Teaching--and learning from--Carey McWilliams.
First, a bit of background. Born in 1905 near Steamboat Springs, Colorado, McWilliams grew up on his parents' cattle ranch in the Rocky Mountains. His father, a descendant of Scots-Irish Protestants from Northern Ireland, was a prominent, conservative, wealthy stockman who became a state senator. His mother, of French Canadian and German Catholic heritage, came to Colorado in her late twenties to teach school. "With such a comically mixed background it is not surprising that I never identified with any specific ethnic or religious group," McWilliams concluded in his autobiography. "I am neither a WASP nor an ethnic but a hybrid, a maverick without a pedigree." (2)
His idyllic pastoral upbringing ended abruptly in 1919 after the German navy lifted its World War I blockade of Argentina. Within months, the cattle market was flooded with inexpensive Argentine beef. To survive, American ranchers who had bought steers low had to sell high, shutting themselves out of a suddenly glutted market. Shattered by his sudden change in fortune, in 1921, McWilliams's father died a broken man in the State Hospital for the Insane, leaving his family penniless. McWilliams lost his scholarship at the University of Denver after a bout of over-exuberant St. Patrick's Day revelry. The following year, with few prospects, he joined his mother and older brother in California. An able typist, McWilliams found a job in the business office of the Los Angeles Times, where he worked for seven years while earning first a bachelor's degree and then a law degree at the University of Southern California. In later life, he commented that this early defeat taught him "once and for all that social structure s are transitory." (3)
When he had earned a law degree, in 1927 McWilliams joined the white-shoe firm of Black, Hammack & Black, where he practiced what increasingly seemed to him a bland version of the law, servicing business interests and tending to the troubles of Los Angeles's moneyed elite. Though he married the bright, well-connected daughter of UCLA's provost, McWilliams hobnobbed with a group of self-described bohemians drawn to the cultural criticism of H.L. Mencken and the literary feats of the Lost Generation. In his spare time, he submitted book reviews and cultural critiques to The Smart Set, American Mercury, The New Republic, and The Nation and published a book about turn-of-the-century wit Ambrose Bierce.
By 1934, McWilliams had distanced himself from what he described as the "nice people" of the middle class. Following the gubernatorial campaign of Upton Sinclair, McWilliams found himself championing the poor, the disenfranchised: Californians suffering most from the effects of the Great Depression. At about this same time, he fell in love with Esther Blaisdell, an activist from Calexico whose family held deep sympathies with farm workers. Radicalized by politics and perhaps by love, McWilliams left his marriage and rapidly became known as an outspoken advocate of the poor, a lawyer and writer serious about using his energies to combat injustice, prejudice, and inequality. (4) Unlike other social and political critics who also documented America's literary and cultural trends in the twenties and thirties, McWilliams held a particularly Western perspective of events. It was in California, not New York, that one could best observe poverty, union struggles, and ethnic tensions. "California--particularly Southern California," he insisted, "was the place to be in the years from 1934 to 1939; in no other part of the country did so much happen so fast." (5)
Dropping the guise of disinterested, bohemian cultural critic, McWilliams immersed himself in politics. Amounting number of disgruntled workers were filing labor suits in southern California. The courts needed attorneys to try the cases. Despite his lack of experience in employment law, McWilliams took advantage of the trend and embarked on what he considered a decidedly more interesting legal career, representing unions and employees in civil court. In 1935, he accepted work as a trial examiner for the southern California branch of the National Labor Relations Board. When more than fifty thousand farm workers initiated a rash of violent agricultural strikes that summer, McWilliams undertook a twelve-day road trip to learn what had sparked the trouble. His observations became the seed that would bear fruit in the form of a series of gripping articles and a book, Factories in the Field. (6)
Published in July 1939, Factories in the Field unintentionally followed closely on the heels of John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath. While Grapes of Wrath dramatized the plight of one Anglo Dust Bowl family (the Joads), Factories documented the economic and social trends which established huge land holdings in California and created a constant demand for cheap migrant labor. Using his keen powers of analysis, McWilliams concluded that the Okie "Exodusters" were only the most recent group to be exploited by absentee owners of California's first industry. Previous groups had included Native Americans and migrants from China, Japan, India, Armenia, Mexico, and the Philippines. Together, the two books enraged the Associated Farmers, the conservative growers' group that dominated California agriculture. The public's response to the books was so tremendous that growers were convinced Steinbeck and McWilliams had conspired to ruin agriculturalists' good names. On the contrary, the two writers never met and had not coor dinated the release of their books in any way. (7)
Because he had published Factories in the Field, McWilliams stood out as a likely candidate for inclusion in the LaFollette (Senate) Committee, which late in 1939 and early in 1940 conducted public hearings up and down the coast to receive testimony from more than four hundred labor organizers, growers, and farm workers. McWilliams ghost wrote the committee's report, a stern indictment of California's agricultural factory system. The committee did not present its findings to Congress until October 1942. "By then," McWilliams wrote, "no one was listening and no one cared, for we were at war." (8) McWilliams believed that the overseas conflict enabled growers and state officials to avoid much-needed reform that they would otherwise have been forced to implement. The whole country, McWilliams concluded in retrospect, went to sleep until the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955. (9)
McWilliams, not surprisingly, did not go to sleep. Awakened for life to the noisy chaos of political, social, and economic injustices, McWilliams quickly published a series of books and articles documenting American ills. By 1949, the list of those books had grown to include Ill Fares the Land (a sequel to Factories), Prejudice: Japanese Americans, Symbol of Racial Intolerance (a chronicle of Japanese internment during World War II), Brothers Under the Skin (an exploration of racism in America), Southern California Country: An Island on the Land (a biting look at southern California culture), A Mask for Privilege: Anti-Semitism in America (an expansion of an article he wrote describing attitudes towards Jews in Minneapolis-St. Paul), California: The Great Exception (a radical interpretation of California's history), and North From Mexico: The Spanish-Speaking People of the United States (the first comprehensive history of Mexican Americans). Shortly after the publication of the last in this river of books, in 1951, McWilliams accepted Freda Kerchway's offer to serve as managing editor of The Nation. This took place when Kerchway, The Nation's sitting editor, recruited McWilliams as a West Coast correspondent and lured him to New York for what was supposed to have been a brief sojourn as he assembled a special civil rights issue for the magazine. What was to be a temporary arrangement turned into a twenty-five-year institution.
McWilliams's last book before he became editor-in-chief at The Nation was Witch-Hunt: The Revival of Heresy. Released just as Joseph McCarthy began his campaign to smoke out supposed Communists, Witch-Hunt was McWilliams's exploration of Americans' fear of the Soviet Union. He did not write another book until 1979, when he published his autobiography, The Education of Carey McWilliams. During the intervening years, McWilliams led The Nation on an unswerving crusade against McCarthyism and the federal government's Cold War policies. Ever unwilling to accept the necessity of red-baiting or blacklisting, McWilliams steadfastly defended Americans' rights to choose their own political affiliations. He died in June 1980, barely a year after the publication of his autobiography, and just five years after the conclusion of his twenty-five-year stint at The Nation.
How best to introduce students, history aficionados, and others interested in the course of American intellectual thought to McWilliams's remarkable life and work? What follows are three suggestions.
First, teachers and students should use McWilliams as a corrective in relationship to the "New Western History." Too often, I think, there is a parthenogenic quality to Western History written in the last quarter of the twentieth century. (10) Scholars identify the works of William Cronon, Ramon Gutierrez, Patricia Nelson Limerick, Richard White, Donald Worster, and others as "revolutionary." (11) Without a doubt, their works reconfigured and revived the field of "Western History," changing the ways subsequent researchers have framed questions and professors have trained graduate students. That said, the much-deserved praise heaped on these works has sometimes produced a thick fog that has obscured the brilliance of forerunners, including Carey McWilliams. (12) In addition to introducing students to classics such as North from Mexico, Factories in the Field, and California: The Great Exception, we can encourage the reading of shorter works, essays such as "Myths of the West," published in North American Revie w in 1931. There, McWilliams brilliantly anticipated Richard Slotkin, Limerick, and White, asking how best to "dispose of the outlandish Myth." "It was the unknown and unpredictable character of the land that fostered the Myth," McWilliams wrote. "The East was diligently suckled on fabulous Government reports, the swollen and embellished narratives of mendacious travelers, and the pamphlets of such saga writers as Hall J. Kelley, James O. Pattie, and John B. Wyeth." (13) Those teaching Western history might also decide to include "Look What's Happened to California," McWilliams's 1949 essay in Harper's Magazine that dealt with California's explosive postwar population growth. (14)
By routinely including McWilliams's essays and books in our syllabi, we give students a better sense of the way ideas developed. We enable them to see that the "New Western History" is new in some ways, old in others. Challenging the accepted order of things isn't something that started in the 1960s. We can trace a tradition of Western activism and questioning back to McWilliams, and before him, among others, to Mary Austin, Charles Fletcher Lummis, Big Bill Hayward, Mother Jones, John Wesley Powell, Helen Hunt Jackson, and perhaps even to nineteenth-century public servants, reformers, and anti-removalists such as Jeremiah Evarts, Samuel Worcester, and Theodore Freylinghausen. (15)
The second way we can impart the value of McWilliams is by inserting his work in courses designed to introduce students to major trends in twentieth-century American thought. I've had some luck convincing colleagues who teach intellectual history to include McWilliams in their syllabi. "Hmmmmm," they often say, initially. If they know who he was, they generally ask, "How does he fit?" I reply that by teaching McWilliams, professors refine students' appreciation of American "radicalism." His works help answer questions such as: What's a "liberal?" A "lefty?" A "conservative?" A "centrist?" How is a "radical" different from any of these?
McWilliams's son has written that the family's sudden reversal of fortunes in Depression-era Colorado taught McWilliams that "with equal dignity, other inequalities may not be galling, just as without it, even material equality is likely to seem hollow." At a formative age, McWilliams learned that no one social system would guarantee human happiness or satisfaction. Inoculating him for life against Marxism, these early experiences convinced him that no government would benefit "the masses" unless it paid heed to the universal human need for recognition. (16) McWilliams credited his own "curiosity," rather than "ideological commitment" for his involvement in labor politics and journalism. "I was interested in Marxism in the 1930s--as who wasn't? --but I never succeeded in mastering the sacred texts." (17)
In the remarks he gave at McWilliams's memorial service, journalist and long-time contributor to The Nation Robert Sherrill identified McWilliams as a "rebel radical idealist" and "the spokesman for all outsiders." (18) Never an enthusiastic member of any existing political order -- be it Communist, Democrat, or other--McWilliams sustained a lifelong critical stance, one that self-consciously put him in the good company of Ambrose Bierce, H. L. Mencken, F. O. Mathiessen, and Upton Sinclair. McWilliams defined his brand of radicalism as "the ability to step outside of society, and from its far edges describe it more clearly than can those too caught up in day-to-day politics and boosterism." (19)
What, specifically, of McWilliams might intellectual historians present to their students? McWilliams, himself, reflected in The Nation's one hundredth anniversary issue on trends he could identify in his body of work. "Somewhat in the order of their emergence, my special interests have been: organized labor and civil liberties, migratory farm labor, race relations, demagogic mass movement and, of course, all things relating to California, its history, sociology, folkways, cults, population dynamics and politics--not to mention its coast line, mountain ranges, desert areas and lush valleys." (20) In addition to these general areas, many of McWilliams's short pieces focus on hot-button issues of their time. Want to get students thinking about the ways Americans addressed Japanese internment, the bomb, Jim Crow, migrant workers, organized labor, McCarthyism, Brown v. Board of Education, the Cold War, or Richard Nixon? Call on Carey McWilliams.
When I have tried to talk to students who have mostly come of age in a post-Reagan world, they have had an extremely difficult time talking openly about America's role in shaping and ending the Cold War. Students of a somewhat conservative bent want to simplify matters by crediting Ronald Reagan and the Republicans with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the disintegration of the Iron Curtain. They have a hard time transporting themselves back to a time or place in which communism and radical socialism held some appeal. I've given them several of McWilliams's pieces, including "What Does America Fear? Is it the Nameless Name of Fear Itself?" and his prescient "Germany and the East: The Outmoded Wall." (21) Pieces such as these have invariably helped push classroom discussion to a more sophisticated, nuanced level.
Want them to think about the place of ideas in American culture? Give them "Finding a Home for Ideas." (22) How better to get students talking about if and why ideas matter than to serve up the following:"...[A]n idea is different. It has a life of its own. Ideas can lie dormant for years and then suddenly explode with surprising force. Ideas can travel great distances. They can leap over language barriers and penetrate alien cultures. Ideas have an inherent interest. They are often beautiful. There is a symmetry about them that opinions lack. And they are creative in the sense that they can combine with other ideas, or modify them, or lead to still more novel ideas. Ideas keep an intellectual tradition alive, viable, and relevant; they are the yeast of a culture." (23) By assigning McWilliams, those teaching courses in American intellectual history will reliably get their students thinking both about specific trends in American politics and about the place they may give ideas in their lives, in general.
A third important reason to teach McWilliams is to provide students interested in journalism and communications a great service by acquainting them with the life and work of Carey McWilliams. This means teaching students about McWilliams as well as asking them to read what he wrote; showing them, by example, how to edit, as well as teaching them about his important, largely unsung role in the development of twentieth-century journalism.
Future reporters would do well to note that as editor for nearly thirty years of an admittedly small-circulation magazine, The Nation, McWilliams grew an impressive and influential stable of cutting-edge political journalists. He gave starts to Carleton Beals, Jacob Bronowski, Fred Cook, Bernard Fall, H. Stuart Hughes, Gabriel Kolko, Christopher Lasch, Ralph Nader, Theodore Roszak, Robert Sherrill, Harvey Swados, and Hunter S. Thompson, among others. (24) The magazine, writers say, was important to them not because it reached a huge audience, but because other editors read it to shape their own opinions. If you wrote for The Nation, they say, you had a great clip that would get you work at high-priced, big-circulation publications, such as Playboy or The New York Times Magazine. (25)
In his autobiography and in speaking with colleagues, McWilliams described himself as an editor, not as a writer or a historian. I think many would energetically disagree with him. At the same time, it's worth trying to understand what McWilliams meant when he said this. I've talked with and interviewed writers who worked for McWilliams at The Nation, and to a one, they reverently recall McWilliams's clipping system and his ability to shape stories as he assigned them, anticipating difficulties before they had a chance to arise. "Carey was a clipping fiend," Robert Sherrili told me. "He clipped papers from all over the place. When he wanted you to do a piece, you would get through the mail a bunch of clippings to fill your own room. He did so much of your research and legwork that way." (26) Victor Navasky, The Nation's current publisher, elaborated. "Even if you'd never met, you'd go to your mailbox, and you'd get a folder or an envelope filled with, say, clips on Neo Nazis from all over the country. These w ould be personally clipped.... Carey had this quality of editing in advance. In effect, you talked through what the story would be rather than editing with a blue pencil." When The Nation dedicated a special issue to McWilliams, Bob Hatch wrote a piece he called "The Man with the Scissors." Given the ease with which we can now gather information on the internet, this approach may seem a bit anachronistic. Tell a reporter to get online and do a Google search; who needs a man with scissors? The bigger lesson, I think, is in the way McWilliams offered writers stories and made sure they had seen and heard what he'd seen and heard. Most important of all was his intellectual curiosity and selflessness.
Victor Navasky explained that McWilliams was an editor's editor precisely because of this generosity of spirit: "He subordinated his own ego to that of his writers. He stayed in the background. He was not a commanding national figure." Because McWilliams was reluctant to seek the limelight, he wasn't and isn't as well known today as someone such as, say, I. F. Stone. That doesn't mean we shouldn't make sure students know about and appreciate his life and work. "He was never honored because he was so self-effacing," Navasky told me. "He was genuinely gracious, unaggressive in his presentation of [The Nation] and his handling of it. He was subjected to the smears of the time. He was not Lillian Hellman. He was so unspectacular and out of sight." (27)
Let us praise Carey McWilliams's spectacular unspectacularity. Who among us can imagine such a tribute to, say, Tina Brown? Who among us would hesitate before bringing McWilliams into the classroom, let alone into our collective line of sight?
RELATED ARTICLE: McWilliams laments the implications as "The Farmers Get Tough"
That blissful liberal dream--a farm-labor alliance--has been violently dispelled by a recent outbreak of rural civil war in California. The alignment of forces in this conflict has left slight ground for the belief that the farmer is a potential ally, or even a friend, of labor. The most striking illustration of farmer-Fascism in California has been the revolt in Imperial Valley. For the Imperial Valley farmers have not protested: they have "revolted," in the Fascist sense. Community avowals and testimonials to the contrary, this great section of California has virtually seceded from the union.
To understand what has happened in Imperial Valley, one must be able to visualize the region: an enormous inner-valley sink, reclaimed from desert and converted into a huge truck garden. A considerable portion of the valley is below sea level. Its southern boundary extends along the Mexican border. On July 11 of this year the mercury touched 122[degrees] --a fair average for the summer months in the valley. The current water shortage is so acute that it is planned to ship 200,000 gallons of water daily into the region for domestic demands alone. Naturally enough, the early settlers (and most of them are still alive) who conquered this forbidding land have, over a period of years, feverishly exalted their rights and privileges. It is even quite easy to sympathize with their vehement localism. "We suffered the torments of hell," they say, "to make this region productive. Why, now, should we let a lot of outsiders dictate to us? We'll do what we damn please in the valley." And they have.
This strenuous country has no settled way of life. Social antagonisms stand forth, in sculptural simplicity, against a barren, harshly illuminated, background. Life is a hard business in the valley. Difficulties that might be appeased by the celebrated amenities of rural life elsewhere, break out as the clamor of class-warfare--ugly and tense--in Imperial Valley. Wealth has been wrung from the land at the price of unending, bitter conflict. Violence is what one somehow expects from the place.
Most of the valley's valuable crops, such as cantaloupes (over 35,000 acres), lettuce, peas (the current crop was valued at $300,000), are perishable. They must be harvested swiftly and marketed without interruption. Somewhat similar conditions throughout California have resulted in the creation of a floating army of "fruit tramps," inelegantly and indignantly described by the Los Angeles Times as "itinerant, ignorant, and irresponsible." Most of these workers have been, and are, recruited from Mexico. For years now the farmers of Imperial Valley have easily and profitably capitalized the seasonal character of their labor demands. When they needed pickers, the Mexicans were summoned across the line. After they had been used, they retreated into Mexico. In no small measure (and this is a circumstance usually overlooked by the impassioned farmers of the valley) Mexican labor--cheap, ever-available, plentiful--has made agriculture in the region both possible and profitable. Recently labor organizers have moved i n on California agriculture, taking advantage of the perishable nature of its crops and the existence of an uprooted army of workers, and have sought to organize the fruit, vegetable, cotton, and cannery workers.
In the fall of 1933, San Joaquin Valley experienced a serious and violent strike during the cotton-picking season. This was followed by the recent efforts of the Cannery and Agricultural Workers Industrial Union, a militant organization with Communist leadership, to organize an effective strike in Imperial Valley during the harvest of the pea crop. The strike was violently suppressed; in fact, a state of civil war existed for about six months, nor has the terror entirely abated. The campaign of suppression launched by the farmers indicated careful planning. Its immediate objectives were twofold: an effective suppression of all constitutional rights; and, second, the organization of a smoothly functioning vigilante (i.e., Fascist) unit. If any one thinks that the farmers have not read the signs of the times with care, let him visit Imperial Valley.
The reign of terror began in January. Acting upon the advice of Capt. "Bill" Hynes of the Los Angeles Police Red Squad--"Clean 'em out first and then arbitrate"--the farmers opened the campaign by arresting eighty-six workers and jailing them for no offense other than attempting to organize a union. Field meetings of workers throughout the valley were routed with the aid of clubs, guns, and tear gas bombs. On February 19 the strike was crushed when an armed force, composed of the sheriff, local police, State police, and vigilantes, "under instructions of the County Health Officer," cleaned out a desert camp of strikers. The shacks of the strikers were burned and over 2,000 men, women, and children were forcibly evicted. An attorney for the International Labor Defense was arrested, and told to get out of the valley when released and to quit defending arrested strikers. An attorney from Arizona was promptly arrested, on entering the valley, charged with vagrancy and held for thirty-five days in jail. On Januar y 23 A.L. Wirin, an attorney, was kidnapped from a hotel in Brawley, California, beaten, and "escorted" to San Diego; his car was dumped over a bluff and ruined. Although Mr. Wirin was scheduled to speak at a meeting which had theoretically been sanctioned by an injunction issued by Judge Kerrigan in the United States District Court, Federal officials did nothing to investigate the kidnapping or the indirect violation of the injunction.
On February 18 a delegation of Southern California liberals was trailed through the valley by an armed caravan. On February 21 Miss Emma Cutler of the I.L.D. was convicted of vagrancy and sentenced to six months' imprisonment, although she had been in the valley only for a few hours prior to her arrest. Vigilantes tried to force a belligerent visiting minister to kneel on the desert sands and repent for his liberalism. The Rev. Beverley Oaten, a demure Y.M.C.A. secretary, was searched at the point of twenty-seven guns in front of his hotel. Police protection was refused every unidentified visitor to the valley. On March 15 Dorothy Rae and Stanley Hancock, union organizers, were sentenced to jail for six months, under a fancy ordinance making it unlawful for two people to stop and talk on a street when, in the opinion of the chief of police, they have no business to be talking. Bond in each case was set at $3,100; defense witnesses were arrested, intimidated, and then released.
An investigator for the American Civil Liberties Union, fleeing from a mob of several hundred people, had to seek refuge in the county jail. On March 28 Attorney Grover Johnson, after he had obtained the release of two strikers on writs of habeas corpus, was beaten by "vigilantes" in front of the county court house. The intimidation campaign worked without a hitch at the outset. But the farmers, having a hilarious time brandishing pistols at women and throwing tear gas bombs at children, forgot the Federal government.
The National Labor Board sent a commission, consisting of Professor J.L. Leonard, Simon J. Lubin, and Will J. French, into Imperial Valley. The Leonard Commission made some interesting findings. It found that constitutional rights were openly disregarded by law enforcement agencies within the valley; that workers had been indiscriminately arrested; that the right of free speech and free assemblage had been wholly suppressed; that excessive bail was demanded of arrested strikers; that the State vagrancy law had been prostituted; that firearms had been dangerously and unnecessarily displayed by valley officials; and that a Federal court injunction had been flouted in the local press. One of the commissioners in a subsequent speech observed: "They [the farmers] are paying less than a starvation wage. I have a tabulation of the pay checks of 204 pea pickers showing an average daily wage of 56Cents. The earnings were somewhat larger at the peak of the harvest; but never were sufficient to satisfy even the most pri mitive needs." A reporter for the Illustrated Daily News, of Los Angeles, found that families of ten were making but $2.00 a day....
Before the pea pickers had been on strike a week, the Imperial Valley Anti-Communist Association had been formed. The growers were assessed to sustain its activities. Its membership, in so far as the "good people" of the valley are concerned, is all-inclusive. So sharply are class lines drawn in the valley that the Anti-Communist Association takes on the superficial appearance of being the community, and the threat of the workers a blow at society itself. For the workers have never been regarded as a part of the community. With this organization functioning, the sheriff could go on a holiday....
And, finally, it is amusing to detect the whiskers of the farmers protruding from behind the war-paint and head-dresses of California Indians. The Improved Order of Redmen issues militant anti-Communistic manifestoes, and the Old Glory Braves, a patriotic order formed "in the Santa Barbara mountains to fight Communism," is a Farmer-Fascist group.
To those who have watched the swift movement of recent events in California, it is apparent that the modem farmer is no friend of the laboring man. On the contrary, he is the best-organized enemy that the working man has to fight. Even by taking advantage of crop conditions, it has been extremely difficult to organize an effective strike of farm workers in California. But what is still more significant is this: the old fashioned farmer has been supplanted by a type to which the term can no longer be applied with accuracy. The new farmer is a grower. He is only semi-rural. Often he regards his farm as a business and has it incorporated. He belongs to a number of wealthy produce exchanges; he is a director of several "protective associations." Moreover, he has a hand in State politics. He employs a book-keeper, and, in sober truth, he looks rather like a banker. He dabbles in publicity and has learned the trick of mob-baiting. He will never be an ally of labor.
"The Farmers Get Tough," American Mercury 33 (October 1934): 241-45.
McWilliams sheds "A Tear for Jose Davilla"
For some fifteen years several thousand Mexicans from San Antonio have trekked north to work in the sugar-beet fields and orchards of Michigan. When the work is done, the long procession of rattletrap jalopies makes its way back to Texas. Mexican workers have been a great boon to Michigan agriculture; yet at the end of the season they have, on occasion, been escorted out of the state by highway patrolmen or given a gentle but firm push by welfare workers along with a meager food supply and a few dollars toward the expense of the return trip. And almost every season has produced a "Mexican incident" of some sort, as, for example, the strike of Mexican beet workers in the Blissfield area a few years ago.
One of this season's "incidents," which occurred in Hart, Michigan, promises to become as notorious as the Blissfield strike. While working with his family in the cherry orchards of Oceana County, Jose Davilla, nineteen years of age, got to know Maxine English. They worked together, and on one occasion Davilla escorted the girl home from the county fair. A few days later, as a prank, he took the girl's glasses away from her. Sheriff Marland H. Littiebrant heard of this affront to white womanhood and set out to look for Davilla. He found him on the main street of Hart, just across from the county courthouse, and there, without a warrant, attempted to arrest him. The two fought in the street for more than half an hour. When the sheriff had failed to subdue the boy even with the aid of an eight-inch blackjack, he shot and killed him.
The Hart affair is altogether typical. In the course of their long seasonal junket Mexicans are forever being arrested. Seldom are their offenses serious. But highway patrolmen and local law-enforcement officials are quick to arrest Mexicans and never hesitate to use force. The news in the Davilla case is that Davilla resisted arrest and that the incident provoked local protest.
For no sooner had Davilla been killed than Swift Lathers, editor of the Mears Newz, "the world's smallest newspaper," came out with an editorial in which he denounced the killing as "murder." With equal promptness, the sheriff swore out a complaint charging Mr. Lathers with criminal libel. But Mr. Lathers is not a man to be easily intimidated. His arrest brought forth no apologies or disclaimers or retractions; on the contrary, he proceeded to write a series of editorials not only denouncing this particular high-handed action but calling attention to the many abuses from which migrant Mexican field workers have long suffered in Michigan.
Some of these editorials merit a wider audience. "Do I stand alone facing the sullen crowd?" he asks in a recent blast. "I have stood there before. I am that way. I would rather stand up against the whole world to defend the under-dog than sit on the plush chairs of the aggressors. I know that somewhere there is a tear for Jose Davilla. Short days ago he worked and sang among us, felt dawn and saw sunsets glow. A few more days and his lingering countrymen will go back to the border. But that pool of blood on the sidewalk of Hart will not wash away."
When a metropolitan newspaper leads a fight against municipal corruption or launches a campaign against the Klan, it stands a good chance of increasing its circulation and even of capturing a Pulitzer prize. But when the editor of the "world's smallest newspaper" takes on the sheriff of the county, offends the mores of the community by defending Mexican field workers, and gets himself arrested in the process, the chances of notice or reward are rather remote-- about as remote as Hart, Michigan, from New York. We hear much criticism of the rural press for its backward and reactionary tone, but we seldom hear of the rural editors who occasionally speak out for truth and justice. The editor of the Mears Newz, who sports a vivid green shirt and a flamboyant red necktie, deserves national recognition for his courageous stand in this case. The Detroit Free Press, to its credit, has assigned a special staff writer to cover the Lathers trials.
The Mexican workers have long since departed for San Antonio, carrying with them, as a rather grim reminder of Sheriff Littiebrant's notion of the Good Neighbor policy, the body of Jose Davilla. But at least they know that one rural editor in Michigan, at the risk of his own liberty, has spoken out in their defense.
--"A Tear for Jose Davilla," The Nation 159 (December 2, 1944): 687.
McWilliams observes "Anti-Americanism Updated"
The anti-American riots of May 13 in Algiers, Caracas and Beirut could mark a turning point in United States policy. It is too early to assess their full impact on American public opinion, but the initial reactions reveal a new sophistication and maturity. Right, left and center, there is agreement that these latest manifestations of anti-American feeling cannot be solely or even primarily attributed to the Communists, even though everyone assumes that they were active in them. Whatever he is, Nasser is not a Communist; nor were the French rioters in Algiers Communists; nor does anyone, with the possible exception of J. Edgar Hoover, believe that the disturbances in Lima and Caracas can be written off as Communist-inspired.
At the same time, public opinion has not veered toward isolationism. Grass-roots reports indicate that the shadow of sputnik has convinced most people that "fortress America" is a mirage. Nor has the public jumped to the conclusion that the answer to anti-Americanism is to be found in more guns and better propaganda, a tough line and more dollars.
Nor is the public impressed by the suggestion, advanced by the Director of USIA and others, that since "we're the biggest and strongest," we must, like the British in the days of Palmerston, learn to accept abuse. The public may not know what is wrong with the analogy, but it is quite aware that nuclear weapons, by severely limiting the exercise of force, have created the need for a new diplomacy. Nor does the "biggest and strongest" theory square with our experience. Even when we were stronger, relatively speaking, than we are today, American dignitaries were not spat upon when they visited our "sister" republics to the South. The warmth of the receptions accorded Roosevelt and Wallace in these same republics has not been forgotten....
Events are always more persuasive than exhortations, as the reaction to the May 13 riots indicates. But must people spit in our faces before we tumble to the fact that "something is wrong" with our policies?
--"Anti-Americanism Updated," The Nation 186 (May 31, 1958): 488-89.
McWilliams dissects the "Myths of the West"
... No sooner were the boundaries of the region established and its topography verified, than the heroes of its conquest passed into the realm of mythology. Through its mountain valleys and across its interminable plains stalked the tall figures of Davy Crockett, Kit Carson, Marcus Whitman, Billy the Kid, Wild Bill Hickok, Jim Bridger, and John Sutter.
Carried East by excited tongues, these legends were greatly embroidered in the telling. The existence of an oral epic of the West is demonstrated by the amazing collection of books and pamphlets that serves today as a monument to the westward movement. It was the unknown and unpredictable character of the land that fostered the Myth. The East was diligently suckled on fabulous government reports, the swollen and embellished narratives of mendacious travelers, and the pamphlets of such saga writers as Hall J. Kelley, James O. Pattie, and John B. Wyeth. These men pictured the Far West in hues of the rainbow and the peacock....
Not a year has passed since 1900 in which the West has escaped rediscovery. The legend, quickly soaring into the realm of myth, has been retold year after year. The persistence of the process of rediscovery can be illustrated variously....
While the Myth was being precipitated in the fancies of the early pamphleteers, it was quite common to find the region beyond the Alleghenies designated as the West. But "West" in the popular imagination soon began to assume a symbolic connotation; it came to mean frontier. And so the West retreated to the Rockies as the Middle West crowded the frontier westward. When the Sierra Nevadas were crossed (sic) and California admitted in 1849, the tide of expansion began to roll back upon itself. As the frontier disappeared like a mirage on the desert and the mist of early speculation and fancy cleared, it was soon discovered that there were many Wests within the West. Even the most enthusiastic Westerners conceded the existence of these inner regions. In fact the first act of the Far West on becoming self-conscious was to repudiate the legend of its inclusiveness. Since 1849 writers on the West have excluded California by instinct and popular demand. It was not long before the Southwest and the Northwest broke awa y like islands in midstream. These regions were not only markedly dissimilar climatically and topographically: they possessed different traditions and mythologies....
But the legend could not be so easily dislodged. The geographical boundaries of the Far West, based on State lines, have always been hard to draw; hence the notion got abroad that ethical, rather than geographical considerations, marked the kingdom of the West. By the use of this fiction it was possible to keep the boundaries of the West elastic and the mists of legend could still breed in the dark. And so it was suggested that the West was a matter of mood and manner. Cheyenne, for instance, was "spiritually West," while North Platte belonged to the Middle West. Wherever one found informality, unconventionality, a firm handclasp, an open door, a breezy rhetoric, and unrestrained manner, there was the West. The idea is, of course, merely a survival of the early legend....
It is probably quite true that when culture moves, it changes; it may also be conceded that the "subliminal influences" of the land mold thought and character. But to define region from character, rather than character from region, is a dangerous expedient. What qualities were Western? ...
In cold fact it would be quite possible to demonstrate that a great deal of Western spirit, so-called, has been made up of mimicry and imitation. Legend reacts on its subject. My father had no end of difficulty, as a pioneer cattleman in northwestern Colorado, in keeping his cowboys from playing the role of Cowboy. They spent long hours in the bunkhouse on dull days devouring cheap romances of the West and insisted on dressing and acting and talking like the characters in their favorite romances. Many of their "pranks" were, I am sure, of purely literary origin....
When the Intermountain West is examined from this [regionalist] point of view it does assume a recognizable character. Its agriculture, at least so far as methods are concerned, is indigenous. It is a region made up of desert and mountain and valley. Its aridity, together with its vast extent of mountain area, would alone be sufficient to characterize it as a region. Moreover its social problems, notably in the development of its fabulously wealthy resources, are common to the region.... Western resources have been ruthlessly exploited by Eastern capital; it is only of comparatively late date that sensible development, with reference to local needs, has been evolved. The era of industrial buccaneering retarded the development of the West; in fact, stunted its growth to a very serious extent during the period when the West was supposed to be most progressive....
On July 12th, 1893, Professor Frederick Jackson Turner called attention to the fact that the Superintendent of the Census had announced that there was no more free land. The significance with which Professor Turner endowed this innocent statement was slow in making itself felt. But suddenly, with the swiftness of an apocryphal revelation, word went round the college campuses that there was no more free land" and, as a corollary, that "the frontier has disappeared." From that moment to the present day funereal laments have arisen over the demise of the frontier. Historical writing on the West since 1900 has been given over to the composition of obsequies on the frontier. This dolorous mood has resulted in an enormous and incredible renascence of the Western Myth. To the monumental record of the pioneer jamboree must now be added the post mortem on the frontier that has been going on since 1900. It has been, for the most part, a literature of rediscovery and, while one might condone the errors of original resea rch, it is hard to forgive those elaborate and unnecessary obfuscations of the rediscoverer, who sits in a swivel chair and enjoys the vicarious thrill of being an imaginary frontiersman.
Out of this misty and mythological mood first given popular currency by Emerson Hough has been born an inordinate modern day enthusiasm for the frontier and the frontiersman. It is an amazing record. One can only nibble at it piecemeal. It gives promise of exceeding in bulk the already hefty literature of Western Americana. The writing, academic and otherwise, on the Cowboy, as a gaudy species of the genus Frontiersman, would fill a library. If the first writing about the West was characterized by bombast and extravagant good will, and if the middle period began with a child-like pride in its roughness followed by timid gestures at gentility, then this modern movement may be described as a highly self-conscious discovery of the fact that one need no longer be ashamed of being born in a sod hut; nay, that having been born in such a habitation is a mark of peculiarly resplendent distinction. It represents, in a word, the belated triumph of the uncouth transmogrified in a more complex age as the quaint....
Still other historians, determined to add one more layer of Myth to the legend of the West, have suggested that when the frontier disappeared to the naked eye it seeped inward and survives today as a subjective force which tugs fiercely at our heart strings whenever we see a pair of chaps or an old stage coach. Dr. Roger E. Riegel in America Moves West (1930) advances the theory that it is "possible to view the westward movement as a search for mental and spiritual values as much as an endeavor to seek economic opportunity." He also hints that perhaps the frontier spirit survives today in the movie daring of Tom Mix and Douglas Fairbanks, that perhaps it hovers above and around all of us like a disembodied spirit murmuring strange incantations. In fact the influence of the frontier has been traced on every possible phase of American life, if an exception may be made of the influence of the frontier on American historians.
--"Myths of the West," North American Review 232 (November 1931): 424-32.
McWilliams asks, "What Does America Fear?
Is It the Nameless Name of Fear Itself?"
The America of 1948, the most powerful nation in the world, is caught in a paroxysm of fear. For more than a decade, paradoxically, as our fabulous productive capacity has jumped by approximately 50 per cent, the tides of our fear have risen. The irony is even more deeply sensed when one recognizes the pathetic fact that we cannot identify what it is that we fear.
America, the colossus of the modern world, trembles at the threat of shadowy ideas that cannot be defined. There is a warning in this for it is only nameless fears that breed panic and disaster....
Like other citizens, I am concerned about the military security of the United States; but what concerns me most is this psychosis of fear. Security has become an obsession; but security from what? for what? by what means?
I fear our fear more than I fear any enemies known or suspected.
But I, too, will confess to fear. On the west coast, where I live, I hear everyday about mysterious "projects" in the community, carefully guarded, not-to-be mentioned, where dreadful researches are in progress. Not even the top officials in charge of these projects seems to know the ramifications of their researches.
Recently a friend of mine, a book-dealer, attempted to deliver some scientific treatises which had been ordered by the library of the California Institute of Technology. To his astonishment, he discovered that this center of scientific research is nowadays guarded like a prison.
He also reports that the Cal Tech scientists have a feeling that they are in fact prisoners, working on projects the control of which is vested in persons they have never seen, fashioning processes which will be used for purposes to which they would never give their approval.
The knowledge that such projects exist, coupled with the appalling silence which envelops them, makes for a community atmosphere not only tense with fear but heavy with foreboding.
A fear that cannot be defined is a fear that can never be mastered. What precisely is it that we fear today? The headlines answer: "Russia," "Communism," "Red Fascism." But, if it were Russia that we really feared, would our leaders be setting group against group and raising, with reckless disregard of the consequences, doubts and suspicions about the "patriotism" and "loyalty" of their fellow citizens?
A good case can be made for the proposition that, if Russia and Communism did not exist, we would have to invent their counter parts to appease our need for both an "external" and an "internal" enemy.
--"What does America Fear? Is It the Nameless Name of Fear Itself?" United Nations World 2 (May 1948): 31-33.
McWilliams nails down "Finding a Home for Ideas"
The approaching end of another year is an appropriate time to draw back from the rush of events and assess where we stand. In doing so, I am struck by this inarguable fact: Rapid social and technological change, unchecked by criticism and traditional restraint, is impinging on the elusive process by which ideas are conceived, articulated, disseminated and, with luck, made part of the general culture.
This blockage in the flow of ideas should cause grave concern about the future course of our society, whose life blood is that flow.
Let me confess that I cannot offer a good working definition of an idea in the sense that I use the term. In my view, an opinion bears about the same relation to an idea that facts do to the truth or that information does to knowledge. Opinions are a dime a dozen.
If a person states that he or she is opposed to capital punishment, you can score one vote to that effect, and in a sense it is important to know how many people oppose or favor capital punishment. But however often or violently opinions are stated, they remain just that -- opinions. An opinion is an opinion is an opinion; there is no life in it; it is neither very interesting nor important per se. It does not advance the dialogue. A stock response to most expressions of opinion is: "So what?" It is as though one person said: "I like tomatoes better than carrots" and the other said, "I like carrots better than tomatoes." There is not much you can do with an exchange of that kind.
But an idea is different. It has a life of its own. Ideas can lie dormant for years and then suddenly explode with surprising force. Ideas can travel great distances. They can leap over language barriers arid penetrate alien cultures. Ideas have an inherent interest. They are often beautiful. There is a symmetry about them that opinions lack. And they are creative in the sense that they can combine with other ideas, or modify them, or lead to still more novel ideas. Ideas keep an intellectual tradition alive, viable, and relevant; they are the yeast of a culture.
Opinions, facts, and information are not to be scorned; they have their uses; indeed, they are indispensable. But ideas, truth, and knowledge are more important. It may seem far-fetched to say that they are more important today than ever before--for ideas, truth and knowledge have always been important--but there is more than a grain of sense in the suggestion. For today we live in an extraordinary time in which landmarks that long provided guidance have been obliterated before their replacements, if any, have been identified. Today we act at times as though we did not think either the past or the future were important.
If I cannot define an idea--and I can't--I can at least cite a few examples of what I mean. When Paul Valery wrote: "Do what you think, otherwise you will think what you do," he was expressing an idea. Herman Melville was voicing a variant of the same idea when he wrote: "In our hearts we mold the whole world's hereafter and in our hearts we fashion our own gods . . . we are precisely what we worship." When Charles de Gaulle cautioned that "one must not insult the future," he voiced an idea with many meanings and implications. When we encounter such statements we know that we are in the presence of ideas, not opinions, facts or information.
Just as I cannot define an idea, so I find the process by which ideas are conceived to be quite mysterious. One may struggle with a mass of data for a long time without being able to make any sense of it and then wake up, some morning, with an idea that illuminates, clarifies, and gives coherence to what was previously a chaos of unrelated facts and information.
If the process by which ideas are conceived remains elusive, something can be said about the conditions which further their expression. Ideas must struggle to be born. They must find expression so that they can be studied, distributed, criticized, assimilated, rejected or modified. Often a new idea emerges in a half-baked form; only later is it refined, restated and made properly presentable. The process takes time. It may not take nine months but there are few instant conceptions. . . .
--"Finding a Home for Ideas," Current 170 (February 1975): 19-26.
McWilliams puts perspective on the "Spectrum of Segregation"
Over a period of years, we--or a majority of us--have assumed that racial minorities should be given an opportunity to improve their living, working, and social conditions--through what we generally speak of as "education." But we have steadfastly insisted that these improvements must necessarily take place within the framework of a biracial or segregated social structure.
Too often we think of this policy as being applicable only to Negroes. Actually it has been applied to all non-Caucasian groups, with minor variations --North and South, East and West.
While the policy is obviously self-defeating and unworkable (educational improvements necessarily undermine the structure of segregation), we continue to adhere to it, in part because we fail to recognize its national implications. We do not see it as a national policy, stemming from definite acts and omissions on the part of the federal government.
To pose the policy in proper perspective, this question should be asked: what should be the policy of a federal government toward racial minorities in a multi-racial, multi-ethnic republic?
It should be obvious that the very nature and composition of such a state imposes upon government an affirmative obligation to protect the civil rights of racial minorities and to insure to them the full and equal protection of the law. While government cannot coerce understanding or cheerful acceptance, it can protect groups against violence, against systematic discrimination, and against segregation.
Yet an honest evaluation shows that, throughout most of American history, our government not only has failed to discharge this basic obligation, but has actually placed the stamp of its positive approval upon the principle and practice of segregation.
Broadly speaking, the question of racial minorities, in its modern form, did not arise in America until after the Civil War. It was only in the post Civil War period (around 1876) that the outlines of our present dual policy began to emerge....--"Spectrum of Segregation," Survey Graphic 36 (January 1947): 22-25, 106-107.
McWilliams pinpoints "The Climax of an Era"
The Supreme Court's unanimous decision outlawing segregation in American public education has won national approval as nearly unanimous as any such verdict is ever likely to do. If anything, world opinion was even more emphatic. Even the Communist powers, we suspect, must privately have applauded the decision. In Kenya a spokesman for the Luo tribe voiced the growing world-wide sentiment against all forms of racial discrimination when he said: "America is right.... If we are not educated together, we will live in fear of one another. If we are to stay together forever, why should we have separate schools?" Quite apart from this sentiment, the decision was especially welcome at this time since it enabled us and our friends abroad for the first time in some years to be equally and simultaneously enthusiastic about an important announcement from Washington. The decision was a fine antidote to the blight of McCarthyism and kindred fevers.
The dead no less than the living must have rejoiced. Among the ghosts that smiled with pleasure-- it is somehow easier to imagine them smiling than cheering--were Homer Adolph Plessy, the one-eighth-Negro plaintiff in Plessy vs. Ferguson, in which the iniquitous "separate but equal" doctrine was first announced, and his counsel, Albion Winegar Tourgee--who is better known, perhaps, for his novels about the Reconstruction period. Another beaming ghost would be Justice John Marshall Harlan whose great dissents in this and the Civil Rights Cases have at long last been fully vindicated.
Not every ghost smiled we may be sure. Glum and dour must have been the ghost of the late Senator Theodore G. Bilbo, but in this case, happily, there was compensation. For only a week or so before the Supreme Court's decision a life-size bronze statue of the Senator was unveiled in the Mississippi Capitol. "His imperfections were infinitesimal," said Mississippi's Secretary of State in unveiling the statue, "when compared to the magnitude of his contributions to mankind."
Jubilation over the belated legal demise of Jim Crow in the public schools should not be permitted to obscure the fact that an enormous expenditure of energy and funds will be required to implement the court's decision. The timely recommendation of the Executive Council of the American Federation of Labor that Congress set up a billion-dollar fund to help the South build new schools is an indication that the struggle for equal educational facilities has now shifted from the courts to the legislature. Then, too, means must be found to relieve the enormous social and economic pressures that hem Negroes in residential ghettoes before a significant degree of integration can take place in the schools, North or South.....
Nor should we delude ourselves with the pleasant assumption that with one Supreme Court decision the United States can overcome a fairly widespread reputation for racial arrogance. Rather, the reception which has been accorded the court's decision should be taken as a guide to policy. For it demonstrates once again the measure of unity and confidence and pride that can be aroused whenever unqualified expression is given to the individual and social values to be found in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Fortunately we continue to redeem, often after costly delays and protestations, the promises to which we are committed by history and tradition and, we can now add, by current conviction. Alexander Meiklejohn has observed that "there has come over us, in recent years, a vivid sense of having been disloyal to our own purposes. In many ways we are obsessed by the fear of having betrayed ourselves." The way to exorcise this fear, which has enfeebled and humiliated the nation, is to give expression to the v alues we say we respect. This the Supreme Court has done, and in doing so has won nearly universal admiration....
--"The Climax of an Era," The Nation 178:22 (May 29, 1954): 453-455.
(1.) The roots of this article are buried deep in work I began in a graduate seminar with Michael Denning at Yale University. Its trunk grew stronger through collaboration and conversations with John Mack Faragher and Aaron Sachs, with whom I am working to create an annotated edition of the short, published writings of Carey McWilliams. I especially want to acknowledge Aaron's research, which turned up McWilliams's writings in periodical form, many of which would otherwise have escaped my notice. I presented an earlier version of this essay at the Western History Association conference in San Diego, October 6, 2001.
(2.) Carey McWilliams, The Education of Carey McWilliams (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1979), 26.
(3.) McWilliams, The Education, 33.
(4.) The single best analysis of McWilliams's radicalization comes from attorney and scholar Lee Ann Meyer. See her unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Great Exception: Carey McWilliams' Path to Activism," The Claremont Graduate School, 1996. See also Wilson Carey McWilliams, "Foreword," Fool's Paradise: A Carey McWilliams Reader (Berkeley: Heyday Books, 2001), ix-xvii; Greg Critser, "The Making of a Cultural Rebel: Carey McWilliams, 1924-1930," Pacific Historical Review 55:2 (1986): 226-55. and Critser, "The Political Rebellion of Carey McWilliams," UCLA Historical Journal, 4 (1983): 34-65.
(5.) McWilliams, The Education, 66.
(6.) McWilliams, Factories in the Field: The Story of Migratory Farm Labor in California (Santa Barbara: Peregrine Publishers, Inc., 1979, c1939). Two outstanding examples of the articles this trip generated include "The Farmers Get Tough," American Mercury, October 1934, pp. 241-245 and "What's Being Done About the Joads?" The New Republic, Sept.20, 1939, pp. 100, 178-80.
(7.) Mc Williams, Factories in the Field, x; "A Man, a Place, and a Time: John Steinbeck and the Long Agony of the Great Valley in an Age of Depression, Oppression, Frustration, and Hope," American West 7 (May1970): 4-8,38-40, 62-64.
(8.) McWilliams, "A Man, a Place, and a Time," 62. Senator Robert M. LaFollette, Jr., of Wisconsin, chaired a subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Education and Labor, which investigated rights of free speech and labor.
(9.) McWilliams, The Education, 134.
(10.) Many scholars have fought this parthenogenic quality of New Western history. See the following for a spectrum of critiques: Stephen Aron, "Lessons in Conquest: Towards a Greater Western History," Pacific Historical Review 63:2 (1994): 125-47; John R. Wunder, "What's Old About the New Western History: Race and Gender, Part I," Pacific Northwest Quarterly 85:2(1994): 50-58; Wunder, "What's Old About the New Western History? Part Two: Environment and Economy," Pacific Northwest Quarterly 89:2(1998), 84-96; Wunder, "What's Old About the New Western History? Part III: Law," Western Legal History 10:1-2(1997): 84-116; and volume 53:2(1997) of Arizona Quarterly, which showcased articles by Krista Comer, Sally K. Fairfax and Lynn Huntsinger, Jerome Frisk, Carl Gutierrez-Jones, and Forrest G. Robinson tracing the historiography of the New Western History.
(11.) See William Cronon, George Miles, and Jay Gitlin, eds., Under an Open Sky: Rethinking America's Western Past (New York: W.W. Norton, 1992); William Cronon, Nature's Metropolis: Chicago, Change, and the Great West (New York: W.W. Norton, 1992); Ramon A. Gutierrez, When Jesus Came, the Corn Mothers Went Away: Marriage, Sexuality, and Power in New Mexico (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1991); Patricia Nelson Limerick, The Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West (New York: W.W. Norton, 1987); Limerick, Something in the Soil: Legacies and Reckonings in the New West (New York W.W. Norton, 2000); Richard White, The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1610-1815 (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991); White, "It's Your Misfortune and None of My Own": A History of the American West (Norman: Oxford University Press, 1991); White, The Organic Machine (New York: Hill and Wang, 1995); and Donald Worster, Dust Bowl: The Southern Pl ains in the 1930s (New York: Oxford University Press, 1979); Worster, Nature's Economy: A History of Ecological Ideas (1977; Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985); Worster, Rivers of Empire: Water, Aridity, and the Growth of the American West (New York: Pantheon Books, 1985).
(12.) For early praise, see especially Donald J. Pisani, "Deep and Troubled Waters: A New Field of Western History?" New Mexico Historical Review 63:4(1988):311-31; Michael P. Malone, "Beyond the Last Frontier: Toward a New Approach to Western American History," Western Historical Quarterly 20:4(1989):409-27; and William Deverell, "Fighting Words: The Significance of the American West in the History of the United States," Western Historical Quarterly 25:2 (1994):185206. lam certainly not alone in my wish to acknowledge McWilliams's importance. Patricia Limerick, herself, counts McWilliams as an early influence. Others looking to McWilliams to ground the New Western history include Forrest G. Robinson, "Remembering Carey McWilliams," Western Aiiierican Literature 34:4(2000): 411-33, and Susan Lee Johnson, "Gift Horses: Influence, Insurgence, Interdisciplinarity in Western Studies," Western American Literature 34:1(1999):78-91.
(13.) Richard Slotkin, Regeneration Through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier, 1600-1860 (Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1973); Slotkin, The Fatal Environment: The Myth of the Frontier in the Age of Industrialization, 1800-1890 (New York: Atheneum, 1985); Slotkin, Gunfighter Nation: The Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth-Century America (New York: Atheneum, 1992); McWilliams, "Myths of the West," North American Review 232 (November 1931): 424.
(14.) Carey McWilliams, "Look What's Happened to California," Harper's Magazine, October 1949, pp. 199, 21-29.
(15.) Jeremiah Evarts (1781-1831), a Boston lawyer and philanthropist, was a founder of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM). A staunch opponent of Indian removal, he was aiso editor of the periodical the Panoplist. Samuel Austin Worcester (1798-1859) was a missionary to the Cherokees in Tennessee and Georgia, where he was imprisoned for refusing to swear allegiance to the State of Georgia or leave his mission. Later, in Indian Territory, he worked to re-establish an ABCFM mission at Park Hill and continued running the printing press that produced newspapers, hymns, religious tracts, and books of the Bible In the Cherokee syllabary. Theodore Freylinghausen (1787-1862), attorney general of New Jersey and U.S. senator, spoke passionately against Indian removal. He subsequently served as chancellor of New York University and president of Rutgers College.
(16.) Wilson Carey McWilliams, A Fool's Paradise, xii.
(17.) McWilliams, The Education, 84.
(18.) Telephone interview, Robert Sherrill to Catherine A. Corman, February 6, 2001. Notes in the possession of the author.
(19.) Richard Louv, "Carey McWilliams Returns to His Roots," San Diego Magazine, January 1980, 236.
(20.) Carey McWilliams, "Personal Note," The Nation, September 20, 1965, pp. 201, 21-27.
(21.) Carey McWilliams, "What Does America Fear? Is It the Nameless Name of Fear Itself?" United Nations World, May 1948, pp. 2, 31-33; "The Outmoded Wall: Germany and the East," The Nation, August 28, 1967, pp. 205, 138-141.
(22.) Carey McWilliams, "Finding a Home for Ideas," Current, February 1975, pp. 170, 19-26.
(23.) McWilliams, "Finding a Home for Ideas," 20.
(24.) Alexander Saxton, "Goodbye to a Colleague: Carey McWilliams, 1905-1980," Amerasia Journal, 1980, 77, vi-vii.
(25.) Telephone interview, Robert Sherrill; personal interview, Victor Navasky to Catherine A. Corman, July 14, 1999, notes in the possession of the author.
(26.) Telephone interview, Robert Sherrill.
(27.) Personal interview, Victor Navasky.
Catherine A. Corman, Assistant Professor of History at Harvard University, is a social and cultural historian focusing mainly on early America. She first fell in love with the writing of Carey McWilliams when, as an undergraduate at Pomona College, she spent a summer working on an organic farm outside of Davis, California.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Author:||Corman, Catherine A.|
|Date:||Dec 22, 2001|
|Previous Article:||The city on the hill: temperance, race, and class in turn-of-the-century Pasadena.|
|Next Article:||A Land Between: Owens Valley, California. (Reviews).|