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Nineteenth-Century Mississippi River Gambling Stories
In 1836 Benjamin Drake, a midwestern writer of popular sketches for newspapers of the day, introduced his readers to a new and distinctly American rascal who rode the steamboats up and down the Mississippi and other western waterways—the riverboat gambler. These men, he recorded, “dress with taste and elegance; carry gold chronometers in their pockets; and swear with the most genteel precision. . . . Every where throughout the valley, these mistletoe gentry are called by the original, if not altogether classic, cognomen of ‘Black-legs.’” In Blacklegs, Card Sharps, and Confidence Men, Thomas Ruys Smith collects nineteenth-century stories, sketches, and book excerpts by a gallery of authors to create a comprehensive collection of writings about the riverboat gambler. Long an iconic figure in American myth and popular culture but, strangely, one that has never until now received a book-length treatment, the Mississippi River gambler was a favorite character throughout the nineteenth century—one often rich with moral ambiguities that remain unresolved to this day. In the absorbing fictional and nonfictional accounts of high stakes and sudden reversals of fortune found in the pages of Smith’s book, the voices of canonized writers such as William Dean Howells, Herman Melville, and, of course, Mark Twain hold prominent positions. But they mingle seamlessly with lesser-known pieces such as an excerpt from Edward Willett’s sensationalistic dime novel Flush Fred’s Full Hand, raucous sketches by anonymous Old Southwestern humorists from the Spirit of the Times, and colorful accounts by now nearly forgotten authors such as Daniel R. Hundley and George W. Featherstonhaugh. Smith puts the twenty-eight selections in perspective with an Introduction that thoroughly explores the history and myth surrounding this endlessly fascinating American cultural icon. While the riverboat gambler may no longer ply his trade along the Mississippi, Blacklegs, Card Sharps, and Confidence Men makes clear the ways in which he still operates quite successfully in the American imagination.
The Constitutional Conventions of Radical Reconstruction
After the Civil War, Congress required ten former Confederate states to rewrite their constitutions before they could be readmitted to the Union. An electorate composed of newly enfranchised former slaves, native southern whites (minus significant numbers of disenfranchised former Confederate officials), and a small contingent of "carpetbaggers," or outside whites, sent delegates to ten constitutional conventions. Derogatorily labeled "black and tan" by their detractors, these assemblies wrote constitutions and submitted them to Congress and to the voters in their respective states for approval. Blacks, Carpetbaggers, and Scalawags offers a quantitative study of these decisive but little-understood assemblies—the first elected bodies in the United States to include a significant number of blacks.
Richard L. Hume and Jerry B. Gough scoured manuscript census returns to determine the age, occupation, property holdings, literacy, and slaveholdings of 839 of the conventions' 1,018 delegates. Carefully analyzing convention voting records on certain issues—including race, suffrage, and government structure—they correlate delegates' voting patterns with their racial and socioeconomic status. The authors then assign a "Republican support score" to each delegate who voted often enough to count, establishing the degree to which each delegate adhered to the Republican leaders' program at his convention. Using these scores, they divide the delegates into three groups—radicals, swing voters, and conservatives—and incorporate their quantitative findings into the narrative histories of each convention, providing, for the first time, a detailed analysis of these long-overlooked assemblies.
Hume and Gough's comprehensive study offers an objective look at the accomplishments and shortcomings of the conventions and humanizes the delegates who have until now been understood largely as stereotypes. Blacks, Carpetbaggers, and Scalawags provides an essential reference guide for anyone seeking a better understanding of the Reconstruction era.
David Huddle's latest collection, Blacksnake at the Family Reunion, shares intimate and amusing stories as if told by a quirky, usually reticent, great uncle. In "Boy Story," a teenage romantic meeting ends abruptly when the boy's sweetheart realizes they have parked near her grandmother's grave. The poem "Aloft" recalls a widowed mother's indignation after she receives a marriage proposal in a hot air balloon. Haunted by the words on his older sister's tombstone -- "born & died... then / a single date / in November" -- the speaker in one poem struggles to understand a tragic loss: "The ampersand / tells the whole truth / and nothing but, / so help me God, / whose divine shrug / is expressed so / eloquently / by that grave mark."
Blacksnake at the Family Reunion continues Huddle's poetic inquiry into the power of early childhood and family to infuse adulthood with sadness and despair -- an inquiry conducted with profound empathy for the fragility of humankind.
Race, Gender, and Violence in Pre-Civil War Kansas
In Bleeding Borders, Kristen Tegtmeier Oertel offers a fresh, multifaceted interpretation of the quintessential sectional conflict in pre–Civil War Kansas. Instead of focusing on the white, male politicians and settlers who vied for control of the Kansas territorial legislature, Oertel explores the crucial roles Native Americans, African Americans, and white women played in the literal and rhetorical battle between proslavery and antislavery settlers in the region. She brings attention to the local debates and the diverse peoples who participated in them during that contentious period. Oertel begins by detailing the settlement of eastern Kansas by emigrant Indian tribes and explores their interaction with the growing number of white settlers in the region. She analyzes the attempts by southerners to plant slavery in Kansas and the ultimately successful resistance of slaves and abolitionists. Oertel then considers how crude frontier living conditions, Indian conflict, political upheaval, and sectional violence reshaped traditional Victorian gender roles in Kansas and explores women’s participation in the political and physical conflicts between proslavery and antislavery settlers. Oertel goes on to examine northern and southern definitions of “true manhood” and how competing ideas of masculinity infused political and sectional tensions. She concludes with an analysis of miscegenation—not only how racial mixing between Indians, slaves, and whites influenced events in territorial Kansas, but more importantly, how the fear of miscegenation fueled both proslavery and antislavery arguments about the need for civil war. As Oertel demonstrates, the players in Bleeding Kansas used weapons other than their Sharpes rifles and Bowie knives to wage war over the extension of slavery: they attacked each other’s cultural values and struggled to assert their own political wills. They jealously guarded ideals of manhood, womanhood, and whiteness even as the presence of Indians and blacks and the debate over slavery raised serious questions about the efficacy of these principles. Oertel argues that, ultimately, many Native Americans, blacks, and women shaped the political and cultural terrain in ways that ensured the destruction of slavery, but they, along with their white male counterparts, failed to defeat the resilient power of white supremacy. Moving beyond a conventional political history of Bleeding Kansas, Bleeding Borders breaks new ground by revealing how the struggles of this highly diverse region contributed to the national move toward disunion and how the ideologies that governed race and gender relations were challenged as North, South, and West converged on the border between slavery and freedom.
Turner Ashby in the Civil War and the Southern Mind
With Blood Image, Paul Anderson shows that the symbol of a man can be just as important as the man himself. Turner Ashby was one of the most famous fighting men of the Civil War. Rising to colonel of the 7th Virginia Cavalry, Ashby fought brilliantly under Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson during the 1862 Shenandoah Valley campaign until he died in battle. Anderson demonstrates that Ashby's image—a catalytic, mesmerizing, and often contradictory combination of southern antebellum cultural ideals and wartime hopes and fears—emerged during his own lifetime and was not a later creation of the Lost Cause. The stylistic synergy of Anderson's startling narrative design fuels a poignant irony: men like Ashby—a chivalrous, charismatic "knight" who had difficulty complying with Stonewall Jackson's authority—become trapped by the desire to have their real lives reflect their imagined ones.
Imagining Race in American Literature, 1890--1940
The invocation of blood-as both an image and a concept-has long been critical in the formation of American racism. In Blood Work, Shawn Salvant mines works from the American literary canon to explore the multitude of associations that race and blood held in the consciousness of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Americans.
Drawing upon race and metaphor theory, Salvant provides readings of four classic novels featuring themes of racial identity: Mark Twain's Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894); Pauline Hopkins's Of One Blood (1902); Frances Harper's Iola Leroy (1892); and William Faulkner's Light in August (1932). His expansive analysis of blood imagery uncovers far more than the merely biological connotations that dominate many studies of blood rhetoric: the racial discourses of blood in these novels encompass the anthropological and the legal, the violent and the religious. Penetrating and insightful, Blood Work illuminates the broad-ranging power of the blood metaphor to script distinctly American plots-real and literary-of racial identity.
Life As a Forensic Anthropologist
“On the first day of the search, I failed to find the body.” So writes forensic anthropologist and bioarchaeologist Mary H. Manhein—or “the bone lady” as law enforcement personnel call her. In this, one of dozens of stories recollected in her powerful memoir, Manhein and the state police eventually unearth a black plastic bag buried in the banks of the Mississippi River containing the body of a man who has been missing for five years. After the painstaking process of examining the remains, confirming the victim’s identity, and preparing a formal report for the police, Manhein testifies for the prosecution at the murder trial. The defendant is convicted (due in no small part to Manhein), and the bone lady has helped solve yet another mystery. As director of the Forensic Anthropology and Computer Enhancement Services (FACES) Laboratory at Louisiana State University, Manhein unravels mysteries of life and death every day. In The Bone Lady, she shares, with the compassion and humor of a born storyteller, many fascinating cases that include the science underlying her analyses as well as the human stories behind the remains. Manhein, an expert on the human skeleton, assists law enforcement by providing profiles of remains that narrow the identification process when the traditional means used by medical examiners or coroners to conduct autopsies are no longer applicable—simply put, when bones are all that are left to tell the story. She assesses age, sex, race, height, signs of trauma, and time since death, and creates clay facial reconstructions. The case studies Manhein includes in The Bone Lady highlight the diversity of the field of forensic anthropology. She presents some of her more lighthearted cases, such as that instigated by the suburban man who discovers a box of bones buried in his backyard labeled “Patsy Lou Bates—Sis.” A coroner, police investigators, and swarms of media are present when Manhein identifies Patsy Lou as a dearly departed family pet. One of her most chilling cases concerns a husband who murdered his wife, buried her in their yard, planted a rose garden over her grave, and continued to garden there for eight years until his deed was discovered. Manhein’s involvement in historic cases includes her participation in the exhumation of Dr. Carl Weiss, the alleged assassin of Huey P. Long. Although Manhein enjoys solving high-profile cases, her personal crusade is identifying the John and Jane Does who wait in her lab. Manhein’s own words perfectly characterize her mission: “Identifying a victim can bring peace of mind to the family and can help them to go on with their lives. Some-times, peace of mind is the only gift that I can give.”
Cold Cases in Forensic Anthropology
Over the past thirty years, forensic anthropologist Mary H. Manhein has helped authorities to identify hundreds of deceased persons throughout Louisiana and beyond. In Bone Remains, she offers details of twenty riveting cases from her files -- many of them involving facial reconstructions where only bones offered clues to an individual's story.
Manhein takes readers into the field, inside her lab, and through DNA databases and government bureaucracies as she and her team tirelessly work to identify and seek justice for those who can no longer speak for themselves. From a two-thousand-year-old mummy, to Civil War sailors, to graves disturbed by Hurricane Isaac, Manhein presents both modern and historic cases. Her conversational accounts provide a fascinating look into the stories behind the headlines as well as sometimes heart-wrenching details of people lost and found.
Manhein shows how each case came to her team, how they used scientific analysis to unravel the secrets the bones had to tell, and how facial reconstructions and a special database for missing and unidentified people assisted in closing cold cases long believed to be unsolvable. She also discusses several mysteries that still elude her, further reflecting the determination and passion central to Manhein's career for over three decades.
Purporting to be a "lost" seventeenth book of the 16-volume Anthologia Graeca, Book Seventeen uses the themes and images of ancient mythology to conjure a new way of looking at our modern world. Gods of all types line the pages of this collection, from those deities that only operate in our personal spaces-the poet's companion, the demigod Solitude, as well as the elusive god of Complicity-to more familiar divinities in unfamiliar roles, such as Helios shopping in an outdoor market in Paris, or an aging Aphrodite in a short skirt chatting with visitors to an unfamiliar city.
Pithy and humorous, reverential and impudent, Greg Delanty's poems showcase the author's keen eye for the mythologies on which we depend to make sense of our messy, bewildering lives.