Monday, February 1, 2021

Recent Acquisitions to My Library

Without deliberate intention, I've been making a practice of posting my library additions near the beginning of each month. That seems to be the easiest way for me to remember to share them. Plus, it's a good way to kick of each new month. 

I'm finding that scholars are discussing the process of African American citizenship more and more frequently. Books like Colored Travelers: Mobility and the Fight for Citizenship before the Civil War by Elizabeth S. Pryor, The Politics of Black Citizenship: Free African Americans in the Mid-Atlantic Borderland, 1817-1863 by Andrew K. Diemer, and Fighting for Citizenship: Black Northerners and the Debate over Military Service in the Civil War by Brian Taylor, have all appeared in the last five years. Adding to this growing body of study is Christopher James Bonner's Remaking the Republic: Black Politics and the Creation of American Citizenship. In Remaking the Republic, Bonner examines the various ways that African Americans sought to claim inclusion as United States citizens despite traditionally and legally (see Dred Scott decision) being excluded. I just finished reading it a few days ago and I recommend it. 

Sometimes books come to one's attention totally by accident. Many times it turns out to be serendipity. While searching for another title (I can't remember what I was looking for now) I happened across War's Relentless Hand: Twelve Tales of Civil War Soldiers by Mark H. Dunkleman. Published in 2006 by LSU Press, War's Relentless Hand examines the lives of twelve soldiers from the 154th New York Infantry. I love soldier's stories! That is probably obvious if you've read much of this blog. In my opinion, books like Ronald Coddington's "Faces" series and this one help pay tribute to soldiers who would likely otherwise be forgotten. I write lots of soldier's stories for this blog, for work, and for the Battle of New Market Heights Memorial and Education Association website, often using minimal source material, because many soldiers didn't leave much writing behind. It's often a challenge to come up with new angles as approaches, so I'm hoping this book will give me some additional ideas for future stories that I write. 

Every once in a while I receive an email from a publisher who happens across my blog, sees that I'm a voracious reader, and offers a free copy of a book to me. A couple of weeks ago I received such an email, and soon I received the book Soul City: Race, Equality, and the Lost Dream of an American Utopia by Thomas Healy from Metropolitan Books in the mail. Founded in 1969 by Floyd McKissick in rural North Carolina on the lands of a former plantation, "Soul City" had funding from the Nixon administration, a solid infrastructure, and an in-place industry that provided residents jobs. But Soul City seemed to be everyone's else's target and after about a decade it was no more. I'm intrigued by this attempt at community building in a Southern state when calls for Black Power rang out, and I'm interested to find out what happened and what might have been.  

Since reading Brian Matthew Jordan's Marching Home: Union Veterans and Their Unending Civil War about six years ago, I've sought out more of his work. Recently I was happy to see that he had a new "soon to be released" book. I put in a pre-order with the History Book Club and it arrived in the mail today. In A Thousand May Fall: Life, Death, and Survival in the Union Army, Jordan uses the men of the 107th Ohio to examine soldier experiences. From the book's jacket: "Reclaiming these men for posterity, Jordan reveals that even as they endured the horrible extremes of war, the Ohioans contemplated the deeper meanings of the conflict at every turn--from personal questions of citizenship and belonging to the overriding matter of slavery and emancipation." Can't wait to start turning pages on this one!  

I don't own all of the books I read. I borrow from friends, make good use of the research library at work, and I've even been known to check books out at my local library. When I lived in Kentucky, my local library was amazing. In addition to their great selection of history books, they allowed patrons to make interlibrary loan orders online, and they also took suggestions for books to add to the stacks. While living there I read Lincoln's Hundred Days: The Emancipation Proclamation and the War for the Union by Louis P. Masur. It examines the critical period between the preliminary proclamation on September 22, 1862 and the final edict on January 1, 1863. Most people do not realize the amount of stress this document put on Lincoln. Here you lean about it all in a well written study. Now I have a copy of my own. I highly recommend it. 

Understanding how much time and energy goes into producing history, I've always been impressed by those historians who turn out books on a regular basis. James Oakes is one of those prolific historians. I've enjoyed and benefitted from reading a number of his previous books. His latest work is The Crooked Path to Abolition: Abraham Lincoln and the Antislavery Constitution. Continuing an earlier argument that the Constitution intended freedom to be a national intention, and that slavery was solely state sanctioned, Oakes contends that Lincoln pushed for efforts to eradicate slavery where he constitutionally could, and thus doing so showed a stronger commitment to abolition than previously granted. Happy reading! 

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