Meet the Press: Debra Diehl

Few things are more interconnected with the University Press of Kansas than Direct Mail and Exhibits Manager Debra Diehl.

Diehl’s responsibilities at UPK extend far beyond those covered by her job title. She’s the resident expert on Press history, official favorite person in the office of visiting kids, and long-time recruiter of local wildlife.

“Deb is easily one of the most warmhearted, generous, and sincere people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting,” said Kelly Chrisman Jacques, managing editor. “She carries her good nature with her through every aspect of her position and fosters genuine connections with UPK staff, authors, customers, and vendors.”

Diehl has extensive experience that reaches beyond UPK’s walls. She’s represented the Press at meetings across the country and made sure books have traveled to events large and small. If there’s an event at which UPK books might be displayed, Deb knows about it.

“Deb is hands down the best exhibits manager I’ve worked with in over thirty years in publishing,” said Joyce Harrison, editor in chief. “It’s such a joy to come into an exhibit space, with tables to be put into place and boxes to open, and know that all of the books and supplies you need are there. Exhibits require a lot of advance work, and Deb goes about this work with stunning efficiency, especially considering the number of conferences we attend each year.”

1. What do you do at the Press and how long have you worked here?

I’m part of the marketing department team. My responsibilities focus on promoting our books via the mail—postal and email—and arranging for them to be on display at conferences and events. I’ve been at the Press since (gulp) 1986. It is my second full-time job after graduating from college in 1985.

2. What is your history at the Press? What other positions have you held?

Originally I was hired as an office assistant and did work for every department at the Press. It was the perfect way to learn about the publishing process. My degree is in journalism with an emphasis in advertising. When the Press was able to increase its staff, a marketing assistant position was created and I was hired for that. Eventually the marketing department added another position, and I became the direct mail and exhibits manager.

3. What about academic publishing appeals to you?

I’ve always loved books and discovering good writers that were new to me. After working in the advertising department of a daily newspaper, I knew I wanted to be back in an academic environment. I didn’t know much about book publishing at the time I started at UPK, but in just a short while I felt like I had found “my people.” The projects and authors I learned about were interesting and important. They still are.

4. What are the most challenging aspects of your job?

Something that has become more challenging in recent years is getting direct access to individuals through a mailing list, whether it’s a postal address or an email. Many academic associations, as well as small organizations, do not rent their membership lists as they did in the past. We continually work on building our in-house lists to promote our books as well as the Press itself. We’ve recently started offering publishing services and that adds another category of customers we want to reach.

5. What are the most rewarding aspects of working at UPK?

I’m glad that I help market a quality product. Seeing a book “do well,” whether that’s defined by sales, an award, or getting the author’s next project, is gratifying. But the most rewarding aspect of being at UPK is that I work with great people— people that I respect and like and admire. That’s been the case since day one. After many years, I still feel lucky to be here.

6. When not at work, how do you spend your time?

I spend a lot of time with dogs! My husband and I have two dogs that we take on walks and rides and sometimes on vacation. I enjoy being with friends (and their dogs!), going to live music, and spending time with my mom.

7. You’re a townie. What’s something about Lawrence you want everyone to know?

Lawrence has an amazing off-leash dog park and outstanding breweries.

Stock and Lauck discuss “The Conservative Heartland: A Political History of the Postwar American Midwest”

In the wake of the 2016 presidential election there was widespread shock that the Midwest, the Democrats’ so-called blue wall, had been so effectively breached by Donald Trump. But the blue wall, as The Conservative Heartland makes clear, was never quite as secure as so many observers assumed. A deep look at the Midwest’s history of conservative politics, this timely volume reveals how conservative victories in state houses, legislatures, and national elections in the early twenty-first century, far from coming out of nowhere, in fact had extensive roots across decades of political organization in the region.

Focusing on nine states, from Iowa and the Dakotas to Indiana and Ohio, the essays in this collection detail the rise of midwestern conservatism after World War II—a trend that coincided with the transformation of the prewar Republican Party into the New Right. This transformation, the authors contend, involved the Midwest and the Sunbelt states. Through the lenses of race, class, gender, and sexuality, their essays explore the development of midwestern conservative politics in light of deindustrialization, environmentalism, second wave feminism, mass incarceration, privatization, and debates over same-sex marriage and abortion, among other issues. Together these essays map the region’s complex patchwork of viable rural and urban areas, variously subject to a wide array of conflicting interests and concerns; the perspective they provide, at once broad and in-depth, offers unique historical insight into the Midwest’s political complexity—and its status as the last real competitive battleground in presidential elections.

1. What is your elevator pitch for The Conservative Heartland? How would you describe the book in two or three sentences?

Stock: The 2016 election reminded political observers everywhere of the importance of conservative politics in the Midwest.  But what many did not realize is that Midwestern conservatism is nothing new.  In our book, contributors examine conservative political tradition in eleven states over the course of a transformative period, 1945 to the present, when “new conservatism” came to change American politics forever.

Lauck: Since the election of the Midwesterner Ronald Reagan in 1980, the dominant political orientation of the United States has been conservative, especially in the interior sections of the country. Unfortunately, we know very little about modern conservatism in the American Midwest, which is often seen as the heartland of the nation. This book is a major step toward addressing that historical oversight.

2. What was your inspiration to research and write about the political history of the postwar American Midwest?

Stock: Personally, I have been inspired to do political history by the grass-roots political work–stuffing envelopes and going door to door–that I did as a young girl in Minneapolis. My father was active in the Independent Republican Party and supported moderate IR candidates like Arne Carlson through the 1960s. Increasingly in the 1970s, however, IR politics began to change, with more far right candidates appearing in elections as hyper-local as those for the Minneapolis Park Board.  Since becoming a historian and moving to New England, I have continued to be fascinated with the region as a whole–even the question of how it became seen as a region in the first place. Most of my research and writing has examined the interactions between the federal government and the rural people.  I can still remember the arguments between my maternal grandparents, originally from Grand Forks, North Dakota, over the question of whether FDR had “ruined the country.”

Lauck: It is a bit annoying to hear coastal commentators opine about what is “really” going on in the interior of the country. I think it’s far past time for a deep and serious dive into the actual history of the Midwest and to get past stereotypes and anecdotes.

3. What was the most challenging aspect of compiling and editing the book?

Stock: We had far more terrific proposals than we had room for!  Also, we were looking for chronological, geographic, and thematic breadth so that was hard too!

Lauck: There is not much historiography to build on. We are starting from scratch in many cases.

4. How has the political influence of the American Midwest evolved over the past 100 years?

Stock: In one of our chapters, we show how the Midwest had been the most-frequently visited region of the country by presidential candidates throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Certain states like Ohio retained the reputation of being “bellwether” states even to this day.  But other Midwestern states, with fewer Electoral College votes, quickly became “fly-over states” in modern presidential campaigns.  And yet this too may be changing. It is quite striking to see how the Trump administration has returned time and again to small rural states with large percentages of his supporters, like North and South Dakota, to remind those voters that rural people are no less important to his coalition than urban voters.  Of course, the creation of the Iowa caucuses put rural, largely white, America front and center, but after the debacle of the 2020 primary I doubt it will continue to have that place of privilege, at least for the Democrats.

Lauck: Since the explosive growth of the Republican Party in 1850s as a Midwestern regional party to the Midwest GOP’s 50-year reign of dominance after the Civil War to the more recent rise of Reaganism the Midwest has been central to American politics. It is now the last swing region which will determine who captures the presidency this fall and in subsequent cycles.

5. How have single-issue voters influenced political trends in the Midwest?

Stock: I think that the rise of new conservatism cannot be boiled down to single issues–but there are some single issues that certainly made a huge impact in the region’s growing support for new conservatism in the 1970s and 1980s.  Support for the military is an understudied part of the appeal of the New Right in the Midwest; anti-abortion politics is better understood and, of course, seen as a critical component in this shift.  In our essay we also look at the impact of cultural issues like marriage equality, the increased numbers of evangelical Protestant congregations, and the appeal of often racially coded calls for “law and order.”

Lauck: Issues like farming, steel, and trade along with conservative social issues and defenses of American traditions have been major issues in the Midwest in recent decades and will likely remain so.

6. National attention turned to the Midwest after the surprising results from the 2016 Presidential election. Do you sense the region is being monitored more closely by political parties prior to the 2020 election?

Stock: Nearly every day (or at least before COVID 19!) major media outlets have published or broadcast pieces on Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Ohio and their extremely important roles in the upcoming elections. It is now a truism that Hillary Clinton may have lost the 2016 election by neglecting to travel to Wisconsin.  No candidate will make that mistake this year!  Similarly, there are new articles examining the question of the Democrat’s supposed “blue wall” in the Midwest.  In our book we question whether there ever was a blue wall in the first place!

Lauck: Absolutely. The growing number of stories about Michigan and Wisconsin, for example, speak to that increased attention. The Democrats’ decision to have their convention in Milwaukee is no accident.

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

Stock: That conservative politics have always been an essential part of Midwestern politics and that the region itself may be the last true battleground region in the country!

Lauck: There is a dense civic culture underlying the politics of the Midwest and people need to understand that and focus less on the day-to-day stories of polls and the horse race. People also need to understand that regions and smaller micro-places still play a role in politics and so we need to understand particular places better than we do. To do that we have to break out of the information bubble created by producers and editors in New York and Washington DC.

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

Stock: I would like to go back in time and have Hillary Clinton read it in 2015!

Lauck: Both Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Pete Buttigieg of Indiana. They could have teamed up, formed an all-Midwest ticket, and fought a good fight for the region. They dropped the ball and left the Democrats with an old Washington insider who hails from Delaware. They should have played the regional angle better and emphasized they were fresh voices from a new generation.


Catherine McNicol Stock is the Barbara Zaccheo Kohn ‘72 Professor of History at Connecticut College.

Jon K. Lauck is the founding president of the Midwestern History Association, editor-in-chief of the Middle West Review, and adjunct professor of political science at the University of South Dakota.

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.

“It is a tremendous honor to be asked to take on this role,” McWilliams Barndt said. “The American Political Thought series at the University Press of Kansas has long been a gold standard in the field. I am so happy to be working with Jeremy Bailey to maintain the excellence of this series at this time of dynamic and changing scholarship in American political thought.”

Bailey echoed McWilliams Bardnt’s thoughts.

“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


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 (, 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.