University of Illinois Press has always prided ourselves on our commitment to social justice. In light of the recent events in Charlottesville, here are 13 books about politics, race, and class in American culture. Check out the other posts in our series here. 


HughesF041. Myths America Lives By by Richard T. Hughes

In this book Richard T. Hughes identifies the five key myths that lie at the heart of the American experience–the myths of the Chosen Nation, of Nature’s Nation, of the Christian Nation, of the Millennial Nation, and of the Innocent Nation. Drawing on a range of dissenting voices, Hughes shows that by canonizing these seemingly harmless myths of national identity as absolute truths, America risks undermining the sweepingly egalitarian promise of the Declaration of Independence.




SchultzF042. The Rural Face of White Supremacy: Beyond Jim Crow by Mark Schultz

The Rural Face of White Supremacy is a detailed study of the daily experiences of ordinary people in rural Hancock County, Georgia. Drawing on his own interviews with over two hundred black and white residents, Schultz depicts the rhythms of work, social interaction, violence, power, and paternalism in a setting much different from the more widely studied postbellum urban South.






PrideF023. The Political Use of Racial Narratives by Richard A. Pride

Exploring who benefits and who pays when different narratives are accepted as true, Pride offers a step-by-step account of how Mobile’s culture changed each time a new and more forceful narrative was used to justify inequality. More than a retelling of Mobile’s story of desegregation, The Political Use of Racial Narratives promotes the value of rhetorical and narrative analysis in the social sciences and history.



YoungF054. Race and the Foundations of Knowledge edited by Joseph Young and Jana Evans Braziel

This anthology demonstrates the longstanding, multifarious, and major role that race has played in the formation of knowledge. The authors demonstrate how race theory intersects with other bodies of knowledge by examining discursive records such as travelogues, literature, and historiography; theoretical structures such as common sense, pseudoscientific racism, and Eurocentrism; social structures of class, advancement, and identity; and politico-economic structures of capitalism, colonialism, and law.



FormisanoF175. American Oligarchy by Ron Formisano

American Oligarchy demonstrates the way the corrupt culture of the permanent political class extends down to the state and local level. Ron Formisano breaks down the ways this class creates economic inequality and how its own endemic corruption infects our entire society. Formisano delves into the work of not just politicians but lobbyists, consultants, appointed bureaucrats, pollsters, celebrity journalists, behind-the-scenes billionaires, and others.




herringF036. Skin Deep edited by Cedric Herring, Verna M. Keith, and Hayward Derrick Horton

Written by some of the nation’s leading thinkers on race and colorism, these essays ask whether skin tone differentiation is imposed upon communities of color from the outside or is an internally-driven process aided and abetted by community members themselves. They also question whether the stratification process is the same for African Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans.




reddingS037. Making Race and Making Power by Kent Redding

In this groundbreaking study, Kent Redding examines the fluid political landscape of the nineteenth-century South, revealing the complex interplay between the elite’s manipulation of political and racial identity and the innovative mobilizing strategies marginalized groups adopted in order to combat disfranchisement.






97802520228528. American Fuehrer by Frederick J. Simonelli

Frederick Simonelli’s biography of this powerful and enigmatic figure draws on primary sources of extraordinary depth, including declassified FBI files and manuscripts and other materials held by Rockwell’s family and associates. The first objective assessment of the American Nazi party and an authoritative study of the roots of neo-nazism, neo-fascism, and White Power extremism in postwar America, American Fuehrer is shocking and absorbing reading.





97802520656069. The Science and Politics of Racial Research by William H. Tucker

Unlike other critiques of the scientific literature on racial difference, The Science and Politics of Racial Research argues that there has been no scientific purpose or value to the study of innate differences in ability between groups. William Tucker shows how, for more than a century, scientific investigations of supposedly innate differences in ability between races have been used to rationalize social and political inequality as the unavoidable consequence of natural differences





tuckerf0210. The Funding of Scientific Racism by William H. Tucker

Although the Pioneer Fund denies its ties to any political agenda, this powerful and provocative volume reveals the truth behind their long history of clandestine activities. The Funding of Scientific Racism examines for the first time archival correspondence that incriminates the fund’s major players, revealing links to a Klansman’s crusade to repatriate blacks, as well as efforts to reverse the Brown decision, prevent passage of the Civil Rights Act, and implement a system of racially segregated private 





BellS1211. Making Sense of American Liberalism edited by Jonathan Bell and Timothy Stanley

This collection of thoughtful and timely essays offers refreshing and intelligent new perspectives on postwar American liberalism. Sophisticated yet accessible, Making Sense of American Liberalism challenges popular myths about liberalism in the United States. The volume presents the Democratic Party and liberal reform efforts such as civil rights, feminism, labor, and environmentalism as a more united, more radical force than has been depicted in scholarship and the media emphasizing the decline and disunity of the left.



HughesF1212. Christian America and the Kingdom of God by Richard T. Hughes

With conviction and careful consideration, Hughes reviews the myth of Christian America from its earliest history in the founding of the republic to the present day. Extensively analyzing the Old and New Testaments, Hughes provides a solid, scripturally-based explanation of the kingdom of God–a kingdom defined by love, peace, patience, and generosity. Throughout American history, however, this concept has been appropriated by religious and political leaders and distorted into a messianic nationalism that champions the United States as God’s “chosen nation” and bears little resemblance to the teachings of Jesus.



AllenS0513. Democracy Inc by David S. Allen

In Democracy, Inc., David S. Allen exposes the vested interests behind the U.S. slide toward conflating corporate values with public and democratic values. He argues that rather than being institutional protectors of democratic principles, the press and law perversely contribute to the destruction of public discourse in the United States today.


University of Illinois Press has always prided ourselves on our commitment to social justice. In light of the recent events in Charlottesville, here are 10 books about protest and activism in America. Check out the other posts in our series here. 


1. Lost in the USA  by Deborah Gray White

Remembered as an era of peace and prosperity, turn-of-the-millennium America was also a time of mass protest. But the political demands of the marchers seemed secondary to an urgent desire for renewal and restoration felt by people from all walks of life.


williamsonS032. Black Power on Campus by Joy Ann Williamson

Promoting an understanding of the role of black youth in protest movements, Black Power on Campus is an important contribution to the literature on African American liberation movements and the reform of American higher education.






97802520095183. Race Riot at East St. Louis by Elliot Rudwick

“. . . a well-researched and thoughtful inquiry into the circumstances and social forces producing one of the most violent of twentieth-century American race riots.”
– American Historical Review







Eick.q (Page 1)4. Dissent in Wichita: The Civil Rights Movement in the Midwest 1954-72  by Gretchen Cassel Eick

Based on interviews with over eighty participants and observers of this sit-in, Dissent in Wichita traces the contours of race relations and black activism in an unexpected locus of the civil rights movement, revealing that the movement was a national, not a Southern, phenomenon. 






BradleyF095. Harlem vs. Columbia University by Stefan M. Bradley

In this dynamic book, Stefan M. Bradley describes the impact of Black Power ideology on the Students’ Afro-American Society (SAS) at Columbia. While white students–led by Mark Rudd and Students for a Democratic Society (SDS)–sought to radicalize the student body and restructure the university, black students focused on stopping the construction of the gym in Morningside Park.




WolfsonF146. Digital Rebellion by Todd Wolfson

Digital Rebellion examines the impact of new media and communication technologies on the spatial, strategic, and organizational fabric of social movements. Todd Wolfson reveals how aspects of the mid-1990s Zapatistas movement–network organizational structure, participatory democratic governance, and the use of communication tools as a binding agent–became essential parts of Indymedia and other Cyber Left organizations




TuttleRR7. Race Riot: Chicago in the Red Summer of 1919 by William M. Tuttle, Jr.

“This book has more lives than a cat because its feet are firmly planted on the bedrock issues of race and class, its analysis goes to the quick of urban-industrial life in the early twentieth century, and its vivid narrative captures the tumultuous riot without ever losing scholarly balance. A quarter century after it was first published, it has still not been excelled.”–Alan Dawley, author of Struggles for Justice: Social Responsibility and the Liberal State 





8. Against Citizenship by Amy L. Brandzel

Against Citizenship provocatively shows that there is nothing redeemable about citizenship, nothing worth salvaging or sustaining in the name of “community,” practice, or belonging. According to Brandzel, citizenship is a violent dehumanizing mechanism that makes the comparative devaluing of human lives seem commonsensical, logical, and even necessary.





CurransF179. Marching Dykes, Liberated Sluts, And Concerned Mothers by Elizabeth Currans

Elizabeth Currans blends feminist, queer, and critical race theory with performance studies, political theory, and geography to explore the outcomes and cultural relevance of public protest. Drawing on observation, interviews, and archival and published sources, Currans shows why and how women utilize public protest as a method of participating in contemporary political and cultural dialogues.

Available October 2017.




ChavezF1310. Queer Migration Politics by Karma R. Chavez

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. Queer Migration Politics offers activists, queer scholars, feminists, and immigration scholars productive tools for theorizing political efficacy.


Colleen Taylor Sen, co-editor of The Chicago Food Encyclopedia, appeared on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight to discuss Chicago’s food history and unique lesser known Chicago food items.

The Boring Pizza? Oh ho, not at all! Cheese pizza is a godsend perfect for kids’ birthday parties and church meetings. An icebreaker. A hand across countless divides. A relatively cheap chow-down. Cheese pizza deserves a Nobel Peace Prize.

With National Cheese Pizza Day once again upon us, we ponder the origins of this essential food. Chicago, of course, shares a long history with pizza. Though most famous for the deep-dish version, the city actually helped turned America into Ameri-za years before Pizzeria Riccardo brought its pioneering “thick crust” to Ohio Street and the world. Today, we turn to The Chicago Food Encyclopedia, the big pizza pie of reference books on the topic, to take us back even further:

By the middle of the eighteenth century, chewy thin-crusted pizza was a well-established street food in Naples. A wave of Italian immigrants brought the beloved concoction to American shores in the late nineteenth century, where it took hold in New York City. In Chicago, the first pizzeria was Granato’s (later called Pizzeria Napolitana) at 907 West Taylor Street, opened by the Neapolitan Granato family in the early 1930s. It survived until 1961 when the building was razed for the construction of the University of Illinois Circle Campus. But it wasn’t until American soldiers returned from World War II that pizza made serious footprints from coast to coast. And nowhere was it bigger than in Chicago, where deep-dish, the ultimate Chicago-style pizza, was born.

Mutinus elegans (Montagne) E. Fischer

Usually at least partially submerged in the ground; appearing like a whitish to pinkish or purplish “egg” up to 4 cm high; when sliced, revealing the stinkhorn-to-be encased in a gelatinous substance.

Mutinus. Inspired by a Roman phallic deity. Elegans. A word derived from the Latin word for graceful.

English speakers, unimpressed with the lovely etymological pedigree of the so-named mushroom, gave it colloquial names like the dog stinkhorn and the devil’s dipstick.

Best known as the elegant stinkhorn—a contradiction in terms?—Mutinus elegans claws its way through leaf litter, forest floor debris, mulch, flowerbeds, and lawns like a brightly colored finger. Rare among mushrooms, M. elegans reproduces by getting its spores to piggyback away on insects. To this end, it evolved a failsafe method of attracting flies, bursting from the ground with a tip covered in a brown or olive brown slime that gives off an odor described as “like spoiled meat.”

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metallic asparagusForget Halloween. August is the time for monster mashing in Illinois. One peruse of the state’s long history of monster sightings shows that warm summer nights bring the cryptids out of their otherworldly lairs to frighten rural folk and interrupt teenagers at leisure.

ITEM: The Tuttle Bottoms Monster first made headlines in August of 1963. For some time, the no-good youth of Harrisburg, Illinois had convened in a swampy area on the north side of town, there to commiserate and make out, to drink beer and disappoint their parents. Tuttle Bottoms, a scenic area along the Saline River, was still wooded enough to host a community of wild animals. One, perhaps, wilder than others. Here dwelt the Tuttle Bottoms Monster and the fact that everyone seemed to have a story about the creature failed to keep the teens away. Person A might tell you his cousin had seen mysterious tracks. Person B’s baby sitter spotted what looked like a pterodactyl. Other eyewitnesses described a furry creature that might’ve been a small bear or a large anteater or an ape. People occasionally reported sightings or even run-ins with the TBM over the years, though details remain sketchy.

gasser articleITEM: Preeminent in Illinois monster lore, the Mad Gasser of Mattoon—aka the Mattoon Gasser—made his (?) first visitation on August 31, 1944, causing a stink in the middle of a nation at war. The couple attacked that first night reported symptoms consistent with the events that followed. The husband felt sick. His wife, fearing gas from the stove, tried to get up but found herself paralyzed.

According to eyewitnesses, the Mad Gasser prowled about while clad in black. A subsequent incident at the house of Bert Kearney—Mrs. Kearney reported the gassy smell as sweet—fanned the mystery into a full-fledged panic complete with terrified citizens, baffled police officers, hysterical news headlines (“Anesthetic Prowler on Loose”), and patrolling vigilantes. By September 10, after many reports, the police dismissed the idea of a gasser, mad or otherwise, though seemingly sane witnesses, including a doctor and the Commissioner of Public Health, reported peculiar odors at the scene of the gassings. An incident on September 13 marked the Gasser’s last known appearance in Mattoon. The case was later held up as a classic example of mass hysteria.

ITEM: T’was the summer of 1970 when the Farmer City Monster made multiple appearances around the town that shares its name. Though not aggressive, the Monster had glowing eyes, and that sort of thing will stir up worry. Teens on a camp-out supposedly made the first report on July 9. Like the Tuttle Bottoms Monster, the Farmer City creature later troubled the Paradise by the Dashboard light happening at a remote lover’s lane. Teen involvement makes the entire matter ripe for dismissal, of course, but one of the subsequent eyewitnesses included a local police officer. Adults in or near Heyworth, Clinton, and Waynesville also chimed in. Once it passed through Waynesville, the monster vanished into legend.

University of Illinois Press has always prided ourselves on our commitment to social justice. In light of the recent events in Charlottesville, here are 8 books and journals for understanding systemic racism.

PrivateHallettF05 Prisons in America: A Critical Race Perspective by Michael A. Hallet

Demonstrating that imprisonment serves numerous agendas other than “crime control,” Hallett’s analysis suggests that private prisons are best understood not as the product of increasing crime rates, but instead as the latest chapter in a troubling history of discrimination aimed primarily at African American men.






Humane Insight: Looking at Images of African American Suffering and Death  By Courtney R. Baker

An innovative cultural study that connects visual theory to African American history, Humane Insight asserts the importance of ethics in our analysis of race and visual culture, and reveals how representations of pain can become the currency of black liberation from injustice.






Race Struggles Edited by Theodore Koditschek, Sundiata Keita Cha-Jua, and Helen A. Neville

This collection examines race in its relation to class and gender. The essays in the volume start with the premise that although race like class and gender is socially constructed, the three categories have been shaped profoundly by their context in a capitalist society. Race, in other words, is a historical category that develops not only in dialectical relation to class and gender but also in relation to the material conditions in which all three are forged.




Spatiashabazzlizing Blackness: Architectures of Confinement and Black Masculinity in Chicago By Rashad Shabazz                                         

A geographic study of race and gender, Spatializing Blackness casts light upon the ubiquitous–and ordinary–ways carceral power functions in places where African Americans live.





BarrettF13Racial Blackness and the Discontinuity of Western Modernity By Lindon Barrett, Edited by Justin A. Joyce, Dwight A. McBride, and John Carlos Rowe

Racial Blackness and the Discontinuity of Western Modernity is the unfinished manuscript of literary and cultural theorist Lindon Barrett, who died in 2008. The study offers a genealogy of how the development of racial blackness within the mercantile capitalist system of Euro-American colonial imperialism was constitutive of Western modernity. Barrett explores the complex transnational systems of economic transactions and political exchanges foundational to the formation of modern subjectivities.


Evans A2.inddOpen Wound: The Long View of Race in America by William McKee Evans

In this boldly interpretive narrative, William McKee Evans tells the story of America’s paradox of democracy entangled with a centuries-old system of racial oppression.







wgfccoverWomen, Gender, and Families of Color

Women, Gender, and Families of Color is a multidisciplinary journal that centers on the study of Black, Latina, Indigenous, and Asian American women, gender, and families. Within this framework, the journal encourages theoretical and empirical research from history, the social and behavioral sciences, and humanities including comparative and transnational research, and analyses of domestic social, political, economic, and cultural policies and practices within the United States.



jaehcoverJournal of American Ethnic Studies-The Official Journal of the Immigration & Ethnic History Society

The Journal of American Ethnic History (JAEH) 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.





Seven-year-old Jesse W. Weik was in the crowd when Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train passed through Indianapolis on its way to Springfield. Weik’s father, an immigrant baker and grocer, lifted his son to see the late president’s body. Years later, the younger Weik would play an instrumental part in putting a reputation and a personality to Lincoln’s haunting, haunted face.

herndon's lincolnBorn on August 23, 1857, Jesse Weik grew up in Indiana and at age thirteen enrolled in the forerunner of DePauw University in Greencastle. In his time there Weik became a student of John Clark Ridpath, author of the then-popular History of the World. Weik wrote and received letters from the likes of William Lloyd Garrison and Thomas Carlyle. Indeed, a short and interesting biography of Weik by Randall T. Shepard notes a “fascination” with famous people. A social animal, Weik belonged to various clubs and, in the family tradition, joined the Republican Party. He also made frequent journeys to Indianapolis to attend the theater and once took in a show starring Edwin Booth, the toast of the nineteenth century American stage and the elder brother of John Wilkes Booth.

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twistee treatThere’s nothing more American than soft-serve ice cream. It provides the dairy and sweetness we crave in an attractive shape atop a sugary cone that encourages mobility. And we dispense the tasty snack via a machine that smashes it with compressed air. Why? Because regular ice cream is just not good enough for us.

Tomorrow, we celebrate National Soft-Serve Ice Cream Day, that childhood bribe all of us have dropped on at least one occasion. Every town of any size, and a lot of towns lacking much size at all, claims a soft-serve stop or two, and you know the stuff popular because you can find it at your better gas stations, too. Many people have tried to take credit for inventing soft-serve. But the all-seeing culinary oracle that is The Chicago Food Encyclopedia gives precedence to a local institution:

Soft-serve ice cream was invented by a father-and-son team living in Green River and first sold in Kankakee in 1938, which led to the opening of the first Dairy Queen store in Joliet in 1940. The American Dairy Queen Corporation is now a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, Inc., and DQ franchises are found worldwide.

Soft-serve even influenced history. Future British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, in her early career as a food chemist, took part in the industrial effort to bring soft-serve technology to the UK, where the treat became famous under the Mr. Whippy brand. Just think if she had ridden her success to the top of the food chemistry game instead of going into politics.

Sure, the Internet may frighten you with news that soft-serve, particularly fast food soft-serve, is a flash frozen chemical stew that contains red seaweed extract. But air-pulverized ice cream remains the most popular ice cream for a reason. Hold it with both hands.

This week marks the anniversary of the death (?) of Elvis Presley, a transformative cultural figure of the twentieth or any other century. If you have memories of that afternoon in 1977, you perhaps recall what you were doing when news of the King’s demise shook our primitive, pre-digital media. I, for instance, was on the way to football practice. When one of the other kids in the car made a joke about Elvis, his dad reached back and thwacked him one but good.

Greil Marcus called Elvis’s life The Presleyiad. The arc of it remains a part of our collective history: the rise from Tupelo poverty; the supernova of Sun Records music that changed it all; years in the army; celluloid slavery in a hundred awful movies; the brief, transcendent 1968 comeback that provided a too-short-lived taste of an alternate reality where the mature Elvis was scared enough to put forth the effort necessary to create art; the crash and burn of that dream in Vegas; tabloid notoriety; death; life everlasting.

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