Check out an excerpt from Lincoln’s Confidant by Wayne C. Temple, in which Noah Brooks completes an 19th century approximation of our modern-day personality quizzes. Through his answers, we get a sense of Brooks’s humor and easy-going nature, giving us a hint of why he was so popular in his time.


One of the best keys to [Noah Brooks’s] personality is the set of answers which he penned into Edmund Clarence Stedman’s album. These self-appraisals were written about 1878; although obviously some of the answers were written in jest, many of them ring true.

Colour? Greenback.
Flower? Heliotrope.
Tree? The brave old oak.
Object in Nature? The Sea.
Hour in the Day? Dinner-hour.
Season in the Year? A California Spring.
Perfume? Heliotrope.
Gem? Opal.
Style of Beauty? I like ’em all.
Names? Charlie-Mabel.
Painters? Helios, Rubens, Hans Makart, Diaz.
Musicians? All but Wagner.
Piece of Sculpture? The California Butter Woman.
Poets? The Divine Williams, Tennyson, Whittier.
Poetesses? Mrs. Browning, Jean Ingelow.
Prose Authors? Addison, Goldsmith, Dickens, Irving.
Character in Romance? J.S.C. Abbott’s Napoleon.
In History? Abraham Lincoln.
Book to take up for an hour? Never have so much time.
What book (not religious) would you part with last? Richardson’s Dictionary.
What epoch would you choose to have lived in? The present.
Where would you like to live? Where SHE is.
Favorite amusement? Building castles in Spain.
Occupation? Loafing.
What trait of character do you most admire in man? Cheeriness.
In woman? Sweetness.
What do you most detest in each? Insincerity.
If not yourself, who would you rather be? Tupper.
Idea of happiness? Lots of money and nothing to do.
Of misery? Work and poverty.
Bete noire? Work.
Dream? To find HER.
Dread? That I shall not find HER.
Your distinguishing characteristics? Laziness and good nature.
Of your better half? Patience under tribulations.
The sublimest passion? Give it up.
The Sweetest words? “I love you.”
Saddest words? “She’s not at home.”
Aim in life? To have a good time and help others.
Motto? Dum vivimus, vivimus.

We are pleased to announce that Chinatown Opera Theater in North America by Nancy Yunhwa Rao has won the 2019 Association for Asian American Studies Award for Outstanding Achievement in Humanities and Cultural Studies: Media, Visual, and Performance Studies.

The award committee said “Rao’s accessibly written book distinguishes itself through its careful, thorough, and multilingual research into Chinatown opera. The impressive scope of the project includes the United States, Canada, Mexico, Cuba, and Hawai’i, bringing disparate national sites into conversation with one another. The work successfully renders audible and visible the voice and music of Chinatown theaters across North America and allows readers to understand the role of Chinatown opera theaters in making of the Orientalist imaginary. By chronicling performance practices in detail, the book not simply reorients our understanding of this cultural phenomenon but it also offers a means to see how Chinatown Opera often conditioned notions of Chinese belonging and citizenship within the wider scope of geographic North America and beyond.”

The award will be given at the AAAS annual conference in Madison, Wisconsin, April 25-27, 2019.

The book is part of the series Music in American Life.

The book has also won a Certificate of Merit for Best Historical Research in Recorded Country, Folk, Roots, or World Music, Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC), 2018, and the Music in American Culture Award, American Musicological Society (AMS), 2018.

Congratulations, Nancy, on your achievement!

Coming in July 2019, Mormons, Musical Theater, and Belonging in America by Jake Johnson merges the study of belonging in America with scholarship on voice and popular music to explore the surprising yet profound link between two quintessentially American institutions. Watch the new book trailer below!

Sonja Thomas is an assistant professor of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at Colby College, where she teaches courses on gender and human rights, feminist theory, critical race feminisms, and postcolonial and native feminisms. She is the author of Privileged Minorities: Syrian Christianity, Gender, and Minority Rights in Postcolonial India. She has written articles on education and religious minorities in India, South Asian American comparative racializations, and Black vernacular traditions in the United States and globally. She recently answered a few questions about her article in Feminist Teacher, titled “Tap Dancing and Embodied Feminist Pedagogies.”

Can you tell me a bit more about the beginnings of the course “Critical Race Feminisms and Tap Dance”?

In the department where I received my PhD, graduate students were able to solo teach their own classes.  That meant that we could develop our own syllabi.  One semester, I had a student taking both my non-credit tap class and my Intro to Women’s Studies class.  In the tap class, I must have been explaining something about tap history and gender and sexuality.  She asked me why I didn’t teach that history in Intro to Women’s Studies especially because my Women’s Studies classes had quite a bit of readings on race and postcolonial feminisms.  That made me start to include Spike Lee’s Bamboozled in my Intro to Women’s Studies class.  Later, I developed a handout for students for an assignment called “social action projects.”  In the handout, I wrote: “great projects start with you and your interests.  For instance, I like tap dancing.  Tap dancing is a feminist topic.”  I then gave them an example outline for a social action project involving tap dance.  In this mock outline, I included primary and secondary sources on tap history, race, and embodiment.

When I started teaching at Colby, I already had the beginnings of a syllabus based on this teaching material and handout!

You describe tap dance as a staple of minstrel shows in the nineteenth century. Did this influence how black tap dancers were regulated in the twentieth century? And to what extent?

I’d like to first contextualize what I mean by tap as a staple of the minstrel show.  When did tap dancing as we know it today really become tap dancing?  There were definitely African diasporic music, rhythms, and percussive dance in minstrel shows.  Some might argue that the dancing of the minstrel show should not be called “tap dancing.” I, however, would say that “in general, the origins of a practice or concept seldom limit its scope of relevance.[1] In other words, does it matter if the dance of the minstrel show was tap dance as we understand it today?  I believe that what matters most is how the percussive dance of minstrels became so popular, was seen to represent black culture to white audiences both in the US and abroad, and continues to inform tap and also what we think we already know about raced bodies in motion.

Minstrelsy entirely influenced entertainment in the 20th century and today.  From cartoons (Mickey Mouse and Felix the cat), to Amos and Andy, to digital blackface.  NPR’s code switch recently looked at this history and legacy.  I recommend taking a listen!

But the minstrel show not only informed how tap dancing were regulated in the 20th century.  It also informed resistances.  In all black vernacular dance, you can see resistance.  Tap dance is always embedded in forms of resistance—the body serving as music when drums and instruments were taken away from slaves, Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson using his tap dance star power and breaking the “two colored” rule, the success of the all Black musical Shuffle Along which led to desegregated audiences seeing Black characters fall in love onstage.  The effects of the minstrel show on tap dancers in the 20th century was in the regulatory mode for sure, but also operated in a history of resistance dance and opened up (limited) opportunities for tap dancers.

How were white/nonblack female tappers of the late 1970s viewed in relation to black male tappers?

White/nonblack college educated female tappers in some cases were and continue to be viewed with sexist stereotypes.  But at the same time, these performers have access to racial privileges that black performers don’t.  What I find extremely interesting is that many white/nonblack women who “rescued” tap are authenticated through a black male mentor.  Brenda Bufalino through Honi Coles, Roxane “Butterfly” Semadini through Jimmy Slyde, Jane Goldberg through Sandman Simms.  This authentication process reveals larger tensions about the intersections of race and gender.  And relatedly, larger tensions about the line between appropriation and homage.  Especially given a history of theft of steps, class exploitation, and racist violence who counts as an authentic tapper?  Who is in the position to authorize that authenticity?  While most tappers get uncomfortable with these tensions, I find them most instructive because they reveal how race and gender oppressions function intersectionally.

Another way to come at these ideas of who gets to be an authentic tap dancer and racialized and gendered authority over knowledge is to look at some of the amazing tap work of women of color.  Ayodele Casel’s “While I have the floor” and her shout out to black/latinx women tappers makes me cry every time I watch it.  The Syncopated Ladies viral videos; they are so good, you can’t just watch one.  Or the amazing style of Dormeshia Sumbry Edwards that for me, simultaneously invokes the chorus line of Black woman tappers of Harlem and the rhythm tap of John Bubbles.

One major challenge you had to overcome when teaching about racism was encouraging all of your students to participate in possibly uncomfortable discussions. What advice do you have for your fellow educators to tackle this obstacle?

I always start by saying “if we are putting ‘not wanting to discuss race because it makes me uncomfortable’ out on the table, then I’m going to always counter with the uncomfortability of being on the receiving end of racism.”  In a class that takes on Jim Crow blackface, Jim Crow segregation, and the new Jim Crow, we’re gonna always focus on the latter so we can think through feminist anti-racist research and activism.  I also start by discussing white privilege and white fragility in the first few class periods.  Honestly, the dynamic of the class seems to be what contributes most to the “success” of teaching about racism.  Sometimes a class will just gel, sometimes it may not.  But I can also see how tap dancing and moving our bodies always makes for a stronger class dynamic.  I mean, I just played “tap tag” with my class—where we chased each other around doing “flaps” to Dean Martin singing “Mambo, Italiano.”  All the students were dissolving into laughter after playing tap tag.  Moving the body and making music with our bodies does create a sort of bond between students and between students and the professor.  I believe tap dance opens students up to a sort of willingness to take on reading and discussing a history of racism, institutionalized racism, and feminist anti-racist research and activism.

[1] Uma Narayan, “Essence of Culture and a Sense of History: A Feminist Critique of Cultural Essentialism,” Hypatia 13, No. 2, (Spring 1998): 97.

On February 15, we hosted our first University of Illinois Press Publishing Symposium. It was fantastic day of sessions about publishing and engaged conversation. We thank everyone who came to the sessions and participated. And we give special thanks to our keynote speaker, Jill Petty, and co-sponsors (OVCR Office of Research Advising and Project Development, the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs, IPRH, Center for Advanced Study, and the Unit for Criticism).

In case you weren’t able to make it, videos of select sessions are now available! They can be found at:

Stay tuned for more information about next year’s symposium!

In this blog post, Dr. Cathryn Bailey discusses her article in Feminist Teacher Vol. 27, Nos. 2-3Online Feminist Pedagogy: A New Doorway into Our Brick-and-Mortar Classrooms?” Dr. Bailey is a professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at Western Michigan University.


Probably the best word to describe how many feminist educators feel about online teaching is “ambivalent.” Many of us are reluctant adopters of this ubiquitous technology, afraid that we will dilute, or even subvert, the feminist teaching values that inspired us to enter the classroom in the first place. Focused as we are on feminist pedagogies that prize discussion and consciousness raising in the service of social transformation, it has just seemed obvious to many of us that online teaching must be a step in precisely the wrong direction.

I was surprised to discover, then, that once I really began to take online teaching seriously, I not only learned useful tricks for the online realm, I also gained some startling new insights about the face-to-face teaching I’d been doing for decades. For example, being forced to utterly reconceive how online class discussion might be made to function revealed to me that habitual ways of facilitating brick and mortar classroom discussion was perhaps not as productive as I’d imagined it to be. As I dissected and rebuilt my courses for the online realm, illusions I held about the effectiveness of my work in traditional classroom were stripped away.

Stepping into the online teaching environment, then, though it can sometimes feel like a punishment or unavoidable evil being forced upon us can actually become an opportunity. The radical re-imagination of courses that must occur when we shift to the online realm can offer distinctly new ways of considering our face-to-face teaching strategies. Paradoxically, this may well mean that a foray into online teaching can become a great development opportunity for instructors who want to deepen and enhance their face-to-face teaching.

You can read Dr. Bailey’s full article here.

Journal of Civil and Human Rights Article Awarded 2019 Farrar Award in Media & Civil Rights History

We are pleased to announce that the Journal of Civil and Human Rights article, “An Idea Before Its Time: Charles S. Johnson, Negro Columnist,” by Dr. Gwyneth Mellinger has won the 2019 Farrar Award in Media & Civil Rights History.

Mellinger’s article, from the fall/winter 2018 issue (vol. 4, no. 2) “details the little-known history of Charles S. Johnson’s unsuccessful weekly newspaper column, ‘A Minority View.’ Johnson, a twentieth-century black intellectual and president of Fisk University, attempted for three years in the mid-1940s to place the column in white-owned daily newspapers. In the article, Mellinger explains that Johnson and his collaborator, Claude Barnett, founder of the Associated Negro Press, had hoped the column would integrate the opinion pages of the white press.”

The award will be given at the Media & Civil Rights History Symposium, held March 8 and 9, 2019, at the University of South Carolina.

Congratulations to Dr. Mellinger!

You can read Mellinger’s article, open access, here.

Journal of Civil and Human Rights is edited by Michael Ezra and is in its fifth volume year.

Photo and quote from:


This year we’re celebrating the 15th Anniversary of the New Black Studies series. Check out the anniversary catalog here and read a letter from the acquisitions editor and comments from the series editors below!

Dear Reader,

In 2018 the University of Illinois Press celebrated its centennial. In 2019 we turn our attention to celebrating one of the most esteemed series at the Press: the New Black Studies Series, edited by Darlene Clark Hine and Dwight A. McBride. Over fifteen years, the series has published thirty-nine books by fifty different authors or editors and has garnered seventeen awards, including some of the most prestigious accolades across the fields of history, literature, and African American studies. The pages that follow feature each book in the series, and you will find stunning covers, glowing endorsements, influential scholars, and field-defining books.

The series launched in 2004 with Beyond Bondage: Free Women of Color in the Americas, edited by David Barry Gaspar and Darlene Clark Hine. Over time, the series has supported theoretical and historical books that speak to the series editors’ mission to forge new directions for Black studies. The broad commitments of the series are reflected in the three titles that will be published during this anniversary year: Jonathan Fenderson’s Building the Black Arts Movement: Hoyt Fuller and the Cultural Politics of the 1960s; Adrienne D. Davis and the BSE Collective’s edited collection Black Sexual Economies: Race and Sex in a Culture of Capital; and Annette Joseph-Gabriel’s Reimagining Liberation: How Black Women Transformed Citizenship in the French Empire. I deeply believe in the work that the series has done and will continue to do, and I consider it the greatest of gifts to collaborate with Darlene and Dwight, who are as kind as they are brilliant.

I invite you to celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of the New Black Studies
Series with us. Celebrate by rounding out your NBS series collection by buying that
book you’ve been missing, taking down one of your favorite NBS books from your
shelf and revisiting it, or submitting a proposal to the series. We honor the books
that have been published over the last fifteen years that have laid the foundation
for recent work in the field of Black studies, and we look forward to the ways that
publications in the New Black Studies Series will continue to redefine the field for
future generations of Black studies scholars.

Dawn Durante, Senior Acquisitions Editor

“I have thoroughly enjoyed being associated with the University of Illinois Press as a co-editor of the New Black Studies Series. The number of prizes and awards that books in our series have received over the years underscore the significance and exemplary quality of new Black studies scholarship. The authors have benefited from being part of our unique series. The series has helped to launch many young scholars onto exciting careers. Their innovative scholarship has infused the Black studies discipline with great excitement. The future looks bright. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with the team at University of Press in the nurturing and production of such impressive Black studies scholarship.”
—Darlene Clark Hine

“I’m so proud of the works featured in the  New Black Studies Series. We’ve focused on publishing the work of scholars who are pushing against the traditional boundaries of our understanding of what Black studies is as a discipline. Indeed, I believe the series is helping to define the very future of the discipline itself. So it’s truly been a labor of love for me. I’m especially heartened by the work of some of the emerging scholars we’ve been privileged to publish, as they give me great confidence for the future of Black studies and the myriad contributions to research to come.”
—Dwight A. McBride



Learn more about how you can support Black studies scholarship at the University of Illinois Press here.

Dr. Jordan Stanger-Ross is associate professor of history at the University of Victoria and the project director for Landscapes of Injustice, a seven-year, multi-partner research project exploring the forced dispossession of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War. Dr. Stanger-Ross recently spoke to us about his article in the Journal of American Ethnic History, titled, “The Unfaithful Custodian: Glenn McPherson and the Dispossession of Japanese Canadians in the 1940s.”

On January 19 1943, Canada took a decision that set its internment of Japanese Canadians on a new path, one that diverged significantly from that of the United States (which, to that point, Canadians had closely mirrored). Under the new policy, the 22,000 Japanese Canadians who had been uprooted and interned in the previous year were stripped of everything that they had been forced to leave behind. Canada’s Custodian of Enemy Property sold it all. This meant that, when Canada’s long internment era finally ended in 1949 (!) Japanese Canadians had nothing left. Their neighborhoods, homes, farms, businesses, and all of their varied personal belongings were gone. Japanese Canadians were forced start again from virtually nothing.

The dispossession was written into law by Glenn Willoughby McPherson, a low-level bureaucrat, little known and scarcely discussed before now. McPherson met with cabinet ministers on January 11 1943, reporting enthusiastically to a colleague that the discussion went “far better than I had hoped.” Federal politicians embraced his plan to sell everything that Japanese-Canadians owned and entrusted him to draft the authorizing law. For the collective of researchers of which I am a part—a group of some 70 academics, museum professionals, archivists, school teachers, students, and community leaders researching and telling the history of the dispossession of Japanese Canadians—McPherson was a person of significant interest. He was the author and executioner of the dispossession policy.

Then my co-author Will Archibald (then an MA student in history at the University of Victoria) made a startling archival discovery. In addition to directing the Office of the Custodian of Enemy Property, McPherson was a clandestine agent of the British Security Coordination. Initially entrusted to “protect” the property of Japanese Canadians, he was simultaneously writing inflammatory and fantastical secret reports of their potential perfidy. He was, to say the least, not someone to whom Japanese Canadians would have entrusted their material lives by choice.

Will and I knew we needed to write about McPherson. Examining the record (official and secret) of his activity, we find the dispossession both easier and harder to understand: easier because the records of McPherson’s life and work detail the process by which this consequential policy emerged but harder because unlike political actors, his motives are more obscure, his actions more secretive.

You can read the full text of Dr. Stanger-Ross’s article here.

African American Studies is a cornerstone of the University of Illinois Press. While we celebrate Black history all year round, this month we’re celebrating with some of our latest and forthcoming Black history titles.

Black Opera: History, Power, Engagement

Naomi André

Naomi André draws on the experiences of performers and audiences to explore opera’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.




Black Public History in Chicago: Civil Rights Activism from World War II into the Cold War

Ian Rocksborough-Smith

Ian Rocksborough-Smith’s meticulous research and adept storytelling provide the first in-depth look at how these committed individuals leveraged Chicago’s black public history. Their goal: to engage with the struggle for racial equality. Rocksborough-Smith shows teachers working to advance curriculum reform in public schools, while well-known activists Margaret and Charles Burroughs pushed for greater recognition of black history by founding the DuSable Museum of African American History.


Dockworker Power: Race and Activism in Durban and the San Francisco Bay Area

Peter Cole

Dockworkers have power. Often missed in commentary on today’s globalizing economy, workers in the world’s ports can harness their role, at a strategic choke point, to promote their labor rights and social justice causes. Peter Cole brings such overlooked experiences to light in an eye-opening comparative study of Durban, South Africa, and the San Francisco Bay Area, California. Path-breaking research reveals how unions effected lasting change in some of the most far-reaching struggles of modern times.


Glory in Their Spirit: How Four Black Women Took On the Army during World War II 

Sandra M. Bolzenius

Women Army Corps (WAC) privates Mary Green, Anna Morrison, Johnnie Murphy, and Alice Young enlisted to serve their country, improve their lives, and claim the privileges of citizenship long denied them. Promised a chance at training and skilled positions, they saw white WACs assigned to those better jobs and found themselves relegated to work as orderlies. In 1945, their strike alongside fifty other WACs captured the nation’s attention and ignited passionate debates on racism, women in the military, and patriotism.


James Baldwin and the 1980s: Witnessing the Reagan Era

Joseph Vogel

By the 1980s, critics and the public alike considered James Baldwin irrelevant. Yet Baldwin remained an important, prolific writer until his death in 1987. Indeed, his work throughout the decade pushed him into new areas, in particular an expanded interest in the social and psychological consequences of popular culture and mass media.




Mayor Harold Washington: Champion of Race and Reform in Chicago

Roger Biles

Raised in a political family on Chicago’s South Side, Harold Washington made history as the city’s first African American mayor. His 1983 electoral triumph, fueled by overwhelming black support, represented victory over the Chicago Machine and business as usual. Yet the racially charged campaign heralded an era of bitter political divisiveness that obstructed his efforts to change city government.



To Turn the Whole World Over: Black Women and Internationalism

Keisha N. Blain and Tiffany M. Gill

Black women undertook an energetic and unprecedented engagement with internationalism from the late nineteenth century to the 1970s. In many cases, their work reflected a complex effort to merge internationalism with issues of women’s rights and with feminist concerns. To Turn the Whole World Over examines these and other issues with a collection of cutting-edge essays on black men’s internationalism in this pivotal era and beyond.

Available March 2019


Read on JSTOR From the Journal of Civil and Human Rights, edited by Michael Ezra

From Colored Cosmopolitanism to Human Rights: A Historical Overview of the Transnational Black Freedom Struggle 

By Nico Slate

Black Power, Gender, and Transformational Politics

By Premilla Nadasen




Read on JSTOR from Women, Gender, and Families of Color, edited by Jennifer Hamer

That’s Not Me I See on TV . . . : African American Youth Interpret Media Images of Black Females 

By Valerie N. Adams-Bass, Keisha L. Bentley-Edwards, Howard C. Stevenson

An Introduction to Race, Gender, and Disability: Intersectionality, Disability Studies, and Families of Color 

By Liat Ben-Moshe, Sandy Magaña





Learn  about how you can support Black Studies scholarship at the University of Illinois Press here.