As 2018 comes to a close, I can’t help but reflect on this year and its meaning for a place that has become near and dear to my heart (and in-progress dissertation): New Orleans. Founded by the French in 1718, Louisiana’s largest city has been celebrating its tricentennial for months and in a way that only New Orleans can. Ranked number one on the New York Times “52 Places to Go in 2018” list, New Orleans continues to attract first-timers curious to discover “America’s most foreign city.” Repeat visitors, myself included, just can’t get enough, although my trips have taken me beyond Bourbon Street, from the attic of the city’s colonial-era Ursuline convent to the notarial archives of Orleans Parish, hidden within a twenty-story office building a stone’s throw from the Superdome. My own excursions aside, how exactly have we gone about celebrating, remembering, and thinking about the history of early New Orleans in 2018? What does the future hold?
Today’s Guest Post comes from Nathan H. Dize, Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of French and Italian at Vanderbilt University. He specializes in Haitian literature and history. His dissertation, currently entitled “Mortuary Poetics: Power and the Performance of Mourning in the Haitian Literary Imaginary,” explores how Haitian writers and artists revivify the dead through creative acts of mourning to challenge official memories and mythologies of the Haitian past. He is a content curator, translator, and editor of A Colony in Crisis: The Saint-Domingue Grain Shortage of 1789. He is also the co-editor of the H-Haiti series “Haiti in Translation,” which interviews translators of Haitian writing. Nathan has published articles, reviews, and translations in journals such as sx archipelagos, the Journal of Haitian Studies, Francosphères, SX Salon, Contemporary French Civilization, and the Haitian History Journal of which he is also an advisory board member. Follow him on Twitter @NathanHDize.
In September 1782, Julia de Recour boarded the St. Patrick in Cap Français with her mother, a woman of about 40, to join some relations in Baltimore. When she arrived, Charles Biddle writes that she had the “good fortune” of attracting the French First Consul, Charles François Adrien Le Paulmier le Chevalier d’Annemours, who immediately took her as his wife. Biddle describes Julia as a lively French lady and a “spritely brown girl of 16.” Biddle’s account of Julia’s travel on the St. Patrick is shrouded in innuendo, particularly when Julia took to the ship’s deck in the cold to dance and “perform some other monkey tricks.” Without providing more information Biddle writes in his autobiography that we do not know when or where Julia died, but that it is reasonable to believe that she was not living in 1792. As Saidiya Hartman once wrote of the enslaved girl immortalized in William Wilberforce’s speech before the House of Commons in April of 1792, “a few musty lines […] are the entire story of a girl’s life.”
If you missed previous posts in our new roundtable series on the history of childhood and youth, 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’s interview is with Ben Davidson, a James Smithson Postdoctoral Fellow at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. He recently completed his PhD in United States history at New York University. His book manuscript, “Freedom’s Generation: Coming of Age in the Era of Emancipation,” traces the lives of the generation of black and white children, in the North, South, and West, who grew up during the Civil War era. This project explores how young people across the nation learned persistent lessons, carried into adulthood, about complexities inherent in ideas and experiences of emancipation, assessing and interpreting how these lessons were transformed in memory well into the twentieth century. Continue reading
Is material culture as inherently untrustworthy? I was once at a conference roundtable where one attendee claimed that “Material culture is so elitist, just rich people’s stuff in museums.” Fortunately, a historical archaeologist in the room begged to differ, arguing that archaeology offered a rich record of people who did not necessarily leave written sources behind. When I recently required my students to analyze both a material and a textual source, they concluded that material sources were inherently more difficult to work with than their written counterparts. “Once I describe the object, there’s nothing left to say about it,” one student complained.
I’ve been hearing variations of this argument my entire academic life. As a scholar who both studies and teaches with material culture, I find this reasoning both fascinating and frustrating. Why do so many people, from scholars to students, consider material culture somehow a lesser form of evidence than the written word? Continue reading
Rise and shine, it’s time to relaunch our regular(ish) roundup of breaking news from early America. To the links!
First up, enjoy a walk through life after the American Revolution with this podcast series charting the life and times of William Hamilton of The Woodlands, who “made the estate an architectural and botanical showpiece of early America.” Or put presidential parades in historical context, via Lindsay Chervinsky’s essay on George Washington’s reticence for public pomp and grandeur: “Why, then, did Washington, a man intensely proud of his military service and revered for it, reject the trappings of military honor?” In conference news, the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture unveiled the program for next month’s meeting. Elsewhere in the blogosphere, check out John Fea’s reflections on a decade(!) of posting, and what it means to teach “Public History for a Democracy.” Or flip through the newly digitized papers of polymath Benjamin Franklin. Continue reading
Max Perry Mueller is assistant professor of religious studies in the Department of Classics & Religious Studies of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and the author of the recently-released Race and the Making of the Mormon People (University of North Carolina Press, 2017). Be sure and read Ben Park’s review of that book, posted at The Junto yesterday. Continue reading
“In addition to finding the things I wanted to do or didn’t want to do [for a career], there were parts of being an academic that I was unwilling to give up, and those were just as important.” ~ Dr. Stephanie Gamble, Librarian for History & Anthropology, Sheridan Libraries, Johns Hopkins University.
Today, Katy talks to Dr. Stephanie Gamble, Librarian for History and Anthropology in the Sheridan Libraries at Johns Hopkins University. Steph explains the wide range of responsibilities she undertakes as a librarian supporting the studies and efforts of both students and faculty. She also offers some tips for turning your CV into a resume . . . or, what she likes to call a “CV-ume.” Continue reading