Aline Helg: Beyond the image of the “male slave rebel”

Slave No More by Aline HelgToday we welcome a guest post from Aline Helg, author of Slave No More:  Self-Liberation before Abolitionism in the Americas, just published this month by UNC Press.

Commanding a vast historiography of slavery and emancipation, Helg reveals as never before how significant numbers of enslaved Africans across the entire Western Hemisphere managed to free themselves hundreds of years before the formation of white-run abolitionist movements. Her sweeping view of resistance and struggle covers more than three centuries, from early colonization to the American and Haitian revolutions, Spanish American independence, and abolition in the British Caribbean. Helg not only underscores the agency of those who managed to become “free people of color” before abolitionism took hold but also assesses in detail the specific strategies they created and utilized.

Slave No More is available in both print and ebook editions.

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Beyond the image of the “male slave rebel”

Slave insurrections have long been the privileged focus of historians of slavery in the Americas. The reasons for that choice are multiple. Revolts powerfully demonstrate that far from being submissive, enslaved peoples fought, risked—and often lost—their lives to gain freedom. Revolts are spectacular and bloody, they have their heroes and victims, and they can be forcefully narrated. Revolts are “visible” because they produced abundant documents on which historians can draw. And slave revolts seemed a natural focus of research to historians seeking to explain contemporary social movements: it is no accident that the first studies of slave revolts emerged in the 1930s and multiplied after 1960, when the Americas were shaken by Marxist revolutions, the Civil Rights and Black Power movements, and a new wave of independence.

C.L.R. James’s The Black Jacobins (1938) was a wake-up call in this process, as it brought to the forefront the longest, largest and exceptionally successful Haitian Revolution (1791-1804). After 1960, scholars of slavery attempted to classify and hierarchize slaves’ resistance to their condition, beginning with accommodation (considered to be passive and nonheroic) and culminating with armed revolt. They distinguished violent from nonviolent resistance (often contradictorily referring to the latter as “passive resistance”). For most historians, violent forms of resistance consisted in marronage, suicide, murder, conspiracy, and revolt. In contrast, recourse to legal rights and the courts, self-purchase, cultural practices, and religion were categorized as nonviolent resistance. From this hierarchization, the triumphant image of the male rebel slave emerged and became the reigning model. Some historians, focalized on that image, conflated conspiracy or even the suspicion of a plot with revolt, and hypothesized that if certain rebellions had not been rapidly contained and other plots denounced just before they were carried out, they could have become revolts as widespread as the Haitian Revolution.

Continue Reading Aline Helg: Beyond the image of the “male slave rebel”

Author Interview: A conversation with Scott Huler, author of A Delicious Country

Scott Huler is the author of A Delicious Country: Rediscovering the Carolinas along the Route of John Lawson’s 1700 Expedition, just published this month by UNC Press. 

A Delicious Country by Scott HulerIn 1700, a young man named John Lawson left London and landed in Charleston, South Carolina, hoping to make a name for himself. For reasons unknown, he soon undertook a two-month journey through the still-mysterious Carolina backcountry. His travels yielded A New Voyage to Carolina in 1709, one of the most significant early American travel narratives, rich with observations about the region’s environment and Indigenous people. In 2014, Scott Huler made a surprising decision: to leave home and family for his own journey by foot and canoe, faithfully retracing Lawson’s route through the Carolinas. This is the chronicle of that unlikely voyage, revealing what it’s like to rediscover your own home.

A Delicious Country is available now in both print and ebook editions.

Huler sat down with UNC Press publicity director Gina Mahalek recently to discuss the book and the journey behind it.

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Q: Who was John Lawson?

SH: John Lawson was a young Englishman who, in 1700, for reasons unknown to this day, left London and sailed to North America. He hung around Charles-town for a few months, then in late 1700 left with a group of traders and Indian guides on a trek that took him through the then-little-known Carolina backcountry (Carolina was still a single colony). He emerged months later on the Pamlico Sound, near what today we would call Little Washington. The notes from his journey formed the foundation for A New Voyage to Carolina (1709), the most important book to emerge from early colonial Carolina. Historians and scientists today still refer to his descriptions of flora, fauna, inhabitants, and geography, and his botanical specimens were part of the collection that created the British Museum, where they still reside. He also helped found and develop both Bath and New Bern, North Carolina’s first two incorporated cities, and was named surveyor general of the colony. He was captured and killed by the Tuscarora in 1711, the very first casualty of the Tuscarora War.

Q: Lawson was a complicated character. Can you talk more about this?

SH: A young man in England in the late 1600s, he appears to have been fascinated by the members of the Royal Society and clearly wanted to leave that kind of mark, somehow. He describes in his book being talked out of a European adventure he considered and being guided instead to Carolina, and I love the sort of “go west, young man” of this moment. Once in North America, he did everything: he went on adventures, gathered botanical specimens for British collectors, met with Indians, bought and developed land, and became part of the political structure. Complicated is right. On one hand, he was very advanced in his thinking: he loved the Indians and saw them as fully human, even advocating intermarriage and describing them as morally superior to the Christian colonists. On the other hand, he was a man of his time and had no trouble acquiring their land to develop for his own purposes. In this way he’s a perfect expression of that moment when European society was emerging into modernity, still carrying some pretty bestial ideas and practices with it, as colonial history powerfully demonstrates.

Q: Lawson seems to be largely forgotten. Would you have rather known more about Lawson, or was not knowing part of the experience?

SH: Ha! It’s funny because I want everyone else to know more about him now, but I loved the feeling of discovery that attended every step of both my research and my journey retracing his. “Wait, he said the Indians were better to the colonists than the colonists were to the Indians? What?” “Wait, you can still see his actual botanical specimens in London?” “Wait — he advocated intermarriage? What?” Apart from his amazing contributions to the historical and scientific record, his profound decency towards the Indians astonished me over and over, and I love having the opportunity to share this with people who should know him better. I think of him as the sort of William Penn of North Carolina: our “first citizen,” whose words and actions affect us to this day, though so many of us don’t know a thing about him.

Continue Reading Author Interview: A conversation with Scott Huler, author of A Delicious Country

Women’s History Month Reading List for 2019

UNC Press has a long history of publishing outstanding work in the field of Women’s History and Women’s Studies. In honor of Women’s History Month, we’d like to highlight some of the great work we’ve been proud to publish in the past year.

Here’s our Women’s History Month reading list for 2019.  To browse our complete Women’s Studies collection, visit the UNC Press website.

And, during our American History Books Sale, you can save big on all these great books.  Just use promo code 01DAH40 to get 40 percent discount, and free shipping for orders over $75.00.

Happy Women’s History Month from UNC Press!


Simon Wolfgang Fuchs: The Party Capitals of the Iranian Revolution

In a Pure Muslim Land by Simon Wolfgang FuchsToday we welcome a guest post from Simon Wolfgang Fuchs, author of In a Pure Muslim Land:  Shi’ism between Pakistan and the Middle East, publishing this April from UNC Press.

Centering Pakistan in a story of transnational Islam stretching from South Asia to the Middle East, Simon Wolfgang Fuchs offers the first in-depth ethnographic history of the intellectual production of Shiʿis and their religious competitors in this “Land of the Pure.” The notion of Pakistan as the pinnacle of modern global Muslim aspiration forms a crucial component of this story. It has empowered Shiʿis, who form about 20 percent of the country’s population, to advance alternative conceptions of their religious hierarchy while claiming the support of towering grand ayatollahs in Iran and Iraq.

In a Pure Muslim Land is available for pre-order now.

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Tehran, Beirut, Lahore: The Party Capitals of the Iranian Revolution

The Iranian Revolution of February 1979 continues to baffle us. On its fortieth anniversary, there is widespread incomprehension in the US and Europe why the Iranian people went for a ride with the Mullahs. Why on earth did a country that was seemingly on the verge of becoming the next South Korea willingly pull the emergency brake on its bullet train to modernity? Nostalgia looms large when observers point out that in an alternate version of history, Iranian women would still be wearing miniskirts and bathing suits instead of “black tents”. Why did Iran’s people have more faith in bearded clerics than in their dashing former leader, the Shah, who turned the Swiss winter resort of St. Moritz every year into the European extension of his imperial glamour? When one follows the coverage of the Iranian Revolution, disillusionment and failure are the catchwords of the day. Analyses and features underline that the Revolution did not live up to its promises and the initial excitement. The upheaval surely devoured its own children, meaning liberals, leftists, and dissident clerics, who were driven into exile, arrested, or executed. Think tanks and analysts have long predicted that the regime will ultimately collapse, that repression and economic hardship will mean that Iran, the pariah in the international system, is doomed. In sum, the Revolution was an experiment that went terribly wrong. It never managed to catch on outside the borders of Iran, with the notable exception perhaps of the Lebanese Hezbollah.

Continue Reading Simon Wolfgang Fuchs: The Party Capitals of the Iranian Revolution

Gina Mahalek: What Karen Barker, “Greatest Pastry Chef,” Taught Me About Dessert

Karen Barker (Photo by Ann Hawthorne)

Karen Barker (Photo by Ann Hawthorne)

Every time I eat a truly great dessert, I think of Karen Barker.

In addition to being a James Beard Award Winner for Outstanding Pastry Chef, Karen was also a great teacher—as I learned when working with her on publicizing and taking a deep, sweet dive into her masterful 2004 cookbook from UNC Press, Sweet Stuff: Karen Barker’s American Desserts.

She taught me to consider whether a dessert “ate interestingly” all the way through, and forever changed the way I appreciate the concluding course to a meal. I learned from Karen that “It’s more interesting to eat a layering of flavors in a dessert so that it’s not one-dimensional.” She also believed that “When you sit down to a plate of something, it’s nice not to have every bite taste exactly the same. There should be flavor contrasts, temperature contrasts, and textural contrasts.”

Karen also brought a wabi-sabi sensibility to baking, finding homey imperfections charming because “they let the diner know that the items are handmade.” I still take comfort in these words whenever a pie bubbles up around the rim or a cut-out cookie crumbles around the edges.

When I asked her how she managed to stay so slim, despite having a job that literally kept her up to her elbows in chocolate ganache, she acknowledged that if she ate everything that she prepared, she’d be “as big as a house!” However, she confirmed that she tasted everything she made throughout her workday, and that treating one’s self every day to “a single, great, crisp cookie” can be a very good thing.

And she believed that “a great dessert can leave an impression that lasts a lifetime.”

Just before the publication of Sweet Stuff, Karen shared her some of her best baking tips for professional results (and ways to show loved ones some sugar) with me in this Q & A:

Q: What distinguishes restaurant desserts from homemade desserts?

Karen: I think that restaurant desserts tend to be a bit more elaborate than those that people tackle at home. And it’s not that the base recipes are difficult—it’s just that there are more components on a plate and more attention is paid to textural and temperature contrasts. In other words, a restaurant dessert might include a slice of cake with an accompanying sauce and an ice cream or a fruit garnish.

Chefs also consider what a dessert will look like when it’s individually plated and put down in front of somebody. At home, a cake might be brought to the table on a platter and sliced and served in front of the guests. It’s just a different way of thinking about presentation.

Continue Reading Gina Mahalek: What Karen Barker, “Greatest Pastry Chef,” Taught Me About Dessert

Abigail Hall: Musings on a Beautiful and Mysterious Industry: A Publishing Intern Reflects

Abigail Hall, Hollins University publishing intern at UNC Press, January 2019

Abigail Hall, Hollins University publishing intern at UNC Press, January 2019

This past January, I was able to live out a lifelong dream of mine: wearing business casual clothes five days a week. I own so many sweaters and I was ecstatic to finally be able to do something with them.

But this past month was more than just a chance to try out my office fashion. January 2019 was also the month I interned in the UNC Press Publicity Department.

I applied to the one-month internship through my school, Hollins University in Roanoke, VA, so I could get a taste of the kind of real-world jobs that English majors like myself regularly seek out. The short timeframe for the internship is due to Hollins’ month long J-Term, in which students can partake in a wide array of activities, such as taking classes or going abroad. I decided to intern in breezy little Chapel Hill to learn a little bit about a mysterious industry. Since I’m a senior, it was my last chance to take advantage of a January Signature Internship, and I sure am glad I didn’t chicken out.

Before going into the internship, I knew very little about publishing. I supposed the employees worked in offices and cubicles; I suspected that there was a lot of paperwork. That’s about as far as my knowledge went. Honestly, all of the information I knew about publishing came from the movie The Proposal, but I barely even paid attention to that until after Sandra Bullock went through at least a little character development. Needless to say, I didn’t know much.

Obviously, I was a little worried about my first day. Being an absolute industry newbie was frightening, even despite the fact that I knew deep down nobody expected me to be an expert. Thankfully, when I walked through the doors, I was greeted by a whole slew of people who really love books, and I felt right at home. I strained my neck trying to read all the titles on the various shelves as I was led through the building, impressed by the variety of subjects and the quality of covers.

I quickly came to realize that my initial thoughts about publishing were pretty much on point, but that there was more to the industry than what I had imagined. Every department, from Marketing to Production to Editorial—Acquisitions and Manuscript—worked together to create a singular organism of book creation and distribution. The constant moving through various departments meant that I learned a lot of faces, but, unfortunately, not as many names.

Continue Reading Abigail Hall: Musings on a Beautiful and Mysterious Industry: A Publishing Intern Reflects

David Gilbert: James Reese Europe at the Grammys

The Product of Our Souls, book and CDToday we welcome a guest post from David Gilbert, author of The Product of Our Souls:  The Product of Our Souls: Ragtime, Race, and the Birth of the Manhattan Musical Marketplace. The CD companion to the book came out in the summer of 2018 and his liner note essay has been nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Album Notes category ).

The Grammy Awards will be presented this Sunday, February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles.

The Product of Our Souls is available now in both print and ebook editions.

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James Reese Europe at the Grammys

One hundred years ago this May, James Reese Europe died. Having survived mustard gas and German sneak attacks along the Rhine as a member of the Harlem Hell Fighters during World War I, Europe was murdered by one of his own regiment band’s drummers from the war while the Hell Fighters Marching Band took a set break in Boston’s Mechanic’s Hall. Europe’s death in 1919, both untimely and tragic as it was, perhaps partly explains why he is not better remembered. Although he had as much influence on laying the groundwork for the rise of jazz in New York City as anyone, James Reese Europe missed out on the 1920s, and the historical monographs.

Yet James Europe remains relevant, not only because Archeophone Records recently released a complete collection of Europe’s Society Orchestra recordings from 1913 and 1914—a collection that is up for a Grammy Award this weekend. Europe’s struggles in navigating America’s burgeoning, early-twentieth-century entertainment markets, and the ways he negotiated the racial opportunities and racist expectations of popular music and stage performance, offered blueprints for thousands of African-American entertainers in the century since. His successes and failures can help us understand the complex predicaments today’s pop stars often face.

Continue Reading David Gilbert: James Reese Europe at the Grammys

David Gilbert: Pre-war Ragtime, From UNC Press to the Grammys

We are very proud that two UNC Press authors are nominated for Grammy Awards this year.

William Ferris (), noted folklorist who has written and contributed to several publications from UNC Press on Southern history, the oral tradition, and the blues, is nominated for Best Historical Album for “Voices of Mississippi” on .

David Gilbert is nominated for Best Album Notes for “The Product of Our Souls” ), a companion to his 2015 UNC Press book The Product of Our Souls: Ragtime, Race, and the Birth of the Manhattan Musical Marketplace.

Today, David Gilbert offers some background on his book and the companion CD project.

The Grammy Awards will be presented Sunday, February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles.

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The Product of Our Souls, book and CDIn the second week of 1914, New York Age entertainment columnist Lester Walton described an unprecedented event. “Last Monday afternoon,” he wrote, “for the first time in the history of New York, theatre-goers witnessed the unusual spectacle of a colored orchestra playing in the pit of a first class theatre for white artists.” Walton explained that this unorthodox occurrence happened not once, but twice in a single afternoon. At both Hammerstein’s Victoria Theatre and the Palace Theatre, white audiences listened to a black band as it accompanied white dancers. “Such an unusual condition was due to the insistence of Mr. and Mrs. Vernon Castle, known in the Four Hundred as society dancers, that James Reese Europe’s Society Orchestra, play their dance music.”

The Castles surely demanded James Reese Europe’s dance orchestra because they admired its innovative sounds and Europe’s skill as conductor. Yet by 1914, Europe and his various iterations of African American music ensembles had been playing for affluent white New Yorkers for a decade. Through his organizing of New York musicians, his branding of the Clef Club Inc., as well as his own self-promotion and artistic ingenuity, Europe was already one of New York’s leading musicians.

Continue Reading David Gilbert: Pre-war Ragtime, From UNC Press to the Grammys

Gene R. Nichol: Fighting for Literacy in North Carolina

Orange Literacy logoGene R. Nichol is arguably our state’s leading expert on the subject of poverty. His new book, The Faces of Poverty in North Carolina, reveals the many years of interviews and research he’s done on the subject. Nichol will be interviewed by the best-selling novelist John Grisham at Orange Literacy’s annual fundraiser, Writers for Readers. In today’s post, Nichol discusses the link between poverty and literacy, and invites all of us to consider supporting Orange Literacy. More information can be found at: http://orangeliteracy.org/wfr19/.  Follow them on Twitter at @OrangeLiteracy.

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I’ve spent a good deal of time, over the last decade, in low income communities in North Carolina. That work has taught me, close up, that the economic hardship experienced by many of our sisters and brothers is more intense, more constraining, more debilitating than most of us imagine. Wrenching poverty amidst great plenty is, no doubt, this state’s greatest challenge.

But it’s also true that in every locale and corner of North Carolina remarkable folks are to be found who – with few resources, but with strong skills, unyielding determination and stout hearts – struggle selflessly to sustain and empower those who are, at least temporarily, having a tough time of it. Orange Literacy shares both those roots and those aspirations. And it makes a bold and decided difference in the opportunities and life chances afforded to many of our most determined, resilient and clearly heroic colleagues.

Continue Reading Gene R. Nichol: Fighting for Literacy in North Carolina

African American History Month Reading List for 2019

The study of African American history is a year-round endeavor for UNC Press, but in honor of African American History Month 2019, we’d like to highlight some of the great new books we’ve been published in this field recently. Here are books on African American history, culture, and modern society from UNC Press over the past year, plus a few that will be available later this spring and are available for pre-order now.

Here’s our reading list for 2019.  To browse our complete African American Studies collection, visit the UNC Press website.

Use promo code 01DAH40 to get 40 percent discount, and free shipping for orders over $75.00

Happy African American History Month from UNC Press!


Jenny Tone-Pah-Hote: Massalena Ahtone, American Indian Exposition, 1940

Today we welcome a guest post from Jenny Tone-Pah-Hote, author of Crafting an Indigenous Nation:  Kiowa Expressive Culture in the Progressive Era, just published by UNC Press.

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.

Crafting an Indigenous Nation is available now in both print and ebook editions.

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Cover Story:  Massalena Ahtone, American Indian Exposition, 1940

June 2006.  I am sitting at a long table at the Oklahoma Historical Society just behind a shelf packed with thick binders of photographs of American Indians in Oklahoma.  As I flip through the “A” binder of Kiowa photographs, I saw the picture labeled “Massalena Ahtone, later Mrs. Tone-Pah-Hote.” She stares back at me.  I have seen that look before. But, in my memory, the woman is elderly, wears maroon and brown dresses, knee high stockings, and hair pinned in a bun.  I sent a copy of it to my father, Preston.

“Is this really Grandma?”

The woman in the photo the one with stare I recognized was, in fact, his mother.

Her English name was Massalena Ahtone.  She was born in 1912 to Sam Ahtone and Tah-do, a beadwork artist.  By the time she posed for the photograph, she had married my grandfather, Murray Tone-Pah-Hote, and they had three children, including my father.  She possessed a sharp wit and sternness in equal measure.  Grandma posed for this photograph in 1940 at the American Indian Exposition held each year in Anadarko, Oklahoma, a small town sixty miles southwest of Oklahoma, City.  The exposition run by local Native people combined a county fair feel with intertribal dancing, pageants, a parade, and an all-Indian baseball tournament.  Kiowa men and women, like my grandmother, played major roles in the event displaying livestock, painting, and beadwork. It became a place where Kiowa people asserted their own unique identities in a deeply intertribal and intercultural space.

Continue Reading Jenny Tone-Pah-Hote: Massalena Ahtone, American Indian Exposition, 1940

Andrew Newman: Captivity Narratives and The Handmaid’s Tale, Part 2

Allegories of Encounter: Colonial Literacy and Indian Captivities by Andrew NewmanToday we welcome the second of his two-part guest post from Andrew Newman, author of Allegories of Encounter:  Colonial Literacy and Indian Captivities, just published by UNC Press and the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture.

Presenting an innovative, interdisciplinary approach to colonial America’s best-known literary genre, Andrew Newman analyzes depictions of reading, writing, and recollecting texts in Indian captivity narratives. While histories of literacy and colonialism have emphasized the experiences of Native Americans, as students in missionary schools or as parties to treacherous treaties, captivity narratives reveal what literacy meant to colonists among Indians. Colonial captives treasured the written word in order to distinguish themselves from their Native captors and to affiliate with their distant cultural communities. Their narratives suggest that Indians recognized this value, sometimes with benevolence: repeatedly, they presented colonists with books.

Allegories of Encounter is available now in both print and ebook editions.

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Captivity Narratives and The Handmaid’s Tale
Part 2: “The Past is a Great Darkness”

In the first installment of this blog post, I discussed the implications of my analysis of colonial captivity narratives in Allegories of Encounter  for the reading of dystopian fiction, especially Margaret Atwood’s neo-captivity narrative The Handmaid’s Tale, in the so-called “Age of Trump.” Allegories of Encounter is also about methodological considerations in the interpretation of nonfictional narrative accounts, and this second post takes up The Handmaid’s Tale’s suggestive treatment of this subject.

The Handmaid’s Tale is the first person account of Offred, formerly June, a handmaid or procreative slave who risks death by recording her ongoing story. Her explanation of her motives for doing so expresses Atwood’s insights about the roles of narrative in organizing one’s perception of experience and also in affiliating with one’s community. Such effects, Allegories of Encounter suggests, can be produced by reading as well as writing (or otherwise narrating). Offred explains that she records her spoken testimony (on cassette tapes) “because I have nothing to write with and writing is in any case forbidden.” She consciously indulges in a discursive illusion: “If it’s a story I’m telling,” she suggests, “then I have control over the ending. Then there will be an ending, to the story, and real life will come after it. I can pick up where I left off.” Moreover, “if it’s a story, even in my head, I must be telling it to someone. You don’t tell a story only to yourself. There’s always someone else.” Thus Atwood emphasizes what devotees of literature necessarily find to be a sympathetic language ideology, one she elaborates on in a 2017 essay on “What ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Means in the Age of Trump”: With reference to Robinson Crusoe, Samuel Pepys, Anne Frank, and the Rwandan genocide witness Roméo Dallaire, she argues that producing “the literature of witness” is “an act of hope”: “Every recorded story implies a future reader.” Thus keeping a journal, or even mentally composing a narrative, anticipates survival.

Continue Reading Andrew Newman: Captivity Narratives and The Handmaid’s Tale, Part 2

LaKisha Michelle Simmons: Surviving R. Kelly: Church and Gendered Respectability in the 1990s

Crescent City Girls: The Lives of Young Black Women in Segregated New Orleans, by LaKisha Michelle SimmonsWe welcome a guest post today from LaKisha Michelle Simmons, author of Crescent City Girls: The Lives of Young Black Women in Segregated New Orleans.

What was it like to grow up black and female in the segregated South? In Crescent City Girls, Simmons blends social history and cultural studies, recreating children’s streets and neighborhoods within Jim Crow New Orleans and offering a rare look into black girls’ personal lives. Simmons argues that these children faced the difficult task of adhering to middle-class expectations of purity and respectability even as they encountered the daily realities of Jim Crow violence, which included interracial sexual aggression, street harassment, and presumptions of black girls’ impurity.

Crescent City Girls is available in both print and ebook editions.

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Surviving R. Kelly: Church and Gendered Respectability in the 1990s

On January 3rd, Lifetime television began a three-day event, Surviving R Kelly, a docu-series focusing on R&B singer R. Kelly’s alleged pedophilia and sexual and domestic abuse of black girls and young women.  After watching the allegations, listening to survivors, and seeing evidence mount, many viewers wondered how did R. Kelly’s sexual abuse of black girls continue unchecked for so long? How did we—as a society—allow this to happen?

Scholars of black girlhood have carefully documented how black girls are not granted childhood innocence in American culture. Black girls are pushed out, overpoliced, and underprotected.  As a young Black teenager, Tressie Mcmillan Cottom listened to family reactions to the 1992 boxer Mike Tyson’s rape trial and learned: “black girls like me can never truly be victims of sexual predators.”

There are a multitude of cultural narratives—both within the Black community and within American society at large— that have left Black girls underprotected, making sure that they can never be seen as victims of sexual predators. After watching Surviving R Kelly, I was reminded of how R. Kelly maintained his reputation by drawing support for himself and his music from the Black church. Feminist theologian Candace Benbow recently documented some of this support by pastors and well-known gospel singers, much of it after R. Kelly was charged with child pornography in June 2002. How did R. Kelly manage this relationship?

Continue Reading LaKisha Michelle Simmons: Surviving R. Kelly: Church and Gendered Respectability in the 1990s

Patricia de Santana Pinho: Traveling Brazil

Mapping Diaspora by Patricia de Santana PinhoToday we welcome a guest post from Patricia de Santana Pinho, author of Mapping Diaspora:  African American Roots Tourism in Brazil, just published by UNC Press.

Brazil, like several countries in Africa, has become a major destination for African American tourists seeking the cultural roots of the black Atlantic diaspora. Drawing on over a decade of ethnographic research as well as textual, visual, and archival sources, Patricia de Santana Pinho investigates African American roots tourism, a complex, poignant kind of travel that provides profound personal and collective meaning for those searching for black identity and heritage. It also provides, as Pinho’s interviews with Brazilian tour guides, state officials, and Afro-Brazilian activists reveal, economic and political rewards that support a structured industry.

Mapping Diaspora is available now in both print and ebook editions.

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Traveling Brazil

Brazil has long fascinated foreigners, even before it was known as Brazil. The first Europeans to ever set foot on that vast stretch of land were Portuguese explorers/exploiters in 1500. In a letter to the king of Portugal, the scribe Pero Vaz de Caminha detailed the wonders of the newfound territory and its exotic inhabitants. He was particularly struck by the magnificent natural landscape and the nonchalant nudity of the indigenous women. 518 years later, we hear echoes of Caminha’s depictions in tourism representations of Brazil as a tropical paradise and of Brazilians as a naturally sensual people.

An average of six million international tourists visit Brazil per year. To make sense of why so many people travel to Brazil, it is important to consider how Brazil itself travels. The images of the country that circulate in global mediascapes have a powerful effect on either repelling or attracting visitors as well as in shaping their gazes and expectations. The way a country travels to the potential tourist may deeply inform the way the tourist travels to that country. As polysemic as potentially any other destination, Brazil appeals to a wide variety of types of tourists, whose respective imaginaries reveal more about where they are coming from than where they are going. From the European ecotourists, who travel in search of a pristine natural environment inhabited by noble savages, to the African American roots tourists, who envision Bahia as a “closer Africa” where they can encounter their diasporic counterparts, Brazil is a magnet also for international sex tourists, white and black, who fantasize about the stereotypical Brazilian woman, fully adorned with a Brazilian butt lift, hair styled in a Brazilian blow-out, and possibly also sporting a Brazilian wax.

Continue Reading Patricia de Santana Pinho: Traveling Brazil

Andrew Newman: Captivity Narratives and The Handmaid’s Tale, Part 1

Allegories of Encounter: Colonial Literacy and Indian Captivities by Andrew NewmanToday we welcome the first of a two-part guest post from Andrew Newman, author of Allegories of Encounter:  Colonial Literacy and Indian Captivities, just published by UNC Press and the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture.

Presenting an innovative, interdisciplinary approach to colonial America’s best-known literary genre, Andrew Newman analyzes depictions of reading, writing, and recollecting texts in Indian captivity narratives. While histories of literacy and colonialism have emphasized the experiences of Native Americans, as students in missionary schools or as parties to treacherous treaties, captivity narratives reveal what literacy meant to colonists among Indians. Colonial captives treasured the written word in order to distinguish themselves from their Native captors and to affiliate with their distant cultural communities. Their narratives suggest that Indians recognized this value, sometimes with benevolence: repeatedly, they presented colonists with books.

Allegories of Encounter is available now in both print and ebook editions.

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Captivity Narratives and The Handmaid’s Tale
Part I. Reception Allegories

Why did sales of George Orwell’s 1984 and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale surge in 2017? The immediate answer to this question, that the grim forebodings of these works of speculative fiction are seemingly being fulfilled by current events, is not sufficient. It does not explain the shared impulse to seek out parallels to one’s experience in one’s reading, or the recourse to reading in response to disorienting, upsetting events. A more thoroughgoing explanation emerges through the study of colonial captivity narratives.

Allegories of Encounter is about representations of literacy practices in the narrative accounts of colonists who were captured by Native Americans during colonial wars. It argues that for these captives, reading and writing were part of a reassertion of a cultural identity under duress – even as they were stripped of their European clothes, famished and fatigued, they remained ideationally connected to their estranged communities by reading, writing, recollecting, and meditating on texts.

Moreover, these texts became part of their experience of captivity. That is, a conventional model of intertextuality focuses on the relations between texts, but I argue that stories also inform experiences, and even influence behaviors. I develop the concept of the “reception allegory,” in which the story one is reading, a story about others in other times and places, is also understood as the story of oneself.

Many instances of reception allegory in accounts of captivity extend the Christian interpretive practice of typology. Early New England captives understood the story of the Old Testament Jews who were carried away captive to Babylon as a literal account of an event that occurred in the remote past, as a prefiguration of the story of Christ in the New Testament, and as a pattern for their own experience. For example, the following passage is from Mary Rowlandson’s famous – to early Americanists – 1682 account of captivity during King Philip’s War, The Sovereignty and Goodness of God. It recounts the moment soon after Narragansetts and Wampanoags captured her in a raid on Lancaster, when they brought her across the Connecticut River and into a re-enactment of the 137th Psalm.

Although I had met with so much affliction, and my heart was many times ready to break, yet could I not shed one tear in their sight; but rather had been all this while in a maze, and like one astonished. But now I may say as Psalm 137.1, “By the Rivers of Babylon, there we sate down: yea, we wept when we remembered Zion.”

Continue Reading Andrew Newman: Captivity Narratives and The Handmaid’s Tale, Part 1

The end is near — the last days to shop the UNC Press Holiday Gift Books sale!

UNC Press Holiday Gift Books SaleYes, the holidays are over, the lights and decorations are all put away, and the eggnog (and the Scout Elf) disappear for eleven months.

So too must end the UNC Press Holiday Gift Books sale.  Just one week left — for you to save 40 percent off all UNC Press print books.  And, if your order totals $75, the domestic shipping is FREE!

Click here to start shopping …. and use promo code 01HOLIDAY at checkout to see your discount.

So don’t delay — if you haven’t shopped our sale yet, you only have a few more days left.

And, if you haven’t checked out our newest releases for Spring, click here to browse the full list.

Happy New Year — and happy shopping!

Announcing the Early American Literature Book Prize for 2018

In the Neighborhood: Women’s Publication in Early America by Caroline Wigginton, winner of the 2018 Early American Literature Book PrizeProfessor Caroline Wigginton of the University of Mississippi has been selected to receive the 2018 Early American Literature Book Prize, which is awarded in even calendar years to a first monograph published in the prior two years, and in odd years to a second or subsequent book. Wigginton’s In the Neighborhood: Women’s Publication in Early America was published by the University of Massachusetts Press in 2016.

According to prize committee members, In the Neighborhood “combines media studies with literary analysis to highlight women’s expressive networks,” thereby “showing them to be savvy participants in complex, dense scenes of intercultural encounter.” The study’s innovative approach encourages readers to resist the tendency to think of early American women primarily in symbolic terms related to nationhood monolithically conceived. Instead, it delivers on its titular promise to relocate us “in the neighborhood,” a common phrase in early America used to refer to a smaller geographic region comprised of diverse peoples.

Continue Reading Announcing the Early American Literature Book Prize for 2018

Interview with Keith Allen, owner of Allen & Son Barbecue Restaurant in Chapel Hill, on the occasion of its closing

This past month, the renowned Chapel Hill restaurant, Allen & Son Barbecue, quietly closed its doors for the final time.  It’s owner, Keith Allen, was interviewed in depth by John Shelton Reed, Dale Volberg Reed and William McKinney, in their book, Holy Smoke:  The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue.

For those of us who will forever miss this landmark eatery, we re-run the interview here.

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On the  Fault Line:  Allen & Son, Chapel Hill

“I keep cooking with wood because I’m chasing that flavor.”

Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue, by John Shelton Reed and Dale Volberg ReedKeith Allen has served fine barbecue to a couple of generations of UNC students and locals at Allen & Son, on Highway 86 north of Chapel Hill.  (There’s another Allen & Son on 15-501 toward Pittsboro, but someone else runs it and they no longer cook with wood.)  The hunting and fishing trophies that decorate the walls are almost as memorable as the barbecue, smoked over hickory wood that Mr. Allen splits himself.  Given his location right near the Eastern-Piedmont divide, it’s fitting that Mr. Allen serves Piedmont-style shoulders with an Eastern-style sauce.  In 2007 the Southern Foodways Alliance honored him with its Tabasco Guardian of the Tradition Award.

I started cooking barbecue because I needed money. I was hungry and I needed work and I know how to do the job and somebody was going to pay me to do it.  So in order to eat beans I split wood.  I’m hoping my daughter will be smarter and don’t have to do that — do whatever you could do — in order to make a living.  So many times in the late fifties and sixties that was the major concern.  Around here there were still one-horse farms and board houses — there was just not a lot of money around.  Jobs were just jobs; you just did what you could do every day to make things work that week. And you usually had a garden, and put food in the freezer and lived out of that freezer in the wintertime. A lady called me one time and asked me if I had a recycling program.  I said I’ve had a program like that ever since I’ve been alive. We didn’t throw anything away. My grandmother would take the wrapper out of a cornflake box and use it to line her cake pans with.

In the mid-fifties my family had a little hotdog joint and gas station with two tables, and the owner of the building introduced barbecue there.  [They cooked] just a shoulder or two and had a block and they’d pull that one shoulder out and they’d beat it up and make a sandwich – that’s the way it was done at that time. And every sandwich was different because they’d chop up different portions and then somebody’d just ladle some sauce on it and throw it on a bun and throw some slaw on it and hand it to you and you’re out the door.

I must have been twelve or thirteen, and that was the first time I’d ever seen barbecue actually done. My father went down to what is now our [Pittsboro] location and bought the business out and went into work down there and I started cooking. I don’t remember how, actually.  Maybe I didn’t learn; maybe I just started doing it and it just happened.

Continue Reading Interview with Keith Allen, owner of Allen & Son Barbecue Restaurant in Chapel Hill, on the occasion of its closing

Holiday Recipe: Country Ham Cheesecake from Southern Snacks by Perre Coleman Magness

Perre Coleman Magness is the author of Southern Snacks:  77 Recipes for Small Bites with Big Flavors, published this fall by UNC Press. You can follow her on Twitter.

Here she shares a favorite recipe for your holiday get-together.  Southern Snacks is available now in both print and ebook editions.

(And, during our Holiday Gift Books Sale, you can get Southern Snacks for 40 percent off!  Just use the promo code 01HOLIDAY at checkout.)

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Savory cheesecakes are a thing. I’ve had them at parties all my life. When I submitted the manuscript for Pimento Cheese: The Cookbook to my New York–based publisher, the editors and copy editors were sure that a pimento cheese cheesecake would cause great confusion. When I first conceived this salty, savory, country ham version, I knew it would be good, but in truth, it is better than good. It even surprised me. The added bonus of this treat is that it serves a crowd. And a little pepper jelly on the side is not a bad thing.

Country Ham Cheesecake from Southern Snacks by Perre Coleman MagnessCountry Ham Cheesecake

Serves a crowd

1 sleeve buttery crackers (such as Townhouse), about 34 crackers
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
6 ounces center-cut country ham biscuit slices
4 green onions, white and light green parts
1 clove garlic
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 large eggs
1¼ cups sour cream
8 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon hot sauce (such as Crystal)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Generous grinds of black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick spray. Wrap a piece of foil around the bottom of the pan to catch any dripping butter from the crust.

Process the crackers and pecans to fine crumbs in a small food processor. Add the melted butter and process until it all comes together. It will be very wet—don’t worry. Press the crumbs onto the bottom of the springform pan, pressing a little bit up the sides of the pan. Bake the crust for 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool.

Continue Reading Holiday Recipe: Country Ham Cheesecake from Southern Snacks by Perre Coleman Magness

E. Patrick Johnson: Black. Queer. Southern. Women.

Black. Queer. Southern. Women.: An Oral History by E. Patrick JohnsonToday we welcome a guest post from E. Patrick Johnson, author of Black. Queer. Southern. Women.:  An Oral History, just published by UNC Press.

Drawn from the life narratives of more than seventy African American queer women who were born, raised, and continue to reside in the American South, this book powerfully reveals the way these women experience and express racial, sexual, gender, and class identities–all linked by a place where such identities have generally placed them on the margins of society. Using methods of oral history and performance ethnography, E. Patrick Johnson’s work vividly enriches the historical record of racialized sexual minorities in the South and brings to light the realities of the region’s thriving black lesbian communities.

Black. Queer. Southern. Women. is available now in both print and ebook editions.

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One of the most important lessons I have learned in conducting oral histories is one instilled in me by my now deceased colleague, mentor, and friend, Dwight Conquergood, whose famous line still rings true today: “Opening and interpreting lives, is not the same as opening and closing books.” Indeed, when a scholar solicits a life history from someone—for academic or nonacademic purposes—they have a responsibility to acknowledge the extraordinary gift that they have been given. Trust is never a given and must always be earned. This is particularly true when there is a divide between the one who shares their story and the one who bears witness to it. As a male scholar on a quest to chronicle the lives of black southern women who love women, I was keenly aware of the tightrope I had to walk to represent these stories that would honor these women without making them too “precious.”

E. Patrick Johnson, Book Launch Event for Black.Queer.Southern.Women at Charis Books, Atlanta, GA

E. Patrick Johnson, Book Launch Event for Black.Queer.Southern.Women at Charis Books, Atlanta, GA

My “come to Jesus” moment happened at the book launch of Black. Queer. Southern. Women.:  An Oral History on Saturday, November 10 at Charis Books in Atlanta. Charis is one of the oldest feminist bookstores in the country and just happens to be the site of much black lesbian organizing in the South—where the likes of Audre Lorde, Alice Walker, and Pat Parker first read their work or were part of LGBTQ grassroots organizing. Six of the women I interviewed for the BQSW participated on a panel discussion about their experience of being interviewed for the book and about their lives in general. Aida Rentas, the octogenarian from Puerto Rico; Pat and Cherry Hussain, Mary Anne Adams, and Darlene Hudson from Atlanta; and, Michelle Wright from Winston Salem, NC, all had the audience of over one hundred people smashed in the tiny bookstore, spellbound as they, one by one, shared their stories about how, at first, they were suspicious of my motives for collecting their stories, to warming up to me, to being honored to be included in the book. For Cherry Hussain and Michelle Wright, in particular, this occasion proved very emotional, as they both recounted how important it was for them to share their stories of sexual abuse to the world with the hope that their stories might save lives.

Continue Reading E. Patrick Johnson: Black. Queer. Southern. Women.