colonized and unfree laboring populations like Indian indentured laborers in the Caribbean colonies of Trinidad and British Guiana.

Continue Reading Alexander Rocklin: Caravan Politics

Author Interview: A conversation with Kathleen Sprows Cummings, author of A Saint of Our Own

Kathleen Sprows Cummings is the author of A Saint of Our Own:  How the Quest for a Holy Hero Helped Catholics Become American, just published by UNC Press.

A Saint of Our Own by Kathleen Sprows CummingsWhat drove U.S. Catholics in their arduous quest, full of twists and turns over more than a century, to win an American saint? The absence of American names in the canon of the saints had left many of the faithful feeling spiritually unmoored. But while canonization may be fundamentally about holiness, it is never only about holiness, reveals Kathleen Sprows Cummings in this panoramic, passionate chronicle of American sanctity. Catholics had another reason for petitioning the Vatican to acknowledge an American holy hero. A home-grown saint would serve as a mediator between heaven and earth, yes, but also between Catholicism and American culture. Cummings’s vision of American sanctity shows just how much Catholics had at stake in cultivating devotion to men and women perched at the nexus of holiness and American history—until they finally felt little need to prove that they belonged.

A Saint of Our Own is available now in both print and ebook editions.

Cummings recently sat down with UNC Press publicist Alison Shay to discuss the book.

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Q: What has motivated U.S. Catholics’ search for a saint of their own?

A: The primary reason U.S. Catholics began to seek a saint of their own in the 1880s was spiritual. Through canonization, the church affirms that the saint, having practiced certain virtues to a heroic degree, passed immediately upon death into the company of God and all the saints, where he or she is an advocate for and inspiration to the faithful on earth. In asking the Holy See to certify that a man or woman who had once lived in the United States now dwelled in God’s eternal presence, U.S. Catholics hoped to gain a saint with whom they could claim a special connection.

But if U.S. Catholics believed securing a saint of their own would draw them a little closer to heaven, they also hoped it would increase their standing in the eyes of the universal church. In naming a U.S. saint, the Holy See would be acknowledging that Catholic holiness could indeed thrive in a religiously diverse culture such as America—and that the church in the United States had acquired the resources and influence required to sponsor causes for canonization.

Finally, U.S. Catholics believed that their non-Catholic fellow citizens would also be impressed by the stories of U.S. candidates for canonization, men and women who had also been significant figures in American history. In emphasizing the ways that holy heroes had helped build the nation, U.S. Catholics hoped to persuade an often-skeptical Protestant public that Catholics could be loyal American citizens.

Q: What do you mean when you say that this quest helped Catholics become American? How did prospective saints help integrate Catholics into American life?

A: Canonization may be fundamentally about holiness, but it is never only about holiness. In the United States, it was often about the ways in which Catholics defined, defended, and celebrated their identities as Americans. Saint-seekers nominated candidates for canonization based not only on the virtues they were said to have practiced, but also on the national values they were understood to have epitomized. While the Catholic criteria held constant, American ideals fluctuated dramatically between the 1880s and 2015—a factor that helps to explain both why the search for a U.S. patron saint is so revealing, and why it ended in a way that would have surprised those who had launched it in the first place.

For nearly a century, U.S. Catholics’ search for a patron saint had sustained them as they struggled to gain a voice in their church and a comfortable place in their nation. By the 1970s, there was no question that U.S. Catholics exercised a powerful influence at the Holy See and throughout American government, culture, and society. By then it would be divisions among U.S. Catholics, rather than the differences between them and their fellow citizens, that would be the driving force in canonization. Unlike those of the past, today’s saint-seekers rarely project their American stories on their favorite saints. Instead they are more inclined to use saints’ stories to express where they position themselves as Catholics, especially on divisive issues involving gender and sexuality.

Continue Reading Author Interview: A conversation with Kathleen Sprows Cummings, author of A Saint of Our Own

Ali Altaf Mian: Who is Allah? Islamic Diversity for Muslims and non-Muslims

Today we welcome a guest post from Ali Altaf Mian, assistant professor of Islamic studies at Seattle University.  Today he writes about Who is Allah? by Bruce B. Lawrence, a book he has been assigning students in his courses.  The paperback edition of Who is Allah? will be released in July by UNC Press.

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Who is Allah? Islamic Diversity for Muslims and non-Muslims 

Who Is Allah? by Bruce B. LawrenceBruce B. Lawrence’s sustained reflections on Allah have repeatedly helped me to introduce students to the affective texture of lived Islam. Lawrence invites us to listen attentively to diverse embodiments of Islam. He studies how Allah is invoked by tongues, defined by minds, and remembered by hearts but also how Allah is debated in public, in print, and online, by writers, by artists, by ideologues.

Who is Allah? models important habits of thinking critically but also creatively about religion and the key terms we often associate with it, from belief and ritual to violence and evil. The book never fails to generate productive conversations in the classroom because it encourages Muslims and non-Muslims readers alike to look for Allah, to study how religious signifiers matter, often in unexpected places.

Can you see Allah in embodied settings that transcend theological arguments and jurisprudential dicta? How does Allah reside in the mystic’s heart but also in the terrorist’s cell? How does Allah flow on the poet’s tongue but also on the ideologue’s website?

Continue Reading Ali Altaf Mian: Who is Allah? Islamic Diversity for Muslims and non-Muslims

David J. Neumann: Karma

Finding God Through Yoga by David J. NeumannToday we welcome a guest post from David J. Neumann, author of Finding God through Yoga:  Paramahansa Yogananda and Modern American Religion in a Global Age, just published by UNC Press.

Paramahansa Yogananda (1893–1952), a Hindu missionary to the United States, wrote one of the world’s most highly acclaimed spiritual classics, Autobiography of a Yogi, which was first published in 1946 and continues to be one of the best-selling spiritual philosophy titles of all time. In this critical biography, David Neumann tells the story of Yogananda’s fascinating life while interpreting his position in religious history, transnational modernity, and American culture. Beginning with Yogananda’s spiritual investigations in his native India, Neumann tells how this early “global guru” emigrated to the United States in 1920 and established his headquarters, the Self-Realization Fellowship, in Los Angeles, where it continues today.

Finding God through Yoga is available now in both print and ebook editions.

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Karma

Among the many concepts from sacred Indian tradition that have made their way into American popular culture, perhaps none is as pervasive as karma. Not surprisingly, common understanding of karma as a rigid cosmic law of cause and effect reflects a lack of nuance.

For one example of such popular misunderstanding, consider Alicia Keys’ song “Karma,” which moved to the top of the charts after its 2003 release. The song is addressed to a former lover who broke up with her. She had begged him to stay, but he said “the love was gone.” But the tables have turned; he has changed his mind and now he is the one “cryin’, desirin’ to come back.” In Keys’ view, the suffering her ex-lover experiences after having inflicted so much pain on her is perfect, unrelenting karmic justice: “What goes around, comes around/What goes up, must come down,” the refrain proclaims four times during the song.

This idea of an inexorable, impersonal force of judgment is not a complete misunderstanding of Hindu thought. Swami Vivekananda, one of the most important figures in popularizing Hinduism in the United States around the turn of the twentieth-century, emphatically stated, “Our Karma determines what we deserve and what we can assimilate. We are responsible for what we are; and whatever we wish ourselves to be, we have the power to make ourselves.”

Continue Reading David J. Neumann: Karma

Wendy Gonaver: Jailing People with Mental Illness, Part 2

The Peculiar Institution and the Making of Modern Psychiatry, 1840–1880Today we welcome a second guest post from Wendy Gonaver, author of The Peculiar Institution and the Making of Modern Psychiatry, 1840–1880, just published this month by UNC Press.  You can read the first installment here.

Though the origins of asylums can be traced to Europe, the systematic segregation of the mentally ill into specialized institutions occurred in the Unites States only after 1800, just as the struggle to end slavery took hold. In this book, Wendy Gonaver examines the relationship between these two historical developments, showing how slavery and ideas about race shaped early mental health treatment in the United States, especially in the South. She reveals these connections through the histories of two asylums in Virginia: the Eastern Lunatic Asylum in Williamsburg, the first in the nation; and the Central Lunatic Asylum in Petersburg, the first created specifically for African Americans. Eastern Lunatic Asylum was the only institution to accept both slaves and free blacks as patients and to employ slaves as attendants.

The Peculiar Institution and the Making of Modern Psychiatry, 1840–1880 is available in both print and ebook editions.

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Jailing People with Mental Illness, Part 2

Dorothea Dix marveled at the liberties extended to patients at the Eastern Lunatic Asylum, but was shocked by the authority entrusted to enslaved attendants. These attendants were the gatekeepers and guardians of the room keys; they grew, prepared, and delivered the food; they initiated and took patients on excursions; they bathed and shaved patients who were willing but unable to attend to personal hygiene. Most controversially, enslaved attendants were authorized to seize unruly patients—black and white—and subject them to restraint, showers, and isolation, as well as forcibly administer medication and food on the doctor’s orders. It was not the injustice of uncompensated labor to which Dix objected; she didn’t earn a wage for her advocacy work and recommended that Superintendent John M. Galt employ nuns. Her concern stemmed from her belief that African Americans lacked the ability to provide exemplary moral care.

As someone who looked favorably upon the Dred Scott decision in which the Supreme Court ruled that African Americans, whether free on enslaved, were not and could never be U.S. citizens, the close contact between black and white Virginians offended Dix. She was not alone in this regard. Prominent northern superintendents also disapproved of the anomalous governance of the Williamsburg asylum. They disparaged the institution at professional meetings, in the pages of the American Journal of Insanity, and in private letters to one another and to politicians responsible for funding asylum construction. Superintendent Galt countered these criticisms with assurances that the enslaved staff was trustworthy. He also insisted that asylums were ethically obligated to accept all needy patients without regard to race or social class.

Galt complicated his effort to persuade colleagues of the merits of racially mixed institutions by simultaneously publishing essays decrying the alleged abuse of the South by the North over the issue of slavery. Whatever their opinions about slavery, northern superintendents perceived that the presence of black patients on the wards would denote pauper disgrace to their white clientele.

Continue Reading Wendy Gonaver: Jailing People with Mental Illness, Part 2

David J. Neumann: What is Yoga? Who is a Yogi?

Finding God Through Yoga by David J. NeumannToday we welcome a guest post from David J. Neumann, author of Finding God through Yoga:  Paramahansa Yogananda and Modern American Religion in a Global Age, just published by UNC Press.

Paramahansa Yogananda (1893–1952), a Hindu missionary to the United States, wrote one of the world’s most highly acclaimed spiritual classics, Autobiography of a Yogi, which was first published in 1946 and continues to be one of the best-selling spiritual philosophy titles of all time. In this critical biography, David Neumann tells the story of Yogananda’s fascinating life while interpreting his position in religious history, transnational modernity, and American culture. Beginning with Yogananda’s spiritual investigations in his native India, Neumann tells how this early “global guru” emigrated to the United States in 1920 and established his headquarters, the Self-Realization Fellowship, in Los Angeles, where it continues today.

Finding God through Yoga is available now in both print and ebook editions.

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What is Yoga? Who is a Yogi?

Yoga has become an inescapable facet of contemporary life around the world. The U.N. declaration of International Yoga Day in 2015 serves as a fitting symbol of the global spread of this popular practice.

The establishment of this annual yoga commemoration was largely due to the efforts of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a tireless promoter of Indian tradition. In acknowledging the UN’s decision, he waxed poetic about India’s gift of yoga to the world, offering a capacious definition of yoga practice.

“Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. This tradition is 5000 years old. It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfilment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature.”

Continue Reading David J. Neumann: What is Yoga? Who is a Yogi?

Aline Helg: Slave runaway communities: the ongoing struggle

Slave No More by Aline HelgToday we welcome a guest post from Aline Helg, author of Slave No More:  Self-Liberation before Abolitionism in the Americas, just published this month by UNC Press.

Commanding a vast historiography of slavery and emancipation, Helg reveals as never before how significant numbers of enslaved Africans across the entire Western Hemisphere managed to free themselves hundreds of years before the formation of white-run abolitionist movements. Her sweeping view of resistance and struggle covers more than three centuries, from early colonization to the American and Haitian revolutions, Spanish American independence, and abolition in the British Caribbean. Helg not only underscores the agency of those who managed to become “free people of color” before abolitionism took hold but also assesses in detail the specific strategies they created and utilized.

Slave No More is available in both print and ebook editions.

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Slave runaway communities: the ongoing struggle

Today, descendants of slave runaway communities all over the Americas struggle for survival on land that their ancestors worked on for generations after their successful flight to freedom. In the Blue Mountains of Jamaica, the Pacific lowlands of Colombia and Ecuador, the forests of Suriname, and throughout Brazil, they realize that their subsistence is once more under tremendous threats. The legal gains they made in the 1990s and 2000s, when new national constitutions and international court rulings recognized their cultural and territorial ownership rights, are under the attack of the very States supposed to protect them. In the name of national development, States allow, discretely or explicitly, national and multinational companies to invade their lands and launch mining, logging, and other extractive activities. These invasions jeopardize the livelihood of the descendants of slave runaway communities and generate violence, including the murder of their leaders and forced displacement. They also present global environmental threats, as they contribute to the destruction of forests and lowlands today considered ecological sanctuaries.

Slave runaway communities originated in the transatlantic slave trade that disembarked a total of over ten million enslaved Africans alive, to work in plantations, mines and all kinds of production and services. In fact, until the early nineteenth century, forcibly deported Africans were almost four times more numerous to arrive in the Americas than European colonists. As a result, whites were a minority in a population mostly comprised of Amerindians, Africans and their descendants. Moreover, colonization went along with slavery, and in the process large numbers of enslaved Africans managed to escape their harsh conditions and headed for the interior, into uninhabited or Amerindian territories. Throughout the continent and the Caribbean islands, runaway slaves, sometimes with indigenous peoples and other fugitives, fashioned settlements known as maroon communities in English, palenques in Spanish, and quilombos in Portuguese.

Continue Reading Aline Helg: Slave runaway communities: the ongoing struggle

American History Sale 2019 — Save 40 percent on all UNC Press books!

UNC Press American HIstory Sale

It’s that time of the year again, time to celebrate American History and our great list of new UNC Press books.

We are extremely excited about our new American History books, and as a gift to you, we’ve put them all on sale!  To see our full selection of books in American History, visit the sale page on the UNC Press website. Use discount code 01DAH40 at checkout to see your discount, and if your order total is $75 or more, we’ll ship it for free!

Oh, and by the way . . . you can use the promo code 01DAH40 to save on ANY UNC Press print book, in any subject!

Here’s a small sample of our newest American History titles.

Visit the sale page for the full list.

Happy shopping!


Wendy Gonaver: Jailing People with Mental Illness, Part 1

The Peculiar Institution and the Making of Modern Psychiatry, 1840–1880Today we welcome the first of two guest posts from Wendy Gonaver, author of The Peculiar Institution and the Making of Modern Psychiatry, 1840–1880, just published this month by UNC Press.

Though the origins of asylums can be traced to Europe, the systematic segregation of the mentally ill into specialized institutions occurred in the Unites States only after 1800, just as the struggle to end slavery took hold. In this book, Wendy Gonaver examines the relationship between these two historical developments, showing how slavery and ideas about race shaped early mental health treatment in the United States, especially in the South. She reveals these connections through the histories of two asylums in Virginia: the Eastern Lunatic Asylum in Williamsburg, the first in the nation; and the Central Lunatic Asylum in Petersburg, the first created specifically for African Americans. Eastern Lunatic Asylum was the only institution to accept both slaves and free blacks as patients and to employ slaves as attendants.

The Peculiar Institution and the Making of Modern Psychiatry, 1840–1880 is available in both print and ebook editions.

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Jailing People with Mental Illness, Part 1

Prisons have become the primary providers of psychiatric treatment for many Americans much as they were in the 1840s when the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane, the organization that eventually became the American Psychiatric Association, was founded. Then as now, prisons were not designed to provide mental health care. A 2015 Human Rights Watch report documents the consequences of this incongruity: delusional prisoners unable to follow strict rules and commands are subjected to excessive force with alarming frequency. A particularly brutal case in point that made national headlines in 2012 was that of Darren Rainey, a 50-year-old schizophrenic man who died at Florida’s Dade Correctional Institution after being locked in a scalding shower for over an hour by guards who were angry that he had defecated on his cell floor. Rainey did not have access to the temperature controls. Witnesses later testified that he begged to be let out before collapsing.

The abuse of mentally disabled prisoners is a familiar story that was first popularized by reformer Dorothea Dix in 1842. Disgusted by the widespread use of restraints, incidents of sexual assault, and the practice of convict leasing, Dix goaded legislators to fix the faulty policies that had produced this humanitarian crisis. State and federal governments responded by building asylums. By the end of the 1850s, there were 29 public asylums in operation throughout the country. In theory if not always in practice, these institutions offered a gentler approach to managing mental illness. Asylum Superintendents sought to minimize the use of restraints, relying instead on positive inducements to encourage temperate behavior and the calming influence of a carefully conceived environment.

So why didn’t the proliferation of asylums in the nineteenth century solve the problem of mentally ill people being held and mistreated in prisons? Explanations for the current crisis commonly cite gradual disillusionment with the curative potential promised by early asylum boosters, followed by equally unrealistic expectations beginning in the 1950s that drugs like chlorpromazine would make costly residential institutions redundant. Missing from this account, however, is the role of race in the advent and demise of American asylums.

Continue Reading Wendy Gonaver: Jailing People with Mental Illness, Part 1