Category Archives: The Leading Edge

March 4, 2014, 1:22 am

The Leading Edge: Charles McKinney on the Rhodes College Civil Rights Conference

This is a slightly different kind of Leading Edge. Charles McKinney, a fellow Duke alum, helped organize and run a conference on civil rights at Rhodes College in Memphis. During the conference, he posted regular Facebook updates on the speakers. I thought a retrospective gathering of them would be a wonderful stream of consciousness account of the conference, and Chuck agreed. Headings are my words, the rest are Chuck’s.

From Civil War to Civil Rights: Race, Region and the Making of Public Memory

The conference schedule is here.


Rhodes Jazz Ensemble kicking off the conference! Copyright Charles McKinney 2014
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First up is Professor Kate Masur’s plenary lecture:

Masur: “Birth of a Nation” and “Lincoln” have the same narrative line regarding the caricature of Black/Republican politics. BOOM.

Masur: We should confront the tenuous nature of black life in the South. Have NEVER…

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February 25, 2014, 1:44 pm

The Leading Edge: Dan Royles on African American AIDS Activism

Welcome back to the Leading Edge! Today, Dan Royles of the University of Angers talks about African American activism during the AIDS crisis. Dan’s is the last Leading Edge I have scheduled, so send your projects and ideas in, or I might have to put up a big blank space next week. Link to form and process here.

Photo by Kaytee Riek
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AIDS is killing African Americans. In 2011, African American men were diagnosed with HIV at a rate almost eight times that of white men, while the rate of HIV diagnosis among black woman was twenty times that of their white counterparts. [1] Despite the widespread notion, propagated by early media coverage of the disease, that AIDS primarily affects white gay men, the disease has disproportionately affected African Americans since doctors first identified it in 1981. However, scholars of AIDS politics have almost entirely ignored any organized response from…

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February 11, 2014, 7:37 am

Leading Edge: Francesca Tronchin on Elvis and Roman Architecture

Graceland villa 1My first visit to Graceland was during what Memphis folks and Elvis fans call “Death Week” without the slightest sense of the macabre or even irony, as this is high season for Elvis tourism, even in torrid mid-August. I only saw Graceland from the outside, as my destination, like that of so many other visitors this particular week, was the Meditation Garden where Elvis, his parents, and his grandmother are buried. I was surprised but then moved to see mourners praying at the gravesite, openly crying. I was even more fascinated by the large, elaborate flower arrangements sent from Elvis fan clubs all over the world. What to me was going to be a cheeky glimpse into my new home’s local hero turned into something more profound. I not only felt an emotional twinge, but also an intellectual one, seeing some connections between annual pilgrimage to Elvis’ residence and funerary monument…

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February 4, 2014, 2:44 pm

Leading Edge: Patrick Rael on the Long Death of Slavery in the United States, 1777-1865

Today’s Leading Edge takes up the issue of slavery. Patrick Rael, a historian at Bowdoin, tells us that the end of slavery is a bit more complicated than the Civil War, the 14th Amendment, and Daniel Day-Lewis Abraham Lincoln.

Produced after the Civil War, this map effectively depicted the national “house divided” that in 1858 Republican Abraham Lincoln warned could not stand. Courtesy Library of Congress.
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When we think of the ending of slavery in the United States, what comes to mind? Perhaps images of victorious Union armies, of Lincoln promulgating the Emancipation Proclamation, or — as depicted in Steven Spielberg’s 2012 film — of Congress’ fateful 1865 vote to amend the Constitution to abolish slavery. The desperate violence of the Civil War dominates the story of the end of slavery. But that’s not quite the way it happened.

We seldom remember that the Civil War…

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January 28, 2014, 1:00 pm

The Leading Edge: Robert Thompson and Vietnam

Our second Leading Edge takes us to the provinces of Vietnam to figure out what exactly the US meant when it talked about “pacification.” Robert Thompson, a graduate student at the University of Southern Mississippi, is working on a dissertation on exactly that, and here he explains it for us.

“Pacification” is a broad term that encapsulates all the ambitions of both military and civilian entities. It is a single word, describing a much more complex reality. My project (at the dissertation stage right now) is a study of language and wartime priorities in Phu Yen Province during the Vietnam War, figuring how how that word reflected reality. An examination of “pacification” shows that the prevailing definition points towards the existence of only one war in southeast Asia. Continuity, not change, best characterized the Vietnam War. “Conventional” large unit warfare under General…

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January 20, 2014, 6:00 am

The Leading Edge: Erica Hannickel

Welcome to the Leading Edge, a series on new works in history. We start things off with Dr. Erica Hannickel, Assistant Professor of Environmental History at Northland College, whose work on the history of American wine reveals all sorts of fascinating connections to immigration, race, and the Industrial Revolution. And, notably, the “Croesus of Cincinnati.”

15162How is it that historians don’t include Cincinnati land speculator and winemaker Nicholas Longworth in our panoply of most powerful 19th century moguls? For a time, Longworth was considered the second-richest man in America, behind John Jacob Astor.[1] Antebellum America knew Longworth as the “Western Bacchus” and “Croesus of Cincinnati”; today, a few historians crown him the “father of American wine” (in truth, he was the father of American sparkling hock). [2] Indeed, Longworth transformed Cincinnati into the …

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