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A New York City Neighborhood, 1898-1918
In the popular imagination, New York City’s Greenwich Village has long been known as a center of bohemianism, home to avant-garde artists, political radicals, and other nonconformists who challenged the reigning orthodoxies of their time. Yet a century ago the Village was a much different kind of place: a mixed-class, multiethnic neighborhood teeming with the energy and social tensions of a rapidly changing America. Gerald W. McFarland reconstructs this world with vivid descriptions of the major groups that resided within its boundaries—the Italian immigrants and African Americans to the south, the Irish Americans to the west, the well-to-do Protestants to the north, and the New York University students, middle-class professionals, and artists and writers who lived in apartment buildings and boarding houses on or near Washington Square. McFarland examines how these Villagers, so divided along class and ethnic lines, interacted with one another. He shows how clashing expectations about what constituted proper behavior in the neighborhood’s public spaces—especially streets, parks, and saloons—often led to intergroup conflict, political rivalries, and campaigns by the more privileged Villagers to impose middle-class mores on their working-class neighbors. Occasionally, however, a crisis or common problem led residents to overlook their differences and cooperate across class and ethnic lines. Throughout the book, McFarland connects the evolution of Village life to the profound transformations taking place in American society at large during the same years.
The Story of the Trenton Six
The case of the Trenton Six attracted international attention in its time (1948–1952) and was once known as the “northern Scottsboro Boys case.” Yet, there is no memory of it. The shame of racism evident in the case has been nearly erased from the public record. Now, historian Cathy D. Knepper takes us back to the courtroom to make us aware of this shocking chapter in American history.
Jersey Justice: The Story of the Trenton Six begins in 1948 when William Horner, an elderly junk dealer, was murdered in his downtown Trenton shop. Over a two-week period, six local African American men were arrested and charged with collectively killing Horner. Violating every rule in the book, the Trenton police held the six men in incommunicado detention, without warrants, and threatened them until they confessed. At the end of the trial the all-white jury sentenced the six men to die in the electric chair.
That might have been the end of the story were it not for the tireless efforts of Bessie Mitchell, the sister of one of the accused men. Undaunted by the refusal of the NAACP and the ACLU to help appeal the conviction of the Trenton Six, Mitchell enlisted the aid of the Civil Rights Congress, ultimately taking the case as far as the New Jersey Supreme Court. Along the way, the Trenton Six garnered the attention and involvement of many prominent activists, politicians, and artists, including Paul Robeson, Thurgood Marshall, Eleanor Roosevelt, Pete Seeger, Arthur Miller, and Albert Einstein. Jersey Justice brings to light a shameful moment in our nation’s history, but it also tells the story of a personal battle for social justice that changed America.
The Life and Times of Sam Ward, Man-About-Washington in the Gilded Age
King of the Lobby tells the story of how one man harnessed delicious food, fine wine, and good conversation to the task of becoming the most influential lobbyist of the Gilded Age. Sam Ward was a colorful character. Scion of an old and honorable family, best friend of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and charming man-about-Washington, Ward held his own in an era crowded with larger-than-life personalities. Living by the motto that the shortest route between a pending bill and a congressman’s “aye” was through his stomach, Ward elegantly entertained political elites in return for their votes. At a time when waves of scandal washed over Washington, the popular press railed against the wickedness of the lobby, and self-righteous politicians predicted that special interests would cause the downfall of democratic government, Sam Ward still reigned supreme. By the early 1870s, he had earned the title "King of the Lobby" and jokingly referred to himself as "Rex Vestiari." Ward cultivated a style of lobbying that survives today in the form of expensive golf outings, extravagant dinners, and luxurious vacations. Kathryn Allamong Jacob's engaging account shows how the "king" earned his crown through cookery and conversation and how this son of wealth and privilege helped to create a questionable profession in a city that then, as now, rested on power and influence.
The Politics of Civility
The Life and Times of Richard J. Hughes explores the influential public service of this two-term New Jersey governor, the only person in New Jersey history to serve as both governor and chief justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court. John B. Wefing's research includes interviews with prominent politicians and leaders who worked with Hughes at various points in his career. The result is a rich story of a public servant who possessed a true ability to work with members of both political parties and played a significant role in shaping modern New Jersey.
Society and Philanthropy in the Gilded Age
Mary Elizabeth Garrett was one of the most influential philanthropists and women activists of the Gilded Age. With Mary’s legacy all but forgotten, Kathleen Waters Sander recounts in impressive detail the life and times of this remarkable woman, through the turbulent years of the Civil War to the early twentieth century. At once a captivating biography of Garrett and an epic account of the rise of commerce, railroading, and women’s rights, Sander's work re-examines the great social and political movements of the age. As the youngest child and only daughter of the B&O Railroad mogul John Work Garrett, Mary was bright and capable, well suited to become her father’s heir apparent. But social convention prohibited her from following in his footsteps, a source of great frustration for the brilliant and strong-willed woman. Mary turned her attentions instead to promoting women’s rights, using her status and massive wealth to advance her uncompromising vision for women’s place in the expanding United States. She contributed the endowment to establish the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine with two unprecedented conditions: that women be admitted on the same terms as men and that the school be graduate level, thereby forcing revolutionary policy changes at the male-run institution. Believing that advanced education was the key to women’s betterment, she helped found and sustain the prestigious girl’s preparatory school in Baltimore, the Bryn Mawr School. Her philanthropic gifts to Bryn Mawr College helped tranform the modest Quaker school into a renowned women's college. Mary was also a great supporter of women’s suffrage, working tirelessly to gain equal rights for women. Suffragist, friend of charitable causes, and champion of women’s education, Mary Elizabeth Garrett both improved the status of women and ushered in modern standards of American medicine and philanthropy. Sander’s thoughtful and informed study of this pioneering philanthropist is the first to recognize Garrett and her monumental contributions to equality in America.
Politics, Coal, and the Roots of Conflict in a West Central West Virginia Mining Community
On May 19, 1920, gunshots rang through the streets of Matewan, West Virginia, in an event soon known as the “Matewan Massacre.” Most historians of West Virginia and Appalachia see this event as the beginning of a long series of tribulations known as the second Mine Wars. But was it instead the culmination of an even longer series of proceedings that unfolded in Mingo County, dating back at least to the Civil War? Matewan Before the Massacre provides the first comprehensive history of the area, beginning in the late eighteenth century continuing up to the Massacre. It covers the relevant economic history, including the development of the coal mine industry and the struggles over land ownership; labor history, including early efforts of unionization; transportation history, including the role of the N&W Railroad; political history, including the role of political factions in the county’s two major communities—Matewan and Williamson; and the impact of the state’s governors and legislatures on Mingo County.
The Rise, Fall and Resurrection of St. Benedict's Prep in Newark, N.J.
Just outside downtown Newark, New Jersey, sits an abbey and school. For more than 150 years Benedictine monks have lived, worked, and prayed on High Street, a once-grand thoroughfare that became Newark's Skid Row and a focal point of the 1967 riots.St. Benedict's today has become a model of a successful inner-city school, with 95 percent of its graduates-mainly African American and Latino boys-going on to college. Miracle on High Street is the story of how the monks of St. Benedict's transformed their venerable yet outdated school to become a thriving part of the community that helped save a faltering city.In the 1960s, after a trinity of woes-massive deindustrialization, high-speed suburbanization, and racial violence-caused an exodus from Newark, St. Benedict's struggled to remain open. Enrollment in general dwindled, and fewer students enrolled from the surrounding community.The monks watched the violence of the 1967 riots from the school's rooftop along High Street. In the riot's aftermath more families fled what some called the worst city in America.The school closed in 1972, in what seemed to be just another funeral for an urban Catholic school. A few monks, inspired by the Benedictine virtues of stability and adaptability, reopened St. Benedict's only one year later with a bare-bones staff . Their new mission was to bring to young African American and Latino males the same opportunities that German and Irish immigrants had had 150 years before.More than thirty years later, St. Benedict's is one of the most unusual schools in the country. Its remarkable success shows that American education can bridge the achievement gap between white and black, as well as that between rich and poor. The story of St. Benedict's is about an institution's rise and fall, resurrection andrenaissance. It also provides valuable insights into American religious, immigration, educational, and metropolitan history. By staying true to their historical values amid a continually changing city, the downtown monks, in resurrecting its prep school, helped save an American city.Some have even called it the miracle on High Street.
From Hunter-Gatherers to the Age of Jefferson
James D. Rice’s fresh study of the Potomac River basin begins with a mystery. Why, when the whole of the region offered fertile soil and excellent fishing and hunting, was nearly three-quarters of the land uninhabited on the eve of colonization? Rice wonders how the existence of this no man’s land influenced nearby Native American and, later, colonial settlements. Did it function as a commons, as a place where all were free to hunt and fish? Or was it perceived as a strange and hostile wilderness? Rice discovers environmental factors at the center of the story. Making use of extensive archaeological and anthropological research, as well as the vast scholarship on farming practices in the colonial period, he traces the region’s history from its earliest known habitation. With exceptionally vivid prose, Rice makes clear the implications of unbridled economic development for the forests, streams, and wetlands of the Potomac River basin. With what effects, Rice asks, did humankind exploit and then alter the landscape and the quality of the river’s waters? Equal parts environmental, Native American, and colonial history, Nature and History in the Potomac Country is a useful and innovative study of the Potomac River, its valley, and its people.