Mireya Loza: 100 Years of Mexican Guest Workers in the United States

The experiences of braceros reveal contradictions within U.S. immigration policy that render Mexican laborers as necessary and Mexican settlement as unnecessary and unwarranted. The Bracero Program cemented the idea that in modern America, Mexican workers could come in, contribute their labor and expect no avenues of permanent incorporation into American life and no legal protections as workers. The termination of the Bracero Program did not bring an end to Mexican guest workers as Mexicans found themselves recruited for H2 visas. This category of visa was first introduced in the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 and by 1986 the status was subdivided and the letter “A” was added for agricultural workers. H2-A laborers not only walk in the historical footprints of the braceros that came before them but many are the children and grandchildren of braceros, creating one more link in the century of Mexican guest workers in America. So after 100 years of guest workers policies, do we continue to create an unequal system in which a group of people are only valued as laborers and never given the opportunity of true belonging as American citizens? Continue Reading Mireya Loza: 100 Years of Mexican Guest Workers in the United States

Deirdre M. Moloney: The Muslim Ban of 1910

Certain immigrants, including Mormons, Hindus, and Muslims faced barriers in their effort to settle in the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries because they were perceived as adhering to belief systems that were un-American. Though those religiously based cases were small relative to those immigrants facing exclusion or deportation based on their poverty or on medical grounds, they suggest that religious bias has long been a significant factor in early federal immigration policies. Continue Reading Deirdre M. Moloney: The Muslim Ban of 1910

Elliott Young: Felons and Families

Even as one might criticize Obama for becoming the “Deporter in Chief,” he did not invent the pernicious rhetoric of good and bad immigrants. He merely followed in a long tradition that stretches back to the late nineteenth century when federal immigration restrictions were first written into law to keep out criminals, prostitutes, and the Chinese. Continue Reading Elliott Young: Felons and Families

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

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)

Jessica M. Frazier: Networks, News, and Activism

Many also found friendship, understanding, and compassion in their Vietnamese counterparts. Following face-to-face interactions, American and Vietnamese women maintained contact with one another through the exchange of letters, telegrams, and newsletters. Indeed, Vietnamese and American women formed part of a people’s diplomatic network that provided alternative interpretations of the war. Continue Reading Jessica M. Frazier: Networks, News, and Activism

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

Kristina M. Jacobsen: “Won’t You Be With Me Tonight (After the Ace’s Wild Dance)”?: Navajo Country Bands, Stage Patter, and Rodeo Announcers

Twenty years later, dances remain an important part of reservation social life, where live bands play up-tempo songs and couples mostly dance the two-step, a partner dance moving in a counter-clockwise direction. Dance bands play four-hour sets, typically 9 pm to 1 am, and take one break in the middle. The “sweet spot” for these dances is between 12 and 1: this is when the band is really warmed up, the dancers are relaxed, and dancers come out in large numbers onto the dance floor. It’s a short-lived space, nestled between lots of starts and stops and logistical glitches, but catching it is well worth the wait. For me, it’s a bit of time-capsuled, Navajo reservation magic. Continue Reading Kristina M. Jacobsen: “Won’t You Be With Me Tonight (After the Ace’s Wild Dance)”?: Navajo Country Bands, Stage Patter, and Rodeo Announcers

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     

Christopher A. Cooper and H. Gibbs Knotts: Thinking About Southern Identity on the Way to Work

While the reasons for identity may vary across people, we find that southern identity is heightened when individuals are forced to contrast the South with other regions, and people. In writing this book, we had many people tell us that they became most aware of their southern identity when they moved away from the South for the first time. They recalled stories where someone questioned their accent, criticized their home region, or asked them if they spent their free time watching reruns of The Dukes of Hazzard. Continue Reading Christopher A. Cooper and H. Gibbs Knotts: Thinking About Southern Identity on the Way to Work

Jonathan W. White: 8 Simple Rules for Prospective Graduate Students in History

During my first semester of college I told a professor that I wanted to go to graduate school to become a professor. He very wisely replied, “Jon, get a real job and do history on the weekends.” As a senior, another professor told me, “Don’t get a PhD in history unless you can’t see yourself doing anything else.” Both offered sound advice, and I hope they will forgive me for not taking it.

Now, as a tenured faculty member, I often find myself giving advice about graduate school to my students. I usually give them similar advice to that which I received when I was in college because they need to be aware of the risks involved in graduate study. The reality is that too many people are getting PhDs in the humanities, and there just are not enough jobs for them (I was on a search committee earlier this year that had 174 applicants for one job). Graduate students in certain fields therefore run the risk of lost potential income over a series of years, only to come out either unqualified or overqualified for most jobs, and ultimately unemployed or stuck in the adjunct circuit. Continue Reading Jonathan W. White: 8 Simple Rules for Prospective Graduate Students in History

Marc Stein: Immigration is a Queer Issue: From Fleuti to Trump

In Trump v. Washington, the Ninth Circuit panel has used a decision in a “gay rights” case as a precedent for a decision in a “Muslim rights” one. Continue Reading Marc Stein: Immigration is a Queer Issue: From Fleuti to Trump

Kristina M. Jacobsen: The Gallup Flea Market and Navajo Cultural Sovereignty

What struck me this time after many months away overseas is the subtle ways that Diné cultural sovereignty is practiced in this informal economy, where unemployment on the Navajo Nation currently hovers above 50%, and where tribal citizens are incredibly creative about ways to make ends meet in order to live on or close to their ancestral homeland (a statement about sovereignty and connection to homeland in its own right). Although not an explicitly “political” space, Diné citizens express their attachments to being Diné through what they choose—or refuse—to sell in this public space. Continue Reading Kristina M. Jacobsen: The Gallup Flea Market and Navajo Cultural Sovereignty

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

Lisa A. Lindsay: The “Truth” Behind Our Ancestors

Forty years ago CBS aired the miniseries Roots, based on Alex Haley’s 1976 bestseller in which he traced his own ancestors back to West Africa, followed them to the United States as slaves, and took them forward into freedom. For the first time, a massive audience—roughly half the country’s population—confronted slavery and its legacies through an African American perspective. Roots prompted Americans to search out their own ancestors, particularly in subsequent years as digitization and personal computing brought resources to searchers’ fingertips.Now genealogy’s popularity—attested by the success of ancestry.com and the television show Who Do You Think You Are—makes it tempting to forget that we often shape our ancestors ourselves, even at the expense of historical evidence. Professional historians, in fact, were quick to point out fictions within Roots, a charge Haley accepted by originally calling his book a work of “faction.” I (re)learned this lesson about historical memory myself when it almost derailed the project that became my book, Atlantic Bonds. Continue Reading Lisa A. Lindsay: The “Truth” Behind Our Ancestors

Stephen Cushman: Stephen Crane, Historical Researcher

The reason that we in the twenty-first century need to develop these complementary sensibilities is that the Civil War erupted against a standard of literacy different from our own, one with increasingly unfamiliar conventions of reading and writing. Because most of us know what we know about the war primarily through the medium of writing, understanding the war we read about depends to a large extent on our understanding as many historical and aesthetic layers of its writings as possible. Continue Reading Stephen Cushman: Stephen Crane, Historical Researcher

Karina Biondi: The Extinction of Sexual Violence in the Prisons of São Paulo, Brazil

In 1992, in order to contain a riot, police forces invaded the largest prison in Latin America and killed 111 prisoners. The event, known as the Carandiru Massacre, was illustrated in the Brazilian film Carandiru, directed by Hector Babenco. Episodes of sexual violence were frequent, as were violent disputes over material goods and the conquest of spaces within the prison. Another factor that defined the life inside the prison was the financial capacity of the prisoner. There were, therefore, two ways of obtaining material goods and sexual services in prison: money or physical violence. Continue Reading Karina Biondi: The Extinction of Sexual Violence in the Prisons of São Paulo, Brazil

David S. Brown: America’s Sunbelt Politics: The Story of Three Centuries

Historians and social scientists such as Richard Hofstadter and Daniel Bell first began to use the term “Radical Right” in the 1950s as something of a reaction to McCarthyism. A decade later, with the unexpected presidential candidacy of the Republican Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater accompanied by the growth in wealth, population, and thus political power of many southern states, the term “Sunbelt Right” came into vogue. Continue Reading David S. Brown: America’s Sunbelt Politics: The Story of Three Centuries

Gregg A. Brazinsky: Sino-American Competition Past and Present

Trump’s campaign rhetoric and willingness to aggravate the thorny Taiwan issue have raised hackles in Beijing. Part of the reason for this is that China’s view of itself and its role in the international community differs starkly from Washington’s. Continue Reading Gregg A. Brazinsky: Sino-American Competition Past and Present

Lisa A. Lindsay: The Enduring Allure of Emigration

The outcome of this nineteenth-century emigration movement offers little comfort for those who would leave today. At least half of the African Americans who settled in West Africa perished of tropical diseases, while others struggled to eke out a living. And they were not welcome there. Though they called their colony Liberia and touted “the love of liberty” in their official motto, the settlers’ encounters with local Africans were marked by violence, condescension, and—ironically—conditions not unlike slavery. Continue Reading Lisa A. Lindsay: The Enduring Allure of Emigration