Remembering Katrina

This week marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. In reflection, we’d like to highlight a few recent books that explore the effects of the historic storm and its impact on the resilient city of New Orleans.

Mardi Gras, jazz, voodoo, gumbo, Bourbon Street, the French Quarter—all evoke that place that is unlike any other: New Orleans. But what is it that makes New Orleans ‘authentic’? In Authentic New Orleans, Kevin Fox Gotham explains how New Orleans became a tourist town, a spectacular locale known as much for its excesses as for its quirky Southern charm. Beginning in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina amid the whirlwind of speculation and dread surrounding the rebuilding of the city, Gotham provides a unique interpretation of New Orleans, one that goes beyond its veneer and moves into the rich cultural roots of this unique American landmark.


In Critical Rhetorics of Race, a groundbreaking collection edited by Michael G. Lacy and Kent A. Ono, scholars seek to examine the complicated and contradictory terrain of racial rhetoric, critiquing our depictions of race in innovative and exciting ways. In the powerful first chapter, Michael G. Lacy and Kathleen C. Haspel take us back in time to the post-apocalyptic New Orleans of 2005 to explore the media’s troubling representations of black looters following the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina.


When the images of desperate, hungry, thirsty, sick, mostly black people circulated in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, it became apparent to the whole country that race did indeed matter when it came to government assistance. The Wrong Complexion for Protection illuminates the long history of failed government responses to a range of environmental and health threats to African Americans. Drawing on compelling case studies and jaw-dropping statistics, the book is a sobering exploration of the brutal realities of institutionalized racism in disaster response and recovery.


Upcoming events with Gerald Horne

Author and historian Gerald Horne will be on a mini book tour this weekend to discuss his two new books, The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America, released in April 2014 from NYU Press and Race to Revolution: The U.S. and Cuba during Slavery and Jim Crow, ​out now from Monthly Review Press. 

All events below are free and open to the public.

Friday, July 25 at 7:00pm
New Haven People’s Center, 37 Howe Street, New Haven, CT

Gerald Horne will launch his new book, Race to Revolution: The U.S. and Cuba during Slavery and Jim Crowas part of the People’s World Friday Night Film and Discussion Series. Books will be available for signing at a discounted price. For more information, please contact

Saturday, July 26 at 6:30pm
Sistas’ Place
456 Nostrand Avenue, Brooklyn, NY

Join NYU Press and Gerald Horne for a book signing and discussion on his recently published book, The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the origins of the United States. This important historical analysis highlights how slavery and ongoing racism are tied into the fabric of US society. Books will be for sale at the event.

Sunday, July 27 at 7:30pm
Red Emma’s
, 30 
W. North Avenue, Baltimore, MD

Special double book event! Gerald Horne will present and sign copies of ​The Counter-Revolution of 1776 ​and ​Race to Revolution. RSVP on Facebook (optional).

Happy Mardi Gras from NYU Press!

It’s Mardi Gras, y’all! 

In honor of Fat Tuesday, we’re featuring an excerpt from our award-winning book, Authentic New Orleans: Tourism, Culture, and Race in the Big Easy (NYU Press, 2007). Written by Tulane sociologist Kevin Fox Gotham, the book illuminates how New Orleans became a tourist town known as much for its excesses as for its eccentric Southern charm. The excerpt below is from the book’s second chapter, “Processions and Parades: Carnival Krewes and the Development of Modern Mardi Gras.”

Authentic New Orleans – Chapter 2

Marathon bombers’ refugee roots shed light on trajectories

Silvia Domínguez, author of Getting Ahead (NYU Press, 2010), recently appeared on the Huffington Post with an excellent piece on the refugee roots of the Boston Marathon bombers. An excerpt appears below.

Dzhokhar was eight years old and Tamerlan was 15 when they arrived in the U.S. Both brothers became involved in sports, attended a mosque on Prospect Street, and enrolled in Cambridge Rindge and Latin School — perhaps the most culturally accepting secondary school in the nation. In this environment, Dzhokhar thrived. Emigrating at a young age, he attended schools with the same friends he grew up with, gradually lost his accent, and became a well-liked and respected student. On the other hand, Tamerlan emigrated as a teenager, arguably the most difficult age of transition for adolescents. Although he became an excellent boxer according to his trainers in Lowell, he never lost his accent and his English was difficult to understand, opening himself up to discrimination.

Refugees are often from areas where conflict is historically embedded and marked in ideology and injustice. The Tsarnaev family emigrated from the Chechen diaspora in Kyrgzstan, a region Stalin deported the Chechens to in 1943. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1991, Chechens engaged in a battle for independence from Russia that led to the Tsarnaevs’ petition for refugee status in the early 2000s. While Dzhokhar was only a child during this strife, Tamerlan experienced that civil conflict as an adolescent, shaping his identity as participant in the conflict. Once in the U.S., Tamerlan could not find kinship with American youth who are naïve about civil armed struggles. As he posted on Facebook, he did not understand Americans and had no friends. Americans often assumed that they were Russian, forcing the brothers to clarify that they were actually Chechen. Being confused with the offender, Russia, may have caused young Dzhokhar’s curiosity about his Chechen heritage, but it likely enraged Tamerlan in a cumulative alienating manner.

Read the full post here.

In memoriam: Alfred F. Young

—Gregory Nobles

I am both saddened and honored to write a tribute to my friend and NYU Press co-author Al Young, who died on November 6, after suffering two heart attacks. Back in May, when he had the first one, he wrote, in his unsentimental and sort of self-deprecating fashion, that, “I talk very little, if that can be imagined.” I couldn’t imagine that, in fact, and I wrote back to express my surprise and concern about his condition, telling him how much the rest of us in the profession still needed him. Once again, he responded in his usual straightforward way: “Why the surprise: I am 87 after all. Dubious about crowds waiting for the word from me, but maybe there are a few hurrahs.”

There are, and will always be, many hurrahs for Al Young from a very loyal crowd of historians who have indeed waited for and learned from his words. Tens of thousands of those words came in the many books he wrote—two of which he published with NYU Press. These include Liberty Tree: Ordinary People and the American Revolution (2006) and Whose American Revolution Was It? Historians Interpret the Founding (2011), on which I was co-author. For over thirty years, as long as I’ve been reading Al Young’s work, I’ve been impressed not just with the reach of his remarkable intellect, but with the intensity of his scholarly knowledge of early American history. It’s hard to imagine anyone who knew the field better or cared more about really getting history right, especially about getting ordinary people—and their politics—into the picture. He did that himself, of course, whether writing about groups such as Massachusetts mechanics or individual figures like George Robert Twelves Hewes or Deborah Sampson. He also promoted and praised that approach in other historians, and he now has a legion of “younger” scholars—some of whom, like me, are now in their sixties—who proudly carry his influence in their own works.

The words I most value from Al Young, though, are the personal ones that came in his typically typo-filled letters and emails. Those words could be as challenging as they were encouraging (and they certainly were in his many responses to my various drafts of Whose Revolution), but in the end they were invariably perceptive and, above all, right on the mark. Like many of us who knew and loved Al, I can’t imagine making my way in the history profession without his friendship, guidance, and commitment as an ally, both professional and political. I get uneasy with the term “mentor,” because it’s thrown around so easily these days,  but if I had to pick the one historian whose opinion I most wanted to know, whose advice and criticism I most willingly took, and whose acceptance of my work I most wanted to have, it’d be Al. He’s gone now, but I suspect he’ll always be with me, with all of us, as a model of intellectual courage, integrity, and generosity. We may not be able to meet the standards he set for us but, in his memory, we still ought to try.

Gregory Nobles is Professor in the School of History, Technology, and Society at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Along with professor Alfred F. Young, he is the author of Whose American Revolution Was It? Historians Interpret the Founding.

Slideshow: Brooklyn Book Festival 2012

Thanks to everyone who stopped by our booth yesterday at the Brooklyn Book Festival!

We had a blast sharing our excitement for forthcoming fall books and convincing our fans/visitors/friends to get “tatted” up in celebration of our murder-mystery history book, The Notorious Elizabeth Tuttle (out on Halloween 2012). Check out the slideshow below for pics from the fest, including the freshly-inked!


On Constitution Day: Citizenship, jury duty, and Stephen Colbert

—Andrew Guthrie Ferguson

On the 225th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution, two truths remain: the Constitution has survived as the foundational document of this country; and no one agrees on its meaning. It remains inviolate yet contested, sacred but unsettled. And this is a good thing—a sign of its relevance and importance to daily life.

We are living in an era when the Constitution matters. Earlier this month at the Republican National Convention, the Constitution almost was given a speaking role, as references to liberty, limited government, and constitutional constraints dominated the speeches. A week later at the Democratic National Convention, President Obama articulated a theme of collective responsibility based on constitutional citizenship—“a word at the very heart of our founding, a word at the very essence of our democracy, the idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations.” These Conventions offered two visions of the same document and contrasting images of the role of constitutional principles in society. Again, this is a good thing, as it reaffirms the engagement of citizens in the definition of constitutional citizenship.

Yet, the most telling reaction was from cultural critic and occasional constitutional comedian, Stephen Colbert, who said in response to President Obama’s citizenship comment, “I felt we all got jury duty by watching him last night.” On Constitution Day, I want to agree with Mr. Colbert and say that such a feeling of obligation—of linking responsibilities and constitutional citizenship—is also a good thing, because jury duty is constitution duty.

But most of us do not consider jury service as such a constitutional activity. Citizens when summoned don’t see themselves as constitutional actors. The truth in Colbert’s comedy is that “we the people” feel the same dread about constitutional responsibilities as we do about jury duty. Not because we don’t love the idea of the Constitution or even the jury. But because the work involved is unfamiliar and difficult. We don’t think about constitutional rights until they are threatened, and we don’t think about constitutional responsibilities as part of our daily lives. This should change, not only on September 17th—the one day we choose to honor the United States Constitution—but every single day. Every day is an invitation to recognize our responsibility to be a constitutional actor.

Jury duty exists as perhaps the best example of a misunderstood constitutional moment. Most citizens miss the constitutional principles embedded in the experience. The jury is not only a constitutionally mandated institution, but an institution that teaches constitutional values. Juries represent democracy in action, as citizens vote based on principles of fairness, equality, and accountability. We act on common principles, we speak, we deliberate, and we decide. A quick look around the courthouse reveals constitutional principles at play:  participation, deliberation, fairness, equality, accountability, liberty, dissent, and the common good are built within the structures of the courthouse and the rules of trial. These are constitutional principles that helped found America, and all exist in the educational experience that is jury service. Yet, we rarely look for those constitutional lessons, and this is not a good thing.

Instead of dreading jury duty, we should consider it an invitation to constitutional participation—one of the few times we are called to act in a direct way with constitutional principles. You may believe in liberty, due process, and accountability, but jury service requires you to apply those principles to the human being sitting across the courtroom. You may think voting is important (even if you don’t always do it), but in the jury room you must vote. In short, most of us claim we would die to protect the Constitution; jury service simply asks you to live it.

So, as we reflect on what the Constitution means to us today, we should also reflect on how we approach the few moments of constitutional responsibility required of us as citizens. Jury duty, voting, participating in local government, and civic education are all necessary duties we undertake as citizens because of the Constitution. They remind us that in order to stay relevant and important we need to make the Constitution part of our everyday lives. We need to act as constitutional citizens, and to do that we need to teach ourselves about the importance and value of our constitutional responsibilities—including jury duty.

Andrew Guthrie Ferguson is Professor of Law at the University of the District of Columbia. His book, Why Jury Duty Matters: A Citizen’s Guide to Constitutional Action, will be released in early 2013.

Events for City of Promises: A History of the Jews of New York

New York Jews, so visible and integral to the culture, economy and politics of America’s greatest city, has eluded the grasp of historians for decades, until the new groundbreaking history, City of Promises: A History of the Jews of New York.

The three-volume series, overseen by editor Deborah Dash Moore, has just published, and we’ve lined up a series of events to celebrate! Check them out below:

PREMIERE event for City of Promises: A History of the Jews of New York
TONIGHT, Monday, September 10, 2012
at the 92Y, Lexington Avenue at 92nd Street
8:15pm | Join a panel of historical pioneers to explore their new, comprehensive interpretation of a Jewish urban community, at once the largest in history and most important in the modern world. The authors will be selling and signing copies of CITY OF PROMISES following the event.

Talk and performance on NY Jews in the Age of Immigration
on Thursday, September 20, 2012
at the LES Tenement Museum, 103 Orchard Street
6:30 pm | Hasia Diner introduces Tenement Museum VP, Annie Polland and co-editor Daniel Soyer for a talk and performance on Emerging Metropolis, the second volume in the CITY OF PROMISES series. They partner with actors to bring to life primary sources and tell the story of urban Jewish immigrant society.

Annie Polland on Emerging Metropolis: NY Jews in the Age of Immigration
on Tuesday, October 09, 2012
at 92YTribeca, 200 Hudson Street
12:00 pm | Annie Polland, the VP of Education for the LES Tenement Museum and author of CITY OF PROMISES, brings to life the urban tenements and banks, synagogues and shops, department stores and settlement houses that, together, created the fabric of Jewish immigrant life.

Book signing at the Gotham Center
on Tuesday, October 16, 2012
at Elebash Recital Hall, CUNY Graduate Center, 365 5th Ave at 34th Street
6:30pm | Deborah Dash Moore and Howard B. Rock will be joined by Annie Polland, Jeffrey Gurock, and Daniel Soyer to discuss the new three-volume set of original research, CITY OF PROMISES.

Authors and editors at the Miami Book Fair
on Sunday, November 18, 2012
at N.E. Second Ave between 2nd and 3rd Streets
CITY OF PROMISES authors and editors will be at the Miami Book Fair on Sunday, November 18, 2012. More details to come!

Talk at Stern College
on Tuesday, November 27, 2012
at 254 Lexington Avenue at 35th Street
Come out and support the CITY OF PROMISES authors and editors as they discuss the findings for their groundbreaking historical account of New York Jews. More details to come!