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

The September issue of the Journal of American History is now available online and in print. Included are articles by Sonia Hernández, Martin Summers, Gene Zubovich, and Yevan Terrien’s Editor’s Choice article, “Baptiste and Marianne’s Balbásha’: Enslavement, Freedom, and Belonging in Early New Orleans, 1733–1748.” The pieces explore Indigenous marronage, the connections between decolonization in southern Africa and religious politics in the United States, the mental health care movement as part of Black freedom struggles, and transnational reconfigurations of gender and racialization in Porfirian and Progressive Era Mexico and the United States. The issue also features Erika Lee’s 2023 OAH Presidential Address, as well as digital history and book reviews.

Previews

In her presidential address to the 2023 annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians, Erika Lee speaks to the war currently being waged against American history. As states pass bills to restrict discussions of race, gender, and sexuality in U.S. history, she warns, the stakes could not be greater. Drawing from her own field of Asian American history, Lee highlights historian-led and community-based efforts, especially in Los Angeles, that can serve as models. “We all have a role to play in the current war against history,” she concludes. “We must continue to practice, teach, and advocate for new ways to produce, preserve, and share history that democratizes American history and leads to social, economic, and political change.”

Yevan Terrien’s microhistory of slavery and marronage (slave desertion) focuses on the remarkable case of Baptiste and Marianne, Chickasaw-descendant siblings who grew up as captives in eighteenth-century New Orleans. Despite running away sixty-one times over nine years, they remained enslaved and, upon reaching adulthood, were eventually sold. Their actions helped them forge cultural ties to their Indigenous people and a network of Native, African, and European relations in French colonial Louisiana. As evidenced by their mapped desertions, Baptiste and Marianne succeeded in breaking their social isolation, including from each other, while petitioning with their feet for the freedom once promised them.

Utilizing U.S. and Mexican archival material, Sonia Hernández recasts the Mexican Porfirian and U.S. Progressive Eras as intertwined transnational moments by centering working-class Mexican-origin women during their close encounters with state agents. Describing women as “bandit” wives or “revoltosas” plotting to overthrow a pro–U.S. capital Mexican government cast them as obstacles to (trans) national state socioeconomic progress—obstacles that could lead to violence and render both sides of the border unsafe. Hernández provides a glimpse into the varied forms of gendered negotiations that women employed to protect themselves and their families, including appeals to a Mexican cultural affinity and maternalism. She also reveals both the centrality of violence in the larger reconfiguration of gender and the racialization imposed on Mexican-origin people.

By exploring the interesting, but understudied, intersections between the community mental health care movement and the Black freedom struggle in the 1960s and 1970s, Martin Summers contributes to our understanding of the history of community mental health care. The article points out the ways that race and racial inequality contributed to how mental health care experts and community activists thought about the challenges and promise of psychiatry in addressing the lives of people of color, the poor, and the disadvantaged. At the same time, it also complicates how we view the Black freedom struggle by encouraging us to recognize that African Americans considered access to mental health care to be an important civil right and tool of empowerment.

Gene Zubovich explores the history of the American culture wars through an international lens by focusing on the ways religious and political polarization in the United States was intertwined with decolonization in southern Africa. As liberal, ecumenical Protestants supported anticolonial movements in southern Africa through the World Council of Churches’ Programme to Combat Racism, evangelicals countermobilized. This international rivalry over decolonization, reparations, violence, and the future of global Christianity transformed places such as Mozambique, while also polarizing religious politics in the United States and rallying the ascendant Christian Right.

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