The Cherokee Kid: Will Rogers, Tribal Identity, and the Making of an American Icon

Posted in Biography, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2015-12-22 04:15Z by Steven

The Cherokee Kid: Will Rogers, Tribal Identity, and the Making of an American Icon

University Press of Kansas
June 2015
400 pages
7 illustrations, 6 x 9
Cloth ISBN 978-0-7006-2100-2
Ebook ISBN 978-0-7006-2101-9

Amy M. Ware

Early in the twentieth century, the political humorist Will Rogers was arguably the most famous cowboy in America. And though most in his vast audience didn’t know it, he was also the most famous Indian of his time. Those who know of Rogers’s Cherokee heritage and upbringing tend to minimize its importance, or to imagine that Rogers himself did so—notwithstanding his avowal in interviews: “I’m a Cherokee and they’re the finest Indians in the World.” The truth is, throughout his adult life and his work the Oklahoma cowboy made much of his American Indian background. And in doing so, as Amy Ware suggests in this book, he made Cherokee artistry a fundamental part of American popular culture.

Rogers, whose father was a prominent and wealthy Cherokee politician and former Confederate slaveholder, was born into the Paint Clan in the town of Oolagah in 1879 and raised in the Cooweescoowee District of the Cherokee Nation. Ware maps out this milieu, illuminating the familial and social networks, as well as the Cherokee ranching practices, educational institutions, popular publications and heated political debates that so firmly grounded Rogers in the culture of the Cherokees. Through his early career, from Wild West and vaudeville performer to Ziegfeld Follies headliner in the late 1910s, she reveals how Rogers embodied the seemingly conflicting roles of cowboy and Indian, in effect enacting the blending of these identities in his art. Rogers’s work in the film industry also reflected complex notions of American Indian identity and history, as Ware demonstrates in her reading of the clearest examples, including Laughing Billy Hyde, in which Rogers, an Indian, portrayed a white prospector married to an Indian woman—who was played by a white actress.

In his work as a columnist for the New York Times, and in his radio performances, Ware continues to trace the Cherokee influence on Rogers’s material—and in turn its impact on his audiences. It is in these largely uncensored performances that we see another side of Rogers’ Cherokee persona—a tribal elitism that elevated the Cherokee above other Indian nations. Ware’s exploration of this distinction exposes still-common assumptions regarding Native authenticity in the history of American culture, even as her in-depth look at Will Rogers’s heritage and legacy reshapes our perspective on the Native presence in that history, and in the life and work of a true American icon.

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Race, Sex, and the Freedom to Marry: Loving v. Virginia

Posted in Books, History, Law, Media Archive, Monographs, United States, Virginia on 2014-11-09 17:36Z by Steven

Race, Sex, and the Freedom to Marry: Loving v. Virginia

University Press of Kansas
November 2014
296 pages
5-1/2 x 8-1/2
Cloth ISBN 978-0-7006-1999-3, $39.95(s)
Paper ISBN 978-0-7006-2000-5, $19.95(s)
Ebook ISBN 978-0-7006-2048-7

Peter Wallenstein, Professor of History
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

In 1958 Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving, two young lovers from Caroline County, Virginia, got married. Soon they were hauled out of their bedroom in the middle of the night and taken to jail. Their crime? Loving was white, Jeter was not, and in Virginia—as in twenty-three other states then—interracial marriage was illegal. Their experience reflected that of countless couples across America since colonial times. And in challenging the laws against their marriage, the Lovings closed the book on that very long chapter in the nation’s history. Race, Sex, and the Freedom to Marry tells the story of this couple and the case that forever changed the law of race and marriage in America.

The story of the Lovings and the case they took to the Supreme Court involved a community, an extended family, and in particular five main characters—the couple, two young attorneys, and a crusty local judge who twice presided over their case—as well as such key dimensions of political and cultural life as race, gender, religion, law, identity, and family. In Race, Sex, and the Freedom to Marry, Peter Wallenstein brings these characters and their legal travails to life, and situates them within the wider context—even at the center—of American history. Along the way, he untangles the arbitrary distinctions that long sorted out Americans by racial identity—distinctions that changed over time, varied across space, and could extend the reach of criminal law into the most remote community. In light of the related legal arguments and historical development, moreover, Wallenstein compares interracial and same-sex marriage.

A fair amount is known about the saga of the Lovings and the historic court decision that permitted them to be married and remain free. And some of what is known, Wallenstein tells us, is actually true. A detailed, in-depth account of the case, as compelling for its legal and historical insights as for its human drama, this book at long last clarifies the events and the personalities that reconfigured race, marriage, and law in America.

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Plessy v. Ferguson: Race and Inequality in Jim Crow America

Posted in Books, History, Law, Louisiana, Monographs, United States on 2013-08-22 02:12Z by Steven

Plessy v. Ferguson: Race and Inequality in Jim Crow America

University Press of Kansas
April 2012
224 pages
5-1⁄2 x 8-1⁄2
Cloth ISBN 978-0-7006-1846-0
Paper ISBN 978-0-7006-1847-7

Williamjames Hull Hoffer, Associate Professor of History
Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey

Six decades before Rosa Parks boarded her fateful bus, another traveler in the Deep South tried to strike a blow against racial discrimination—but ultimately fell short of that goal, leading to the Supreme Court’s landmark 1896 decision in Plessy v. Ferguson. Now Williamjames Hull Hoffer vividly details the origins, litigation, opinions, and aftermath of this notorious case.

In response to the passage of the Louisiana Separate Car Act of 1890, which prescribed “equal but separate accommodations” on public transportation, a group called the Committee of Citizens decided to challenge its constitutionality. At a pre-selected time and place, Homer Plessy, on behalf of the committee, boarded a train car set aside for whites, announced his non-white racial identity, and was immediately arrested. The legal deliberations that followed eventually led to the Court’s 7-1 decision in Plessy, which upheld both the Louisiana statute and the state’s police powers. It also helped create a Jim Crow system that would last deep into the twentieth century, until Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 and other cases helped overturn it.

Hoffer’s readable study synthesizes past work on this landmark case, while also shedding new light on its proceedings and often-neglected historical contexts. From the streets of New Orleans’ Faubourg Tremé district to the justices’ chambers at the Supreme Court, he breathes new life into the opposing forces, dissecting their arguments to clarify one of the most important, controversial, and socially revealing cases in American law. He particularly focuses on Justice Henry Billings Brown’s ruling that the statute’s “equal, but separate” condition was a sufficient constitutional standard for equality, and on Justice John Marshall Harlan’s classic dissent, in which he stated, “Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among its citizens.”

Hoffer’s compelling reconstruction illuminates the controversies and impact of Plessy v. Ferguson for a new generation of students and other interested readers. It also pays tribute to a group of little known heroes from the Deep South who failed to hold back the tide of racial segregation but nevertheless laid the groundwork for a less divided America.

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Mixed-Bloods and Tribal Dissolution: Charles Curtis and the Quest for Indian Identity

Posted in Biography, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Native Americans/First Nation on 2013-08-21 23:46Z by Steven

Mixed-Bloods and Tribal Dissolution: Charles Curtis and the Quest for Indian Identity

University Press of Kansas
1989
244 pages
15 photographs, 3 maps, 6 x 9
Cloth ISBN 978-0-7006-0395-4

William E. Unrau, Emeritus Endowment Association Distinguished Research Professor of History
Wichita State University, Wichita, Kansas

This book shows that without the cooperation of the “mixed-bloods,” or part-Indians, dispossession of Indian lands by the U.S. government in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries would have been much more difficult to accomplish. The relationship between the Métis and the loss of Indian lands, never before fully explored, is revealed in Unrau’s study of Charles Curtis, a mixed-blood member of the Kansa-Kaws.

Curtis is best remembered as Herbert Hoover’s vice-president, but he also served in Congress for more than 30 years.

A successful lawyer and Republican politician, Curtis had spent his early years on a reservation but grew up comfortably and fully integrated into the white world. By virtue of his celebrated status, he became the most important figure in the debate over federal Indian policy during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

As the Indian expert in Congress, Curtis had significant power in formulating and carrying out the assimilationist program that had been instituted, particularly by the Dawes Act, in the 1880s. The strategy was to encourage reservation Indians to reject communal life and reap the rewards of individual enterprise. Central to these developments were questions of ownership, land claims, allotments, tribal inheritance laws, and what constituted the public domain. The underlying issues, however, were Indian identification and assimilation. The government’s actions—affecting schools, the federal courts, Indian Office personnel, allotment and inheritance laws, mineral leases, and the absorption of the Indian Territory into the state of Oklahoma—all bore the mark of Curtis’s hand.

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