On Monday, I had the great privilege of delivering a talk at Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library under the title of "The House at Four Corners." I spoke with staff members and other Winterthur associates in a room called the Charleston Dining Room. I discussed the history of the room—that is, the room's carved wall panels and windows—in the context of the lives of the family who once owned the hotel from which it came. I also wrote a post for Winterthur's blog.
The talk was related to a book project I have in its early stages, in which the story of the hotel (and the stories of the Charleston family who established it) will frame a story about black identity, African American nationhood, and the struggle to resist racism and articulate an inclusive vision for American society before the Civil War.
I was invited to contribute to a roundtable on "Teaching in the Age of Trump" for The Panorama, the blog of the Journal of the Early Republic. I wrote from my viewpoint as an adjunct, trying to address some of the cognitive dissonance I often perceive when professors articulate their political role.
The Institute of Historical Research has published my review of Tyler Anbinder's City of Dreams: The 400-Year Epic History of Immigrant New York.
As I note in the review, I'm not persuaded that "immigrant" is the best term for New York colonial settlers of the seventeenth or even eighteenth centuries, at least when the term is applied across eras this way. The first five chapters of City of Dreams almost seem to belong to a different book. Nevertheless, it is useful to have a sweeping history like this.
One of the reasons this book is useful in the present moment, as I note, is that it "slowly builds a case against a central idea of contemporary American nativist rhetoric: that earlier immigrants were different from today's, assimilating more easily, working harder, respecting the law more, sharing more values with the native population, or being less assertive. Anbinder decisively refutes this notion, at least with respect to New York."
On April 7 in New Orleans, I had the privilege of presenting a paper at the 2017 annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians. It was part of a panel solicited by the Society for U.S. Intellectual History, called "Bonds of Reflection: Tracing the Imagined Community in Early America."
Jessica Parr, Eran Zelnik, Andrew Shocket, and I (with comments in absentia by Margaret Sankey) discussed metaphors by which to understand the intellectual relationships that knit together various communities or publics in early America. My paper, entitled "Exploring the Early American Intellectual Archipelago, 1783-1815: Booksellers' Newspaper Advertisements in Port Towns," expanded on part of my dissertation work to make a case for the importance of understanding the early republic book trade as a thoroughly maritime business.
This was my first time at an OAH annual meeting. It was great to spend some time in New Orleans (in a week with perfect weather), to catch up with friends I had not seen in a long time, and to meet some longtime social media friends in person.
On March 31, I attended a session of the Upstate Early American History Workshop at Binghamton University, having been invited to serve as commentator for a discussion of a manuscript by John Wood Sweet. That paper, which focuses on sexual assault case and subsequent seduction lawsuit from New York in the 1790s, also serves as a fascinating window into the intricacies of evolving Anglo-American law and the ways it upheld assumptions of patriarchal power in the early republic—even as women and men used the law in creative ways to seek justice. It was a great privilege to take part in such an absorbing discussion and to get to meet John Sweet.