Seventy years ago today, the American submarine USS Barb torpedoed the Japanese carrier Unyo in the South China Sea, one of the legendary feats of the famed sub and its skipper, Eugene B. Fluckey. In Thunder Below, Fluckey puts us in the action:

How great can personal and impersonal moments become? Depth charges bursting all around, yet my mind was keenly alert as I directed evasive courses, speeds, feints, coaching the well-honed Barb team so the ship and her men and I would survive to rescue others. Yet a small part of my subconscious pondered the fate of the carrier that, head high, proudly steamed along just four minutes ago. Now she was writhing in her death agonies, her planes slithering over the side. The ugliness of destruction was tempered by the sobering knowledge that such planes could deal death no more.

Random depth charges were felt far off, not close. “Sonar reports destroyer turning and heading back at us.”

“Dave, give me a course from plot to pass within 50 yards astern of the tanker’s position when hit. Bob, I’m cutting as close as I date to the stern of the tanker. There should be something burning up above. I hope she can’t follow without getting singed.”

On the Unyo after the Azusa exploded the hydrophone room detected a torpedo sound just abaft the starboard beam. The emergency alarm was pressed, indicating the sub’s direction on the bridge battle board. Captain Ikuzo Kimura ordered, “LEFT FULL RUDDER! BATTLE STATIONS!”

The Unyo had turned less than ten degrees when the torpedo hit below the steering room on the starboard side. Two seconds later a second torpedo hit the main engine room. Captain Kimura was furiously doling out myriad orders over the damage control circuit that was feeding information to the bridge, fighting to keep his Unyo alive. Reports kept jamming in: “steering, main engines, auxiliary machinery stop functioning and are unfunctional. All lights are out. Fire are extinguished in all boiler room and al main valves closed. Eighteen dead in engine room, one in steering.”

Just then the third torpedo hit near the stern. The Unyo heeled over five degrees starboard, righted herself, and began to sink stern first, slowly.

Two UIP titles are available in paperback editions today.

A Secret Society History of the Civil War

A Secret Society History of the Civil War

Were the forces that drove the United States to civil war prompted by secret organizations such as the Brotherhood of the Union?

Mark A. Lause’s research indicates that in the years leading up to the Civil War, clandestine organizations exacerbated existing sectional tensions in the United States. Lause makes the case that the pervasive influence of secret societies may have played a part in key events such as the Freesoil movement, the beginning of the Republican party, John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry, Lincoln’s election, and the Southern secession process of 1860-1861.



Sex, Sickness, and Slavery

Sex, Sickness, & SlaveryThrough an examination of medical journals, diaries, daybooks, letters and other sources, Sex, Sickness, and Slavery: Illness in the Antebellum South reveals how Southern physicians’ scientific training and practice uniquely entitled them to formulate medical justification for the imbalanced racial hierarchies of the period.

Challenged with both helping to preserve the slave system (by acknowledging and preserving clear distinctions of race and sex) and enhancing their own authority (with correct medical diagnoses and effective treatment), doctors sought to understand bodies that did not necessarily fit into neat dichotomies or agree with suggested treatments.

SmithF12John Brunner wrote about robots, space exploration, far-off planets and technology that ws yet to exist. In 1968, his Stand on Zanzibar won the Hugo award for best science fiction novel.

He didn’t like the “sci-fi” label, though.

“For me the label ‘Science Fiction’ is merely a bookseller’s convenience. It tells the guy who runs the store on which particular shelf he should put this particular book,” Brunner says in the vintage video below.

“I’m not a Science Fiction writer,” Brunner declared. “I’m a writer.”

Jad Smith’s Modern Masters of Science Fiction series title John Brunner shines a light on the innovative work of the man who wrote The Jagged Orbit, The Shockwave Rider and dozens of other novels and stories. If that work that is contained by any genre is up to readers to decide.

Davis_NegroS14Kimberly Chabot Davis is an associate professor of English at Bridgewater State University. She answered some questions about her book Beyond the White Negro: Empathy and Anti-Racist Reading.

Q: Where did the term “White Negro” originate?

Kimberly Chabot Davis: Since the late 19th century, the term “White Negro” has been associated with bohemian whites who violate codes of white respectability. In the 1920s through the 1960s, the term referred to white Americans who claimed an affiliation with African American culture, particularly jazz. Most famously, Norman Mailer’s 1957 essay “The White Negro” described Beat-generation hipsters who idealized black masculinity as virile, wild, and anti-establishment, the opposite of “square.” More recently, hip-hop culture has attracted legions of white fans and imitators, so-called “wiggers” who are often likened to Mailer’s jazz hipsters. Many white negroes have been rightly accused of harboring romanticized stereotypes about blackness. While I address the problems of mimicry and romanticization, my book also examines the ways that present-day white engagement with African American culture may lead to the development of anti-racist and empathetic attitudes. The “beyond” of my title signifies the temporal space of the 21st century and also the evolution of whiteness in our contemporary moment.

Q: How prevalent is the idea that white consumption of black culture is a form of theft?  Do you agree with this assumption?

Davis: Scholarly and popular narratives about the politics of racial crossover have largely treated white consumption of black culture as an appropriation, a kind of theft or violation. Black feminist bell hooks calls it “eating the other.” Greg Tate’s book, Everything but the Burden: What White People Take from Black Culture, examines white theft of blackness but discounts the possibility that whites may be moved to take up “the burden” of fighting against racism. Eric Lott theorizes that blackface minstrelsy was a practice that involved both theft and love of African American culture. Yet he is largely interested in love as a variant of theft, a prurient desire for all that blackness represents. In common parlance, however, “love” is often understood as connoting respect, understanding, admiration, and invest­ment in another’s well-being. My book sheds light on the relatively unexamined complexities of “identificatory love” across racial boundaries. Although whites continue to appropriate black culture for their own needs and desires, I argue against a too-hasty dismissal of white con­sumption of black cultural texts as a potential conduit for social change. Countering the “theft” assumption, I devote a chapter to Danny Hoch and Adam Mansbach, two white writers and artists whose creative engagement with hip-hop has led them to become radical voices for social justice. Continue reading

Keepers of the FlameIf you are a football fan and week one of the NFL season has given you an early letdown (we’re looking at you Chicago Bears fans), perhaps some warmly manufactured memories and the soothing tones of John Facenda can smooth over any disappointment.

As Travis Vogan writes in Keepers of the Flame: NFL Films and the Rise of Sports Media, there is always some rose-colored glasses for fans who’d rather lean on nostalgia in place of a disappointing weekend’s performance:

In the words of longtime NFL Films producer Phil Tuckett, the company’s documentaries “portray reality as we wish it was.” More accurately, NFL Films portrays reality the way the National Football League wants consumers to believe it is.

NFL Films creates the league’s history by arranging exceptional moments into celebratory narratives. Greatest Moments in Dallas Cowboys History (1992) edits a series of noteworthy and thrilling instances into a story that argues for the franchise’s greatness. Era of Excellence: The 1980s (1989) functions similarly. It assembles a collection of outstanding snippets that index the 1980s NFL into a form that praises the league’s apparent excellence during that decade. Likewise, the syndicated television program NFL Game of the Week reflects on a recently completed NFL contest by organizing its most important and sensational plays to emphasize the featured game’s significance within the context of the week and season when it occurred.

NFL Films’ documentaries suggest the league’s past is constituted by extraordinary moments—diving touchdown catches, punishing blocks, and graceful runs—that evidence the NFL’s unique excitement and epic importance. They use conventions such as slow motion, orchestral scores, and narration to make featured instances seem as riveting as possible and then organize them into Hollywood-inspired stories of heroes uniting to battle against physical, emotional, and technical adversity. As such, these documentaries privilege arranging filmed content into dramatic narratives over providing thorough or even accurate reports of the events they examine. If footage does not readily exhibit the inspirational and broadly appealing set of qualities NFL Films uses to characterize and sell the league, the company’s productions either ignore it or—like Big Game America’s treatment of Joe Namath and The New Breed’s depiction of Tim Rossovich—take measures to contain it within the branded history the subsidiary constructs and promotes. NFL Films productions thus embody and illuminate a tension that marks all nonfiction representation: they simultaneously document “actuality” and filter it through forms influenced by a host of rhetorical, ideological, institutional, and economic considerations.

The casual viewer might not ponder a university press and the manly art of football at the same time. Assuming a scholarly publisher covered sports at all, wouldn’t it devote its energy to obscure ball games played by ancient Mayans, or maybe that preppie rowing thing where one person in the boat just shouts all the time?

As Keith Jackson might say: Nosirrrreeeee.

Here at UIP, we share sacred athletic ground with the likes of Hall of Famer Dick Butkus, a man who, according to legend, once punched a milk horse on the site where the press building now stands. (Note: this is not true.) (Note II: that joke was borrowed from U. of Illinois alum McLean Stevenson when he was on M*A*S*H*.)

We also publish an ever-expanding list of books that break down America’s Game: football. In fact, we so believe in the glory of football that we think President Gerald R. Ford had the right perspective on the sport when he said, “If I had gone into professional football the name Jerry Ford might have been a household word today.” Tee up the Kindle. Keep both hands on that hardcover. Here’s a roster of impact books that uses X’s and O’s, and all the other letters, to give you something to do after you use the mute button on Dan Dierdorf.

Keepers of the Flame: NFL Films and the Rise of Sports Media, by Travis Vogan

Keepers of the FlameRousing music. The Yahweh-like baritone of the great John Facenda. NFL Films transformed football into epic poetry, changing the way Americans view football but also altering the very way we perceive it. Why also do you hear classical music every time you see gloved hands reaching for a spiral in majestic slow motion? Travis Vogan shows how NFL Films constructed a consistent, romanticized, and remarkably visible mythology for the National Football League. His insightful story also goes beyond the gridiron to portray the company’s relationship with, and vast influence on, American representations of sport, the expansion of sports television beyond live game broadcasts, and the emergence of cable television and Internet sports media.

Continue reading

For the month of September, to coincide with the Association for the Study of African American Life and History annual meeting September 24-28 in Memphis, we have lowered the e-book list price of three titles in the University of Illinois Press catalog to $2.99.

Cover for LaRoche: Free Black Communities and the Underground Railroad: The Geography of Resistance. Click for larger imageFree Black Communities and the Underground Railroad: The Geography of Resistance by Cheryl Janifer LaRoche
In this enlightening study, Cheryl Janifer LaRoche employs the tools of archaeology to uncover a new historical perspective on the Underground Railroad. Unlike previous histories of the Underground Railroad, which have focused on frightened fugitive slaves and their benevolent abolitionist accomplices, LaRoche focuses instead on free African American communities, the crucial help they provided to individuals fleeing slavery, and the terrain where those flights to freedom occurred. This study foregrounds several small, rural hamlets on the treacherous southern edge of the free North. Buy the Kindle version here. Buy the Kobo version here. Buy the Google Play version here. Buy the Nook version here.

Cover for bynum: A. Philip Randolph and the Struggle for Civil Rights. Click for larger imageA. Philip Randolph and the Struggle for Civil Rights by Cornelius L. Bynum by Cornelius L. Bynum
A. Philip Randolph’s career as a trade unionist and civil rights activist fundamentally shaped the course of black protest in the mid-twentieth century. Examining Randolph’s work in lobbying for the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, threatening to lead a march on Washington in 1941, and establishing the Fair Employment Practice Committee, Cornelius L. Bynum shows that Randolph’s push for African American equality took place within a broader progressive program of industrial reform. Buy the Kindle version here. Buy the Kobo version here. Buy the Google Play version here. Buy the Nook version here.

Cover for thomas: Globetrotting: African American Athletes and Cold War Politics. Click for larger imageGlobetrotting: African American Athletes and Cold War Politics by Damion L. Thomas
Exploring the geopolitical significance of racial integration in sports during the early days of the Cold War, this book looks at the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations’ attempts to utilize sport to overcome hostile international responses to the violent repression of the civil rights movement in the United States. Thomas follows the State Department’s efforts from 1945 to 1968 to showcase prosperous African American athletes including Jackie Robinson, Jesse Owens, and the Harlem Globetrotters as the preeminent citizens of the African Diaspora rather than as victims of racial oppression. Buy the Kindle version here. Buy the Kobo version here. Buy the Google Play version here. Buy the Nook version here.

Cover for mcleod: Daughter of the Empire State: The Life of Judge Jane Bolin. Click for larger imageDaughter of the Empire State: The Life of Judge Jane Bolin
by Jacqueline A. McLeod
This long overdue biography of the nation’s first African American woman judge elevates Jane Matilda Bolin to her rightful place in American history as an activist, integrationist, jurist, and outspoken public figure in the political and professional milieu of New York City before the onset of the modern Civil Rights movement. Drawing on archival materials as well as a meeting with Bolin in 2002, historian Jacqueline A. McLeod reveals how Bolin parlayed her judicial position to impact significant reforms of the legal and social service system in New York. Buy the Kindle version here. Buy the Kobo version here. Buy the Google Play version here. Buy the Nook version here.

KalshovenS14Between Two Homelands: Letters across the Borders of Nazi Germany provides a glimpse into the everyday lives of one family living during the tumultuous years of World War Two.

The book, which was assembled from family letters by Hedda Kalshoven, gives voice to ordinary Germans in the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich and in the occupied Netherlands.

University of Illinois history professor Peter Fritzsche edited, abridged, and annotated Between Two Homelands with the assent and collaboration of Hedda Kalshoven. Fritzsche also wrote the Preface to the book.

The University of Illinois News Bureau spoke with Fritzsche for the “A Minute With”™ feature. Below is Fritzsche’s conversation with News Bureau social sciences editor Craig Chamberlain. . . .

News Bureau Editor’s note: Sept. 1 marks 75 years since Germany invaded Poland, beginning World War II, and historians still debate what caused the German people to follow the Nazis into conquest and the Holocaust. Peter Fritzsche, a historian of modern Germany, has written several books based in part on the letters and diaries of average Germans, from before and through Nazi rule and the war. Perhaps the most valuable collection of letters came from four generations of a single German family, separated by politics and the German-Dutch border. Those letters were recently published in the book Between Two Homelands for which Fritzsche did translation and wrote the preface.

We’ve recently passed the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I, and a common refrain is that the end of that war and its treaty demands led directly to the Nazis and World War II. Was the connection that simple? Continue reading

HaddixF13Jazz innovator Charlie “Bird” Parker was born on August 29, 1920 in Kansas City.

Before his death at age 34, Parker transformed jazz with harmonic creativity and complex melodic saxophone lines.

Chuck Haddix, author of Bird: The Life and Music of Charlie Parker, has written and spoken a great deal about the saxophonist’s influence on the musical world.

“Bird is like Mozart,” Haddix told The Pitch, an entertainment and arts paper in Bird’s home town of Kansas City. “He changed everything in music. There’s music before Charlie Parker, and there’s music after Charlie Parker.”

Sunday, August 31 marks the seventeenth anniversary of Princess Diana’s death. The event became one of those “I remember just where I was when I heard” moments. The car crash that killed her, and the life she lived prior to it, dominated the news for the next week. Tributes, from glossy magazine covers to rewritten Elton John songs, kept the event front and center far into the autumn, and “Di” remains at a level of posthumous celebrity once reserved for the likes of Elvis.

In Diana and Beyond: White Femininity, National Identity, and Contemporary Media Culture, author Raka Shome unravels the Diana Phenomenon—what it represented and what it reveals:

Few white women in history have had such an archive of images organized around them through which shifts in a nation’s modernity has been imagined. And very few white women in history have risen to a level where they symbolized not just a national popular but also a global popular. And furthermore, very few white women in our mediated times have simultaneously signified so many universalized narratives of white femininity: angel, good mother, global savior, icon of beauty, and a goddess. Diana Taylor (2003) notes that Diana’s physical existence was “redundant”; she existed always as an image, a representation that was more real than her corporeality and “that continues to defy the limits of space and time”.

Indeed, Diana’s image simply refuses to disappear. In the first few months of 2011, we saw it vehemently assert itself with the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. Following that, we have seen almost every act and every fashion style of Kate Middleton being compared to those of Diana. And, more recently, the birth of Kate and William’s baby, William and Kate’s “hands on” no-fuss parenting style, the new 2013 biopic of Diana where she is played by Naomi Watts, and the 2013 resurrection of the investigation of Diana’s death following new claims of conspiracy continue to prove to us that Diana does not perish.