The Month in Early American History

TMEAH LogoRise 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

Q&A with Daniel Livesay, author of Children of Uncertain Fortune: Mixed-Race Jamaicans in Britain and the Atlantic Family, 1733-1833

Daniel Livesay is Associate Professor of History at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, CA.  His research focuses on questions of race, slavery, and family in the colonial Atlantic World. His first book, Children of Uncertain Fortune: Mixed-Race Jamaicans in Britain and the Atlantic Family, 1733-1833 was published in January 2018 by the University of North Carolina Press for the Omohundro Institute. Casey Schmitt reviewed it yesterday here at The Junto. Daniel’s research has been supported by an NEH postdoctoral fellowship at the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, the Fulbright Foundation, the Institute of Historical Research, and the North American Conference on British Studies, as well as number of short-term fellowships.  He is currently working on a book manuscript about enslaved individuals of advanced age in Virginia and Jamaica from 1776-1865 entitled, Endless Bondage: Old Age in New World Slavery. He graciously agreed to sit down and answer a few questions about his research.
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Review: Atlantic Families, Race, and Empire

Daniel Livesay, Children of Uncertain Fortune: Mixed-Race Jamaicans in Britain and the Atlantic Family, 1733-1833 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press published for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, 2018).

A central thread running through Daniel Livesay’s Children of Uncertain Fortune is deceptively simple: Atlantic families structured the development of ideologies surrounding race in the British empire during the long eighteenth century.[1] Woven through the book, however, is a richly nuanced exploration of what terms like Atlantic, family, race, and empire meant and how understandings of those terms changed over a pivotal hundred-year period starting in the 1730s. Through institutional records and family papers produced on both sides of the Atlantic, Livesay identifies 360 mixed-race people from Jamaica and traces the lived experiences of a handful of them as they navigated their social and economic position within transatlantic kin networks. Those individual narratives reveal how Britons experienced empire through family ties in ways that shaped their perceptions of race, colonialism, and belonging. Continue reading

Guest Post: Recap of Race, Memory, and the Digital Humanities Symposium

Ravynn Stringfield is an MA/PhD student in American Studies at the College of William & Mary. Herwork considers representation of Blackness in comics and graphic novels through literary and historical lens, and though she hesitates to label herself a DHer, you can find her blogging her grad school experience on her site, Black Girl Does Grad School.

fullsizeoutput_45dI got involved with Race, Memory and the Digital Humanities Symposium (
#RMDHatWM or RMDH) by accident. When I first arrived at William & Mary as a new graduate student in 2016, unsure of my label of “Digital Humanities scholar,” I fell into Liz Losh’s Equality Lab. The hot topic at the first few meetings was the symposium. As it turned out, attending this conference addressed all the concerns I have about the Academy, the role of scholarship as activism, and how I fit into the Digital Humanities (DH) world.

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Q&A: Max Perry Mueller, Race and the Making of the Mormon People

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

Book Review: Max Mueller, “Race and the Making of the Mormon People”

Modern Mormonism is known for being a predominantly white religion—at least in America. But a new book by religious studies scholar Max Mueller argues that the LDS faith has a complex and evolving story of racial imagination during the antebellum period. This is a declension narrative that is at once riveting and wrenching, and one that deserves a close reading.

MuellerMax Perry Mueller, Race and the Making of the Mormon People (University of North Carolina Press, 2017). 352 pp., 17 halftones, notes, bibliography, index. [Also, make sure to see Mueller’s interview with The Atlantic.]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as the Mormons, had audacious beginnings. They claimed a new book of scripture, a modern-day prophet, and a restored ecclesiastical structure. It was a reenactment of Christianity’s origins. And according to Max Mueller, those origins included a reformulation of America’s racial imagination. Contemporaries during the mid-nineteenth century were, to use a complex and problematic term, “secularizing” racial differences. They sought to justify slavery and segregation through a strict delineation of racial compartmentalization. Race, in other words, was becoming a fixed identity. But among Joseph Smith’s radical protests was an attack on that very assumption: Smith, the book Smith translated, and the movement Smith led, posited that race was a malleable component dependent more on righteousness than descent. They believed in a moderate “racial universalism” that, though it required the subjugation of non-white races, could unite the entire human family. Or, at least, they believed this during their first two decades, before eventually succumbing to a much more mainstream structure of racial difference. Continue reading

Roundtable: Cash’s Bundle: Fugitive Slave Advertisements, Clothing, and Self-Care

Roundtable: Cash’s Bundle: Fugitive Slave Advertisements, Clothing, and Self-Care

This Colonial Couture post is by guest contributor Charmaine A. Nelson, professor of art history at McGill University. Her latest book is Slavery, Geography and Empire in Nineteenth-Century Marine Landscapes of Montreal and Jamaica.

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It is a remarkable fact that everywhere that Africans were enslaved in the transatlantic world, they resisted in a myriad of ways. While scholars have frequently examined the more spectacular and violent forms of resistance (like slave revolts and rebellions), a far quieter type of resistance was ubiquitous across the Americas, running away. Where printing presses took hold, broadsheets and newspapers soon followed, crammed with all manner of colonial news. Colonial print culture and slavery were arguably fundamentally linked. More specifically, as Marcus Wood has argued, “The significance of advertising for the print culture of America in the first half of the nineteenth century is difficult to overestimate.”[1] Continue reading