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Almost Free Cover

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Almost Free

A Story about Family and Race in Antebellum Virginia

Eva Wolf Sheppard

In Almost Free, Eva Sheppard Wolf uses the story of Samuel Johnson, a free black man from Virginia attempting to free his family, to add detail and depth to our understanding of the lives of free blacks in the South.

There were several paths to freedom for slaves, each of them difficult. After ten years of elaborate dealings and negotiations, Johnson earned manumission in August 1812. An illiterate “mulatto” who had worked at the tavern in Warrenton as a slave, Johnson as a freeman was an anomaly, since free blacks made up only 3 percent of Virginia's population. Johnson stayed in Fauquier County and managed to buy his enslaved family, but the law of the time required that they leave Virginia if Johnson freed them. Johnson opted to stay. Because slaves' marriages had no legal standing, Johnson was not legally married to his enslaved wife, and in the event of his death his family would be sold to new owners. Johnson's story dramatically illustrates the many harsh realities and cruel ironies faced by blacks in a society hostile to their freedom.

Wolf argues that despite the many obstacles Johnson and others faced, race relations were more flexible during the early American republic than is commonly believed. It could actually be easier for a free black man to earn the favor of elite whites than it would be for blacks in general in the post-Reconstruction South. Wolf demonstrates the ways in which race was constructed by individuals in their day-to-day interactions, arguing that racial status was not simply a legal fact but a fluid and changeable condition. Almost Free looks beyond the majority experience, focusing on those at society's edges to gain a deeper understanding of the meaning of freedom in the slaveholding South.

Along Navajo Trails Cover

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Along Navajo Trails

Recollections of a Trader 1898-1948

Will Evans edited by Susan E. Woods and Robert McPherson

Will Evans's writings should find a special niche in the small but significant body of literature from and about traders to the Navajos. Evans was the proprietor of the Shiprock Trading Company. Probably more than most of his fellow traders, he had a strong interest in Navajo culture. The effort he made to record and share what he learned certainly was unusual. He published in the Farmington and New Mexico newspapers and other periodicals, compiling many of his pieces into a book manuscript. His subjects were Navajos he knew and traded with, their stories of historic events such as the Long Walk, and descriptions of their culture as he, an outsider without academic training, understood it. Evans's writings were colored by his fondness for, uncommon access to, and friendships with Navajos, and by who he was: a trader, folk artist, and Mormon. He accurately portrayed the operations of a trading post and knew both the material and artistic value of Navajo crafts. His art was mainly inspired by Navajo sandpainting. He appropriated and, no doubt, sometimes misappropriated that sacred art to paint surfaces and objects of all kinds. As a Mormon, he had particular views of who the Navajos were and what they believed and was representative of a large class of often-overlooked traders. Much of the Navajo trade in the Four Corners region and farther west was operated by Mormons. They had a significant historical role as intermediaries, or brokers, between Native and European American peoples in this part of the West. Well connected at the center of that world, Evans was a good spokesperson.

Along the Hudson and Mohawk Cover

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Along the Hudson and Mohawk

The 1790 Journey of Count Paolo Andreani

Edited and translated by Cesare Marino and Karim M. Tiro

In the summer of 1790 the Italian explorer Count Paolo Andreani embarked on a journey that would take him through New York State and eastern Iroquoia. Traveling along the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers, Andreani kept a meticulous record of his observations and experiences in the New World. Published complete for the first time in English, the diary is of major importance to those interested in life after the American Revolution, political affairs in the New Republic, and Native American peoples.

Through Andreani's writings, we glimpse a world in cultural, economic, and political transition. An active participant in Enlightenment science, Andreani provides detailed observations of the landscape and natural history of his route. He also documents the manners and customs of the Iroquois, Shakers, and German, Dutch, and Anglo New Yorkers. Andreani was particularly interested in the Oneida and Onondaga Indians he visited, and his description of an Oneida lacrosse match accompanies the earliest known depiction of a lacrosse stick. Andreani's American letters, included here, relate his sometimes difficult but always revealing personal relationships with Washington, Jefferson, and Adams.

Prefaced by an illuminating historical and biographical introduction, Along the Hudson and Mohawk is a fascinating look at the New Republic as seen through the eyes of an observant and curious explorer.

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Along the Streets of Bronzeville

Black Chicago's Literary Landscape

Elizabeth Schlabach

Along the Streets of Bronzeville examines the flowering of African American creativity, activism, and scholarship in the South Side Chicago district known as Bronzeville during the period between the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s and the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s. Poverty stricken, segregated, and bursting at the seams with migrants, Bronzeville was the community that provided inspiration, training, and work for an entire generation of diversely talented African American authors and artists who came of age during the years between the two world wars. In this significant recovery project, Elizabeth Schlabach investigates the institutions and streetscapes of Black Chicago that fueled an entire literary and artistic movement. She argues that African American authors and artists--such as Gwendolyn Brooks, Richard Wright, Langston Hughes, painter Archibald Motley, and many others--viewed and presented black reality from a specific geographic vantage point: the view along the streets of Bronzeville. Schlabach explores how the particular rhythms and scenes of daily life in Bronzeville locations, such as the State Street Stroll district or the bustling intersection of 47th Street and South Parkway, figured into the creative works and experiences of the artists and writers of the Black Chicago Renaissance. Providing a virtual tour South Side African American urban life at street level, Along the Streets of Bronzeville charts the complex interplay and intersection of race, geography, and cultural criticism during the Black Chicago Renaissance's rise and fall.

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Alvin York

A New Biography of the Hero of the Argonne

Douglas V. Mastriano

Alvin C. York (1887--1964) -- devout Christian, conscientious objector, and reluctant hero of World War I -- is one of America's most famous and celebrated soldiers. Known to generations through Gary Cooper's Academy Award-winning portrayal in the 1941 film Sergeant York, York is credited with the capture of 132 German soldiers on October 8, 1918, in the Meuse-Argonne region of France -- a deed for which he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

At war's end, the media glorified York's bravery but some members of the German military and a soldier from his own unit cast aspersions on his wartime heroics. Historians continue to debate whether York has received more recognition than he deserves. A fierce disagreement about the location of the battle in the Argonne forest has further complicated the soldier's legacy.

In Alvin York, Douglas V. Mastriano sorts fact from myth in the first full-length biography of York in decades. He meticulously examines York's youth in the hills of east Tennessee, his service in the Great War, and his return to a quiet civilian life dedicated to charity. By reviewing artifacts recovered from the battlefield using military terrain analysis, forensic study, and research in both German and American archives, Mastriano reconstructs the events of October 8 and corroborates the recorded accounts. On the eve of the WWI centennial, Alvin York promises to be a major contribution to twentieth-century military history.

Always a Cowboy Cover

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Always a Cowboy

Judge Wilson McCarthy and the Rescue of the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad

Will Bagley

Cowboy, judge, federal official, then business executive, Wilson McCarthy mirrored change and growth in the twentieth-century West. Leading the Denver & Rio Grande back from the brink saved a vital link in the national transportation system. The D&RGW ran over and through the scenic Rockies, developing mineral resources, fighting corporate wars, and helping build communities. The Depression brought it to its knees. Accepting federal assignment to save the line, McCarthy turned it into a paragon of mid-century railroading, represented by the streamlined, Vista-Domed California Zephyr, although success hauling freight was of more economic importance. Prior to that, McCarthy’s life had taken him from driving livestock in Canada to trying to drive the national economy as a director of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, the first line of federal attack on the Depression. Always a Cowboy positions McCarthy’s story in a rich historical panorama..

Will Bagley is the author of Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows

Always for the Underdog Cover

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Always for the Underdog

Leather Britches Smith and the Grabow War

Keagan LeJeune

Louisiana’s Neutral Strip, an area of pine forests, squats between the Calcasieu and Sabine Rivers on the border of East Texas. Originally a lawless buffer zone between Spain and the United States, its hardy residents formed tight-knit communities for protection and developed a reliance on self, kin, and neighbor. In the early 1900s, the timber boom sliced through the forests and disrupted these dense communities. Mill towns sprang up, and the promise of money lured land speculators, timber workers, unionists, and a host of other characters, such as the outlaw Leather Britches Smith. That moment continues to shape the place’s cultural consciousness, and people today fashion a lore connected to this time. In a fascinating exploration of the region, Keagan LeJeune unveils the legend of Leather Britches, paralleling the stages of the outlaw’s life to the Neutral Strip’s formation. LeJeune retells each stage of Smith’s life: his notorious past, his audacious deeds of robbery and even generosity, his rumored connection to a local union strike—the Grabow War—significant in the annals of labor history, and his eventual death. As the outlaw’s life vividly unfolds, Always for the Underdog also reveals the area’s history and cultural landscape. Often using the particulars of one small town as a representative example, the book explores how the region remembers and reinterprets the past in order to navigate a world changing rapidly.

Ambition, Competition, and Electoral Reform Cover

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Ambition, Competition, and Electoral Reform

The Politics of Congressional Elections Across Time

Jamie L. Carson

In Ambition, Competition, and Electoral Reform, Jamie L. Carson and Jason M. Roberts present an original study of U.S. congressional elections and electoral institutions for 1872-1944 from a contemporary political science perspective. Using data on late

Amchitka and the Bomb Cover

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Amchitka and the Bomb

Nuclear Testing in Alaska

by Dean W. Kohlhoff

“Amchitka and the Bomb reconstructs thoroughly the decision by the Atomic Energy Commission to use Amchitka Island in the Aleutians as a test site for nuclear missile weaponry . . . utterly disregarding the fact that the island was a wildlife refuge. It will be an important contribution to environmental and Alaska studies and to national defense studies.” - Stephen Haycox, University of Alaska, Anchorage

America Goes to War Cover

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America Goes to War

A Social History of the Continental Army

Charles Neimeyer

One of the images Americans hold most dear is that of the drum-beating, fire-eating Yankee Doodle Dandy rebel, overpowering his British adversaries through sheer grit and determination. The myth of the classless, independence-minded farmer or hard-working artisan-turned-soldier is deeply ingrained in the national psyche.

Charles Neimeyer here separates fact from fiction, revealing for the first time who really served in the army during the Revolution and why. His conclusions are startling. Because the army relied primarily on those not connected to the new American aristorcracy, the African Americans, Irish, Germans, Native Americans, laborers-for-hire, and "free white men on the move" who served in the army were only rarely alltruistic patriots driven by a vision of liberty and national unity.

Bringing to light the true composition of the enlisted ranks, the relationships of African-Americans and of Native Americans to the army, and numerous acts of mutiny, desertion, and resistance against officers and government, Charles Patrick Neimeyer here provides the first comprehensive and historically accurate portrait of the Continental soldier.

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