What’s in the September Issue of The Journal of American History?
The September 2018 issue of The Journal of American History is now available online for subscribers.
Included are articles by Lisa Levenstein, Kirsten Swinth, Andrew Pope, and Gene Zubovich. We are also excited to feature book reviews, movie reviews, and digital history reviews. The digital history projects reviewed in this issue are Liberated Africans; Black Quotidian; and Building Inspector.
Preview of Articles
In the 1940s, ecumenical Protestants mobilized politically on behalf of two causes they
believed were intertwined: human rights and antiracism. By showing that these Protestants
joined lawsuits against segregation, lobbied politicians, and helped shape the
United Nations and the discourse on human rights, Gene Zubovich offers a corrective
to the evangelical-centered narratives that predominate in the study of religion and
politics. He also shows that, long before the rise of the Christian Right and the culture
wars, the unprecedented political mobilization for human rights divided Protestants and
polarized the religion into “liberal” and “conservative” camps.
Andrew Pope examines the antipoverty activism of poor black mothers before the
welfare rights movement. In 1960 the all-white Louisiana legislature instituted new
eligibility criteria that removed nearly every African American from Aid to Dependent
Children. Protests by black mothers compelled the local chapter of the National Urban
League to start Operation Feed the Children. The protests and subsequent campaign
won a tenuous national prohibition of so-called suitable home laws. Pope concludes by
examining the first test of the prohibition in Newburgh, New York. The mothers’ victory
in Louisiana helped black women across the country defeat subsequent attempts to
restrict access to welfare.
How did Americans come to frame mothers’ labor as a “choice” between work and family?
How did the concept of “work and family” even emerge? Kirsten Swinth takes a
fresh look at women’s labor history through debates over working motherhood in the
1980s. As the family wage system based on a male breadwinner and a female homemaker
cracked to the breaking point, Americans put forward competing ideas for a new
gender and family order. Those ideas shaped both conservative and liberal policy solutions
on issues such as child care and family leave. The article provides a new angle into
the 1980s, the development of neoliberal thought, and the cultural transformations that
accompanied the rise of a postindustrial society.
Lisa Levenstein uses U.S. feminists’ engagement with the Beijing Women’s Conference
of 1995 as a window into how social activism changed at the end of the twentieth
century. With the end of the Cold War and the increasing reach of global capitalism,
the U.S. feminist movement became more transnational, more dependent on new forms
of digital communications, and more reliant on foundation and institutional funding,
even at the grassroots. At the same time, voices typically sidelined in mainstream public
discourse—particularly those of women of color—became more central to the theorizing
and actions of the movement. Exposure to the approaches of feminists from Latin
America, Asia, and Africa, who employed human rights frameworks and documented
the devastating effects of neoliberal economic policies, taught many U.S. activists how
to conceptualize their struggles in global terms.