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What We’re Reading

Asst. Dean of Libraries and Learning Resources Group Peter Blackmer shares some of his recent favorite readings from the Bailey/Howe Library collection. Peter is pursuing his third advanced degree at UVM, in history.

Local People book cover

Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi by John Dittmer
Dittmer challenges the persistently popular notions that the struggle for civil rights happened at a national level. This book refocuses on unfamiliar Mississippi towns and counties, and the everyday citizens as agents of social change. Portraits of common folks resisting commonplace bigotry and finding ways to build networks of common goals bring this history to life. Amidst the horrors of the last days of legalized segregation there are incredibly hopeful people. This book makes me want to go to Mississippi and eat roadside barbecue.

The Marketplace of Revolution book cover

The Marketplace of Revolution: How Consumer Politics Shaped American Independence by T. H. Breen
Breen’s argument is that commercial networks between England and the American Colonies, established prior to 1776, became a means of politicizing rebellion. The Commercial Revolution of the 18th century created and relied upon a vast network of exchange whereby English goods – china, fabrics, and manufactured goods – were distributed to the 13 American colonies. The network gave a common experience to otherwise independent northern and southern economies. After the French and Indian Wars, when the English crown imposed new taxation on colonists, this commercial network of exchange was readymade distribution for a new political resistance. Boycotts of English goods galvanized colonists across geography and social standing. Breen’s book helps flesh out a picture of American independence, beyond the compelling political arguments to the necessary mechanisms of social cohesion and identity.

A is for American book cover

A Is for American: Letters and Other Characters in the Newly United States by Jill Lepore
Lepore’s book is a set of fascinating portraits of Americans of the Early Republic, who argued for, and attempted to create a democratized language for the new United States. Noah Webster’s Americanization of English spelling – “shoppe” versus “shop”, “colour” versus “color” – created new a kind of accessibility of literacy that the “the King’s English” never attempted or even concerned itself with. The chapters on the Native American known as Sequoyah, the inventor of the Cherokee alphabet, and Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, an early educator of the deaf and a pioneer of American Sign Language are other examples of what Lepore argues as the ways in which language, letters, and symbols created a new American culture. This book is particularly meaningful to me because the school founded by Gallaudet, The American School for the Deaf, is where my 14 year old niece is an eighth grade student.

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