Interview: Brian Tochterman on the “Summer of Hell”

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

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

Today, fossil fuel companies have engaged in a similar propaganda war—funding questionable research, donating questionable curriculum to hard-pressed schools, and touting their contributions to the public welfare in advertising campaigns—for similar self-interested reasons. Recent reports out of Oklahoma exposed the oil and gas industry’s science curriculum and the incentives like fully-funded field trips and free supplies and lab equipment. This echoes a similar story about coal-funded classroom materials published and later withdrawn by Scholastic, Inc., in 2009. Continue Reading Sarah S. Elkind: Energy Corporations in Schools: Then and Now

Battle of Gettysburg Field Guide

This second, updated edition of the acclaimed A Field Guide to Gettysburg will lead visitors to every important site across the battlefield and also give them ways to envision the action and empathize with the soldiers involved and the local people into whose lives and lands the battle intruded. Ideal for carrying on trips through the park as well as for the armchair historian, this book includes comprehensive maps and deft descriptions of the action that situate visitors in time and place. Continue Reading Battle of Gettysburg Field Guide

Brian L. Tochterman: Birth of a Vigilante

As I argue in The Dying City this was a fantasy universe with critical consequences for the real world. Normalizing the vigilante was one key contingency of Spillane’s bestselling writing. Hammer was by no means the first, he’s preceded in time and succeeded in fame by Batman among others, but he did demonstrate that the vigilante no longer had to hide behind a mask or escape into a cave. He could operate in public, carry a private detective’s shield and a licensed gun and kill suspected criminals because “I like to shoot those dirty bastards.” In my book I connect Hammer with his filmic counterparts in 1970s New York, in particular Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) of Death Wish, and their unfortunate 1980s analogues like Bernard Goetz, the so-called subway vigilante, or the teenage terrorists of Howard Beach, Queens. Continue Reading Brian L. Tochterman: Birth of a Vigilante

Father’s Day Gift Guide

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

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

Although Underground might be flawed history—often as anachronistic as its notable musical soundtrack—it provides helpful models for resistance. Executive producer John Legend makes it plain: “What these stories are intended to do—and what I think all storytelling is intended to do in some ways—is to hopefully develop some empathy among us so that we see each other, understand each other’s backgrounds, understand each other’s stories, and also understand the inhumanity that fellow human beings were able to inflict on each other in this country that’s supposed to be the land of the free.” Continue Reading Alisha Gaines: White Guilt and Allyship on WGN’s Underground

Nicole Eustace: American Democracy and the Imperial Presidency

At a moment when divisions among Americans about the desired direction of the country are as stark as they have ever been, the essays in Warring for America: Cultural Contests in the Era of 1812 have much to teach us about the interplay of populism and dictatorialism in American history. Continue Reading Nicole Eustace: American Democracy and the Imperial Presidency

Nancy Tomes: Remarks from the Bancroft Awards Dinner

Thinking about those issues was like entering a funhouse with distorted mirrors: people used the same words—patient, consumer, choice, value—and meant very different things by them. In search of the origins of this strange concept of the “patient as consumer,” I kept going back further and further, looking for where it came from. The roots turned out to be a lot earlier than I expected: the 1920s and 1930s, not the 1970s. Continue Reading Nancy Tomes: Remarks from the Bancroft Awards Dinner

Interview: Jennifer Ritterhouse on Jonathan Daniels’s Travels in 1930s America

The heart of his own book about his trip was his conversations with the people he met, and a lot of the appeal for me in following him on his journey was to see and hear from them, too, in all of their variety. Continue Reading Interview: Jennifer Ritterhouse on Jonathan Daniels’s Travels in 1930s America

Gregg A. Brazinsky: Is China’s New World Order Really New?

Potentially, One Belt One Road can also raise Beijing’s international profile at the expense of Washington’s. Especially with the Trump administration intent on putting “America First,” the PRC has an opportunity to promote itself as a champion of free trade and assert its global leadership. The PRC is challenging the United States more subtly than during the 1950s and 1960s but it nonetheless aims to create a new balance of economic power in which China and other non-Western countries will play a more important role. Continue Reading Gregg A. Brazinsky: Is China’s New World Order Really New?

Jennifer Van Horn: The Deceptive Caboodle

I remember with fondness, as do many of us who came of age in the 1990s, my neon pink and purple “caboodle.” For those of you unfamiliar with the form, it is a molded plastic container with a latched top that raises up to reveal a multitude of trays, containers, and mysteriously shaped indentations all intended to house cosmetics, hair products, and personal accessories. For my teenage self the caboodle was the ultimate symbol of femininity and the mysterious physical manipulations of skin and hair that being an adult woman required. My caboodle is long since gone, but I suspect its lingering memory shaped my interest in eighteenth-century cosmetics and the dressing furniture that housed them. Continue Reading Jennifer Van Horn: The Deceptive Caboodle

Book Trailer: City of Inmates by Kelly Lytle Hernández

Marshaling more than two centuries of evidence, historian Kelly Lytle Hernández unmasks how histories of native elimination, immigrant exclusion, and black disappearance drove the rise of incarceration in Los Angeles. In this telling, which spans from the Spanish colonial era to the outbreak of the 1965 Watts Rebellion, Hernández documents the persistent historical bond between the racial fantasies of conquest, namely its settler colonial form, and the eliminatory capacities of incarceration. Continue Reading Book Trailer: City of Inmates by Kelly Lytle Hernández

Sharon McConnell-Sidorick: How Flappers Helped Radicalize the Labor Movement and the New Deal

Union activists advanced a far-reaching, class-based vision that saw labor as a means to advance the rights of all working people. It was a vision of a new, socialist world and young members made it their own, combining Jazz Age rebelliousness with the left-wing traditions of the union. Women unionists used the brashness and irreverence that were hallmarks of the “flapper” in a surprisingly left-wing labor culture, merging constructions of “worker” with those of “modern woman.” They became “street-fighting women” supporting labor as a cause for human rights. They picketed and went to jail in droves for refusing to “move to the other side of the street” when ordered to by police, or participating in “lie-downs” to block driveways in front of mills, or calling strikebreakers “scabs” and threatening to beat them up. Women became such stalwarts on the picket lines that when they demanded a greater role in the union leadership, many of their male co-workers rushed to support them, insisting that “the women did do the fighting and you better give them their rights soon.” Continue Reading Sharon McConnell-Sidorick: How Flappers Helped Radicalize the Labor Movement and the New Deal

Jennifer Le Zotte: Poppin’ Tags: How Musicians Helped Make Used Clothes Fashionable

Macklemore’s 2013 tribute to thrift shops articulates the enduring association of creative output with secondhand commerce. Voluntary secondhand dress persists precisely because it suggests both cultural and economic distinction. It satisfies a desire to be seen as different than the average consumer dupe, as willing to invest time in the cultivation of originality without utilizing class and wealth privilege. In reality, however, secondhand economies and styles throughout the twentieth century are much more complicated; studying them reveals the futility of pursuing an effective anti-consumer consumption. But whatever the continuing or resurgent stigmas and social critiques of secondhand products may be, many creative dressers continue to agree with Macklemore’s concise assessment: “This is fucking awesome.” Continue Reading Jennifer Le Zotte: Poppin’ Tags: How Musicians Helped Make Used Clothes Fashionable

Brian Tochterman: Mailer for Mayor of the 51st State

Norman Mailer and Jimmy Breslin are part of a sometimes roving band of supporting characters that populate The Dying City. Mailer plays the role of the contrarian provocateur who challenges the dying city narrative, whether it’s holding up the risky brotherhood of New York City’s various youth gangs as an antidote to the “national disease” of boredom within the pages of Dissent or publishing a large format book on the cultural significance of the 1970s’ most otherwise reviled contemporary art form, spray-paint writing. Breslin, the longtime voice of New York within the pages of various dailies, is perhaps most famously known outside of the city as the epistolary confidant of David Berkowitz, a.k.a. Son of Sam, who addressed a cryptic letter to Breslin, then at the Daily News, during his 1977 killing spree. He also co-authored The Lonely Crimes, “or the crimes you don’t hear about,” series from October 1965 that is examined in my book. Continue Reading Brian Tochterman: Mailer for Mayor of the 51st State

Jennifer Van Horn: Problematic Prostheses

We might imagine that the first time prosthetic legs grabbed the American public’s attention was during the Civil War. But in fact, the American Revolution was the first armed conflict when controversy swirled around men’s amputated limbs. The number of amputees rose dramatically in the conflict, since amputation was the primary medical procedure used to save soldiers whose bones had been shattered by cannon and musket balls. Wooden legs were the predominant form of artificial limb in the eighteenth century (the Americans’ wounded British foes also donned them). However, only one lower limb prosthesis is known to survive from early America. It belonged to American statesman Gouverneur Morris and is now in the collection of the New-York Historical Society. Continue Reading Jennifer Van Horn: Problematic Prostheses

Erika Lee: The New Xenophobia and the Role of the Public Scholar Today

These days, the relevance of U.S. immigration history—who we have welcomed and who we have banned; who we have resettled and who we have left behind; how we began to enforce the border and how the “border” has moved into the interior—has never been more important. For immigration historians, the past, present, and future are colliding. Continue Reading Erika Lee: The New Xenophobia and the Role of the Public Scholar Today

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

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