Alice Elizabeth Malavasic: The Republic’s Need for Civility

The F Street Mess by Alice Elizabeth MalavasicToday we welcome a guest blog post from Alice Elizabeth Malavasic, author of The F Street Mess:  How Southern Senators Rewrote the Kansas-Nebraska Act.

Pushing back against the idea that the Slave Power conspiracy was merely an ideological construction, The F Street Mess argues that some southern politicians in the 1850s did indeed hold an inordinate amount of power in the antebellum Congress and used it to foster the interests of slavery. Malavasic focuses her argument on Senators David Rice Atchison of Missouri, Andrew Pickens Butler of South Carolina, and Robert M. T. Hunter and James Murray Mason of Virginia, known by their contemporaries as the “F Street Mess” for the location of the house they shared. Unlike the earlier and better-known triumvirate of John C. Calhoun, Henry Clay, and Daniel Webster, the F Street Mess was a functioning oligarchy within the U.S. Senate whose power was based on shared ideology, institutional seniority, and personal friendship.

The F Street Mess is available now in both print and e-book editions.

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The Republic’s Need for Civility

The Oxford Dictionary defines civility as the “formal politeness and courtesy in behavior and speech.”  It is a necessary component in a functioning republic. Without it freedom is replaced by tyranny. Thomas Jefferson recognized civility’s necessity in 1801 when he wrote his Manual of Parliamentary Practice for the Use of the Senate of the United States.  In it he laid out the fundamental rules of senate decorum. As I describe in The F Street Mess, under Jefferson’s rules senate debate is to be conducted without distractions or interruptions, and a senator cannot “by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming of a Senator.”

The Senate of the United States, and the federal government as a whole, maintained Jefferson’s rules throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. That is not to say that decorum did not break down on occasion, no more extreme example of which exists than the episode known as the Caning of Charles Sumner in 1856. Sumner’s beating by Congressman Preston Brooks was precipitated by Sumner’s two day speech in the senate against the Lecompton constitution known as “The Crime against Kansas.” Sumner’s fellow senator William Seward was privy to an advance copy of the speech in which Sumner ridiculed the absent and ailing Andrew Pickens Butler of South Carolina. Seward warned Sumner that personal attacks against fellow senators violated Jefferson’s rules and advised Sumner to remove the offending remarks. Sumner did not.

Continue Reading Alice Elizabeth Malavasic: The Republic’s Need for Civility

Happy MLK Day! Ashley D. Farmer on Martin Luther King, Jr. and Black Power

Today, in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we highlight a post written by Ashley D. Farmer, author of Remaking Black Power:  How Black Women Transformed an Era, just published by UNC Press.

Remaking Black Power by Ashley D. FarmerRemaking Black Power examines black women’s political, social, and cultural engagement with Black Power ideals and organizations. Complicating the assumption that sexism relegated black women to the margins of the movement, Ashley Farmer demonstrates how female activists fought for more inclusive understandings of Black Power and social justice by developing new ideas about black womanhood. This compelling book shows how the new tropes of womanhood that they created–the “Militant Black Domestic,” the “Revolutionary Black Woman,” and the “Third World Woman,” for instance–spurred debate among activists over the importance of women and gender to Black Power organizing, causing many of the era’s organizations and leaders to critique patriarchy and support gender equality.

This post originally ran on the blog of the National Civil Rights Museum in Nashville, Tennessee.  Established in 1991, the National Civil Rights Museum is located at the former Lorraine Motel, where Dr. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968. Through interactive exhibits, historic collections, dynamic speakers and special events, the museum offers visitors a chance to walk through history and learn more about a tumultuous and inspiring period of change.

Here’s a brief excerpt from the post:

What Would King Do? Learning from King’s Approach to Black Power

By 1966, calls for “Black Power” electrified the nation. In the preceding year alone, black Americans had witnessed the assassination of Malcolm X, riots it Watts, the black section of Los Angeles, and the shooting of civil rights activist James Meredith, during his attempt to march from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi to promote black voter registration. This sustained violence led many black Americans to embrace “Black Power”—or calls for black community control, self-determination, and self-defense. The slogan became so popular that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. felt compelled to address it publicly. It was no secret that King did not like the phrase. In October 1966, he claimed that the slogan was “an unwise choice” that had become “dangerous and injurious.”[1] Despite this condemnation, he could not ignore the importance of Black Power to black political life. In that same speech, King also attested to the diversity and promise of the philosophy, indicating the potential of Black Power to ameliorate the dreadful socio-economic conditions impacting black lives.

King admitted that he could “not simply condemn [the] new concept,” as “this new mood ha[d] arisen from real, not imaginary causes.” The Reverend noted that the appeal of Black Power was not “limited to the few who use[d] it to justify violence.” Rather it was the manifestation of the frustration and anger of black Americans who found that the “extravagant promises” of the federal government had been had become little more than a “shattered mockery.” King was speaking of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act— both of which had failed to assure government-enforced desegregation and black voting protections. He was also attesting to the fact that “ghettos, unemployment, housing discrimination and slum schools,” still characterized black life in America. This dehumanization and degradation, King argued, had led many to embrace Black Power as “‘white power’ had left them empty handed.”[2]

Notes

[1] Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “It Is Not Enough to Condemn Black Power….” October 1966. The King Center Archive, Atlanta, Georgia.

[2] Ibid.

You can read the post in its entirety here.

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Ashley D. Farmer is assistant professor of history and African American studies at Boston University.  Learn more at her website, and follow her on Twitter at drashleyfarmer.

#HaitiSyllabus — Haitian Studies titles from UNC Press

#HaitiSyllabus

Haitian Studies titles from UNC Press

The University of North Carolina Press has prided itself on accumulating and disseminating books that range in field and scope.  We have made it our mission to contribute to the ongoing debates and discussions within and outside of the academy.  In light of President Trump’s remarks regarding Haiti, El Salvador, and various African countries, as well as about individuals immigrating from these countries, UNC Press has compiled a list of titles we have published about Haitian history that engage in intellectual discussions about the country and offer factually based evidence about the true identities, cultures, and peoples of Haiti.

We hope the list of books shared here serves as a resource for all those seeking deeper understanding and sound engagement with historical evidence. The list is by no means comprehensive, and we hope you’ll check this list here and on our website in the coming days as new titles are added.

 

Isles of NoiseThe Imagined Island Colony of Citizens An Islandwide Struggle for Freedom Haitian Connections in the Atlantic World Taking Haiti Liberty, Fraternity, Exile Red & Black in Haiti

 

Professors, you can easily and quickly request exam and desk copies online (including free digital exam copies) by visiting any of the books’ pages above. If you need assistance in choosing the right texts for your course, we’d be glad to help; contact us here.

We’re happy to offer a 40 percent discount on book purchases, and if your order totals $75, the shipping is free.  Simply enter promo code 01HOLIDAY at checkout to receive your discount.

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Megan Raby: The Tropical Origins of the Idea of Biodiversity

Megan Raby: American TropicsToday we welcome a guest blog post from Megan Raby, author of American Tropics:  The Caribbean Roots of Biodiversity Science.

Biodiversity has been a key concept in international conservation since the 1980s, yet historians have paid little attention to its origins. Uncovering its roots in tropical fieldwork and the southward expansion of U.S. empire at the turn of the twentieth century, Megan Raby in American Tropics details how ecologists took advantage of growing U.S. landholdings in the circum-Caribbean by establishing permanent field stations for long-term, basic tropical research. From these outposts of U.S. science, a growing community of American “tropical biologists” developed both the key scientific concepts and the values embedded in the modern discourse of biodiversity.

American Tropics is available now in both print and e-book editions.

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The Tropical Origins of the Idea of Biodiversity

Today biodiversity is a key concept in biology and international conservation. It has even become something of a household word. In a narrow sense biodiversity simply refers to the number and variety of species in a given area. You can talk about the biodiversity of a particular site, of a region, or of the entire planet. These nesting scales carry subtle connotations. They situate local species––and the local loss of species––as part of a global biological heritage. Under threat, conservationists have argued, are not just particular wild places or even individual endangered species, but rather the diversity of life on earth itself.

Biodiversity has been so successfully framed as a global resource that it is tempting to see its intellectual history as abstracted from place. Most historical accounts have also focused on the period since the term biodiversity was coined in 1985. Yet older concepts, including direct predecessors like species diversity, were developed and refined over the course of the 20th century in conjunction with longstanding scientific efforts to understand the numbers and distribution of species––particularly in the tropics. My research on 20th-century tropical biological fieldwork led me to see direct connections between the development of field stations in the circum-Caribbean area and the rise of biodiversity as a scientific and conservation concept.

Continue Reading Megan Raby: The Tropical Origins of the Idea of Biodiversity

Time is running out — last days to shop the UNC Press Holiday Gift Books sale!

UNC Press Holiday Gift Books SaleYes, the holidays are over, the lights and decorations are all put away, and the eggnog disappears for eleven months.

So too must end the UNC Press Holiday Gift Books sale.  Just one week left — for you to save 40 percent off all UNC Press print books.  And, if your order totals $75, the domestic shipping is FREE!

Click here to start shopping …. and use promo code 01HOLIDAY at checkout to see your discount.

So don’t delay — if you haven’t shopped our sale yet, you only have a few more days left.

Happy New Year — and happy shopping!

Jessica Ziparo: Advice from the 1860s

Jessica Ziparo, This Grand ExperimentToday we welcome a guest post from Jessica Ziparo, author of This Grand Experiment:  When Women Entered the Federal Workforce in Civil War–Era Washington, D.C.

In the volatility of the Civil War, the federal government opened its payrolls to women. Thousands of female applicants from across the country flooded Washington with applications. In This Grand Experiment, Jessica Ziparo traces the struggles and triumphs of early female federal employees, who were caught between traditional, cultural notions of female dependence and an evolving movement of female autonomy in a new economic reality. In doing so, Ziparo demonstrates how these women challenged societal gender norms, carved out a place for independent women in the streets of Washington, and sometimes clashed with the female suffrage movement.

This Grand Experiment is now available in both print and e-book editions.

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Advice from the 1860s

“Why do many women tear each other down instead of lift each other up?” CNN asked on its Facebook page in March 2015. It’s a question feminists have long asked themselves. In May 1868, suffragist Julia Archibald chided journalist and former War Department clerk Jane Swisshelm in the pages of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s newspaper The Revolution, and her words still have resonance today as women continue to seek equality in America and the world. Swisshelm had written disparagingly about sculptor, and former Post Office Department employee, Vinnie Ream. In 1866, Congress commissioned eighteen-year-old Ream to sculpt the statue of Abraham Lincoln that stands in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol building. She was the first female artist ever commissioned to create a work of art by the United States government.

Swisshelm, a women’s rights advocate and friend of a (male) sculptor who had competed with Ream for the commission, wrote in an open letter to popular newspapers of the day that Ream had only earned the commission because she had “a pretty face” and knew how to flirt. Swisshelm described Ream as “a young girl of about twenty who has been studying her art for a few months” and wrote that in her studio Ream had “some plaster busts on exhibition, including her own, minus clothing to the waist.” (These assertions were untrue: Ream had been interested in art since childhood and began an apprenticeship under sculptor Clark Mills in 1865, and the female sculpture to which Swisshelm referred was not of Ream). The journalist told her readers that Ream saw Congressmen “at their lodgings or the reception room at the Capitol” and described her sitting “in a conspicuous position and her most bewitching dress” as the politicians discussed the sculptors vying for the commission.

Suffragist Julia Archibald’s message to the ladies of the 1860s still serves as a reminder for today: “Every demonstration of genius by a woman should be hailed by her sisters with joy. Women should rejoice at every evidence that the slaveries of fashion and false education have not entirely extinguished in her sex the fire of genius.”

Julia Archibald was incensed. “It would seem that [Swisshelm] must consider any appreciation which another woman receives as just so much of honor and fame detracted from [herself],” she wrote. Coming to Ream’s defense, Archibald described the young sculptor as “formerly a clerk in the Post Office Department, working for half pay, like the other women clerks, until the inspiration of genius pointed out to her a new path, rugged and thorny enough at first, but leading, it is to be hoped, to a bright future.” It was not her bewitching dress that earned her the federal commission: “by dint of hard study and the most untiring industry she has succeeded in obtaining and deserving a name, and an acknowledged position as an artist, despite the slanders of Mrs. Swisshelm, and writers of that class, with whom her youth, beauty, and attractiveness are her chief faults.”

Continue Reading Jessica Ziparo: Advice from the 1860s

Adam I. P. Smith: Who in Civil War America really believed in “States’ Rights”?

Smith: The Stormy PresentFor our first post of the new year, we welcome a guest post from Adam I.P. Smith, author of The Stormy Present:  Conservatism and the Problem of Slavery in Northern Politics, 1846–1865.

In The Stormy Present, an engaging and nuanced political history of Northern communities in the Civil War era, Adam I. P. Smith offers a new interpretation of the familiar story of the path to war and ultimate victory. Smith looks beyond the political divisions between abolitionist Republicans and Copperhead Democrats to consider the everyday conservatism that characterized the majority of Northern voters. A sense of ongoing crisis in these Northern states created anxiety and instability, which manifested in a range of social and political tensions in individual communities.

The Stormy Present is available now in both print and e-book editions.

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Who in Civil War America really believed in “States’ Rights”?

When people still say—as they do, a lot—that the Civil War was “really” about “states’ rights”, one common riposte is to reply “yes but the only ‘right’ they cared about was the right to own slaves.”

This is a well-intentioned line of argument but it is misleading. It implies that—yes—Confederates were committed to states’ rights even if only as a means to protect their human property. That would be bad enough, but it still gets the problem the wrong way around. The leaders of the slave states in fact opposed states’ rights and wanted a strong central government—so long as it was controlled by them, as it was for pretty much the whole time between the Revolution and the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860.

Southern state governments’ public explanations for secession explicitly mentioned as a provocation the Personal Liberty Laws passed by Northern states in the 1850s. These were state laws designed to neuter the federal Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which gave Federal agents extraordinary power to by-pass normal law enforcement procedures in order to seize alleged runaway slaves. Supporters of John C. Breckinridge, the candidate of the southern wing of the Democratic Party in the 1860 election, demanded a Federal Slave Code—a set of regulations enforcing the ownership of human “property”. I could go on. The basic point is that it is difficult to enforce a system of human slavery unless the “owners” can rely on enforcement of their “property rights” at every level of the polity. Given the reality of enslaved people not wanting to be enslaved, slaveholders could not be content with only state-level enforcement.

This was why southerners were so delighted by the Supreme Court’s infamous Dred Scott decision of 1857. Chief Justice Taney argued that slaves were property within the meaning of the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution and that therefore no one could be deprived or his or her “property” without “due process of law.” The immediate consequence of the ruling was that any attempt by Congress to ban slavery from any U.S. territory would be unconstitutional. The wider implication—quickly seized upon by Abraham Lincoln and many others—was that slaveholders could not be deprived of their human “property” even where slavery was banned by state law. Dred Scott, in other words, promised the wholesale nationalization of the institution of slavery.

Continue Reading Adam I. P. Smith: Who in Civil War America really believed in “States’ Rights”?

Adam I. P. Smith: The Conservatism of Revolution

Smith: The Stormy PresentToday we welcome a guest post from Adam I.P. Smith, author of The Stormy Present:  Conservatism and the Problem of Slavery in Northern Politics, 1846–1865.

In The Stormy Present, an engaging and nuanced political history of Northern communities in the Civil War era, Adam I. P. Smith offers a new interpretation of the familiar story of the path to war and ultimate victory. Smith looks beyond the political divisions between abolitionist Republicans and Copperhead Democrats to consider the everyday conservatism that characterized the majority of Northern voters. A sense of ongoing crisis in these Northern states created anxiety and instability, which manifested in a range of social and political tensions in individual communities.

The Stormy Present is available now in both print and e-book editions.

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The Conservatism of Revolution

In what Herman Melville called the “Red Year” of 1848, when barricades went up in European capitals and the old order seemed to teeter on the brink of collapse, a writer in a religious publication noted a new development in American political language. The terms “conservatives” and “conservatism” were now used so frequently that it “becomes a matter of some surprise, how our predecessors managed to dispense with them so generally.”

My own reading of the newspapers, books, letters and speeches in the Northern states in the nineteenth century amply backs up this empirical observation: the invocation of “conservative men” or “conservative principles” was talismanic. Self-described conservatives dominated public life. Even those who sought radical changes in American society often felt the need to argue that they embodied “true conservatism” while their opponents traded in “false” or “pretended” conservatism.

Conservatism, in the American nineteenth-century meaning of the term, wasn’t exactly an ideology and certainly not a political program. Nor even—confusingly from our perspective—did it suggest any opposition to liberalism or progress.

But if so wide a spectrum of people wanted to be seen as conservative, what could the term possibly mean? Conservatism, in the American nineteenth-century meaning of the term, wasn’t exactly an ideology and certainly not a political program. Nor even—confusingly from our perspective—did it suggest any opposition to liberalism or progress. Editors wrote quite comfortably of “progressive conservatism, or which is the same thing, conservative progress.” Conservatism clearly did imply positive character traits like “manliness”, respectability, or moderation. Most of all, however, the ubiquity of conservatism reflected the peculiar character of the United States as a post-revolutionary society. When Americans in this period looked at the challenges they faced—whether of immigration, rapid urbanisation, or slavery—they almost always saw them through the prism of defending the revolutionary settlement which had given them, as they saw it, a society of unparalleled economic and political opportunity. And since they believed their popular government was unique, Northerners were always acutely conscious of their place in the world. To be an American in the mid-nineteenth century was to be in the vanguard of the global struggle between the rights of man and the power of tyrants. The enemies of popular self-rule were at home as well as abroad, not least among the slaveholding class of the South.

Continue Reading Adam I. P. Smith: The Conservatism of Revolution

Recipe: Ham (or Ham and Turkey) Tetrazzini

Ham: A Savor the South Cookbook, by Damon Lee FowlerIn preparation for upcoming holiday feasts, today we bring you a recipe from our latest Savor the South® volume, Ham, by Damon Lee Fowler. Within his compilation of ham-themed recipes, Fowler provides a delicious and ham-filled rendition of Tetrazzini, a dish with associations to Italian soprano Luisa Tetrazzini, whom Fowler mentions in his introduction to the recipe.

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

Don’t forget to “like” the Savor the South® book page on Facebook for more news and recipes.

Continue Reading Recipe: Ham (or Ham and Turkey) Tetrazzini

Michael D. Robinson: Reconsidering John Jordan Crittenden

A Union Indivisible by Michael D. RobinsonToday, we welcome a guest post from Michael D. Robinson, author of A Union Indivisible:  Secession and the Politics of Slavery in the Border South.

Many accounts of the secession crisis overlook the sharp political conflict that took place in the Border South states of Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri. In A Union Indivisible, Michael D. Robinson expands the scope of this crisis to show how the fate of the Border South, and with it the Union, desperately hung in the balance during the fateful months surrounding the clash at Fort Sumter. During this period, Border South politicians revealed the region’s deep commitment to slavery, disputed whether or not to leave the Union, and schemed to win enough support to carry the day. Although these border states contained fewer enslaved people than the eleven states that seceded, white border Southerners chose to remain in the Union because they felt the decision best protected their peculiar institution. Robinson reveals anew how the choice for union was fraught with anguish and uncertainty, dividing families and producing years of bitter internecine violence. Letters, diaries, newspapers, and quantitative evidence illuminate how, in the absence of a compromise settlement, proslavery Unionists managed to defeat secession in the Border South.

A Union Indivisible is now available in both print and e-book editions.

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Reconsidering John Jordan Crittenden

Just a couple of blocks from a bend in the Kentucky River that envelops Frankfort, Kentucky’s historic district, a drab brown sign stands on West Main Street just outside of the nineteenth-century townhome of John Jordan Crittenden.  On a daily basis hundreds of people stroll by the historical marker and the home, both of which inconspicuously blend into the tree-lined street and the unassuming row of brick houses that serve as a quiet reminder of the Kentucky capital’s modest origins.  The gold-lettered heading reads “An Eminent Statesman” and catches the eye of the occasional passerby, but few folks take the time to read the impressive list of Crittenden’s accolades.  The roster of the Kentuckian’s public service leaves little doubt that few nineteenth-century politicians could match his record: Crittenden had been elected governor of the Bluegrass State and represented Kentucky in the U.S. Senate on numerous occasions, and three separate presidents made him attorney general in a career that spanned six decades.  Crittenden’s political longevity alone attests to his renown, but most people remember this protégé of Henry Clay for his inability to secure a political settlement that might stave off civil war in the aftermath of Abraham Lincoln’s 1860 election.  Even the copy of the historical marker, usually reserved for unblushing adulation, confesses that this eminent statesman was “noted for [the] Crittenden Compromise, 1860, [a] futile effort to avert Civil War and preserve the Union.”

One can speculate that if John Crittenden had managed to get his compromise through Congress in the winter of 1860-61, more people would stop to pay homage to the memory of the politician.  Rather than meandering past the austere home, thousands of people might flock to it just as they swarm to Henry Clay’s Ashland, an ostentatious mansion in Lexington where visitors are reminded that this home’s former occupant thrice orchestrated compromises that saved the Union from dissolution.  In death, just as in life, John Jordan Crittenden tends to live in the shadow of Henry Clay.  Historians often fall into the trap of comparing Crittenden to Clay, and no matter their take on the coming of the Civil War they often reach similar conclusions: at best he was a noble failure for trying to patch together an eleventh-hour compromise, at worst he lacked a moral compass for trying to push through a settlement that would have permanently prevented Congress from interfering with slavery.  Regardless, Crittenden failed and as Abraham Lincoln remarked in his second inaugural address, “the war came.”Continue Reading Michael D. Robinson: Reconsidering John Jordan Crittenden

Muriel R. Gillick, M.D.: The Not-So-Secret Secret About American Health Care

Muriel R. Gillick, Old and Sick in AmericaToday, we welcome a guest post from Dr. Muriel R. Gillick, author of Old and Sick in America:  The Journey through the Health Care System.

Since the introduction of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965, the American health care system has steadily grown in size and complexity. Old and Sick in America takes readers on a narrative tour of American health care, incorporating the stories of older patients as they travel from the doctor’s office to the hospital to the skilled nursing facility, and examining the influence of forces as diverse as pharmaceutical corporations, device manufacturers, and health insurance companies on their experience.

Old and Sick in America is now available in both print and e-book editions.

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The Not-So-Secret Secret About American Health Care

If you read any of the voluminous newspaper coverage of the seemingly perpetual debate about the American health care system over the past few months, you would think that the U.S. had two problems: first, health insurance is too expensive and second, many people can’t get insurance, either because they don’t have jobs that provide coverage, they can’t afford it, or they have something invented by the insurance industry called a “pre-existing condition.” If you are right-leaning in your inclinations, you think the main problem is the former, because you believe coverage is a matter of free choice (if people worked hard enough or cared enough they could manage to obtain health), and if you have left-leaning tendencies, you think the problem is principally the latter, because you believe that health care insurance coverage is a right (if it costs too much, then government should subsidize it). What nobody seems to be talking about is the quality of American medical care—what you get if you do access treatment. And the dirty little secret of American health care is that the medical treatment that people get, even when cost and access are not issues, leaves a great deal to be desired.

This is American medicine at its best: carried out by extremely competent doctors with access to the latest technology and the most effective medications. But what is often forgotten in the drive to “fix” the health care system is just what it is that needs fixing: it’s not merely inadequate access and excessive cost; for large swaths of the public, the care itself is sub-optimal. For no group is that more true than the very frail and very old.

That’s not to say that some aspects of American medicine, at least as provided in certain hospitals, in particular parts of the country, and by some physicians, aren’t spectacular. My son suffered significant trauma after colliding with another player during an ultimate Frisbee tournament. He sustained a concussion, an orbital fracture, a maxillary fracture, and various other injuries. He was whisked off to a nearby hospital and evaluated; within days, he had plastic surgery performed by an outstanding physician, and within a couple of months, he had recovered completely.  I have a friend who fainted while on vacation in San Francisco and was astutely diagnosed as having anemia due to babesiosis, a parasitic infection transmitted by tick bite (endemic on Cape Cod, 3000 miles east of California). I have no doubt that the diagnostic acumen and swift response of the medical team—he received the appropriate antibiotics and the requisite number of transfusions for his profound anemia within hours of his arrival in the emergency department—saved his life. This is American medicine at its best: carried out by extremely competent doctors with access to the latest technology and the most effective medications. But what is often forgotten in the drive to “fix” the health care system is just what it is that needs fixing: it’s not merely inadequate access and excessive cost; for large swaths of the public, the care itself is sub-optimal. For no group is that more true than the very frail and very old.

Continue Reading Muriel R. Gillick, M.D.: The Not-So-Secret Secret About American Health Care

Stephanie Hinnershitz: Righting Past Wrongs in Lingering Legal Codes

Stephanie Hinnershitz, A Different Shade of JusticeToday we welcome a guest post from Stephanie Hinnershitz, author of A Different Shade of Justice:  Asian American Civil Rights in the South.

From the formation of Chinese and Japanese communities in the early twentieth century through Indian hotel owners’ battles against business discrimination in the 1980s and ’90s, Stephanie Hinnershitz shows how Asian Americans organized carefully constructed legal battles that often traveled to the state and federal supreme courts. Drawing from legislative and legal records as well as oral histories, memoirs, and newspapers, A Different Shade of Justice describes a movement that ran alongside and at times intersected with the African American fight for justice, and she restores Asian Americans to the fraught legacy of civil rights in the South.

A Different Shade of Justice is available now in both print and e-book editions.

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Righting Past Wrongs in Lingering Legal Codes

In recent years, debates surrounding the symbolic removal of Confederate monuments erected during the Jim Crow Era from public spaces have prompted a variety of actions and reactions from Americans. This movement, however, has not fully embraced the similar need to remove longstanding pieces of legislation that are rooted in the racial discrimination of the past. Though in many cases such laws and codes are unenforceable thanks to Supreme Court decisions, a movement to strip legal codes of lingering racist and discriminatory wording would go a long way in acknowledging this nation’s troubled past and symbolizing a step toward addressing its injustices.

Take, for example, Florida’s Constitution. Revised a number of times since its inception in 1838, its current Declaration of Rights (Section 18) contains a provision that, on the surface, seems mundane: “Foreigners who are eligible to become citizens of the United States under the provisions of the laws and treaties of the United States shall have the same rights as to the ownership, inheritance and disposition of property in the State as citizens of the State, but the Legislature shall have power to limit, regulate and prohibit the ownership, inheritance, disposition, possession and enjoyment of real estate in the State of Florida by foreigners who are not eligible to become citizens of the United States under the provisions of the laws and treaties of the United States.” Read within the larger history of anti-Asian discrimination in America the racist underpinnings of this portion of the Florida constitution become clear.

Continue Reading Stephanie Hinnershitz: Righting Past Wrongs in Lingering Legal Codes

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Alice Elizabeth Malavasic: The Momentous Issue of Our National Soul

The F Street Mess by Alice Elizabeth MalavasicToday we welcome a guest blog post from Alice Elizabeth Malavasic, author of The F Street Mess:  How Southern Senators Rewrote the Kansas-Nebraska Act.

Pushing back against the idea that the Slave Power conspiracy was merely an ideological construction, The F Street Mess argues that some southern politicians in the 1850s did indeed hold an inordinate amount of power in the antebellum Congress and used it to foster the interests of slavery. Malavasic focuses her argument on Senators David Rice Atchison of Missouri, Andrew Pickens Butler of South Carolina, and Robert M. T. Hunter and James Murray Mason of Virginia, known by their contemporaries as the “F Street Mess” for the location of the house they shared. Unlike the earlier and better-known triumvirate of John C. Calhoun, Henry Clay, and Daniel Webster, the F Street Mess was a functioning oligarchy within the U.S. Senate whose power was based on shared ideology, institutional seniority, and personal friendship.

The F Street Mess is available now in both print and e-book editions.

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The Momentous Issue of Our National Soul

The upcoming special election in Alabama to fill the state’s vacant U.S. senate seat has given rise to the question of whether the Senate will expel Roy Moore, current Republican candidate and accused pedophile, should he win the election. Given that the last expulsion from the United States Senate occurred in 1862 during the Civil War, press and political pundits doubt the likelihood of the senate expelling Moore should he be elected.

The senators expelled during the Civil War included Robert M.T. Hunter and James Murray Mason, both subjects of my book, The F Street Mess. They were expelled from the Senate on July 10, 1861 months after most southerners had already voluntarily withdrawn from the Congress. After the November elections, many southern congressmen and senators simply did not return to Washington. Others returned only to leave again as the lower South began to secede during the winter of 1860-61. Some senators sent formal letters of resignation to the chamber, while others sent nothing at all. Some followed Jefferson Davis in making formal resignation speeches from the Senate floor. Others announced their resignations in their hometown newspapers. Some, like Robert Toombs of Georgia, said nothing and simply left. The variety of ways chosen by southern senators to leave only added to the questions confronting those who remained: what was the difference, if any, between withdrawal and resignation; were the withdrawals permanent; did withdrawal affect committee assignments; and last but definitely not least, was secession legal? Unable to reach an agreement on those questions the Thirty-Sixth Congress ended on March 3, 1861.

What is the difference between the Republican controlled senate that voted to expel multiple senators during 1861-62 and the Republican controlled senate today that is loathed to expel Moore should he be elected? It’s simple, the difference is between national security and the national soul.

Abraham Lincoln became the nation’s sixteenth president the next day. The Thirty-Seventh Congress convened under Republican control and resumed the debate on withdrawal, resignation, and secession. Not wanting to legitimize the principle of secession, the Senate declared the seats of the absent southern senators vacant and removed their names from the roll. The matters of withdrawal and secession were referred to the Judiciary Committee and Congress recessed on March 28. Robert Hunter and James Mason had left Washington ten days earlier.

Continue Reading Alice Elizabeth Malavasic: The Momentous Issue of Our National Soul

Author Interview: Stephanie Elizondo Griest, All the Agents and Saints

Pictured: Stephanie Elizondo Griest author photo; person wearing black clothing covering the top of the body, with a red shawl; the person has shoulder-length wavy dark-brown hair, light eyes, and is smiling.

Stephanie Elizondo Griest (photo by Alexander Devora)

Today UNC Press publicity director Gina Mahalek talks to Stephanie Elizondo Griest, author of All the Agents and Saints: Dispatches from the U.S. Borderlands, about liminal spaces/borderlands, spirituality, shared struggles, and more.

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Gina Mahalek: Your first four books are a celebration of wanderlust, which has fueled your travels to nearly 50 countries. Why did you leave the open road for your hometown in South Texas in 2007, and what did you find there?

Stephanie Elizondo Griest: At some point in my early thirties, nomadism started existentially untethering me. Anything that could have diverted attention from my writing—a house, a partner, a community, a legitimately paying job, children, pets, plants—had been avoided for so long, it had slipped into the realm of the unobtainable. The bulk of my belongings, meanwhile, were scattered in attics around the world. Since nothing tied me down, I kept moving. Yet it was becoming apparent that if I never stood still, nothing ever would. So in 2007, I followed the magnetic pull of home.

To my surprise, the Rio Grande Valley had transformed into a death valley in my absence. Whole swaths of South Texas had been poisoned by petrochemical industries, ravaged by the drug war, and barricaded by a seventy-mile-long steel wall. It had become the nation’s chief crossing ground for undocumented workers as well, unknown hundreds of whom perished in the scrub brush while evading the Border Patrol. My sleepy homeland had become a major news story, and I responded the only way I knew how: by taking reams of notes.

GM: You spent seven years conducting investigative reporting in South Texas, about everything from environmental injustice and illegal immigration to the drug war, poverty, and the obesity epidemic. Yet your narrative is intensely personal as well. What do the borderlands mean for you?

SEG: The Texas/Mexico borderline not only bisects my ancestral land. It cuts through my family as well. My mother is Mexican and my father is Kansan. I have long suspected that growing up in a biracial family in the liminal space between nations created an inner fissure in me as well. All my life, I have waffled between extremes: gringa/Chicana; cosmopolite/cowgirl; agnostic/Catholic; journalist/activist; Type A/free spirit. The Aztecs coined a term for living in the state of in-between-ness: nepantla. That is how they described their struggle to reconcile their indigenous ways with the one Spanish colonizers forced upon them in the sixteenth century. More recently, the writer Gloria Anzaldúa turned nepantla into a metaphor for a “birthing stage where you feel like you’re reconfiguring your identity and don’t know where you are.” That is probably why my journey led me back home. After so many years of feeling split in two, I sought to finally fuse.

GM: And yet, All the Agents and Saints isn’t just a meditation about your own homeland. The second half documents life in the Mohawk Nation of Akwesasne. What launched that investigation?Continue Reading Author Interview: Stephanie Elizondo Griest, All the Agents and Saints

Michael D. Robinson: Where Was the Political Middle Ground during the Secession Crisis?

A Union Indivisible by Michael D. RobinsonToday, we welcome a guest post from Michael D. Robinson, author of A Union Indivisible:  Secession and the Politics of Slavery in the Border South.

Many accounts of the secession crisis overlook the sharp political conflict that took place in the Border South states of Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri. In A Union Indivisible, Michael D. Robinson expands the scope of this crisis to show how the fate of the Border South, and with it the Union, desperately hung in the balance during the fateful months surrounding the clash at Fort Sumter. During this period, Border South politicians revealed the region’s deep commitment to slavery, disputed whether or not to leave the Union, and schemed to win enough support to carry the day. Although these border states contained fewer enslaved people than the eleven states that seceded, white border Southerners chose to remain in the Union because they felt the decision best protected their peculiar institution. Robinson reveals anew how the choice for union was fraught with anguish and uncertainty, dividing families and producing years of bitter internecine violence. Letters, diaries, newspapers, and quantitative evidence illuminate how, in the absence of a compromise settlement, proslavery Unionists managed to defeat secession in the Border South.

A Union Indivisible is now available in both print and e-book editions.

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Where Was the Political Middle Ground during the Secession Crisis?

A quick perusal of today’s headlines can leave one feeling as if moderates and centrists no longer have a voice in American politics.  Heated partisan and ideological battles over the last couple of decades have driven a seismic shift from the seemingly halcyon days of political consensus-building to our present state of affairs, where the smallest details of government often get bogged down in a flashy show of brinksmanship that leaves many observers exhausted and cynical.  One easily throws up his or her hands and asks, “Has American politics ever been so polarized?” 

Any search for precedent naturally leads to the secession winter of 1860-61, a crisis of unmatched proportions that churned forth in the wake of Republican Abraham Lincoln’s November electoral victory.  So often Americans remember that voters had constitutionally sent a president to the White House whose party’s foundation consisted of a program designed to restrict the spread of slavery to the western territories.  Fearful of the Republican Party’s promised choke-hold on American slavery and the anti-southern rhetoric that whipped voters to a frenzy during the campaign, white southerners opted to leave the cherished Union behind and start their own government shorn of all elements hostile to the peculiar institution.  This telling of events leaves one confident that no middle ground existed in 1860-61.  After all, eleven slaveholding states seceded and the nation was pushed ever-closer to a war so destructive that its aftershocks are still felt today.  The middle ground had evaporated and Americans either joined the camp of pro-slavery secessionists or Republican Unionists.Continue Reading Michael D. Robinson: Where Was the Political Middle Ground during the Secession Crisis?

It’s the Holiday Season — and time for the annual UNC Press Holiday Gift Books sale!

UNC Press Holiday Gift Books Sale

Happy Cyber Monday! 

We’ve just launched our annual Holiday Gift Books sale!  You can save 40 percent on all UNC Press print books.  And, if your order totals $75 or more, the domestic shipping is free!

Save on great gift books for everyone on your list — cookbooks, illustrated books, guidebooks, ground-breaking (and award-winning) books in history, religion, etc — truly something for everyone.  Browse our site and find lots of great gifts (and even some for yourself, too).

Use promo code 01HOLIDAY at checkout to see your discount.  Order by December 7 for delivery before December 24th.

Here’s a small sample of what you’ll find — and happy holidays!  Click here to start shopping!

 

The Farmhouse Chef: Recipes and Stories from My Carolina Farm, by Jamie DeMentDemas: Game of PrivilegeThompson: BaconGraubart: ChickenDavid Blevins: North Carolina's Barrier Islands: Wonders of Sand, Sea, and SkyObrecht: Talking Guitar: Conversations with Musicians Who Shaped Twentieth-Century American MusicElizondo Griest: All the Agents and SaintsMiller: The President's Kitchen Cabinet: The Story of the African Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families, from the Washingtons to the ObamasGoat Castle: A True Story of Murder, Race, and the Gothic South, by Karen L. Cox

Excerpt: Jamie DeMent–A Turkey Story for Thanksgiving

Today, just in time for Thanksgiving, we bring you a turkey story from Jamie DeMent’s book, The Farmhouse Chef: Recipes and Stories from My Carolina Farm, now available at bookstores and from UNC Press.

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Talking Turkey

Jamie DeMent, Turkey SunsetOoooggle woogle woogle ooogggle woogle woogle blub blub blub. This is the sound turkeys really make–none of that gobble gobble business. Their tones and volumes differ depending on their level of stimulation, but they never simply gobble. They make their noises all the time, especially in the fall when harvest is approaching. You hear them day and night, and if you call out when you approach, they respond in unison. They do everything in unison. Turkeys, it turns out, are herd animals. We learned that the hard way.

Across the road, our neighbors are Hare Krishna devotees. They have a small, peaceful temple and flower garden, and they are easygoing neighbors. When our wayward dogs wander over for a visit, they don’t even call to ask us to collect them–they just let the dogs do their thing and return home when they want. That approach also applies to turkeys.

Continue Reading Excerpt: Jamie DeMent–A Turkey Story for Thanksgiving

Alice Elizabeth Malavasic: What’s in a Name?

The F Street Mess by Alice Elizabeth MalavasicToday we welcome a guest blog post from Alice Elizabeth Malavasic, author of The F Street Mess:  How Southern Senators Rewrote the Kansas-Nebraska Act.

Pushing back against the idea that the Slave Power conspiracy was merely an ideological construction, The F Street Mess argues that some southern politicians in the 1850s did indeed hold an inordinate amount of power in the antebellum Congress and used it to foster the interests of slavery. Malavasic focuses her argument on Senators David Rice Atchison of Missouri, Andrew Pickens Butler of South Carolina, and Robert M. T. Hunter and James Murray Mason of Virginia, known by their contemporaries as the “F Street Mess” for the location of the house they shared. Unlike the earlier and better-known triumvirate of John C. Calhoun, Henry Clay, and Daniel Webster, the F Street Mess was a functioning oligarchy within the U.S. Senate whose power was based on shared ideology, institutional seniority, and personal friendship.

The F Street Mess is available now in both print and e-book editions.

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What’s in a Name? That which we call Repeal by any other name would smell as foul

Despite Republican control of the White House and both chambers of Congress the party’s effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act continues to struggle. Seven years ago Republican opposition to the ACA was unanimous. Now the ability to get the necessary votes to repeal is beyond reach because Republican congressmen and senators are waking up to the fact that what they have opposed all these years, the right to health care, has become sacrosanct to their constituents. Republicans need to take a lesson from history. Repealing a measure that is sacrosanct to a large portion of the American public never bodes well for politicians or the public as a whole.Continue Reading Alice Elizabeth Malavasic: What’s in a Name?

Happy Thanksgiving: A roundup of holiday recipes from UNC Press cookbooks

Happy Thanksgiving!

As we enter this week of food, family and fun, here’s a run-down of our favorite Thanksgiving holiday recipe posts from UNC Press cookbook authors. We hope you’ll find a recipe or two that you can add to your holiday table.

Remember, you can order all of these books and save 40 percent right now, during our Holiday Gift Books sale.  Just use promo code 01HOLIDAY at checkout.

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at UNC Press.

Enjoy!

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DeMent: The Farmhouse ChefCane Syrup Pecan Pie, from Jamie DeMent’s The Farmhouse Chef

 

 

 

 

Southern Holidays by Debbie MooseThanksgiving Relish Tray, from Debbie Moose’s Southern Holidays:  A Savor the South Cookbook

 

 

 

 

Cornbread, Apple, and Sausage DressingFred Thompson's 250 Sides, from Fred Thompson’s Southern Sides

 

 

 

 

The New Southern Garden Cookbook: Enjoying the Best from Homegrown Gardens, Farmers' Markets, Roadside Stands, and CSA Farm Boxes, by Sheri CastleWinter Fruit Couscous Salad, from Sheri Castle’s The New Southern Garden Cookbook

 

 

 

 

Dining with the Washingtons: Historic Recipes, Entertaining, and Hospitality from Mount Vernon, edited by Stephen A. McLeodMount Vernon’s Cherry Pie, from Dining with the Washingtons

 

 

 

 

The Happy Table of Eugene WalterThanksgiving Turkey, from The Happy Table of Eugene Walter

 

 

 

 

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