Space in Major Works of US History: A Historiography of Geography

Paper written for the completion of “U.S. History, Colonies to Present,” my major field with Laura F. Edwards.

Why study the South? This is a common question faced by historians of the United States South venturing to conferences other than the Southern Historical Association’s annual meeting. It immediately puts us on the defensive, categorizes the region as its own parochial subfield, and implies that Southern History is not American History. If that question’s premises were extended to their logical ends, the South becomes its own vacuum-sealed world, a hermetic bizarro-land that politicians, entrepreneurs, and reformers throughout the centuries have tried to bring more into line with the rest of the nation in terms of economic development, civil rights, and social justice. Continue reading

Book Review: Hahamovitch, Cindy. No Man’s Land: Jamaican Guestworkers in America and the Global History of Deportable Labor. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011

Completed for “U.S. Labor History: Independence to Present” with Nancy MacLean.

In the 1940s, American voices sounded over Jamaican airwaves, beckoning young rural men like Leaford Williams to farmwork in the United States. For Jamaicans living in a “society of have-nots,” guestwork offered nearly double their average pay for half as many hours of work. Williams and other interested candidates assembled, stripped naked, and were physically examined by local liaisons for the American H2 guestworker program. Those who passed muster were bused by cattle car to Montego Bay, where more white men than they had ever seen corralled them onto ships bound for the U.S. Continue reading