Between the eighteenth and mid-twentieth centuries, countless African Americans passed as white, leaving behind families and friends, roots and community. It was, as Allyson Hobbs writes, a chosen exile, a separation from one racial identity and the leap into another. This revelatory history of passing explores the possibilities and challenges that racial indeterminacy presented to men and women living in a country obsessed with racial distinctions. It also tells a tale of loss.
As racial relations in America have evolved so has the significance of passing. To pass as white in the antebellum South was to escape the shackles of slavery. After emancipation, many African Americans came to regard passing as a form of betrayal, a selling of one’s birthright. When the initially hopeful period of Reconstruction proved short-lived, passing became an opportunity to defy Jim Crow and strike out on one’s own.
Although black Americans who adopted white identities reaped benefits of expanded opportunity and mobility, Hobbs helps us to recognize and understand the grief, loneliness, and isolation that accompanied—and often outweighed—these rewards. By the dawning of the civil rights era, more and more racially mixed Americans felt the loss of kin and community was too much to bear, that it was time to “pass out” and embrace a black identity. Although recent decades have witnessed an increasingly multiracial society and a growing acceptance of hybridity, the problem of race and identity remains at the center of public debate and emotionally fraught personal decisions.
When we think about what constitutes being a good citizen, routine activities like voting, letter writing, and paying attention to the news spring to mind. But in Citizen Speak, Andrew J. Perrin argues that these activities are only a small part of democratic citizenship—a standard of citizenship that requires creative thinking, talking, and acting.
For Citizen Speak, Perrin met with labor, church, business, and sports organizations and proposed to them four fictive scenarios: what if your senator is involved in a scandal, or your police department is engaged in racial profiling, or a local factory violates pollution laws, or your nearby airport is slated for expansion? The conversations these challenges inspire, Perrin shows, require imagination. And what people can imagine doing in response to those scenarios depends on what’s possible, what’s important, what’s right, and what’s feasible. By talking with one another, an engaged citizenry draws from a repertoire of personal and institutional resources to understand and reimagine responses to situations as they arise. Building on such political discussions, Citizen Speak shows how a rich culture of association and democratic discourse provides the infrastructure for a healthy democracy.
Opinionated talk show host and columnist Michael Smerconish has been chronicling local, state, and national events for the Philadelphia Daily News and the Philadelphia Inquirer for more than 15 years. He has sounded off on topics as diverse as the hunt for Osama bin Laden and what the color of your Christmas lights says about you. In this collection of 100 of his most memorable columns, Smerconish reflects on American political life with his characteristic feistiness. A new Afterword for each column provides updates on both facts and feelings, indicating how the author has evolved over the years, moving from a reliable Republican voter to a political Independent.
Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right covers the post-9/11 years, Barack Obama’s ascension, and the rise of Donald Trump. Smerconish describes meeting Ronald Reagan, having dinner with Fidel Castro, barbequing with the band YES in his backyard, spending the same night with Pete Rose and Ted Nugent, drinking champagne from the Stanley Cup, and conducting Bill Cosby’s only pretrial interview. He also writes about local Philadelphia culture, from Sid Mark to the Rizzo statue.
Smerconish’s outlook as expressed in these impassioned opinion pieces goes beyond “liberal” or “conservative.” His thought process continues to evolve and change, and as it does, he aims to provoke readers to do the same.
All author proceeds benefit the Children’s Crisis Treatment Center,a Philadelphia- based, private, nonprofit agency that provides behavioral health services to children and their families.
Commentary In American Life
edited by Murray Friedman Temple University Press, 2005 Library of Congress E184.36.P64C66 2005 | Dewey Decimal 296.05
Founded by the American Jewish Committee in 1945 as a monthly journal of "significant thought and opinion, Jewish affairs and contemporary issues," Commentary magazine has through the years had a far-reaching impact on American politics and culture. Commentary in American Life traces this influence over time, especially in creating the neoconservative movement. The authors of each chapter also consider the ways the magazine shaped and reflected major cultural and literary trends in the United States. The end result offers a full accounting of one of the most important journals of American political thought, providing insight into the development of American collective politics and culture over the last six decades.
What are the implications for Americans when actors who play doctors on television endorse medical products, or when an entire town in the Midwest prepares for an earthquake based on the specious advice of a zoologist? These are just two of the many questions Christopher Toumey asks in his investigation of the role of science in American culture. Toumey focuses on the ways in which the symbols of science are employed to signify scientific authority in a variety of cases, from the selling of medical products to the making of public policy about AIDS/HIV––a practice he calls "conjuring" science. It is this "conjuring" of the images and symbols of scientific authority that troubles Toumey and leads him to reflect on the history of public understanding and perceptions of science in the United States. He argues that while most Americans invest a great deal of authority in science, there is a vacuum of understanding about scientific knowledge. This gap between belief and understanding greatly influences public policy decisions and democratic processes.
Toumey argues that instead of comprehending scientific knowledge, methods, or standards, most Americans know science only in terms of symbols that stand for science and that stand between people and scientific understanding. He breaks this paradox down into three questions. First, what are the historical conditions that have caused the culture of science to be so estranged from other parts of American culture? Second, how does science fit into American democratic culture today? And third, if the symbols of science are being used to endorse or legitimize certain values and meanings, but not the values and meanings of science, then to what do they refer?
In witty, readable prose, Toumey investigates these questions by presenting five episodes of science in American life: the fluoridation controversies; the 1986 California referendum on AIDS/HIV policy; the cold fusion controversy; the anti-evolution of creationism; and the mad- scientist stories of fiction and film.
The Cynical Society is a study of the political despair and abdication of (individual) responsibility Goldfarb calls cynicism—a central but unexamined aspect of contemporary American political and social life. Goldfarb reveals with vivid strokes how cynicism undermines our capacity to think about society's strengths and weaknesses. Drawing on thinkers from Alexis de Tocqueville to Allan Bloom and on such recent works as Beloved, Bonfire of the Vanities, and Mississippi Burning, The Cynical Society celebrates cultural pluralism's role in democracy.
Statistics on the American family are sobering. From 1975 to 2000, one-third of all children were born to single mothers, and one-half of all marriages ended in divorce. While children from broken homes are two to three times more likely to develop behavioral and learning difficulties, two-parent families are not immune to problems. The cost of raising children has increased dramatically, and married couples with children are now twice as likely as childless couples to file for bankruptcy. Clearly, the American family is in trouble. But how this trouble started, and what should be done about it, remain hotly contested.
In a multifaceted analysis of the current state of a complex institution, Family Transformed brings together outstanding scholars from the fields of anthropology, demography, ethics, history, law, philosophy, primatology, psychology, sociology, and theology. Demonstrating that the family is both distinctive in its own right and deeply interwoven with other institutions, the authors examine the roles of education, work, leisure, consumption, legal regulation, public administration, and biology in shaping the ways we court and marry, bear and raise children, and make and break family bonds.
International in approach, this wide-ranging volume situates current American debates over sex, marriage, and family within a global framework. Weighing mounting social science evidence that supports a continued need for the nuclear family while assessing the challenges posed by new advocacy for same-sex marriage, and delegalized coupling, the authors argue that only by reintegrating the family into a just moral order of the larger community and society can we genuinely strengthen it. This means not simply upholding traditional family values but truly grasping the family's growing diversity, sustaining its coherence, and protecting its fragility for our own sake and for the common good of society.
Nan Johnson demonstrates that after the Civil War, nonacademic or “parlor” traditions of rhetorical performance helped to sustain the icon of the white middle class woman as queen of her domestic sphere by promoting a code of rhetorical behavior for women that required the performance of conventional femininity. Through a lucid examination of the boundaries of that gendered rhetorical space—and the debate about who should occupy that space—Johnson explores the codes governing and challenging the American woman’s proper rhetorical sphere in the postbellum years.
While men were learning to preach, practice law, and set political policies, women were reading elocution manuals, letter-writing handbooks, and other conduct literature. These texts reinforced the conservative message that women’s words mattered, but mattered mostly in the home. Postbellum pedagogical materials were designed to educate Americans in rhetorical skills, but they also persistently directed the American woman to the domestic sphere as her proper rhetorical space. Even though these materials appeared to urge the white middle class women to become effective speakers and writers, convention dictated that a woman’s place was at the hearthside where her rhetorical talents were to be used in counseling and instructing as a mother and wife.
Aided by twenty-one illustrations, Johnson has meticulously compiled materials from historical texts no longer readily available to the general public and, in so doing, has illuminated this intersection of rhetoric and feminism in the nineteenth century. The rhetorical pedagogies designed for a postbellum popular audience represent the cultural sites where a rethinking of women’s roles becomes open controversy about how to value their words. Johnson argues this era of uneasiness about shifting gender roles and the icon of the “quiet woman” must be considered as evidence of the need for a more complete revaluing of women’s space in historical discourse.
AIDS. Ebola. "Killer microbes." All around us the alarms are going off, warning of the danger of new, deadly diseases. And yet, as Nancy Tomes reminds us in her absorbing book, this is really nothing new. A remarkable work of medical and cultural history, The Gospel of Germs takes us back to the first great "germ panic" in American history, which peaked in the early 1900s, to explore the origins of our modern disease consciousness.
Little more than a hundred years ago, ordinary Americans had no idea that many deadly ailments were the work of microorganisms, let alone that their own behavior spread such diseases. The Gospel of Germs shows how the revolutionary findings of late nineteenth-century bacteriology made their way from the laboratory to the lavatory and kitchen, with public health reformers spreading the word and women taking up the battle on the domestic front. Drawing on a wealth of advice books, patent applications, advertisements, and oral histories, Tomes traces the new awareness of the microbe as it radiated outward from middle-class homes into the world of American business and crossed the lines of class, gender, ethnicity, and race.
Just as we take some of the weapons in this germ war for granted--fixtures as familiar as the white porcelain toilet, the window screen, the refrigerator, and the vacuum cleaner--so we rarely think of the drastic measures deployed against disease in the dangerous old days before antibiotics. But, as Tomes notes, many of the hygiene rules first popularized in those days remain the foundation of infectious disease control today. Her work offers a timely look into the history of our long-standing obsession with germs, its impact on twentieth-century culture and society, and its troubling new relevance to our own lives.
Martin Luther King Jr. Malcolm X. Muhammad Ali. When you think of African American history, you think of its heroes—individuals endowed with courage and strength who are celebrated for their bold exploits and nobility of purpose. But what of black villains? Villains, just as much as heroes, have helped define the black experience.
Ranging from black slaveholders and frontier outlaws to serial killers and gangsta rappers, Hoodlums examines the pivotal role of black villains in American society and popular culture. Here, William L. Van Deburg offers the most extensive treatment to date of the black badman and the challenges that this figure has posed for race relations in America. He first explores the evolution of this problematic racial stereotype in the literature of the early Republic—documents in which the enslavement of African Americans was justified through exegetical claims. Van Deburg then probes antebellum slave laws, minstrel shows, and the works of proslavery polemicists to consider how whites conceptualized blacks as members of an inferior and dangerous race. Turning to key works by blacks themselves, from the writings of Frederick Douglass and W. E. B. Du Bois to classic blaxploitation films like Black Caesar and The Mack, Van Deburg demonstrates how African Americans have combated such negative stereotypes and reconceptualized the idea of the badman through stories of social bandits—controversial individuals vilified by whites for their proclivity toward evil, but revered in the black community as necessarily insurgent and revolutionary.
Ultimately, Van Deburg brings his story up-to-date with discussions of prison and hip-hop culture, urban rioting, gang warfare, and black-on-black crime. What results is a work of remarkable virtuosity—a nuanced history that calls for both whites and blacks to rethink received wisdom on the nature and prevalence of black villainy.
Winner of the 2005 New Jersey Author Award for Scholarly Non-Fiction
Since Irish immigrants began settling in New Jersey during the seventeenth century, they have made a sizable impact on the state’s history and development. As the budding colony established an identity in the New World, the Irish grappled with issues of their own: What did it mean to be Irish American, and what role would “Irishness” play in the creation of an American identity?
In this richly illustrated history, Dermot Quinn uncovers the story of how the Irish in New Jersey maintained their cultural roots while also laying the foundations for the social, economic, political, and religious landscapes of their adopted country. Quinn chronicles the emigration of families from a conflict-torn and famine-stricken Ireland to the unfamiliar land whose unwelcoming streets often fell far short of being paved with gold.
Using case histories from Paterson, Jersey City, and Newark, Quinn examines the transition of the Irish from a rejected minority to a middle-class, secular, and suburban identity. The Irish in New Jersey will appeal to everyone with an interest in the cultural heritage of a proud and accomplished people.
Born the tenth child of a poor Southern sharecropper and barely able to read or write, Jesse Owens used his astonishing drive and athletic ability to win an unprecedented four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. He became an international superstar overnight and exploded Hitler’s myth of Aryan supremacy in the process. This Press edition of the William J. Baker's acclaimed work offers the most complete and probing biography of Owens ever written, vividly detailing the successes and failures of this complex and troubled but ultimately indomitable figure.
Libby Larsen has composed award-winning music performed around the world. Her works range from chamber pieces and song cycles to operas to large-scale works for orchestra and chorus. At the same time, she has advocated for living composers and new music since cofounding the American Composers Forum in 1973.
Denise Von Glahn’s in-depth examination of Larsen merges traditional biography with a daring scholarly foray: an ethnography of one active artist. Drawing on musical analysis, the composer’s personal archive, and seven years of interviews with Larsen and those in her orbit, Von Glahn illuminates the polyphony of achievements that make up Larsen’s public and private lives. In considering Larsen’s musical impact, Von Glahn delves into how elements of the personal—a 1950s childhood, spiritual seeking, love of nature, and status as an “important woman artist”—inform her work. The result is a portrait of a musical pathfinder who continues to defy expectations and reject labels.
The public spaces and buildings of the United States are home to many thousands of timepieces—bells, time balls, and clock faces—that tower over urban streets, peek out from lobbies, and gleam in store windows. And in the streets and squares beneath them, men, women, and children wear wristwatches of all kinds. Americans have decorated their homes with clocks and included them in their poetry, sermons, stories, and songs. And as political instruments, social tools, and cultural symbols, these personal and public timekeepers have enjoyed a broad currency in art, life, and culture.
In Marking Modern Times, Alexis McCrossen relates how the American preoccupation with time led people from across social classes to acquire watches and clocks. While noting the difficulties in regulating and synchronizing so many timepieces, McCrossen expands our understanding of the development of modern time discipline, delving into the ways we have standardized time and describing how timekeepers have served as political, social, and cultural tools in a society that doesn’t merely value time but regards access to time as a natural-born right, a privilege of being an American.
Achievement tests play an important role in modern societies. They are used to evaluate schools, to assign students to tracks within schools, and to identify weaknesses in student knowledge. The GED is an achievement test used to grant the status of high school graduate to anyone who passes it. GED recipients currently account for 12 percent of all high school credentials issued each year in the United States. But do achievement tests predict success in life?
The Myth of Achievement Tests shows that achievement tests like the GED fail to measure important life skills. James J. Heckman, John Eric Humphries, Tim Kautz, and a group of scholars offer an in-depth exploration of how the GED came to be used throughout the United States and why our reliance on it is dangerous. Drawing on decades of research, the authors show that, while GED recipients score as well on achievement tests as high school graduates who do not enroll in college, high school graduates vastly outperform GED recipients in terms of their earnings, employment opportunities, educational attainment, and health. The authors show that the differences in success between GED recipients and high school graduates are driven by character skills. Achievement tests like the GED do not adequately capture character skills like conscientiousness, perseverance, sociability, and curiosity. These skills are important in predicting a variety of life outcomes. They can be measured, and they can be taught.
Using the GED as a case study, the authors explore what achievement tests miss and show the dangers of an educational system based on them. They call for a return to an emphasis on character in our schools, our systems of accountability, and our national dialogue.
Eric Grodsky, University of Wisconsin–Madison
Andrew Halpern-Manners, Indiana University Bloomington
Paul A. LaFontaine, Federal Communications Commission
Janice H. Laurence, Temple University
Lois M. Quinn, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee
Pedro L. Rodríguez, Institute of Advanced Studies in Administration
John Robert Warren, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
Here's a story about a familythat comes from Tijuana and settles into the 'hood, hoping for the American Dream.
. . . I'm not saying it's our story. I'm not saying it isn't. It might be yours. "How do you tell a story that cannot be told?" writes Luis Alberto Urrea in this potent memoir of a childhood divided. Born in Tijuana to a Mexican father and an Anglo mother from Staten Island, Urrea moved to San Diego when he was three. His childhood was a mix of opposites, a clash of cultures and languages. In prose that seethes with energy and crackles with dark humor, Urrea tells a story that is both troubling and wildly entertaining. Urrea endured violence and fear in the black and Mexican barrio of his youth. But the true battlefield was inside his home, where his parents waged daily war over their son's ethnicity. "You are not a Mexican!" his mother once screamed at him. "Why can't you be called Louis instead of Luis?" He suffers disease and abuse and he learns brutal lessons about machismo. But there are gentler moments as well: a simple interlude with his father, sitting on the back of a bakery truck; witnessing the ultimate gesture of tenderness between the godparents who taught him the magical power of love. "I am nobody's son. I am everybody's brother," writes Urrea. His story is unique, but it is not unlike thousands of other stories being played out across the United States, stories of other Americans who have waged war—both in the political arena and in their own homes—to claim their own personal and cultural identity. It is a story of what it means to belong to a nation that is sometimes painfully multicultural, where even the language both separates and unites us. Brutally honest and deeply moving, Nobody's Son is a testament to the borders that divide us all.
On Record provides descriptive accounts of record keeping in a variety of important organizations: schools, from elementary to graduate school; consumer credit agencies, general business organizations, and life insurance companies; the military and security agencies; the Census Bureau and the Social Security Administration; public welfare agencies, juvenile courts, and mental hospitals. It also examines the legal status of records. The authors pose questions such as the following: Who determines what records are kept? Who has access to the records?
In this fascinating history of the portable radio, Michael Schiffer shows how this invention is as American as apple pie. Along the way, he tells how technology has responded to consumer preference, how corporate "cryptohistory" has made us believe the Japanese invented the radio, and how the spread of the portable radio mirrors that of other technologies. More than 400 photographs make this book both a definitive resource and a delightful browse.
Considers how Americans define the quality of their life experiences, as expressed in their perceptions, evaluations, and satisfactions. Based on research conducted by the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, the book uses data which are representative of the national population eighteen years of age and older, and employs the major social characteristics of class, age, education, and income. The authors cover such topics as the residential environment, the experience of work, marriage, and family life, and personal resources and competence. They also report on the situation of women and the quality of the life experience of black people.
Winner of the 2008 AAHN Lavinia Dock Award for Exemplary Historical Research and Writing
Known as "The Great Killer" and "The White Plague," few diseases influenced American life as much as tuberculosis. Sufferers migrated to mountain or desert climates believed to ameliorate symptoms. Architects designed homes with sleeping porches and verandas so sufferers could spend time in the open air. The disease even developed its own consumer culture complete with invalid beds, spittoons, sputum collection devices, and disinfectants. The "preventorium," an institution designed to protect children from the ravages of the disease, emerged in this era of Progressive ideals in public health.
In this book, Cynthia A. Connolly provides a provocative analysis of public health and family welfare through the lens of the tuberculosis preventorium. This unique facility was intended to prevent TB in indigent children from families labeled irresponsible or at risk for developing the disease. Yet, it also held deeply rooted assumptions about class, race, and ethnicity. Connolly goes further to explain how the child-saving themes embedded in the preventorium movement continue to shape children's health care delivery and family policy in the United States.
As Americans enter the new century, their interest in the past has never been greater. In record numbers they visit museums and historic sites, attend commemorative ceremonies and festivals, watch historically based films, and reconstruct family genealogies. The question is, Why? What are Americans looking for when they engage with the past? And how is it different from what scholars call "history"? In this book, David Glassberg surveys the shifting boundaries between the personal, public, and professional uses of the past and explores their place in the broader cultural landscape. Each chapter investigates a specific encounter between Americans and their history: the building of a pacifist war memorial in a rural Massachusetts town; the politics behind the creation of a new historical festival in San Francisco; the letters Ken Burns received in response to his film series on the Civil War; the differing perceptions among black and white residents as to what makes an urban neighborhood historic; and the efforts to identify certain places in California as worthy of commemoration. Along the way, Glassberg reflects not only on how Americans understand and use the past, but on the role of professional historians in that enterprise. Combining the latest research on American memory with insights gained from Glassberg's more than twenty years of personal experience in a variety of public history projects, Sense of History offers stimulating reading for all who care about the future of history in America.
This incisive study takes on one of the grimmest secrets in America's national life—the history of lynching and, more generally, the public punishment of African Americans. Jacqueline Goldsby shows that lynching cannot be explained away as a phenomenon peculiar to the South or as the perverse culmination of racist politics. Rather, lynching—a highly visible form of social violence that has historically been shrouded in secrecy—was in fact a fundamental part of the national consciousness whose cultural logic played a pivotal role in the making of American modernity.
To pursue this argument, Goldsby traces lynching's history by taking up select mob murders and studying them together with key literary works. She focuses on three prominent authors—Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Stephen Crane, and James Weldon Johnson—and shows how their own encounters with lynching influenced their analyses of it. She also examines a recently assembled archive of evidence—lynching photographs—to show how photography structured the nation's perception of lynching violence before World War I. Finally, Goldsby considers the way lynching persisted into the twentieth century, discussing the lynching of Emmett Till in 1955 and the ballad-elegies of Gwendolyn Brooks to which his murder gave rise.
An empathic and perceptive work, A Spectacular Secret will make an important contribution to the study of American history and literature.
Whether at parties, around the dinner table, or at the office, people talk about politics all the time. Yet while such conversations are a common part of everyday life, political scientists know very little about how they actually work. In Talking about Politics, Katherine Cramer Walsh provides an innovative, intimate study of how ordinary people use informal group discussions to make sense of politics.
Walsh examines how people rely on social identities—their ideas of who "we" are—to come to terms with current events. In Talking about Politics, she shows how political conversation, friendship, and identity evolve together, creating stronger communities and stronger social ties. Political scientists, sociologists, and anyone interested in how politics really works need to read this book.
The Trial in American Life
Robert A. Ferguson University of Chicago Press, 2006 Library of Congress KF220.F39 2007 | Dewey Decimal 345.7307
In a bravura performance that ranges from Aaron Burr to O. J. Simpson, Robert A. Ferguson traces the legal meaning and cultural implications of prominent American trials across the history of the nation. His interdisciplinary investigation carries him from courtroom transcripts to newspaper accounts, and on to the work of such imaginative writers as Emerson, Thoreau, William Dean Howells, and E. L. Doctorow. Ferguson shows how courtrooms are forced to cope with unresolved communal anxieties and how they sometimes make legal decisions that change the way Americans think about themselves. Burning questions control the narrative. How do such trials mushroom into major public dramas with fundamental ideas at stake? Why did outcomes that we now see as unjust enjoy such strong communal support at the time? At what point does overexposure undermine a trial’s role as a legal proceeding?
Ultimately, such questions lead Ferguson to the issue of modern press coverage of courtrooms. While acknowledging that media accounts can skew perceptions, Ferguson argues forcefully in favor of full television coverage of them—and he takes the Supreme Court to task for its failure to grasp the importance of this issue. Trials must be seen to be understood, but Ferguson reminds us that we have a duty, currently ignored, to ensure that cameras serve the court rather than the media.
The Trial in American Life weaves Ferguson’s deep knowledge of American history, law, and culture into a fascinating book of tremendous contemporary relevance.
“A distinguished law professor, accomplished historian, and fine writer, Robert Ferguson is uniquely qualified to narrate and analyze high-profile trials in American history. This is a superb book and a tremendous achievement. The chapter on John Brown alone is worth the price of admission.”—Judge Richard Posner
“A noted scholar of law and literature, [Ferguson] offers a work that is broad in scope yet focuses our attention on certain themes, notably the possibility of injustice, as illustrated by the Haymarket and Rosenberg prosecutions; the media’s obsession with pandering to baser instincts; and the future of televised trials. . . . One of the best books written on this subject in quite some time.”—Library Journal, starred review
An engaging collection of essays focusing on American veterans.
War and American Life is a book of essays and reflections by celebrated historian and former marine James Wright, who has been active as an advocate, teacher, and scholar. Featuring both previously published pieces and new essays, the book considers veterans in America and the ways in which our society needs better to understand who they are and what they have done on the nation’s behalf—and the responsibilities that follow this recognition.