Loading...

Follow LSU Press Blog on Feedspot

Continue with Google
Continue with Facebook
or

Valid

Robert Icenhauer-Ramirez—lawyer, historian, and author—take us through the authors and books that inspired his latest title, Treason on Trial: The United States v. Jefferson Davis.

Jefferson Davis, as taken by photographer Mathew Brady. Public domain photo.

The current trend in historical scholarship is to minimize the role that individuals have in shaping events. That trend has influenced recent scholarship regarding why Jefferson Davis was indicted and imprisoned for treason after the Civil War, but never brought to trial. Other writings examine this failure through the lens of Reconstruction politics or viewing 19th century America as a nation obsessed with the rule of law and seeking to gain judicial confirmation that secession was unconstitutional despite the Civil War having decided that question militarily.

In these studies, the struggle over Reconstruction and American legal jurisprudence take center stage. But the individuals involved in the prosecution—the judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys and government officials—have a minimal role in a drama with an inevitable end. My new book Treason on Trial: The United States v. Jefferson Davis disputes this historical scholarship. 

That is not to say that the legality of secession did not concern the lawyers involved in the case. This was a highly complex prosecution.  Each side grappled with the issue of secession and how it would be used at Davis’s trial. But the United States government’s reason for prosecuting Davis was not tied to a desire to have a court address the legality of succession. Indeed, a bloody war had already decided that secession was unconstitutional. Instead, the prosecution was brought, quite simply, to punish Davis for treason. 

My years of work as a trial lawyer have taught me that preparation and skill are very important to the outcome of a case. The facts of the Davis case, the skill of the lawyers and the objectives (and ambitions) of the judges, as well as the location of the trial, influenced the case. The individuals who grappled with the effort to try Davis for treason were memorable personalities. It was these people—their actions and inaction—who determined the outcome of the case.

There were many books that influenced my interest in writing about this treason prosecution.

Jonathan W. White broke ground by examining the trial of John Merryman, a well-known, but poorly understood, case, in Abraham Lincoln and Treason in the Civil War: The Trials of John Merryman. Merryman, who White points out was indicted two times by the federal government, proved to be a difficult case to bring to trial.  This difficulty resulted from the judge presiding over the case. Chief Justice Roger Taney, who presided over the federal circuit court in Baltimore that heard the case, opposed Lincoln’s efforts to prosecute Merryman. In another similarity to the Davis prosecution, Merryman would have to be tried by jury from a location deeply sympathetic to Merryman. White’s work should have a place on the shelf of any legal scholar interested in the difficulties facing the government in a treason prosecution.

Had Abraham Lincoln not been assassinated, Jefferson Davis would likely have been allowed to escape the country. Lincoln was a great lawyer who recognized the problems, legal and political, in bringing a capital charge against Davis. But when Lincoln was murdered by John Wilkes Booth and Davis was believed to have approved the assassination, the federal government unleashed a relentless search for Davis. Davis avoided a military tribunal despite there being men in leadership positions who wanted him tried by a military commission. Lincoln’s Assassins: Their Trial and Execution, written by James L. Swanson and Daniel R. Weinberg, is an illustrated history, providing a reader with an understanding of how quickly, and effectively, Davis might have been prosecuted by the government had they decided to utilize a military commission to try him.

Robert E. Lee’s complex loyalties are the subject of one of the chapters in Gary Gallagher’s book, Becoming Confederates: Paths to a New National Loyalty, that tie into the theme of my book. Davis faced similar conflicting loyalties. Like Lee, he had sworn loyalty to the United States.  But, as Gallagher points out, Lee was also loyal to his state, Virginia, the slave-holding South and to the Confederacy. Davis had the same loyalties. Gallagher’s insights into Confederate national loyalty provide a valuable guide to the motivations of men like Davis.     

The Davis prosecution occurred during the political upheaval of Reconstruction. Allen Guelzo’s masterful account—Reconstruction: A Concise History—will give a reader a deeper understanding of the United States during the years that Davis was under indictment. 

The preeminent biographer of Jefferson Davis, William J. Cooper, Jr., authored a collection of essays on Davis that includes an essay on Davis after the war— Jefferson Davis and the Civil War Era. Cooper argues that Davis played a powerful role in creating the Lost Cause ideology. The essays, taken together, assess Davis both before an after the Civil War. Davis’s connection to secession, his antebellum politics and war-time leadership are analyzed in this short, but very important, work.

Robert Icenhauer-Ramirez is an attorney based in Austin, Texas. He earned a doctorate in history at the University of Texas, Austin. His book Treason on Trial: The United States v. Jefferson Davis is due from LSU Press June 2019.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

LSU Press publishes the works of a host of talented authors. Each month, we take a moment to recognize the impact these authors and their works are having on communities nearby and around the world.

Scholarly

Andrew S. Bledsoe and Andrew F. Lang’s edited volume, Upon the Fields of Battle: Essays on the Military History of America’s Civil War made this month’s Military Review. Dr. Christopher M. Rein called Bledsoe and Lang’s collection, “a welcome resource for those who wish to better inform themselves on various aspects of the Civil War” that “demonstra[tes] the topic of the Civil War military history remains robust in the wake of the recent sesquicentennial commemoration.”

Upon the Fields of Battle is also reviewed in the April edition of Civil War News. Reviewer Thomas J. Ryan says Battle‘s editors “set out to present a balance between traditional and more modern approaches to Civil War history and interpretation. The qualifications of the contributors are aptly reflected in the clear, concise, and well-researched essays in this collection.”

The newly-released An East Texas Family’s Civil War: The Letters of Nancy and William Whatley, May-December 1862 got a brief mention in the Booknotes section of Civil War Books and Authors.

Surveying the Early Republic: The Journal of Andrew Ellicott, U.S. Boundary Commissioner in the Old Southwest, 1796-1800, edited by Robert D. Bush, garnered a review in the latest edition of Historical Geography, the journal of the Association of American Geographers. Reviewer Andrew Milson had this to say about Bush’s work: “The student of historical geography who reads Ellicott’s journal will come away with a new appreciation for the perilous politics that were at play in the drawing of a seemingly benign border.”

“This is a fascinating treatment of the relationships between bodies, popular entertainment, and notions of gendered representation in France during the Belle Époque, the period between 1871 and 1914,” says Chris Brickell of Uncovering Paris: Scandals and Nude Spectacles in the Belle Époque by Lela F. Kerley. Brickell goes on to say, “This is a readable and persuasive addition to the literature on bodies, their experiences, and their social meanings.” His review appears in the May issue of Journal of the History of Sexuality.

Trade

Penelope Lemon: Game On!, written by the incredibly funny and talented Inman Majors, was featured in the Los Angeles Review of Books. Writer Robert Stubblefield has this to say about Majors’ novel: “A writer successful in the long game establishes, explores, and eventually defines a territory. Penelope Lemon: Game On! is a stellar addition to Inman Majors’s growing body of Southern comic novels and contains and concentrates their best elements.”

Poetry

Landscape with Headless Mama, the debut collection from Mexican American poet Jennifer Givhan, received high praise in The Adroit Journal. Writer Luiza Flynn-Goodlett calls the book, “a thrilling journey through the underworld of women’s relationships—with mothers, with children, with lovers, with nature—a testament to the darkness and depths that undergird, and often overtake, the search for belonging and connection.”

Marilyn Nelson, author of several titles, including The Cachoeira Tales and Other Poems and Mama’s Promises, recently received a huge honor: the 2019 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. This award, selected once a year by the Poetry Foundation, honors the lifelong work of a single American poet. Don Share, editor of Poetry magazine, had this to say about Nelson: “Marilyn Nelson has been committed throughout her career to meticulously chronicling the contemporary and historical experience—and contributions—of Black people in America. Everyone who cares about how life is lived and felt in this country should read her vivid and deeply considered work.”

For the latest news about LSU Press books, authors, and events, sign up for our monthly newsletter, and follow uson TwitterInstagram, and Facebook.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

LSU Press publishes the works of a host of talented authors. Each month, we take a moment to recognize the impact these authors and their works are having on communities nearby and around the world.


Scholarly

Wayne and Shirley Wiegand were recently awarded the 2019 Gleason Book Award for their book, The Desegregation of Public Libraries in the Jim Crow South: Civil Rights and Local Activism. “The Gleason Award Committee was impressed by the caliber of this year’s nominees,” said Danielle Ponton on behalf of the award committee.” The Wiegands book, though, rose above the rest: “Not only does this important work help lead library historiography away from its long-standing exceptionalist myths about its own moral virtue, it does so by forthrightly facing ALA’s complicity in extending Jim Crow racial segregation in its facilities, as well as documenting the heroic actions of youth in pushing back against it.”

Shepherd Express reviewed Hulbert and Inscoe’s Writing History with Lightning. Writer David Luhrssen called it, “As illuminating as its title,” and points out that this book, though academic in nature, remains “blissfully free of the migraine-inducing jargon and torture-chamber prose of what passes for film theory” and is written by “historians interested in communicating with the public, weighing facts against fiction.”

Preaching Spanish Nationalism Across the Hispanic Atlantic, 1759–1823 written by Scott Eastman, recently received a glowing review in Hispanic American Historical Review 99, No. 1.: “This is a fresh, bold, and compelling analysis of the interaction between liberalism, religion, the nation, and modernity. It not only undercuts entrenched assumptions but also offers better explanations, and it exposes the historical liberal connections of precisely the two elements, Catholicism and nationalism, that came to be equated with Spanish fascism.”

Upon the Fields of Battle offers convincing evidence that Civil War military history is neither parochial nor stagnant,” writes Alexandre F. Caillot. His review of Andrew S. Bledsoe and Andrew Lang’s edited collection appeared in the April issue Federal History Journal.

Caillot also reviewed Lee’s Tigers Revisited: The Louisiana Infantry in the Amry of Northern Virginia for H-Net. Caillot had this to say about Terry L. Jones’ take on one of Louisiana’s most fearsome battalions: “Lee’s Tigers Revisited tells an important story about the Confederate army and merits a close reading by anyone interested in learning more about some of the finest soldiers who wore the grey.”

Peter O’Connor’s American Sectionalism in the British Mind, 1832-1863 made it into the pages of the March 2019 issue of The New England Quarterly. Reviewer Mark Bennett describes Sectionalism as “and engaging and informative new approach to the question of British views [during the Civil War],” as well as “a helpful contribution to our understanding of Anglo-American diplomacy and offers potentially fruitful avenues for further study.”

Jeffrey S. Girard’s The Caddos and Their Ancestors: Archaeology and the Native People of Northwest Louisiana was reviewed in the Arkansas Historical Quarterly by George Sabo III. Sabo is enchanted by Girard’s style, calling it “an engaging” and “largely free of cumbersome jargon,” and saying, “Girard succeeds admirably in crafting a narrative that will satisfy his professional colleagues while at the same time informing other audiences.”

“This is not your average monograph,” starts J.M. Opal’s review of The American and British Debate Over Equality, 1776-1920 by James L. Huston. He goes on to say, “This book is an impressive feat of historical writing, a powerful reminder that equality is—and was—the heart of democracy.”

A. A. Nofi of Strategy Page wrote this about Ambivalent Nation: How Britain Imagined the Civil War: “Prof. [Hugh] Dubrulle’s book is a good read for anyone with an interest in the potential for British intervention in the Civil War, the international implications of the conflict, and the Anglo-American relationship.”


Poetry

Chelsea Rathburn’s latest collection, Still Life with Mother and Knife, has been getting a lot of buzz, thanks in part to Rathburn’s recent ennoblement as the Poet Laureate for the State of Georgia. One of the poems in the collection, “Introduction to the Patriarchy,” was handpicked by U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith for feature on The Slowdown. The Rumpus‘ roundup of “What to Read When You Want to Celebrate Women’s History” called Rathburn, “Intimate and fearless, her poems move in interlocking sections between the pleasures and dangers of childhood, between masterpieces of art and magazine centerfolds…” The collection was also mentioned in the Sunday New York Times’ “New and Noteworthy” section.

Southern Indiana Review‘s reader David Nielsen had lots of wonderful things to say about Sarah Barber and her 2018 collection, Country House: “She even seems to find unlikely beauty, or if not beauty, than at least an objective portrait of nature as we’ve fashioned it. If our fields blow with newspapers and Walmart bags, well, that’s one set of landscape images to take in and describe. Like bird species that make their nests from our shiniest trash, Barber festoons her verses with the most colorful bits of our industrial shame.”

For the latest news about LSU Press books, authors, and events, sign up for our monthly newsletter, and follow us on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Early spring is a great time for birding—many birds in Louisiana, as well as in other states, are out in full force. Marybeth Lima, avid birder and author of the forthcoming Adventures of a Louisiana Birder, talks about some good books for those interested in getting into this fun sport.

Louisiana’s highway 82, a great spot for spotting some of Louisiana’s coastal birds. Photo courtesy Marybeth Lima.

It is April, high tide for birding in south Louisiana. At this time of year, one of my favorite places to bird is on state highways in rural Louisiana, where traffic is only occasional and you can hear a car coming long before you see it. Here, anything can happen in April. 

A highway is a human intrusion, a palpable, pseudo-permanent stamp which reminds me of the precarious balance between human and environment. This balance, often and unfortunately, tips toward human at the expense of the rest of the ecosystem. Even so, I tend to think of a road as a strip of human invitation, not only to me, but to everything that might happen upon it.

I once stood on a state highway with the impending sunset lighting up the marsh grass as a black rail repeatedly sounded off its full, three-note call, a vocal testament that this elusive, near threatened species has more than a toehold in the southwestern corner of the state.

A male lark bunting. Source.

On another spring day, James Holmes, Jr., located a male lark bunting standing on the edge of Highway 82; I was in the first group of birders he found after he raced down the highway to find others to share with. Although this Louisiana rarity was gone some eight minutes after James spotted it, for that instant, captured by photograph, the black bird with white wing patches danced with the black asphalt and white fog line, maybe saying thank you to solid ground.

A highway to me signifies exploration; both are themes in my new book Adventures of a Louisiana Birder: One Year, Two Wings, 300 Species. I wrote this book over the course of five years and was inspired by many birders and writers along the way.

Mark Obmascik’s The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession, is the book that, more than any other, facilitated my transformation from casual to serious birder. This tale of the adventures and experiences of three men trying to break the North American birding record for the most species seen in a year fired my own interest in seeing new species and visiting new places far beyond my local parks.

A Birder’s Guide to Louisiana, the book by Richard Gibbons, Roger Breedlove, and Charles Lyon, provided detailed, immensely helpful information on where to bird in the state, how to get there, and what to expect. My use of this book has been so frequent that I have bent the cover, oiled the pages, and deposited enough DNA that the book probably knows my identity. This book provides insight into John James Audubon’s attachment to what he deemed “magnificent Louisiana!” Whether you endeavor to explore Louisiana’s coastal zone, piney woods, bottomland hardwood forests, lakes, or Mississippi River battures and levees, this guide can take you there.

Louisiana is an amazing place to bird in all seasons, especially in the spring. Even after almost 20 years as a birder, this place and its roadways still take my breath away.

Professor of biological and agricultural engineering at Louisiana State University, Marybeth Lima is author of Building Playgrounds, Engaging Communities: Creating Safe and Happy Places for Children and coauthor of Play On! Evidence-based Playground Activities and Service-Learning: Engineering in Your Community. Her book, Adventures of a Louisiana Birder, is due out from LSU Press in May 2019.

Follow LSU Press on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Louisiana State University Press is pleased to announce that Alisa Plant has been named director of the Press and publisher of The Southern Review, effective March 4. Plant will be the seventh director of LSU Press.

Plant returns to LSU Press from the University of Nebraska Press, where she served as editor-in-chief since 2015. Under her supervision, UNP increased its annual output of titles by 35 percent. She previously worked in acquisitions at LSU Press for nearly a decade. Prior to that she was an assistant editor at the Yale Center for Parliamentary History. She holds a Ph.D. in history from Yale University and a B.A. in English from the University of Kansas.

“I’m delighted to be coming back to Louisiana as director of LSU Press and publisher of The Southern Review,” Plant said. “Since 1935, LSU Press and TSR have published distinguished works of lasting scholarly and literary merit, and I’m honored and excited—with the aid of supremely talented colleagues—to carry on this tradition.” Jane Cassidy, Senior Vice Provost of Louisiana State University, commented, “It is particularly exciting to welcome Alisa back home to LSU. Her intimate knowledge of LSU Press and The Southern Review, having worked here previously, will be a great advantage in her new role.”

Founded in 1935, LSU Press is a nonprofit book publisher dedicated to the publication of scholarly, general interest, and regional books. It has long been recognized as one of the nation’s outstanding scholarly presses and continues to garner national and international accolades, including four Pulitzer Prizes. An integral part of LSU, the Press shares the university’s goal of the dissemination of knowledge and culture.

Since its creation in 1935, The Southern Review has consistently distinguished itself as one of the country’s premier literary journals and has been hailed by Time as “superior to any other journal in the English language. ”

For more information about LSU Press and The Southern Review, visit them online at lsupress.org and thesouthernreview.org.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Please join the LSU Press family, the LSU community, and botanical art fans and artists around the globe in mourning the passing of revered botanical artist Margaret Stones.

Watercolor drawing, Margaret Stones

Margaret Stones, one of the most celebrated botanical artists of the twentieth century, passed away on December 26, 2018, in Melbourne, Australia. She was 98 years old. Stones served as the principal illustrator for Curtis’s Botanical Magazine of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, England, for twenty-five years, completing more than 400 botanical drawings for the magazine between 1958 and 1983. Her second major body of work consisted of 254 watercolor drawings for The Endemic Flora of Tasmania, a stunning six-volume publication completed in 1976.

In 1975, in commemoration of the country’s bicentennial and the fiftieth anniversary of Louisiana State University at its present campus, LSU chancellor Paul W. Murrill commissioned Stones to create a series of drawings of native Louisiana plants. Murrill described Stones’s work as “a modern-day equivalent of John James Audubon’s Birds of America.” The watercolor drawings resulting from that commission were greeted with such enthusiasm that LSU decided to expand the scope of the project. Stones’s illustrations of Louisiana’s native flora eventually totaled 224 exquisite watercolors, completed in 1989 and inspiring the 1991 release by LSU Press of Flora of Louisiana: Watercolor Drawings by Margaret Stones. A traveling exhibition of select drawings was hosted by numerous venues, including the Louisiana State Museum in New Orleans; the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.; the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, England; and the National Gallery of Victoria in Me

Watercolor drawing, Margaret Stones

lbourne, Australia. Apart from their aesthetic value, Stones’s drawings provide an accurate scientific record of the state’s lush, varied flora and constitute a unique resource in the LSU Libraries’ Special Collections. Housed at Hill Memorial Library, where they are carefully preserved from the effects of light and moisture, the drawings in the Native Flora of Louisiana Collection by gardeners, art collectors, and botanists in and out of Louisiana.

In 2018, LSU Press published a limited folio edition of the complete collection of Stones’s Louisiana illustrations, titled Native Flora of Louisiana. The exceptional museum-quality reproductions of the artist’s watercolors are paired with detailed scientific descriptions by LSU professor of botany and herbarium director emeritus Lowell E. Urbatsch.

Margaret Stones was a member of the Order of the British Empire and the Order of Australia. She held honorary degrees from the University of Melbourne and Louisiana State University. Her life’s work is the subject of Beauty in Truth: The Botanical Art of Margaret Stones, by Irena Zdanowicz.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

LSU Press is pleased to announce that James D. Wilson, Jr., will join our staff as Marketing and Sales Manager for LSUP and The Southern Review, beginning December 17th, 2018.

James comes to us with 15 years’ experience in book publishing, most recently as Associate Director of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press. During his tenure at UL Press, he monitored the day-to-day operations of the Press, acquiring and editing, directing advertising and marketing campaigns, and overseeing sales and distribution.

A graduate of Tulane University, with master’s degrees in history from Cornell University and from University of Southwestern Louisiana, James has also taught as an adjunct in the UL history department for the past 14 years. He has served as Secretary-Treasurer of the Louisiana Historical Association since 2006.

Please join LSU Press in welcoming James to LSU and the Baton Rouge community!

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

On November 6th, Louisiana voted on an amendment that would bring an end to a law that allowed criminal convictions to be brought in by non-unanimous juries. As I wrote the first draft of this blog post, I didn’t yet know what the outcome of that vote was going to be. As I finalize it, non-unanimous jury verdicts were banned by an overwhelming margin of voters.

In an era of partisan hostility, criminal justice reform seems like the one area where Republicans and Democrats can find (some) common ground. Louisiana recently passed a sweeping slate of reform measures designed to decrease the number of incarcerated people in the state. The effort to eliminate non-unanimous criminal jury verdicts received support from both sides of the aisle. I write this in late October, when the state seems poised to eliminate this remnant of Jim Crow legislation, and my hopes are high that Louisiana voters will do the right thing.

When my editor-in-chief proposed creating a social justice list for LSU Press, I knew that a major goal of the list would have to be drawing connections between past and present. I wanted to follow the example of our 2015 book Jim Crow’s Last Stand, which represented the first I had ever heard of Louisiana’s non-unanimous criminal jury verdict law, despite having lived in this state for two-thirds of my life. The book begins where the law begins, in the Jim Crow South—a place and time in history that LSU Press books have explored extensively over the years.

Like Jim Crow’s Last Stand, I want my social justice list to follow the lines of historical decisions, prejudices, and legal struggles through to where they leave us today. How have centuries of government racism affected the likelihood that a family or individual will seek or receive government aid after the increasingly violent hurricanes that strike our country? As the racial achievement gap in education narrows, what can we learn about the array of efforts states and parishes have used to eliminate it, and which children do those efforts forget? What does black feminist activism look like in the South today?

On a more personal level, I feel passionately that my small southern press should be among the publishers doing this work. When I came home to Louisiana in 2013, it was because I believe in the vibrancy of my state and its potential for positive change. Activists and politicians and scholars and students and families are here fighting to help my state and my region be the best that it can be—and we fight for that both despite and because of Louisiana’s history of prejudice and inequality. Racism is not an inevitability. Unjust school systems can be changed. Laws rooted in Jim Crow racism can be overturned. The South—which has been a home for racism, yes, but is also a home to the majority of black Americans—offers so much scope for political and social reform, and I hope that my press and this list can play a small role in that. By shining a light on inequality—its origins and its trajectory through the present day—we can offer a roadmap to change.

I deeply believe in the power of university presses to amplify and preserve the invaluable research performed by scholars all over the country. LSU Press has published books that consider slavery, the Civil War, and the civil rights movement for almost as long as scholarship on those topics has existed; it stands to reason that we now explore the legacies of those tragedies for the modern day.

Jenny Keegan is an assistant acquisitions editor at LSU Press, acquiring in the areas of social justice, fan studies, Caribbean history, and Native history in the US South. She can be found on Twitter at @jennyckeegan     .

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
LSU Press Blog by M'bilia Meekers - 8M ago

Having written extensively in To Face Down Dixie about the involvement of South Carolina’s senators in the Supreme Court nomination process, I observed with interest the reaction to Lindsey Graham’s emotional outburst during Brett Kavanaugh’s turbulent confirmation hearings.

Lindsey prides himself on his idiosyncratic influence. During one bizarre moment, he thundered at Kavanaugh, “when you see Sotomayor and Kagan, tell ‘em Lindsey said hello. . . ‘cause I voted for them!” Was there ever a time when a senator told a Supreme Court nominee to say “hello” to two of the justices because he supported their confirmation?

Emotional outbursts such as Lindsey’s may seem incongruous with the same person’s willingness to back nominations made by presidents of the opposing party, but both are consistent with the South Carolinian influence on the nominations process.

Ernest “Fritz” Hollings was one of only two Democratic senators to vote for Ronald Reagan’s controversial nomination of Robert Bork, claiming on the Senate floor that he would back Bork to “stand up to the onrush of contrived threats at pressure” from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Fritz’s claim during the 1987 Bork debate, that “we become a lesser body when we trash a distinguished judge” sounds eerily similar to Lindsey Graham’s angry accusation, during the 2018 Kavanaugh hearings, that Democrats “wanna destroy this guy’s life.” Fritz’s description of a system in which “judges are lynched to appease the public” chimes perfectly with Lindsey’s claim that the Kavanaugh hearings constitute “the most unethical sham since I’ve been in politics.”

One other, less explosive moment, which seemed to go unnoticed, was Wyoming senator John Barrasso’s reference to “the Biden rule,” supposedly a belief that a nominee should not be confirmed during an election year. Eccentric enthusiasts of the nominations process, such as myself, will recognise this familiar doctrine as the more widely-discussed “Thurmond rule,” and recall that the term originates with South Carolina senator Strom Thurmond’s legendary opposition to the confirmation of Abe Fortas as Chief Justice in 1968.

This was by no means the only time that Thurmond – whose seat is now filled by none other than Lindsey Graham – made his mark on the process, as evidenced by his theatrical obstruction of Thurgood Marshall’s confirmation as the Court’s first African American justice in 1967. The mischief-making of other senators, notably Olin D. Johnston, and the notorious Coleman L. Blease, proves that Thurmond was not the first South Carolina senator to impose a profound impact on judicial nominations.

Lindsey Graham’s comments on the manner in which Democrats used the process to victimize Brett Kavanaugh prove highly instructive, if only to the likes of me. It is significant that, having asked Kavanaugh, “you lookin’ for a fair process?” he went on to warn the nominee, solemnly, that “you came to the wrong town at the wrong time, my friend.” This, one of the best lines from the outburst, will stick with me, if only because it reminded me, and probably others, of Clarence Thomas’s bitter declaration that, for him, the process was “a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks” – surely the most memorable line ever spoken during a Supreme Court confirmation hearing.

Yet while “the wrong town at the wrong time” ought to have been the highlight of Lindsey’s outburst, cynics might argue that the process has never been fair, and never been used responsibly. And they would be right. Barrasso’s re-writing of history points to the endless blame game between the two parties, which has characterized the process for generations, but is now truly out of control. It also points to repeated claims that the system is “broken.”

As a humble non-American, my view is that while the Founding Fathers may not have created a perfect system for confirming justices of the Supreme Court, the one in place is by no means defective. It is simply the case that those who have participated in it have used it poorly, irresponsibly, and in some cases, disastrously.

I do hope that the Kavanaugh episode has proved useful in raising awareness and promoting discussions of sexual and other abuse. In terms of educating the American public on the importance of the Supreme Court, the relevance of activism and restraint in the judicial outlook of the justices, and – crucially – the potential consequences of a centrist judge (in this case, Anthony Kennedy) being replaced by a judge whose judicial outlook is either well to the left or (in this case) the right, then the recent hearings have been, as with so many before them, quite catastrophic.

Some may consider To Face Down Dixie a book about South Carolina. It isn’t. It is a study of Supreme Court nominations that happens to focus on a colorful yet overlooked aspect of that complex process. It could, of course, be considered a work of history, but as Lindsey Graham’s remarkable behavior proves, there is nothing particularly historical about it.

James O. Heath holds a PhD in politics and international studies from the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom. He is a founding member of the interdisciplinary research organization Race in the Americas (RITA).

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Fall always brings a flurry of exciting news and publicity. This month, Pistols ad Politics by Samuel C. Hyde won the 2018 Michael V.R. Thomason Book Award from the Gulf South Historical Association! Them interviewed Howard Philips Smith and Frank Perez about their new book Southern Decadence in New Orleans! In other news, “Evolution” from Margaret Gibson’s new collection, Not Hearing the Wood Thrush, was featured on Poetry Daily. Author of Reading Walker Percy’s Novels, Jessica Hooten Wilson discussed Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer on The Great Books Podcast. Suffolk University wrote an article about poet George Kalogeris and his forthcoming collection Guide to Greece.

On the LSU Press Blog, John Shelton Reed recommends six underappreciated books about the South; Jane Springer tells us about eleven poetry books that helped shape her new collection, Moth; and Daniel H. Usner details the influence of Indigenous Americans on early New Orleans.

At LSU Press, we are privileged to work with some of the best professionals in the industry and right now we are looking for a Director to provide leadership and vision, and direct all aspects of operations of the LSU Press and The Southern Review publishing programs. Interested? Click here for further information.

Below you’ll find a list of our October titles, additional upcoming events with our authors, and some recent publicity and reviews of our books. If you want to keep up with the press in real time, follow us on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook!

New in October

Click to view slideshow.

Click here if calendar does not load.

Selected Publicity and Praise

Southern Decadence in New Orleans by Howard Phillips Smith and Frank Perez

“A new book on the history of Southern Decadence is hoping to bring to light the event’s little-remembered origins as a celebration of a diverse group of queer and straight friends. Southern Decadence in New Orleans looks at the festival’s long-honored traditions and its history of community organizing, friendship, and charity, without ever downplaying all that is scandalous, sensual, sleazy, and, well, decadent about the event.”―Them

The Defeat of Black Power: Civil Rights and the National Black Political Convention of 1972 by Leonard N. Moore

“Moore’s book is one of the most important histories on America’s recent black experience to appear in the past decade.”―CHOICE

Voices From Louisiana: Profiles of Contemporary Writers by Ann Brewster Dobie

“Is there something you’d like to know about contemporary Louisiana authors, both already famous and some upcoming? Then sing the praises of Ms. Dobie who profiles writers James Lee Burke, Ernest Gaines, Tim Gautreaux, and William Joyce, as well as seven more already famous and another seven up and coming authors.”―Bayou Catholic

Reading Walker Percy’s Novels by Jessica Hooten Wilson

“Jessica Hooten Wilson provides an entertaining exegesis of Percy’s novels and finds his literary ancestors in The Odyssey, Don Quixote and Dostoyevsky.”―Shepherd Express

Penelope Lemon: Game On! by Inman Majors

“In the mood for something seriously racy and laugh out loud funny? Try Penelope Lemon: Game On!, by Inman Majors. . . .Penelope Lemon has heat and heart.”―Style Blueprint

A Kingdom Divided: Evangelicals, Loyalty, and Sectionalism in the Civil War Era by April E. Holm

“Holm has written an original and insightful book that should command attention, not only for her arguments regarding the ways politics could not be kept out of churches and the ways southerners used theology for political ends, but also for her demonstration that what churches say in public—in print, especially—had consequence.”―Journal of Southern Religion

Uncovering Paris: Scandals and Nude Spectacles in the Belle Époque by Lela F. Kerley

“Kerley brings . . .historiographical strands together in her careful consideration of the transition from the static female nude models of the artist’s studio to the dynamic femmes nues seemingly omnipresent on Parisian stages in the Belle Epoque. . . . Uncovering Paris is a fascinating book.”―H-France

Ambivalent Nation: How Britain Imagined the American Civil War by Hugh Dubrulle

“This well-written, thoroughly researched study will be an excellent resource for those interested in thought in the mid-Victorian era, the US Civil War, or the US-British relationship during the 19th century.”―CHOICE

Read Full Article

Read for later

Articles marked as Favorite are saved for later viewing.
close
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Separate tags by commas
To access this feature, please upgrade your account.
Start your free month
Free Preview