Journal of American History


“The Cause of Her Grief”: The Rape of a Slave in Early New England

In the essay that won the 2006 Louis Pelzer Award, Wendy Anne Warren tells the story of a rape—the rape of an enslaved African woman on an island in Boston Harbor in 1638. That assault, the outcome of an early attempt at breeding slaves in seventeenth-century Boston, calls our attention to the importance of African slavery and transatlantic connections to colonial New England. The fragmentary nature of the evidence raises larger questions concerning the nature of history itself. In seeking to re-create the life of an individual woman based on this singular incident, the author challenges the difference between fact and fiction, asking when speculation crosses the boundaries of scholarly history. (pp. 1031–49) Read online >

“A Rare Phenomenon of Philological Vegetation”: The Word “Contraband” and the Meanings of Emancipation in the United States

Image excerpted from The Old Contraband. Song and Chorus,words by John L. Zieber, music by Rudolph Wittig (Philadelphia, 1865).
Courtesy Brown University.

Many students of history are familiar with the story of how, at the beginning of the Civil War, Gen. Benjamin Butler of the Union army designated escaping slaves as “contraband of war.” But historians have not previously considered how and why the term “contraband” leapt instantly into popular culture and became a crucial part of Americans’ vocabulary of race and servitude during the war. Examining representations of contrabands in journalism, music, art, fiction, and other cultural forms, Kate Masur argues that northerners, black and white, used the term as a medium in which to express their views on the prospect of slave emancipation and on the character, needs, and desires of the nascent freedpeople. (pp. 1050–84) Read online >

The Passion of Sacco and Vanzetti: A Global History

McGirr Article Image
Courtesy Boston Public Library.

Between 1921 and 1927, the U.S. trial of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti became a cause célèbre among international radicals, labor movement activists, and intellectuals as well as the popular masses. Lisa McGirr explores the dynamics of the worker-led and worldwide protests, both at the time of the trial and during the subsequent memorialization of the two Italian anarchists, to capture a unique moment of transnational solidarity. These social movements—prominent in the case yet often ignored in the scholarship—hold the potential to situate the United States globally. As this fresh perspective demonstrates, the case underscores the nation’s global connections as well as heightened international fears over the emerging power of the United States. (pp. 1085–1115) Read online >

Round Table

American Military History

  • “Mind and Matter—Cultural Analysis in American Military History: A Look at the State of the Field,”
    Wayne E. Lee (pp. 1116–42) Read online >
  • “Military History, Democracy, and the Role of the Academy,”
    Tami Davis Biddle (pp. 1143–45) Read online >
  • “Mind and Matter: The Practice of Military History with Reference to Britain and Southeast Asia,”
    Brian P. Farrell (pp. 1146–50) Read online >
  • “In Search of the American Way of War: The Need for a Wider National and International Context,”
    Marc Milner (pp. 1151–53) Read online >
  • “American Military History: The Need for Comparative Analysis,”
    Brian Holden Reid (pp. 1154–57) Read online >
  • “Teetering on the Brink of Respectability,”
    Ronald H. Spector (pp. 1158–60) Read online >
  • “A Final Word,”
    Wayne E. Lee (pp. 1161–62) Read online >

Textbooks & Teaching

Image from Unger's article
Courtesy William Lipsky.

To consult syllabi for courses described in this “Textbooks & Teaching” section, along with other supplementary material and the full text of the article, visit

  • “‘Pivoting the Center’: Diverse Surveys of American History,” by Gary J. Kornblith and Carol Lasser (pp. 1163–64) Read online >
  • “Recasting the Narrative of America: The Rewards and Challenges of Teaching American Indian History,” by Ned Blackhawk (pp. 1165–70) Read online >
  • “Black History Is American History: Teaching African American History in the Twenty-first Century,” by Allison Dorsey (pp. 1171–77) Read online >
  • “Exposing the Price of Ignorance: Teaching Asian American History in Michigan,” by Scott Kurashige (pp. 1178–85) Read online >
  • “Playing the Pivot: Teaching Latina/o History in Good Times and Bad,” by Pablo Mitchell (pp. 1186–91) Read online >
  • “Teaching ‘Straight’ Gay and Lesbian History,” by Nancy C. Unger (pp. 1192–99) Read online >

Book Reviews

March 2007, Vol. 93 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.

  • Women Working, 1800–1930, by Janice L. Reiff (pp. 1334–35) Read online >
  • The Crisis of the Union: An Electronic Archive about the Causes, Conduct, and Consequences of the US Civil War, by Aaron Sheehan-Dean (pp. 1335–36) Read online >
  • Illinois during the Gilded Age, by Richard S. Schneirov (pp. 1336–37) Read online >
  • Unified Vision: The Architecture and Design of the Prairie School, by John F. Quinan (p. 1337) Read online >
  • Poetic Waves: Angel Island, by Erika Lee (p. 1338) Read online >
  • CongressLink, by Raymond W. Smock (pp. 1338–39) 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

On the cover:

In the series of three paintings that begins with this image, Thomas Waterman Wood represented an escaping slave’s transformation from “contraband” into soldier and veteran. Thomas Waterman Wood, The Contraband. Oil on canvas, 1865. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Charles Stewart Smith, 1884 (84.12a). Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art. See Kate Masur, “‘A Rare Phenomenon of Philological Vegetation’: The Word ‘Contraband’ and the Meanings of Emancipation in the United States,” p. 1050.

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