PeckF17The Railsplitter always remains newsworthy. Perhaps you remember the recent Lincoln-related crime wave in Kankakee, Illinois, where a thief or thieves took a plaster sculpture of Abraham Lincoln’ hand. Let’s go to local reaction, as reported in the January 3, 2016 edition of the New York Times:

In addition to being outraged, museum visitors were perplexed. “I think it’s kind of crazy,” said Kelly Lambert, a college student whose aunt works at the museum. “Why would someone want to walk off with a fake Abraham Lincoln hand?”

Not just a plaster hand, but a plaster hand “the size of an 8-10 pound ham,” according to police.

When a coworker told me what happened, I initially thought she meant Abraham Lincoln’s real hand somehow ended up in a Kankakee museum. Anyone who grows up in Lincoln-venerating Illinois wouldn’t be surprised by that blockbuster revelation. But no. It’s a plaster sculpture, and it’s the size of a ham. Not a grotesquely large ham. More like one of those hams that puts up a respectable feed for a party of, say, eight, with leftovers for the dog.

Continue reading

AlbalaF17_144County Fairground Soup

I love when serendipity, season, and whim dictate the contents of a recipe. A cooking demo for a farm-to-table event and whatever happened to be available at the vegetable stands one hot day in July prompted this combination, which I don’t believe I would ever have come up with myself. The ingredients cost 25 dollars and made a very large stockpot full of soup. The quantities are of course entirely variable, and you should, given the spirit of the recipe, use whatever you happen to find in an unusual farmer’s market. The dump-and-boil method here works.

Continue reading

Facebook ProfileThe University of Illinois Press is pleased to announce our new series, Black Internationalism, edited by Keisha N. Blain and Dr. Quito Swan. Dawn Durante, a senior acquisition editor at the University of Illinois Press, is the acquiring editor.

This series seeks to publish significant scholarship in the field of Black Internationalism. Moving beyond a nation-state centered level of analysis, books in this series will grapple with the international dimensions of the Black freedom struggle. They will provide historical and interdisciplinary perspectives on how people of African descent articulated global visions of freedom and forged transnational collaborations and solidarities with the Global South. The series will reflect the field’s remarkable growth in the areas of culture, geography, and methodology. Intersectional in nature, the series will collectively interrogate how race and ethnicity intersect with categories such as religion, gender, sexuality, class, and nationality. The series editors welcome projects that explore the diverse ways people of African descent transcended racial, geographic, and cultural lines in historical and contemporary contexts.

Series editorial board:

Kia Caldwell, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Erica R. Edwards, Rutgers University, New Brunswick

Gerald Horne, University of Houston

Tsitsi Ella Jaji, Duke University

Michael O. West, Binghamton University

Tracy Sharpley-Whiting, Vanderbilt University

Please direct all inquiries and submissions to:

Dawn Durante

Senior Acquisitions Editor

University of Illinois Press


Dr. Keisha N. Blain

Department of History

University of Pittsburgh


Dr. Quito Swan

Department of History

Howard University

Little free library 2
This black history month, UIP is joining the #ReadingBlackout challenge and we want you to too! The Reading Blackout challenge was created by YouTuber Denise D. Cooper and it’s a call to prioritize reading books by African American authors during 2018. To celebrate the #ReadingBlackout challenge we’ll be releasing reading lists all month long and adding the books to our Little Free Library at the Illini Union! This list is just a teaser for the black history books we’re adding to our Little Free Library this week, so make sure to stop by and check out the rest! You can check out past lists here.


Here are 6 more books to add to your #ReadingBlackout list:

“Swing the Sickle for the Harvest Is Ripe”: Gender and Slavery in Antebellum Georgia 


Compares the work, family, and economic experiences of enslaved women and men in upcountry and lowcountry Georgia during the nineteenth century. Mining planters’ daybooks, plantation records, and a wealth of other sources, Daina Ramey Berry shows how slaves’ experiences on large plantations, which were essentially self-contained, closed communities, contrasted with those on small plantations, where planters’ interests in sharing their workforces allowed slaves more open, fluid communications.


Slavery at Sea: Terror, Sex, and Sickness in the Middle Passage 




Most times left solely within the confines of plantation narratives, slavery was far from a land-based phenomenon. Sowande’ Mustakeem reveals for the first time how slavery took critical shape at sea. Slavery at Sea centers how the oceanic transport of human cargoes–infamously known as the Middle Passage–comprised a violently regulated process foundational to the institution of bondage.





For Freedom’s Sake: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer 


The youngest of twenty children of sharecroppers in rural Mississippi, Fannie Lou Hamer witnessed throughout her childhood the white cruelty, political exclusion, and relentless economic exploitation that defined black existence in the Delta. In this intimate biography, Chana Kai Lee documents Hamer’s lifelong crusade to empower the poor through collective action, her rise to national prominence as a civil rights activist, and the personal costs of her ongoing struggle to win a political voice and economic self-sufficiency for blacks in the segregated South.


Eugene Kinckle Jones: The National Urban League and Black Social Work, 1910-1940 




A leading African American intellectual of the early twentieth century, Eugene Kinckle Jones (1885–1954) was instrumental in professionalizing black social work in America. In his role as executive secretary of the National Urban League, Jones worked closely with social reformers who advocated on behalf of African Americans and against racial discrimination in the United States. Felix L. Armstrong examines the growth of African American communities and the roles of social workers concerned with the acculturative processes, social change, and racial uplift.

The Revolt of The Black Athlete



In 1968, The Revolt of the Black Athlete hit sport and society like an Ali combination. This Fiftieth Anniversary edition of Harry Edwards’s classic of activist scholarship offers a new introduction and afterword that revisits the revolts by athletes like Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Tommie Smith, and John Carlos. At the same time, Edwards engages with the struggles of a present still rife with racism, double standards, and economic injustice. Again relating the rebellion of black athletes to a larger spirit of revolt among black citizens, Edwards moves his story forward to our era of protests, boycotts, and the dramatic politicization of athletes by Black Lives Matter. 


African American History Reconsidered



Pero Gaglo Dagbovie analyzes the definitions of black history from W. E. B. Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk and a survey of early black women historians lend further dimension and authenticity to the volume.  Additional topics include the hip-hop generation’s relationship to and interpretations of African American history; past, present, and future approaches to the subject; and the social construct of knowledge in African American historiography.

Penang, Malaysia: Duck Soup Noodles

This state’s major city, Georgetown, was founded by the British in 1786 as a trading center. Consequently, it attracted influences from not only throughout the Pacific but India and the rest of the world as well. This admixture of cultures continues to make Georgetown a vibrant culinary center today. These noodles are a common sight among hawker stalls, though derived ultimately from China and found elsewhere. The dish is unique in that it contains a slew of medicinal Chinese herbs. I wasn’t able to identify several of these positively, but a few are not too hard to find. Dong quai (Angelica sinensis) appears to be typical, as do astragalas, codonopsis, and Solomon’s seal. I was worried about the dosage though, so I offer a nonmedicinal version using only ginseng and goji berries, which are also commonly used. The noodles are called mee sua (misua), which are a very thin wheat flour noodle originally from Fujian province in China.

Continue reading

Meet the UI Press is a semi-regular feature that delves into issues affecting academic publishing, writing, education, and related topics. 

Blurb. It sounds like an onomatopoeia for a noise made by infant humans. In publishing, though, the blurb—i.e. a quote on the cover praising the book—figures mightily in the marketing process. Why? Because over a century of mass market advertising has taught us that a testimonial from the knowledgeable, or better yet the famous, will convince the American consumer to buy anything. No judgment: who among us can resist buying a Seagram’s Wine Cooler when the prospect is thrown at us by a celebrity?

Bread Sculpture 1In the academic publishing business, the famous/knowledgeable divide often comes into play. The Grail of the endorsement trade, its Starbucks-for-Life card, is the Celebrity Blurber, for the reasons mentioned above. Knowledgeable, while perhaps less sexy, is easier to find. Even an obscure field of study attracts its share of scholars. These experts offer a reliable pool of “blurbers,” to use the insider jargon, that a marketing department can contact for a project. Topics with mainstream appeal, not surprisingly, provide more options: established authors and that handful of intellectuals actually familiar to a segment of the public.

Continue reading

Little free library 2

This black history month, UIP is joining the #ReadingBlackout challenge and we want you to too! The Reading Blackout challenge was created by YouTuber Denise D. Cooper and it’s a call to prioritize reading books by African American authors during 2018. To celebrate the #ReadingBlackout challenge we’ll be releasing reading lists all month long and adding the books to our Little Free Library at the Illini Union! This list is just a teaser for the black history books we’re adding to our Little Free Library this week, so make sure to stop by and check out the rest! You can check out past lists here.


Here are 4 more books to add to your 
#ReadingBlackout list:

Ring Shout, Wheel About: The Racial Politics of Music and Dance in North American Slavery




Katrina Thompson shows how traditional dances evolved into nineteenth-century minstrelsy and, ultimately, raises the question of whether today’s mass media performances and depictions of African Americans are so very far removed from their troublesome roots.



African American Concert Dance:  The Harlem Renaissance and Beyond 






John Perpener examines the politics of racial and cultural difference and their impact on these early African-American dance leaders. In particular, he documents the critical reception of their work, detailing the rigid preconceptions of African American dance that white critics imposed on black artists.





Blues all day long: The Jimmy Rogers Story 





Wayne Goins mines seventy-five hours of interviews with Rogers’s family, collaborators, and peers to follow a life spent in the blues. Goins’s account takes Rogers from recording Chess classics to playing Chicago clubs to a late-in-life renaissance that included new music, entry into the Blues Hall of Fame, and high-profile tours with Eric Clapton and the Rolling Stones.



Black Women & Music: More Than The Blues 




In contradistinction to a compilation of biographies, Eileen Hayes and Linda Williams critically illuminate themes of black authenticity, sexual politics, access, racial uplift through music, and the challenges of writing (black) feminist biography. Black Women and Music is a strong reminder that black women have been and are both social actors and artists contributing to African American thought.

The noodle, properly pulled, can take a soup from “good” to “that meal your friends talk about ten years later.” Called “the ultimate noodle” by Ken Albala, and he would know, the pulled noodle inspires artistry even before the cooking starts—we’ve all seen expert pullers putting dance moves, twisting, bashing, whipping, and stretching into the process. The Pulled Noodle Workout is no doubt on the way. But until then, let Ken set you up with the techniques you need to add this homemade noodle staple to your soup toolbox.

Learn more techniques in Noodle Soup: Recipes, Techniques, Obsession by Ken Albala.

UIP_logo_sm“The University of Illinois Press is destined to be one of the greatest Presses in the country.” —President Edmund J. James in a letter to the first University of Illinois Press director, 1920


When the University of Illinois Board of Trustees voted to establish the University of Illinois Press on June 1, 1918, there were fewer than twenty university presses in the United States. Publications had been produced on the Champaign-Urbana campus in the previous two decades, including the University Studies series (est. 1900) and the assumption of editorial and printing responsibility for the venerable Journal of English and Germanic Philology in 1906. An institutionally supported university press, however, demonstrated an aspiration for the University of Illinois to join the ranks of the great universities. To some degree, the creation of our press was the brainchild of two men—President Edmund J. James (1904- 1920) and the first director of the Press, Harrison E. Cunningham. Cunningham reflected on their dreams in a 1942 memo:

“President James not only knew what scholarship was, and how to encourage it; he knew that many things go with a scholarly plan of life, and most prominent among them an adequate program of learned publications. So he worked to establish and promote a University Press, not primarily as a service department . . . but the production and distribution of scholarly works in all fields of learning and research represented by the University. President James spent many hours with me, mostly late at night at his home or mine, or traveling on trains, talking about the plans for the Press, and what it meant.” —H.E. Cunningham, July 6, 1942

Unfortunately, James fell ill and left the university permanently in 1920, before he could bring to life the totality of his dream. But H. E. Cunningham stayed on as director for the next 29 years, and made great strides to create the modern press we recognize today. Throughout 2018 we will be celebrating this legacy and looking toward the next decades of University of Illinois Press publications. One of our first celebratory events takes place this Thursday, February 14, at 3:00pm. Join us for a director’s panel featuring current director Laurie Matheson and previous Press directors, Willis Regier and Richard Wentworth, to discuss the Press’s decades-long commitment to supporting scholarship on social justice issues and publishing underrepresented voices and histories.

Join us!

Read more about our history here.

UIP 100

Little free library 2

This black history month, UIP is joining the #ReadingBlackout challenge and we want you to too! The Reading Blackout challenge was created by YouTuber Denise D. Cooper and it’s a call to prioritize reading books by African American authors during 2018. To celebrate the #ReadingBlackout challenge we’ll be releasing reading lists all month long and adding the books to our Little Free Library at the Illini Union! This list is just a teaser for the black history books we’re adding to our Little Free Library this week, so make sure to stop by and check out the rest! You can check out past lists here.


Here are 5 more books to add to 
your #ReadingBlackout list:

Beyond Respectability: The Intellectual Thought Of Race Women 

cooper beyond respectability

Brittney C. Cooper charts the development of African American women as public intellectuals and the evolution of their thought from the end of the 1800s through the Black Power era of the 1970s. Cooper delves into the processes that transformed these women and others into racial leadership figures, including long-overdue discussions of their theoretical output and personal experiences. As Cooper shows, their body of work critically reshaped our understandings of race and gender discourse. Cooper’s work, meanwhile, confronts entrenched ideas of how–and who–produced racial knowledge.


Colored No More: Reinventing Black Womanhood In Washington, D.C. 



Treva B. Lindsey presents New Negro womanhood as a multidimensional space that included race women, blues women, mothers, white collar professionals, beauticians, fortune tellers, sex workers, same-gender couples, artists, activists, and innovators. Colored No More traces how African American women of the late-nineteenth and early twentieth century made significant strides toward making the nation’s capital a more equal and dynamic urban center.


African or American?: Black Identity and Political Activism in New York City, 1784-1861 




Black leaders advocated racial uplift through a sense of communalism and connection to their African heritage. Yet by the antebellum era, Black activists struggled to reconcile their African identity with a growing desire to gain American citizenship. Leslie M. Alexander documents the creation of mutual relief, religious, and political associations, which Black men and women infused with African cultural traditions and values.



Beauty Shop Politics: African American Women’s Activism in the Beauty Industry




African American beauty entrepreneurs built and sustained a vibrant culture of activism in beauty salons and schools. Tiffany M. Gill argues that the beauty industry played a crucial role in the creation of the modern black female identity and that the seemingly frivolous space of a beauty salon actually has stimulated social, political, and economic change.


A Noble Fight: African American Freemasonry And The Struggle For Democracy In America





Corey D. Walker examines the metaphors and meanings behind the African American appropriation of the culture, ritual, and institution of freemasonry in navigating the contested terrain of American democracy. This body of analytical work presents and interrogates the concrete forms of an associational culture, revealing how paradoxical aspects of freemasonry such as secrecy and public association inform the production of particular ideas and expressions of democracy in America.