blofthurs

Musicals at the Academy Awards

It came as little surprise to moviegoers when it was announced on January 24th, 2017, that La La Land had been nominated for 14 Academy Awards, tying the record for most nominations received by a single film (with Titanic and All About Eve). A critical and commercial success, La La Land is both a film made for modern audiences and a loving throwback to the Golden Age of the Hollywood musical. Time will tell whether La La Land will sweep the Oscars (although predictions skew in that direction), but its role is not without historical precedent.

To date, only ten musicals have won the coveted Academy Award for Best Picture. An American in Paris (1951) was the fourth to achieve this honor. In the following excerpt from He’s Got Rhythm: The Life and Career of Gene Kelly, authors Cynthia and Sara Brideson discuss the 24th Academy Awards, at which American and Kelly were to achieve special recognition:


If Gene believed that Hollywood and America as a whole did not grant him the recognition he deserved, he was soon to be proven wrong. The honor Hollywood lavished upon Gene after he left for Europe confirmed that his artistry was far from overlooked in his native country. Never in the history of film had a musical ever received as many Oscar nominations as Gene’s An American in Paris. The picture received nods in eight categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Musical Score, Best Art Direction and Set Decoration, Best Color Cinematography, Best Costume Design, and Best Film Editing.

Most significant, Gene was announced as the recipient of the annual Honorary Oscar. The category, created in 1948, acknowledged cinematic achievements not covered by existing Academy Awards. Gene was only the second dancer to receive such recognition (Fred Astaire received one at the 1950 awards ceremony). Though pleased with the award, Gene still voiced regret that he had not been nominated as Best Actor. “The idea that musical [actors] are less worthy of Academy consideration than drama[tic ones] is a form of snobbishness.”

In truth, the honorary Oscar did pay tribute to Gene’s acting ability as well as his dancing talent. On March 20, 1952, the night of the awards ceremony, the president of the Academy, Charles Brackett, stated that Gene had earned his statuette through his “extreme versatility as an actor-singer, director, and dancer . . . and because of his specific and brilliant achievements in the art of choreography on film.” From Europe, Gene requested that Stanley Donen accept the Oscar for him. Vincente Minnelli admitted that Gene’s decision hurt his feelings, particularly because Donen had had no part in the production of An American in Paris.

Gene was not the only one to receive an honorary Oscar that night. Arthur Freed took home the Irving Thalberg Memorial Award, given to a different producer each year. The Freed Unit was sweeping the Oscars; before Best Picture was announced, An American in Paris had already won two honorary awards plus Best Costume Design, Best Color Cinematography, Best Art Direction and Set Decoration, and Best Screenplay (not to be confused with Best Adapted Screenplay, which went to A Place in the Sun). However, in the Best Picture category, An American in Paris faced heady competition. In a year that sported such prestigious titles as A Streetcar Named Desire, The African Queen, and A Place in the Sun, a musical picture with a thin story line seemed the least likely to win the award. Presenter Jesse Lasky could not conceal his surprise when he opened the envelope. “Oh my!” he exclaimed. “The winner for Best Picture is An American in Paris.” The audience was silent except for a few gasps of shock. But slowly, hearty applause erupted, which only became more vigorous when Freed trotted up to the stage, clearly moved. As he cradled the statuette with the honorary one he had already received, he quipped, “It’s a double header!” He continued on a more serious note: “Thank you. And thank you from my brilliant associates who made this possible: Vincente Minnelli, Gene Kelly, and a great studio with real courage and leadership who supported me. Thank you.”


For those interested in learning more about the life of Gene Kelly, the Brideson’s new and comprehensive biography is available for pre-order here. Or visit our Twitter for details on how to win an advance copy of the book.

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Recipes from Bourbon Country

Celebrate Wellness Wednesday with three recipes from Chef Albert W. A. Schmid’s newest cookbook Burgoo, Barbecue and Bourbon: A Kentucky Culinary Trinity9780813169880

In this new book, Award-winning author and chef Albert W. A. Schmid serves up a feast for readers, sharing recipes and lore surrounding these storied culinary traditions. He introduces readers to new and forgotten versions of favorite regional dishes from the time of Daniel Boone to today and uncovers many lost recipes, such as Mush Biscuits, Half Moon Fried Pies, and the Original Kentucky Whiskey Cake. Featuring cuisine from the early American frontier to the present day, this entertaining book is filled with fascinating tidbits and innovative recipes for the modern cook.

Today’s recipes come from the section of dishes made to pair with the book’s central meal of burgoo, although they would be well suited to any meal.


Chicken Barbecued in a Brown Paper Bag

4 servings

3 tablespoons catsup

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons vinegar

3 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon dry mustard

4 tablespoons water

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon paprika

1 chicken, cut in pieces

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Combine the sauce ingredients. Grease the inside of a heavy paper grocery bag and place it inside a roaster pan. Salt and pepper the chicken pieces, dip each in the sauce, and place in the bag. Pour the remaining sauce over them in the bag. Close the bag with a double fold and secure with a medal clip. Bake uncovered for 50 minutes, then cover the pan and roast for 15 minutes longer. Serve extra sauce in a separate bowl.


Angel Biscuits

Makes 6 dozen

5 cups all-purpose flour

¾ cups vegetable shortening

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

3 teaspoons baking poweder

3 tablespoons sugar

1 yeast cake (1 packet of yeast) dissolved in ½ cup lukewarm water

2 cups buttermilk

Sift dry ingredients together; cut in shortening until mixed thoroughly. add buttermilk and dissolved yeast. Work together with a large spoon until the flour mixture is completely moistened. Cover and put in the refrigerator until ready to use.

When ready, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Take out as much batter as needed; roll it onto a floured board to 1⁄2-inch thickness and cut into rounds or squares. Bake on a greased cookie sheet or in a round 8-inch or 9-inch cake pan for 12 minutes, or until brown.


Half Moon Fried Pies

Makes 16 miniature pies

1 pound dried apples or peaches

¾ cup sugar

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

2 teaspoons cinnamon (to taste)

piecrust

lard

additional sugar

Cover the dried fruit in water and soak overnight. Drain the fruit, add a small amount of fresh water, and cook slowly until tender. Mash the fruit. add the sugar, butter or margarine, and cinnamon. Stir well and let the mixture cool.

Make your favorite piecrust, using only half the regular amount of shortening. Cut into circles 4–6 inches in diameter. Place a generous tablespoon of the fruit filling on one side of each circle. Fold the other side over and seal firmly along the edge with your fingertips or a fork. Fry in about 1⁄2 inch of hot lard, turning once. When the pastry is browned, remove and drain on paper towels. While the pies are still warm, sprinkle them lightly with sugar.

Alternatively, bake the pies at 400 degree F. for about 30 minutes; brush the top with melted butter before baking in order to make the surface crisp.


For the stories behind these recipes and many more, preorder the book here.

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Harry Langdon and Frank Capra: A Directorial Dispute

The dichotomy between actor and director has long been a fascinating one. Who has the ultimate say in what goes into the film? Conventional wisdom places the director at the forefront, but the recent rise of actor-directors (think James Franco) would seem to provide a counterargument. This rise, however, is not as recent as it may seem. In 1927, Harry Langdon, already a famous silent film comedian, decided to part ways with his director Frank Capra over just such issues of authorial control.

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In Harry Langdon: King Of Silent Comedy, authors Gabriella Oldham and Mabel Langdon
provide a new biography of one of silent film’s less well-known but most enduring comedians. In films such as The Strong Man (1926) and Long Pants (1927), Langdon parlayed his pantomime talents, expressive eyes, and childlike innocence into silent-era stardom. Together, Oldham and Langdon survey his early work on the stage at the turn of the twentieth century as well as his iconic routines and characters. They also evaluate his failures from the early sound period, including his decision to part ways with director Frank Capra.

Langdon had worked with Capra on The Strong Man, and besides being Capra’s feature-length debut, it catapulted Langdon into a stardom he had not yet experienced. This stardom, it would seem, got to Langdon’s head – he was besieged by adulating fans and he began to believe that the reason for the film’s success rested solely on his shoulders. Beliefs such as these led him to a climactic confrontation with Capra that would permanently severe the relationship between the two men. The following excerpt tells the full story:


In February 1927, while finalizing [Long Pants], Capra needed to shoot some close-up inserts of Harry’s hand removing a book from a shelf so the audience could focus on the title. Any hand would have sufficed, as long as it matched Harry’s look and sleeve. But Capra wanted to use Harry’s hand, believing that the audience should be given the real deal, even for such a trivial shot. He issued a call for Langdon to come from his dressing room for the close-up and expected no opposition, as Langdon was a professional and seldom objected to retakes. But when Langdon emerged, he scolded Capra for bothering him and refused to do it. According to Capra, the incident became explosive before anyone realized what was happening:

I had sent for him several times. Finally Harry arrived, wearing a gaudy dressing gown and a gaudier scarf, followed by a newly acquired retinue of leeches.

“Why in hell do you keep sending for me? Don’t you know I’m through in the picture?” He was as arrogant as Napoleon chewing up a menial officer.

“Sorry, Harry. I need an insert of your hand reaching for this—”

“Insert of my hand? You ain’t learned nothing, have you? Directors don’t use stars for stupid inserts. They use doubles.”

“Harry, there isn’t another pair of hands like—”

Shouting an expletive, Langdon ranted about being interrupted during an interview with two important New York critics. As he stormed away, he muttered, “That’s what I get for trying to make directors out of two-bit gag men.”

Capra reflected on how to handle the situation: should he kowtow as Langdon’s “yes man,” or should he assert himself as the film’s director and as someone who had been instrumental in creating Langdon’s persona? Capra assumed that Langdon’s arrogance was really a reaction to his sudden popularity—a sort of culture shock—and decided to confront him. He found Langdon lounging on a couch in his dressing room, staring at the ceiling. “Harry,” he said, “I came to tell you what many of us have wanted to say to you for some time, to wit: that you’ve turned into an impossible, opinionated, conceited, strutting little jerk. The happy little guy we once knew and loved has become an ungrateful heel. . . . Comedians must be loved to get laughs—and right now the only one who loves you around here is you.”57 Capra felt relieved when he left , even though Langdon had offered him neither a word nor a glance. The young director felt he was being a professional as well as a friend, showing Langdon tough love. Unfortunately, soon after, Langdon’s business manager arrived at Capra’s home and handed him his last paycheck with the message that Langdon never wanted to see him again.

Thee stunning news leaked out, and it was soon followed by another story that echoed the Sennett split and its question of egos: Langdon would be assuming the director’s chair from now on. Variety stated on March 2, 1927: “Harry Langdon has decided that he no longer needs a director to lead him through his paces. . . . The comedian feels no one can interpret his thoughts as well as himself, so he is going to hold the megaphone instead. Langdon is also said to feel that nobody can title his pictures like he can, so he is also going to title same. In the past, all ideas and gags used in the Langdon pictures were credited with having been conceived by the comedian, with the gagmen simply helping out in the construction.”

Moving Picture World also reported that Langdon was planning to cut his “corps of gag men or comedy constructionists, as they have been called of late, down to one man.” Studio executives hurriedly rebutted these stories, noting that Langdon was not a “high hat” and that these rumors were an “injustice” to him. It was more that Langdon’s technique was so unique that it was impossible to find a “kindred mind” to direct him. They also erroneously pointed out that Langdon had been his own director since the Sennett days but was too modest to take directorial credit on his films; instead, he “selected one of his gag men to sit on the set during each picture and watch the action for ocular errors.” There was also talk that if anyone were to assume the directorial chair, it would probably be Arthur Ripley.

Before this ultimate assault, Capra had already been badly burned by Langdon’s executive control on Long Pants. The star had altered Capra’s “vision,” deleting a prologue because Ripley had opposed it, and reducing a ten-minute, two-strip Technicolor fantasy sequence with gorgeous costumes, a knightly duel, and a fairy princess to a mere fragment. The experience made Capra feel like he no longer existed in Langdon’s world. It must have been devastating to lose the support of a friendly team, and it shook his confidence as a director. However, Capra was determined to find his directorial niche and learn how to control a film. In the meantime, the focus on Long Pants had shifted from director to star on all levels: even a large ad in Variety screamed Langdon’s name three times in type that was three times larger than that of the film’s title. Capra’s name was not included.

At one point, Capra wanted to attend a preview of Long Pants, and he asked his wife Helen, with whom he had a tumultuous relationship, to accompany him. She agreed, but when the time came, he found her unhappily drunk—a recurring pattern in their lives—and he apparently hit her so hard that she crumpled into a heap and lost some teeth. All Capra could remember afterward was feeling that she was lucky he had not killed her—a bitterly ironic statement, given [a] disturbing sequence in Long Pants in which Harry attempts to kill Priscilla.

Capra moved on as a director—and temporarily away from Hollywood—when he accepted Hell’s Kitchen (released as For the Love of Mike), which starred Ben Lyon, debuted Claudette Colbert, and was filmed in New York. Unfortunately, Capra had been persuaded to defer his salary until the end of production and was never paid. Despite many strong aspects, the film was considered a commercial failure (after generally bland reviews, Colbert vowed never to make another film, but clearly she changed her mind when she contracted with Paramount two years later). Capra persevered as well, but he had been scarred by so many experiences that, according to his biographer, he turned into “a gut-punching little man in order to survive.”

For many reasons, Capra believed Langdon would fail if he attempted to do everything himself. But Langdon now embraced the idea of taking full charge of the business: directing, acting, writing, and editing. If he was to be another Chaplin, this was Langdon’s destiny. But life imitated art, and like his character in Long Pants, Langdon tried to wear a pair of trousers before he had matured enough to do so. He was drawn to the wrong fantasies, forgetting the simplicity in his own backyard.

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7 Reads For President’s Day

Today marks George Washington’s 285th birthday and the celebration of President’s Day. In observation of the holiday, we’re sharing some of our favorite books about the presidency.


9780813122694Washington on Washington

For most Americans, George Washington is more of a legend than a man—a face on our currency or an austere figure standing in a rowboat crossing the icy Delaware River. He was equally revered in his own time. At the helm of a country born of idealism and revolution, Washington reluctantly played the role of demigod that the new nation required—a role reconciling the rhetoric of democracy with the ritual of monarchy.

Washington on Washington offers a fresh and human perspective on this enigmatic figure in American history. Drawing on diary entries, journals, letters, and authentic interviews, Paul M. Zall presents the autobiography that Washington never lived to write, revealing new insights into his character, both personal and political.

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Jefferson on Jefferson9780813122359

A new and more complex portrait of Thomas Jefferson, as told by Jefferson himself. Not trusting biographers with his story and frustrated by his friends’ failure to justify his role in the American Revolution, Thomas Jefferson wrote his autobiography on his own terms at the age of seventy-seven. The resulting book ends, well before his death, with his return from France at the age of forty-six. Asked for additional details concerning his life, Jefferson often claimed to have a “decayed memory.” Fortunately, this shrewd politician, philosopher, architect, inventor, farmer, and scientist penned nearly eighteen thousand letters in his lifetime, saving almost every scrap he wrote.

In Jefferson on Jefferson, Paul Zall returns to original manuscripts and correspondence for a new view of the statesman’s life. He extends the story where Jefferson left off, weaving excerpts from other writings—notes, rough drafts, and private correspondence—with passages from the original autobiography. Jefferson reveals his grief over the death of his daughter, details his hotly contested election against John Adams (decided by the House of Representatives), expresses his thoughts on religion, and tells of life at Monticello.

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9780813109411Truman and the Democratic Party

What best defines a Democrat in the American political arena—idealistic reformer or pragmatic politician? Harry Truman adopted both roles and in so doing defined the nature of his presidency.

Truman and the Democratic Party is the first book to deal exclusively with the president’s relationship with the Democratic party and his status as party leader. Sean J. Savage addresses Truman’s twin roles of party regular and liberal reformer, examining the tension that arose from this duality and the consequences of that tension for Truman’s political career.

Drawing on personal interview with former Truman administration members and party officials and on archival materials—most notably papers of the Democratic National Committee at the Harry S. Truman Library—Savage has produced a fresh perspective that is both shrewd and insightful. This book offers historians and political scientists a new way of looking at the Truman administration and its impact on key public policies.

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The Enduring Reagan9780813134475

A former Sunday school teacher and Hollywood actor, Ronald Reagan was an unlikely candidate for president. His charisma, conviction, and leadership earned him the governorship of California, from which he launched his successful bid to become the fortieth president of the United States in 1980. Reagan’s political legacy continues to be the standard by which all conservatives are judged. In The Enduring Reagan, editor Charles W. Dunn brings together eight prominent scholars to examine the political career and legacy of Ronald Reagan. This anthology offers a bold reassessment of the Reagan years and the impact they had on the United States and the world.

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9780813134024The Presidency in the Twenty-first Century

As the most prominent figure of the U.S. government, the president is under constant scrutiny from both his colleagues and the American people. Questions about the proper role of the president have been especially prevalent in the media during the current economic crisis. The Presidency in the Twenty-first Century explores the growth of presidential power, investigating its social, political, and economic impact on America’s present and future.

Editor Charles W. Dunn and a team of the nation’s leading political scientists examine a variety of topics, from the link between campaigning and governing to trends in presidential communication with the public. The book discusses the role of the presidency in a government designed to require cooperation with Congress and how this relationship is further complicated by the expectations of the public. Several contributors take a closer look at the Obama administration in light of President George W. Bush’s emphasis on the unitary executive, a governing style that continues to be highly controversial. Dunn and his contributors provide readers with a thorough analysis of a rapidly changing political role, provoking important questions about the future of America’s political system.

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The Presidential Pulse of Congressional Elections9780813109268

An intriguing phenomenon in American electoral politics is the loss of seats by the president’s party in midterm congressional elections. Between 1862 and 1990, the president’s party lost seats in the House of Representatives in 32 of the 33 midterm elections. In his new study, James Campbell examines explanations for these midterm losses and explores how presidential elections influence congressional elections.

After reviewing the two major theories of midterm electoral change-the “surge and decline” theory and the theory of midterms as referenda on presidential performance Campbell draws upon each to propose and test a new theory. He asserts that in the years of presidential elections congressmen ride presidential coattails into office, while in midterm elections such candidates are stranded. An additional factor is the strength of the presidential vote, which influences the number of seats that are won, only to be lost later.

Including both election returns and survey data, The Presidential Pulse of Congressional Elections offers a fresh perspective on congressional elections, voting behavior, Congress, and the presidency.

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9780813126609The Art of Command: Military Leadership from George Washington to Colin Powell

What essential leadership lessons do we learn by distilling the actions and ideas of great military commanders such as George Washington, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Colin Powell? The Art of Command illustrates that great leaders become great through a commitment not only to develop vital skills but also to surmount personal shortcomings. Harry S. Laver, Jeffrey J. Matthews, and the other contributing authors identify nine core characteristics of highly effective leadership, such as integrity, determination, vision, and charisma, and nine significant figures in American military history whose careers embody those qualities. The Art of Command examines each figure’s strengths and weaknesses and how those attributes affected their leadership abilities, offering a unique perspective of military leadership in American history.

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To explore more titles about the American Presidency, visit our website.

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6 Reads to Celebrate Lincoln’s Legacy

This Sunday marks the 208th birthday of Abraham Lincoln–the only president born in Kentucky! To celebrate, we’re sharing a few of our favorite books about Honest Abe.


morel.final.inddLincoln and Liberty: Wisdom for the Ages

Since Abraham Lincoln’s death, generations of Americans have studied his life, presidency, and leadership, often remaking him into a figure suited to the needs and interests of their own time. This illuminating volume takes a different approach to his political thought and practice. Here, a distinguished group of contributors argue that Lincoln’s relevance today is best expressed by rendering an accurate portrait of him in his own era. They seek to understand Lincoln as he understood himself and as he attempted to make his ideas clear to his contemporaries. What emerges is a portrait of a prudent leader who is driven to return the country to its original principles in order to conserve it.

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9780813192413Lincoln Legends: Myths, Hoaxes, and Confabulations Associated with Our Greatest President

As one might expect with a revered national icon, nearly every facet of Abraham Lincoln’s life has been subject to mythmaking as well as academic inquiry of widely varying quality and accuracy. In Lincoln Legends, noted historian and Lincoln expert Edward Steers Jr. carefully scrutinizes some of the most notorious tall tales and distorted ideas about America’s sixteenth President. Did Abraham Lincoln write his greatest speech on the back of an envelope on the way to Gettysburg? Did he appear before a congressional committee to defend his wife against charges of treason? Was Lincoln an illegitimate child? Was he gay? Edward Steers weighs the evidence in these and other heated debates about the Great Emancipator. Steers’s conclusions will satisfy some and disappoint others, and he just might settle some of these enduring questions once and for all.

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canavan.final.inddLincoln’s Final Hours: Conspiracy, Terror, and the Assassination of America’s Greatest President

In Lincoln’s Final Hours, author Kathryn Canavan takes a magnifying glass to the last moments of the president’s life and to the impact his assassination had on a country still reeling from a bloody civil war. With vivid, thoroughly researched prose and a reporter’s eye for detail, this fast-paced account not only furnishes a glimpse into John Wilkes Booth’s personal and political motivations but also illuminates the stories of ordinary people whose lives were changed forever by the assassination. Through her careful narration of the twists of fate that placed the president in harm’s way, of the plotting conversations Booth had with his accomplices, and of the immediate aftermath of the assassination, Canavan illustrates how the experiences of a single night changed the course of history.

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9780813136530Abraham Lincoln, Esq.: The Legal Career of America’s Greatest President

As our nation’s most beloved and recognizable president, Abraham Lincoln is best known for the Emancipation Proclamation and for guiding our country through the Civil War. But before he took the oath of office, Lincoln practiced law for nearly twenty-five years in the Illinois courts. Editors Roger Billings and Frank J. Williams, along with a notable list of contributors, examine Lincoln’s career as a general-practice attorney, looking both at his work in Illinois and at the time he spent in Washington. Each chapter offers an expansive look at Lincoln’s legal mind and covers diverse topics such as Lincoln’s legal writing, ethics, the Constitution, and international law. Abraham Lincoln, Esq. emphasizes this often overlooked period in Lincoln’s career and sheds light on Lincoln’s life before he became our sixteenth president.

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9780813109718With Charity for All: Lincoln and the Restoration of the Union

William C. Harris maintains that Lincoln held a fundamentally conservative position on the process of reintegrating the South, one that permitted a large measure of self-reconstruction, and that he did not modify his position late in the war. In With Charity for All he examines the reasoning and ideology behind Lincoln’s policies, describes what happened when military and civil agents tried to implement them at the local level, and evaluates Lincoln’s successes and failures in bringing his restoration efforts to closure.

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9780813190624Lincoln on Lincoln

Though Abraham Lincoln has been the subject of numerous biographies, his personality remains an enigma. During his lifetime, Lincoln prepared two sketches of his life for the 1860 presidential race. These brief campaign portraits serve as the core around which Paul Zall weaves extracts from correspondence, speeches, and interviews to produce an in-depth biography. Lincoln on Lincoln shows a man struggling to reconcile personal ambition and civic virtue, conscience and Constitution, and ultimately the will of God and the will of the people. Zall frames Lincoln’s words with his own illuminating commentary, providing a continuous, compelling narrative. Beginning with Lincoln’s thoughts on his parents, the story moves though his youth and early successes and failures in law and politics, and culminates in his clashes and conflicts–internal as well as external–as president of a divided country. Through his writings, Lincoln said much more about himself than is commonly recognized, and Zall uses this material to create a unique portrait of this pivotal figure.

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To explore more titles about Lincoln and the American Civil War, visit our website.

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New Releases in African American Studies

In honor of Black History Month, we’re featuring our favorite new releases in the fields of Civil Rights history and African American studies. Which ones will you read?


untitledFaith in Black Power: Religion, Race, and Resistance in Cairo, Illinois

In 1969, nineteen-year-old Robert Hunt was found dead in the Cairo, Illinois, police station. The white authorities ruled the death a suicide, but many members of the African American community believed that Hunt had been murdered—a sentiment that sparked rebellions and protests across the city.

In this vital reassessment of the impact of religion on the black power movement, Kerry Pimblott presents a nuanced discussion of the ways in which black churches supported and shaped the United Front. She deftly challenges conventional narratives of the de-Christianization of the movement, revealing that Cairoites embraced both old-time religion and revolutionary thought. Pimblott also investigates the impact of female leaders on the organization and their influence on young activists, offering new perspectives on the hypermasculine image of black power.

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untitledSelma to Saigon: The Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War

The civil rights and anti–Vietnam War movements were the two greatest protests of twentieth-century America. The dramatic escalation of U.S. involvement in Vietnam in 1965 took precedence over civil rights legislation, which had dominated White House and congressional attention during the first half of the decade. The two issues became intertwined on January 6, 1966, when the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) became the first civil rights organization to formally oppose the war, protesting the injustice of drafting African Americans to fight for the freedom of the South Vietnamese people when they were still denied basic freedoms at home.

Selma to Saigon explores the impact of the Vietnam War on the national civil rights movement. This powerful narrative illuminates the effects of the Vietnam War on the lives of leaders such as Whitney Young Jr., Stokely Carmichael, Roy Wilkins, Bayard Rustin, and Martin Luther King Jr., as well as other activists who faced the threat of the military draft along with race-related discrimination and violence. Providing new insights into the evolution of the civil rights movement, this book fills a significant gap in the literature about one of the most tumultuous periods in American history.

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miller_integrated_final.indd Integrated: The Lincoln Institute, Basketball, and a Vanished Tradition

In Integrated, James W. Miller explores an often-ignored aspect of America’s struggle for racial equality. He relates the story of the Lincoln Institute—an all-black high school in Shelby County, Kentucky, where students prospered both in the classroom and on the court. In 1960, the Lincoln Tigers men’s basketball team defeated three all-white schools to win the regional tournament and advance to one of Kentucky’s most popular events, the state high school basketball tournament. This proud tradition of African American schools—a celebration of their athletic achievements—was ironically destroyed by integration.

This evocative book is enriched by tales of individual courage from men who defied comfort and custom. Featuring accounts from former Lincoln Institute players, students, and teachers, Integrated not only documents the story of a fractured sports tradition but also addresses the far-reaching impact of the civil rights movement in the South.

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9780813169743Alpha Phi Alpha: A Legacy of Greatness, the Demands of Transcendence

On December 4, 1906, on Cornell University’s campus, seven black men founded one of the greatest and most enduring organizations in American history. Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. has brought together and shaped such esteemed men as Martin Luther King Jr., Cornel West, Thurgood Marshall, Wes Moore, W. E. B. DuBois, Roland Martin, and Paul Robeson. “Born in the shadow of slavery and on the lap of disenfranchisement,” Alpha Phi Alpha—like other black Greek-letter organizations—was founded to instill a spirit of high academic achievement and intellectualism, foster meaningful and lifelong ties, and racially uplift those brothers who would be initiated into its ranks.

In Alpha Phi Alpha, Gregory S. Parks, Stefan M. Bradley, and other contributing authors analyze the fraternity and its members’ fidelity to the founding precepts set forth in 1906. They discuss the identity established by the fraternity at its inception, the challenges of protecting the image and brand, and how the organization can identify and train future Alpha men to uphold the standards of an outstanding African American fraternity. Drawing on organizational identity theory and a diverse array of methodologies, the authors raise and answer questions that are relevant not only to Alpha Phi Alpha but to all black Greek-letter organizations.

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9780813169750Black Greek-letter Organizations in the Twenty-First Century: Our Fight Has Just Begun

For much of the twentieth century, black Greek-letter organizations (BGLOs) united individuals dedicated to excellence, fostering kinship ties, and uplifting African Americans. Despite the profound influence of BGLOs, many now question the continuing relevance of these groups, arguing that their golden age has passed. Partly because of the influence of hip-hop culture, the image of BGLOs has been unfairly reduced to a stereotype—a world of hazing and stepping without any real substance. Not only does the general public know very little about these groups, but often the members themselves do not have a deep understanding of their history and culture or of the issues facing their organizations.

Gregory S. Parks has assembled an impressive group of contributors to show that the BGLOs’ most important work lies ahead. Black Greek-letter Organizations in the Twenty-first Century: Our Fight Has Just Begun provides historical context for the development of BGLOs and explores their service activities as well as their relationships with other prominent African American institutions. The book examines BGLOs’ responses to a number of contemporary issues, including non-black membership, homosexuality within membership, and the perception of BGLOs as educated gangs, in order to demonstrate that these organizations can create a positive and enduring future.

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Visit our website to explore more titles in our series, Civil Rights and the Struggle for Black Equality in the Twentieth Century.

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The Universal Language of Food: A Conversation with Aimee Zaring

Recent events have highlighted the need for an understanding of the situation facing refugees throughout the world. Refugees, unlike economic migrants, are forced to leave their countries of origin or are driven out by violence or persecution. As these individuals and their families struggle to adapt to a new culture, the kitchen often becomes one of the few places where they are able to return “home.” Preparing native cuisine is one way they can find comfort in an unfamiliar land, retain their customs, reconnect with their past, and preserve a sense of identity.

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In Flavors from Home: Refugees in Kentucky Share Their Stories and Comfort Foods, author Aimee Zaring uses her many years of expertise working with refugees in the Commonwealth to explore their everyday life, the situations that brought them here, and the food that connects them to home. Zaring shares personal and dramatic accounts of their fight for their lives, as well as heartwarming and fascinating stories of their transition to living in America. Zaring also illustrates the importance of understanding the persecution and struggle that these refugees have gone through and the ability of food to provide a sense of home for them when home is lost.

In order to foster a discussion about the lives of refugees in Kentucky and throughout the country, we’re sharing the following conversation with Aimee Zaring, author of Flavors from Home:


What first interested you to write Flavors from Home and how did that interest help to shape the finished book?

For many years, I taught ESL (English as a Second Language) to elder refugees, and we held occasional potlucks where students could share dishes from their homelands. Something magical happened at those potluck dinners. Usually at snack time, the students from each ethnic group would sit together at the same table—but not during potluck days. I was always filled with awe when I looked around the room and saw people from all over the world coming together around food. And I loved seeing how the elders seemed to become kids again as they stood proudly by their dishes and encouraged everyone to “Eat, eat!”

It occurred to me that someone should collect all these delicious recipes before they became altered or “Americanized.” As I began talking to the refugees about their favorite foods, I was reminded that food is never just food; there are always stories and strong memories associated with it. I realized that leaving out the refugees’ stories would be like leaving out the indispensable saffron in the Persian dish tachin. So I decided to make food the unifying element, linking all the stories, just as food in general unifies all of humankind. It’s one of the few things we all share in common.

Describe the circumstances that led a few of the people you interviewed to seek refuge in the United States.

All refugees are immigrants, but not all immigrants are refugees. Refugees flee their home countries out of fear or necessity because of persecution or violence. They usually cannot safely return to their homelands. Economic migrants, on the other hand, choose to leave their home countries to improve their lives, especially to better their economic conditions, and can generally return home when and if they choose.

As one can imagine, war is almost always the culprit. Nearly all the refugees I interviewed for Flavors from Home were driven out by the trickle-down upheaval and chaos resulting from war, military dictatorships, or political uprisings. The first refugee featured in the book came to America as a young girl with her family after the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. Several refugees in the book are from Myanmar (Burma) and were persecuted for their religious or political beliefs by the country’s longstanding military junta. Two refugees in the book are from Bhutan, the country often referred to as “the happiest in the world,” yet their specific ethnic group (comprised mainly of Hindus) made them a target in the small Buddhist-dominated kingdom. The last chapter in the book features one of my former students, a political activist who spent over two decades of his life in jails because of his enduring fight to defend human rights.

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The kitchen is home for Huong “CoCo” Tran at her Heart & Soy restaurant. (Photo by Julie Johnston)

Which of their stories did you find most uplifting?

Every one of these stories was deeply moving and affected me in a profound way. Sometimes I was moved by the sheer horror of what the individuals had seen or suffered through, for example Nicolas Kiza from Rwanda, who as a young boy traversed the entire Democratic Republic of the Congo by foot, trying to outrun the Rwandan Genocide, because, as he told me, “I’d rather be killed by a lion than my fellow Rwandans.” Sometimes I was moved by the refugees’ fierce determination and strong work ethic and how much they’ve accomplished in the United States with minimal assistance, often knowing little to no English. Huong “CoCo” Tran comes to mind. CoCo spent thirty days at sea after the fall of Saigon. She is now one of Louisville’s most inventive and successful restauranteurs.

Can you explain why some ended up in Kentucky, as opposed to another state?

Kentucky has several official refugee resettlement agencies, including Catholic Charities, Kentucky Refugee Ministries, the International Center of Kentucky, among others, which have been offering services to refugees for decades. Because we have a long tradition of hosting refugees and consequently have refugee populations already established in the area, resettlement agencies will often try to place refugees where they already have family and a built-in support system. The majority of refugees in Kentucky are resettled in Louisville, which has a lot going for it—a relatively low cost of living, good schools, ample job opportunities, a vibrant international community, and a current local government that by and large supports cultural diversity.

What makes food a more tangible connection for some than other aspects of their heritage?

For most refugees, food equals refuge. It offers a safe haven in a strange land filled with foreign customs. Though refugees must adapt to American ways to increase their chances of success (including the formidable task of learning a new language), nothing dictates that they must give up their native foods. Because of the widespread availability of international ingredients—through ethnic groceries, native produce grown in individual or communal gardens, and online shopping—there is no compelling reason to alter their dishes and culinary customs. Cooking and eating is a multi-sensory experience, evoking all sorts of memories and emotions. It’s the easiest and cheapest direct flight back home.

What do you hope Flavors from Home accomplishes, and what do you believe will resonate most with the audience while reading this book?

I hope Flavors from Home will serve as a launching point for dialogue between people from diverse backgrounds who might not otherwise have a reason or opportunity to communicate with each other. Food is something we all share in common and can enjoy together, and often no words are necessary. Food is its own language and can transcend barriers. I’ve seen time and again the goodwill that a fine meal can foster.

I hope, too, that the book will help educate readers on the many different cultures and ethnic groups that have been added to America’s melting pot over the past half-century. And I hope the stories will inspire people to persevere, even when all hope seems lost. Native-born Americans will no doubt walk away from these stories with a greater appreciation of our great nation, especially after viewing it fresh through the eyes of refugees. Yes, there’s a lot that’s wrong with our country, but there is also a lot that’s right, and refugees remind us to never take for granted our most basic freedoms. And, of course, I want people to try these delectable dishes and perhaps even discover, as did I, a whole new world of comfort foods.


Aimee Zaring lives in Louisville, Kentucky where, for more than five years, she has taught ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) at Catholic Charities, Kentucky Refugee Ministries, Global LT, and Jefferson County Public Schools.

To learn more about her book, Flavors from Home, visit our website.