When Virtue Comes in Color: The Historical Implications of The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s Voyage to South Africa

By Camille Davis

The Duke and Duchess in South Africa. Photo Courtesy of Yahoo News.

Recently, the world watched Prince Harry, Meghan Markle, and their four-month-old son, Baby Archie, as they spent ten days touring South Africa. The media images of a royal, Western, interracial couple visiting a country that is notorious for its recent, segregationist past presents a poignant and powerful message about the progress and transformation that is present in both the British royal family and in the former apartheid-ridden, South Africa. Even more so, the racial context of the Duke and Duchess trip is palpable because of the criticism Markle has faced for her racially mixed heritage. The royal family has fully accepted Markle, but the British press has not.  There are also those within the American press who are relentlessly indignant about the African blood in Markle’s veins.  During her tenure as a royal, the duchess has not spoken explicitly about her ethnicity, until her most recent visit to South Africa. While addressing a crowd in Cape Town, she referred to herself as “a member of the royal family, a mother, a wife, a woman, a woman of color, and as your  [the people of Cape Town’s] sister.” This statement is powerful because it attests to the ability of Markle to represent multiple components of herself simultaneously. In essence, she exhibited that being a woman of color and being a British royal are not mutually exclusive. One can be both — and represent both—exceptionally well.

One of the great Western misconceptions about people with non-European heritage or racially mixed identities is that they are incapable of filling roles outside of those traditionally prescribed for them. For those who think this way, it is difficult to conceptualize a person of color operating in a position that has been historically preserved — either by law or custom — for those who are white. The Daily Mail’s infamous reference to Markle as being “straight out of Compton” and other pejorative comments of that sort are rooted in the idea that a black woman could not effectively navigate the responsibilities of a British royal. Her ethnicity and/or the culture that the ethnicity represents imbue her with a limited capacity.  In short, a woman of color is not fully a woman.

The Duchess of Sussex guest editing British Vogue. Courtesy of @SUSSSEXROYAL

Such marred perceptions create a proverbial tight rope for which Markle must walk. With each step, she must carry multiple layers of her identity with dexterity and grace because a misstep means that one or all of those layers will be marginalized and diminished by a jeering, chanting critical onlooker. A misstep means that she is criticized about her race, her role as a wife, her role as mother, her role as a royal, her identity as a woman — she is critiqued about her success or failure at being all of these things at once. The cynicism about her race creates a sense of dubiousness about the other parts of her. “Can a black woman be a  ______?” This is why Markle’s public, multi-faceted identification of herself in her various roles is so important. By simultaneously claiming her familial roles, her royal role, and her race, she asserts her awareness of the tight rope and her willingness to walk it. And what better place to do this than in a country that is still healing from its deeply embedded, historical, racial wounds?

The Duchess cooking at the Hub Community Kitchen, a place for victims of the 2017 Grenfell Tower fires. Photo Courtesy of the LA Times via Jenny Zarins/ AFP/Getty Images/Kensington Palace

The cover of the September issue of British Vogue.

M.M’s birthday cake by Luminary Bakery. Photo Courtesy of Marie Claire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A thank you note from M.M. to Luminary Bakery for her birthday cake.

Talking the Talk and Walking the Walk

As is the case with all of us, the ultimate test for the Duchess of Sussex is what she does — not just what she says. In Markle’s case, the ease in which she delivered her Cape Town speech was indicative of the life she is living and has lived. During her two years as a member of the royal family, she has accomplished a tremendous amount. The most well-documented achievements include working with fashion designer Misha Nonoo  and the charity Smart Works to create a clothing line for unemployed British women who are attempting to re-enter the workforce; being a co-author and royal patron of the Together: Our Community Cookbook to raise money for victims of the  June 2017 fire in  the Grenfell Tower high-rise; guest editing the September issue of British Vogue and creating a theme for the issue that focuses on women who are creating positive social and political change in the world; also commissioning  her birthday cake from Luminary Bakery, a bakery that hires women who have survived trauma that includes abuse, homelessness, and incarceration. Additionally, she recently flew commercial in order to attend the U.S. Open in support of her friend, another woman of color, Serena Williams.

The Duchess at the U.S. Open on September 7th. She is sitting next to her friend, Serena Williams’ mother, who is on her right. Photo Courtesy of Fox News.

Do these actions tell us everything there is to know of her? Absolutely not. However, they do say that she has the ability to be a representation of feminine excellence for a woman of any race in the same way that her storied and beloved, late mother in law, Princess Diana was – and still is. By being an excellent woman of color, Markle will contribute to the eventual characterization of women of color as simply and unequivocally “women” by the Western world.

 

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T.W. Gregory’s ‘Reconstruction and the Ku Klux Klan’ as it Resonates Today

By T. Ashton Reynolds

Intolerable and Inexcusable Acts that and All that Made them Excusable…

On July 10th, 1906, T.W. Gregory of Austin, Texas delivered a paper before the Arkansas and Texas Bar Associations entitled, Reconstruction and the Ku Klux Klan.[1] His opening comments defined the Ku Klux Klan as the “Invisible Empire,” springing up overnight as a dark ephemeral shadow government fielding its own army of 100,000 men bent on carrying out its bidding.  He described this Invisible Empire as one that “passed laws without Legislatures, tried men without courts, and inflicted penalties, sometimes capital ones, without the benefit of clergy.”[2] It defied state and national authorities with impunity and its every act, according to Gregory, was “in defiance of the established order and the spirit and letter of our institutions.”[3]  Indeed, the acts of cruelty and oppression committed by The Invisible Empire (in addition to those committed in its name by others with dubious connection to the Klan) were both intolerable and inexcusable.[4]

Intolerable and inexcusable as the acts of the Ku Klux Klan were, Gregory was thoroughly convinced that, given the conditions of the South between 1866 and 1872, hardly any man assembled to hear his paper “would have been other than a Ku Klux or Ku Klux sympathizer.”[5] Academically speaking, Gregory stated that no one in their right mind could approve of the Klan as an organization.  But, given that the Klan was comprised of individuals hard pressed by the conditions in which they found themselves, the Klan took on the mantle of something more than a simple organization.  The Klan became a collective of individuals, a movement that assumed the “dignity of a revolution, the protest of proud and despairing race against conditions not to be endured…desperate men, challenging fate, and swearing that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness should be theirs and their children’s at any cost.”[6]

Gregory concluded that Reconstruction created an unconstitutional vacuum of liberty in the South.  Four misfortunes sucked liberty from the post-rebellion South.[7]  The first misfortune was the assassination of Lincoln along with his generously kind plan of Reconstruction for the South.  The hatred and venom “unsurpassed” directed by Republicans and Southerners alike at Andrew Johnson whose political career was “as a matter of fact” marked by “honesty and consistency,” was the second misfortune that befell the South.[8]  According to Gregory, Johnson was “endowed with such a faculty for doing the right thing in the wrong way.”[9] When it came to reforming the Union, Johnson was like a bull in a china shop.  The third misfortune was the passage of the Freedmen’s Bureau Bill which removed from the Southern states the right to regulate freedmen as they saw fit and entrusted it into the hands of the War Department.  The Freedmen’s Bureau Bill, in the eyes of many white men in the South, was an intrusive attempt to disorder the inherent and necessary racial stratification of Southern society with blacks on the bottom.[10] Finally, the Reconstruction Acts suspended the constitutional rights of Southern states and their white inhabitants by unconstutionally imposing military rule over them.[11]

Ultimately, according to Gregory, these misfortunes allowed for the disenfranchisement of “substantially all of the intelligent class of the South.” Thus, into the vacuum came freedmen, who, Gregory was careful to point out, were mostly illiterate, and now comprised almost the entire electorate.  To make matters worse, Northern carpetbaggers and Southern Scalawags (who were “composed almost exclusively of the very scum of creation) controlled the black vote.[12] Insofar as Johnson was unable to check Congress, and the Supreme Court unwilling to act as the “bulwark against unconstitutional legislation and executive tyranny” as intended by the founding fathers.  Gregory wrote that, by 1867, “it seemed that every remedy had tried in vain and the limit of endurance reached.”[13]

 

The Ku Klux Klan: Defenders of The Constitution and Freedom…

 At the halfway point of his paper Gregory quotes Woodrow Wilson’s History of the American People to set the scene for a full throated apologetic diatribe regarding the Klan:

“The white men of the South were aroused by the very instinct of self-preservation to rid themselves, by fair means or foul, of the intolerable burden of government sustained by the votes of ignorant negroes and conducted in the interests of adventurers…There was no place of open action or of constitutional agitation, under the terms of reconstruction, for the men who were there real leaders of the Southern communities…They could act only by private combination, by private means, as a force outside of the government, hostile to it, proscribed by it, of whom opposition and bitter resistance was expected, and expected with defiance.”[14]

It was simply unbearable to be treated like some vanquished enemy fully at the whim of their conqueror.[15]  But, just when all seemed lost, “fate had prepared a potent weapon, and at the critical moment thrust it into the hands of these desperate and despairing men.”[16]

Where Gregory begins his apologetic description of the Klan is important.  He reminded his listeners that at the heart of the story of the Klan is just a small group of young, professional men in Tennessee with time on their hands who formed a secret fraternal organization whose only purpose was to “mystify outsiders and have fun.”[17] Essentially, according to Gregory, for the first year of the Klan’s existence it was not much more than the Kappa’s throwing a raging invitation only kegger while wearing scary looking robes and chanting creepy sounding incantations in barely visible  locations.  Yet, as new chapters, or “Dens,” sprang up all over the South, members of the Klan began to come to the realization that their goal of mystifying outsiders was having an unexpected side effect: it gave the Klan “amazing influence of the unknown over the minds and actions of men.”[18]  Soon members of the Klan shifted their purpose away from a great social prank to the idea that a “great mission awaited the movement.”[19]

The great mission was to take up the banner of the Constitution which existed to protect the weak, the defenseless, and the decent.  Of course, this was based on Southern white men’s understanding of what “constitutional” meant, as well as who was “defenseless” or “weak.”  The salient point here is that the Klan viewed the carpetbaggers, scalawags, and freedpersons as the true threats to constitutionality and decent people.  This was an important principle which underlay the Klan’s purpose for existence: for the defeated South, Constitutionality took on a spiritual immutable epistemology that had nothing to do with the government empowered by the Constitution.  As the misfortunes that befell the South during Reconstruction robbed it of its constitutional rights, there were men who would keep the spirit of the Constitution, as they understood it, alive until such time as constitutionality in governmental form could be restored to the Southern states.[20]

In the end, Gregory reiterates that though he does not condone the crimes and excesses of the Klan, the ends and accomplishments of the Ku Klux Klan fully justified its existence as a movement.[21]  Even though the Klan was extra-judicial and acted outside constitutional boundaries, it was a more agreeable than the perceived form of extra-judicial, unconstitutional action imposed upon the South by the Northern states.  In reality, Gregory is not describing a battle to protect constitutional rights as much as he is describing a battle to deprive constitutional rights.  If the acts of the Klan could not be condoned, they could be excused in light of their targets.

In Case You Thought This Kind of Thinking Was Dead and Gone…

For a brief time after the end of major hostilities in the Civil War, Southern whites believed life would return to normal, save they no longer legally owned slaves.  It would not be long before the horrors of the war faded into memory and things would go back to what they were before.  For Southern whites, Congressional Reconstruction put that dream despairingly on hold.  The Ku Klux Klan was the bearer of the banner that things could be great again.  More than a banner holder, they were motivated to action by that banner.

I read this document two weeks ago at DeGoyler Library at SMU.  Though we have seen a uptick in overt and covert racist demonstrations in the last few years, in those two weeks I have repeatedly come across the very ideas Gregory puts forth in this paper he delivered in 1906, some one-hundred and six years ago.  Last week I drove past a man selling dozens of racist flags on the side of the road.  This weekend in Hilsborough, North Carolina, Klan members rallied in public outside a courthouse in full regalia.  And yet, Gregory’s maxim continues to hold true.  Most self-respecting white southerners would never put on a robe and hold a banner in public.  The Klan is repugnant, a bunch of violent fringe extremists.  But, for white southerners racism, isn’t the problem: their problem is that they believe the government is creating an environment where white people’s constitutional rights are threatened in the name of justice and righting wrongs of the past.  This is not a matter of remembering the past so we don’t make the same mistakes today or in the future.  This is a continuation of what has always been in our country.

Picture taken in North Zulch, Texas by author

Klan Rally in Hillsborough, North Carolina that happened last Saturday, August 24th.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gregory ended his talk with an ominous threat for those in the future who might try and disturb white hegemony again:

“The Ku Klux machine has been stored away in the Battle Abbey of the Nation, as obsolete, we trust, as the causes which produced it; it will stand there for all time as a reminder how useless the prostitution of forms of law in an effort to do that which is essentially unlawful; but it will also remain an eternal suggestion to the vigilance committee and the regulator.”[22]

 

[1] Thomas Watt Gregory. Reconstruction and the Ku Klux Klan : a Paper Read before the Arkansas and Texas Bar Associations, July 10, 1906 / by Mr. T.W. Gregory. Austin, Tex: s.n., 1906.; T.W. Gregory graduated from the University of Texas with a Law Degree, was a member of the Board of Regents of the University of Texas, a Trustee for Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and was actively involved in the UT Ex-Students Association serving as head from 1926-1928.  He served as Attorney General of the United States under Woodrow Wilson and was active in state and national Democratic politics.

[2] Gregory, Reconstruction and the Ku Klux Klan, p 2.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Gregory, at one point in his paper differentiated between a revolution and a rebellion, noting that a “revolution is a rebellion which succeeds, while a rebellion is a revolution which fails.” p. 3. So, while in his estimation the KKK movement was a revolution,  by his same logic the Southern cause was a rebellion.

[8] Gregory, 4.

[9] Ibid, 5.

[10] Richard White, The Republic for Which It Stands: the United States During Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, 1865-1896 (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2017), 50.

[11] Gregory, 6.

[12] Ibid, 7-8.

[13] Ibid, 11.

[14] Ibid, 11.

[15] It is fair to note that there was a certain whiplash to the treatment of the South during Reconstruction due to the competing understandings and goals of Reconstruction between Johnson and Congress, and even within Congress.  The everyday lesson here is, if you have a petulant child, both parents have to be on board or it just makes everything worse.  For more on Reconstruction see Negro Militia and Reconstruction by Otis Singletary and This Republic For Which It Stands: The United States and the Guilded Age 1865-1896 by Richard White.

[16] Gregory, Ibid, 11.

[17] Ibid, 12.

[18] Ibid. 13.

[19] Ibid.

[20] The Klan held an organizing convention in Nashville, TN in 1867 and adopted three (painfully ironic) points of action:

 

  1. To protect the weak, the innocent, and the defenseless from the indignities, wrongs, and outrages of the lawless, the violent, and the brutal; to relieve the injured and the oppressed; to succor the suffering and the unfortunate, and especially the widows and orphans of Confederate soldiers
  2. To protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and all laws passed in conformity thereto, and to protect the States and people thereof from all invasion from any source whatever.
  3. To aid and assist in the execution of all constitutional laws, and to protect the people from unlawful seizure, and from trial, except by their peers, in conformity with the laws of the land..

Gregory, 14.

[21] Ibid, 21; Though earlier he goes out of his way to show that 90% of the time the Klan used what he described as the ignorance and superstitious nature of freedmen and poor whites to simply scare them into falling in line, but if and when they did use deadly force they gave their victims at least a days warning to leave.

[22] Ibid, 22.

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Book Review: Manufacturing Advantage: War, the State, and the Origins of American Industry, 1776-1848

Book review by Kyle B. Carpenter

In her debut monograph, Manufacturing Advantage: War, the State, and the Origins of American Industry, Lindsay Schakenbach Regele produced an outstanding history of Early American capitalism. She argues that the American arms and textile industries became the focus of policymakers’ efforts to create national security after the American Revolution in order to protect the United States from reconquest and move on from dependence on British manufactured goods. An excellent political economy of Early America, the book shows the clear connections between the American state and business interests from the moment the United States declared its independence. It also hits on the major themes of national security, nationalism, and U.S. territorial and economic expansion. I found the book to be a joy to read as it contributes a valuable new concept, is tightly organized and always stays on point in its argumentation.

Schakenbach Regele offers historians of American political economy a new concept: national security capitalism. She defines it as “a mixed enterprise system in which government agents and private producers brokered solutions to the problems of international economic disparities and war.”[1] A forerunner to Eisenhower’s notion of the military industrial complex, national security capitalism neatly summarizes that the United States never completely adhered to free-market capitalism. Federal subsidies, government contracts, and protectionist tariffs for the arms and textile industries ensured the United States could withstand international conflict. The concept usefully provides a shorthand for future historians to utilize without having to delve into the depths of the connections between state and business in Early America on their own. Schakenbach Regele did all the work and wrapped it in a neat three-word concept.

In terms of its construction, Manufacturing Advantage is chronologically organized and adheres to its tightly woven argument. She begins the book with the supply nightmares George Washington faced during the Revolution and uses Valley Forge to ground her argument in the reality of shortages of clothing and arms. The framers of the constitution, keenly aware of the war’s supply problems, included executive powers for presidential cabinets and staffing to bolster manufacturing without having to wait for congressional legislation. Schakenbach Regele then takes the reader through all the formative decisions made by succeeding presidents and their cabinets from Washington to Polk, hitting all the major events from the embargo under Jefferson, the War of 1812, expansions into Latin America, and finally the U.S.-Mexico War. In each chapter, the author sticks tightly to her argument by explicitly showing how policymakers supported the arms and textile industries.

In fact, my one critique of the book is that it may at times be too tightly organized. Some sections of the book could benefit from the narrative loosening up to explore the broader context. For example, in chapter 6, “Industrial Manifest Destiny,” the author gives a brief background of the United States’ expansion into Oregon and Mexico but spends most of the chapter’s focus on changes to the Ordnance Department. I think this section of the book had an opportunity to expand a bit to explain the continued British and French presence in Texas and how it enflamed U.S. nationalism. Since nationalism was a key element in the unity between the state and manufacturing industry, further exploring the context of rising nationalism might help make the argument even more forceful.

My critique is merely how to make an excellent book even better. Manufacturing Advantage remains an incredible contribution to the history of Early American capitalism and political economy.  Its conceptual framework and organization make it an accessible read for any scholar interested in the topic.

[1] Lindsay Schakenbach Regele, Manufacturing Advantage: War, the State, and the Origins of American Industry, 1776-1848 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2019), 2.

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From Rejected to Accepted: Learning from Mistakes and Setting Yourself Up for Success

By Andrew Klumpp

One of the things no one told me about graduate school when I started was exactly how much rejection I would face as a graduate student. The application process to graduate school probably should have indicated that the academy includes a fair amount of rejection, but I’m not sure that I really understood that until I started the process of really putting myself out there for fellowships, conferences, and jobs.

Social media and departmental websites make it easy to witness our colleagues’ successes. When someone receives a prestigious grant, their name and picture, deservedly, show up on the department website. When conferences make decisions about accepted papers/panels, I often find out first from enthusiastic announcements on Twitter before I even have time to check my own inbox.

Conversely, people infrequently announce their rejections from fellowships, jobs, or conferences.

I’ve been fortunate enough over the past four years to receive my fair share of acceptance emails, and on occasion, I’ve even announced my delight on social media; however, a big part of my process of receiving more acceptances has involved learning from plenty of rejection.

I used to keep all of my deadlines in my head and just presumed that I wouldn’t forget any of them. Vaguely, I knew when conference proposals were due and which fellowships might apply to my research interests. I had a bit of success that way, but I also got my share of rejections. I occasionally missed a deadline because it came up more quickly than I anticipated or failed to pull a panel together in time because I didn’t start my work putting it together soon enough. My first few years as a grad student, I learned some of these lessons the hard way, through rejection and the occasional missed opportunity.

I don’t mind be open about those early struggles, failures, and rejections, though. First of all, I’ve learned and changed as I’ve developed as a scholar. Secondly, I recognize that this is part of the process of my learning as a graduate student and good preparation for future efforts to navigate the academic world.

So, what have I learned from all of this?

1) Keep a Spreadsheet

In light of the lessons I’ve learned, I do things differently now. Every August I sit down to prepare an excel sheet to keep track of all upcoming conference, fellowship, and job deadlines for the academic year. This year, as a fourth-year student, I knew I’d spend a lot of my time in the classroom, in the archives, and writing my dissertation, but I didn’t want to lose sight of the many opportunities that would come my way. Missing a few deadlines earlier in my career or being rejected because I knew I didn’t allot the appropriate amount of time to an application taught me a lesson. Knowing the importance of these applications forced me to set myself up to maximize my opportunities for success.

During this process, I also take time to scour fellowship announcements, research library grants, and a variety of other sources of support for graduate students. If I find something that looks like it will apply to my work, I enter it into my spreadsheet, copy the website into the appropriate line, and insert the due date. Most of these opportunities occur annually, so I can find them at any time of the year, and by doing much of the legwork ahead of time, funding opportunities are less likely to sneak up on me. Sure, things come up unexpectedly, but when they do, I put them in the spreadsheet and continue with the process.

With all of that information collected, I can arrange my spreadsheet by due date and pace my work appropriately without the fear of missing an important deadline.

2) Start Conference Planning Early

Plenty of rejections have also taught me quite a bit about the process of putting together panels for conferences. Most crucially, I’ve learned to start earlier rather than later. Sometimes things come together last minute, but I’ve often found more success when I started early. It takes work to put together a dynamic panel and as a graduate student, that meant leaning on my contacts in the field, sending emails to folks I’d never met, and in at least one instance, turning to Twitter to fill a last minute vacancy. It’s work that takes time. An important part of getting your work out there is the process of presenting at conferences, but coordinating between scholars, particularly over email, is something done best with plenty of time to spare.

When setting up a panel, it’s also important to know who you are and pay attention to creating panels that represent the diversity of voices in the field. That’s been hard sometimes, especially because as a graduate student many of my closest colleagues are other graduate students. I know of panels of graduate students that have been accepted at some conferences, but your odds always improve if you are able to folks at diverse points in their career—the same goes for representing all other forms of diversity working in the field. With a bit of time and chutzpah, you can often secure established scholars for a panel. In fact, I’ve often been surprised by how gracious, kind, and encouraging these folks are when approached about panel opportunities.

3) Don’t let fear of rejection stop you.

Rejection can be very hard, and with every letter or email I get, there’s a tinge of disappointment. But I’ve learned not to be afraid of it. More than once in the past year alone, I’ve been happily surprised because I took the time to apply for fellowships or ask well-known scholars to participate in a panel I was developing.

When I look back on my 2018-2019 spreadsheet, it’s a mixed bag. I still got plenty of rejections, but I also met almost every single one of my deadlines with time to spare. At the end of the day though, it was my most successful year by far, particularly for fellowships and panel and paper proposals.

By taking the lessons I learned from rejections earlier in my career, I received three wonderful research grants for the coming year from the Van Raalte Institute in Holland, Michigan, the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts, and the New-York Historical Society in New York City. I also managed to snag a small dissertation completion fellowship, which will certainly ease the stress of writing next year and a few conference travel grants. This year, I’ll also have the opportunity to present my work in a variety of contexts, including on panels that I organized at the American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, and the American Academy of Religion.

Since I started graduate school four years ago, I’ve been rejected a lot. Those rejections have often been difficult, disappointing, or frustrating, but they’ve also been instructive. I’ve learned that rejection is a part of the process. The system I’ve developed isn’t perfect and it certainly doesn’t stop me from getting rejected. Ultimately, though, it works for me. It helped me, as a fourth year Ph.D. candidate, look back at 2018-2019 academic calendar as one filled with both instructive rejections and also plenty of acceptances.

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Teaching Texas History: Connecting State and Local History to the World

By Kyle B. Carpenter

During this past Spring semester, I assisted Dr. Brian Franklin with his survey course on Texas history. It was an excellent experience. The guidance Dr. Franklin imparted was invaluable. He is a model for how to lead a fun and engaging historical survey. Not only did I gain valuable skills from his example, but his willingness to allow me to lead discussion sections and give lectures in class gave me a head start for when I go to create my own syllabi on Texas history. Through Dr. Franklin’s lectures and guidance, as well as my own research in building lectures and discussion exercises, I came to the unequivocal understanding that regional history is global history. I also found that functionally, regional histories offer broad appeal to students through their recognizability and clear demonstration the historian’s craft. Teaching Texas history has offered me an even more positive perspective of regional history than I previously had.

Throughout its history, Texas has been a transnational space. Prior to European contact, indigenous groups migrated into and out of the region competing for trade, space, and natural resources. European attempts to settle Texas created even more contestation over the region as the Spanish and French entered into the already complicated competition over territory. After Mexico gained its independence, the new nation attempted to open Texas for the Atlantic World. Through the empresario system, Mexico contracted with independent agents to promote migration to Texas from Europe and North America. Ultimately, the empresario system drew in thousands of Anglo-Americans from the U.S. South who rebelled against Mexico in order to maintain their own notions of Jacksonian democracy and African chattel slavery. They established the Republic of Texas which became a hotbed of international intrigue and diplomacy that drew in the English, French, United States, and several German principalities. Those diplomatic struggles, particularly over the issues of the cotton trade and African chattel slavery, continued after Texas annexation to the United States and re-engulfed the Atlantic World during the U.S. Civil War. Transnational contestation in Texas remained unceasing.[1]

By the twentieth century, Texas became a place where global conflicts played out. The confluence of the Mexican Revolution, increasing ethnic violence, and the Zimmerman Telegram pushed Texans to support the U.S. entering World War I. Oil speculations and the rising oil and gas economy in Texas helped dictate world economies and American foreign policy. Furthermore, the United States fought portions of the Cold War through Texas. Texas Instruments contributed to U.S. military technology to help build a vast American nuclear arsenal. Religious leaders based in Texas, like Billy Graham, developed theologies to combat Soviet atheism. The world moved in and out of this one region in the middle of North America.[2]

In all of these examples showing how Texas was tied to the globe, teaching Texas history allows for various historical perspectives. Not only can one teach the subject from the points of view of Spain, Mexico, England, the Soviet Union or OPEC, Texas history promotes indigenous, African American, Mexican American, and various gendered perspectives. There is something in this regional history for everyone. Students can certainly find something to latch onto, something meaningful to them.

“Karte von Texas entworfen nach den Vermessungen, welche in den Acten der General-Land-Office der Republic liegen bis zum Jahr 1839 von Richard S. Hunt & Jesse F. Randel”. Map courtesy Dorothy Sloan-Rare Books, Austin, Texas

Even though Texas history is global, it remains a regional history with a limited geographic space that allows students a greater ability for analytical development and to better understand the historian’s craft. Dr. Franklin demonstrated this perfectly through a newspaper project that each student submitted individually. The assignment took place in stages and encouraged students to interact with primary sources throughout the semester. Students chose two separate Texas newspapers within a 3-month period between 1850-1877. They read four editions of each newspaper within their chosen timeframe and identified four topics that stood out to them as either being particularly significant or just interesting. Finally, they drew out the topic that they found most engaging and wrote a final report based on their primary sources and select secondary sources. Students wrote about a vast array of topics from slavery, to the Civil War, to railroad development, to border conflicts, to fashion. I thought the newspaper project a wonderful exercise for students to grasp the significance of Texas history and to learn how historians develop ideas.

I gained so much essential experience in my assistantship with Dr. Franklin. He included me in the early design phase of the course where we discussed possible readings and assignments for the students. We shared in the grading and student advisement. He also generously shared his lecture slides and notes when I got stuck on how best to frame a lecture. Perhaps most importantly, I learned in Dr. Franklin’s course how to construct a survey on a regional history that draws out its global implications.

[1] Randolph B. Campbell, Gone to Texas: A History of the Lone Star State, Third edition (New York ; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018); Randolph B Campbell, An Empire for Slavery: The Peculiar Institution in Texas, 1821-1865 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2009); Jesús F. de la Teja, Paula Mitchell Marks, and Ronnie C. Tyler, Texas: Crossroads of North America (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co, 2004); David J. Weber, The Spanish Frontier in North America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009).

[2] Patricia Bernstein, The First Waco Horror: The Lynching of Jesse Washington and the Rise of the NAACP (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2006); H. G Bissinger, Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream. (Boston: Da Capo Press, 2015). Campbell, Gone to Texas; de la Teja, et. al, Texas: Crossroads of North America.

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Graduate Students as Writers

Last week we had a wonderful lunch with the great Alessandra Link (On twitter at @AlessandraLink2).   She talked about writing, learning to write, writing well, and cherishing writing.

Here is a list of the great books she recommended

  1. Aaron Sachs, “Letters to a Tenured Historian: Imagining History as Creative Nonfiction–or Maybe Even Poetry,” Rethinking History  14:1 (2010)
    1. with responses from other historians:
      1. Jeffery Wasserstrom, “A letter from an Emeritus Historian, c. 2049″
      2. Kate Brown, “Three Letters from to a Junior Colleague
      3. Jenny Price, “A Letter from a Lapsed Colleague
  2. Anne Dillard, The Writing Life
  3. Dani Shapiro, Still Writing (a personal favorite)
  4. Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird
  5. John McPhee, Draft No. 4
  6. Stephen King, On Writing
  7. Zadie Smith interview

 

 

 

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“arrayed in wood shoes, armed to the teeth, well supplied with spirits… and brimful of wrath and cabbage”

Check out GPRS PhD Candidate Andrew Klumpp’s lastest post over at the US Intellectual History blog.  The Midwestern “Heartland” has a contentious and “hardscrabble” history — a different kind of borderlands.  You’ll never think of small town Iowa in the same way…

Wooden Shoes on a Warpath: Violence and Power in the Nineteenth-Century Midwest

 

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Why Esteem Trumps Fame: The Lesson from George Washington that “we the people” and our Government Should Remember on this President’s Day

By Camille Davis

Rembrandt Peale
George Washington, Copy of Patriae Pater, 1850
Oil on Canvas
33 1/8 inches X 27 3/4 inches
Dallas Museum of Art

In 1850, Rembrandt Peale, one of the last living portraitists of George Washington, painted his 80thcopy of one of his most famous depictions of America’s first President. This painting – called Patriae Pater – was originally created in 1824, and its name is a variation of the Roman appellation: Father of the Country.  Although Washington passed in 1799, his role as the inaugural leader of America was still being celebrated in 1850, and portraits of him – like the Patriae Pater copies—were still being commissioned. The celebration continues today. Here’s why:

Rembrandt Peale
Patriae Pater, 1824
Oil on Canvas
71.5 inches X 53.25 inches
United States Senate

When Washington took office in 1789, he came with a well-established track record of prioritizing the needs of the country before his own. He exhibited this most aptly in his conduct as Commander of the Continental Army during the American Revolution. Although Washington masterfully projected confidence and competence in public settings, he privately anguished about the ways to lead those who entrusted their lives and fortunes to him. This apprehension infused his style of leadership with a rare sense of sobriety and magnanimity.

Those who served in the Continental Army saw myriad examples of Washington using his power to protect and serve. One poignant example is described in Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch’s recently released book called The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington. Meltzer and Mensch describe the famous episode of August 1776 when the British possessed control of New York and continuously thwarted attempts from the American forces to gain control over it. Once it became clear that Washington’s opponents outmaneuvered him, it seemed that he had only two choices: attack or surrender. The first option meant certain death or capture for his men, and the other meant placing his men at the mercy of their enemies. Washington considered and executed a third option — a great escape. He arranged for all of his men to secretly take boats across the East River from Brooklyn Heights into Manhattan. What makes Meltzer and Mensch’s account of the story worth discussing is that they emphasize Washington’s decision to be the last person in the army to take a boat to safety. He ensured that his troops evacuated first.  

Such instances of valor and unselfishness were what made Washington respected among his troops and venerated among the American public. They also led to comparisons of Washington to well-known Classical figures from ancient Greece and Rome who gained their reputations by their virtue. This perception of Washington was promoted by America’s leading intellectuals who sought to construct a new American government based on the idea of meritocracy – a proven ability to lead –instead of presumption – a desire to lead without having earned the right to do so. Painters of Washington, like Rembrandt Peale, were a part of the intellectual class that used words and images to teach Americans the importance of picking leaders who possessed the merit to govern.

With full knowledge that subsequent Presidents would not always be military heroes or even veterans, the founders bequeathed elections to us as a mechanism for deciding who would best represent the interests of the nation. Their hope was that we would overcome our own personal biases and petty preferences in order to choose presidents and other elected officials who could serve the common good.

To be sure, George Washington was not perfect. No politician will ever be. We human beings share a penchant for error.

Gilbert Stuart
George Washington, Athenaeum, 1796
Oil on Canvas
28.63 inches x 23.63 inches
United States Senate

However, what made Washington remarkable as a general and as a President was his desire and determination to overcome his shortcomings in order to rise to the great challenges of his time.

By the time that the fighting of the Revolution began, Washington was the most famous man on the American continent. Because of this, he could have become a great tyrant who worked for political expediency and political glory.

However, instead of resting in fame, Washington chose to prove to his fellow Americans that he was worthy of their trust by behaving with personal honor. His conduct as general and later as President solidified something greater than fame.  Washington earned respect and the right to be the sole American bestowed with the honor, Patriae Pater.

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The Transatlantic Graduate Student History Association 19th Annual Conference

By Kyle B. Carpenter

On October 19th-20th, the Transatlantic History Student Organization put on their 19th annual graduate student conference at the University of Texas at Arlington. Highlighted by an engaging roundtable, keynote address from Dr. Nayan Shah, and exciting new research from graduate students in the field of Transatlantic History, the conference proved to be an excellent professional experience where I made great connections.

The conference kicked off on Friday night with a roundtable that directly tackled the theme of the weekend, “Subversive Spaces, Subversive Bodies.” With several discussants, including Drs. Stephanie Cole and Patryk Babiracki, the topics ranged from race to gender to the role of the state. One topic they deliberated that I found particularly engaging was the difference between subversive zones and borderlands. I had always considered those two concepts regarding their location in geographic space: the borderlands as an area that no state has yet to be able to fully establish its authority and subversive zones as areas within an established state where people are able to practice subversive activity. Their discussion got me thinking about how subversive zones exist within the borderlands, as people coalesce to challenge and subvert power in various forms, regardless of the state. It was a fun, engaging, and well-organized roundtable that, frankly, I could have listened to for another hour.

Immediately following the roundtable, Dr. Shah took the floor and presented his research on hunger strikes as a bodily form of protest in prisons. One of the key concepts of his work is the notion of the carceral control of food. Life in a prison is organized primarily around meal times and the primary power of the prison is that it can dole out and withhold food as it pleases. He argued that when political inmates went on hunger strike, it severely undermined the power structure within the institution. The prison’s control of food no longer mattered to the protester. If the hunger strike became public, it further undermined carceral control, thus making hunger strikes an important weapon of political prisoners throughout the twentieth century.

Leaflet advertising THSO 2018

In thinking about his presentation and the topic of bodily forms of protest, my mind immediately turned toward more extreme protests, like bodily mutilation or self-immolation. When I asked him about it during the Q&A, Dr. Shah patiently went through the many forms of bodily protest that occurred in prisons but came back to his argument that hunger strikes were the most effective at undermining carceral control. It was a convincing argument and the talk overall was a rewarding experience.

On Saturday, the degreed professionals took a back seat and the graduate students got to shine. The first panel of the day, titled “Reinterpreting the Body: Gender, Race, and Youth Construction,” contained three insightful papers. One that stood out because it seemed quite relevant to the public activities of white supremacists today was Derrick Angermeier’s “The Germans are Beating Us at Our Own Game: The Path from Southern Eugenics to Transatlantic Nazism.” He argued that, while Nazism undermined scientific Eugenics in the South, white supremacy remained a welcome pathway for racial expression in the United States. He dubbed the post-World War II American white supremacist movement as “transatlantic Nazism” because it shared so many features with its German cousin, particularly the symbolism, like the use of the iron cross. Angermeier’s presentation was both engaging and a little bit scary considering some of the parallels he made to current events.

The second panel, “Policing the Body Politic,” only had two presenters but they both provided unique perspectives on their topics. Heather Lane enlightened us on the debates within police forces across the Atlantic about systematizing human identification. While fingerprinting ultimately won out, different systems of measurement were championed across the western hemisphere which led to considerable confrontations among police forces. Aleksei Rubstov similarly tackled the issue of police monitoring and identification but flipped it to show how police identified social networks within protest movements in Moscow. One of the highlights of Rubstov’s presentation was his beautiful visualization of those networks and how they connected or did not.

Aleksei Rubstov presents his networks at THSO 2018.

I was in the third panel, “Buying In: Subverting Economy, Citizenship, and Expectations.” After we three panelists all presented, I understood the real value of a graduate student conference. Throughout the conference, a panel chair commented on each paper and most of them provided an incredible amount of constructive feedback. Our panel was no exception as Dr. Christopher Morris gave us all individual comments that, for me at least, will make not only that paper better, but help me think through my entire dissertation. I also made excellent professional connections with the other members of my panel.

Overall, the Transatlantic History Student Organization put together a wonderful conference, which makes it clear how a graduate student conference made it to its nineteenth year. I encountered engaging academic discussion, received amazing feedback, and created a couple important professional connections that I hope lead to future conference panels.

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Echoes of the Bracero Program During California’s Primary Election Debate

By Jonathan Angulo

Before California’s gubernatorial primary election, four Democrats and two Republicans faced off in a televised debate on January 25, 2018. Moderators Jorge Ramos and Ilia Caldéron asked candidates Antonio Villaraigosa (D), Delaine Eastin (D), Gavin Newsom (D), John Chiang (D), John Cox (R), and Travis Allen (R), about many issues, including immigration in general and in particular—they asked questions on sexual assault against undocumented women, on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and on immigrant farm work. Candidates Chiang and Cox alluded to the Bracero Program, a guest-worker program enacted between 1942-1964, during the debate. The discussion demonstrated how the program is remembered and how guest workers should be treated. The comments suggest the United States should remember workers’ hardships, so they are treated humanely when legislators propose immigration policies.

A fourteen-year old, Benjamín Zepeda, asked the candidates, “How can you help families like mine that are scared to be separated due to deportation?” this prompted Chiang’s indirect reference to the Bracero Program. As he highlighted immigrants’ contribution to California’s development, he recalled that during World War II the nation invited Mexicans to labor in our farms. Acknowledging the country’s failure to advocate for fully just immigration policies, he declared that our economic future would be shaped by immigrants. In recalling braceros’ contributions, the candidate pledged his support for immigrants because our country should represent dignity, decency, and respect for all people. He accordingly vowed to solve such issues with all governors by pushing Washington D.C., to enact comprehensive immigration reform. Thus, Chiang’s comments alluded to the significance and importance of the Bracero Program. 1

Candidate Chiang is seen answering a question during the debate.

 

Chiang’s statement referring to this country’s failure in advocating for just immigration policies had merit even in regard to the Bracero Program, whose resurrection is sometimes promoted as a solution to current immigration problems. The binational agreement originated when the agribusiness and railroad industries lobbied Congress for a guest-worker program. President Franklin Roosevelt subsequently signed an executive order which caused Mexico and the United States to create the Bracero Program from 1942-1951; Congress later extended the program from 1951 to 1964. Contracted Mexican workers, known as Braceros, traveled from their homes to migratory stations in Mexico before reaching the border. Then, they traveled from the stations to U.S. reception centers where they were formally contracted. Braceros were to be paid a minimum wage, provided with housing, given food, and promised a small pension from deducted funds in their paychecks.2

The program brought numerous laborers to the United States; however, there were not enough jobs for them, which led the applicants to take desperate measures. For example, on June 13th, 1958 a bracero bought a peer’s identity, so he could move up in the waiting list. Contracted by the Ventura County Citrus Growers Committee, the bracero, after his six-month contract, used the peer’s name again. Migratory officials, however, found that he was using the fraudulent identity. Thus, Mexicans who could not attain a contract through formal measures used such informal means and increasingly crossed the border as undocumented immigrants. The Eisenhower administration, subsequently, enacted Operation Wetback in 1954 which resulted in the deportation of over a million Mexicans. Mexican officials were upset at the deportations as they argued that the U.S. had invited workers to cross the border, then punished undocumented workers, instead of the employers who hired them.3

Moderator Ilia Caldéron later in the debate asked John Cox, “Do you know that more than 60% of the people harvesting fruits and veggies here in California are undocumented immigrants? Isn’t it pro-business to give them a legal status?” The candidate answered by sympathizing with Central Valley Farmers. According to Cox, the farmers advertised higher wages; however, they continued to endure labor shortages. The candidate then argued for a labor importation program, basically another Bracero Program already shown to be flawed. He claimed that Latinos came from dysfunctional and corrupt countries such as, Mexico, Honduras, Venezuela, and Guatemala. Cox continued by describing them as nations where special interests, cronies, and monopolists receive government favors. The candidate ended by stating that Latinos come to the United States because it is a country of laws. But some farmers’ actions during the program tell a different story.4

Candidate Cox addresses Trump’s comments about African Nations and Third World countries.

 

The Bracero Program demonstrated that the United States often acted as a nation without laws, as the government frequently served farmers’ interests despite written agreements. For example, in November 1942, a frost damaged pea crops in the Imperial Valley of California. At the time, braceros were contracted to harvest peas, but were instead ordered to tie carrots. In addition, farmers paid braceros and domestic workers six cents per bushel instead of the normal eight-cent piece rate which challenged the prevailing wage agreement in the program. Objecting against such “cheap” labor, discontented domestic workers organized a strike on January 9, 1943 advocating for the original rate. In response, the California Farm Labor Transportation Program and the Imperial Valley Farmers Association worked together to deport braceros who refused to be strikebreakers. Thus, forty workers were deported between January 9 and February 3. The tying season finished before the strike gathered momentum.5

The United States, nevertheless, continued to break laws. Before 1952, the U.S president and the Mexican government informally re-approved the Bracero Program. Once President Harry Truman signed Public Law No. 78, the program required Congress’s approval every two years. The next renewal was accordingly discussed in 1954. Although both countries had failed to come to an agreement in early 1954, U.S. Border Patrol officials encouraged Mexicans to cross the border under an undocumented status. Tony Gose, a resident from the Imperial Valley, verified this claim in a House Agriculture Committee report. On one occasion, he witnessed a Mexican official grab a former bracero to prevent him from being hired as an undocumented laborer. A U.S. official, however, in a tug of war fashion, grabbed the laborer in an attempt to take him from the Mexican agent. Finally, both governments after tense negotiations agreed on a new renewal in 1954.6

Los Angeles Times Photographer Frank Q. Brown’s Imperial Valley Border Picture, 1954.

 

After the program, society has demonstrated that braceros have been remembered, but policymakers need to study their experiences more closely. Providing assistance for such study, the National Museum of American History has created the Bracero History Project to tell the complex history of braceros. Also, the Bracero Justice Movement has sought to recognize the exploitation and injustices guest workers faced, as well as to recuperate pensions and wages withheld from them. Policymakers should remember that braceros often found ways to alleviate the wrongs they experienced. They also developed agency when confronting state power in ways that might give politicians pause in promoting new guest worker programs As Mireya Loza argues in Defiant Braceros, braceros participated in deviance and defiance when they participated in the vice and sex industries along the border. Their shared leisure experiences gave them agency but also demonstrates that the importation of temporary male workers might be less preferable than admission of permanent residents in families.7

Policymakers, nevertheless, must agree that the United States and California was built on the backs of immigrants, that our country represents dignity, decency, and respect for all people, and that our nation should recognize and avoid repeating historical injustices when composing new immigration laws.

 

  1. Univision Noticias, “Forum with California’s gubernatorial candidates 2018.” YouTube video, 1:36:14, January 25, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcWa-X0RxwA&t=2044s&index=13&list=WL.
  2. Henry P. Anderson, The Bracero Program in California. (New York: Arno Press, 1976),43, 108.
  3. Peter N. Kirstein, “Agribusiness, Labor and the Wetbacks: Truman’s Commission on Migratory Labor,” The Historian, vol. 40. no. 4 (1978): 651; Richard B. Craig, The Bracero Program Interest Groups and Foreign Policy (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1971), 4.
  4. Univision Noticias, “Forum with California’s gubernatorial candidates 2018.”
  5. Don Mitchell, They Saved the Crops: Labor, Landscape, and the Struggle Over Industrial Farming in Bracero-Era California (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2012), 35-36; Warne D. Rasmussen, A History of The Emergency Farm Labor Supply Program 1943-47(Washington D.C., Agriculture Monograph No. 13, U.S. Department of Agriculture Bureau of Agricultural Economics, 1951), 202.
  6. “Valley Hopes for Border Labor Pact,” Los Angeles Times, Jan. 1, 1954; “Violence Halts Wetback Crossing,” Los Angeles Times, Jan. 25, 1954; “Policy Shift Traps Mexican Farm Workers,” Los Angeles Times, Jan. 26, 1954; Robert S. Robinson, “Taking the Fair Deal to the Fields: Truman’s Commission on Migratory Labor, Public Law 78, and the Bracero Program, 1950-1952,” Agricultural History84, no. 3 (Summer-2010): 394-398.; House of Representatives, Committee on Agriculture, Mexican Farm Labor. 83rdCong., 1954, 67, 69.
  7. Mireya Loza, Defiant Braceros: How Migrant Workers Fought for Racial Sexual and Political Freedom, (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2016), 17, 173, 182.
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