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Congratulations to Bill Cossen!

Bill CossenBill has been awarded a Graduate Student Summer Research Grant from the American Catholic Historical Association, which will fund dissertation research at The Filson Historical Society and at the Archdiocese of Louisville Archives . He has also been awarded a Filson Fellowship to support dissertation research at The Filson Historical Society in Louisville.

Congratulations to Crystal Sanders!

Sanders book coverCongratulations to Crystal R. Sanders, Assistant Professor of History and African American Studies, on her new book, A Chance for Change: Head Start and Mississippi's Black Freedom Struggle. (The University of North Carolina Press, April 2016, The John Hope Franklin Series in African American History and Culture)

In this innovative study, Crystal Sanders explores how working-class black women, in collaboration with the federal government, created the Child Development Group of Mississippi (CDGM) in 1965, a Head Start program that not only gave poor black children access to early childhood education but also provided black women with greater opportunities for political activism during a crucial time in the unfolding of the civil rights movement. Women who had previously worked as domestics and sharecroppers secured jobs through CDGM as teachers and support staff and earned higher wages. The availability of jobs independent of the local white power structure afforded these women the freedom to vote in elections and petition officials without fear of reprisal. But CDGM’s success antagonized segregationists at both the local and state levels who eventually defunded it.

Tracing the stories of the more than 2,500 women who staffed Mississippi's CDGM preschool centers, Sanders’s book remembers women who went beyond teaching children their shapes and colors to challenge the state’s closed political system and white supremacist ideology and offers a profound example for future community organizing in the South.

Richards Center Figures Prominently in List of 200 Best Civil War Era Publications

Historians affiliated with the Richards Center figure prominently on a list of 200 top publications in Civil War Era history. Recently compiled by the Civil War Era Studies program at Gettysburg College, the list of 200 titles includes nine authors with connections to Penn State. Center director William Blair’s latest book, With Malice Toward Some (2014) appears on the list, along with publications by Richards Center affiliated faculty Anne Rose and Mark Neely. Neely, McCabe Greer Professor Emeritus in the American Civil War Era, authored four titles that appear on the list (the most of any author) including his most recent book, Lincoln and the Triumph of the Nation (2011). The Gettysburg Civil War Era Studies program also selected Penn State graduates Barbara Gannon’s (PhD, ’05) The Won Cause and Jonathan White’s (BA, ’01) Abraham Lincoln and Treason in the Civil War for the list. In addition to the publications by Richards Center faculty and Penn State graduates, the 200 best picks also includes Mark Noll’s The Civil War as a Theological Crisis (2006), which was derived from his 2003 Brose Lectures. The number and variety of Richards Center affiliated publications on the list is testimony to the Center’s success in promoting cutting edge scholarship on the Civil War era. You can view the full list on Gettysburg's Civil War Era Studies program webpage.

 Neely bookNoll Book Cover

Ari Kelman was recently interviewed by Penn State News about his latest book, Battle Lines: A Graphic History of the Civil War.

Ari Kelman - PSU news 3-31-2016Penn State historian Ari Kelman is not afraid to tackle daunting and controversial research questions.

In "A Misplaced Massacre," his award-winning book about the Sand Creek massacre, Kelman helped expose one of the darkest, messiest moments in American history by surgically separating generations of conflicting memories—white and Native American—as debate swirled around the federal government's planned opening of Colorado's Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site in 2007.

No sooner was that book published than Kelman, seated in his office surrounded by walls of books on 19th century American history and volumes on the Civil War, began to contemplate another complex research challenge: Could he re-tell the story of the American Civil War, one of the country's most documented events, in a few thousand words and do it in a fresh and accessible way? The answer would lead him to one of the least likely publishing vehicles for a university researcher, as well as, arguably, one of the most innovative. He agreed to work on a graphic novel—a novel told in comic strip format—to help tell the story of the conflict in an accessible and immersive, yet economical, way.

"I didn't read comic books as a kid and, before we published this book, I didn't read graphic novels as an adult, so I'm not really an enthusiast," says Kelman, who is the McCabe Greer Professor of the American Civil War Era. "For me, this was a story-telling challenge and the graphic novel was a solution."

The result, "Battle Lines: A Graphic History of the Civil War" (Hill and Wang, 2015), tells the story of the conflict using different voices and augmenting those stories with artwork from author and illustrator Jonathan Fetter-Vorm, whom the publisher selected to work on the project.

Fetter-Vorm, who worked on a graphic novel about the history of the atomic bomb prior to Kelman's book, says he was interested in the project because he recognized the power of images to both tell a story and inspire future exploration.

"The real strength of the graphic approach to history is that it creates a sense of resonance—that you can suggest ideas very economically, very efficiently that spark a much larger intellectual process," says Fetter-Vorm. "With images, you can suggest things and create a way of telling history that leaves a lot of room for the reader to investigate even further."

The rest of the story can be read at:

Public talk with Nan Woodruff

Africana Research Center Luncheon Series with Nan Woodruff, Professor of African American Studies and Modern US History, Thursday, January 28, 2016, noon-1:00 pm, 118 Willard Building.



Pain in My Heart: Living with the Legacies of Everyday Violence in the Contemporary South

Untold incidents of horrific violence and terror against African Americans char-acterized the Civil Rights Movement. While scholars have correctly focused on the heroic “local people” who formed the backbone of the southern struggle, this presentation looks at the invisible, unprosecuted, un-remembered stories of people who remained in small towns where the traumas of the civil rights years remain buried in the lives and communities of those who risked every-thing to challenge white supremacy. The violent 1966 freedom movement and desegregation of the public schools in Grenada, Mississippi represented one of the most violent episodes in the Civil Rights Movement. Oral histories with participants who were children and young people at the time, provide some understanding of the legacies of violence and terror in one community and among families and individuals.

Talk is free and open to the public.

Blair Article Re-Examines the End of the Civil War

In December the American Historical Review, one of the profession’s leading journals, published Center Director William Blair’s article, “Finding the Ending of America’s Civil War.” As part of the issue’s roundtable, “Ending Civil Wars,” the article pushes readers to reconsider when we date the conclusion of the Civil War, noting that Republican politicians adopted a position “that recognized a state of war as lasting beyond the surrenders of armies.” Blair examines the thorny issues involved in ending the war, such as determining the status of the rebels, the political and legal rights of former slaves, and the re-establishment of federal authority in the defeated South. Finding the ending of the Civil War allows us to better understand the postwar goals of the federal government as well as the means they used to try to realize those goals. You can read the article by clicking on this link.