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History > U.S. History > 21st Century

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The Faiths of the Postwar Presidents Cover

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The Faiths of the Postwar Presidents

From Truman to Obama

David L. Holmes

The Faiths of the Founding Fathers, an acclaimed look at the spiritual beliefs of such iconic Americans as Franklin, Washington, and Jefferson, established David L. Holmes as a measured voice in the heated debate over the new nation's religious underpinnings. With the same judicious approach, Holmes now looks at the role of faith in the lives of the twelve presidents who have served since the end of World War II.

Holmes examines not only the beliefs professed by each president but also the variety of possible influences on their religious faith, such as their upbringing, education, and the faith of their spouse. In each profile close observers such as clergy, family members, friends, and advisors recall churchgoing habits, notable displays of faith (or lack of it), and the influence of their faiths on policies concerning abortion, the death penalty, Israel, and other controversial issues.

Whether discussing John F. Kennedy's philandering and secularity or Richard Nixon's betrayal of Billy Graham's naïve trust during Watergate, Holmes includes telling and often colorful details not widely known or long forgotten. We are reminded, for instance, how Dwight Eisenhower tried to conceal the background of his parents in the Jehovah's Witnesses and how the Reverend Cotesworth Lewis's sermonizing to Lyndon Johnson on the Vietnam War was actually not a left- but a right-wing critique.

National interest in the faiths of our presidents is as strong as ever, as shown by the media frenzy engendered by George W. Bush's claim that Jesus was his favorite political philosopher or Barack Obama's parting with his minister, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Holmes's work adds depth, insight, and color to this important national topic.

The Federalist Society Cover

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The Federalist Society

How Conservatives Took the Law Back from Liberals

Michael Avery

Over the last thirty years, the Federal Society for Law and Public Policy Studies has grown from a small group of disaffected conservative law students into an organization with extraordinary influence over American law and politics. Although the organization is unknown to the average citizen, this group of intellectuals has managed to monopolize the selection of federal judges, take over the Department of Justice, and control legal policy in the White House.

Today the Society claims that 45,000 conservative lawyers and law students are involved in its activities. Four Supreme Court Justices--Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, and Samuel Alito--are current or former members. Every single federal judge appointed in the two Bush presidencies was either a Society member or approved by members. During the Bush years, young Federalist Society lawyers dominated the legal staffs of the Justice Department and other important government agencies.

The Society has lawyer chapters in every major city in the United States and student chapters in every accredited law school. Its membership includes economic conservatives, social conservatives, Christian conservatives, and libertarians, who differ with each other on significant issues, but who cooperate in advancing a broad conservative agenda.

How did this happen? How did this group of conservatives succeed in moving their theories into the mainstream of legal thought?

What is the range of positions of those associated with the Federalist Society in areas of legal and political controversy? The authors survey these stances in separate chapters on

regulation of business and private property;
race and gender discrimination and affirmative action;
personal sexual autonomy, including abortion and gay rights; and
American exceptionalism and international law.

Film Nation Cover

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Film Nation

Hollywood Looks at U.S. History, Revised Edition

Robert Burgoyne

Events of the past decade have dramatically rewritten the American national narrative, bringing to light an alternate history of nation, marked since the country’s origins by competing geopolitical interests, by mobility and migration, and by contending ethnic and racial groups.
 
In this revised and expanded edition of Film Nation, Robert Burgoyne analyzes films that give shape to the counternarrative that has emerged since 9/11—one that challenges the traditional myths of the American nation-state. The films examined here, Burgoyne argues, reveal the hidden underlayers of nation, from the first interaction between Europeans and Native Americans (The New World), to the clash of ethnic groups in nineteenth-century New York (Gangs of New York), to the haunting persistence of war in the national imagination (Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima) and the impact of the events of 9/11 on American identity (United 93 and World Trade Center).
 
Film Nation provides innovative readings of attempts by such directors as Martin Scorsese, Clint Eastwood, and Oliver Stone to visualize historical events that have acquired a mythical aura in order to open up the past to the contemporary moment.

Finding Purple America Cover

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Finding Purple America

The South and the Future of American Cultural Studies

Jon Smith

The new southern studies has had an uneasy relationship with both American studies and the old southern studies. In Finding Purple America, Jon Smith, one of the founders of the new movement, locates the source of that unease in the fundamentally antimodern fantasies of both older fields.

The old southern studies tends to view modernity as a threat to a mystic southern essence—a dangerous outside force taking the form of everything from a "bulldozer revolution" to a "national project of forgetting." Since the rise of the New Americanists, American studies has also imagined itself to be in a permanent crisis mode, seeking to affiliate the field and the national essence with youth countercultures that sixties leftists once imagined to be "the future." Such fantasies, Smith argues, have resulted in an old southern studies that cannot understand places like Birmingham or Atlanta (or cities at all) and an American studies that cannot understand red states.

Most Americans live in neither a comforting, premodern Mayberry nor an exciting, postmodern Los Angeles but rather in what postcolonialists call "alternative modernities" and "hybrid cultures" whose relationships to past and future, to stability and change, are complex and ambivalent. Looking at how "the South" has played in global metropolitan pop culture since the nineties and at how southern popular and high culture alike have, in fact, repeatedly embraced urban modernity, Smith masterfully weaves together postcolonial theory, cultural studies, Lacanian psychoanalysis, and, surprisingly, marketing theory to open up the inconveniently in-between purple spaces and places that Americanist and southernist fantasies about "who we are"have so long sought to foreclose.

Obama, Clinton, Palin Cover

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Obama, Clinton, Palin

Making History in Election 2008

Liette Gidlow

Election 2008 made American history, but it was also the product of American history. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Sarah Palin smashed through some of the most enduring barriers to high political office, but their exceptional candidacies did not come out of nowhere. In these timely and accessible essays, a distinguished group of historians explores how the candidates both challenged and reinforced historic stereotypes of race and sex while echoing familiar themes in American politics and exploiting new digital technologies._x000B__x000B_Contributors include Kathryn Kish Sklar on Clinton's gender masquerade; Tiffany Ruby Patterson on the politics of black anger; Mitch Kachun on Michelle Obama and stereotypes about black women's bodies; Glenda E. Gilmore on black women's century of effort to expand political opportunities for African Americans; Tera W. Hunter on the lost legacy of Shirley Chisholm; Susan M. Hartmann on why the U.S. has not yet followed western democracies in electing a female head of state; Melanie Gustafson on Palin and the political traditions of the American West; Ronald Formisano on the populist resurgence in 2008; Paula Baker on how digital technologies threaten the secret ballot; Catherine E. Rymph on Palin's distinctive brand of political feminism; and Elisabeth I. Perry on the new look of American leadership.

The Other Great Migration Cover

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The Other Great Migration

The Movement of Rural African Americans to Houston, 1900-1941

Bernadette Pruitt

The twentieth century has seen two great waves of African American migration from rural areas into the city, changing not only the country’s demographics but also black culture. In her thorough study of migration to Houston, Bernadette Pruitt portrays the move from rural to urban homes in Jim Crow Houston as a form of black activism and resistance to racism.

Between 1900 and 1950 nearly fifty thousand blacks left their rural communities and small towns in Texas and Louisiana for Houston. Jim Crow proscription, disfranchisement, acts of violence and brutality, and rural poverty pushed them from their homes; the lure of social advancement and prosperity based on urban-industrial development drew them. Houston’s close proximity to basic minerals, innovations in transportation, increased trade, augmented economic revenue, and industrial development prompted white families, commercial businesses, and industries near the Houston Ship Channel to recruit blacks and other immigrants to the city as domestic laborers and wage earners.

Using census data, manuscript collections, government records, and oral history interviews, Pruitt details who the migrants were, why they embarked on their journeys to Houston, the migration networks on which they relied, the jobs they held, the neighborhoods into which they settled, the culture and institutions they transplanted into the city, and the communities and people they transformed in Houston.

Peace Be Still Cover

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Peace Be Still

Modern Black America from World War II to Barack Obama

Matthew C. Whitaker

A concise, engaging, and provocative history of African Americans since World War II, Peace Be Still is also nothing less than an alternate history of the United States in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Organizing this history around culture, politics, and resistance, Matthew C. Whitaker takes us from World War II as a galvanizing force for African American activism and the modern civil rights movement to the culmination of generations of struggle in the election of Barack Obama.

From the promise of the post–World War II era to the black power movement of the 1960s, the economic and political struggles of the 1970s, and the major ideological realignment of political culture during the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s, this book chronicles a people fighting oppression while fashioning a dynamic culture of artistic and religious expression along with a program of educational and professional advancement. A resurgence of rigid conservative right-wing policies, the politics of poverty, racial profiling, and police brutality are ongoing counterpoints to African Americans rising to political prominence and securing positions once denied them.

A history of African Americans for a new generation, Peace Be Still demonstrates how dramatically African American history illuminates the promise, conflicts, contradictions, hopes, and victories that all Americans share.

 

Radical Chapters Cover

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Radical Chapters

Pacifist Bookseller Roy Kepler and the Paperback Revolution

by Michael Doyle

Long a hub for literary bohemians, countercultural musicians, and readers interested in a good browse, Kepler's Books and Magazines is one of the most well-known independent bookstores in American history. When owner Roy Kepler opened the store in 1955 he changed the book industry forever as a pioneer in the “paperback revolution.” The notion of selling texts in inexpensive paperbound volumes was revolutionary in the publishing trade and Kepler's focus on stocking these inexpensive books put him at the forefront of the movement. Paperback-selling was not the only revolution Kepler supported, however. In Radical Chapters, Doyle sheds light on Kepler’s remarkable contributions not only to the book industry but also to pacifism. Recalling the tumultuous politics of the last century, he highlights Kepler’s achievements in advocating radical pacifism during World War II, anti-nuclear activism during the Cold War era, and the anti-Vietnam War movement. During those decades, Kepler’s Books played an integral role, creating a community and space to exchange ideas for such notable figures as Jerry Garica, Joan Baez, and Stewart Brand. Doyle’s fascinating chronicle captures the man who inspired that community and offers a moving tribute to his legacy.

Representation and Rebellion Cover

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Representation and Rebellion

The Rockefeller Plan and the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company, 1914-1942

By Jonathan H. Rees

"Rees makes effective use of new sources to give a more nuanced understanding of the operation of one of the nation's more progressive company unions. He makes a strong case, in his conclusion, for the argument that, whatever the limitations of company employee plans, they provide workers with more protection than no union, and they often plant the seeds for the emergence of truly independent unions."—Elizabeth Fones-Wolf, Business History Review

In response to the tragedy of the Ludlow Massacre, John D. Rockefeller Jr. introduced one of the nation's first employee representation plans (ERPs) to the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company in 1915. With the advice of William Mackenzie King, who would go on to become prime minister of Canada, the plan - which came to be known as the Rockefeller Plan - was in use until 1942 and became the model for ERPs all over the world. In Representation and Rebellion Jonathan Rees uses a variety of primary sources - including records recently discovered at the company's former headquarters in Pueblo, Colorado - to tell the story of the Rockefeller Plan and those who lived under it, as well as to detail its various successes and failures. Taken as a whole, the history of the Rockefeller Plan is not the story of ceaseless oppression and stifled militancy that its critics might imagine, but it is also not the story of the creation of a paternalist panacea for labor unrest that Rockefeller hoped it would be. Addressing key issues of how this early twentieth-century experiment fared from 1915 to 1942, Rees argues that the Rockefeller Plan was a limited but temporarily effective alternative to independent unionism in the wake of the Ludlow Massacre. The book will appeal to business and labor historians, political scientists, and sociologists, as well as those studying labor and industrial relations.

Right in Michigan's Grassroots Cover

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Right in Michigan's Grassroots

From the KKK to the Michigan Militia

JoEllen McNergney Vinyard

"A real contribution to Michigan history that gets to the root of the movements in twentieth-century American history that upon reflection can bring a certain discomfort and unease." ---Francis X. Blouin, Director of the Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan Throughout the twentieth century, Michigan became home to nearly every political movement in America that emerged from the grassroots. Citizens organized on behalf of concerns on the "left," on the "right," and in the "middle of the road." Right in Michigan's Grassroots: From the KKK to the Michigan Militia is about the people who supported movements that others, then and later, would denounce as disgraceful---members of the Ku Klux Klan during the 1920s, the followers of Father Charles Coughlin in the 1930s, anti-Communists and the John Birch Society in the post–World War II era, and the members of the Michigan Militia who first appeared in the 1990s. The book explores the complex historical circumstances in Michigan that prompted the emergence of these organizations and led everyday men and women to head off, despite ridicule or condemnation, with plans unsanctioned and tactics unorthodox, variously brandishing weapons of intimidation, discrimination, fearmongering, and terror. Drawing heavily on primary sources, including the organizations' files and interviews with some of their leaders and surviving members, JoEllen Vinyard provides a far more complete portrait of these well-known extremist groups than has ever been available.

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