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History > U.S. History > 19th Century

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Confronting Savery Cover

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Confronting Savery

Edward Coles and the Rise of the Nineteenth-Century America

Edward Coles, who lived from 1786-1868, is most often remembered for his antislavery correspondence with Thomas Jefferson in 1814, freeing his slaves in 1819, and leading the campaign against the legalization of slavery in Illinois during the 1823-24 convention contest.   

A Conquering Spirit Cover

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A Conquering Spirit

Fort Mims and the Redstick War of 1813-1814

Written by Gregory A. Waselkov

The Fort Mims massacre changed the course of American history in many ways, not the least of which was the ensuing rise of one Andrew Jackson to the national stage. The unprecedented Indian victory over the encroaching Americans who were bent on taking their lands and destroying their culture horrified many and injured the young nation's pride. Tragedies such as this one have always rallied Americans to a common cause: a single-minded determination to destroy the enemy and avenge the fallen. The August 30, 1813, massacre at Fort Mims, involving hundreds of dead men, women, and children, was just such a spark.

Gregory Waselkov tells compellingly the story of this fierce battle at the fortified plantation home of Samuel Mims in the Tensaw District of the Mississippi Territory. With valuable maps, tables, and artifact illustrations, Waselkov looks closely at the battle to cut through the legends and misinformation that have grown around the event almost from the moment the last flames died at the smoldering ruins. At least as important as the details of the battle, though, is his elucidation of how social forces remarkably converged to spark the conflict and how reverberations of the battle echo still today, nearly two hundred years later.

Contentious Liberties Cover

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Contentious Liberties

American Abolitionists in Post-Emancipation Jamaica, 1834-1866

Gale L. Kenny

The Oberlin College mission to Jamaica, begun in the 1830s, was an ambitious, and ultimately troubled, effort to use the example of emancipation in the British West Indies to advance the domestic agenda of American abolitionists. White Americans hoped to argue that American slaves, once freed, could be absorbed productively into the society that had previously enslaved them, but their “civilizing mission” did not go as anticipated. Gale L. Kenny’s illuminating study examines the differing ideas of freedom held by white evangelical abolitionists and freed people in Jamaica and explores the consequences of their encounter for both American and Jamaican history.

Kenny finds that white Americans—who went to Jamaica intending to assist with the transition from slavery to Christian practice and solid citizenship—were frustrated by liberated blacks’ unwillingness to conform to Victorian norms of gender, family, and religion. In tracing the history of the thirty-year mission, Kenny makes creative use of available sources to unpack assumptions on both sides of this American-Jamaican interaction, showing how liberated slaves in many cases were able not just to resist the imposition of white mores but to redefine the terms of the encounter.

Courtship and Love among the Enslaved in North Carolina Cover

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Courtship and Love among the Enslaved in North Carolina

Through an examination of various couples who were forced to live in slavery, Rebecca J. Fraser argues that slaves found ways to conduct successful courting relationships. In its focus on the processes of courtship among the enslaved, this study offers further insight into the meanings that structured intimate lives. Establishing their courtships, often across plantations, the enslaved men and women of antebellum North Carolina worked within and around the slave system to create and maintain meaningful personal relationships that were both of and apart from the world of the plantation. They claimed the right to participate in the social events of courtship and, in the process, challenged and disrupted the southern social order in discreet and covert acts of defiance. Informed by feminist conceptions of gender, sexuality, power, and resistance, the study argues that the courting relationship afforded the enslaved a significant social space through which they could cultivate alternative identities to those which were imposed upon them in the context of their daily working lives. Rebecca J. Fraser is lecturer in American studies at the University of East Anglia. Her essays have appeared in Journal of Southern History and Slavery and Abolition.

Cow Boys and Cattle Men Cover

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Cow Boys and Cattle Men

Class and Masculinities on the Texas Frontier, 1865-1900

Jacqueline Moore

Cowboys are an American legend, but despite ubiquity in history and popular culture, misperceptions abound. Technically, a cowboy worked with cattle, as a ranch hand, while his boss, the cattleman, owned the ranch. Jacqueline M. Moore casts aside romantic and one-dimensional images of cowboys by analyzing the class, gender, and labor histories of ranching in Texas during the second half of the nineteenth century.

As working-class men, cowboys showed their masculinity through their skills at work as well as public displays in town. But what cowboys thought was manly behavior did not always match those ideas of the business-minded cattlemen, who largely absorbed middle-class masculine ideals of restraint. Real men, by these standards, had self-mastery over their impulses and didn’t fight, drink, gamble or consort with "unsavory" women. Moore explores how, in contrast to the mythic image, from the late 1870s on, as the Texas frontier became more settled and the open range disappeared, the real cowboys faced increasing demands from the people around them to rein in the very traits that Americans considered the most masculine.

Published in Cooperation with the William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies, Southern Methodist University.

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Creating the Culture of Reform in Antebellum America

T. Gregory Garvey

In this study, T. Gregory Garvey illustrates how activists and reformers claimed the instruments of mass media to create a freestanding culture of reform that enabled voices disfranchised by church or state to speak as equals in public debates over the nation's values. Competition among antebellum reformers in religion, women's rights, and antislavery institutionalized a structure of ideological debate that continues to define popular reform movements.

The foundations of the culture of reform lie, according to Garvey, in the reconstruction of publicity that coincided with the religious-sectarian struggles of the early nineteenth century. To counter challenges to their authority and to retain church members, both conservative and liberal religious factions developed instruments of reform propaganda (newspapers, conventions, circuit riders, revivals) that were adapted by an emerging class of professional secular reformers in the women's rights and antislavery movements. Garvey argues that debate among the reformers created a mode of “critical conversation” through which reformers of all ideological persuasions collectively forged new conventions of public discourse as they struggled to shape public opinion.

Focusing on debates between Lyman Beecher and William Ellery Channing over religious doctrine, Angelina Grimke and Catharine Beecher over women's participation in antislavery, and William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass over the ethics of political participation, Garvey argues that “crucible-like sites of public debate” emerged as the core of the culture of reform. To emphasize the redefinition of publicity provoked by antebellum reform movements, Garvey concludes the book with a chapter that presents Emersonian self-reliance as an effort to transform the partisan nature of reform discourse into a model of sincere public speech that affirms both self and community.

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The Creek War of 1813 and 1814

Written by H. S. Halbert and T. H. Ball, edited by Frank L. Owsley

The first edition of Halbert and Ball's Creek War was published in 1895, and a new edition containing an introductory essay, supplementary notes, a bibliography, and an index by Frank L. Owsley Jr., was published in 1969. This standard account of one of the most controversial wars in which Americans have fought is again available, with introductory materials and a bibliography revised to reflect the advances in scholarship since the 1969 edition. This facsimile reproduction of the 1895 original provides a full and sympathetic account of the Indians' point of view, from the earliest visit of the great Shawnee chief Tecumseh to the southern tribes in 1811, through the buildup of apprehension and hostilities leading to the fateful battles at Burnt Corn, Fort Mims, and Holy Ground.

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The Crimes of Womanhood

Defining Femininity in a Court of Law

A. Cheree Carlson

Cultural views of femininity exerted a powerful influence on the courtroom arguments used to defend or condemn notable women on trial in nineteenth-century and early-twentieth-century America. A. Cheree Carlson analyzes the colorful rhetorical strategies employed by lawyers and reporters in the trials of several women of varying historical stature, from the insanity trials of Mary Todd Lincoln and Lizzie Borden's trial for the brutal slaying of her father and stepmother, to lesser-known trials involving insanity, infidelity, murder, abortion, and interracial marriage. Carlson reveals clearly just how narrow was the line that women had to walk, since the same womanly virtues that were expected of them--passivity, frailty, and purity--could be turned against them at any time. With gripping retellings and incisive analysis, this book will appeal to historians, rhetoricians, feminist researchers, and anyone who enjoys courtroom drama.

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Criminal Injustice

Slaves and Free Blacks in Georgia's Criminal Justice System

Glenn McNair

Criminal Injustice: Slaves and Free Blacks in Georgia’s Criminal Justice System is the most comprehensive study of the criminal justice system of a slave state to date. McNair traces the evolution of Georgia’s legal culture by examining its use of slave codes and slave patrols, as well as presenting data on crimes prosecuted, trial procedures and practices, conviction rates, the appellate process, and punishment.

Critical Americans Cover

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Critical Americans

Victorian Intellectuals and Transatlantic Liberal Reform

Leslie Butler

In this intellectual history of American liberalism during the second half of the nineteenth century, Leslie Butler examines a group of nationally prominent and internationally oriented writers who sustained an American tradition of self-consciously progressive and cosmopolitan reform. She addresses how these men established a critical perspective on American racism, materialism, and jingoism in the decades between the 1850s and the 1890s while she recaptures their insistence on the ability of ordinary citizens to work toward their limitless potential as intelligent and moral human beings. At the core of Butler's study are the writers George William Curtis, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, James Russell Lowell, and Charles Eliot Norton, a quartet of friends who would together define the humane liberalism of America's late Victorian middle class. In creative engagement with such British intellectuals as John Stuart Mill, Thomas Carlyle, Matthew Arnold, Leslie Stephen, John Ruskin, James Bryce, and Goldwin Smith, these "critical Americans" articulated political ideals and cultural standards to suit the burgeoning mass democracy the Civil War had created. This transatlantic framework informed their notions of educative citizenship, print-based democratic politics, critically informed cultural dissemination, and a temperate, deliberative foreign policy. Butler argues that a careful reexamination of these strands of late nineteenth-century liberalism can help enrich a revitalized liberal tradition at the outset of the twenty-first century. In this intellectual history of 19th-century American liberalism, Butler examines the political and cultural thought of a group of nationally prominent and internationally oriented American intellectuals including editors and activists, poets and professors, critics and cultural innovators. She describes how this group, often dismissed by scholars as aloof or irrelevant, nonetheless played a key role in shaping consciously progressive and cosmopolitan reforms as they were eager to speak out against perceived national flaws and intent on affirming ordinary citizens’ ability to work towards their limitless potential as creative and moral human beings. Writers such as George William Curtis, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, James Russell Lowell, and Charles Eliot Norton formed the core of an influential liberal program that worked in tandem with British intellectuals such as Leslie Stephen, John Ruskin, Thomas Hughes, and Goldwin Smith, to urge political ideals and cultural standards they saw as necessary sources of authority in a burgeoning mass democracy. Their shared vision involved educative citizenship, print-based democratic politics, critically informed cultural dissemination, and a foreign policy that tempered force with the principles of reason and justice. Butler contends that a careful reexamination of the late-19th-century liberal vision might help enrich the liberal vision of the twenty-first century. In this intellectual history of American liberalism during the second half of the 19th century, Butler examines a group of nationally prominent and internationally oriented writers who sustained an American tradition of self-consciously progressive and cosmopolitan reform. She addresses how these men established a critical perspective on American racism, materialism, and jingoism in the decades between the 1850s and the 1890s while she recaptures their insistence on the ability of ordinary citizens to work toward their limitless potential as intelligent and moral human beings. At the core of Butler's study are the writers George William Curtis, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, James Russell Lowell, and Charles Eliot Norton, a quartet of friends who would together define the humane liberalism of America's late Victorian middle class. In this intellectual history of American liberalism during the second half of the nineteenth century, Leslie Butler examines a group of nationally prominent and internationally oriented writers who sustained an American tradition of self-consciously progressive and cosmopolitan reform. She addresses how these men established a critical perspective on American racism, materialism, and jingoism in the decades between the 1850s and the 1890s while she recaptures their insistence on the ability of ordinary citizens to work toward their limitless potential as intelligent and moral human beings. At the core of Butler's study are the writers George William Curtis, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, James Russell Lowell, and Charles Eliot Norton, a quartet of friends who would together define the humane liberalism of America's late Victorian middle class. In creative engagement with such British intellectuals as John Stuart Mill, Thomas Carlyle, Matthew Arnold, Leslie Stephen, John Ruskin, James Bryce, and Goldwin Smith, these "critical Americans" articulated political ideals and cultural standards to suit the burgeoning mass democracy the Civil War had created. This transatlantic framework informed their notions of educative citizenship, print-based democratic politics, critically informed cultural dissemination, and a temperate, deliberative foreign policy. Butler argues that a careful reexamination of these strands of late nineteenth-century liberalism can help enrich a revitalized liberal tradition at the outset of the twenty-first century.

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