The Grad Experience at the American Historical Association Annual Meeting

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.

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As American as Apple Pie: Understanding Kneeling within the History of American Protests

By Camille Davis

New England Patriots kneeling during the National Anthem – CBS

NBC recently quenched suspense regarding whether they would show coverage of players who kneeled during the National Anthem at the Super Bowl. They said they would.

Super Bowl executive producer, Fred Gaudelli, explained NBC’s rationale to the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour. Gaudelli stated: “The Super Bowl is a live event … and when you’re covering a live event, you’re covering what’s happening. So if there are players that choose to kneel, they will be shown live.”[1] In other words, Gaudelli argues that showing players who kneel is not an endorsement of those players’ political opinions; instead, showing kneeling players is providing full coverage to Super Bowl viewers of a live event.

Background: How This All Began

Colin Kaepernick (center) and two of his teammates kneeling during the National Anthem. ABC.

The “kneel or not to kneel” debate began during the 2016 NFL season when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the National Anthem to protest racial inequality. When Kaepernick began protesting, he explained: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”[2] Kaepernick made his statement as a response to the outcry from minority communities about the recent deaths of black men and women due to what was perceived as police brutality. Do you remember Alton Sterling? Philando Castile? Sandra Bland? These are just a few examples of unarmed African Americans who died during interactions with police or while in police care over the last three years.

Eventually, Kaepernick opted out of his contract with the 49ers after being told by the team that his contract would not be upheld in its existing form after 2016. The team’s decision not to allow Kaepernick to operate under the existing contract originated from Kaepernick’s need to play less after an injury in 2015. After his injury, his position as starting quarterback became tenuous. During the 2016 season, Kaepernick’s questionable playing ability after his injury and his protest of the National Anthem culminated into a situation that made the 49ers leadership see him as less than an ideal candidate for their leading position.  General Manager John Lynch stated the following: “We  [the team leadership  and Kaepernick] had a great meeting, and I think we had a very frank and honest discussion, and what we both agreed [to] was that under the current construct of the situation… it wasn’t going to work.”[3] Colin Kaepernick has not played football since the 2016 season. No team has signed or recruited him. Kaepernick is currently suing the NFL because he believes that the league’s owners made an agreement among themselves not to hire him.

 Kneeling as a National Movement and a National Debate

Although Kaepernick has been ostracized from the NFL, his form of protest has been subsequently imitated by many of his former teammates and by other players throughout the NFL. There are those, particularly the President of the United States, who find the protest of the players unpatriotic and offensive. This post won’t quote the detractors verbatim because they have been challenging the protest for over a year, which means their rebuffs are well-documented.

Essentially, critics argue that the unwillingness of players to stand during the National Anthem is an overt sign of disrespect to American values and to those who fight and have fought for American freedom. Some even argue that Kaepernick is hypocritical for taking a public political stance after not voting in the last presidential election.  GQ magazine’s pronouncement of Kaepernick as “Citizen of the Year” for its December issue made critics of Kaepernick and his fellow protesters even more strident. NBC’s subsequent decision to show those who may protest during the Super Bowl will unquestionably fuel the debate. Despite the controversy, one must not look at the recent NFL protests as historical anomalies. Instead, they are best understood within the context of American history. When seen in this light, Kaepernick and others who kneel are obviously more than agitators or provocateurs.  They are citizens who are using their public platform and their right to free speech to  bring  about  what they believe  is  necessary moral  change.

Protests of the Past

Vietnam War Protest, Year Unknown. Getty Images

If we think about it, our country was founded upon the idea of protests and it continues to  become   “a more  perfect union”  because  of them. Consider the following:

Wasn’t the Boston Tea Party of 1773 a protest of what the colonists perceived as unjust British taxation policies?  Didn’t the whole American Revolution occur because the colonists believed that their rights as British citizens were being compromised? Remember that the American Revolution  became a moment of separation of the  colonies  from   the English government because the colonists believed—either justly of unjustly—that the  English government dismissed the rights granted to them by the English constitution.

Kaepernick has not said that he is rescinding his citizenship. However, he is making the argument that the constitutional rights of people of color are not consistently protected.

The Women’s March the day prior to the Inauguration of President Woodrow Wilson, 1913.

Consider the women who marched for suffrage on March 3,1913, the day before Woodrow Wilson was inaugurated as President. These women were Progressive reformers who argued that precluding women from the vote kept them from fully engaging in citizenship.

Have you heard of the Bonus March of 1932? It was a movement when World War I veterans marched to ensure the government provided appropriate compensation and benefits for those who served during WWI.

Have we forgotten that thousands of Vietnam War Veterans protested the Vietnam War after serving in the War?

Finally, remember that Martin Luther King’s venerated “I have a Dream Speech” was delivered during a protest. The March on Washington occurred on August 28, 1963, at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. The Civil Rights Movement began as a series of protests against segregation and Jim Crow laws of the South. 

If one correctly views Kaepernick and others’ recent protest with the right historical eye, he or she is able to see that today’s protest of  the  National  Anthem fit  within  the  long history of political and social discourse within  our nation.

Those who kneel are not isolated from the larger historical context of American challenges to government. They are not unpatriotic or un American.

It is characteristically American and unquestionably patriotic to use one’s position to challenge the perceived wrongs that are perpetuated by those who are in power. NFL players are using their public profiles to speak for those whom they believe society has forgotten. They have done this with the display of a gentleman’s knee.

Today’s protestors are not political or social outliers. They are as American as apple pie.

 

 

[1] Jason Lynch,” NBC Will Cover Any National Anthem Protests During the Super Bowl : Kneeling players‘will be shown live.”Adweek. January 10, 2018.

[2] Steve Wyche, “Colin Kaepernick explains why he sat during the National Anthem” August 27-28. http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000691077/article/colin-kaepernick-explains-why-he-sat-during-national-anthem

[3] Nick Wagner. “If Colin Kaepernick didn’t opt out, 49ers would have released QB” March 3, 2017. http://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/18808233/san-francisco-49ers-released-colin-kaepernick-opt-out

 

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Borders, Walls, and the Proposed Border Wall

By Joshua Tracy

“What do you think about Trump’s border wall?” As an historian of the Rio Grande and its environment I get that question often. While discussions vary in length and detail, they all conclude in the same way: it is complicated. Contemporary issues, such as funding and politics in and between the United States and Mexico, make the reality of a contiguous wall from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean difficult although not impossible. Along with these present-day problems, historical perspectives on the relative novelty of borders and the efficacy of walls also beg the question: would a wall even work as intended, namely at stopping people from illegally entering through the southern border of the United States?

One of the things I tell people is that borders—lines that separate one political entity from another—are relatively new historical developments. Yes, people and empires have designated territories for themselves for millennia. These areas, however, collided into one another, blurring the lines of control and creating places where little to no power existed, empirical or otherwise. Borders changed all of this. Beginning in the seventeenth century, burgeoning nation-states went through the process of what Peter Sahlins calls the “territorialization of sovereignty.”[1] Essentially, nation-states wanted and established geographical definition of their jurisdiction with lines separating one state from another.

For the United States and Mexico, these lines were part of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Signed on February 2, 1848, the treaty not only ended the Mexican-American War, but also set the boundaries between the two nations from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific. Establishing the border on paper was easy; making it a reality was much more difficult. The United States purchased more land in 1853, pushing the southern border of what would be Arizona further into Mexico. The Rio Grande—a meandering, shallow, and flood-prone river—constantly shifted, making Article V of the Treaty of Guadalupe, which stipulated that the boundary line would follow the deepest channel of the river, a logistical nightmare. Determining the border took decades, with legal battles over tracts of land lasting well into the twentieth century. The U.S.-Mexico border, then, is in its historical infancy.

If borders in general and the U.S.-Mexico border specifically are relatively new historical developments, walls are most certainly not. If anything, they have seemingly existed since time immemorial, with Hadrian’s Wall, the Great Wall of China, and the Berlin Wall all attesting to the long-held belief in separating one area from another. Vestiges of these walls still exist, along with a simple question: did they work? In some ways, the answer is obvious. By their very nature, walls provide a physical barrier between two places, making it difficult for people who wish to cross, legally or otherwise. Moreover, walls, and–as is often the case now–fences, usually have very real and often violent consequences. Take, for example, the Berlin Wall, where between 86 and 262 people died and another 75,000 were arrested, serving prison sentences for up to eight years for “deserting the public.”[2] At the same time, people still found their way across the heavily fortified and guarded wall, with tens of thousands of East Berliners managing to escape “by climbing over the wall, digging under the wall, flying over the wall, [and] hiding in secret compartments of cars.”[3]

As for the United States, the extant border fence covers about 650-700 of the roughly 2000 mile border between the United States and Mexico, with statistics showing that it has greatly reduced the inflow of illegal immigration over a ten year period. From 2005 to 2015, the number of successful illegal entries of Mexican immigrants dropped from 1,900,000 to 200,000, roughly a 90% decrease.[4] In the year since Trump has taken office, attempted illegal crossings from Mexico have hit a 46 year low, with U.S. border patrol agents arresting 310,531 people through September 30, 2017 (the end of the U.S. government’s fiscal year).[5] Between the current border fence, Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies, and a steadily decreasing trend of illegal immigration, a wall along the 2000-mile border would most likely further deter people from entering into the United States via the border.

But even if the wall were to be built, and even if it decreased immigration, would it really “work”? That obviously depends on the definition of “work.” For Americans who want stricter immigration policies, Trump’s wall probably seems like a reasonable, if not genius, idea. For those Americans, however, who believe in more open borders and/or loose immigration policies, the wall in all likelihood seems like a poor solution to a humanitarian problem. As historian Rachel St. John states, “whether or not they successfully reduce the number of unauthorized entries by immigrants and smugglers, fences [or walls] are a failure of relational power.”[6] For some people, then, erecting walls or threatening to build them only exacerbates problems, propagating “Us vs. Them” rhetoric and deteriorating international relations.

Trump’s proposed border wall has multiple issues to address before it can become a reality. Hopefully he and his administration can look to the past to make a more informed decision about the future of the U.S.-Mexico border, taking into consideration the rather novel idea that borders must be protected and that walls are the best way of doing so. Former Arizona Governor and U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Ann Napolitano once said, “Show me a 50-foot wall, and I’ll show you a 51-foot ladder.” Regardless of the barrier, people will still come. Maybe we should leave walls in the past and look for a better way to protect national borders.

 

[1] Peter Sahlins, Boundaries: The Making of France and Spain in the Pyrenees (Berkeley and Los Angeles: The University of California Press, 1989), 8.

[2] Helmut Langerbein, “Great Blunders?: The Great Wall of China, the Berlin Wall, and the Proposed United States/Mexico Border Fence,” The History Teacher Vol. 43, No. 1 (November 2009), 22.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Daniel González, “How Many Mexicans Actually Cross the Border Illegally,” https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/border-issues/2016/10/09/how-many-mexicans-actually-cross-border-illegally/91280026/. Accessed January 6, 2018.

[5] Nick Miroff, “Arrests Along Mexico Border Drop Sharply Under Trump, New Statistics Show,” https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/arrests-along-mexico-border-drop-sharply-under-trump-new-statistics-show/2017/12/05/743c6b54-d9c7-11e7-b859-fb0995360725_story.html?utm_term=.61e8717ed0d6. Accessed January 4, 2018.

[6] Rachel St. John, Line in the Sand: A History of the Western U.S.-Mexico Border (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011), 206.

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New Book Announcement from SMU History Alum David Rex Galindo!

By David Rex Galindo, SMU PhD 2010, Professor in the Facultad de Artes Liberales at the Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez in Santiago, Chile

I am very pleased to announce in our history department’s blog that my book To Sin No More: Franciscans and Conversion in the Hispanic World, 1683-1830 will be published by Stanford University Press and the Academy of American Franciscan History in a few weeks.

I started this project as a graduate student in the William P. Clements Department of History at SMU in 2004 under the guidance of Peter Bakewell and the late David Weber. The bulk of my research and a first draft as a doctoral dissertation was conducted thanks to the support I received from my two advisors, two readers (Ed Countryman and Martin Nesvig), the history department, the Clements Center for Southwest Studies, and the Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. I cannot think of a better place to fulfill my dream of becoming a professional historian and an academic. My two advisors guided and nurtured my intellectual development with generosity, kindness, humanity, and professionalism.

The history department is a hub of intellectual brainstorming that excels in many historical fields, but particularly what interests me the most: borderlands history. I was impressed by the dedication that SMU history faculty gives to graduate students and how we were encouraged to play a pivotal role in the scholarly discussions within the department and beyond. Throughout my six years as a graduate student at SMU, I created a community of friends that will last forever. I have to say that those were some of the best years of my life at both the personal and professional levels. I therefore want to use this venue to express my gratitude to SMU’s history graduate program, the history department and its members and to all the graduate students who have made and are making our graduate program a global reference and a fantastic place to study and work.

Even before my arrival to Texas, I have always been interested in the history of the Spanish frontiers in North America, particularly the institution of the frontier mission. But studying the missions implied learning about the Franciscan missionaries as well as the missionized. While I encountered a good amount of works that focus on the latter when I started my project, I also found that we knew little on the missionaries, particularly their lives before they reached the frontiers of the Spanish empire. Where did Franciscans come from? What did they learn and how? How were their daily lives? Did they have other evangelical experiences? What type of Catholicism(s) did they practice and taught?

To Sin No More is the result of over a decade of research to find answers to these questions in Franciscan archives, national archives, and libraries on both sides of the Atlantic. The book introduces the reader into the recruiting processes, the Franciscan missionary colleges’ daily operations, the missionary classroom, the dining-hall, the spirituality, and the evangelical ministry to Catholics as well as non-Christians. Overall, I show that what happened in frontier areas like Texas was part of a global enterprise of conversion that sought to introduce Catholicism anew to independent native peoples as much as to revitalize the faith among Catholics in places like New Spain, Peru, and Spain. This book is my particular approach to mission history and frontier studies, the Franciscan program in the Americas, and Atlantic history. I am thrilled to say that after a decade, the book that I started as a graduate student at SMU’s Ph.D. program in History has finally seen the press. The path has been long but also pleasant.

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Recap of the American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting: The Historian’s Perspective

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.

Andrew Klumpp with colleagues at the AAR, 2017

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.

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A Day at the Southern Historical Association Annual Meeting

Kyle B. Carpenter is a PhD Student in SMU’s William P. Clements Department of History

Just two weeks after the annual meeting of the Society for U.S. Intellectual History, this year’s Southern Historical Association annual meeting was in Dallas, just two train stops from the SMU campus. I attended Friday’s slate of roundtables, lunches, and panels and found them all quite engaging. A huge program that included a wide range of topics made it difficult to choose which sessions to attend. In the end I chose to start the day with a roundtable on Atlantic Revolutions, spend lunch networking, and finish with a panel on slavery and capitalism. Within each experience, scholars engaged in healthy academic debate that provided great lessons for a graduate student learning how the profession works.

After registering and meandering through all the publisher booths in the main hall, I sat in on a roundtable about the legacy of revolutions in the Atlantic world. Cynthia Bouton kicked off the discussion with her exploratory paper on the role of subsistence in the Caribbean during the era of revolutions. Looking at Haiti particularly, she questioned the role French colonies played in the French Revolutionary program based on the food commitments France made to the island. Building on Michel-Rolph Trouillot, she posited that peripheries drove the centers since they demanded constant attention and maintenance. Manuel Covo, in his paper, asked similar questions about the relationship between Haiti and France, but in the context of the historiography of each nation’s revolution. Noticing that Haiti rarely appears in the French national narrative, he made a call for more global histories, especially regarding the age of revolutions. Also with a nod to Trouillot, Covo claimed that national histories and historiographies too often obscure important trends, themes, and arguments made on the global stage. Caitlin Fitz shifted the discussion to the United States and its role in this period. She provided insights into how Americans viewed the Latin American revolutions, specifically the abolitionist trend that went with them. She concluded that the seeming U.S. support for Latin America’s revolutions was quite shallow as Americans tended to focus on how those revolutions related to the American Revolution. Since Latin America’s push for abolition did not seem to threaten American slavery in the eyes of Southern slave holders, it was easy to support their movements until the Panama Conference drove Latin American abolition to the U.S. political stage. Finally, Lester Langley provided his thesis that the entire Western Hemisphere needs to be studied and taught as a coherent unit. The discussion after the papers proved quite lively as the presenters debated the role the American Revolution played to initiate change while also maintaining slavery as a cornerstone institution in the United States.

For lunch, the Southern Historical Association provided graduate students the opportunity to sit down with established scholars and discuss academic branding. I sat with Drs. Andrew Torget and Max Krochmal alongside five other graduate students in similar fields. The conversation supplied many helpful tips for young historians to make their way in the profession. Dr. Torget gave insightful points about maintaining and protecting an online presence. He offered the simple suggestion that a well-kept website does a lot of the grunt work of making one’s professional history and accomplishments easy to access and consume without the drawbacks that come with social media. Dr. Krochmal gave the equally helpful advice that the networks young historians make with their peers often prove to be the most rewarding down the line. Overall, the lunch provided a wonderful experience to learn from established scholars and meet fellow graduate students from other institutions interested in similar topics as me.

SMU at the Southern Historical Association Meeting

The last panel I attended for the day featured the topic “The Culture of Capitalism and Slavery.” All the papers added significantly to the discussion of that contentious field. Ian Beamish showed that, in fact, planters kept terrible accounting records, meaning they likely did not contribute specifically to modern corporate accounting as the historiography previously hypothesized. Justene Hill presented her research that suggests that ideas of efficiency and paternalism combined in the discourse of the slave economy which fed into the proslavery arguments of the mutual dependence of slaves and slaveowners and slavery as a positive good. John Lindbeck, in the last paper of the panel, connected evangelicalism to the ideas of slavery and capitalism. He argued that planters ran efficient evangelical finance networks to create “God’s proslavery kingdom.” The kinship and finance networks planters built in the church tied faith and family to the business of slavery. Afterward, the discussion revealed the divide among historians about the validity of the study of capitalism and slavery. While the panelists fielded questions about the definitions of capitalism and paternalism, the debate spilled out into the crowd as individuals provided their own commentary to the questions asked. The fireworks that concluded the panel provided insights into how historians work out contentiousness in their field.

I really enjoyed my day at the Southern. I made good connections with other scholars and learned a lot about individual topics as well as how the profession works. The grad lunch provided the most rewarding personal experience since the setting broke down many of the social barriers to initiate conversation, but the roundtable and panel demonstrated the quality of historical work being done and how conference presentations help make an individual’s scholarship better and more polished. I look forward to presenting my own work at the Southern in the future.

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The Annual Meeting of the Society for U.S. Intellectual History: A Graduate Student Perspective.

Andrew Klumpp is a Ph.D. Student in American religious history in the Graduate Department of Religious Studies at Southern Methodist University.

One of the underappreciated advantages of attending graduate school in a sprawling urban area like DFW has to be that every once and awhile national conferences take place right in your backyard. This past weekend the Society for US Intellectual History (#USIH2017) rolled into town, and when the call for graduate student volunteers went out, I eagerly signed up. On Thursday afternoon, I trekked up to the conference hotel in Plano and immersed myself in the four-day event. By helping at the registration desk, I managed to introduce myself to many of the scholars at the conference, learn about some of the logistics involved in pulling off an event like this, and connect (finally) with people I’ve been chatting with through Twitter’s #twitterstorians for months.

Heading into a busy season of conferencing—the Southern Historical Society is in town in a few weeks and AHA is just around the corner—I did what many academics may be prone to do. A few weeks ago, I headed to the Dallas Public Library and checked out books on how to network effectively. (Keith Ferrazzi’s Never Eat Alone proved particularly useful.) Armed with a fount of new knowledge, I dove into the conference. And, to be honest, it kind of worked. Of course, this was due in part to the size of the conference (around 200 attendees) and the graciousness of many of those in attendance. I managed to hear about fascinating research, get a few leads on archival sources, build relationships with people working on similar projects to my own, and even get one of my books signed by the author (shout out to Andrea Turpin).

Of course, I also attended a spate of engaging panels. The topics ranged from Christian nationalisms in the Early Republic—which included an excellent paper by SMU’s Kate Carté Engel—to grassroots birth control advocates and explorations of resonances between social and fiscal conservatism in the late twentieth century. One of the most thought-provoking questions that undergirded many sessions queried what counts as intellectual history and what kinds of sources might inform it. Are the ideas of self-proclaimed intellectuals necessarily more systematic and consistent than those of everyday folks? If we think so, what might that say about our views of everyday people and their role in intellectual history? If not, what might that mean for the need to reevaluate complex intellectual figures, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson? At times, these questions bubbled up in lively question and answer sessions, but more often, they simmered in enriching ways beneath the surface of the conversation.

This conference also piloted a new “Guided Discussion” session format. More interactive than a traditional roundtable, in this model the four panelists each briefly posed a question to the group around a common theme—in this case, how historians use words with contested or complex meanings. After each panelist posed his or her particular question, the audience broke into groups based on which question each person wanted to ponder and then discussed it with their small group. My group consisted of a historian of religion (me), a historian of science, a historian of disability and two philosophers. This proved to be a remarkably fruitful discussion of terminology. It shone light on the assumptions that particular subfields bring to certain terms and parsed the tensions involved in using terminology that reflects our sources while also attempting to be precise and avoid terms now deemed offensive. Did we solve the underlying problem? Certainly not! Yet, these varying voices did push me to consider my own use of language and to sharpen my own practices when using contested concepts.

On Saturday evening, Annette Gordon-Reed delivered an outstanding keynote address to a packed crowd. She focused her remarks on how memories kept alive the stories of Thomas Jefferson’s relationship Sally Hemmings—an enslaved woman owned by Jefferson. Gordon-Reed recounted her own work to uncover this relationship and how it relied on taking seriously the memories of Hemmings’ children. What is more, she explored how the memories of Hemmings’ children and their descendants shed light onto the relationship between Hemmings, Jefferson and their children. In a spirited question and answer session, Gordon-Reed deftly engaged questions that ranged from how Jefferson ought to be commemorated to how to label relationships between white men and enslaved women.

As the weekend drew to a close, I came to appreciate the privilege of having such an excellent conference take place right here in Dallas. As a native of a hamlet in Northwest Iowa, I’m admittedly rather unfamiliar with national organizations showing up in town—aside from glad-handing presidential candidates, of course. I can, however, now tell you from experience that I’d rather shake hands with a crowd of intellectual historians than road-weary politicians any day.

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Book Review: The Dead March

Patrick Troester is a PhD Candidate in History at Southern Methodist University. His dissertation project studies the evolution of identity and political power in the nineteenth-century U.S.-Mexico borderlands by examining borderland violence and the ways in which the region’s diverse peoples struggled over its meanings. More information can be found at www.patricktroester.org

Review of Peter Guardino, The Dead March: A History of the Mexican-American War. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2017

Peter Guardino’s new book presents a masterfully constructed transnational account of one of the most influential, yet least discussed events in North American history: the Mexican-American War. While many authors have sought to examine this conflict from both Mexican and U.S. perspectives, none have approached the depth, breadth, and nuance that Guardino has achieved here. Although he spends significant time on traditional military and political themes, the bulk of the narrative focuses on reconstructing the experiences of ordinary people from both countries, constantly illustrating the ways in which the war’s social and cultural history is essential for understanding what happened on the battlefield and at the negotiating table. Not only does The Dead March offer perhaps the first truly trans-national history of the war, but it does so in a volume that is both accessible to general audiences and deeply relevant to professional historians.

Throughout the book, Guardino builds a sustained and compelling case against a myth that has long haunted interpretations of the Mexican-American War in both countries. This myth suggests that Mexico lost the war primarily because it lacked the stability and national unity of its northern neighbor. Guardino, on the other hand, shows that the war’s outcome had far more to do with the economic and social disparities between the two countries. An assortment of geographical, political, and social forces combined to give the U.S. a strong material advantage. At the same time, costly mobilization efforts, a violent U.S. occupation, and the U.S. Navy’s blockade of Mexican ports compounded Mexico’s already dire economic situation and aggravated its internal conflicts. The loss of revenue from import duties crippled the financially strapped Mexican state, while the war’s demands further burdened a society already living on an economic knife-edge. Given this harsh reality, Guardino shows that the fierce and sustained resistance that Mexicans made against the U.S. invasion was nothing short of remarkable. Working to overcome deep internal divisions and constantly weighing the stark realities of personal and family survival, Mexicans from all walks of life contributed to and participated in the war effort. In doing so, they unequivocally declared and demonstrated their Mexican nationalism. “In short,” Guardino concludes, “Mexico lost the war because it was poor, not because it was not a nation” (367).

More broadly, Guardino uses the Mexican-American War as a lens through which to compare and contrast the two countries as they approached the middle of the nineteenth century. Despite their vast economic, social, and cultural differences, Guardino highlights the key similarities that Mexico and the United States shared. Most importantly, national identity and central state authority were new and fluid forces in both countries. Nationalism was tightly bound to other pre-existing forms of identity, such as regionalism, religion, family, ethnicity, and race. The war’s outcome has led many historians to mistakenly assume a great deal more cohesion and unity than actually existed in the mid-nineteenth-century United States. This in turn has helped reinforce the false dichotomy between a supposedly strong U.S. nation-state and a deficient Mexican one. However, Guardino clearly illustrates that regionalism, partisan conflict, class and racial anxieties, and political violence were rife in both countries at this time. Indeed, the strikingly parallel paths that Mexico and the U.S. followed in the aftermath of the war underline this point. Although the conflict boosted nationalism in the short term, its results enflamed existing conflicts over what each nation aspired to be, leading both countries into massively destructive civil wars.

Although much material in this book will be familiar to both U.S. and Mexican historians, Guardino also presents a great deal of valuable original research. In addition to expertly synthesizing large bodies of scholarship from both sides of the modern border, he draws on his own deep archival evidence from regional and national archives in Mexico, the U.S., and Spain. The most compelling of this original work uses military court records and other sources to reconstruct the complex processes through which the Mexican nation mobilized itself for war. Especially enlightening are Guardino’s treatments of the gendered politics of conscription to the regular Mexican Army, the multi-layered efforts that organized volunteer units in central Mexico, the previously ignored violent resistance with which Mexico City’s residents met the U.S. invaders, and the harsh experiences of the U.S. Army deserters who formed the San Patricio battalion.

Map of Mexico 1847

If there is anything to critique in this book it is that Guardino seems far more comfortable dealing with central Mexico than with the its northern borderlands. Guardino’s expertise on central Mexican politics, especially his previous work on popular participation, allows him to examine the central Mexican war effort in exceptional detail. However, his treatment of the North sometimes lacks the same richness and complexity. Guardino’s task here is made all the more difficult by the fact that much popular participation in the North was small-scale and decentralized, and northerners were never called upon to assemble large National Guard units like those that defended the capital in 1847. In the grand sweep of this expansive study, this is a minor weakness.

Altogether, The Dead March offers a deeply researched and skillfully written narrative that simultaneously shows the Mexican-American War from both sides, while doing justice to the complexity and humanity of those who lived it. It is a much-needed addition to the growing bodies of scholarship in both Mexico and the United States that have begun the difficult work of re-evaluating this conflict and weaving it into national histories that have long sought to marginalize its importance. Guardino’s work represents a major step forward in that effort and provides an invaluable launching point for further research.

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Book Review: Tejano Tiger

Kyle B. Carpenter is a PhD Student in SMU’s William P. Clements Department of History

Thompson, Jerry D. Tejano Tiger: José de los Santos Benavides and the Texas-Mexico Borderlands, 1823-1891. Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 2017. Pp. 414. $29.95.

Texas A&M University Press and the Texas Book Consortium

Jerry Thompson’s Tejano Tiger chronicles the life of Santos Benavides of Laredo, Texas.  With a narrative that spans the man’s entire lifetime, the book offers a window into how the U.S.-Mexico War, U.S. Civil War, French intervention in Mexico, Reconstruction politics, and industrialization all impacted the people living on the Rio Grande.  Santos Benavides had a hand in all of these significant events.  As a politician, he adapted quite quickly to the U.S. political system, becoming mayor of Laredo in 1856 and a Texas state house representative in the 1870s.  He also fought Indians, Union soldiers, and Mexican revolutionaries as a combatant in the various conflicts on the border.  Further, he took advantage of the border conflicts and contestations to make savvy real estate and business decisions to build a prominent mercantile house with the Benavides name.  Through boosterism, politicking, smuggling, violence, and bribery, Santos navigated crisis after crisis to do what he thought best for Laredo and himself.  Thompson does a masterful job weaving an engrossing and intriguing narrative of a truly transnational border figure from a wide variety of sources.

Thompson’s source base is astounding.  Santos Benavides did not leave a memoir or extant journal, so the author had to piece together his biography from an assortment of manuscript and archival sources.  From the national archives of the United States and Mexico, regional archives in Texas and Nuevo Leon, down to local archives in Laredo and Nuevo Guerrero, he cites over fifty different manuscript collections, not to mention a wealth of newspaper and secondary source research.  The painstaking hours of research into the lives of people who surrounded Benavides during his life allows Thompson to paint a beautiful and nuanced picture of the man and the borderland in which he lived.

Thompson’s narrative style blends the disparate source base together in a clear, complete whole.  He skillfully keeps Santos at the center of story even though most of his sources engage Benavides peripherally.  Thompson also navigates convoluted border crises with aplomb.  For example, the complex intersections of the U.S. Civil War and French intervention created an atmosphere of chaos along the border.  Thompson, however, finds a narrative balance through the relationship between Santos Benavides and Nuevo Leon governor Santiago Vidaurri.  Benavides fought as an officer for the Confederacy in South Texas while Vidaurri tepidly supported the French imperial push into Mexico.  Through their relationship, Thompson demonstrates the many ways the conflicts in the United States and Mexico overlapped along the border.

The Benavides-Vidaurri relationship is just one of the ways Thompson maintains a transnational scope in the book.  Though the border remains a constant and important concept in the book, the author has no delusions that it was a firm division between two nation-states.  In fact, Thompson constantly shows the international movement of people and goods across a porous, open border.  The central themes for entire chapters center on border crossing.  Chapter four explores how essential the Mexican cotton trade was for the Confederacy, chapter six investigates the complex process of peacemaking after civil war, and the concluding chapter, nine, tracks Santos’s abilities as an international diplomat facilitating peaceful relations between Mexico and the United States.  For Thompson, border crossing was a central theme of Santos Benavides’s life.

Thompson’s masterful biography elicits further questions and offers new paths for historical exploration.  For example, according to Thompson, the Benavides matriarch and her daughters played very important roles in the family’s ranching and mercantile businesses.  Following his sources down that path could reveal a significant analysis of women’s role and their power in the borderland.  Additionally, straying farther from Thompson’s central figure would allow historians to draw out and uncover important research projects.  For instance, when the Confederacy dissolved, angry soldiers roamed around the borderlands wreaking havoc around Brownsville.  A militia made up of Mexican Juaristas helped restore law and order in the city, protecting the lives and property of Anglo-Americans (p. 205).  Why were Juaristas flexing power in and around Brownsville?  What dynamics drove them there?  How did the people of Brownsville react?  Why was Santos Benavides not demanding order from his former charges?  The author cannot cover everything and the book already comes in at 414 pages including notes, bibliography, and index, but it provides a spark for exciting research avenues in nineteenth century borderlands history.

Overall, Tejano Tiger remains a remarkable biography of an important transnational border leader.  The life of Santos Benavides supplies great insight into how an elite conservative Tejano navigated the border in a most tumultuous time.

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Terry: SMU’s Once Great White Hope

Roberto Andrade is a PhD Candidate in SMU’s William P. Clements Department of History

My dissertation examines boxing’s influence on identity, specifically focused on Mexican and Mexican Americans. Concerns over machismo, class, and assimilation inform many of the arguments that use boxing—as well as other sports—as a claim towards authentic “Mexicanness.” In the United States, an equivalent to boxing’s impact on identity is the Great White Hope; a common trope deeply rooted in race that seemingly never fall out of use. In 1972, for one boxing bout, the Great White Hope came from SMU when a student, Terry Daniels, fought for the boxing heavyweight championship. While I was conducting research, Joan Gosnell, an archivist at SMU, mentioned Terry Daniels. As boxers rarely come from affluence, his story immediately intrigued me. After further research, I found a remarkable story that, unfortunately, has an ending that is common for boxing. This is that story.

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The first time Joe Frazier knocked down Terry Daniels, it appeared he would not get back up. Daniels laid there, face down and motionless, for about five seconds. It was the type of knockdown that forces spectators to wonder if they witnessed a man’s death. After eight seconds, Daniels struggled to his feet, just as the first round ended. And as the bell rang, signaling a minute’s rest between rounds, Daniels stood there, confused, staring at the referee. Daniels’s trainer walked across the ring and placing his arm on his fighter’s shoulder, guided him back to their corner to prepare for the second round.

Terry Daniel son knocked down while Joe Frazier waits in the background. (Branson Wright, The Plain Dealer).

That Frazier knocked down Daniels was unsurprising. Ten months earlier, Frazier became the first boxer to defeat Muhammad Ali. Frazier is among the all-time great boxers; Daniels is not. But on a Saturday night in 1972 New Orleans, a day before the city hosted the sixth Super Bowl, Daniels, the latest version of the Great White Hope, challenged for boxing’s heavyweight championship.

Daniels’s manager, Doug Lord, was largely responsible for the fight. “I told the fight promoters I’ve got a white kid from Dallas,” Lord said. “He’s friends with the Dallas Cowboys, and everyone knows the Cowboys are going to the Super Bowl in New Orleans…They loved it. They bought it.”[1]

Technically, Daniels was not from Dallas; he only lived there, moving from Ohio to attend Southern Methodist University. The son of a successful, possibly millionaire, businessman, Daniels was intelligent, young, handsome, and—since it is a prerequisite of any Great White Hope—white. Leading up to the fight, promoters emphasized the many differences between Daniels and his opponent. Stories of him being part of his high school choir, or mentioning that Daniels was treasurer of his junior class became part of the narrative. In the hype, even noting Daniels enjoyed reading was worth mention as was his initial plans to study engineering upon first enrolling at SMU.[2] All these things distinguished Daniels from Frazier, who though lived in Philadelphia was originally from South Carolina. Frazier was a sharecropper’s son—far removed from Daniels’s life of privilege. But as it pertained to boxing, these differences mattered little once promoters sold the fight. And those who bought tickets to see a Great White Hope, were on the verge of watching him lose minutes into the fight.

As the second round began the television commentators wondered aloud if Daniels had recuperated from Frazier’s punches. They noted the obvious—that Frazier had won the first round—when seemingly out of nowhere, Daniels connected with a right uppercut that stunned Frazier. “Oh! He landed a beautiful uppercut,” one commentator incredulously screamed. Maybe Daniels was more than just hype. Maybe he was something almost as romanticized as a Great White Hope; maybe Daniels was a natural.

Daniels was certainly athletic, having played football and baseball for SMU before an injury shifted his focus to boxing.[3] As an amateur, Daniels found success even winning local Golden Glove tournaments. When he fought professionally not only did he postpone his graduating from SMU but also angered his father who, understandably, had not sent his oldest son to Dallas to prizefight. By 1972, three years into his career, Daniels had become a local celebrity, accumulating a record of 28 wins, 4 losses, and 1 draw; an impressive accomplishment even if against subpar competition. But as his punch connected and forced Frazier to step back, no one cared about past opposition—not when, for one punch, it appeared Daniels may have been on the verge of orchestrating an incredible upset.

In boxing, hopes die fast. Within a three-minute round, hopes of a championship, of wealth and fame, and even, of any future quality of life can disappear. In the third round, Frazier brought Daniels back to reality—again dominating as he had in the first round. Frazier’s signature punch, the left hook, kept connecting and Daniels could do nothing to stop it. Had he raised his right hand slightly to better protect his face, it would have altered, even minimized, his right cross—his most effective punch.[4] And had he used a right hook, a punch he was not prone to using, to counter Frazier, he would have risked everything; as one of boxing’s old adages warned: you don’t hook with a hooker. Frazier was a hooker—the left-handed, boxing type—Daniels was not. So again, Frazier’s left hook dropped Daniels toward the end of round three. He stood up long enough to fall by the same punch not even ten seconds later. As he gasped for air, a look of bemusement on Daniels’s face, the bell rang and once again saved him.

On the final knockdown, Frazier nearly knocked Daniels out of the ring. (Branson Wright, The Plain Dealer).

There was nothing remarkable about the fourth round besides Frazier knocking down Daniels a fourth and fifth time. The latter resulted in Daniels falling back through the ropes, appearing as if he would fall all the way to the floor. Ringside judges braced to break Daniels’s fall but he remained inside the ring and at least, save some dignity. The referee stopped the fight, leaving Daniels visibly upset. “Don’t stop, damn it,” Daniels screamed, before turning to his manager and saying, “Doug, don’t let them stop it. There’s nothing wrong.”[5] Daniels was likely the last person in the world to realize he never stood a chance.

After the fight, Daniels’s manager implored, even begged him, to not fight again.[6] For a time, Daniels took the advice, returned to SMU and earned a political science degree in December of the same year he fought for boxing’s heavyweight title—one of sport’s most prestigious titles. But the title of boxing heavyweight champion can have a seductive appeal on men practicing a sport so inherently tied into ideas of masculinity. “The closer a heavyweight comes to the championship,” Norman Mailer noted, “the more natural it is for him to be a little bit insane. [S]ecretly insane, for the heavyweight champion of the world is either the toughest man in the world or he is not.”[7]

Whether he deserved it or not, the fight gave Daniels a chance to show he was the toughest man in the world. He failed. And whether he was a Great White Hope or not, the loss hurt the same. Six years after fighting Frazier and claiming he had retired, Daniels fought on, partly because dreams of his title fight haunted him. “I daydream a lot about that fight,” Daniels explained. “I fantasize about what might have been if I had blasted Frazier in the third round, when he was so confident, with a right hook.”[8]

Daniels fought until 1981. Counting his loss to Frazier, Daniels’s final 32 fights resulted in only 7 victories against 26 losses. Terry Daniels left Dallas and returned to Ohio in 2004. He now lives in a retirement home, suffering from what some call pugilist Parkinson’s.[9]

 

[1] Peter Finney, “Former heavyweight champion Joe Frazier etched in N.O. boxing history,” The Times-Picayune, November 16, 2011.

[2] Jeff Miller, “The Fight of His Life,” Texas Monthly, February 2015.

[3] Ron Fimrite, “Back-To-School time for Terry Daniels,” Sports Illustrated, January 24, 1972.

[4] Les Thomas, “Student Boxer Believes Punching is his Bag,” The Campus Chat (Denton, Tex.), February 14, 1969.

[5] Don Gardner, “Re-evaluating the Situation,” The Daily Campus, January 25, 1972.

[6] Kevin Sherrington, “Fight of his life amounted to Super letdown,” Dallas Morning News, January 26, 2004.

[7] Allen Barra, “Norman Mailer, Sportswriter,” The Atlantic, December 26, 2013.

[8] Mike Kiley, “Daniels is boxing to keep wolves from his doorstep,” Chicago Tribune, October 26, 1978.

[9] Mark Podolski, “In “My Brother The Boxer,” brother and author Jeff Daniels chronicles pinnacle of Willoughby South grad Terry Daniels’ pro career, a bout with Joe Frazier,” The News-Herald, November 9, 2015.

 

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