The Tenacity of Hate

A submitted post by Rebecca Barrett-Fox, author of God Hates; Westboro Baptist Church, American Nationalism, and the Religious Right

The Sunday service at Westboro Baptist Church is over, and some members of the small, Topeka, Kansas-based church move on to music practice. They’re working on a hymn familiar to many Protestants this afternoon and later, some of the younger women will practice a parody of a pop song, its familiar words about love and romance replaced with a message about God’s hatred for America. Church members are quite talented, and the choir sounds good.

img_9363I hear it from the nursery that adjoins the church sanctuary, where some of the youngest participants in church life are playing.  As the women rehearse, I work through the theology that allows them to sing a hymn celebrating Christ’s redemptive death and a pop song celebrating the damnation of gay people in the same afternoon. A young mother is in the room, too, bouncing a baby in her arms. A blonde-haired cherub is showing me some toys and telling me about the Disney princesses she likes best in her sweet toddler voice. It turns out we share some favorites, and I join her in her play. Through the open door, and we hear her mother’s voice distinctly in the choir. It breaks the little girl’s concentration, but I assure her that her mama will be back soon, and we settle back into our game, pulling out new toys to join the scene we’ve already constructed. Behind the little noises we are making in our own world, the choir sings about God’s mercy for sinners. Above the crib, a sign declaring God’s hatred for gay people hangs in the place where, in a different church, there might be a painting of Jesus welcoming the little children or searching for a lost lamb.

westborobaptist4Rehearsal wraps up. The girl’s mother arrives and she excitedly tells her that we both love Ariel.  They are holding hands, her mother listening attentively. It’s a tender scene, one that informs, rather that disrupts, the church’s funeral picketing. They picket, explains one church member, because they love their own children. That love for their own children helps them understand the agony of a parent who is burying a child killed by an AIDS-related illness, an enemy IED, or a school shooter. It is their best qualities–their love for their families and their concern for other church members–that inspire what outsiders see as their most hateful activities: picketing funerals. The church sees such picketing as an act of love–albeit one almost universally seen as hate. “Love thy neighbor,” declares one church-produced video, means you must “rebuke” them when they sin. They would rather have you know this and hate them for it than for them to fail to tell you and thus fail in their duty to love you.

The advantage of ethnographic work on hate groups is that you cannot deny the humanity of groups members as you might be tempted to do if you are working with documents or statistics. The Institute of Hate Studies at Gonzaga University, with which I am affiliated, stresses that hate begins with enmification: constructing an enemy by denying their humanity–then, if you can, their right to exist, not just individually but in any form, and, finally, any trace of their existence. When working with hateful human subjects, you can’t emnify, even if you want to, because it is the humanity of the research participant that allows the research to happen. The work would be easier if the research subjects were less human. Their complexity can be exhausting and sometimes disorienting, requiring careful ethical consideration[1] and scholarly self-reflection on the difficulties.[2]

One challenge arises not from how different hate actors are from “the rest of us” but from how similar we are. They are like us not in our worst ways but in our best. They love their children, their friends, and their country–even if it’s not presently living up to their hopes. They see the world changing quickly in ways that are taking it farther from their ideals. They think changing it is possible through individual and collective action. They work hard and care deeply. Because they have good qualities–ones they may even use in the pursuit of wrong ends–we may be tempted by what Antonius C. G. M. Robben calls the “ethnographic seduction” to tell their stories in ways that affirm them and their causes.[3] Ethnographers of “unloved groups”[4] are not wrong, though, to report on the charity, kindness, hospitality, or generosity of people who also do awful things. Though we are right to be wary of confusing victims and perpetrators,[5] thick descriptions of unloved groups will almost always show joyful, tender, and gentle moments.

Much of our discussion about hateful acts focuses on how those committing them are unlike us, the good, moral, righteous people. We invoke psychology to suggest that they are abnormal and the legal system to label them criminals. We report on them as “outsiders” and “lone wolves.” We invoke “not all men” or “not all white people” or “not all Christians,” making them exceptional when they are, in fact, as Clara S. Lewis notes, “disturbingly conformist.”[6]  In short, we emnify the emnifiers, denying that our silences support misogyny or white supremacy or religiously-inspired violence, rewriting our national history to erase the hate on which the nation is (literally, through Indian removal and African enslavement) built, pretending that our collective romance with guns and violence is irrelevant to “lone wolf” actors, refusing to see hateful actions as an “expression of extended histories of often state-sponsored violence against minority groups,”[7] and ignoring the way that many of us benefit from the hateful acts that others commit. Violent white supremacists see themselves as saving white America, and, to be sure, all white people benefit from terrorism against people of color just as all men benefit from misogyny–even if they also suffer from it.

Our surprise that hate actors are also often generous, kind, and loving speaks to our own need to distinguish ourselves from them, to have an alibi for our “shallow understanding” and “appalling silence,”[8] and even, at times a scapegoat. But surprise is a privilege. Enslaved African Americans knew that slave traders, plantation overseers, and slave patrollers were often “good people”–to some people. KKK members from 1865 and onward have seen themselves as good patriots and defenders of women and children, not as racists and xenophobes-[9]-just as members of anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant groups do today.[10] Those who have seen hatred up close–its targets, those who have left hate groups, scholars of hate studies–know that hate actors see themselves as heroes, not villains. Today, the narrative of white supremacy is less about genetics (how unpalatable!) and more about Crusaders saving civilization non-white, non-Christian forces–the same racist story that “won the West” and the 2016 presidential election.

Even as (or perhaps because?) those with firsthand memories of the Holocaust and pre-Civil Rights America pass away, the hatred inherent in Trumpism has inspired new conversations about the ability of seemingly ordinary people to commit extraordinary violence. In the days after Donald Trump’s executive order prohibiting the legal entrance of many foreign-born travelers and residents into the US but before its thorough rejection by a federal appeals court, low-level government employees followed through on orders with cruelty beyond what the rejected executive order required. A five year old American citizen returning from travel abroad was kept from his mother for more than four hours, despite ample forewarning from his senator that the child would be disembarking; parents of an infant being treated for burns in a US hospital were left stranded in Iraq as their baby headed to the United States; a breastfeeding infant—an American citizen—was kept separated from her mother. We wonder at the TSA agents who separate small children from parents and the ICE agents carting deathly ill undocumented immigrants from the hospital to detention centers, just as we wonder about National Guards opening firing on student protestors, Bull Connor’s police officers, the guards at Japanese internment camps, the white picnickers cutting the knuckles and toes off the lynched black man as souvenirs of their families’ day out, the soldiers opening fire at Wounded Knee, the Pinkertons killing labor union members, the auctioneer facilitating to end of a slave family. We didn’t need the Milgram experiment; history has shown us–and we’ve captured it in photos–that it is frighteningly easy to follow orders that inflict pain on others when you believe authorities command (or even simply permit) you do to so , whether those orders excite already-held prejudices or not. Yet, here we are, making laws to protect drivers who hit protestors and inviting transphobic collaborators to report trans people using the “wrong” bathroom. These are not laws to enforce public safety but efforts to make permissible violence that would otherwise be clearly immoral—a kind of Crypteia for our age.

We don’t need to be shocked at either the idea that hateful people are often also good or at the idea that good people will sometimes (and sometimes often) be hateful, especially in political contexts that reward them for it. Hate is not exceptional but functional, perhaps the most destructive tool in oppressive systems worked hard to maintain inequality, and many of us–even otherwise good people, people who love our children, people who sing in church choirs–will pick it up when we want to maintain our preferred supremacy.

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Barrett-Fox is a professor of sociology at Arkansas State University. She is currently researching Act for America, “the nation’s largest nonprofit, non-partisan, grassroots national security organization.” You can follow her blog at anygoodthing.com.

 

 

footnotes: [1]Anna Sheftel and Stacey Zembrzycki, “Who’s Afraid of Oral History? Fifty Years of Debates and Anxiety about Ethics,” The Oral History Review 43, no. 2 (2016): 338-366.

[2] See, for example, Kathleen Blee, “White-Knuckle Research: Emotional Dynamics in Fieldwork with Racist Activists,” Qualitative Sociology 21 no. 4 (1998): 381-399; Journal of Contemporary Ethnography’s 2007 special issue on racist and far right groups, edited by Kathleen M. Blee (vol. 36, no. 2); Pete Simi and Robert Futrell, American Swastika: Inside the White Power Movement’s Hidden Spaces of Hate (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2015); Fieldwork under Fire: Contemporary Studies of Violence and Survival, edited by Carolyn Nordstrom and Antonius C. G. M. Robben (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1995); or Rebecca Barrett-Fox, “Anger and Compassion on the Picket Line: Ethnography and Emotion in the Study of Westboro Baptist Church,” Journal of Hate Studies 9, no. 11 (2010/2011), 11-32.

[3] Antonius C. G. M. Robben, “Ethnographic Seduction, Transference, and Resistance in Dialogues about Terror and Violence in Argentina,” Ethos 24, no. 1 (1996), 71-106.

[4] Nigel G. Fielding, “Mediating the Message: Affinity and Hostility in Research on Sensitive Topics,” in Researching Sensitive Topics, edited by Claire M. Renzetti and Raymond M. Lee (Newbury Park: Sage, 1993), 146-180.

[5] See, for example, “Similarities among Differences,” Martha K. Huggins and Marie-Louise Glebbeek’s introduction to their co-edited Women Fielding Danger: Negotiating Ethnographic Identities in Field Research (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2009), 1-30.

[6] Clara S. Lewis Tough on Hate? The Cultural Politics of Hate Crimes (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2013): 85.

[7] Ibid., 60.

[8] Martin Luther King, Jr. “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” Why We Can’t Wait (New York: Signet, 2000), 73 & 74.

[9] Kelly J. Baker, Gospel According to the Klan: The KKK’s Appeal to Protestant America, 1915-1930. 

Are Public Lands for Sale?

by James R. Skillen, UPK author of Federal Ecosystem Management; Its Rise, Fall, and Afterlife (2015)

The 115th Congress began with housecleaning. After battling the Obama administration for years, the Republican majority anticipated a fast-moving legislative agenda supported by President Trump. They started by brushing aside rules they felt hindered legislative work and by wielding the Congressional Review Act against President Obama’s late regulations. Voters looked on with a sense of relief or consternation.

us_federal_land_agencies_svgPublic lands are certainly part of the Republican agenda, both as a target for deregulation and as a resource for increasing oil, gas, and coal development. But could there be something even more significant in the works? Could Republicans be planning a campaign to sell or give away millions of acres of federally owned land? One Guardian article warned on January 19 that “Republican lawmakers have quietly laid the foundation to give away Americans’ birthright.” Specifically, they revised House rules so that public land sales and transfers will be treated as “cost free” actions that do not require budgetary review or offsets. This means one less hurdle for wholesale public land disposal. Elevating these fears, Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) introduced H.R. 621 on January 24 to sell 3.3 million acres of federal land to the states.

Has Chaffetz opened the floodgate of public land sales? If so, it would hardly constitute a political 9780700621279surprise. Western Republicans have criticized federal land ownership and management for decades, most famously in the Sagebrush Rebellion of the late 1970s and early 1980s. When Republicans took control of Congress is 1995, they proposed selling public lands to balance the budget. A number of state governments in the West repeatedly challenged the constitutionality of federal land ownership during the Obama administration. The occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016 was only an extreme example of private opposition to federal land ownership. Republicans even made public land disposal part of the platform for the Republican National Convention, writing “Congress shall immediately pass universal legislation providing for a timely and orderly mechanism requiring the federal government to convey certain federally controlled public lands to states.” Republicans have long called for public land sales, and their control of both Congress and the White House has given them an unparalleled opportunity to act.

While the possibility of large-scale public land sales is real, history suggests that it remains unlikely. While Republicans have shown unified frustration with federal land management, they do not have a unified alternative. Some, particularly Tea Party Republicans, genuinely want to see large areas of public lands transferred to the Western states, which would manage them for a higher rate of economic return. Others, including many currently calling for public land sales, are not actually interested in land ownership; they are interested in land use. Members of Congress will likely find that steps to shift power away from environmental organizations and toward resource development interests will please both groups of Republicans, while proposals to sell large areas of federal lands will divide their constituencies and undermine their support.

Mr. Chaffetz found this when he proposed selling 3.3 million acres of federal land and faced immediate, bipartisan opposition. And he should not have been surprised. Last summer President Trump’s nominee to head the Interior Department, Ryan Zinke, resigned from the committee drafting the Republican National Convention platform over its position on public land sales, and Donald Trump, Jr. has been outspoken in support of public lands remaining public. Zinke and Trump, Jr. represent millions of Republican outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen who benefit from and support federal land ownership. And their opposition to H.R. 621 is particularly striking when one considers that it focused primarily on scattered tracts, rather than large, contiguous units of public lands, and that the Clinton administration initially selected these lands. Indeed, opposition reflects the remarkable level of distrust that Democrats and Republicans alike have in Congress to serve the national interest through land sales and exchanges.

So it seems unlikely that Congress will liquidate federal land holdings. It is far more likely that the Republican majority will make significant changes in public land planning and management to reduce environmental regulation and increase resource production, striking down administrative processes and requirements that stand in their way. For example, Republicans in the House voted to repeal the Bureau of Land Management’s new planning rules, Planning 2.0, which were finalized at the end of the Obama administration. The new rules were driven, in part, by frustration with the cost and length of land use planning and the additional financial and temporal costs of subsequent litigation. To address these problems, the rules require greater public participation, including earlier and more frequent participation; they emphasize landscape-scale planning issues that transcend public land boundaries; they require BLM to take scientific measurements of resource baselines that will be used to assess management actions in the future; etc. These rules, the BLM hoped, would produce more robust plans that stand a better chance of surviving legal challenge and give land managers better footing when they make subsequent decisions.

As Republican critics understand correctly, though, Planning 2.0 will impact the current balance of power in public land planning. Though it is difficult to predict the exact impacts of Planning 2.0, two things seem clear. First, it would likely make participation more accurately reflective of diverse interests in the public lands, giving environmentalists and resource developers, local citizens and national organizations, a place at the table. Second, it would shift the focus of planning from land uses to land and resource conditions, and this is a shift that environmentalists have sought for decades. Because of these and other potential impacts, the Western Governors Association, the oil and gas industry, and the livestock industry all opposed Planning 2.0, arguing that it would unfairly privilege environmental protection and the voice of national organizations over economic development and the voice of local communities. As congresswoman Liz Cheney (R-WY) put it, Planning 2.0 “represents a federal power grab that ignores expert knowledge and undermines the ability of state and local governments to effectively manage resources and land use inside their own districts.”

If history is at all predictive, the most important battles waged by the Republican majority in Congress and the White House will not be over selling public land; they will be battles over public land planning and management. And it is here that they are most likely to build their legacy of reduced regulation and increased resource development.

pensiveskillenJames R. Skillen is assistant professor of environmental studies at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

New Release: Yellowstone and the Smithsonian

It was nothing more than a happy accident that lead Dr. Diane Smith to research the relationship between two iconic American institutions: Yellowstone National Park and the Smithsonian Institute. In fact, if not for an old box in the Yellowstone archives, Yellowstone and the Smithsonian; Center of Wildlife Conservation may not have been written.

yellowstone“I was in the Yellowstone archives, looking through boxes,” Dr. Smith explains. “I found an ordinary box that was full of records of animal shipments. It was absolutely fascinating. It listed animals, as if they were commodities being shipped from the park east to the Smithsonian, and to other national parks and zoos. There were elk and bison and bears – literally hundreds of animals. That completely changed how I looked at park management and conservation.”

Dr. Smith’s book explores the early relationship between Yellowstone National Park and the Smithsonian Institution as they tried to conserve American wildlife for future generations. By viewing Yellowstone’s history in relation to that of the Smithsonian, the National Museum, and ultimately the National Zoo, Yellowstone and the Smithsonian sheds new light on wildlife management in the park prior to the National Park Service, highlights the important role animals played in Yellowstone’s management and development and illustrates how visitors viewed and experienced the park.

“While much has been written about the history of Yellowstone and its wildlife,” Dr. Smith writes in the book’s introduction, “few have explored the story of how the cavalry transformed the park into a centralized source for museum and zoo animals and developed its own system for trapping, displaying, and shipping wildlife around the country and even around the world.”

The book explores the relationship that developed between the two institutions as the organizations tried to conserve American wildlife for future generations, with each becoming more like the other.

“These animal transfers are so clearly documented I am surprised no one has written about them before,” Dr. Smith says.

Congress established Yellowstone National Park in part to “provide against the wanton destruction of the fish and game found within said park, and against their capture or destruction for the purposes of merchandise or profit.” Thus, from its founding, Yellowstone focused on protecting the great herds of bison-003animals that once roamed free in the American West. Just as Americans in the late 19th and early 20th century expected to see native wildlife preserved in both museums and zoos so, too, did travelers to Yellowstone assume threat they could view specimens of the American West in the Park. In essence, Yellowstone’s wildlife, sandwiched somewhere between domesticated and wild, served as living representatives of their species just as they would in any other museum or zoological park.

Dr. Smith explains that the shipping of animals out of Yellowstone became such a common occurrence that many of today’s national parks could, essentially, trace animal lineage back to Yellowstone.

“It’s not too strange to argue that,” Dr. Smith says with a laugh. “The sheer number of animals taken out of Yellowstone and sent to other parks and zoos is kind of staggering. To this day we continue to view Yellowstone National Park as a center of wildlife conservation, although no that wildlife faces different challenges.”

“As the national park with the highest profile, to this day Yellowstone inevitably ends up I the middle of contentious and politicized debates, ranging from the advisability of snowmobiles to the natural role of wildlife fire,” she writes in Yellowstone and the Smithsonian. “But many of the park’s greatest controversies still focus on the fate and treatment of Yellowstone wildlife – from bison to wolves – that continue to wander both into and out of the park. Ultimately, it comes down to whether or not Yellowstone National Park administrators can provide a center of conservation for some of the nation’s last free-ranging animals as part of a greater expanse of wildlife habitat in the American West, or must resort to managing a relatively small island of land as if it were just another national zoo.”

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Diane Smith is a research historian with the USDA Forest Service and the author of Pictures from an Expedition and Letters from Yellowstone. She lives in Missoula, Montana.

Off the Shelf: The Iconography of Malcolm X

fullsizerenderPublished in 2003, Graeme Abernethy’s The Iconography of Malcolm X marks the first systematic examination of the images generated by this iconic cultural figure—images readily found on everything from T-shirts and hip-hop album covers to coffee mugs. Abernethy captures both the multiplicity and global import of a person who has been framed as both villain and hero, cast by mainstream media during his lifetime as the most feared man in American history, and elevated at his death as a heroic emblem of African American identity. As Abernethy shows, the resulting iconography of Malcolm X has shifted as profoundly as the American racial landscape itself.

Currently in Lagos, Nigeria, Abernethy answered questions about the book and how the iconography of Malcolm X continues to evolve.

 

What was the major draw to researching/writing about Malcolm X?

4c72f33fmalcolmxmalcolmx“It was Spike Lee’s Malcolm X that first made me aware of Malcolm X. The marketing for the film bled into popular culture when I was still very young. And I would say that as an even smaller child, Michael Jackson’s Thriller, the NBA, the Jordan versus Bird video game, and baseball cards were my initial orientation in African American popular iconography. I grew up in suburban Canada, but I was a student of American popular culture, as most people are through sheer capitalist force. I later read the Autobiography of Malcolm X. It’s a special book — politically urgent and deeply personal. It contains so many elements: crime, jazz culture, mass media, religion, the civil rights movement, travel, the tragedy of his death. And what became most interesting to me when I found a copy of a first edition was the inclusion of photographs from Malcolm’s personal collection. I began studying them more deeply as a graduate student.”

How did your idea of Malcolm X change through the process of writing your book?

“While writing the book I did become wary of the Autobiography as a ‘pure’ or transparent document of Malcolm’s life. Alex Haley’s (and Malcolm’s own) interventions in the text — commercial, religious, political — became very apparent to me. I also became aware of how extensively Malcolm articulated a philosophy of visual self-representation and how knowingly he collaborated with various photographers at home and abroad. I think he was well ahead of his time. He was more than a celebrity or religious or political leader. His death elevated him to unique status. ‘Icon’ is the only word that describes him for me. I do think the word ‘icon’ is often misused in popular culture these days.”

What was the process through which Malcolm X became aware of the “power of imagery.” Has that idea manifested in modern politics?

“As a child, Malcolm X came to know the power of images to inspire and enthrall by seeing and sharing pictures of Marcus Garvey and Joe Louis. He illustrated his personal and political evolution during his ‘Detroit Red’ years by sending photographs of himself in his new zoot suits to his family and friends. He studied a picture of Elijah Muhammad while in prison, becoming aware of photography’s transfigurative associations. And the Nation of Islam taught its adherents about ‘tricknology,’ the pattern of deceptive and racially degrading images and ideas circulated during the Jim Crow years. Malcolm sought very actively to counter this through what he called the ‘science of imagery.”

How has America’s perception of Malcolm X changed in the last decade? Do you think it will adjust again under the current administration?

paozofv6ow809c8ssytiMalcolm’s voice clearly resonates in the ‘I Can’t Breathe’ and ‘Black Lives Matter’ movements — as do those of the Black Panthers, who were themselves inspired by Malcolm. I do anticipate Malcolm X resurfacing again and again in the coming years. His travel journals were recently published. But more than in old modes, I see him (and the culture generally) moving into newer expressions: social media, holograms, video games.”

What was your greatest challenge while writing the book?

“The Iconography of Malcolm X was a joy to write and working with the University Press of Kansas was a pleasure. The real challenges were those of time and discipline. I wanted the book to be faithful to the history of Malcolm’s life and cultural afterlife. His life and views were extremely complex.”

What has been your biggest satisfaction associated with the book?

“The book has been well received, which is satisfying. It has also led me in Malcolm’s footsteps to Nigeria, which he visited in 1964. I have been lecturing in Lagos for the past 4 years, learning much more about what Malcolm X celebrated: the cultural links between Africa and the Americas.”

 

Graeme Abernethy is a writer, researcher, and educator based in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Meet the Author: Jill Abraham Hummer

First Ladies and American Women; In Politics and at Home

Dr. Jill Abraham Hummer learned to ‘Just Say No’ from the first lady of the United States. She won’t say that led her to write about book about First Ladies, but she does give Nancy Reagan some credit.

“I grew up in the 80’s,” Dr. Hummer says with a laugh. “Any child of the 80’s is familiar with Mrs. Reagan’s ‘Just Say No’ campaign. I don’t think that awareness of the first lady set me on this course, but I guess you could say that was my first real consciousness of the American First Lady.”

9780700623808Dr. Hummer’s intense knowledge and research into the role of the American First Lady is the basis of her highly anticipated book First Ladies and the American Women; In Politics and at Home.

Unelected, but expected to act as befits her “office,” the first lady has what Pat Nixon called “the hardest unpaid job in the world.” Michelle Obama championed military families with the program Joining Forces. Four decades earlier Pat Nixon traveled to Africa as the nation’s official representative. And nearly four decades before that, Lou Hoover took to the airwaves to solicit women’s help in unemployment relief. Each first lady has, in her way, been intimately linked with the roles, rights, and responsibilities of American women. Pursuing this connection, First Ladies and American Women reveals how each first lady from Lou Henry Hoover to Michelle Obama has reflected and responded to trends that marked and unified her time.

While Hummer was an undergraduate at Allegheny College she began to question the role of the First Lady. The ‘position’ is full of responsibility and attention, though its demands and expectations are completely undefined.

“I wanted to understand the strange and unique office of the first ladyship,” Dr. Hummer explains. “They are not elected, but the American people often look to them for leadership. It’s a strange study. ‘Why do they do anything?’ ‘Why does she do the things she does?’ I started asking those questions. My research really started to fascinate me.”

Hummer’s interest became the basis of her doctoral thesis while at the University of Virginia. “I spent a lot of time researching archives of presidential libraries,” Dr. Hummer says with a laugh.

Though First Ladies and American Women covers the same topic as her doctoral thesis, Hummer is quick to correct the idea that the book is an extension of her graduate work.

“It’s completely new research,” she says. “I didn’t ‘copy and paste’ a single sentence from my thesis for this book.”

first-ladiesHummer divides her narrative into three distinct epochs. In the first, stretching from Lou Hoover to Jacqueline Kennedy, she demonstrates the advent of women’s involvement in politics following women’s suffrage, as well as pressures on family stability during depression, war, and postwar uncertainty. Next comes the second wave of the feminist movement, from Lady Bird Johnson’s tenure through Rosalyn Carter’s, when equality and the politics of the personal issues prevailed. And finally we enter the charged political and partisan environment over women’s rights and the politics of motherhood in the wake of the conservative backlash against feminism after 1980, from Nancy Reagan to Michelle Obama.

“It’s clear, obviously, that no two First Ladies are the same,” she says. “I think the most important thing to consider when discussing the role and impact of each First Lady is that they are all products of the time and historical moment of their husband’s presidency. They each had unique situations and how they handled that environment is what the American people will use to view them.”

Throughout the book, Hummer explores how background, personality, ambitions, and her relationship to the president shaped each first lady’s response to women in society and to the broader political context in which each administration functioned—and how, in turn, these singular responses reflect the changing role of women in American society over nearly a century.

“It’s safe to say that the role and expectations of the American First Lady have grown along with society,” Hummer explains. “The last three First Ladies, prior to Melania Trump, have all had advanced degrees and have all lead high-profile roles in the administration. For example, the more public image of Michelle Obama was working in the White House garden and doing push-ups with Ellen. But she had major influence and political capitol with the Department of Agriculture. Obviously Hillary Clinton played a significant role in her husband’s administration, both socially and helping shape policy.”

Hummer notes that, while it’s traditional for each First Lady to champion a cause, a 1995 Hillary Clinton speech to the United Nations has set the benchmark for advocating for international women’s rights and human rights. In the speech, then First Lady Clinton makes the case for human rights.

“Laura Bush and Michelle Obama followed in her footsteps, and I think their own international women’s rights projects were savvy political choices, allowing them to advocate for women’s rights while also avoiding domestic U.S. feminism.”

Without prompting, Hummer volunteers an answer to the question she says she is most often asked.

“My two favorite first ladies are Pat Nixon and Lady Bird Johnson,” she says lightheartedly, before offering a solid critique of each. “Pat Nixon was very misunderstood. She came into the White House during the rise of the women’s movement. Clearly her husband’s presidency has cast a shadow on her as a First Lady, but I think people would be surprised to learn about some of the things she represented.”

Hummer also finds Lady Bird Johnson fascinating.

img_9384“She made the case for the ‘natural woman’ approach,” Hummer says. “Lady Bird made it clear that a women’s first priority is to take care of her family. But, she was adamant that women not check out of the process. She was a strong advocate for staying involved in your community and making sure your voice is heard. She understood the fatigue in raising a family, but she warned against letting that take you out of your larger community.”

As Melania Trump navigates the role of American First Lady, Hummer thinks she has a unique opportunity to help women.

“With her husband’s reputation as a business man, and her own business interests, I think she has the chance to advocate for women entrepreneurs,” Hummer says. “It would keep her interests close to home and correspond well with the administration’s ongoing dialogue. Will she do that? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.”

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Jill Abraham Hummer is Associate Professor of Political Science at Wilson College. Her research focuses on women and the presidency, and, in particular, American first ladies. She has written for White House Studies, The Journal of Political Science Education, and PS: Political Science and Politics, and her writing has also been featured in the Christian Science Monitor, Baltimore Sun, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and The Hill

Off The Shelf: Hip-Hop Revolution

“Hip-hop has been the sonic backdrop to my life,” explains Dr. Jeffrey Ogbar from his Connecticut home. “Since I was 8 or 9 years old I can relate songs and albums to specific moments of my life. From middle school to playing baseball to college and even today, hip-hop is there. It’s the music of my life.”

img_9376In 2007, UPK published Hip-Hop Revolution; The Culture and Politics of Rap. In the groundbreaking book, Dr. Ogbar celebrates hip-hop and confronts the cult of authenticity that defines its essential character – that dictates how performers walk, talk, and express themselves artistically and also influences the consumer market. Hip-Hop Revolution is a balanced cultural history that looks past negative stereotypes of hip-hop as a monolith of hedonistic, unthinking noise to reveal its evolving positive role within American society.

Dr. Ogbar has established himself as one of the preeminent academic experts on the political and cultural evolution and influence of hip-hop music. He has been teaching a course on the topic for nearly 20 years at the University of Connecticut. In fact, the course is the 2nd longest continually taught course examining the cultural history of hip-hop and rap in American higher education.

“I was working on my dissertation about black power and I gave a talk at St. Lawrence University about the culture of hip-hop,” Dr. Ogbar explains. “An academic in the audience approached me and asked if I would be able to expand and elaborate on the talk for an article to be submitted to The Journal of Black Studies. That article kind of became a one-hit wonder for The Journal. That’s when Nancy Jackson (former acquisitions editor) at the University Press approached me about writing a prospectus for the book.”

Dr. Ogbar’s book examines the contextual concepts of black identify, misogyny, conflicts with authority and equality as address by MCs and rap culture from the late 1970’s to the early 2000s. He identifies changes in perception and production

“When hip-hop and rap emerged, politics and social commentary were not a big part of the content,” he explains. “In the late 70s and early 80s, Eric B, Big Daddy Kane and Run DMC – they didn’t address societal issues or the realities of being a young black man. Then there was a shift. Public Enemy and KRS-One and N.W.A. made entire records based on social problems and railing against violence and mass incarceration.”

Dr. Ogbar is clearly a passionate fan of hip-hop. Between making scholarly arguments comparing the ebb and flows of a growing democracy to the changes in popular rap, he quotes Snoop Dogg and Chuck D. He takes the study seriously, but is also a fan. The combination makes Hip-Hop Revolution a fascinating read.

220px-publicenemyittakesanationofmillionstoholdusback“Around 1988 two records came out that really captured the public,” Ogbar says. “Public Enemy’s ‘It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back’ and N.W.A.’s ‘Straight Outta Compton’ both exemplified the progressive black messages that emerged in hip-hop. Those records were engaged and tackled the problems of police brutality, violence, mass incarceration and the war on drugs.”

With the rise of ‘gangsta rap’ in the early and mid-1990s, Ogbar noticed a significant change.

“Those records with Dr. Dre and the Dogg Pound signified a 180-degree shift,” he says. “The idea of violence against other blacks and celebrating selling crack became the norm. Not to mention misogyny and perpetrating sexual assaults. That set the tone for popular hip-hop that persists today. The pressure is to be accepted or to be validated as a real rapper is often related lyrical content that emphasizes taking another brother out.”

In his book, Ogbar also explores problematic black images, including minstrelsy, hip-hop’s social milieu, and the artists’ own historical and political awareness. Ranging across the rap spectrum from the conscious hip-hop of Mos Def to the gangsta rap of 50 Cent to the “underground” sounds of Jurassic 5 and the Roots, he tracks the ongoing quest for a unique and credible voice to show how complex, contested, and malleable these codes of authenticity are. Most important, Ogbar persuasively challenges widely held notions that hip-hop is socially dangerous—to black youths in particular—by addressing the ways in which rappers critically view the popularity of crime-focused lyrics, the antisocial messages of their peers, and the volatile politics of the word “nigga.”

Ten years after it published, Dr. Ogbar is impressed, but not surprised, by the state of hip-hop. Since he wrote Hip-Hop Revolution, rappers have performed for and been promoted by the President of the United States and the most popular Broadway show in a generation boasts a hip-hop soundtrack.

“What’s most interesting to me is the great rise in activism even before the election,” Dr. Ogbar says. “Never before have protesters shut down major thoroughfares in major cities on this scale. These crowds are multi-racial. They are black and white and Hispanic and Native Americans. And the thing is, these crowds are listening to hip-hop. This music has become common ground. It has become a connecting force. That’s interesting.”

Hip-Hop Revolution: A Spotify Mixtape by Dr. Jeffrey Ogbar

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Jeffrey O. G. Ogbar is associate professor of history and director of the Institute for African American Studies at the University of Connecticut. He is author of Black Power: Radical Politics and African American Identity and edited the volume The Civil Rights Movement: Problems in American Civilization.

Rebuilding Trustworthy Politics in a Post-Truth Age

by Nadia Hilliard – UPK author of The Accountability State; US Federal Inspectors General and the Pursuit of Democratic Integrity (April, 2017)

It will not surprise American voters that the Oxford English Dictionary declared the 2016 Word of the Year to be “post-truth.” The term resonates with all sides of the American electorate who, confronted with “fake news” and “alternative facts,” have struggled to know which facts are trustworthy enough to ground their political opinions and decisions. Yet while partisanship is always a feature of politics, it is rare for partisan arguments to be decoupled so starkly from truth, and for citizens to be so untrusting of the media and public officials. To whom can voters – and elected officials – turn for legitimate facts and narratives in this era of post-truth politics?

accountability-stateInspectors General (IGs) have quietly operated under the radar in the federal bureaucracy since the late seventies, auditing, investigating, inspecting, and acting as in-house management consultants. They are presidential appointees, but are statutorily required to be non-partisan, and enjoy bipartisan support. They are, moreover, Congress’s “eyes and ears” in the executive branch, and depend on congressional approval for their funding. But they are also full members of their host departments, and report directly to their department head, and indirectly, to the president. This divided loyalty reinforces their independence from any single institutional or partisan commitment.

Although individual IGs have at times been mired in scandal (recall the VA IG’s travails in 2015, or the State Department’s disgraced IG in 2007), their profile and reputation has grown in recent decades, and they are cited more and more frequently and positively in the press. More important, the outcomes of their reviews are trusted by Congress, and serve as an alternative source of facts to the host of incompatible narratives bandied about in the blogosphere. They are respected on both sides of the aisle, providing political leaders as polarised as Darryl Issa (R-CA) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD) with the rare opportunity to agree in their support of IG work.

Two major IG reviews are now underway to shed light on recent landmark political phenomena: FBI Director James Comey’s public suggestion of wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton in the weeks leading up to the presidential election, and the administrative unfolding of the Trump administration’s Travel Ban. While IG reviews are certainly used to partisan ends after their release, the best reviews refrain from drawing conclusions as a prosecutor would.  For instance, State Department IG Steve Linick’s June 2016 review of Hillary Clinton’s emails provided informational fodder for both Clinton’s supporters and detractors: while some media outlets focused on the finding that Clinton had indeed used a private server extensively, and criticized her heavily, others emphasized that the review unearthed long-standing State Department practices of avoiding department servers, and that she had not in fact broken any laws or even contravened any departmental policies.

1024x1024Justice IG Michael Horowitz, spearheading the Comey review, and DHS IG John Roth, leading the Travel Ban review, have both earned their laurels as trusted, rigorous IGs. The Justice Department Office of Inspector General has long served as a beacon for rigorous, non-partisan reviews accepted and respected by Republicans and Democrats alike, and Horowitz’s reviews have followed in this tradition.  Similarly, the DHS OIG investigation of the implementation of the travel ban equally promises to establish an accurate picture of the administrative decisions shaping the roll out of the recent executive order.

Arguably, the IGs are very well poised to investigate both of these events. IGs focus on procedure and adherence to rules and norms above all, and in both cases, much at stake regards adherence to protocol. Whether or not Comey broke department policy by announcing his suspicions of Clinton is a question separate from the possible partisan motivations he might have had in doing so, just as the legal status of departmental compliance with Trump’s executive order and the subsequent nullificatory court order is distinct from the question of overall discriminatory intent. It is not the IGs’ role to prosecute, or otherwise to initiate a political battle. Their immediate procedural focus permits the IGs to avoid the wider political significance of the events when constructing the narrative, leaving the political battle in the hands of elected officials, the media, and citizens. This deserves to be emphasized: IGs are unelected bureaucrats, and their legitimacy depends on their commitment to non-partisan work.  The facts need to be established outside of the political fray before any political battle can begin. Yet the political significance of their reviews cannot be understated.

If these reviews are welcomed as trustworthy sources of fact, there remains a pressing political question, with grave importance for the integrity of the political system: will these investigations go through without undue interference? Murmurs that the Trump administration contacted a handful of IGs to ask for their resignation prior to his inauguration bubbled into a hearing, and ultimately led to the Trump team’s abandonment of these plans.  Traditionally – at least since their appearance in 1978, and not withstanding Reagan’s routinely criticized, comprehensive sacking of the first IG class in 1981 – new administrations do not replace entire cohorts of IGs.  Stability of office and continuity of leadership affect an IG’s capacity to provide robust, non-partisan oversight of federal departments and agencies.  Despite having made challenges to other political institutions designed to keep the executive in check, the Trump administration has thus far refrained from a wholesale ousting of the current IG class. Yet the possibility remains for the president to oust any single IG – especially ones who investigate sensitive topics or unearth unsavory details about his policies.

The first step in rebuilding a functional political system, including restoring a healthy and vibrant ideological center, is to have common institutions trusted by all. In this post-truth era, we need trusted public intermediaries who not only have unfettered, protected access to the sources of fact – the relevant documents and interviews – but also independence and a commitment to offering non-partisan narratives to Congress and the public.  It is rare in this polarized age for an institution to command such bipartisan support and enthusiasm, and even more so for specific individuals – such as Horowitz and Roth, among many others – to command the respect and praise of both sides of the aisle simultaneously. The IGs’ legitimacy provides a starting block for rebuilding a healthy politics.

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Nadia Hilliard is Junior Research Fellow in politics at Balliol College, University of Oxford and a post-doctoral researcher at City University in London. Her book, The Accountability State; US Federal Inspectors General and the Pursuit of Democratic Integrity, will be released in April, 2017.

Meet the Authors: Rebecca Barrett-Fox

God Hates; Westboro Baptist Church, American Nationalism, and the Religious Right

img_9363The morning Rebecca Barrett-Fox, her husband and a friend drove to Topeka from Lawrence to check out Sunday morning service at the Westboro Baptist Church, she didn’t expect to find herself in a kitchen having a conversation with Margie Phelps, wife of infamous pastor Fred Phelps. But, as Margie was frying eggs, Rebecca and her crew asked for directions to the chapel.

“I accidentally wandered into the house attached to the sanctuary where Mrs. Phelps was frying eggs for breakfast,” Barrett-Fox recounts. “We scared each other terribly. It turns out the other church members were running late returning late from a series of pickets of other churches in Topeka, which they do each Sunday. So, she kindly offered us a spot to sit while we waited for the church members to return.”

And with that chance encounter, Barrett-Fox began the years of research that resulted in her stunning 2016 book God Hates; Westboro Baptist Church, American Nationalism, and the Religious Right.

As an undergraduate at Pennsylvania’s Juniata College, Barrett-Fox didn’t envision diving deep into one of the country’s most notorious hate groups. Her focus was on American Protestant churches and their relationship to whiteness.

“Most typical churches don’t want to be seen as racist,” Barrett-Fox explains. “But often, what they teach, and how they teach it, can be very contradictory to that. I’ve always found that fascinating.”

Barrett-Fox says that during her undergraduate years she attended at least one service at almost every church within a 150-mile radius of the Huntingdon, PA campus.

“State College falls within that range, so I’m sure I missed a few,” Barrett-Fox jokes. “But not too many. It became a Sunday tradition. I’d find a friend, pick a church and we’d go to their service. A lot of those little country churches are independent from any sort of governing or guidance from a larger congregation. They don’t report to anyone and that tends to lead to some more divisive preaching.”

While working on her master’s degree in American Studies at the University of Kansas, Barrett-Fox began seeing the Westboro Baptist Church and their protest across campus. One weekend a friend from her undergraduate days was visiting Lawrence and she had an idea.

“I was pregnant with my first child and it was Mother’s Day weekend,” Barrett-Fox laughs. “I asked my friend if she wanted a church adventure like the old days. And then we were off to Topeka.”

After finding a mistakenly unlocked door in the organization’s block-long security wall, Barrett-Fox found herself in the Phelps’ kitchen, then waiting for the service to begin in the church.

That Sunday morning service was the beginning of a multi-year experience with the organization. Barrett-Fox commonly attended services, pickets and became a welcomed guest at church events.

westborobaptist4“The people of Westboro Baptist Church are, maybe surprisingly, welcoming,” Barrett-Fox explains. “They want to tell you their story. They want to have you join in.”

God Hates traces WBC’s theological beliefs to a brand of hyper-Calvinist thought reaching back to the Puritans—an extreme Calvinism, emphasizing predestination, that has proven as off-putting as Westboro’s actions, even for other Baptists. And yet, in examining Westboro’s role in conservative politics and its contentious relationship with other fundamentalist activist groups, Barrett-Fox reveals how the church’s message of national doom in fact reflects beliefs at the core of much of the Religious Right’s rhetoric. Westboro’s aggressively offensive public activities actually serve to soften the anti-gay theology of more mainstream conservative religious activism. With an eye to the church’s protest at military funerals, she also considers why the public has responded so differently to these than to Westboro’s anti-LGBT picketing.

“I don’t think it’s a conscience decision on the part of the church to be the most offensive wing of the conservative right,” Barret-Fox explains. “I think Westboro’s methods make it easy for others to use them as cover for their motives.”

Barrett-Fox has not had any direct contact with Westboro since her book published.

“I never expected them to reach out, directly, nor have I contacted them,” Barret-Fox says. “However, they do tend to help promote my talks through their social media, which I think is kind of sweet, in a way.”

s200_rebecca_barrett-foxBarrett-Fox now lives in Utah with her husband and two kids. She is currently researching Act for America, “the nation’s largest nonprofit, non-partisan, grassroots national security organization,” for a future project.

Meet The Press: The Top 10

The University Press of Kansas publishes scholarly books that advance knowledge and regional books that contribute to the understanding of Kansas, the Great Plains and the Midwest. Founded in 1946, we represent the six state universities: Emporia State University, Fort Hays State University, Kansas State University, Pittsburg State University, the University of Kansas and Wichita State University. We have published more than 900 books.

Top-10 Best-Selling books in UPK’s 71-year history:

 

hitler10. Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers; The Untold Story of Nazi Racial Laws and Men of Jewish Descent in the German Military

by Bryan Mark Rigg

On the murderous road to “racial purity” Hitler encountered unexpected detours, largely due to his own crazed views and inconsistent policies regarding Jewish identity. After centuries of Jewish assimilation and intermarriage in German society, he discovered that eliminating Jews from the rest of the population was more difficult than he’d anticipated. As Bryan Rigg shows in this provocative new study, nowhere was that heinous process more fraught with contradiction and confusion than in the German military.

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09. Education for Extinction; American Indians and the Boarding School Experience, 1875-1928

by David Wallace Adams

The last “Indian War” was fought against Native American children in the dormitories and classrooms of government boarding schools. Only by removing Indian children from their homes for extended periods of time, policymakers reasoned, could white “civilization” take root while childhood memories of “savagism” gradually faded to the point of extinction. In the words of one official: “Kill the Indian and save the man.”

old-time08. True Tales of Old-Time Kansas

by David Dary

“Authentic history, delightfully told” – Ray A. Billington. David Dary, award-winning chronicler of life on the frontier plains, is at his entertaining best in these thirty-nine episodes, sagas, and tales from Kansas’s vigorous, free-spirited past. Many of the stories appeared in Dary’s True Tales of the Old-Time Plains, but that book, out of print for several years, focused on the Great Plains in general. This edition pulls together tales about people, animals and events in what is today Kansas, including the old territory of Kansas (1854-1861) that stretched from the Missouri River westward to the summit of the Rocky Mountains.

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07. The Philosophy of (Erotic) Love

by Robert C. Solomon and Kathleen M. Higgins

What does philosophy know of love? From Plato on, philosophers have struggled to pin love to the dissecting table and view it in the cold light of logic. Yet, as Arthur Danto writes in the foreword to this volume, “how incorrigibly stiff philosophy is when it undertakes to lay its icy fingers on the frilled and beating wings of the butterfly of love.”

 

novus06. Novus Ordo Seclorum; The Intellectual Origins of the Constitution

by Forrest McDonald

This is the first major interpretation of the framing of the Constitution to appear in more than two decades. Forrest McDonald, widely considered one of the foremost historians of the Constitution and of the early national period, reconstructs the intellectual world of the Founding Fathers—including their understanding of law, history political philosophy, and political economy, and their firsthand experience in public affairs—and then analyzes their behavior in the Constitutional Convention of 1787 in light of that world. No one has attempted to do so on such a scale before. McDonald’s principal conclusion is that, though the Framers brought a variety of ideological and philosophical positions to bear upon their task of building a “new order of the ages,” they were guided primarily by their own experience, their wisdom, and their common sense.

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05. Ghost Towns of Kansas; A Traveler’s Guide

by Daniel C. Fitzgerald

Ghost Towns of Kansas is a practical guide to the forsaken settlements and a chronicle of their role in the history of Kansas. It focuses on 100 towns that have either disappeared without a trace or are only “a shadowy remnant of what they once were,” telling the story of each town’s settlement, politics, colorful figures and legends, and eventual abandonment or decline.

 

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04. In Deadly Combat; A German Soldier’s Memoir of the Eastern Front

by Gottlob Herbert Bidermann Derek S. Zumbro

In the hell that was World War II, the Eastern Front was its heart of fire and ice. Gottlob Herbert Bidermann served in that lethal theater from 1941 to 1945, and his memoir of those years recaptures the sights, sounds, and smells of the war as it vividly portrays an army marching on the road to ruin.

 

muscles03. Visualizing Muscles; A New Ecorche Approach to Surface Anatomy

by John Cody

As the human body moves, muscles contract and relax, creating subtle changes in body contours and shifting patterns of light and shadow on the skin’s surface. Visualizing exactly what happens beneath the skin to cause these changes on the surface is an essential skill for artists, physicians, physical therapists, and body builders-for anyone who needs to understand the body in motion. Visualizing Muscles is an innovative aid to drawing, sculpting, and learning surface anatomy.

cookbook02. The Kansas Cookbook; Recipes from the Heartland

by Frank Carey and Jayni Naas (Carey)

As reported in Newsweek, in various food magazines, and in the pages of major American newspapers, the Heartland is being rediscovered—and along with it, wholesome Midwestern cooking. The trend, part of a larger fascination with regionalism, has led authors Frank Carey and Jayni Naas to a celebration of Kansas cooking. In The Kansas Cookbook, Carey and Naas present more than 400 delicious recipes that reflect the state’s history, its ethnic diversity, and its agriculture. The New Kansas Cookbook; Rural Roots Modern Table is also now available from press.

 

first-battles01. America’s First Battles, 1775-1965

by Charles E. Heller and William A. Stofft

This volume, a collection of eleven original essays by many of the foremost U.S. military historians, focuses on the transition of the Army from parade ground to battleground in each of nine wars the United States has fought. Through careful analysis of organization, training, and tactical doctrine, each essay seeks to explain the strengths and weaknesses evidenced by the outcome of the first significant engagement or campaign of the war. The concluding essay sets out to synthesize the findings and to discover whether or not American first battles manifest a characteristic “rhythm.”

Off The Shelf: Frederick Douglass, 2008

“Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice.” – President Trump, 02/01/2017

Recent comments by President Trump have shone a light on the life of Frederick Douglass. Douglass (1818-1895) was a prominent American abolitionist and author who escaped slavery at the age of 20 and published three autobiographies.

img_9341In his 2008 UPK book, Frederick Douglass; Race and the Rebirth of American Liberalism, Professor Peter Myers examines the philosophic core of Douglass’s political thought, offering a greater understanding of its depth and coherence. He depicts Douglass as the leading thinker to apply the Founders’ doctrine of natural rights to the plight of African Americans—an activist who grounded his arguments on the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and the inherent injustice not only of slavery but of any form of racial superiority.

“The unifying core of Douglass’s political thought, as I understand it, consists in his distinctive interpretation of the national rights doctrine, applied particularly to race relations in the United States,” Myers writes. “His central claims can be simply summarized as follows: (1) the natural rights doctrine, as epitomized in the Declaration of independence, is true as a set of moral prescriptions and sanctioned as a body of moral laws; (2) institutional systems of slavery and racial supremacy are unjust and ultimately weak; and (3) the national mission and the destiny of the United States are to become an exemplar of harmonious, integrated equality among the racial and ethnic varieties of humankind.”

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After nearly a decade in print, Frederick Douglass remains a landmark study of the political and moral thinking of an authentic American original.

“Douglass shines in Myers’s account as a political thinker that merits consideration alongside antislavery contemporaries like Abraham Lincoln, William Lloyd Garrison and Charles Sumner,” writes Lucas Morel, author of Lincoln’s Sacred Effort: Defining Religion’s Role in American Self-Government. “Myers captures Douglass’s vivid discontent with white American practice, as well as his monumental hopefulness that persistent moral agitation could reform the nation… A penetrating study.”

Peter C. Myers is professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.