Announcing the Zane L. Miller Book Development Award

This week in North Philly Notes, we are pleased to announce an award to help mentor and support up-and-coming scholars.

Temple University Press and the editors of the Urban Life, Landscape, and Policy series are pleased to announce the Zane L. Miller Book Development Award, named in honor of our late founding series editor. Professor Miller, a renowned scholar of urban history, was equally well known as a devoted, tireless mentor to less-experienced fellow authors seeking to navigate the book development and publication process. This award was initially put forward by current series coeditor Davarian Baldwin, as a way of advancing the careers of scholars from underrepresented communities with limited financial resources while also honoring Miller, who died in 2016.

In that spirit, we invite first-time authors to apply for a grant of up to $2,500 to help defray costs such as travel, freelancer fees, permissions costs, and other expenses related to the development of an urban studies-focused book manuscript. Awardees will also be assigned to work directly with one of the series editors who will act as a mentor and sounding board through the proposal, peer review, board approval, and final manuscript stages, with the ultimate goal of publication in the series.

About the Urban Life, Landscape, and Policy series
Edited by David Stradling, Larry Bennett, and Davarian Baldwin, the series was founded by the late Zane L. Miller to publish books that examine past and contemporary cities. While preserving the series’ foundational focus on the policy, planning, and environmental issues so central to metropolitan life, we also join scholarly efforts to push the boundaries of urban studies. We are committed to publishing work at the shifting intersections of cultural production, community formation, and political economy that shape cities at all scales, from the neighborhood to the transnational.

About Temple University Press
Founded in 1969, Temple University Press chose as its inspiration Russell Conwell’s vision of the university as a place of educational opportunity for the urban working class. The Press is perhaps best known as a publisher of books in the social sciences and the humanities, as well as books about Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley region. Temple was an early publisher of books in urban studies, housing and labor studies, organizational reform, social service reform, public religion, health care, and cultural studies. It became one of the first university presses to publish in what later became the fields of women’s studies, ethnic studies— including Asian American and Latino studies, as well as African American Studies.

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

This week in North Philly Notes, we showcase titles for Hispanic Heritage Month. View our full list of Latino/a Studies and Latin American/Caribbean Studies titles. (Also of interest Studies in Latin American and Caribbean Music series)

Accessible Citizenships shows how disability provides a new perspective on our understanding of the nation and the citizen.

Afro-Caribbean Religions provides a comprehensive introduction to the Caribbean’s African-based religions.

Arsenio Rodríguez and the Transnational Flows of Latin Popular Music recounts the life and times of one of Cuba’s most important musicians.

The Brazilian Sound is an encyclopedic survey of Brazilian popular music—now updated and expanded.

Caribbean Currents is the classic introduction to the Caribbean’s popular music brought up to date.

Chilean New Song provides an examination of the Chilean New Song movement as an organic part of the struggles for progressive social change, deeper democracy, and social justice in Chile in the 1960s and early 1970s.

The Coolie Speaks offers a remarkable examination of bondage in Cuba that probes questions of slavery, freedom, and race.

Daily Labors examines the vulnerabilities, discrimination, and exploitation—as well as the sense of belonging and community—that day laborers experience on an NYC street corner.

Democratizing Urban Development shows how community organizations fight to prevent displacement and secure affordable housing across cities in the U.S. and Brazil.

Dominican Baseball, from the author of Sugarball, looks at the important and contested relationship between Major League Baseball and Dominican player development.

Fernando Ortiz on Music features selections from the influential Fernando Ortiz’s publications on Afro-diasporic music and dance—now available in English.

From Puerto Rico to Philadelphia is a history of Puerto Rican immigration to Philadelphia.

Globalizing the Caribbean, now in Paperback, illustrates how global capitalism finds new ways to mutate and grow in the Caribbean.

How Did You Get to Be Mexican? is a readable account of a life spent in the borderlands between racial identity.

The International Monetary Fund and Latin America chronicles the sometimes questionable relationship between the International Monetary Fund and Latin America from 1944 to the present.

Latino Mayors is the first book to examine the rise of Latino mayors in the United States.

Latinos and the U.S. Political System is an analysis of American politics from the vantage point of the Latino political condition.

Latinx Environmentalisms puts the environmental humanities into dialogue with Latinx literary and cultural studies.

Liberation Theology asks: How does the church function in Latin America on an everyday, practical, and political level?

Merengue, now available as an ebook, is a fascinating examination of the social history of merengue dance music and its importance as a social and cultural symbol.

Migration and Mortality documents and denounces the violent impacts of restrictive migration policies in the Americas, linking this institutional violence to broader forces of racial capitalism.

Música Norteña is the first history of the music that binds together Mexican immigrant communities.

New Immigrants, Old Unions provides a case study of a successful effort to unionize undocumented immigrant workers.

The New York Young Lords and the Struggle for Liberation is a landmark history of the New York Young Lords, and what their activism tells us about contemporary Latino/a politics.

Not from Here, Not from There/No Soy de Aquí ni de Allá is a lively autobiography by Nelson Díaz, a community activist, judge, and public advocate who blazed a trail for Latinos in Philadelphia.

Revolution Around the Corner is the first book-length story of the radical social movement, the Puerto Rican Socialist Party.

Selecting Women, Electing Women offers an analytic framework to show how the process of candidate selection often limits the participation of women in various Latin American countries.

The Sorcery of Color is an examination of how racial and gender hierarchies are intertwined in Brazil.

Sounding Salsa takes readers inside New York City’s vibrant salsa scene.

Terrorizing Latina/o Immigrants is a comprehensive analysis of changes in immigration policy, politics, and enforcement since 9/11.

Women’s Empowerment and Disempowerment in Brazil explains what the rise and fall of Brazil’s first and only female president can teach us about women’s empowerment.

Celebrating Banned Book Week

This week in North Philly Notes, in honor of Banned Book Week, we highlight Temple University Press’ Critical Race Theory titles.

Crossroads, Directions, and a New Critical Race Theory, edited by Francisco Valdes, Jerome McCristal Culp and Angela P. Harris

Its opponents call it part of “the lunatic fringe,” a justification for “black separateness,” “the most embarrassing trend in American publishing.” “It” is Critical Race Theory. But what is Critical Race Theory? How did it develop? Where does it stand now? Where should it go in the future? In this volume, thirty-one CRT scholars present their views on the ideas and methods of CRT, its role in academia and in the culture at large, and its past, present, and future.

Critical race theorists assert that both the procedures and the substance of American law are structured to maintain white privilege. The neutrality and objectivity of the law are not just unattainable ideals; they are harmful actions that obscure the law’s role in protecting white supremacy. This notion—so obvious to some, so unthinkable to others—has stimulated and divided legal thinking in this country and, increasingly, abroad. The essays in Crossroads, Directions, and a New Critical Race Theory—all original—address this notion in a variety of helpful and exciting ways. They use analysis, personal experience, historical narrative, and many other techniques to explain the importance of looking critically at how race permeates our national consciousness.

Critical Race Theory: The Cutting Edge, Third Edition, edited by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic

Critical Race Theory has become a dynamic, eclectic, and growing movement in the study of law. With this third edition of Critical Race Theory, editors Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic have created a reader for the twenty-first century—one that shakes up the legal academy, questions comfortable liberal premises, and leads the search for new ways of thinking about our nation’s most intractable, and insoluble, problem—race. The contributions, from a stellar roster of established and emerging scholars, address new topics, such as intersectionality and black men on the “down low.” Essays also confront much-discussed issues of discrimination, workplace dynamics, affirmative action, and sexual politics. Also new to this volume are updated section introductions, author notes, questions for discussion, and reading lists for each unit. The volume also covers the spread of the movement to other disciplines such as education. Offering a comprehensive and stimulating snapshot of current race jurisprudence and thought, this new edition of Critical Race Theory is essential for those interested in law, the multiculturalism movement, political science, education, and critical thought.

The editors also published Critical White Studies: Looking Behind the Mirror, edited by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic

What will work eventually look like?

This week in North Philly Notes, we focus on our new and forthcoming Labor Studies titles in honor of Labor Day.

 Workforce Development 

The Many Futures of Work reframes the conversation about contemporary workplace experience by providing both “top down” and “bottom up” analyses.  

America in the 20thcentury

Becoming Entitled examines Americans’ shift in thinking about government social insurance programs during the Great Depression.

Communists and Community shows what role Communists played in the advancement of social democracy. 

Elaine Black Yoneda (forthcoming) presents a critical biography of the Jewish labor activist and feminist pioneer. 

Industrial histories

“A Road to Peace and Freedom recounts the history of the International Workers Order.

From Collective Bargaining to Collective Begging analyzes the expansion and restriction of collective bargaining rights for public employees.

Social justice and social welfare 

Motherlands challenges preconceived notions of the states that support working mothers. 

Labor economics 

Daily Labors and its examination of Black and Latino day laborers’ experience on an NYC street corner.

Sociology of work 

A Collective Pursuit argues that teachers’ unions are working in community to reinvigorate the collective pursuit of reforms beneficial to both educators and public education.

Policing in Natural Disasters shows how disaster work impacts law enforcement officers and first responders.

Making Their Days Happen (forthcoming) explores the complexities of the interpersonal dynamics and policy implications affecting personal assistance service consumers and providers.

For all of our Labor Studies

The Top Five Reasons to Pack the Supreme Court

This week in North Philly Notes, Stephen Feldman, author of Pack the Court! explains why Democrats should expand the number of Supreme Court justices.

Democrats should pack the Supreme Court if and when they have the opportunity. Yet, many object to court packing, arguing that it would destroy the legitimacy of the Supreme Court as a judicial institution. According to this view, the Court’s legitimacy is based on a law-politics dichotomy: The idea that law and politics must remain separate and independent. The justices must decide cases by neutrally applying the rule of law. If politics infect the Court and its decision making, then Court decisions are tainted.

Although many Republicans and Democrats share this view of the Court, it is seriously mistaken. Here, then, are five reasons to support court packing.

1. History of the Court’s Size. History reveals that Congress has repeatedly changed the number of justices based partly on political grounds; seven times by express statute. The Court has fluctuated between a minimum of six and a maximum of ten seats. Nothing in the Constitution precludes Congress from changing the Court’s size. From 1861 to 1869, for instance, politically driven Congresses changed the number of authorized Court seats from nine to ten to seven to nine. Most recently, for more than a year from February 2016 to April 2017, Mitch McConnell and a Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee de facto reduced the Court to eight justices when they refused to open confirmation hearings for Democratic President Barack Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland.

2. History of the Appointment and Confirmation Processes. Despite the usual insistence that politics must be irrelevant to the Court’s business, presidents choose and congresses typically confirm (or reject) Supreme Court nominees based heavily on political considerations. Contrary to conservative claims that Democrats politicized and ruined the confirmation process in 1987, when they refused to confirm Robert Bork, presidents starting with George Washington have seen Congress shoot down their nominees for political reasons. Throughout American history, nearly one-fourth of the Supreme Court nominees have failed.

3. Analytical Argument Against the Law-Politics Dichotomy—Understanding the Law-Politics Dynamic. The law-politics dichotomy is a myth, propagated over the years for professional and political reasons. Contrary to this myth, law and politics dynamically interact in Supreme Court decision making. Law is neither the handmaiden of politics nor mere window-dressing, hiding political machinations. But law should never be understood as being separate and independent from politics, at least in Supreme Court decision making. In most cases, the justices sincerely interpret the relevant legal texts—the Constitution, statutes, executive orders, and so on—but interpretation is never mechanical. The justices’ political ideologies always influence their textual interpretations, so law and politics always intertwine in the adjudicative process. Politics, in other words, shapes the justices’ interpretive conclusions even though the justices focus on the law. Unsurprisingly, then, the justices’ legal interpretations and judicial conclusions ordinarily coincide with their respective political preferences.

If the Court decides cases pursuant to a law-politics dynamic—and the law-politics dichotomy is a myth—then the primary criticism of court-packing vanishes. If Supreme Court decision making is not and never has been apolitical, then court-packing cannot undermine the legitimacy of the Supreme Court as an apolitical institution. Court-packing cannot infect the Court with politics because the law-politics dynamic is already (and always) inherent in legal interpretation and Supreme Court adjudication.

4. Politics of the Roberts Court. Despite claiming to follow the rule of law, the Roberts Court has consistently decided cases in accord with a conservative political agenda. Corporations and the wealthy usually win; the poor might not even get into court. Employers win; unions and employees lose. Whites win; people of color lose. Men win; women lose. Christians win; non-Christians lose. Republicans with entrenched political power win; Democratic voters lose. Gun owners win; everybody else loses.

If the Democrats were to enact progressive legislation—for example, statutes restoring and fortifying voting rights, creating universal health care, strengthening environmental protections and fighting climate change, restricting gun ownership, and protecting documented and undocumented immigrants—the Roberts Court, with its current personnel, would likely construct constitutional barriers to weaken or invalidate such laws.

5. Public Support for the Court. Would court packing cause many people to lose faith in the Court’s authority? The question here is not how the Court actually decides cases, but rather how the public perceives the Court. Nevertheless, political science studies suggest that the Democrats should go ahead and pack the Court. The public’s diffuse support for the Court is resilient, sustained by “a reservoir of favorable attitudes or good will.” Even when the Court issues a decision contrary to an individual’s personal views, that individual is unlikely to lose faith in the Court. If anything, when news of Court activities draws an individual’s attention, then that attention (to the Court) will likely reinforce the individual’s positive views of the institution. In a sense, the more one knows about the Court, the more one is likely to find its decisions legitimate (the opposite is true for Congress). In fact, many Americans understand that Supreme Court decision making entails a combination of law and politics—the law-politics dynamic. The people’s support for and loyalty to the Court does not depend on the myth of the law-politics dichotomy. To the extent that individual views of the Court’s legitimacy might change in response to a court-packing plan, partisan shifts would likely cancel each other out.

In conclusion, the potential for court packing is baked into the checks and balances of our tripartite national government. As history demonstrates, the Constitution grants Congress and the president control over the size of the Court as well as the nomination and confirmation processes. Therefore, at any particular time, politics determines whether court packing is possible and appropriate. When the time is right, as it is today, then a court-packing proposal would likely reinforce rather than weaken the Court’s legitimacy.

Cricket Tragic: How the game “seeps into an author’s life”

This week in North Philly Notes, Samir Chopra, author of The Evolution of a Cricket Fan: My Shapeshifting Journey, writes about how the game of cricket informed his life.

A memoir can be a score-settler against real and imagined foes, a confessional from a therapeutic couch, a made-up story to reconcile oneself to the present, to seek exculpation for the many sins we commit in our lives. I suspect my book The Evolution of a Cricket Fan: My Shapeshifting Journey is all these things. Unapologetically.

In my book, through the act of writing a memoir of a fan of the game of cricket, I wanted to clarify the internal world of a dedicated sports fan, but with a difference: I had not had a stable identity through my ‘sports career,’ and so as the game of cricket changed—as it had to, in response to a changing world of politics, culture, technology—so did I, a paired dance of shifting identities that made for some interesting interactions between the two. I wanted to contribute, in my own way, to cricketing literature, a great corpus of writing, dominated by the works of professional writers and its players but not so much by its fans. I sought to do so mostly as an act of personal discovery and understanding but also as clarification and illumination of that entity whose commitment to the game supply its attendant dreams and wellsprings of motivation and passion. Players of the game, we must remember, begin their lives as fans of it first.  

‘Fan,’ it is said, is short for ‘fanatic.’ I do not think of myself as one, but my following of cricket has been described in similar terms: “obsessive” and “cricket tragic.” I suspect this term means, as my book shows, that my following of the sport is a loaded business, that I see much more than just sportsmen on a field, more than just bat making contact with ball, when I see players playing. It means that the game seeps into my life; that I derive lessons from the game for my life; that the changing events in my life influence the interpretations I place on sporting events; that I take the game to illustrate important truths relevant to the ways we live our lives; that the game influences how I view the world and its peoples, and of course, how I view myself.  

A ‘fan’ then, is someone who will laugh in your face if you say something like, “Relax, it’s just a game.” You would not say to an avid reader that a book is “just words on a page,” or “just ink marks on wood pulp,” would you? Once you see that, you see that the sports fan is not watching a game; he is reading and writing a text. He is reading the game, and he is writing himself into its playing and meaning. In doing so, he is changing the game itself because the products of his imagination inform the way the game is understood by others.  

Our lives are a long process of self-construction and self-discovery; cricket has aided me in both these endeavors; It was how I learned geography, history, politics, literature, and indeed, how to write. I am an immigrant, and so I have either multiple homes or none; this displacement always meant that my understanding of a “mere game” would be informed by this absence of a stable political identity, one riven by all too many conflicting imperatives and influences. Cricket was the mirror that let me observe myself as I morphed and transformed; this book is an attempt to reduce that resultant blur just a bit.

Celebrating Pennsylvania Day!

July 20 is National Pennsylvania Day. (Yes, historians, Pennsylvania was admitted to the Union December 12, 1787, the National Day Calendar is honoring each state, in order, each week following July 4). As such, Temple University Press is preparing to celebrate with our books that focus on the Keystone State.

A compilation of a dozen of his fascinating articles showcasing the Keystone State, Pennsylvania Stories—Well Told, by William Ecenbarger, observes that in the quirky state of Pennsylvania, the town of Mauch Chunk changed its name to Jim Thorpe—even though the famous American-Indian athlete never set foot in it. He goes driving with Pennsylvania native John Updike in rural Berks County, Pennsylvania. And he highlights just what makes Pennsylvania both eccentric and great, providing a delightfully intriguing read for natives and curious outsiders alike.

Want to take the state’s temperature before there was COVID? The Health of the Commonwealth:A Brief History of Medicine, Public Health, and Disease in Pennsylvania, by James E. Higgins, provides an overview of medicine and public health in the state. Covering the outbreak of yellow fever in 1793 through the 1976 Legionnaires’ Disease epidemic, and the challenges of the present day, Higgins shows how Pennsylvania has played a central role in humanity’s understanding of—and progress against—disease. The Health of the Commonwealth places Pennsylvania’s unique contribution to the history of public health and medicine in a larger narrative of health and disease throughout the United States and the world.

Pennsylvania Politics and Policy: A Commonwealth Reader, Volume 1, edited by J. Wesley Leckrone and Michelle J. Atherton, contains updated chapters from recent issues of Commonwealth: A Journal of Pennsylvania Politics and Policy on education, health care, public finance, tax policy, environmental policy, alcohol policy and more. Pennsylvania Politics and Policy: A Commonwealth Reader, Volume 2, edited by Michelle J. Atherton and J. Wesley Leckrone, focuses on government institutions, election laws, the judiciary, government finance and budgeting, the opioid crisis, childcare, property taxes, environmental policy, demographics, and more. In both volumes, each chapter is supplemented by discussion questions, suggestions for further reading, and forums with arguments in support of or opposed to contested elements of state policy.

The Scots Irish were one of early Pennsylvania’s largest non-English immigrant groups. They were stereotyped as frontier ruffians and Indian haters. In The Scots Irish of Early Pennsylvania, historian Judith Ridner insists that this immigrant group was socio-economically diverse. Servants and free people, individuals and families, and political exiles and refugees from Ulster, they not only pioneered new frontier settlements, but also populated the state’s cities—Philadelphia and Pittsburgh—and its towns, such as Lancaster, Easton, and Carlisle.

Undocumented Fears, by Jamie Longazel shows how the local politics of immigration pit working people against one another. The Illegal Immigration Relief Act (IIRA), passed in the small Rustbelt city of Hazleton, Pennsylvania in 2006, was a local ordinance that laid out penalties for renting to or hiring undocumented immigrants and declared English the city’s official language. The notorious IIRA gained national prominence and kicked off a parade of local and state-level legislative initiatives designed to crack down on undocumented immigrants. Longazel uses the debate around Hazleton’s controversial ordinance as a case study that reveals the mechanics of contemporary divide and conquer politics. He shows how neoliberal ideology, misconceptions about Latina/o immigrants, and nostalgic imagery of “Small Town, America” led to a racialized account of an undocumented immigrant “invasion,” masking the real story of a city beset by large-scale loss of manufacturing jobs.

And forthcoming this fall, Slavery and Abolition in Pennsylvania, by Beverly Tomek, corrects the long-held notion that slavery in the North was “not so bad” as, or somehow “more humane” than, in the South due to the presence of abolitionists. While the Quaker presence focused on moral and practical opposition to bondage, slavery was ubiquitous. Nevertheless, Pennsylvania was the first state to pass an abolition law in the United States. Slavery and Abolition in Pennsylvania traces this movement from its beginning to the years immediately following the American Civil War. Discussions of the complexities of the state’s antislavery movement illustrate how different groups of Pennsylvanians followed different paths in an effort to achieve their goal. Tomek also examines the backlash abolitionists and Black Americans faced. In addition, she considers the civil rights movement from the period of state reconstruction through the national reconstruction that occurred after the Civil War.

Summer Reading

It’s Sum-Sum-Summertime, and the reading is Easy! This week in North Philly Notes, we showcase books that you should take on vacation—or that take you on a vacation, immersing you in places far-flung (or around the corner).

Vacations say a lot about individuals. They signal class and economic standing and reveal aspirations and goals. Getting Away from It All: Vacations and Identity, by Karen Stein, insists that vacations are about more than just taking time off to relax and rejuvenate—they are about having some time to work on the person one wants to be. Where to read this book: On a flight somewhere.

In Real Philly History, Real Fast: Fascinating Facts and Interesting Oddities about the City’s Heroes and Historic Sites, Jim Murphy provides an original tour of the city. He highlights artistic gems including the Dream Garden Tiffany mosaic and Isaiah Zagar’s glittering Magic Gardens. He profiles intriguing historical figures from military leader Commodore Barry to civil rights heroes like Lucretia Mott. Murphy also explores neighborhoods from Chinatown to the Italian Market and the unique architectural details of Carpenters’ Hall and the PSFS building. Where to read this book: On SEPTA, or while waiting on line for a soft pretzel.

Artists of Wyeth Country: Howard Pyle, N. C. Wyeth, and Andrew Wyeth, by W. Barksdale Maynard offers admirers of the Brandywine Tradition a chance to literally follow in these artists’ footsteps. Maynard provides six in-depth walking and driving tours that allow readers to visit the places the Wyeths and Pyle painted in Chadds Ford, PA. As he explains, Andrew Wyeth’s artistic process was influenced by Henry David Thoreau’s nature-worship and by simply walking daily. Maps, aerial photographs, as well as glorious full-color images and artworks of the landscape (many never reproduced before) illustrate the text. Where to read this book: While tracing the artists footsteps.

Using archival materials and interviews with former Negro League players, baseball historian Rich Westcott chronicles the catcher’s life and remarkable career in Biz Mackey, a Giant behind the Plate: The Story of the Negro League Star and Hall of Fame Catcher. He also provides an in-depth look at Philadelphia Negro League history. Westcott traces Mackey’s childhood in Texas as the son of sharecroppers to his success on the baseball diamond where he displayed extraordinary defensive skills and an exceptional ability to hit and to handle pitchers. Where to read this book: In the bleachers during a rain delay.

Intended as a guide for the everyday gardener, The Winterthur Garden Guide: Color for Every Season, by Linda Eirhart offers practical advice—season by season—for achieving the succession of bloom developed by Henry Francis du Pont in his garden. This handy book highlights the design principles that guided du Pont and introduces practical flowers, shrubs, and trees that have stood the test of time—native and non-native, common as well as unusual. Lavishly illustrated, with new color photography, this handbook features close-ups of individual plants as well as sweeping vistas throughout. Where to read this book: In your backyard, or at Winterthur (a worthwhile garden to visit!)

A compilation of a dozen of his fascinating articles showcasing the Keystone State, Pennsylvania Stories—Well Told, by William Ecenbarger, observes that in the quirky state of Pennsylvania, the town of Mauch Chunk changed its name to Jim Thorpe—even though the famous American-Indian athlete never set foot in it. He goes driving with Pennsylvania native John Updike in rural Berks County, Pennsylvania. And he highlights just what makes Pennsylvania both eccentric and great, providing a delightfully intriguing read for natives and curious outsiders alike. Where to read this book: During a road trip through the great state of Pennsylvania.

Follow the contemporary path of a historic naturalist with Travels of William Bartram Reconsidered, by Mark Dion, a contemporary artist. Commissioned for the landmark John Bartram house at Philadelphia’s Bartram’s Garden, the “Travels Reconsidered” exhibition and Dion’s 21st-century journey that produced it are evoked in this book filled with copious photographs, drawings, and texts. Combining humor and seriousness, this book beautifully documents an artistic collaboration across more than two centuries. Where to read this book: On the Schuylkill Banks.

Need more ideas? Our website features dozens of our wonderful books, from Boathouse Row, stories of the Schuykill River, and Fishing in the Delaware Valley, to guides to the area’s gardens and Fairmount Park as well as where to go take a hike. We also have books on Archeaology at the Site of the Museum of the American Revolution, Monument Lab, the Hidden City, and of course, Murals, Murals, Murals.

Happy Reading!

Examining our fraught relationship with food

This week in North Philly Notes, Jeffrey Haydu, author of Upsetting Food, writes about how food is ethically identified—and why that matters.

On May 28, 2021, the New York Times reported a lawsuit against Vital Farms. Plaintiffs charged that Vital Farms misled consumers by advertising its eggs as, “‘delicious, ethical food you don’t have to question.'” Three years earlier, a leading proponent of alternative agriculture, The Cornucopia Institute, rounded up different egg labels (ranging from “All Natural” to “Omega-3”). Of eleven examined, the Institute found five to be meaningless, misleading or “seriously flawed.”

These disputes testify to our fraught relationship with food. Concerns about the safety, nutritional value, and ethical virtues of what we eat are pervasive. Increasingly, consumers rely on third-party programs to certify a food as “good,” whether for body or soul, local community or planet. Upsetting Food: Three Eras of Food Protest in the United States, shows that such doubts about commercial food date back to the early 19th century. But the ways in which conscientious consumers sought to resolve those doubts have changed. Consumers have looked to quite different markers of trustworthy food from one era to another.

In the 1830s, Sylvester Graham warned his followers of the dangers of meat, commercial bread, and spices. What were the hallmarks of trustworthy foods? Those sanctified by the Bible, but also those prepared at home with the loving hands of wives and mothers. Such food, wrapped in piety, family, and tradition, was good for the body. It also met ethical goals by quieting men’s and women’s baser impulses.

Food reformers of the 1890s and 1900s voiced some similar concerns over suspect bread, contaminated meat, “unnatural” preservatives, and adulterated beverages. In this era, however, consumers were told to trust food that had been vetted by the federal government; that conformed to the new science of nutrition; and that had been prepared in modern, “hygienic” factories. Here too, more than health was at stake. The new regulatory and educational regime would restore honesty to markets and expertise to tradition-bound homemakers.

In the 1960s, some additional concerns emerged: “artificial” foods and pesticides joined fluffy white bread and preservatives on the list of anxieties. But now, food untainted by modern technology and nutritional science—”natural” food—represented the gold standard. And food acquired through alternative institutions like small farms, natural food stores, and neighborhood co-ops was deemed more reliable. By patronizing these alternatives, moreover, consumers were joining a virtuous conspiracy against Big Ag, corporate capital, and a servile state.

These differences among the three eras mostly reflect the larger movement cultures in which food reformers moved. Graham applied to diet a more general evangelical template for social uplift, one already in use to address the problems of slavery, intemperance, and “fallen women.” Proponents of pure food legislation and nutritional science applied to food the standard Progressive playbook: modern science can identify solutions for social ills, and government regulation can implement those solutions. Early organic advocates shared with a wider counterculture a deep suspicion of organized politics and modern technology. They shared, too, its belief that by living our lives differently we could bit by bit build a better society. Nowadays, many activists retain doubts about government as a lever for change. And partly for that reason, we have more faith in our ability to achieve social justice through concerted consumer choices. For a better food system, vote with your fork!

But there is more to the story than that. Upsetting Food also shows how reformers’ ideals of trustworthy food built on—or deliberately repudiated—the efforts of their predecessors. Progressive reformers were deeply skeptical of religion and tradition as guides to social practices, whether in managing factories or cooking food. Early organic advocates, in turn, explicitly rejected modern science and government—the Progressive stalwarts—for being little more than shills for big business. And contemporary food reformers are often guided by the perceived failures of the organic movement. Its eventual embrace of minimalist government standards and its cooptation by large food companies, we hear, doomed organic as a genuinely alternative food system. Hence the appeal both of labels less easily coopted by global corporations (“local”) and of third-party certifiers (Non-GMO Project, Certified C.L.E.A.N.) who, we hope, can themselves be trusted. And thus the outrage (channeled through legal action) when the virtues proclaimed by labels (“delicious, ethical food”) prove illusory.

Political Mourning Delayed, but Not Denied

This week in North Philly Notes, Heather Pool, author of Political Mourning, writes about the Tulsa Race Massacre.

Earlier this month, for the first time ever, an American president visited Tulsa to commemorate the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

I was born in Oklahoma and was subjected to the state-mandated semester of “Oklahoma History” in the 1980s. In that class, we cursorily covered the forced removal of indigenous peoples to Indian Territory via the Trail of Tears and the evolution to statehood. That history was taught, but it was taught as history, as if the oppression suffered by indigenous people was something that happened long ago. In Oklahoma, about a third of the population are native even if they don’t have a roll number, live on a reservation, or identify with a tribe; thus, there was no way to avoid that history, even if the curriculum in no way did justice to it. And Oklahoma as a state has come to embrace its ties to native peoples; the state seal and flag prominently display symbols drawn from or referencing indigenous people, and, for years, its license plates proclaimed “Native America.” This does not mean that native peoples in Oklahoma are free from present oppression, by any means, but at least it is discussed.

But I learned next to nothing in that class (or in any history class during my public school education) about Black Oklahomans. It wasn’t until years later that I realized my hometown had probably been a Sundown Town; the silence about Black history, then, was not surprising. I didn’t learn about the Tulsa Massacre until I ran across a book about it in a public library in New York in the early 2000s. I distinctly remember pulling Riot and Remembrance off the shelf and holding my breath as I read the blurb on the back, stunned that I knew nothing about this event.

In the 2012 article version of the Triangle Fire chapter in my book, Political Mourning, I compared the massive publicity generated by the Triangle Fire with the scant publicity accorded to the Tulsa Race Massacre. Fortunately, the past several years – aided by work done by survivors of the Tulsa race massacre to remember the event in the face of a sustained official effort to forget it, the state legislature’s 2001 Race Riot Commission Report, and the massive increase in awareness about racial injustice spurred by rise of Black Lives Matter – have yielded a more honest accounting of the events that took place in the Greenwood section of Tulsa on May 31-June 1, 1921, as well as generated considerable media coverage. Biden’s visit to Tulsa can be read as an effort to educate Americans about the historical violence of white supremacy that has been silenced, obscured, or actively erased.

Death can do that; it can illuminate everyday violence that we know but don’t know. It’s why my work focuses on moments when everyday people die, and the polity pays attention. There are many moments we could attend to – young women being killed by their partners, the disproportionately young deaths of people of color of all varieties, queer youth disproportionately dying by suicide or homicide – and yet we often choose not to see or take up collective responsibility for deaths that do not receive widespread coverage or which, if we took up collective responsibility for them, would require us to make fundamental shifts in our way of life.

Moments such as the Tulsa Massacre, the Triangle Fire, Emmett Till’s lynching, or George Floyd’s death can break through the crust of sedimented privilege to see the unequally borne costs of the status quo. And the costs are so high. But the barriers to seeing are, too: particularly for people in positions of privilege, whose refusal to recognize that privilege makes it difficult for them to see how race has shaped a status quo that is better for whites than it is for non-white people. Charles Mills calls this the “epistemology of ignorance.” White people are rewarded for their cluelessness, just as I was rewarded for not asking more and better questions in that Oklahoma History classroom. White Americans’ refusal to learn our actual history when it comes to race and violence continues to obstruct our ability to build an actual democracy instead of a white one.

It is encouraging that the Tulsa Race Massacre is getting the attention, respect, and mourning it has always deserved; it is a marker of how much things have changed in the past decade that an American president spoke at the 100th anniversary of the terrible events in Tulsa. But it is also a reminder that who we mourn and how we mourn them speaks volumes about who we as a nation are, and that mourning – when linked to conceptions of collective identity and responsibility – can be deeply political. The political mourning denied the survivors of the Tulsa Massacre is being rekindled now and mobilized to call for racial justice, and that is important. But equally important is to ensure – through education, more just political institutions, and reparations – that we do our best to reduce or eliminate similar losses in the present and future, whether the sudden horror of a large-scale, state-sponsored massacre or the slow-motion violence of poverty, lack of opportunity, and incarceration that people of color continue to face disproportionately today. 

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