Journal of American History


Roger B. Taney and the Slavery Issue: Looking beyond—and before—Dred Scott

This 1849 oil painting of Chief Justice Roger B. Taney by Miner Kilbourne Kellogg portrays Taney as a youthful-looking, serene jurist, quill in hand, as he contemplates writing a legal opinion. In some ways, the portrait reflects Taney’s reputation before the controversial 1857 Dred Scott decision, a time when he was nearly universally liked and respected. Courtesy Library Company of the Baltimore Bar.
Courtesy Library Company of the Baltimore Bar.

Roger B. Taney, the author of the majority opinion in the Dred Scott case, stands out as arguably the most proslavery member of the nineteenth-century Supreme Court. His rhetoric regarding black citizenship (“they have no rights”) and his unqualified commitment to slaveholders’ property rights exemplified his extremism. But Taney had not always voiced support for slavery: as a young Maryland lawyer he had opposed the institution in both word and deed. Examining Taney’s early antislavery record, Timothy S. Huebner traces how, when, and why Taney’s views evolved and eventually hardened over the decades. Significantly, Huebner argues, Taney’s personal and professional ideological trajectory mirrored changes in the national constitutional and political debate over slavery. (pp. 17–38) Read online >

Suicide, Slavery, and Memory in North America

The American Anti-Slavery Almanac for 1838 illustrated the suicide of the slave Paul, who, according to fellow slave Charles Ball, had “suffered so much in slavery that he chose to encounter the hardships and perils of a runaway. He exposed himself, in gloomy forests, to cold and starvation, and finally hung himself, that he might not again fall into the hands of his tormentor.” Nathaniel Southard, ed., American Anti-Slavery Almanac for 1838 (Boston, 1838), 13. Courtesy Huntington Library, San Marino, California.
Courtesy Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

The act of suicide by enslaved peoples raised a number of issues for early North Americans, and Terri L. Snyder explores its changing temperamental, cultural, and political meanings. In her examination of the intersection of suicide and slavery, she evaluates the evidence historians use to study suicide—a relatively understudied subject in American history—and analyzes slave self-destruction from the perspective of involved onlookers, whether slave traders or abolitionists; the ecologies, beyond resistance, that fostered self-destruction in slaves; and the memories of suicide among ex-slaves and descendants of slaves. Capturing this interplay among perceptions, ecology, and memory, Snyder argues, is necessary to historicize suicide and comprehend its multiple meanings over the long sweep of slavery in North America. (pp. 39–62) Read online >

Listen to an interview with Terri L. Snyder about this article in the JAH Podcast.

“Red Cross, Double Cross”: Race and America’s World War II—Era Blood Donor Service

Pfc. Harvey White gives blood plasma to Pvt. Roy Humphrey on August 9, 1943, in Sicily. The plasma came from individual donations made in the United States through the Red Cross Blood Donor Service. Courtesy National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Branch (RG 111, series SC, no. 178198).
Courtesy National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Branch (RG 111, series SC, no. 178198).

America’s World War II—era Blood Donor Service collected blood and plasma from millions of donors, shipped it to service personnel fighting overseas, and saved countless lives. And yet the program first excluded African American donors from taking part and then, only after wide-ranging protest and growing demand for blood, accepted them, but solely on a segregated basis. At least officially, Jim Crow blood policies, targeted exclusively at African Americans, remained in place for the entire war and several years beyond. Thomas A. Guglielmo explores this oft-repeated but little-understood blood story, arguing that it sheds light on the surging wartime black freedom struggle, the early roots of non-essentialist forms of racism, and the multiracial messiness of state-sanctioned color lines. (pp. 63–90) Read online >

From People’s Car to New Beetle: The Transatlantic Journeys of the Volkswagen Beetle

While numerous scholars have drawn attention to America’s post—World War II cultural prominence in Western Europe as an important source of the nation’s “soft power,” Western Europe’s cultural influence on postwar American society has received far less consideration. Identifying the Volkswagen Beetle as a symbolic messenger between West Germany and the United States, Bernhard Rieger examines the cultural, political, and economic dimensions of Americans’ receptivity to European products in the 1950s and 1960s. When understood as a transnational icon, Rieger argues, the Beetle sheds new light on how shared cultural reference points emerged on both sides of the Atlantic and helped consolidate the Western alliance during the Cold War and retained potency beyond the watershed year of 1989. (pp. 91–115) Read online >

Exhibition Reviews

After passing through “The Sixties,” the introductory section of the Museum at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, visitors arrive at the “Bus Experience,” the focal point of the museum’s next section, “The Woodstock Festival Is Born.” Courtesy Bethel Woods Center for the Arts.
Courtesy Bethel Woods Center for the Arts.
  • “Pullman Porters: From Service to Civil Rights”, by Stephen Kercher (pp. 117–20) Read online >
  • Olde Mill House Gallery and Printing Museum, by Tammy Gordon (pp. 120–23) Read online >
  • “The Psychedelic Experience: Rock Posters from the San Francisco Bay Area, 1965—1971”, by Steve Boyd-Smith (pp. 123–27) Read online >
  • The Museum at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts: The Story of the Sixties and Woodstock, by Daniel Spock (pp. 127–31) Read online >
  • Tampa Bay History Center, by Mark Howard Long (pp. 131–35) Read online >
  • United States Immigration Station, Angel Island Detention Barracks, by Patrick Ettinger (pp. 135–40) Read online >

Book Reviews

June 2010, Vol. 97 No. 1

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


Movie Reviews

  • Amelia, by Judith E. Smith (pp. 274–77) Read online >
  • The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers, by Stephen J. Whitfield (pp. 277–79) Read online >
  • Taking Woodstock, by Glenn C. Altschuler and Robert O. Summers (pp. 279–81) Read online >
  • Capitalism: A Love Story, by Andrew J. Douglas (pp. 281—82) Read online >
  • Hollywood Chinese: The Chinese in American Feature Films, by Christina Klein (pp. 282–84) Read online >
  • Joan Baez: How Sweet the Sound, by Paul Buhle (pp. 284–85) Read online >
  • The People v. Leo Frank, by Matthew H. Bernstein (pp. 285–87) Read online >

Web Site Reviews

Web Site reviews are available without a subscription.

  • The Presidential Elections, 1860–1912, by Ballard Campbell (pp. 288–89) Read online >
  • Museum of the City of New York: Byron Company Collection On Line, by Suzanne Wasserman (pp. 289–90) Read online >
  • Urban Experience in Chicago: Hull-House and Its Neighboorhoods, 1880–1963 and
    Jane Addams Hull-House Museum by Meg Meneghel MacDonald (pp. 290–91) Read online >
  • The American Family Immigration History Center by Hasia Diner and Shira Kohn (pp. 291–92) Read online >

Letters to the Editor


Recent Scholarship

View “Recent Scholarship” listing online >

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

cover image

On the cover:

On December 19, 1815, in Washington, D.C., the slave Anna jumped out of the garret window of a three-story brick building and survived. Her story illustrates how family separation and slave suicide were linked in abolitionist literature: “They brought me away with two of my children, and wouldn’t let me see my husband. They didn’t sell my husband, and I didn’t want to go. I was so confus’d and distracted that I didn’t know hardly what I was about, but I didn’t want to go, and I jumped out of the window. But I am sorry now that I did it. They have carried my children off with ’em to Carolina.” Jesse Torrey, A Portraiture of Domestic Slavery, in the United States, with Reflections on the Practicability of Restoring the Moral Rights of the Slave, without Impairing the Legal Privileges of the Possessor (Philadelphia, 1817), 43. Courtesy Huntington Library, San Marino, California. Terri L. Snyder, “Suicide, Slavery, and Memory in North America,” p. 39.

Recent Issues

Icon Downarrow Full Text

The full text of the Journal of American History (1914–current) is available online to members of the OAH and to institutions that subscribe to the print versions of the journal. Electronic access is provided by Oxford University Press.

Icon Downarrow Subscribe to the JAH

A subscription to the JAH is one of the many benefits available to members of the Organization of American Historians (oah). To join the oah and receive the JAH, complete and submit a membership application at the oah Web site.

Icon Downarrow Purchase a Single Issue

Selected current and back issues of the JAH are available both as single issues and for large quantities, at volume pricing. For more information, please visit Oxford University Press