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History > U.S. History > 19th Century

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Birch Coulie Cover

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Birch Coulie

The Epic Battle of the Dakota War

John Christgau

Black Cadet in a White Bastion Cover

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Black Cadet in a White Bastion

Charles Young at West Point

Brian G. Shellum

Born in slavery, Charles Young (1864–1922) was the third black graduate of West Point, the first black U.S. military attaché, and the highest-ranking black officer in the Regular Army until his death. Unlike the two black graduates before him, Young went on to a long military career, eventually achieving the rank of colonel. After Young, racial intolerance closed the door to blacks at the academy, and forty-seven years passed before another African American graduated from West Point.

Brian G. Shellum’s biography of Young’s years at West Point chronicles the enormous challenges that Young faced and provides a valuable window into life at West Point in the 1880s. Academic difficulties, hazing, and social ostracism dogged him throughout his academy years. He succeeded through a combination of focused intellect, hard work, and a sense of humor. By graduation, he had made white friends, and his motivation and determination had won him the grudging respect of many of his classmates and professors.

Until now, scholars of African American and military history have neglected this important U.S. Army trailblazer. Young’s experiences at the U.S. Military Academy, his triumph over adversity, and his commitment to success forged the mold for his future achievements as an Army officer, even as the United States slipped further into the degradation and waste of racial intolerance.

Black Elk Speaks Cover

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Black Elk Speaks

The Complete Edition

John G. Neihardt

Black Elk Speaks, the story of the Oglala Lakota visionary and healer Nicholas Black Elk (1863–1950) and his people during momentous twilight years of the nineteenth century, offers readers much more than a precious glimpse of a vanished time. Black Elk’s searing visions of the unity of humanity and Earth, conveyed by John G. Neihardt, have made this book a classic that crosses multiple genres. Whether appreciated as the poignant tale of a Lakota life, as a history of a Native nation, or as an enduring spiritual testament, Black Elk Speaks is unforgettable.

 

Black Elk met the distinguished poet, writer, and critic John G. Neihardt in 1930 on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and asked Neihardt to share his story with the world. Neihardt understood and conveyed Black Elk’s experiences in this powerful and inspirational message for all humankind.

 

This complete edition features a new introduction by historian Philip J. Deloria and annotations of Black Elk’s story by renowned Lakota scholar Raymond J. DeMallie. Three essays by John G. Neihardt provide background on this landmark work along with pieces by Vine Deloria Jr., Raymond J. DeMallie, Alexis Petri, and Lori Utecht. Maps, original illustrations by Standing Bear, and a set of appendixes rounds out the edition.

 

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Black Flag Boricuas

Anarchism, Antiauthoritarianism, and the Left in Puerto Rico, 1897-1921

Kirwin R. Shaffer

This pathbreaking study examines the radical Left in Puerto Rico from the final years of Spanish colonial rule into the 1920s. Positioning Puerto Rico within the context of a regional anarchist network that stretched from Puerto Rico and Cuba to Tampa, Florida, and New York City, Kirwin R. Shaffer illustrates how anarchists linked their struggle to the broader international anarchist struggles against religion, governments, and industrial capitalism. Their groups, speeches, and press accounts--as well as the newspapers that they published--were central in helping to develop an anarchist vision for Puerto Ricans at a time when the island was a political no-man's-land, neither an official U.S. colony or state nor an independent country.

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Black Legislators in Louisiana during Recontruction

Charles Vincent

Concentrating on the performance and presence of blacks in the Louisiana legislature from the Civil War through Reconstruction, Vincent shows that although black legislators were a minority, they were not powerless.

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Black Walden

Slavery and Its Aftermath in Concord, Massachusetts

By Elise Lemire

Concord, Massachusetts, has long been heralded as the birthplace of American liberty and American letters. It was here that the first military engagement of the Revolutionary War was fought and here that Thoreau came to "live deliberately" on the shores of Walden Pond. Between the Revolution and the settlement of the little cabin with the bean rows, however, Walden Woods was home to several generations of freed slaves and their children. Living on the fringes of society, they attempted to pursue lives of freedom, promised by the rhetoric of the Revolution, and yet withheld by the practice of racism. Thoreau was all but alone in his attempt "to conjure up the former occupants of these woods." Other than the chapter he devoted to them in Walden, the history of slavery in Concord has been all but forgotten.

In Black Walden: Slavery and Its Aftermath in Concord, Massachusetts, Elise Lemire brings to life the former slaves of Walden Woods and the men and women who held them in bondage during the eighteenth century. After charting the rise of Concord slaveholder John Cuming, Black Walden follows the struggles of Cuming's slave, Brister, as he attempts to build a life for himself after thirty-five years of enslavement. Brister Freeman, as he came to call himself, and other of the town's slaves were able to leverage the political tensions that fueled the American Revolution and force their owners into relinquishing them. Once emancipated, however, the former slaves were permitted to squat on only the most remote and infertile places. Walden Woods was one of them. Here, Freeman and his neighbors farmed, spun linen, made baskets, told fortunes, and otherwise tried to survive in spite of poverty and harassment.

Today Walden Woods is preserved as a place for visitors to commune with nature. Lemire, who grew up two miles from Walden Pond, reminds us that this was a black space before it was an internationally known green space. Black Walden preserves the legacy of the people who strove against all odds to overcome slavery and segregation.

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Bodies of Reform

The Rhetoric of Character in Gilded Age America

James Salazar, 0, 0

“James Salazar takes the term ‘character’—pervasive and elusive—and accounts for its centrality by showing how it embodies the contradictions of modern America. In a series of intricate literary readings, he analyzes the ways in which the late-nineteenth-century obsession with building ‘character’ vivified social distinctions but also, in its instabilities, became the pivot for critique.”

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Body and Soul

A Sympathetic History of American Spiritualism

Robert S. Cox

A product of the "spiritual hothouse" of the Second Great Awakening, Spiritualism became the fastest growing religion in the nation during the 1850s, and one of the principal responses to the widespread perception that American society was descending into atomistic particularity.

InBody and Soul, Robert Cox shows how Spiritualism sought to transform sympathy into social practice, arguing that each individual, living and dead, was poised within a nexus of affect, and through the active propagation of these sympathetic bonds, a new and coherent society would emerge. Phenomena such as spontaneous somnambulism and sympathetic communion with the dead—whether through séance or "spirit photography"—were ways of transcending the barriers dissecting the American body politic, including the ultimate barrier, death. Drawing equally upon social, occult, and physiological registers, Spiritualism created a unique "social physiology" in which mind was integrated into body and body into society, leading Spiritualists into earthly social reforms, such as women’s rights and anti-slavery.

From the beginning, however, Spiritualist political and social expression was far more diverse than has previously been recognized, encompassing distinctive proslavery and antiegalitarian strains, and in the wake of racial and political adjustments following the Civil War, the movement began to fracture. Cox traces the eventual dissolution of Spiritualism through the contradictions of its various regional and racial factions and through their increasingly circumscribed responses to a changing world. In the end, he concludes, the history of Spiritualism was written in the limits of sympathy, and not its limitless potential.

Robert S. Cox is Curator of Manuscripts at the American Philosophical Society.

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Bonapartists in the Borderlands

French Exiles and Refugees on the Gulf Coast, 1815-1835

Written by Rafe Blaufarb

The ill-fated Vine and Olive Colony within the context of America’s westward expansion and the French Revolution.

Bonapartists in the Borderlands recounts how Napoleonic exiles and French refugees from Europe and the Caribbean joined forces with Latin American insurgents, Gulf pirates, and international adventurers to seek their fortune in the Gulf borderlands.  The U.S. Congress welcomed the French to American and granted them a large tract of rich Black Belt land near Demopolis, Alabama, on the condition that they would establish a Mediterranean-style Vine and Olive colony.

This book debunks the standard account of the colony, which stresses the failure of the aristocratic, luxury-loving French to tame the wilderness.  Instead, it shows that the Napoleonic officers involved in the colony sold their land shares to speculators to finance an even more perilous adventure--invading the contested Texas borderlands between Spain and the U.S.  Their departure left the Vine adn Olive colony in the hands of French refugees fromthe Haitian slave revolt.  While thay soon abandoned vine cultivation, they successfully recast themselves as prosperous, slaveholding cotton growers and gradually fused into a new elite with newly-arrived Anglo-American planters.

Rafe Blaufarb examines the underlying motivations and aims that inspired this endeavor and details the nitty-gritty politics, economics, and backroom bargaining that resulted in the settlement.  He employs a wide variety of local, national, and international resources:  from documents held by the Alabama State Archives, Marengo County court records, and French-language newspapers published in America to material from the War Ministry Archives at Vincennes, the Diplomatic Archives at the Quai d'Orasy, adn the French National Archives.

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Bound By a Mighty Vow

Sisterhood and Women's Fraternities, 1870-1920

Diana B. Turk

Sororities are often thought of as exclusive clubs for socially inclined college students, but Bound by a Mighty Vow, a history of the women's Greek system, demonstrates that these organizations have always served more serious purposes. Diana Turk explores the founding and development of the earliest sororities (then called women's fraternities) and explains how these groups served as support networks to help the first female collegians succeed in the hostile world of nineteenth century higher education.

Turk goes on to look at how and in what ways sororities changed over time. While the first generation focused primarily on schoolwork, later Greek sisters used their fraternity connections to ensure social status, gain access to jobs and job training, and secure financial and emotional support as they negotiated life in turn-of-the-century America. The costs they paid were conformity to certain tightly prescribed beliefs of how "ideal" fraternity women should act and what "ideal" fraternity women should do.

Drawing on primary source documents written and preserved by the fraternity women themselves, as well as on oral history interviews conducted with fraternity officers and alumnae members, Bound by a Mighty Vow uncovers the intricate history of these early women's networks and makes a bold statement about the ties that have bound millions of American women to one another in the name of sisterhood.

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