Shelton Jackson ”Spike” Lee was born March 20, 1957.

With a long varies career that has spanned independent films such as his debut She’s Gotta Have It (1986), to mainstream, big-budget films including Inside Man (2006), Lee has often examined social issues, gained acclaim and courted controversy.

In his Contemporary Film Directors series book Spike Lee Todd McGowan writes:

Spike Lee is a filmmaker of excess. Excess characterizes each of his films, through unconventional shots, extreme characters, improbable scenes, and many other ways. Lee’s films employ these types of excess to intervene in critical issues that trouble the contemporary world—the question of the subject’s singularity, the role that fantasy plays in structuring
our reality, the political impact of passion, the power of paranoia in shaping social relations, the damage that the insistence on community inflicts, the problem of transcendence, and the struggles of the spectator.



Elvira Arellano, a Mexican immigrant rights advocate who made headlines when she took refuge in a Chicago church in 2006, has asked refuge in the United States on humanitarian grounds.

Arellano was deported to Mexico in 2007 after a lengthy sanctuary in the United Methodist Church of Adaberto.

UIP editor and contributor Maura Toro-Morn writes:

Arellano’s life story must be viewed in the larger context of the history of Mexican labor migration to the United States and the changing labor needs of the U.S. economy.  Gomberg-Muñoz  (2010, 27) writes that “there is a common misconception that labor migration from Mexico to the United States is fueled by a lack of economic development in Mexico.”

Toro-Morn profiles Arellano’s story in the collection Immigrant Women Workers in the Neoliberal Age.

Hear Maura Toro-Morn discuss the book and the civil rights of immigrant workers in this radio interview: WJBC AM-FM, Beth Whisman interview.


Alex Goodall is a lecturer in modern history at the University of York, where he specializes in the history of revolutionary and counterrevolutionary politics in the Americas. He answered some questions about his new book Loyalty and Liberty: American Countersubversion from World War I to the McCarthy Era.

Q: Your book examines events in countersuberversion leading up to the McCarthy Era. Was there a turning point event (or two) that led up to the full blown “red scare?”

Alex Goodall: The growth of political policing was something that took place in fits and starts. Most historians have focused primarily on the “Great Red Scare,” which took place just after World War One and saw widespread political repression of union activists, left-wingers, Jews and African Americans, among others. But between 1920 and the 1950s, things did not go entirely quiet. Nor did the history develop in a linear way. Indeed, much of my book is about showing how support for federal political policing declined in the 1920s and by the Great Depression was in a kind of crisis. It was really only with the New Deal, and Franklin Roosevelt’s willingness to use the federal state much more actively than in the past, that the state’s capacity for this kind of repression began to grow again. It was under FDR that the Federal Bureau of Investigation began a new phase of growth, for instance. It’s very ironic, then, that the New Deal became one of the primary targets for anticommunist red-baiting in the late 1930s and 1940s, since they had arguable done more than any others to make federal countersubversion a practical possibility. Continue reading

On Friday, March 14, 2014, Koritha Mitchell, author of Living with Lynching:  African American Lynching Plays, Performance, and Citizenship, 1890-1930, spoke at the James Madison Memorial Building of the Library of Congress.

At the event Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee presented the author with a Certificate of Congressional Recognition.

The program, which was presented by the Library’s Humanities and Social Sciences Division, was taped by C-SPAN for a future airing on BookTV.

Sheila Jackson Lee (left) and Koritha Mitchell.  Photo of courtesy of Koritha Mitchell.


Author William Gibson, regarded as the Godfather of “cyberpunk” was born on March 17, 1948.

Gibson coined the term “cyberspace” in his 1982 short story “Burning Chrome.” The well-regarded author is best known for his Sprawl series, which began with the novel Neuromancer.

Gary Westfahl writes in his Modern Masters of Science Fiction series book William Gibson:

In the early 1980s Gibson amazed science fiction readers and critics with his shift away from space opera into the virtual worlds of information science; heroes that were scruffy, streetwise outsiders struggling to stay alive in societies dominated by multinational corporations; and a pyrotechnic prose style that combined extravagantly metaphorical language with an unprecedented “hyperspecificity” in describing old and new technologies.

Read a Q&A with author Gary Westfahl.

German composer Josephine Lang was born March 15, 1815.

Lang, a prodigiously talented pianist and dedicated composer, participated at various times in the German Romantic world of lieder through her important arts salon.

In her book Five Lives in Music: Women Performers, Composers, and Impresarios from the Baroque to the Present Cecelia Hopkins Porter writes:

Even from the tender age of fifteen, Lang was composing songs that surpassed conventional lieder and piano compositions of the day.  The harmonic fluidity and essentially diatonic basis of her music was edged at times with sudden, turbulent dissonance and audacious chromatic elements in both the voice and piano parts, these often erupting in brazen modulations to a key far from the central, established key of the composition. Many of Lang’s finest and most original examples are marked by equally wrenching melodic and harmonic passages. Also, the vocal line in her songs often makes dramatic shifts of register (pitch level) over broad intervals while the piano, in true romantic fashion, frequently is assigned an independent prelude, interlude, or postlude, or all three.  These reinforce the imagery and emotions of the song—that is the piano is not mere accompaniment.

Certain members of the UIP staff circle March 14 on their calendars.  And with good reason.

3.14 is Pi(e) Day: during which both mathematical principle and carbohydrates are well celebrated at the Press by those with culinary skill and also those who, although they may have less baking skill, still have mouths.

And thus, those mouths were stuffed with pie.  Witness:



Thanks goes out to all who offered up their talents for Pi(e) Day.

Any “during” pictures were omitted to protect the innocent, the guilty, and because such sights should not be witnessed by small children.


Carole Boyce Davies is a professor of Africana studies and English at Cornell University. She is the editor of the three-volume Encyclopedia of the African Diaspora: Origins, Experiences, and Culture and several other collections in African and Caribbean studies and black women’s studies internationally.

Boyce Davies recently answered some questions about her new book Caribbean Spaces: Escape from Twilight Zones.

Q: Tell us about the title of you book, Caribbean Spaces: Escapes from Twilight Zones. How do you define “Caribbean Spaces” beyond geographical location?

Carole Boyce Davies: Caribbean Spaces reaches beyond island fragmentations, small spaces and geographic separations for a much wider, more expansive internationalized understanding of how we see and understand the Caribbean and its impact on world cultures. Caribbean Space incorporates contexts that come out of dance and carnival like “taking space” and challenges us to see the in-between spaces as not empty spaces. The expanding scientific meanings of space provides us with additional opportunity to think of any space beyond geographical limitations. Caribbean Space has always reached for international circulations of ideas, people, political movements, cultural practices like carnival. Continue reading

Spotlight on Women’s History Month: Trisha Franzen, author of Anna Howard Shaw: The Work of Woman Suffrage writes about this feminist pioneer:

It takes a lot of chutzpah for an unmarried woman to ask married women to donate their wedding rings to fund the cause of women’s rights. But that is what suffrage leader Dr. Anna Howard Shaw did one hundred years ago. Such was the intensity of the suffrage cause in 1914, and such was the fearlessness that characterized Shaw’s leadership.

In 1914, suffrage leaders knew they were at a turning point. Women had won the franchise in most western states. Throughout the country, media leaders and local politicians felt the pressure from the increasingly organized suffrage. Yet the U.S. Congress continued to drag its feet on the federal, now called the Susan B. Anthony, amendment. The NAWSA (National American Woman Suffrage Association) needed a victory in one of the big eastern states to push Congress out of its complacency, and they needed big money to fund the organizing effort to make that happen. Shaw knew her plea would generate publicity for the cause, but would women really give up their wedding rings? Continue reading

How did African Americans survive the period between 1890 and 1930 when mobs lynched members of their communities and proudly circulated pictures of the mutilated corpses?  How did African Americans maintain a dignified sense of self when photographs of lynch victims entered their homes along with the news?  In her book, Living with Lynching:  African American Lynching Plays, Performance, and Citizenship, 1890-1930, Koritha Mitchell tells the story of black authors who wrote plays about lynching, in the 1910s and 1920s, and provided their communities with scripts that affirmed their self-conceptions and encouraged them to mourn their losses.

Mitchell will discuss and sign “Living with Lynching” (University of Illinois Press, 2011) on Friday, March 14, at noon in the Mary Pickford Theater, located on the third floor of the James Madison Memorial Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. This program, presented by the Library’s Humanities and Social Sciences Division, is free and open to the public; no tickets are required.

Mitchell explores the ways in which the lynching plays and performances helped the African-American community survive the height of mob violence, and its photographic representation, still believing in its members’ rights to full citizenship.

A literary historian and cultural critic, Mitchell is also an associate professor of English at the Ohio State University, where her research centers on African-American literature, racial violence in U.S. literature and contemporary culture, and black drama and performance.  She examines how written and performed texts have helped terrorized families and communities survive and thrive.

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