Previewing the September 2022 JCWE Issue

Previewing the September 2022 JCWE Issue

This issue includes one original article, two very interesting lectures, a review essay, and the usual slate of excellent book reviews that together continue to expand our understanding of the field, its key actors, and its central questions.

The first of the published lectures is Thavolia Glymph’s acceptance speech for her Tom Watson Brown Award–winning book, The Women’s Fight: The Civil War’s Battles for Home, Freedom, and Nation. She delivered the speech during the Southern Historical Association’s virtual annual meeting on November 5, 2021. Glymph’s lecture captures her book’s argument that Black women, despite assertions to the contrary in the literature, are highly visible in the archives historians already use. Glymph’s essay both crystallizes one of her book’s broadest arguments and offers examples of how historians can work with the existing archives of Black women’s lives.

The next essay is Louis P. Masur’s Robert Fortenbaugh Memorial Lecture, “Abraham Lincoln and the Problem of Reconstruction.” This was the Fifty-ninth Fortenbaugh Lecture, delivered at Gettysburg College’s Civil War Institute on November 19, 2021. Masur draws on his books, especially Lincoln’s Last Speech: Wartime Reconstruction and the Crisis of Reunion, to reexamine the Civil War history of the issues that became central during Reconstruction and to advance ideas about Lincoln’s potential trajectory, had he lived.

Evan Turiano’s “‘Prophecies of Loss’: Slave Flight during Virginia’s Secession Crisis” explores how slave escapes became a political issue during Virginia’s struggle over secession. Through close readings of speeches, newspaper accounts, and other sources, Turiano captures how unionists, early in the debate, argued that secession would open the door to increased flight by enslaved people. Yet as the debate progressed, secessionists reconfigured the argument, drawing attention to Lincoln’s critiques of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act and suggesting that he would likely be an unreliable enforcer of it. Throughout, Turiano embeds the stories of fugitive enslaved people to show how their actions, not just their invocation, mattered in the debate.

Richard Bell’s review essay, “Peepholes, Eels, and Pickett’s Charge: Doing Microhistory Then and Now,” examines the relationship between microhistory and the Civil War Era. Bell discusses the ongoing, now fifty-year-old debates about what microhistory is, beyond a tight focus on a small subject. Bell also asks which works in Civil War Era scholarship are microhistory, whether they acknowledge it or not, and what the field could gain by self-consciously adopting microhistorical approaches.

The book review section continues to be a source of pride for the journal, and we remain grateful for book review editor Kathryn Shively’s dedication in the face of pandemic-related challenges in publishing and academia. We also thank Northwestern University’s Department of History, which has provided financial support for the book review section over the past year, and Mikala Stokes, a PhD candidate at Northwestern, who has assisted Shively in producing the section. 

Kate Masur and Greg Downs

Kate Masur is an associate professor at Northwestern University, specializing in the history of the nineteenth-century United States, focusing on how Americans grappled with questions of race and equality after the abolition of slavery. Greg Downs, who studies U.S. political and cultural history in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, is a professor of history at University of California--Davis. Together they edited an essay collection on the Civil War titled The World the Civil War Made (North Carolina, 2015), and they currently co-edit The Journal of the Civil War Era.

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