African Americans in White Suburbia

UPK author Ernest McGowen III’s tremendous 2017 book African Americans in White Suburbia; Social Networks and Political Behavior studies how, despite decades of progress, African Americans living in largely white affluent suburbs still often find themselves caught between the two worlds of race and class. High economic status has afforded them considerable employment opportunities and political resources—but not necessarily neighbors, coworkers, or local candidates or office holders who share or even understand their concerns. How does such an environment affect the political behavior of African Americans who have strong racial identifications and policy preferences?

McGowen recently discussed his book with the New Books Network. The 20+ minute conversation relates McGowen’s work with the modern political environment. Give it a listen.

Ernest B. McGowen III is associate professor of political science, University of Richmond.

Sotirios A. Barber Readdresses the Idea of Constitutional Failure

The Federalist proposes the electoral college and the system of checks and balances as safeguards against demagoguery in the American presidency. In a Washington Post OpEd of July 11, David Lay Williams, a professor at Chicago’s DePaul University, reports that Donald Trump’s administration has made his students doubt Publius’s claims and, therewith, the wisdom of the U.S. Constitution itself.

The current state of public-opinion polling makes it hard to say whether the views of Professor Williams’s students reflect a broader public opinion. Gallup reports that confidence in the national government has declined from 51% in 2007 to 41% in 2019, and the latest Rasmussen Report on the public’s view of the Constitution shows that support for some measure of constitutional change (from “minor” to “major”) rose from 39% in 2007 to 41% in 2015 and 52% in 2017.

Standing alone, these figures needn’t reflect solely on the Trump administration, for no administration acts in a vacuum and a different administration might have generated comparable numbers. What these figures do suggest is that the public’s attitude toward the national government will eventually affect public attitudes toward the Constitution. This is as it should be, for the Constitution is more than a collection of restraints on government; the Constitution is primarily a plan of government. The government is the “Constitution in practice,” in Jack Balkin’s phrase, and as support for the government declines, we should expect declining support for the Constitution.

In any case, David Williams’s OpEd, is worth dwelling upon, for it suggests that something good may come from the tragedy that dawned in the United States in November, 2016. The good in question would be the restoration of Publius’s constitutionalism to the status of a public philosophy. By Publius’s constitutionalism I mean the fundaments of his constitutional philosophy, as distinguished from the institutional strategies that became “supreme Law” in 1789. The latter include the electoral college and the so-called system of checks and balances, both of which have long failed Publius’s aspirations for the country. The governing principles of Publius’s constitutionalism are worth recovering not because they occupy some “originalist” moment or “original position,” but because they define the only constitutionalism that makes sense.

When Professor Williams’s students decry the Constitution’s failure either to prevent demagoguery or to expel it, they assume a crucial distinction, one on which everything turns, that between the public interest and the public’s inclinations. They assume corollaries of that distinction, namely, that the public can be wrong about its interests and that a good constitution designs a government to meet this problem. They imply agreement with a forgotten passage of the Federalist Papers, the 2nd paragraph of No. 71. Here Publius holds that elected officials have a constitutional duty to serve the public’s true interests, even at the expense of the public’s momentary displeasure. Williams’s students also assume the truth of a related statement in Federalist 57 (3rd paragraph), namely, that a good constitution is designed to fill political offices with persons wise enough to discern and courageous enough to pursue the common good of society — the public’s true interest, not its momentary inclinations. Such are the fundaments of Publius’s constitutionalism; where they influence political thinking, demagoguery fails.

The nation has lost Publius’s constitutionalism. Most Americans, including most constitutional scholars, hold that the Constitution designs a government to reflect public opinion, not educate it, save perhaps to the extent that public opinion threatens selected individual and minority rights. Ours is a constitution of negative rights, it is said, not positive benefits – rights like liberty from government, not liberty from private power, and no constitutional right to the blessings of liberty in a well-governed society. Negative constitutionalists admit that positive benefits make up the list of ends in the Constitution’s preamble, but, they say, the pursuit of these ends is a matter of discretionary policy, not constitutional imperative. Negative constitutionalists say policy pursuits depend ultimately on what the electorate wants or thinks it wants, not what some intellectual or moral elite says it ought to want or even what it would want if its constituents could discipline their impulses long enough to think straight. Such is the new constitutionalism that has replaced Publius’s old constitutionalism.

Demagoguery finds a home in this new constitutionalism. Because it recognizes no standard of truth or right beyond public opinion, the new constitutionalism has no real basis for condemning the demagogue’s fraudulent manipulation of public opinion. Confounding truth and opinion, the new constitutionalism can’t really condemn the liar, for the liar may yet persuade public opinion. Powerful forces support this new constitutionalism, including academic value-neutrality and historicism. More powerful support comes from an economic philosophy committed to growth through the relaxation of moral and aesthetic constraints on consumption. As powerful as this new constitutionalism is, however, its doom is assured by the hard facts of humanity’s situation in a world ultimately beyond human control. One example may suffice: If no person on earth faces the facts of global warming, if none endures the sacrifices needed to avoid its worst effects, those effects will still dawn, probably faster. A constitutionalism that reduces truth to opinion, scorns moral and intellectual competence as elitism, and promotes self-indulgence over self-restraint has no chance against problems like global warming, income inequality, and advancing oligarchy.

Though Publius’s old constitutionalism is the only defensible constitutionalism, returning to it is almost impossible precisely because of the forces arrayed against it. But where there’s life there’s hope, and some of the forgotten constitutionalism survives in the revulsion against demagoguery, like that somewhere on DePaul’s campus.

Sotirios A. Barber is professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame. He is the author of several books including Constitutional Failure, Welfare and Constitution, On What the Constitution Means, and The Fallacies of States’ Rights.

UPK’s Dr. John H. Morrow Jr. Named Pritzker Award Recipient

CHICAGO, July 9, 2019— Military historian, professor, and author Dr. John H. Morrow, Jr. is the 13th recipient of the Pritzker Military Museum & Library Literature Award for Lifetime Achievement in Military Writing. 

The Pritzker Literature Award—which includes a gold medallion, citation, and $100,000 honorarium—recognizes and honors the contributions of a living author for a body of work dedicated to enriching the understanding of military history and affairs. Museum & Library Founder & Chair Jennifer N. Pritzker, a retired colonel in the Illinois National Guard, will formally present Morrow with the award at the organization’s annual Liberty Gala on November 2 at the Hilton Chicago, where he will be joined by past recipients.

“I am truly honored to accept the 2019 Pritzker Military Museum & Library Literature Award for Lifetime Achievement in Military Writing,” said Dr. Morrow. “Receiving the award after nearly fifty years of historical writing, teaching, and consulting constitutes the ultimate affirmation of my career as a scholar of the history of modern war and society.”

Author or co-author of 8 publications, Morrow is an accomplished military historian and respected professor. His work includes The Great War: An Imperial History, The Great War in the Air, Harlem’s Rattlers and the Great War (co-authored with Jeffrey T. Sammons), German Airpower in World War I and A Yankee Ace in the RAF among others. He has gained recognition for his ability to demonstrate how the past and the present intertwine inextricably.

“The screening committee’s recommendations and Colonel Pritzker’s selection speaks to Dr. Morrow’s years of dedication to the field of Military History,” stated Dr. Rob Havers, President and CEO of the Pritzker Military Museum & Library. “For the depth of his writing and research, his years of dedication and service to the field of military history, for his academic achievements including his commitment to shaping the minds of the next generation of military historians, Dr. Morrow stands as a deserving recipient of the 2019 Pritzker Military Museum & Library Literature Award for Lifetime Achievement in Military Writing. We are grateful for his devotion to the field and are proud to shine a light on his exemplary work in military history.”

Now in its thirteenth year, the Pritzker Literature Award was first presented to historian James McPherson in 2007. Past recipients – several of whom served as members of the award’s 2019 screening committee – are Dennis Showalter, Peter Paret, Sir Hew Strachan, David Hackett Fischer, Sir Antony Beevor, Tim O’Brien, Max Hastings, Carlo d’Este, Rick Atkinson, Gerhard Weinberg, and Allan Millet.

A graduate of the Swarthmore College and the University of Pennsylvania and a recipient of the U.S Department of the Army Outstanding Civilian Service Medal, Morrow has been a guiding force for the study of history for numerous military and civic institutions. In addition to serving as the Franklin Professor and Chair of the History Department at University of Georgia where he teaches courses on the history of Modern Europe and of warfare and society, Morrow has also contributed to the education of faculty and students at the National War College, the Air War College, and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Morrow was previously head of the history department at the University of Tennessee. Following his successful teaching career, the university named in his honor a lecture series and an award for Excellence in military history. He has chaired the History Advisory Committee to the Secretary of the Air Force, the Research Advisory Committee of the National Museum of American History. He has most recently served on the History Advisory Committee of the Department of the Army, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission’s Legacy Committee, and the First Flight Centennial Federal Advisory Board.

The Pritzker Literature Award is sponsored by the Pritzker Military Foundation. To learn more about the award or the selection process, or to watch the 2010 Literature Award recipient, Rick Atkinson, announce John Morrow, Jr. as this year’s winner, visit


The Pritzker Military Museum & Library is open to the public and features an extensive collection of books, artifacts, and rotating exhibits covering many eras and branches of the military. From its founding in 2003, it is a center where citizens and soldiers come together to learn about military history and the role of the military in a democracy. The Museum & Library is a non-partisan, non-government information center supported by its members and sponsors.

A Prosecco Toast to 16 Years…

Today is Production Editor Larisa Martin’s last day at the University Press of Kansas. For 16 years her eagle eye has helped authors produce their best work and her magnetic personality filled our halls. As she lounges by the pool, we will be busy wondering how to replace her immense talent (and the sound of her laughter echoing from the other end of the building).

“Not only has it been a great pleasure to work alongside Larisa at the Press, but it has been an honor to get to her know bubbly personality that resonates wherever she goes. She has touched the Press with her energy in such a way that we will miss that lovely, loud laugh down the halls, we will miss the stories of living in Communist Romania, and her amazing ability to make anyone smile. She will be missed greatly, but I know she has an amazing adventure in retirement ahead of her. Cheers my dear friend and colleague!” – Andrea Laws, Administrative Assistant/Permissions Coordinator

“Everyone who has had the fortune of working with Larisa knows her laugh is infectious, her smile worthy of celebration, and that her general demeanor and warmth radiates through the Press halls and into each and every book she works on. The Press will miss her dedication and tremendous talents. I feel fortunate to know Larisa and when I think of her, I recall the ways in which she embodies the following principles, every single day:

  1. Recognize and celebrate accomplishments.
  2. Bring positivity and passion to your life and work —enough to share with others.
  3. Offer help, advice, and words of encouragement when you can.
  4. Worries are best forgotten and replaced with successes, music, travel, friends, positive life experiences, or something yummy to snack on.
  5. It’s never too early for Prosecco.

Cheers to you, Larisa!” – Becca Murray, former Publicity and Social Media Manager, University Press of Kansas

“Larisa warmly welcomed me to Kansas. I remember fondly many wonderful parties at her home, her great sense of humor, and her kindness. She is an accomplished professional in her work, leading adaptation to the many changes in the way books are produced over her time at Kansas, and is a favorite of her many authors. Larisa is a great colleague. Larisa strongly supported her junior colleague’s promotion to managing editor believing that this was the best decision for the Press. Indeed everything she does is for the good of the Press and her authors. As a side note, I learned a great deal about Romania from her. I know she will be missed at the Press and I wish her the best in her retirement.” – Charles Myers, Assistant Editorial Director at the University of Chicago Press and former Director of the University Press of Kansas

“Despite having lived in Romania when it was part of the Soviet Union, Larisa has a joie de vivre that is an inspiration. It’s difficult to whine when you know someone who survived that era! Our authors have told me how much they like working with Larisa, and I know they will miss her as much as I will. I have no doubt that she will continue to enjoy life as fully as she did pre-retirement. Here’s to you, Larisa!” –  Joyce Harrison, Editor in Chief

“You are a smart, kind, funny, insightful person who has lived through and experienced so much, and I know retirement will bring exciting adventures, good conversation, and new friends. I sincerely hope retirement is everything you want it to be and that you get to spend tons of time with your grandchildren, explore Belize, eat delicious meals, and relax as much as you can.” – Colin Tripp, Assistant Production Editor

“From learning about Larisa’s life and work in Romania to being a part of her life and work in Kansas, it’s been a joy to have Larisa at UPK for the past sixteen years. Her enthusiasm for her job, for the authors and their manuscripts, for bringing people together to talk and to celebrate an occasion, and her bubbly personality will be missed. Cheers to her! Dus dar nu uitat! (I think that’s the Romanian translation for “gone but not forgotten.”) Let me know if that’s correct, Larisa.” – Debra Diehl, Direct Mail and Exhibits Manager

“Larisa has been both patient mentor and trusted colleague. She’s cleaned up many a messy manuscript, deftly evaluated questionable art, skillfully negotiated with freelancers and vendors, and valiantly accelerated production schedules—and she did it all with her characteristic good humor. I’ll miss her amusing stories and boisterous laughter in our office halls. Larisa has long been such an ebullient presence at UPK, showing optimism and dedication even during the most difficult of circumstances. I’m truly thankful for all of the good work she’s done and good advice she’s given. Cheers to your retirement, Larisa!” – Kelly Chrisman Jacques, Managing Editor

“The Larisa I worked with was (and still is!) a force of nature with an irrepressible personality, infectious laugh, a deep sense of loyalty to the Press, and relentless can-do spirit that made for the kind of terrific teamwork that’s needed to produce truly successful books. UPK was lucky to have her for as long as it did and I for one certainly miss the daily interactions we once had in pursuit of the press’s greater glory. But new horizons beckon and adventures await for someone who’s truly earned this moment.” – Michael Briggs, former Editor in Chief, University Press of Kansas

In her retirement, Larisa plans to freelance edit, travel to Belize and continue to celebrate life. All of us at UPK raise a glass of Prosecco and wish her a splendid retirement.

Three UPK Titles Named 2019 Kansas Notable Books

Topeka, KS – Last week State Librarian Eric Norris announced the 14th annual selection of Kansas Notable Books. The fifteen books feature quality titles with wide public appeal, either written by a Kansan or about a Kansas-related topic.

“I am proud to present the 2019 Kansas Notable Book list. Choosing only 15 books is no easy task,” said Eric Norris, State Librarian. “The selection committee began with a pool of nearly 100 submitted titles and worked diligently to identify the year’s best works by Kansas authors and illustrators, as well as those works that highlight our history and heritage. Kansans are encouraged to visit their local public library and celebrate the artists and the artistry of Kansas.”

Three University Press of Kansas books were selected.

No Place Like Home; Lessons in Activism from LGBT Kansas by C.J. Janovy

Far from the coastal centers of culture and politics, Kansas stands at the very center of American stereotypes about red states. In the American imagination, it is a place LGBT people leave. No Place Like Home is about why they stay. The book tells the epic story of how a few disorganized and politically naïve Kansans, realizing they were unfairly under attack, rolled up their sleeves, went looking for fights, and ended up making friends in one of the country’s most hostile states.

The Diaries of Reuben Smith, Kansas Settler and Civil War Soldier by Lana Wirt Myers

In 1854, after recently arriving from England, twenty-two-year-old Reuben Smith traveled west, eventually making his way to Kansas Territory. There he found himself in the midst of a bloody prelude to the Civil War, as Free Staters and defenders of slavery battled to stake their claim. The young Englishman wrote down what he witnessed in a diary where he had already begun documenting his days in a clear and candid fashion. As beautifully written as they are keenly observant, these diaries afford an unusual view of America in its most tumultuous times, of Kansas in its critical historical moments, and of one mans life in the middle of it all for fifty years.

Elevations; A Personal Exploration of the Arkansas River by Max McCoy

The upper Arkansas River courses through the heart of America from its headwaters near the Continental Divide above Leadville, Colorado, to Arkansas City, just above the Kansas-Oklahoma border. Max McCoy embarked on a trip of 742 miles in search of the rivers unique story. Part adventure and part reflection, steeped in the natural and cultural history of the Arkansas Valley, Elevations is McCoy’s account of that journey.


Kansas Notable Books is a project of the Kansas Center for the Book, a program of the State Library. The Kansas Center for the Book is a state affiliate of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. Throughout the award year, the State Library promotes and encourages the promotion of all titles on this year’s list at literary events, and among librarians and booksellers.

An awards ceremony will be held at the Kansas Book Festival, Saturday, September 14, 2019, at the State Capitol to recognize the talented Notable Book authors. The public is invited.

For more information about Kansas Notable Books, call 785-296-3296, visit or email

Garcia Named International Latino Book Awards Finalist

Dennis Garcia’s book Marine, Public Servant, Kansas; The Life of Ernest Garcia has been named a finalist the Twentieth Annual International Latino Book Awards. Garcia is nominated in the Best Biography category.

The International Latino Book Awards are produced by Latino Literacy Now, a nonprofit organization co-founded in 1997 by Edward James Olmos and Kirk Whisler. A full list of finalists is available here.

Winners will be announced at the awards ceremony on September 21, 2019, in Los Angeles.

The Recent Upsurge of Anti-Abortion Sentiments and the Constitutional Right of Privacy

By John W. Johnson

This year has already emerged as the year that anti-abortion activists have achieved their greatest triumphs since the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Roe v. Wade (1973). As of this writing, eight state legislatures–mainly in the South and Midwest–have passed laws in the last five months hostile to a woman’s constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy. Some of these laws have limited the grounds for abortion; some have stipulated that an abortion may only legally be performed in the very early weeks of a pregnancy; some have criminalized a physician’s performance of abortions; and others have placed onerous burdens in the path of women’s seeking abortions. A number of additional states are presently considering the passage of similar legislation.

Emboldened by the statements of President Donald Trump, who regularly voices the rhetoric of the right to life movement, and strengthened by the recent appointment and confirmation of over 100 “pro-life” federal judges, the constitutionally-established right of a woman to end a pregnancy is in question as it has not been for almost a half century.

Roe v. Wade would not have come to pass without a precedent enunciated in a 1965 Supreme Court decision known as Griswold v. Connecticut. About 20 years ago I became interested in the Griswold case, eventually completing a book published by the University Press of Kansas in 2005. In light of the current challenges to Roe v. Wade and the right to an abortion, it makes sense to recall the Griswold decision, its role in the run-up to Roe v. Wade, and the current state of constitutional issues serving as the foundation for both decisions.

Griswold emerged from a successful legal challenge to an 1879 statute forbidding the use of birth control in the state of Connecticut. The named plaintiffs in the case were Estelle Griswold, the director of the Planned Parent League of Connecticut (PPLC), and Lee Buxton, a Connecticut physician and Yale Medical School professor.

Griswold and Buxton saw injustices to Connecticut women presented by the old state anti-abortion law. For example, the law did not prohibit contraception out-right: it permitted efforts to block pregnancies for the purpose of preventing the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs), but it did not allow women to seek reproductive hegemony over their own bodies through medically-prescribed artificial efforts or devices. What this disjunction meant, in fact, was that a man or woman could walk into a gas station and, without any oversight or advice, purchase a condom from a dispenser for the purpose of preventing an STD; but a married couple could not seek a prescription from a licensed Connecticut physician for a diaphragm or birth control pills for the purpose of family planning. One of the least publicized services provided by the PPLC was to drive, in their personal automobiles, financially-strapped married couples to a state that permitted physician-supervised birth control (usually New York) to obtain contraceptive counseling.

Griswold and Buxton wanted to take birth control out of the shadows and make it routinely available to married couples. So, in 1961, they opened a birth control clinic in New Haven. They were shortly arrested for violating the state anticontraception statute and the clinic was shut down. The Connecticut courts upheld the conviction and Griswold and Buxton appealed their case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The ultimate Supreme Court ruling in Griswold v. Connecticut was one of the most unusual and debated decisions of the 1960s. The Court’s 7-2 majority, in an opinion written by Justice William Douglas, held that the 19th century Connecticut anti-abortion law was unconstitutional as a violation of a newly enunciated “right of privacy.” Although privacy is not explicitly guaranteed by the words of the U.S. Constitution or its amendments, Douglas found that the “penumbras” and “emanations” of some of the Bill or Rights afforded a constitutionally-protected right of privacy. For example, Douglas wrote, a right of privacy was implied by the Fourth Amendment’s protections against “unreasonable searches and seizures.” Justices joining Douglas in the majority found that the right of privacy could be teased out of other provisions of the Constitution, such as the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment or the “certain rights . . . retained by the people” in the Ninth Amendment. A few years after Griswold, the right of privacy was extended to unmarried individuals seeking birth control information and prescriptions.

Ultimately, in Roe v. Wade, Justice Harry Blackmun ruled that the right of privacy in the first three months of a woman’s pregnancy was protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Since Roe in 1973, the Court has revisited the constitutional right to an abortion on several occasions. Notably, in 1992 in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a Court majority determined that state regulations of the right to an abortion could not impose “undue burdens” on women seeking termination of pregnancies. Despite the nuances of Supreme Court abortion decisions of the last generation, the essential core of Roe v. Wade remains the law of the land.

Back to the present: What’s to make of the recent spate of anti-abortion legislation and the future of Roe v. Wade? Based upon my research on the right of privacy and Griswold v. Connecticut, I have some observations.

  • Is Roe v. Wade in jeopardy? Probably not. The precedent is well-established and, at the same time, malleable. The “undue burden” modification of the right to an abortion, for example, gives states some additional latitude to modify Roe. In addition, some of the new laws are more predicated on the language of state constitutions than the federal constitution. So, it bears watching whether the challenges to Roe emerge from state supreme courts or the federal courts.  At the Supreme Court level, my guess is that the strong institutional leadership of Chief Justice John Roberts will serve as a last gasp source of protection for what some have termed the “super precedent” of Roe v. Wade. Also, of course, any assault on the legitimacy of Roe v. Wade will be met by the resistance of well-financed and well-organized interest groups which will be quick to remind the justices that public opinion polls consistently show majority popular support for a woman’s right to an abortion.


  • Is the right of privacy imperiled by anti-abortion sentiment sweeping the country? In spite of the rather shaky emergence of the right of privacy in the “penumbra” language of Justice Douglas in Griswold, the right has found, in recent decisions, a more stable mooring in the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause.   The right of privacy has also gained traction in appellate court decisions involving LGBTQ rights; such protections would be hard to undercut or undo at this time in our nation’s history.  Americans will not give up without a major legal battle their recently-obtained right of privacy.


  • Even if Roe v. Wade survives impending legal challenges, has damage to abortion rights from the 2019 statutes already taken a toll? A qualified yes. Planned Parenthood is currently on the defensive, being forced by public and legal pressure in some states to curtail its reproductive health services. As of this writing, Missouri is about to shutter its Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis, leaving no abortion providers in the state. Many largely rural states, such as Nebraska, now only offer abortions in small urban corridors. Moreover, ghastly accounts of rare late term abortions have somewhat undercut the support for reproductive rights among Americans. In addition, pregnant women with limited financial resources are finding it increasingly difficult to travel hundreds of miles to seek out a dwindling number of abortion-providers. Nevertheless, no matter what transpires in constitutional tests of the recently-enacted anti-abortion laws, organizations that support a woman’s right to control her own body will have powerful legal and emotional issues to present to the electorate in 2020 and beyond.


John Johnson is an emeritus professor of History at the University of Northern Iowa. In his 46-year academic career, he taught courses on Recent U.S. History, American Civil Liberties, and Critical Thinking.  He is also the author of a number of books and articles, including Griswold v. Connecticut: Birth Control and the Constitutional Right of Privacy (University Press of Kansas, 2005).

What Women Want? Women’s Representation and Reproductive Rights Legislation.

by Kaitlin Sidorsky, author of All Roads Lead to Power: Appointed and Elected Paths to Public Office for US Women

Last year we questioned whether a “Pink Wave” was coming for women’s representation in elected offices across the United States. This year, after seeing significant gains in the numbers of women serving in both Congress and the State Legislatures, we stand confused by recent abortion legislation passed in Alabama, Georgia, and Missouri. Across the United States, there are 2,129 women serving in our State Legislatures, putting the percentage of women legislators at 28.8 percent – the highest it has ever been in United States history (Center for American Women in Politics 2019). Over 23 percent of congressional members are women, up from 20 percent a year ago. Nine of our 50 governors are women, one of whom signed into law the Alabama abortion legislation. Despite the gains made in women’s representation since the 2018 election, we are still far from gender parity in our electoral institutions – an issue that has become painfully clear during this year’s state legislative sessions.

In an effort to take advantage of a potentially anti-Roe v. Wade Supreme Court, conservative states across the nation are writing restrictive abortion laws. Every day media outlets report on yet another state passing “the most restrictive abortion law in the nation.” These laws range from fetal heartbeat bills that ban abortions as soon as a heartbeat can be detected, (6-8 weeks, regardless if the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest), to outright abortion bans (Alabama).

So much of our attention has been on the passage of these anti-abortion laws that we have overlooked the states that are trying to increase protections for a woman’s right to choose. In January, New York passed a law that allows abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy, allowing doctors to avoid criminal prosecution as long as the fetus is not viable or the mother’s life is in danger. Vermont is working on a state constitutional amendment to protect a woman’s right to an abortion – the first state to ever do so. Maine is attempting to pass a law to expand the kinds of medical professionals who can perform abortions, and Nevada is legislating a bill that removes a requirement that forces doctors to tell their patients about the “physical and emotional implications” of having an abortion, as well as removing other restrictive requirements.

What makes these states different from states like Alabama, Ohio, and Georgia? A large part of the answer is representation. Only 15.7 percent of Alabama legislators are women, compared to 40 percent of Vermont legislators. In fact, besides Georgia, all of the states that have passed or are trying to pass anti-abortion legislation are below the national average of 28.8 percent of female legislators (30.5 percent of Georgia’s legislature are women). Over 32 percent of New York’s legislature are women, and 38.2 percent of Maine’s. Most importantly, the first state to ever achieve gender parity – Nevada – has 52.4 percent of its legislature as female.

Inevitably, the majority of women who serve are Democrats, meaning any legislation about women’s rights is not just one of gender, but party as well. Even with the recognition that party identification is a major driving force in this policy arena, we must consider the implications of legislatures that are overwhelmingly dominated by men making health care decisions for the countless women in their states. This does not mean that all women are pro-choice, Alabama Republican Governor Kay Ivey is the prime example of the significant percent of women who do not support access to abortions across the United States. But it is moments like these, when the policies are so gendered, the stakes are so high, and the numbers of women serving in elected office are so unequivocally low across the United States that we should consider the importance of women’s representation. This means both parties making concerted efforts in recruiting women to run, more women throwing their hat in the ring to seek elected office, and all constituents realizing the importance of women serving as their representatives.

Kaitlin N. Sidorsky has a Ph.D. and M.A. in Political Science from Brown University and a BA in Politics and Law from Bryant University. Sidorsky is an assistant professor of Politics at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina. All Roads Lead to Power: Appointed and Elected Paths to Public Office for US Women is her first book.

A Quick Reaction to John Singleton’s Death

By Dr. Lisa Doris Alexander

(Photo by AP Photo)

I was late to John Singleton’s cinematic view of the world. When his critically acclaimed debut film Boyz n the Hood was released in 1991, I was fifteen years old and not quite old enough to see the film in theaters. The first film of his that I saw in theaters was Rosewood and I still remember the anger and sadness I felt watching that film. As cinephiles grapple with the loss of Singleton, I want to reflect on one of his films that flew under the radar.

Growing up in Chicago, I fell in love sports before I fell in love with film. Like many sports fans, I was drawn to ESPN’s 30 for 30 series which chronicles high-profile sports figures and events. In 2010, John Singleton directed and narrated the 30 for 30 episode “Marion Jones: Press Pause.” It was one of the few episodes that focused on a female athlete.

In retrospect, Singleton’s take on Jones is fascinating. The documentary doesn’t focus on Jones’ fall from grace due to her use of Performance Enhancing Drugs. At the time of the film’s release, that portion of Jones’ life story was well-worn territory. Instead, Singleton seemed to be interested in exploring whether Jones could redeem her legacy. Let’s be clear, there is no attempt by Jones or Singleton to downplay or dismiss Jones’ mistakes. Yes, she took PEDs. Yes, she lied about it to the public and to the feds. Yes, she paid a stiff price: Jones served six months in Carswell Federal Prison. Both Singleton and Jones want the audience to believe that Jones’ story doesn’t end there. As I re-watched the documentary, I thought about how much Jones must have trusted Singleton. Given her ordeal, I doubt Jones would have agreed to go back to Carswell with someone she did not trust. Jones and her husband probably wouldn’t share video of Jones in labor with their third child with someone they did not trust. The documentary doesn’t need either of those moments; however, they tell us as much about Singleton and his approach to filmmaking as it does about Jones. Singleton could have had Jones tell her story of spending more than 45 days in solitary confinement from any location. Having Jones tell that story while the prison itself looms large in the background makes the low point in Jones’ life even more visceral. Singleton doesn’t leave the audience in that low point; we move almost immediately to one of the high points of Jones’ life: the birth of her daughter. Jones could have faded into the background and devoted herself solely to her family. Instead, Jones begins another chapter of her life by signing to play professional basketball four months after giving birth. Singleton ends his documentary here showing the audience that the future looks bright for Jones (her WNBA career only lasted two seasons, but Singleton makes you root for her).

Like most, if not all of Singleton’s protagonists, Jones isn’t just one thing. Whether his work spoke to you or not, Singleton was not here for one-dimensional African American subjects. He was often interested in exploring the people that mainstream society wasn’t interested in or had written off. We will miss his voice and his vision.

Lisa Doris Alexander is associate professor of African American studies at Wayne State University. She is the author of When Baseball Isn’t White, Straight, and Male: The Media and Difference in the National Pastime. Her book Expanding the Expanding the Black Film Canon; Race and Genre across Six Decades will publish in September.

University of Kansas Receives NEH-Mellon Humanities Open Book Program Grant

With support from a two-year, $129,000 grant, the University of Kansas Libraries and the University Press of Kansas will convert out-of-print humanities texts into freely accessible digital resources.  This project is part of the Humanities Open Book grant program led by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

“This grant offers the opportunity to advance several important priorities for the University of Kansas,” said Kevin L. Smith, dean of libraries. “The support from Mellon and NEH allows us to bring wider attention to some of the excellent scholarship in history and American political thought published by the University Press of Kansas.”

The grant is to be used over the next two years and will provide the university with a unique opportunity to digitize 70 humanities titles that would be otherwise inaccessible to the public. The proposed list of titles to digitize includes works that illuminate the history of important events; lives of important thinkers, like Leo Strauss, who continue to have tremendous impact on modern political thought; and movements, including populism and political conservatism, that still shape American politics.

“I am thrilled that the University Press of Kansas has been selected as a grant recipient,” said Conrad Roberts, director of the University Press of Kansas. “In collaboration with our Regents universities libraries, this grant will allow us to create an open access book collection that will dramatically increase the accessibility of information related to U.S. history, culture and politics to scholars and students in our nation and around the globe.”

David McKinney/KU

The digitized works are expected to be available by spring 2021 through MUSE Open, JSTOR Open, as well as the institutional repositories of all six Kansas Board of Regents universities — including KU, Emporia State University, Fort Hays State University, Kansas State University, Pittsburg State University and Wichita State University.

“In our increasingly complex and fragmented digital era, scholars, students and members of the public need access to reliable and authoritative information,” said Donald J. Waters, senior program officer at The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. “The Humanities Open Book initiative helps provide much-needed access to scholarly works that are now out-of-print but remain crucial invaluable resources.”

To learn more about the University Press of Kansas, please contact Michael Kehoe, marketing and sales director, at For more information about KU Libraries, please contact Leah Hallstrom, communications coordinator, at

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) was created in 1965 as an independent federal agency. The NEH supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the NEH and its grant programs is available at

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation endeavors to strengthen, promote, and, where necessary, defend the contributions of the humanities and the arts to human flourishing and to the well-being of diverse and democratic societies. To this end, the Foundation supports exemplary institutions of higher education and culture as they renew and provide access to an invaluable heritage of ambitious, path-breaking work. Additional information is available at

Based at the University of Kansas, UPK represents a consortium of six state universities: Emporia State University, Fort Hays State University, Kansas State University, Pittsburg State University, Wichita State University and KU. UPK publishes scholarly books that advance knowledge and regional books that contribute to the understanding of Kansas, the Great Plains, and the Midwest.

One of the top 50 libraries in the Association of Research Libraries by volumes held, and the largest library in Kansas, the University of Kansas Libraries transform lives by inspiring the discovery and creation of knowledge for the university and our global community. KU Libraries are a place of welcome; a leader in the dissemination of knowledge; and a partner in connecting and engaging communities, fostering student success, and transformative research.