Providing incisive commentary on the historical and contemporary American working class experience, Banded Together: Economic Democratization in the Brass Valley documents a community's efforts to rebuild and revitalize itself in the aftermath of deindustrialization. Through powerful oral histories and other primary sources, Jeremy Brecher tells the story of a group of average Americans--factory workers, housewives, parishioners, and organizers--who tried to create a democratic alternative to the economic powerlessness caused by the closing of factories in the Connecticut Naugatuck Valley region during the 1970s and 1980s. This volume focuses on grassroots organization, democratically controlled enterprises, and supportive public policies, providing examples from the Naugatuck Valley Project community-alliance that remain relevant to the economic problems of today and tomorrow. Drawing on more than a hundred interviews with Project leaders, staff, and other knowledgeable members of the local community, Brecher illustrates how the Naugatuck Valley Project served as a vehicle for community members to establish greater control over their economic lives.
In November 1933, the Socialist Party of Bridgeport, Connecticut put slate roofer Jasper McLevy in the mayor's seat and nearly won control of the city council. Cecelia Bucki explores how labor gained first a foothold and then a stronghold in local politics as broad debates pitted previously unengaged working-class citizens against local business leaders and traditional party elites.
In the heat of the Great Depression, the skilled union craftsmen who made up the bulk of the city's Socialist Party filled a political void created by the crumbling of mainstream parties, the disintegration of traditional modes of ethnic politics, and the city's acute fiscal crisis. In time, however, legislative measures and compromise politics blunted the progressive agenda. The local party split from the Socialist Party of America and became narrowly focused and reformist while still serving as the voice of the working class.
A portrait of a stunning moment in American politics, Bridgeport's Socialist New Deal, 1915-36 offers a fascinating look at the volatility of politics in the early years of the Great Depression.
The past twenty-five years have seen enormous changes in Native America. One of the most profound expressions of change has been within the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. The Nation has overcome significant hurdles to establish itself as a potent cultural and economic force highlighted by the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center and Foxwoods, the largest casino in the Western Hemisphere. In Casino and Museum, John J. Bodinger de Uriarte sees these two main commercial structures of the reservation as mutually supporting industries generating both material and symbolic capital.
To some degree, both institutions offer Native representations yet create different strategies for attracting and engaging visitors. While the casino is crucial as an economic generator, the museum has an important role as the space for authentic Mashantucket Pequot images and narratives. The book’s focus is on how the casino and the museum successfully deploy different strategies to take control of the tribe’s identity, image, and cultural agency.
Photographs in the book provide a view of Mashantucket, allowing the reader to study the spaces of the book’s central arguments. They are a key methodology of the project and offer a non-textual opportunity to navigate the sites as well as one finely focused way to work through the representation and formation of the Native American photographic subject—the powerful popular imagining of Native Americans. Casino and Museum presents a unique understanding of the prodigious role that representation plays in the contemporary poetics and politics of Native America. It is essential reading for scholars of Native American studies, museum studies, cultural studies, and photography.
In 1861 at the age of eighteen, Edward Woolsey Bacon, a Yale student and son of well-known abolitionist minister Leonard Bacon, left his home in New Haven, Connecticut, to fight for the United States. Over the next four years Bacon served in both the Union navy and army, which gave him a sweeping view of the Civil War. His postings included being a captain’s clerk on the USS Iroquois, a hospital clerk in his hometown, a captain in the 29th Connecticut Infantry (Colored), and a major in the 117th U.S. Colored Infantry, and he described these experiences in vibrant letters to his friends and family. Historian George S. Burkhardt has compiled these letters, as well as Bacon’s diary in the impressive Double Duty in the Civil War: The Letters of Sailor and Soldier Edward W. Bacon.
Bacon tells of hunting Confederate commerce raiders on the high seas, enduring the tedium of blockade duty, and taking part in riverine warfare on the Mississippi. He recalls sweating in South Carolina as an infantry officer during drill and picket duty, suffering constant danger in the battlefield trenches of Virginia, marching victoriously on fallen Richmond, and tolerating the boredom of occupation duty in Texas.
His highly entertaining letters shed new light on naval affairs and reveal a close-knit family life. The narrative of his duty with black troops is especially valuable, since few first-hand accounts from white officers of the U.S. Colored Troops exist. Furthermore, his beliefs about race, slavery, and the Union cause were unconventional for the time and stand in contrast to those held by many of his contemporaries.
Double Duty in the Civil War is filled with lively descriptions of the men Bacon met and the events he experienced. With Burkhardt’s careful editing and useful annotations, Bacon’s letters and diary excerpts give rare insight into areas of the Civil War that have been neglected because of a lack of available sources. Given the scarcity of eyewitness testimonies to navy life and life in African American regiments, this book is a rarity indeed.
The years from 1690 to 1765 in America have usually been considered a waiting period before the Revolution. Mr. Bushman, in his penetrating study of colonial Connecticut, takes another view. He shows how, during these years, economic ambition and religious ferment profoundly altered the structure of Puritan society, enlarging the bounds of liberty and inspiring resistance to established authority.
This is an investigation of the strains that accompanied the growth of liberty in an authoritarian society. Mr. Bushman traces the deterioration of Puritan social institutions and the consequences for human character. He does this by focusing on day-to-day life in Connecticut--on the farms, in the churches, and in the town meetings. Controversies within the towns over property, money, and church discipline shook the "land of steady habits," and the mounting frustration of common needs compelled those in authority, in contradiction to Puritan assumptions, to become more responsive to popular demands.
In the Puritan setting these tensions were inevitably given a moral significance. Integrating social and economic interpretations, Mr. Bushman explains the Great Awakening of the 1740's as an outgrowth of the stresses placed on the Puritan character. Men, plagued with guilt for pursuing their economic ambitions and resisting their rulers, became highly susceptible to revival preaching.
The Awakening gave men a new vision of the good society. The party of the converted, the "New Lights," which also absorbed people with economic discontents, put unprecedented demands on civil and ecclesiastical authorities. The resulting dissension moved Connecticut, almost unawares, toward republican attitudes and practices. Disturbed by the turmoil, many observers were, by 1765, groping toward a new theory of social order that would reconcile traditional values with their eighteenth-century experiences.
Vividly written, full of illustrative detail, the manuscript of this book has been called by Oscar Handlin one of the most important works of American history in recent years.
Table of Contents:
PART ONE: SOCIETY IN 1690 1. Law and Authority 2. The Town and the Economy PART TWO: LAND, 1690-1740 3. Proprietors 4. Outlivers 5. New Plantations 6. The Politics of Land PART THREE: MONEY, 1710-1750 7. New Traders 8. East versus West 9. Covetousness PART FOUR: CHURCHES, 1690-1765 10. Clerical Authority 11. Dissent 12. Awakening 13. The Church and Experimental Religion 14. Church and State PART FIVE: POLITICS, 1740-1765 15. New Lights in Politics 16. A New Social Order
Appendixes Bibliographical Note List of Works Cited Index
Illustrations Map of Connecticut in 1765 Map of hereditary Mohegan lands and Wabbaquasset lands
Reviews of this book: Employing his special training in psychology to advantage, Bushman has skillfully woven into his description and analysis of Connecticut society in the process of change, a bold interpretation of the impact of change upon individual character formation...The author has made a signal contribution to the history of liberty in America. --William and Mary Quarterly
Reviews of this book: At the heart of history lies a vague but undeniable substance known as 'national character' or 'social character'...Richard L. Bushman has had the courage to offer his version of the evolution of the social character of Connecticut...The boldness of the attempt alone would make Puritan to Yankee an important book, but it is the general accuracy of its author's perception of the way the mechanism of historical change operates and the specific accuracy 0f his assessment of the results that makes the book one of the most fruitful historical studies produced in the last few years in any field of history. --History and Theory
Reviews of this book: Professor Bushman's study of eighteenth-century Connecticut is a first-rate job of social history. He deals with large questions in satisfying detail...Energy in research is combined with courage in writing. --New England Quarterly
In Ghosts of Organizations Past, Dan Ryan asks, “Why are urban communities such hard places to implement community improvement programs?” Looking at New Haven, Connecticut, and a now-defunct program called Fighting Back, which was created to build community coalitions against the abuse of alcohol and other drugs, Ryan shows how the normal properties of organizations generate apparent pathologies. He shows how the “ghosts,” or artifacts, of past organizations, both inhibited and enhanced Fighting Back's chances of success.
Ryan draws on concepts from the study of organizations, social capital, and social networks to re-think questions such as “What kind of thing is a community?” and “Why is it so difficult to build community initiatives out of organizations?” He provides a social organizational explanation for problems familiar to anyone who has been involved in community programs, issues that are usually understood as personal incompetence, turf wars, greed, or corruption.
Ghosts of Organizations Past describes the challenges of using organizations to create change in places in dire need of it.
Public silence in policymaking can be deafening. When advocates for a disadvantaged group decline to speak up, not only are their concerns not recorded or acted upon, but also the collective strength of the unspoken argument is lessened—a situation that undermines the workings of deliberative democracy by reflecting only the concerns of more powerful interests.
But why do so many advocates remain silent on key issues they care about and how does that silence contribute to narrowly defined policies? What can individuals and organizations do to amplify their privately expressed concerns for policy change?
In Healthy Voices, Unhealthy Silence, Colleen M. Grogan and Michael K. Gusmano address these questions through the lens of state-level health care advocacy for the poor. They examine how representatives for the poor participate in an advisory board process by tying together existing studies; extensive interviews with key players; and an in-depth, first-hand look at the Connecticut Medicaid advisory board's deliberations during the managed care debate. Drawing on the concepts of deliberative democracy, agenda setting, and nonprofit advocacy, Grogan and Gusmano reveal the reasons behind advocates' often unexpected silence on major issues, assess how capable nonprofits are at affecting policy debates, and provide prescriptive advice for creating a participatory process that adequately addresses the health care concerns of the poor and dispossessed.
Though exploring specifically state-level health care advocacy for the poor, the lessons Grogan and Gusmano offer here are transferable across issue areas and levels of government. Public policy scholars, advocacy organizations, government workers, and students of government administration will be well-served by this significant study.
Performance accountability has been the dominant trend in education policy reform since the 1970s. State and federal policies set standards for what students should learn; require students to take “high-stakes” tests to measure what they have learned; and then hold students, schools, and school districts accountable for their performance. The goal of these policies is to push public school districts to ensure that all students reach a common threshold of knowledge and skills.
High-Stakes Reform analyzes the political processes and historical context that led to the enactment of state-level education accountability policies across the country. It also situates the education accountability movement in the broader context of public administration research, emphasizing the relationships among equity, accountability, and intergovernmental relations. The book then focuses on three in-depth case studies of policy development in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Kathryn McDermott zeroes in on the most controversial and politically charged forms of state performance accountability sanctions, including graduation tests, direct state intervention in or closing of schools, and state takeovers of school districts.
Public debate casts performance accountability as either a cure for the problems of US public education or a destructive mistake. Kathryn McDermott expertly navigates both sides of the debate detailing why particular policies became popular, how the assumptions behind the policies influenced the forms they took, and what practitioners and scholars can learn from the successes and failures of education accountability policies.
On the surface, identity politics appears to promote polarization. To the contrary, political scientist Jose E. Cruz argues that, instead, fragmentation and instability are more likely to occur only when the differences are ignored and nonethnic strategies are employed. Cruz illustrates his claim by focusing on one group of Puerto Ricans and how they mobilized to demand accountability from political leaders in Hartford, Connecticut.
The activities of the Puerto Rican Political Action Committee from 1983 to 1991 illustrate the power of ethnic mobilization and strategy in an urban setting. Cruz examines their insistence on their right to be included in the political process in the context of both a typical mid-sized American city and the unique attributes of Hartford's predominantly white-collar population. At the same time, this study acknowledges the limitations of the exercise of such power in the political process.
Through extensive interviews Cruz brings to light the variety of ways in which politicians and political activists themselves view their own activities and achievements. This group of Puerto Rican activists attempted to penetrate the power structure of Hartford. Though their success was limited, their work constitutes a springboard for further change.
From Litchfield's great church stove war to Hartford's Charter Oak to Stonington's infamous Lantern Hill, these traditional tales from the Nutmeg State span four centuries of Connecticut history. Personal legends, narratives, anecdotes, and supernatural stories—all are fascinating, humorous and rich with the history and lore of the land.
Model City Blues tells the story of how regular people, facing a changing city landscape, fought for their own model of the “ideal city” by creating grassroots plans for urban renewal. Filled with vivid descriptions of significant moments in a protracted struggle, it offers a street-level account of organized resistance to institutional plans to transform New Haven, Connecticut in the 1960s. Anchored in the physical spaces and political struggles of the city, it brings back to center stage the individuals and groups who demanded that their voices be heard.
By reexamining the converging class- and race-based movements of 1960s New Haven, Mandi Jackson helps to explain the city's present-day economic and political struggles. More broadly, by closely analyzing particular sites of resistance in New Haven, Model City Blues employs multiple academic disciplines to redefine and reimagine the roles of everyday city spaces in building social movements and creating urban landscapes.
The Connecticut shoreline is made up of varying landscapes--the sandy coastline at Madison, the rocky shore at Branford, the replenished beach at Greenwich, and the erosion at Old Saybrook. A Moveable Shore offers a general user’s guide to the Connecticut shore. In a town-by-town journey down the 254-mile coastline, Peter C. Patton and James M. Kent explore in detail the history of specific sites, the climatic and geological forces that shape the shore, and regulations regarding land-use development. In addition, they provide a guide to coastal field trips. Beginning with the hurricane of 1938, the biggest natural disaster to strike Connecticut since its settlement by Europeans, the authors demonstrate the continuing pattern of development of coastal land prone to flooding and high winds. Although the Connecticut coast faces Long Island and Block Island sounds, it is subject to the same natural hazards, land-use risks, and regulations as opean ocean shorelines. Global climatic events--glaciation, global warming, and rising sea levels--influence the shape and composition of the Connecticut shoreline, as do small-scale forces such as wind, waves, and tides. Patton and Kent seek to instill a respect for the force of natural events and provide a guide for lessening the dangers of construction and development. A practical question-and-answer chapter explains what homeowners need to know to meet land-use regulations along the coast. In a state where the entire population lives within 100 miles of the coast, this important book will serve as a citizens’ guide to living with the Connecticut shore and will be of interest to coastal residents, developers, geologists, policymakers, and vacationers.
Narratives of Justice offers a provocative, contemporary look at the timeless questions of justice and fairness. Using face-to-face interviews, Grant Reeher plumbs the minds of legislators for their beliefs about distributive justice and attempts to discover the ways in which those beliefs influence their behavior. The book calls into question many notions of American political ideology and, in particular, the idea of an "American exceptionalism" regarding views from the political left, and the dominance in the United States of a "liberal tradition."
Political philosophers have amassed a large body of work on justice and fairness from a theoretical perspective, but there is comparatively little empirical work on the subject. The work that does exist concentrates on the beliefs of the public. We know very little concerning the beliefs about justice held by political elites. This work offers a window into the beliefs of legislators, a group for which such an inquiry is rarely undertaken.
The book is based on a set of extended, in-depth interviews with the members of the Connecticut State Senate as well as a year of close observation of the Senate in action. The interviews averaged four hours in length and covered a variety of topics related to fairness. Through this material, Reeher employs a narrative-based framework to understand the patterns in the senators' interview responses, and develops a typology of the senator's narratives. These narratives vary in both content and form, and as a whole present a surprising range of views.
Narratives of Justice will be of interest to those concerned with justice, political ideologies, and political beliefs, as well as state and local politics and, more generally, American politics. Its wide research and thorough documentation make it a useful guide to the literature within and beyond political science concerning beliefs, ideologies, legislative behavior, and qualitative research methods.
“When I was starting College Presidents for Gun Safety, one of the concerns I heard was the idea that there were just too many issues on which to articulate an opinion. Where would it stop? Where would we draw the line? . . . In light of this latest tragedy, on a college campus that could have been any of ours, I would say: ‘We are nowhere near the line yet.’” (Lawrence Schall, quoted in “Tragedy at Umpqua,” by Paul Fain, Inside Higher Ed, October 2, 2015)
In this short work, Elizabeth Boquet explores the line Lawrence Schall describes above, tracing the overlaps and intersections of a lifelong education around guns and violence, as a student, a teacher, a feminist, a daughter, a wife, a citizen and across the dislocations and relocations that are part of a life lived in and around school. Weaving narratives of family, the university classroom and administration, her husband’s work as a police officer, and her work with students and the Poetry for Peace effort that her writing center sponsors in the local schools, she recounts her efforts to respond to moments of violence with a pedagogy of peace. “Can we not acknowledge that our experiences with pain anywhere should render us more, not less, capable of responding to it everywhere?” she asks. “Compassion, it seems to me, is an infinitely renewable resource.”
It is we who push the papers, put the paychecks in the mail; It is we who type the letters, mind the office without fail. And until we get a contract, it is we who'll shut down Yale, For the union makes us strong. (To the tune of "John Brown's Body")
"Must reading for anyone who wants to learn what a revitalized labor
movement would look like." -- Labor Notes
"A textbook on solidarity unionism." -- Staughton Lynd
"One of the very best books on labor in the 1970s and 80s."
-- Dana Frank, University of California at Santa Cruz
"There are very few case studies in recent labor history as readable
and provocative as this one." -- Karen Sawislak, Stanford University On Strike for Respect is a lively account of the 1984-85 strike
by clerical and technical workers at Yale University. Members of Local
34, with a strong female majority, mobilized themselves and the public,
breathing new life into the labor movement as they fought for and won
substantial gains. A short update on current conditions concludes this
How did the 1950s become "The Sixties"? This is the question at the heart of Daniel Horowitz's On the Cusp. Part personal memoir, part collective biography, and part cultural history, the book illuminates the dynamics of social and political change through the experiences of a small, and admittedly privileged, generational cohort.
A Jewish "townie" from New Haven when he entered Yale College in fall 1956, Horowitz reconstructs the undergraduate career of the class of 1960 and follows its story into the next decade. He begins by looking at curricular and extracurricular life on the all-male campus, then ranges beyond the confines of Yale to larger contexts, including the local drama of urban renewal, the lingering shadow of McCarthyism, and decolonization movements around the world. He ponders the role of the university in protecting the prerogatives of class while fostering social mobility, and examines the growing significance of race and gender in American politics and culture, spurred by a convergence of the personal and the political. Along the way he traces the political evolution of his classmates, left and right, as Cold War imperatives lose force and public attention shifts to the civil rights movement and the war in Vietnam.
Throughout Horowitz draws on a broad range of sources, including personal interviews, writings by classmates, reunion books, issues of the Yale Daily News, and other undergraduate publications, as well as his own letters and college papers. The end product is a work consistent with much of Horowitz's previously published scholarship on postwar America, further exposing the undercurrent of discontent and dissent that ran just beneath the surface of the so-called Cold War consensus.
This book reconstructs the life of Mehetabel Chandler Coit (1673–1758), the author of what may be the earliest surviving diary by an American woman. A native of Roxbury, Massachusetts, who later moved to Connecticut, she began her diary at the age of fifteen and kept it intermittently until she was well into her seventies. A previously overlooked resource, the diary contains entries on a broad range of topics as well as poems, recipes, folk and herbal medical remedies, religious meditations, and financial accounts. An extensive collection of letters by Coit and her female relatives has also survived, shedding further light on her experiences.
Michelle Marchetti Coughlin combs through these writings to create a vivid portrait of a colonial American woman and the world she inhabited. Coughlin documents the activities of daily life as well as dramas occasioned by war, epidemics, and political upheaval. Though Coit's opportunities were circumscribed by gender norms of the day, she led a rich and varied life, not only running a household and raising a family, but reading, writing, traveling, transacting business, and maintaining a widespread network of social and commercial connections. She also took a lively interest in the world around her and played an active role in her community.
Coit's long life covered an eventful period in American history, and this book explores the numerous—and sometimes surprising—ways in which her personal history was linked to broader social and political developments. It also provides insight into the lives of countless other colonial American women whose history remains largely untold.
In 1990, Hartford, Connecticut, ranked as the eight poorest city in the country by the census; the real estate market was severely depressed; downtown insurance companies were laying off and the retail department stores were closing; public services were strained; and demolition sites abandoned for lack of funds pockmarked the streets. Hartford's problems are typical of those experienced in numerous U.S. cities affected by a lingering recession.
The harsh economic times felt throughout the city's workplaces and neighborhoods precipitated the formation of grassroots alliances between labor and community organizations. Coming together to create new techniques, their work has national implications for the development of alternative strategies for stimulating economic recovery.
Louise B. Simmons, a former Hartford City Councilperson, offers an insider's view of these coalitions, focusing on three activist unions—rhe New England Health Care Employees Union, the Hotel and Restaurant Employees, and the United Auto Workers—and three community groups—Hartford Areas Rally Together, Organized North Easterners-Clay Hill and North End, and Asylum Hill Organizing Project. Her in-depth analysis illustrates these groups' successes and difficulties in working together toward a new vision of urban politics.
In the series Labor and Social Change, edited by Paula Rayman and Carmen Sirianni.
"That relatively few criminal cases in this country are resolved by full Perry Mason-style strials is fairly common knowledge. Most cases are settled by a guilty plea after some form of negotiation over the charge or sentence. But why? The standard explanation is case pressure: the enormous volume of criminal cases, to be processed with limited staff, time and resources. . . . But a large body of new empirical research now demands that we re-examine plea negotiation. Milton Heumann's book, Plea Bargaining, strongly and explicitly attacks the case-pressure argument and suggests an alternative explanation for plea bargaining based on the adaptation of attorneys and judges to the local criminal court. The book is a significant and welcome addition to the literature. Heumann's investigation of case pressure and plea negotiation demonstrates solid research and careful analysis."—Michigan Law Review
It is conventional wisdom that there is a grave crisis in our criminal courts: the widespread reliance on plea-bargaining and the settlement of most cases with just a few seconds before the judge endanger the rights of defendants. Not so, says Malcolm Feeley in this provocative and original book. Basing his argument on intensive study of the lower criminal court system, Feeley demonstrates that the absence of formal "due process" is preferred by all of the court's participants, and especially by defendants. Moreover, he argues, "it is not all clear that as a group defendants would be better off in a more 'formal' court system," since the real costs to those accused of misdemeanors and lesser felonies are not the fines and prison sentences meted out by the court, but the costs incurred before the case even comes before the judge—lost wages from missed work, commissions to bail bondsmen, attorney's fees, and wasted time. Therefore, the overriding interest of the accused is not to secure the formal trappings of the judicial process, but to minimize the time, and money, spent dealing with the court. Focusing on New Haven, Connecticut's, lower court, Feeley found that the defense and prosecution often agreed that the pre-trial process was sufficient to "teach the defendant a lesson." In effect, Feeley demonstrates that the informal practices of the lower courts as they are presently constituted are more "just" than they are usually given credit for being. "... a book that should be read by anyone who is interested in understanding how courts work and how the criminal sanction is administered in modern, complex societies."— Barry Mahoney, Institute for Court Management, Denver "It is grounded in a firm grasp of theory as well as thorough field research."—Jack B. Weinstein, U.S. District Court Judge." a feature that has long been the hallmark of good American sociology: it recreates a believable world of real men and women."—Paul Wiles, Law & Society Review. "This book's findings are well worth the attention of the serious criminal justice student, and the analyses reveal a thoughtful, probing, and provocative intelligence....an important contribution to the debate on the role and limits of discretion in American criminal justice. It deserves to be read by all those who are interested in the outcome of the debate." —Jerome H. Skolnick, American Bar Foundation Research Journal
The first case study of its kind, this book addresses a broad range of questions about the rationale for and application of judicial execution in Connecticut since the seventeenth century. In addition to identifying the 158 people who have been put to death for crimes during the state's history, Lawrence Goodheart analyzes their social status in terms of sex, race, class, religion, and ethnicity. He looks at the circumstances of the crimes, the weapons that were used, and the victims. He reconstructs the history of Connecticut's capital laws, its changing rituals of execution, and the growing debate over the legitimacy of the death penalty itself. Although the focus is on the criminal justice system, the ethical values of New England culture form the larger context. Goodheart shows how a steady diminution in types of capital crimes, including witchcraft and sexual crimes, culminated in an emphasis on proportionate punishment during the Enlightenment and eventually led to a preference for imprisonment for all capital crimes except first-degree murder. Goodheart concludes by considering why Connecticut, despite its many statutory restrictions on capital punishment and lengthy appeals process, has been the only state in New England to have executed anyone since 1960.
In July 1976, a twenty-four-year-old white woman, Margo Olson, was found in a shallow grave in Stamford, Connecticut, with an arrow piercing through her heart. A few weeks later, Howie Carter, her black boyfriend, was killed by the police. Howie and Margo’s interracial relationship held a distorted mirror to the author’s own, with Howie’s best friend, Joe. Joe’s theory was that the police didn’t have any evidence to arrest Howie; operating on the assumption that the black man is always guilty, they killed him instead. Margo’s murder was never solved.
Looking back at what might have happened in 1976, the author discovers a Bicentennial year steeped in recession, racism, and unrelenting violence. It was also a time of flourishing second-wave feminism, when young women were encouraged to do anything, if only they knew how. Stamford was in the midst of urban renewal, destroying historically black neighborhoods to create space for corporations escaping a bankrupt and dangerous New York City, just forty miles away. Organized crime followed the money, infiltrating Stamford at all levels. The author reveals how racism, misogyny, the economy, and corruption affected the young people’s daily lives, and helped lead Margo and Howie to their deaths.
It was to all appearances an ordinary murder—many might have said that it was an open-and-shut case. But some jurors were not convinced, and the taint of reasonable doubt led one of them to question the very future of our legal system.
For many Americans, the civic responsibility of jury duty might seem an inconvenience; for Norma Thompson, it was a unique opportunity to bring her expertise to bear on the state of trial procedures in America today. With a background in political science, literature, and the classics, Thompson served as jury foreman in a trial of an “ordinary” murder in New Haven, Connecticut. Deliberations were buffeted by crosswinds of common sense and strong emotion. The trial ended in a hung jury because of what Thompson calls the “unreasonable doubts” of two fellow jurors concerning circumstantial evidence in an age when DNA testing holds out the promise of irrefutable proof.
In a compelling tale of contrasting rhetoric, Thompson takes readers into the courtroom to hear a streetwise convict verbally sparring with the D.A., then brings us into the confines of the jury room to have us witness nervous chatter over the meaning of evidence. She also contrasts this ordinary murder with the concurrent brutal stabbing of a Yale student, a case that attracted considerably more police and media attention.
Thompson argues that the indeterminate results of the trial are symptomatic of larger problems in the justice system and society and that the reluctance of most people today to be judgmental is damaging the criminal justice system. As an antidote, she suggests that great literary and historical texts can help us develop the capacity for prudential judgment. Gleaning insights from an imaginary jury of Tocqueville and Plato, Jane Austen and William Faulkner, among other writers and thinkers, Thompson shows how confrontation with the works of such authors can help model more proper habits of deliberation.
Blending personal memoir, social analysis, and literary criticism, Unreasonable Doubt is a challenging book that deals squarely with the evasion of judgment in contemporary political, social, and legal affairs. Brimming with brilliant insights, it suggests that the foundations for thought and action in our time have been neglected as a result of the wall erected between the social sciences and the humanities and invites readers to consider jury duty in a new light. Through real-world drama and literary reflection, it shows us that there is more to politics than power—and more of value to be found in the humanities than we may have supposed.
This book originated in the summer of 2006, in the burial ground of the First Church of Christ, Congregational, of East Haddam, Connecticut, where a team of forensic scientists began excavating the graves of two emancipated slaves, Venture Smith (d. 1805) and his wife, Marget (d. 1809). Those requesting this remarkable investigation were the Smiths' direct descendants, members of the eighth, ninth, tenth, and eleventh generations, who were determined to honor the bicentennial of their founding ancestor's death by discovering everything possible about his life. Opening burial plots in the hope of recovering DNA for genealogical tracing proved a compelling first step.
But what began as a scientific inquiry into African origins rapidly evolved into an unparalleled interdisciplinary collaboration between historians, literary analysts, geographers, genealogists, anthropologists, political philosophers, genomic biologists, and, perhaps most revealingly, a poet. Their common goal has been to reconstruct the life of an extraordinary African American and to assay its implications for the sprawling, troubled eighteenth-century world of racial exploitation over which he triumphed. This volume displays the rich results of that collaboration.
A highly intelligent, deeply self-motivated and immensely energetic slave transported from Africa, Venture Smith transformed himself through unstinting labor into a respectable Connecticut citizen, a successful entrepreneur, and the liberator of other enslaved African Americans. As James O. Horton emphasizes in his foreword to this volume, "Venture Smith's saga is a gift to all who seek to understand the complex racial beginnings of America. It helps to connect the broad American story with the stories of many Americans whose lives illustrate the national struggle to live out the national ideals."
In addition to Horton and volume editor James Brewer Stewart, contributors include Cameron Blevins, Vincent Carretta, Anna Mae Duane, Robert P. Forbes, Anne L. Hiskes, Paul Lovejoy, Marilyn Nelson, David Richardson, Chandler B. Saint, Linda Strausbaugh, Kevin Tulimieri, and John Wood Sweet.
In The Wired City, Dan Kennedy tells the story of the New Haven Independent, a nonprofit community website in Connecticut that is at the leading edge of reinventing local journalism. Through close attention to city government, schools, and neighborhoods, and through an ongoing conversation with its readers, the Independent's small staff of journalists has created a promising model of how to provide members of the public with the information they need in a self-governing society.
Although the Independent is the principal subject of The Wired City, Kennedy examines a number of other online news projects as well, including nonprofit organizations such as Voiceof San Diego and the Connecticut Mirror and for-profit ventures such as the Batavian, Baristanet, and CT News Junkie. Where legacy media such as major city newspapers are cutting back on coverage, entrepreneurs are now moving in to fill at least some of the vacuum.
The Wired City includes the perspectives of journalists, activists, and civic leaders who are actively re-envisioning how journalism can be meaningful in a hyperconnected age of abundant news sources. Kennedy provides deeper context by analyzing the decline of the newspaper industry in recent years and, in the case of those sites choosing such a path, the uneasy relationship between nonprofit status and the First Amendment.
At a time of pessimism over the future of journalism, The Wired City offers hope. What Kennedy documents is not the death of journalism but rather the uncertain and sometimes painful early stages of rebirth.