Van Gosse, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of History, Franklin & Marshall College
I am finishing a history of antebellum black politics, a little-studied topic for which many of the usual sources are unavailable: white politicians did not record their correspondence with black men, and the latter rarely donated personal papers to libraries, for obvious reasons. However, America’s Historical Newspapers (AHN), used with precision, can produce extraordinary insights into the quotidian fabric of American politics and culture, evidence otherwise unavailable.> Full Story
In this issue: The first American vessel to reach exotic China sparks nationwide wonder; nineteenth-century Canadian blacks find their voice in the American press; and an unheralded hero from a forgotten American war.
[Editor’s note: This week the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in History was awarded to T. J. Stiles for “Custer’s Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America.” One of America’s most accomplished independent scholars, Stiles won the 2009 National Book Award in Nonfiction and the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Biography for “The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt.” In this previously published Readex Report article, he discusses his use of the U.S. Congressional Serial Set—the single most important series of American government publications—for biographical research.]
Commodore Vanderbilt: Patriot or War Profiteer?
By T.J. Stiles, author of Custer’s Trials, The First Tycoon, and Jessie James: Last Rebel of the Civil War
Readex recently sat down with Manisha Sinha, Professor of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Sinha discussed her extensive new history of abolition and the importance of having access to broad digital collections. She also offered valuable advice to students beginning a research project of their own.
In this issue, Professor Joycelyn Moody challenges students in a Spring 2015 graduate seminar to collaboratively craft articles fueled by discoveries within Afro-Americana Imprints. Moody discusses the students’ work in the context of black/white relations post-Ferguson. The three student-written articles—also published here—focus on female interracial activism, the subtext of Christian abolitionist works, and the motives of 19th-century benefactors.
For the past ten years, Manisha Sinha has immersed herself in the 19th century and the world of abolitionists. The fruits of Sinha’s scholarship, a comprehensive history of the abolition movement, The Slave's Cause: A History of Abolition (Yale University Press, 2016), arrives in bookstores this month.
Her work is already challenging some of the conventional ideas associated with abolition. For example, Sinha—Professor of Afro-American Studies and History at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst—extends the movement’s chronological boundaries to the 18th century and demonstrates that abolition was a radical movement that involved many issues in addition to the emancipation of slaves. Perhaps most importantly, Sinha also brings light to the largely forgotten impact on the abolition movement of free and enslaved African Americans.
Speaking at a Readex breakfast event during the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting in Boston earlier this month, Sinha shared the major findings of her decade-long dive into abolition history and how she went about conducting research for the book. In the full presentation, Sinha describes her many trips to repositories to review physical documents, and even joked the time she spent at the American Antiquarian Society—which she describes as “the best place to do research”—almost reached the level of an occupation.
“They got me there for a year on an NEH fellowship, and I never left!” Sinha told the audience.
During the American Library Association midwinter meeting in January 2016, Readex will sponsor a special Sunday breakfast presentation entitled "Did Abolitionists Cause the Civil War?: New Directions in the History of Abolition." An open discussion will follow the talk by Manisha Sinha, acclaimed author of The Slave's Cause: A History of Abolition, an ambitious new interracial history of abolition from the American Revolution to the Civil War.
About the Presentation
In this thought-provoking talk, Professor Manisha Sinha challenges the long-standing notion that abolitionists were irresponsible extremists who helped cause the Civil War. She also questions recent historical wisdom that casts abolitionists as bourgeois reformers burdened by racial paternalism and economic conservatism. Starting with early black activism and the Quaker-dominated abolition societies, Sinha recovers the largely forgotten impact of free and enslaved African Americans who shaped the abolition movement's ideology, rhetoric, and tactics. She explores the connections between abolition and other radical movements such as utopian socialism and early feminism. In challenging an entrenched system of labor and racial exploitation, Sinha shows that the abolitionist vision linked the slave's cause to redefining American democracy and the ongoing global struggle for human rights.
By Jonathan Wilfred Wilson, Adjunct Instructor, Department of History, University of Scranton
In summer 2015, a wooden frigate named the Hermione sailed from France to the United States. It was recreating one of the voyages that brought the Marquis de Lafayette to fight in the American War of Independence. The new Hermione was a painstaking replica of Lafayette’s ship, built with authentic eighteenth-century methods. Its voyage, however, became a modern multimedia spectacle—with international television coverage, a website, and a busy Twitter account. > Full Story
IN THIS ISSUE: The curious history of notorious nicknames; the oratory impact of a renowned black author; how the great White North offered welcome and often-overlooked refuge to North American slaves.
By Donald R. Hickey, Professor, Department of History, Wayne State College
As a student of the early American republic, I’ve always had a fondness for the period’s newspapers. Newspapers have been published in America since the seventeenth century, and their number steadily rose in the eighteenth century. By 1775 there were 42 newspapers, and by 1789 there were 92. Newspapers continued to proliferate in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, so that by the time of the War of 1812 there were nearly 350. Most were weeklies, but 49 were published two or three times a week, and another 25 were dailies published in... > Full Story
In this issue: helping young African-American scholars move toward new academic heights; six-foot-under censorship in the honor-bound Old South; and a Founding Father's focus on frugality shapes the American dream.
For the last five summers, the two of us have coordinated the African American Literatures and Cultures Institute (AALCI)—a program for college students with interests in eventually pursuing graduate degrees. The Institute convenes on the campus of the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) for the month of June. The program has provided us with important opportunities to enhance undergraduate students’ learning and to orient them toward a broader as well as deeper realm of ideas concerning African American studies. > Full Story