UNC Press Signs Anne C. Bailey, Randall Balmer, and Anthea D. Butler to Ferris & Ferris Books Imprint

UNC Press announced today the signing of three important additions to its new Marcie Cohen Ferris and William R. Ferris Imprint for high-profile, general interest books about the American South.

Executive editor Debbie Gershenowitz bought world rights from Faith Childs at Faith Childs Literary Agency to historian and contributor to the New York Times’ 1619 Project Anne C. Bailey’s follow up to her 2017 book, The Weeping Time. In the new work, to be published in fall 2023, Bailey is continuing and expanding her research into how descendants of the enslaved people sold at the largest slave auction in U.S. history have experienced processes of trauma, memory, and redemption, while applying a wider lens to the topic.

“I’m delighted to have the opportunity to work again with Anne Bailey, a gifted historian and eloquent storyteller. Anne’s tireless detective work in tracing the descendants of the African slave trade and allowing them to honor their ancestors via their own traumas, memories, commemorations, and activism offers lessons to all of us on finding resilience and empowerment in the face of oppression and tragedy,” Gershenowitz said.

Executive editor Elaine Maisner bought world rights from Carol Mann at the Carol Mann Agency to Randall Balmer’s To Everything a Season: How Team Sports Became America’s New Religion, to be published in 2022.  A leading historian of American religion, Balmer became addicted to sports radio—and was inspired to look deeply into North American history to figure out why team sports invoke such peculiarly devotional passions among sports fans.

“This book will bring together both of Randall Balmer’s passions, and with publication arriving around the time that spectator sports will likely roar back after the COVID-19 crisis, Balmer will be proven to be astonishingly astute,” Maisner said.

Maisner also bought world rights to historian and popular opinion writer Anthea D. Butler’s hard-hitting, clear-eyed, and unsettling chronicle of the racism that has consistently operated through the course of American history at the core of conservative white evangelical politics. It continues to fester today in an evangelical blind spot. The book, titled White Evangelical Racism: The Politics of Morality in America, is scheduled to be published in Spring 2021.

“Anthea Butler brings her vibrant and ultimately compassionate voice to the tough story chronicled in White Evangelical Racism: how America’s racial history underlies the connection between religion and electoral politics today. This is a reality that bears on every American, no matter one’s religion or ethos, so we’d better open our eyes to it,” Maisner said.

The Marcie Cohen Ferris and William R. Ferris Imprint is supported by a multimillion-dollar endowment created in honor of the Ferrises at the Press. Its inaugural volume, Grace Elizabeth Hale’s Cool Town: How Athens, Georgia, Launched Alternative Music and Changed American Culture, was published in March 2020, and other authors under contract include Karen Cox, Adrian Miller, and a major new multi-authored history of the South edited by W. Fitzhugh Brundage.

The Press intends to publish two to three books annually under the Ferris & Ferris Books imprint.

Founded in 1922, UNC Press is the oldest university press in the South and one of the oldest in the United States. It is an affiliate of the University of North Carolina System.

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Noeleen McIlvenna: The Long History of Public Protest

Today we welcome a guest post from Noeleen McIlvenna, author of Early American Rebels: Pursuing Democracy from Maryland to Carolina, 1640–1700, out now from UNC Press.

During the half century after 1650 that saw the gradual imposition of a slave society in England’s North American colonies, poor white settlers in the Chesapeake sought a republic of equals. Demanding a say in their own destinies, rebels moved around the region looking for a place to build a democratic political system. This book crosses colonial boundaries to show how Ingle’s Rebellion, Fendall’s Rebellion, Bacon’s Rebellion, Culpeper’s Rebellion, Parson Waugh’s Tumult, and the colonial Glorious Revolution were episodes in a single struggle because they were organized by one connected group of people.

Early American Rebels is now available in print and ebook editions.

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We live in a time of renewed public protest here in the United States: Black Lives Matter rallies, the Women’s March on Washington, Families Belong Together demonstrations, Puerto Rican resistance. Such scenes provoke memories of the 1960s, when the marches of the Civil Rights Movement changed the nation. But Civil Rights was not the first major American social movement. Suffragists organized mass demonstrations one hundred years ago. And we can keep going back. The Lowell Mill workers ‘paraded’ about low wages in the 1830s. Stamp Act ‘rioters’ carefully organized public protest in the 1760s. Truth is, Americans have been protesting against state and corporate power at least since the 1600s.

We don’t know too much about political dissent within Native American communities in North America in the era before European colonization. There was active warfare between societies and tribute owed to powerful chiefs. But internal dissent did not require mass mobilization. Societies without courts and police operated on very democratic principles. Leaders had to build consensus, because there was little obedience to power within a tribe.

European and African arrivals, however, have been protesting since they got off the boats. The Stono Rebellion of 1739 saw enslaved Kongolese lead a liberty march south from the Charleston area, gathering more people as they moved towards the border with Spanish Florida.

Continue Reading Noeleen McIlvenna: The Long History of Public Protest

Allison Margaret Bigelow: Mining Language and Political Discourse

Today we welcome a guest post from Allison Margaret Bigelow, author of Mining Language: Racial Thinking, Indigenous Knowledge, and Colonial Metallurgy in the Early Modern Iberian World, out now from the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture and UNC Press.

Mineral wealth from the Americas underwrote and undergirded European colonization of the New World; American gold and silver enriched Spain, funded the slave trade, and spurred Spain’s northern European competitors to become Atlantic powers. Building upon works that have narrated this global history of American mining in economic and labor terms, Mining Language is the first book-length study of the technical and scientific vocabularies that miners developed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as they engaged with metallic materials. This language-centric focus enables Allison Bigelow to document the crucial intellectual contributions Indigenous and African miners made to the very engine of European colonialism.

Mining Language is featured in our #LASA2020 virtual exhibit. It is now available in print and ebook formats.

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About once every four years, as presidential elections ramp up here in the US, we hear a lot about miners. Despite the substantial policy differences between candidates like Donald Trump and Joe Biden, they tend to invoke a similar image of miners and mining technologies. Mr. Trump, sometimes donning a hard hat, often expresses solidarity with coal miners and their families, declaring, as he did in Toledo, Ohio, on January 9, 2020, “we are putting our miners back to work. Dig we must. Dig we must.”[1] Mr. Biden, expressing the same concern for employment prospects, does not claim that jobs in the industry are returning. Instead, he argues that miners could be retrained in computer science. As he put it, “Anybody who can go down 300-3,000 feet in a mine sure as hell can learn how to program as well.”[2]

These descriptions overlook the highly mechanized nature of modern mining. Mr. Trump holds an imaginary shovel in his hand, gesturing to nineteenth- and early-twentieth century methods of extraction, rather than contemporary technologies using draglines, large-scale trucks, and automatic conveyers.[3] Mr. Biden suggests that miners’ bravery will allow them to transition into new industries, seeming to overlook the knowledge required to operate high-tech equipment.

Continue Reading Allison Margaret Bigelow: Mining Language and Political Discourse

New Talking Legal History Interviews with Sophie White and Maddalena Marinari

Two new episodes of the Talking Legal History podcast series featuring UNC Press are online! You can listen to episode 17 with Sophie White here and episode 18 with Maddalena Marinari here.

The February episode features Siobhan talking with Sophie White about her book Voices of the Enslaved: Love, Labor, and Longing in French Louisiana (UNC Press, 2019). White is Associate Professor of American Studies and Concurrent Associate Professor in the Departments of Africana Studies, History, and Gender Studies at the University of Notre Dame. She is an historian of early America with an interdisciplinary focus on cultural encounters between Europeans, Africans and Native Americans, and a commitment to Atlantic and global research perspectives.

The March episode features Siobhan talking with Maddalena Marinari about her book, Unwanted: Italian and Jewish Mobilization against Restrictive Immigration Laws, 1882–1965 (UNC Press, 2020). Marinari is Assistant Professor in History; Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies; and Peace Studies at Gustavus Adolphus College. She has published extensively on immigration restriction and immigrant mobilization.

The series is produced by Siobhan M. M. Barco, J.D. with support from the Versatile Humanists at Duke program. For updates on the series keep your eye on the UNC Press Blog and follow @SiobhanBarco on Twitter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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News from UNC Press: Retirement of Executive Editor Chuck Grench

Chuck Grench

In spring 2000, UNC Press marked the beginning of the new millennium by welcoming Chuck Grench as our new senior editor for history. Chuck was already well known to many in the university press community, having spent 25 years in the business before leaving Yale University Press for the warmer climes of North Carolina. But over the last 20 years, he has built many new relationships, not only in Chapel Hill but throughout the world of scholarly publishing. Whether you’ve broken bread with him, kibitzed at a conference booth, or merely seen him across the exhibit hall scrambling on top of a table to help hang our banner and posters, chances are you’ve found him as we have known hima nimble and curious thinker, a builder of lasting partnerships, a consummate professional, a cherished colleague.

So with a mix of admiration, gratitude, celebration, and a hint of sadness, we are sharing the news that Chuck Grench will retire from UNC Press on April 30, 2020. Though Chuck’s plans have been in the works since early in the new year, we had originally hoped to mark the announcement at the annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians, which had been slated to meet in Washington, D.C. earlier this month. Though the coronavirus pandemic had other plans, we want to share the news with our community of authors, colleagues, and friends so that you can share your well wishes during this time.

Over the last two decades, most recently as executive editor, Chuck has helped catalyze many changes that have shaped UNC Press into the publisher it is today. On arriving from New Haven, he quickly built on the existing strengths of our list, acquiring prizewinning books in African American history and southern history while pushing into new areas such as western history, Latino and Chicano history, borderlands history, and more. He joined the Press very soon after the launch of our John Hope Franklin Series in African American History and Culture (co-edited by Patricia Sullivan and Waldo Martin) and was integral to its growth and development. He later initiated the creation of the David J. Weber Series in the New Borderlands History (co-edited by Andrew Graybill and Ben Johnson) and helped the Press forge a vital new relationship around the series with the Clements Center for Southwest Studies at Southern Methodist University. Chuck also built a distinguished list in Cold War-era and diplomatic history (particularly via the New Cold War History series, edited by Odd Arne Westad), acquired valuable projects for the Press’s Civil War-era and women’s history lists, and curated a fascinating cluster of books on the history and practice of craft in America. He has especially cherished his role as the Press’s primary liaison to the books publishing program of the Omohundro Institute for Early American History and Culture. Books by Chuck’s authors have earned virtually every major prize given for work in the field of U.S. history, and the work he has edited will continue to shape the field for years to come.

It would be easy to continue listing Chuck’s accomplishments, particularly if we include his many successful years at Yale. But those of you who know and love Chuck will appreciate that the most important thing is not what he did but how he did it. Chuck’s integrity, collegiality, tireless advocacy for his authors, and unfailing good spirit have been his calling card for nearly half a century. And that’s what those of us who have been honored to work with him will remember the longest.

Please join all of us at UNC Press as we honor Chuck as he nears the end of a terrific career and wish him well on all his next endeavors.

Mark Simpson-Vos
Wyndham Editorial Director, UNC Press

Chuck among his colleagues on our Acquisitions Editorial team. (front row, left to right) Brandon Proia, Cate Hodorowicz, Chuck Grench, Dominique Moore (back row, left to right) Mark Simpson-Vos, Lucas Church, Andrew Winters, Elaine Maisner, Dylan White, Debbie Gershenowitz.

 

Chuck on banner duty at a recent UNC Press conference exhibit. Photo by B. Proia.

 

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If you’d like to send a short video or written message to Chuck on his retirement, please DM us on Twitter or send an email to afaison@uncpress.org, and we’ll be sure to pass it along.

Cooperation and the Creation of a National Emergency Library

In the context of the unprecedented challenges associated with the spread of COVID-19, many of you will have read about an effort from the Internet Archive (IA) to launch a “National Emergency Library” (NEL). Essentially, the NEL was an effort to create unlimited access to digital editions of books in their collection. At a time when physical libraries were closing, this ambitious effort to open up content that had been previously limited or subject to paywalls was both praised and criticized.

At our presses we had already agreed to allow open digital access to our scholarly collections. At UNC Press, we opened our book collections in platforms like Project MUSEBooks at JSTOR, Ebsco, and ProQuest. Duke University Press offered free platform access to digital collections of books and journals to requesting libraries through June 30, 2020. Over 200 libraries have taken Duke up on this offer. Duke University Press opened up content to the public in several timely syllabi, including Navigating the Threat of Pandemic and Care in Uncertain Times. These arrangements had been made through dialog and discussion with those vendors who sought our perspective and permission.

The NEL was different in that the IA acted unilaterally and blurred legal arguments with extra-legal (read: emergency) justifications. This ignored the agency that authors and publishers legally and conventionally exercise. And as our colleague Karin Wulf from the Omohundro Institute wrote, it ignored the systems that invest in the production of these books.

After IA acted unilaterally in creating the National Emergency Library, we criticized the effort and presses began the process of withdrawing titles. However, after a conference call with the leadership of the IA and many university press directors, we realized our two presses shared many of the same goals of the NEL, but we simply disagreed with the process by which the main goal was being achieved.

After this conference call, we subsequently opened a separate line of communication with the IA and we’re pleased to announce that within a few days, we created a one-page Statement of Cooperation to allow our university press titles to participate in the NEL. The key features of this statement were:

  • Flipping the NEL from an opt-out to an opt-in arrangement where the Press provided affirmation and permission for titles to be included;
  • It gave the Press agency to determine when the “emergency” would be over (June 30);
  • It committed the IA to perform prompt take-downs (upon our individual author requests);
  • It ensured the sharing of usage data while protecting the privacy of patrons.

UNC Press and Duke University Press authors who do not want to have their books included in the NEL can write directly to info@archive.org with the subject line “National Emergency Library Removal Request.” Or they can reach out to us, and we’ll pass that communication to the IA.

We have shared the boilerplate language of the Statement of Cooperation with other university presses, but there remains significant (and justifiable) mistrust within our community for the Internet Archive. That mistrust exists among many publishers beyond university presses and precedes the NEL. There couldn’t be a worse time to be arguing about something like this. Possibly the most important part of the joint statement is the last line: “The Parties commit to a sustained, good-faith dialog about a long-term model for including the Press’s titles in the Internet Archive.” We have every confidence that we will make that happen.

John Sherer
Spangler Family Director, UNC Press
John.sherer@uncpress.org

Dean Smith
Director, Duke University Press
Dean.j.smith@duke.edu


Statement of Cooperation

The spread of COVID-19 has had an unprecedented impact on scholarly communications. The entire creation and distribution chain for books (including authors, publishers, wholesalers, libraries, bookstores, students, teachers, and readers) has been upended. We agree that in this extraordinary moment, an unprecedented level of cooperation is required to address this crisis in order to meet the dire needs of readers—especially students and other readers who are at risk for losing access to their traditional sources of books.

The Press and the Internet Archive share a collective mission to distribute books and published materials as broadly and fairly as possible, while not adversely jeopardizing the ability of the Press and its authors to continue to produce such materials. During the spread of COVID-19, the Press and the Internet Archive have been contacted by countless teachers and students requesting access to materials, indicating a heightened and urgent demand.

Therefore, the Press agrees to allow the Internet Archive to temporarily remove the waitlist restrictions on its titles in the National Emergency Library through June 30. Within two weeks prior to that date, the Parties agree to consider an extension of this temporary lending policy. The Internet Archive agrees to promptly remove titles published by the Press where the author or the Press has requested an exemption from the temporary policy.

The Internet Archive commits to sharing usage data to the Press and helping the Press determine whether books not already in the Internet Archive could potentially be added to the policy.

The Parties stipulate that nothing in this Statement of Cooperation shall be deemed a precedent or construed as support, acknowledgment or agreement to any legal position about the long-term presence of the Press’s books in the Internet Archive, including in Controlled Digital Lending.

The Parties commit to a sustained, good-faith dialog about a long-term model for including the Press’s titles in the Internet Archive.

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Jeffrey Alan Erbig Jr. : Indigenous Rights in “A Country Without Indians”

Today we welcome a guest post from Jeffrey Erbig, author of Where Caciques and Mapmakers Met: Border Making in Eighteenth-Century South America, out now from UNC Press.

During the late eighteenth century, Portugal and Spain sent joint mapping expeditions to draw a nearly 10,000-mile border between Brazil and Spanish South America. These boundary commissions were the largest ever sent to the Americas and coincided with broader imperial reforms enacted throughout the hemisphere. Where Caciques and Mapmakers Met considers what these efforts meant to Indigenous peoples whose lands the border crossed. Moving beyond common frameworks that assess mapped borders strictly via colonial law or Native sovereignty, it examines the interplay between imperial and Indigenous spatial imaginaries. What results is an intricate spatial history of border making in southeastern South America (present-day Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay) with global implications.

Where Caciques and Mapmakers Met is now available in print and ebook formats.

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Indigenous Rights in “A Country Without Indians”

Uruguay is often considered one of the most progressive countries in Latin America. Whether for its generous welfare state, strong labor unions, the decriminalization of abortion, marriage equality laws, the legalization of recreational cannabis, or otherwise, the country has stood out in the region. Yet Uruguay is one of the only countries in Latin America to not ratify the International Labor Organization’s Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention 169 (Map 1). This 1989 convention is the only legally binding international document regarding Indigenous peoples’ rights, including the right to self-determination, and is a forerunner to the United Nations’ 2007 Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Map 1. Convention 169 Signatories in Latin America. Source: www.ilo.org

Uruguay’s opposition to signing this convention derives from a national imaginary that simultaneously denies and appropriates indigeneity. Since the nineteenth century, political leaders and academics alike have cultivated the notion that Uruguay is a country without Indians (“un país sin indios), instead emphasizing European immigration as its population’s defining characteristic. Meanwhile, they considered Charrúas – the principal Indigenous nation in and around Uruguay – to have been prehistoric forebears of Uruguayan national spirit, no longer around but living in everyone. This sentiment is ubiquitous yet perhaps most visible internationally in the use of the concept “garra charrúa” to refer to the tenacity of Uruguay’s national soccer team and players abroad. The logic is thus that if there are no more Charrúas or if everyone is Charrúa then there is no need to officially recognize Charrúa rights.

Continue Reading Jeffrey Alan Erbig Jr. : Indigenous Rights in “A Country Without Indians”

Author Interview: Jack Reid on Roadside Americans

In this Q&A, Jack Reid discusses his book Roadside Americans: The Rise and Fall of Hitchhiking in a Changing Nation, out now from UNC Press.

Between the Great Depression and the mid-1970s, hitchhikers were a common sight for motorists, as American service members, students, and adventurers sought out the romance of the road in droves. Beats, hippies, feminists, and civil rights and antiwar activists saw “thumb tripping” as a vehicle for liberation, living out the counterculture’s rejection of traditional values. Yet, by the time Ronald Reagan, a former hitchhiker himself, was in the White House, the youthful faces on the road chasing the ghost of Jack Kerouac were largely gone—along with sympathetic portrayals of the practice in state legislatures and the media. In Roadside Americans, Jack Reid traces the rise and fall of hitchhiking, offering vivid accounts of life on the road and how the act of soliciting rides from strangers, and the attitude toward hitchhikers in American society, evolved over time in synch with broader economic, political, and cultural shifts. In doing so, Reid offers insight into significant changes in the United States amid the decline of liberalism and the rise of the Reagan Era.

Roadside Americans is now available in hardcover and ebook editions.

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Q: Did people really hitchhike for enjoyment and leisure “back in the day?”

A: For some, hitchhiking was simply a way to get from one place to another when they lacked transit options. Still, there were others—especially white middle class youths—who saw hitchhiking as a path toward adventure and a taste of authentic Americana. For instance, after reading On the Road and listening to the music of Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan hitchhiked to New York from Minnesota in search of the “hydrogen juke box world” he read about in Beat literature. Also enamored with On the Road, Hunter S. Thompson hitchhiked across the country in 1960, writing romantically along the way about the open road, later captured in the edited volume The Proud Highway.

It was affordable to travel by thumb, making more ambitious trips possible for youths on summer break. Traveling across the country, they got to encounter and talk to a cross-section of Americans they’d likely never otherwise meet. They got a thrill from doing this, and felt like they were earning a worldlier disposition beyond that of their suburban upbringing. Even so, it wasn’t always about enjoyment as there was a lot of hardship on the road. Yet, this too was part of the allure. Surviving these difficult moments was a rite of passage of sorts.

Q: Jack Kerouac’s On the Road is one of my favorite books. Why was the beat generation so preoccupied with hitchhiking?

A: Well the beats were a varied lot, but for folks like Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady, hitchhiking represented spontaneous movement and raw experience. It was kind of like jazz, a musical medium they were obsessed with. You couldn’t really have a structured hitchhiking experience, one had to constantly improvise, similar to a jazz musician, and see where the moment took them. Kerouac loved the characters he encountered on the road, all of them seemed to be right out of a Steinbeck novel. In On the Road, he waxed poetically about sipping spirits with a group of strangers turned friends in the back of a truck under the “tragic American night.” Kerouac was also very interested in the American hobo, so he had a nostalgia for the road and the sense of independence from mainstream responsibilities that it offered.

Continue Reading Author Interview: Jack Reid on Roadside Americans

Grace Elizabeth Hale: Happy Birthday, R.E.M.

Today we welcome a guest post from Grace Elizabeth Hale, author of Cool Town: How Athens, Georgia, Launched Alternative Music and Changed American Culture, out now from the UNC Press Ferris & Ferris Books imprint.

In the summer of 1978, the B-52’s conquered the New York underground. A year later, the band’s self-titled debut album burst onto the Billboard charts, capturing the imagination of fans and music critics worldwide. The fact that the group had formed in the sleepy southern college town of Athens, Georgia, only increased the fascination. Soon, more Athens bands followed the B-52’s into the vanguard of the new American music that would come to be known as “alternative,” including R.E.M., who catapulted over the course of the 1980s to the top of the musical mainstream. In Athens in the eighties, if you were young and willing to live without much money, anything seemed possible. Cool Town reveals the passion, vitality, and enduring significance of a bohemian scene that became a model for others to follow. Grace Elizabeth Hale experienced the Athens scene as a student, small-business owner, and band member. Blending personal recollection with a historian’s eye, she reconstructs the networks of bands, artists, and friends that drew on the things at hand to make a new art of the possible, transforming American culture along the way. In a story full of music and brimming with hope, Hale shows how an unlikely cast of characters in an unlikely place made a surprising and beautiful new world.

In this post, Hale commemorates the 40th anniversary of the Athens, Georgia, band R.E.M.’s first live performance, and shares an annotated playlist of their music.

Cool Town is now available in print and ebook editions. Watch the promotional trailer for the book here.

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40 Years after R.E.M.’s Debut, a Band Not Afraid of Beauty May Be Just What We Need

Athens locals simply called it “the church.” Sometime in the seventies, someone had constructed a two-story plywood shell of an apartment within the former St. Mary’s Episcopal Church on Oconee Street, like a stage set for a slacker sitcom. Inside the box, the one-time hippie squat offered impossible-to-heat rooms and a functional bathroom and kitchen. Outside the box, reached through a hole in the back of a bedroom closet, some of the old space of worship still existed—open, dusty, damp, and beckoning. You had to be young and broke to even think about renting it. As Peter Buck told Rolling Stone, the place had “been romanticized beyond belief. It was a rotten, dumpy little shit hole where college kids, only college kids, could be convinced to live.”

But it was a great place to party. On April 5, 1980, hippies and art students and members of other new music bands in what was becoming America’s first alternative scene crawled through the back of that closet and into the soaring space of what had been the sanctuary. On the raised platform that had formerly held the altar, three bands played. The last, too new then to have a name, was R.E.M. Mike Mills, Bill Berry, Michael Stipe, and Buck alternated between rough covers, including the Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen,” and ragged originals like “A Different Girl.” People got smashed and high and paired off, but not before calling the band back for a sloppy, multiple-song encore that included an audience singalong to a rendition of Patti Smith’s cover of “Gloria.” Miraculously—maybe the space was still sacred—no one fell through the rotten floorboards.

Continue Reading Grace Elizabeth Hale: Happy Birthday, R.E.M.

Brian P. Luskey: The Civil War’s Free Labor Crisis

Today we welcome a guest post from Brian P. Luskey, author of Men is Cheap: Exposing the Frauds of Free Labor in Civil War America, out now from UNC Press.

When a Civil War substitute broker told business associates that “Men is cheep here to Day,” he exposed an unsettling contradiction at the heart of the Union’s war effort. Despite Northerners’ devotion to the principles of free labor, the war produced rampant speculation and coercive labor arrangements that many Americans labeled fraudulent. Men Is Cheap shows that in the process of winning the war, Northerners were forced to grapple with the frauds of free labor. Labor brokers, by helping to staff the Union military and Yankee households, did indispensable work that helped the Northern state and Northern employers emerge victorious. They also gave rise to an economic and political system that enriched the managerial class at the expense of laborers—a reality that resonates to this day.a reality that resonates to this day.

Men is Cheap is now available in print and ebook editions.

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The Civil War’s Free Labor Crisis

For Henry Walker, a private in the 117th New York Infantry, the Civil War was an economic crisis. Walker’s household was imperiled by the demands the war placed upon it. While Henry and his only son Albert served in the army, his wife Persis and their six daughters struggled to pay the rent because neighbors reneged on promises to help them while the male breadwinners who risked their lives for the nation were absent. Persis requested assistance and demanded fair treatment from creditors and storekeepers, but she remained anxious about how long she and the girls could survive in his absence. Henry—far from home, earning low wages as an enlisted man, and despairing of obtaining the state bounty payment owed to him—found it difficult to help his family make ends meet.

Faced with the challenge of alleviating his family’s economic struggles on a soldier’s wage, Walker resolved to bet everything on the promise of free labor ideology for workers. He would work harder, dispense advice to his family, and envision a future in which he and his loved ones would be in control of their economic destiny. He bought shoemaker’s tools and earned additional money mending the soles of his comrades’ boots. He sent those funds home, accompanied by letters in which he instructed his wife and daughters to save their money. He echoed the spirit of “go-ahead” that was so prevalent in the nation during this era. Hard work and self-discipline were obligatory: “I wish you to prosper,” he told his family, “rem[em]ber your life is just what you make it.” Perseverance was also a must: “our coarse in life depends on our own energy. persevere their is nothing like try try agan.”

Continue Reading Brian P. Luskey: The Civil War’s Free Labor Crisis

Philip F. Rubio: The Great Postal Wildcat Strike Jubilee

Today we welcome a guest post from Philip F. Rubio, author of Undelivered: From the Great Postal Strike of 1970 to the Manufactured Crisis of the U.S. Postal Service, forthcoming in May 2020 from UNC Press.

For eight days in March 1970, over 200,000 postal workers staged an illegal “wildcat” strike—the largest in United States history—for better wages and working conditions. Picket lines started in New York and spread across the country like wildfire. Strikers defied court injunctions, threats of termination, and their own union leaders. In the negotiated aftermath, the U.S. Post Office became the U.S. Postal Service, and postal workers received full collective bargaining rights and wage increases, all the while continuing to fight for greater democracy within their unions. Using archives, periodicals, and oral histories, Philip Rubio shows how this strike, born of frustration and rising expectations and emerging as part of a larger 1960s-1970s global rank-and-file labor upsurge, transformed the post office and postal unions.

In this post, Dr. Rubio writes about the importance of commemorating the nationwide postal wildcat strike on the day of its fiftieth anniversary. You can read his 2015 blog post which includes a more detailed account of the strike here.

Undelivered will publish in May 2020 and is available for pre-order now.

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The Great Postal Wildcat Strike Jubilee

March 18, 1970 marks the day fifty years ago when postal workers walked off the job in New York City in what soon became the largest wildcat strike in U.S. labor history.  “Wildcats” are strikes not authorized by the unions, but this strike was also illegal, as a 1912 law bars federal government workers from striking.  Nevertheless, for eight days over 200,000 workers struck the U.S. Post Office Department across the country in a dozen states and hundreds of post offices.  They struck for a living wage and job dignity.  The strike forced passage of the 1970 Postal Reorganization Act (PRA) that transformed the post office into a self-supporting government/corporate hybrid called the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) in 1971.  President Richard Nixon and Congress ended further strike threats by extending pay raises and full collective bargaining rights to postal workers—the only federal employees who enjoy those rights to this day.  Their strike also initiated a process of greater democratization of the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC), and the new American Postal Workers Union (APWU, product of five unions merging in 1971).

Unfortunately, our society has largely forgotten the 1970 postal strike.  What historians choose to research and publish matters, and amazingly, this strike has so far gained little attention from labor historians.  It has fallen to strike veterans, the postal unions, and labor activists to keep that memory alive and mark that date in anticipation this year of the strike’s “jubilee” (also known as the fiftieth anniversary).

Continue Reading Philip F. Rubio: The Great Postal Wildcat Strike Jubilee

Author Interview: Jennifer L. Etnier on Coaching for the Love of the Game

In this Q&A, professor of kinesiology Jennifer L. Etnier discusses her new book Coaching for the Love of the Game: A Practical Guide for Working with Young Athletes, available now from UNC Press.

More than 45 million children play youth sports in the United States each year, and most are coached by parent volunteers with good intentions but little training. This lack of training and an overemphasis on winning often results in stress and frustration for coaches and players alike, which can discourage young athletes so much that they walk away from sports altogether. With this new guide for amateur parent coaches, Jennifer Etnier, author of Bring Your ‘A’ Game, aims to change that. Etnier offers a system of positive coaching that can be applied to any sport, from the beginner level to high school athletics, and explains that good coaching requires working with young athletes at their developmental level and providing feedback designed to keep children engaged and having fun.

Coaching for the Love of the Game is now available in print and ebook editions. Watch a promotional trailer for the book here.

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Q: Why did you write this book, and how do you hope it will be used?

A: I wrote this book because I have literally been losing sleep at night over coaches I’ve seen working with youth athletes. To give just a few examples: I wrote this book because of the coach I saw screaming at a team of 9-year-olds after a soccer game, the volleyball coach who only let his weaker players on the court for 2 points out of 3 entire games, the basketball coach who told his 11-year-olds to do push-ups until they were ready to pay attention, and the coach who spent the majority of his practice texting on his cell phone. I wrote this book with the hope of helping well-intentioned coaches remember what the top priority is in youth sports (i.e, the kids!) to help them have a positive influence on their athletes so that every athlete has fun, improves, and feels valued and respected.

Q: What was your own experience growing up as a young athlete and an avid lover of sports? How have those experiences influenced this book?

A: When I was playing sports, I had coaches who were focused on creating a fun atmosphere where athletes had an opportunity to improve. My coaches ran the gamut from volunteer parent coaches to full-time paid coaches, but most approached athletics as an environment for personal growth rather than a venue for winning at all costs. Of course, we cared about winning and I’m a very competitive person, but I also recognized early on that winning is not the most important thing. The most important things are to be competitive while having fun, focusing on improvement, and learning how to work hard to give winning your best chance. I learned to give full effort against a competitor, but to still cheer for her good shot. I learned to work hard in practices to improve, to try my hardest in competition, to persist against adversity, and to be a good sport.

Continue Reading Author Interview: Jennifer L. Etnier on Coaching for the Love of the Game

Jack Reid: Once Upon A Time…In the History of Hitchhiking

Today we welcome a guest post from Jack Reid, author of Roadside Americans: The Rise and Fall of Hitchhiking in a Changing Nation, out now from UNC Press.

Between the Great Depression and the mid-1970s, hitchhikers were a common sight for motorists, as American service members, students, and adventurers sought out the romance of the road in droves. Beats, hippies, feminists, and civil rights and antiwar activists saw “thumb tripping” as a vehicle for liberation, living out the counterculture’s rejection of traditional values. Yet, by the time Ronald Reagan, a former hitchhiker himself, was in the White House, the youthful faces on the road chasing the ghost of Jack Kerouac were largely gone—along with sympathetic portrayals of the practice in state legislatures and the media. In Roadside Americans, Jack Reid traces the rise and fall of hitchhiking, offering vivid accounts of life on the road and how the act of soliciting rides from strangers, and the attitude toward hitchhikers in American society, evolved over time in synch with broader economic, political, and cultural shifts. In doing so, Reid offers insight into significant changes in the United States amid the decline of liberalism and the rise of the Reagan Era.

In this post, Reid looks at the portrayal of hitchhiking in the Oscar-nominated film Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood.

Roadside Americans is now available in hardcover and ebook editions.

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Quentin Tarantino’s 9th studio film Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood pays careful attention to rendering a (largely) accurate depiction of life in Los Angeles circa 1969.  Although Tarantino takes creative liberties in some respects, most notably the film’s final act, the movie as a whole wonderfully captures the look and feel of L.A. at the height of the counterculture’s influence in American culture—whether it be costume design, driving scenes grooving to period-specific music, or the visual aesthetic of the city’s neon-drenched streets.  Beyond these historical points of reference, though, the film also highlights another oft-overlooked aspect in American culture: the once-popular act of hitchhiking.

Three youths hitchhike in 1966 on the Sunset Strip, Los Angeles. (Courtesy of Los Angeles Times Photographic Archives [Collection 1429], UCLA Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA)

Although common in the Depression and World War II eras, hitchhiking reached its height in popularity during the late 1960s and early 1970s, especially along the West Coast.  Much of this enthusiasm for soliciting rides grew out of the fact that the practice complimented the era’s countercultural sensibility—offering not only free transit, but also a way to breathe life into a vision of a more cooperative and spontaneous existence.  For a teenager or college student without a car, hitching a ride transformed what would otherwise be a mundane bus trip into a potentially memorable experience, often spurring a fleeting connection between two strangers.  While popular, the practice was also highly controversial.  Growing numbers of youths thumbing rides translated to increased criminality, inspiring concerns for the safety of those on the road, especially young women.  Indeed, news agencies reported in graphic detail a host of hitchhiking-related sexual assaults and shocking murders from across the country.

Continue Reading Jack Reid: Once Upon A Time…In the History of Hitchhiking

Announcement Regarding COVID-19 and UNC Press Exhibits and Travel

UNC Press has been monitoring closely developments with the worldwide coronavirus outbreak. Yesterday I notified the UNC Press staff that we will not be exhibiting at any conferences through the rest of the spring, including the American Society for Environmental History, the Organization of American Historians, the Society for Military History, the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, the American Association for the History of Medicine, and the Latin American Studies Association. We will continue to evaluate our participation in future conferences in the coming weeks.

UNC Press staff will restrict all business travel for the next two months. We are also reaching out to all of our authors who may be in various stages of promoting their books through in-person events to reconsider whether they should continue this work. We will unconditionally support our authors’ positions. We are also notifying scholarly organizations and other key partners of our decisions so they can plan accordingly as far in advance as possible.

These decisions are upending the plans of our staff, our authors, and members of communities that we consider to be vital partners to our mission. In many cases, years of work have gone into these plans. We deeply regret the disruption and disappointment caused by our decisions. We know that scholarly societies and bookstores rely on the engagement of our authors and staff for their continued success and we hope that this disruption will be for the briefest time possible.

We are working on ways to minimize and mitigate the impacts of these changes, and we are particularly working to enhance other forms of engagement with communities and individuals we will not be meeting in person. I’m very proud of the energy and creativity coming from our team and we look forward to sharing these plans as they develop.

Sincerely,

John Sherer
Spangler Family Director, University of North Carolina Press

Matthew Morse Booker: Who Should Be Responsible for Food Safety?

Today we welcome a guest post from Matthew Morse Booker, co-editor (with Charles C. Ludington) of Food Fights: How History Matters to Contemporary Food Debates, available now from UNC Press.

What we eat, where it is from, and how it is produced are vital questions in today’s America. We think seriously about food because it is freighted with the hopes, fears, and anxieties of modern life. Yet critiques of food and food systems all too often sprawl into jeremiads against modernity itself, while supporters of the status quo refuse to acknowledge the problems with today’s methods of food production and distribution. Food Fights sheds new light on these crucial debates, using a historical lens. Its essays take strong positions, even arguing with one another, as they explore the many themes and tensions that define how we understand our food—from the promises and failures of agricultural technology to the politics of taste.

In this post, Booker discusses the history of food safety regulations in the U.S.

Food Fights is now available in print and ebook editions.

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Who Should Be Responsible for Food Safety?

I love oysters. So much so that I grow my own with my co-editor Chad Ludington. And I love to eat oysters raw. I do so even though I understand oyster biology. Oysters are bottom feeders. They filter the water around them. Everything that was in that water, is in the oyster. Everything, including any human or animal waste!

Yet surprisingly few people get sick from eating oysters. They are among the safest foods you can buy in the United States. That is because oysters are one of the most heavily regulated foods you can buy. State and federal agencies constantly test oysters. They are watched over from the beginning of their lives to the moment they reach your plate. That regulation is a gift from the past century, when Congress and states created the first food safety regulations.

My chapter in Food Fights traces how Americans first regulated food. And it turns out that oysters are at the heart of that story. And so are college students.

Both came together in an 1894 Wesleyan University fraternity pledge dinner in Connecticut. After the dinner, a typhoid fever epidemic made twenty-five young men terribly sick and killed four. Wesleyan biology professor H.W. Conn linked the typhoid to raw oysters that the fraternity brothers ate that night, and the raw oysters to raw sewage from the oyster dealer’s own house. In fact, the oysterman’s wife died of typhoid at the same time as the fraternity brothers. This oyster-related disease epidemic indiscriminately struck down both the rich and the working poor.

Continue Reading Matthew Morse Booker: Who Should Be Responsible for Food Safety?

Kate Dossett: Women Upstage

Today we welcome a guest post by Kate Dossett, author of Radical Black Theatre in the New Deal, out now from UNC Press.

Between 1935 and 1939, the United States government paid out-of-work artists to write, act, and stage theatre as part of the Federal Theatre Project (FTP), a New Deal job relief program. In segregated “Negro Units” set up under the FTP, African American artists took on theatre work usually reserved for whites, staged black versions of “white” classics, and developed radical new dramas. In this fresh history of the FTP Negro Units, Kate Dossett examines what she calls the black performance community—a broad network of actors, dramatists, audiences, critics, and community activists—who made and remade black theatre manuscripts for the Negro Units and other theatre companies from New York to Seattle.

In this post, Dossett writes about the importance of acknowledging and understanding the role of black women as collaborators in developing black theatre manuscripts on the Federal Theatre Project.

Radical Black Theatre in the New Deal is now available in paper and ebook editions.

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Women Upstage: Black Performance Communities and the Federal Theatre Project

African American women were central to the development of black theatre during the four years of the Federal Theatre Project (FTP). The FTP was one of four relief projects for unemployed artists established in 1935 as part of the New Deal’s Works Progress Administration (WPA). Alongside the Federal Art Project for visual artists, Federal Music Project for musicians, and Federal Writers’ Project for writers, the FTP was tasked with putting unemployed cultural laborers back to work and encouraging creativity in the arts.  Between 1935 and 1939 the project established a range of drama units in towns and cities across the United States. These included seventeen ‘Negro Units.’ In theory, Negro Units could be established wherever there were sufficient numbers of unemployed black theatre professionals eligible to claim relief. In practice, Negro Units were usually set up where there was already a history of interracial collaboration between white producers and black theatre professionals. Negro Units in Harlem, Hartford, Newark, Boston, Chicago, and Seattle developed new dramas and maintained a regular production schedule through most of the four years of the project’s operation. Programming for Negro Units was a source of contention throughout the FTP. All dramas had to be cleared by the National Service Bureau headquartered in New York, while six regional production boards approved the programmes of individual units under their jurisdiction. Even so, individual Negro Unit directors and supervisors had considerable control over what would be staged, so it really mattered that of the Negro Units, only Boston had a black director for the full four years of the project.  However as the project progressed, African Americans would take on formal and informal leadership roles especially in the Harlem, Seattle, Chicago and Hartford Negro Units. In each of these units, black women played prominent roles as actors, activists and creators of black dramas, yet it is individual playwrights, all men, whose work lived beyond the Federal Theatre. New dramas and adaptations by Theodore Ward, Abram Hill, Theodore Browne, and Joe Staton centered black experiences, directly confronted white audiences, and helped to forge a radical black theatre tradition.

Like all black theatre makers, black federal theatre dramatists had to navigate white gate-keeping in order to get their theatre manuscripts from the page to the stage. Often they were held back, but sometimes their work was staged and even acclaimed. Black male theatre makers fared considerably better than women, receiving credit both at the time and later on, especially during and after the Black Arts Movement, when black dramatists began to be recognized through publication in anthologies and revivals of earlier work. While women wrote and staged plays before, during and after the Federal Theatre Project, playwriting on the FTP was understood as a masculine pursuit. Fewer than twenty percent of dramas staged by the project were written by women, and few women of color were given opportunities to develop new work. Shirley Graham Du Bois worked as a supervisor on the Chicago Negro Unit while the actor Rose McClendon had been an important leader of the Harlem Unit before her untimely death. Katherine Dunham, pioneer of modern dance, developed several new dance pieces and Zora Neale Hurston worked briefly as a drama coach for the FTP but the project did not stage any of her dramatic works.

Continue Reading Kate Dossett: Women Upstage

Jill D. Snider: A Macro-Micro Approach to Biography

Today we welcome a guest post from Jill D. Snider, author of Lucean Arthur Headen: The Making of a Black Inventor and Entrepreneur, out now from UNC Press.

Born in Carthage, North Carolina, Lucean Arthur Headen (1879–1957) grew up amid former slave artisans. Inspired by his grandfather, a wheelwright, and great-uncle, a toolmaker, he dreamed as a child of becoming an inventor. His ambitions suffered the menace of Jim Crow and the reality of a new inventive landscape in which investment was shifting from lone inventors to the new “industrial scientists.” But determined and ambitious, Headen left the South, and after toiling for a decade as a Pullman porter, risked everything to pursue his dream. He eventually earned eleven patents, most for innovative engine designs and anti-icing methods for aircraft. An equally capable entrepreneur and sportsman, Headen learned to fly in 1911, manufactured his own “Pace Setter” and “Headen Special” cars in the early 1920s, and founded the first national black auto racing association in 1924, all establishing him as an important authority on transportation technologies among African Americans. Emigrating to England in 1931, Headen also proved a successful manufacturer, operating engineering firms in Surrey that distributed his motor and other products worldwide for twenty-five years. Though Headen left few personal records, Jill D. Snider recreates the life of this extraordinary man through historical detective work in newspapers, business and trade publications, genealogical databases, and scholarly works.

In this post, Snider writes about the process of crafting a biography when few primary sources from the subject are available.

Lucean Arthur Headen is now available in hardcover and ebook editions.

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A Macro-Micro Approach to Biography

As I prepared to write a biography of Lucean Arthur Headen, I faced the all-too-familiar dilemma encountered by historians who attempt to reclaim the stories of African Americans outside well-documented fields. Writers, ministers, entertainers, lawyers, and politicians leave behind manuscripts, correspondence, sermons, songs, speeches, and legal briefs. Individuals like Headen, an independent inventor and small businessman, often have less of an eye toward their legacies, and few archives preserve the remnants of their lives. Thus, despite the fact that Headen worked as a Pullman Porter for a decade, learned to fly, earned eleven patents, designed and manufactured his own automobiles, promoted and raced in dirt-track events, and operated an engineering firm in England for over twenty-five years, we have almost no business records or personal writings on which to base his story.

Without primary sources, I had to ask myself, how could I ascertain the facts of Headen’s life, make sense of his experiences, divine his thoughts?

I was inspired to believe the task possible by the 1983 biography Free Frank. Juliet E. K. Walker’s book told the story of Frank McWorter, a slave who purchased his own freedom and as a free man established an all-black town in Illinois. Having only a few items belonging to McWorter, Walker took a unique approach. She turned to the growing scholarship on slavery and the Illinois frontier to place those items into a larger context and to flesh out a clearer portrait of McWorter.

Continue Reading Jill D. Snider: A Macro-Micro Approach to Biography

Jessica Ingram: When Justice Will Never Come

Today we welcome a guest post from Jessica Ingram, author of Road Through Midnight: A Civil Rights Memorialavailable now from UNC Press.

At first glance, Jessica Ingram’s landscape photographs could have been made nearly anywhere in the American South: a fenced-in backyard, a dirt road lined by overgrowth, a field grooved with muddy tire prints. These seemingly ordinary places, however, were the sites of pivotal events during the civil rights era, though often there is not a plaque with dates and names to mark their importance. Many of these places are where the bodies of activists, mill workers, store owners, sharecroppers, children and teenagers were murdered or found, victims of racist violence. Images of these places are interspersed with oral histories from victims’ families and investigative journalists, as well as pages from newspapers and FBI files and other ephemera.

In this post, Ingram considers how we remember victims of racist violence when their killers have never been brought to justice.

Road Through Midnight is now available in print and ebook editions.

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When Justice Will Never Come

In 1966, Klan members firebombed civil rights leader Vernon Dahmer’s home in Kelly Settlement, near Hattiesburg, Mississippi, gravely injuring Dahmer and his wife (Dahmer died a few days later). Dahmer’s murderer, Samuel Bowers, was tried five times in the 1960s without a conviction; he was convicted in 1998 on new evidence gathered by investigative journalist Jerry Mitchell of the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi. Though the delayed justice is at the least bittersweet, there may be some benefits in obtaining contemporary guilty verdicts. In a conversation I had with Vernon Dahmer Jr. in 2009, he said, “In a way, that may have been better, because if he had been convicted in the 1960s, he never would have served any time. He would have walked in the front door and right out the back door.”

Memorial for Vernon Dahmer Sr. erected by his wife, Ellie, at the sire of his store and home, Kelly Settlement, Hattiesburg, Mississippi, 2009.                                                            

 

Over the years, several cases have been reopened and the perpetrators sentenced: the killer of Medgar Evers; the killers of Vernon Dahmer; of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner; and of Charles Eddie Moore and Henry Hezekiah Dee. Journalists and the Department of Justice turned back to cold cases that had the possibility of resulting in a conviction and often put aside the cases with murkier files, double-jeopardy restrictions, and murderers and witnesses who had died.

One such case that has little such hope is the 1964 murder of Frank Morris, the owner of a shoe repair shop in Ferriday, Louisiana. Stanley Nelson, an investigative journalist at Ferriday’s local paper, the Concordia Sentinel, writes about local victims of civil rights–era racial violence in an effort to keep their memories alive in the community. Nelson has written often about Frank Morris, specifically about who Morris was and his importance to the community. When I interviewed him for this project, he said, “I felt that it was important to put a real face on Frank Morris, because he was admirable. He was a kind of guy you are supposed to embrace in your communities and protect. We had not lifted a finger for Frank. So I wanted people to understand who he was, and you have to write about that a lot to get them over the nervousness of this race issue or anything involving civil rights.” He emphasized, “I also felt that if the newspaper, and at this newspaper, me, if we didn’t try to find out what happened, who would? Nobody else was in a position to do it . . . . I felt like it was our responsibility. It would have been immoral to walk away from it.” Nelson is now doing the same for Joseph “JoeEd” Edwards, a porter at the Shamrock Motor Hotel in Vidalia, Louisiana, who disappeared on the night of July 12, 1964, and whose body has never been found.

Site of Frank Morris’s shoe shop, Ferriday, Louisiana, 2018.

For individuals who lost their lives to racist violence and resistance to that violence whose cases cannot be brought to justice, the imperative is how do we remember them as a society and within communities. I was always amazed that family members of those murdered during the civil rights era would share their stories with me and open up these wounds. What stays with me still is their generosity in sharing what they experienced. There is a continued sense of urgency to share this knowledge. While the urgency to convict the killers from civil rights–era cases has lessened over the last decade as so many have now died, the need to visit archives, talk to people, and share knowledge lives on.

The violence must be named and the systematic elements of that violence must be understood if we are to understand how these legacies persist today and work against them. We must do the work of remembering. The last line on Vernon Dahmer’s memorial program inspires me and runs through Road Through Midnight like a road: His sacrifice on the altar of freedom should inspire us to finish the task.

“Memorial Reflections” from Vernon Dahmer’s funeral program.

 

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Jessica Ingram is assistant professor of art at Florida State University. Visit her website.

 

 

 

Kate Dossett: Making Theatre Dangerous Again

Today we welcome a guest post by Kate Dossett, author of Radical Black Theatre in the New Deal, out now from UNC Press.

Between 1935 and 1939, the United States government paid out-of-work artists to write, act, and stage theatre as part of the Federal Theatre Project (FTP), a New Deal job relief program. In segregated “Negro Units” set up under the FTP, African American artists took on theatre work usually reserved for whites, staged black versions of “white” classics, and developed radical new dramas. In this fresh history of the FTP Negro Units, Kate Dossett examines what she calls the black performance community—a broad network of actors, dramatists, audiences, critics, and community activists—who made and remade black theatre manuscripts for the Negro Units and other theatre companies from New York to Seattle.

Radical Black Theatre in the New Deal is now available in paper and ebook editions.

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Making Theatre Dangerous Again

In November 2016 the vice president-elect was accosted at the theatre by the ghost of presidents past. Following the curtain call of the Broadway musical Hamilton, the actor Brandon Victor Dixon, who was playing the role of Vice President Aaron Burr, addressed Mike Pence directly from the stage. Urging Pence “to uphold our American values and work on behalf of all of us,” he expressed the concerns of minorities who feared “your new administration will not protect us.”

By 6 a.m. the next morning Donald Trump had taken to Twitter to denounce the cast. Demanding an apology, the president-elect cast himself as the guardian of American theatre, tweeting: “The Theater must always be a safe and special place.”

If Hamilton appeared unsafe to Trump and associates, for some theatre scholars the Broadway blockbuster is “too safe.” For Donatella Galella the musical stages a mythical, “multiracial utopia.”  Mobilizing “performances of color,” it suggests all Americans have “a fair chance to compete for access to “The Room Where it Happens.” It has become, she argues, a “commodity of resistance,” one that reminds us that “patriotic pluralism continues to sell.” [i]  The attendance of Mike Pence, and of both the Obamas and Dick Cheney before that, attests to the idea that Hamilton’s success relies on it offering a safe space for political theatre. In this context then, Trump’s exhortation that theatre must be made safe—just as America should be made great again—hints at a different theatrical past.

Continue Reading Kate Dossett: Making Theatre Dangerous Again

Mary J. Henold: The Most Extraordinary (Catholic) Fashion Show of 1970

Today we welcome a guest post from Mary J. Henold, author of The Laywoman Project: Remaking Catholic Womanhood in the Vatican II Era, out today from UNC Press.

Summoning everyday Catholic laywomen to the forefront of twentieth-century Catholic history, Mary J. Henold considers how these committed parishioners experienced their religion in the wake of Vatican II (1962–1965). This era saw major changes within the heavily patriarchal religious faith—at the same time as an American feminist revolution caught fire. Who was the Catholic woman for a new era? Henold uncovers a vast archive of writing, both intimate and public facing, by hundreds of rank-and-file American laywomen active in national laywomen’s groups, including the National Council of Catholic Women, the Catholic Daughters of America, and the Daughters of Isabella. These records evoke a formative period when laywomen played publicly with a surprising variety of ideas about their own position in the Catholic Church.

In this post, Henold explains what an unorthodox 1970 fashion show can tell us about the relationship between Catholic sisters and laywomen at the time.

The Laywoman Project is now available in paperback and ebook editions.

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The Most Extraordinary (Catholic) Fashion Show of 1970

In 1970, Houston, Texas, played host to a most unusual fashion show. The designs were current, the fabrics polyester, the audience was amused if unlikely to purchase anything, and the models were, well…unorthodox. This show took place not at a fashion house, but at the national conference of the Theresians of America, and walking its runway were a group of Catholic sisters.

The Houston chapter of the Theresians planned this fashion show as a stand-out event for its national gathering in 1970, and while it might not be high fashion, it can tell us quite a lot about Catholic women, both lay and religious, at the turn of this most tumultuous decade.

Continue Reading Mary J. Henold: The Most Extraordinary (Catholic) Fashion Show of 1970