Author Fay A. Yarbrough’s Talk With the U.S. National Archives

Earlier this month, the U.S. National Archives hosted a talk with Fay A. Yarbrough, author of Choctaw Confederates: The American Civil War in Indian Country.

When the Choctaw Nation was forcibly resettled in Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma in the 1830s, it was joined by enslaved Black people—the tribe had owned enslaved Blacks since the 1720s. By the eve of the Civil War, 14 percent of the Choctaw Nation consisted of enslaved Blacks. Avid supporters of the Confederate States of America, the Nation passed a measure requiring all whites living in its territory to swear allegiance to the Confederacy and deemed any criticism of it or its army treasonous and punishable by death. Choctaws also raised an infantry force and a cavalry to fight alongside Confederate forces.

In Choctaw Confederates, Fay A. Yarbrough reveals that, while sovereignty and states’ rights mattered to Choctaw leaders, the survival of slavery also determined the Nation’s support of the Confederacy. 



Fay A. Yarbrough is professor of history at Rice University and the author of Race and the Cherokee Nation.

Feminism for the Americas: A New Force in the History of the World

The following is an excerpt from Katherine M. Marino’s Feminism for the Americas: The Making of an International Human Rights Movement. This book chronicles the dawn of the global movement for women’s rights in the first decades of the twentieth century. The founding mothers of this movement were not based primarily in the United States, however, or in Europe. Instead, Katherine M. Marino introduces readers to a cast of remarkable Latin American and Caribbean women whose deep friendships and intense rivalries forged global feminism out of an era of imperialism, racism, and fascism. Six dynamic activists form the heart of this story: from Brazil, Bertha Lutz; from Cuba, Ofelia Domíngez Navarro; from Uruguay, Paulina Luisi; from Panama, Clara González; from Chile, Marta Vergara; and from the United States, Doris Stevens. This Pan-American network drove a transnational movement that advocated women’s suffrage, equal pay for equal work, maternity rights, and broader self-determination. Their painstaking efforts led to the enshrinement of women’s rights in the United Nations Charter and the development of a framework for international human rights. But their work also revealed deep divides, with Latin American activists overcoming U.S. presumptions to feminist superiority. As Marino shows, these early fractures continue to influence divisions among today’s activists along class, racial, and national lines.

Marino’s Feminism for the Americas was featured recently on our Universal Human Rights Month reading list.

While on the topic of feminism, we’d like to offer our condolences to the family of black feminist author Gloria Jean Watkins, also known as bell hooks, who passed yesterday; her writing will live on forever.


In May 1921, twenty-six-year-old Bertha Lutz wrote to forty-five-year-old Paulina Luisi about an issue “that concerns me more and more”—the “question of feminism.” The term feminisme had been introduced in France and made its way to the Americas in the late nineteenth century but was only now becoming part of the vocabulary of political leaders, socialists, and middle-class women and social reformers like Brazilian Lutz and Uruguayan Luisi. Lutz sought an introduction to some of the international groups with which Luisi, the most famous Latin American feminist, had connections. Apologizing for her “audacity” for writing to Luisi “without having had the honor of meeting you personally,” Lutz wrote, “it is well known that in Uruguay, you are at the vanguard.”

In Montevideo, Luisi was thrilled to read Lutz’s letter. She believed that the time was ripe for a new movement by and for women of the Americas, one free from the dominance of European women, to promote women’s suffrage, welfare, and peace in the Western Hemisphere. “Our international correspondence and collaboration … promise many good things for us,” Luisi responded. These two women would help launch what Lutz later called “a new force in the history of the world,” Pan-American feminism.

Both women believed that the First World War had shattered the ideal of European cultural superiority. It opened a space for the “new” democratic nations of the Americas, with a common history of European colonialism, to become beacons of progress, social reform, international multilateralism, and peace. The new Pan-Americanism advocated cultural advancement and political sovereignty, and women’s rights were central to both.

Luisi and Lutz would find, however, that they maintained distinct and clashing notions of Pan-American feminism. Paulina Luisi privileged a movement organized by Spanish-speaking women of la raza and celebrated a Pan-Hispanic identity over that of a U.S. and Anglo-American empire. Her Pan-Americanism did not always seek to dismantle U.S. hegemony as much as it sought to write the “better constituted” nations of Latin America, such as her own Uruguay, into it. Bertha Lutz, on the other hand, believed that the rightful leaders of Pan-American feminism were Brazil and the United States, embodied respectively by herself and U.S. suffrage veteran Carrie Chapman Catt. Luisi and Lutz each presumed her country represented continental leadership. Their differences would develop into consequential rifts.

Luisi and Lutz’s conflict represented a broader ideological fissure between those who believed Pan-Americanism should celebrate the political culture of the United States as a model for the continent and those who believed that it should explicitly reject such a premise. Discord driven by its participants’ divergent views of language, race, and empire proved critical to the origins of Pan-American feminism and would shape the movement for decades to come.

Paulina Luisi and the Origins of Pan-American Feminism

In 1916, five years before her glowing correspondence with Lutz, Paulina Luisi gave the keynote address at the First Pan-American Child Congress in Buenos Aires. In it, she asserted that women’s rights should be a Pan-American goal. The term “Pan-American,” rather than signifying U.S. economic hegemony or military intervention, was becoming a Latin American–led social movement. Its interrelated goals included democracy, international peace, social improvement, and specifically the growth of welfare states and protection of women and children. While the war in Europe was precluding social welfare advances, Luisi announced that the Americas, whose democratic revolutions had overthrown the shackles of “old Europe,” were uniting to do “the work of Life and progress that can only thrive in the shade of the tree of Peace!” Luisi introduced resolutions on sex education and public health, yet her speech emphasized a new demand: the vote for women, then under consideration by her own country as it debated universal suffrage. Women’s right to vote would perfect the two critical objectives of Pan-Americanism: political sovereignty and cultural advancement of the Western Hemisphere.

Never before had women’s rights been articulated as a Pan-American demand. Still a marginal goal in most Latin American countries in 1916, over the next years it became central to the Pan-American mission.

The 1916 congress marked a turning point for Luisi as well. Soon after her return to Montevideo she created the first national suffrage organization in Uruguay, the Consejo Nacional de Mujeres Uruguayas (CONAMU), an offshoot of the International Council of Women (ICW, 1888) in Europe that already had branches in Argentina and Chile. Luisi also formally connected CONAMU to a new Pan-American women’s group established to improve the welfare of women and children in the hemisphere—the U.S.-based Women’s Auxiliary to the Second Pan-American Congress. In 1917 in the pages of the CONAMU bulletin Acción Femenina, Luisi used the word “feminism” in print for the first time, describing her understanding of the term: “Feminism demonstrates that woman is something more than material created to serve and obey man like a slave; that she is more than a machine to produce children and care for the home; that women have feelings and intellect; that it is their mission to perpetuate the species and this must be done with more than the entrails and the breast; it must be done with a mind and a heart prepared to be a mother and an educator; that she must be man’s partner and counselor not his slave.”


Katherine M. Marino is associate professor of history at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Reacting to the Past ™ Game Books from the Reacting Consortium to be Co-Published by the University of North Carolina Press

UNC Press is proud to announce a new co-publishing partnership with the Reacting Consortium, Inc., based at Barnard College, for its acclaimed pedagogical role-playing game book series, Reacting to the Past ™, effective July 1, 2022.

Reacting to the Past ™ was originally developed under the auspices of Barnard College and is sustained by the members of the Reacting Consortium. The Consortium hosts a regular series of conferences and events to support faculty and administrators in their use of the pedagogy.


“Reacting to the Past ™ is an exceptionally innovative and exciting historical pedagogy, and we have been honored to work with the Reacting Consortium over the last several years to produce game books in a partnership between the UNC Press Office of Scholarly Publishing Services and Reacting Consortium Press. We have been impressed consistently with Reacting Consortium’s rigorous process of game development and evaluation, including peer review standards that mirror many of the best practices for peer review articulated by the Association of University Presses. Given our longstanding commitment to publishing in the field of history and to serving the needs of a diverse community of readers, we are thrilled to expand our partnership with Reacting Consortium as the sole publishing partner for Reacting to the Past ™. We believe this partnership will not only benefit the Press and the Reacting Consortium but the historical profession at large, as a growing number of students and faculty will be able to engage with the Reacting to the Past ™ pedagogy and its game-based exploration of primary sources and high-quality secondary scholarship.”—Mark Simpson-Vos, Wyndham Robertson Editorial Director, UNC Press

“This was a marriage made, if not in heaven, at least in the scholarly stratosphere. The Reacting Consortium, Inc., the nation’s foremost pioneer in higher education active-learning pedagogy, is proud to partner with the University of North Carolina Press, a university press that has earned its reputation for joining scholarly rigor with academic innovation.”— Mark Carnes, Executive Director, Reacting Consortium 

UNC Press associate editor Andrew Winters will guide this expanding partnership, including the development and publication of future game books in association with the Reacting Consortium.

Continuing through the course adoption season for winter and spring 2022 courses, current publisher W.W. Norton will continue to support the Reacting to the Past ™ titles currently available through them, as listed here. UNC Press will begin fulfilling orders for courses beginning July 1, 2022. Additional information and updates are available at UNC Press’s Reacting to the Past ™ webpage.

Universal Human Rights Month: A Recommended Reading List

Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.

Fannie Lou Hamer

December marks the annual celebration of Universal Human Rights Month. The observance of this month began in 1948 when the U.N. wrote a document called The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The document was created after World War II and was used to “properly define what human rights would be protected universally”. The world as a whole still struggles to protect basic human rights, so it’s important that we look to this month as a means of inspiration for the much needed continued work of protecting human rights for all.

To help honor Universal Human Rights Month, we’ve created a recommended reading list that includes some of our books that touch on human rights for various different groups of people.


TEARS, FIRE AND BLOOD: THE UNITED STATES AND THE DECOLONIZATION OF AFRICA

BY JAMES H. MERIWETHER

In the mid-twentieth century, the struggle against colonial rule fundamentally reshaped the world and the lives of the majority of the world’s population. Decolonization, Black and Brown freedom movements, the establishment of the United Nations and NATO, an exploding Cold War, a burgeoning world human rights movement, all became part of the dramatic events that swept through Africa at a furious pace, with fifty nations gaining independence in roughly fifty years. Meanwhile, the United States emerged as the most powerful and influential nation in the world, with the ability—politically, economically, militarily—and principles to help or hinder the transformation of the African continent.  

Tears, Fire, and Blood offers a sweeping history of how the United States responded to decolonization in Africa. 

FEMINISM FOR THE AMERICAS: THE MAKING OF AN INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS MOVEMENT

BY KATHERINE M. MARINO

This book chronicles the dawn of the global movement for women’s rights in the first decades of the twentieth century. The founding mothers of this movement were not based primarily in the United States, however, or in Europe. Instead, Katherine M. Marino introduces readers to a cast of remarkable Latin American and Caribbean women whose deep friendships and intense rivalries forged global feminism out of an era of imperialism, racism, and fascism. Six dynamic activists form the heart of this story: from Brazil, Bertha Lutz; from Cuba, Ofelia Domíngez Navarro; from Uruguay, Paulina Luisi; from Panama, Clara González; from Chile, Marta Vergara; and from the United States, Doris Stevens. This Pan-American network drove a transnational movement that advocated women’s suffrage, equal pay for equal work, maternity rights, and broader self-determination. Their painstaking efforts led to the enshrinement of women’s rights in the United Nations Charter and the development of a framework for international human rights. But their work also revealed deep divides, with Latin American activists overcoming U.S. presumptions to feminist superiority. As Marino shows, these early fractures continue to influence divisions among today’s activists along class, racial, and national lines.

STEEL CLOSETS: VOICES OF GAY, LESBIAN, AND TRANSGENDER STEELWORKERS

BY ANNE BALAY

Even as substantial legal and social victories are being celebrated within the gay rights movement, much of working-class America still exists outside the current narratives of gay liberation. In Steel Closets, Anne Balay draws on oral history interviews with forty gay, lesbian, and transgender steelworkers, mostly living in northwestern Indiana, to give voice to this previously silent and invisible population. She presents powerful stories of the intersections of work, class, gender, and sexual identity in the dangerous industrial setting of the steel mill. The voices and stories captured by Balay–by turns alarming, heroic, funny, and devastating–challenge contemporary understandings of what it means to be queer and shed light on the incredible homophobia and violence faced by many: nearly all of Balay’s narrators remain closeted at work, and many have experienced harassment, violence, or rape. 

BUILDING A LATINO CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT: PUERTO RICANS, AFRICAN AMERICANS, AND THE PURSUIT OF RACIAL JUSTICE IN NEW YORK

BY SONIA SONG-HA LEE

In the first book-length history of Puerto Rican civil rights in New York City, Sonia Lee traces the rise and fall of an uneasy coalition between Puerto Rican and African American activists from the 1950s through the 1970s. Previous work has tended to see blacks and Latinos as either naturally unified as “people of color” or irreconcilably at odds as two competing minorities. Lee demonstrates instead that Puerto Ricans and African Americans in New York City shaped the complex and shifting meanings of “Puerto Rican-ness” and “blackness” through political activism. African American and Puerto Rican New Yorkers came to see themselves as minorities joined in the civil rights struggle, the War on Poverty, and the Black Power movement–until white backlash and internal class divisions helped break the coalition, remaking “Hispanicity” as an ethnic identity that was mutually exclusive from “blackness.”

CIVIL RIGHTS UNIONISM: TOBACCO WORKERS AND THE STRUGGLE FOR DEMOCRACY IN THE MID-TWENTIETH-CENTURY SOUTH

BY ROBERT R. KORSTAD

Drawing on scores of interviews with black and white tobacco workers in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Robert Korstad brings to life the forgotten heroes of Local 22 of the Food, Tobacco, Agricultural and Allied Workers of America-CIO. These workers confronted a system of racial capitalism that consigned African Americans to the basest jobs in the industry, perpetuated low wages for all southerners, and shored up white supremacy. 

Galvanized by the emergence of the CIO, African Americans took the lead in a campaign that saw a strong labor movement and the reenfranchisement of the southern poor as keys to reforming the South–and a reformed South as central to the survival and expansion of the New Deal. In the window of opportunity opened by World War II, they blurred the boundaries between home and work as they linked civil rights and labor rights in a bid for justice at work and in the public sphere.

WINDOW ON FREEDOM: RACE, CIVIL RIGHTS, AND FOREIGN AFFAIRS, 1945-1988

EDITED BY BRENDA GAYLE PLUMMER

The civil rights movement in the United States drew strength from supporters of human rights worldwide. Once U.S. policy makers–influenced by international pressure, the courage of ordinary American citizens, and a desire for global leadership–had signed such documents as the United Nations charter, domestic calls for change could be based squarely on the moral authority of doctrines the United States endorsed abroad. 

This is one of the many fascinating links between racial politics and international affairs explored in Window on Freedom. Broad in chronological scope and topical diversity, the ten original essays presented here demonstrate how the roots of U.S. foreign policy have been embedded in social, economic, and cultural factors of domestic as well as foreign origin. They argue persuasively that the campaign to realize full civil rights for racial and ethnic minorities in America is best understood in the context of competitive international relations.

RECOGNITION, SOVREIGNTY STRUGGLES, AND INDIGENOUS RIGHTS IN THE UNITED STATES: A SOURCEBOOK

EDITED BY AMY E. DEN OUDEN AND JEAN M O’BRIEN

This engaging collection surveys and clarifies the complex issue of federal and state recognition for Native American tribal nations in the United States. Den Ouden and O’Brien gather focused and teachable essays on key topics, debates, and case studies. Written by leading scholars in the field, including historians, anthropologists, legal scholars, and political scientists, the essays cover the history of recognition, focus on recent legal and cultural processes, and examine contemporary recognition struggles nationwide.

THE ABORTION RIGHTS CONTROVERSY IN AMERICA: A LEGAL READER

EDITED BY N.E.H. HULL, WILLIAMJAMES HOFFER AND PETER CHARLES HOFFER

Beginning with the introduction of abortion law in the nineteenth century, this reader includes important documents from nearly two hundred years of debate over abortion. These legal briefs, oral arguments, court opinions, newspaper reports, opinion pieces, and contemporary essays are introduced with headnotes that place them in historical context. Chapters cover the birth control movement, changes in abortion law in the 1960s, Roe v. Wade, the Hyde Amendment and the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, state and federal regulation of abortion practices, and the freedom of speech cases surrounding anti-abortion clinic protests. The first section of each chapter sets the stage and explains the choice of documents.

This rich, balanced collection is an indispensable reference tool for the study of one of the most passionate debates in American history. 

Pauli Murray: For All My Bravado, Deeply Engrained Notions of Respectability Filled Me With Distress, 1926 – 1940

Recently Pauli Murray: A Personal and Political Life by Troy R. Saxby was selected for North Carolina Reads, North Carolina Humanities’ statewide book club for 2022 that features five books that explore issues of racial, social, and gender equality and the history and culture of North Carolina. To celebrate this accomplishment, we’ve decided to share an excerpt from this book.

The Rev. Dr. Anna Pauline “Pauli” Murray (1910–1985) was a trailblazing social activist, writer, lawyer, civil rights organizer, and campaigner for gender rights. In the 1930s and 1940s, she was active in radical left-wing political groups and helped innovate nonviolent protest strategies against segregation that would become iconic in later decades, and in the 1960s, she cofounded the National Organization for Women (NOW). In addition, Murray became the first African American to receive a Yale law doctorate and the first black woman to be ordained an Episcopal priest. Yet, behind her great public successes, Murray battled many personal demons, including bouts of poor physical and mental health, conflicts over her gender and sexual identities, family traumas, and financial difficulties.

In this intimate biography, Troy Saxby provides the most comprehensive account of Murray’s inner life to date, revealing her struggles in poignant detail and deepening our understanding and admiration of her numerous achievements in the face of pronounced racism, homophobia, transphobia, and political persecution.

Click here to view another excerpt from Saxby’s Pauli Murray that we shared earlier this year.


In 1926, a spindly fifteen-year-old Pauli Murray packed her suitcase and joined the southern exodus. Some seven hundred thousand African Americans migrated to the North during the 1920s, continuing the mass migrations that had begun during World War I. Murray wasn’t alone in choosing New York City as her destination—by the time of her arrival, New York had the largest Black population of any city in the nation. Everything about the city excited Pauli, particularly the enormity of the skyscrapers and the Statue of Liberty, the entertainments of Coney Island and Broadway, the strange double-decker buses and automats that dispensed hot food, and, above all else, the absence of segregated public transportation and movie theaters. Although far less enthusiastic, Aunt Pauline still traveled to New York to help her bright-eyed adopted daughter get settled.

Murray wanted to study at Columbia University for the sole reason that her favorite high school teacher had attended Columbia (she did not realize that her teacher had attended Columbia Teachers College). The plan to attend Columbia fell apart quickly. The admissions office informed Aunt Pauline that women were not admitted and referred them to Barnard College across the street, where they discovered that Aunt Pauline didn’t have the money and Pauli didn’t have the prior education required for admission.

Barnard staff suggested they try Hunter College, a city school that did not require tuition for New York residents. Any hopes of an easy transition to college in New York were again dashed when Hunter denied her admission because her North Carolina high school education ended in year eleven, not year twelve as required. Undeterred, Murray set about completing another year of high school in New York City. 

Murray moved in with Aunt Pauline’s cousin, Maude, who had been close to Agnes Fitzgerald growing up in Durham. Maude had a husband and three young sons, but her only daughter died in infancy. Her daughter would have been a similar age to Pauli, leading Murray to believe that Cousin Maude wanted her to be a surrogate daughter. If true, the wish went unfulfilled. Murray appreciated Maude’s hospitality, which extended as far as formally adopting Pauli to help with school residency requirements, but Pauli refused to play the role of dutiful daughter and assist in domestic activities— she had long eschewed domesticity in favor of tomboy interests and sometimes resisted mothering if it represented a threat to the place reserved for her deceased mother.

Other factors also complicated the relationship. Most of the residents in the new Richmond Hill neighborhood of Queens, where Maude’s family lived, were first- and second-generation European immigrants, including many Poles—likely reminding Pauli of her father’s killer. Even if this wasn’t a worry, the absence of African Americans—there were only two other Black families in the neighborhood—posed a definite problem for Pauli, or, rather, a problem for Maude’s family that became a problem for Pauli. Even half a century later, when writing her autobiography, Murray treaded carefully in describing Maude’s family’s race passing. Murray described it as an “ambiguous situation,” because her fair-skinned cousins—she didn’t use their family name—had moved in when there were few houses in the area. Maude’s family had not moved into the home to start new lives as white people, Murray asserted, they had simply remained silent about their racial background in the developing immigrant neighborhood and lost touch with Black friends from their old neighborhood.

When Pauli came into the house, with her “unmistakable yellow-brown skin, kinky-curly hair, and southern accent,” the family’s racial identity became suspect. Murray felt like an embarrassment. She recalled, “Although the neighbors were nice enough, Cousin Maude saw the questions in their eyes and hinted that my presence made the difference. In spite of everything she did for me, I could not help feeling that I was a stranger who had upset the delicate balance in neighborhood relationships. I kept to myself and made no friends my age on the block.” Moving from Durham had not freed Murray from race problems or cured her loneliness—her new home environment in New York City offered no better social opportunities, and she still felt conscious of being too dark-complexioned at home.


Troy R. Saxby is an academic and research officer at the University of Newcastle. 

Author Book Events in the Time of Covid

The following is a guest blog post from Georgann Eubanks, author of Saving The Wild South: The Fight for Native Plants on the Brink of Extinction. The American South is famous for its astonishingly rich biodiversity. In this book, Georgann Eubanks takes a wondrous trek from Alabama to North Carolina to search out native plants that are endangered and wavering on the edge of erasure. Even as she reveals the intricate beauty and biology of the South’s plant life, she also shows how local development and global climate change are threatening many species, some of which have been graduated to the federal list of endangered species.


Booksellers, like restaurateurs, have burnished their creativity during the limits imposed by Covid. Hosting author presentations online in lieu of launch parties became the new normal. In temperate weather, some stores adopted bookselling alfresco, stacking new releases on a sidewalk table, leaving passersby to guess if that masked person seated expectantly with a Sharpie could be someone famous–a writer they should know? 

Savvy sellers quickly identified inhouse staff who are comfortable on camera and conversant with video lighting and software. Malaprop’s in Asheville has a brilliant team of two. Marketing director Stephanie Jones-Byrne beams her intelligent questions while longtime media maven Patricia Furnish works Zoom’s dropdown menus from the stock room.  

Now, a month into my book “tour” with Saving the Wild South, I have come to appreciate the online conversations and interviews, and I’ve squeamishly adapted to the solo Zoom performance when required. It was a shock the first time to hear not even a titter at my jokes while working my way through the presentation–finally, gleefully arriving at the Q&A when the audience would be unmuted. Speaking and reading into in the dark maw of Zoom for 30 minutes is far lonelier than a book signing table in the fresh air of a parking lot, believe me.  

But perhaps our confinement is ending at last. I was lucky enough to be the first author to resume in-person presentations at McIntyre’s Fine Books in Pittsboro, NC.  This elegant bookstore has always offered a lushly carpeted room, outfitted with AV and set apart from the rest of the store, for author events. In the old days, the room could hold a crowd of 50 with standing room around the edges. But in the present, with chairs spaced six feet apart, it could only accommodate 20. Proprietors Keebe Fitch and Peter Mock required reservations for all attendees, along with a five-dollar deposit toward the purchase of my book. That way, they could control the numbers, avoid disappointing guests, and guarantee some sales. It almost felt like the old days. Keebe confided that the store was doing better financially than two years before, even though they had reduced their hours by two days a week. Narrowing your availability is not a bad thing, apparently.

At the nonprofit behemoth known as Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, nature writer Bland Simpson (North Carolina: Land of Water Land of Sky) and I recently had the pleasure of sharing an in-person conversation about our new books with activist Jamie Maier of the Piedmont Environmental Alliance. Jamie engaged the enthusiastic if smallish gathering from the get-go. To share informal talk in the middle of the bookstore was a gushing relief, even if masks were still required. 

I asked the Charleston-based book publicist Hannah Larrew what she’s seen with her clients. “One of the most creative tactics from bookstores has been live streaming book news from staff members on Instagram or Facebook Live,” she said, “making it super easy for folks to feel like they’re present at the store. For many, the experience of going to the bookstore is a huge influencer in which books they end up buying. Bookstores that have been able to recreate the browsing experience virtually, have been able to keep patrons excited about adding new books to their shelves.” 

Hannah also mentioned McIntyre’s Stay-at-Home Storytime—a weekly series featuring staff members reading children’s books to young audiences on Instagram. Other stores have offered drive-through events where buyers select titles online and then pick up bundles from staff members who run them out to the car and chat a bit. Flyleaf in Chapel Hill, Bookmarks, and Blue Bicycle in Charleston used this tool to reconnect with readers.

For authors, I find there is still some awkwardness and hesitation, whether the presentation is virtual, hybrid, or in-person. If the only contagion were the love of books, but alas it is not. However, the creative measures—discussions and dual author programs, virtual and hybrid—have injected a new energy into the bookstream. I hope these practices will endure, even as bookstore doors open wider again.  


Georgann Eubanks is a writer and Emmy-winning documentarian. Her most recent book is The Month of Their Ripening: North Carolina Heritage Foods through the Year

Staff Picks: 2021 UNC Press Holiday Gift Guide

We hope you’ve got your hot chocolate and eggnog ready for this winter season! Today we wanted to share some holiday gift recommendations from our staff. Don’t forget, we’re having a Holiday Sale too! Save 40% on any of these great stocking stuffers and all of our other UNC Press print books. You’ll also receive free shipping on orders of $75 or more. To get these savings, simply enter code 01HOLIDAY at checkout on our website. You can also preorder forthcoming titles using this discount, and they will ship as soon as they become available.

Happy holidays and happy reading from all of us at UNC Press!


BLACK SMOKE: AFRICAN AMERICANS AND THE UNITED STATES OF BARBECUE

BY ADRIAN MILLER

Black Smoke chronicles a rich culinary contribution . . . [Miller] details the history of barbecue back to its Indigenous roots in pre-Columbian days, and recounts how it became part of the culture of enslaved Africans.

New York Times

THE VOTE COLLECTORS: THE TRUE STORY OF THE SCAMSTERS, POLITICIANS, AND PREACHERS BEHIND THE NATION’S GREATEST ELECTORAL FRAUD

BY MICHAEL GRAFF & NICK OCHSNER

In November 2018, Baptist preacher Mark Harris beat the odds, narrowly fending off a blue wave in the sprawling Ninth District of North Carolina. But word soon got around that something fishy was going on in rural Bladen County. At the center of the mess was a local political operative named McCrae Dowless. Dowless had learned the ins and outs of the absentee ballot system from Democrats before switching over to the Republican Party. Bladen County’s vote-collecting cottage industry made national headlines, led to multiple election fraud indictments, toppled North Carolina GOP leadership, and left hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians without congressional representation for nearly a year.  

In The Vote Collectors, Michael Graff and Nick Ochsner tell the story of the political shenanigans in Bladen County, exposing the shocking vulnerability of local elections and explaining why our present systems are powerless to monitor and prevent fraud. In their hands, this tale of rural corruption becomes a fascinating narrative of the long clash of racism and electioneering—and a larger story about the challenges to democracy in the rural South.

ATTRACTING BIRDS IN THE CAROLINAS: CREATING BIRD-FRIENDLY HABITATS FROM THE MOUNTAINS TO THE COAST

BY JAMES F. PARNELL, WILLIAM C. ALEXANDER, AND FRANCES B. PARNELL

Attracting Birds in the Carolinas is a great how-to and informational guide for creating bird-friendly habitats in our backyards and beyond. It’s obvious the authors have a lifetime of experience and knowledge about Carolina birds and wildlife–if you love birds, this is the book for you.

Mary-Russell Roberson, coauthor of Exploring the Geology of the Carolinas: A Field Guide to Favorite Places from Chimney Rock to Charleston

SAVING THE WILD SOUTH: THE FIGHT FOR NATIVE PLANTS ON THE BRINK OF EXTINCTION

BY GEORGANN EUBANKS

The American South is famous for its astonishingly rich biodiversity. In this book, Georgann Eubanks takes a wondrous trek from Alabama to North Carolina to search out native plants that are endangered and wavering on the edge of erasure. Even as she reveals the intricate beauty and biology of the South’s plant life, she also shows how local development and global climate change are threatening many species, some of which have been graduated to the federal list of endangered species.

Why should we care, Eubanks asks, about North Carolina’s Yadkin River goldenrod, found only in one place on earth? Or the Alabama canebrake pitcher plant, a carnivorous marvel being decimated by criminal poaching and a booming black market? These plants, she argues, are important not only to the natural environment but also to southern identity, and she finds her inspiration in talking with the heroes—the botanists, advocates, and conservationists young and old—on a quest to save these green gifts of the South for future generations. These passionate plant lovers caution all of us not to take for granted the sensitive ecosystems that contribute to the region’s long-standing appeal, beauty, and character.

RICE: A SAVOR THE SOUTH COOKBOOK

BY MICHAEL W. TWITTY

Rice, which contains fifty-one recipes featuring and supporting the grain—including jollof rice, curried rice salad, and Carolina pilau—focuses Twitty’s critical acumen on an ingredient so versatile it has the power to become the main course, a side dish, or dessert. Written in praise of the globally important and endlessly adaptable food, Twitty traces rice’s journey from Africa through the Caribbean and into the American South.

Garden & Gun

POLLINATOR GARDENING FOR THE SOUTH: CREATING SUSTAINABLE HABITATS

BY DANESHA SETH CARLEY AND ANNE M. SPAFFORD

This step-by-step guide will answer all of your questions about how to create beautiful gardens designed to welcome beneficial pollinators across the South. Combining up-to-date scientific information with artful design strategies, Danesha Seth Carley and Anne M. Spafford teach gardeners of all levels to plan, plant, and maintain successful pollinator gardens at home and in shared community sites. Everyday gardeners, along with farmers, scientists, and policy makers, share serious concerns about ongoing declines in bee and other pollinator populations, and here Spafford and Carley deliver great news: every thoughtfully designed garden, no matter how small, can play a huge role in providing the habitat, nourishment, and nesting places so needed by pollinators. This book explains all you need to be a pollinator champion.

MEADE AT GETTYSBURG: A STUDY IN COMMAND

BY KENT MASTERSON BROWN, ESQ.

Meade at Gettysburg is an important contribution to Civil War literature…Brown’s mastery of manuscript and published primary materials is immediately evident..His narrative recounts in astonishing granularity Meade’s command decisions and those of his principal subordinates across the course of the campaign.

Civil War Book Review

NORTH CAROLINA: LAND OF WATER, LAND OF SKY

BY BLAND SIMPSON

Bland Simpson, the celebrated bard of North Carolina’s sound country, has blended history, observation of nature, and personal narrative in many books to chronicle the people and places of eastern Carolina. Yet he has spent much of his life in the state’s Piedmont, with regular travels into its western mountains. Here, for the first time, Simpson brings his distinctive voice and way of seeing to bear on the entirety of his home state, combining storytelling and travelogue to create a portrait of the Old North State with care and humor.

Three of the state’s finest photographers come along to guide the journey: Simpson’s wife and creative partner, Ann Cary Simpson, professional photographer Scott Taylor, and writer and naturalist Tom Earnhardt. Their photos, combined with Simpson’s rich narrative, will inspire readers to consider not only what North Carolina has been and what it is but also what we hope it will be. This book belongs on the shelf of longtime residents, newcomers, and visitors alike.

EDIBLE WIILD PLANTS OF THE CAROLINAS: A FORAGER’S COMPANION

BY LYTTON JOHN MUSSELMAN & PETER W. SCHAFRAN

I thoroughly enjoyed the treatments of each plant and the understated humor sprinkled throughout. The book even helped me generate a few ethnobotany research questions for my students to investigate! This fascinating book will be of interest to casual readers, beginning botanists, and professionals alike.

Jay Bolin, Catawba College

ENDS OF WAR: THE UNFINISHED FIGHT OF LEE’S ARMY AFTER APPOMATTOX

BY CAROLINE E. JANNEY

The Army of Northern Virginia’s chaotic dispersal began even before Lee and Grant met at Appomattox Court House. As the Confederates had pushed west at a relentless pace for nearly a week, thousands of wounded and exhausted men fell out of the ranks. When word spread that Lee planned to surrender, most remaining troops stacked their arms and accepted paroles allowing them to return home, even as they lamented the loss of their country and cause. But others broke south and west, hoping to continue the fight.  Fearing a guerrilla war, Grant extended the generous Appomattox terms to every rebel who would surrender himself. Provost marshals fanned out across Virginia and beyond, seeking nearly 18,000 of Lee’s men who had yet to surrender. But the shock of Lincoln’s assassination led Northern authorities to see threats of new rebellion in every rail depot and harbor where Confederates gathered for transport, even among those already paroled. While Federal troops struggled to keep order and sustain a fragile peace, their newly surrendered adversaries seethed with anger and confusion at the sight of Union troops occupying their towns and former slaves celebrating freedom. 

In this dramatic new history of the weeks and months after Appomattox, Caroline E. Janney reveals that Lee’s surrender was less an ending than the start of an interregnum marked by military and political uncertainty, legal and logistical confusion, and continued outbursts of violence.

WAYFARING STRANGERS: THE MUSICAL VOYAGE FROM SCOTLAND AND ULSTER TO APPALACHIA

BY FIONA RITCHIE & DOUG ORR

If you love Appalachian music; if you’re Scots-Irish and wonder about your roots; if you’re curious about the words and traditions of the music and how many miles and years the songs have traveled to get here, this handsome book is your most trusted servant, your indispensable encyclopedia and your entertaining Bible.

Charlotte Observer

GOOD WALKS: REDISCOVERING THE SOUL OF GOLF AT EIGHTEEN OF THE CAROLINAS’ BEST COURSES

BY LEE PACE

This book celebrates the beauty, tradition, and variety of golf across the Carolinas, featuring eighteen beloved courses as experienced by the walking golfer. One of golf’s earliest appeals was its health-giving benefits, with players walking some four miles over varied terrain, making stamina and endurance an important part of the sport. Most recreational players today choose motorized carts. But Lee Pace believes that the slower pace and on-the-ground view associated with walking gives one an opportunity to savor the experience, understand the nuances of course design and landscape architecture, and appreciate the small touches that make our region’s best clubs and courses special. The Carolinas are a cradle for the game in the United States, making walking its courses an ideal way to connect past and present.

COLOR-RICH GARDENING FOR THE SOUTH: A GUIDE FOR ALL SEASONS

BY ROXANN WARD

Gardeners using this engaging gardening guide will feel that they are chatting in the most personal and inviting way with a knowledgeable, friendly expert with extensive real-world experience. This is the kind of how-to book gardeners want to curl up with to feel inspired to visualize exactly how to create the garden beds or containers of their dreams. Southern gardeners especially need all the help they can get because of the region’s unique climate challenges.

Barbara Sullivan, author of Garden Perennials for the Coastal South

UNC Libraries’ Off The Shelf Author Talk with Dr. G. Samantha Rosenthal

Last month, Dr. G. Samantha Rosenthal, author of Living Queer History: Remembrance and Belonging in a Southern City, was featured on UNC Libraries’ Off the Shelf series. Off the Shelf is a collaboration between the University Libraries and UNC Press to present new works on racial and social justice in our history and our world.

Queer history is a living practice. Talk to any group of LGBTQ people today, and they will not agree on what story should be told. Many people desire to celebrate the past by erecting plaques and painting rainbow crosswalks, but queer and trans people in the twenty-first century need more than just symbols—they need access to power, justice for marginalized people, spaces of belonging. Approaching the past through a lens of queer and trans survival and world-building transforms history itself into a tool for imagining and realizing a better future. 

Living Queer History tells the story of an LGBTQ community in Roanoke, Virginia, a small city on the edge of Appalachia.



Dr. G. Samantha Rosenthal is Associate Professor of History at Roanoke College and co-founder of the Southwest Virginia LGBTQ+ History Project.

“Julius Chambers: Child of the Jim Crow South”

The following is an excerpt from Richard A. Rosen and Joseph Mosnier’s Julius Chambers: A Life in the Legal Struggle for Civil Rights. Born in the hamlet of Mount Gilead, North Carolina, Julius Chambers (1936–2013) escaped the fetters of the Jim Crow South to emerge in the 1960s and 1970s as the nation’s leading African American civil rights attorney. Following passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Chambers worked to advance the NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s strategic litigation campaign for civil rights, ultimately winning landmark school and employment desegregation cases at the U.S. Supreme Court. Undaunted by the dynamiting of his home and the arson that destroyed the offices of his small integrated law practice, Chambers pushed federal civil rights law to its highwater mark.

In this biography, Richard A. Rosen and Joseph Mosnier connect the details of Chambers’s life to the wider struggle to secure racial equality through the development of modern civil rights law. Tracing his path from a dilapidated black elementary school to counsel’s lectern at the Supreme Court and beyond, they reveal Chambers’s singular influence on the evolution of federal civil rights law after 1964.

Rosen and Mosnier’s Julius Chambers: A Life in the Legal Struggle for Civil Rights was featured on our Rosa Parks Day recommended reading list.


On October 6, 1936, when a son was born to William and Matilda Chambers in the tiny crossroads town of Mt. Gilead, in rural Montgomery County, North Carolina, no one would have wagered much on the child ultimately influencing the nation’s affairs. Time, place, and caste all argued against such a prospect. LeVonne Chambers—later, as a young man, he would adopt the first name Julius—arrived in the midst of the Great Depression in an isolated Southern hamlet and, because he traced his ancestry to Africa, shouldered the relentless burdens of Jim Crow.

No black child born to such a time and place easily escaped the fetters imposed by the South’s rigid practice of racial segregation, with its painful emotional slights and countless imposed vulnerabilities. Not one black child in ten in Montgomery County completed high school in those years; not one in one hundred attended college. Yet, by some combination of ability, effort, and good fortune, LeVonne Chambers would forge in the space of just thirty-four years a path from impoverished Montgomery County to the appellant’s lectern at the U.S. Supreme Court.

TO KNOW SOMETHING OF THE MAN, to glimpse the motives and instincts upon which he relied while traversing his meteoric course, one may profitably begin by looking at the isolated, poor, racist world, not so many years distant, which produced him.

Montgomery County, situated in the North Carolina’s lower center where the rolling Piedmont’s waning eastern flank gives way to a broad coastal plain, remained in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s worlds away from North Carolina’s important centers of commerce and public affairs. Not seventy miles distant lay the Piedmont Crescent, the arc-shaped constellation running from Charlotte, through the Triad cities of Winston-Salem, High Point, and Greensboro, and on to Durham and Raleigh, that encompassed North Carolina’s industrial base and center of government. Yet such relative geographic proximity counted for little in those years, as most inhabitants of rural communities, white and black alike, gave little thought to the affairs of larger towns and cities, and they visited such places infrequently, if ever.

Poor, lightly inhabited, and ravaged by the Depression, Montgomery County in 1936 was home to some sixteen thousand persons, most living on small farms. Troy, the county seat, counted 1,861 residents in 1940; Mt. Gilead, ten miles to the southwest, just 915; and Biscoe, Star, and Candor had 843, 611, and 503, respectively. Pine forests covered fully three-quarters of the county, and farms yielding a modest mix of standard field crops, cotton, and peaches comprised the remainder. The county had not gained a hard-surface road network until the 1920s, when a state road-building program finally reached the area. Industry, mostly in the form of small textile mills, arrived relatively late to Montgomery County but by the late 1920s eclipsed the very modest revenues generated by farming and lumbering activities.

After 1929, the Depression savaged factory and farm alike. By 1933, local unemployment exceeded 30 percent, with receipts from both sectors halved. During the 1930s, federal relief programs generated nine of every ten job placements for desperate local job seekers. By 1938, most of the rest of the country had seen at least some modest economic recovery, yet in tiny Mt. Gilead, lacking a textile plant or other important manufacturing businesses, conditions were so grim that a visiting University of North Carolina professor of rural social economics consigned the community to a list of “vanishing towns.” A second contemporary observer noted ruefully that “Mt. Gilead seem[s] likely to become a ghost town.”

The Depression fell hardest on Montgomery County’s thirty-seven hundred African Americans, who were already subordinated economically, socially, and politically. The average black adult in the county had managed just five years of schooling; the average white, eight years. Black illiteracy stood at 25 percent in the 1930s, against nearly universal white literacy. Shut out of textile mill employment, black men worked primarily as farmers, sharecroppers, or simple laborers, and black women as domestics. Blacks in Montgomery County in the mid-1930s controlled only 2 or 3 percent of all taxable assets. They owned no timber, mineral, or industrial property in the county; no businesses save perhaps for the odd small cafe, boarding house, or social club; relatively little farmland and few city lots; and scarcely any taxable personal property. Black per capita income was just half that of whites, at a time when the latter figure in rural, Depression-afflicted Montgomery County was itself a very modest sum. Blacks occupied the worst of the county’s housing stock, most of which, particularly outside the county’s few modest towns, took the form of rough shacks.


Richard A. Rosen is professor of law emeritus at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

Joseph Mosnier earned his Ph.D. at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and now pursues his interest in social justice in the arena of global public health. 

New and Recently Released UNC Press Audiobooks

We are pleased to announce the availability of the following UNC Press titles in audiobook format (sample audio excerpts are available via the links below):

Those Who Know Don’t Say: The Nation of Islam, the Black Freedom Movement, and the Carceral State by Garrett Felber, published by Tantor Media

Felber . . . examines how the Nation of Islam, and its growth during the civil rights era, impacted prisons, policing, school desegregation, and voting rights. Drawing on history, law, sociology, and politics, Felber looks at how the Nation impacted the modern carceral state. . . . One can find many books on Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam, but Felber’s is valuable for its interdisciplinary approach to possible solutions for the carceral state in the 21st century.

CHOICE

Springer Mountain: Meditation on Killing and Eating by Wyatt Williams, published by Tantor Media

What are the implications of eating meat? In this release, former Atlanta restaurant critic Wyatt Williams applies years of investigative reporting to uncomfortable questions about animals and our appetites that, as factory farming proliferates, are only becoming more urgent. More profanely poetic than polemic—Williams is a kindred spirit to experimental essayists like Eula Biss—Springer Mountain gestures at the beating heart of life’s big inquiries.

INDY Week

Nixon’s War at Home: The FBI, Leftist Guerrillas, and The Origins of Counterterrorism by Daniel S. Chard, published by Tantor Media

With clarity and novelistic freshness, this book offers a persuasive account of the advent of ‘counterterrorism’ as a practice and priority of the U.S. state as it responded to the ‘guerrilla’ violence of the late 1960s and early 1970s. It is also a fascinating, personality-driven story of the bureaucratic infighting that dogged law enforcement. Amidst all of this is a revelatory narrative of the final years of J. Edgar Hoover, long vilified as an enemy of civil liberties, as he attempted to resist Richard Nixon’s efforts to interfere with FBI practices, leading to an utterly novel connection between the war on domestic terrorism and the Watergate scandal. Drawing from countless FBI documents and presidential communications, this is a stellar work of history and a major achievement.

Jeremy Varon, author of Bringing the War Home: The Weather Underground, the Red Army Faction, and Revolutionary Violence in the Sixties and Seventies

The Vote Collectors: The True Story of the Scamsters, Politicians, and Preachers behind the Nation’s Greatest Electoral Fraud by Michael Graff & Nick Ochsner, published by HighBridge Audio

In The Vote Collectors, that scandal—which made national headlines for months—is secondary to a more comprehensive examination of its historical, economic, and political antecedents in Bladen County and oft-forgotten eastern North Carolina…The authors unfurl the story in three parts: a deep probe into the history of post-Civil War eastern North Carolina sandwiched by more recent developments in Bladen County, leading up to and after the 2018 election.

Charlotte Magazine

Winter in America: A Cultural History of Neoliberalism, from the Sixties to the Reagan Revolution by Daniel Robert McClure, published by Tantor Media

At a time when modern-day America’s cultural and political divides are wider than ever, it’s necessary to ask how the nation came to this painful point. In Winter in America, Daniel Robert McClure provides answers. This book frequently makes for uncomfortable reading, but honest reflection on painful facts isn’t supposed to be easy. The past has much to teach us, and Winter in America is an essential guide.

Jeff Guinn, New York Times bestselling author of Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson and The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple

Meatpacking America: How Migration, Work and Faith Unite and Divide the Heartland by Kristy Nabhan-Warren, published by Tantor Media

Kristy Nabhan-Warren gives us rare insight into the worlds of faith running in parallel, and sometimes colliding, in rural Iowa meatpacking communities transformed by immigration. Faith sustains the refugee on his or her journey, it builds lasting and vital communities, and sometimes it’s used to rationalize brutal work that is intended to feed us. So often, it is overlooked by those of us who don’t have a clue who cut that Iowa Chop.

Art Cullen, Pulitzer Prize–winning editor of The Storm Lake (Iowa) Times and author of Storm Lake: Change, Resilience, and Hope in America’s Heartland

Meade at Gettysburg: A Study in Command by Kent Masterson Brown, published by Tantor Media

Attacked relentlessly by the press, considered a hopeless mediocrity within Lincoln’s administration, and rarely cheered by his soldiers, George Gordon Meade is today largely misunderstood or ignored, despite his magnificent triumph at Gettysburg. Kent Masterson Brown’s masterful book will change all that. In beautiful prose and compelling analysis, Brown puts the reader in the general’s shoes as never before, revealing his crucial role in delivering Northerners an unparalleled victory in the pivotal summer of 1863.

Peter S. Carmichael, author of The War for the Common Soldier: How Men Thought, Fought, and Survived in Civil War Armies

What Insurance Wants You To See

The following is a guest blog post by Hannah Farber, author of Omohundro Institute & UNC Press published Underwriters of the United States: How Insurance Shaped the American Founding. Unassuming but formidable, American maritime insurers used their position at the pinnacle of global trade to shape the new nation. The international information they gathered and the capital they generated enabled them to play central roles in state building and economic development. During the Revolution, they helped the U.S. negotiate foreign loans, sell state debts, and establish a single national bank. Afterward, they increased their influence by lending money to the federal government and to its citizens. Even as federal and state governments began to encroach on their domain, maritime insurers adapted, preserving their autonomy and authority through extensive involvement in the formation of commercial law. Leveraging their claims to unmatched expertise, they operated free from government interference while simultaneously embedding themselves into the nation’s institutional fabric. By the early nineteenth century, insurers were no longer just risk assessors. They were nation builders and market makers. 

Deeply and imaginatively researched, Underwriters of the United States uses marine insurers to reveal a startlingly original story of risk, money, and power in the founding era.


When insurance companies advertise themselves to potential policy buyers, they seek to portray themselves as stable and secure. The idea, of course, is that insurance can reduce the harm caused to you by the unpredictable events of your own life. In fact—as twentieth-century comedy never failed to point out—insurance has often succeeded in portraying itself as an exceedingly dull business. Twenty-first century insurance companies continue to deploy imagery that is either anodyne (happy, peaceful families) or comic relief, like Geico’s gecko, or Allstate’s sinister “Mayhem,” whose misdeeds can be prevented by high-quality insurance.

However, insurance companies are not always as stable than they allege themselves to be. This was certainly the case for nineteenth-century American insurance companies, whose two core imperatives—keeping themselves secure, and making money for their shareholders—often came into conflict. They needed to have enough money on hand to indemnify customers who experienced losses. At the same time, their primary objective was to make money for their shareholders, and to supplement their income from selling insurance policies, they could not resist investing insurance buyers’ funds. Where there was the hope of gain, there was also the risk of loss. 

The first American marine insurance companies faced the possibility of large-scale losses on their policies and on their investments. American merchant vessels had the potential to make enormous profits after the French Revolutionary Wars began in 1793, but they also faced an ever-present, constantly fluctuating risk of capture by foreign warships and privateers, or (if they were smuggling) by their own countrymen. No actuarial table could predict this danger, because it was fundamentally political.  At the same time, early American insurance companies had only a narrow set of investment opportunities. They mainly opted to invest their funds in the first American banks – which were as new as they were, and which were similarly dependent on merchant wealth — and in the early American government itself, which also faced significant political risk. 

How did these early, shallow-rooted, and politically pressured corporations like to portray themselves? Certainly not with sassy animals or avatars of chaos—in fact, they had little incentive to put themselves on display for the public at all. Their directors and customers were predominantly merchants, who shared expertise in the complicated practices of financial calculation and commercial risk assessment. Since these men were primarily communicating with one another, they had little incentive to make themselves visible to the public.

On the whole, the American insurance sector began to make itself more visible when it shifted toward fire and life insurance, forms of business that urgently needed to attract the business (and retain the trust) of the public at large. 

Girard Fire and Marine Insurance Company Building https://www.philadelphiabuildings.org/pab/app/image_gallery.cfm/2345

If we look only at the urban landscape, it might seem that ‘big’ insurance in the United States began in the mid-nineteenth century. But this is seeing only what insurers want you to see. A great deal of insurance was bought and sold, and a number of crucial decisions were made about the structure of corporations and the investment of their funds, before the American public was paying much intention. 


Hannah Farber is assistant professor of history at Columbia University. 

“Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: Now Who Are Your People?”

The following is an excerpt from Barbara Ransby’s Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision. A gifted grassroots organizer, Baker shunned the spotlight in favor of vital behind-the-scenes work that helped power the black freedom struggle. She was a national officer and key figure in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, one of the founders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and a prime mover in the creation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Baker made a place for herself in predominantly male political circles that included W. E. B. Du Bois, Thurgood Marshall, and Martin Luther King Jr., all the while maintaining relationships with a vibrant group of women, students, and activists both black and white.

In this deeply researched biography, Barbara Ransby chronicles Baker’s long and rich political career as an organizer, an intellectual, and a teacher, from her early experiences in depression-era Harlem to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

Ransby’s Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement was featured on our Rosa Parks Day recommended reading list.


NORFOLK, VIRGINIA, AND LITTLETON, NORTH CAROLINA, 1903–1918

I was young when I became active in things and I became active in things largely because my mother was very active in the field of religion.

Ella Baker, 1979

Black Baptist women encouraged an aggressive womanhood that felt personal responsibility to labor, no less than men, for the salvation of the world.

Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, 1993

In the early 1980s Paula Giddings, the writer and historian, went to Ella Baker’s modest Harlem apartment to interview the legendary activist for a book Giddings was writing on African American women’s history. At that meeting Giddings had hoped to learn more about the half century of history Ella Baker had witnessed and helped shape: her role in the Works Progress Administration and the cooperative movement in Harlem during the 1930s; her dangerous organizing work for the NAACP in the South during the 1940s; her collaboration with and criticisms of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1950s; and her pivotal role in the founding of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the 1960s. A few minutes into the visit, Giddings realized that the exchange she had hoped for was not to be. Instead of responding to Giddings’s questions about the past, Baker kept asking her a single question: “Now, who are your people?” Giddings regretfully concluded that, after all the battles Ella Baker had fought and won over the course of her fifty-year political career, she was losing the fight with Alzheimer’s and was no longer able to provide the information and insights she sought. To Giddings, it seemed as if Baker were groping for a cognitive anchor in the conversation. Yet Baker’s desire to know and place her visitor was characteristic of what had been important to her throughout her life. The question “Now, who are your people?” symbolizes Baker’s approach to life-history as well. Who one’s people were was important to Ella Baker, not to establish an elite pedigree, but to locate an individual as a part of a family, a community, a region, a culture, and a historical period. Baker recognized that none of us are self-made men or women; rather, we forge our identities within kinship networks, local communities, and organizations.

Ella Baker’s family, her childhood experiences in Norfolk, Virginia, and Littleton, North Carolina, and her secondary and college education at Shaw University in Raleigh and her transformative political encounters in Harlem during the Great Depression all contributed to her evolving identity as a woman, an activist, and an intellectual, and set the stage for the years of political activism that would follow.

So, who were Ella Baker’s people? She was born on December 13, 1903, in Norfolk, Virginia, and grew up from the age of seven in the small town of Littleton, North Carolina. Ella Jo was the middle of three surviving children; she had an older brother, Blake Curtis, and a younger sister, Maggie. Her parents, Georgianna (Anna) Ross Baker and Blake Baker, raised their children to be upstanding members of the rural community where they themselves had grown up. Her maternal grandparents, Mitchell and Josephine Elizabeth Ross, owned their own farm, and her grandfather was a noted Baptist clergyman. Her paternal grandparents, Teema and Margaret Baker, were landless tenant farmers. Both sets of grandparents had grown up under slavery, and their differing educational and economic positions reflected both the obstacles that faced freedmen and freedwomen and the achievements of black families in the rural South after Reconstruction. Baker’s parents attended secondary school and sought to better their position, moving to the city of Norfolk in search of opportunity and then returning to Littleton in search of security. Blake’s job as a waiter on a Norfolk steamer line required him to travel, while Anna presided at home and played a prominent role in the Baptist church.

During her childhood in Littleton, Ella Baker was nurtured, educated, and challenged by a community of strong, hard-working, deeply religious black people—most of them women—who celebrated their accomplishments and recognized their class advantage, but who also pledged themselves to serve and uplift those less fortunate. Anna Ross Baker was the single most influential force in Ella’s early life. Ella described her mother as a stern and pious woman who believed in discipline almost as much as she believed in God: “My mother was a . . . very positive and sort of aggressive woman.” Ella grew up in a female-centered household, surrounded by a community of Christian women actively engaged in uplifting their families and communities. These women were as much concerned with enlightening the mind as they were with saving the soul. At a statewide convention of Baptist women, the local group to which Anna belonged urged members to “do all in our power to foster education.” Trained as a teacher herself, Anna instructed all three of her own children in grammar, writing, and speech before they entered school.


Barbara Ransby is professor of African American studies and history and director of the Gender and Women’s Studies Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago. 

Author Jonathan W. White’s Talk With the U.S. National Archives

Last month, the U.S. National Archives hosted a talk with Jonathan W. White where he discussed his latest book, To Address You As My Friend: African Americans’ Letters to Abraham Lincoln. Many African Americans of the Civil War era felt a personal connection to Abraham Lincoln. For the first time in their lives, an occupant of the White House seemed concerned about the welfare of their race. Indeed, despite the tremendous injustice and discrimination that they faced, African Americans now had confidence to write to the president and to seek redress of their grievances. Their letters express the dilemmas, doubts, and dreams of both recently enslaved and free people in the throes of dramatic change. For many, writing Lincoln was a last resort. Yet their letters were often full of determination, making explicit claims to the rights of U.S. citizenship in a wide range of circumstances. 

This compelling collection presents more than 120 letters from African Americans to Lincoln, most of which have never before been published.



Book cover for

Jonathan W. White is associate professor of American studies at Christopher Newport University and author or editor of several previous books, including Midnight in America: Darkness, Sleep, and Dreams during the Civil War

NC Seems Untroubled by its Shockingly High Child Poverty

The following is a guest blog post by Gene R. Nichol, author of The Faces of Poverty in North Carolina: Stories from Our Invisible Citizens. More than 1.5 million North Carolinians today live in poverty. More than one in five are children. Behind these sobering statistics are the faces of our fellow citizens. This book tells their stories. Since 2012, Gene R. Nichol has traveled the length of North Carolina, conducting hundreds of interviews with poor people and those working to alleviate the worst of their circumstances. 

Happy Book Birthday to Nichol’s The Faces of Poverty in North Carolina, officially available in paperback today!


We get used to things we should never get used to. 

North Carolina countenances shockingly high levels of child poverty. About 1 in 5 of our kids are impoverished (19.5%). Child poverty is also potently racialized. Kids of color are three times as likely as white kids to be poor. And all children, regardless of ethnicity, are notably more likely to be poor than adults are. 

We continue to compare unfavorably with other states. In 2019 (pre-COVID), North Carolina’s child poverty rate was 10th highest in the nation. This is familiar terrain. We had the 11th highest state child poverty rate 50 years ago in 1969. 

MODEST SUCCESSES 

But a scan of the past half century shows modest successes, as well as defining failures. We have seemingly decided, in the last dozen or so years, that it’s OK to let a huge percentage of our youngest, most vulnerable members endure wrenching hardship. 

In 1969, almost 1 in 4 of our kids who lived with a parent was poor.  Ten years later, the rate had been reduced by 5%. By 1989, it was cut further still to 16.9% and, impressively, came in below the national average. In 1999, 15.7% of Tar Heel kids were poor, again better than the rest of the country. 

But the 2008-12 Census Bureau survey, showing in part the impact of recession, revealed soaring state child poverty figures (23.5%) — over 3 points higher than the national numbers. And the 2015-2019 census results were largely unchanged (20.8%), again well above national markers — but, this time, during a period of 

Altered results, over time, show up geographically as well. In 1969, almost half of N.C. counties had child poverty rates over 30%. Seventeen (mainly eastern) counties had rates over 40%. But by 1999, only five counties had rates of 30%, and none exceeded 40%, an impressive reduction. Again though, a decade later, 32 counties surpassed 30% and six came in over 40%. 

POVERTY SOLIDIFIES 

In the last decade, high rates have apparently calcified, reclaiming much of eastern North Carolina and including western counties like McDowell, Cleveland, Allegheny, Wilkes and Yadkin, where child poverty had earlier been in retreat. All children in North Carolina, regardless of locale or ethnicity, experience higher rates of poverty now than two decades ago. 

Has a returned, solidified, debilitating and extraordinary child poverty rate become an issue of primary focus for the N.C. General Assembly? Not in the slightest. 

Having one of the developed world’s highest child poverty rates is apparently, for us, un-worrisome. We explore no meaningful, majority-sponsored state anti-poverty initiatives. 

BRUTAL CUTS 

In fact, the last decade, instead, has produced brutal cuts to already meager social safety net protections. More broadly, we behave as if having deplorable child poverty levels is as natural as the morning sun. Who cares if we treat our kids worse than almost everyone else? 

We, apparently, have bigger challenges on our minds. Like the bold threat of critical race theory submerging our public schools. Or the surpassing danger of transgender kids unfairly dominating our sports programs. Or the haunting specter of various folks showing up in our bathrooms. Or the daunting risk of publishing data about the ocean’s rise. Or the pesky peril posed by agricultural whistle-blowers. We’ve got real emergencies to deal with. We can’t be bothered with the likes of poor and hungry babies. 

Thomas Paine wrote in Common Sense that “a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it the superficial appearance of being right.” As ever, here’s to brother Paine. 


Gene Nichol is Boyd Tinsley Distinguished professor of law and Director of the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina School of Law. He teaches courses in constitutional law and federal courts. Photography by Steve Exum of Exumphoto on September 5, 2012.

Gene R. Nichol is the Boyd Tinsley Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

Happy Rosa Parks Day: A Recommended Reading List

December 1st, 1955, marks the day civil rights activist Rosa Parks rejected a bus driver’s order, in Montgomery, Alabama, to give up her seat in the “colored” section of the bus to a white passenger, after the whites-only section had already been filled. She was then arrested and convicted of violating the laws of segregation. However, Rosa Parks was able to appeal her conviction, and she formally challenged the legality of segregation laws in the process. Throughout the following years, this incident would become a symbol of the Civil Rights Movement.

In celebration of Rosa Parks’ act of resistance, we’ve chosen to share a recommended reading list of biographical books revolving around other black civil rights activists. While we celebrate the work of Parks and these other amazing individuals, we must understand there’s still a lot more work to do.

Graphic showing the book covers of each title chosen for the Rosa Parks Day Reading List: Radio Free Dixie, Second Edition, Ella Baker & the Black Freedom Movement, Julius Chambers, Florynce "Flo" Kennedy and Louis Austin and the Carolina Times

RADIO FREE DIXIE, SECOND EDITION: ROBERT F. WILLIAMS AND THE ROOTS OF BLACK POWER

BY TIMOTHY B. TYSON

Tyson has written, with compelling prose and great insight, an excellent biography as well as a definitive history of armed self-defense doctrines in the civil rights movement. He has produced a fascinating book that is a welcome antidote to the historical pap being spooned out in popular documentaries these days.

Journal of Southern History

ELLA BAKER AND THE BLACK FREEDOM MOVEMENT: A RADICAL DEMOCRATIC VISION

BY BARBARA RANSBY

A gifted grassroots organizer, Baker shunned the spotlight in favor of vital behind-the-scenes work that helped power the black freedom struggle. She was a national officer and key figure in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, one of the founders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and a prime mover in the creation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Baker made a place for herself in predominantly male political circles that included W. E. B. Du Bois, Thurgood Marshall, and Martin Luther King Jr., all the while maintaining relationships with a vibrant group of women, students, and activists both black and white.

In this deeply researched biography, Barbara Ransby chronicles Baker’s long and rich political career as an organizer, an intellectual, and a teacher, from her early experiences in depression-era Harlem to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Ransby shows Baker to be a complex figure whose radical, democratic worldview, commitment to empowering the black poor, and emphasis on group-centered, grassroots leadership set her apart from most of her political contemporaries. Beyond documenting an extraordinary life, the book paints a vivid picture of the African American fight for justice and its intersections with other progressive struggles worldwide across the twentieth century.

JULIUS CHAMBERS: A LIFE IN THE LEGAL STRUGGLE FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

BY RICHARD A. ROSEN, JOSEPH MOSNIER

This first biography of Chambers captur[es] his personality, character, and self-effacing determination. . . . Though books on legal topics are hardly known for their readability, this one is an exception. More than a simple biography of a lawyer, this account chronicles an entire law firm and how civil rights are achieved in the real world. Verdict: Essential.

Library Journal, Starred Review

FLORYNCE “FLO” KENNEDY: THE LIFE OF A BLACK FEMINIST RADICAL

BY SHERIE M. RANDOLPH

Often photographed in a cowboy hat with her middle finger held defiantly in the air, Florynce “Flo” Kennedy (1916–2000) left a vibrant legacy as a leader of the Black Power and feminist movements. In the first biography of Kennedy, Sherie M. Randolph traces the life and political influence of this strikingly bold and controversial radical activist. Rather than simply reacting to the predominantly white feminist movement, Kennedy brought the lessons of Black Power to white feminism and built bridges in the struggles against racism and sexism. Randolph narrates Kennedy’s progressive upbringing, her pathbreaking graduation from Columbia Law School, and her long career as a media-savvy activist, showing how Kennedy rose to founding roles in organizations such as the National Black Feminist Organization and the National Organization for Women, allying herself with both white and black activists such as Adam Clayton Powell, H. Rap Brown, Betty Friedan, and Shirley Chisholm.

Making use of an extensive and previously uncollected archive, Randolph demonstrates profound connections within the histories of the new left, civil rights, Black Power, and feminism, showing that black feminism was pivotal in shaping postwar U.S. liberation movements.

LOUIS AUSTIN AND THE CAROLINA TIMES: A LIFE IN THE LONG BLACK FREEDOM STRUGGLE

BY LARRY GERSHENHORN

This is a fine-grained portrait of the life of Louis Austin, the brilliant, fiery, indefatigable African American editor of the Carolina Times, North Carolina’s most important black newspaper. It will make an essential and absorbing contribution to the story of the black press, the African American freedom struggle in the South, and the history of North Carolina.

Timothy B. Tyson, author of Blood Done Sign My Name and Radio Free Dixie, Second Edition

Upcoming UNC Press Author Events

Events UNC Press

Gregory Samantha Rosenthal
Living Queer History
January 10, 2022 | 8:00pm ET
Politics and Prose Bookstore (Virtual)

Bland Simpson
North Carolina
January 10, 2022 | 7:00pm ET
Prologue WHQR (Virtual)

Warren Milteer Jr.
Beyond Slavery’s Shadow
January 12, 2022 | 12:00pm ET
National Archives Museum (Virtual)

Hannah Farber
Underwriters of the United States
January 13, 2022 | 6:30pm ET
The American Revolution Institute (Virtual)

Gregory Samantha Rosenthal
Living Queer History
January 14, 2022 | 12:00pm ET
Harvard Book Store(Virtual)

Tanya L. Roth
Her Cold War
January 20, 2022 | 7:00pm ET
National Museum of the United States Army (Virtual)

Warren Milteer Jr.
Beyond Slavery’s Shadow
January 20, 2022 | 7:00pm ET
Orange County Historical Museum (Hillsborough, NC; hybrid event)

Heather Berg
Porn Work
January 20, 2022 | 7:00pm ET
The Labor and Working-Class History Association (Virtual)

Georgann Eubanks
Saving the Wild South
January 20, 2022 | 7:00pm ET
Resource Center for Women and Ministry in the South

Hannah Farber
Underwriters of the United States
January 22, 2022 | 6:00pm ET
Columbia Alumni Association: Hamilton Lecture and Dinner (Washington, DC)

Georgann Eubanks
Saving the Wild South
January 27, 2022 | 12:00pm ET
North Carolina Botanical Garden (Hybrid)

Robin Brooks
Class Interruptions
January 27, 2022
Carnegie Museum of Art (Virtual)

Robin Brooks
Class Interruptions
February 1, 2022 | 3:00pm ET
University of Pittsburgh Library (Virtual)

Bland Simpson
North Carolina
February 15, 2022 | 7:00pm ET
North Carolina Maritime Museum at Southport

Georgann Eubanks
Saving the Wild South
February 17, 2022 | TBD
Durham Library Donor Event

Moderator Caroline Janney feat. Lorien Foote, Peter S. Carmichael, and Jonathan Jones
February 18 5:30pm – February 19 5:00pm ET
The American Civil War Museum 2022 Symposium: The Soldier’s Civil War (Richmond, VA)

Georgann Eubanks
Saving the Wild South
February 23, 2022 | 9:00am ET
Georgia Native Plant Society
(Virtual)

Robin Brooks
Class Interruptions
February 24, 2022 | 12:00pm
Off the Shelf (Virtual)

Robin Brooks
Class Interruptions
February 25, 2022
National Council for Black Studies Conference (Virtual)

Georgann Eubanks
Saving the Wild South
March 9, 2022 | 7:00pm ET
Judy Goldman show at Charlotte Library (Virtual)

Georgann Eubanks
Saving the Wild South
March 12, 2022
Coastal Wildscapes Annual Symposium (Richmond Hill, GA)

Georgann Eubanks
Saving the Wild South
March 20, 2022
Virginia Festival of the Book (Charlottesville, VA)

Georgann Eubanks
Saving the Wild South
April 20, 2022 | 9:30am ET
Arborvitae Garden Club Winston Salem (Winston Salem, NC)

Georgann Eubanks
Saving the Wild South
April 28, 2022 | 11:00am ET
Blowing Rock Art and History Museum (Blowing Rock, NC)

Georgann Eubanks
Saving the Wild South
June 6, 2022 | 9:30am ET
Laurel Garden Club Highlands (Highlands, NC)

Robin Brooks
Class Interruptions
June 20, 2022
Working-Class Studies Association Conference (Virtual)

“Sovereign Entrepreneurs: Economic Identities”

The following is an excerpt from Courtney Lewis’ “Sovereign Entrepreneurs: Cherokee Small-Business Owners and the Making of Economic Sovereignty“. By 2009, reverberations of economic crisis spread from the United States around the globe. As corporations across the United States folded, however, small businesses on the Qualla Boundary of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) continued to thrive. In this rich ethnographic study, Courtney Lewis reveals the critical roles small businesses such as these play for Indigenous nations. The EBCI has an especially long history of incorporated, citizen-owned businesses located on their lands. When many people think of Indigenous-owned businesses, they stop with prominent casino gaming operations or natural-resource intensive enterprises. But on the Qualla Boundary today, Indigenous entrepreneurship and economic independence extends to art galleries, restaurants, a bookstore, a funeral parlor, and more.

Lewis’ “Sovereign Entrepreneurs: Cherokee Small-Business Owners and the Making of Economic Sovereignty” was featured recently on our Native American Heritage Month reading list.


Cherokee has been well known as a primary tourist destination in western North Carolina for nearly one hundred years. A short drive through the main streets of this town reveals strips of small back-to-back buildings and stores that seem to be dedicated to the tourist market. Behind these dominant facades, however, lies a rich world of small businesses. In fact, as reported by the EBCI’s Office of Budget and Finance’s Revenue Office, less than half of the businesses on the Qualla Boundary are strictly tourist oriented. There are many construction and landscaping businesses (some of which have won small-business awards, such as those given at the yearly National Minority Enterprise Development Week Conference), as well as other community-oriented businesses—including a funeral home, mechanics, craft-supply stores (wood, beads, leather), a cab service, accounting services, hair salons, office supplies, legal services, hardware supplies, website services, pest control, video-production, photography services, day care, a children’s clothing shop, signmaking, local convenience stores, painting services, and DJ services—with more emerging every year. This overall small-business diversity is crucial in serving the local community, tourists, and the EBCI’s national economic sovereignty.

The physical spaces of these businesses vary: some have their own offices or building storefronts, while others are run from a vehicle (the Sound of Music DJ service’s van uses only biodiesel that the owner produces in-house)—and then there are those that operate out of the owner’s home or out of a building on the owner’s family’s land. Many of the local-oriented businesses would be quite challenging to find if you did not know the area well as they may have little to no web presence for promotion or mapping. In fact, for some homes with small farms tucked into the back roads of the mountains, the practice of leaving produce or cornmeal out in the front yard with the expectation that payment will be left in return is common. As I was told, you “just know” that they will have it, so you drive by to check to see if they have any ready for sale. Getting more coveted produce, such as the delicious and difficult-to-find wishi mushroom (wild-harvested in the fall), requires knowing how to contact the owner to get on a waiting list.

Sorting out this diversity of small businesses and small-business practices begins with two seemingly simple but central questions: Who owns these businesses, and what markets do they serve? To delve into these questions, we must begin by examining the contextual distinctiveness of American Indians’ economic identities and their related experiences. Addressing these constructions helps refine our theoretical understandings of what has been termed indigenous entrepreneurship by following how the external shaping of indigenous economic identity has hindered its representation as well as its expression.

The Absent Indigenous Entrepreneurs

These are the dying breed stories that we try to capture whenever we are on the road with our cameras.

—The Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods on Eastern Band citizen Johnnie Sue Myers’s cooking (emphasis added)

As I sat down in the crowded little diner in the midst of the Great Smoky Mountains, the waitress asked me, “Siyo, doiyusdi tsaditasdi tsaduli?” (ᏏᏲ, Ꮩ ᎢᏳᏍᏗ ᏣᏗᏔᏍᏗ ᏣᏚᎵ? “Hi, what would you like to drink?”). Still skimming the menu, I answered, “Siyo, kowi agwaduli” (ᏏᏲ, ᎧᏫ ᎠᏆᏚᎵᎭ; “Hi, I’d like a coffee”). I had learned from Bo Taylor’s summer language-immersion course (taken at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, well before I started my fieldwork) that this was one of a handful of restaurants you could go to on the Qualla Boundary where, if the wait staff recognized you, you could speak Cherokee. During this language course, we would eat lunch every day at a different restaurant. Some, like the Little Princess restaurant (which features “Indian dinner” nights, including items such as bean bread and grease, as does Paul’s Diner and the Newfound Restaurant), have a few staff members who spoke Cherokee. The servers at other restaurants, such as a local Chinese buffet, now speak remedial Cherokee as a result of Bo’s persistent attempts to teach them a bit of the language each time he goes in (making this, quite possibly, the only place where you can enjoy lo mein while ordering hot green tea in the Cherokee language). For me, these restaurants—ranging from local to tourist oriented, franchise to home cooking, and buffet to diner—reflect the diversity and community of small businesses on the Qualla Boundary.

Considering this diversity, watching the above-mentioned episode of Bizarre Foods reinforced the absurdity of the non-Native world’s continued perception of American Indians as a “dying breed.” This claim was made even as the show creators were watching American Indians writing cookbooks about “Cherokee feasts,” providing guided tours of reservation waterways, serving meals, and promoting local American Indian artists, all in front of a television crew. Even when people like Andrew Zimmern are surrounded by Cherokee people and their many businesses all day, they still see them as “vanishing.” Philip Deloria began to trace this contradiction by examining how indigenous anomalies, as interpreted through the settler-colonial gaze, were necessarily rendered invisible in order to continue settler-colonial agendas (e.g., land procurement). One of these anomalies discussed by Daniel Usner is the “Indian work” that settler-colonial society deems inauthentic for American Indians (conveyed in media and pop culture but also given legitimacy through academic and government officials). The tactic—and necessity—of applied invisibility by settler-colonial society continues today.

Throughout their histories, American Indians have practiced what has been termed entrepreneurialism. Indigenous peoples throughout the Americas had extensive trade routes established well before Europeans arrived. Following European arrival, American Indians were the driving force supporting international business networks and trade, supplying European countries with goods that eventually contributed to the development of (by European standards) a “native elite,” in addition to the wealth created for European businesses and individuals. According to Cherokee Nation citizen Gary “Litefoot” Davis, president and CEO of the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development, former rapper, and self-described entrepreneur, “I think that business and being entrepreneurs is probably one of the most traditional things that Native people have ever done. For me, being an entrepreneur is a very traditional activity.”


Courtney Lewis (Cherokee Nation) is assistant professor of anthropology at the University of South Carolina–Columbia.

2021 Middle East Studies Association Annual Meeting

Visit our virtual booth for the Middle East Studies Association Annual Meeting. You can browse our new and recent titles, connect with editor Elaine Maisner, and learn more about our Islamic Civilization and Muslim Networks Series.

New Titles in Middle East Studies

Afropolitan Projects: Redefining Blackness, Sexualities, and Culture from Houston to Accra

Anima Adjepong

Planetary Specters: Race, Migration, and Climate Change in the Twenty-First Century

Neel Ahuja

Divided by Terror: American Patriotism after 9/11

John Bodnar

China’s Muslims and Japan’s Empire: Centering Islam in World War II

Kelly A. Hammond

Muhammad’s Body: Baraka Networks and the Prophetic Assemblage

Michael Muhammad Knight

Hajj to the Heart: Sufi Journeys across the Indian Ocean

Scott Kugle

Closing the Golden Door: Asian Migration and the Hidden History of Exclusion at Ellis Island

Anna Pegler-Gordon

Oil Palm: A Global History

Jonathan E. Robins

Realizing Islam: The Tijaniyya in North Africa and the Eighteenth-Century Muslim World

Zachary Valentine Wright

Islamic Civilization and Muslim Networks Series

To browse these titles and more, please be sure to visit our Middle East Studies Association virtual booth. Use promo code 01DAH40 at checkout to receive a 40% discount. And if you order totals over $75, domestic U.S. shipping is FREE.

“Crafting an Indigenous Nation: Beyond Feathered War Bonnets”

The following is an excerpt from Jenny Tone-Pah-Hote’s “Crafting an Indigenous Nation: Kiowa Expressive Culture in the Progressive Era”. In this in-depth interdisciplinary study, Jenny Tone-Pah-Hote reveals how Kiowa people drew on the tribe’s rich history of expressive culture to assert its identity at a time of profound challenge. Examining traditional forms such as beadwork, metalwork, painting, and dance, Tone-Pah-Hote argues that their creation and exchange were as significant to the expression of Indigenous identity and sovereignty as formal political engagement and policymaking. These cultural forms, she argues, were sites of contestation as well as affirmation, as Kiowa people used them to confront external pressures, express national identity, and wrestle with changing gender roles and representations.

Tone-Pah-Hote’s “Crafting an Indigenous Nation: Kiowa Expressive Culture in the Progressive Era” was featured recently on our Native American Heritage Month reading list.


Figure 2 shows a man and a women riding together with a pack animal saddled with a parfleche container. Though subtly rendered, this image focuses on warfare, a subject frequently depicted by Kiowa men in the late nineteenth century. Details within the drawing itself illustrate that warfare touched the lives of both men and women. At times, women traveled with their husbands on military expeditions. Sometimes a woman left to go on a war party with a paramour to escape a heated situation at home, especially if she was married, a scenario that commonly caused discord among individuals and families. Yet, Michael Paul Jordan, an anthropologist, found that other women joined war parties “to avenge a relative who died at the hands of the enemy.” The figures in the drawing are prepared for combat. The man is armed with a bow quiver made of cloth or a dark hide with the fur side showing. The woman carries a gun tucked into the girth of her saddle. Women had good reason to be armed on such excursions because they could be casualties or captives taken in war.

The goods and objects the artist renders in this drawing emphasize the fruits of warfare and exchange, men’s prerogatives in nineteenth-century Kiowa society. During the nineteenth century, as Candace Greene has pointed out, a Kiowa man’s “only route to status and success was the war path.” Military expeditions were the way that men generated the wealth and horses to facilitate trade and exchange. Warfare certainly had economic elements, but it possessed greater significance as well. During the nineteenth century, Kiowa people lived in a region that was an ever-changing landscape of political and military alliances that shifted over the course of the century. They fought to protect their families as well as the herds of horses they raised, traded, and raided for. In the words of the historian Brian DeLay, in the 1830s and 1840s, both Comanche and Kiowas “were fighting to win honor, avenge fallen comrades, and grow rich.”

The woman depicted in figure 2 mirrors the man’s style and pose in the saddle, and her clothing provides important clues for her social standing and context in this image. She wears a red-sleeved dress, which marks her high social position. Cloth dresses became all the rage before the 1870s, and her dress reflects the ability of her family to acquire the cloth she wears. The red and black contrast with the white edge of her sleeves. She wears boots painted in yellow, red, and green pigments that Kiowa women often featured in their regalia before and after the reservation era. Her fine clothing is another indication that this drawing focuses on warfare. As Jordan found, women wore their best clothes for war. The pack animal follows the couple bearing a parfleche bag, which would have been painted by a woman who began to cultivate her talent for abstract painting as a young person, learning from an expert teacher how to make and paint parfleche.

Anonymous Kiowa drawing of man and woman riding horses and leading a pack animal that is carrying a parfleche, ca. 1875–1877. National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution, NAA INV 0867900.
FIGURE 2 Anonymous Kiowa drawing of man and woman riding horses and leading a pack animal that is carrying a parfleche, ca. 1875–1877. National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution, NAA INV 0867900.

They are a well-dressed couple, suggesting their wealth and power in Kiowa society. Kiowas participated in trade networks that stretched the breadth of the continent—networks that encompassed many Native and non-Native peoples. The drawing also offers us a glimpse into a material world derived from a state of achievement and plenty, prior to the reservation era. Both horses wear German silver bridles that emphasize the riders’ status. The riders use Western-style saddles, indicating the vast number of Western objects that Kiowas circulated and incorporated into their lives by the 1870s. He wears painted leggings, with blue tabs and lines suggesting the maroon mescal beans that often adorned buckskin clothing in the nineteenth century. These leggings display the skill of the woman who possessed the knowledge and ability to sew, paint, and outfit him in this grand manner. He wears a bone breastplate, common in men’s dress. A hair ornament and feathers complete his outfit.

The man who made this drawing emphasizes women’s skills even as the content of the drawing relates to warfare. The artist renders the prerogatives and paths to prestige in Kiowa society, which were complementary. The drawing illustrates and is evidence of gendered art production. A woman painted the parfleche bag and completed the beadwork that both wear. Women tanned and sewed hides from animals that men hunted. For women, “industrial skill,” including the arts, was a source of respect. Drawings on hide or paper, however, reflected the events and accomplishments of Kiowa warriors. Men made representational drawings that rendered their own stories on hides, and later on paper. The narratives of a man’s exploits in war and love belonged to him alone, though he might choose another with a fine hand to render a drawing of his accomplishments. Painting and drawing of representational images belonged in the domain of Kiowa men, who shared their exploits with brothers, friends, and others in public spaces and in the more private domains of military society gatherings.


Jenny Tone-Pah-Hote (Kiowa) is assistant professor of American studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

“Philanthropy and Power”, Author Maribel Morey in Conversation with Lucy Berholz, Khalil Anthony Johnson Jr., and Rob Reich at Stanford PACS

Last Week, UNC Press author of White Philanthropy Maribel Morey had a conversation with Wesleyan University’s Khalil Anthony Johnson, Jr. and Stanford PACS’ Rob Reich and Lucy Bernholz. In this conversation hosted by Stanford’s Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, they discuss the many intersections of philanthropy and power in U.S. history and the Present.

Since its publication in 1944, many Americans have described Gunnar Myrdal’s An American Dilemma as a defining text on U.S. race relations. Here, Maribel Morey confirms with historical evidence what many critics of the book have suspected: An American Dilemma was not commissioned, funded, or written with the goal of challenging white supremacy. Instead, Morey reveals it was commissioned by Carnegie Corporation president Frederick Keppel, and researched and written by Myrdal, with the intent of solidifying white rule over Black people in the United States.


Book cover for Maribel Morey's White Philanthropy

Maribel Morey is founding executive director of the Miami Institute for the Social Sciences.