Brooks Blevins is the Noel Boyd Professor of Ozarks Studies at Missouri State University. He is the author or editor of eight books, including Ghost of the Ozarks: Murder and Memory in the Upland South; Arkansas, Arkansaw: How Bear Hunters, Hillbillies, and Good Ol’ Boys Defined a State; and Hill Folks: A History of Arkansas Ozarkers and Their Image. He recently answered a few questions for us about his new book, A History of the Ozarks Volume 1: The Old Ozarks.

Q. In A History of the Ozarks Vol 1: The Old Ozarks, you begin the first volume of a three-part history of the Ozarks region and the culture of its inhabitants. Why did you conclude that such a comprehensive project was necessary?

Even though the last two decades have seen a growing number of scholarly works on Ozarks history, the challenge of teaching regional history and the public’s misunderstanding of Ozarks history and culture largely stem from the lack of a comprehensive history of the region. And I think this lack of a history was in large part due to the hold that folklorists and romanticizers have had on the Ozarks for generations. As more scholars have turned their attention to regional history in this age of hyper-specialization, we’ve been moving away from the old exotic backwater model toward a model that looks at regions as microcosms of the American experience. It’s a great way to combine sweeping temporality with a more narrowly-defined geographic focus. That said, my original intention was certainly not to write such a sweeping and in-depth history of the Ozarks, but rather a one-volume history of the region. By the time I got to the Civil War, however, I already had a book-length manuscript. There was just so much in the early history of the Ozarks that tied the region to the broader story of America and westward migration. It seemed a shame to give that story short shrift.

Q. What did you unearth while writing this book that most surprised you?

The layers of the region’s story in the years before the arrival of the Anglo-American settlers who would come to dominate and define the Ozarks were even richer than I expected. Though vast expanses of the region were uninhabited by Native Americans in the decades preceding European contact and even in the years leading up to the Louisiana Purchase, the Ozarks played a central role in the interplay of natives, European colonials, and U.S. expansion. The region’s role as an unofficial first “Indian territory” for displaced natives from east of the Mississippi – and its location in the path of the Trail of Tears – made the Ozarks crucial to evolving U.S. Indian policy during the first four decades of the nineteenth century. And for a fleeting moment a number of Native Americans even envisioned the heart of the Ozarks as a new autonomous homeland for displaced eastern nations.

Q. What major stereotypes still distort our views of the Ozarks and its people today?

It seems like an almost daily occurrence as I work with students, scholars, and the public that I encounter ingrained notions of a place and people that time has passed by – whether in a positive or negative sense. Those old hillbilly images that have so long colored our perceptions of the Ozarks and Appalachia are not easy to shake. There’s just enough believability in the truth of the stereotypes of uneducated, moonshining, gun-toting backwoodsmen that the imagery sticks to the highland South like beggar’s lice. My goal is to introduce the reader to a fuller, more nuanced picture of the region, its history, and its inhabitants, one that reintroduces a forgotten diversity and injects a useful complexity to the story.

Q. You write that throughout much of the twentieth century, Ozark historians highlighted the region’s peculiarities and ethnic distinctiveness. How has the discipline changed since then so that you can tell the story of the region with the subtext, “They’re really not that different from you and me”?

In the last thirty years or so there has been a movement away from the “exceptionalist”
interpretation of regional history that reigned for so many years. Some of this stems from an effort to write regional history in a national context; some comes from a new willingness on the part of scholars to approach regional studies with an open mind, not with the expectation that each region necessarily constitutes its own unique story. In the study of the highland South, this movement toward a more unexceptional, more holistic approach began with scholars of Appalachian history. It’s just one of many things that scholars of the Ozarks can learn from studies of her sister region back

Q. What do you have planned for the next two volumes?

The next volume covers the long era of Civil War and Reconstruction, with in-depth discussions of slavery in the Ozarks, the secession crisis, Civil War on the battlefields, the home front, and in the bushes, and the Reconstruction of the Ozarks politically, socially, and economically. The third volume carries the region’s story from the late nineteenth- into the early twenty-first century, concentrating especially on the evolution of regional social construct and the increasing centrality of stereotype in the history and culture of the Ozarks. As in volume one, I try to avoid writing regional history in a vacuum, looking instead at the ways in which the story of the Ozarks illuminates broader national developments. The trick is to do this without losing sight of the people and events that give the Ozarks its own flavor.

Roger Biles is Professor Emeritus of History at Illinois State University. His books include Richard J. Daley: Politics, Race, and the Governing of Chicago and The Fate of Cities: Urban America and the Federal Government, 1945-2000. He recently answered some questions about his new book, Mayor Harold Washington: Champion of Race and Reform in Chicago.




Q. Your book chronicles the rise of Chicago’s first African American mayor, Harold Washington, and his victory over the Chicago political machine in the 1980s. What inspired you to tell Washington’s story?

My wife and I left Chicago in 1981, two years before Harold Washington’s remarkable victory.  We closely followed the election from afar, stunned by the racial animosity that surfaced that year.  We were aghast at the shocking news footage shown on WGN-TV and the disturbing images shown in national newsmagazines.  We watched in amazement as the Council Wars unfolded and cringed when a cabal of white politicians sought to obstruct Mayor Washington at every turn.  Decades later, I remained fascinated by the turmoil of 1983-87 and wanted to understand how such events could be explained.   Most of all, I wanted to know more about the man who stood at the center of the controversy.

Q. In the book, you say his administration “represented a triumph of progressive politics no less than an unprecedented victory for African American voters.” Why do you think it is important to emphasize both race and reform in his story?

The traditional explanation of Harold Washington’s victories in 1983 and 1987, as well as the brutal infighting of the Council Wars, emphasized the bitter race relations in Chicago at that time.  The election returns clearly showed that race played an important role in the voting.  Nevertheless, Washington consistently campaigned on the idea that much more than racial equality was at stake in his anti-machine crusade.  “This political battle is not about race,” he said often.  “It is about money and power and morality.”  He firmly believed that his brand of reform, designed to improve the lives of African Americans, Latinos, poor whites, gays, lesbians, and other disadvantaged groups, would benefit all Chicagoans.

Q. What role did racism play in skeptics’ criticisms of Washington during his campaign and mayoralty?

Without question, racism played a significant role in the opposition to Washington in Chicago.  Somewhat submerged in the beginning, the racial bigotry became open and widespread in 1983 and lingered throughout Washington’s mayoralty.  At the same time, as the mayor and several of his key aides pointed out, the white politicians who skillfully incited their constituents with dire warnings of open housing and affirmative action were fighting for their political lives.  The surviving members of the imposing Democratic machine were defending patronage, contracts, and other perquisites that came with political control of city hall.  Washington’s opposition operated on a toxic mix of race, political power, and self-interest.

Q. Despite his critics’ caricature of him as ineffectual, you outline a number of practical, meaningful reforms he made. For example, how did he improve distribution of city services to underserved neighborhoods?

Chicago had long been known as “the city that works,” but Washington pointed out that the city worked well only for the downtown and for the residents of certain affluent and middle-class neighborhoods.  The inhabitants of less desirable areas of the city, especially people of color, routinely suffered from a shortage of day-to-day services.  Indeed, African American residents of the poorest precincts noted that they had never seen city snowplows or road graders until Washington became mayor.   Washington ran on a platform of greater attention to neighborhood concerns and, after his election, redistributed municipal resources to address the gross inequities in municipal housekeeping commonplace in Chicago for generations.

Q. How did the black community respond to his sudden death in office? What were the political consequences of his death at the beginning of his second term?

Washington’s death shortly after his reelection triggered a massive outpouring of grief in the African American community, where the mayor had enjoyed a special bond with the citizenry.  The depth of sadness among black Chicagoans reflected his unique status as the city’s first non-white mayor and the hero who had delivered his people from decades of political servitude to the powerful Democratic machine.  After a caretaker (Eugene Sawyer) completed the remainder of Washington’s term, Richard M. Daley won the mayoralty in 1989 and secured reelection five times before declining to seek a seventh term in 2011.  Daley’s record twenty-two years as Chicago’s mayor surpassed the previous record for longevity held by his father, Richard J. Daley.

Q. In what ways did Washington’s legacy endure, despite his brief tenure, and impact Chicago politics today?

Chicago’s electoral politics in the twenty-first century include more voters and legitimize more issues than in the machine era.  Decisions on the appointment of commissions, boards, and task forces by the mayor and other city officials, once made peremptorily without regard to diversity, have become subject to new guidelines designed to include representatives of different backgrounds and interests.  Once veiled in secrecy, city hall no longer routinely keeps information from the people or dispenses jobs and contracts to favored wards or groups of people without explanation.  Most important, the Washington interlude left Chicagoans in the twenty-first century with compelling memories of an earlier time and a sense of how local government could be retooled to produce a more just polity for all of the city’s inhabitants.


Just in time for the Latina/o Studies Conference in D.C. this week, the University of Illinois Press is excited to announce that Omar Valerio-Jiménez, and Sujey Vega will be joining Frances R. Aparicio as series editors of the Latinos in Chicago and the Midwest series. Senior Acquisitions Editor, Dawn Durante is the acquiring editor.

The Latinos in Chicago and the Midwest series documents the histories, challenges, and contributions of Latinos to Chicago and the Midwest. It promotes an understanding of regional and historical differences in Latino communities and of the ways in which Latinos in Chicago and throughout the Midwest construct their own sense of Latinidad and cultural difference. It offers new conceptual frameworks for the study of interlatino dynamics in this understudied region as well as comparative studies with other regions in the United States and in transnational relations with Latin America.

Omar Valerio-Jiménez is an associate professor of history at the University of Texas at San Antonio and the author of River of Hope: Forging Identity and Nation in the Rio Grande Borderlands and coeditor of The Latina/o Midwest Reader (University of Illinois Press, 2017).

Sujey Vega is an associate professor of women and gender studies and affiliate faculty member in the School of Transborder and religious studies at Arizona State University. She is the author of Latino Heartland: Of Borders and Belonging in the Midwest.

We’re thrilled that they’re joining the team and look forward to the ways they will continue to build the series.

If you’re attending LSA this week, stop by the University of Illinois Press Booth on July 13 at 5pm and help us celebrate this remarkable series!

For many, it is impossible to ignore what is happening in the United States right now. As thousands of families have been separated at the border, many of us have questions. As a scholarly press, we strive to disseminate significant scholarship in hopes that this work will contribute to the enrichment of both cultural and intellectual life. In this challenging moment in history, we would like to provide our readers with a short reading list of books related to immigration, asylum, and citizenship.

Gendered Asylum: Race and Violence in U.S. Law and Politics

Sara L. McKinnon exposes racialized rhetorics of violence in politics and charts the development of gender as a category in American asylum law.Women filing gender-based asylum claims long faced skepticism and outright rejection within the United States immigration system. Despite erratic progress, the United States still fails to recognize gender as an established category for experiencing persecution. Gender exists in a sort of limbo segregated from other aspects of identity and experience. Wide-ranging and rich with human detail, Gendered Asylum uses feminist, immigration, and legal studies to engage one of the hotly debated issues of our time.

Immigrant Voices: New Lives in America, 1773-2000

A classroom staple, Immigrant Voices: New Lives in America, 1773-2000 has been updated with writings that reflect trends in immigration to the United States through the turn of the twenty-first century. Contextualizing and annotating each entry, editor Thomas Dublin underscores the diversity of immigrant backgrounds as well as the commonalities of the U.S. immigrant experience across lines of gender, nation of origin, race, and even time.



Queer Migration Politics: Activist Rhetoric and Coalitional Possibilities

Karma R. Chávez analyzes how activists use coalition to articulate the shared concerns of queer politics and migration politics, as activists imagine their ability to belong in various communities and spaces, their relationships to state and regional politics, and their relationships to other people whose lives might be very different from their own. The battles for LGBTQ rights and immigrant rights have captured significant attention in the U.S. public sphere throughout the twenty-first century. Both movements, which are largely understood to be separate, have advocated a politics of inclusion in and assimilation to mainstream national values.

Latin American Migrations to the U.S. Heartland: Changing Social Landscapes in Middle America

Responding to inaccuracies concerning Latino immigrants in the United States as well as an anti-immigrant strain in the American psyche, this collection of essays edited by Linda Allegro and Andrew Grant Wood examines the movement of the Latin American labor force to the central states of Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Arkansas, Missouri, and Iowa. Contributors look at the outside factors that affect migration including corporate agriculture, technology, globalization, and government, as well as factors that have attracted Latin Americans to the Heartland including religion, strong family values, hard work, farming, and cowboy culture.

Illegal: Reflections of an Undocumented Immigrant

A day after José Ángel N. first crossed the U.S. border from Mexico, he was caught and then released onto the streets of Tijuana. Undeterred, N. crawled back through a tunnel to San Diego, where he entered the United States to stay. Illegal: Reflections of an Undocumented Immigrant is his timely and compelling memoir of building a new life in America. Ultimately, N.’s is the story of the triumph of education over adversity. In Illegal, he debunks the stereotype that undocumented immigrants are freeloaders without access to education or opportunity for advancement. With bravery and honesty, N. details the constraints, deceptions, and humiliations that characterize alien life “amid the shadows.”

A Nation of Immigrants Reconsidered: US Society in an Age of Restriction, 1924-1965

In A Nation of Immigrants Reconsidered, leading scholars of immigration explore how the political and ideological struggles of the “age of restriction”–from 1924 to 1965–paved the way for the changes to come. The essays examine how geopolitics, civil rights, perceptions of America’s role as a humanitarian sanctuary, and economic priorities led government officials to facilitate the entrance of specific immigrant groups, thereby establishing the legal precedents for future policies. Eye-opening articles discuss Japanese war brides and changing views of miscegenation, the recruitment of former Nazi scientists, a temporary workers program with Japanese immigrants, the emotional separation of Mexican immigrant families, Puerto Rican youth’s efforts to claim an American identity, and the restaurant raids of conscripted Chinese sailors during World War II.  Available January 2019

 Immigrant Identity and the Politics of Citizenship

Immigrant Identity and the Politics of Citizenship, is a joint effort with the Journal of American Ethnic History (JAEH). Editor John Bukowczyk selected 14 articles that explore the challenges of the myriad divisions and hierarchies that immigrants to the United States must navigate and the cultural and political atmospheres they encounter. The book includes a substantial introduction from the editor that highlights these themes that link each chapter.



Journal of American Ethnic History

The Official Journal of the Immigration & Ethnic History Society

The Journal of American Ethnic History (JAEH), edited by Suzanne Sinke, addresses various aspects of North American immigration history and American ethnic history, including background of emigration, ethnic and racial groups, Native Americans, race and ethnic relations, immigration policies, and the processes of incorporation, integration, and acculturation. Each issue contains articles, review essays, and single book reviews.

Highlighted article: The Southwest’s Uneven Welcome: Immigrant Inclusion and Exclusion T. in Arizona and New Mexico, by Robin Dale Jacobson, Daniel Tichenor, and T. Elizabeth Durden.

With a Special Feature: #ImmigrationSyllabus: The Necessity of Teaching Immigration History Today, by Erika Lee, Maddalena Marinari, and Evan Taparata



Gary Westfahl, formerly of the University of La Verne and the University of California, Riverside, has now retired to focus exclusively on research and writing. His many books on science fiction include William Gibson and Hugo Gernsback and the Century of Science Fiction. He recently answered some questions about his new book Arthur C. Clarke.

Q. What fascinates you about Arthur C. Clarke and his writing?
Certainly, any science fiction reader has to be impressed with the sheer range of his imagination; his stories may casually leap millions of years into the future, and he has envisioned many amazing forms of alien life existing in very inhospitable places. Regarding humanity’s future, it seems as if he compiled a list of every single possibility and resolved to write at least one story exploring all of them, and communications satellites are only the most famous of the numerous inventions that he proposed. However, as I reread all of his novels and stories to write this book, I became less interested in Clarke’s ideas, stunning though they were, and more interested in his personality: he was such an open and friendly person, yet he was also a secretive and guarded person. And while very few of his works can be regarded as truly autobiographical, I gained a new appreciation for them as I came to view them as expressions of his unique character and proclivities.

Q. How does Clarke’s portrayal of his characters reflect and predict the lifestyle of people today?
Throughout his adult life, Clarke mostly lived without a partner, and the protagonists of his early stories also tend to be men without partners. Probably recognizing that such characters might seem odd to readers in the 1950s, he then developed the pattern of portraying couples who apparently were happily married yet spent most of their time separated from each other; thus they also lived largely isolated lives, but found fulfillment by forging close relationships with colleagues and remaining connected to their families and other friends by means of long-distance communication and occasional visits. And all of this, of course, recalls the way that Clarke remained an active member of the European and American science fiction communities while spending almost all of his time living halfway around the world in Sri Lanka. Both Clarke and his characters, then. can be seen as harbingers of the lifestyle that increasing numbers of people are now choosing; they are mostly solitary, but employ technology to keep in touch with a virtual community of friends and family members that may extend throughout the world. And as I said in the book, I now regard this as Clarke’s most significant prediction of the future.

Q. How did Clarke’s use of humor elevate his fiction?
When I was reading Clarke’s juvenilia, I was struck by the number of times that he found it amusing to describe people dying, so much so that I even suspected he might be showing a streak of cruelty. Yet everyone agrees that Clarke was a kind and gentle man. What I was observing, I concluded, was a key aspect of his personality: Clarke had the special ability to recognize that, looked at in a certain way, virtually anything could be funny. And while he did write some conventional humorous stories about star-crossed inventors – many collected in Tales from the White Hart (1957) – some of his best stories offer a jovial perspective on major tragedies. In “History Lesson” (1949), for example, the predicted extinction of the human race becomes amusing when readers learn that the sole surviving artifact of our civilization is a Mickey Mouse cartoon. And one of Clarke’s most underrated works, The Ghost from the Grand Banks (1990), is essentially an extended joke about the persistent inability of people – and eventually, the persistent inability of aliens – to perform the simple task of keeping a boat afloat.

Q. Clarke is clearly interested in the concept of the unknown, between his fascination with both space and the sea. Would you say his writing confronts a possible fear of the unknown by creating fictional explanations?
I cannot speak for the attitude of his readers, but I think that Clarke himself did not fear the unknown, but was rather fascinated by the unknown, sought it out, and relished the mysteries it offered. He traveled extensively until illnesses forced him to become sedentary; he loved exploring deep underwater; and he longed to travel into outer space. He further recognized that there might be aspects of the universe that humans could never understand, so that many of his stories deliberately fail to provide complete explanations of the phenomena that his characters encounter. Audiences can never be sure precisely what the Star Child of the novel and film 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) is going to do, and similar mysteries about advanced humans and aliens are left unresolved in other stories. Far from familiarizing the unknown by accounting for it in terms people can understand, the usual strategy of other writers, Clarke repeatedly argues that what is unknown may always remain unknown, and that is something that people simply have to accept, and appreciate.

Q. How has Clarke’s writing influenced science fiction for later generations?
In the first place, one can detect the influence of some specific works – particularly Childhood’s End (1953) and 2001 – in scores of later novels and films, and some major writers, like Gregory Benford, Stephen Baxter, and Alistair Reynolds, have written their own sequels to Clarke’s stories. More broadly, in the 1950s, Clarke was a pioneer in arguing, by means of his stories, that writers should seek out and make use of the latest scientific information about other planets as a basis for their works, instead of simply inventing fictional worlds; this is why he consistently preferred to set his stories in the solar system, where he could employ recently acquired data to accurately describe otherworldly environments. In this way, and in his fidelity to science in other stories, Clarke can be regarded as one of the founding fathers of the subgenre of “hard science
fiction,” as later practitioners of the form like Benford and Baxter would readily acknowledge. Finally, Clarke gave generously to the science fiction community in ways that have had lasting impacts: he was long a patron of the Science Fiction Foundation, for example, and his name will live on in the award he created and has permanently financed, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, given annually to the year’s best science fiction novel published in his native land.

To celebrate Pride Month throughout June, check out these five books that discuss important figures in the LGBTQ+ community and the issues surrounding the fight for gay rights.

Lana and Lily Wachowski

Cael M. Keegan

Cáel M. Keegan views the Wachowskis’ films as an approach to trans* experience that maps a transgender journey and the promise we might learn “to sense beyond the limits of the given world.” Keegan reveals how the filmmakers take up the relationship between identity and coding (be it computers or genes), inheritance and belonging, and how transgender becoming connects to a utopian vision of a post-racial order. Forthcoming in November 2018



Ugly Differences: Queer Female Sexuality in the Underground

Yetta Howard

In Ugly Differences, Yetta Howard uses underground contexts to theorize queer difference by locating ugliness at the intersection of the physical, experiential, and textual. From that nexus, Howard contends that ugliness—as a mode of pejorative identification—is fundamental to the cultural formations of queer female sexuality. Ugly Differences offers eye-opening ways to approach queerness and its myriad underground representations. Forthcoming in July 2018


Vita Sexualis: Karl Ulrichs and the Origins of Sexual Science

Ralph M. Leck

Ralph M. Leck returns Ulrichs to his place as the inventor of the science of sexual heterogeneity. Leck’s analysis situates sexual science in a context that includes politics, aesthetics, the languages of science, and the ethics of gender. Original and audacious, Vita Sexualis uses a bedrock figure’s scientific and political innovations to open new insights into the history of sexual science, legal systems, and Western amatory codes.


The Battle over Marriage: Gay Rights Activism through the Media

Leigh Moscowitz

 In this thorough analysis, Leigh Moscowitz examines how prominent news outlets presented this issue from 2003 to 2012, a time when intense news coverage focused unprecedented attention on gay and lesbian life. During this time, LGBT rights leaders sought to harness the power of media to advocate for marriage equality and to reform their community’s public image.



Queer Migration Politics: Activist Rhetoric and Coalitional Possibilities

Karma R. Chavez

The battles for LGBTQ rights and immigrant rights have captured significant attention in the U.S. public sphere throughout the twenty-first century. Both movements, which are largely understood to be separate, have advocated a politics of inclusion in and assimilation to mainstream national values. Advocating a politics of the present and drawing from women of color and queer of color theory, this book contends that coalition enables a vital understanding of how queerness and immigration, citizenship and belonging, and inclusion and exclusion are linked.

June is Black Music Month! Here are several titles to help you celebrate and appreciate black artists who have influenced the music industry.

Black Opera: History, Power, Engagement

Naomi Andre

Naomi André draws on the experiences of performers and audiences to explore this music’s resonance with today’s listeners. Interacting with creators and performers, as well as with the works themselves, André reveals how black opera unearths suppressed truths. These truths provoke complex, if uncomfortable, reconsideration of racial, gender, sexual, and other oppressive ideologies.



Spirituals and the Birth of a Black Entertainment Industry

Sandra Jean Graham

Sandra Jean Graham mines a trove of resources to chart the spiritual’s journey from the private lives of slaves to the concert stage. Graham navigates the conflicting agendas of those who, in adapting spirituals for their own ends, sold conceptions of racial identity to their patrons. In so doing they laid the foundation for a black entertainment industry whose artistic, financial, and cultural practices extended into the twentieth century.


Jazz Internationalism: Literary Afro-Modernism and the Cultural Politics of Black Music

John Lowney

Jazz Internationalism offers a bold reconsideration of jazz’s influence in Afro-modernist literature. Ranging from the New Negro Renaissance through the social movements of the 1960s, John Lowney articulates nothing less than a new history of Afro-modernist jazz writing. Jazz added immeasurably to the vocabulary for discussing radical internationalism and black modernism in leftist African  American literature.


Dizzy, Duke, Brother Ray, and Friends: On and Off the Record with Jazz Greats

Lilian Terry

Drawing on Terry’s long friendships and professional associations, Dizzy, Duke, Brother Ray, and Friends offers readers a rare opportunity to hear intimate conversations with some of the world’s greatest musical figures. The result is a collection of profiles, some stretching over a decade or more, that reveal these performers in ways that illuminate their humanity and expand our appreciation of their art.



Blue Rhythm Fantasy: Big Band Jazz Arranging in the Swing Era

John Wriggle

Behind the iconic jazz orchestras, vocalists, and stage productions of the Swing Era lay the talents of popular music’s unsung heroes: the arrangers. John Wriggle takes you behind the scenes of New York City’s vibrant entertainment industry of the 1930s and 1940s to uncover the lives and work of jazz arrangers, both black and white, who left an indelible mark on American music and culture.



The Street Is My Pulpit: Hip Hop and Christianity in Kenya

Mwenda Ntarangwi

Mwenda Ntarangwi explores the Kenyan hip hop scene through the lens of Juliani’s life and career. A born-again Christian, Juliani produces work highlighting the tensions between hip hop’s forceful self-expression and a pious approach to public life, even while contesting the basic presumptions of both. What emerges is an original contribution to the scholarship on hip hop’s global impact and a passionate study of the music’s role in shaping new ways of being Christian in Africa.


Harry T. Burleigh: From the Spiritual to the Harlem Renaissance

Jean E. Snyder

Harry T. Burleigh (1866-1949) played a leading role in American music and culture in the twentieth century. Celebrated for his arrangements of spirituals, Burleigh was also the first African American composer to create a significant body of art song. An international roster of opera and recital singers performed his works and praised them as among the best of their time.



Black Music Research Journal

Official Journal of the Center for Black Music Research

Begun in 1980, Black Music Research Journal is published in the spring and fall of each year and includes articles about the philosophy, aesthetics, history, and criticism of black music. BMRJ is edited by Gayle Murchison and is the official journal of the Center for Black Music Research and is available by subscription and as a benefit of membership with CBMR.

Articles in the latest issue: “Cien porciento tico tico”: Reggae, Belonging, and the Afro-Caribbean Ticos of Costa Rica”, by Sabia McCoy-Torres; Revisiting the Katanga Guitar Style(s) and Some Other Early African Guitar Idioms, by David Racanelli; Freedom Songs: Helping Black Activists, Black Residents, and White Volunteers Work Together in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, during the Summer of 1964, by Chris Goertzen Ragga Soca; and Burning the Moral Compass: An Analysis of “Hellfire” Lyrics in the Music of Bunji Garlin, by Meagan Sylvester.


Last weekend, Chicago hosted one of the largest literary events in the Midwest: Printers Row Lit Festival. The festival is a reader’s dream featuring a wealth of author panels, and vendors ranging from bookstores, literary magazines, and publishers. The University of Illinois Press was pleased to have a booth at the festival this year and multiple authors on the Printers Row programming.

Roger Biles, the author of the new biography, Mayor Harold Washington: Champion of Race and Reform in Chicago, was on a panel with Elizabeth Taylor, literary editor at large at the Chicago Tribune, former press secretary of the office of the mayor Monroe Anderson and Jacky Grimshaw, the vice president for governmental affairs at the Center for Neighborhood Technology. C-SPAN’s Book TV filmed the panel.

Check out the video below of their fascinating and wide-ranging conversation!

Job announcement:

Assistant to the Electronic Publisher

The University of Illinois Press is looking for a highly motivated student to join our electronic publishing team beginning in the fall 2018 semester. As Assistant to the Electronic Publisher, you will work closely with the electronic publisher to support online journal products for the more than 40 journals published by the University of Illinois Press. This key Electronic Publishing position requires good problem-solving skills, close attention to detail, and a high level of comfort using Web-based tools and general PC applications (such as Adobe Dreamweaver, Microsoft Word, and Excel).

Students from all majors are encouraged to apply; no experience in electronic publishing required. This is a designated federal work-study position.

Specific job tasks include, but are not limited to:

  • Providing online user support and troubleshooting problems with customers’ access to online journal archives
  • Responding to email queries for information regarding electronic resources maintained by the Press
  • Proofing HTML material and fixing errors introduced by the conversion process for UI Press journals
  • Testing online journal products for navigational accuracy and ease of use

We are looking for someone who:

  • Has proficiency in PC applications (such as Adobe Dreamweaver, Microsoft Word, and Excel)
  • Is a creative problem-solver
  • Works well independently and also as a team
  • Pays close attention to detail

Students in the position will have the opportunity to experience and/or learn the following:

  • Usage of online access control tools and usage reporters
  • Increased familiarity with PC applications, including Adobe Dreamweaver, Microsoft Word, and Excel
  • Experience providing direct user support
  • Familiarity with working in an office environment
  • An introduction to academic publishing
  • Further professional development opportunities will be made available

Time commitment: 8-10 hours per week; flexible schedule

The University of Illinois is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer dedicated to building a community of excellence, equity, and diversity. University Administration welcomes applications from women, underrepresented minorities, persons with disabilities, sexual minority groups, and other candidates who will lead and contribute to the diversification and enrichment of ideas and perspectives.


Interested students should forward a cover letter and résumé to: 


Paul Arroyo

Electronic Publisher

University of Illinois Press

1325 S. Oak Street

Champaign IL, 61820






University of Illinois Press author Dr. Robin Harris recently returned to northeastern Siberia for a presentation of her book, Storytelling in Siberia: The Olonkho Epic in a Changing World. After living in northern Russia for a decade and spending almost another decade documenting the revival of the Sakha’s epic tradition of olonkho, Harris reports, “I was delighted to see the enthusiastic reception of this volume, long-awaited by the Sakha people. They are glad to finally have a way for the English-speaking world to know about the revitalization of  olonkho, a process which began to gain tremendous energy when in 2005, UNESCO proclaimed it a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.”

Olonkho singer (S. Chernogradskiy) and children from the book’s cover – 9 years later!

Harris was amazed by extent of local participation in the presentation, noting, “The olonkho singer surrounded by children on the front of the book not only came to sing at the event, he also invited some of the children who were in the picture nine years ago to cross the frozen river and participate in the book presentation with him. At the closing of the event, they gathered around him as he sang, reprising the original cover photo. Since the river was melting and almost closed to traffic, he was grateful that the parents gave their permission for the children to travel, noting that this was an event the children would remember for the rest of their lives.”

Harris receives awards from government officials and educational institutions.

At the presentation, organized by Dr. Anna Larionova at the Institute of Humanitarian Studies and Problems of the Indigenous Peoples of the North, certificates of gratefulness were presented to the author by the Ministry of Culture (Vice-Minister Nikolai Makarov); the State Councilor to the Head of the Republic of Sakha-Yakutia (Andrei Borisov); a performer in the Theater of Olonkho (Valentin Isakov); the Olonkho Institute of the North-Eastern Federal University (Aitalina Koryakina); the Center for Intangible Cultural Heritage (Elena Protodyakonova); the Higher School of Music (Associate Professor Alexandra Khaltanova and Rector Vera Nikiforova); Advisor to the Chairman of the State Assembly (Sergei Vasilev); the Institute of Humanitarian Studies and Problems of the Indigenous Peoples of the North (Nadezhda Pokatilova), and an olonkho performer (Semyon Chernogradskiy).

Olonkho enthusiasts and research collaborators

Storytelling in Siberia, lauded as “a masterpiece of contemporary ethnography,” provides vivid insights into understanding the epic tradition of olonkho—its attenuation, revitalization, transformation, and sustainability—and its role in the Sakha’s cultural reemergence in post-Soviet Russia.



The Sakha Republic (Yakutia) in northeastern Siberia (April 2018)