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Birth, Commemoration, and American Public Memory
Scores of birthplace monuments and historic childhood homes dot the American landscape. These special places, many dating to the early years of the last century, have enshrined nativity alongside patriotism and valor among the key pillars of the nation’s popular historical imagination. The essays in this volume suggest that the way Americans have celebrated famous births reflects evolving expectations of citizenship as well as a willingness to edit the past when those hopes go unfulfilled. The contributors also demonstrate that the reinvention of origin myths at birthplace monuments still factors in American political culture and the search for meaning in an ever-shifting global order. Beyond asking why it is that Americans care about birthplaces and how they choose which ones to commemorate, Born in the U.S.A. offers insights from historians, curators, interpretive specialists, and others whose experience speaks directly to the challenges of managing historical sites. Each essay points to new ways of telling old stories at these mainstays of American memory. The case of the modern house museum receives special attention in a provocative concluding essay by Patricia West. In addition to West and the editor, contributors include Christine Arato, Dan Currie, Keith A. Erekson, David Glassberg, Anna Thompson Hajdik, Zachary J. Lechner, Paul Lewis, Hilary Iris Lowe, Cynthia Miller, Laura Lawfer Orr, Robert Paynter, Angela Phelps, and Paul Reber.
A Story of Race, Sport, and Society
From 1877 to 1896, the popularity of bicycles increased exponentially, and Boston was in on it from the start. The Boston Bicycle Club was the first in the nation, and the city’s cyclists formed the nucleus of a new national organization, the League of American Wheelmen. The sport was becoming a craze, and Massachusetts had the largest per capita membership in the league in the 1890s and the largest percentage of women members. Several prominent cycling magazines were published in Boston, making cycling a topic of press coverage and a growing cultural influence as well as a form of recreation. Lorenz J. Finison explores the remarkable rise of Boston cycling through the lives of several participants, including Kittie Knox, a biracial twenty-year-old seamstress who challenged the color line; Mary Sargent Hopkins, a self-proclaimed expert on women’s cycling and publisher of The Wheelwoman; and Abbot Bassett, a longtime secretary of the League of American Wheelman and a vocal cycling advocate for forty years. Finison shows how these riders and others interacted on the road and in their cycling clubhouses, often constrained by issues of race, class, religion, and gender. He reveals the challenges facing these riders, whether cycling for recreation or racing, in a time of segregation, increased immigration, and debates about the rights of women.
Voices and Visions
“New England was founded consciously, and in no fit of absence of mind,” observed historian Samuel Eliot Morison on the establishment of the Bay Colony in 1630 on the narrow, mountainous Shawmut peninsula of what became Massachusetts. That self-conscious presence of mind has endured for four centuries. Boston has been shaped and sustained by observation, imagination, and interpretation. As a result, the evolving vision of Boston has yielded a compelling literary record. In this wide-ranging anthology, Shaun O’Connell includes a generous sampling of those who have recorded, revised, and redefined the vision of Boston. Anne Bradstreet, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry James, W. E. B. Du Bois, Mary Antin, Edwin O’Connor, John Updike, and many others eloquently evoke and explain Boston in these pages. From John Winthrop’s “city upon a hill” sermon, delivered aboard the Arbella before his followers landed in 1630 in the place they would call Boston, to Robert Lowell’s “For the Union Dead,” a poem delivered in Boston’s Public Garden in 1960, writers have continued to invoke the high purposes for which the city was founded, sometimes in praise of the city, but often in what Robert Frost named a “lover’s quarrel,” in works that called attention to the city’s failures to fulfill its promises. In the twenty-first century some writers continue to celebrate or to castigate the city, while others look back to Boston’s origins to reassess its founders and renew its covenant of high purpose. This is an interpretive anthology—one that includes commentary as well as writings. Section introductions provide historical and biographical context, offer analysis that stresses the thematic relevance of each selection, and explore the pattern of their relations. Rather than present a random array of writers who happen to have been Greater Bostonians, O’Connell focuses on those authors who possessed a commitment to the sense of place, those who addressed Boston not only as a geographical, social, and political entity but as an image, idea, and site of symbolic values
Rap Music and Local Identity in New Orleans
Over the course of the twentieth century, African Americans in New Orleans helped define the genres of jazz, rhythm and blues, soul, and funk. In recent decades, younger generations of New Orleanians have created a rich and dynamic local rap scene, which has revolved around a dance-oriented style called “bounce.” Hip-hop has been the latest conduit for a “New Orleans sound” that lies at the heart of many of the city’s best-known contributions to earlier popular music genres. Bounce, while globally connected and constantly evolving, reflects an enduring cultural continuity that reaches back and builds on the city’s rich musical and cultural traditions. In this book, the popular music scholar and filmmaker Matt Miller explores the ways in which participants in New Orleans’s hip-hop scene have collectively established, contested, and revised a distinctive style of rap that exists at the intersection of deeply rooted vernacular music traditions and the modern, globalized economy of commercial popular music. Like other forms of grassroots expressive culture in the city, New Orleans rap is a site of intense aesthetic and economic competition that reflects the creativity and resilience of the city’s poor and working-class African Americans.
Black Women's Resistance in the U.S. South and South Africa
In the mid-1950s, as many developing nations sought independence from colonial rule, black women in the American South and in South Africa launched parallel campaigns to end racial injustice within their respective communities. Just as the dignified obstinacy of Mrs. Rosa Parks sparked the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955, the 20,000 South African women who marched in Pretoria a year later to protest the pass laws signaled a new wave of resistance to the system of apartheid. In both places women who had previously been consigned to subordinate roles brought fresh leadership to the struggle for political freedom and social equality. In this book, Pamela E. Brooks tells their story, documenting the extraordinary achievements of otherwise ordinary women.In comparing the experiences of black women activists in two different parts of the African diaspora, Brooks draws heavily on oral histories that provide clear, and often painful, insight into their backgrounds, their motives, their hopes, and their fears. We learn how black women from all walks of life—domestic and factory workers, householders, teachers, union organizers, churchwomen, clubwomen, rural and urban dwellers alike—had to overcome their class differences and work through the often difficult gender relations within their families and communities. Yet eventually they came together to forge their own political organizations, such as the Women’s Political Council and the Federation of South African Women, or joined orga-nizations of women and men, such as the Montgomery Improvement Association and the African National Congress, to advance the common agenda of black liberation.By tracing the dual rise of political consciousness and activism among the black women of the U.S. South and South Africa, Brooks not only illuminates patterns that have long been overlooked but places that shared history within the context of a larger global struggle to bring an end to the vestiges of European colonialism.
In this exhilarating collection of stories, Dwight Yates delivers the range of characters suggested in the title, many of them struggling to salvage situations they feel have been thrust upon them. Yet the smoking gun that accounts for the hole in the foot, is, more often than not, in the hand of the protagonist complaining of the pain. Self-delusion courts self-destruction in these stories, but not without relief, since revelation is always possible and redemption just might come tumbling after. Though the stakes are sometimes low and the circumstances more rueful than tragic, Yates illuminates the gulf between expectation and reality with humor and compassion. Seduction does not inevitably lead to abandonment in these tales, although that is certainly one outcome. A disastrous young marriage is another. In one case, a seducer comes to see that a chance encounter with an old flame has not closed an incomplete narrative from the past, but most likely has opened a perilous new chapter. Other stories investigate dormant dread awakened by the hiccup of circumstance. A family man's decision to stop and assist a stalled motorist does not imperil his family as his wife fears. Yet the encounter reveals a burden of faith and guilt that continues to haunt this Samaritan and prompts his irrational, yet perhaps admirable, behavior. In another family tale, a father struggles with the imminent independence of his daughter, a struggle that, like much in his life, is distorted by his curious infatuation with the insomnia afflicting him. The collection's final piece concerns an aging, retired accountant who, stricken with intimations of mortality, hastily attempts to become well loved and eventually handsomely eulogized by undertaking good works, an undertaking he persists in pursuing against mounting odds. Men and women tell many of their own stories here. In other outings, the telling rests with bemused and attentive narrators, crowding in close, better to witness the charm and folly of the memorable characters assembled in this prize-winning collection.
The Architecture of Gridley J.F. Bryant
Much of Boston's rich heritage of Victorian buildings dates from the mid-nineteenth century when Gridley James Fox Bryant (1816–1899) dominated the profession of architecture in the city. At that time, Boston was undergoing a transformation from a quaint post-colonial town to a rapidly expanding Victorian metropolis. Bryant led this transformation, providing an important link between the earlier architecture of Charles Bulfinch and Alexander Parris and the later work of such practitioners as H. H. Richardson and Peabody & Stearns. In Building Victorian Boston, Roger Reed focuses on representative projects by Bryant, presenting them in a chronological narrative that both illuminates the trajectory of his career and creates a portrait of the profession of architecture during a defining period of New England history. Bryant designed more major buildings in Boston from 1840 to 1880 than any other architect. He also undertook commissions throughout New England, especially in towns linked to Boston by newly constructed railroad lines. In many ways, his practice presaged aspects of modern architectural firms. His ability to work with a variety of designers, his expertise in construction management, and his exceptional talent for self-promotion all contributed to his success. Although by the time of his death his work was no longer fashionable, newspaper accounts noted the passing of the "Famed Bostonian" and "Great Builder" whose career had had such a dramatic impact on the face of the city. For this volume, Reed has tracked down hundreds of Bryant's drawings as well as specifications, letters, newspaper articles, published renderings, and historical photographs. These materials are amply represented in this book, the definitive study of a quintessential Victorian architect.
Traditions and Legacies of Blackface Minstrelsy
Beginning in the 1830s and continuing for more than a century, blackface minstrelsy—stage performances that claimed to represent the culture of black Americans—remained arguably the most popular entertainment in North America. A renewed scholarly interest in this contentious form of entertainment has produced studies treating a range of issues: its contradictory depictions of class, race, and gender; its role in the development of racial stereotyping; and its legacy in humor, dance, and music, and in live performance, film, and television. The style and substance of minstrelsy persist in popular music, tap and hip-hop dance, the language of the standup comic, and everyday rituals of contemporary culture. The blackface makeup all but disappeared for a time, though its influence never diminished—and recently, even the makeup has been making a comeback. This collection of original essays brings together a group of prominent scholars of blackface performance to reflect on this complex and troublesome tradition. Essays consider the early relationship of the blackface performer with American politics and the antislavery movement; the relationship of minstrels to the commonplace compromises of the touring “show” business and to the mechanization of the industrial revolution; the exploration and exploitation of blackface in the mass media, by D. W. Griffith and Spike Lee, in early sound animation, and in reality television; and the recent reappropriation of the form at home and abroad. In addition to the editor, contributors include Dale Cockrell, Catherine Cole, Louis Chude-Sokei, W. T. Lhamon, Alice Maurice, Nicholas Sammond, and Linda Williams.
Peace and War on a Sixties Commune
This book tells the story of Montague Farm, an early back-to-the land communal experiment in western Massachusetts, from its beginning in 1968 through the following thirty-five years of its surprisingly long life. Drawing on his own experience as a resident of the farm from 1969 to 1973 and decades of contact with the farm’s extended family, Tom Fels provides an insightful account of the history of this iconic alternative community. He follows its trajectory from its heady early days as a pioneering outpost of the counterculture through many years of change, including a period of renewed political activism and, later, increasing episodes of conflict between opposing factions to determine what the farm represented and who would control its destiny. With deft individual portraits, Fels reveals the social dynamics of the group and explores the ongoing difficulties faced by a commune that was founded in idealism and sought to operate on the model of a leaderless democracy. He draws on a large body of farm-family and 1960s-related writing and the notes of community members to present a variety of points of view. The result is an absorbing narrative that chronicles the positive aspects of Montague Farm while documenting the many challenges and disruptions that marked its history.
The Anti-Contra War Campaign
Unlike earlier U.S. interventions in Latin America, the Reagan administration’s attempt to overthrow the Sandinista government of Nicaragua during the 1980s was not allowed to proceed quietly. Tens of thousands of American citizens organized and agitated against U.S. aid to the counterrevolutionary guerrillas, known as “contras.” Believing the Contra War to be unnecessary, immoral, and illegal, they challenged the administration’s Cold War stereotypes, warned of “another Vietnam,” and called on the United States to abide by international norms. A Call to Conscience offers the first comprehensive history of the anti–Contra War campaign and its Nicaragua connections. Roger Peace places this eight-year campaign in the context of previous American interventions in Latin America, the Cold War, and other grassroots oppositional movements. Based on interviews with American and Nicaraguan citizens and leaders, archival records of activist organizations, and official government documents, this book reveals activist motivations, analyzes the organizational dynamics of the anti–Contra War campaign, and contrasts perceptions of the campaign in Managua and Washington. Peace shows how a variety of civic groups and networks—religious, leftist, peace, veteran, labor, women’s rights—worked together in a decentralized campaign that involved extensive transnational cooperation.