The keeping of journals and diaries became an almost everyday pastime for many Americans in the nineteenth century. Adeline and Julia Graham, two young women from Berrien Springs, Michigan, were both drawn to this activity, writing about the daily events in their lives, as well as their 'grand adventures.' These are fascinating, deeply personal accounts that provide an insight into the thoughts and motivation of two sisters who lived more than a century ago. Adeline began keeping a diary when she was sixteen, from mid-1880 through mid-1884; through it we see a young woman coming of age in this small community in western Michigan. Paired with Adeline's account is her sister Julia's diary, which begins in 1885 when she sets out with three other young women to homestead in Greeley County, Kansas, just east of the Colorado border. It is a vivid and colorful narrative of a young woman's journey into America's western landscape.
During the height of racist anti-Chinese U.S. immigration laws, illegal aliens were able to come into the States under false papers identifying them as the sons of those who had returned to China to marry and have children. American Paper Son is the story of one such Chinese immigrant who came to Wichita, Kansas, in 1935 as a thirteen-year-old "paper son" to help in his father's restaurant there.
This vivid first-person account addresses significant themes in Asian American history through the lens of Wong's personal stories. Wong served in one of the all-Chinese units of the 14th Air Force in China during World War II and he discusses the impact of race and segregation on his experience. After the war he found a wife in Taishan, brought her to the US, and became involved in the government's infamous Confession program (an amnesty program for immigrants). Wong eventually became a successful real estate entrepreneur in Wichita. Rich with poignant insights into the realities of life as part of a very small Chinese American population in a Midwestern town, this memoir provides an important new view of the Asian American experience away from the West Coast. Benson Tong adds a scholarly introduction and useful annotations.
If you caught a movie in Kansas through much of the past century, you’re likely to have seen a different version than did the rest of America. Theda Bara’s depictions of wicked sexuality were off-limits, and a film such as the 1932 Scarface showed far too much violence for decent folk—a threat to Protestant culture and to the morals of the general population.
In 1915, Kansas became one of only a handful of states to establish its own film censorship board. The Kansas board controlled screen content in the state for more than fifty years, yet little is known about its activities. This first book-length study of state film censorship examines the unique political, social, and economic factors that led to its implementation in Kansas, examining why censorship legislation was enacted, what the attitudes of Kansans were toward censorship, and why it lasted for half a century.
Cinema historian Gerald Butters places the Kansas Board of Review’s attempts to control screen content in the context of nationwide censorship efforts during the early part of the twentieth century. He tells how factors such as Progressivism, concern over child rearing, and a supportive press contributed to censorship, and he traces the board’s history from the problems posed by the emergence of “talkies” through changing sexual mores in the 1920s to challenges to its power in the 1950s.
In addition to revealing the fine points of film content deemed too sensitive for screening, Butters describes the daily operations of the board, illustrating the difficulties it encountered as it wrestled not only with constantly shifting definitions of morality but also with the vagaries of the political and legal systems. Stills from motion pictures illustrate the type of screen content the board attempted to censor.
As Kansas faced the march of modernity, even state politicians began to criticize film censorship, and Butters tells how by the 1960s the board was fighting to remain relevant as film companies increasingly challenged its attempts to control screen content. Banned in Kansas weaves a fascinating tale of the enforcement of public morality, making it a definitive study for cinema scholars and an entertaining read for film buffs.
David Hanzlick traces the rise and evolution of women’s activism in a rapidly growing, Midwestern border city, one deeply scarred by the Civil War and struggling to determine its meaning. Over the course of 70 years, women in Kansas City emerged from the domestic sphere by forming and working in female-led organizations to provide charitable relief, reform society’s ills, and ultimately claim space for themselves as full participants in the American polity. Focusing on the social construction of gender, class, and race, and the influence of political philosophy in shaping responses to poverty, Hanzlick also considers the ways in which city politics shaped the interactions of local activist women with national women’s groups and male-led organizations.
At once a traveler’s tale, a memoir, and a mouthwatering cookbook, Biting through the Skin offers a first-generation immigrant’s perspective on growing up in America’s heartland. Author Nina Mukerjee Furstenau’s parents brought her from Bengal in northern India to the small town of Pittsburg, Kansas, in 1964, decades before you could find long-grain rice or plain yogurt in American grocery stores. Embracing American culture, the Mukerjee family ate hamburgers and softserve ice cream, took a visiting guru out on the lake in their motorboat, and joined the Shriners. Her parents transferred the cultural, spiritual, and family values they had brought with them to their children only behind the closed doors of their home, through the rituals of cooking, serving, and eating Bengali food and making a proper cup of tea.
As a girl and a young woman, Nina traveled to her ancestral India as well as to college and to Peace Corps service in Tunisia. Through her journeys and her marriage to an American man whose grandparents hailed from Germany and Sweden, she learned that her family was not alone in being a small pocket of culture sheltered from the larger world. Biting through the Skin shows how we maintain our differences as well as how we come together through what and how we cook and eat. In mourning the partial loss of her heritage, the author finds that, ultimately, heritage always finds other ways of coming to meet us. In effect, it can be reduced to a 4 x 6-inch recipe card, something that can fit into a shirt pocket. It’s on just such tiny details of life that belonging rests.
In this book, the author shares her shirt-pocket recipes and a great deal more, inviting readers to join her on her journey toward herself and toward a vital sense of food as culture and the mortar of community.
Whether slaves or free men, African Americans were generally excluded from military service until Emancipation. Many Americans know the story of the United States Colored Troops, who broke racial barriers in Civil War combat, and of the “buffalo soldiers,” who served in the West after that conflict, but African Americans also served in segregated militia units in twenty-three states. This book tells the story of that experience in Kansas.
Roger Cunningham examines a lost history to show that, in addition to black regulars, hundreds of other black militiamen and volunteers from the Sunflower State provided military service from the Civil War until the dawn of the twentieth century. He tells how African Americans initially filled segregated companies hurriedly organized to defend the state from the threat of Confederate invasion, with some units ordered into battle around Kansas City. Then after the state constitution was amended to admit blacks into the Kansas National Guard, but its generals still refused to integrate, blacks served in reserve militia and independent companies and in all-black regiments that were raised for the Spanish-American and Philippine wars.
Cunningham has researched service records, African American newspapers, and official correspondence to give voice to these citizen-soldiers. He shares stories of real people like William D. Matthews, a captain in the First Kansas Colored Infantry who was refused a commission when his regiment was mustered into the Union army; Charles Grinsted, who commanded the first black militia company after the Civil War; and other unsung heroes.
More than a military history, Cunningham’s account records the quest of black men, many of them former slaves, for inclusion in American society. Many came from the bottom of the socioeconomic order and found that as militiamen they could gain respect within their communities. And by marching in public ceremonies and organizing fund-raising activities to compensate for lack of financial support from the state, they also strengthened the ties that bound African American communities together.
TheBlack Citizen-Soldiers of Kansas,1864–1901 broadens the story of these volunteers beyond the buffalo soldiers, telling how they served their state and country in both peace and war. It opens a new chapter in history both for the state and for African Americans throughout the United States.
The most bitter guerrilla conflict in American history raged along the Kansas-Missouri border from 1856 to 1865, making that frontier the first battleground in the struggle over slavery. That fiercely contested boundary represented the most explosive political fault line in the United States, and its bitter divisions foreshadowed an entire nation torn asunder. Jeremy Neely now examines the significance of the border war on both sides of the Kansas-Missouri line and offers a comparative, cross-border analysis of its origins, meanings, and consequences.
A narrative history of the border war and its impact on citizens of both states, The Border between Them recounts the exploits of John Brown, William Quantrill, and other notorious guerrillas, but it also uncovers the stories of everyday people who lived through that conflict. Examining the frontier period to the close of the nineteenth century, Neely frames the guerrilla conflict within the larger story of the developing West and squares that violent period with the more peaceful—though never tranquil—periods that preceded and followed it.
Focusing on the countryside south of the big bend in the Missouri River, an area where there was no natural boundary separating the states, Neely examines three border counties in each state that together illustrate both sectional division and national reunion. He draws on the letters and diaries of ordinary citizens—as well as newspaper accounts, election results, and census data—to illuminate the complex strands that helped bind Kansas and Missouri together in post–Civil War America. He shows how people on both sides of the line were already linked by common racial attitudes, farming practices, and ambivalence toward railroad expansion; he then tells how emancipation, industrialization, and immigration eventually eroded wartime divisions and facilitated the reconciliation of old foes from each state.
Today the “border war” survives in the form of interstate rivalries between collegiate Tigers and Jayhawks, allowing Neely to consider the limits of that reconciliation and the enduring power of identities forged in wartime. The Border between Them is a compelling account of the terrible first act of the American Civil War and its enduring legacy for the conflict’s veterans, victims, and survivors, as well as subsequent generations.
A City Divided traces the development of white Kansas Citians’ perceptions of race and examines the ways in which those perceptions shaped both the physical landscape of the city and the manner in which Kansas City was policed and governed. Because of rapid changes in land use and difficulties in suppressing crime and vice in Kansas City, the control of urban spaces became an acute concern, particularly for the white middle class, before race became a problematic issue in Kansas City.
As the African American population grew in size and assertiveness, whites increasingly identified blacks with those factors that most deprived a given space of its middle-class character. Consequently, African Americans came to represent the antithesis of middle-class values, and the white middle class established its identity by excluding blacks from the urban spaces it occupied.
By 1930, racial discrimination rested firmly on gender and family values as well as class. Inequitable law enforcement in the ghetto increased criminal activity, both real and perceived, within the African American community. White Kansas Citians maintained this system of racial exclusion and denigration in part by “misdirection,” either by denying that exclusion existed or by claiming that segregation was necessary to prevent racial violence. Consequently, African American organizations sought to counter misdirection tactics. The most effective of these efforts followed World War II, when local black activists devised demonstration strategies that targeted misdirection specifically.
At the same time, a new perception emerged among white liberals about the role of race in shaping society. Whites in the local civil rights movement acted upon the belief that integration would produce a better society by transforming human character. Successful in laying the foundation for desegregating public accommodations in Kansas City, black and white activists nonetheless failed to dismantle the systems of spatial exclusion and inequitable law enforcement or to eradicate the racial ideologies that underlay those systems.
These racial perceptions continue to shape race relations in Kansas City and elsewhere. This study demystifies these perceptions by exploring their historical context. While there have been many studies of the emergence of ghettos in northern and border cities, and others of race, gender, segregation, and the origins of white ideologies, A City Divided is the first to address these topics in the context of a dynamic, urban society in the Midwest.
In 1974, Dennis Lynn Rader stalked and murdered a family of four in Wichita, Kansas. Since adolescence, he had read about serial killers and imagined becoming one. Soon after killing the family, he murdered a young woman and then another, until he had ten victims. He named himself “B.T.K.” (bind, torture, kill) and wrote notes that terrorized the city. He remained on the loose for thirty years. No one who knew him guessed his dark secret. He nearly got away with his crimes, but in 2004, he began to play risky games with the police. He made a mistake. When he was arrested, Rader’s family, friends, and coworkers were shocked to discover that B.T.K. had been among them, going to work, raising his children, and acting normal. This case stands out both for the brutal treatment of victims and for the ordinary public face that Rader, a church council president, had shown to the outside world. Through jailhouse visits, telephone calls, and written correspondence, Katherine Ramsland worked with Rader himself to analyze the layers of his psyche. Using his drawings, letters, interviews, and Rader’s unique codes, she presents in meticulous detail the childhood roots and development of one man’s motivation to stalk, torture, and kill. She reveals aspects of the dark motivations of this most famous of living serial killers that have never before been revealed. In this book Katherine Ramsland presents an intelligent, original, and rare glimpse into the making of a serial killer and the potential darkness that lives next door.
As American politics has become increasingly polarized, gridlock at the federal level has led to a greater reliance on state governments to get things done. But this arrangement depends a great deal on state cooperation, and not all state officials have chosen to cooperate. Some have opted for conflict with the federal government.
Conservative Innovators traces the activity of far-right conservatives in Kansas who have in the past decade used the powers of state-level offices to fight federal regulation on a range of topics from gun control to voting processes to Medicaid. Telling their story, Ben Merriman then expands the scope of the book to look at the tactics used by conservative state governments across the country to resist federal regulations, including coordinated lawsuits by state attorneys general, refusals to accept federal funds and spending mandates, and the creation of programs designed to restrict voting rights. Through this combination of state-initiated lawsuits and new administrative practices, these state officials weakened or halted major parts of the Obama Administration’s healthcare, environmental protection, and immigration agendas and eroded federal voting rights protections. Conservative Innovators argues that American federalism is entering a new, conflict-ridden era that will make state governments more important in American life than they have been at any time in the past century.
On a hot summer evening in 1958, a group of African American students in Wichita, Kansas, quietly entered Dockum's Drug Store and sat down at the whites-only lunch counter. This was the beginning of the first sustained, successful student sit-in of the modern civil rights movement, instigated in violation of the national NAACP's instructions. Based on interviews with over eighty participants and observers of this sit-in, Dissent in Wichita traces the contours of race relations and black activism in an unexpected locus of the civil rights movement, revealing that the movement was a national, not a southern, phenomenon.
In Dragging Wyatt Earp essayist Robert Rebein explores what it means to grow up in, leave, and ultimately return to the iconic Western town of Dodge City, Kansas. In chapters ranging from memoir to reportage to revisionist history, Rebein contrasts his hometown’s Old West heritage with a New West reality that includes salvage yards, beefpacking plants, and bored teenagers cruising up and down Wyatt Earp Boulevard.
Along the way, Rebein covers a vast expanse of place and time and revisits a number of Western myths, including those surrounding Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, the Cheyenne chief Black Kettle, George Armstrong Custer, and of course Wyatt Earp himself. Rebein rides a bronc in a rodeo, spends a day as a pen rider at a local feedlot, and attempts to “buck the tiger” at Dodge City’s new Boot Hill Casino and Resort.
Funny and incisive, Dragging Wyatt Earp is an exciting new entry in what is sometimes called the nonfiction of place. It is a must- read for anyone interested in Western history, contemporary memoir, or the collision of Old and New West on the High Plains of Kansas.
The Flood: A Novel
Carol Ascher Northwestern University Press, 1996 Library of Congress PS3551.S32F5 1996 | Dewey Decimal 813.54
Nine-year-old Eva Hoffman is the daughter of Austrian Jewish refugees who have found a precarious safety among a small community of European exiles attached to a psychoanalytic hospital in Topeka, Kansas. It is 1951, and the landmark school desegregation case, Brown v. Topeka Board of Education, is being tried in the local court. As the rising river inundates the town, the Hoffmans open their home to refugees from the flood, and Eva learns the complexities of prejudice—and courage—both within and outside her family.
No part of the United States escaped the ravages of the Great Depression, but some coped with it better than others. This book examines New Deal relief programs in Kansas throughout the Depression, focusing on the relationship between the state and the federal government to show how their successful operation depended on the effectiveness of that partnership.
Ranging widely over all of Kansas’s 105 counties, Peter Fearon provides a detailed analysis of the key relief programs for both urban and rural areas and shows that the state’s Republican administration—led by FDR’s later presidential opponent Governor Alf Landon—effectively ran New Deal welfare policies. As early as 1933, federal officials reported the Kansas central relief administration to be one of the most efficient in the country, and funding for farm policies was generous enough to keep many Kansas farm families off the relief rolls. Indeed, historically high levels of social spending ensured that New Deal initiatives were radical for their day, but Fearon shows that, especially in Kansas, fears of the debilitating effects of the dole and the insistence on means testing and work relief served as conservative balances to the threat of a dependency culture.
Drawing on extensive research at the county level, Fearon examines relief problems from the perspective of recipients, social workers, and poor commissioners, all of whom had to cope with inadequate and fluctuating funding. He plumbs the sometimes volatile relationships between social workers and their clients to illustrate the formidable difficulties faced by the former and explain reasons for—and effects of—strikes and riots by the latter. He also investigates the operation of work relief, considers the treatment of women and blacks in the distribution of welfare resources, and assesses the effects of the WPA on employment—showing that the majority of those eligible were unable to secure positions and were forced to fall back on county relief.
Kansas in the Great Depression is an insightful look at how federal, state, and local authorities worked together to deal with a national emergency, revealing the complexities of policy initiatives not generally brought to light in studies at the national level while establishing important links between pre-Roosevelt policies and the New Deal. It reaffirms the virtues of government programs run by dedicated public officials as it opens a new window on Americans helping Americans in their darkest hours.
When the Civil War broke out in April 1861, Kansas was in a unique position. It had been a state for mere weeks, and already its residents were intimately acquainted with civil strife. Since its organization as a territory in 1854, Kansas had been the focus of a national debate over the place of slavery in the Republic. By 1856, the ideological conflict developed into actual violence, earning the territory the sobriquet “Bleeding Kansas.” Because of this steady escalation in violence, the state’s transition from peace to war was not as abrupt as that of other states.
Kansas’s War illuminates the new state’s main preoccupations: the internal struggle for control of policy and patronage; border security; and issues of race—especially efforts to come to terms with the burgeoning African American population and Native Americans’ coninuing claims to nearly one-fifth of the state’s land. These documents demonstrate how politicians, soldiers, and ordinary Kansans were transformed by the war.
McKay's Bees: A Novel
Thomas McMahon University of Chicago Press, 2003 Library of Congress PS3563.C3858M36 2003 | Dewey Decimal 813.54
Moving from Massachusetts to Kansas in 1855 with his new wife and a group of German carpenters, Gordon McKay is dead set on making his fortune raising bees—undaunted by Missouri border ruffians, newly-minted Darwinism, or the unsettled politics of a country on the brink of civil war.
A Mother's Kisses
Bruce Jay Friedman University of Chicago Press, 2000 Library of Congress PS3556.R5M6 2000 | Dewey Decimal 813.54
A Mother's Kisses is the story of Joseph, a tall, scattered looking boy of seventeen and his wonderfully indomitable mother, Meg, who is resolved, in the summer after her son's high-school graduation to start arranging his life for him, even going so far as to accompany him to college. A work of roaring comedy and emotional honesty, A Mother's Kisses is a classic of modern fiction.
Newcomers in the Workplace documents and dramatizes the changing face of the American workplace, transformed in the 1980s by immigrant workers in all sectors. This collection of excellent ethnographies captures the stench of meatpacking plants, the clatter of sewing machines, the sweat of construction sites, and the strain of management-employee relations in hotels and grocery stores as immigrant workers carve out crucial roles in a struggling economy.
Case studies focus on three geographical regions—Philadelphia, Miami, and Garden City, Kansas—where the active workforce includes increasing numbers of Cubans, Haitians, Koreans, Puerto Ricans, Laotians, Vietnamese, and other new immigrants. The portraits show these newcomers reaching across ethnic boundaries in their determination to retain individualism and to insure their economic survival.
In the series Labor and Social Change, edited by Paula Rayman and Carmen Sirianni.
Historians have written on “Bleeding Kansas” and on the frontier army as a constabulary force, but little scholarship exists on how the army performed its peacekeeping operations in the 1850s. In Peacekeeping on the Plains, Tony R. Mullis is one of the first scholars to detail the military concerns associated with peace enforcement in Kansas and the trans-Missouri West.
Between 1854 and 1856, the Franklin Pierce administration called upon the U.S. Army to conduct a series of peace operations in the newly formed Kansas and Nebraska territories. The army responded to the president’s call by successfully completing a mission against the Lakota Sioux in 1855 and by aiding civil authorities in the imposition of peace among competing factions in Kansas during 1856.
Although these police duties were not always popular with the soldiers that conducted them, the purpose behind them remained constant—the maintenance of peace, order, and security. Given Americans’ misgivings about a standing army and their limited expectations for it as a domestic peacekeeper, its use in this fashion during the 1850s was a delicate proposition.
By drawing on diverse sources, including official army correspondence, personal papers of key military and political leaders, and local accounts of army activities, Mullis shows how peace operations were conducted by the U.S. Army long before the second half of the twentieth century. He alsopresents a thorough analysis of the professional dilemmas confronted by army officers, as well as the delicate command and control issues associated with the different types of peace operations.
Mullis’s assessment of the army’s peacekeeping efforts in the mid-1850s offers a full understanding of the constraints and frustrations involved. Many of the dilemmas faced by the army in Kansas parallel those encountered in various spots around the globe today. Peacekeeping on the Plains will provide any reader with a better insight into the nuances of peace operations in the 1850s and assist military historians in their understanding of these activities as they relate to the twenty-first century.
In the late 1800s an unprecedented coalition of American farmers rose to challenge the course of national politics. Aspiring to a society in which justice and equality were the norm, the farmers galvanized thousands of voters, causing two dominant political parties to reshape their agendas. Yet by 1900, the movement was virtually dead. Scott G. McNall analyzes why America's largest mass-democratic movement failed. He focuses his inquiry on Kansas, the center of the agrarian rebellion that led to the creation of the Farmer's Alliance and, later, to the founding of the People's party. Integrating new historical accounts with original analyses of census data, Alliance membership records, and speech transcripts, McNall restores these Kansas voices, revealing their struggle against an entrenched class system, indifferent political parties, and economic hardship.
McNall rejects the traditional view that blames the failure of the Alliance on a turn to mass-based electoral politics, but rather sees the move into national politics by the Farmer's Alliance as part of a rational strategy to better wage their fight for economic justice. The Kansas populists failed, he argues, because of their inability to embrace a broad, working-class base, to provide an effective alternative vision, and ultimately to create a distinct class organization. Debates about how classes come into being, or how democracy is to be realized, cannot be settled in the abstract. McNall's recreation of this heroic struggle is a model in the analysis of class formation. At the same time, The Road to Rebellion is dynamic social history, which holds vital lessons for structuring and realizing alternative political agendas today.
As a young officer candidate in the Austrian army in 1938, Francis Heller put himself at risk by refusing to swear an oath of allegiance to Adolf Hitler. Had he stayed in Vienna, he would have been arrested by the Gestapo as a supporter of Austrian independence and an enemy of the Nazis. But he managed to escape into Czechoslovakia under cover of darkness. He subsequently made his way to America, where he finally pursued the academic career that military service had interrupted.
Steel Helmet and Mortarboard is the story of this Austrian refugee who earned an American law degree in 1941 and set his sights on studying political science but a year later was drafted into the U.S. Army. In his second military career, Heller opted for service as an enlisted man in a combat unit. After basic training, he was assigned as a private in a regular army division. Then in a field artillery unit, he so distinguished himself in combat in the Pacific theater that he received a battlefield commission and went on to serve in the early months of the occupation of Japan—and on one assignment, escorting German nationals home from the Far East, found himself back in Europe and witnessing evidence of the horrors at Dachau that he himself had barely managed to escape.
Heller’s account of those years recalls how an upper-middle-class émigré adjusted to military life while serving in such combat zones as New Guinea and the Philippines, then how he later resumed his academic career, earned his Ph.D., and went on to teach at the University of Kansas. But Heller’s return to academic life was anything but final: recalled to active duty for the Korean War, he also served in later years with the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth.
After a lifetime of changing hats—mortarboard for helmet and back again—Heller, now in his nineties, has recorded his unique perceptions as an educated observer of the world. Steel Helmet and Mortarboard is an absorbing narrative of one individual’s experiences across a spectrum of personal and professional challenges, written with wry humor and insight that reflect a keen ability to master whatever circumstances life brings.
Often defined as a mostly southern phenomenon, racist violence existed everywhere. Brent Campney explodes the notion of the Midwest as a so-called land of freedom with an in-depth study of assaults both active and threatened faced by African Americans in post “Civil War Kansas." Campney's capacious definition of white-on-black violence encompasses not only sensational demonstrations of white power like lynchings and race riots, but acts of threatened violence and the varied forms of pervasive routine violence--property damage, rape, forcible ejection from towns--used to intimidate African Americans. As he shows, such methods were a cornerstone of efforts to impose and maintain white supremacy. Yet Campney's broad consideration of racist violence also lends new insights into the ways people resisted threats. African Americans spontaneously hid fugitives and defused lynch mobs while using newspapers and civil rights groups to lay the groundwork for forms of institutionalized opposition that could fight racist violence through the courts and via public opinion. Ambitious and provocative, This Is Not Dixie rewrites fundamental narratives on mob action, race relations, African American resistance, and racism's grim past in the heartland.
An Ohio family with roots in the South, the Ewings influenced the course of the Midwest for more than fifty years. Patriarch Thomas Ewing, a former Whig senator and cabinet member who made his fortune as a real estate lawyer, raised four major players in the nation’s history—including William Tecumseh “Cump” Sherman, taken into the family as a nine-year-old, who went on to marry his foster sister Ellen. Ronald D. Smith now tells of this extraordinary clan that played a role on the national stage through the illustrious career of one of its sons.
In Thomas Ewing Jr.: Frontier Lawyer and Civil War General, Smith introduces us to the Ewing family, little known except among scholars of Sherman, to show that Tom Jr. had a remarkable career of his own: first as a real estate lawyer, judge, soldier, and speculator in Kansas, then as a key figure in national politics. Smith takes readers back to Bleeding Kansas, with its border ruffians and land speculators, reconstructing the rough-and-tumble of its courtrooms to demonstrate that its turmoil was as much about claim-jumping as about slavery. He describes the seat-of-the-pants law practice in which Ewing worked with his brothers Hugh and Charlie and foster brother Cump. He then tells how Tom came to national prominence in the fight over the proslavery Lecompton Constitution, was instrumental in starting up the Union Pacific Railroad, and became the first chief justice of the Kansas Supreme Court.
Ewing obtained a commission in the Union Army—as did his brothers—and raised a regiment that saw significant action in Arkansas and Missouri. After William Quantrill’s raid on Lawrence, Kansas, he issued the dramatic General Order No. 11 that expelled residents from sections of western Missouri. Then this confidant of Abraham Lincoln’s went on to courageously defend three of the assassination conspirators—including the disingenuous Samuel Mudd—and lobbied the key vote to block the impeachment of Andrew Johnson.
Smith examines Ewing’s life in meticulous detail, mining family correspondence for informative quotes and digging deep into legal records to portray lawmaking on the frontier. And while Sherman has been the focus of most previous work on the Ewings, this book fills the gaps in an interlocking family of remarkable people—one that helped shape a nation’s development in its courtrooms and business suites. Thomas Ewing Jr.: Frontier Lawyer and Civil War General retells a chapter of Kansas history and opens up a panoramic view of antebellum America, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the Gilded Age.
The tallgrass prairie once stretched from Indiana to Kansas to Minnesota. Most of this land is now growing corn and soybeans. In To Find a Pasqueflower, Greg Hoch shows us that the tallgrass prairie is the most endangered ecosystem on the continent, but it’s also an ecosystem that people can play an active role in restoring.
Hoch blends history, culture, and science into a unified narrative of the tallgrass prairie, with an emphasis on humans’ participation in its development and destruction. Hoch also demonstrates how variable and dynamic the prairie is, creating both challenges and opportunities for those who manage and restore and appreciate it.
A political movement rallies against underregulated banks, widening gaps in wealth, and gridlocked governments. Sound familiar? More than a century before Occupy Wall Street, the People’s Party of the 1890s was organizing for change. They were the original source of the term “populism,” and a catalyst for the later Progressive Era and New Deal.
Historians wrote approvingly of the Populists up into the 1950s. But with time and new voices, led by historian Richard Hofstadter, the Populists were denigrated, depicted as demagogic, conspiratorial, and even anti-Semitic.
In a landmark study, Walter Nugent set out to uncover the truth of populism, focusing on the most prominent Populist state, Kansas. He focused on primary sources, looking at the small towns and farmers that were the foundation of the movement. The result, The Tolerant Populists, was the first book-length, source-based analysis of the Populists. Nugent’s work sparked a movement to undo the historical revisionism and ultimately found itself at the center of a controversy that has been called “one of the bloodiest episodes in American historiography.”
This timely re-release of The Tolerant Populists comes as the term finds new currency—and new scorn—in modern politics. A definitive work on populism, it serves as a vivid example of the potential that political movements and popular opinion can have to change history and affect our future.
Ralph F. Vosswas a high school junior in Plainville, Kansas in mid-November of 1959 when four members of the Herbert Clutter family were murdered in Holcomb, Kansas, by “four shotgun blasts that, all told, ended six human lives,” an unimaginable horror in a quiet farm community during the Eisenhower years. No one in Kansas or elsewhere could then have foreseen the emergence of Capote’s book–which has never gone out of print, has twice been made into a major motion picture, remainsrequired reading in criminology, American Studies, sociology, and English classes, and has been the source of two recent biographical films.
Voss examines Capote and In Cold Blood from many perspectives, not only as the crowning achievement of Capote’s career, but also as a story in itself, focusing on Capote’s artfully composed text, his extravagant claims for it as reportage, and its larger status in American popular culture.
Voss argues that Capote’s publication of In Cold Blood in 1966 forever transcended his reputation as a first-rate stylist but second-rate writer of “Southern gothic” fiction; that In Cold Blood actually is a gothic novel, a sophisticated culmination of Capote’s artistic development and interest in lurid regionalism, but one that nonetheless eclipsed him both personally and artistically. He also explores Capote’s famous claim that he created a genre called the “non-fiction novel,” and its status as a foundational work of “true crime” writing as practiced by authors ranging from Tom Wolfe and Norman Mailer to James Ellroy, Joe McGinniss, and John Berendt.
Voss also examines Capote’s artful manipulation of the story’s facts and circumstances: his masking of crucial homoerotic elements to enhance its marketability; his need for the killers to remain alive long enough to get the story, and then his need for them to die so that he could complete it; and Capote’s style, his shaping of the narrative, and his selection of details–why it served him to include this and not that, and the effects of such choices—all despite confident declarations that “every word is true.”
Though it’s been nearly 50 years since the Clutter murders and far more gruesome crimes have been documented, In Cold Blood continues to resonate deeply in popular culture. Beyond questions of artistic selection and claims of truth, beyond questions about capital punishment and Capote’s own post-publication dissolution, In Cold Blood’s ongoing relevance stems, argues Voss, from its unmatched role as a touchstone for enduring issues of truth, exploitation, victimization, and the power of narrative.
The daughter of German immigrants, Mary Knackstedt married Henry Dyck, a Mennonite farmer, and in 1905 moved west to a settlement near Lamont Township in Hamilton County, Kansas. For the next thirty years they enjoyed growth and prosperity. Then the drought and dust storms that had driven many farmers from the region in the early years of the century returned. The Dycks remained on their farm and witnessed the mass exodus of farmers and townspeople—including close friends and family—who fled the Kansas wheat country to find work.
Though she had only a fifth-grade education, Mary Knackstedt Dyck faithfully kept a diary. Written with pencil on lined notebook paper, her daily notations tell the story of farm life on the far western border of Kansas during the grim Dust Bowl years. Manuscript diaries from this era and region are extremely rare, and those written by farm women are even more so. From the point of view of a wife, mother, and partner in the farming enterprise, Dyck recorded the everyday events as well as the frustrations of living with drought and dust storms and the sadness of watching one's children leave the farm.
A remarkable historical document, the diary describes a period in this century before the telephone and indoor plumbing were commonplace in rural homes—a time when farm families in the Plains states were isolated from world events, and radio provided an enormously important link between farmsteads and the world at large. Waiting on the Bounty brings us unusual insights into the agricultural and rural history of the United States, detailing the tremendous changes affecting farming families and small towns during the Great Depression.
Pamela Riney-Kehrberg has provided an edited version of the diary entries from 1936 to 1941. Her informative introduction tells the story of the Dycks' settlement in western Kansas and places the diary in its historical context.
In this extraordinary tale of union democracy, Dana L. Cloud engages union reformers at Boeing in Wichita and Seattle to reveal how ordinary workers attempted to take command of their futures by chipping away at the cozy partnership between union leadership and corporate management. Taking readers into the central dilemma of having to fight an institution while simultaneously using it as a bastion of basic self-defense, We Are the Union offers a sophisticated exploration of the structural opportunities and balance of forces at play in modern unions told through a highly relevant case study.
Focusing on the 1995 strike at Boeing, Cloud renders a multi-layered account of the battles between company and the union and within the union led by Unionists for Democratic Change and two other dissident groups. She gives voice to the company's claims of the hardships of competitiveness and the entrenched union leaders' calls for concessions in the name of job security, alongside the democratic union reformers' fight for a rank-and-file upsurge against both the company and the union leaders.
We Are the Union is grounded in on-site research and interviews and focuses on the efforts by Unionists for Democratic Change to reform unions from within. Incorporating theory and methods from the fields of organizational communication as well as labor studies, Cloud methodically uncovers and analyzes the goals, strategies, and dilemmas of the dissidents who, while wanting to uphold the ideas and ideals of the union, took up the gauntlet to make it more responsive to workers and less conciliatory toward management, especially in times of economic stress or crisis. Cloud calls for a revival of militant unionism as a response to union leaders' embracing of management and training programs that put workers in the same camp as management, arguing that reform groups should look to the emergence of powerful industrial unions in the United States for guidance on revolutionizing existing institutions and building new ones that truly accommodate workers' needs.
Drawing from communication studies, labor history, and oral history and including a chapter co-written with Boeing worker Keith Thomas, We Are the Union contextualizes what happened at Boeing as an exemplar of agency that speaks both to the past and the future.