Peter Wallenstein's Homepage
The Virginia Social Science Association (VSSA)—designed for people involved in the social sciences in Virginia, whether as academics or other professionals, whether their work is primarily academic or applied—holds a conference each spring. Highlighted at these meetings is the research not only of faculty and practitioners but also the work of students, both graduate and undergraduate: www.vssa.net/
Student essay awards are also made at each conference. So are annual Scholar Awards in two or three social science disciplines, as well as Distinguished Service Awards for people who have made great contributions to the Commonwealth of Virginia, to people who can attend the conference and participate in it. And so too —new in 2007—is an occasional Distinguished Career Award made even to a person who is unable to attend the meeting.
Faculty across the social science disciplines—history, sociology, political science, geography, psychology, and so on—are invited to become involved and to get their students involved. Be on the lookout for the October 2007 call for papers for the 2008 meeting and for students essay submissions. You are also invited to send nominations for scholar and service awards to me as the VSSA president, and to submit original articles from the social sciences, on any topic, to the VSSJ editor.
The 2007 recipient of the VSSA’s Distinguished Career award is Jacob Hailemariam (Yakob Haile-Mariam), who is being so recognized precisely because of his unavailability to attend. For twenty years a professor at Norfolk State University, he took time out most notably to investigate genocide in Rwanda for the United Nations, and he took early retirement to return to his native Ethiopia to run in 2005 as a reform candidate in putatively free elections for the national Parliament. Victorious at the polls, he subsequently found himself imprisoned by the regime on charges of treason and genocide. Representing him at the conference, we anticipate, will be one or more friends, family, and professional colleagues. See www.freeyacob.com/
The Virginia Forum, designed for students and practitioners of Virginia history whatever their disciplinary or institutional identities, held its inaugural meeting in Winchester, Virginia, in April 2006. The second annual Virginia Forum was held in Richmond, at the Library of Virginia, on April 14–15, 2007.
And the third such gathering will take place in Fredericksburg, at the University of Mary Washington, in April 2008. Program Committee chair Larissa Smith ( Longwood University) will send out a call for papers for the 2008 meeting in summer 2007.
Plans are under way for subsequent annual meetings, but no venue for 2009 or after has yet been selected—suggestions and self-nominations are welcome. Plans are also under way for a Virginia Forum website. In addition, a possible collection of essays is being considered, with the first such volume to be drawn from the Forum’s first two meetings. If interested in possibly editing or co-editing such a volume, please contact me.
The Encyclopedia of Virginia (EV) is under development as an on-line reference work on all matters dealing with Virginia history, including literature, history, business, and geography. Financially supported by action of the Virginia General Assembly, it is being developed at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. If looking for a reliable and comprehensive reference work on Virginia history, stay tuned for the 2008 roll-out. In the meantime, if interested in writing entries (500–3,000 words) for this encyclopedia, contact the people at EV: www.virginiafoundation.org/encyclopedia/encyclopedia.html
The Undergraduate Research Institute (URI), of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech, began operations in September 2006. Designed in a variety of ways to bolster research opportunities for Virginia Tech undergraduates—and thus their personal and professional development—the URI seeks to connect Tech students with CLAHS faculty, and it offers financial support for research expenses and conference attendance by CLAHS undergraduates.
The point of the URI is to encourage a cultural mindset and an institutional infrastructure that conceives of undergraduate research as a critically important part of any undergraduate’s experience; as something that students at a research university ought surely to have experience with; and as a phenomenon that can range from one-on-one mentor–mentee collaborative relationships, at one end, to engaging primary sources in an introductory survey course, on the other.
The Christiansburg Institute originated in 1866, shortly after the Civil War, as a Freedmen’s Bureau school in western Virginia. Operated variously as an elementary school (sometimes with a “normal school” program to train black teachers) and a regional high school for black students, it continued to serve the region—and for a time drew students from across the South and indeed across the nation—until 1966, when “desegregation” came to the area, as Virginia’s dual system of schools, black or white, was changed to a single integrated system.
Students and faculty at Virginia Tech have for some years been involved in the efforts by Christiansburg Institute to reopen, this time as a regional history and educational center. There’s much more to be done.
The Southern Historical Association is the premier professional association for historians of the U.S. South, and it seeks also to include all historians, of any time or place, teaching in the South. Faculty dues are $40, and pre-registration for the annual conference is $20. For students, membership is a mere $10, and pre-registration $5.
Each year, the Virginia Tech Department of History welcomes new graduate students in the history M.A. program—welcomes them to the department, the university, and indeed the profession—with a gift of a one-year student membership.
The Organization of American Historians (OAH) offers membership to all historians of the United States. The OAH publishes the Magazine of History to bring to K–12 public school teachers the latest research on a wide range of historical topics that may be of use in constructing lesson plans for these teachers. The OAH also maintains a Distinguished Lecture program, with scores of historians available to speak (the fee goes to the OAH). My own topics include “Did Homer Plessy Die a White Man?” and “Cradle of America: Vignettes from Four Centuries of Virginia History, 1607– 2007”. www.oah.org/
Loving Day resulted from the efforts of Ken Tanabe, then a graduate student in New York City, who in 2004 established a website and inaugurated an annual day of celebration to mark the anniversary each June 12 of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Loving v. Virginia (1967) invalidating state laws that prevented people from marrying across certain racial boundaries, especially between African Americans and Caucasians.
Richard Loving, a “white” man, and Mildred Jeter, under Virginia law a “colored” woman, drove from their homes in Caroline County to Washington, D.C., in June 1958 to get married. Shortly after returning to Virginia, they were arrested for the crime of marrying each other. Convicted in January 1959, they were each sentenced to a year in jail or, as an alternative, to accept exile from Virginia for twenty-five years. A few years later, Mildred Loving wrote to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to seek his help. Her letter made its way to the American Civil Liberties Union and then to a young lawyer in Alexandria, Bernard S. Cohen. The Supreme Court decision in their case in 1967 overturned their convictions and ordered an end to the enforcement of such laws in Virginia or any other state.
I tell their story (and a great numbers of other such stories) in my Tell the Court I Love My Wife: Race, Marriage, and Law—An American History. The book title comes from the words of Richard Loving to the couple’s attorneys just before they argued the case before the Supreme Court: “Tell the Court I love my wife, and it is unfair that I can’t live with her in Virginia.”
I began teaching at Virginia Tech in 1983. For a few years before that, I taught U.S. history and government on U.S. military bases in Korea, Japan, and (one magical summer) Guam. Now, as then, young Americans are invited to join the armed services, and enticed with invitations to see the world and obtain a college education. The University of Maryland is one of the American institutions of higher education that runs such programs and staffs such positions, recruiting in the United States faculty to fill positions that cannot (like teachers of the local language) be found near American bases overseas. Employment and travel opportunities to teach, whether in Europe, Asia, or elsewhere, are routinely advertised by the University of Maryland University College: www.umuc.edu/employ.shtml
The Zambia Knowledge Bank (ZANOBA) seeks support for constructing and establishing a library for rural Africans. The president of ZANOBA, and leading the fundraising drive, is Bridgewater College sociology professor Mwizenge S. Tembo, a native of the part of Zambia where the library is planned.