Journal of American History


The Politics of “More”: The Labor Question and the Idea of Economic Liberty in Industrial America

John Bates Clark (right) stands with his fellow economist Frank Albert Fetter, c. 1930. Though the two men differed in their theoretical approaches, both called for economists to consider the role of desire in creating value. Courtesy Warren J. Samuels Portrait Collection, Duke University.
Courtesy Duke University.

The growth of large-scale industry and underconsumption caused bitter labor conflicts and economic instability during the Gilded Age. The solution to this dilemma, argued both President Samuel Gompers of the American Federation of Labor and a new generation of economists eager to shape national response to “the labor question,” lay in granting workers’ demands for “more.” More was, in part, an economic demand for higher wages and shorter hours for workers. More income and leisure time would also, economists and labor spokesmen predicted, help alleviate the problem of underconsumption. Rosanne Currarino shows that Gompers and the economists understood more as an answer to an even broader array of social crises because demands for it were also demands for “all” that was “essential to the exercise and enjoyment of liberty.” (pp. 17–36) Read online >

Law and Mass Politics in the Making of the Civil Rights Lawyer, 1931–1941

Former National Bar Association president Raymond Pace Alexander, assisted by Frank Marolla, secured the acquittal of Stella Alfonsi in a high-profile 1939 Philadelphia murder trial. For Alexander and his colleagues at the black bar, litigation was a public performance that made them especially open to the radicals’ tactics. Left to right: Marolla, Alfonsi, Alexander. Courtesy University of Pennsylvania Archives.
Courtesy University of Pennsylvania Archives.

What was the role of law and lawyers in the civil rights movement? Recent work has emphasized a tension between the legal strategies of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (naacp) and a commitment to mass movement politics and economic populism. Kenneth W. Mack takes up this question by examining the everyday lives and litigation performances of depression-era black lawyers affiliated with the naacp. Responding to the critics on their left, the lawyers fashioned a new professional identity that melded the naacp’s traditional approaches and concerns with a commitment to mass democratic politics. (pp. 37–62) Read online >

Recreation and Race in the Postwar City: Buffalo’s 1956 Crystal Beach Riot

The Magic Palace fun house at the center of Crystal Beach amusement park, on the Canadian side of Lake Erie across from Buffalo, New York, exemplifies an era when jets of air lifted women’s skirts and customers tumbled down the “magic carpet” upon exiting. When this photograph was taken around 1970, both the fun house and Ferris wheel showed their age. Courtesy Victoria Wolcott.
Courtesy Victoria Wolcott.

Much of the work of racial integration after World War II was done, not by organized activists, but by young African American consumers. That was especially true as black migration and white flight increased spatial segregation in American cities and young African Americans demanded inclusion at sites of commercial recreation. Victoria W. Wolcott argues that teenagers were on the front lines of mid-twentieth-century racial conflict. She uses a 1956 riot in an amusement park near Buffalo, New York, to suggest that controversies over juvenile delinquency masked more profound racial struggles over public space in American cities. (pp. 63–90) Read online >

“Lift Up Yr Self!”: Reinterpreting Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones), Black Power, and the Uplift Tradition

After arriving in Greenwich Village in 1957, LeRoi Jones quickly entered the artistic circle around Gregory Corso, Allen Ginsberg, and Jack Kerouac. By 1965, however, Jones had renounced his status as “die schwartze Bohemien” among these beat luminaries. Jones’s relocation to Harlem marked his adoption of a separatist politics. Photograph by Leroy McLucas, 1960. Courtesy Photographs and Prints Division, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations.
Courtesy New York Public Library.

Looking beyond the sensational postures and inflammatory rhetoric of the black power movement, historians have begun to analyze it as a political response to the crisis in American cities during the 1960s and 1970s and an intensification of previous African American demands for self-determination and self-defense. In a study of the experiences of the writer and activist Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones), Daniel Matlin argues that black power’s masculine ideal was not anarchic and devoid of social responsibility. Instead, Baraka and other black power activists appropriated and embellished the patriarchal masculine ideal of “protecting and providing” that had long characterized the African American “uplift tradition.” (pp. 91–116) Read online >

Review Essay

Can History Be Open Source? Wikipedia and the Future of the Past

Wikipedia today: The current home page for Wikipedia reflects the scale of the project (more than 1 million English-language articles) and its multiple languages.

The online encyclopedia Wikipedia has become the largest source of historical writing on the Internet, the most widely read work of digital history, and the most important free historical resource on the Web. Tens of thousands of people—most of them nonprofessionals and all of them volunteers—have written it collaboratively. This makes Wikipedia the most important application of the principles of the free and open-source software movement to the world of cultural production. Roy Rosenzweig offers a preliminary assessment of Wikipedia for professional historians, considering the quality of the historical writing; the way its entries are written, rewritten, and debated; and its implications for our practice as scholars, teachers, and purveyors of the past to the general public. (pp. 117–146) Read online >

Exhibition Reviews

Karen Morita, a member of the group San Jose Taiko, demonstrates the energy of taiko drumming 
during a performance at the San Jose (California) Buddhist Church Betsuin Obon Festival, July 12, 1997. Photo by Michael Olwyler. Courtesy Michael Olwyler and San Jose Taiko.
Courtesy Michael Olwyler and San Jose Taiko.
  • “Clash of Empires: The British, French, & Indian War, 1754–1763,” by Carolyn Gilman (pp. 147–49) Read online >
  • “In Service and Beyond: Domestic Work and Life in a Gilded Age Mansion”; and “From Morning to Night: Domestic Service in the Gilded Age South,” by Catherine Dean (pp. 150–1) Read online >
  • “The Way We Worked,” by Adam J. Hodges (pp. 152–55) Read online >
  • “Resistance or Terrorism? The 1970 Sterling Hall Bombing,” by Timothy C. Glines (pp. 156–57) Read online >
  • “Big Drum: Taiko in the United States,” by Masumi Izumi (pp. 158–60) Read online >
  • “Behind the Magic: Fifty Years of Disneyland,” by Kristin Hass (pp. 161–62) Read online >
  • “The Public Vaults,” by Laura Burd Schiavo (pp. 163–65) Read online >
  • Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture; and “A Slave Ship Speaks: The Wreck of the Henrietta Marie,” by Mary Beth Corrigan (pp. 166–70) Read online >
  • StoryCorps, by Peter Lamothe and Andrew Horowitz (pp. 171–74) Read online >

Book Reviews

June 2006, Vol. 93 No. 1

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


Web site Reviews

Web site reviews are available without a subscription.

  • Berkeley Digital Map Collection; Osher Map Library; and Federal Township Plats of Illinois, 1804–1891, by David J. Bodenhamer (pp. 304–5) Read online >
  • The Wilbur and Orville Wright Papers at the Library of Congress, by Tom D. Crouch (p. 306) Read online >
  • North American Women’s Letters and Diaries: Colonial Times to 1950, by Ann Fabian (p. 306) Read online >
  • National Postal Museum, by David Hochfelder (p. 307) Read online >
  • Jews in America: Our Story, by Daniel Greene (p. 308) Read online >

Letters to the Editor


Recent Scholarship

Browse “Recent Scholarship” listing >

Recent Scholarship is available as a searchable database, Recent Scholarship Online >

Cover Image June 2006

On the cover:

Samuel Gompers (second from right) was an enthusiastic cyclist. During his trip to London in 1895, he joined the leader of the 1889 London dock strike, Benjamin Tillett (second from left), and two others for a ride. Gompers frequently argued that such leisure activities were essential if workers were to enjoy lives “commensurate with the civilization of our time.” Courtesy George Meany Memorial Archives. See Rosanne Currarino, “The Politics of ‘More’: The Labor Question and the Idea of Economic Liberty in Industrial America,” p. 17.

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