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Breaking the Race and Gender Barriers of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Tradition
One of the first women’s organizations to mask and perform during Mardi Gras, the Million Dollar Baby Dolls redefined the New Orleans carnival tradition. Tracing their origins from Storyville-era brothels and dance halls to their re-emergence in post-Katrina New Orleans, author Kim Marie Vaz uncovers the fascinating history of the “raddy-walking, shake-dancing, cigar-smoking, money-flinging” ladies who strutted their way into a predominantly male establishment. The Baby Dolls formed around 1912 as an organization of African American women who used their profits from working in New Orleans’s red-light district to compete with other Black prostitutes on Mardi Gras. Part of this event involved the tradition of masking, in which carnival groups create a collective identity through costuming. Their baby doll costumes—short satin dresses, stockings with garters, and bonnets—set against a bold and provocative public behavior not only exploited stereotypes but also empowered and made visible an otherwise marginalized female demographic. Over time, different neighborhoods adopted the Baby Doll tradition, stirring the creative imagination of Black women and men across New Orleans, from the downtown Tremé area to the uptown community of Mahalia Jackson. Vaz follows the Baby Doll phenomenon through one hundred years with photos, articles, and interviews and concludes with the birth of contemporary groups, emphasizing these organizations’ crucial contribution to Louisiana’s cultural history.
The Forgotten Conflict between the Confederate Army of Tennessee and the Union Army of the Cumberland
Three days of savage and bloody fighting between Confederate and Union troops at Stones River in Middle Tennessee ended with nearly 25,000 casualties but no clear victor. The staggering number of killed or wounded equaled the losses suffered in the well-known Battle of Shiloh. Using previously neglected sources, Larry J. Daniel rescues this important campaign from obscurity. The Battle of Stones River, fought between December 31, 1862, and January 2, 1863, was a tactical draw but proved to be a strategic northern victory. According to Daniel, Union defeats in late 1862—both at Chickasaw Bayou in Mississippi and at Fredericksburg, Virginia—transformed the clash in Tennessee into a much-needed morale booster for the North. Daniel’s study of the battle’s two antagonists, William S. Rosecrans for the Union Army of the Cumberland and Braxton Bragg for the Confederate Army of Tennessee, presents contrasts in leadership and a series of missteps. Union soldiers liked Rosecrans’s personable nature, whereas Bragg acquired a reputation as antisocial and suspicious. Rosecrans had won his previous battle at Corinth, and Bragg had failed at the recent Kentucky Campaign. But despite Rosecrans’s apparent advantage, both commanders made serious mistakes. With only a few hundred yards separating the lines, Rosecrans allowed Confederates to surprise and route his right ring. Eventually, Union pressure forced Bragg to launch a division-size attack, a disastrous move. Neither side could claim victory on the battlefield. In the aftermath of the bloody conflict, Union commanders and northern newspapers portrayed the stalemate as a victory, bolstering confidence in the Lincoln administration and dimming the prospects for the “peace wing” of the northern Democratic Party. In the South, the deadlock led to continued bickering in the Confederate western high command and scorn for Braxton Bragg.
Fought in a tangled forest fringing the south bank of the Rapidan River, the Battle of the Wilderness marked the initial engagement in the climactic months of the Civil War in Virginia, and the first encounter between Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee. In an exciting narrative, Gordon C. Rhea provides the consummate recounting of that conflict of May 5 and 6, 1864, which ended with high casualties on both sides but no clear victor. With its balanced analysis of events and people, command structures and strategies, The Battle of the Wilderness is operational history as it should be written.
Essays on the American Civil War
In The Battlefield and Beyond leading Civil War historians explore a tragic part of our nation’s history though the lenses of race, gender, leadership, politics, and memory. The essays in this strong collection shed new light on the defining issues of the Civil War era. Orville Vernon Burton, Leonne M. Hudson, and Daniel E. Sutherland delve into the master-slave relationship, the role of blacks in the army, and the nature of southern violence. Herman Hattaway, Paul D. Escott, and Judith F. Gentry offer innovative perspectives on the influential leadership of President Jefferson Davis, Lieutenant-General Stephen D. Lee, and General Edmund Kirby Smith. Other contributors consider politicians and the public: Michael J. Connolly and Clayton E. Jewett investigate how despotism contributed to Confederate defeat; David E. Kyvig and Alan M. Kraut examine the war’s impact on the Constitution and racial relationships with Jews; and Bertram Wyatt-Brown, Kenneth Nivison, and Emory M. Thomas discuss the critical function of memory in our understanding of Lincoln’s assassination. The essays in The Battlefield and Beyond consider the fundamental issue of the Confederacy’s failure and military defeat but also expose our nation’s continuing struggles with race, individual rights, terrorism, and the economy. Collectively, this distinguished group of historians reveals that 150 years after the nation’s most defining conflict its consequences still resonate.
The second volume in Gordon C. Rhea's peerless five-book series on the Civil War's 1864 Overland Campaign abounds with Rhea's signature detail, innovative analysis, and riveting prose. Here Rhea examines the maneuvers and battles from May 7, 1864, when Grant left the Wilderness, through May 12, when his attempt to break Lee's line by frontal assault reached a chilling climax at what is now called the Bloody Angle. Drawing exhaustively upon previously untapped materials, Rhea challenges conventional wisdom about this violent clash of titans to construct the ultimate account of Grant and Lee at Spotsylvania.
The Life of Southern Journalist Cornelia Battle Lewis, 1893–1956
A longtime columnist for the Raleigh News and Observer, Cornelia Battle Lewis earned a national reputation in the 1920s and 1930s for her courageous advocacy on behalf of women’s rights, African Americans, children, and labor unions. Late in her life, however, after fighting mental illness, Lewis reversed many of her stances and railed against the liberalism she had spent her life advancing. In Battling Nell, Alexander S. Leidholdt tells the compelling and ultimately tragic life story of this groundbreaking journalist against the backdrop of the turbulent post-Reconstruction Jim Crow South and speculates about the cause of her extraordinary transformation. The daughter of North Carolina’s most prominent public health official, Lewis grew up in Raleigh, but her experiences at Smith College in Massachusetts, and later in France during World War I, led her to question the prevailing racial attitudes and gender roles of her native region. In 1920, Lewis began her storied career with the News and Observer. Inspired by H. L. Mencken’s scathing criticism of the South, she soon established herself as the region’s leading female liberal journalist. Her column, “Incidentally,” attacked the Ku Klux Klan, lobbied against the exploitation of mill workers, defended strikers during the notorious communist-organized Gastonia labor violence, mocked religious fundamentalists who fought the teaching of evolution, and decried lynch law. A suffragist and a feminist who saw women’s rights as inextricably linked to human rights, Lewis ran for state legislature in 1928 and was one of the first women in North Carolina to be admitted to the bar. In the 1930s, however, Lewis faced repeated institutionalizations for a debilitating bout of mental illness and sought treatment from Christian Science practitioners, spiritualists, and psychotherapists. As she aged, her views grew increasingly reactionary, and she insisted that she had served as a communist dupe during the Gastonia strike and trials, that communists had infiltrated the University of North Carolina, and that many of her former progressive allies had ties to communism. Finally, many of her opinions completely reversed, and in the wake of the 1954 Brown v. Board decision, she served as an influential spokesperson for the South’s massive resistance to public school desegregation. She continued to espouse these conservative beliefs until her death in 1956. In his detailed retelling of Lewis’s fascinating life, Leidholdt chronicles the turbulent history of North Carolina from the 1920s through the 1950s, as industrialization and racial integration began to tear at the region’s conservative fabric. He vividly explains the background and ramifications of Lewis’s many controversial stances and explores the possible reasons for her ideological about-face. Through the extraordinary story of “Battling Nell,” Leidholdt reveals how the complex issues of gender, labor, and race intertwined to influence the convulsive events that shaped the course of early twentieth-century southern history.
Nature and People in the Louisiana Bayou Country
Louisiana’s bayous and their watersheds teem with cypress trees, alligators, crawfish, and many other life forms. From Bayou Tigre to Half Moon Bayou, these sluggish streams meander through lowlands, marshes, and even uplands to dominate the state’s landscape. In Bayou-Diversity, conservationist Kelby Ouchley reveals the bayou’s intricate web of flora and fauna. Through a collection of essays about Louisiana’s natural history, Ouchley details an amazing array of plants and animals found in the Bayou State. Baldcypress, orchids, feral hogs, eels, black bears, bald eagles, and cottonmouth snakes live in the well over a hundred bayous of the region. Collectively, Ouchley’s vignettes portray vibrant and complex habitats. But human interaction with the bayou and our role in its survival, Ouchley argues, will determine the future of these intricate ecosystems. Bayou-Diversity narrates the story of the bayou one flower, one creature at a time, in turn illustrating the bigger picture of this treasured and troubled Louisiana landscape.
The Acadian in American Literature from Longfellow to James Lee Burke
From antebellum times, Louisiana’s unique multipartite society included a legal and social space for intermediary racial groups such as Acadians, Creoles, and Creoles of Color. In Becoming Cajun, Becoming American, Maria Hebert-Leiter explores how American writers have portrayed Acadian culture over the past 150 years. Combining a study of Acadian literary history with an examination of Acadian ethnic history in light of recent social theories, she offers insight into the Americanization process experienced by Acadians—who over time came to be known as Cajuns—during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Hebert-Leiter examines the entire history of the Acadian, or Cajun, in American literature, beginning with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem Evangeline and the writings of George Washington Cable, including his novel Bonaventure. The cultural complexity of Acadian and Creole identities led many writers to rely on stereotypes in Acadian characters, but as Hebert-Leiter shows, the ambiguity of Louisiana’s class and racial divisions also allowed writers to address complex and controversial—and sometimes taboo—subjects. She emphasizes the fiction of Kate Chopin, whose short stories contain Acadian characters accepted as white Americans during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Representations of the Acadian in literature reflect the Acadians’ path towards assimilation, as they celebrated their differences while still adopting an all-American notion of self. In twentieth-century writing, Acadian figures came to be more often called Cajun, and increasingly outsiders perceived them not simply as exotic or mythic beings but as complex persons who fit into traditional American society while reflecting its cultural diversity. Hebert-Leiter explores this transition in Ernest Gaines’s novel A Gathering of Old Men and James Lee Burke’s detective novels featuring Dave Robicheaux. She also discusses the works of Ada Jack Carver, Elma Godchaux, Shirley Ann Grau, and other writers. From Longfellow through Tim Gautreaux, Acadian and Cajun literature captures the stages of this fascinating cultural dynamism, making it a pivotal part of any history of American ethnicity and of Cajun culture in particular. Concise and accessible, Becoming Cajun, Becoming American provides an excellent introduction to American Acadian and Cajun literature.
A Virginia Community at War, 1861–1867
During the Civil War, the strategically located town of Winchester, Virginia, suffered from the constant turmoil of military campaigning perhaps more than any other town. Occupied dozens of times by alternating Union and Confederate forces, Winchester suffered through three major battles, including some seventy smaller skirmishes. In his voluminous community study of the town over the course of four tumultuous years, Richard R. Duncan shows that in many ways Winchester's history provides a paradigm of the changing nature of the war. Indeed, Duncan reveals how the town offers a microcosm of the war: slavery collapsed, women assumed control in the absence of men, and civilians vied for authority alongside an assortment of revolving military commanders. Control over Winchester was vital for both the North and the South. Confederates used it as a base to strike the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and conduct raids into western Maryland and Pennsylvania, and when Federal forces occupied the town, they threatened Staunton—Lee's breadbasket—and the Virginia Central Railroad. At various times during the war, generals "Stonewall" Jackson, Nathaniel Banks, Robert Milroy, Richard Ewell, Jubal Early, and Philip Sheridan each controlled the town. Guerrilla activity further compounded the region's strife as insecurity became the norm for its civilian population. In this first scholarly treatment of occupied Winchester, Duncan has compiled a narrative of voices from the entire community, including those of groups often omitted from such studies, such as slaves, women, and Confederate dissenters. He shows how Federal occupation meant an early end to slavery in Winchester and how the paucity of men left women to serve as the major cohesive force in the community, making them a bulwark of Confederate support. He also explores the tensions between civilians and military personnel that inevitably arose as each group sought to protect its interests. The war, Duncan explains, left Winchester a landscape of wreckage and economic loss. A fascinating case study of civilian survival amid the turmoil of war, Beleaguered Winchester will appeal to Civil War scholars and enthusiasts alike.