History Buzz, November 15, 22, 2010: Debating Stephen Douglas’s Legacy at Eastern Illionis University

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor/Features Editor at HNN. She has a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University. Her blog is History Musings


  • Douglas Hall name sparks debate: Eastern Illionis University students gathered in the Doudna Fine Arts Center to listen to a panel of faculty debate whether Douglas Hall should be renamed. The panel consisted of English professors, Christopher Hanlon and Michael Loudon, and history professors, Martin Hardeman and Mark Hubbard. The panel was moderated by Janice Collins, a journalism professor. The debate began with opening statements from each panelist, followed by questions…. – Den News, 11-2-10
  • Campus undecided over renaming hall: On September 18, 1858, Illinois Senators Abraham Lincoln and Stephan A. Douglas participated in their fourth debate together in Charleston, Ill. where the Coles County Fairgrounds are today. In order to commemorate the event, the university later named two residence halls after the senators, Lincoln Hall and Douglas Hall. Now, English professor Christopher Hanlon has started a debate about the idea of renaming Douglas Hall to Douglass Hall, after Frederick Douglass. Hanlon’s reasoning sets within the legislation Douglas publicly endorsed- he ran on a platform that would extend slavery into the west. When this issue came up, questions came up across campus. Is this building commemorating the debate that took place or the individual man, Stephan A. Douglas, who advocated for the extension of slavery? On Nov. 1, a debate took place that focused on the man- Stephen A. Douglas. Hanlon and Michael Loudon were opposed to Douglas while Mark Hubbard and Martin Hardemon were unopposed…. – Den News, 11-11-10
  • Allen C. Guelzo: The Douglas Debate–No Lincoln This Time: What’s in a name? A great deal, if it happens to be Stephen A. Douglas. A hundred and fifty years ago, Stephen Arnold Douglas was the most powerful politician in America. He had begun his political career as a hyper-loyal Andrew Jackson Democrat, snatched up one of Illinois’ U.S. Senate seats in 1846, and rose from there to the heights of Congressional stardom by helping the great Henry Clay cobble together the Compromise of 1850 – which effectively averted civil war over the expansion of slavery into the West for another decade. No man was a more obvious presidential candidate than Douglas, and in 1860, he won his party’s nomination to the presidency. That, unhappily for Douglas, was when the cheering stopped. Still, Douglas’s name was revered by Illinois Democrats for a generation afterward…. Douglas Hall, a 200-bed residence hall built in the 1950s [at Eastern Illinois University], may have been the most innocuous of all the memorializations of Stephen A. Douglas. But not after November 9th…. – Minding the Campus (11-17-10)
  • The New Lincoln-Douglas Debate – Inside Higher Ed (11-16-10)
  • Column: Taking history seriously is important Christopher Hanlon/Associate Professor of American Literature: In a column published in yesterday’s Daily Eastern News, Mark Hubbard accuses supporters of re-naming Douglas Hall of attempting to “prettify history.” He claims that it “distorts history” to “vilify” Stephen Douglas, whose legislation made slavery legal where it had not been since 1820, and whose public remarks seethed contempt for African Americans. But in fact, those of Douglass’ own era were harsh in their assessment of his contributions. The New York Tribune called out Douglas for being “on his marrow bones at the feet of slavery” after the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill, while Senator Salmon Chase of Ohio criticized Douglas for having served “Slavery that again wants more room … Slavery with its insatiate demand for more slave territory and more slave States.”… – Den News, 11-17-10
  • Staff Editorial: Douglas Hall more than just a name: On September 18, 1858, Illinois Senators Abraham Lincoln and Stephan A. Douglas participated in their fourth debate together in Charleston, where the Coles County Fairgrounds are today. In order to commemorate the event, the university later named two residence halls after the senators, Lincoln Hall and Douglas Hall. Professor Christopher Hanlon has worked this semester to try and change the name of Douglas Hall. Early proposals suggested the university rename the building after Frederick Douglass, a former slave who worked to abolish slavery. Recently, Hanlon has proposed to change the name to Douglass, but is willing for it to be another person. The Daily Eastern News editorial board does not support changing the name of Douglas Hall in any form. Three residence halls, Lincoln and Douglas, are named after the two prominent figures in the debates over slavery. Though these debates took place in many different cities in Illinois, one of the debates was here in Charleston, extending some historical significance to this town. The debate of whether to change the name stems from some of Douglas’ role in the Kansas-Nebraska Act, helping to enact the Fugitive Slave Law that criminalized the work of the Underground Railroad and the claim he was a white supremacist…. – Den News, 11-17-10
  • Allen C. Guelzo, a prominent Lincoln scholar, is William Garwood Visiting Professor of Politics at Princeton.
    Douglas’s entire policy toward race and slavery arose from an even more toxic assumption, which Douglas deified as the principle of “popular sovereignty.” In Douglas’s dictionary, democracy is an end in itself, and democratic process amounts entirely to consulting what a majority of the people want at any given time. If the voters wanted to legalize slavery, so be it; if not, that was up to them, too, so long as they did not attempt to force this conviction on others. “The principle of self-government is, that each community shall settle this question for itself… and we have no right to complain, either in the North or the South, whichever they do.” Douglas liked to speak of this as an example of what he called “diversity;” but in the context of the crisis over slavery in the 1850s, what it meant in practical terms was that “If Kansas wants a slave-State constitution she has a right to it…. I do not care whether it is voted down or voted up.”
  • Christopher Hanlon, an associate professor of American literature, the 19th century
    Stephen Douglas gave voice to a contemptuous view of African Americans, a view that has long since been recognized as incompatible with modern American democracy. The Kansas-Nebraska Act, which Douglas introduced into the Senate in 1854 and which was passed principally with the support of Southern votes that year, effectively annulled the 1820 Missouri Compromise, which had stipulated that slavery would be prohibited north of the 36°30′ parallel of the United States…. The conflagration in Kansas, indeed, was one of the most decisive events in U.S. history, propelling the nation toward its eventual division in 1861…. The fact is that Stephen Douglas inveighed and legislated tirelessly on behalf of the interests of slavery. Unlike with Lincoln or Jefferson or Washington, there’s little on the record to complicate that.”
  • Martin Hardeman, an associate professor of history who studies the 19th century and African-American history
    The Faculty Senate resolution is “a presentist idea in that it is imposing values of the present on views from the past…. Douglas was very much a man of his time, what we would consider a white supremacist. He was neither for nor against slavery. He was very much for the Union after losing the election.”
  • Thomas D. Russell, a professor of legal history at the University of Denver whose research led the University of Texas at Austin
    However wrongheaded we think he was today, he was acting within the confines of the common law, of the Constitution at the time. Scouring the past for people who took the wrong positions is not fruitful.
  • Jonathan Coit, an assistant professor of history, the 20th century
    “I look at this through the lens of historiography about slavery, and the war and Reconstruction.”… Naming a hall for Douglas “tells us the story of the Civil War as it was understood in the 1950s, that it was about states’ rights, and that the Civil War was a tragic struggle, a brothers’ war.” “The pairing of Lincoln and Douglas to stand for the entirety of the debate on slavery draws from that narrative.”


  • Hot Topics: Thanksgiving
  • Jerry Plantz: Thanksgiving story omits much history: Thanksgiving Day, four centuries later. We have been taught the myth since grade school that our first settlers were those 53 surviving settlers, of which 32 were Pilgrims, who landed at Plymouth, Mass., in 1620. They first celebrated Thanksgiving sometime in early autumn, 1621. Actually, they were celebrating a successful harvest with Native America King Massasoit of the Wampanoags.
    The Plymouth entourage was not the first white American settlers. That distinction belongs to those first pathfinders sent by the London Company to Jamestown, Va., in 1607. Further, renowned historian James W. Loewen reminds us in his writings, “Starting the story of America’s settlement with the Pilgrims leaves out not only American Indians but also the Spanish. The first non-Native settlers in the United States were African slaves left in South Carolina in 1526 by Spaniards who abandoned a settlement attempt. …. Few Americans know that one-third of the United States, from San Francisco to Arkansas to Natchez to Florida, has been Spanish longer than it has been “America.”…. – Examiner, 11-20-10
  • Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims: Coming inside from the chilling wind and stepping toward the fire provides welcome warmth, yet the thick smoke in the air compels one to move toward the open door and window for relief. Making a choice between these two conditions, combined with a dirt floor and no real place of comfort to sit down begs the question of how anyone could have lived this way. This was part of an experience from one of the best trips ever taken one November a few years ago. It was where visitors can learn about one of the first permanent settlements in the New World by walking through the primitive streets and homes while observing the inhabitants in the course of their daily lives. Where can you also explore the vessel that brought these people across the Atlantic almost 400 years ago and visit a nearby Native homesite? This place is Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, Massachusetts and the site of the “First Thanksgiving.”… – Observer, NY, 11-21-10
  • Plimoth Plantation helps reveal “The Real Story of Thanksgiving”: From the truth about the first Thanksgiving to the history behind Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the History Channel and Workaholic Productions had their hands full with creating “The Real Story of Thanksgiving,” which premiered Thursday night at Plimoth Plantation. The show, which will air on the History Channel next Monday at 9 p.m., is one of three episodes dedicated to revealing the truth about the holidays. Workaholic Productions also produced “The Real Story of Halloween” last month, and will air “The Real Story of Christmas” on Nov. 29, also on the History Channel…. – Boston Globe, 11-19-10


  • Dispute Over Dead Sea Scrolls Leads to a Jail Sentence: A man convicted of impersonating a New York University scholar in a debate over the Dead Sea Scrolls was sentenced on Thursday to six months in jail and five years’ probation. The man, Raphael Haim Golb, was taken from a courtroom in State Supreme Court in Manhattan in handcuffs, after which one of his lawyers headed to the appellate division to ask that he be allowed to remain free pending appeal. Mr. Golb, 50, a real estate lawyer, was convicted in September on 30 of 31 counts, including identity theft, criminal impersonation and aggravated harassment. Mr. Golb’s father, Norman, is a prominent University of Chicago professor who studies the Dead Sea Scrolls…. – NYT (11-18-10)
  • Historian Michael Bliss advises end universality in Canadian health care…National Post (11-18-10)
  • Igor Pykhalov: Pro-Stalin historian attacked in Russia: ‘Igor Pykhalov was beaten on Thursday night near his house by two people aged about 30 and of Caucasian appearance,’ a police representative from the southeastern Nevsky district of Russia’s second largest city told AFP…. Straits Times (11-13-10)
  • Environmental historian William Cronon elected president of American Historical Association: Historians around the country recently elected a University of Wisconsin professor as president of the American Historical Association, UW officials announced Friday… Cronon said he will serve as president-elect in 2011 before assuming his position as president in 2012… – Badger Herald (11-14-10)
  • Duke historian Peter Sigal draws fire for provocative Facebook photo: A history professor at Duke University has attracted criticism from bloggers for posting a picture of engaged in BDSM activity on his Facebook profile. The photograph of Peter Sigal, a historian of sexuality and Latin America at Duke University, was published on K.C. Johnson’s blog Durham-in-Wonderland. Dr. Sigal is shown to be choking and whipping a kneeling, bound-and-gagged young man. Dr. Sigal co-hosted an “informal gathering” with Joelyn Olcott and Sally Deutsch on historicizing the Karen Owen affair. Ms. Owen is the Duke student who crafted a faux thesis on her sex life with a number of student-athletes…. – HNN Staff (11-16-10)
  • Controversy continues over WWII Hawaii conference: Penelope Blake, a history professor at Rock Valley College in Rockford, IL, appeared on Fox News’s Hannityon November 11 to discuss her outrage over a National Endowment for the Humanities-sponsored workshop on the Pacific War she attended in July. She came away from the workshop, hosted by the East-West Center at the University of Hawaii, disgusted by what she called an “extremist, agenda-driven, revisionist conference,” and wrote a letter to her congressman, Illinois Republican Donald Manzullo, and NEH chairman Jim Leach in late October calling for a comprehensive review of NEH policy. She subsequently released the letter to the conservative blog Powerline, which called for an investigation on November 1…. – HNN Staff (11-14-10)
  • At University of Tampa, never a tenured African-American: History and geography professor George F. Botjer, 73, is white, and he is committed to racial justice. These two factors shaped the professor’s career in a personal way at the University of Tampa. He has taught at UT since 1962, longer than any other professor. He earned tenure during the 1965-66 school year and was promoted to full professor in 1974. He loves his work and Tampa U, as he refers to it…. – St. Petersburg Times (11-8-10)
  • ‘Jewish assets seized by Nazis funded 30 percent of WWII expenses,’ estimates historian: Historians have uncovered evidence leading to the estimation that the Nazis’ wartime confiscation of wealth from Europe’s Jews financed about 30 percent of the expenditure of the German armed forces during WWII. The official study of the German Finance Ministry under the Nazis from 1933 to 1945 was conducted by historian Hans- Peter Ullmann. Last month a similar study of the German Foreign Ministry under the Nazis established that its diplomats and bureaucrats played a key role in the Holocaust…. – Haaretz (11-8-10)
  • ‘I was wrong,’ admits historian over claims of Malaya massacre: A public inquiry into one of Britain’s darkest postwar military incidents, the alleged massacre of 24 unarmed villagers by UK troops in Malaya, has moved a step closer after the official British historian of the “Malayan emergency” last week withdrew his account of the 1948 incident. Professor Anthony Short said his initial report absolving British troops was “wrong”. The plantation workers were shot by a 16-man patrol of the Scots Guards. Many of the victims’ bodies were reported to have been mutilated, and the village of Batang Kali was burned to the ground…. – Guardian (UK) (11-7-10)
  • Ripping the USA: Revising History Dismally: It happened in July. A group of 25 selected professor historians met in Hawaii at a workshop sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). They were to present and hear scholarly papers on the history of these United States in World War II. It was to be a high-level intellectual rendering of that war receding now into history. It turned out to be a largely left-liberal diatribe about our nation’s sinful past. It was partisan as hell and, worst of all, an awkward attempt to rewrite history to make America out to be the world’s worst villain and all- around Bad Guy. Some speaker/presenters, presumably sticklers for historical accuracy, even made the USA out to be the moral equivalent of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. Yes, you read that correctly. The workshop was at the East-West Center at University of Hawaii. Its title sounded noble enough, and honest — “History and Commemoration: The Legacies of the Pacific War.” Content, much of it at least, was neither noble nor honest, nor exclusively about the Pacific War. The scholars’ gathering became a platform for anti-American, anti-military rants by suspect historians who should have known better…. – American Thinker (11-6-10)


  • Eric Weinberger:” All the president’s books: In my two years working in the president’s office at Harvard, before I was laid off in spring, I gave myself the job of steward of her books. Gift books would arrive in the mail, or from campus visitors, or from her hosts when she traveled; books by Harvard professors were kept on display in reception or in storage at our Massachusetts Hall office; books flowed in from publishers, or authors seeking blurbs, or self-published authors of no reputation or achievement, who sometimes sent no more than loosely bound manuscripts…. – Boston Globe, 11-21-10
  • Niall Ferguson: In China’s Orbit: …Despite the painful interruption of the Great Depression, the U.S. suffered nothing so devastating as China’s wretched mid-20th century ordeal of revolution, civil war, Japanese invasion, more revolution, man-made famine and yet more (“cultural”) revolution. In 1968 the average American was 33 times richer than the average Chinese, using figures calculated on the basis of purchasing power parity (allowing for the different costs of living in the two countries). Calculated in current dollar terms, the differential at its peak was more like 70 to 1. This was the ultimate global imbalance, the result of centuries of economic and political divergence. How did it come about? And is it over?… – WSJ (11-18-10)
  • Victor Davis Hanson: The George W. Bush Fixation: Barack Obama remains fixated on George W. Bush. For nearly two years, President Obama and his team have prefaced their explanations for the tough economy, the tough finances, and the tough situation abroad with a “Bush did it” chorus. Apparently, they believed that most of our problems, here and abroad, either started with George W. Bush, or at least would not transcend him….
    Obama’s serial fixation on his predecessor made little sense when he first took office — and it has now become a disastrous misreading of political realities…. – National Review (11-18-10)
  • Damian Thompson: Oxford professor throws hissy fit over Ordinariate: From behind the Times paywall, the muffled sound of a High Table explosion. Quick, someone send for help! Diarmaid MacCulloch, Professor of the History of the Church at Oxford, has suffered a devastating failure of scholarly objectivity. His face is getting redder and redder as he struggles to come to terms with… eeeek! … the Ordinariate!… – Telegraph (UK) (11-9-10)


  • Sarah Palin’s ‘America by Heart’ sure to stir friends – and enemies: Sarah Palin’s new book ‘America by Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag’ goes on sale Tuesday. It arrives as Palin ponders a run for the presidency, drawing criticism from the right…. – LAT, 11-21-10
  • Palin book lauds ‘Juno,’ snubs JFK: ‘America by Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith and Flag,’ due out Nov. 23, has been billed as a tribute to American values…. – LAT, 11-20-10
  • Mark Twain’s Autobiography Flying Off the Shelves: “Autobiography of Mark Twain” is a smash hit across the country. Now it is a smash hit across the country, landing on best-seller lists and going back to press six times, for a total print run — so far — of 275,000. The publisher cannot print copies quickly enough, leaving some bookstores and online retailers stranded without copies just as the holiday shopping season begins…. – NYT, 11-20-10Excerpt
  • Edmund Morris: Final Scenes From a Life of Bully Adventure: COLONEL ROOSEVELT Theodore Roosevelt lived for 60 hale, hearty, prodigiously adventurous years. Edmund Morris has devoted more than half that time to writing a magisterial three-volume Roosevelt biography. He began by writing a screenplay about the young Roosevelt’s cattle ranching years in the Dakota Territory. This led to the biography’s Pulitzer Prize- winning first volume, “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt,” in 1979. It took more than two decades for Mr. Morris to complete his installment about the Roosevelt presidency, “Theodore Rex,” which arrived in 2001. Now with “Colonel Roosevelt,” the magnum opus is complete. And it deserves to stand as the definitive study of its restless, mutable, ever-boyish, erudite and tirelessly energetic subject. Mr. Morris has addressed the toughest and most frustrating part of Roosevelt’s life with the same care and precision that he brought to the two earlier installments. And if this story of a lifetime is his own life’s work, he has reason to be immensely proud…. – NYT, 11-17-10
  • JOHN STEELE GORDON Reviewing H. W. Brands How Economic Brawn Transformed a Nation: AMERICAN COLOSSUS The Triumph of Capitalism, 1865-1900 H. W. Brands tells this story of extraordinary economic transformation in his new book, “American Colossus.” Mr. Brands, a professor at the University of Texas, Austin, and one of the country’s foremost historians, has written first-rate biographies of Benjamin Franklin, Andrew Jackson and both Presidents Roosevelt, as well as numerous other books on American history. In “American Colossus” he paints a broad picture, putting the growth of American economy firmly in the political and social context of the time. He has no ideological ax to grind, providing a rounded and largely fair portrait of the capitalists and the world they made. This is warts-and-all history, but the warts don’t get undue attention. Mr. Brands opens his account just after the Civil War, which had greatly fostered American industry with its unprecedented demands for guns, powder, railroad rails and rolling stock, blankets, uniforms and a thousand other industrial products. At the same time the huge increase in the national debt turned Wall Street from a minor player in world markets into the second largest financial market on the globe, after London’s. A booming industrial base and a rapidly expanding capital market on Wall Street provided the synergy that produced the colossus of the book’s title…. –
  • Mr. Clemens, in his own words: AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARK TWAIN Volume 1 Edited by Harriet Elinor Smith
    Hard upon a fat dose of advance publicity – including a cover story in Newsweek and a front-page report in the New York Times – here at last is the first volume of the “Autobiography of Mark Twain,” published, as its author wished, a century after his death. The response in the press and elsewhere has mostly been genuflection and adulation, not surprising when one considers that this is a “new” book by one of the very few American writers whose greatness is beyond question. Still, our gratitude for this book should be tempered by an objective reading of it, which yields less rhapsodic judgments…. – WaPo, 11-21-10
  • Review: “Revival,” Richard Wolffe’s look inside Obama White House: REVIVAL The Struggle for Survival Inside the Obama White House If the word “revival” has been associated with anyone this year, it is the Republican Party, which has raised itself from the dead, or the tearful televangelist Glenn Beck, who led an old-fashioned camp meeting on the Mall in August. The president of the United States would not seem to have an especially strong claim. Which gives Richard Wolffe’s new book — or, at least, its title — a counterintuitive quality. In “Revival,” Wolffe, a cable news commentator and veteran journalist, zeroes in on the first few months of 2010, a brief but, he contends, “defining period” in which President Obama “was forced to reexamine himself and his team” and emerged wiser and stronger. Wolffe’s central piece of evidence is the improbable passage of health-care reform, thanks largely to the president’s constancy and grit. Progress in other areas — the economy, especially — was more incremental, as Wolffe recounts…. – WaPo, 11-21-10
  • Danielle L. McGuire: Black women’s cries that roused the world: AT THE DARK END OF THE STREET Black Women, Rape, and Resistance: A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power In the segregated American South, a white man could rape a black woman with little fear of legal or social recourse, and black women lived in a persistent state of apprehension. Rape was used as a weapon of terror in the subjugation of black women, their families and whole communities. In “At the Dark End of the Street,” Danielle L. McGuire writes that white men raped black women and girls “with alarming regularity and stunning uniformity,” with some victims as young as 7. While some readers will rightly be stunned by that assertion, many African American women will recognize a commonly acknowledged danger…. – WaPo, 11-21-10
  • What Obama and Palin have in common: Sarah Palin: AMERICA BY HEART Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag; Barack Obama: of thee i sing A Letter to My Daughters We’re a nation of shared hopes and shared heroes, so it’s no surprise that President Obama and Sarah Palin trot out the same American demigods in new books aimed at scoring points for patriotism.
    President Obama’s “Of Thee I Sing” is an illustrated work for children that the dad in chief wrote as a letter to his daughters. The book, released last week, offers brief flag-waving portraits of memorable Americans throughout history. Palin’s “America by Heart,” due out this week, is a fast-reading reiteration of the former Alaska governor’s folksy values, centered around God, gunpowder and family… – WaPo, 11-21-10
  • Gal Beckerman: Refuseniks’ rough road to Israel: WHEN THEY COME FOR US, WE’LL BE GONE The Epic Struggle to Save Soviet Jewry …In the years that followed, the Soviet Union collapsed, and the refuseniks left the U.S.S.R. and were forgotten. In “When They Come for Us, We’ll Be Gone,” a fresh, surprising and exceedingly well-researched book, Gal Beckerman retells their story. Or rather, he retells two stories: that of the Soviet Jews who made their religion and their desire to emigrate to Israel into a protest movement, and that of the American Jews who championed their cause. Alternating chapters between Russia and the United States, Beckerman shows how the two groups developed in a strange symbiosis, even while knowing very little about each other…. – WaPo, 11-21-10
  • Rebellion in Boston Harbor Retracing the story of the Tea Party, the patriots’ act of defiance in 1773: Despite the rise of the Tea Party movement, no one can be sure whether it will remain a political force in the future. But its appropriation of the Boston Tea Party of December 1773 bears witness to the enduring symbolism of that iconic event in American history. No question that the Boston Tea Party was a trigger for the Revolution, writes Benjamin L. Carp in his sterling account of the event. But, argues Carp, a professor of history at Tufts University, it was not the spontaneous citizen uprising of historic myth. After the success of the Revolution, it vanished from public memory until well into the 19th century…. – Boston Globe, 11-21-10
  • Kicked out: How gold lust uprooted native Americans: Book review: “Driven West: Andrew Jackson’s Trail of Tears to the Civil War,” by A.J. Langguth. Simon & Schuster, $30.
    Following passage of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminole nations (collectively known as The Five Civilized Tribes) were forcibly removed from their homelands east of the Mississippi to reservations in Indian territory in (present-day) Oklahoma. The whites have “more land than they can use,” a Cherokee boy protested. “What do they want to get ours for?” The answer was gold, which was discovered near Dahlonega, Ga., in 1829. And the insatiable hunger of speculators eager to be awarded farms (cultivated by Indians for generations) in a lottery…. – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 11-21-10
  • Omar Ali: ‘In the Lion’s Mouth’ Rewrites Chapter of African-American History: The collapse of Reconstruction was not the end of African-American political activism in the South during the late 19th century as it is often portrayed – far from it, argues Dr. Omar Ali in his new book, “In the Lion’s Mouth: Black Populism in the New South, 1886-1900.” Black populism, an independent political movement of African-American farmers, sharecroppers and agrarian workers distinct from the white populist movement of the same period, was the largest black movement in the South until the rise of the modern civil rights movement, says the historian and associate professor in the UNCG African American Studies Program…. – Univ. of North Carolina Greensboro, 11-17-10
  • Timothy Garton Ash: Spheres of Influence: FACTS ARE SUBVERSIVE Political Writing From a Decade Without a Name Timothy Garton Ash specializes in what he calls (quoting George F. Kennan) the “history of the present.” He is a historian with the journalist’s urge to be there, and a journalist with the historian’s knowledge of where he is. These qualities have made him one of the most reliable and acute observers of the past present, able to report on events as a witness and, simultaneously, assess them with a coolness of judgment that almost always holds up over time…. – NYT, 11-14-10
  • Jon Meacham on A. J. Langguth: Original Sins: DRIVEN WEST Andrew Jackson and the Trail of Tears to the Civil War …And as a biographer of Andrew Jackson I had long struggled to reconcile his love of union with his fondness for states’ rights. So it was with quickened interest that I began A. J. Langguth’s “Driven West: Andrew Jackson and the Trail of Tears to the Civil War.” Langguth’s case, roughly put, is that the passage of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, Jackson’s breaking of Indian treaties and his support of the Southern states, especially Georgia, in resisting a Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of the Cherokees were “salvos . . . fired in the nation’s first civil war” — a war that gave us the next, more cataclysmic one three decades later. But the horrors of the Trail of Tears did not take America from the 1830s to the horrors of the Civil War…. – NYT, 11-14-10Excerpt
  • Robert Coram: How a Little Man Became a Big, Big Marine in World War II and Beyond: BRUTE The Life of Victor Krulak, U.S. Marine The military historian Robert Coram captures General Krulak’s striding march across the Marine Corps, and across the American century, in “Brute: The Life of Victor Krulak, U.S. Marine.” It’s a work of popular military history that’s at times ragged and hectoring, but always plainspoken and absorbing…. – NYT, 11-14-10Excerpt
  • David Greenberg Reviews Aziz Rana: History Review Sweet land of liberty – and empire: THE TWO FACES OF AMERICAN FREEDOM This fundamental challenge of writing groundbreaking historical syntheses, I think, explains why, despite its commendable ambition, Aziz Rana’s “Two Faces of American Freedom” comes as something of a disappointment. An assistant professor of law at Cornell University, Rana has in his first book attempted a synthesis that follows in the footsteps of such scholarly heavyweights as Christopher Lasch (“The True and Only Heaven”), Michael Sandel (“Democracy’s Discontent”) and Robert Wiebe (“Self-Rule”), to name but a few – all of whom bemoaned America’s supposed slide from a Jeffersonian republic of self-sufficient farmers and workmen to a vast administrative state that allows citizens only token participation in national political decisions…. – WaPo, 11-14-10
  • Michael Kazin Reviews Philip Dray: History Review Labor’s lost love: THERE IS POWER IN A UNION The Epic Story of Labor in America In this book, Philip Dray seeks to use the past to help American unionists escape the substantial disdain of the present. His thick, engrossing narrative about close to 200 years of labor history is dedicated to the simple proposition that unions, while hardly without their flaws, did much to turn the United States into a more decent, more egalitarian society and might do so again, if they ever reverse a decline that began some four decades ago…. – WaPo, 11-14-10
  • UK media was wrong to condemn unions over Solidarnosc, says historian: The press – and 1980 Thatcher Government – unfairly criticised the trade union movement over its support for the newly formed Polish Solidarity Trade Union, according to the most detailed analysis of the period ever carried out. Professor Stefan Berger, from The University of Manchester, says an initial slowness to react gave way to strong political and practical support – often behind the scenes- for Lech Walesa’s fledgling union by his UK counterparts. The findings, a chapter in a new book published this month, emerge on the thirtieth anniversary of the tumultuous events which captivated the world in 1980…. – University of Manchester (11-8-10)


  • Humanities scholars embrace digital technology: “The digital humanities do fantastic things,” said the eminent Princeton historian Anthony Grafton. “I’m a believer in quantification. But I don’t believe quantification can do everything. So much of humanistic scholarship is about interpretation.”…
    Digital humanities scholars also face a more practical test: What knowledge can they produce that their predecessors could not? “I call it the ‘Where’s the beef?’ question said Tom Scheinfeldt, managing director of the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University…. – NYT (11-16-10)
  • The Lost Colony may now be found: It’s a typical day at the Hatteras Histories and Mysteries Museum in Buxton, N.C., and Scott Dawson is buzzing around glass cases full of centuries-old arrowheads and broken pottery. Puzzled visitors listen as he explains for the gazillionth time the difference between fact and speculation. • He speaks with certainty in a voice tinged with more than a hint of frustration. • “Anybody who researches it knows that the colony came down here,” he says, confidently dismissing competing theories on America’s oldest unsolved mystery. • The artifacts, many unearthed during archaeological digs in the past year, may hold the clues that finally answer the question: What happened to the Lost Colony, a group of 117 Englishmen who settled on a tiny island off the North Carolina coast and then vanished with barely a trace? The 32-year-old Dawson has a personal stake in what happened to the early settlers. The son of a family whose roots can be traced back to the Croatoan Indians, he thinks his ancestors have been falsely maligned by the legends that have grown up around the case of the missing Englishmen…. – The Virginian-Pilot, 11-1-10


  • Routine Has Become History for Niall Ferguson: The British historian and Harvard University professor talks to The Wall Street Journal Europe about how he starts his weekend. Best-selling author Niall Ferguson’s travel schedule is out of hand. “I often don’t even know what day it is,” he says, only half mockingly. When he isn’t shuttling all over the world to give speeches, do research or film documentaries, the financial and economics historian splits his time between Boston and London. His most recent book “High Financier: The Lives and Times of Siegmund Warburg” has been critically acclaimed, and his documentary “Civilization: the West and the Rest” will be released next spring. A regular television commentator whose debating style, controversial views and telegenic looks have led to his being referred to as the “rock-star historian,” Mr. Ferguson is currently on a year away from Harvard to teach at the London School of Economics and to work on a biography of Henry Kissinger…. – WSJ (11-19-10)


  • Stephanie Coontz consulted in Pew marriage poll: Stephanie Coontz, professor of history and family studies at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., was among four scholars who consulted with Pew. “The relationship of marriage is taken more seriously than it used to be and it means more to people, but the institution is no longer as dominant,” she says…. – USA Today (11-18-10)
  • Neil Foley, associate professor of history and American studies at the University of Texas at Austin, Latinos lack unifying figure, historian says: “Latinos are a relatively new creation in terms of the label Hispanic or Latino,” which was instituted by the U.S. Census in 1980, he said… Segments of Latinos have their own leaders in different parts of the country, Foley explained…. – Brownsville Herald (11-17-10)


  • Simon Schama interview: history is dangerous, teachers need to be brave: Simon Schama, the new government adviser on history teaching, tells Sameer Rahim why children need a return to chronology…. – Telegraph UK, 11-20-10
  • Stories From Victims Of Stalin’s Terror with Stephen F. Cohen: Stephen F. Cohen wrote his new book, The Victims Return, which tells the stories of survivors of Stalin’s Terror, more than two decades after he first outlined it. He began research in the 1970s, while living in Russia and befriending former Gulag inmates, but then put the project aside. In 2007, the year his friend the historian Robert Conquest turned 90, Cohen picked up where he left off. In the opinion of Anna Larina, the widow of the prominent Stalin victim Nikolai Bukharin, recounting this history was Cohen’s “fate.” “It was a duty unfulfilled, a debt unpaid,” Cohen told HuffPost. “People had taken risks for me, and I hadn’t done what I said I was going to do. And then I did it — late, but I did it.”… – HuffPo (11-11-10)
  • Four Loko and the history of banned drinks with Daniel Okrent: So where does the Four Loko ban figure in the history of taboo spirits? To get some historical perspective, we turned to Dan Okrent, the former public editor of the New York Times and an expert on the biggest ban in alcohol history: Prohibition. Okrent’s book. “The Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition” is the definitive history of the period. Salon spoke with him over the phone about how moral outrage over alcohol is different today than 80 years ago, and whether the banning of a drink can actually make it more popular…. – Salon (11-15-10)
  • Author and historian Jonathan Soffer speaks about his biography of Ed Koch: Historian Jonathan Soffer’s biography, Ed Koch and the Rebuilding of New York City, is a richly sourced and detailed assessment of the mayor, a city in the financial trenches and urban politics. We spoke with Soffer, a professor of history at NYU-Poly, about working with Koch, his enduring public persona and the real cause of New York City’s money problems… – NY Press (11-15-10)
  • Lawrence Goodwyn: The Great Predicament Facing Obama: What happened to the dream of Barack Obama’s transformational politics? There’s been very little deviation from the disastrous Bush years on the key issues of war, empire and the distribution of wealth in the country. I turned to Lawrence Goodwyn, historian of social movements whose books and methods of explaining history have had a profound influence on many of the best known authors, activists and social theorists of our time. Goodwyn’s account of the Populist movement, Democratic Promise, is quoted extensively by Howard Zinn in People’s History of the United States, and also in William Greider’s masterpiece on the Federal Reserve, Secrets of the Temple. You can find Goodwyn quoted in the first paragraph of Bill Moyers’ recent book, On Democracy, and cited in just the same way in countless other books and essays. I interviewed Goodwyn from his home in Durham, North Carolina about the pitfalls of recording American history, Obama’s presidency in light of previous presidents, and portents of change in our political culture…. – Alternet (10-30-10)


  • British professor wins Cundill literary prize: An Oxford professor and noted historian has won the $75,000 Cundill Prize for his acclaimed book A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years. The prize jury announced British historian Diarmaid MacCulloch as the 2010 winner of McGill University’s non-fiction historical literature honour at a ceremony in Montreal Sunday night. “At a time when quarrels between believers and non-believers, new atheists and old faithfuls, dominate so much of our public discourse, Diarmaid MacCulloch has given us the one thing that we most need — not polemic but history, high, wide, and lucid, and, given the enormity of his task, often winningly light of touch,” juror Adam Gopnik said in a statement. “If any book could truly fulfill the charge of the Cundill Prize — to make first class history more potent to a wide reading public, and above all to remind us that history, even three thousand years worth, matters — this one does,” said Gopnik, a New Yorker writer and McGill alumnus. The author triumphed over the more than 180 entries submitted from around the globe this year. MacCulloch, 59, also hosted a six-part BBC television series based on his book. His previous titles include Thomas Cranmer: A Life, which won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and Reformation: Europe’s House Divided 1490–1700, which won a National Book Critics Circle Award and the British Academy Book Prize…. – CBC, 11-15-10
  • Historian Will Direct Schomburg Center in Harlem: Khalil Gibran Muhammad, a history professor at Indiana University, has been named the new director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, to begin in July. New York Public Library officials made the announcement on Wednesday, ending a sometimes contentious search…. – NYT (11-18-10)
  • History Professor Named Visiting Scholar at the American Academy of Arts & Sciences: Jason Sharples, assistant professor of history, has been appointed a visiting scholar at the American Academy of Arts & Sciences for the 2010-2011 academic year…
    He will be working on a project titled “Mastering Fear: Imagination, Rebellion, and Race in Early America and the Atlantic World, 1640-1800.” He says he hopes the results of his project will challenge people “to question their assumptions about how often slave rebellions occurred in colonial America, and to see that colonists’ outsized dread of insurrection shaped their world far more profoundly.”… – Media Newswire, 11-12-10
  • Cape Breton University to honour rights icon with named chair: Nova Scotia rights icon Viola Desmond is being honoured by Cape Breton University,+ which is creating a chair in her name — the Viola Desmond chair in social justice. Desmond, a black woman, was convicted in 1946 for sitting in the whites-only section of a movie theatre in New Glasgow. She was pardoned by the province earlier this year. History professor Graham Reynolds will be the first holder of the chair…. – CBC News (11-5-10)


  • THE NEW-YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY MAKES ITS MOST IMPORTANT COLLECTIONS RELATING TO SLAVERY AVAILABLE ONLINE: Rich trove of material becomes easily accessible at www.nyhistory.org/slaverycollection The New-York Historical Society is proud to announce the launch of a new online portal to nearly 12,000 pages of source materials documenting the history of slavery in the United States, the Atlantic slave trade and the abolitionist movement. Made readily accessible to the general public for the first time at www.nyhistory.org/slaverycollections, these documents from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries represent fourteen of the most important collections in the library’s Manuscript Department….
  • Understanding the Iran-Contra Affairs,” is the only comprehensive website on the famous Reagan-era government scandal, which stemmed from the U.S. government’s policies toward two seemingly unrelated countries, Nicaragua and Iran. Despite stated and repeated denials to Congress and to the public, Reagan Administration officials supported the militant contra rebels in Nicaragua and sold arms to a hostile Iranian government. These events have led to questions about the appropriateness of covert operations, congressional oversight, and even the presidential power to pardon…. – irancontra.org
  • Thousands of Studs Terkel interviews going online: The Library of Congress will digitize the Studs Terkel Oral History Archive, according to the agreement, while the museum will retain ownership of the roughly 5,500 interviews in the archive and the copyrights to the content. Project officials expect digitizing the collection to take more than two years…. – NYT, 5-13-10
  • Digital Southern Historical Collection: The 41,626 scans reproduce diaries, letters, business records, and photographs that provide a window into the lives of Americans in the South from the 18th through mid-20th centuries.


  • Front Page Mag: Juan Cole Blames the West (Again): Juan Cole’s recent lecture at Auburn University in Alabama was a jarring reminder of the importance of pursuing accountability from our academics. Speaking in the Haley Center’s primary auditorium to a room overflowing with students and a smattering of aging hippies, Cole provided an hour-long lecture on America’s relationship with the Middle East. While the seating arrangement was not uncomfortable, the lighting and the acoustics left something to be desired…. – Front Page Mag (11-15-10)
  • Mo. corrects record on 1923 college-town lynching: Hundreds looked on as an angry mob dragged a black University of Missouri janitor from his jail cell in April 1923, publicly lynching him before he could stand trial on charges of raping a white professor’s 14-year-old daughter…. Local filmmaker Scott Wilson teamed up last month with the Boone County medical examiner’s office to successfully lobby state officials to change the cause of death on Scott’s death certificate…. Keynote speaker Patrick Huber, an associate professor of history at Missouri University of Science and Technology whose undergraduate thesis discussed the Scott lynching, said the killing was one of more than 4,000 racially motivated lynchings in this country from 1885 to 1923 – including 75 in Missouri…. – WaPo (11-8-10)



  • Inside the List: HIS TURN: Things might be a little less tense in Crawford this Christmas now that George W. Bush has his own No. 1 best seller. “Decision Points,” the former president’s new memoir, enters in the top spot, just as his wife’s “Spoken From the Heart” did last spring. But don’t worry, ladies, Laura Bush isn’t totally ceding the stage. Her memoir, which spent 12 weeks on the printed list, is still hanging around at No. 28 on the extended list, six months after publication.
    If history is any guide, George Bush’s book won’t have as much staying power. As Craig Fehrman wrote in an essay in the Book Review in May, memoirs by first ladies often do better than those of their husbands. For Gerald Ford’s 64th birthday, in 1977, Betty Ford gave him a T-shirt that read, “I bet my book outsells yours.” (The couple’s joint $1 million book deal spared him the embarassment of a lower advance.) Of course, Bush also has nonspousal rivals to worry about. A mere two weeks after the release of “Decision Points,” his account of how he quit drinking — not to mention his indelible comments about the political memories dredged up by his Scottish terrier Barney’s madeleine- like droppings — had been eclipsed by rumors that Bill Clinton will make a cameo appearance in “The Hangover 2.” – NYT, 11-28-10
  • NYT Non-Fiction Best Sellers List – November 28, 2010
  • NYT Non-Fiction Best Sellers List – November 21, 2010


  • Gary Ecelbarger: The Day Dixie Died: The Battle of Atlanta, (Hardcover), November 23, 2010
  • Michael Goldfarb: Emancipation: How Liberating Europe’s Jews from the Ghetto Led to Revolution and Renaissance, (Paperback), November 23, 2010
  • Edmund Morris: Colonel Roosevelt, (Hardcover), November 23, 2010
  • Linda Porter: Katherine the Queen: The Remarkable Life of Katherine Parr, the Last Wife of Henry VIII (First Edition), (Hardcover), November 23, 2010
  • Alison Weir: The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn, (Paperback), December 28, 2010
  • Donald Rumsfeld: Known and Unknown: A Memoir, (Hardcover), January 25, 2011


  • Retired UT professor, theater historian dies: Oscar Brockett, a renowned theater historian and longtime University of Texas professor, has died. He was 87. Brockett died Sunday at an Austin hospital after suffering a stroke the day before, said Sondra Lomax, assistant dean of UT’s College of Fine Arts. Doug Dempster, dean of UT’s College of Fine Arts, told the Austin American-Statesman that Brockett, who retired in 2006, was “an absolute giant in the field of theater history.” “He defined it in many ways. His name is synonymous with the field across several continents,” Dempster said. “He was a prolific, meticulous scholar into the very last year of his long career. He leaves a legacy that will last as long again as his long life.”… – Houston Chronicle (11-8-10)
  • Rhys Isaac, only Australian to win Pulitzer for history dies at 72: RHYS Isaac, the first and only Australian to receive the prestigious American Pulitzer prize for history, has died of advanced melanoma at his home in Blairgowrie on the Mornington Peninsula. He was 72. Isaac was awarded the Pulitzer in 1983 for his seminal book The Transformation of Virginia, in which he expounded methods used to understand radical changes in both blacks and whites in colonial plantation culture that had traded a king for a constitution and bill of rights. Rhys’s academic achievement was perhaps not as big a surprise as his arrival: his parents weren’t expecting twins because only one heartbeat had ever been detected….. – The Age (AU) (11-9-10)
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