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.
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?
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.
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.
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. 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.” 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.” 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.
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.” 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.”
Gregory concluded that Reconstruction created an unconstitutional vacuum of liberty in the South. Four misfortunes sucked liberty from the post-rebellion South. 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. According to Gregory, Johnson was “endowed with such a faculty for doing the right thing in the wrong way.” 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. Finally, the Reconstruction Acts suspended the constitutional rights of Southern states and their white inhabitants by unconstutionally imposing military rule over them.
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. 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.”
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.”
It was simply unbearable to be treated like some vanquished enemy fully at the whim of their conqueror. 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.”
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.” 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.” Soon members of the Klan shifted their purpose away from a great social prank to the idea that a “great mission awaited the movement.”
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.
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. 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.
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.”
 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.
 Gregory, Reconstruction and the Ku Klux Klan, p 2.
 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.
 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.
 The Klan held an organizing convention in Nashville, TN in 1867 and adopted three (painfully ironic) points of action:
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
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.
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..
 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.
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.” 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.
 Lindsay Schakenbach Regele, Manufacturing Advantage: War, the State, and the Origins of American Industry, 1776-1848 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2019), 2.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
 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).
 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.
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.
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.
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.
When I first entered graduate school, one of the last things from my mind was how to develop as a professional historian. I was worried about classes, keeping up with the readings, trying to maintain some semblance of a family life, etc. However, during my first semester it became apparent that participating in professional development outside the classroom was one of the most important activities to build my career in academia. I came to see that conferences, outside speakers, interdisciplinary events, and numerous other occasions help graduate students to learn from other scholars how the craft works. These events all help young historians make important contacts both within and outside their field that can pay dividends in the future. Even historians have to network. It can seem overwhelming, though. How can one totally swamped grad student keep up in the classroom and do all this stuff? Travel can seem totally out of the question as it would take way too much out of necessary reading time, therefore I thought it would be helpful to put together a brief and wholly unexhaustive overview of some the most accessible professional development events at SMU and in DFW.
At SMU, the Clements Center for Southwest Studies offers a variety of resources to build professional historians. The center brings in a group of four fellows of very high academic standing every year and each one gives a free public talk about their research. Further, their offices are located right on SMU’s campus in Dallas Hall where graduate students can pick their brains or just get to know them. The Clements Center also puts on an evening lecture series that hosts some of the best scholars from across the world. Additionally, the center organizes annual symposia of scholars who focus on the Southwest and borderlands who get together and produce a book of essays that relate to given theme. Last year, the “Understanding Global Migration” symposium delivered a two-day public event where scholars of world migrations shared their research.
For those interested in topics outside the Southwest and borderlands, there are similar academic centers located throughout SMU. Anyone interested in politics should definitely check out the Tower Center. The SMU Cox School of Business has the O’Neil Center which often has events about contemporary and historical economic issues. Finally, the Dedman College Interdisciplinary Institute produces several lecture series and fellowship opportunities for graduate students across campus.
SMU also offers resources for graduate students to become better teachers and to achieve funding for research. The Center for Teaching Excellence has multiple programs, workshops, and even a symposium designed to aid new and seasoned faculty in becoming more effective instructors in both the physical and online classroom. The Office of National Fellowships and Awards guides graduate students to the often-complicated processes of applying for scholarships and funding opportunities. In addition to their comprehensive online guides, the office also provides services to review grant applications so that you submit the best possible application to get the research funding you need.
If you want to meet some outstanding scholars in the DFW area and get out of the SMU bubble, there are plenty of opportunities to do so. Most conveniently DASH (Dallas Area Society of Historians) meets monthly in locations at SMU and at TCU in Fort Worth. The organization draws in historians at all levels of the profession, from full professors down to graduate students, that allows for a comfortable atmosphere to socialize and present research. It really is a wonderful way to meet local historians, make connections, and learn how our craft is practiced at the highest level. Additionally, for those interested in religious history should attend the annual conferences of the Southwest Commission on Religious Studies in Irving, Texas every March. Their annual meeting marks a great way to interact with scholars across disciplines in religious studies. DASH and SWCRS make up two excellent local organizations to network and develop professionally.
Another great organization that is inviting and provides an excellent setting for professional development is the Transatlantic History Student Organization at UTA. Not only is THSO a great organization to meet other graduate students at neighboring universities, they host an annual graduate student conference that draws in grad students from all over the country. Their annual conference is a highly professional event that is well organized and allows for young, inexperienced historians to get their feet wet to learn how history conferences work. Whether you want to present a paper or just attend to get the conference experience without having to travel, THSO’s annual event remains a fantastic resource for grad students in DFW.
Obviously, this brief blog post is not an exhaustive list of all the professional development opportunities in DFW. These organizations and opportunities are the those I know about or have experienced first-hand. Those I have experienced have all not only helped me become a better scholar but taught me some of the most important aspects that go into being a professional academic. For those who read this and have additional suggestions, please contribute in the comments.
Kyle B. Carpenter is a PhD Candidate in SMU’s William P. Clements Department of History
I study European-born immigrants who traveled to Rio Grande Borderlands in the mid-nineteenth century. This past month, I sat down with the records of United States consular dispatches from Matamoros, Mexico to see if the consulate recorded any intersections with Europeans in the region. While I found a few choice documents for my own research, I came across a lot of interesting material within the consular dispatches that I wanted to get out there in case any other historians are interested in the topic. What I have noticed, at least in the context of Matamoros between 1826 and 1867, is that consuls individually and the consulate in general often acted as agents for U.S. imperial ambitions. They denigrated the local Mexican population and Mexican government, imposed upon Mexican law outside of necessary U.S. interests, and regularly called for U.S. forces to intervene in Mexican territory.
The United States consulate system was designed to protect American seaman from injustices imposed by foreign powers as well as extend commerce and preserve trade for U.S. mercantile interests. Even though the consuls in Matamoros executed that agenda, they tended to partake in a few extracurricular activities to push the United States to extend beyond its territorial boundaries. For example, Daniel W. Smith represented the United States as consul in Matamoros and remained one of the longest standing consuls in that port discharging those responsibilities from 1826 to 1842, which was no small feat in the age of executive patronage. In 1829, he crafted a report to then Secretary of State Martin Van Buren complaining about Mexican officials practicing extra judicial policies in which he concluded that, “The most intelligent natives of this country manifest an anxious solicitude that something decisive may be effected in relation to our commercial intercourse. They have been often heard to remark…that under the Administration of General Jackson it would be sooner and better adjusted.” This statement offers a wealth of detail to unpack. First, by the term “natives,” Smith was describing Mexicans. However, by using that careful choice of words he takes away their ownership of the land and associates Mexicans with Native Americans, who Jackson was at the time forcing to remove from their Eastern lands. Smith’s statement also implies that the Mexican government was incapable ensuring profitable trade and the best of the Mexican population would prefer to live under Jackson’s administration. Smith would continue to suggest that the Mexican government was incapable of protecting commerce and that the whole region would greatly benefit from more sound government, like that of the United States.
Even after the United States’ successful conquest of the Southwest in the U.S.-Mexico War, consuls continued to push for expanding U.S. power beyond the border. Thomas Slemons, U.S. consul in Matamoros in 1848, declared that the United States should waste no time claiming sovereignty over the entire Rio Grande so that “it opens to our commerce and agriculture a valley almost equal to that of the Mississippi.” Further, he notes that the continued development of American towns along the river would ensure that the United States would control the commerce of all of Northern Mexico.
Slemons’s soft colonialism turned into overt calls for the use of more military force by the time Richard Fitzpatrick took over the consulate. In 1860, Fitzpatrick witnessed the peak of the Cortina raids north of the Rio Grande and the outbreak of a violent civil conflict within Matamoros and could not withhold his vitriol for Mexico. Penning a letter to Secretary of State Lewis Cass, the fiery consul claimed, “These people are and always have been deadly hostile to every American (unless he is a negro or mulatto)…It is an entire mistake if our government believes that the people of this country are or ever will be friendly to Americans…if our government intends to protect the lives and property of our citizens it must be done by force, for it cannot be done by treaty stipulations.” In this letter, consul Fitzpatrick clearly implies that the United States needs to invade Matamoros because he believes Mexicans to be an inferior people who have no regard for their American superiors. By demanding violent interference, Fitzpatrick hoped for military occupation and possibly further conquest below the Rio Grande.
The above mark just a few examples I found in the consular dispatches of one port in Northern Mexico and even there I have barely scratched the surface. The historiography on the United States consulate system remains quite sparse, at least in my cursory review of it. Considering that it has officially been in existence since 1792 and created abundant sources that are well organized and easily accessed, the consulate system marks a gaping hole in American historiography. Gautham Rao’s history of the U.S. custom houses could even provide an excellent model for how to tackle such a large bureaucracy. I think it’s a worthwhile and significant topic, not to mention the documents are quite entertaining to read.
 Daniel W. Smith to Martin Van Buren, July 01, 1829, “Despatches from United States Consuls in Matamoros, Mexico, 1826-1906,” Microfilm Mf79.01, reel 1, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University.
 Daniel W. Smith to Louis McLane, January 01, 1834 & Daniel W. Smith to John Forsyth, January 01, 1835, Ibid.
 Thomas Slemons to James Buchanan, November 12, 1848, , “Despatches from United States Consuls in Matamoros, Mexico, 1826-1906,” Microfilm Mf79.01, reel 3, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University.
 For more on these conflicts see Jerry Thompson’s book Cortina: Defending the Mexican Name in Texas, (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2007).
 Richard Fitzpatrick to Lewis Cass, January 06, 1860, “Despatches from United States Consuls in Matamoros, Mexico, 1826-1906,” Microfilm Mf79.01, reel 4, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University.
 An added note: Fitzpatrick was from South Carolina and quit his post as U.S. consul in November to join the Confederacy.
 Gautham Rao, National Duties: Custom Houses and the Making of the American State (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016).
Andrew Klumpp is a Ph.D. Student in American religious history in the Graduate Department of Religious Studies at Southern Methodist University.
Shortly after ringing in the new year, I made my way to Washington, D.C. for the annual meeting of the American Historical Association. The weather was unusually frigid, which made trekking between hotels a bit of a chore. Charter buses did shuttle us between venues, resulting in some of both the nerdiest and best bus trips that I’ve ever taken. Luckily, though, the charter busses full of historians weren’t the conference’s only highlights.
First and foremost, AHA offered some of the most robust programming for graduate students that I have seen in my conference travels as a grad student. It provided frequent opportunities for graduate students to receive mentoring from established scholars, attend sessions about the job market, or explore career diversity for historians.
In particular, I managed to attend two sessions that focused on work for historians in the federal government and in think tanks. These sessions highlighted several excellent opportunities outside of the professoriate that are available to historians. In each case, the panelists shared their experiences and also how they used their skills as historians in the current roles. Historians from the National Museum of American History, the Center for American Progress, and the Heritage Foundation all shared about their journey to and work in their current positions.
On Saturday these opportunities conversations about career diversity extended into a career fair. During this event, graduate students could meet individually with historians working in a variety of fields. I chatted with a historian working in the Office of the Historian in the U.S. House of Representatives, a historian at the Department of State, curators at the Smithsonian Institute, and many historians working in exciting roles. I learned about opportunities like the Council on Library and Information Resources Fellowships and the Presidential Management Fellows Program. In each case, these historians offered examples of how to use skills as a historian in fields beyond the professoriate.
Beyond grad student-focused sessions, AHA also offered particularly engaging panels on digital history. Each of the panels on digital history that I attended gave excellent examples of current digital projects and also identified some of the challenges faced by those employing new methodologies. I got to hear more about a number of projects, such as Lincoln Mullen’s America’s Public Bible Project, Kyle Robert’s Jesuit Libraries Project, and Denise Burgher’s work on the Colored Conventions Project. These projects offered outstanding examples of what can be done through digital methods and also helped to emphasize some of the particular challenges of working with digital methods in research, writing, and in the classroom.
In addition to these digital history panels, I also made sure to take in a panel on urban history while at AHA. Admittedly, I am a rural historian, yet one of my favorite things to do at a large conference like AHA is to attend panels that discuss urban history. I always find myself interested in the methods and explanations being used by urban historians. These types of panels sharpen my own analytical approach.
This year I attended a panel focused on urban environments on the edge of what some deem urban. The panel discussed ranches in Nevada, the Black Hills in South Dakota, and the Burning Man festival. Of all of the panels I attended throughout the conference, this is the one that has stuck with me the longest because I continue to wonder if I agree with the whole panel’s basic premise. From my perspective, the spaces explored in these papers appear more rural than urban. What is more, even if they are situated between rural and urban space, as my colleague Joel Zapata reminded me, they may be better understood as borderlands.
I came away from the panel with a bevy of questions. Does any built environment constitute an urban space? Are a cluster of ranches in Nevada really urban or are they a small town like those found throughout rural America? What makes these rural and borderlands spaces appear urban? What are the benefits or drawbacks of such a classification? I still wrestle with the premise of classifying rural communities as simply the edge of urban ones; however, the panel has certainly driven me to examine many of my own presuppositions.
Finally, the last panel I attended got heated, providing some fireworks for the close of the conference. During the question and answer session on a panel focused on religion and good government, a debate broke out about the negative tone taken toward conservative political and cultural figures. An audience member argued that many scholars present the conservative agenda in a negative light while presenting more progressive movements in a more positive light. The audience member highlighted that eight years ago, there were no panels ending with the phrase “in the Age of Obama” while there were multiple panels ending with the phrase “in the Age of Trump” at this year’s meeting. One of the panelists—a Democratic congressional candidate—shot back rather forcefully and a spirited debate ensued.
By nature, I am inclined to stay out of the fray and did so during the debate. Nevertheless, the moment reminded me that many of the tensions that continually bubble up in our current political environment are not far from the surface even in professional meetings.
As AHA concluded, I happily traded frigid D.C. for Dallas’s temperate winter weather, and I left with a much better sense of the field and the opportunities available to me as a graduate student. I’m grateful for the financial support from my department, SMU’s office of Research and Graduate Studies and the American Historical Association that made the trip possible. Ultimately, I leave grateful for the trip, enlightened by the conversation, and looking forward to continue to pursue my future as a historian.
Andrew Klumpp is a Ph.D. Student in American religious history in the Graduate Department of Religious Studies at Southern Methodist University.
The American Academy of Religion’s annual meeting is a somewhat unique conference experience for historians. One of the most exciting elements about attending AAR, which took place in Boston this year, is the interdisciplinarity that’s there. In my conference-going professional life, I rarely hobnob with Jewish ethicists, biblical exegetes, or anthropologists interested in Taiwanese Buddhism. I get to do that at AAR. Chatting with such diverse folks can be both fruitful and at times, a challenge.
I am a U.S. historian interested in religion. I work in archives, study the past, and employ historical methods in my work. And, there’s a place for me at AAR. In fact, there is a cadre of historians running around the conference, if you know where to look—people ranging from enthusiastic grad students like me to established figures like Laurel Thatcher Ulrich.
As I write this blog sitting on a return flight somewhere over the square states where I grew up, two sessions in particular continue to linger.
One of the thorniest issues in American religious history these days has got to be grappling with the definition of the term “evangelical.” I showed up to a paper session on evangelicalism to see how religious studies scholars grappled with these definitions. I left disappointed. Two of the five papers used the term somewhat precisely; the other three tended to collapse evangelicalism broadly construed, white evangelicalism, and conservative evangelicalism into one category. In light of work like David Swartz The Moral Minority and scholarship on black and Asian evangelicals, I longed for more clarity. I also wondered if struggles with defining evangelicalism might be particularly acute among historians since we so clearly see that the evangelicalism of George Whitefield or Sarah Osborn was radically different than the evangelicalism of Franklin Graham and Paula White.
Before catching my plane to Dallas, I ducked into one final panel. I’m so glad I did! The Mormon Studies Unit hosted an author-meets-critic session about Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s most recent book A House Full of Females—one of the finest books I’ve read in the past six months. Ulrich received widespread praise from the panelists as well as engaging queries. Her kindness, graciousness, and insight provided a master class for how to engage in charitable and generative historical dialogue. In summing up some final thoughts, Ulrich reminded those of us in attendance of her abiding belief that what we do day by day really matters, and that if we believe that the everyday holds significance and power, it should show up how we interpret the past. These wise words from one of my favorite historians were certainly worth a slightly hurried trip to the airport.
This year’s conference also marked the first time that I presented my own work at a discipline-wide national conference. While the audience was larger than previous presentations I’ve given at smaller conferences, the geniality of the group and its response provided a great opportunity to hone my scholarship and gain invaluable feedback. My panel focused on how beliefs influenced civic engagement among Christians. Of the four papers on my panel, mine was decidedly the most historical, drawing on archival research and full of the travails of rural immigrants building new communities in the American Midwest in the nineteenth century.
I received valuable feedback on some of these initial thoughts for my dissertation, yet one of the most valuable lessons I learned from the process involved owning my space and identity as a historian. A few of the other panelists employed more theological or anthropological methods, but I stuck to my historical approach and was able to articulate how my work as a historian contributed to conversations even among those who utilized other approaches. I am thoroughly convinced historians have valuable contributions to make to interdisciplinary work, and I’m grateful not only for the chance to present my work but also for the continued opportunity represent historians and historical methods in these conversations.
Of course, in addition to excellent sessions, the conference also offered fruitful opportunities for networking and mentorship. Evening receptions led to engaging conversations with old friends and new colleagues. AAR also provided multiple graduate student mentoring opportunities. A luncheon connected small groups of graduate students with faculty mentors who answered questions about the job market, the challenges of graduate school, and career diversity. I also took advantage of AAR’s one-on-one mentoring program. This led to a rich conversation with an established professor and American religious historian who also happens to be a first-generation college student. Over a cup of coffee, we chatted about pedagogy, historical scholarship, graduate school, and our experiences as the first in our families to attend college.
After two days of rain, on a brisk 32-degree Monday morning, I ventured into Boston. I made my way to Boston Common, past many of the old meeting houses, and several other quintessential Boston landmarks. For the past semester, I was a teaching assistant for Kate Carté Engel’s Doing Digital History: Mapping the Great Awakening course. With our students, we’ve mapped sites throughout much of Boston. As an added conference bonus, I got to look at some of this landmarks with new eyes, thinking spatially about the history that surrounded me.
As my flight begins its final descent into Dallas, a number of questions continue to linger after this most recent conference. I continue to nurture my voice as a historian in interdisciplinary conversations and am grateful for both the intellectual stimulation and sage advice I discovered in Boston this weekend. What is more, the whole experience makes me even more eager for AHA in January when I get to do it all over again.