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What’s in the December Issue of the Journal of American History?

The December 2019 issue of The Journal of American History is now available online for subscribers.

Included are articles by Gregory Ablavsky, Andrew Friedman, Beth Bailey, and Earl Lewis’s 2019 presidential address. We are excited to feature book reviews, public history reviews, and movie reviews. The digital history projects reviewed in this issue are Mapping Early American Elections; Walden, A Game; and The Eugenic Rubicon.

In this issue, readers will also find “Interchange: Women’s Suffrage, the Nineteenth Amendment, and the Right to Vote.” This interchange, featuring a panel of seven distinguished historians, inaugurates the Sex, Suffrage, Solidarities: Centennial Reappraisals series. For more on this series, click here. The interchange is freely available online.

Preview of Articles

American historians have often found themselves providing answers to the key social questions of their age, be they political engagement, racial hostility, gender indifference, or institutional development. In an essay derived from his 2019 presidential address to the 2019 Organization of American Historians annual meeting, Earl Lewis invites the profession to interrogate the history of diversity and the variety of higher education responses. He argues that in an era when some question the power of truth and evidence, American historians must ask how universities and colleges have and will accommodate growing racial and ethnic diversity. In his view, historians tackling this question understand diversity is an asset to be defined, leveraged, and valued for the health of a
democratic society.

In recent years, historians have demonstrated how thoroughly the European law of nations shaped the creation of the United States, including by justifying the subordination of Native peoples. But they have largely portrayed Natives as the subjects of, rather than participants in, these debates. Gregory Ablavsky examines the other side of this legal contest: how some Creek and Haudenosaunee leaders resisted U.S. legal arguments by deploying international-law concepts to vindicate Native nationhood. Born of constraint, this resistance confronted important limits, especially as the United States manipulated concepts of territorial sovereignty. Nonetheless, this essay argues, Native international-law claims helped write Native sovereignty into U.S. law, tracing their early influence through to the U.S. Supreme Court’s seminal Cherokee decisions of the 1830s.

Seventeen new African nations sent representatives to the U.S. capital in 1960 and 1961. They entered a city pulled between desegregation and enduring racism. Dispensed to America to advance their foreign policies, they worked to secure urban spaces for African independence. But embodied experiences of the lingering racism in Washington, D.C., soon galvanized their anticolonial politics under the sign of antiracism. Andrew Friedman shows how, alongside a world of color allies, including African Americans improvising autonomous urbanism in newly black-majority Washington, these representatives transformed the fabric of the city—founded neighborhoods, bolstered networks, marked decolonized space, reimagined mobility, and breathed life into antiracist solidarities transcending national differences.

In the late 1960s, the U.S. Army confronted what some characterized as an internal “war”—a level of racial violence that senior army leaders believed threatened its ability to provide for the defense of the nation. Given the high stakes of the problem, army leaders pursued multiple solutions, and some of their efforts were in tension with the usual practices, values, and institutional logic of the army. In an era of cultural nationalism, as young soldiers claimed a distinct black identity and proclaimed black pride, army leaders briefly accommodated visible signs and symbols of cultural identity—most significantly, the Afro. Beth Bailey shows that, in so doing, they moved from a purportedly raceblind to a race-conscious approach.

Looking for older issues of The Journal of American History? See previews of past issues and articles