Interview: Brian Tochterman on the “Summer of Hell”

Brian Tochterman, author of The Dying City: Postwar New York and the Ideology of Fear, talks with publicity director Gina Mahalek about what E.B. White, Mickey Spillane, Death Wish, hip-hop, and the “Summer of Hell” have in common.

cover photo for tochtermanGina Mahalek: Where are you from and how did you get interested in this topic?

Brian Tochterman: I grew up in the Midwest, Green Bay, Wisconsin to be exact, and on a whim I moved to New York City a few months after I graduated from college. You could say that, in some respects, I embodied the kind of dreamer that E.B. White wrote about in “Here is New York”—I wanted to work in film production. That proved a bit of a dead-end, and New York being New York, I needed a job if I wanted to stay. I worked for NYC Parks Department for a few years under Giuliani and Bloomberg before going to graduate school to study urban planning— an interest that grew out of my experience across the five boroughs.

Whenever I’d go back to Green Bay and run into family and old friends they’d ask, “Isn’t it scary living in New York?” I often heard that from people who had never been to New York. At that time, though, it was already the safest large city in the country. As I matriculated through graduate school, first in planning and then studying history, I became interested in how that image evolved. How could someone who never encountered a place assume such knowledge, and how could they be so wrong yet so convinced they are right? Of course, the answer is popular culture and its representations of the city. My father is a cop, so I’ve always been intrigued by crime and crime fears. Take a Midwest upbringing, add a move to the big city, mix in some cultural studies and graduate work in city planning and U.S. postwar history, and a touch of evil and voilà, you have the recipe for The Dying City.

GM: Where was New York City first portrayed as a city in decline and crisis? What did the novels of Mickey Spillane (and other pulp fiction) have to do with casting New York in a negative light? Why did these take hold?

BT: In some ways New York City has always had someone decrying its decay and decline, prophesying its death, or holding it up as some modern-day Sodom. There was a bit of a lull in this obsession, however, given the universal nature of how the Great Depression manifests itself and, of course, World War II as well. If anything, events in NYC, like the construction of the Empire State Building during the Depression and the magnificent public works constructed in part with New Deal funds, became symbols of hope for the possibilities of New York City after World War II. That hope carries over into the writings of E.B. White who sees the city as this burgeoning world capital after war, a future home to the United Nations, and the like.

Two things are interesting about this image after World War II, however. 1) The most powerful critics of postwar New York are homegrown —citizens of the very city that draws their ire, and 2) what should have been the city’s great Cold War fear—atomic destruction—sort of falls by the wayside and it’s replaced by this fear that the city will destroy itself. Of course, a cultural historian would argue that atomic anxiety manifests itself in anxiety about the sustainability of the city, and they wouldn’t be wrong, but it’s remarkable how these other ailments at this time sort of overpower the fear of the bomb.

Mickey Spillane operates in that vein. He writes these sensational pulp novels that sell in the millions. He’s the bestselling author of the 1950s. And in these books the city has become this monster that needs to be tamed, and it needs to be tamed by this authoritarian vigilante —Mike Hammer— who circumvents the law and due process, to bring the dying city to heel. It’s Spillane, through this fantastic vision of New York, that really offers up a template for the purveyors of death and dread later on, and it reaches millions of Americans. His exploitative use of overt masculinity, vivid violence and free sexuality offered an escape from fears of the Cold War—communism, conformity, the atom bomb.

GM: Is this still the case today?

BT: Mickey Spillane has really fallen out of favor. He’s not read much today, and for the portion of the population that recognizes the name it likely comes from old Miller Lite commercials where he hocked or mocked his bravado. But he’d be right at home in our current political culture. The image of urban crime and the portrayal of the heroic vigilantism of Mike Hammer serves, whether intentionally or not, as the fantasies that the NRA and conceal-and-carry gun advocates proffer in our own time. Hammer is a private detective by license, but in the books he’s doing the work of the NYPD at no cost, standing his ground, shooting first and asking questions later with little to no retribution.

In some ways New York City has always had someone decrying its decay and decline, prophesying its death, or holding it up as some modern-day Sodom.
GM: You identify some keywords that signify New York’s decline. What are they and how did they become familiar?

BT: Spillane had his “monster” of a city, but he also spoke of a city with a tumor breeding in its belly. Robert Moses, in his writings, spoke of the cancer of the slums as well. These implied that death was imminent and Jane Jacobs didn’t beat around the bush in Death and Life of Great American Cities. In general, during the fifties, the declining, outdated physical environment was cast as the disease, with hints at those populations that inhabited declining neighborhoods. This was the beginning of white flight and new migrants —Puerto Ricans and African Americans arriving from the south—filled the vacuum left by suburbanization often settling in the so-called “slums” of New York.

In the 1960s, intellectuals, academics, columnists, and crime reporters see the city’s changing demography as the cause of death. Urban poverty is blamed on the culture of racial and ethnic minorities residing in New York City. The culture of poverty and urban decline is seen as pathological in the streets, and that pathology is rippling out to infect otherwise affluent neighborhoods with the “disease of apathy.” The urban crisis is a social and spiritual crisis, and the only way to tackle it is through escape or new forms of policing and “law and order.” “Broken windows,” the “underclass” —both of which define poverty by behavior —emerge as the vocabulary of decline and that later evolves into tropes like the “welfare queen” and other dog-whistles. These discourses emerge from niche journals of opinion, but high-profile crime reporting contributes as well. When films take up those narratives, then the dying New York becomes solidified in the popular imagination.

GM: What role did films, like Mean Streets, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, Midnight Cowboy, and The Out of Towners, to name a few, play in New York’s enduring image as a dirty, gritty, gruff and often violent city? How did this come to be?

BT: Those films arise out of a perfect storm in the late-1960s and early-1970s. First you have the reality of the city in this period. Crime is on the rise, and crime fears are exponentially rising. Population is in decline, businesses are leaving, which puts a strain on tax revenue and thus the city’s infrastructure and generous social welfare system are compromised. The city conjures an austere, gray, soot-stained image. Second, you have an active response on the part of the city to counteract that image. John Lindsay, who becomes mayor in 1966, seeks to subsidize film and television production in the city to create job opportunities but also to market New York as “Fun City.” (Most films and television shows prior to the late 1960s “set” in New York were shot in Los Angeles.) And lastly, this coincides with the emergence of the New Hollywood or Movie Brat film period. Young filmmakers, influenced by foreign films digested in formal film schools, begin testing the limits of American filmmaking. Regulations are loosened in regards to sex, violence, and dialogue, and film operates under a new guise of realism. Much of this was happening in Los Angeles, but several New York filmmakers are a part of this, most notably Martin Scorsese.

The location of most of these films was not “Fun City.” Instead they highlighted a dying city filled with a variety of inconveniences of urban life including random violent crime. New York becomes this city to escape to for greater opportunity in the south and west. In Midnight Cowboy, the main character achieves his goal of moving to New York only to be mugged by reality. Eventually he finds his way to Miami for a new life and greater opportunity. Film culture in this period also became a place to highlight new modes of policing as the vigilante reemerged as asolution to urban crime. Dirty Harry, shot in San Francisco, is perhaps the most famous example, but in New York you had vigilantes in Taxi Driver, the less-remembered youth culture flick Joe, and most glaringly in the Death Wish franchise. As with Mickey Spillane, Death Wish made a hero out of a character who foregoes due process in favor of shooting first.

GM: Didn’t punk rock and hip-hop play into this, as well?

BT: To an extent, but that kind of homegrown culture was more the effect than the cause. Excepting films like Taxi Driver or Mean Streets, some of the most exploitive crisis movies were made by filmmakers from elsewhere. New York Times film critic Vincent Canby said Death Wish was a film made by “tourists,” and in fact its director, Michael Winner, was English. With white flight and business flight, New York City was left with a vacuum, and in that vacuum you had citizens forced to stay or willing to remain and those, and there were many, lured by decay and the dying city. It’s in this vacuum that one discovers the true essence of “Fun City.” Hip-hop origins in the Bronx are very public—it happens at street parties and rec centers, and the message is about carving out a space in the dying city and bringing together homegrown artists not only in DJing and MCing but in graffiti and dancing as well.

The punk scene on the Bowery was very much a product of context, where cheap rents and squatting in old tenements converge with a burgeoning art scene in nearby SoHo to foster this hip new junction at CBGBs. Both hip-hop and punk utilized the tropes of the dying city, but it’s far more tongue-in-cheek. It was more about thumbing their noses at —challenging really —the establishment and their forecasts of decline and death.

In the end, these movements are quite successful in shifting the narrative of New York, so in the 1980s you have films like Desperately Seeking Susan, Wild Style, and Times Square that highlight what’s happening uptown and downtown, developing a new image of “Fun City.” Of course, by then New York’s political and economic situation has changed, and those—for lack of a better term—organic changes have been co-opted and branded by the establishment, ushering in a period of unprecedented growth, or what many refer to as a renaissance or rebirth, that continues through today.

GM: Do you see instances of New York being portrayed as “The Dying City” today?

BT: I live in a small city in a very rural region, so I see firsthand how the crisis narrative has transferred from cities in the postwar era to rural communities today. That’s where you hear about dying cities and towns today, and you see how municipalities employ growth strategies with limited success, often borrowing ideas from once-dead cities that managed to turn it around. But yes, there are hints of an ailing New York City in our time. For one, I just have to go on my Twitter feed to see images from the “Summer of Hell” and its symbols of deferred maintenance in transit delays and backups—it’s a scene straight out of The Out of Towners.

Where the dying city is most critical, however, is how New York is becoming a victim of its own success. Hyper-gentrification and the polarization of wealth within the landscape, particularly in respect to housing, make it extremely difficult for long-term residents to find housing upon displacement or shifting rents, not to mention to allow space for the intrepid migrants with a dream who reinvigorate the city and keep it fresh, as E.B. White wrote seventy years ago. Everyday it seems—highlighted in the work of local bloggers like Jeremiah Moss—there are stories about some neighborhood institution vanishing due to exorbitant rent increases, which in the long-term will destroy opportunities for independent small business development. This was where I see fears about the dying city, and, from my personal perspective, it’s a very convincing argument.

Brian Tochterman is assistant professor of sustainable community development at Northland College. Read his past blog posts for more on The Dying City

Grandfather Mountain: The History and Guide to an Appalachian Icon

Plan on making a summer getaway to the mountains? Or in need of a perfect gift? Randy Johnson’s Grandfather Mountain: The History and Guide to an Appalachian Icon can help with both! Grandfather Mountain highlights the natural beauty and history of one of North Carolina’s best known landmarks. This fabulous book was a finalist for the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award and also just won two prestigious awards:

  • First Place and Best in Show 2017 Writing and Photography Contest, Eastern Chapter, Society of American Travel Writers
  • 2016 Foreword INDIES Winner for Travel (Adult Nonfiction)

With its prominent profile recognizable for miles around and featuring vistas among the most beloved in the Appalachians, North Carolina’s Grandfather Mountain is many things to many people: an easily recognized landmark along the Blue Ridge Parkway, a popular tourist destination, a site of annual Highland Games, and an internationally recognized nature preserve. In this definitive book on Grandfather, Randy Johnson guides readers on a journey through the mountain’s history, from its geological beginnings millennia ago and the early days of exploration to its role in regional development and eventual establishment as a North Carolina state park. Along the way, he shows how Grandfather has changed, and has been changed by, the people of western North Carolina and beyond.

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Sarah S. Elkind: Energy Corporations in Schools: Then and Now

Elkind: How Local Politics Shape Federal PolicyWe welcome a blog post today from Sarah S. Elkind  author of How Local Politics Shape Federal Policy: Business, Power, and the Environment in Twentieth-Century Los AngelesFocusing on five Los Angeles environmental policy debates between 1920 and 1950, Sarah Elkind investigates how practices in American municipal government gave business groups political legitimacy at the local level as well as unanticipated influence over federal politics.

Revealing the huge disparities between big business groups and individual community members in power, influence, and the ability to participate in policy debates, Elkind shows that business groups secured their political power by providing Los Angeles authorities with much-needed services, including studying emerging problems and framing public debates. As a result, government officials came to view business interests as the public interest. When federal agencies looked to local powerbrokers for project ideas and political support, local business interests influenced federal policy, too. 

In the following post, Elkind looks at how energy corporations are wielding their influence in the public school system and the dire consequences that will arise from it. 


Energy Corporations in Schools: Then and Now

In 1927, the Federal Trade Commission announced that America’s electric utility companies had spent the previous decade engaged in a concerted propaganda campaign against public ownership of electrical systems. The utilities subsidized academic research, planted newspaper editorials, and created curriculum for public schools all to bolster support for the private utility industry. This was, the Federal Trade Commission found, an astonishingly systematic, coordinated, and well-orchestrated campaign to change public opinion. It was also highly effective:  public support for government ownership of electrical power fell steadily in the 1930s in spite of these and other damning revelations and scandals.

Why did the National Electric Light Association and other utility trade groups work so hard to change public opinion in the 1910s and 1920s? In 1915, Congress required public development of hydroelectric power at all federal flood control and irrigation dams. Public support for government-owned utilities was at an all-time high. Cities invested in waterworks, gas and electrical grids, and transportation networks to improve public services and lower consumer costs. In New York, scandal erupted as a firm controlled by Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon secured a lease to generate electricity at Niagara Falls. Debate raged, too, over whether the federal government should complete a massive hydroelectric power and fertilizer complex at Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and whether the Bureau of Reclamation should build Hoover Dam. Private utilities spent over a million dollars a year (nearly fourteen million in 2017 dollars) to defeat Muscle Shoals and Hoover Dam, because they felt their future access to markets and water resources, their very survival, was at stake.

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Excerpt: Living at the Water’s Edge by Barbara Garrity-Blake and Karen Willis Amspacher

Garrity-Blake and Amspacher: Living at the Water's EdgeThe Outer Banks National Scenic Byway received its designation in 2009, an act that stands as a testament to the historical and cultural importance of the communities linked along the North Carolina coast from Whalebone Junction across to Hatteras and Ocracoke Island and down to the small villages of the Core Sound region. This rich heritage guide introduces readers to the places and people that have made the route and the region a national treasure. Welcoming visitors on a journey across sounds and inlets into villages and through two national seashores, Barbara Garrity-Blake and Karen Willis Amspacher share the stories of people who have shaped their lives out of saltwater and sand. The book considers how the Outer Banks residents have stood their ground and maintained a vibrant way of life while adapting to constant change that is fundamental to life where water meets the land.

Heavily illustrated with color and black-and-white photographs, Living at the Water’s Edge will lead readers to the proverbial porch of the Outer Banks locals, extending a warm welcome to visitors while encouraging them to understand what many never see or hear: the stories, feelings, and meanings that offer a cultural dimension to the byway experience and deepen the visitor’s understanding of life on the tideline.

In the following excerpt (pp. 7-12), Barbara and Karen share the past dangers of the North Carolina coast for ships and the lighthouses that saved them.



I’ve seen right many boats hit the shores of this island. Some of them they got off, and some of them busted up. —Anderson Midgett, Hatteras Island

“Graveyard of the Atlantic” is a well-earned moniker for North Carolina’s coastal waters. Hundreds of vessels have sunk or broken apart in the deadly combination of quick-changing weather, dynamic currents, and hidden shoals along what was once a key shipping route between New York and Charleston. The Diamond Shoals off Cape Hatteras are especially notorious for dooming ship after ship in their attempts to round the cape en route to northern or southern ports.

Shipwrecks were once so frequent that the state appointed commissioners to manage wreck auctions called “vendues.” Well into the twentieth century, banks dwellers and mainlanders alike gathered on the beach to bid on sails, turnbuckles, barrels, lanterns, ropes, and cargo. Lumber wasn’t easy to come by; planking was coveted as building material. The Salvo Assembly of God Church was built from the timbers of the G. A. Kohler, a grand four-masted schooner wrecked on the beach between Avon and Salvo during the ’33 Storm. Many old houses have beams, joists, and other materials salvaged from a wreck.

One of the worst wrecks in American history occurred off North Carolina in 1837. The steam packet Home, en route from New York to Charleston, encountered the Racer’s Storm and broke apart off Ocracoke. Ninety of the 135 people aboard—many of them women and children—drowned. The vessel was equipped with only two life jackets. The dead were buried by Ocracoke villagers, as a lifesaving station wasn’t established on the island until 1905. The tragedy of the Home received national press coverage and led to the federal requirement that all vessels carry life preservers for each passenger. Shipwrecks like the Home brought to light the need for the establishment of lifesaving stations up and down the nation’s coasts.

The village of Portsmouth, made up of 150 souls in 1900, once cared for shipwreck victims whose numbers far exceeded the population of the small community. The 605-ton brig Vera Cruz VII wrecked offshore in 1903, bringing forth 421 Cape Verde Islanders needing food, clothes, and a dry bed. Every villager was enlisted to help. A Portsmouth Islander recalled, “Some of the foreigners ran away from the station crew and crawled through the marshes to beg for food at the homes. We fed them when they came.” The villagers used up all the flour in the community to feed these weary victims of the sea.


No matter how hard the winds blow around her, she will stand, wrapped in diamonds, giving us strength every time we see her light come around. —Madge Guthrie, Harkers Island

A light piercing the darkness gives hope and helps orient the lost. No wonder the lighthouse has become a symbol for strength and guidance. Outer Banks lighthouses have long provided an essential navigational aid to ship’s captains, whether the steady burning, fixed light on Ocracoke or the flashing beacons of Bodie Island, Cape Hatteras, or Cape Lookout towers. Not only do the lights alert mariners as to how close they are to shore and shoals, but the timing of the beam is specific to its location along the shore. If the flash occurs every fifteen seconds, the crew knows they are near Cape Lookout, no matter how dark or foggy it may be. If it flashes every seven and a half seconds, the Cape Hatteras light is their guide.

The U.S. Congress, alarmed at the growing number of shipwrecks, authorized the first North Carolina lighthouse in 1794. It was to be built on Cape Hatteras, the most treacherous part of the coastline. Vessel captains declared the light to be faint and sorry. The 90-foot tower was raised to 150 feet in 1854 and fitted with a powerful Fresnel lens. Today’s black-and-white spiral tower was built in 1870 and was moved to higher ground in 1999. At 208 feet Cape Hatteras is the tallest lighthouse in America.

Another lighthouse was built on Shell Castle Island in 1798 to serve ships carrying cargo through Ocracoke Inlet. Today’s 65-foot-high, solid-white structure was built on Ocracoke in 1823, emitting a nonflashing, steady light. The first Cape Lookout light was lit in 1812, and today’s 163-foot, diamond-painted tower went into operation in 1859. The black-and-white pattern was the inspiration for the name Diamond City, Shackleford Banks’s whaling community.


Barbara Garrity-Blake is a cultural anthropologist long interested in the 21 villages along the byway from the north end of Hatteras through the Down East region of Carteret County; she lives in Gloucester, N.C. Karen Willis Amspacher, director of the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum and Heritage Center on Harkers Island, is descended from Shackleford Banks fishermen and boatbuilders and lives in Marshallberg, N.C.

From Living at the Water’s Edge: A Heritage Guide to the Outer Banks Byway by Barbara Garrity-Blake and Karen Willis Amspacher. Copyright © 2017 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher.

Elizondo Griest: All the Agents and Saints

Elizondo Griest: All the Agents and Saints

Today is the official publication date of All the Agents and Saints by Stephanie Elizondo Griest. As we wish a happy book birthday to Stephanie and All the Agents and Saints, we wanted to share the  coverage that she’s been getting to keep our readers in the loop!

Texas Monthly put All the Agents and Saints on its July reading list, and Las Comadres & Friends National Latino Book Club selected it for their 2017 Summer Reading List. The Texas Observer calls it “an extraordinary book” and “a model for how a curious person, any person who is sufficiently interested, can begin to navigate the boundaries that compartmentalize our country, and ourselves, toward wholeness.” Read an excerpt on Aster(ix), and listen to Stephanie’s interview on KKUP “Out of Our Minds” radio show with Rachelle Escamilla. Other highlights include reviews in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews (also included on 10 Buzzworthy Books from Memoirists & Essayists by Kirkus)and ALA Booklist. 

Stephanie had a really special reading at Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C., this past Sunday and will be doing more events throughout the summer and into fall. We’ll keep spreading the word here and on Twitter, but for the full events schedule, check out our website page.

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Free Book Friday! Lessons from the Sand by Charles & Orrin Pilkey

Pilkey: Lessons from the SandIt’s Free Book Friday!! Enter to win a copy of Lessons from the Sand by Charles O. Pilkey and Orrin H. Pilkey via Goodreads. Each easy-to-follow activity is presented in full color with dozens of whimsical and informational illustrations that will engage and guide readers through the experiments. Great for taking along on your next beach vacation! The giveaway ends on Friday, July 15, so get your entry in now!

Goodreads Book GiveawayLessons from the Sand by Orrin H. PilkeyLessons from the Sand by Charles O. Pilkey and Orrin H. Pilkey

Giveaway ends July 15, 2017. See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

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Recipe: Pickle-Brined Fried Chicken Sandwiches

Happy National Fried Chicken Day!! To honor this day, we look no further than Cynthia Graubart’s Chicken. She includes 7 (!!!) fried chicken recipes, so you’re bound to find one that you love. Try this fun recipe for Pickle-Brined Fried Chicken Sandwiches, and get to celebratin’!

If you want more recipes like this, look no further than Cynthia’s addition to the Savor the South® collection. The Washington Post calls Chicken “a tidy roundup done in good taste.” We couldn’t agree more!

Graubart: Chicken

Cynthia Graubart is coauthor, with Nathalie Dupree, of Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking, which won a James Beard Book Award for American Cooking. Among Graubart’s other books is Slow Cooking for Two.  Follow Cynthia on Twitter @CynthiaGraubart. For a bonus recipe, try Summer Anytime Bourbon Peach Chicken Thighs.

Don’t forget to “like” the Savor the South® book page on Facebook for more news and recipes. Keep an eye out this fall for a new Savor the South® cookbook!

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David Blevins on tour with North Carolina’s Barrier Islands

Heading to the North Carolina beach next week? David Blevins will be there too with North Carolina’s Barrier Islands: Wonders of Sand, Sea, and Sky!

Stop by for an inspiring presentation on David’s writing journey and how he captures the wonder of the islands. You’ll learn more about nature photography from an award-winning photographer and will be in awe of the shots he took. (Look for my favorite—sea turtles on the beach in moonlight!) David gives jargon-free context to each photograph, explaining what is being photographed and why, as well as chapter introductions providing scientific and historical context to the barrier islands. If you love the North Carolina coast, you’ll love this book.

Anyone who attends a book event gets a free poster, too! Looking forward to seeing you there!

David Blevins tour dates

Island Bookstore – Corolla: Tuesday, July 11 at 11 AM

Island Bookstore – Duck: Wednesday, July 12 at 1 PM

Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum – Hatteras: Thursday, July 13 at 1 PM

Downtown Books – Manteo: Friday, July 14 at 3 PM

In this stunning book, nature photographer and ecologist David Blevins offers an inspiring visual journey to North Carolina’s barrier islands as you have never seen them before. These islands are unique and ever-changing places with epic origins, surprising plants and animals, and an uncertain future. From snow geese midflight to breathtaking vistas along otherworldly dunes, Blevins has captured the incredible natural diversity of North Carolina’s coast in singular detail. His photographs and words reveal the natural character of these islands, the forces that shape them, and the sense of wonder they inspire.

Featuring over 150 full-color images from Currituck Banks, the Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout National Seashores, and the islands of the southern coast, North Carolina’s Barrier Islands is not only a collection of beautiful images of landscapes, plants, and animals but also an appeal for their conservation.

Thank you to Island Bookstore, Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum, and Downtown Books for hosting David! We love our partners on the coast!

Battle of Gettysburg Field Guide

The Battle of Gettysburg ended on this day, July 3, in 1863, marking the end of three intense and devastating days of battle. Considered to be one of the most important battles during the Civil War, it was a turning point for the Union army and prompted President Lincoln to make his famous Gettysburg Address.

Reardon & Vossler: Field Guide to Gettysburg: Experiencing the Battlefield through Its History, Places, and PeopleGettysburg National Military Park is now a popular spot for visitors to learn more about the battle and to honor the legacy of those who fought. If you’re planning a trip this summer, check out their Living History Programs and Junior Ranger activities for kids. Another great resource is A Field Guide to Gettysburg, Second Edition. Put this on the top of your must-bring list!

This second, updated edition of the acclaimed A Field Guide to Gettysburg will lead visitors to every important site across the battlefield and also give them ways to envision the action and empathize with the soldiers involved and the local people into whose lives and lands the battle intruded. Ideal for carrying on trips through the park as well as for the armchair historian, this book includes comprehensive maps and deft descriptions of the action that situate visitors in time and place. Crisp narratives introduce key figures and events, and eye-opening vignettes help readers more fully comprehend the import of what happened and why. A wide variety of contemporary and postwar source materials offer colorful stories and present interesting interpretations that have shaped—or reshaped—our understanding of Gettysburg today.

Both Carol Reardon and Tom Vossler are themselves experienced guides who understand what visitors to Gettysburg are interested in, but they also bring the unique perspectives of a scholar and a former army officer. Divided into three day-long tours, this newly improved and expanded edition offers important historical background and context for the reader while providing answers to six key questions: What happened here? Who fought here? Who commanded here? Who fell here? Who lived here? And what did the participants have to say about it later?

With new stops, maps, and illustrations, the second edition of A Field Guide to Gettysburg remains the most comprehensive guide to the events and history of this pivotal battle of the Civil War.

For more reading on the Battle of Gettysburg and its significance in the Civil War, check out our previous blog posts by UNC Press authors and their books.

Ira Dworkin: In the Name of Lumumba

Today is the 57th anniversary of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s independence as a nation, first declared in a legendary speech by the first prime minister Patrice Lumumba on June 30, 1960. Guest blogger Ira Dworkin, author of Congo Love Song: African American Culture and the Crisis of the Colonial State, speaks to the legacy of Patrice Lumumba, his brilliant speech, and the aftermath in both the Democratic Republic of Congo and the United States. 


Dworkin: Congo Love SongAs the Democratic Republic of Congo marks the 57th anniversary of its independence, the country continues to suffer political violence as part of seemingly unending crisis. The current president Joseph Kabila, who succeeded his father Laurent Kabila in 2001, refused to relinquish power after the end of his elected term last year: “Democracy was assassinated here when Patrice Lumumba was assassinated. And who brought democracy back to this country? We are the ones who did that after pushing out the [Mobutu] dictatorship in 1997.” Kabila’s proprietary claim to the mantle of the country’s first prime minister essentially erases the work of the country’s vibrant opposition. He can make this claim because it is impossible to overstate the significance of the assassination or the length of colonialism’s complicated shadow. That shadow is not confined to the Congo. As the United States faces its own crisis of transparent and representative governance, Lumumba’s vision and the contributions of those who labor in his name continue to animate what Robin Kelley terms “black radical imagination.”

June 30, 1960, was the occasion for Lumumba’s brilliant independence day speech, delivered in Kinshasa to the face of Belgian King Baudouin, insisting that neither the terrors of the colonial regime nor the heroic struggles of the Congolese people be ignored for the sake of diplomatic niceties. Malcolm X would later cite the speech at the June 28, 1964, founding rally of the Organization of Afro-American Unity: “he told the king of Belgium, ‘Man, you may let us free, you may have given us our independence, but we can never forget these scars.’” In the United States, the history of Lumumba is remembered by the many who carry not only his vision of liberation but also his name. Three days after that same OAAU rally, Malcolm and Betty Shabazz named their newborn daughter Gamilah Lumumba Shabazz in honor of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser and in memory of Lumumba, “the greatest black man who ever walked the African continent.”

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AAUP 2017 Annual Meeting Recap

Several UNC Press members recently attended the Association of American University Presses 2017 Annual Meeting, held in Austin, TX. With more than 650 publishing professionals in attendance, the meeting connected and encouraged collaboration among university and scholarly presses. Renowned journalist Dan Rather opened the conference, speaking on the importance of university presses in the current media environment. Our own Michael Donatelli received the 2017 AAUP Constituency Award for his continued contribution to the greater university press community. We’ve collected a few UNC Press members’ reflections to recap the meeting. For more insights, take a look at the hashtag #AAUP17 on Twitter or visit the AAUP 2017 home page. 


John Sherer, Spangler Family Director: “For the third time in ten years, a UNC Press employee has won the AAUP Constituency Award (our sales director, Michael Donatelli). This prize honors an individual at a member press who has demonstrated leadership and service to the university press community. To me, this unprecedented run of winners is a reflection of UNC’s perceived excellence in the university press world. All of the members of the UNC Press community should feel deep pride about this accomplishment.”

Doug Armato, Michael Donatelli, Robbie Dircks

2017 AAUP Constituency Award winner Michael Donatelli with mentor Doug Armato (left, Univ of Minnesota Press) & Robbie Dircks (UNC Press Associate Director and Chief Financial Officer and previous Constituency Award winner)


Michael Donatelli, Sales Director (and recipient of the 2017 AAUP Constituency Award): “I was impressed by the younger people at the meeting.  The future of the AAUP is in good hands.  Favorite panels: Get Creative: The Challenges (and Opportunities) of Working with Authors of Creative Works and Preparing Authors for Publication.”


Forever Bicycles

Ai WeiWei, Forever Bicycles, on view at the Waller Delta as part of The Contemporary Austin’s Museum Without Walls program. Photo credit: John Sherer


Susan Garrett, Sales Manager: “I enjoyed the packed panel on Successful Partnerships with Independent Bookstores, chaired by Gianna LaMorte (University of Texas Press), with Amanda Sharp (University of Georgia Press), Elizabeth Jordan (BookPeople, Austin, Tex.), Emily Hamilton (University of Minnesota Press) and Jeff Deutsch (Seminary Co-op Bookstores, Chicago, Ill.).  Great tips and strategies for UPs connecting more effectively with Indie bookstores, most of which really enjoy promoting UP books.  It’s very helpful, in general, to be at AAUP around my peers who work in sales and marketing.  From big presses to mini-sized presses, everyone comes with ideas to share and much to learn from each other.”


Jessica Newman, Dan Rather, Susan Garrett

Jessica Newman (left, Assistant Editor) & Susan Garrett (Sales Manager) with Dan Rather, speaker at the Opening Banquet


Kim Bryant, Director of Design and Production: “The Production and Design Managers Roundtable is a wonderful example of the collaboration, support, and resourcefulness that can be found (and is encouraged by) the AAUP member presses and community.”

Amanda Sharp, Elizabeth Jordan, Emily Hamilton, Jeff Deutsch

Amanda Sharp (University of Georgia Press), Elizabeth Jordan (BookPeople, Austin, Tex.), Emily Hamilton (University of Minnesota Press) and Jeff Deutsch (Seminary Co-op Bookstores, Chicago, Ill.) Photo credit: David Goldberg, MIT Press, posting in Shelf Awareness 


Mark Simpson-Vos, Editorial Director: “I found the tone and energy around this year’s annual meeting as positive as I can recall, with a sense of our important and distinct mission as university presses carrying through from the opening keynote through the plenaries and sessions. I am always impressed by the spirit of innovation and forward thinking that characterizes the conversations I have with fellow publishing professionals at AAUP, and that was certainly true this year, from the smallest university presses to the largest. The renewed commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in our work was especially inspiring and challenging. So was an expanding sense of the role university presses play globally in disseminating knowledge that can be trusted by scholars and the general public. This is our essential purpose, and it’s great to feel a part of a community that is locked in around that purpose.”

Torchy's Tacos

The famous Torchy’s Tacos, a highlight for some UNC Press staffers. Photo credit: John Sherer



Looking forward to #AAUP18 in San Francisco!!

Lindsey A. Freeman: The Uncanny Bohemia in Black Mountain

cover art for the bohemian south by binghamToday we welcome a guest post from Lindsey A. Freeman, co-editor of  The Bohemian South: Creating Countercultures, from Poe to Punk. In today’s post, Freeman gives us a unique look into the bohemian culture within the south. Interested in learning more? Listen to Lindsey and co-editor Shawn Chandler Bingham talk about tracking southern subcultures on WUNC’s “The State of Things.”


In the fall of 2015, Chelsea Ragan and Adam Void, two artists living in Black Mountain, North Carolina, invited a slew of artists, creative folks, and teachers to get together in order to begin laying the foundations for a new school. They met by Lake Eden, the site of the legendary Black Mountain College (BMC). The new experimental learning community organized by Ragan and Void was initially called Black Mountain School, an intentional echo of BMC. In the summer of 2016, Black Mountain School attracted around 200 artists, designers, and teachers to participate in communal experimental learning on a beautiful expanse of land in Western North Carolina.

The original BMC began in 1933 with the controversial scholar John A. Rice at the helm. Rice and his colleagues wanted to create a new kind of environment for learning based on the educational principles of John Dewey. They believed that the study and creation of art was intrinsic to any liberal arts education. Continue Reading Lindsey A. Freeman: The Uncanny Bohemia in Black Mountain

UNC Press Summer Reading List

Summer Reading ListHappy Summer! In honor of the summer solstice, we’re posting our suggestions for your summer reading list. If you’re planning a fun tropical vacation or just heading to your neighborhood pool, UNC Press has your perfect summer read. Pick up a fun guidebook or new biography, and don’t forget about our 40% sale!

Pilkey: Lessons from the Sand: Family-Friendly Science Activities You Can Do on a Carolina BeachLessons from the Sand: Family-Friendly Science Activities You Can Do on a Carolina Beach

A trip to the Carolina coast wouldn’t be complete without Lessons from the Sand. This easy-to-follow activity guide is presented in full color with dozens of whimsical and informational illustrations that will engage and guide kids and parents. It even includes rainy day projects!

 Elizondo Griest: All the Agents and Saints: Dispatches from the U.S. BorderlandsAll the Agents and Saints: Dispatches from the U.S. Borderlands

This is literary journalism in the form of sublime writing. You’ll get lost in Stephanie’s words as she shares her experiences and the stories of those living on the northern and southern borders of the U.S.

Rogoff: Gertrude Weil: Jewish Progressive in the New South Gertrude Weil: Jewish Progressive in the New South

The biography of a remarkable woman who fought for the progressive issues of the day. You’ll recognize figures such as Carrie Chapman Catt, national leader of the woman’s suffragist movement; Frank Graham, university president and U. S. Senator; and even Eleanor Roosevelt. My favorite part of the story? Eighty-year-old Gertrude desegregating a local swimming pool by diving in headfirst.

The New Southern Garden Cookbook: Enjoying the Best from Homegrown Gardens, Farmers' Markets, Roadside Stands, and CSA Farm Boxes, by Sheri CastleThe New Southern Garden Cookbook: Enjoying the Best from Homegrown Gardens, Farmers’ Markets, Roadside Stands, and CSA Farm Boxes

 Anyone else like to read cookbooks? You can learn so much, and the chefs always include fun anecdotes (and Sheri is no exception!) She includes plenty of recipes for summer, so hop on over to your local farmers’ market, stand, or CSA!

 Country Soul: Making Music and Making Race in the American SouthHughes: Country Soul: Making Music and Making Race in the American South

Get the new paperback edition for easy carry! If you’re a fan of ‘60s and ‘70s country and soul music, then you’ll love Charles’ melding of the two. You’ll want to read this while listening to the perfect playlist. Good news, Charles has already done the hard work and made one on Spotify. 

 Reardon & Vossler: Field Guide to Gettysburg: Experiencing the Battlefield through Its History, Places, and PeopleA Field Guide to Gettysburg: Experiencing the Battlefield through Its History, Places, and People

If you’re planning a trip to Gettysburg this summer, this updated edition is a must-bring. Grab the expanded Ebook for even more stories, maps, and illustrations. Perfect for experiencing history on the go.

Brian L. Tochterman: Birth of a Vigilante

cover photo for tochtermanToday we have another guest post by Brian L. Tochterman, author of The Dying City: Postwar New York and the Ideology of Fear. In this eye-opening cultural history, Brian Tochterman examines competing narratives that shaped post–World War II New York City, revealing how elite culture producers, planners and theorists, and elected officials drew on and perpetuated the fear of death to press for a new urban vision.


I’m not letting the killer go through the tedious process of law. – I, the Jury (1947)

This year marks the 70th birthday of Mike Hammer, the hypermasculine private investigator that sprung from the imagination of his creator Mickey Spillane onto the pages of pulp fiction after World War II. Mike Hammer was Spillane’s Ubermensch, a perfected representation of himself that seemed to fill a canker left by the writer’s involvement, or lack thereof, in the war effort. Spillane was a product of working-class Brooklyn and New Jersey, who entered the comic book industry in the late 1930s, fleshing out a prototype of his ideal protagonist in a strip called “Mike Danger.” When the war came, Spillane never made it further than the base camps of the American south. When he published I, the Jury in 1947, his alter-ego was a Pacific front hero returning home to New York City “anxious to get some of the rats that make up the section of humanity that prey on people.”

In his seminal ode to the work of Dashiell Hammett, “The Simple Art of Murder” (1944), Raymond Chandler codified the pulp detective as a man “who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid . . . a man of honor . . . the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world.” Continue Reading Brian L. Tochterman: Birth of a Vigilante

The History of Juneteenth: 5 Facts You Need to Know

History of Juneteenth: 5 Facts You Need to Know

Today, the UNC Press blog explains the origins of Juneteenth and the tradition of Emancipation Day celebrations throughout the United States with contributions from William A. Blair, author of Cities of the Dead and With Malice toward Some and editor of  Lincoln’s Proclamation


What is Juneteenth?

Juneteenth is a celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation, given by President Abraham Lincoln, that declared freedom for all slaves in states still in rebellion. Lincoln issued a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation following the Battle of Antietam on September 22, 1862, as a warning to the Confederacy, and the official order went into effect on January 1, 1863.  

Why June 19?

There are several dates that could celebrate the Emancipation, such as January 1 or September 22 or even February 1 (National Freedom Day,) but Juneteenth has become the most popular. June 19, 1865, commemorates the day when slaves in the Galveston, Texas, area heard a proclamation of freedom read by Union General Granger. 

When did other regions celebrate the Emancipation Proclamation?

Celebrations often occurred around when black people in a particular region won their liberation. These were often tied either to the appearance of the Union army or the defeat of the Confederate military. For example, Richmond residents marked April 3 when Lee’s army fled the capital, while others preferred April 9, when that army surrendered at Appomattox. Beginning with the issuing of the proclamation in 1863, African Americans in the Union-occupied Sea Islands near South Carolina and Georgia gathered in ceremonial events to mark what they hoped was the destruction of slavery. 

Who celebrates it now?

Juneteenth had been only a regional observance until its revival in the last several decades of the twentieth century. Before then, it was remembered primarily by residents of Texas and the Southwest. Now it is celebrated nationwide with many states holding formal celebrations and festivals. 

How is Juneteenth celebrated?

Wherever African Americans constituted significant proportions of the population, business (at least black-owned ones) stopped for the day as African Americans conducted a parade. They listened to orations from prominent members of the community. A central ritual was the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, a duty considered as a special honor by the reader. Orators used these occasions to highlight the contribution of black people to American civic life and, consequently, press the case for the advancement and protection of their rights. Celebrations today look similar with picnics, festivals, and a reading of the Emancipation Proclamation. 


William A. Blair, the Walter L. and Helen P. Ferree Professor of American History at the Pennsylvania State University, serves as director of the Richards Civil War Era Center and is the founding editor of the Journal of the Civil War Era

Bridgette A. Lacy: Father’s Day Memories

We welcome a blog post in honor of Father’s Day by Bridgette Lacy, author of Sunday Dinner: a SAVOR THE SOUTH® cookbook. Bridgette shares the memories of her grandfather in the kitchen and the importance of gathering together. Want to start Sunday dinner traditions of your own? Read Bridgette’s blog post on how to get started.

From Bridgette and the folks at UNC Press: Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there. 


Father’s Day Memories

James R Moore Jr My maternal grandfather’s love often came in packages. He would send a box of thick-sliced fatback bacon to my Howard University dormitory, sweet potatoes delivered by cousin Gwen, or a large brown bag filled with ham sandwiches for the train ride from Lynchburg, V.A., back home to Washington, D.C.

James Russell Moore Jr., who I affectionately called Papa, loved feeding his grandchildren. I was his oldest. As a child, I was a skinny girl and a finicky eater. But anything my Papa made, I was at least willing to try. That meant potato salad, which had too many complex flavors for my adolescent taste. But I couldn’t refuse a spoonful or two of one of my family’s favorite side dishes.

As we approach Father’s Day, I am transported to his backyard garden. My memory takes me to the two apple trees whose branches once met in the sky, forming an endless bridge of hope for me. The goldfish pond glistened with bright orange swimmers. The smoke house, the dog house, and the rabbit cages all snug with their appropriate inhabitants.

Some of my favorite moments with my Papa were made in that sacred space where vegetables, fruits, and flowers grew. He would often give me a cigar to keep the flies away as we picked string beans off the vine for dinner.

Sunday dinner is the gravitational pull that brings family and friends together. It’s a reassurance that the people you love are there for you.
Gardening and cooking were acts of love for him. His lessons continued in the kitchen as I watched him meticulously prepare coconut pies and his Nilla Wafer Brown Pound Cake on Saturday afternoons for Sunday dinner. There was an air of excitement in the kitchen as Papa flipped the heavy Bundt pan over onto a plate. He would remove the pan to reveal the Nilla Wafer Brown coloring of the cake. That was how he measured the cake’s perfection.

In my grandparent’s home, Sunday dinner was a big meal always served in the dining room with the good China. There was always plenty of fried chicken, potato salad, yeast rolls, and greens. There was always room for extended family members, a visiting aunt, nearby cousins, or a single uncle in need of a home-cooked meal.

Sunday Dinner cover imageSunday dinner was the place where you learned your family’s history. You heard stories of romance, challenges and triumphs. It was a time for storytelling. Problems disappeared during those cherished hours.

The meal was never rushed, folks always lingered. When you sat down, you didn’t get up until there was no more room for another delicious bite. Anything you needed was already on the table.

I learned a lesson that would guide me into adulthood during those meals. Food tastes better when it’s shared. Sunday dinner is the gravitational pull that brings family and friends together. It’s a reassurance that the people you love are there for you.

Even now, I always feel special when someone cooks for me. It’s such a sincere way to give a piece of you to someone else. Happy Father’s Day, Papa. Your memory is one of my most prized packages. You continue to deliver.

Bridgette A. Lacy is a journalist who writes about food for the Independent Weekly and the North Carolina Arts Council. She also served as a longtime features and food writer for the Raleigh News & Observer. Her book Sunday Dinner: a SAVOR THE SOUTH® cookbook is now available. Connect with Lacy on Twitter @bridgettealacy. Don’t forget to “like” the Savor the South® page on Facebook for more news and recipes. 

Interview: Sandra Gutierrez on The New Southern-Latino Table

Author Sandra Gutierrez talks with publicity director Gina Mahalek about her award-winning book, The New Southern-Latino Table: Recipes That Bring Together the Bold and Beloved Flavors of Latin America and the American South. Sandra was recently selected as the grand prize winner of MFK Fisher Awards for Excellence in Culinary Writing by Les Dames d’Escoffier International. (Kudos, Sandra!) The New Southern-Latino Table is also part of an exhibit currently on display at the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum, and Sandra will be speaking at the museum in D.C. on Saturday, June 17, at 2 p.m.Sandra A. Gutierezz

Gina Mahalek: How do you define the Southern-Latino culinary movement?

Sandra Gutierrez: I define it as the melding of the foodways and flavors of the Southern U.S. with those of Latin America as a whole. Recent years have seen a huge influx of Latinos from all different socio-economic and culinary backgrounds into the South. Many of us are second- and third-generation Latinos who are proud of our heritage and of the food of our ancestors (as were previous waves of immigrants). We have brought along our ingredients and culinary traditions and have fallen in love with those of the South. This is not a movement that has occurred in a controlled manner; rather, it is happening naturally and by chance. Southerners and Latinos share similar culinary histories, ingredients, and cooking techniques, but we interpret them in very different ways. I find it exciting that, having found themselves in the same territory, these culinary traditions are correlating and intermingling. I call this the New Southern-Latino movement. This is a movement in which chiles rellenos are stuffed with pimiento cheese, and corn ice cream is topped with hot praline sauce.

GM: What are some of the similarities between the cuisines of the American South and those of Latin America?

SG: There are many similarities in the way both cuisines were shaped, which in my opinion gives this movement a great starting point. Both have been influenced by people of three ethnicities: indigenous (Native Americans in the South; Aztecs, Mayans, Incas and others in Latin America), African, and European. Both cuisines have many ingredients in common, among them: corn, tomatoes, squash, pork, and beans, to name a few. Also, both share similar cooking techniques such as braising, frying, and barbecuing. Of course, we interpret food in very different ways. However, I chose to build a cuisine based upon our similarities, with flavors that both southerners and Latinos can relate to, in hope of bringing people together at the table.

Sandra Gutierrez: The New Southern-Latino Table: Recipes That Bring Together the Bold and Beloved Flavors of Latin America and the American South GM: In your book, you mention that the use of the word “Latino” has little meaning within Latin America. Could you talk a little bit about this from a culinary perspective?

SG: The term “Latino” only exists within the context of the U.S. and is used to define anyone who was either born in Latin America or is of Latin American heritage but lives here in the U.S. Latin Americans define themselves depending on their country of origin, not as “Latinos” but rather as “Guatemalans,” “Bolivians,” “Colombians,” etc. We don’t lump the nationalities together at all. From a culinary perspective, this becomes very important because not all Latin Americans eat the same foods. Argentineans, for example, don’t eat tacos, unless they are at a Mexican restaurant; however they do eat a lot of pasta, because their cuisine is heavily influenced by Italian flavors. Each Latin cuisine has been shaped by different cultures, and has its own native ingredients and each one varies greatly. I cannot stress this enough. What this means within the context of the New Southern-Latino movement is that there are many culinary influences imparting changes and contributions to one another. The New Southern-Latino movement, therefore, does not represent the melding of one culinary culture with another (as in the case of Southwestern cuisine, where Mexican flavors predominate) but represents the marriage of the culinary foodways of more than two dozen countries with those of the entire Southern region of the United States. It is very, very exciting. 

Continue Reading Interview: Sandra Gutierrez on The New Southern-Latino Table

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Father's Day Gift Guide

Father’s Day is a week away! Still looking for the perfect gift? Look no further than the UNC Press Father’s Day gift guide. We’ve compiled our best suggestions to match any dad’s interests.

For the beach lover

North Carolina’s Barrier Islands: Wonders of Sand, Sea, and Sky by David Blevins

David Blevins: North Carolina's Barrier Islands: Wonders of Sand, Sea, and SkyIn this stunning book, nature photographer and ecologist David Blevins offers an inspiring visual journey to North Carolina’s barrier islands as you have never seen them before. These islands are unique and ever-changing places with epic origins, surprising plants and animals, and an uncertain future. From snow geese mid-flight to breathtaking vistas along otherworldly dunes, Blevins has captured the incredible natural diversity of North Carolina’s coast in singular detail. His photographs and words reveal the natural character of these islands, the forces that shape them, and the sense of wonder they inspire.

For the music fan

Talking Guitar: Conversations with Musicians Who Shaped Twentieth-Century American Music by Jas Obrecht

Obrecht: Talking Guitar: Conversations with Musicians Who Shaped Twentieth-Century American MusicIn this lively collection of interviews, storied music writer Jas Obrecht presents a celebration of the world’s most popular instrument as seen through the words, lives, and artistry of some of its most beloved players. Readers will read—and hear—accounts of the first guitarists on record, pioneering bluesmen, gospel greats, jazz innovators, country pickers, rocking rebels, psychedelic shape-shifters, singer-songwriters, and other movers and shakers. In their own words, these guitar players reveal how they found their inspirations, mastered their instruments, crafted classic songs, and created enduring solos. Also included is a CD of never-before-heard moments from Obrecht’s insightful interviews with these guitar greats.

For the history buff

The President’s Kitchen Cabinet: The Story of the African Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families, from the Washingtons to the Obamas by Adrian Miller

Miller: The President's Kitchen Cabinet: The Story of the African Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families, from the Washingtons to the ObamasJames Beard award–winning author Adrian Miller vividly tells the stories of the African Americans who worked in the presidential food service as chefs, personal cooks, butlers, stewards, and servers for every First Family since George and Martha Washington. Miller brings together the names and words of more than 150 black men and women who played remarkable roles in unforgettable events in the nation’s history.

For the sports fanatic

Game Changers: Dean Smith, Charlie Scott, and the Era That Transformed a Southern College Town by Art Chansky

Chansky: Game Changers:Dean Smith, Charlie Scott, and the Era That Transformed a Southern College Town Among many legendary episodes from the life and career of men’s basketball coach Dean Smith, few loom as large as his recruitment of Charlie Scott, the first African American scholarship athlete at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Drawn together by college basketball in a time of momentous change, Smith and Scott helped transform a university, a community, and the racial landscape of sports in the South. But there is much more to this story than is commonly told. In Game Changers, Art Chansky reveals an intense saga of race, college sport, and small-town politics.


The best part? We’re offering 40% off with the code 01DAH40. Happy shopping, and Happy Father’s Day!

The Best of Enemies Movie Adaptation

UNC Press is going to the movies! The Best of Enemies: Race and Redemption in the New South, by Osha Gray Davidson, will be adapted into a film starring Sam Rockwell and Taraji P. Henson. Other cast members include Anne Heche, Wes Bentley, Bruce McGill, Nick Searcy, John Gallagher Jr., and Babou Ceesay. Shooting began last month, so the good news is that you have plenty of time to read the full story. (And now you can picture Sam Rockwell in the role of C. P. Ellis and Taraji P. Henson as Ann Atwater.)The Best of Enemies: Race and Redemption in the New South

C. P. Ellis grew up in the poor white section of Durham, North Carolina, and joined the Ku Klux Klan as a young man. Ann Atwater, a single mother from the poor black part of town, quit her job as a household domestic to join the civil rights fight. During the 1960s, as the country struggled with the explosive issue of race, Atwater and Ellis met on opposite sides of the public school integration issue. Their encounters were charged with hatred and suspicion. In an amazing set of transformations, however, each of them came to see how the other had been exploited by the South’s rigid power structure, and they forged a friendship that flourished against a backdrop of unrelenting bigotry.

Rich with details about the rhythms of daily life in the mid-twentieth-century South, The Best of Enemies offers a vivid portrait of a relationship that defied all odds. By placing this very personal story into broader context, Osha Gray Davidson demonstrates that race is intimately tied to issues of class, and that cooperation is possible—even in the most divisive situations—when people begin to listen to one another.

If you’re like us and love to read the book before seeing the movie, make sure to grab a copy of The Best of Enemies.

Alisha Gaines: White Guilt and Allyship on WGN’s Underground

cover image for black for a day by gainesToday we welcome a guest post from Alisha Gaines, author of Black for a Day: White Fantasies of Race and Empathy. In 1948, journalist Ray Sprigle traded his whiteness to live as a black man for four weeks. A little over a decade later, John Howard Griffin famously “became” black as well, traveling the American South in search of a certain kind of racial understanding. Contemporary history is littered with the surprisingly complex stories of white people passing as black, and here Alisha Gaines constructs a unique genealogy of “empathetic racial impersonation”—white liberals walking in the fantasy of black skin under the alibi of cross-racial empathy. At the end of their experiments in “blackness,” Gaines argues, these debatably well-meaning white impersonators arrived at little more than false consciousness.

Complicating the histories of black-to-white passing and blackface minstrelsy, Gaines uses an interdisciplinary approach rooted in literary studies, race theory, and cultural studies to reveal these sometimes maddening, and often absurd, experiments of racial impersonation. By examining this history of modern racial impersonation, Gaines shows that there was, and still is, a faulty cultural logic that places enormous faith in the idea that empathy is all that white Americans need to make a significant difference in how to racially navigate our society.


White Guilt and Allyship on Underground

In the scandal-fueled aftermath of the election of Donald Trump, some of my white friends texted and emailed me vowing to fight Muslim bans, the deportation of Latinx immigrants, and dogwhistles promising the racist escalation of law and order. My social media was a visual cacophony of safety pins and pink pussy hats—emblems of resistance, empathy, allyship, and often, white liberal guilt.

Being seen as a “good” white person has rarely been more important.

Months before white women began knitting, the WGN cable show Underground debuted on March 9, 2016. It chronicles the attempted escape by seven slaves from a Georgia cotton plantation in 1857. Since staging black fugitivity through reimaginings of the Underground Railroad is critically and commercially popular, Underground was a ratings breakout for the network.

promotional photo from WGN's Underground series

Unlike the many representations of slavery that exploit black bodies in pain while over-representing white heroism, Underground is a different kind of history. Created by Misha Green and Joe Pokaski, it features the uncompromising resistance of black folks and the vulnerabilities faced by white allies.
Continue Reading Alisha Gaines: White Guilt and Allyship on WGN’s Underground