Jul 13

Andrew Burstein on the Southern Biography series

Andrew Burstein

As the New York-reared editor of the Southern Biography series, I didn’t see anything odd or unusual about including John U. Monro on our list of titles. “Just how is the dean of Harvard College a suitable subject for southern biography?” you ask.

Allow me to respond a bit indirectly:

Most people focus on the South’s distinctiveness–and not often in a good way.  But the region is also a crazy quilt of bustling cultures, and the site of dynamic interactions.  Its history knows the power of human commitment beyond the well-known pain of war and stereotypical forms of religious fervor.  So let us question what it is that makes folks assume the South can only be told according to a traditional storyline.

John Monro’s roots in New England extended back to the seventeenth century, but the roots he planted in Alabama and Mississippi felt just as deep to him.  He was at Harvard in the 1930s, and served on the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Enterprise in World War II, where he was the damage control officer in a kamikaze attack in the spring of 1945.  Not expecting to survive the war, he resolved after V-J Day to make a difference in the world in tribute to his fallen comrades.

So when he was Harvard’s dean, he didn’t just wallow in whatever power he held.  When the president of historically black Miles College, near Birmingham, Alabama, challenged him to do more than wax eloquently about equality as a part of educational theory, he responded.  Miles students and faculty alike were “foot-soldiers” in Martin Luther King’s Birmingham campaign.  Monro went to Birmingham.

Near the end of his Harvard deanship, he became embroiled in the Timothy Leary (“Tune in, turn on, drop out”) drug controversy, plus Vietnam-era draft resistance.  All of a sudden, Monro took the bold step of exiting the Ivy League to become a foot-soldier at Miles, teaching nothing more dignified (or romantic) than freshman English.  He was hailed as a pioneer and hero for his dramatic decision.  The New York Times, Time magazine, The Nation, and others told his story.

The author of this exceptional biography, Toni-Lee Capossela, writes: “Monro had always looked with skepticism on the layers of privilege and comfort which Harvard’s members were swaddled.”  In one of the more memorable quotes from her book, Monro charges: “Once you start orienting your life around the expectations of pay, family, neighborhood, swimming pools, status, you’re done.”

Monro didn’t think of himself as any kind of hero.  In fact, he felt lucky.  While teaching freshmen at Miles, he told a reporter: “The kids have an old-fashioned idea about college, which I find charming.  They are not cynical.  They believe the college can do something for them.”  So, Monro came south “naked,” a learner.  He came south, and he stayed.

Good historical writing does more than feed an existing consensus–anybody can to that.  No, what makes history and biography really come alive is that which highlights unexpected moves and tells us why they should matter to us.  By telling this unconventional life story without dressing it in “heroic” garb, Professor Emerita Toni-Lee Caposella has done much to carry on the distinction for which the Southern Biography series has been long known.

May 13

Segregated Soldiers Uses Southern University to Depict How Higher Education and Military Programs Advanced Civil Rights

In Segregated Soldiers, Marcus S. Cox investigates military training programs at historically black colleges and universities, and demonstrates their importance to the struggle for civil rights. Examining African Americans’ attitudes toward service in the armed forces, Cox focuses on the ways in which black higher education and Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) programs worked together to advance full citizenship rights for African Americans. Educators at black colleges supported military training as early as the late nineteenth century in hopes of improving the social, economic, and political state of black citizens. Their attitudes reflected the long-held belief of many African Americans who viewed military service as a path to equal rights.

Cox begins his narrative in the decades following the Civil War, when the movement to educate blacks became an essential element in the effort to offer equality to all African Americans. Using Southern University—one of the largest African American institutions of higher learning during the post–World War II era—as a case study, Cox shows how blacks’ interest in military training and service continued to rise steadily throughout the 1950s. Even in the 1960s and early 1970s, despite the growing unpopularity of the Vietnam War, the rise of black nationalism, and an expanding economy that offered African Americans enhanced economic opportunities, support for the military persisted among blacks because many believed that service in the armed forces represented the best way to advance themselves in a society in which racial discrimination flourished.

Unlike recent scholarship on historically black colleges and universities, Cox’s study moves beyond institutional histories to provide a detailed examination of broader social, political, and economic issues, and demonstrates why military training programs remained a vital part of the schools’ missions.

Marcus S. Cox is an associate professor of history at The Citadel Military College of South Carolina. Raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, he earned a bachelor’s in marketing and a master’s in history from Southern University, a doctorate in African American history from Northwestern University, and a master’s in business administration from The Citadel.

May 13, 2013
264 pages / 5.5 x 8.5
Cloth $42.95, ebook available

May 13

The Politics of Faith during the Civil War Reveals Political Motivations of Religious Leaders during the Civil War

“A thoughtful, deeply researched, and impressive history of the place of religion in nineteenth-century America.”—Aaron Sheehan-Dean, author of Why Confederates Fought: Family and Nation in Civil War Virginia

In The Politics of Faith during the Civil War, Timothy L. Wesley examines the engagement of both northern and southern preachers in politics during the American Civil War. Controversial ministers risked ostracism within the local community, censure from church leaders, and arrests by provost marshals or local police. In contested areas of the Upper Confederacy and border Union, ministers occasionally faced deadly violence for what they said or would not say from their pulpits.

The generation that fought the Civil War lived in arguably the most sacralized culture in the history of the United States. The participation of church members in the public arena meant that ministers wielded great authority. Wesley outlines the scope of that influence and considers, conversely, the feared outcomes of its abuse. The reticence of otherwise loyal ministers to bring politics into the pulpit often grew not out of partisan concerns but out of doctrinal, historical, and local factors.

The Politics of Faith during the Civil War sheds new light on the political motivations of home front clergymen during wartime, revealing how and why the Civil War stands as the nation’s first concerted campaign to check the ministry’s freedom of religious expression.

Timothy L. Wesley teaches history at Pennsylvania State University, where he is a fellow with the George and Ann Richards Civil War Era Center.

May 13, 2013
288 pages, 6 x 9
Cloth $45.00, ebook available

Feb 13

The Discovery of King Richard III’s Skeletal Remains

“Such stuff as dreams are made on.” Shakespeare via Prospero said it best, though its modern interpretation may not be exactly what Shakespeare intended. To find the skeletal remains of King Richard III only two feet below the surface of the earth in a modern parking lot in Leicester, England, really is a dream come true for archaeologists and biological anthropologists in Britain. Vilified by Shakespeare in his play and alleged to have exterminated his two young nephews, Richard III was only thirty-two when he was killed in the Battle of Bosworth on August 22, 1485, ending the Wars of the Roses. He was the last English king to be felled in battle. History records that he was buried in an unmarked grave in the Greyfriars church by a small group of faithful supporters. The church was demolished in the 1530s as part of Henry VIII’s suppression of monasteries, and ultimately a parking lot was built on the site. An amazing job of interpreting old maps and sleuthing—with the assistance, of course, of twenty-first-century technology and know-how—aided in his discovery in 2012 and his positive identification in February 2013.

For forensic anthropologists like me, the identification includes multiple levels of interest. First, British researchers state that dramatic perimortem trauma (at or near the time of death) to the base of the king’s skull appeared to be the result of one blow—which in all probability quickly killed him—with a halberd, a medieval weapon composed of a razor-sharp iron ax blade topped with a spike and mounted on a wooden pole. Now that’s a weapon! Other injuries to his skeleton, particularly those to his buttocks region, may substantiate the legend that he was thrown across a horse after death and paraded through the village, where his body may have been further damaged by locals.

Continue reading →

Dec 12

The Louisiana Scalawags Provides First In-Depth Analysis of White Southern Republicans’ Role in Louisiana during Reconstruction

During the Civil War and Reconstruction, the pejorative term “scalawag” referred to white southerners loyal to the Republican Party. With the onset of the federal occupation of New Orleans in 1862, scalawags challenged the restoration of the antebellum political and social orders. Derided as opportunists, uneducated “poor white trash,” Union sympathizers, and race traitors, scalawags remain largely misunderstood even today. In The Louisiana Scalawags, Frank J. Wetta offers the first in-depth analysis of these men and their struggle over the future of Louisiana. A significant assessment of the interplay of politics, race, and terrorism during Reconstruction, this study answers an array of questions about the origin and demise of the scalawags, and debunks much of the negative mythology surrounding them.

Contrary to popular thought, the southern white Republicans counted among their ranks men of genuine accomplishment and talent. They worked in fields as varied as law, business, medicine, journalism, and planting, and many held government positions as city officials, judges, parish officeholders, and state legislators in the antebellum years. Wetta demonstrates that a strong sense of nationalism often motivated the men, no matter their origins.

Louisiana’s scalawags grew most active and influential during the early stages of Reconstruction, when they led in founding the state’s Republican Party. The vast majority of white Louisianans, however, rejected the scalawags’ appeal to form an alliance with the freedmen in a biracial political party. Eventually, the influence of the scalawags succumbed to persistent terrorism, corruption, and competition from the white carpetbaggers and their black Republican allies. By then, the state’s Republican Party consisted of white political leaders without any significant white constituency. According to Wetta, these weaknesses, as well as ineffective federal intervention in response to a Democratic Party insurgency, caused the Republican Party to collapse and Reconstruction to fail in Louisiana.

Frank J. Wetta is Senior Fellow at the Center for History, Politics, and Policy in the department of history at Kean University. He is a former Leverhulme British Commonwealth, United States Visiting Fellow in American Studies at the University of Keele in the United Kingdom.

January 2, 2013
256 pages, 5.5 x 8.5, 1 halftone
ISBN 978-0-8071-5078-8
Cloth $42.50

Nov 12

Kris Elmore, Associate Director for Development, on Lincoln

My worlds collide this weekend when Lincoln comes to theaters. As a movie buff, biography reader and follower of politics, I’ll be first in line for tickets for the Lincoln premier Friday night.

Daniel Day-Lewis, Tommy Lee Jones, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Sally Field all star in what I hope will be my new favorite movie of the year. It doesn’t hurt that Stephen Spielberg is directing…

If you find yourself hungry for more Lincoln after the movie ends, be sure to check out a few of LSU Press’s books that might give you more insight into our 16th president.

See you at the movies!

Nov 12

Bertram Wyatt-Brown (1932-2012)

Credit: Baltimore Sun

LSU Press honors and celebrates the life of Bertram Wyatt-Brown, an LSU Press author and the longtime editor of the press’s Southern Biography Series. Bert was the Richard J. Milbauer Professor Emeritus at the University of Florida, past president of the Southern Historical Association, and the author numerous books and articles on southern history, including Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Under Bert’s editorship of the Southern Biography Series from 1994 until 2009, the press published over a dozen new titles in the series, including Senator Albert Gore, Sr.: Tennessee Maverick, by Kyle Longley; The Color of Silver: William Spratling: His Life and Art, by Taylor C. Littleton; and Frontiersman: Daniel Boone and the Making of America, by Meredith Mason Brown. Bert was both a gentleman and a scholar whose thoughtfulness, humor, and warmth LSU Press will always fondly remember.

Oct 12

Lincoln and McClellan at War Details the Conflicted Relations of Two Influential Civil War Leaders

At the beginning of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln and his highest-ranking general, George B. McClellan, agreed that the United States must preserve the Union. Their differing strategies for accomplishing that goal, however, created constant conflict. In Lincoln and McClellan at War, Chester G. Hearn explores this troubled relationship, revealing its complexity and showing clearly why the two men—both inexperienced with war—eventually parted ways.

A staunch Democrat who never lost his acrimony toward Republicans—including the president—McClellan first observed Lincoln as an attorney representing the Illinois Central Railroad and immediately disliked him. This underlying bias followed thirty-five-year-old McClellan into his role as general-in-chief of the Union army. Lincoln, a man without military training, promoted McClellan on the advice of cabinet members and counted on “Little Mac” to whip the army into shape and end the war quickly. McClellan comported himself with great confidence and won Lincoln’s faith by brilliantly organizing the Army of the Potomac. Later, however, he lost Lincoln’s trust by refusing to send what he called “the best army on the planet” into battle. The more frustrated Lincoln grew with McClellan’s inaction, the more Lincoln studied authoritative works on military strategy and offered strategic combat advice to the general. McClellan resented the president’s suggestions and habitually deflected them. Ultimately, Lincoln removed McClellan for what the president termed “the slows.”

According to Hearn, McClellan’s intransigence stemmed largely from his reluctance to fight offensively. Thoroughly schooled in European defensive tactics, McClellan preferred that approach to fighting the war. His commander-in-chief, on the other hand, had a preference for using offensive tactics. This compelling study of two important and diverse figures reveals how personality and politics prolonged the Civil War.

Chester G. Hearn is the author of many books on the Civil War, most recently Ellet’s Brigade: The Strangest Outfit of All and When the Devil Came Down to Dixie: Ben Butler in New Orleans. He lives in Erie, Pennsylvania.

November 5, 2012
272 pages, 5.5 x 8.5, 4 maps
Cloth $45.00, ebook available

Oct 12

Atomic Testing in Mississippi Offers Significant Contribution to American Nuclear History

In Atomic Testing in Mississippi, David Allen Burke illuminates the nearly forgotten history of America’s only nuclear detonations east of the Mississippi River. The atomic tests, conducted in the mid-1960s nearly 3,000 feet below ground in Mississippi’s Tatum Salt Dome, posed a potential risk for those living within 150 miles of the site, which included residents of Hattiesburg, Jackson, Gulfport, Biloxi, Mobile, and New Orleans. While the detonations provided the United States with verification methods that helped limit the world’s nuclear arsenals, they sparked widespread public concern.

In 1964 and 1966 the Atomic Energy Commission conducted experiments at the salt dome—code-named Dribble—surrounded by a greater population density than any other test site in the United States. Although the detonations were not weapons tests, they fostered a conflict between regional politicians interested in government-funded science projects and a population leery of nuclear testing near their homes. Even today, residents near the salt dome are still fearful of long-term negative health consequences.

Despite its controversy, Project Dribble provided the technology needed to detect and assess the performance of distant underground atomic explosions and thus verify international weapons treaty compliance. This technology led to advanced seismological systems that now provide tsunami warnings and detect atomic activity in other nuclear nations, such as Pakistan and North Korea.

David Allen Burke holds a doctorate in history of technology from Auburn University.

November 5, 2012
224 pages, 5.5 x 8.5, 15 halftones
Cloth $39.95s, ebook available

Sep 12

Book Offers Firsthand Impressions of Key Moments in History

“A tour d’horizon of Europe at war’s end through the lens of one of the great American journalists of the twentieth century. Scholars and non-scholars alike will find Baker’s vivid descriptions and observations fascinating and incisive and of real significance.”—Thomas J. Knock, author of To End All Wars: Woodrow Wilson and the Quest for a New World Order

At the height of World War I, in the winter of 1917–1918, one of the Progressive era’s most successful muckracking journalists, Ray Stannard Baker (1870–1946), set out on a special mission to Europe on behalf of the Wilson administration. While posing as a foreign correspondent for the New Republic and the New York World, Baker assessed public opinion in Europe about the war and postwar settlement. American officials in the White House and State Department held Baker’s wide-ranging, trenchant reports in high regard. After the war, Baker remained in government service as the president’s press secretary at the Paris Peace Conference, where the Allied victors dictated the peace terms to the defeated Central Powers.

Baker’s position gave him an extraordinary vantage point from which to view history in the making. He kept a voluminous diary of his service to the president, beginning with his voyage to Europe and lasting through his time as press secretary. Unlike Baker’s published books about Wilson, leavened by much reflection, his diary allows modern readers unfiltered impressions of key moments in history by a thoughtful inside observer.

Published here for the first time, this long-neglected source includes an introduction by John Maxwell Hamilton and Robert Mann that places Baker and his diary into historical context.

John Maxwell Hamilton is the Hopkins P. Breazeale Professor and founding dean of the Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State University.

Robert Mann holds the Manship Chair in Mass Communication and is director of the Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs in the Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State University.

December 2012
504 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4, 1halftone
Cloth $45.95s, ebook available