Longreads: Robert B. Silvers, 1929-2017

“I believe in the writer—the writer, above all.”

via Robert B. Silvers, Editor of The New York Review of Books: 1929-2017 — Longreads

Undiscovered countries: The books we need

Insightful celebrations of worthy works, considerations of upcoming titles, and general musings on great writing will all meet here on a regular basis.

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Stillness of Heart‘s range of popular and academic book criticism widened and deepened in recent years, and many more reviews are on the way. Insightful celebrations of worthy works, considerations of upcoming titles, and general musings on great writing will all meet here on a regular basis.

As always, the Stillness of Heart community of writers, readers, intellectuals, historians, journalists, and artists welcomes your ideas and recommendations. Tell us what we should be reading.

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Some of 2015’s best Civil War books … so far
Cold Harbor to the Crater: The End of the Overland Campaign, edited by Gary W. Gallagher and Caroline E. Janney
Defining Duty in the Civil War: Personal Choice, Popular Culture, and the Union Home Front, by J. Matthew Gallman
The Civil War and Reconstruction in Indian Territory, by Bradley R. Clampitt
The World the Civil War Made, edited by Gregory P. Downs and Kate Masur
Fortune’s Fool: The Life of John Wilkes Booth, by Terry Allford
The Smell of Battle, the Taste of Siege: A Sensory History of the Civil War, by Mark Smith
The War That Forged a Nation: Why the Civil War Still Matters, by James M. McPherson
Learning from the Wounded: The Civil War and the Rise of American Medical Science, by Shauna Devine
Originally published in July 2015
“Publishers in 2015 offer excellent work that both casual and serious readers of the Civil War should know about.”

The Silent Enemy
Polio: An American Story, by David M. Oshinsky
Originally published in December 2014

“The United States battled polio long before it ever faced the Soviet hegemonic threat, but only during the Cold War did the U.S. achieve significant victories in the battle against the virus.”

From a flame into a firestorm
A consideration of the French Revolution and its unexpected consequences.
Originally published in September 2014
“Why the French Revolution devoured its own people”

Dealing with the real America
Puerto Rican Citizen: History and Political Identity in Twentieth-Century New York City, by Lorrin Thomas
Originally published in August 2014
“Dealing with Puerto Rico means dealing with the key issues of the 21st century. Few in the U.S. government may have the stomach for that rollercoaster.”

The wars over the war
Hospital Sketches, by Louisa May Alcott
Apostles of Disunion: Southern Secession Commissioners and the Causes of the Civil War, by Charles B. Dew
The Revolution of 1861: The American Civil War in the Age of Nationalist Conflict, by Andre Fleche
The Union War, by Gary W. Gallagher
The Hard Hand of War: Union Military Policy Toward Southern Civilians 1861-1865, by Mark Grimsley
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, by Harriet Jacobs
“The North American Crisis of the 1860s,” by Patrick J. Kelly, in The Journal of the Civil War Era
“Who Freed the Slaves?” by James M. McPherson, in Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society
“Who Freed the Slaves? Emancipation and Its Meaning,” by Ira Berlin, in Union & Emancipation: Essays on Politics and Race in the Civil War Era
Originally published in July 2014

“Nine key books and articles taken together can explain what led to the first sparks of civil violence and how those sparks ignited what evolved into the bloodiest and most important war in U.S. history.”

Endless Borderlands
Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, by Gloria Anzaldua
Peace Came in the Form of a Woman: Indians and Spaniards in the Texas Borderlands, by Juliana Barr
Walled States, Waning Sovereignty, by Wendy Brown
Pacific Connections: The Making of the U.S.-Canada Borderlands, by Kornel Chang
The Comanche Empire, by Pekka Hämäläinen
A Tale of Two Cities: Santo Domingo and New York after 1950, by Jesse Hoffnung-Garskof
Bridging National Borders in North America: Transnational and Comparative Histories, edited by Benjamin H. Johnson and Andre R. Graybill
Migra!: A History of the U.S. Border Patrol, by Kelly Lytle-Hernandez
The Line Which Separates: Race, Gender, and the Making of the Alberta-Montana Borderlands, by Sheila McManus
Border Dilemmas: Racial and National Uncertainties in New Mexico, 1848-1912, by Anthony P. Mora
Stranger Intimacy: Contesting Race, Sexuality and the Law in the North American West, by Nayan Shah
Line in the Sand: A History of the Western U.S.-Mexico Border, by Rachel St. John
Bárbaros: Spaniards and their Savages in the Age of Enlightenment, by David Weber
“On Borderlands,” by Hämäläinen and Samuel Truett, in the Journal of American History
“From Borderlands to Borders: Empires, Nation-States, and the Peoples in Between in North American History,” by Jeremy Adelman and Stephen Aron, in American Historical Review
Originally published in June 2014
“Fifteen essays and books explore the borderlands field with passion and intelligence, daring their readers to leave behind their old worlds and follow them into new ones.”

The Battle for Boricua
Reproducing Empire: Race, Empire, and U.S. Imperialism in Puerto Rico, by Laura Briggs
Originally published in January 2014
“Is Puerto Rico the battleground for America’s intellectual future?”

Torn in the USA
Polio: An American Story, by David M. Oshinsky
Make Love, Not War: The Sexual Revolution: An Unfettered History, by David Allyn
Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago, 1919-1939, by Lizabeth Cohen
Stayin’ Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class, by Jefferson Cowie
In Search of the Black Panther Party: New Perspectives on a Revolutionary Movement, edited by Jama Lazerow and Yohuru Williams
Quixote’s Soldiers: A Local History of the Chicano Movement, 1966-1981, by David Montejano
“Resistance in the Urban North: Trumbull Park, Chicago, 1953-1966,” by Arnold R. Hirsch, in the Journal of American History
“Crabgrass-Roots Politics: Race, Rights, and the Reaction against Liberalism in the Urban North, 1940-1964,” by Thomas J. Sugrue, in the Journal of American History
Originally published in September 2013
“Life, liberty, and the doomed pursuit of happiness.”

Nixon lurking in the shadows
Richard M. Nixon in books, in the news, on TV, and in my dreams
Originally published in December 2011

“Richard Nixon was in my dream last night. The post-presidency Nixon. The bitter, self-pitying, damned Nixon, coiled in the shadows of La Casa Pacifica in San Clemente, dark eyes glaring at the world as it spun on without him.”

Homo universalis
A reflection on my intellectual ambitions.
Originally published in July 2011
“I’ve always been blessed with a hunger for knowledge, a curiosity that often flares into full-blown passion for new arenas of experience, a curiosity perhaps sparked by a bittersweet frustration that I don’t know as much about literature, science, mathematics, history and culture as I think I should.”

The Battle for Boricua

Is Puerto Rico the battleground for America’s intellectual future?
A review by Fernando Ortiz Jr.

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Is Puerto Rico the battleground for America’s intellectual future?
A review by Fernando Ortiz Jr.

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Discussed in this essay:

Laura Briggs. Reproducing Empire: Race, Empire, and U.S. Imperialism in Puerto Rico. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002. Pp. 304. $29.95.

I.

Puerto Rico was one of the prizes the U.S. won in its 1898 victory over the Spanish Empire. The U.S. made Puerto Ricans citizens in 1917 and granted the territory an upgrade to commonwealth status in 1952. Debate has raged ever since over how, when, or if Puerto Rico should attempt to move in a new political direction, and over how it should cope with the degree of control the U.S. still wields over its economic and political systems. Like a moon trapped in planetary orbit, bathed only in the solar light reflected from that planet’s surface, struggles for self-definition and conflicting political visions dominate the island’s history.1

Laura Briggs extravagantly explores key components of Puerto Rico’s lurching political evolution in Reproducing Empire, a 2002 book based on her 1998 doctoral thesis composed at Brown University. Her book, standing tall among the work uniting colonial control and gender roles, illustrates Anglo American rulers at first disgusted with Puerto Rico, viewing the island territory as a cesspool of tropical subhumans blinded by rampant sexual desires and staggered by venereal disease, overpopulation endangering their natural and imported resources, and desperate, whether they knew it or not, for American guidance.

Puerto Rico’s social and economic problems were both caused and worsened, Briggs argues, by colonizing Americans who only saw themselves as solutions to those problems. She creatively examines the grinding conflict between the colonizer and the colonized through the prism of Puerto Rican sexuality, particularly the symbolically sexual body of the working-class Puerto Rican woman, whose propensity for sexual “deviancy” was blamed for spreading disease, for having too many children, and for essentially standing in the way of Puerto Rico’s proper Americanization. The fights waged over her sexual body became, Briggs argues, fights over Puerto Rican identity, political autonomy, ethnic equality, forced modernization, and Puerto Rican resistance. The Puerto Rican woman was the greatest battlefield in the titanic struggle over the island, which Briggs calls “the most important place in the world,” where she believes today’s essential debates over globalization issues are rooted in U.S. colonial attitudes.2

Americans saw prostitutes swarming over the men training to fight in World War I, posing their own venereal threat not just to the men but also to the women and children on the mainland, who would eventually be infected by the hapless victims of female Puerto Rican sexuality. U.S. incarceration policies on prostitution, Briggs argues, were one more supplement to colonial control and one more way Americans saw Puerto Ricans as foreigners, as people of lesser value to be kept apart from Americans, and as primitives who needed benevolent guidance. Puerto Rican women were either threats or weaklings needing protection. Islanders protested these prostitution policies, and Briggs sees in the rhetoric islander resistance not simply to the policies but also to the overall colonial project and later over their muddled citizenship.3

Americans saw overpopulation as also caused by these naturally promiscuous and illiterate women, prone to disease, doomed to poverty, and overly attached to the ideal of large hungry families. So, Briggs explains, American scientists developed new sterilization and birth control methods – diaphragms, contraceptive foams and jellies, and eventually the pill – and tested their effectiveness on Puerto Rican women, turning the island into “a social science laboratory.”4

II.

Throughout the Cold War, Briggs argues that Puerto Rico became a “political showcase,” advertising to Latin American nations vulnerable to Soviet seduction the beauty of a society that could result from an alliance (re: economic and military control) with the U.S. Puerto Rico was subjected to development projects — population control, industrialization, export control — again serving as a laboratory where models were analyzed before being sold to Third World nations.5

But the islanders had direct effects on the mainland too. Most importantly, Americans saw a huge post-World War II movement of Puerto Ricans into mainland cities, particularly into New York. The arrival of so many people in only a few decades permanently changed the racial and ethnic makeup of countless neighborhoods, sparked ethnic and political tensions, and re-engineered political activism. New arguments and alliances were born as these citizens struggled to live alongside Americans who saw them as anything but citizens and anything but white.

Overall, despite its strengths and creativity — particularly her intriguing view that the tentacles of colonization in Puerto Rico were only shorter and younger versions of the long American tentacles of globalization now strangling the globe — Briggs could have used a better editor to tighten a muddled narrative that often seems off balance and that could have been much shorter. Briggs often repeats the same points again and again, as if chapters were written months apart and she had to remind herself of the main thesis the latest chapter was supposed to be supporting. Also, the narrative needed more biographical sketches to bring alive the issues of sexuality, gender, and colonial victimization. Her ideas would have been so much more effective if the consequences of colonial decisions were shown in the wreckage of Puerto Rican lives, identities, and outlooks. Briggs bases her arguments on an impressive mountain of essays, books, and governmental studies. She complements a generally solid book with thirty-one pages of entertaining and informative notes and a 23-page bibliography.

One of the book’s best moments comes at the end, when Briggs argues that Puerto Rico illustrates “the explicit disalignment of the components of a nation.” The multidimensional identity of the Puerto Rican man and woman, Briggs seems to say, transcends maps, definitions of nationality, and concepts of national and international place. Imagine a map of the world laid out on a picnic table next to neatly typed definitions of every aspect of foreign affairs, U.S. government, and Latino identity. And then imagine the aurora borealis glowing in the night sky above. Puerto Rico, Briggs essentially argues, is the aurora. The rest of the world is the boring, ordered, defined arrangement on the table far below that celestial beauty.

Alternatively, the unique people of Puerto Ricans must find a unique solution to their unique “ethno-nation” quandary, effectively placing them on the cutting edge in terms of designing effective political entities for the twenty-first century. In that sense, at least, Briggs is absolutely right: Puerto Rico truly is the most important place in the world.6


1. Juan Gonzalez, Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America (New York: Penguin, 2000), 62-63. The Jones-Shafroth Act of 1917 granted citizenship to all Puerto Ricans and established a three-branch government system. An online image of the bill is accessible here: http://tinyurl.com/93rbfx4. A PDF of the commonwealth constitution is accessible here: http://tinyurl.com/yjvo25z.
2. Laura Briggs, Reproducing Empire: Race, Empire, and U.S. Imperialism in Puerto Rico (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), 194.
3. Briggs, 17.
4. Briggs, 9.
5. Briggs, 2.
6. Briggs, 195-196.

Torn in the USA

Life, liberty, and the doomed pursuit of happiness. A review essay by Fernando Ortiz Jr.

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Life, liberty, and the doomed pursuit of happiness.
A review essay by Fernando Ortiz Jr.

******

Discussed in this essay:

Make Love, Not War: The Sexual Revolution: An Unfettered History. By David Allyn. (New York: Routledge, 2001. 400 pp. $26.96).

Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago, 1919-1939. 2nd ed. By Lizabeth Cohen. (Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 2008. 568 pp. $25.99).

Stayin’ Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class. By Jefferson Cowie. (New York: The New Press, 2010. 488 pp. $15.98).

“Resistance in the Urban North: Trumbull Park, Chicago, 1953-1966.” By Arnold R. Hirsch. The Journal of American History. (82, no. 2 [September, 1995]: 522-550. JSTOR [accessed Feb. 1, 2013] ).

In Search of the Black Panther Party: New Perspectives on a Revolutionary Movement. Edited by Jama Lazerow and Yohuru Williams. (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2006. 408 pp. $24.01).

Quixote’s Soldiers: A Local History of the Chicano Movement, 1966-1981. By David Montejano. (Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2010. 360 pp. $23.70).

Polio: An American Story. By David M. Oshinsky. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. 368 pp. $16.95).

“Crabgrass-Roots Politics: Race, Rights, and the Reaction against Liberalism in the Urban North, 1940-1964.” By Thomas J. Sugrue. The Journal of American History. 82, no. 2 [September, 1995]: 551-578. JSTOR [accessed Feb. 1, 2013] ).

I.

The New Deal caressed with warm rays of hope the hearts and minds of millions of Americans grappling with the Great Depression. Shimmering ideals carved into the pillars of 1930s bureaucratic power re-invented the relationship between government and the people it represented. The New Deal also served for subsequent generations as a gateway opening onto a glowing era without racism, illness, or injustice. Citizens only needed to step towards the entrance to realize the core tenets – and challenges — of their American democracy: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Select academic and popular works from the past two decades beautifully illustrate how Americans dared to aspire for better lives, to reach out for democracy’s sweetest fruits, and to confront adversaries unwilling to share the treasures of freedom.

The aspiration for a better life often began with fair employment. Lizabeth Cohen’s Making a New Deal and Jefferson Cowie’s Stayin’ Alive both focus on the journey the working-class endured throughout six decades of economic turbulence and doomed political alliances. Cohen sets the stage by exploring Chicago’s ethnic working-class communities from about 1920 to 1940. Before the Great Depression, companies corralled their workers into paternalistic corporate societies. Workers enjoyed picnics, medical care, education, and other key aspects of a full life, yet all existed in the company’s shadow, without leverage to demand higher wages or a significant voice to improve worker conditions. Corporate authority framed workers’ identities. Cohen’s tapestry of Chicago communities gradually changed their understanding of who they were – from automatons governed by heartless corporate machinery to autonomous citizens who could no longer look to their employers for economic protection. Just as they changed their outlook, the liberal Democratic Roosevelt administration grew in political power and effectiveness. They reached out for each other. Energized unions offered workers a new avenue towards their goals of economic security, social legitimacy, and a viable political voice. The Democratic Party valued union support, listened to workers’ needs, and institutionalized the view that government could protect workers from corporate manipulation and financial unrest.

But the freedom from corporate autocracy, Cohen explains, added to workers’ lives a new vulnerability to “new tyrannies.” Chicago workers, along with workers throughout the U.S., became so closely bound to Democratic policy that when the Roosevelt administration, faced with entry into World War II, moved closer to companies needed to make war materiel, workers had no choice but to endure the consequences of corporate-friendly agreements. Alliances with political groups, Cohen also points out, meant workers swam in deeper political waters, filled with large allies but even larger enemies. Workers savored their new political value, but their leaders also did whatever was necessary to hold on to that influence on parties, administrations, and elections. Political enemies like Richard Nixon targeted that desire and the frustration workers felt over advantages the civil rights movements afforded to minorities.

Cowie’s Stayin’ Alive examines labor after the New Deal’s light faded beyond history’s horizons. He focuses on the years between 1968 and 1982. The working-class identity in the midst of that postwar political dusk was still proud and hopeful, hand-in-hand with liberal determination to transform the working-class into a new segment of the middle class. Three decades later, the working-class identity was a mutilated and incinerated political corpse quietly spat upon and dumped into Ronald Reagan’s ashbin of history.

The 1968 presidential election opened amid the cacophony of riots over the Vietnam War and years of unrest over the Great Society’s promised solutions to workplace, school, and social inequalities. Vice President Hubert Humphrey emerged from Democrats’ circular firefight as the presidential nominee, with only the labor machinery at his side, Cowie writes, making labor the “big boss in the Democratic Party.” Richard Nixon, leading a united Republican Party, raced into the gaps in the Democratic ranks, slicing off white working-class workers with manufactured sympathy over their growing hostility to effete Northern “elitists,” the anti-war movement, women who refused to recognize traditional patriarchal authority, and empowered minorities disrupting workplaces and intensifying corporate hostility to labor’s aspirations for better wages and improved worker rights. Workers in 1968 and 1972 slipped into a warm electoral spa with Nixon, a python sympathetically caressing their dreams as his coils squeezed them to death. Nixon, Cowie deftly points out, was the last president to view the working class in the context of their New Deal legacy of political empowerment. He invented a new chess board on which workers were neutralized as electoral threats and absorbed into the net Nixon cast over the landscape of American voters. He lured them into his New Majority by targeting the cultural-vs.-material dichotomy in the workers’ outlook, appealing to their sentimental ideal of New Deal America and blurring the financial danger his party posed to workers’ dreams for better lives.

The danger Nixon directly posed to labor’s aspirations ended with his 1974 resignation. But Ronald Reagan’s 1980 victory – secured in part with his own Nixonian seduction of working-class patriotic sentiments — worsened what Nixon began. His election followed four years of Democrat Jimmy Carter, who was never a stalwart labor ally and was hardly the mortar needed to rebuild the old alliances the civil rights and antiwar movements fractured. Economic problems sparked in the late 1960s intensified in the 1970s. Industries moved to regions that fought union organization and offered corporate-friendly employment laws. By 1980, Cowie wrote, “a unionized manufacturing job” was a precious drink of water for workers crawling across a blasted economic wasteland. The dire predicament worsened when the Reagan administration shattered the Professional Air Traffic Controllers (PATCO) strike in 1981, legitimating conservative disregard for labor as a viable element of the political calculus and exposing workers, stripped of government allies, to corporate manipulation. Cohen’s workers embarked on a journey to build new and better lives. Cowie’s workers continued the journey but failed to overcome the obstacles that moved into their path. The menagerie of groups gathered under the New Deal canopy may have simulated solidarity but they also stimulated real (if not lasting) determination among labor, even if bitter divisions negated their triumphs.

II.

One of the New Deal’s sparks ignited the civil rights movement in the 1960s and 1970s. As the working class pursued better economic lives, blacks and Latinos throughout the United States pursued liberty. David Montejano’s Quixote’s Soldiers and Jama Lazerow’s and Yohuru Williams’ In Search of the Black Panther Party both portray inspired individuals striving for the dignity of equal treatment, but the authors also refuse to portray equally inspirational coalitions that overcame every level of institutional opposition. Internal divisions, as Cohen and Cowie illustrate with their labor histories, threatened the civil rights movements at every turn.

Montejano’s three-part local history explores the multifaceted Chicano civil rights fight in San Antonio from 1966 to 1981. Chicanos targeted the “gringo supremacy” that governed the city and region. They saw Anglos dominating the social scenes and annual Fiesta events. They blamed Anglos for limiting Latino economic mobility and quality of education. The Latino movement descended from World War II and Korean War Latino veterans who returned home with legitimate expectations, particularly “first-class citizenship,” from the society they fought to defend. Social activists tried to ease the ravaging effects of gang violence and drug use on youth culture by encouraging Chicanismo or “carnalismo” — a sense of Chicano brotherhood that appreciated Latino history and aimed to improve a Latino identity unfairly associated with poverty, ignorance, and violence. Latinos demanded better schools and textbooks, and they conducted school walkouts to drive home their displeasure. They marched in the streets to protest police brutality and housing discrimination. They formed organizations like the Mexican American Youth Organization to coordinate messages, register voters, and gather participants.

Montejano considers much of San Antonio’s Chicano movement a success. But with progress came resistance. Montejano points to U.S. Rep. Henry B. Gonzalez, who saw the new fiery Chicano voices as a threat to his institutionalized power base. Like patriarchal labor leaders willing to deal with any political power that preserved their status, Gonzalez perceived Chicano protestors’ “aggressive nationalism” as disruptive to fragile local understandings and arrangements with the “gringo supremacy” and to his own ambitions. Chicanas demanded equality from the paternalistic community that expected them to remain subordinate to Chicano goals, tactics, and directions, and resistance to their demands also caused internal rifts. Women, Montejano writes, challenged male activists to extend the equality principle to their own households and “machismo” attitudes that oppressed Chicana expression and progress. The struggle echoes Cohen, who wrote that female members of the Congress of Industrial Organizations were not allowed in positions of union leadership because “the male breadwinner would represent the family’s interests in policy making.”

Lazerow and Williams take a dispersed approach to the Black Panther Party’s accomplishments and contributions. In Search of the Black Panther Party uses fourteen essays to connect their battles to a wide array of revolutionary movements within and beyond U.S. borders. Contributor Jeffrey Ogbar’s piece on Black Panther connections to Latino nationalists best illustrates their struggle in a larger racial context. The Black Panthers inspired the Chicano Brown Berets and the Puerto Rican Young Lords and Latin Kings. The aggressively vocal “black demand for equality,” embodied by Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael, also energized Latino youths who realized their demands could be heard by institutions that could address them. Black nationalist themes of “multinational alliances and cooperation” resonated with Chicanos who saw paralyzing U.S. colonialism in Central America and with Puerto Ricans in the U.S. who saw pervasive Caribbean poverty. The Black Panthers also played a uniting factor among strivers for liberty. In 1970, Ogbar explains, the Party “became the first major black organization to align itself with a women’s liberation movement,” which was seen as an Anglo cause. They later embraced the gay rights movement. The Panthers linked Latinas to bolder visions of social equality their patriarchal Chicano partners could not stomach, and they injected Black Power’s pride and dignity into the Latino movements, enriching the struggles as well as the rewards.

Social divisions often crippled the civil rights struggles. Arnold R. Hirsch’s study of white resistance to community change in Chicago from 1953 to 1966 and Thomas J. Sugrue’s study of similar disdain in Detroit from 1940 to 1964 both brutally underline the tragic consequences of unresolved racial differences among the New Deal’s descendants. Hirsch’s microstudy of a plan to move black families into Chicago’s Trumbull Park Homes and Sugrue’s local history of Detroit’s white working class illustrate how some Americans reached their economic goals and left other similar groups behind. In Chicago, whites refused to live with blacks in the same neighborhood. In Detroit, whites worried that rights for minorities threatened their workplaces, wages, schools, and communities. Social, personal, and material concerns, Hirsch and Sugrue demonstrate, mattered more than the moral struggle for equality and justice.

Americans pursued better lives and secure liberties. They also pursued happiness – fuller lives, longer lives, and healthier lives. The New Deal’s defeat of poverty and the World War II defeat of fascism primed Americans for victory in an old war at home: the fight for freedom from disease and, decades later, the fight for freedom from sexual oppression.

III.

David Oshinsky’s Polio: An American Story explores the national endeavor to eradicate the polio virus with a safe vaccine. Millions of dollars were raised. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, also a polio victim, encouraged the multi-city celebration of his birthday to raise funds for the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. He inspired women canvassing their communities for donations. Citizens and politicians worked together for the common good. A vaccine would help young and poor, of any race or religion, and prove the benefits of a democratic society free to fulfill its potential. It also showcased U.S. scientific abilities as the postwar era darkened into the Cold War era. Experts like Jonas Salk became the public face of American ingenuity. The 1954 vaccination trials offered tangible hope and a sense of progress towards an ultimate cure.

The polio story touches on race, ethnicity, and class. Before the vaccine’s development, Americans blamed immigrants for bringing disease and viewed lower-class slums as cesspools of infection. But rich and poor were struck equally. Scientists thought black Americans were less susceptible to polio, so they received less attention during outbreaks. By the mid-1950s, polio ravaged the lower classes who could not afford the three-shot-plus-booster combination.

Freedom from oppression is just as important as freedom from disease. David Allyn’s Make Love, Not War tenderly explores a sexual renaissance that ebbed and flowed from the 1960s to the 1980s, opening new social spaces for expressions of gay sexuality, experiments with group sex, sophisticated sexual education, the birth control pill, and an open sexual life.

Allyn argues that the sexual revolution changed the most important element of any sex life: the mind. Every phase of the revolution, from acceptance of sexual literature at bookstores to a woman deciding to have an abortion or control her fertility, prepared for the ground for more changes in Americans’ outlook on their times. Swinger parties were incorporated into normal suburban lives. Couples consulted illustrated sex manuals to improve their nocturnal time together. Gay Americans celebrated their desires in clubs that were no longer hidden away in shameful corners of the urban landscape. The revolution introduced to Americans a new freedom from fear, and that freedom still flourishes — and must still be defended — today.

The pursuits of life, liberty, and happiness eventually end for some as others begin the journey anew. Superior forces obstructed the revolutions’ progress. Tragic internal weaknesses, inherent or introduced at a later point, ripped apart movements’ ideological cohesion and lasting power. These works offer larger lessons and warnings to future revolutionaries and idealists: know where you want to arrive before beginning the journey, and bind yourselves tightly to your most unlikely of allies. These works silently demand perseverance, patience, and belief that the American Dream belongs to everyone. One must only fight for it, even if it means fighting other marginalized Americans. There may never be enough of the Dream for everyone.

Kate Stone’s Civil War: Baffled beasts of prey

Stone’s bitter sense of humor flashed for a moment as she dryly observed the effects of marriage on a young woman’s beauty.

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From 2012 to 2015, Stillness of Heart will share interesting excerpts from the extraordinary diary of Kate Stone, who chronicled her Louisiana family’s turbulent experiences throughout the Civil War era.

Learn more about Stone’s amazing life in 1861, 1862, 1863, 1864, 1865 and beyond. Click on each year to read more about her experiences. You can read the entire journal online here.

(Photo edited by Bob Rowen)

As Stone and her family regained their bearings in their temporary home before making the final push for Texas, Stone’s bitter sense of humor flashed for a moment as she dryly observed the effects of marriage on a young woman’s beauty.

May 3, 1863

Near Monroe, La.

We went to a real country church this morning, saw a country congregation, and heard a sermon to match. Loring Wadley made several trips with the buggy to get us all there, but two of the party rode back in Dr. Young’s $3,000 carriage. We had a pleasure today in a visit of several hours from Julia Street. She came down from Bastrop just for the day. She is more nearly depressed than I ever saw her.

Annie and Peggy got here from the salt works today, and we are glad to have somebody to wait on us again. I expect we will keep them busy. …

May 5

Near Monroe, La.

The gunboats are unable to pass Grand Gulf and are lying idle between Vicksburg and Grand Gulf, like baffled beasts of prey. There is a great scarcity of provisions all through Mississippi. It is difficult to provision Vicksburg for a long siege. …

We went yesterday to see Florence Pugh (now Mrs. Morrison), an old schoolmate. The family are near here now on their way to Texas. She is a dear, sweet girl but looks dreadful. How marrying does change a body for the worse. She was a pretty girl a year ago, fresh and dainty. Now she is married and almost ugly.

I am busy every day trying to make up the cloth Mamma bought, but it is slow, tiresome work for one person with no sewing machine. The only things Mamma could find to buy belonged to the Lowrys, and they sold them at awful prices: $60 for a pair of common blankets, $50 for a pair of linen sheets, and everything else in proportion. They have sold much of their own clothing. Mamma bought some of Olivia’s things for Sister. … It seems funny to be wearing other people’s half-worn clothing, but it is all we can get. Mamma bought some Turkey-red calico at $3 a yard for a dress for Sister.

May 10

Near Monroe, La.

Mamma returned from the salt works on Friday, riding the whole distance on horseback. It was dreadfully fatiguing for one who rides so little. She has gone this evening to Delhi to make another attempt to have the Negroes brought out, if she can get soldiers to go with Jimmy. Quite a number of Negroes have been brought out in that way recently, some from within the lines.

The news from the salt works is bad. Frank, my maid, and Dan both died of pneumonia and neglect, and three others are very ill. Poor Frank, I am sorry for her to go. She has been raised in the house with us. With so much sickness among the Negroes, Mr. Smith has been unable to start to Texas. …

Several thousand of our soldiers are now at Monroe under Maj. Gen. Walker. Two of the officers spent yesterday evening here and told us the whole command would get off this morning and that there were some splendid bands with the regiments. So this morning we rode out to the river opposite Monroe to see them off, starting before sunrise. We saw crowds of soldiers, talked to a number of them, and heard inspiring music. The ride all the way through the spring woods was delightful. I sat up until twelve the night before fixing a sort of riding habit. … The troops after embarking received counterorders and are again in Monroe, expecting to march at any minute. There is another panic in Monroe. The Yankees are looked for at any time. They could not make anything out of this poor family. We have been too thoroughly plucked by the river Feds. …

Aunt Laura is not very well. We would dread to see her get sick.