Judy Kutulas: What If My Relatives Were on the “Wrong” Side of History?

I understand that Ben Affleck was unhappy to learn his ancestors owned slaves. I mention this because I was also unexpectedly side-swiped by history while researching a chapter for After Aquarius Dawned on the Peoples Temple and the Jonestown mass death. As traditional authority, aka the Establishment, declined after the war in Vietnam and Watergate and all those liberation movements – sexual, gay, women’s, black – Americans practiced more freedom of choice, summarized by a women’s movement slogan, “the personal is political.” Since I was already looking into the Temple, I took a side-jaunt into the story of my cousins who perished in Jonestown. Continue Reading Judy Kutulas: What If My Relatives Were on the “Wrong” Side of History?

Christopher A. Cooper and H. Gibbs Knotts: Reflections on John Shelton Reed

In our new book, The Resilience of Southern Identity: Why the South Still Matters in the Minds of Its People, we revisit and update a few of Reed’s key findings about the South. We focus particularly on the question of southern identity, exploring the powerful connection between southerners and their region. Continue Reading Christopher A. Cooper and H. Gibbs Knotts: Reflections on John Shelton Reed

Julie M. Weise: African Americans and Immigrants’ Rights in the Trump Era

Back in 2008 when Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton vied for the Democratic nomination, the “Will Latinos support a black candidate?” narrative dominated the news cycle. “Many Latinos are not ready for a person of color,” said a young Latina in a typical quote featured by the New York Times. “I don’t think many Latinos will vote for Obama.” Academic social science from new Latino settlement areas in the U.S. South seemingly confirmed the narrative: “Latino Immigrants come to the U.S. with negative stereotypes of black Americans,” declared a Duke research team after conducting a survey in Durham, N.C., in 2003. Yet though Clinton did dominate among Latinos in the 2008 primary, they rallied to Obama’s side once he clinched the nomination, delivering the country’s first black president a historically large margin of Latino votes that November. Continue Reading Julie M. Weise: African Americans and Immigrants’ Rights in the Trump Era

Off the Page: Roundtable 1: Immigration

UNC Press is proud to host this first in a series of week-long virtual roundtables, featuring Press authors drawing on their work to address issues of contemporary concern. This week we share five short essays by leading scholars of immigration, including Elliott Young, Deirdre M. Moloney, Mireya Loza, Julie M. Weise, and Erika Lee. Continue Reading Off the Page: Roundtable 1: Immigration

Jennifer Le Zotte: Before Target, There Were Thrift Stores: How Postwar Secondhand Commerce Supported LGBTQ Rights

In recent years, corporate support of LGBTQ rights is not unusual, but in the 1950s and 1960s, major retailers were often complicit in the systematic anti-homosexual campaigns known as the Lavender Scare, firing gay employees and alienating or even arresting cross-dressing patrons attempting to try on clothing. In most states, wearing clothing “intended for the opposite sex”—even briefly in dressing rooms—meant risking a rap sheet. Commercial support of queer communities came instead from alternative retail sites— such as thrift stores. Goodwill Industries, Salvation Army, and the hundreds of small, locally owned secondhand shops multiplying in the postwar years, became queer shopping havens. Such places did not issue public responses of solidarity with non-normative dressers, but most did extend a sort of benevolent neglect to all customers. With no clerks angling for a commission, and a staff untrained in suggestive retailing, thrift stores were much safer places than Weinstein’s for cross-dressing men and women to try and buy the clothing of their choice. Continue Reading Jennifer Le Zotte: Before Target, There Were Thrift Stores: How Postwar Secondhand Commerce Supported LGBTQ Rights

Andrew Denson: Apologizing for Indian Removal in the Civil Rights Era South

In the spring of 1962, legislators in Georgia voted unanimously to repeal a set of anti-Indian laws from the 1820s and 1830s. These laws had sparked the political crisis that led to the Cherokee “Trail of Tears,” the removal of the majority of Cherokees from the Southeast to Indian Territory. Starting in 1828, Georgia had extended its jurisdiction over Cherokee territory, outlawed the Cherokee government, and nullified Cherokee laws in an effort to force tribal leaders to negotiate a removal agreement with the United States. Continue Reading Andrew Denson: Apologizing for Indian Removal in the Civil Rights Era South

Kristina M. Jacobsen: In Memoriam: Shirley Bowman (1949-2017)

Shirley Bowman: Navajo language and culture teacher, world traveler, mother, grandmother, Navajo Nation citizen, professor, fellow “foodie” and tamale maker extraordinaire. These are some of the things that come to mind when I remember my teacher, mentor, friend and “mom,” Shirley Ann Bowman (1949-2017), who passed away last week on March 7th. I met Shirley in the fall of 2008 in Crownpoint, when I began my research on Diné country western bands (“rez bands”) and was looking for a Navajo language teacher. She embraced me fully, immersing me not only in the Navajo language but what in it meant to be a woman in Diné society, my expected social roles, and how—as a non-Native, Anglo woman—to conduct myself accordingly. Continue Reading Kristina M. Jacobsen: In Memoriam: Shirley Bowman (1949-2017)

Jonathan W. White: A Shadow Over My Heart: The Transformation of a Northern Woman’s Dream Life during the Civil War

Sitting at home, alone, many women in the North and South were overcome by feelings of fear and grief as their husbands fought on faraway battlefields. For all too many, nighttime only exacerbated their concerns. Nightmares of blood and gore tortured countless wives. And yet over time, some women gradually overcame such fearful feelings—even in their dreams. Continue Reading Jonathan W. White: A Shadow Over My Heart: The Transformation of a Northern Woman’s Dream Life during the Civil War

Nicole Eustace: Borders, Culture, and Nationhood in Early-Nineteenth-Century America     

As the United States leaders of 2017 contemplate dividing families and decimating workforces with new rules strictly limiting travel and immigration, they might do well to contemplate the human costs and historical errors inherent in such attempts. If American inhabitants were “warring for America” in the era of 1812, the struggle itself has never truly ceased. Continue Reading Nicole Eustace: Borders, Culture, and Nationhood in Early-Nineteenth-Century America     

Andrew Denson: The DAR Squabble: Possessing Cherokee History in the Southeast

In the spring of 1935, an odd dispute erupted between rival groups of heritage workers in Tennessee and Georgia over the right to commemorate the Cherokee “Trail of Tears.” That year, members of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) in Georgia decided to erect a small monument commemorating Red Clay, a site along the Tennessee border where the government of the Cherokee Nation met in the years just prior to removal. Continue Reading Andrew Denson: The DAR Squabble: Possessing Cherokee History in the Southeast

Judy Kutulas: How Mary Tyler Moore Helped 1970s America Imagine a New Future

Fictional Mary worked at a television station in Minneapolis even she knew was second rate. Yet it was also so beyond how she imagined her future unfolding that she embraced it with a mixture of gusto and relatable fear. So many of us were in that predicament in the 1970s, jarred out of what was supposed to be our future by the revolutions of the 1960s. Americans identified with Mary far more personally than most previous characters. As someone who studies sitcoms, I could explain to you the structural set-up that facilitated that bonding, but the outcome is what’s more relevant here: that Americans regarded fictional Minnesotan Mary Richards as a real person. They sent letters to the Minneapolis post office addressed to her and made so many pilgrimages to knock on the door of the house featured in the opening credits that they exhausted and angered the actual owners of the house. Real people showed up in the series playing themselves, including first lady Betty Ford, who loved Mary as much as the rest of us. Continue Reading Judy Kutulas: How Mary Tyler Moore Helped 1970s America Imagine a New Future

Michael Jarrett: John Hammond’s Golden Ears

John Hammond’s knack for discovering talent was so uncanny, so unparalleled in the history of American music, that it’s regularly celebrated. It is, however, rarely examined. Perhaps, that’s because scrutiny can come off as suspiciousness poisoned by ungratefulness. Continue Reading Michael Jarrett: John Hammond’s Golden Ears

Matthew Mason: Morality, Politics, and Compromise: The Plight and Prospects of the Moderate, Then and Now

There are a few potential parallels between modern and antebellum religious leaders. Many modern religious leaders seemingly hope to set aside thorny issues such as LGBT rights and immigration so they can refocus on their core religious missions. Continue Reading Matthew Mason: Morality, Politics, and Compromise: The Plight and Prospects of the Moderate, Then and Now

John Mac Kilgore: Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story: An Early American Scholar’s Response to Hamilton

It’s such an incongruous moment to perpetuate Founders Chic, to applaud the man who is the ideological father of Wall Street, the debt economy, deportation, militarism, and the criminalization of protest. I can’t sing to that. Continue Reading John Mac Kilgore: Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story: An Early American Scholar’s Response to Hamilton

Michael Jarrett: Early Record Men: How Talent Scouts, Managers, Recording Supervisors, Publishers, and A&R Men Shaped Music

Early record men, therefore, most resembled movie producers, not movie directors. Ultimately, their control derived from the power to grant or to deny access to capital. “I invented Louis Armstrong,” said Ralph Peer in a 1959 interview with Lillian Borgeson. Continue Reading Michael Jarrett: Early Record Men: How Talent Scouts, Managers, Recording Supervisors, Publishers, and A&R Men Shaped Music

Laura Visser-Maessen: How Exploring Bob Moses’s 1960s Civil Rights Activism in Mississippi Can Modify America’s Current Terrorism Debate

Paris is only a five hour drive from my home in the Netherlands. I have strolled its streets many times, undoubtedly also those covered in blood after the November 2015 attacks. I have also passed through San Bernardino, California, and have stood regularly at the former World Trade Center site. Yet as I commemorate those victims of religious terrorism, I cannot but remember my meetings with black civil rights activist Bob Moses and his colleagues of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Their haunting tales of life in Mississippi in the 1960s wryly challenge some politicians’ and media pundits’ current claim to exclusivity for the term “terrorism” only in relation to Islam, reminding us that the most bloody and consistent trajectory of terrorism in the United States occurred under the banner of white supremacy. Continue Reading Laura Visser-Maessen: How Exploring Bob Moses’s 1960s Civil Rights Activism in Mississippi Can Modify America’s Current Terrorism Debate

Laura Visser-Maessen: Bob Moses’s Lessons on the Meaning of Citizenship We Need in Today’s Race Debates

After the 2015 riots in Baltimore and elsewhere, I was struck—though not surprised—by many of the media’s depictions of its black inhabitants, as if they were irrational, self-defeating hoodlums, rather than emphasizing stories like that of Wayne, one of several hundred students in Baltimore’s public schools who participate in the Algebra Project (AP). Wayne had been kicked out of several schools until his AP involvement made him realize “what I can do inside of school and how I can help other people.” Continue Reading Laura Visser-Maessen: Bob Moses’s Lessons on the Meaning of Citizenship We Need in Today’s Race Debates

Catherine A. Stewart: Looking Backward: On Memory and the Challenges of Oral History

My mother and her only sibling, my aunt, are losing their memories. Though their short-term memory has all but disappeared, their shared memories of childhood still remain vivid. One of their neurologists described the brain’s storage of memory and the onset of dementia as a file cabinet, with the most recently filed folders disappearing first, and the ones stored long ago as the last to go. Continue Reading Catherine A. Stewart: Looking Backward: On Memory and the Challenges of Oral History

Interview: John W. Troutman on Kīkā Kila

Gina Mahalek: What is Kīkā Kila? What does it sound like?

John W. Troutman: Kīkā Kila is a Hawaiian expression for describing both a type of guitar and a technique for playing it. The instrument, also known as a “steel guitar,” a “lap steel,” a “dobro,” or a “Hawaiian guitar,” among other names and associations, developed in the Islands in the 1880s and 1890s. Players would physically modify a “standard” guitar, add steel strings to it, and fabricate finger picks and a steel bar, about 3” in length (the instrument is named after this bar). After creating new, open tunings for the guitar, players would place the guitar in their laps, pluck the strings with finger picks on one hand, and then, with their other hand, slide the steel bar along the strings, located high above the fretboard. The technique created an entirely new sound for the guitar, one that better mimicked both the gentle rising and falling of a somber human voice as well as the melodic acrobatics that Hawaiian falsetto singers were becoming known for at the time. Hawaiians soon began creating all sorts of other sound effects on the steel guitar, and very quickly, it became the most important accompanying (as well as lead melodic) instrument in Hawaiian music. Continue Reading Interview: John W. Troutman on Kīkā Kila

Benjamin René Jordan: “Are you a Boy Scout?” The Youth Historian’s Dilemma

“Are you a Boy Scout?” I am frequently asked this question at history conferences or during social conversations after stating that I study early American Boy Scouting. Perhaps it’s my short haircut, or my normative white guy appearance. The question may also stem from an (accurate) perception that many current and former Boy Scouts and adult leaders are enthusiastic readers and amateur producers of histories of the organization and their local councils, troops, and summer camps. Scout history associations, newsletters, websites, networks, and historical memorabilia swap meets facilitate the exchange and consumption of such histories and memories. Thus, conference audiences and other people I meet are often confused when I report that I was not a Boy Scout. They seem surprised that somebody would study a youth organization like Scouting if that person had not been a member. I suspect other historians who study youth organizations and summer camps get similar queries. Continue Reading Benjamin René Jordan: “Are you a Boy Scout?” The Youth Historian’s Dilemma