“Meditations on Archival Fragments”: Review of Dispossessed Lives

FuentesIt should go without saying that the historical profession depends on archives. Near or far, we need those repositories to craft historical narratives about past worlds. There is also no shortage of books and articles critical of the construction of colonial archives, perhaps the most famous among them being historian Ann Laura Stoler’s Along the Archival Grain. Despite the popularity of that book, however, historians still rarely discuss their archival methodology. Monographs always provide a list of consulted repositories, which for early American history can often read like a top ten greatest hits of national and state archives. And yet, try looking for the word “archive” or “archival knowledge” in the index of most books and the result might be surprising. Continue reading

“Mixing the Sacred Character, With That of the Statesman”: Review of Pulpit and Nation

Spencer W. McBride, Pulpit and Nation: Clergymen and the Politics of Revolutionary America (Charlottesville and London: University of Virginia Press, 2016).

pulpit-and-nationThe relationship between Christianity and the American founding is a topic of obvious contemporary political relevance in the United States. It is also a field in which historians during the last few years have labored with great energy.[1] In Pulpit and Nation: Clergymen and the Politics of Revolutionary America, Spencer McBride adds to that labor with a book that is—at first glance—less politically charged than some other contributions have been. Yet Pulpit and Nation advances what may be a subversive claim. Continue reading

Review: The American Revolution Reborn

The American Revolution Reborn, ed. Patrick Spero and Michael Zuckerman (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016).

15598Between May 30 and June 1, 2013, hundreds of historians, teachers, and students came together in Philadelphia to discuss twenty-first-century perspectives on the American Revolution at a landmark conference, “The American Revolution Reborn.” That conference, which received and receives regular shout-outs here at The Junto, forms the basis for The American Revolution Reborn, an edited collection of essays designed to “upset the patterns of history inquiry that have defined scholarship for the past generation” (3). Much like The Oxford Handbook on the American Revolution (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), The American Revolution Reborn seeks to regenerate interest in the Revolution with “new perspectives” that, the editors and contributors hope, “will produce new interpretations of the past that move our understanding forward in new directions” (5). Continue reading

Guest Review: Thundersticks: Firearms and the Violent Transformation of Native America

Guest reviewer Adam Pratt is an assistant professor at the University of Scranton. His current manuscript project is titled “The White Man’s Chance: Race and Politics in Pre-Removal Georgia.” He can be reached at adam.pratt@scranton.edu.

David J. Silverman, Thundersticks: Firearms and the Violent Transformation of Native America (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2016).

silverman-thundersticksGuns are ever-present in American life. Gun culture, though frequently ridiculed by opponents for its fetishization of firearms, is inescapable in the 21st century. Visual media demonstrates the logical outcome of an individual’s unfettered right to bear arms. AMC’s The Walking Dead places gun violence at the heart of its dystopian, zombie-plagued world, while Zombieland normalized the double-tap, or, the necessity of shooting the undead in the head twice to ensure further reanimation. Although recent Supreme Court decisions have fundamentally altered how most Americans understand the Second Amendment, these legal changes followed a larger, more fundamental shift. Indeed, if the crooning of Johnny Cash in 1958, entreating his listeners to leave their guns at home, did not convince Americans, then what chance do well-reasoned, logical arguments have?

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Guest Review: Never Caught: Ona Judge, the Washingtons, and the Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave

Guest reviewer Shana L. Haines is an Assistant Professor of English at Tidewater Community College in Portsmouth, Virginia. She is currently a Ph.D student in American Studies at William and Mary focusing on Race, Law, and Literature. She has her J.D. from Boston University School of Law and her Masters in British and American Literature from Hunter College.

Erica Armstrong Dunbar, Never Caught: Ona Judge, the Washingtons, and the Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2017).

screen-shot-2017-02-16-at-11-19-43-pmOn May 21, 1796, as George and Martha Washington ate their supper in the Philadelphia Executive Mansion, their twenty-two year old house slave, Ona Judge, walked out of the house and into freedom. With the help of the free black community in Philadelphia, Judge made her way to Portsmouth, New Hampshire where the free black community and white supporters provided refuge.

One would expect the fatherly and compassionate George Washington of Hamilton or the stately Washington staring out from Mt. Rushmore over the South Dakota landscape would respond by—well, the Washingtons as slaveholders aren’t a topic that has had entered general discussion in the American collective consciousness. He’s the Revolutionary War hero, the elder statesman, the first President of the United States of America. Through Ona Judge’s story of flight and freedom, however, Dunbar presents us with another Washington; a Washington willing to abuse his office and power to hunt another human being. Even more revealing is how Judge’s enslavement and subsequent flight underscores Martha Washington’s unwavering support of slavery and the outrage that fueled her husband’s pursuit of Judge.
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Manufacturing Bodies: A Review of Slavery at Sea

Sowande’ Mustakeem, Slavery at Sea: Terror, Sex, and Sickness in the Middle Passage (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2016).

slavery-at-seaWriting a book review a day after Karin Wulf’s entertaining analysis of what makes for a good review might be hubris at its worst, or simply bad timing. And, while I will never have the expertise, style, and prose that made Annette Gordon-Reed’s review of Robert Parkinson’s The Common Cause: Creating Race and Nation in the American Revolution so good, I do hope this review will explore the central ideas of Slavery at Sea in anticipation of a Q&A between the author and The Junto’s own Rachel Hermann tomorrow. Stay tuned for that!

In the introduction of her new book, Assistant Professor of History and African and African American Studies, Sowande’ Mustakeem, writes that, “not all slaves endured the transatlantic passage in the same way.” That statement serves as the driving force behind an unflinching exploration of the “multiplicity of sufferings” endured by aged, infirm, and infant Africans carried across the Atlantic and into slavery. Despite the simplicity of that premise, Mustakeem’s concise monograph exposes how the focus on young and able-bodied African men as the predominant population of captives held in slave ships overshadows the experiences of the “forgotten” of the transatlantic slave trade. As a result Mustakeem’s narrative lingers on the painful details of what she describes as “a massively global human manufacturing process” that commodified the bodies of young and old, healthy and infirm, female and male (9). Continue reading

Slavery’s Civil War?

Closing our week-long forum on Slavery’s Capitalism, today’s post is courtesy of Kevin Waite, a Lecturer in Modern American History at Durham University in the United Kingdom. He was recently awarded his PhD at the University of Pennsylvania with a thesis entitled “The Slave South in the Far West: California, the Pacific and Proslavery Visions of Empire.”

Slavery's CapitalismNo one could possibly read the fourteen essays that comprise Slavery’s Capitalism and conclude that human bondage was not absolutely central to American, and indeed global, economic development during the nineteenth century. [1] But it’s one of the corollary aims of the book—to move beyond the regionalism that has characterized much of the scholarship on slavery—that seems to me a more provocative, more novel, and perhaps more fraught intervention.

The long tentacles of slavery stretched across the globe and reached into a staggering array of institutions – educational, legal, financial, and political.This becomes especially clear by the final section of the book, “National Institutions and Natural Boundaries.” Compelling essays by Craig Steven Wilder, Andrew Shankman, Alfred L. Brophy and John Majewski provide a fitting capstone to a geographically and conceptually wide-ranging book. This is a history of slavery that catapults us far beyond the slave South.  Continue reading