Sunday, September 30, 2012

East Texas Historical Association

Me with Bill O'Neal

The East Texas Historical Association met September 27-29 at the Historic Fredonia Hotel in Nacogdoches, Texas. A highlight of the meeting was a special tribute to the late Archie P. McDonald, who was the long-time executive director of the Association. This meeting also marked the celebration of the fifteenth anniversary of the association which was founded in 1962. This featured a special reception for all of the past presidents of the Association. This is a special time for me because also attending was my successor as the State Historian of Texas, Bill O’Neal of Carthage Texas. Bill is a long-time professor of history at Panola College. He has written a shelf full of books dealing with the history of Texas, especially frontier violence and gunfighters. He is a very active member of the Western Rountable and is one of the most sought-after public speakers on western gunfighter history. He is also a former president of the East Texas Historian Association and was honored with his other presidential colleagues at the meeting. I gave a paper in a session of Texas women’s history chaired by Mary L. Sheer of Lamar University. She is the editor of the recent book Women and the Texas Revolution published by the University of North Texas Press. The three papers in this session, including mine, were all given by authors who had chapters in that book. My paper was a survey of the role that women played in the Runaway Scrape. Jeff Dunn and Laura McLemore also gave papers in that session. This spring the East Texas Historical Association will be meeting in Galveston.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Digital Frontiers: The Promise of Digital Humanities

The University of North Texas Libraries and The Portal to Texas History hosted on Friday, September 21, a national conference dealing with the uses and applications of digital humanities. It focused on using digital resources for research, teaching, and learning. The conference featured a keynote address by Michael Millner, Director of the Jack and Stella Kerouac Center for Public Humanities at the University of Massachusetts--Lowell. The conference had dual hosts. The first was Dr. Spencer Keralis, who is Director of the Digital Scholarship Co-Operative at the University of North Texas. The second host was the staff of the Portal to Texas History, led by Cathy Hartman. She is the Associate Dean of Libraries at the University and heads the Portal to Texas History. The goals of this conference were to bring a broad community of users together to share their work and to explore the value and the impact that digital resources have on education and research. As the promotional materials for this conference noted: “Digital libraries provide unprecedented access to a wide array of materials. This has dramatically expanded the possibilities of primary source research in the humanities and related fields.”
Dr, Randi Tanglen making her presentation on the classroom use of digital humanities
John West, Director of Austin College’s Abell Library, Dr. Randi L.Tanglen, Assistant Professor of English at Austin College, and I attended the conference. I was pleased that several speakers made reference to how I employ the digital humanities in my own teaching and in my historical research based on earlier talks I have given about the digital humanities at other conferences. I was even more pleased that my colleague Randi Tanglen gave a formal presentation during one of the afternoon sessions. The title of her remarks was: “Using Public Humanities Resources to Teach “Recovery Projects in the Literary Archive.” She provided a full explanation of the pedagogical techniques she uses in a her seminar dealing with the recovery and analysis of lost texts available on the internet from various digital sources. The students in this class also make websites that provide an exposition of the texts that they have recovered and analyzed.

To learn more about the Portal to Texas History, Click Here.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Teaching Conference on History

The History Department of the University of North Texas today held its annual Teaching Conference on History (TCON), an event that has been taking place for almost twenty years. Begun by UNT professors Randolph B. Campbell and Donald Chipman, this year’s conference took place under the direction of history professor Walt Roberts. This conference provides recent information on history for secondary teachers throughout the region. Traditionally, several hundred teachers attend. Each year TCON revolves around a special theme. This year’s special emphasis was “Turning Points in History.” This is also the theme for the 2012 National History Day. Guest speakers included: Dr. Sam Haynes (University of Texas at Arlington), Dr. Todd Moye (University of North Texas), Dr. Owen Stanwood (Boston College), Dr. Alan Gallay (Texas Christian University), Dr. Nancy Stockdale (University of North Texas), Dr. Robert Citino (University of North Texas), Dr. Ricky Dobbs (Texas A&M University at Commerce), Dr. Christian Fritz (University of New Mexico School of Law), and me.
Light Cummins speaking at TCON
I spoke on the Sieur de la Salle and his seventeenth century explorations as a turning point in North American colonial history. In my remarks, I noted that the teaching of turning points can be a very valuable pedagogical strategy. It is thus understandable that the unifying theme for the 2013 National History Day is “Turning Points in History: People, Ideas, Events.” As the current promotional literature for this program notes of a turning point: “It is an idea, event or action that directly, and sometimes indirectly, caused change. This change could be social or cultural, affecting a society’s way of thinking or way of acting. It could be political, leading to new legislation or to a new government taking charge. It could be economic, affecting how goods are produced, bought and sold, or how much or how little a society has to spend on such items. A turning point can even cause all of these changes and more.” This certainly the case in considering the exploration and colony-founding attempts of Rene-Robert Cavalier, Sieur de la Salle, one of the best-know Frenchmen of the colonial period of United State history. 
La Salle
His activities constituted a significant turning point that moved the European frame of reference from the Atlantic coast to the interior of the continent and the Gulf of Mexico. It was his activities that opened the vast interior of North America to European expansion while it ushered into reality the beginnings of intense inter-colonial rivalry between France, and Spain, eventually spilling over to England as well. This took place for La Salle in three waves of effort: first, his attempt to dominate the fur trade on the western Great Lakes during the mid to late 1670s; second, his trip down the Mississippi River to its mouth in the early 1680s; and thirds, his unsuccessful attempt to establish a French post on the western Gulf of Mexico in Spanish territory within the modern boundaries of the state of Texas. A single vision comprehended all of these activities: to locate a water route to the Indies while, at the same time, weakening King Louis XIV’s great international rival Spain in the Americas. In the process, as well, La Salle naturally hoped to garner a great personal fortune as well as part of the process.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Roots of Texoma Regionalism

Annual Event Luncheon, Texoma Council of Governments
Photo North Texas E-News
Today I was the keynote speaker at the Annual Event held by the Texoma Council of Governments. Several hundred public servants, business leaders, elected office holders, and guests from across Texoma attended. It was my task to speak on the theme “The Roots of Regionalism” here in Texoma. In my talk, I noted that Texas is an amalgamation of regions. Those regional identifies are linked to our history, our topography, and our economy, and our demography. One can argue that history is the most powerful determinant of region. Regionalism is based absolutely in the reality of our past and is not artificially manufactured from fiction. It was my main theme that Texoma is a sustainable region on its own terms. In Texoma we have a common history, an interlocking commercial and a civic heritage that works to give Cooke, Grayson, and Fannin Counties a strong regional identity.We have many region-wide assets that, although identified with a particular city, county, or private concern, are used by people from all over Texoma.  There are many, many regional assets of a public and private nature that tie this region together and we all use them no matter where we live. I regularly dine in restaurants located in Tioga, Collinsville, Whitesboro, Denison, Pottsboro, Sherman, Whitewright, and Bonham, and also in Oklahoma. When visitors come, we spend time in museums and other attractions in Cooke, Grayson, and Fannin counties. We shop at stores and retail concerns all over the area. In many respects, Texoma functions for its residents as if it were one large city, which of course, it is not. It is a region. 

In my remarks, I mentioned a number of places that make this entire region one sustainable entity. One such place for me is the Waterloo Pool in Denison. A while back, I suffered a serious injury to my leg that required two extensive operations along with several months in the hospital, with my thereafter being temporarily confined to a wheel chair. My successful recovery was materially augmented in a significant way by the outstanding public hydrofitness exercise venue at the Waterloo Pool. I go there almost daily although I am a resident of Sherman. It is my belief that I am walking without leg braces and a cane in very large part because of the Waterloo pool, which I believe provides one of the best public pools in the State of Texas for people who seek hydrofitness exercise, along of course for those who just wish to swim in an all-weather, year round place. People from Denison and those from all over the Texoma region use the pool. Those of us who are not from Denison are happy to pay non-resident admission fees. I therefore submit that the Waterloo Pool is a Denison treasure that is also a regional asset enriching the lives of people across Texoma.
The Waterloo Pool
There are thus a considerable number of such public entities and private businesses that, like the Waterloo pool, are doing an excellent job in sustaining a very meaningful regionalism for Texoma. TAPS has become a model transportation resource that wields together our region. So too is the Texoma Council of Governments a successful force for regional cooperation. Vibrant and profitable regionalism can be seen currently in the private sector with our region-wide banking and retail concerns. Can more be done?  Of course, such is absolutely the case. And it would not be an overwhelming task because we have a solid base upon which to build in presenting the Texoma region to the rest of the state and the nation. I closed my remarks by noting there are great possibilities and potentials ahead of us in making this region stronger. We can welcome opportunity to meet the assured future growth of Texoma on our own terms. For Texoma, the sum has always been greater, richer, and more rewarding that the component parts. Such will be the case for the future if we are successful in managing the growth that will surely occur in the coming decades across the Texoma region with cooperation, coordination, and contemplation of our mutual interests.

Friday, September 7, 2012

New Book: Women and the Texas Revolution

Mary L. Scheer
This month marks publication of a new book, Women and the Texas Revolution, edited by Mary L. Scheer of Lamar University. I have an essay in this book entitled "Up Buck! Up Ball! Do Your Duty!": Women and the Runaway Scrape." Other essays in the book have been written by historians Lindy Eakin, Jean A. Stuntz, Mary Scheer, Angela Boswell, Dora Elizondo Guerra, Jeffrey D. Dunn, and Laura Lyons McLemore. The director of the University of North Texas Press, Ronald Chrisman, and his staff, have done a commendable job of creating a first-class volume. This book is one of the first publications to consider explicitly the role that women played in the Texas Revolution, examining Anglo-American, Tejana, Native American, and Black women in an inclusive manner. It is the hope of everyone involved in the writing and production of this book that it will become a useful title for readers who want to broaden their knowledge about the Texas Revolution and the important role that women have played in the history of the Lone Star State. Early comments about the book in this regard are every encouraging. Noted historian James L. Haley, who has written a number of best-selling titles found on Texas history bookshelves, has said: "The gathering of scholars in this book is formidable. They have produced a well-done series of well documented vignettes of women in the revolutionary period." Historian Paula Mitchell Marks observes "Women and the Texas Revolution is a fresh and valuable addition to works on the Revolution and on women in nineteenth-century Texas. It is a serious and multifaceted treatment of a topic that has come in for very little scholarly study."

Click Here for the University of North Texas Press page on this book.

Click Here for page on this book.