Riley-White House as a black box

Riley’s work looks at the lack of documents that have come out of the White House since the 1970’s, due largely to the numerous EO (executive orders) that have been implemented in the last four decades. Whereas many former presidents would donate documents to the National archives (within reason, of course, some things have to remain classified for various reasons), many historians/reporters/political scientists must now rely on public speeches or appearances in order to have some notion of what is occurring in the White House. These speeches/appearances are very limited as compared to what is actually occurring in the executive branch (and change or are updated frequently), they do allow historians/ political scientists to see what is occurring. Memoirs are helpful for looking at an event/president and can contain a mixture of presidential knowledge but also the general notes on the time.
For those who get their information elsewhere, including WH/ house reps/ etc., it can often be a tricky situation regarding the ultimate authenticity of them. While some leaked news is false due to rumors, other leaked news may be totally true but officials may step in and claim it as unauthentic which makes it hard to have a genuine discussion about it until it is proven otherwise.

Lyon-Jenness- “Bergamot Balm and Verbenas”

This piece looks at the use of ornamental plants by residents of the mid-west as both social marker, but also as something with personal significance. LJ looks at three interconnected families (The Lawrence’s, Buell’s, and Copely’s) in the Violinia township in Michigan. Certain plants and ultimately the care of those plants had attained various symbolic meanings not only in the town but also nationally. Homeowners who took care of their gardens, shrubs, and trees were seen as well-meaning, educated, and overall as socially acceptable people. Various ornamentations also represented the wealth that some families had (or wanted others to perceive) by their choice of flower/trees/ grass/etc. Many were able to purchase seeds from out of state giving them a far greater variety to choose from which also showed the countries budding industrialism.

Tree’s were especially important during this period as they created a more appealing landscape during both summer and winter. The government of Michigan encouraged families to plant trees along roadsides (making it a law and then providing a tax break to families who lived along various rural roads) and during the countries centennial event. The growing or exchanging of plants was often seen as a community building as groups would come together to purchase and distribute seeds, but individuals would also create bonds through exchanges.

The plants allowed for families to have a distraction from farming. While farming was labor intensive and required for many’s survival, the tending of flowers/trees were not which allowed it to be more enjoyable and desired. Where men/boys would often have to do the labor that came along with the pruning and pruning of trees/shrubs, the men/boys would also aid with the tending of the garden beds (Women/girls would also at times aid with the leave raking and sod filling). Some women cared greatly for their plants and flowers, often moving their plants between the house and garden depending on the season while doing their best to assure the survival of strictly outdoor plants (like roses).

Heathcott- Accidental Archives

After finding several fragmented archives between a laundry shoot and bar, Joseph Heathcott (the homeowner), discusses the history of not only his home but also the neighborhood and city in his work. The fragments, left by the Aufderheide family, gave a peek into the middle-class life of German-American families during the first quarter of the twentieth century. Heathcott notes the influence of the German population on the city of St. Louis but primarily the neighborhood of Tower Grove, as they shared some of their liberal views they were able to introduce several public elementary and high schools in addition to a school for deaf children.
In discussing the middle-class neighborhood, he does not forget to mention the tenement housing in the north of town where many of the recent immigrants and African Americans reside. Heathcott does note the architecture of the house, indicating that many of the middle-class homes had an additional room and staircase for those who lived in the house and provided domestic aid. He also notes the use of some artisan goods on the outside of the home such as stain glass and metalwork, while noting the extensive amount of mass-produced material for the interior. Mass produced products not only made up the house, but they also filled the house regarding clothes and gadgets (most of them produced by immigrants in factories). Many of the residents on the street rented out a room or the house to couples or older people, which provided an additional source of income for many of the white-collar workers. One thing that interested me was upon the initial house purchase the name on the deed was the wife (Agnes) as opposed to the husband (W.D.), which slightly confused me due not only to the national gender norms of the time but also of the German-American culture.
These white-collar, middle-class families were able to spend more time and money on mass-produced goods and leisure activities during this time. It was easier to purchase clothing, and therefore styles began to change faster than before, and advertisements pushed the changing fashion season.
The final few pages of the work look at the change among German-Americans during the First World War. Many changed claimed their parents were from the US (as opposed to say Germany or Austria. This removal of a homeland or name change may have erased/voided the history of some families? Some families would be hesitant to claim German heritage and therefore forgo traditions which then became lost of that family.). Overall, many Germany-Americans during this time began to focus more on American patriotism rather than on German heritage.

Alisha Gaines “Empathy in the Age of Trump”- EC

“Empathy in the Age of Trump” was an incredibly interesting talk given by Alisha Gaines. She began the talk by discussing how the election of Trump led to many white Americans wanting to state that they were not racists, essentially that they were not like the other part of the white population that had voted for Trump. Where people were trying to show their allyship, it was instead turning race and empathy into a commodity (and instead of being an ally, people should rather focus on becoming collaborators/co-conspirators). Gaines then discussed empathetic racial impersonation and noted some major instances of this throughout the last century. Ray Sprigle, John Howard Griffin, and Grace Halsell were all racial impersonators who wished to show what life was like as an African American man/woman to the white population at the time. Grace Halsell stuck out to me because she does this more than once and impersonates a Navajo woman (Bessie Yellowhair) and an undocumented immigrant (while of course being a US citizen the entire time). The final person discussed is Rachel Dolezal, who identified as a black woman for some years and was put in the spotlight in 2017 when she claimed she was transracial. Gaines noted that transracial identifying was a one-way street, as white people would experience racism but other groups wouldn’t be able to experience the privileges that came along with being white.
The talk was super interesting, and in the end, it felt like the hour had passed too quickly!

Liebmann- “Rebuilding the Pueblo World”

Liebmann looks at the architecture and layout of the pueblos in order to come up with a rough estimate of the resident’s, using several aspects that I would have never thought of. Some have been able to determine the size of a population through the amount of room’s in a compound, while other’s have used the floor area to determine the population size as well. The population sizes differed with each estimate (room size being just under 600, while the floor area was under 900), but none compared to the amount the Spaniards claimed to be there at the time of the revolt (five thousand). Liebmann discussed the raids that occurred, as well as the factionalism in the Pueblo groups. The book notes the inward facing windows/doors on the main plaza as means of defense, as well as a quick way to enforce the defense system in the pueblos (which would involve pulling the ladders up, leaving those in the plaza unable to enter into the homes). Liebmann does look at the relationship between the Pueblo groups and the Athapaskan tribe, a nomadic tribe often referred to as Apache’s by the Spanish, and notes the ups and downs that occurred between the two. The Athapaskan tribe did raid the Pueblo’s at times but they also traded with them as well, often Black-on-white pottery.

Liebmann, “Introduction”

Liebmann’s focuses on the Pueblo revolt era of the late 17th century, discussing the lack of focus on native American and other smaller revolts as they don’t live up to the western concept of revolts (American, French, Russian). In addition, what constitutes a successful or failed revolt changes and again depends on western notions (successful would result in a self-ruling group).Liebmann goes on to note that many Native American revolts are modernly portrayed as romantic, tragic, or with one leading to the other.

For Native American groups that have no written records, material items (artifacts, rock art, architecture) provides insight into the daily lives and views of the groups. In this case, the Spanish colonizers provide records on the Pueblo groups, but it contains bias from the Spanish but also those sympathetic Pueblo’s (and male).Liebmann brings up the argument that regardless of how much one tries to provide a voice for subaltern groups, the attempt always fails because the group never had a voice in the first place. Any voice that historians/archaeologists/anthropologists provide is always that scholar wants and not the voice of that group.

Liebmann finishes the introduction discussing the perks of collaborative research and archaeology as it provides insight, but also strict peer review. The implementation of the NAGPRA (Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act) also plays a large part in the increased use of collaborative archeology, as it results in more ground penetrating and less invasive (and potentially damaging or unethical) archaeology. One thing that surprised me (and also saddened me) was the return of some 2000 remains to those in the Jemez region in 1999.

Harley “Texts and Contex”

Harley’s work addresses the importance of maps when looking at history. While some historians would argue that maps are not solid sources (in addition to paintings, TV, or music), Harley argues otherwise. Much like written sources, maps hide meanings, political views, and agendas (36). Harley goes on to note the similarities between the non-verbal sources and written sources, noting that they too must be placed in the context of their time and society.Harley also shares the similar mistakes that can happen to maps when copying them over or comparing them. Name misspellings often occur, especially as noted when it comes to Native American words/names for rivers/areas. Geographical lines also get shifted or omitted when copying maps, intentionally and unintentionally which can have lasting impacts, which again happened to Native American groups.

Maps are also not the creation of one person for one reason, rather they come from many people with many skill sets and reasons. Some created maps for political reasons, social reasons, or to assert some level of authority. One very interesting argument that Harley notes is that the use of maps in the bird eye view style/genre (also, didn’t know maps could be filed under certain genres! that’s so wild!) is seen as means of taking possession of the land. This though ties to the reasons that many groups make maps, such as governments.

Maps also have iconography that shifts to agree with a patron who commissioned the map or because of a personal choice at the hands of an independent map maker. Though independent map makers are not always free of bias, there is often an underlying reason for many people.

Havana as a Port

The reading looks at the trade of the port city and Europe and the primary imports and exports. De la Fuente discusses the cataloged cargo but also goes on to note a large number of goods, as well as that, were not noted. One thing that stuck out to me was the great length that de la Fuente went to in discussing the importance of fabric, regarding dye as well as the type of fabric (silk, cotton, linen, canvas, etc.). De la Fuente looks at the importation of enslaved people from various parts of Africa as well as other Caribbean islands. Bringing enslaved people into the port required a license and limited it to a few hundred a year usually, many did not follow that law though. The government also prohibited certain groups from being enslaved (people who were part of the Iberian culture/followers of Islam, and groups who were “disobedient”).

De la Fuente also looks at the import/export of food, and it’s importance making special note of things like Ginger and tobacco, but also wine. The consumption of wine was not only for pleasure but also to meet dietary needs. Wine provides a fair amount of calories which resulted in the port importing a fair amount of it for the sailors. Overall, the use of the port was impactful on the island and the Caribbean both for better and worse.

Havana and the Atlantic in the 16th Century

Alejandro de la Fuente’s work looks at the importance of Havana as a port city in the 1500’s. The piece starts out describing an attack on the city by Sores, as well as the decline of the San Cristobal which lacked resources to longevity. Many Spanish residents not only left the towns, but they also left the island moving instead to Florida or Peru. The native population declined as well during this time, leaving mining work to the Spaniards, also during a time when gold was becoming more scarce on the island (3). As the island had few means of supporting itself, they allowed for Encomiendas, which assigned a group of native people to a conquistador that granted religious indoctrination. They also deferred the application of Leyes Nuevas, which regulated/ exploited the indigenous labor and removed the encomiendas system (3)

Eventually, the Spanish crown realized the importance of Havana and the island itself regarding trade with South America. The town lacked enough people to defend it from attacks with most of the people being enslaved people from Africa or ingenious people. After the town was rebuilt in the 1550’s, the population grew, and three monasteries were established (5). De la Fuenete’s work also notes all the various primary sources they have been able to find which include wills, dowries, trading transactions, and judicial laws.The town knew its worth and would often use it against the crown when it desired new resources.

Presnell and the Internet

The reading looks at the use of the internet when it comes to research, offering many different tools and tips to get the best quality research out of the internet. Presnell does warn that the internet can be dangerous for researchers due largely to the fact that it can be completely unorganized or have questionable sources.

Presnell mentions primary sources several times throughout this piece, mostly how helpful the internet can be in finding them thought she does also mention the trouble that comes along with using the internet to find them. The main issues are the reliability of the sites and the reliability of the poster. When finding primary sources on the web from a site that may not be an .edu, the biggest thing to make sure of is that the quality and reliability of the source wasn’t changed during its scanning/transcription. She warns that publishers may attempt to clean up the source and remove important marginal notes or omit words and change what the document was saying.

When it comes to trying to find sources, Presnell notes the different kind fo search directories, different parts of the web (deep and invisible), and provides helpful tips while searching (using the classic AND/OR/ “”/ being specific). She ends the essay with a case study example on looking for sources on Japanese Americans and internment camps.