Skip to main content

Boston, Day Three

Boston Day Three:
                Busy morning at the conference.  Late last night and early this moring I read the latest work by David Waldstreicher, a free desk copy provided by one of the publishers Thursday afternoon.  This book, comfortably part of Hill & Wang's series of teaching resources, is a little more than 150pg explanation of how slavery impacted the calls for Constitutional revision, the debates over the Constitution in 1787, and the impact of perspectives about slavery- North and South- during the extended six-month or so ratification period.  Waldstreicher does an admirable job analyzing all the moments when slavery rose as an issue, makes a pretty solid rebuttal to Matt Mason's contention that discussing slavery was partly symbolic but mostly diversionary, and gives students a pretty succint overview of the Constitution's origins as well.
                Spent lunch time at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.  This Venetian palace, designed for a collector of Renaissance art as a private museum, opened in 1903 and since the death of Gardner in 1924 has remained architecturally the same, and the collection’s arrangement within the palace permanently established in her will.  The collection is primarily Italian and Northern Renaissance art, acquired by Gardner from the 1890s to the 1920s including Michelangelo sketches, Giotto icons, Botticelli, Bellini, Raphael, Titian, Holbein, Durer, and many other painters. There is also a large amount of turn-of-the-century works by French Impressionists, as well as Massachusetts-born artists working in the late nineteenth century such as John Singer Sargent and James
McNeill Whistler.  Other eccentricities include cabinets of papers by US statesmen including Washington, Monroe, Grant, and others.  Another cabinet collects artifacts, letters, and autographs of Napoleon Bonaparte as well as a tri-color processional military banner from one of his campaigns.  I expect to make a much longer post about this collection later this week, so check back.
                After the Gardner museum visit I made it back to the AHA for a panel chaired by Joel Silbey, commented on by Harry Watson, and featuring three papers only very loosely related to one another across the antebellum US era (1815-1860).  Joel Silbey (Cornell, retired, recent author of Party Over Section: The Rough and Ready Presidential Campaign of 1848 (2009) and Storm Over Texas: The Annexation Controversy and the Road to Civil War (2005)) was not in attendance, out with an illness, and I sincerely hope he recovers quickly.  Manisha Sinha (University of Mass-Amherst, see my Day One post for more) filled in for Silbey.  The first paper, by Anthony Kaye (Penn State, Joining
Places: Slave Neighborhoods in the Old South (2007)) examined the impact of neighborhood and community among the yeoman of Southhampton testing kinship and neighborly connections as an explanatory theme for uncommon militia preparedness in the Nat Turner rebellion of 1831.  The second paper, by Michael Landis (doctoral candidate at GWU) examined the role of proslavery attitudes in Northern members of the Democratic party after the controversial proslavery Lecompton constitution became a Buchanan administration test of loyalty in 1857 and 1858.  Landis offered a cursory reading of several themes identifiable within proslavery Northern Democrats during their press to secure a rapid conclusion to the controversy over slavery’s expansion into Kansas, but unfortunately most of the traits Landis identified (repudiating the popular will, rejecting the right of instruction, etc)  were not unique nor original to the moment, and many of his actors were more likely exhibiting pro-Southern attitudes, a desire for national majoritarianism, or simply preferred expediency over conflict.  Landis took a lot of gentle criticism from Watson’s end-of-panel comments.  The final paper by Judith Geisberg (Villanova University, Civil War Sisterhood: The U.S. Sanitary Commission and Women’s Politics in Transistion (2006), Army at Home: Women and the Civil War on the Northern Home Front (2009)) examined data culled from Reconstruction era (1865-1877) newspaper adverts from freedmen and freedwomen seeking to relocate lost family members, particularly mothers and children separated by the slave trade or Civil War.
Death of Tecumseh, 1846 Currier & Ives Print
                From 5pm to 7pm documentary filmmakers for PBS’s American Experience were joined by Colin G. Calloway (Dartmouth College, The Shawnees and the War for America (2007), New Worlds For All (1997), etc. ) to present and discuss their soon to be released documentary on Tecumseh and the spiritual-military alliance of Native Americans culminating in the defeat of the movement during the War of 1812.  Tecumseh’s attempt to unite Native Americans, along with his brother Tenskwatawa, signified the beginning of pan-Indian attempts to work together despite tribal distinctions to resist American expansion.
                Tomorrow I look forward to seeing 82 year old labor historian Staughton Lynd.  Lynd is a model scholar-activist:  trained at Colubmia, teaching most recently at Yale, an outspoken socialist, a director of Freedom Schools for the poor while teaching in 1960s Georgia, a Quaker peace activist during the Vietnam war, a supporter of Youngstown labor activists during the deindustrialization of Ohio in the 1970s, a strident critic of the American prison complex, and for the past 40 years an engaged scholar dissenting from Cold War and the successive hyperpower militarism of the United States. 


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Weekend Reading? Trump as Jackson Think Pieces Galore

14th Amendment

Today is the anniversary of the passage of the 14th Amendment in 1868 which guarantees birthright citizenship in the United States.


Passed in both houses of Congress by June 1866 it took more than two years to be ratified by the states.  Every former Confederate state opposed its ratification until Congress made it a condition for readmission to the Union and the seating of southern Congressmen.  Citizenship for freedmen and women in the South opened the possibility of African American men voting and holding office, something anticipated eagerly by the Republican party, depicted here on the cover of Harper's Weekly as the amendment gained support throughout 1867.

Not everyone, of course, welcomed African American votes, particularly California Democrats who would soon push for the closure of Asian immigration to the state out of fear that the 14th Amendment would make citizens of the children of immigrants.  Below is a typical anti-Republican cartoon trading on anxieties about the 1…

The Countess, Clara Bow, and Women Boxers of the 1920s

I've long admired the Depression era reporting of Joseph Mitchell, as well as his later essays for the New Yorker.  The book to read, I suppose, is his Up in the Old Hotel.  I have been working my way through a late 1930s collection of pieces entitled My Ears Are Bent which collects his various- probably many unprinted- reports on Prohibition era NYC's underworld.

In a section on sports, Mitchell's clear admiration and affection for the plucky 1920s women boxers is matched only perhaps by his discussion of the performance pushed into burlesque as vaudeville audiences declined during the depression.

In an endearing profile he describes the 1930s career of The Countess, Jeanne Vina La Marr, the first woman in America licensed to fight in New Jersey in the mid1920s.  Unable to fight contests without a license in NYC, she instead did exhibition in the city, often fighting other women and men, usually in some vaguely legal connection with the burlesque shows and speakeasies.