The Week in Early American History

TWEAHWe begin with sad news. The Junto learned a few days ago that Stephanie Camp, professor at the University of Washington and author of Closer to Freedom: Enslaved Women and Everyday Resistance in the Plantation South, died on April 2 after a battle with cancer. The Seattle Times published an obituary this week, quoting Drew Gilpin Faust: “Students heard her courage and saw her integrity and learned from it in ways they never forgot. Her scholarship did the same.” The Rice University History Department, where Camp worked for two years, has posted a brief tribute. Caleb McDaniel, who worked with Camp at Rice, has also posted a longer personal reflection. The University of Washington is soliciting donations in her honor for the Stephanie M. H. Camp Lecture Fund for the History of Race and Gender.

In other news, the AHA’s Vanessa Varin reports that the National Archives and Records Administration is asking for public comments on its draft plan for managing electronic records. According to Varin, the proposed rules involve an automated process for deciding which records are kept or destroyed. NARA’s deadline for comments is April 25.

In other federal news, Debbie Doyle reports that legislation to establish a National Museum of Women’s History has advanced through two committees in the House of Representatives—but in a form that may not please the museum’s scholarly proponents. Anne Little elaborates on the meaning of the disbanding of the project’s Scholarly Advisory Council.

In news of slavery in popular culture, Manohla Dargis reviews The Retrieval, Chris Eska’s film about a gang of bounty hunters during the Civil War. T.J. Holmes also previews Belle, Amma Asante’s movie about Dido Elizabeth Belle. And Harvard University Press notes—with some evident trepidation—that the Margaret Mitchell estate has authorized a Gone With the Wind prequel about the life of Mammy. In this version, Mammy’s real name is Ruth, and she was born in Saint-Domingue. We shall see.

In other news about slavery, Heritage Foundation president Jim DeMint proposed in an interview a few days ago that “no liberal is going to win a debate that big government freed the slaves.” Taking a position Mr. DeMint would probably disagree with, Julia Ott posted a version of a New School lecture in which she argued that “slaves were the capital that made capitalism.”

In lighter news, Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s racy (NSFWish) photo on the current cover of Rolling Stone features a copy of the preamble to the Constitution with a questionable signature. “In my defense,” said Louis-Dreyfus, “‘I was in a drunken stupor.'” In more serious news about the American Revolution, the Colonial Williamsburg podcast this week features an interview with David Armitage, proposing that “every great revolution is a civil war.” And the NEH has announced a $300,000 grant to help Monticello and The Hermitage build Beyond the Mansion 2.0, a digital archaeological resource.

In print-culture news that I couldn’t figure out a segue for, typographer Tobias Frere-Jones has pointed out that New York City’s nineteenth-century type foundries were all clustered in a small area downtown. His explanation: type production means newspapers, and newspapers mean City Hall.

In recent essays about the historical profession, Jan Goldstein warns of the dangers of “precocious professionalism” among graduate students. “In posing and answering ­historical questions,” Goldstein writes, “insight and inspiration often come from a bit of wandering, occasional impromptu detours, serendipity, and letting one’s attention and imagination roam.” Meanwhile, John Ziker discusses research on how full-time professors spend their work hours. Alas, he provides no specific details on the amount of time they spend letting their imagination roam. But they do spend 17 percent of the regular workweek in meetings.

To end, we leave you with a word from Phil regarding Junto March Madness.


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