White Poverty and the Legacy of Slavery in the US South

While the moonlight-and-magnolias myth of the Old South continues to persist, the region’s history actually is much more sinister and grim – even for many white Southerners. Recently scholars have revealed the brutal, bloody realities of slavery in the late-antebellum Deep South. Yet to truly understand the gross inequalities endemic to slave societies, it is also important to acknowledge what happens to excess workers when a capitalist system is predicated on slave labor. With the rising global demand for cotton, and thus, slaves, in the 1840s and 1850s, the need for white laborers in the American South was drastically reduced, creating a large underclass who were unemployed or … [Read more...]

Why the Civil War Happened

Slavery. … [Read more...]

A Brief History of Sanctuary Cities

As everyone with a twitter feed already knows, Donald J. Trump is no friend of immigrants. In a spate of hot-headed executive orders this week, he slammed the door shut on refugees, banned visitors from seven Muslim countries, and promised to build a “Great Wall” physically separating us from Mexico. But his wrath extended past Mexican day laborers and Muslim asylum seekers to take aim at the traitors within. In an executive jeremiad, Trump torched “sanctuary jurisdictions” for “willfully” violating federal law and causing “immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our Republic.” To such harmers of the Republican Fabric he threatens to withhold all federal funds, … [Read more...]

Jeff Davis’s Ghost: The Long Battle over the Memory of the Civil War

History versus heritage? Memory versus history? Whose history and why? These questions are currently brewing a controversy at the University of Texas-Austin campus. The controversy swirls around a statue of Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederate States of America. The turn-of-the-century statue is being hotly contested because of its association with a certain memory of the Civil War and for the heritage it represents. To opponents of the statue, Davis represents a racist past – one incongruous with a multicultural present. Those battling to preserve the statue, namely the Sons of Confederate Veterans, claim that the Davis statue represents a piece of heritage. Contestations over … [Read more...]

What Did the Three-Fifths Compromise Actually Do?

Occasionally, a student asks a question so basic, about a presumption so fundamental to the teaching of history, that an instructor is caught completely unaware. A friend of mine found this out in his US history survey—in teaching about the colonization of the Americas, he made the commonplace assertion that indigenous peoples were highly susceptible to diseases brought from the Old World. Of course, we all know that smallpox, measles, and yellow fever ravaged the New World—at times literally decimating local populations—while the Americas only really sent back syphilis and lung cancer in return. But why, one student asked, were Native Americans so highly vulnerable to diseases from … [Read more...]

Relax, Historians: As Long as There’s a Roy Moore, You’ll Be in Business

On February 8, Roy Moore issued an administrative order to Alabama’s probate judges to refuse to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, despite a federal district court’s holding that the Alabama ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional. Moore based his order on a couple of technicalities, the primary one being that the federal order was directed at the attorney general and not the probate judges. A lot can change in three days. On Thursday, February 12, Judge Callie Virginia S. Granade of the Federal District Court ordered Alabama’s probate judges to issue the licenses. Undaunted, Roy Moore continues to insist that Alabama is not bound by the federal district court, and took to the … [Read more...]

Roy Moore Is Right. Sort of.

On Monday, February 9, 2015, Alabama became the 37th state to permit gay marriage. Well, sort of. Federal judge Callie Virginia S. Granade had already told Alabama on January 23rd in Searcy v. Strange that its “sanctity of Marriage” constitutional amendment was in direct violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.[1] The state’s attorney general had asked for a stay to this ruling, hoping that some clarity might come from the Supreme Court’s upcoming Gay Marriage Cases, to be decided in this term.[2] But on Monday, February 9, the Supreme Court declined to issue the stay. Gay couples immediately applied for marriage licenses, and by this writing, several had been granted. But Alabama is not … [Read more...]

Tropics of Meta “Staffers” Pick the Best of 2014

Each year, Tropics of Meta's intrepid team of cultural critics reports on the best of the year's music, movies, TV, scholarship and so forth.  We've commented on artists as humorless as Aimee Mann and as humorful as Chance the Rapper; we've listened to Harry Nilsson and showered with Greta Van Susteren. (And that was before her head transplant!)  This year, though, we decided to sound out our contributors on a battery of highly social-scientific questions, prompting some fascinating responses.  You think you know, but it's weird to learn what your friends and colleagues are actually into.  So here you have it: the first-ever ToMmys! 1. Best Academic Book/Article Nick Juravich: Roberta … [Read more...]