Roundtable: The History of Childhood & Youth: Crystal Webster

WebsterIf you missed our first post on Friday in our new roundtable series on the history of childhood and youth with Bianca Premo, click here! On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for the next few weeks, stop by to read about challenges and realities of researching and teaching childhood and youth across vast early America.

Today, Dr. Crystal Lynn Webster joins us to discuss her work on nineteenth-century African American women and children. Dr. Webster is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Texas at San Antonio. She received her PhD from the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of African American Studies at University of Massachusetts Amherst and was previously a long-term Mellon dissertation fellow at the Library Company of Philadelphia (2016-17) program in African American history. Her current book project, Beyond the Boundaries of Childhood: Northern African American Children’s Cultural and Political Resistance, examines the lives of Black children in the antebellum North and their experiences in juvenile reformatories, orphanages, schools, as well as their role in emerging social movements concerning race and childhood. Her research has been funded by the Library Company of Philadelphia, American Antiquarian Society, Massachusetts Historical Society, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and she has received first place writing awards from the National Council for Black Studies and the Association of Black Women Historians. Continue reading

“The Prospect and the Rarities,” a Case for the Early National Garden

“The Prospect and the Rarities,” a Case for the Early National Garden

In 1714, Louis XIV of France obtained a coffee plant from officials in Amsterdam.  The plant’s lineage as a direct descendant of the original tree in Java conveyed key elements of monarchical authority:  the demonstration of the king’s unique access to overseas specimens and his central position in the webs of information, exchange, and power.[1]  That spectacle of cosmopolitanism was on display in the palace garden and by extension the scientific garden established in Paris, the Jardin Royal des Plantes.  Construction of the Jardin Royal des Plantes was proposed by the king’s botanist and doctor, Jean Hérouard, and it streamlined the scientific, medicinal, and economic aims of empire that were prominent among European sovereigns.

My years of thinking about the place of commodities like coffee, sugar, and cotton within production and distribution chains meant that the garden, as both a universal and recognizable form, appeared again and again.  Over time, I’ve come across various kinds of gardens large and small, and I’ve often wondered about their usefulness in serving as an aid to learning, discovery, and as historical case studies. Though generally humble spaces, they hold out possibilities for looking at cultural tales, national flavors, and the circuits of consumption for the early national period of American history. Continue reading