UPK in Prime Time–The New York Times and Time Magazine, That Is

9780700621736UPK authors receive accolades from The New York Times Sunday Book Review and Time Magazine–just in time for holiday gift-giving:

The New York Times Sunday Book Review writes, “In AMERICA’S FOUNDING AND THE STRUGGLE OVER ECONOMIC INEQUALITY, the political theorist Clement Fatovic argues that a concern with economic inequality has deep roots in the establishment of the United States. Tea Party heroes like Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine, far from seeing government promotion of economic equality as inherently at odds with individual liberty, often considered greater equality to be a precondition for liberty, a view that influenced such proposals as free public schools and a more progressive tax system.”

9780700621194While Time Magazine reprints an article written by Douglas M. Charles that first appeared on History News Network in relation to HOOVER’S WAR ON GAYS: EXPOSING THE FBI’S “SEX DEVIATES” PROGRAM:

“Dating from 1937, FBI officials began a systematic monitoring of gays and lesbians in the United States. First regarded a threat to children and family during the Great Depression — a time when American culture dramatically changed to reevaluate perceptions of gender roles — then a threat to domestic security in World War II, then a threat to national security throughout the Cold War, FBI agents compiled hundreds of thousands of pages of information about gay Americans. FBI officials then disseminated this information widely across government, and beyond, to ensure gays were fired from their jobs or to silence their activism. When compiling this mass of information, FBI agents relied extensively on willing informants from all segments of society, including even gay citizens themselves.

The FBI’s systematic surveillance of gays began in 1937 after the kidnapping and brutal murder of 10-year-old Charles Mattson. The case was followed intently by Americans from coast to coast, and given the Great-Depression-era inspired view of gays as targeting children, FBI agents focused on “sex offenders” (but mainly gays) as their prime suspects. Attempting to locate the perpetrator, FBI agents consulted informants. One informant, a medical authority, suggested the kidnapper was “a sexual pervert” and that agents should monitor asylums (gays routinely were remanded to institutions), while a police source suggested fingerprinting all hobos — a group commonly believed to contain many gays. Other informants offered multiple names of individuals with criminal backgrounds, yet none of them panned out. FBI agents never solved the case, yet nevertheless continued a systematic collection of data about gays, which the FBI then used to educate Americans about the “threat” they posed to society.

During World War II, as FBI agents began to focus on individuals perceived as security threats given their sexuality, or perceived sexuality, FBI agents continued to rely on informants. But the FBI’s use of informants skyrocketed with the Cold War when it became commonplace to regard gays as security risks whose activities not only threatened American society but opened them to attempted blackmailed by Soviet agents.

Such was the case in the 1950s when the FBI investigated the first significant gay rights group, the Mattachine Society in Los Angeles. The FBI relied on various informants, including a straight woman who attended a Mattachine meeting and reported on military personnel there. It even included a prominent Mattachine member, David Finn, who cooperated with the FBI in an effort to demonstrate that the group was free of communists and subversives. Finn shared membership lists, a copy of the group’s constitution, and its planned activities. Yet this cooperation in no way protected Mattachine from the FBI because bureau officials took the informant-offered information and gave it to the Justice Department for potential prosecution under Eisenhower’s loyalty-security program.

Yet another FBI informant, a gay man named Frederick C. Price, revealed to FBI agents that Mattachine co-founders and communist party members Chuck Rowland and Bob Hull were homosexuals and lived together. A separate informant, probably Rowland and Hull’s landlord, revealed to FBI agents their connection to Mattachine, having observed gay literature in their apartment. Ironically, Harry Hay, the primary founder of Mattachine, escaped scrutiny as a gay rights activist even as he was closely monitored by the FBI due to his extensive communist party activities. (Hay kept his communist and gay worlds strictly separate.)

Still another informant was the brother-in-law of Dale Jennings, a Mattachine co-founder and member of the gay group ONE, which published an advocacy magazine of the same name. Jennings’s sister and brother-in-law operated a small, home-based printing company and published ONE magazine. FBI agents approached Jennings’s brother-in-law (we don’t know his name) and secured from him not only copies of the magazine (which the FBI examined hoping to develop an obscenity case), but data about its publication. Agents also got him to confirm the identity of a member long of interest to the FBI, W. Dorr Legg. In this case, Jennings’s brother-in-law probably did not cooperate out of animus, but in a naive effort to assure FBI agents that the magazine was legitimate. ONE’s editor, Irma “Corky” Wolf, also cooperated with FBI agents, even outing members of ONE, who typically employed pseudonyms. She also confirmed that Chuck Rowland had worked for ONE and that it was he who wrote an article suggesting J. Edgar Hoover was gay. She likely did this thinking she was protecting her group from the feds. This was obviously mistaken.

When FBI agents monitored Frank Kameny’s Mattachine Society of Washington, DC, (MSW) during the 1960s, they also relied on informants. One, a man named William Scarberry, claimed in 1962 to be a disenchanted MSW member and volunteered cooperation with the FBI. He tried (but failed) to secure an MSW membership list for the FBI, and probably attended at least one MSW-sponsored lecture and reported on it. By 1965, although the details are not clear, MSW had become annoyed with Scarberry for apparently misrepresenting himself as an MSW member and demanded he stop. (Whether Scarberry had quit MSW, had a bad relationship with it, or was never really a member remains unclear.)

When FBI agents monitored the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) in the 1970s, it almost exclusively relied upon informants, but in this case what the bureau called “subversive informants.” This type of informant was employed to gather information about radical groups, particularly in the 1960s, that FBI officials believed were trying to overthrow the government. FBI officials commonly perceived the GLF through a New Left lens, essentially regarding it as a gay offshoot of leftist radicalism. GLF provided information about members, the group’s plans, its literature, and protest activity nationwide.

The preceding merely constitutes a sampling of the FBI’s extensive use of informants to collect and compile information about gay Americans. The FBI had a seemingly inexhaustible supply of willing informants, most of whom remain un-identified due to redactions in FBI files. Nevertheless these informants came in every stripe and color, straight and gay alike, even including a university psychologist, who offered FBI agents information about a closeted gay activist. A therapist, Dr. Alfred Gross, known for working with men arrested on “morals charges” in the 1950s, offered information about a small early gay rights group and a major gay activist (Donald Webster Cory, the pseudonym of Edward Sagarin). When it came to monitoring gays for decades, and working to undermine their activities and purge them from employment, the FBI had no shortage of willing sources.”

Kansas City Star Lauds “West of Harlem” as Best Nonfiction of 2015

9780700620869-1The Kansas City Star selects Emily Lutenski’s “West of Harlem: African American Writers and the Borderlands” as one of the best nonfiction books of 2015.

Luminaries of the Harlem Renaissance—Langston Hughes, Jean Toomer, Wallace Thurman, and Arna Bontemps, among others–are associated with, well . . . Harlem. But the story of these New York writers unexpectedly extends to the American West. Hughes, for instance, grew up in Kansas, Thurman in Utah, and Bontemps in Los Angeles. Toomer traveled often to New Mexico. Indeed, as West of Harlem reveals, the West played a significant role in the lives and work of many of the artists who created the signal urban African American cultural movement of the twentieth century. Uncovering the forgotten histories of these major American literary figures, the book gives us a deeper appreciation of that movement, and of the cultures it reflected and inspired. These recovered experiences and literatures paint a new picture of the American West, one that better accounts for the disparate African American populations that dotted its landscape and shaped the multiethnic literatures and cultures of the borderlands.

Tapping literary, biographical, historical, and visual sources, Emily Lutenski tells the New Negro movement’s western story. Hughes’s move to Mexico opens a window on African American transnational experiences. Thurman’s engagement with Salt Lake City offers an unexpected perspective on African American sexual politics. Arna Bontemps’s Los Angeles, constructed in conjunction with Louisiana, provides a new vision of the Spanish borderlands. Lesser-known writer Anita Scott Coleman imagines black Western autonomy through domesticity. The experience of others—like Toomer, invited to socialite Mabel Dodge Luhan’s circle of artists in Taos—present a more pluralistic view of the West. It was this place, with its transnational and multiracial mix of Native Americans, Latina/os, Anglos, and African Americans, which buttressed Toomer’s idea of a “new American race.”

A Unique Look at the Plains–164-years in the Making

9780700621712Nearing 60, William D. Street (1851–1911) sat down to write his memoir of frontier life. Now, Warren R. Street, William’s great-grandson, collects those stories inside “Twenty-Five Years among the Indians and Buffalo:  A Frontier Memoir.” Street’s early years on the plains of western Kansas were both ordinary and extraordinary; ordinary in what they reveal about the everyday life of so many who went out to the western frontier, extraordinary in their breadth and depth of historical event and impact. His tales of life as a teamster, cavalryman, town developer, trapper, buffalo hunter, military scout, and cowboy put us squarely in the middle of such storied events as Sheridan’s 1868–1869 winter campaign on the southern Plains and the Cheyenne Exodus of 1878. They take us trapping beaver and hunting buffalo for hides and meat, and driving cattle on the Great Western Cattle Trail. They give us insight into his evolving understanding of his multi-decade relationship with the Lakota. And they give us a front-row seat at the founding and development of Jewell and Gaylord, Kansas, and a firsthand look at the formation of Jewell’s “Buffalo Militia.”

In later life Street rose to prominence as a newspaper publisher, state legislator, and regent of the Kansas State Agricultural College. At the time of his death—noted in the New York Times—he was still at work on his memoir. Handed down through his family over the past century and faithfully transcribed here, Street’s story of frontier life is as rich in history as it is in character, giving us a sense of what it was to be not just a witness to, but a player in, the drama of the plains as it unfolded in the late nineteenth century. This memoir is history as it was lived, recalled in sharp detail and recounted in engaging prose, for the ages.

OTD in 1941: Additional Reading on WWII

9780700621453 9780700621217On this day in 1941, the United States entered World War II as Congress declared war against Japan one day after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Read more about WWII with these two recent releases from UPK:

Operation Barbarossa, Hitler’s plan for invading the Soviet Union, has by now become a familiar tale of overreach, with the Germans blinded to their coming defeat by their initial victory, and the Soviet Union pushing back from the brink of destruction with courageous exploits both reckless and relentless. And while much of this version of the story is true, Frank Ellis tells us in Barbarossa 1941, it also obscures several important historical truths that alter our understanding of the campaign. In this new and intensive investigation of Operation Barbarossa, Ellis draws on a wealth of documents declassified over the past twenty years to challenge the conventional treatment of a critical chapter in the history of World War II.

Told in swift stirring prose, When Titans Clashed provides the first full account of this epic struggle from the Soviet perspective. David Glantz, one of the world’s foremost authorities on the Soviet military, and Jonathan House present a fundamentally new interpretation of what the Russians called the “Great Patriotic War.” Based on unprecedented access to formerly classified Soviet sources, they counter the German perspective that has dominated previous accounts and radically revise our understanding of the Soviet experience during World War II.