History

Tuesday in Mooseville – Speaking His Truth: William Monroe Trotter (1872-1934) 12/10/19

William Monroe Trotter in 1915 (1872-1934)

He was privileged as one of the “Talented Tenth,” but a true ally to poor African-Americans. He was a newspaper editor and a Black Radical who alienated the full-range of the political spectrum, from Woodrow Wilson to Booker T. Washington to other Black Radicals. He believed the good was the enemy of the perfect but left a legacy that inspired the actions of activists of the Movement. He was William Monroe Trotter, and today we learn about him through his own words.

Tuesday in Mooseville – SHEnanigans: Elizabeth Peratrovich 12/3/19

The design features a portrait of Elizabeth Peratrovich, whose advocacy was considered a deciding factor in the passage of the 1945 Anti-Discrimination Law in the Alaskan Territorial Government. The foreground features a symbol of the Tlingit Raven moiety, of which she was a member.

For most of us (and yes, there are some notable Village exceptions), the story of Alaska and its First People is a story sketched in the broadest outlines and with little detail. Most of us have heard the designation “Seward’s Folly,” the derogatory description of the 1867 “purchase” of Alaska from the Russian Empire. We may have some basic understanding of the gold rush in the Klondike in 1896. Most of us have heard of the Iditarod, and the story of Togo and Balto and the sled dog relay to save the children of Nome, which inspired the current race. But I feel relatively confident that most of us, unless having spent some time in Alaska, know very little about the indigenous peoples and how they fared when Americans came to colonize their land. Not surprisingly, it’s a story of white supremacy and today, it’s also the story of a Native woman who said, “Enough.”

Tuesday in Mooseville – History Is. 11/26/19

Last week I mentioned that I would be doing a SHEnanigans post today, barring something catastrophic.  The catastrophic has not happened, but there’s a change in plans anyway.  My doubling down on resumes last week has resulted in two interviews:  one today and one tomorrow.  This is good news for me, but not good for my concentration on anything other than preparing for the interviews.  Instead you get a Twitter-supported look at interesting tidbits of history and the lenses through which we view them.

Tuesday in Mooseville – SHEnanigans: Packhorse Librarians

A pack horse librarian reads out-loud to a man in the Kentucky mountains; 12 January 1938

When the Works Progress Administration (WPA) was established in 1935, it had the responsibility for creating employment through developing infrastructure across the country. The building projects were concentrated in trades that were largely limited to men at the time, but in 1930, 22% of the workforce was female. Although WPA rules decreed that both husband and wife could not be receiving work through the WPA (this was not pure misogyny but an effort to reach a greater number of breadwinners overall), women needed work too. With many women claiming the head of household mantle, the Division of Women’s and Professional Projects scrambled to find work “appropriate” for women.

For most people, the name WPA brings to mind images of men laboring on highway projects and building parks and schools, but during the Depression, women, too, were heads of households and in need of employment. Work programs for women were first established in 1933 through the Women’s Division of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA), and later came under the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Some women were placed in clerical jobs or worked as librarians, others went to work canning, gardening, and sewing. Nationally, some 7 percent of WPA workers were women engaged in sewing projects. Sewing rooms could be found in rural areas and large cities alike. (“We Patch Anything”: WPA Sewing Rooms in Fort Worth, Texas)

Tuesday in Mooseville – Willow Run Mission Accomplished 11/5/19

Original caption: “A girl team working on a center wing section of a B-24E (Liberator) bomber in Ford’s big Willow Run plant. The Liberator is capable of operation at high altitudes and over great ranges on precision bombing missions. It has proved itself an excellent performer in the Pacific, in Northern Africa, Europe and the Aleutians. Ford’s Willow Run Plant, Michigan” (Between July 1942 and February 1943)

In September 1942, President Roosevelt visited the Willow Run plant as part of a cross-country war industry tour. Despite being four months behind where it hoped to be, Ford showcased its bomber and other war materiel that was being produced at other Ford locations. It was a dog-and-pony show put on by the company, but as Roosevelt’s countrywide tour was intended to be a boost to morale, it was a pleasant visit despite Henry Ford’s dislike of Roosevelt (Charles Lindbergh, an American First-er who had resigned his commission with the Air Corps before the U.S. was officially at war, stayed home. He was now employed by Ford as a lead test pilot, to be involved in the shakedown flights of the bombers). If the visit was any indication, 1943 should have been a stellar year for Ford. It wasn’t.

Tuesday in Mooseville, Extra Edition – Cars, Planes, and History 10/29/19

Riveting a center wing section for a B-24E (Liberator) bomber in the horizontal position at Ford’s big Willow Run plant; February 1943.

Last week, we learned that Ford Motor Company, at the urging of Edsel Ford and against the wishes of Henry Ford, decided to get into the airplane-building industry prior to the U.S. entry into WWII. The building of the Willow Run plant was a major undertaking, and getting Henry Ford to donate the land for the plant could have, and maybe even should have, been the high point of the story, with the rest being routine and unremarkable. But expecting the routine and unremarkable when Henry Ford was involved would in itself be remarkable.

Tuesday in Mooseville – When A Car Company Makes Planes 10/22/19

A small part of the world’s largest one-story war production plant, the giant bomber factory at Willow Run, Michigan. Fixtures in background hold bomber wings during assembly. Ford plant, Willow Run; July 1942.

I’ve written about things related to the auto industry before, but usually from the union perspective or with a union-centric focus. Despite that, I’m not dismissive of the contributions that the companies have made to our country’s history and development, particularly over the course of WWII. They may not have given up the production of automobiles voluntarily or altruistically, but committing their workers’ expertise to creating the arsenal of democracy undeniably made the difference between victory and defeat for the Allied powers. Today I’m providing a glimpse of one production center: the Willow Run B-24 bomber plant built near Ypsilanti, MI.

Tuesday in Mooseville – More Lost Cause Myths We Still Haven’t Busted 9/24/19

Last week, we looked at two of the four key Lost Cause myths identified by James Loewen and Edward Sebesta in The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader: The “Great Truth” about the “Lost Cause”. This week, I’m looking at the last two:

Third, during the “War Between the States,” Confederates displayed bravery and stainless conduct. They only lost owing to the brute size of the North. Conversely, slaves displayed loyalty to their “masters” during the war. Finally, and most important, during Reconstruction, vindictive Northern congressmen, childlike African Americans, and corrupt carpetbaggers and scalawags ravaged the prostrate South. (“THE NADIR OF RACE RELATIONS, 1890–1940.” In The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader: The “Great Truth” about the “Lost Cause”, edited by Loewen James W. and Sebesta Edward H., p. 253. University Press of Mississippi, 2010.)

Tuesday in Mooseville – The Lost Cause Myths We Still Haven’t Busted 9/17/19

Monument to a Confederate soldier, dedicated in 1901 in the town of Union, West Virginia, to “men who served the lost cause” in the U.S. Civil War.  Worth considering: this was the era when Confederate war memorials proliferated.  Memorials are typically built by the victors; what did they assume they had won?

I became a history major, in part, because I had excellent, compelling history teachers throughout my childhood. It seemed to me (although I didn’t have these words until I was much older) that they approached their lessons as historians first and schoolteachers second. I distinctly remember two different occasions in two different school districts in two different states with two different teachers when the history textbook was read aloud…and then the teacher(s) closed the book, threw it across the room in frustration, and stated, “Now let’s talk about what really happened.” Nowhere was this more evident than when the Civil War was the topic of study, and as a result, I missed many of the Lost Cause shibboleths that were being taught at the time. My high school history teacher did change things up, and he taught “the war of Northern aggression” from the Southern “perspective” so we learned the Lost Cause historiography, but we learned it as myth rather than as historical fact. So while I knew that some people viewed “states’ rights” as a proximate cause of the Civil War, I had read the primary documents of secession written by Southern legislatures with their unequivocal statements about seceding over their determination to preserve and expand slavery.

Unfortunately, my teachers were the exception rather than the rule, and too many of the myths perpetuated by the Daughters of the Confederacy are still found in history textbooks today. It’s largely understood today that this twisting of historical memory was intentional and done to serve the agenda of white supremacy. Studying the myths of the Lost Cause isn’t just done to establish the difference between myth and reality; it’s done to understand how historical memory is created.

…the study of memory allows us to understand the extent to which previous interpretations of the past were subject to political, social, and economic pressures, and how difficult it was for individuals and communities outside of dominant power structures to preserve and commemorate their preferred understanding of the past. (Levin, Kevin. Remembering the Battle of the Crater: War as Murder, University Press of Kentucky, 2017, p. 10)

Tuesday in Mooseville – Curiosity Piqued. Mississippi. 1890s. The Nadir. 9/10/19

By valor and arms

On September 5th, Janesaunt posted at The Orange about Jennifer Riley Collins, who is running for AG for Mississippi (this is the diary) and the intentional structural difficulties faced by African-American candidates in MS. In the course of preparing her diary, JA discovered and shared some of the grossly racist history of MS and especially the ways in which their constitution is written to ensure the continuance of white supremacy. My history antenna immediately started tingling, and I wanted to take a deeper look at Mississippi’s constitution and history. As so often happens, I meandered a bit in my reading, so what follows is more stream-of-consciousness than a primer on MS. But mostly, it’s a reminder that the Civil War has never ended; it’s just the battlefields and choice of weapons that have changed.