Hello from Charlottesville, where the humidity seems to finally (hopefully) be receding into crisp autumn weather. I started my PhD program in history at UVA about a month ago, and I'm knee-deep in reading and essays for grad seminars. It's such a gift to be in a university environment again; my life revolves around reading, writing, and going to as many talks, events, and free GIS trainings as I can fit in. I've particularly appreciated the opportunity to be part of the Democracy Initiative's interdisciplinary graduate seminar on Democracy & Freedom, which is a good and constant reminder of how my historical research connects with the political, social, and economic realities of our present.
I owe a belated newsletter for a few pieces I wrote over the summer, which are just below. And at the end of this email, you'll find some articles I've appreciated and things that have brought me joy in the last few months.
- For The Nation, I wrote about an Arkansas school district that reopened in July at a time when the state still banned districts from mask mandates, and quickly had more than a thousand students and staff in quarantine. The school district was part of a lawsuit over the state's politically contentious mask mandate ban. "Some of them actually believe that they have every chance of being either run out of town on a rail or terminated or shot or all of the above," the Marion superintendent told me of other superintendents statewide who were considering advocating for a mask mandate in their districts. (August 30)
- For the Arkansas Nonprofit News Network, I previewed the civil trial of a Little Rock police officer who shot and killed Roy Lee Richards, a Black man, on the steps of his uncle's home in 2016. The police did not announce their presence before firing on Richards, who was holding a BB gun; Richards' family argued that it was unreasonable for the officer to shoot Richards without giving him the opportunity to drop his weapon or even react to their presence. The jury ultimately sided with the officer when the case was brought to trial. (August 18)
- For Facing South, I interviewed Union of Concerned Scientists economist Rebecca Boehm about her new report on the concentration of the chicken industry in Arkansas. We went deep on monopsony, what concentration looks like in a local context, and the connection between market concentration and working conditions. (August 20)
- I wrote a little reflection on my favorite spot in the Ozarks for Southerly's mini-anthology of Southern swimming holes. (September 3)
- Revolt of the Delivery Workers by Josh Dsieza, New York Magazine & The Verge
- The comments sections of café ambience videos on YouTube must be some of the most wholesome places on the internet
- The Roe Baby by Joshua Prager, The Atlantic
- Adia Victoria's new album A Southern Gothic (read her Rolling Stone interview too)
- Mid-20th century Agricultural Extension Service pamphlets like the one at the top of this email. I found a bunch of Arkansas ones in boxes of my great-grandparents' old papers; I'm sure they exist in local archives everywhere (update: a reader sent a link to the digital collection of Arkansas circulars!)
A note to editors: I'm always open to commissions, depending on my schedule and workload. Don't hesitate to be in touch!
*i forgot to make the requisite tswift reference as august was slipping away; forgive me for doing it now