The June 2019 issue of The Journal of American History is now available online for subscribers.
Included are articles by Aaron Hall, Judge Glock, Asa McKercher, and Megan Black. We are excited to feature book reviews, public history reviews, and movie reviews. In the Metagraph section, a review of the book Harambee City: The Congress of Racial Equality in Cleveland and the Rise of Black Power Populism and its accompanying website, Harambee City, can be found. The digital history projects reviewed in this issue are NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project; Refusing to Forget; Borderlands Archives Cartography, 1808–1930; and A History of Central Florida: The Podcast Project.
Preview of Articles
Antebellum southern governments mobilized enslaved people to produce the infrastructure for marketing more bales, hogsheads, and bushels of slave-grown commodities. Joining the renewed interrogation of the interrelations of slavery and capitalism, Aaron Hall shifts attention from private plantations to the realm of public power and everyday governance. Officials recruited enslaved people’s labor through multiple institutional configurations. Several governments practiced direct public ownership, purchasing people to build market roads, clear rivers, and construct railroad tracks. States often turned to intermediary personnel and organizational structures to assemble and oversee enslaved manpower, particularly for sustaining large-scale railway projects. By illustrating how enslaved lives became a source of state capacity, Hall argues for greater recognition of slavery as a public institution—not only as an object of regulation but also as an instrument of constructive statecraft.
An understanding of judicial retirement is essential to fully grasp the long-running conflict over judicial independence in the United States. In his essay, Judge Glock demonstrates that the lack of a constitutional provision for the retirement of judges has led to numerous proposals throughout American history to encourage older judges to retire. Earlier proposals offered precedent for President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1937 judicial reorganization plan, which tried to “unpack” the Court by enticing justices to leave. The article also shows that a cut in 1932 in Supreme Court retirement pensions caused conservative justice to remain on the bench and that an act in 1937 to increase those pensions led to enough retirements to end the Court battle.
The U.S. civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s was a global event, watched by people throughout the world. In Canada, so close to the action, the black freedom struggle resonated powerfully. Among Canadians who were content to overlook racism in their country, the struggle reaffirmed a self-aggrandizing view of their nation. At the same time, however, African Americans’ efforts to challenge segregation inspired racialized minorities in Canada to challenge discrimination. Examining race, racism, and antiracism in North America. Asa McKercher underscores the black freedom struggle’s transnational nature.
The Landsat satellite program is an understudied feature of America’s space race known today for its part in illuminating climate change. However, as Megan Black shows, this environmental legacy obscures its origins in U.S. mineral pursuits around the world. A joint venture of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the U.S. Department of the Interior, with the first launched in 1972, Landsat satellites became a favored prospecting tool for the world’s largest oil and mining companies, aiding in their foreign investments. U.S. officials ensured that the satellites would help bend Third World minerals under the protections of national sovereignty to the will of a new era of space age globalization.