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Judge John Minor Wisdom
One of the least publicly recognized heroes of the civil rights movement in the United States, John Minor Wisdom served as a member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit from 1957 until his death in 1999 and wrote many of the landmark decisions instrumental in desegregating the American South. In this revealing biography, law professor Joel William Friedman explores Judge Wisdom's substantial legal contributions and political work at a critical time in the history of the South. In 1957, President Eisenhower appointed Wisdom to the Fifth Circuit, which included some of the most deeply segregated southern states: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. In the tumultuous two decades following its decision in Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court issued only a few civil rights decisions, preferring instead to affirm Fifth Circuit Court opinions or let them stand without hearing an appeal. Judge Wisdom, therefore, authored many of the decisions that transformed the South and broke down barriers of all kinds for African Americans, including the desegregation of public schools. In preparing this first full-length biography of Judge Wisdom, Friedman had unrestricted access to Wisdom's voluminous repository of personal and professional papers. In addition, he draws on personal interviews with law clerks who served under Judge Wisdom, resulting in a unique, behind-the-scenes account of some of the nation's most important legal decisions: the admission of the first black student to the University of Mississippi, the initiation of contempt proceedings against Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett, and the destruction of obstacles that had previously kept black Americans from voting. Friedman also explores Wisdom's political life prior to joining the federal bench, including his pivotal role in resurrecting the Louisiana Republican Party and in securing the Republican presidential nomination for Eisenhower. A compelling account of how a child of privilege from one of America's most socially and racially stratified cities came to serve as the driving force behind the legal effort to end segregation, Champion of Civil Rights offers judicial biography at its best.
The Civil War Memoir of Levi H. Naron, as Recounted by R. W. Surby
A well-to-do planter and slave owner in Chickasaw County, Mississippi, Levi Holloway Naron was an unlikely supporter of the Union. And yet, at the outbreak of war in 1861, his agitation against the Confederacy so outraged his fellow Mississippians that they drove him from his home. Bent on retaliation, Naron headed North, contacted the Union army, and was ushered into the presence of General William T. Sherman, who quickly saw the possibilities for employing such a man. Thus began Levi Naron's career as "Chickasaw," Federal scout, spy, and raider. Dictated in 1865, when his memory of events was still fresh—as was his passion—Naron's memoir offers a rare and remarkably vivid firsthand account of a southerner loyal to the Union, operating behind Confederate lines. Active primarily in northern Mississippi and western Tennessee, Naron proved invaluable to Federal commanders in the West, not only Sherman but William Rosecrans, John Pope, Grenville Dodge, Benjamin Grierson, and others—leaders whose official testimony to that effect is included in an appendix here. Naron stood before Rebel commanders as well—Sterling Price, James Chalmers, and John C. Breckinridge—having bedeviled their security forces and intelligence agents. In these pages, he tells how he maneuvered under their noses, burning bridges and railcars full of supplies intended for Nathan Bedford Forrest and John Bell Hood, recruiting for the Union while clad in a Confederate uniform, chasing down Union deserters and Rebel spies, and, for diversion, suppressing guerrillas and bushwhackers. This long-forgotten historical document, newly edited and annotated, provides indispensable information about Confederate as well as Union espionage and counter-espionage activity. Naron's adventures illuminate this clandestine war in the West while allowing readers to experience with startling immediacy the agony, frustrations, and convictions of a pro-Union southerner trapped inside the Confederate States.
Free People of Color in Barbados in the Age of Emancipation
When a small group of free men of color gathered in 1838 to celebrate the end of apprenticeship in Barbados, they spoke of emancipation as the moment of freedom for all colored people, not just the former slaves. The fact that many of these men had owned slaves themselves gives a hollow ring to their lofty pronouncements. Yet in The Children of Africa in the Colonies, Melanie J. Newton demonstrates that simply dismissing these men as hypocrites ignores the complexity of their relationship to slavery. Exploring the role of free blacks in Barbados from 1790 to 1860, Newton argues that the emancipation process transformed social relations between Afro-Barbadians and slaves and ex-slaves. Free people of color in Barbados genuinely wanted slavery to end, Newton explains, a desire motivated in part by the realization that emancipation offered them significant political advantages. As a result, free people's goals for the civil rights struggle that began in Barbados in the 1790s often diverged from those of the slaves, and the tensions that formed along class, education, and gender lines severely weakened the movement. While the populist masses viewed emancipation as an opportunity to form a united community among all people of color, wealthy free people viewed it as a chance to better their position relative to white Europeans. To this end, free people of color refashioned their identities in relationship to Africa. Prior to the 1820s, Newton reveals, they downplayed their African descent, emphasizing instead their legal status as free people and their position as owners of property, including slaves. As the emancipation debate in the Atlantic world reached its zenith in the 1820s and 1830s and whites grew increasingly hostile and inflexible, elite free people allied themselves with the politics of the working class and the slaves, relying for the first time on their African heritage and the association of their skin color with slavery to openly challenge white supremacy. After emancipation, free people of color again redefined themselves, now as loyal British imperial subjects, casting themselves in the role of political protectors of their ex-slave brethren in an attempt to escape social and political disenfranchisement. While some wealthy men of color gained political influence as a result of emancipation, the absence of fundamental change in the distribution of land and wealth left most men and women of color with little hope of political independence or social mobility. Mining a rich vein of primary and secondary sources, Newton's study elegantly describes how class divisions and disagreements over labor and social policy among free and slave black Barbadians led to political unrest and devastated the hope for an entirely new social structure and a plebeian majority in the British Caribbean.
William Pitt Fessenden and the Fight to Save the American Republic
One of the most talented and influential American politicians of the nineteenth century, William Pitt Fessenden (1806–1869) helped devise Union grand strategy during the Civil War. A native of Maine and son of a fiery New England abolitionist, he served in the United States Senate as a member of the Whig Party during the Kansas-Nebraska crisis and played a formative role in the development of the Republican Party. In this richly textured and fast-paced biography, Robert J. Cook charts Fessenden’s rise to power and probes the potent mix of political ambition and republican ideology which impelled him to seek a place in the U.S. Senate at a time of rising tension between North and South. A determined and self-disciplined man who fought, not always successfully, to keep his passions in check, Fessenden helped to spearhead Republican Party opposition to proslavery expansion during the strife-torn 1850s and led others to resist the cotton states’ efforts to secede peaceably after the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860. During the Civil War, he chaired the Senate Finance Committee and served as President Lincoln’s second head of the Treasury Department. In both positions, he fashioned and implemented wartime financial policy for the United States. In addition, Fessenden’s multifaceted relationship with Lincoln helped to foster effective working relations between the president and congressional Republicans. Cook outlines Fessenden’s many contributions to critical aspects of northern grand strategy and to the gradual shift to an effective total war policy against the Confederacy. Most notably, Cook shows, Fessenden helped craft congressional policy regarding the confiscation and emancipation of slaves. Cook also details Fessenden’s tenure as chairman of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction after the war, during which he authored that committee’s report. Although he sanctioned his party’s break with Andrew Johnson less than a year after the war’s end, Cook explains how Fessenden worked decisively to thwart attempts by Radical Republicans to revolutionize post-emancipation society in the defeated Confederacy. The first biography of Fessenden in over forty years, Civil War Senator reveals a significant but often sidelined historical figure and explains the central role played by party politics and partisanship in the coming of the Civil War, northern military victory, and the ultimate failure of postwar Reconstruction. Cook restores Fessenden to his place as one of the most important politicians of a troubled generation.
Praise for David R. Slavitt
"Slavitt's touch is light, and he writes beautifully.... His satire is sharp, and he can be wildly funny." -- New York Times Book Review
"One of America's most lucid and classical poets.... Slavitt's attitude is, as one would expect of a Hebrew as well as Greco-Latin classicist, sharply questioning as well as tragic. He is a poet one reads to know more." -- Booklist
"Slavitt is both smart and wise; he's as well known for his translations of the writers of antiquity as he is for his original work, both poetry and prose.... With a rich sense of humor, a bit of attitude, and a fascination with details, even minutiae, Slavitt tries his hand at new and curious measures and forms as well as seemingly free-range meditations -- or, one might say, meanderings." -- Library Journal
The bravura of David R. Slavitt's first book of poems, published more than fifty years ago, continues to reverberate through his newest collection in a voice matured and roughened by age.
Civil Wars conjures the mutterings of old men: meditations -- despondent yet playfully witty and bold -- on the meaning of life and death, the reasoning for human action or inaction, and misremembered memories. Nothing proves too lofty or too trifling for the poet's scrutiny. Slavitt's attention roves from the carnage inflicted by the Achaeans at Troy, to the performances of Borrah Minevich and the Harmonica Rascals, from meditations on Spinoza to the baseball of the New York Yankees. He considers with deliberation all of these subjects and deems them necessary to help create a spiritual connection in our lives. Slavitt encourages contemplation of the world and writing rather than acceptance of the thoughts of the critic, who "comes, austere, a man of authority, / and offers to help" but only dilutes the power of a poem. In this collection, Slavitt also includes translations of Greek, Hebrew, Proven?al, French, and Old English poems, including a little-known piece by the mathematician Pierre de Fermat and the Old English epic poem "The Battle of Maldon."
Her Life and Art
Clementine Hunter (1887–1988) painted every day from the 1930s until several days before her death at age 101. As a cook and domestic servant at Louisiana’s Melrose Plantation, she painted on hundreds of objects available around her—glass snuff bottles, discarded roofing shingles, ironing boards—as well as on canvas. She produced between five and ten thousand paintings, including her most ambitious work, the African House Murals. Scenes of cotton planting and harvesting, washdays, weddings, baptisms, funerals, Saturday night revelry, and zinnias depict experiences of everyday plantation life along the Cane River. More than a personal record of Hunter’s life, her paintings also reflect the social, material, and cultural aspects of the area’s larger African American community. Drawing on archival research, interviews, personal files, and a close relationship with the artist, Art Shiver and Tom Whitehead offer the first comprehensive biography of this self-taught painter, who attracted the attention of the world. Shiver and Whitehead trace Hunter’s childhood, her encounters at Melrose with artists and writers, such as Alberta Kinsey and Lyle Saxon, and the role played by eccentric François Mignon, who encouraged and promoted her art. The authors include rare paintings and photographs to illustrate Hunter’s creative process and discuss the evolution of her style. The book also highlights Hunter’s impact on the modern art world and provides insight into a decades-long forgery operation that Tom Whitehead helped uncover. This recent attention reinforced the uniqueness of Hunter’s art and confirmed her place in the international art community, which continues to be inspired by the life and work of Clementine Hunter.
Grant and Lee, May 26–June 3, 1866
Gordon Rhea's gripping fourth volume on the spring 1864 campaign-which pitted Ulysses S. Grant against Robert E. Lee for the first time in the Civil War-vividly re-creates the battles and maneuvers from the stalemate on the North Anna River through the Cold Harbor offensive. Cold Harbor: Grant and Lee, May 26-June 3, 1864 showcases Rhea's tenacious research which elicits stunning new facts from the records of a phase oddly ignored or mythologized by historians. In clear and profuse tactical detail, Rhea tracks the remarkable events of those nine days, giving a surprising new interpretation of the famous battle that left seven thousand Union casualties and only fifteen hundred Confederate dead or wounded. Here, Grant is not a callous butcher, and Lee does not wage a perfect fight. Within the pages of Cold Harbor, Rhea separates fact from fiction in a charged, evocative narrative. He leaves readers under a moonless sky, with Grant pondering the eastward course of the James River fifteen miles south of the encamped armies.
Nixon and China, 1969-1972
In February 1972, President Nixon arrived in Beijing for what Chairman Mao Zedong called the “week that changed the world.” Using recently declassified sources from American, Chinese, European, and Soviet archives, Chris Tudda’s A Cold War Turning Point reveals new details about the relationship forged by the Nixon administration and the Chinese government that dramatically altered the trajectory of the Cold War. Between the years 1969 and 1972, Nixon’s national security team actively fostered the U.S. rapprochement with China. Tudda argues that Nixon, in bold opposition to the stance of his predecessors, recognized the mutual benefits of repairing the Sino-U.S. relationship and was determined to establish a partnership with China. Nixon believed that America’s relative economic decline, its overextension abroad, and its desire to create a more realistic international framework aligned with China’s fear of Soviet military advancement and its eagerness to join the international marketplace. In a contested but calculated move, Nixon gradually eased trade and travel restrictions to China. Mao responded in kind, albeit slowly, by releasing prisoners, inviting the U.S. ping-pong team to Beijing, and secretly hosting Secretary of State Henry Kissinger prior to Nixon’s momentous visit. Set in the larger framework of international relations at the peak of the Vietnam War, A Cold War Turning Point is the first book to use the Nixon tapes and Kissinger telephone conversations to illustrate the complexity of early Sino-U.S. relations. Tudda’s thorough and illuminating research provides a multi-archival examination of this critical moment in twentieth-century international relations.
Southern Women and Autobiography
In Composing Selves, award-winning author Peggy Whitman Prenshaw provides the most comprehensive treatment of autobiographies by women in the American South. This long-anticipated addition to Prenshaw’s study of southern literature spans the twentieth century as she provides an in-depth look at the life-writing of eighteen women authors. Composing Selves travels the wide terrain of female life in the South, analyzing various issues that range from racial consciousness to the deflection of personal achievement. All of the authors presented came of age during the era Prenshaw refers to as the “late southern Victorian period,” which began in 1861 and ended in the 1930s. Belle Kearney’s A Slaveholder’s Daughter (1900) with Elizabeth Spencer’s Landscapes of the Heart and Ellen Douglas’s Truth: Four Stories I Am Finally Old Enough to Tell (both published in 1998) chronologically bookend Prenshaw’s survey. She includes Ellen Glasgow’s The Woman Within, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’s Cross Creek, Bernice Kelly Harris’s Southern Savory, and Zora Neale Hurston’s Dust Tracks on a Road. The book also examines Katharine DuPre Lumpkin’s The Making of a Southerner and Lillian Smith’s Killers of the Dream. In addition to exploring multiple themes, Prenshaw considers a number of types of autobiographies, such as Helen Keller’s classic The Story of My Life and Anne Walter Fearn’s My Days of Strength. She treats narratives of marital identity, as in Mary Hamilton’s Trials of the Earth, and calls attention to works by women who devoted their lives to social and political movements, like Virginia Durr’s Outside the Magic Circle. Drawing on many notable authors and on Prenshaw’s own life of scholarship, Composing Selves provides an invaluable contribution to the study of southern literature, autobiography, and the work of southern women writers.
The Hope of Glory
During the Civil War, North Carolinian William Dorsey Pender established himself as one of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia's best young generals. He served in most of the significant engagements of the war in the eastern theater while under the command of Joseph E. Johnston at Seven Pines and Robert E. Lee from the Seven Days to Gettysburg. His most crucial contributions to Confederate success came at the battles of Second Manassas, Shepherdstown, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville. After an effective first day at Gettysburg, Pender was struck by a shell and disabled, necessitating his return to Virginia for what he hoped would be only an extended convalescence. Although Pender initially survived the wound, he died soon thereafter due to complications from his injury.
In this thorough biography of Pender, noted Civil War historian Brian Steel Wills examines both the young general's military career and his domestic life. While Pender devoted himself to military service, he also embraced the Episcopal Church and was baptized before his command in the field. According to Wills, Pender had an insatiable quest for "glory" in both earthly and heavenly realms, and he delighted in his role as a husband and father. In Pender's voluminous correspondence with his wife, Fanny, he shared his beliefs and offered views and opinions on a vast array of subjects. In the end, Wills suggests that Pender's story captures both the idealistic promise and the despair of a war that cost the lives of many Americans and changed the nation forever.