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

The March issue of the Journal of American History is now available online and in print. Included are articles by Cindy Hahamovitch, Britain Hopkins, Karin Zipf, and Joshua A. McGonagle Althoff’s Editor’s Choice article, “Managing Settlers, Managing Neighbors: Renarrating Johnson v. McIntosh through the History of Piankashaw Community Building.” The pieces explore a range of topics, including Indigenous sovereignty and land, the role of sheriffs in the workings of the state, the student loan industry, and questions of gender and migrant slavery violence. The freely available Textbooks and Teaching section explores curricular changes and shifting pedagogical practices in history departments. The issue also features reviews of books and digital history projects.


The foundational 1823 Supreme Court case Johnson v. McIntosh drew from a 1775 negotiation between land speculators and Peeyankihšiaki (Piankashaw people) to subjugate Indigenous sovereignty to the plenary powers of Congress. This negotiation is usually framed as a “purchase,” but when read alongside a history of Peeyankihšia community building, it becomes clear that Peeyankihšia people intended to negotiate the right to live within, rather than own, their homelands. By moving away from the idea of a “purchase,” Joshua A. McGonagle Althoff reveals how Peeyankihšiaki were preparing for prosperity, not declension, in the late eighteenth century.

Walter R. Clark, Broward County, Florida, sheriff for nearly two decades in the twentieth century, used his office to enforce white supremacy, procure labor for local businesses, bolster the illegal gambling industry, and line his own pockets. Like other sheriffs, he was also central to the workings of the state at the local level: policing the county, administering the courthouse, summoning juries, running the county jail, and more. Considering Clark in a long historical context that extends from the Jacksonian Era to the present, Cindy Hahamovitch makes the case for the importance of sheriffs and local government in American life.

Through a consideration of key legislation and actors, Britain Hopkins contributes to understandings of the origins of the student loan industry and student loan indebtedness in the United States between 1958 and 1973. The article highlights how private organizations and actors—such as the American Bankers Association and the Volker Fund—worked with the Johnson and Nixon administrations to establish student loans as a primary means of funding higher education. These private-federal partnerships increasingly sought to commodify student loans on financial markets, thereby tethering access to higher education to previously excluded groups to market incorporation. The article thereby identifies the origins of student loan indebtedness as a legacy of the Johnson administration’s Great Society agenda.

American antislavery law long denied the problem of sexual assault in slavery. Using a gendered lens, Karin Zipf extends the historiography of American slavery in an analysis of late twentieth-century farm worker slavery cases. Zipf examines the testimonies of male and female farm workers from a pivotal federal district court case to expose the masculinist narrative in federal antislavery law. Zipf demonstrates the law’s gendered limitations in its masculinist meanings of migrant slavery violence, insensitivity to women’s fieldwork experiences, and subliminal endorsement of racist stereotypes of Black women. The omission of the issue of sexual violence in federal slavery laws propelled feminists to reinterpret the Thirteenth Amendment, resulting in passage of the Trafficking Victim’s Protection Act in 2000.