Off the Shelf: The Iconography of Malcolm X

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What was your greatest challenge while writing the book?

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

What has been your biggest satisfaction associated with the book?

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


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

Meet the Author: Jill Abraham Hummer

First Ladies and American Women; In Politics and at Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hummer also finds Lady Bird Johnson fascinating.

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

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

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




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

Off The Shelf: Hip-Hop Revolution

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rebuilding Trustworthy Politics in a Post-Truth Age

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

Meet the Authors: Rebecca Barrett-Fox

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meet The Press: The Top 10

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

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


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

by Bryan Mark Rigg

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


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

by David Wallace Adams

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

old-time08. True Tales of Old-Time Kansas

by David Dary

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


07. The Philosophy of (Erotic) Love

by Robert C. Solomon and Kathleen M. Higgins

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


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

by Forrest McDonald

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


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

by Daniel C. Fitzgerald

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



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

by Gottlob Herbert Bidermann Derek S. Zumbro

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


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

by John Cody

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

cookbook02. The Kansas Cookbook; Recipes from the Heartland

by Frank Carey and Jayni Naas (Carey)

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


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

by Charles E. Heller and William A. Stofft

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

Off The Shelf: Frederick Douglass, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Review of President Barack Obama’s Clemency Record

by Jeffrey Crouch – American University & UPK Author

President Donald Trump made no secret of his opinion of Army Private Chelsea Manning’s critique of former President Barack Obama when he tweeted: “Ungrateful TRAITOR.” Yet before considering what President Trump might do with the clemency power, let’s take a last look at President Obama’s record.

Perhaps the most controversial clemency decision of the Obama years came on January 17, 2017, when he commuted Manning’s 35-year prison sentence. Manning has served about seven years, and will be able to walk out of prison on May 17. As someone who turned over classified documents to WikiLeaks, she is one of the more recognizable recipients of Obama’s presidential mercy.

fullsizerenderGiven Obama’s long-standing preference for avoiding high profile clemency cases, it was somewhat surprising that he saw fit to grant clemency to Manning at all. Still, the president had hinted a few days earlier that clemency might be in the cards. His press secretary took pains to distinguish between Manning and Edward Snowden, another infamous leaker of classified materials. Snowden has been living in Russia since 2013. Unlike Manning, he did not receive presidential mercy.

The Numbers

For the first three-quarters of his presidency, Obama was not much different from George W. Bush. In eight years, Bush had pardoned 189 offenders and commuted 11 sentences out of roughly 11,000 applications for clemency. By December 17, 2014, President Obama’s clemency record was sparse — he had pardoned only 64 and had commuted just 21 sentences. However, by the time Obama left office, he had made a remarkable turnaround, pardoning 212 and commuting a whopping 1,715 sentences. Of course, one must consider Obama’s totals alongside the huge number of applications he received: 3,395 petitions for pardon and 33,149 requests for commutation. He received many, many more applications for clemency than any of his recent predecessors.

Why the influx of applications? Obama launched a new clemency initiative in April 2014. The administration wanted to prioritize for clemency review those offenders who met a number of specific criteria. These criteria include the fact that “[t]hey are currently serving a federal sentence in prison and, by operation of law, likely would have received a substantially lower sentence if convicted of the same offense(s) today,” and that they are otherwise low risk, minor offenders.

crouchIn response to Obama’s announcement, five interested groups pooled resources and formed a new organization, Clemency Project 2014, to help locate and direct good candidates for clemency to the Department of Justice. Many applicants – and later, many commutation recipients – were low-level drug offenders who were serving disproportionate sentences. With all of this activity brewing, Obama slowly picked up the pace of pardoning. At the same time, he offered an enormous number of sentence commutations, starting with a rather modest 22 on March 31, 2015 and, after several other batches, ending with his last group of 330 on January 19, 2017.

Obama’s final total of 212 pardons is a bit low for a recent two-term president: alongside George W. Bush’s totals mentioned above, consider that Bill Clinton pardoned 396, George H.W. Bush pardoned 74 (in one term as president), and Ronald Reagan pardoned 393. However, Obama’s 1,715 commutations put Obama in a class by himself: Clinton commuted 61 sentences, while George H.W. Bush (again, in a single term) commuted only three and Ronald Reagan commuted 13 sentences.

The People

Aside from the Manning commutation, Obama made a few other higher profile clemency decisions on his way out the door. He pardoned General James E. Cartwright, formerly a trusted advisor on foreign affairs issues, for making false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Cartwright received Obama’s good news before he was sentenced for his offense. Obama also commuted the 55-year prison sentence of Oscar Lopez Rivera. Lopez was a leader of the pro-Puerto Rican independence group, “FALN,” and had been in prison for 35 years. Interestingly, Lopez and other members of his organization had received the option to accept conditional clemency from President Bill Clinton in 1999, but Lopez declined. Other famous figures that received clemency from Obama in his final days include a pair of tax offenders: Ian Schrager, credited with establishing Studio 54 and luxury hotels, and Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Willie McCovey.

Despite considerable press attention, Obama declined to offer clemency to several notable offenders. Perhaps most prominently, he passed on pardoning Edward Snowden (as noted earlier) and Leonard Peltier, a Native American activist who is in prison after being convicted in 1977 of shooting and killing two FBI agents. Unlike Clinton and George W. Bush, who each granted one posthumous pardon, Obama decided against doing so, although he had heard from supporters of the late boxer Jack Johnson and late “Back to Africa” proponent Marcus Garvey.

Which brings us back to President Trump. When might he decide to exercise his clemency power? If he follows the example of his two most recent predecessors, it will be a while – both George W. Bush and Barack Obama waited nearly two years before offering pardons or commutations. Trump may not pay attention to clemency for a while either, considering his ambitious legislative agenda that includes building a border wall, implementing tax reform, and other large-scale projects. That would be a shame, because the presidential pardon power has for hundreds of years been an important tool for presidents to use to show mercy. It will be ready for Trump when (or if) he decides to call upon it.


Dr. Jeffrey Crouch is an assistant professor of American politics at American University. He is the Reviews and Book Editor for AU’s Congress & the Presidency journal. His first book, The Presidential Pardon Power, was published by the University Press of Kansas in 2009.

The Trump Spectacle

9780700622856By Bruce Miroff, author of Presidents on Political Ground: Leaders in Action and What They Face

As the inauguration of Donald Trump approaches, his future course as president is as hard to predict as the man himself. One prediction, however, seems safe to make: Trump’s presidency will be a continual spectacle in the media.

I depict the presidential spectacle in the first chapter of my recently published book with the University Press of Kansas: Presidents on Political Ground: Leaders in Action and What They Face. It is through spectacles mounted in the media that presidents establish a political identity (and critics contest it with their own media efforts). The idea of the presidential spectacle contains three elements:  the presentation of the president as a larger-than-life character, the supporting role of the president’s team, and the ensemble of White House gestures whose principal aim is to dramatize the president’s virtues rather than to promote policy accomplishments. Since the coming of the television age in the administration of John F. Kennedy, every president has had to cope with the imperative of producing a winning spectacle.

During his extraordinary run for the presidency in 2008, Barack Obama seemed to possess all the ingredients of a historic spectacle. Once in office, however, Obama concentrated heavily on the details of policymaking, slighting, by his own admission, the “symbols and gestures” through which a president communicates with the public. Immersed in rational deliberation, Obama lost much of his campaign luster, and the press began to complain that he was too cerebral, too cool, too aloof—in short, “professorial.” Obama regained some of his spectacle mojo in his second term, especially with African Americans and millennials, but his presidency remained committed at its core to good policy as the core of good government.

Evincing little interest in the substance of public policy, Donald Trump is likely to epitomize the opposite of Obama: the presidency as pure spectacle. Trump’s campaign for the White House was all “symbols and gestures,” with grandiose themes backed by scanty details. The signature spectacle of the Trump campaign was his rallies. These were participatory events for rally attendees, vicarious participation for his millions of followers watching on television.

Trump rallies were unlike any others in presidential campaigning. They were spectacles of fervor and fury. In some respects they resembled rock concerts: the star performer in the spotlight, the audience garbed in fan T-shirts and hats, the crowds chanting their favorite lines. “Build the wall” and “lock her up” allowed the crowds to echo Trump’s own contempt for immigrants and for his opponent, simultaneously signaling menace to the protestors and journalists in the hall who Trump pointed out in anger.

The rally attendees and the fans watching around the nation were predominantly the white working-class base that was the key to Trump’s election as president. His rallies were not the first occasions when he had found this base and made it his own. Recall Donald Trump’s stint with professional wrestling: he will be the first president who has previously been welcomed into the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Hall of Fame. Recall Trump’s role as impresario of the Miss Universe pageant.  Trump staged profitable spectacles of beauties and beasts—of slim young women in bathing suits and huge men in trunks. These were not spectacles that appealed to the educated classes, especially to those that Trump delighted in denouncing as “politically correct.” But through these spectacles the billionaire connected to a working-class base that no other candidate in 2016 could reach. One cannot imagine a Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, a Jeb Bush or Ted Cruz, as the host of wrestling matches or beauty contests.

Since his election, Trump has not let go of spectacle for a minute. His auditions for cabinet positions have been a near-daily TV drama as he holds court in his iconic Manhattan tower. He has even reenacted his campaign rallies in “thank-you” appearances–a golden-oldies tour that keeps the fans aroused. His inauguration is likely to be over-the-top in gold and glitz. But the day after, he will have to govern, and then the Trump spectacle will meet its real test.

At least two major risks for the Trump spectacle can be foreseen. One is that Trump’s non-stop spectacle will grow tiresome, as an increasing share of the public audience feels that they have seen his antics too many times. Franklin D. Roosevelt is an instructive guide here. FDR’s fireside chats were an electronic marvel of simulated intimacy between a president and his people. Yet the fireside chats were broadcast on average only 2.5 times per year. When a supporter urged FDR to take to the air more often to promote his agenda, the president demurred, arguing that over-exposure would take away the freshness—and the effectiveness—of his radio appearances.

An even larger risk to the Trump spectacle is the intrusion of reality. It is far easier to make promises on the campaign trail than to deliver on them in the White House, especially when the promises, like Trump’s, are grandiose and may run contrary to long-established trends. The capacity of stark realities to subvert crowd-pleasing spectacles is illustrated by a notorious event during the presidency of George W. Bush. When Bush staged his “Mission Accomplished” spectacle on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln to celebrate his apparent triumph in Iraq, the press treated it as a new peak in the production of spectacle. However, after the conflict in Iraq resumed with appalling brutality, “Mission Accomplished” became a mockery for Bush. Presidents may score points for an appealing spectacle, but they are judged in the end by how well they perform in enacting successful policies.

Donald Trump has built a remarkably successful career through his talent at spectacle. It has been his one true qualification for the office of president. But will it be enough to carry him through a successful administration? In business, and now in politics, he has lived by spectacle. In the White House, that may be a fatal flaw.

How the Vice Presidency Changed, Exactly 40 Years Ago.

Contributed by Joel Goldstein, author of The White House Vice Presidency

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the creation of the White House vice presidency, the most significant recent development in American constitutional institutions and an important legacy of the presidency of Jimmy Carter and the vice presidency of Walter F. Mondale. There were many significant 1976 events along the road to transforming the vice presidency into a consequential, ongoing part of the presidency including the Carter-Mondale interview in Plains, Ga. on July 8, the Mondale selection on July 15, and the first vice-presidential debate on October 15. Yet perhaps no single event captures their creation more than Mondale’s 11-page memo to Carter, “The Role of the Vice President in the Carter Administration” , dated 40 years ago December 9.

fullsizerenderDuring the last 40 years, vice-presidential influence and constructive activity have become an expectation of our constitutional system. That was certainly not the case on December 9, 1976.  Indeed, Mondale’s memo began by noting that finding a role for the vice presidency had been a perennial “problem,” that vice presidential role had been “characterized by ambiguity, disappointment, and even antagonism” and that the eminent presidential historian, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. had described the job as one of “spectacular and …incurable frustration.” Nelson A. Rockefeller ‘s term began amidst high expectations of vice-presidential involvement, but soon Rockefeller was at odds with President Gerald R. Ford’s chiefs of staff, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, and was dumped from the 1976 ticket.  Less than a decade before Rockefeller’s failed vice presidency, President Lyndon B. Johnson had marginalized and humiliated Mondale’s political friend, Hubert H. Humphrey. The inability of men like Humphrey and Rockefeller to contribute as vice president reinforced the fatalism of Schlesinger and others about the office.

Mondale’s December 9 memorandum culminated a lengthy period of study and thought. Humphrey had encouraged him to be open to the vice presidency during a spring meeting arranged by Mondale’s Senate chief of staff, Richard Moe. Mondale began to study the vice presidency before he met with Carter on July 8. During their meeting, Mondale and Carter were on the same page regarding elevating the second office without getting too specific. After Carter chose him, Mondale asked his former legislative assistant, Robert Barnett, to prepare a study of the office. Barnett’s 38-page report surveyed problems of past vice presidents and made recommendations that helped shape the White House vice presidency. Barnett’s insightful study discussed the importance of the president-vice president relationship and the threats to it and presciently emphasized the possibility of making a meaningful contribution as a “Super Advisor.” After Carter and Mondale were elected, Mondale met with Rockefeller and former Humphrey staff members in addition to ongoing discussions with his associates including his principal aides Moe, Michael Berman and James Johnson. After Carter, Mondale and Moe met to discuss Mondale’s role, Carter requested a memorandum which Mondale asked Moe to prepare.

9780700622023Mondale and his associates understood the difficulties of past vice presidents but they were problem solvers, not pessimists. Mondale had several advantages. Carter genuinely wanted to empower his vice president. Carter and Mondale and their staffs had worked well during the campaign. Mondale had contributed to the Democrats’ victory and had important skills and relationships which could help Carter govern. Barnett’s study and the months of discussion suggested a new path forward. The mission of the December 9 memo was to propose a workable vice-presidential vision and the resources to support it.

Mondale’s December 9 memo rested on the premises that the vice president should contribute to government on an ongoing basis, not primarily serve as a presidential successor; that the vice president’s contribution should occur in the executive branch; and that the relevant challenge was to identify a role for the vice president that would contribute to government and the presidency, not enhance the vice president’s power or pleasure.

Consistent with Barnett’s study, Mondale concluded that “the most important contribution” he could make was as a “general adviser” to Carter. As the only other nationally elected officer, and one who was not bound by departmental obligations but was “able to look at the government as a whole,” Mondale was “in a unique position to advise.” Mondale’s political and governmental experience, his “political role around the country,” and his “established relationships” could help connect policy and politics. He could help make sure Carter was exposed to diverse points of view and not insulated from bad news as had some prior presidents. Mondale could also take on troubleshooting assignments for Carter such as traveling abroad, investigating problems, refereeing interdepartmental disputes, and working with Congress on major initiatives. Mondale’s approach differed from prior vice presidents who had sought areas or programs to run, a course Mondale et al concluded was a path to failure.

To succeed in these roles, Mondale told Carter he would need regular private access to Carter, inclusion in key groups, intelligence briefings and other information, associates in important roles, and a relationship for him and his staff with the White House staff.

Carter agreed to Mondale’s vice-presidential vision and the resources he identified. In fact, Carter went beyond the requests in the December 9 memo. He invited Mondale to all meetings on his schedule, directed that Mondale receive the same briefing papers Carter got, gave Mondale a choice West Wing office, and insisted that White House staff respond positively to Mondale’s requests.

The December 9 memo provided the blueprint for Mondale’s vice presidency. Its basic ideas were passed forward to subsequent administrations. In fact, Al Gore’s chief of staff, Roy Neel, later obtained a copy and used it as a starting point for Gore’s arrangement with Bill Clinton. The last six vice presidencies have differed in emphasis and influence but all have functioned as White House vice presidents consistent with the December 9, 1976 blueprint.

In addition to providing the basis for the White House vice presidency, the December 9, 1976 memo, and the events preceding and following it, provide a wonderful case study about the way in which thoughtful and knowledgeable public servants can make positive and lasting changes in governmental institutions. That’s something to study and celebrate this, and every, December 9.