Journal of American History

Presidential Address

American Slavery in History and Memory and the Search for Social Justice

“Slavery has a greater presence in American life now than at any time since the Civil War ended,” declares Ira Berlin in his presidential address to the Organization of American Historians. Berlin traces the growing attention to slavery in American popular culture and politics. But encounters between historical analysis and charged popular memories of the past have not always gone smoothly. Berlin explores the tensions between memory and history and argues that scholarship on slavery must test memory against history’s truths and infuse history with memory’s passion. (pp. 1251–68) Read online >


“Mania Americana”: Narcotic Addiction and Modernity in the United States, 1870–1920

19th-century image of hypodermic syringes
Image reprinted from H. H. Kane, The Hypodermic Injection of Morphia.

For much of the past century, Americans have taken the concept of addiction for granted. Timothy A. Hickman uses a close reading of popular and medical texts to historicize addiction, resituating the concept in the cultural context of its emergence during the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era. He argues that bourgeois fears that modern life was eroding autonomy and willpower crystallized in the image of the passive, enervated drug addict. Hickman shows that the new discourse of addiction expressed broad cultural tensions and formed part of an ongoing struggle over modernity. (pp. 1269–94) Read online >

Co-workers in the Kingdom of Culture: Black Swan Records and the Political Economy of African American Music

Advertisement for Black Swan
Courtesy Crisis, December 1922.

In the early 1920s, the first major black-owned phonograph record company, Black Swan Records, sought to combine commercial entertainment with economic development and racial uplift. Analyzing Black Swan’s rapid rise and fall, David Suisman illuminates the intimate connections among cultural production, economics, and African American politics in the early twentieth century. His work highlights W. E. B. Du Bois’s involvement with the company, but he also shows that a broad cross section of African American leaders, including followers of Booker T. Washington, socialists, and black nationalists, supported black business development. Suisman uses a close-up of Black Swan to explore the racial politics of the culture industries and the tensions between “serious” music—a cherished symbol of respectability—and popular music (especially blues) at the beginning of the Jazz Age. (pp. 1295–324) Read online >

For suggestions on how to use Suisman’s article in the United States history classroom, along with rare Black Swan recordings and advertisements, see our “Teaching the JAH” Web project.

Round Table

History’s Ethical Crisis

In the last few years, public accounts of misconduct by historians have raised questions about professional ethics: Is unethical conduct on the rise among historians? Does the profession face an ethical crisis? What are the central ethicalconcerns for historians today? How can we develop and sustain ethical standards for the profession? In our round table, “History’s Ethical Crisis,” the scholars Elliott J. Gorn, Michael Grossberg, Richard Wightman Fox, Joyce Seltzer, and Emma J. Lapsansky explore how current controversies challenge prevailing ways of teaching, reading, writing, and publishing history.

  • History’s Ethical Crisis: An Introduction, by Joanne Meyerowitz (pp. 1325–26) Read online >
  • The Historians’ Dilemma, by Elliott J. Gorn (pp. 1327–32) Read online >
  • Plagiarism and Professional Ethics—A Journal Editor’s View, by Michael Grossberg (pp. 1333–40) Read online >
  • A Heartbreaking Problem of Staggering Proportions, by Richard Wightman Fox (pp. 1341–46) Read online >
  • Honest History, by Joyce Seltzer (pp. 1347–50) Read online >
  • An Honor System for Historians? by Emma J. Lapsansky (pp. 1351–56) Read online >

Special Essay

Jack-in-the-Box Faith: The Religion Problem in Modern American History

Is God dead in modern American history? Jon Butler argues that historical scholarship on the United States since 1870 often treats religion as more anomalous than normal and more innocuous than powerful. Reviewing recent work on the history of American religion, Butler refutes the assumption that “secularization” prevailed after 1870. His essay outlines the continuing importance of religion in American politics and the ability of religion to adapt to the challenges of modernity. Religion, Butler contends, is a complicated, indelible feature of American culture that historians ignore at their analytical peril. (pp. 1357–78) Read online >

Textbooks & Teaching

Editors’ Introduction: “‘Will That Be on the Exam?’ The Role of Testing in Teaching and Learning American History,” by Gary J. Kornblith and Carol Lasser (pp. 1379–80) Read online >

“We Are Not Ready to Assess History Performance,” by Richard Rothstein (pp. 1381–91) Read online >

“Document-Based Question: What Is the Historical Significance of the Advanced Placement Test?” by Timothy A. Hacsi (pp. 1392–1400) Read online >

“Crazy for History,” by Sam Wineburg (pp. 1401–14) Read online >

Book Reviews

March 2004, Vol. 90 No. 4

Alphabetical by the last name of the book's first author or editor.


Web site Reviews

Web site reviews are available without a subscription.

  • Colonial Williamsburg, by Joyce Chaplin (p. 1555) Read online >
  • Monticello: The Home of Thomas Jefferson, by Jan Lewis (p. 1556) Read online >
  • Our Documents: A National Initiative on American History, Civics, and Service, by Timothy Patrick McCarthy and John McMillian (p. 1557) Read online >
  • Maine Memory Network, by Laurie Mercier (p. 1558) Read online >
  • Forest, Fields, and the Falls: Connecting Minnesota, by Marjorie Mclellan (p.1559) Read online >
  • What Exit? New Jersey and Its Turnpike, by Howard Gillette Jr. (p. 1559) Read online >

Letters to the Editor


Recent Scholarship

“Recent Scholarship” is available online, Read online >

Contents of Volume 90

Index to Volume 90

thumbnail of cover

On the cover:

This 1922 Black Swan catalog, featuring the singer Eddie Gray, highlights the company’s role as an alternative to white-owned record companies. Black Swan, the first major record company owned by African Americans, championed African American recording artists in an attempt to establish solidarity with its target audience. Courtesy Mainspring Press. See David Suisman, “Co-workers in the Kingdom of Culture: Black Swan Records and the Political Economy of African American Music,” p. 1295.

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