UNC Department of History

Greetings from the Chair

W. Fitzhugh Brundage
Chair, Department of History

Another academic year draws to a close. Our graduating class has departed and a new class prepares to take their place. This cycle is one of the recurring rewards of higher education: each year we welcome new students with fresh enthusiasms, new concerns, different questions, and novel talents to campus. This rejuvenation keeps all of us on our toes and inspires us to experiment in our teaching and pursue new research interests.

This newsletter is a snapshot of the latest cycle of rejuvenation. In this issue you can read about innovative work by the Southern Oral History Program; an undergraduate class website that grapples with this university’s controversial history; an undergraduate's experiences presenting her work in Denmark; the research adventures of Professors Don Raleigh and Michelle King; the fascinating career of our alum Brent Glass, and more. We hope these stories convey the intellectual energy and excitement that continue to distinguish this department.

W. Fitzhugh Brundage
Chair, Department of History

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Department News

This month, we say goodbye to our seniors, who are heading off to a wide range of professional opportunities and graduate programs. And students who are returning to Carolina in the fall have exciting summer plans. What has a history major prepared them to do? They can tell you themselves:

“As a graduating senior, I have heard that studying the humanities helps develop critical thinking skills so many times that it has become almost trite. But it is true: studying history not only gave me interesting things to talk about in medical school interviews--it improved my writing and standardized testing ability. Choosing a history major track made the road to medical school admission a relatively smooth (and certainly rewarding) one.”

--Will Parker, ’16 (headed to UNC Medical School)

“Throughout my four years as a history major at Carolina, I have come to learn the importance of understanding context…I have become more critical of generalizations by learning that there is always more to a story than what is told in the leading narrative. Additionally, I have also learned to write coherently and how to articulate myself in an effective manner. Moving forward, I know that the knowledge I have gained as a history student will be invaluable as I prepare to launch a non-profit in Greensboro, NC.”

--Molly Fisher, ‘16

“I will be starting my career as an analyst with Deloitte Consulting, LLC. While I have learned the necessary business concepts at the Kenan-Flagler Business School, the history major has taught me how to write, how to sell my ideas, how to think outside the box, and most importantly how to conduct thorough research…Without having developed all the relevant history critical thinking skills that I have as a part of my history major, I do not think I would have the opportunity I do with Deloitte.”

--Bailey White, ‘16

“My coursework in history has given me a deep understanding of power dynamics, systems of oppression, and the importance of a multi-narrative approach to understanding current and past events. As I enter the workforce, I hope to pursue a career in advocacy and service. I am currently applying for teaching positions in high-need communities in New York City. The history classes I took at UNC have provided me with the writing, critical thinking, and passion that I need to excel.”

--Tali deGroot, ‘16

“When I walked into my interview for a summer internship at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, my interviewer exclaimed, "You're the History major! I've been waiting for you." She continued on to say that the company values liberal arts majors for their critical thinking skills and ability to synthesize information. During the interview, she asked why I chose to study history rather than economics or business. I told her I wanted to study something that I was genuinely passionate about and would allow me to expand my knowledge through a wide variety of classes. My enthusiasm and passion for my course of study clearly permeated my answers, and I was offered the internship this summer in their Charlotte headquarters.”

--Adrienne Kronovet, ‘17

Before leaving Carolina for exciting opportunities like these, our students have a way of racking up awards.

Recipients of Honors and
Highest Honors in History
Griffin Creech (Highest)
Augusta Dell’Omo (Highest)
Sam Fletcher
Dana Landress
Tyler Litke
H. Brent McKnight, Jr.
Mari Moss
Tyra Pearson
Phi Beta Kappa Inductees
Augusta Lyn Dell’Omo
Griffin Frederick Lerner
Joshua William Ohaus
Shannon Brien
Elizabeth Mary Carbone
Griffin Bennett Creech
Tali Rose de Groot
Zack Austin Powers
Sarah Estelle Schauber
Phi Alpha Theta Inductees
Lewis C. Flowers, III
Anna R. Blackwell
Mary Grady B. Bell
Julia A. Rickard
Cameron W. Mory
Allison E. Black
Jan V. Elmore
Ruoyu Ji
Sarah E. Pupa
Elizabeth C. Chase
Zack A. Powers
Kimberly H. Holder
Anne E. Rutledge
Magdalene K. Ristow
Samuel G. Wilkins
Adrienne M. Kronovet
Jacqueline I. Battaile
Sarah H. Poole
Kristy L. Williams
Emma Rae N. Fender
Caroline G. Prince
Undergraduate Awards

Frank W. Ryan Award for Best Honors Thesis
Augusta Dell’Omo, “Tending the Enemy’s Flock: German Pastors and POWs in Britain, 1940 – 1955”

Joshua Meador Prize for the Best History 398 Paper
Meredith Miller, “"Portraits of Krakow’s Places and People: Reconciling Cultural Identity and Modernity at the Turn-of-the-Century"

Michael L. and Matthew L. Boyatt Award (to fund research expenses)
Dana Landress, “The Nomenclature Precedent: A Pre-History of the Human Genome Project”

Tyra Pearson, “‘Unnatural Mother’: Race, Gender, and Infanticide in the Nineteenth Century”

David Anthony Kusa Award (to fund research expenses)
Augusta Dell’Omo

McLendon-Thomas Award in the History of Medicine
Scott Nelson, “Snatching Bodies, Making Doctors: Stealing Black Corpses for Medical Education in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth-Century American South”

Honors Student Presents Research in Denmark

Landress at the University of Aarhus

Senior Dana Landress traveled to Denmark last December to present her research on the Human Genome Project at a conference on “Contested Property Claims” at the University of Aarhus.

Landress’ research for her Honors thesis formed the basis of her presentation, which “aimed to explore how genetic material was first conceived of as property, and how transformations in patent law during the 1970s and 1980s shaped debates about public and private ownership of genetic material,” she said.

The interdisciplinary conference drew a wide range of scholars from around the world. The most exciting part of Landress’ trip was getting to know the other participants. “I befriended a hydrologist from Newfoundland, a historian from Bonn, and a political scientist from Jerusalem,” she said. “This is the kind of global academic community that I want to be a part of in the future.” As a history junkie, of course she found time to visit Den Gamble By, the famous local open-air museum of Danish urban life through the centuries!

Quiz Bowl Challenges Local High Schoolers

2016 Quiz Bowl champions

The Phi Alpha Theta chapter of UNC, with the support of the UNC History Department, hosted its third annual history quiz bowl on Saturday, April 9th in Hamilton hall.

Topics for questions ranged from Indus Valley civilizations and the Panama Papers to Ho Chi Minh and Rio de Janeiro. This year’s event included nine teams from five different high schools including Durham School of the Arts, Panther Creek High School, Green Hope High School, East Chapel Hill High School, and Jordan High School. After ten rounds of competition, the two teams that had earned the most points were Durham School of the Arts and East Chapel Hill Team A. The Department Chair, Fitz Brundage, then read the final round questions to these two teams. Answering the most questions correctly in this round, East Chapel Hill High School Team A won the day.

The Quiz Bowl Organizing Committee is composed of undergraduate volunteers from Phi Alpha Theta, history majors, and history enthusiasts from other majors. More than fifteen talented and dedicated students began composing questions in early September in order to write and edit a total of 512 questions by April.

Ellie Edwards ‘17
President, UNC Phi Alpha Theta

UNC Quiz Bowl judges
UNC Quiz Bowl judges

Public History Website Uncovers the People We Honor on Campus

A creative new website joins the discussion on how we commemorate at Carolina, and to what ends. “Names in Brick and Stone: Histories from the University’s Built Landscapes,” developed by the Introduction to Public History class in Fall 2015, is “addressing, but also moving beyond” highly visible campus debates like the naming of Saunders Hall and the “Silent Sam” memorial, Adjunct History Professor Anne Whisnant explained.

Website created by HIST 671: Introduction to Public History

Whisnant has much experience with digital history, but this is her first project to address such contemporary issues. The “Names in Brick and Stone” project investigates the history of the named buildings on UNC-Chapel Hill campus. The Facilities Services website provided a list of “major buildings,” and all those named after people—about 250 in total—were selected for the website. In Whisnant’s mixed undergraduate and graduate course, each student selected two buildings to research in the University Archives and the North Carolina Collection in Wilson Library. They wrote long-form narratives about the buildings and the people after whom they were named, illustrated with photographs of the people and buildings, associated plaques, and historical newspaper articles.

American Studies Graduate Assistant Charlotte Fryar, who had helped design the class, developed the visualizations for each building, which allow website visitors to produce maps of buildings named after only women, for instance, or of buildings established for religious purposes, with the ability to cross-reference different historical periods. Because of the small class size, there are only full narratives written for eight of the 250 major campus buildings named after people. But Whisnant intends to continue expanding the site’s coverage.

There were potential challenges inherent in the project. Assigning some categories, such as ‘race’, could be difficult in particular cases—sometimes a namesake’s race was ambiguous or they defined it differently from how government documents describe it; moreover, assumptions about race vary widely across time and place. The category of ‘historical involvement’ also required careful navigation: was the person a slaveholder or from a family of slaveholders? Were they publicly associated with white supremacy? Which activities do we consider involvement in women’s rights or progressivism?

The website presents the students’ research with sensitivity and care to avoid making overreaching claims. For instance, the page on Joseph Grégoire de Roulhac Hamilton—namesake of the History and Political Science building and founder of the Southern Historical Collection—acknowledges Hamilton’s prestigious career and numerous contributions to campus. But it also notes the controversy over “the racism and white supremacy he employed in his works and teaching,” and concludes that “more time and research will need to be done to get a true sense of Hamilton’s position in race relations at the university.” Whisnant emphasized that this project is not intended to give “a blanket denunciation of all white men from a particular era.” This website was built for an audience of diverse “campus constituencies trying to cope” with the untold histories on campus, she explained.

In May 2015, after a year of deliberation, the Board of Trustees voted to rename Saunders Hall as Carolina Hall. In 1920, the trustees specifically cited William Saunders’ leadership of the North Carolina Ku Klux Klan when they deemed him worthy to be the building’s namesake. After the decision to rename the building, Chancellor Folt called for the creation of a Task Force on UNC-Chapel Hill History. “Names in Brick and Stone” fulfills one of the missions of the History Task Force, which aimed to create a list of names across the landscape. In December 2015, Whisnant’s class gave a presentation in Wilson Library, attended by about seventy-five people, including students, faculty, one trustee, and members of the History Task Force. Trustees discussed the website at a Board meeting in January this year.

One of the most intriguing stories that Whisnant’s course uncovered was the history of Cheek-Clark Building, formerly known as “The University Laundry.” Before this building was built in 1925 during a boom of campus construction, UNC students mostly entrusted the care of their laundry to self-employed black women in the local community. But after creating the “University Laundry,” UNC gained a monopoly on laundry services in town, and it advertised the centralized services with advertisements that spread suspicion of “filth and disease” in these black women’s homes, Whisnant said. The building was renamed in 1998, following the settlement of a Housekeepers’ Association lawsuit charging decades of racial discrimination and wages below the federal poverty level. Kennan Cheek was the founding president of the UNC Janitors Association, and Rebecca Clark successfully organized for the rights of University Laundry workers. To Whisnant, this story was “the biggest eye opener” about the complexities of race in campus history. She has lived in Chapel Hill two decades and “didn’t know a thing” about this hidden history.

“Names in Brick and Stone” engages in important campus conversations about belonging and how we choose to remember the past—and the website is yet another demonstration of how students can research and create original content, using digital techniques to share history with the public.

Anndal Narayanan

Oral History Program Launches Podcast

The Southern Oral History Program is breaking ground with a new oral history podcast, Press Record. Rachel Seidman, Associate Director of the SOHP, and Evan Faulkenbury, History doctoral candidate and SOHP Field Scholar, are the brains behind this new venture and are working hard to bring oral histories out of the archives and onto the airwaves.

So far they have put together three episodes: “Silence Speaks Volumes” (about the art of listening in oral history), “Back Ways” (about segregation in the South), and “Feminism and Oral History” (about the women’s movement). Drawing on rich audio sources, Seidman and Faulkenbury bring together historians and researchers to discuss the ins and outs of oral history. As a public history tool, podcasts have enormous potential to bring scholarly work to a larger audience. However, Seidman noted, they’re not seeking to just entertain (although they are wildly successful at that!), but also to connect with historians and teachers and help establish SOHP as a resource in the field.

The idea for the podcast grew out of a class Seidman taught on oral history and women’s activism in the South in which students made podcasts for their final projects. She was impressed by how audio documentary work functioned as a pedagogical tool that compelled students to think in new ways about the audio recordings, learn technical skills, and analyze history in a way that would resonate with a wider audience. Faulkenbury also used podcasts with his students. As interest in the digital humanities has grown and SOHP has become more involved with public engagement, connecting oral history with podcasts seemed like a natural next step.

Press Record involves the listener in the process of interpreting oral histories as historical sources—learning how to think like oral historians. “In politics and the public, people get away with making claims with no evidence, and part of educating the citizenry is to show people how you use evidence and how you construct an argument based on real evidence,” Seidman said.

Podcasts come with unique challenges. Time limits are one. Each episode is only a half-hour long, so there is less opportunity to wade through long stretches of the raw audio typical of most oral history interviews. Moreover, Seidman and Faulkenbury are in the throes of learning the editing process. They are experimenting with the format of the podcast and deciding how to intersperse more of the raw oral history audio into the episodes. While there are numerous history podcasts available, few emphasize oral history, so “there’s really no rulebook yet,” Faulkenbury said. This means that SOHP has an opportunity to shape the genre.

Seidman and Faulkenbury are both eager for feedback, so make your way to iTunes to subscribe or visit sohp.org/podcast to listen in. Faulkenbury hopes that listeners will come away learning “how past lives of people still impact current events and policies today.”

Danielle Balderas

Rachel Seidman and Evan Faulkenbury
Rachel Seidman and Evan Faulkenbury in the studio

New Issue of Traces Explores Religion

The 2016 issue of our students’ prize-winning journal, Traces, dives into the complex world of religious history. This volume contains articles by UNC-CH undergraduates about how the Reformation changed witch trials in England; the role of religious motifs in the success or failure of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in DC and the 9/11 Memorial in New York City, and much more. This volume also includes a new feature, "Annotation," in which graduate history students discuss how they analyze sources they use in their research projects. Stop by Hamilton Hall to pick up a copy!

Mark Hornburg, Editor-in-Chief

 
Alumni Spotlight

From Saving Carr Mill to Running the Smithsonian

A history PhD comes in handy in many places outside the academy. Brent Glass’ commitment to public history embodies the diverse career paths open to historians. Glass, who earned his PhD from UNC in 1980, directed the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History for nearly a decade. Recently he took time to reflect on his long career in public history before setting out on tour for his new book, 50 Great American Places: Essential Historic Sites Across the U.S.

After moving to Chapel Hill in 1971 to become John Kasson’s first graduate student, Glass found that Kasson’s interest in the relationship between people and culture inspired him. In graduate school, Glass “really became a public historian interested in historic preservation, museums, and archives,” he said.

While at Carolina, Glass became interested in technology and the history of industrialization. He landed a number of short-term contracts where he further developed a passion for preservation. A series of coincidences transformed his academic interests into a career in public history. In the mid-70’s Glass started conducting oral history interviews in Carrboro with former textile workers. This work pulled him into the fight to preserve the old mill next to Weaver St. Market (now known as Carr Mill Mall), then facing demolition.

Since 1898 the mill had served as a town landmark, changing ownership multiple times before closing its doors in the late 1960s. The prospect of demolition mobilized the community to reclaim the mill and create a space for vibrant community businesses like Weaver Street Market. Weaver St. Market still stands today as the town square in Carrboro, a social hub and community landmark. On any given day one can find a lively collection of students, families and townsfolk relaxing under the shady trees.

Reflecting upon his involvement in the preservation effort of the mill, Glass said that town squares like Weaver Street are vital because they create a sense of home within a community. Although Glass did not grow up in a town that had a town square, he has always been interested in the design of traditional New England towns and the plazas of the old Southwest. “Those public spaces have always appealed to me as a way to understand social and cultural and political history,” Glass said.

While working as the Director of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission from 1987-2002, Glass served on the Flight-93 Memorial commission. The “War on Terror” posed challenges for him as a historian: “It was a powerful experience because there were so many family members of crewmembers and passengers who died on that flight, and they were a constant presence reminding us of how personal this story was.” After fifteen years in Pennsylvania, Glass assumed the directorship at the Smithsonian in 2002. There he helped develop a master plan for the museum and oversaw the construction of an atrium and a new gallery for the Star-Spangled Banner, the original flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the national anthem during the War of 1812. During his tenure, the Smithsonian commemorated the Brown v. Board of Education decision—all of the Supreme Court Justices came to visit that exhibit—as well as the 50th anniversary of the Greensboro sit-ins. Glass also stressed that he had quite a bit of fun at the Smithsonian—he even got to appear on the Colbert Report.

Stephen Colbert donated his portrait, Jerry Seinfeld gave up the “puffy shirt” (a rather infamous costume item that starred in an episode of his sit-com) and Sylvester Stallone bequeathed some of his personal artifacts from Rocky—all these relics went to the Smithsonian. “It’s not all serious, heavy history,” Glass said. “We acknowledge that popular culture is a big part of who we are as Americans.”

Now, Glass consults with museums around the country. His clients include Sing Sing Correctional Facility in New York, where he is helping to develop a museum about the history of criminal justice. His new book 50 Great American Places (Simon & Schuster, 2016) explores 50 places around the country that represent five themes in American history—political freedom, military history, innovation and enterprise, diverse cultural traditions, and landscape. Glass’s subjects range from the Brooklyn Bridge to the first shopping mall in American history.

Glass sees museums as “great institutions to preserve and present our collective memory;” in the twenty-first century, museums “are not only preserving artifacts, they’re also using those objects to tell stories about people, about places, and about events that shape our history and shape our identity.” He offered some words of wisdom to graduate students here at Carolina: “Be open to possibilities and opportunities and have as wide a range of interests as possible. In terms of how you apply your skills and discipline as a historian, there are many ways to do that.”

Danielle Balderas

 
Faculty News

Translating Three Decades of Change in Russia

Don Raleigh’s celebrated book Soviet Baby Boomers: An Oral History of Russia’s Cold War Generation (Oxford University Press, 2011) has just been published in Russian. With a modern jacket design and high quality editing, “it could have been published anywhere in the world,” Raleigh said. But this result was far from guaranteed, as Raleigh knows all too well: he has had an unusual amount of involvement in the translation and publication of his own books. His experiences in the world of Russian publication are suggestive of great changes in Russian society and the economy through recent decades: where else does academic translation intertwine with political conspiracy and even, perhaps, murder?

The best way to explain the travails of the translation of Soviet Baby Boomers is to compare it to the long slog of the translation of Raleigh’s first book. Revolution on the Volga: 1917 in Saratov (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1986) traces the Russian Revolution in a provincial port city on the Volga river. But because of travel restrictions, Raleigh could not even travel to the Volga to conduct research on the book. By the final phase of the Cold War, when Raleigh had begun working on a sequel about the Civil War in Saratov, most of the Soviet Union had been closed to foreigners, even Cubans. However, in 1990, Mikhail Gorbachev’s Glasnost (“opening”) policies finally allowed Raleigh to visit Saratov. He unwillingly became a “media figure” as the first American to visit the city since the 1950s.

While in Saratov, Raleigh managed to conclude a contract with a publisher to put out a Russian-language edition of Revolution on the Volga. But in 1991, the Soviet Union was dissolving, and Raleigh found himself under house arrest during the August coup. During this time of national chaos, he discovered that the Russian translation of his book was “horrible, totally unsalvageable.” He had to mobilize a show of force to wrench his manuscript back from his inept editor. He also had to start over and find a new translator. By 1992, Raleigh recalled, “the state and society were dissolving.” Most people lived in poverty and insecurity, and no one would translate a book without payment upfront.

Finally, in 1993, his new editor found a translator, while Raleigh had to find a “sponsor” to pay to publish the work, since publishing houses were folding. Moreover, the resulting timeline of publication “couldn’t have been worse” for Revolution on the Volga, Raleigh said. By 1995, “‘revolution’ had become a dirty word.” This was the period of “robber baron capitalism,” as the post-Soviet Russian Federation embraced capitalism, he explained. The title of Raleigh’s book was rendered in Russian as The Political Fate of Provincial Russia.

This was also a time of widespread political intrigue. Raleigh’s translation project had received financial support from a Saratov businessman, who was also a member of the state parliament. This sponsor could not attend the party that the University Library of Saratov threw in honor of Raleigh’s book, however, because he was found dead. Officially deemed the result of alcohol poisoning (another sign of the times, as consumption of toxic alcohol surrogates was common), this death was rumored to be a political murder. Raleigh was glad to have been able to publish his first book in Russia, but it was a “taxing” experience. Russian translators were mostly “adventurers” in this period—unprofessional and looking for easy money, which meant that Raleigh had to be far more closely involved than scholars usually are in the translation and publication process.

Raleigh felt he “needed to reinvent” himself as a historian. He started a long-term oral history project interviewing Soviet baby boomers, the first generation to grow up during the Cold War. In order to understand how the Soviet baby boomer experience in the capital compared to life in the provinces, Raleigh interviewed two cohorts of subjects: the graduates of comparable magnet schools in Moscow and Saratov. Most Russians he interviewed were very enthusiastic about the project. Over and over, they told him, “Only an American could have done this. And it’s a great idea.”

There was an obvious market for this book in Russia, but again Raleigh had a tough time having it translated due to changing political currents. With the help of a UNC Ph.D. graduate from Moscow, Raleigh connected with the New Literary Review, “the hot publishing house” in Russia, he said. But the contract was not moving forward. Raleigh learned it was because the publisher, Irina Prokhorova, had become in her brother Mikhail’s political campaign when he ran for president against Vladimir Putin in 2012. When Raleigh finally found a translator, she was more than a year late on her deadline because of her political activism concerning the crisis in Ukraine. Raleigh had to review the translation, line by line. Twice.

Eventually, Raleigh’s editor whipped the translation of Soviet Baby Boomers into shape. The book, published in April 2015 by the Novoe Litteraturnoe Oborezenie press, received a very positive advance review, in the Russian equivalent of the American Historical Review. Its initial press run sold out, and the publisher has ordered a second printing. Raleigh’s interview subjects can finally read the book, and he hopes they see their life stories reflected in it. For a scholar of Soviet social history, witnessing the economic and political disruptions in Russia through the lens of book translation has been an exhausting, but enlightening, experience.

Anndal Narayanan

 

Culture, Cookbooks, and Living History

For her second book, she’s pioneering an entirely new approach to historical sources. Michelle King, Associate Professor of Chinese history, is writing the cultural history of the Taiwanese celebrity chef Fu Pei-mei, often called the “Julia Child of Chinese Cooking.” To overcome research obstacles, King is using the power of the internet to harvest sources that “unfold in real time,” she said.

Fu Pei-mei was a larger-than-life figure in Taiwanese popular culture. Fu appeared as a cooking program host on Taiwanese state television from 1962 to 2002, ranking among the longest-running television stints in the world. To generations of Taiwanese, she felt like part of the family, a source of company, comfort, and education to children of working parents. Along with her television reign, Fu Pei-mei published numerous cookbooks, many of which were bilingual. This is the primary way that people of Taiwanese descent living abroad know her—and how King herself learned about Fu Pei-mei, through cookbooks her mother owned. “I had zero idea that she was even on TV,” King said. Offering more than recipes and photographs of meals, these cookbooks document Pei-mei’s life, showing her travels and even visits with politicians. Fu played a role in Taiwanese “gastro-diplomacy,” King explained. The Republic of China sent her on junkets as a culinary ambassador.

King’s book, titled The Pei-mei Project: History, Gender, and Memory Through the Pages of A Chinese Cookbook, will examine Fu Pei-mei as a window into the cultural, economic, and social changes sweeping Taiwan in the second half of the twentieth century. Fu’s career tells the story of Taiwan’s modernization and the development of national identity. Her television show began in the first year of Taiwanese state television; the new importance of TV helped build her national profile. Through the 1960s and 1970s, gender roles and household patterns changed radically. Young women had often been separated from older generations of women in mainland China after the Civil War, or no longer had servants to cook for them—either way, many had to learn to cook for themselves. Because of migration, Taiwan became a crossroads of many regional Chinese cultures and cuisines, and Fu’s cooking show and cookbooks integrated them all. She also consulted with industrial food companies, believing that since working people did not always have the time to cook, packaged food should taste good. In a period when Taiwan was constructing a distinct national identity from that of Communist China, Fu “stepped into a vacuum,” King said.

The problem for the historian, however, is that Fu left behind few archival sources on her life at all. Taiwanese state television holds the rights to all of her programs, so King would have had to sit in the vault of the television archive and scan hundreds of thousands of hours of television, an option that is neither appealing nor efficient. King has interviewed some of Fu’s relatives, who understandably are concerned with protecting her legacy. But these meetings inspired King to cast a much wider net in order to discover the impact that Fu has had on Taiwanese people on the island and around the world.

This is not a “strictly archival project,” King said. Her subjects are the various generations of women influenced by Fu’s work, and she will find them by creating a companion website to the book project. Offering historical context on Fu’s life will draw her fans in, King hopes, and she will use the memories that these fans contribute on the website as sources for her book. King’s website will essentially create her book’s sources.

She’s already encountered much enthusiasm when she explains her project to people who know about Fu. But King faces some quandaries as she enters the “wild West of digital history.” How will she find this generation and let them know about her website? Are they even on Facebook or other social media sites? Is it best to try to find them through their children instead? As she narrows down the best ways to find her subjects and encourage them to create her sources, King is balancing on the cutting edge of digital history. The book that results will interest Taiwanese people and Fu Pei-mei’s fans, but King hopes above all to introduce an American audience to Taiwan, whose food history—not to mention its social and political history—is very different from that of mainland China.

Anndal Narayanan

Katherine Turk Explores the Struggle for Workplace Rights

What did the rights revolution of the late twentieth century mean for working women? This is one of the many questions that Assistant Professor Katherine Turk addresses in her new book with the University of Pennsylvania Press, Equality on Trial: Gender and Rights in the Modern American Workplace, published this month. Turk found the answer by tracing the history of the sex equality provision of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the first federal law to ban workplace sex discrimination.

“The book tries to understand how we arrived at a mainstream definition of workplace sex equality that treats the sexes as interchangeable. This conception of workplace rights was not inevitable. Instead, it was forged through decades of conflict among workers and their employers, attorneys and advocates, and others,” Turk said.

Before Title VII, working-class women sought to expand their rights through labor unions and state laws. They often insisted on essential differences between the sexes in order to “protect” working women. After Title VII’s passage, many of these same women adopted a new approach. They reframed longstanding grievances as violations of sex equality and sought justice through the legal system. Compared to their more elite sisters, working-class women had ideas about workplace rights that were complicated, and “required something beyond giving women the chance to compete with men for jobs,” Turk said. “The model of equality as sameness or non-distinction between groups was one of many possible outcomes when the new federal sex equality laws are passed.”

Title VII inspired a wide range of working people to try to claim the new law’s power. Turk’s book offers examples of working people who drew on their expansive visions of workplace rights to try to stretch the boundaries of state-enforced sex equality. Some men attempted to claim Title VII protection to enter jobs that were traditionally feminized. Gay and lesbian workers pushed for Title VII to prohibit discrimination based on sexuality. Hotel maids fought against the dismantling of gendered divisions within housekeeping work, arguing that their employers would use a narrow notion of equality-as-interchangeability to make their jobs more demanding.

In the end, the federal government denied legal legitimacy to these expansive notions of sex equality, all but extinguishing them in American culture. Instead, formal equality, which requires employers to open jobs to people of all genders without doing much else to address inequalities in the workplace, triumphed. Although working-class people were not successful in their attempts to expand the protections guaranteed by Title VII, their struggles compel us to recognize the historical contingency of assumptions about sex equality that many people now take for granted. “This late twentieth-century moment was a time when centuries-old forms of gender dependency were finally being broken apart,” Turk said. “So the book is trying to help understand how women were incorporated legally, culturally, and socially into the American workforce in the age of sex equality, and what was lost along the way.”

Aubrey Lauersdorf

 
Graduate Student News

Our graduate students continue to win accolades for their research and teaching and land exciting jobs both inside and beyond the academy.

UNC undergraduates are lucky to have teaching assistants like our graduate students. Peter Raleigh and Robin Buller received this year’s Outstanding Teaching Award, while Nicole Bauer won the Peter Filene Creative Teaching Award.

Jeffrey Erbig, who is currently teaching at the University of New Mexico, won the Dean’s Dissertation Award in the Humanities from the UNC Graduate School, the sixth time in seven years that one of our own has received this campus-wide award. Trevor Erlacher received the Southern Conference on Slavic Studies award for best graduate student essay and was one of several students to have received a dissertation-writing grant from the Graduate School. Brian Drohan, who now teaches at West Point, received honorable mention for the Coffman First-Manuscript Prize from the Society for Military History.

Our students won research fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Fulbright Commission, the Deutscher Akademisher Austausch Dienst, the Social Science Research Council, and many other funding organizations.

Recent graduates have accepted positions at New York University, Texas A&M, the Education Advisory Board, the New York Historical Society, Kalamazoo College, Vanderbilt University, the University of South Carolina, and the Virginia Holocaust Museum – to name just a few. Our impressive incoming class is well poised to continue this success. It is also a remarkably diverse and globally informed class, with students coming to us from Ecuador, Mexico, and rural China. One of the newest members of our community served in Afghanistan.

We are working hard to provide constructive mentoring to our students. Congratulations to Don Raleigh, Jay Richard Judson Distinguished Professor, for winning the Graduate School’s Faculty Award for Excellence in Doctoral Mentoring this year. One of his nomination letters said: “Don’s attitude toward mentoring has resulted in a real community of scholars, recognized and respected by our field of Russian history. He creates a cooperative atmosphere among his students, encouraging them to share knowledge, evaluate one another’s work and assist one another in the research field.” Raleigh has successfully guided 21 students through the hazardous straits of the PhD since coming to UNC in 1988.

And we are pioneers in professional development among history departments across the country. Thanks to a departmental internship program generously funded by Mark Clein, our students will be working at the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the North American British Studies Association, the State Archives in Raleigh, and the Digital Innovation Lab at UNC. Thanks to a grant from the AHA, another of our recent graduates, Anna Krome-Lukens, is conducting a survey of current and former students about their career goals. This past year, town hall meetings with graduate students have helped us clarify program requirements, manage graduate student teaching workload, and respond to students in distress. To that end, I would like to thank our outgoing co-presidents of the Graduate Historical Society, Laura Brade and Josh Hevert, along with Robert Richard, our Professional Development Coordinator, who were behind so many of these efforts. Let me also welcome our incoming co-presidents, Erika Huckestein and Alexandra Locking, and our incoming Professional Development Coordinators, Robert Colby and Peter Gengler, who have already done much to further our pursuit of excellence in its many forms.

Chad Bryant, Director of Graduate Studies

UNC Scholars Share their Work with Native American Communities

Marty Richardson at the NLS

North Carolina has the largest Native American population east of the Mississippi River, and the UNC History community was pleased to play a role in the Native Leaders Symposium last month.

Doctoral student Marvin (Marty) Richardson, postdoctoral fellow Kyle Mays, and doctoral alumna Julie Reed had an opportunity to participate in the fourth annual gathering, sponsored by the UNC Graduate School and First Nations Graduate Circle and hosted by the Carolina Inn. The daylong event brought together nearly 100 scholars, students, and tribal leaders from across the state and nation with three goals in mind: to provide students an opportunity to see firsthand how modern Indian Nations work, to foster dialogue about current challenges and goals for Native communities, and to enable tribal leaders to discuss issues and develop relationships.

This year, the event focused on the theme of healing from historical trauma. The speakers affiliated with the Department of History drew on their scholarly expertise and life experience to contribute to this difficult but important conversation. Julie Reed (Cherokee), now an Assistant Professor at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, discussed the value of gadugi (communalism) among the Cherokee and how it informed Cherokee people’s petitions for pensions in the aftermath of the War of 1812. Reed addresses these topics in her new book, out just last month from University of Oklahoma Press, Serving the Nation: Cherokee Sovereignty and Social Welfare, 1800-1907. Marty Richardson (Haliwa-Saponi) explained how his ancestors worked to articulate an Indian identity while contending with racial segregation in North Carolina. Kyle Mays (Black/Saginaw Chippewa) explored how competing ideas of indigeneity played a role in the development of Detroit, his hometown.

For Mays, participating in the Native Leaders Symposium reflected his belief that a historian has a responsibility to the community. “Sharing my scholarly work with non-academics is essential to what I do,” Mays said. “Coming from a long line of Indigenous women who were educators in Detroit (my aunt Judy Mays founded the third ever public school with a Native American curriculum), I have a responsibility to honor their legacy and continue their work.”

Events like the Native Leaders Symposium help keep humanities scholarship relevant to those outside the academy. “I have found that activists and intellectual groups from Cambridge, MA to Detroit, to Toronto, utilize my work to unpack the murky relationship between Black Americans and Indigenous people,” Mays explained. “Now I have a double responsibility to keep my work relevant to two audiences, which I think is paramount for 21st-century humanist scholars, especially given the continued, discursive attack on the humanities.”

Aubrey Lauersdorf

 
Gifts to the History Department

The History Department is a lively center for historical education and research. Although we are deeply committed to our mission as a public institution, our "margin of excellence" depends on generous private donations. At the present time, the department is particularly eager to improve the funding and fellowships for graduate students.

Your donations are used to send graduate students to professional conferences, support innovative student research, bring visiting speakers to campus, and expand other activities that enhance the department's intellectual community.

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To make a secure gift online, please click "Give Now" above.

The Department also receives tax-deductible donations through the Arts and Sciences Foundation at UNC-Chapel Hill. Please note in the "memo" section of your check that your gift is intended for the History Department. Donations should be sent to the following address:

UNC-Arts & Sciences Foundation
134 East Franklin Street
CB# 6115
Chapel Hill, NC 27514-6115
Attention: Ronda Manuel

For more information about creating scholarships, fellowships, and professorships in the Department through a gift, pledge, or planned gift please contact Ronda Manuel, Associate Director of Development at the Arts and Sciences Foundation: ronda.manuel@unc.edu or (919) 962-7266.