Darlene Clark Hine, co-editor of The New Black Studies Series, has been awarded with the 2013 National Humanities Medal.

President Barack Obama presented the award to Hine at the White House on Monday, July 28. She is one of 10 recipients of the award.

The National Humanities Medal honors individuals honors individuals or groups whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of the humanities and broadened our citizens’ engagement with history, literature, languages, philosophy, and other humanities subjects.

Hine is a leading historian of the African-American experience and is Board of Trustees Professor of African American Studies and Professor of History at Northwestern University. Her other UIP projects include The Black Chicago Renaissance and Black Europe and the African Diaspora.

 

José Ángel N. is an undocumented immigrant who lives in Chicago. In his memoir Illegal: Reflections of an Undocumented Immigrant, José Ángel writes of his own journey from Mexico to find a new life in America.

The crisis of thousands of unaccompanied children arriving at the Texas border has again brought the issue of undocumented immigrants to the political forefront (and to tv and radio talk shows). However, much of the public debate has been conducted by elected officials and pundits and very few of the voices heard have been from the undocumented individuals who will be most affected by immigration reform.

In light of these issues, José Ángel N. has written an open letter to President Barack Obama, which has been published online at and El Beisman and Truthout.org

Dear President Obama,

I know you will probably never read this letter. But, as a good Mexican, I’ve been taught to expect disappointment in advance, so there is no harm in trying.

My name is José Ángel N., and I am an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. I have lived in Chicago most of my life, and the night you were elected U.S. President I watched with my face pressed against a chain-link fence as you delivered an impassioned speech at Grant Park.

I come from Guadalajara, a city that you visited during your first official trip to Mexico as President. What did you think of my city, by the way? I have not been home in two long decades, so your memory of it is more current than mine.

Like most people, I came to the United States because I heard that people here had a chance to start over. Actually, I didn’t hear that. The news of the riches of our neighbor to the north reached me in the form of shiny cars, designer clothes, flashy shoes, and impressive electronic gadgets that people in my neighborhood brought back with them when they returned from the United States. My knowledge of America was strictly empirical. That was not, incidentally, a word I knew when I first left Mexico at 19 years of age. I learned it first in English here in Chicago when I was almost 30 years old, during my freshman year in college. And only years later did I learn its Spanish equivalent, empírico, with its ostentatious accent mark on the second syllable, which gives the word a nice rounded sound, like a bubble that first bursts in your mouth and then closes gently. . . .

Read the rest of the letter here: An Open Letter to President Obama

 

Robert G. La France, co-editor of Lorado Taft: The Chicago Years, talks about the life and work of the influential sculptor in this video.

In the book trailer, La France, former Curator of Pre-Modern Art at Krannert Art Museum at the University of Illinois Urbana campus, shows off some of the museum’s Taft collection.

 

 

On July 26, 1971 the Apollo 15 mission lifted off from Kennedy Space Center with a mission to explore Earth’s moon.

Four days later, on July 30, 1971 Lunar Module landed on lunar surface. During the mission astronauts David Scott and James Irwin honored Ray Bradbury by naming an impact crater Dandelion Crater, after the author’s classic 1957 novel Dandelion Wine.

It was a tribute to a longtime supporter of their dream and their mission. Through speeches, interviews, and articles for Life magazine, Ray Bradbury spent the 1960s as one of the most enthusiastic public proponents of space exploration in general and the Apollo program in particular. To him, the race to the moon meant nothing less than a necessary step in the evolution of the human race.

When Apollo 11 made its historic landing on the lunar surface in 1969, Bradbury was in London taking his usual summer holiday with his family. He nonetheless found reporter Mike Wallace and did an interview broadcast via tape delay by CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite at NASA Houston. As Jonathan Eller notes in the forthcoming UIP book Ray Bradbury Unbound:

Bradbury presented space exploration as the great moral substitute for war: “War is a great toy to play with. Men and boys love war . . . let us eliminate war because the proper enemy is before us. All of the universe doesn’t care whether we exist or not, but we care whether we exist . . . this is the proper war to fight.”

There was no scientific introspection here; Bradbury was not capable of it, and never pretended to be. But Walter Cronkite’s live studio audience at NASA Houston burst into applause for the final words of the writer who still listened to the whispers of the boy within.

Barbara Foley is a professor of English at Rutgers University-Newark. She is the author of Spectres of 1919: Class and Nation in the Making of the New Negro. She answered some questions about her book Jean Toomer: Race, Repression, and Revolution.

Q: How is Jean Toomer best known?

Barbara Foley: Toomer, author of Cane (1923) is widely known as the first—and for some critics the best—writer associated with the movement that has come to be known as the Harlem Renaissance. He is also widely acknowledged to be an experimental modernist of the first rank, since his Cane—an amalgam of prose, poetry, and drama—defies generic classification. A light-skinned man of partly African descent, from a relatively privileged class background among Washington DC’s “Negro Four Hundred,” Toomer was an early interrogator of racial categorization—although what is for some critics a cagey critique of racial essentialism is, for others, a flight from being identified as African American. Finally, Cane—which is based on Toomer’s three-month stay in the Deep South in 1921—is widely read as a nostalgic evocation of a folk way of life on the cusp of disappearance with modernity. While he is credited with acknowledging the harshness of Jim Crow, however, he is generally seen as an apolitical writer. This last point is one that I contest vigorously in my book. Continue reading

The University of Illinois Press has an opening for a Desktop Publisher.

The Press is seeking a Publisher to compose books and journals for the Press using InDesign/CS6 for Macintosh.

Details on the position and how to apply can be found here: – Desktop Publisher/Coordinator postition

Born on July 23, 1971, Central Illinois native Alison Krauss has been awarded with more Grammys than any other female artist. The singer and fiddle player has put up sales numbers greater than any other living bluegrass act. Yet, as Murphy Hicks Henry writes in her book Pretty Good for a Girl: Women in Bluegrass, her career “initially caused great angst for any in the bluegrass community who didn’t know whether to love her or leave her alone.”

Krauss has been embraced by any number of audiences, no matter what to genre she has been marketed. When it comes to authenticity, her country music credibility was cemented when she became a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1993.

In Pretty Good for a Girl, Henry writes about the beginning of the bluegrass superstar:

Alison’s story begins with her family–mother Louise, father Fred, and older brother Viktor–living quietly in Champaign, Illinois. Louise and Fred took parenting seriously and put their two children into every program imaginable, including music. Violin was five-year-old Alison’s choice of instrument, and she stuck with classical lessons until age eleven, when she started to chafe at the rigid confines of the music. Fiddle contests, with Alison began entering at age eight, offered the thrill of competition along with freedom from the printed page. Soon Alison was studying the music of the great contest champions like Randy Howard and Mark O’Connor, and bluegrass fiddler Stuart Duncan. She took first place at the prestigious Winfield, Kansas, fiddle championship in 1984 and by 1985 had added state championships from Illinois, Indiana, and Tennessee to her trophy case.

Ayers Sand Prairie in Carroll County was once the western edge of the Wisconsin Glacier. Among the small dunes explorers can spy plants and animals friendly to the dry growing conditions such as the birds-foot violet and the Olympia marble butterfly.

Ayers Sand Nature Preserve is featured in Exploring Nature in Illinois: A Field Guide to the Prairie StateThroughout the book naturalists Michael Jeffords and Susan Post invite you to discover fifty preserves, forests, restoration areas, and parks in the Land of Lincoln.

Each Wednesday we’ll preview some of the unexpected beauty of Illinois’s prairies, lakesides, river bottoms, and woodlands found within the book. . . . just in time for you to plan a weekend trip.

You’ll find maps and descriptions of these wild places in Illinois, including many hard-to-find sites, within the pages of the book.

On July 21, 1925, John T. Scopes was found guilty of violating Tennessee’s Butler Act, which made it unlawful to teach human evolution in any state-funded school.

Despite losing the case, Attorney Clarence Darrow’s relentless witness-stand grilling of the prosecuting attorney William Jennings Bryan (the eventual winner of the case) is often cited as as a victory for Modernists.

In Intelligently Designed: How the Creationists Built the Campaign Against Evolution, Edward Caudill writes:

The ridicule of Bryan. . . . served the immediate purposes of proevolutionists. It was easier to assail an individual than a system of beliefs that was inconsistent, ill defined, and scientifically illogical. Bryan, its flag-bearer, was a distinctive and public target. But the verbal barrage was inconsequential in the long-term battle, in which Bryan’s defenders glorified his self-sacrifice and righteousness in defense of a holy cause. . . . Historians and filmmakers have judged Darrow the winner, even though he lost the case. The contrived event grew into a forum on science and religion, modernism and fundamentalism–charismatically presented by Darrow and Bryan.

As Caudill points out by mentioning “filmmakers,” the courtroom theatrics would later inspire the 1955 stage play Inherit the Wind, written by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee, which in turn would serve as the basis for the 1960 film starring Spencer Tracy.

 

In the spring and summer of 1964, the Blake Edwards film The Pink Panther, starring Peter Sellers, became a huge hit. The farcical tale of an incompetent French detective matching wits with a suave jewel thief, The Pink Panther dropped slapstick and Sellers’s signature broad antics into a more or less straight heist story to create a comedy at once classic, ridiculous, and sophisticated.

Making just as big of an impact was Henry Mancini’s iconic score, now commemorated with a 50th Anniversary release. Mancini had already written hits, including the jazz-influenced ”Peter Gunn Theme” for the TV detective series Peter Gunn and the Oscar-winning “Moon River” for Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Audrey Hepburn sang the latter in the film. Just about everyone with a recording contract covered it afterwards.

Yet Enrico Nicola Mancini would enjoy days of wine and roses far in excess of even these triumphs. When Blake Edwards, a collaborator from the Peter Gunn and Tiffany’s days, asked Mancini to score Panther, it proved a fateful assignment. Mancini answered with one of filmdom’s most famous themes and a future musical staple that to this day unites marching bands, PA systems at baseball games, and no-name jazz combos around a signature piece of Mancini magic. As John Caps reports in his book Henry Mancini: Reinventing Film Music:

That sound and that theme became great examples of an important Mancini principle of scoring: intentionally “funny” music behind a comedy scene is redundant and destructive. The “Pink Panther Theme,” though witty in itself, is not a joke, not a novelty number. It is, besides its grin, a seriously swinging piece of jazz-pop with an invigorating sense of both fun and sophistication. So it does not overkill the comedy. We first hear the theme during the film’s animated main title sequence, which, famously, morphs that panther-shaped flaw in the stolen gem into a wry, mischievous cartoon panther, which spends the credit sequence taking great liberties with the graphic lettering that spells out the movie’s cast and crew.

Early in the film’s postproduction process, once the idea of an animated main title sequence was discussed, the animators asked to hear a finished piece of main title music against which they could time their cartoon sketches. At that stage Mancini had not yet fixed his own ideas, but he said he would give them at least a rhythm. They created the panther, Bugs Bunny-like in the long ancestry of animated anarchists, to that bass line alone. The theme itself came after. It begins with a suspended chord of open fifths by the piano and a small hand chime with a triangle tapping out the tempo for three bars until a low piano/vibe/two basses/guitar combo plays the sneaking motif, first ascending, the descending unresolved. This creates, most efficiently, the suspense of a detective story while also making fun of it. At bar 12, or where Peter Sellers’s name appears in the credits (already undermining David Niven’s supremacy as the star), we hear Plas Johnson’s tenor sax with its unmistakably jazzy accents as it moves so naturally up in parallel fifths and then does a dying fall, slurring the last note like a bluesman.

Henry Mancini: Reinventing Film Music is available in at the special ebook price of $2.99 throughout July. Buy the Kindle version here. Buy the Kobo version here. Buy the Google Play version here. Buy the Nook version here.