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Never One Nation: Freaks, Savages, and Whiteness in U.S. Popular Culture, 1850-1877

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In Never One Nation, Linda Frost argues that during the eventful decades surrounding the Civil War, American identity was constructed not only nationally but also locally. Depictions of race, class, and sexuality seen in P. T. Barnum's museums, in the image of the Circassian Beauty, and in popular periodicals like Harper's Weekly, the Southern Illustrated News, and the San In Never One Nation, Linda Frost argues that during the eventful decades surrounding the Civil War, American identity was constructed not only nationally but also locally. Depictions of race, class, and sexuality seen in P. T. Barnum's museums, in the image of the Circassian Beauty, and in popular periodicals like Harper's Weekly, the Southern Illustrated News, and the San Francisco Golden Era further illustrated who was - and who was not - an American. Local coverage of Native Americans and Chinese in the West, African Americans and recent Irish immigrants in New York, and slaves and Yankees in the South played a major role in conflating Americanness with whiteness. These ideas were shaped by reactions to events such as the 1863 Draft Riots and the Dakota uprising in Minnesota in 1862, and laid bare through the demonization of Northern whites in Confederate newspapers and anxieties expressed in California newspapers about the possibility of Chinese immigrants gaining U.S. citizenship. Through close readings of specific articles published in regional periodicals, mostly unexamined by literary scholars, Frost shows how Americanness came to be defined in the mid-nineteenth century by the mainstream popular culture. The era's many social upheavals - Emancipation, Reconstruction, the start of the Indian wars in the West, immigration, and the completion of the transcontinental railroad - sharpened the desire of Americans to feel part of a national community, even as they made this search for an American identity extremely contentious and necessarily fragmented. Never One Nation provocatively reframes the discourse on racial formation and reveals how local cultures and prejudices can recast the identity of a nation.


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In Never One Nation, Linda Frost argues that during the eventful decades surrounding the Civil War, American identity was constructed not only nationally but also locally. Depictions of race, class, and sexuality seen in P. T. Barnum's museums, in the image of the Circassian Beauty, and in popular periodicals like Harper's Weekly, the Southern Illustrated News, and the San In Never One Nation, Linda Frost argues that during the eventful decades surrounding the Civil War, American identity was constructed not only nationally but also locally. Depictions of race, class, and sexuality seen in P. T. Barnum's museums, in the image of the Circassian Beauty, and in popular periodicals like Harper's Weekly, the Southern Illustrated News, and the San Francisco Golden Era further illustrated who was - and who was not - an American. Local coverage of Native Americans and Chinese in the West, African Americans and recent Irish immigrants in New York, and slaves and Yankees in the South played a major role in conflating Americanness with whiteness. These ideas were shaped by reactions to events such as the 1863 Draft Riots and the Dakota uprising in Minnesota in 1862, and laid bare through the demonization of Northern whites in Confederate newspapers and anxieties expressed in California newspapers about the possibility of Chinese immigrants gaining U.S. citizenship. Through close readings of specific articles published in regional periodicals, mostly unexamined by literary scholars, Frost shows how Americanness came to be defined in the mid-nineteenth century by the mainstream popular culture. The era's many social upheavals - Emancipation, Reconstruction, the start of the Indian wars in the West, immigration, and the completion of the transcontinental railroad - sharpened the desire of Americans to feel part of a national community, even as they made this search for an American identity extremely contentious and necessarily fragmented. Never One Nation provocatively reframes the discourse on racial formation and reveals how local cultures and prejudices can recast the identity of a nation.

34 review for Never One Nation: Freaks, Savages, and Whiteness in U.S. Popular Culture, 1850-1877

  1. 4 out of 5

    Margaret Sankey

    Need a new lens through which to view Gilded Age citizenship? Try circus freaks and sideshow residents. Frost tries too hard using literary techniques to extract subtleties from lowbrow material, but ends with the upshot that even if one was white and male, "too weird" was a pretty effective disenfranchiser. Need a new lens through which to view Gilded Age citizenship? Try circus freaks and sideshow residents. Frost tries too hard using literary techniques to extract subtleties from lowbrow material, but ends with the upshot that even if one was white and male, "too weird" was a pretty effective disenfranchiser.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    I loved this book. I'm not entirely sure how I got out of a graduate degree in U.S. History without ever learning about Miriam Leslie. There is a movie there! I loved this book. I'm not entirely sure how I got out of a graduate degree in U.S. History without ever learning about Miriam Leslie. There is a movie there!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Matthew White

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jean Marie

  5. 5 out of 5

    Edje Jeter

  6. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Ramirez

  7. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie Morse

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jessi

  9. 5 out of 5

    Megan

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

  11. 4 out of 5

    Qwo-Li

  12. 5 out of 5

    Amelia

  13. 5 out of 5

    Colin

  14. 4 out of 5

    Isaac

  15. 4 out of 5

    Billie Rain

  16. 4 out of 5

    Medina

  17. 4 out of 5

    J Aurelius

  18. 5 out of 5

    Shannon

  19. 5 out of 5

    laurel

  20. 4 out of 5

    Katrina

  21. 5 out of 5

    Emily

  22. 5 out of 5

    Liza

  23. 4 out of 5

    Maxine Bailey

  24. 4 out of 5

    Graham Everett

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kristina Rosenthal

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kristen Suagee-beauduy

  27. 5 out of 5

    Amberle Husbands

  28. 4 out of 5

    Michael Andrews

  29. 5 out of 5

    Rhonda

  30. 4 out of 5

    Iris Iris

  31. 5 out of 5

    Izetta Autumn

  32. 5 out of 5

    Ali

  33. 4 out of 5

    Zeus Lumumba

  34. 5 out of 5

    Scott

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