In Memory of Dale Volberg Reed

Reed, Reed, and McKinney

John Shelton Reed, Dale Volberg Reed and William McKinney, authors of Holy Smoke

In memory of Dale Volberg Reed, who passed away in October, we are reprinting this 2008 interview with her and her co-authors of Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue, John Shelton Reed and William McKinney.

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Q: How did two Tennesseans (John and Dale) and a South Carolinian (William) get the nerve to write a book about North Carolina barbecue? What qualifies you to write on the topic?

Dale: Well, John and I are originally from just over the line in Tennessee and we’ve lived in North Carolina since 1969—and I was at Duke before that. But you’re right: we’re not Tar Heels born and Tar Heels bred. As we say in the introduction to the book, we’re converts to North Carolina barbecue, but like many converts we can be more Catholic than the Pope. Because we didn’t grow up with it, we don’t take North Carolina barbecue for granted.

John: We also argue—I don’t know how successfully—that our origins give us some measure of impartiality in the Eastern Piedmont, tomato vs. no-tomato, whole-hog vs. shoulder wars. It’s not our heritage that’s at stake.

William: On the South Carolina front, I’ll freely admit to being fond of mustard-based barbecue—really fond of it. But the intensity of interest in barbecue and respect for it that you find in North Carolina doesn’t exist where I come from. Good barbecue places in South Carolina will carry Eastern-style sauce, but North Carolina shops don’t need mustard-based sauce. In fact, it would be weird if you found it in a North Carolina barbecue joint.

Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue, by John Shelton Reed and Dale Volberg ReedQ: How is Holy Smoke organized?

John: You could call it Trinitarian. The first part is history (starting with the Iliad—no kidding) and what you might call “lore.” We talk about the role of barbecue and barbecues in the life of the state, and the rise of barbecue restaurants in the twentieth century. The second part of the book tells how to cook barbecue at home, and gives the history of the canonical side dishes—slaw, cornbread, Brunswick stew, and other things you’ll find on the menus of North Carolina barbecue places. (We’ve got some good recipes, too.) The last third or so is made up of interviews William did with a dozen or so representative “barbecue men” (and one woman—Debbie Bridges, from Shelby). These are folks who cook barbecue for a living, and they talk about their craft, and their businesses, and their lives. We conclude with a sort of coda about the future of North Carolina barbecue, why it may be an endangered cuisine, and why that matters.

Q: How did this project come to be?

Dale: John and I have admired and cooked from a book called Legends of Texas Barbecue by Robb Walsh ever since we came across it. We were talking one day with David Perry [then editor-in-chief at UNC Press] and found out that he liked it, too. Someone—we don’t remember who—said, “You know, there really needs to be a book like that about North Carolina barbecue.” John and I looked at each other and knew what our next book was going to be. We wrote a proposal for David and the Press bought it.

John: It turned out that we’d been getting ready to write this book for a long time, without knowing it. We’d been eating barbecue all over the state—and, for that matter, out-of-state, from San Francisco to London—for decades. We’d studied Bob Garner’s and Jim Early’s books on North Carolina barbecue—in fact, we had them in our car, and had done things like driving from Chapel Hill to Goldsboro for lunch. I’d been a judge at the Memphis in May barbecue competition and had written about that. I’d spoken about the cultural importance of barbecue at a meeting of the Southern Foodways Alliance, and I’d written a few magazine columns on the subject. We knew enough to know that it would take a whole encyclopedia to deal with barbecue in general, but that it might be barely possible to write a single book about North Carolina. We knew that William had already done those interviews, as a project for the SFA, so we asked him if he’d join us.

Continue Reading In Memory of Dale Volberg Reed

Max Felker-Kantor: Police Power, Race, and Reform in Urban America: Lessons from L.A.

Policing Los Angeles by Max Felker-KantorToday we welcome a guest post from Max Felker-Kantor, author of Policing Los Angeles:  Race, Resistance, and the Rise of the LAPD, just published by UNC Press.

Felker-Kantor narrates the dynamic history of policing, anti-police abuse movements, race, and politics in Los Angeles from the 1965 Watts uprising to the 1992 Los Angeles rebellion. Using the explosions of two large-scale uprisings in Los Angeles as bookends, he highlights the racism at the heart of the city’s expansive police power through a range of previously unused and rare archival sources. His book is a gripping and timely account of the transformation in police power, the convergence of interests in support of law and order policies, and African American and Mexican American resistance to police violence after the Watts uprising.

Policing Los Angeles is available now in both print and ebook editions.

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Police Power, Race, and Reform in Urban America: Lessons from L.A.

Repeated instances of police abuse and killings of people of color in cities across the country have led to calls for reform to make the police more accountable and transparent to the people they are supposed to serve. While activists have been central to making demands for changes to the nature of American policing, perhaps the biggest recent call for reform among politicians came from former president Barack Obama’s Task Force on Twenty-First Century Policing. The Task Force called for reforms to increase public trust in the police ranging from diversifying departments to establishing community-based policing to the use of officer body cameras. Recognizing the need for greater transparency and accountability is an important first step on the long road to police reform.

Some departments have taken seriously the need to reconcile the history of racially disparate policing with communities of color, to recognize the role of the police in maintaining racial hierarchies, and to acknowledge the need for fundamental changes in American policing. Yet, in many cities proposed reforms do little to question the fundamental authority of the police to enforce social order or to retain discretionary authority to decide what types of behavior or actions constitute a threat. In other words, most reforms take police power for granted and do little to question the underlying power of the police. Police departments also maintain deep-rooted resistance to reform or civilian oversight, leaving the police to police themselves.

Indeed, the broad support of the police largely remains common sense among policymakers of all political stripes. Such broad political support for the police is by no means new. As I show in Policing Los Angeles: Race Resistance, and the Rise of the LAPD, well-intentioned reforms rarely resulted in fundamental change to the structure of the LAPD, to the expansive police power in urban politics, or to greater police accountability and transparency.

Continue Reading Max Felker-Kantor: Police Power, Race, and Reform in Urban America: Lessons from L.A.

Ann Olga Koloski-Ostrow: Black Holes in Ancient Space

The Archaeology of Sanitation in Roman Italy: Toilets, Sewers, and Water Systems by Ann Olga Koloski-OstrowToday, we welcome a guest post from Ann Olga Koloski-Ostrow, author of The Archaeology of Sanitation in Roman Italy: Toilets, Sewers, and Water Systems just published in paperback by UNC Press.

The Romans developed sophisticated systems of urban infrastructure, including aqueducts for moving water from one place to another, sewers for removing dirty water from baths and for runoff from walkways and roads, and public and private multi-seat latrines and single toilets. Through the archaeological record, graffiti, and sanitation-related paintings, and literature, Ann Olga Koloski-Ostrow explores this little-known world of bathrooms and sewers, offering unique insights into Roman sanitation, engineering, urban planning and development, hygiene, and public health. Focusing on the cities of Pompeii, Herculaneum, Ostia, and Rome, Koloski-Ostrow’s work challenges common perceptions of Romans’ social customs, beliefs about health, tolerance for filth in their cities, and attitudes towards privacy. In charting the complex history of sanitary customs from the late republic to the early empire, Koloski-Ostrow reveals the origins of waste removal technologies and their implications for urban health, past and present.

The Archaeology of Sanitation in Roman Italy is available in both print and ebook editions.

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Black Holes in Ancient Space:  Roman Sanitation from the Sources

In San Francisco in January 2016 (I had just won the Archaeological Institute of America’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching), I spoke about two unusual “teachers” in my life who inspired me and who helped direct my research interests into the world of ancient Roman sanitation, sewers, toilets, and water systems. These were two dead uncles–both of them immigrants to the U.S.A. from Russia in the early twentieth century.

My Uncle Ted was a plumber in the Boston area, before he died in 1981. When I was a little girl growing up in western Massachusetts (on a farm with a three-seater outhouse), I loved to visit Uncle Ted and go with him underneath the great Victorian houses of Boston where he spent hours on his back in dark, spider-filled spaces, as he fixed copper pipes, or in splendid bathrooms, where he plunged clogged toilets and removed lion-legged bathtubs during renovations. I never tired of the artifacts we collected together—all related to cleanliness, water, and sanitation.

My other dear Uncle Nick, who died in 1991, was a garbage collector in New York City. I often joined him too as he picked up both construction debris from the freight elevators six stories below Rockefeller Center and broken toys discarded from Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue. Together we found treasures sliding down the garbage shoots—teddy bears only slightly soiled, fire trucks only partially damaged, and porcelain dolls with lopsided bouffant hair—and we brought them to the less fortunate children we knew in the Berkshires. Uncle Nick taught me about the underbelly of New York City, the tunnels and byways of urban infrastructure, and about the locations of all the dumps and land fills from Staten Island to Long Island. I learned that human garbage has many stories to tell, and I wanted to write some of those stories.

So, these two uncles were my main “muses” to a professional life as a classicist, archaeologist, and professor bound to questions about ancient Roman daily life and sanitation. I explored the evidence for sewers, toilets, and baths in both text and archaeological remains and asked what they had to do with sanitation?

Continue Reading Ann Olga Koloski-Ostrow: Black Holes in Ancient Space

Lynn Dumenil: Remembering American Women in World War I

The Second Line of Defense: American Women and World War I by Lynn DumenilThis Sunday, November 11th, will be the 100th Anniversary of Armistice Day, and we welcome a guest post from Lynn Dumenil, author of The Second Line of Defense:  American Women and World War I, soon to be published in paperback by UNC Press.

In tracing the rise of the modern idea of the American “new woman,” Dumenil examines World War I’s surprising impact on women and, in turn, women’s impact on the war. Telling the stories of a diverse group of women, including African Americans, dissidents, pacifists, reformers, and industrial workers, Dumenil analyzes both the roadblocks and opportunities they faced. She richly explores the ways in which women helped the United States mobilize for the largest military endeavor in the nation’s history.

The Second Line of Defense is available in both print and ebook editions.

Lynn Dumenil will speak at the Greensboro History Museum on November 8th at 7 p.m. For details, visit: http://greensborohistory.org/event/her-great-war-women-wwi

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The Armistice at 100:  Remembering American Women in World War I

If World War II is the “good war,” then I propose we call World War I the “forgotten war.”  Forgotten at least in popular memory.  The 100th anniversary of the U.S. entrance into the Great War (April 1917) came and went with little media attention and the anniversary of the Armistice (11-11-18) may well be equally slighted.  Yet the WWI era is a rich field for scholars seeking to explore the dramatic changes taking place in early 20th century America.  This is particularly true for the history of American women.  Indeed, contemporaries during the war — who were witnesses to extraordinary media attention to women taking on men’s roles, wearing uniforms, serving abroad as aids to the military, and marching boldly in patriotic parades – were convinced that the war was creating a “new woman.”

Many of the dramatic developments of the war, in fact, proved short lived.  This is especially the case for women who took on men’s jobs often at men’s wages.  In the workplace, the most significant long-term impact of war on women was their increased participation in clerical work, which became even more “feminized” — and devalued — in the post war years.   But in other ways the war helped to accelerate more far reaching changes.  In 1914, the suffrage movement had already seen success in fourteen states, but the war offered suffragists associated with the National American Woman Suffrage Association a way to bolster their claim for full citizenship by demonstrating women’s patriotic service on the homefront (in food conservation, fundraising drives, and defense industry work, for example) and abroad as nurses, telephone operators, and social workers.  At the same time, women in the National Woman’s Party picketed the White House with signs linking their call for the vote to the war for democracy abroad and branding the President “Kaiser” Wilson.  Both groups undoubtedly contributed to Wilson’s eventual support for the 19th Amendment, which in turn started the move toward Congressional approval.

Continue Reading Lynn Dumenil: Remembering American Women in World War I

Mary-Elizabeth B. Murphy: In Politics to Stay

Jim Crow CapitalToday is Election Day, and we welcome a guest post from Mary-Elizabeth B. Murphy, author of Jim Crow Capital:  Women and Black Freedom Struggles in Washington, D.C., 1920–1945, just published by UNC Press.

In her new book, Murphy tells the story of how African American women in D.C. transformed civil rights politics in their freedom struggles between 1920 and 1945. Even though no resident of the nation’s capital could vote, black women seized on their conspicuous location to testify in Congress, lobby politicians, and stage protests to secure racial justice, both in Washington and across the nation. Women crafted a broad vision of citizenship rights that put economic justice, physical safety, and legal equality at the forefront of their political campaigns. Black women’s civil rights tactics and victories in Washington, D.C., shaped the national postwar black freedom struggle in ways that still resonate today.

Jim Crow Capital is available now in both print and ebook editions.

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In Politics to Stay:  The View from History

The right to vote is about political power, and for much of United States history, this privilege was denied to most black women.  In theory, the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920 promised to enfranchise all women.  In practice, it was not enforced in the South, as polling places in states, such as Georgia, and North Carolina, practiced similar disfranchisement policies on black women that they had perfected on black men.[i]  Despite the partial victory of the Nineteenth Amendment, black women nonetheless seized on the language of women’s right to vote as they formed partisan organizations, lobbied for the passage of the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill, and weighed in on Supreme Court nominations.[ii]  In 1924, black clubwomen formed the National League of Republican Colored Women, an explicitly partisan organization, and rallied under the slogan, “We Are In Politics to Stay, and We Shall be a Stay in Politics.”  Through this message, black women not only declared their presence in politics, but also, their determination to influence political matters.

White supremacists took note, sounding alarm about the visibility of black women serving in political positions to arouse fears about black voting, and thus, black political power.  In the winter of 1928, the U.S. House of Representatives held a hearing about restoring voting rights in the nation’s capital.  Grover W. Ayers, a white resident of Washington, D.C., warned the committee about black women’s growing influence in politics.  “There is now a negro woman who is a member of the State legislature in West Virginia,” he stated, referencing Minnie Buckingham Harper, who had recently taken over her late husband’s seat.  Even more chilling, he told the committee that, “since there are a greater number of negro women in the District of Columbia than there are negro men, it would only be right that there should be a negro woman elected to the United States Senate every once in a while.”  He cautioned that a black woman senator “could attend the White House receptions and things of that kind.”[iii]

Continue Reading Mary-Elizabeth B. Murphy: In Politics to Stay

Benjamin T. Smith: Fake News, Chinese Boxes, and the Mexican Art of Manipulating the Press

The Mexican Press and Civil Society, 1940–1976: Stories from the Newsroom, Stories from the Street by Benjamin T. SmithToday we welcome a guest post from Benjamin T. Smith, author of The Mexican Press and Civil Society, 1940–1976:  Stories from the Newsroom, Stories from the Street, just published by UNC Press.

Mexico today is one of the most dangerous places in the world to report the news, and Mexicans have taken to the street to defend freedom of expression. As Benjamin T. Smith demonstrates in this history of the press and civil society, the cycle of violent repression and protest over journalism is nothing new. He traces it back to the growth in newspaper production and reading publics between 1940 and 1976, when a national thirst for tabloids, crime sheets, and magazines reached far beyond the middle class.

The Mexican Press and Civil Society, 1940–1976 is available now in both print and ebook editions.

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Fake News, Chinese Boxes, and the Mexican Art of Manipulating the Press

Over the past few years, United States citizens have become increasingly aware of how governments, organizations and corporations deliberately use disinformation and lies to disguise the truth and bend the public will. Such practices have undermined trust in the mainstream media. For many, they are the most overt threat to the future of democracy. Fake news, in short, has become big news.

A similar crisis of confidence has been also been happening south of the border. Over the past decade, Mexicans have become more and more conscious of the ways in which shadowy forces, including but not limited to the state, manipulate the mass media. The 2012 Televisa scandal, the firing of Carmen Aristegui and the frequent homicides of regional journalists have all pointed to diversity of strategies employed to limit the public sphere. Neoliberal democracy promised a more open and more responsible press, but in its place seems to have created a media industry even more dependent on the alliances linking political parties, commercial interests, and organized crime.

In 2014, the director, Luis Estrada, mocked this collision of modern publicists, traditional PRI corruption, and drug traffickers in his satire, La Dictadura Perfecta. In the film, the TV executives met with PRI functionaries to suppress footage of a governor receiving several suitcases full of cash from the known drug trafficker. To do so, they employed a “Chinese box”. The phrase is a literary device used to denote a story within a story. But here, it was used to describe a fabricated news story – fake news in contemporary parlance – which could be repeatedly expanded to fill the news cycle and obscure negative press. In the film, Estrada had his executives stage a simulated kidnapping to avert public attention from government corruption.

Continue Reading Benjamin T. Smith: Fake News, Chinese Boxes, and the Mexican Art of Manipulating the Press

Georgann Eubanks: The Imperfect Persimmon

The Month of Their Ripening by Georgann EubanksToday we welcome a guest post by Georgann Eubanks, author of The Month of Their Ripening:  North Carolina Heritage Foods through the Year, published this fall by UNC Press.

Telling the stories of twelve North Carolina heritage foods, each matched to the month of its peak readiness for eating, The Month of Their Ripening takes readers on a flavorful journey across the state. Georgann Eubanks begins in January with the most ephemeral of southern ingredients—snow—to witness Tar Heels making ice cream. In March, she takes a midnight canoe ride on the Trent River in search of shad, a bony fish with a savory history. In November, she visits a Chatham County sawmill where the possums are always first into the persimmon trees.

The Month of Their Ripening is available in both print and ebook editions.

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The Imperfect Persimmon

Native persimmons (Diospyros virginiana) are ripening across North Carolina right now. Best not to pick them but to spread a bedsheet under the tree and shake the limbs. Those that drop are likely ripe. The fruit will look bruised and roughed up–the more so the better.

A bowl of ripe persimmons

A bowl of ripe persimmons

It’s a common misconception to assume that these trees need a good frost for the fruit to ripen. The timing depends much more on the site, sun, and moisture during the season, I’m told by Gene Stafford, host of the upcoming Colfax Persimmon Festival to be held on Saturday, November 3rd at the historic Stafford Farm on the west side of Greensboro. Details on the 11th annual event are available at: colfaxpersimmonfest.com. Stafford says this year’s crop, which he harvests from a number of sites in the area, is very good.

Florida foodie and forager Richard Campbell explains the value of this underappreciated fruit: “The American persimmon is a relic of our horticultural past that has thrived on its imperfections. They provide context to our lives and are a constant in a world of change and uncertainty.”

Indeed, and persimmons are the subject of chapter 11 (November) in my new book, The Month of Their Ripening: North Carolina Heritage Foods Through the Year. The name persimmon is an anglicized version of the Algonquin word for these small, sweet orbs that once provided a welcome source of nourishment as winter threatened the indigenous people of our region. They prized persimmon pulp for making breads, soups, and beverages. African Americans and European settlers later came to use them to create puddings, cakes, and dried fruit leather in the days of subsistence farming.

Continue Reading Georgann Eubanks: The Imperfect Persimmon

#HistoryMatters: A roundup of UNC Press authors on Reconstruction and the 14th Amendment

2018 is the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. This sweeping amendment was among the great accomplishments under Reconstruction; together with the 13th Amendment ending slavery and the 15th Amendment granting people of color and former slaves the right to vote, the 14th Amendment is foundational for the civil liberties and civil rights enjoyed by U.S. citizens today. It swept away the 3/5ths compromise that defined the enslaved as less than full people, enshrined due process rights, and guaranteed equal protection under the law. And in its power-packed first sentence, it offered a clear definition of who qualified as a citizen: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.”

Current events have thrust the 14th Amendment and the meaning of “birthright citizenship” into the spotlight, and the public is once more engaged in a discussion about the meaning of the amendment, both at the time of its ratification and as it has been interpreted through 150 years of case law. Below are some books by UNC Press authors that speak to these questions. Many of them are actively engaged in this discussion on social media—look for their current insights online.


Erik Mathisen (@DrEMathisen), The Loyal Republic: Traitors, Slaves, and the Remaking of Citizenship in Civil War America — This new book addresses head on how Americans struggled to define what it meant to be a citizen of the United States, at a moment of fracture in the republic’s history. As Erik Mathisen demonstrates, prior to the Civil War, American national citizenship amounted to little more than a vague bundle of rights. But during the conflict, citizenship was transformed. Ideas about loyalty emerged as a key to citizenship, and this change presented opportunities and profound challenges aplenty. Confederate citizens would be forced to explain away their act of treason, while African Americans would use their wartime loyalty to the Union as leverage to secure the status of citizens during Reconstruction.

Gregory P. Downs and Kate Masur (@katemasur), The World the Civil War Made — At the close of the Civil War, it was clear that a military conflict begun in South Carolina and fought largely east of the Mississippi River had changed the politics, policy, and daily life of the entire nation. In an expansive reimagining of post–Civil War America, the essays in this volume explore these profound changes. The editors are leading historians of Reconstruction and have been active in national efforts to commemorate its accomplishments. We also recommend Kate Masur’s earlier book, An Example for All the Land: Emancipation and the Struggle over Equality in Washington, D.C.; and Downs’s earlier book,  Declarations of Dependence: The Long Reconstruction of Popular Politics in the South, 1861-1908

Martha S. Jones (@marthasjones_), All Bound Up Together: The Woman Question in African American Public Culture, 1830-1900 and Toward an Intellectual History of Black Women.  Jones’s new book, Birthright Citizens: A History of Race and Rights in Antebellum America (Cambridge University Press), is a timely and definitive history of the 14th Amendment’s opening clause and its implications. Her earlier work, published by UNC Press, reflects Jones’s longstanding interest in the intersection of race, gender, and citizenship.

Stephen Kantrowitz (@skantrow), Ben Tillman and the Reconstruction of White Supremacy – A compelling read on the backlash to the 14th Amendment. Through the life of Benjamin R.Tillman (1847-1918), South Carolina’s notorious agrarian rebel, this book traces white male supremacy from plantation slavery to the age of Jim Crow. As an anti-Reconstruction guerrilla, governor, and U.S. senator, he offered a vision of reform that was proudly white supremacist. This book argues that Tillman’s white supremacy was a political program and social argument whose legacies continue to shape American life.

Corinne T. Field, The Struggle for Equal Adulthood: Gender, Race, Age, and the Fight for Citizenship in Antebellum America — In the fight for equality, early feminists often cited the infantilization of women and men of color as a method used to keep them out of power. Field argues that attaining adulthood–and the associated political rights, economic opportunities, and sexual power that come with it–became a common goal for both white and African American feminists between the American Revolution and the Civil War. The idea that black men and all women were more like children than adult white men proved difficult to overcome, however, and continued to serve as a foundation for racial and sexual inequality for generations.

Barbara Krauthamer (@profbk), Black Slaves, Indian Masters: Slavery, Emancipation, and Citizenship in the Native American South — From the late eighteenth century through the end of the Civil War, Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians bought, sold, and owned Africans and African Americans as slaves, a fact that persisted after the tribes’ removal from the Deep South to Indian Territory. Through the end of the nineteenth century, ongoing conflicts among Choctaw, Chickasaw, and U.S. lawmakers left untold numbers of former slaves and their descendants in the two Indian nations without citizenship in either the Indian nations or the United States. In this groundbreaking study, Barbara Krauthamer rewrites the history of southern slavery, emancipation, race, and citizenship to reveal the centrality of Native American slaveholders and the black people they enslaved.

Hannah Rosen, Terror in the Heart of Freedom: Citizenship, Sexual Violence, and the Meaning of Race in the Postemancipation South — Traditional definitions of race were radically disrupted after emancipation, when citizenship was granted to all persons born in the United States and suffrage was extended to all men.  Rosen persuasively argues that in this critical moment of Reconstruction, contests over the future meaning of race were often fought on the terrain of gender. She analyzes rape testimonies and debates over interracial marriage. By connecting histories of rape and discourses of “social equality” with struggles over citizenship, she shows how gendered violence and gendered rhetorics of race together produced a climate of terror for black men and women seeking to exercise their new rights as citizens.

And, our friends at the Journal of the Civil War Era‘s Muster blog, put together a lively roundtable discussion of the 14th Amendment on its anniversary.

#BirthrightCitizenship; #HistoryMatters; #ReadUP

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The Loyal RepublicThe World the Civil War MadeBlack Slaves, Indian Masters: Slavery, Emancipation, and Citizenship in the Native American South, by Barbara Krauthamer

The Struggle for Equal AdulthoodBen Tillman and the Reconstruction of White SupremacyTerror in the Heart of Freedom: Citizenship, Sexual Violence, and the Meaning of Race in the Postemancipation South

For a fuller listing of UNC Press books on history and memory, visit our website.

Osha Gray Davidson: “The Best of Enemies,” The Film

Today we’re delighted to share a guest post from Osha Gray Davidson, author of The Best of Enemies:  Race and Redemption in the New South. The book is a page-turning account of the unlikely friendship between Ann Atwater, an African American activist in Durham, North Carolina, and C. P. Ellis, a local member of the Ku Klux Klan. Osha’s book is now a major motion picture starring Taraji P. Henson and Sam Rockwell in the leading roles. Written and directed by Robin Bissell and distributed by STX Entertainment, the film will premier April 5, 2019.

Watch the exciting trailer here:

UNC Press’s movie tie-in edition of the book is available now for preorder!

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“The Best of Enemies,” The Film

I won’t lie. Watching the first trailer for “The Best of Enemies” was nerve-wracking. Of course, there’s the thrill of seeing the story I labored over for years now “up on the big screen.” (Exciting, even when that big screen is a smart phone.) The flip-side is the uncertainty that comes with knowing I wasn’t in control of how the filmed story was told. What if Hollywood got it all wrong?

From the trailer’s opening moments, however, it’s clear that screenwriter-director Robin Bissell got it just right. The trailer is riveting largely because Bissell focuses on the story’s explosive emotional core while anchoring it firmly but unobtrusively in its historical context.

I was relieved but not really surprised. Robin has been working on the film for years, in one way or another. He made multiple trips to Durham, and although C.P. Ellis died in 2005, Robin got to know his family well. He and Ann Atwater also became fast friends before she passed away in 2016.

Robin is also quick to credit the cast’s enormous contribution. Just before filming began, I told Robin that the story was now in his hands. He demurred, pointing out that once the camera began rolling, the story’s essence, the truth about who C.P. Ellis and Ann Atwater were, would be in the actors’ hands. Watching Sam Rockwell and Taraji Henson squaring off in the movie trailer is electrifying. Henson perfectly captures Ann’s righteous fearlessness and Rockwell disappears into C.P.’s tortured soul. (Ann was elated with the casting, telling everyone, “Cookie’s going to play me!” – referring to Henson’s take-no-prisoners character in the hit-series, “Empire.”)

Continue Reading Osha Gray Davidson: “The Best of Enemies,” The Film

Anne Balay: A Trucker’s “Me Too”

Semi Queer by Anne BalayToday we welcome a guest post from Anne Balay, author of Semi Queer:  Inside the World of Gay, Trans, and Black Truck Drivers, just published by UNC Press.

Long-haul trucking is linked to almost every industry in America, yet somehow the working-class drivers behind big rigs remain largely hidden from public view. Gritty, inspiring, and often devastating oral histories of gay, transsexual, and minority truck drivers allow award-winning author Anne Balay to shed new light on the harsh realities of truckers’ lives behind the wheel. A licensed commercial truck driver herself, Balay discovers that, for people routinely subjected to prejudice, hatred, and violence in their hometowns and in the job market, trucking can provide an opportunity for safety, welcome isolation, and a chance to be themselves–even as the low-wage work is fraught with tightening regulations, constant surveillance, danger, and exploitation. The narratives of minority and queer truckers underscore the working-class struggle to earn a living while preserving one’s safety, dignity, and selfhood.

Semi Queer is available now in both print and ebook editions.

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A Trucker’s “Me Too”

There is enormous variety in how truckers respond to sexual violence and sexual harassment at work. Some fight back through legal and other formal channels. Using fierce dedication and self-advocacy, they compile enough complaints that they cannot be ignored, hoping that the culture of trucking starts to change. Such work by woman truckers has led to recent cases against megacarriers like Prime.

Others fight back in person, on the ground, and just keep rolling.

While collecting the oral histories that I used to build Semi Queer, I heard hard stories, and strove to follow the guidelines established by Tarana Burke’s “me too” movement. I cried. I asked: “What do you need now?” I strove to avoid “trauma porn,” instead listening as people narrated their experience, and described how they moved forward, and made change.

And I have to say that through it all, what I remember – what they left me with – is their joy. They really love to drive truck.

That sounds flip, but it is very real nonetheless.

Sexual violence deprives its victims of their full humanity. It’s scarring, it’s real, and the loss is unrecoverable. Every trucker knows that. But they know other things, too. Things of which the non-trucking public may be less aware.

That driving a truck is fun and feels good. The thrum of the road under the tires. The excitement of not knowing what comes next. You have to push yourself, you have to think. You’re in control, and it’s all very thrilling. There is boundless physical pleasure derived from using your body and your mind harmoniously to accomplish a difficult task. When truckers describe it, their words fall short. “I have the best office window ever,” they’ll say. But their eyes light up, and it’s like they are suddenly somewhere else . . . in motion, and loving it.

Continue Reading Anne Balay: A Trucker’s “Me Too”

William Glenn Robertson: Seeing the Ground

River of Death--The Chickamauga Campaign: Volume 1: The Fall of ChattanoogaToday we welcome a guest post from William Glenn Robertson, author of River of Death–The Chickamauga Campaign:  Volume 1: The Fall of Chattanooga, just published by UNC Press.

The Battle of Chickamauga was the third bloodiest of the American Civil War and the only major Confederate victory in the conflict’s western theater. It pitted Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee against William S. Rosecrans’s Army of the Cumberland and resulted in more than 34,500 casualties. In this first volume of an authoritative two-volume history of the Chickamauga campaign, William Glenn Robertson provides a richly detailed narrative of military operations in southeastern and eastern Tennessee as two armies prepared to meet along the “River of Death.”

River of Death–The Chickamauga Campaign:  Volume 1: The Fall of Chattanooga is available now in both print and ebook editions.

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Seeing the Ground

Although I first saw Chickamauga as a child in 1954 and later as a young adult in 1966, I never really “saw” the area encompassed by the Chickamauga Campaign until I began to design an elective course called the Staff Ride at the U. S. Army’s Command and General Staff College in 1983.  One of the pillars of Army Staff Riding is to take students to the actual ground of the campaign/battle so that their perceptions of the terrain gained by reading might be refined by actually seeing the ground in person.  The first iteration of the course in the spring of 1983 only visited the battlefield itself.  While there was much to be learned from studying the battle, I believed that additional insights could be gained by visiting sites associated with the preceding month-long campaign.  The Staff College agreed to extend the field trip by one day to accommodate the campaign study in subsequent years.

In the summer of 1983, my wife and I traveled to Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia to survey potential sites and routes.  Highway maps were inadequate for our purposes, as were the USGS 1:24,000 quadrangles (too detailed) or 1:250,000 (too large).  Nevertheless, we set out, with my wife driving and me attempting to correlate battle reports from the Official Records with the inadequate maps.  After getting lost a couple of times and traveling some roads we have not seen since, we finally built a satisfactory route.  Much has changed since 1863 and, indeed, since 1983, but the critical land-forms have not.  No one can truly understand what the armies of 1863 had to overcome without retracing their steps as closely as possible.

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Ronny Regev: On Film History and Labor Contracts

Working in Hollywood by Ronny RegevToday we welcome a guest post from Ronny Regev, author of Working in Hollywood:  How the Studio System Turned Creativity into Labor, just published by UNC Press.

A history of the Hollywood film industry as a modern system of labor, this book reveals an important untold story of an influential twentieth-century workplace. Ronny Regev argues that the Hollywood studio system institutionalized creative labor by systemizing and standardizing the work of actors, directors, writers, and cinematographers, meshing artistic sensibilities with the efficiency-minded rationale of industrial capitalism. The employees of the studios emerged as a new class: they were wage laborers with enormous salaries, artists subjected to budgets and supervision, stars bound by contracts. As such, these workers–people like Clark Gable, Katharine Hepburn, and Anita Loos–were the outliers in the American workforce, an extraordinary working class.

Working in Hollywood is available now in both print and ebook editions.

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On Film History and Labor Contracts

“I have two words to leave you with tonight, ladies and gentlemen: ‘inclusion rider.’” This is how actress Frances McDormand chose to end her acceptance speech after winning the Oscar for Best Actress in 2018. Her plea did not go unheard. Merriam-Webster tweeted a few hours later that “inclusion” was their top search for the night followed by “rider.” This moment was exceptional in Academy Award history not only because of McDormand’s call for equality but also because of her determination to talk shop.

Since the earliest days of the Hollywood studio system, the people working in the film industry consistently preferred to keep the mechanisms behind the production process, for example contracts, cloaked in a shroud of mystery. Like trained illusionists, in public they constantly spoke about their trade in terms of randomness and wonder rather than expertise and practice. “It isn’t possible to make a successful picture [only] by selecting any good director and by engaging any good actors or actresses who happen to fit the parts for which they are selected – except, perhaps, by luck,” affirmed Irving Thalberg, the legendary executive in charge of production at MGM back in 1933. About a decade later, his colleague at Warner Bros., Hall Wallis added that “If there is an unpredicted business, it’s motion pictures. Make one bad bet … and you’ll find yourself in the unenviable position of having a picture on your hands in which people are no longer interested.”

Continue Reading Ronny Regev: On Film History and Labor Contracts

Kenneth Joel Zogry: The lost historical context missing in the debate over Silent Sam

Print News and Raise Hell by Kenneth Joel ZogryToday, October 12, is University Day at UNC-Chapel Hill, and we welcome a guest post from Kenneth Joel Zogry, author of Print News and Raise Hell:  The Daily Tar Heel and the Evolution of a Modern University.

For over 125 years, the Daily Tar Heel has chronicled life at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and at times pushed and prodded the university community on issues of local, state, and national significance. Thousands of students have served on its staff, many of whom have gone on to prominent careers in journalism and other influential fields. Print News and Raise Hell engagingly narrates the story of the newspaper’s development and the contributions of many of the people associated with it.

Print News and Raise Hell is available in both print and ebook editions.

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The lost historical context missing in the debate over Silent Sam

As we await the ultimate decision regarding the fate of Silent Sam by the UNC Board of Trustees on November 15, it is important to place the monument into its “lost” historical context.  The year 1913 has been recently marked as one of shame in UNC’s history: the monument was unveiled during commencement weekend that year, and was christened by Julian Carr with perhaps the most vile, racist and misogynistic speech ever made on Tar Heel soil.  While those facts are true, 1913 also marks the beginning of progressivism and a slow path to egalitarianism at the nation’s oldest public university, which is little understood today and wholly ignored in the fierce public debate over the statue’s meaning in the 21st century.

Interestingly, 1913 was the exact mid-point in the century between the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 and the zenith of the Modern Civil Rights Movement in 1963 (the March on Washington and President Kennedy’s introduction of the Civil Rights Act, which would become law in 1964).   Coincidentally, several events in 1913 signaled the start of the university’s progressive activism, alternately celebrated and condemned in our politically and socially bi-polar “purple” state. Most notably and relevant to this discussion, in 1913 a few of UNC’s faculty and students first began questioning the South’s racial prejudices, including white-on-black violence, social and economic discrimination, and political disfranchisement.  These actions were small and slow at first, but at any level should be viewed as the antithesis of the intentions of those people associated with UNC who erected the Confederate Soldiers Monument – mostly aged alumni, white supremacist state leaders, and the outgoing university president, Francis Venable.

Continue Reading Kenneth Joel Zogry: The lost historical context missing in the debate over Silent Sam

Oscar de la Torre: The Backlash Against Reparations for Slavery in Brazil

The People of the River by Oscar de la TorreToday we welcome a guest post from Oscar de la Torre, author of The People of the River:  Nature and Identity in Black Amazonia, 1835–1945, just published by UNC Press.

In his history of the black peasants of Amazonia, Oscar de la Torre focuses on the experience of African-descended people navigating the transition from slavery to freedom. He draws on social and environmental history to connect them intimately to the natural landscape and to Indigenous peoples. Relying on this world as a repository for traditions, discourses, and strategies that they retrieved especially in moments of conflict, Afro-Brazilians fought for autonomous communities and developed a vibrant ethnic identity that supported their struggles over labor, land, and citizenship.

The People of the River is available now in both print and ebook editions.

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The Backlash Against Reparations for Slavery in Brazil

After a long history of denial, during the last twenty-five years Brazil has finally recognized the existence of racism in the country. Thanks to the relentless pressure of black social movements and other organizations, the government has slowly adopted a series of programs to try to compensate black people for the legacies of five centuries of slavery and racial injustice. Two legislative initiatives in particular have become the flagship of Brazil’s anti-racist agenda: the affirmative action program adopted by public universities, and the official recognition of black rural communities or quilombos, as they are called in Brazil. Unfortunately, the 2007 recession and the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff of the Workers’ Party in 2016 ushered in an intense conservative backlash against these programs. So far affirmative action has endured the legal and political attacks, but the policies for Brazil’s black rural communities came under heavy fire during 2017.

In order to understand those attacks, we need to go back in time to 1988. That year, the new Brazilian Constitution established that the communities descending from runaway slaves, known as in Brazil as quilombos, would receive official recognition and a collective title to their lands. While few people imagined that this constitutional article would have any significance, during the 1990s and 2000s a number of black towns all over the country claimed for their recognition, leading the Lula administration (Workers’ Party) to deploy the constitutional article. Thus, Decree 4887 from 2003 established that any community that designated itself as Afro-descendant could apply for the status of quilombo and receive a collective land deed, effectively creating a program of reparations for slavery for all Afro-Brazilians living in predominantly black villages, and even urban neighborhoods.

Continue Reading Oscar de la Torre: The Backlash Against Reparations for Slavery in Brazil

William Glenn Robertson: Notecards and Curiosities

River of Death--The Chickamauga Campaign: Volume 1: The Fall of ChattanoogaToday we welcome a guest post from William Glenn Robertson, author of River of Death–The Chickamauga Campaign:  Volume 1: The Fall of Chattanooga, just published by UNC Press.

The Battle of Chickamauga was the third bloodiest of the American Civil War and the only major Confederate victory in the conflict’s western theater. It pitted Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee against William S. Rosecrans’s Army of the Cumberland and resulted in more than 34,500 casualties. In this first volume of an authoritative two-volume history of the Chickamauga campaign, William Glenn Robertson provides a richly detailed narrative of military operations in southeastern and eastern Tennessee as two armies prepared to meet along the “River of Death.”

River of Death–The Chickamauga Campaign:  Volume 1: The Fall of Chattanooga is available now in both print and ebook editions.

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Notecards and Curiosities

When I began my research on the Chickamauga Campaign in early 1983, I didn’t own a personal computer and instead used notecards to organize my research materials.  For my first two books I utilized 4X6 cards, but for Chickamauga I decided that 5X8 cards would work better, holding more material.  In order to prevent inadvertent plagiarism, I photocopied the materials and attached them in manageable chunks on individual cards with tape.  When I began the Chickamauga process, I guessed 25,000 cards would suffice.  I wanted to find literally everything relevant to the Chickamauga Campaign in order to have the largest possible database from which to craft my narrative and analysis.  Now, thirty-five years later, I am still finding Chickamauga-related materials in a variety of places, and my notecard count has risen to the current number of 41,643, with more to go.  While my system is certainly not recommended for everyone, it works for me.  Cards are organized chronologically and by regimental, brigade, division, and corps units.  The only drawback is that the file boxes consume a lot of space.

One of the virtues of gathering so much material is that I often run across many curious facts, usually representing human stories too small to be noticed in a work focusing solely on large issues.  The Chickamauga Campaign is replete with such stories, most of which have been neglected in earlier works on the subject.  I’ll briefly describe three of my discoveries here.  They are not “game changers” in the conventional sense, but each topic adds a bit to the Chickamauga story, and may be of interest to readers.

Continue Reading William Glenn Robertson: Notecards and Curiosities

Malinda Maynor Lowery: A Nation of Nations

The Lumbee Indians by Malinda Maynor LoweryToday is Indigenous People’s Day, and we welcome a guest post from Malinda Maynor Lowery, author of The Lumbee Indians:  An American Struggle, just published by UNC Press.

Jamestown, the Lost Colony of Roanoke, and Plymouth Rock are central to America’s mythic origin stories. Then, we are told, the main characters–the “friendly” Native Americans who met the settlers–disappeared. But the history of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina demands that we tell a different story. As the largest tribe east of the Mississippi and one of the largest in the country, the Lumbees have survived in their original homelands, maintaining a distinct identity as Indians in a biracial South. In this passionately written, sweeping work of history, Malinda Maynor Lowery narrates the Lumbees’ extraordinary story as never before. Their fight for full federal acknowledgment continues to this day, while the Lumbee people’s struggle for justice and self-determination continues to transform our view of the American experience.

The Lumbee Indians is available now in both print and ebook editions.

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A Nation of Nations

My Lumbee Indian community is a kind of microcosm of what the United States has been and could be. Every year we celebrate Independence Day at our weeklong Lumbee Homecoming celebration in southeastern North Carolina. We have beauty pageants, a powwow, gospel music performances, a parade, sports events, and collard sandwiches (one of our local delicacies). American flags fly everywhere, and our military veterans receive places of honor at every event. Family reunions abound. During Homecoming, Lumbees celebrate what we share with our non-Indian neighbors, alongside what makes us unique. We don’t fret over whether multiculturalism and national unity can co-exist. We value individual self-expression as well as shared land and values, which gives our Homecoming a distinct multicultural and regional flavor. This year’s Junior Miss Lumbee and Teen Miss Lumbee sang the most striking version of the national anthem I had ever heard. They arranged it in perfect harmony; their tribute to our fight for independence resonated not just with the American nation but with our own Lumbee nation.

The long lens of American Indian history reveals not only our nation’s consistent sins, but our consistent work to make this a more free and equal nation, especially when families are the focus.

American Indian nations did not need Europeans to teach us about family values, independence, or freedom. But we can’t forget that Europeans and some of their descendants have repeatedly tried to teach us about exclusion and betrayal. The descendants of Jamestown, Plymouth, St. Augustine, and other early illegal migrants established their own laws about immigration without gaining permission from the indigenous nations into which they had entered.

Continue Reading Malinda Maynor Lowery: A Nation of Nations

Hannah Gill: Silent Sam in Carolina del Norte

The Latino Migration Experience in North Carolina, Revised and Expanded Second EditionToday we welcome a guest post from Hannah Gill, author of the new revised and expanded edition of The Latino Migration Experience in North Carolina:  New Roots in the Old North State, just published by UNC Press.

Now thoroughly updated and revised—with a new chapter on the Dreamer movement and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA)—Hannah Gill’s book offers North Carolinians a better understanding of their Latino neighbors, illuminating rather than enflaming debates on immigration. In the midst of a tumultuous political environment, North Carolina continues to feature significant in-migration of Mexicans and Latin Americans from both outside and inside the United States. Drawing on the voices of migrants as well as North Carolinians from communities affected by migration, Gill explains how larger social forces are causing demographic shifts, how the state is facing the challenges and opportunities presented by these changes, and how migrants experience the economic and social realities of their lives.

The Latino Migration Experience in North Carolina is available now in both print and ebook editions.

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Silent Sam in Carolina del Norte

The Silent Sam upheaval this fall at UNC Chapel Hill coincided with an international visit from four Mexican colleagues, all oral historians and community organizers who work in Mexico City and Guanajuato. This group has formed strong connections to North Carolina in recent years as more people from Latin American countries settle in the state and we have worked together on several binational projects. It is always an honor to host them when they visit UNC, especially as they have supported numerous learning opportunities for my students (and me) in Mexico over the years.

My colleagues arrived in early September just a couple weeks after protesters toppled the statue on August 20, following years of controversy. On the first day of their visit, they went to McCorkle Place to take photos, unaware the statue was gone. They were surprised to find an empty space where Silent Sam once stood. “We wondered where he was,” they later told me.

I was curious about what the statue meant to my colleagues. We often hear many of the same narratives in various local, state, and national media, that for some Silent Sam is a remembrance of their ancestors who fought in the U.S. Civil War; for others, he is a symbol of racism, slavery, and oppression in the United States that persists in many forms to this day. Of course, there are many more perspectives (for example, see the op-ed by Malinda Maynor Lowery, member of the Lumbee Indian Tribe).

Continue Reading Hannah Gill: Silent Sam in Carolina del Norte

Benjamin T. Smith: Por Qué, Por Qué?

The Mexican Press and Civil Society, 1940–1976: Stories from the Newsroom, Stories from the Street by Benjamin T. SmithToday we welcome a guest post from Benjamin T. Smith, author of The Mexican Press and Civil Society, 1940–1976:  Stories from the Newsroom, Stories from the Street, just published by UNC Press.

Mexico today is one of the most dangerous places in the world to report the news, and Mexicans have taken to the street to defend freedom of expression. As Benjamin T. Smith demonstrates in this history of the press and civil society, the cycle of violent repression and protest over journalism is nothing new. He traces it back to the growth in newspaper production and reading publics between 1940 and 1976, when a national thirst for tabloids, crime sheets, and magazines reached far beyond the middle class.

The Mexican Press and Civil Society, 1940–1976 is available now in both print and ebook editions.

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Por Qué, Por Qué? How one magazine evaded state censorship and published the only coverage of the Tlatelolco Massacre

Mario Menéndez never wanted to put out a radical magazine. He wanted, he told his friends, to make a Mexican version of Paris Match or the New York Times Magazine. Though he had cut his teeth exposing peasant exploitation in the henequen fields of Yucatán and gained international fame following left-wing guerrillas throughout Latin America, by early 1968 he wanted to leave this kind of confrontational journalism behind. Just six months earlier the Mexican government had bailed him out of a Colombian jail where he was accused of providing funds to insurgents. The experience had left him chastened, maybe even frightened. His new publication, Por Qué?, was meant to be a way out, a way to build bridges with the family members, politicians, and journalists that made up world. But, it was not to be. Like so many Mexicans, the student massacre on 2nd October 1968 changed his vision of the country and his role in it.

Por Qué? Mark 1

On 28 February 1968 Por Que? hit the newsstands. It was glossy and expensive. In fact, at 5 pesos it was 2 pesos more than most political magazines. As U.S. consular officials noticed, this was no rabble-rousing flysheet, this was elite fare. The funding came from Mario’s inheritance and a smattering of Yucatán’s businessmen and playboys. The writers were a mixture of family members, old reporter friends, and journalists from the upmarket magazine Gente that he had invited to join the staff after meeting them at a cocktail party.  The contents were a strange mix, which reflected Mario’s devotion to serious investigative journalism and his new aim to appeal to an elite, moneyed audience.

Continue Reading Benjamin T. Smith: Por Qué, Por Qué?

Mary-Elizabeth B. Murphy: Supreme Court Matters

Jim Crow CapitalToday we welcome a guest post from Mary-Elizabeth B. Murphy, author of Jim Crow Capital:  Women and Black Freedom Struggles in Washington, D.C., 1920–1945, which UNC Press will publish in November.

In her new book, Murphy tells the story of how African American women in D.C. transformed civil rights politics in their freedom struggles between 1920 and 1945. Even though no resident of the nation’s capital could vote, black women seized on their conspicuous location to testify in Congress, lobby politicians, and stage protests to secure racial justice, both in Washington and across the nation. Women crafted a broad vision of citizenship rights that put economic justice, physical safety, and legal equality at the forefront of their political campaigns. Black women’s civil rights tactics and victories in Washington, D.C., shaped the national postwar black freedom struggle in ways that still resonate today.

Jim Crow Capital can be pre-ordered now at the UNC Press website.

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Supreme Court Matters

The confirmation process of Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, once thought to be swift and smooth, has now become dramatic and uncertain.  As the ninth justice, Judge Kavanaugh would cast the deciding vote on crucial issues, including reproductive choice, marriage equality, labor organizing, immigration, and voting rights.  Reports that Judge Kavanaugh, as a high school and college student, may have assaulted women, has raised serious concerns about whether these alleged actions constitute acceptable behavior for a justice of the Supreme Court, arguably one of the most significant positions in American government with a lifetime appointment.  The fate of Kavanaugh’s confirmation rests, in part, on the willingness of women to come forward and testify, and whether members of the Senate will take that testimony seriously.

Eighty-eight years ago, African Americans living in the United States confronted a similar crisis.  In March 1930, Supreme Court Justice Edward T. Sanford died in office, prompting Republican President Herbert Hoover to nominate North Carolina Judge John J. Parker to the Supreme Court.  Even in an era when news traveled at a slower pace and the views of nominees were harder to pinpoint, African Americans knew that Parker’s ascension to the Supreme Court would be dangerous.

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Author Interview: A conversation with Jennifer Brulé, author of The New Vegetarian South

The New Vegetarian South by Jennifer BruleToday UNC Press publicity director Gina Mahalek chats with Jennifer Brulé, author of The New Vegetarian South: 105 Inspired Dishes for Everyone.

In her enlightening cookbook, chef Brulé brings southern-style food together with plant-based approaches to eating. Her down-to-earth style and 105 recipes will immediately appeal to vegetarians, vegans, and meat-eaters alike. These dishes are also a boon for those who simply love southern food and want to learn more about options for flexitarian eating. Brulé deliciously demystifies meat substitutes and flavors up familiar vegetables. Imagine vegetarian barbecue: Brulé’s recipe for spicing, saucing, and oven-roasting jackfruit offers a robustly tasty alternative to pulled pork. Tofu is the perfect base for crispy Southern Fried Buttermilk Nuggets, and cauliflower beautifully fills in for shrimp in a Cajun-inspired étouffee.

The New Vegetarian South is available now in both print and ebook editions.

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Gina Mahalek: Your book, The New Vegetarian South, is dedicated to recreating traditional southern dishes vegetarian-style. Did you find it difficult to transition some of the South’s trademark recipes into ones that are meatless? If so, what was most challenging?

Jennifer Brulé: Some dishes easily lent themselves to becoming vegetarian or vegan; Buttermilk Fried Tofu Nuggets, for instance, works beautifully. However, the idea of transitioning some dishes to be plant-based was daunting. Brunswick Stew is a great example—it’s known for all the different meats involved, from chicken, to pork, to beef to squirrel. How does one turn meat stew into a vegetarian dish while keeping it delicious? But, as I said, it was merely the idea that was daunting. Using texturized vegetable protein (TVP) and lots of layers of flavors resulted in a satiating, mouthwatering recipe.

GM: Did your professional background as a classically trained chef provide you with much of your knowledge on vegetarian alternatives for meaty dishes, or did you gain insight from recipe experimentation and creation?

JB: Being a classically trained chef helped, for sure, but more than anything it’s my unquenchable thirst for food knowledge that informed me about meat alternatives. I am a student of food and cooking, constantly curious about ingredients. I research and study food every day. Having two vegetarian daughters, of course has made me quite deliberate in finding, and working with, meat alternatives.

GM: What was the main reason you decided to adopt a more plant-based diet?

JB: Two things: my aforementioned children (one of whom became vegetarian when she was five years old), but also my love of animals. It seems stranger and stranger to me that we, as a society, eat living beings. That said, I’m a sucker for a properly fried piece of chicken. But, I figure if can eat plant-based meals most of the time and indulge in eating critters only occasionally, I’m headed in the right direction.

GM:  Was the process of reducing your meat intake difficult?

JB: No, it truly wasn’t. If you think about it, a wonderful cheese pizza is vegetarian. A bowl filled with hearty grains, grilled slaw, pickled pink onions, roasted black beans and a creamy lemon-tahini dressing (like the ones we serve at my restaurant, Davidson Ice House) tastes AMAZING and happens to be vegan. I honestly think that it’s mostly a mental game, a perception that it’s not a meal without meat in the center of the plate. With some creativity, it’s EASY to eat a primarily plant-based diet.

Continue Reading Author Interview: A conversation with Jennifer Brulé, author of The New Vegetarian South