UPK Announces New Series Editors

The University Press of Kansas is excited to announce that Jeremy D. Bailey and Susan McWilliams Barndt are the new series editors for American Political Thought.

Since its founding in 1987 by Wilson Carey McWilliams and Lance Banning, the American Political Thought (APT) series has been a defining part of the publishing program at the University Press of Kansas. With more than 80 volumes and counting, APT has established itself as one of the premier series of monographs in the fields of political science and political theory, and features landmark works from leading scholars such as Jean M. Yarbrough, Robert Booth Fowler, Philippa Strum, Bob Pepperman Taylor, David C. Hendrickson, Kimberly K. Smith, and Alan Gibson.

Under the leadership of Bailey and McWilliams Barndt, the APT series will continue to publish the leading scholars in the field, while also expanding to reflect the full breadth of American political thought today. Even as the study of the Founding and early republic remains vibrant, there has been a surge of interest in other periods as well (e.g., Reconstruction and the early twentieth century) as well as in substantive research areas (race, gender, and inequality). This renewed interest in American political thought brings with it a new generation of scholars. The editors are interested in recruiting emerging scholars and working with them as they become caretakers of this vibrant field of research.

As coeditors of the journal American Political Thought, Bailey and McWilliams Barndt not only have a strong working relationship but also are well connected to scholars in the field of American political thought. They are the ideal people to serve as editors for this series, and the Press is thrilled to be working with them.

“I am thrilled to be part of this series, which was founded by two scholars whose names are synonymous with the field itself,” Bailey said. “Over the last three decades, the series has not only published many outstanding books but has also nourished and sustained the study of American political thought. As APT attracts a new generation of authors, I look forward to the work required to keep the series, and the University Press of Kansas, at the center of this exciting and growing area of research.”

About the Series Editors:

Jeremy D. Bailey is professor of political science at the University of Houston. He is the author of The Idea of Presidential Representation: An Intellectual and Political History (Kansas, 2019), James Madison and Constitutional Imperfection (Cambridge, 2015), The Contested Removal Power, 1789-2010 (coauthored with David Alvis and Flagg Taylor, Kansas, 2013), and Thomas Jefferson and Executive Power (Cambridge, 2007).

Pomona College

Susan McWilliams Barndt is chair and professor of politics at Pomona College, where she has twice won the Wig Distinguished Professor Award for excellence in teaching. She is the author of The American Road Trip and American Political Thought (Lexington Books, 2018) and Traveling Back: Toward a Global Political Theory (Oxford, 2014). She has also edited several books, most recently A Political Companion to James Baldwin (Kentucky, 2017) and The Best Kind of College: An Insiders’ Guide to America’s Small Liberal Arts Colleges (coedited with John Seery, SUNY Press, 2015).

UPK Celebrates March Book Award Winners

Awards

Peter Dean was awarded the Jakobczak Memorial Book Award, presented by the U.S. Military History Group, for McArthur’s Coaliation.

The USMHG’s Jakobczak Award recognizes the outstanding book on United States Military History covering any topic, methodology, service, or region within (or substantially involving) the period 1898 to 1945. Peter Dean will receive a plaque and a monetary prize sponsored by the USMHG.

 

 

Jonathan Steplyk’s Fighting Means Killing won the 2019 Colonel Richard W. Ulbrich Award.

The USMHG’s Ulbrich Award recognizes the outstanding book on United States Military History covering any topic, methodology, service, or region within (or substantially involving) the period 1775 to 1897. Jonathan Steplyk will receive a plaque and a monetary prize sponsored by the USMHG.

 

 

Hampton Newson’s The Fight For The Old North State won the Richard Barksdale Harwell Book Award.

The award is given annually by the Atlanta Civil War Round Table for the best book on a Civil War subject, honors the late Richard Barksdale Harwell (nationally recognized librarian, bibliographer and historian), and includes a cash prize and engraved plaque.

 

 

Michael Haddock and Craig Freeman’s Trees, Shrubs, and Woody Vines in Kansas won the Midwestern Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture Author’s Award of Excellence.

The award recognizes excellence in the preservation and updating of valuable knowledge of native plants for community growth and education.

 

University Press of Kansas Launches New Series

The University Press of Kansas is excited to announce a new editorial series: Studies in US Religion, Politics, and Law.

Series editors: Leslie C. Griffin, Laura R. Olson, and Tisa Wenger

Series Description : Religion, politics, and law are as tightly and dynamically entwined as ever in contemporary American life. Instead of fading away in the post-industrial world, as many suspected, religion continues to exert a powerful sociocultural influence that closely intersects with and is co-constituted by politics and law. These trends create exciting new opportunities for cross-disciplinary conversation and collaboration. Building on the existing strengths at the University Press of Kansas, Studies in US Religion, Politics, and Law is a new book series that advances a profoundly and intentionally interdisciplinary dialogue about the historical and contemporary relationships between religion, law, and politics in the United States.

The editors are looking for innovative and accessibly written books that advance constructive and critical conversations in the fields of religious studies, political science, and legal scholarship. The editors seek books that will break out of the academic silos that prevent scholars from speaking across disciplinary lines. While not every volume will address all three areas, volumes in this series should show attention to the way religion, politics, and law are co-constituted in US cultural institutions and practices.

Prospective authors should send proposals to the series editors and/or to David Congdon (dcongdon@ku.edu), acquisitions editor at the University Press of Kansas.

About the Editors

Leslie Griffin is the William S. Boyd Professor of Law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Laura R. Olson is the J. Strom Thurmond Professor of Political Science and Director of the Ph.D. Program in Policy Studies at Clemson University.

Tisa Wenger is Associate Professor of American Religious History at Yale Divinity School, with courtesy appointments in American Studies and Religious Studies at Yale University.

Luke C. Sheahan discusses “Why Associations Matter; The Case for First Amendment Pluralism”

First Amendment rights are hailed as the hallmark of the US constitutional system, protecting religious liberty, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of association. But among these rights, freedom of association holds a tenuous position, as demonstrated in the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, which upheld a public university’s policy requiring groups seeking official recognition to accept all students regardless of their status or beliefs. This demotion of freedom of association has broad ramifications for the constitutional status of voluntary associations in civil society, Luke C. Sheahan suggests. His book offers a cogent explanation of how this came about, why it matters, and what might be done about it.

What’s your elevator pitch for Why Associations Matter? How would you describe the book in two or three sentences?

LS: In Why Associations Matter I argue that associations lack adequate protections in Supreme Court jurisprudence. I use concepts from political sociology to provide a way that federal courts can render associational rights so as to appropriately protect the functional autonomy of groups.

What was your inspiration to research and write about the freedom of association and the First Amendment?

LS: I have always been fascinated (and often disturbed) by the way that majorities treat minorities, whether ideological, ethnic, religious, or otherwise, and I have always been interested in the way that our constitutional system provides protection of these minorities against the majority. The First Amendment is an essential means whereby minorities of whatever type can find protection from majoritarian abuse. The primary way this is done is through associational rights for dissenting groups. Even if the majority looks askance at a minority, the persons in the minority can find communal sustenance in association with each other. This is a prerequisite for whatever they may achieve politically and it is valuable in its own right. This is the very heart of “why associations matter” and why freedom of association needs protection in Supreme Court jurisprudence.

Your argument centers upon what you call the “First Amendment Dichotomy.” Why is that noteworthy?

LS: The First Amendment Dichotomy is the tendency in First Amendment jurisprudence to only conceive of associations as reducible to the individual or to the state. This is noteworthy because much of the work done on First Amendment rights is from the perspective of individual rights. This conception has many benefits, but it is also incomplete. In constitutional law as in life an overemphasis on some good things can lead us to ignore other good things.

I am critical of what I call the First Amendment Dichotomy because the Court’s exclusive emphasis upon individual rights and democratic engagement has led it to ignore important associational concerns in its jurisprudence. This isn’t because individual rights or democratic engagement are not important, but because they are not exclusively important. There are other purposes and concerns that need to be taken into account in the jurisprudence to adequately protect First Amendment rights, especially, the freedom of association. By leaving out associations the First Amendment Dichotomy constricts our understanding of all that First Amendment rights can be—and should be.

How is the right of Americans to associate under attack or currently being threatened? If so, how and what can be done to protect the right? 

LS: I think the primary threat to the right to associate comes from the misunderstanding of the essential nature of associations and the need to be able to discriminate in membership to maintain the integrity of the organization. The NAACP could never have achieved its success if it were forced to admit racists and even a chess club could never organize effectively around chess playing if it were forced to admit checkers players. The inherent sociality of these groups is the primary thing that requires protection even when the purpose of the groups seems wrong or unimportant to the rest of us.

First Amendment rights are always vindicated as well as threatened in the midst of the political and ideological conflicts of the hour. This is inevitable, but also unfortunate. In the heat of the moment, it is difficult to take the long view and to realize that we need the protections for our freedoms as much as those with whom we vigorously disagree. We all benefit from our respective associations, especially if we are in the minority in some way. If we are not in the minority, history teaches us that we probably will be one day. This is more than a theoretical point. Labor organizers benefited from associational protections for labor organizations in the 1930s and 40s, racial minorities benefited from protections for civil rights groups in the 1950s and 60s, LGBTQ persons benefitted from protections for LGBTQ groups in the 1970s and 80s, and religious persons benefited from protects for religious groups in the 1990s and 2000s.

Each of these groups is more than a collection of individuals, it is a distinctly social organization. To properly protect these social organizations we need to look at the essentially social components of association. This is what I do in my book.

You cite the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez as a benchmark case for modern study of freedom of association. Are there other cases that can shed light on the history of the topic?

LS: NAACP v. Alabama (1958) is the first case on freedom of association. There the Court rightly upheld the associational autonomy of the NAACP and created the non-textual right of association. While the Court’s ruling was correct, its reasoning left the textual location of the right of association ambiguous which set the right on an uncertain trajectory, one that eventually leads to its absorption into freedom of speech in later cases. In Roberts v. Jaycees (1984) the Supreme Court narrowed the right of association to “expressive association,” completing the movement began in NAACP. This set the stage for what the Court did to completely sideline the right of association in CLS v. Martinez.

Less attention is paid to cases like DeJonge v. Oregon (1937) where the Supreme Court incorporated the Assembly Clause of the First Amendment against the states and Thomas v. Collins (1945) where the Court explicitly names the Assembly Clause as “a right cognate to those of free speech and free press, and…equally fundamental.” These are essential to understanding the non-expressive importance of associations as well as the better textual location of the right of association in the Assembly Clause.

What is one thing you would like readers to take from your work?

LS: I would like my readers to realize that associations matter—and that they matter to everyone. This is true even for the associations and the people that we don’t like.

If you could have any one person read your book, who would it be and why?

LS: There are two obvious answers to this question but neither would be quite right. The first is a Supreme Court justice. They are the ones with the authority to incorporate the rights of association into their jurisprudence. The second is members of Congress. They could adequately protect freedom of association through legislation such as the “Freedom of Association Protection Act” that I advocate in my book.

But neither a Supreme Court justice nor a member of Congress is the primary person I want to read the book (although I hope they do). I would like the average person to read the book. Mr. Joe Blow American. While the subject of my book is the protection of associations in Supreme Court jurisprudence, the driving impetus of the constitutional argument is the importance of associations to persons. So I think its true relevance is much more concrete. I hope that when the average person reads my book she not only supports public policies that protect the freedom of association, but that she is motivated to personally engage with the associations in her own life.

Luke C. Sheahan is assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at Duquesne University and a non-resident scholar in the Program for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society (PRRUCS) at the University of Pennsylvania.

Wade Davies Discusses “Native Hoops”

A prominent Navajo educator once told historian Peter Iverson that “the five major sports on the Navajo Nation are basketball, basketball, basketball, basketball, and rodeo.” The Native American passion for basketball extends far beyond the Navajo, whether on reservations or in cities, among the young and the old. Why basketball—a relatively new sport—should hold such a place in Native culture is the question Wade Davies takes up in Native Hoops; The Rise of American Indian Basketball 1895-1970.

The first comprehensive history of American Indian basketball, Native Hoops tells a story of hope, achievement, and celebration—a story that reveals the redemptive power of sport and the transcendent spirit of Native culture.

1. What’s your elevator pitch for Native Hoops? How would you describe the book in two or three sentences?

WD: Native Hoops is a comprehensive history of American Indian basketball, from its beginnings in the boarding schools to its rise to preeminence as Indian country’s favorite sport. Through hard years, Native youths bonded with and drew strength from basketballand they made it part of their community athletic traditions. They did this while, along the way, injecting doses of speed and style into the game to help make it the global phenomenon it is today.

2. What was your inspiration to research and write about the comprehensive history of American Indian basketball?

WD: As someone born and raised in Indiana during the Bobby Knight era, I was amazed to discover communities that were as deeply devoted to this sport as Hoosiers were, perhaps even more so. Research for an unrelated book brought me repeatedly to Navajo country, where I met people who were inspired by this sport, and took great pride in their teams. As evidence of this, I saw basketball hoops everywhere on the reservation, as one sees in virtually every Native community across AmericaI wanted to know where this passion came from; even more so after witnessing Native teams competing fiercely for the 1999 Arizona high school championship before a sea of dedicated fans. It came as a surprise to me that, at that point, no one had attempted to write this important history, and so I committed myself to it

I was also drawn to the idea of writing a broadly sweeping twentieth-century Native history that was a celebration of resiliencejoy, and triumph. The story of Native basketball includes its darker aspects, of course, but it is largely one of hope.

3. You spent 20 years working on Native Hoops. What was the most challenging aspect of researching and writing the book?

WD: Because I deemed it necessary to adopt a wide focus studying all forms of the game, in all communities, over a seventy-five year period, the task of completing this project felt overwhelming at times. Just the scope of it, then, was the greatest challenge. Beyond this, my most difficult task was tracking the careers of thousands of players and teams whose stories had rarely been recorded, except in scattered newspaper reportsI cross-referenced these reports with student records and other available sources to get a fuller picture of where these players came from and who they truly were, but this was a time-consuminghit and miss process.

4. Can you put into perspective the influence American Indians have had on the growth of basketball in the United States? 

WD: Native athletes have had a profound influence on basketball from the beginning, in the first place by bequeathing to the world the sport of lacrosse, which partially influenced James Naismith’s invention of this sport. In the following decades, leading up to World War II, Indian boarding school and professional barnstorming teams were also some of the country’s biggest draws at times when basketball had yet to establish itself as a major American sportThe Fort Shaw boarding school girls in the early 1900s not only introduced the sport to their home state of Montana, but gave it a big boost by wowing spectators at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. Lakota boys from the St. Francis Mission in South Dakota did their part as well by injecting a dose of energy into the American high school game. They did so namely through their scintillating performances at a national Catholic tournament held annually in Chicago during the 1920s and 1930s. Countless other teams did their parts as well, including the Sioux Travelers who frequently barnstormed alongside the famed Harlem Globetrotters and were, in effect, a Native equivalent of that team. Yet another way Natives influenced the overall sport was through their distinctive “Indian basketball style, later known as Rez ball. The speed and flair with which they played, especially on the fast break, helped transform basketball from the much slower, methodical, game it was in the early 1900s into the fast-paced spectacle it is today. I do not argue that Natives did this single handedlymembers of other races and ethnicities also made their marksbut they had a stylistic influence far exceeding their numbers.  

5. Your research stopped at 1970. Can you address what advances, or declines, have American Indians have experienced in that past 50 years?

WD: I selected 1970 as the end-point for this story, as told in detail,because basketball achieved its status as the most popular sport in Indian country by that time. This was not, however, the point at which that popularity peaked. It has just kept increasing since thenImproved access to transportation and broadcast technology, together with the sports’ reopening to women and a variety of rules changes, further opened up the game, both in terms of its public accessibility and stylistic flow. Among other things, this helped the style Natives played in the Indian school era fully blossom into the exhilarating Rez ball style Native public school and independent teams often play today. All-Indian tournaments have also kept growing, as has overall public participation in the gameToday, Native people of all tribes, genders, and ages commonly take to reservation and city courts, including many people well into their seventiesBasketball has also continued to serve important social functions in Native communities, as demonstrated by the recent Warrior Movement against suicide, initiated by a champion boys’ high school program in Arlee, Montana. College ball has also taken on greater meaning for Native communities since 1970 thanks to its increased accessibility to their male and female athletes. There is also hope that more Native women and men will make it as professional players as years progress. Some notable women, like Ryneldi Becenti and Shoni Schimmel have already done so in the WNBA, but the men have yet to make their mark on the NBA the way their ancestors did on the professional game prior to World War II. This may soon change, and become an important chapter in a future book.

6. What is one thing you would like readers to take from your work?

WD: That basketball has made an indelible, and largely positive, mark on Native communities while, at the same time, their players have made their mark on the sport. This is summed up by Blackfeet athlete Jesse DesRosier in the closing passage of the book: “We definitely feel just as much a part of it as it is a part of us. It’s ingrained in us.”

7. If you could have any one person read your book, who would it be and why?

WD: Collectively, it’s the descendants of many of these great players whose stories, until now, have never been told by historians. I think of people like Chauncey Archiquette, Spec Blacksmith, Marcella Crow Feather, Clyde James, Grace Vanest, and Tony Wapp. These were amazing athletes who, in times of great difficulty for their people, succeeded on the court and helped change the nature of this sport. Hopefully this book will be a source of pride for their descendants, inspire them to learn more, and encourage some to publicly share their own stories about these heroes.

Wade Davies is professor of Native American studies at the University of Montana, Missoula. His books include Healing Ways: Navajo Health Care in the Twentieth CenturyWe Are Still Here: American Indians since 1890, with Peter Iverson; and American Indian Sovereignty and Law: An Annotated Bibliography, with Richmond L. Clow.

New Book Alert: The Pro-Life Pregnancy Help Movement

The Pro-Life Pregnancy Help Movement; Serving Women or Saving Babies? by Laura S. Hussey

There is more to the pro-life movement than campaigning against abortion. That, at least, is the logic behind a large and growing network of pro-life pregnancy centers offering “help” to pregnant women. As these centers face increasing scrutiny, this book offers the first social-scientific study of the pro-life pregnancy help movement.

The work being performed at pro-life pregnancy centers, maternity homes, and other charitable agencies is, Laura S. Hussey suggests, distinguished by several strategic features: it is directed at non-state targets, operates in largely privatized venues, employs service provision as its primary tactic, and aims to address causes popularly associated with its countermovement such as women’s (including poor women’s) wellbeing and empowerment. The motives and nature of the services such pregnancy centers deliver have become the subjects of competing political narratives—but, until now, very little empirical research. A rich, mixed-method study including data from two original national surveys and extensive interviews, Hussey’s book adjudicates these opposing views even as it provides a measured look at the identity, work, history, and impact of pro-life pregnancy centers and related service providers, as well as their relations with the larger American antiabortion movement.

To what extent is pro-life pregnancy help work primarily geared to serving women versus “saving babies?” Pursued in these pages, the answer has broad implications for the wider study of social action and the pro-life movement, and for the future of the American abortion conflict.

“Professor Hussey provides a novel, in-depth account of the pregnancy help movement (PHM) that both confirms and refutes much of the existing literature and conventional wisdom about this feminized branch of the pro-life movement. Drawing from an unmatched wealth of original data, she takes a balanced approach to a controversial topic. Although many people on both sides of the abortion debate may find her conclusions unsatisfying, they provide a solid (and much needed) starting point from which future research, perspectives, and debates can be developed.” – Alesha E. Doan, author of Opposition and Intimidation: The Abortion Wars and Strategies of Political Harassment and coauthor of Abortion Regret:The New Attack on Reproductive Freedom

Laura S. Hussey is associate professor of political science and director of the Sondheim Public Affairs Scholars Program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Her extensive work on social movements, public policy, and politics has appeared in many publications, including American Politics Research, Politics & Policy, Political Research Quarterly, and Social Science Quarterly.

 

New Book Alert: The Power of Accountability

The Power of Accountability; Offices of Inspector General at the State and Local Levels

by Robin J. Kempf

Migrant children separated from their parents.
A scheme to defraud Cook County using property tax breaks.
An undisclosed thirty-year business relationship between city officials in Baltimore.

These are the sorts of headlines regularly generated by offices of inspector general (OIGs)—bureaucratic units dedicated to government accountability that are commonly independent of the agencies they are charged with overseeing. In 1976, OIGs were virtually unheard of and were largely at the federal level, but today there are more than 170 OIGs overseeing state and local government entities. Why have OIGs been so widely adopted, and what do they do? How do they contribute to accountability, and what are their limitations? In The Power of Accountability Robin J. Kempf sets out to address these questions with empirical data and to examine the conflicts that have led to variations in the design and implementation of OIGs. In doing so she explores the power of the concept of the inspector general: an institutional model for keeping subnational government units accountable to the public.

As more and more government entities have created offices of inspector general, practitioners in this developing field have recommended an archetypal structure for these agencies that assures their authority and independence. Why then, The Power of Accountability asks, have so many states and localities incorporated significant deviations from this recommended model in their design? Through an extensive review of government websites, laws, and ordinances; original surveys of the identified OIGs; legislative histories; and interviews with thirty-eight OIG staff in eight states, Kempf analyzes why OIGs have proliferated, why and how they work differently in various jurisdictions, and what effect these variations in design have on the effectiveness of OIGs as a mechanism of accountability.

The ever-expanding call for accountability in government drives the increasing demand for offices of inspector general, which necessarily entails intense political maneuvering. The Power of Accountability is a uniquely useful resource for judging whether, under what circumstances, and how well OIGs fulfill their intended purpose and serve the public interest.

“Robin Kempf walks us step-by-step through the considerations involved in creating offices of inspectors general (OIGs) and in doing so provides us with a rich account—as ethnographic as it is statistically informed—of the institutionalization of one of our primary contemporary modes of public accountability. Using a rich variety of methods, she tells the story of how OIGs come into being and of why and how this model of institutional accountability has spread so widely across states. Her compelling account begs questions about the effectiveness of such models and will be a reference point for future scholars of accountability.”  – Nadia Hilliard, author of The Accountability State: US Federal Inspectors General and the Pursuit of Democratic Integrity

Funding for this work was provided by a grant from the Office for the Advancement of Research at John Jay College.

About the Author: Robin J. Kempf is assistant professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, University of New York.

Roger R. Reese Wins 2019 Norman B. Tomlinson, Jr., Prize

The World War One Historical Association’s 2019 Norman B. Tomlinson, Jr., prize for the best work of history in English on World War One has been awarded to two exceptional historians: Yigit Akin for his When the War Came Home: The Ottomans’ Great War and the Devastation of an Empire (Stanford University Press); and Roger R. Reese for The Imperial Russian Army in Peace, War, and Revolution 1856-1917 (University Press of Kansas).

In 2017 two books also won the Tomlinson prize. Three titles shared the award presented in 2011, 2016, and 2018. The Tomlinson awards began in 1999.

In December 1917, nine months after the disintegration of the Russian monarchy, the army officer corps, one of the dynasty’s prime pillars, finally fell—a collapse that, in light of World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution, historians often treat as inevitable. The Imperial Russian Army in Peace, War, and Revolution, 1856–1917 contests this assumption. By expanding our view of the Imperial Russian Army to include the experience of the enlisted ranks, Roger R. Reese reveals that the soldier’s revolt in 1917 was more social revolution than anti-war movement—and a revolution based on social distinctions within the officer corps as well as between the ranks.

Reese’s account begins in the aftermath of the Crimean War, when the emancipation of the serfs and consequent introduction of universal military service altered the composition of the officer corps as well as the relationship between officers and soldiers. More catalyst than cause, World War I exacerbated a pervasive discontent among soldiers at their ill treatment by officers, a condition that reached all the way back to the founding of the Russian army by Peter I. It was the officers’ refusal to change their behavior toward the soldiers and each other over a fifty-year period, Reese argues, capped by their attack on the Provisional Government in 1917, that fatally weakened the officer corps in advance of the Bolshevik seizure of power.

As he details the evolution of Russian Imperial Army over that period, Reese explains its concrete workings—from the conscription and discipline of soldiers to the recruitment and education of officers to the operation of unit economies, honor courts, and wartime reserves. Marshaling newly available materials, his book corrects distortions in both Soviet and Western views of the events of 1917 and adds welcome nuance and depth to our understanding of a critical turning point in Russian history.

Roger R. Reese is professor of history at Texas A&M University. His many books include Why Stalin’s Soldiers Fought: The Red Army’s Military Effectiveness in World War II, Stalin’s Reluctant Soldiers: A Social History of the Red Army, 1925–1941, and Red Commanders: A Social History of the Soviet Army Officer Corps, 1918–1991, all from Kansas.

Timothy B. Smith Discusses “The Union Assaults at Vicksburg”

It was the third week of May 1863, and after seven months and six attempts, Ulysses S. Grant was finally at the doorstep of Vicksburg. What followed was a series of attacks and maneuvers against the last major section of the Mississippi River controlled by the Confederacy—and one of the most important operations of the Civil War. Grant intended to end the campaign quickly by assault, but the stalwart defense of Vicksburg’s garrison changed his plans. The Union Assaults at Vicksburg is the first comprehensive account of this quick attempt to capture Vicksburg, which proved critical to the Union’s ultimate success and Grants eventual solidification as one of the most significant military commanders in American history.

Establishing a day-to-day—;and occasionally minute-to-minute—;timeline for this crucial week, military historian Timothy B. Smith invites readers to follow the Vicksburg assaults as they unfold. His finely detailed account reaches from the offices of statesmen and politicians to the field of battle, with exacting analysis and insight that ranges from the highest level of planning and command to the combat experience of the common soldier. As closely observed and vividly described as each assault is, Smith’s book also puts the sum of these battles into the larger context of the Vicksburg campaign, as well as the entire war. His deeply informed, in-depth work thus provides the first full view of a key but little-studied turning point in the fortunes of the Union army in the West, Ulysses S. Grant, and the United States of America.

1. What’s your elevator pitch for The Union Assaults at Vicksburg? How would you describe the book in two or three sentences?

TS: The battlefield where the assaults took place is a national park, yet historians generally gloss over these events, concentrating instead on the siege or the earlier land campaign. But the assaults, while fostering little change in the actual situation at Vicksburg, did have huge strategic implications. Readers will have to dig in to find out how.

2. What was your inspiration to research and write about Grant’s was final series of attacks and maneuvers against the last major section of the Mississippi River controlled by the Confederacy?

TS: The main reason was because there has never been a detailed, comprehensive, tactical study of these important events. Also, I’ve always been fascinated with Vicksburg, including the assaults and siege that are interpreted at the Vicksburg National Military Park. Growing up in Mississippi, we went there often. Also, I had a grand total of four direct ancestors inside Vicksburg, and one who marched the other way with William Loring at Champion Hill. Researching and learning more about their actions was a definite motivation.

3. What was the most challenging aspect of researching and writing the book?

TS: Probably matching the action as described on paper with the terrain. Plenty of records exist from reports to letters and diaries for us to be able to piece together a detailed rendition of what happened. But to overlay that on the battlefield itself is at places tricky, simply because over 150 years things have changed so much. Few of the original fortifications are still in existence, those in the park today being mostly recreations. While the original park commission did a good job of marking positions and events, seeing it how it would have been then is impossible, although recent deforestation at the park gives a better view shed. But so many roads, ravines, and ridges have changed that at places, such as around the visitor center for instance, where the battlefield has been permanently altered, it is difficult to determine exactly what was where.

4. Is it possible to imagine what would have happened had Vicksburg not fallen to the Union?

TS: By the time of the assaults, I don’t think that was a possibility. Grant had an open and secure line of communication and supply once he took Haynes’s and Snyder’s Bluffs on the Yazoo River, so he could outlast pretty much anything the Confederates did. Obviously, it didn’t hurt that he was facing two pretty much incompetent commanders. By May 18, it was all but a foregone conclusion that Vicksburg was doomed, barring of course Joe Johnston suddenly finding his spine. By then it was just a matter of determining how Vicksburg would be captured, quickly via direct assault or slowly by siege.

5. What do you think is the most misunderstood aspect of Grant’s leadership as a military commander?

TS: In the public realm, most still think of him as a drunk, which modern scholarship has largely debunked. But old beliefs die hard and the alternative has not made its way into the public mind yet. Same thing with Grant as a butcher. Neither of those was his greatest flaw, however, which I believe happened to be overconfidence. That said, I think his adaptability and unflappability on the move was perhaps his greatest strength, and that is still largely misunderstood or not understood at all.

6. What attracted you Civil War research?

TS: As I mentioned, growing up in Mississippi between Shiloh and Vicksburg, we visited both often. As I grew older and began looking into my ancestors, I began to research their activities. That just led to larger research projects, and I found I love the treasure hunt nature of the research. You just never know what you might find next. The travel you get to do while on research trips is also fun.

7. What is one thing you would like readers to take from your work?

TS: That the assaults are not just something to gloss over, but were real actions that would be considered fairly large battles if they stood alone. And that they had immense repercussions.

8. If you could have any one person read your book, who would it be and why?

TS: Interesting question. Maybe for obvious reasons my mother who died a couple of years ago, but then she never read a word of my other nineteen books so she probably wouldn’t have read this one either. History wasn’t her thing; we’d drop her off at a Wal Mart while we went on those battlefield visits. I’d probably have to say one of my ancestors in the 36th Mississippi who defended the Stockade Redan during the assaults, with the proviso that I could ask him how accurate I got the descriptions in the book!

 

Timothy B. Smith teaches history at the University of Tennessee at Martin. His many books include, most recently, Grant Invades Tennessee: The 1862 Battles for Forts Henry and Donelson as well as Corinth 1862: Siege, Battle, Occupation and Shiloh: Conquer or Perish, all published by the University Press of Kansas.

Three Things I Wish I Knew When I Went on the Academic Job Market

by Rachel Neff, author of Chasing Chickens; When Life after Higher Education Doesn’t Go the Way You Planned

I started preparing for the academic job market in the summer of 2012. Using my temporary title of instructor, I requested review copies of as many books as I thought I might end up using to teach. If I was going to spend the time to design a course for a committee, I wanted to use what I created when I walked into the classroom – a sort of measure twice, cut once sort of approach.

Spoiler alert: all the hours poured into job application packets resulted in no interviews, which translated into zero job offers. Back then, the Modern Language Association (MLA) had recently moved their annual conference from December to January, so I spent my winter holiday break with the sinking feeling that all I was going to get in the new year was the professional equivalent of a giant lump of coal in my stocking.

It’s January again. I’m here to tell you it’s time to stop refreshing the job wiki every five minutes. Don’t fret about rumors (or facts) of inside candidates and the heartbreak of canceled searches. You’re going to need to get pragmatic. This might sound harsh, but your advisors and your peers in the academy have little to no clue on how the wider working world works. You can chase the diminishing hope of a full-time, tenure track position, but know that there’s an entire world outside of academia.

I have friends in my cohort who graduated and got the academic jobs. They’ve called me, some crying, to say they wish they had my life – the one outside of academia. As someone who made the transition from academic to “other” in the checkbox of post-grad life, here are the three things I wish I had known in December 2012 that will still serve you in December 2019.

1. The Academic Job Market Can Feel Fickle

Perhaps one of the most comforting things that was said to me during the academic job application process was from my advisor, who said, “I don’t know why some people get jobs and others don’t. Your application packet was very strong.”

Looking back at my graduate career, I had tried everything to position myself for the job market. I started by attending conferences all over the United States. I’d organized several workshops and conferences. I served on committees. At the end of the day, that undercompensated labor meant nothing. Those activities don’t even get a mention on my current resume.

Thus, when facing complete silence or outright rejection from the academic job market, it is really hard not to blame yourself. I spent a lot of time wondering if I would have gotten a shot if I had “just attended that one summer conference” or if I had “only served on a few more committees.” The reality is that you can do everything right during your graduate studies and still end up with no job interviews or offers. That doesn’t make you a bad person or an inferior scholar. It means you were unlucky. You bought a lottery ticket to become a professor and your numbers weren’t called.

2. Counseling is One of the Best Investments in Yourself

The academic job market is emotionally draining. Again, you can do everything right. Have a beautiful CV and amazing job application packet. You can still end up with no interviews or no job offers.

Counseling is a great space to find support outside of your advisor and peers. There is something to be said about the confidential space that is created in therapy. Kvetching about a peer who is getting interviewed at a top tier school who you felt wasn’t the best won’t get back to them. You get a safe space to vent.

Access to mental health care in the United States can be difficult, but reach out to your campus mental or health services to see what options are available. Some schools offer emergency or crisis counseling for five to ten appointments. Some of these appointments can be free. Many campus services can help refer you to practitioners who offer sliding scale rates.

The job market can bring about an identity crisis. You’ve spent years preparing for a career and identity that may or may not be going forward. This can be a huge blow. Getting support during this time can really help your mental health. I certainly spent a lot of time bawling in a private office about how unfair things were and how unhappy I felt my last year of my PhD. I started out with weekly appointments, moved to biweekly, then went to once a month.

If the pain and overwhelming disappointment of not getting interviews or not getting a job becomes too much, please remember the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. While this is often a taboo or hush-hush topic, it is important to note that there are services available and you are not alone. The feelings of failure and despair are temporary. It sucks. It hurts. But you are not only your dissertation and job title. You are a wonderful, inquisitive human being who can and will find purpose and happiness, even if it’s not as a professor.

3. Life Outside of Academia is Rewarding

I’m here to tell you that life outside of the academy is surprisingly wonderful. Work is a job and life goes on. Do I still feel a twinge of sadness when my friends talk about teaching and grading and conferences? Sure. I’m human. That’s the life I thought I’d have.

But, for the most part, I’m making as much as most assistant to associate professors. I have health care. I bought a house. I run a side gig. I write fiction and poetry. I knit. I live near my family and I have a job I enjoy. Is it a bit perfunctory box checking? Probably. But I’m happy. I leave work at work.

There’s money to be made. Careers to be found. All outside of the university system. Choosing not to chase a tenure track position by doing visiting assistant professor gigs for years at a time doesn’t make you less of anything. Again, I’ve got friends from my cohort who call and say they wish they had my life. Most days, I’m happy with how things turned out.

You’re Going to be OK

You might not believe me right now. That’s fine. But you’re going to be OK if you don’t get an academic job. You’re going to land on your feet. Might not be a graceful landing, but you probably won’t crash. If you’re wondering what my journey was like, then please check out my book, Chasing Chickens: When Life after Higher Education Doesn’t Go the Way You Planned. Why yes, the chicken chasing is literal – and hilarious in hindsight.

For more advice on transitioning to the non-academic world, please check out the collection Succeeding Outside the Academy, edited by Kelly J. Baker and Joseph Fruscione. My chapter is titled, “How to Eat an Elephant; or, There’s Life Outside Academia.” (Do we see a theme?)

My poetry has been published in several journals. I have a chapbook published and work in three anthologies (Bearing the Mask and Weaving the Terrain from Dos Gatos press and They Said from Black Lawrence Press). I doubt I would have had the time and energy to devote to creative writing had I stayed in my PhD field of Spanish literature.

There are many possibilities out there for you, and you can and will find happiness and purpose in other places.

 

Rachel Neff, the owner of Exceptional Editorial in Portland, Oregon, has worked as a digital strategist, a copy editor, an adjunct instructor, and a tutor. She is the author of The Haywire Heart and Other Musings on Love and has published in numerous anthologies and magazines.