Early American Women Unmasked

A special edition of #ColonialCouture, a Junto roundtable on fashion as history in early American life. 

Protective face coverings have emerged as a potent, multifaceted metaphor for the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite inconsistent examples set by elected leaders and conflicting recommendations made by public health officials, unisex masks have steadily assumed a greater role in social distancing measures and become mandatory in certain settings outside the home. Options range from standard blue and white surgical masks to creative DIY improvisations and “Corona Couture.” Some museums are looking to add homemade masks to their collections as a way to document the crisis. Worn for slightly different reasons and more implicitly gendered, the masks owned by early American women and even children were no less symbolic in terms of practical use, commodification, or controversy.

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Q&A: Brooke N. Newman, author of A Dark Inheritance: Blood, Race, and Sex in Colonial Jamaica

Today, The Junto features a Q&A with Brooke Newman, dark inheritance cover smallauthor of A Dark Inheritance: Blood, Race, and Sex in Colonial Jamaica (Yale, 2018), which was a finalist for the Gilder Lehrman Center’s 2019 Frederick Douglass Book Prize for the best work in English on slavery, resistance, and/or abolition. Her research focuses on the intersections of race, sexuality, and gender in the context of slavery and abolition in the British empire, focusing on the Caribbean. Newman is an Associate Professor of History at Virginia Commonwealth University, where she is also Interim Director of the Humanities Research Center. Look for a review of A Dark Inheritance later this spring.

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The 1619 Project and the Work of the Historian

Yesterday Princeton historian Sean Wilentz published his latest piece opposing the 1619 Project at The Atlantic. In it, Wilentz argues that he—along with the other historians who signed a letter to the editors of the New York Times Magazine questioning the Project’s conclusions—are taking issue as a “matter of facts” that were presented in the 1619 Project, in particular in the essay authored by Nikole Hannah-Jones, the lead editor for the magazine’s issue, and in the letter of response from the Magazine’s editor, Jack Silverstein.

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Review: Browne, Surviving Slavery in the British Caribbean

Browne, Surviving Slavery in the British Caribbean (Philadelphia: University of  Pennsylvania, 2017)

Surviving Slavery (Randy M. Browne

In the early Americanist community’s conception of #VastEarlyAmerica we constantly attempt to push the boundaries of what and where early America is. Randy M. Browne’s Surviving Slavery in the British Caribbean will appeal to proponents of a vaster early America in part because it pushes the geographical limits of early America. Browne’s study of slavery in Berbice (present-day Guyana), takes his readers to one of the most understudied slave societies in the Americas, to understand how enslaved Berbicians attempted to survive their bondage from the beginning of the nineteenth century in the Dutch period, to 1834 when British slavery ended. This is an important distinction from other studies of slavery which focused on understanding and fighting against notions of “agency” and “resistance” such as Marisa Fuentes’ prize-winning Dispossessed Lives: Enslaved Women, Violence, and the Archive, and Vincent Brown’s  2009 American Historical Review article “Social Death and Political Life in the Study of Slavery,” among others [1]. By contrast, instead of highlighting the voices of those in open rebellion, Browne focuses on those whom attempted to better their situation despite remaining under the yoke of bondage. Browne does this by accessing one of the most bountiful, yet underutilized, archival records of the voices of enslaved people [2]. Browne mines information about how enslaved Berbicians attempted to survive and carve out lives in one of the most oppressive slave regimes in the Americas. Whether describing the use of obeah as a spiritual defense mechanism to sustain themselves through the institution of slavery, the use of Black slave drivers, or how enslaved women and men attempted to sort out marital and partner discourses, Browne adeptly traces how enslaved Berbicians attempted to live, and most importantly, to survive, slavery. Continue reading

Interview with David Doddington, Author of Contesting Slave Masculinity

C12A82F3-59EA-4122-A268-3D86945C93B9David Doddington is a Senior Lecturer in North American History at Cardiff University. His research interests centre on slavery, race, and gender in the antebellum South, with a particular interest in examining resistance, survival, and solidarity within slave communities. Today he speaks with Rachel Herrmann about his new book, Contesting Slave Masculinity in the American South. Find him on Twitter at @d_doddington. Continue reading

Roundtable: Food and Hunger in Vast Early America

Dams that powered grain mills but choked off fish migrations. Cassava bread that replaced wheat. A breakfast that turned into an ambush. The lenses of food and scarcity can transform our views of familiar places in early American history—Massachusetts, Virginia, the Caribbean. Continue reading

Q&A: Kate Egner Gruber, Curator of “Tenacity: Women in Jamestown and Early Virginia”

kateheadshotToday at The Junto, Philippe Halbert interviews Katherine Egner Gruber, who is Special Exhibition Curator at the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, a state agency that operates two living history museums in Virginia. This Q&A focuses on her most recent exhibition, Tenacity: Women in Jamestown and Early Virginia, which opened at Jamestown Settlement in November of 2018 and runs through January of 2020. She was also responsible for content oversight of the Yorktown American Revolution Museum‘s award-winning introductory film, Liberty Fever, and contributed to the development of new galleries that opened there in 2015. Kate earned a bachelor’s degree in historic preservation and classical humanities from the University of Mary Washington and a master’s degree in American history from the College of William and Mary. Continue reading