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In its heyday, Thurber was home to coal miners and brick plant workers from Italy, Poland, and as many as fourteen other European nations, not to mention the many Mexican immigrants who came to the area. In this, her master’s thesis, Mary Jane Gentry, who started the first grade in Thurber and graduated as valedictorian of its high school in 1930, records first-hand memories of the town’s vibrant charm. Now edited and with an introduction by T. Lindsay Baker, Gentry’s lively history of the rise and decline of a Texas coal town provides a unique window into a bygone era. Her narrative of rancorous labor disputes, corporate machinations, and the eventual shuttering of the plants and virtual disappearance of the once-thriving town will allow Thurber to live again, if only in the minds of her readers.
Though often consigned to the footnotes of history, African American women are a significant part of the rich, multiethnic heritage of Texas and the United States. Until now, though, their story has frequently been fragmented and underappreciated. Black Women in Texas History draws together a multi-author narrative of the experiences and impact of black American women from the time of slavery until the recent past. Each chapter, written by an expert on the era, provides a readable survey and overview of the lives and roles of black Texas women during that period. Each provides careful documentation, which, along with the thorough bibliography compiled by the volume editors, will provide a starting point for others wanting to build on this important topic. The authors address significant questions about population demographics, employment patterns, family and social dimensions, legal and political rights, and individual accomplishments. They look not only at how African American women have been shaped by the larger culture but also at how these women have, in turn, affected the culture and history of Texas. This work situates African American women within the context of their times and offers a due appreciation and analysis of their lives and accomplishments. Black Women in Texas History is an important addition to history and sociology curriculums as well as black studies and women’s studies programs. It will provide for interested students, scholars, and general readers a comprehensive survey of the crucial role these women played in shaping the history of the Lone Star State.
The Photo Gap and the Missile Crisis
In the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis, questions persisted about how the potential cataclysm had been allowed to develop. A subsequent congressional investigation focused on what came to be known as the “photo gap”: five weeks during which intelligence-gathering flights over Cuba had been attenuated. ?In Blind over Cuba, David M. Barrett and Max Holland challenge the popular perception of the Kennedy administration’s handling of the Soviet Union’s surreptitious deployment of missiles in the Western Hemisphere. Rather than epitomizing it as a masterpiece of crisis management by policy makers and the administration, Barrett and Holland make the case that the affair was, in fact, a close call stemming directly from decisions made in a climate of deep distrust between key administration officials and the intelligence community. ?Because of White House and State Department fears of “another U-2 incident” (the infamous 1960 Soviet downing of an American U-2 spy plane), the CIA was not permitted to send surveillance aircraft on prolonged flights over Cuban airspace for many weeks, from late August through early October. Events proved that this was precisely the time when the Soviets were secretly deploying missiles in Cuba. When Director of Central Intelligence John McCone forcefully pointed out that this decision had led to a dangerous void in intelligence collection, the president authorized one U-2 flight directly over western Cuba—thereby averting disaster, as the surveillance detected the Soviet missiles shortly before they became operational.? The Kennedy administration recognized that their failure to gather intelligence was politically explosive, and their subsequent efforts to influence the perception of events form the focus for this study. Using recently declassified documents, secondary materials, and interviews with several key participants, Barrett and Holland weave a story of intra-agency conflict, suspicion, and discord that undermined intelligence-gathering, adversely affected internal postmortems conducted after the crisis peaked, and resulted in keeping Congress and the public in the dark about what really happened.? Fifty years after the crisis that brought the superpowers to the brink, Blind over Cuba: The Photo Gap and the Missile Crisis offers a new chapter in our understanding of that pivotal event, the tensions inside the US government during the cold war, and the obstacles Congress faces when conducting an investigation of the executive branch.
An African American Artilleryman in World War II and Beyond
Emiel Owens served his country in the 777th Field Artillery, involved in actions from Omaha Beach to the occupation army in the Philippines. Like the rest of the U.S. Army at the time, the 777th was a segregated unit. Remarkably few memoirs by African Americans have been published from the World War II era, making Owens’s account especially valuable. Because he situates his military experience in the larger context of his life and the society in which he lived, his story also reveals much about the changing racial climate of the last several decades. A native Texan, Owens recounts his early experiences in a small, rural school outside Austin during the hard times of the Depression. In 1943, he was drafted into the army, landing in England in August 1944. Ten days later he was on Omaha Beach. By November 3 Owens and his unit were supporting the 30th Infantry Division as it attacked German towns and cities leading into the Ruhr Pocket and the Huertgen Forest. Owens starkly portrays the horror of the Kohlscheid Penetration. He was awarded a certificate of merit for his actions in that theater. With help from the G.I. bill, Owens returned to college and then to graduate school at Ohio State University, since universities in his home state were still closed to African Americans. He earned a Ph.D. in economics, which led to a productive academic and consulting career. This is a uniquely captivating story of an African American man’s journey from a segregated Texas town to the battlefields of Europe and on to postwar success in a world changed forever by the war Americans—black and white—had fought.
In a dazzling tribute to the Texas coast, conservationist and lawyer Jim Blackburn has teamed with photographer Jim Olive to give us the most intimate and important portrait yet of Texas bays and of those who work for their wise use and preservation. While giving life and sustenance to plants, animals, and people, the bays and estuaries of Texas have other stories to tell—about freshwater inflows, deep port construction, disappearing oyster beds, beach resorts, industrial pollution, and more. At a certain point, each story brings opposing forces into the courtroom for vigorous debates on the future of some of our most valuable and irreplaceable resources. The Book of Texas Bays is a personal account of legal battles won and lost, but it is also a fine work of natural history by someone who has a deep spiritual connection to the Texas coast and all it has to offer. Jim Olive’s stunning photographs present us with a dramatic perspective of our relationship with the Gulf and remind us of both the grandness and the fragility of our coastal treasures.
The generation that toiled through the Great Depression and won the Second World War has become known as “the greatest generation.” But not all of them qualified for that exaggerated epithet in the eyes of their own children. In this tender but unsparing memoir, Mary Cimarolli remembers a world in which the family home was lost to foreclosure, her father made his way by bootlegging, and school was a haven to hide from her brother’s teasing. Her stories are about struggle and survival, making do and overcoming, and, ultimately, reconciliation. From her perspective as a child, she describes the cotton stamps and other programs of the New Deal, the yellow-dog Democrat politics and racism of East Texas, and the religious revivals and Old Settlers reunions that gave a break from working in the cotton patch. The colorful colloquialisms of rural East Texas that dot the manuscript help express both the traditionalism of the region and its changes under the impact of modernization, electrification, and the coming of war. Along with these regional and national trends, Cimarolli skillfully interweaves the personal: conflict between her parents, the death of her brother a few days before his sixteenth birthday, and her own inner tensions.
The Galveston We Remember
In sixty-seven exquisite watercolors and drawings, nationally famous architect Eugene Aubry captures on paper the sensibilities, the memories, and the grace that evokes Galveston, especially for those who are BOI (“born on the island”). Commissioned by the Galveston Historical Foundation, these works of art are intended to enhance the visual record of the buildings and the unique local architectural style that so many have appreciated over the years.? In the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, Galvestonians became more aware than ever of the treasure of the island’s historical architecture and the vulnerability of this heritage to forces beyond human control. Aubry’s art captures the almost palpable sense of past glories these buildings bring to mind. Aubry—himself BOI—has fashioned these pieces in a way that resonates with those who love the island’s ethos. ?With a fine eye to the artist’s intent and a mastery of detail, architectural historian Stephen Fox expertly and eloquently introduces the work as a whole and, in discursive captions that accompany each image, informs the reader’s appreciation of Aubry’s art.? So much more than a tribute, Born on the Island: The Galveston We Remember stands as a loving homage to Galveston—one that will call its readers home to the island, even if they have never ventured there before.
The History and Ecology of the Henequen-Wheat Complex for Mexico and the American and Canadian Plain
Before the invention of the combine, the binder was an essential harvesting implement that cut grain and bound the stalks in bundles tied with twine that could then be hand-gathered into shocks for threshing. Hundreds of thousands of farmers across the United States and Canada relied on binders and the twine required for the machine’s operation. Implement manufacturers discovered that the best binder twine was made from henequen and sisal—spiny, fibrous plants native to the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico. The double dependency that subsequently developed between Mexico and the Great Plains of the United States and Canada affected the agriculture, ecology, and economy of all three nations in ways that have historically been little understood. These interlocking dependencies—identified by author Sterling Evans as the “henequen-wheat complex”—initiated or furthered major ecological, social, and political changes in each of these agricultural regions. Drawing on extensive archival work as well as the existing secondary literature, Evans has woven an intricate story that will change our understanding of the complex, transnational history of the North American continent.
Inside the White House Office of Legislative Affairs
In September 2003, seven former heads of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs gathered for the first time ever to compare their experiences working for every president from Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton. For two days, these congressional liaisons, charged with moving their respective presidents’ legislative agendas through an independent—and sometimes hostile—Congress, shared first-hand views of the intricacies of presidential-congressional relations: how it works, how it doesn’t work, and the fascinating interplay of personalities, events, and politics that happens along the way. Hosted by noted presidential scholar Russell Riley and the University of Virginia’s Miller Center of Public Affairs, this seminar also featured a number of invited scholars of American politics, including the eminent Richard E. Neustadt, who appeared just before his death a month later. As explained by Riley, “. . . these discussions enlighten in two ways: they provide us a revealing glimpse into the inside, usually hidden, business of Washington, and they afford us the considered reflections of a thoughtful group of political veterans.” What makes these exchanges especially compelling, however, is their bipartisan cast, with Republicans Max L. Friedersdorf, William L. Ball III, and Frederick McClure joining Democrats Frank Moore, Charles M. Brain, John Hilley, and Lawrence Stein in thoughtful and friendly conversation.
Jack Butler’s Broken Hallelujah: New and Selected Poems is a celebration that refuses to explain away pain and trouble, or to oversell the very transcendence it seeks. Its poems are always musical, whether formal, improvisational, or written according to the music of speech itself.
Butler understands poetry more nearly as the essence of that speech than as one of its products, the heart of the ways we know each other. Some of these forms are as old as English, but the voice stays immediate; and whether dark or hopeful, comic or sober, passionate or calm and knowing, these poems speak with the urgency of praise itself.