Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Of Migrations and Swimming Pools: Book Reviews at H-Net Online

Two book reviews from social history spotlight books that can illuminate genealogy too:

Jeannette Keith reviews Jack S. Blocker's A Little More Freedom: African Americans Enter the Urban Midwest, 1860-1930. It's clear the book contains much detail on the northward migrations of African Americans, including case studies of their lives in Washington Court House (Fayette County), Ohio; Springfield (Clark County), Ohio; and Springfield (Sangamon County), Illinois. He also discusses lynchings and race riots. In the words of the reviewer, "In their reaction to antiblack collective violence, African Americans in the Midwest demonstrated that they did indeed have a little more freedom than they might have had in the South. Black newspapers crusaded against mob rule, as did black self-help groups ranging from Sunday school conferences to women's clubs. Most strikingly, African Americans armed themselves for collective self-defense." The review is detailed and the book promises more.

Christopher J. Manganiello reviews Jeff Wiltse's Contested Waters: A Social History of Swimming Pools in America. Your immigrant ancestors may have played a role in getting municipal swimming pools started. The reviewer summarizes: "Boisterous and naked working-class boys and men bathed in Philadelphia, Boston, and Milwaukee rivers because urban tenement housing offered limited indoor facilities. When these bathers offended Gilded Age citizens’ Victorian sensibilities, reformers justified the establishment of bathing pools on public health arguments."

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