Behind the Cover: Tom Eykemans on “Emerald Street”

What an honor to have the opportunity to design this comprehensive history of hip hop in Seattle. As someone who grew up nearby in the ’80s (listening to Sir Mix-A-Lot of course) and moved here in the ’90s (when the Sonics still played, the Kingdome still stood, The Rocket still published, and the city still felt scrappy), I feel that working on this book has been a small way to give back to the community from which so much creative energy has emerged—and continues to flow.

When I approach a new design for any book, my first step is always research. I’ll review notes and suggestions from the author and editor. I’ll read the manuscript (or at least an introduction, if available), skim the text for key phrases or visual metaphors, browse any associated imagery, look up comparable designs, and often disappear down internet rabbit holes, chasing one thing that leads to another. It is important to be able to justify any design decision I make, no matter how obscure the reference or inspiration.

Fortunately, the Seattle hip-hop scene is rich in visual history. Posters and zines from the ’90s set the tone for the design direction. My initial concepts spanned a range of approaches but shared some commonalities: a limited palette of green and black that recalls the cheap printing used for posters advertising clubs and performances and a distinct color that echoes the title; bold typography that calls out to a reader; and most importantly a sense of time and place that feels fresh and engaging.

In one draft I paired a bold-type Emerald with a graffitied Street. In another I constructed a street sign from the title text itself. These both felt a little generic, like they could have been set anywhere. In a third I built the composition from flyers stapled to a utility pole — a nod to Seattle’s regrettable poster ban that was in effect from 1994 to 2002.

The final design literally turns the city on its side and makes a statement by letting the title rise from the ground and dominate the skyline. The type is a bold, all-caps, condensed sans-serif—the ubiquitous Impact—reversed out of black and paired with an elegant italic Bodoni. Both typefaces are used throughout the interior as well to make a cohesive whole. The cityscape is rendered in a high-contrast halftone pattern against a brilliant solid green that again alludes to posters done on the cheap . The overall composition is, like its subject, complex and diverse. I hope that I did it justice.


Tom Eykemans was senior designer at University of Washington Press from 2007 to 2016 and is now design director at Lucia | Marquand. As a freelance designer he continues to design covers for the press, including the recently reissued Murray Morgan classics, Puget’s Sound, Skid Road, and The Last Wilderness. See his work at design.eykemans.com.


Learning to Rethink Nisei Radicalism: Diane Fujino on “Nisei Radicals”

As I sat in the Tateuchi Democracy Forum at the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) listening to three generations of Japanese American women talk about the meaning of Mitsuye Yamada’s poetry for them, I was struck by the sticking power of Mitsuye’s words. That event, held in August 2019, was the book launch for Mitsuye’s third book of poetry, Full Circle. At the time, I was finishing my book manuscript on Mitsuye Yamada and her brother, Reverend Michael Yasutake. I had begun the project twenty years earlier, out of an interest in understanding my own radical Japanese American history. I had grown up as an Eastside Sansei in a community with many Japanese Americans and regularly traveled a few miles west to visit Los Angeles’s Little Tokyo. But as was the case for many of my generation, our community’s radical activist past was hidden from view. So I began a quest that, through research and activism, led me to the study of Japanese American radicalism and ‘60s figures such as Yuri Kochiyama, famously known for working with Malcolm X in Harlem; Richard Aoki, a rare Japanese American member of the Black Panther Party; and Mo Nishida, a Los Angeles Little Tokyo Leftist; and also to early Cold War activism. These were all people who, like my parents, were Nisei, the second-generation children of immigrants. (If they were not all literally the children of Japanese immigrants, they were of the same birth cohort as the Nisei).

Bill Hosokawa’s Nisei: The Quiet Americans had famously labeled the Nisei as politically passive, the most assimilationist of any generation. This was the generation that was sent, often as young adults, into the US concentration camps in World War II. They were taught to be 200% American in order to escape being seen as the enemy. In the postwar period, this generation of Japanese Americans received unprecedented and unexpected opportunities, including homeownership, jobs that matched their college educations, changed racial representations, and— for the first time—citizenship for Japanese immigrants. These changes were related to global geopolitics. As Christina Klein argues in Cold War Orientalism, the nation was invested in showing a diminishing of anti-Asian racism while promoting empire building in Asia. But as the next generation, the Sansei of the late 1960s’ Asian American Movement, developed more radical and unruly politics, they railed against what they saw as the accommodationism of their parents’ generation. “Why didn’t they protest being rounded up and locked up?,” the Asian American Movement activists accused. But I soon discovered that Japanese Americans did protest: they were draft resisters during the “Good War,” labor organizers in Hawaii, and much more.

My hunger to recover my own history of radicalism led to my research on Mitsuye Yamada and Michael Yasutake. I was already familiar with Mitsuye’s writings, years ago having read her two essays, “Invisibility Is an Unnatural Disaster” and “Asian Pacific Women and Feminism” in Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa’s groundbreaking anthology, This Bridge Called My Back: Writings By Radical Women of Color (1981). Mitsuye’s writings spoke to the ways Asian American women were rendered invisible and silent, describing how a moment of anger on her part shocked her colleagues who didn’t know that Asian American women felt oppressed. Nearly forty years after Mitsuye penned those essays, they still resonated with younger Japanese American women at the JANM book event.

Reverend Michael Yasutake, an Episcopal priest, had for even longer than his sister lived a life of unruliness, contrary to the idea of Nisei accommodationism. During World War II he was a conscientious objector of sorts and was kicked out of the University of Cincinnati in 1944 for his defiance of conventions of wartime patriotism and masculinity. During the 1960s he counseled draft resisters and, as I discovered in my research, drove hundreds of miles out of his way to visit military stockades and US penitentiaries. Then, in the 1980s, when his colleague at the YMCA College in Chicago, Carmen Valentín, was arrested as a Puerto Rican revolutionary, he gave a revolutionary prayer for Carmen and her compañeras/os who unexpectedly found themselves arrested and in jail, and his politics moved increasingly to oppose US and Japanese imperialism. He had already been a fierce supporter of political prisoners (sometimes working with Yuri Kochiyama to support specific political prisoners), but now he combined trips to visit political prisoners throughout the United States with international travels to organize creative gatherings and people’s tribunals to explore the ongoing impacts of militarism in the aftermath of World War II. Yasutake, along with Ron Fujiyoshi and others, organized Tochi wa Inochi or “Land is life” as an international conference, held in Okinawa in 1996, to bear witness to the enduring impacts of war, nuclear testing, forced sex slavery, and incarceration.

Mitsuye Yamada herself had long supported political prisoners, notably though Amnesty International, where she served on the US board of directors. But at the persistent urgings of her brother she began to counter Amnesty International’s policy against members supporting political prisoners in their own country, which was intended as a partial protection against the political persecution of its members. Mitsuye was particularly drawn to women political prisoners, most especially Marilyn Buck, a fellow poet and White radical who was convicted for helping the iconic Black Panther Assata Shakur escape prison. Mitsuye is primarily known for her moving poetry and prose, but, as my book shows, she is also a long-standing activist-organizer.

My book, Nisei Radicals: The Feminist Poetics and Transformative Ministry of Mitsuye Yamada and Michael Yasutake (University of Washington Press, forthcoming December 2020), forms part of the scholarship that counters the racialization of the Nisei as quiet Americans and of Japanese Americans as model minorities. It shows the continuing and increasingly radical activism of Nisei like Mike and Mitsuye, who did much of their political work in the 1970s to 1990s, during an ostensibly dormant period of Asian American activism. It reveals the ways Nisei worked with younger generations of Asian Americans and across divides of race, class, nation, and political ideology. It uncovers a radical lineage of Japanese American activism. And it contests the accusations of Nisei passivity and helps to explain why Nisei like Mitsuye Yamada, now 97 years old, and the late Michael Yasutake remain relevant to people across generations.

Diane C. Fujino is professor of Asian American studies at University of California, Santa Barbara. Her books include Heartbeat of Struggle: The Revolutionary Life of Yuri Kochiyama and Samurai among Panthers: Richard Aoki on Race, Resistance and a Paradoxical Life. Her book Nisei Radicals: The Feminist Poetics and Transformative Ministry of Mitsuye Yamada and Michael Yasutake is forthcoming.

A Message to Our Authors, Readers, and Partners

During this ongoing global crisis, we at the University of Washington Press share concern and solidarity with all those who are affected. We realize that this is a challenging time for people around the world, and we are grateful for your continued engagement. Although we are working remotely, the press is fully operational and open for business.

Our travel plans have changed as many academic conferences have been canceled or have shifted to virtual platforms. To find out which virtual conferences we are participating in and to check out our booth in their virtual exhibit halls, please browse our upcoming conference schedule here.

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UW Press remains committed to scholarship and the publication of vital new work as a public good, and we ask that you continue to engage with us and share ideas. We will continue to highlight our new books and share press news with our readers via our website and blog. Stay tuned for special announcements and promotions via our social media channels and email newsletters. Thank you so much for your support.

Pigs and People, The Other “Missing Link”: Thomas Fleischman on “Communist Pigs”

In February of 1922 Henry Fairfield Osborn, world-famous paleontologist, conservationist, and director of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, received a package in the mail from Nebraska. Inside Osborn found a note and a carefully wrapped molar. A rancher and amateur geologist named Harold Cook had discovered the ancient tooth in a ten-million-year-old layer of rock bed in the Snake River near his home. Believing it to have “human type” features, Cook sent the tooth to Osborn to verify his assessment. Osborn was thrilled. The man who had christened the Tyrannosaurus Rex believed he now had evidence of another epoch-making discovery: a “missing link” fossil, evidence of man’s descent from apes. Studying the shape, size, and wear of the molar, Osborn determined the tooth belonged to a third genus of extinct hominids—and the first found in the Americas. He named this new primate ancestor Hesperopithecus, or “Ape of the Western World.” The press dubbed it simply “Nebraska Man.”

That same year Osborn published his findings in several prominent periodicals. Lest anyone doubt his claims, he also sent casts of the molar to museums and universities in the United States and Europe. It didn’t take long, however, before skeptics began to poke holes in his case. In response, Osborn sent crews back to Nebraska in the summers of 1925 and 1926 to scour the same riverbed deposits for more fossils. In the dry heat of summer they found fossils and bone fragments of numerous mammals, but none belonging to Nebraska Man. The expedition concluded that the molar belonged not to a hominid, but instead to an extinct species of peccary called Prosthennops, a primeval relative of the modern pig, Sus scrofa. Osborn was not the first person, nor would he be the last, to go looking for humans in the past and find a pig instead.

Osborn’s mistake can be forgiven. Pig bodies and human bodies have a great deal in common. Similarities include their teeth (like all omnivores, pigs and humans share a similar array of molars, incisors, and canines), but also much more. Pigs’ internal organs are nearly identical in ability and form to our own. When the first experiments in heart transplants began in the 1950s, researchers looked not to the ape but to the pig, whose heart was strong enough to pump blood through a human body. Today porcine valves and skin grafts are used regularly in surgery on people. Scientists have used stem cells from pig fat to grow human jawbones. Pig eyes have similar ocular power and see the same color spectrum as humans, and relative to other members of the animal kingdom pigs are remarkably nearsighted. People and pigs also share many ailments, including cancer, rheumatism, and arthritis. And most infamously, infectious diseases like H1N1 spread easily between our species and theirs. Osborn was right to intuit that his molar belonged to a genetic cousin of modern humans—he just chose the wrong family.

Even more significantly, people and pigs have lived closely alongside one another and in various degrees of cooperation for millennia. While not the first animal to give up its freedom in exchange for domestic living (dogs beat all animals there some twenty thousand years ago), pigs were never far away, lurking just beyond the reach of campfire lights, rooting through midden heaps for scraps. And when domestication of Sus scrofa began around nine thousand years ago, pigs proved so amenable to human society that they were domesticated over and over again. Paleogeneticists have pinpointed not just one site or moment for pig domestication, but multiple locations and dates, stretching over thousands of years and from what is now modern Turkey to southeast Asia. Pigs, it seems, were just as willing to live within human society as they were to cast off the human hand and live on their own in the wild.

Historians have also have homed in on this special relationship to raise new questions about the past. They have used pigs to explore the cultural and economic lives of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century English small-holders, or as a synecdoche for medieval antisemitism among French peasants in Languedoc. They have identified pigs as agents of imperial conquest and dispossession, from the Columbian Exchange in North America to the Nazi invasion of Eastern Europe. They have shown how the rise of scientific pig breeding in the nineteenth century inaugurated an ecological succession in the US Midwest, from old-growth forest and prairie grasslands to landscapes defined by corn and dotted with whiskey distilleries, piggeries, and slaughterhouses. And in the age of the factory farm, the lives, labor, and deaths of millions of pigs reveal that people remain ensnared in the same system of exploitation and degradation. In each case, pig bodies, behaviors, and diets provide clues about the human past.

My book Communist Pigs builds on these insights to tell the story of agricultural development in the German Democratic Republic (GDR), or East Germany, during the Cold War. It uses the pig’s propensity for adaptation and change to narrate a history of East Germany’s rise and fall. It analyzes three predominant archetypes of Sus scrofa in the GDR—the industrial pig, the garden pig, and the wild boar—to connect the complex environmental history of European communism with the industrial development of rural spaces around the world. Communist Pigs shows how this animal came to occupy a commanding place at the center of industrial agriculture. It explores how East Germans struggled to overcome the ecological constraints and obstacles of industrial hog farming. And it uncovers the surprising mixture of small-scale pig farming and boar hunting that emerged in response to environmental pollution and the limitations of a planned economy. Together, the GDR’s three pigs reveal how a communist regime was drawn rapidly into capitalist markets for cheap grain, meat, energy, and capital. This shift precipitated an ecological and political crisis that culminated in the collapse of East Germany and the end of the Cold War.

Pigs, like people, make their own histories. These histories are specific to the environments in which they occur and their moments in the past. Pigs can open new ways of considering the rigid frameworks—say, the divide between communism and capitalism—through which we interpret human histories. In the specific case of the twentieth century, pigs show us how industrial agriculture has physically remade the entire earth and all the things that live and die upon it to promote the production of meat. But just like any relationship, the one between pigs and people can be undone and remade anew. The pig may even survive us as the dominant species on the planet, if the resurgence of wild boar populations is any indication. And if in ten million years this porcine descendent species decides to excavate the rock bed formations of the Anthropocene in search of clues to their own prehistory, it may very well mistake the fossilized remains of Homo sapiens for its own “missing” genetic ancestor, which, as we know, is a very human error to make.


Thomas Fleischman is assistant professor of history at the University of Rochester. His book Communist Pigs is available now.

Sources

Anderson, J. L. Capitalist Pigs: Pigs, Pork, and Power in America. Morgantown: West Virginia University Press, 2019.

Anderson, Virginia DeJohn. Creatures of Empire: How Domestic Animals Transformed Early America. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

Blanchette, Alex. Porkopolis: American Animality, Standardized Life, and the Factory Farm. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2020.

Fabre-Vassas, Claudine. The Singular Beast: Jews, Christians, and the Pig. European Perspectives. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997.

Gibson, Abraham. Feral Animals in the American South: An Evolutionary History. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016.

Hicks, Lucy. “Pig Fat Can Be Used to Grow Jawbones for Humans.” Science, October 15, 2020, https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/10/pig-fat-can-be-used-grow-jawbones-humans.

Malcolmson, Robert, and Stephanos Mastoris. The English Pig: A History. New York: Hambledon Press, 1998.

Pennisi, Elizabeth. “The Taming of the Pig Took Some Wild Turns.” Science, August 31, 2015, https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2015/08/taming-pig-took-some-wild-turns.

Porter, Valerie. Pigs: A Handbook to the Breeds of the World. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1993.

Saraiva, Tiago. Fascist Pigs: Technoscientific Organisms and the History of Fascism. Boston: MIT Press, 2016.

Watson, Lyall. The Whole Hog: Exploring the Extraordinary Potential of Pigs. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Books, 2004.

White, Sam. “From Globalized Pig Breeds to Capitalist Pigs: A Study in Animal Cultures and Evolutionary History.” Environmental History 16 (January 2011): 94–120.

UW Press at the Western History Association Virtual Conference

Meet UW Press’s History Editors

Three of the press’s acquisitions editors acquire in the field of the history of the US West, and each one has a particular specialty.

Mike Baccam (he/him) acquires in western history, critical ethnic studies, and Asian American studies. He is interested in projects that engage with race, gender, migration, imperialism, and labor and particularly welcomes interdisciplinary work. He accepts queries for the Emil and Kathleen Sick Series in Western History. He can be reached by email at mbaccam@uw.edu or on Twitter at @mikebaccam.

Andrew Berzanskis (he/him) acquires environmental history, geography, and books for general readers about the Pacific Northwest. Pitch him via email at andrewlb@uw.edu and find him on Twitter at @ABerzanskis. He also accepts proposals for our Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books series.

Larin McLaughlin (she/her) acquires in Native and Indigenous studies, women’s history, gender, and sexuality studies, and visual culture. She welcomes queries for the Indigenous Confluences series. lmclaugh@uw.edu.

We encourage you to reach out to the editor whose emphasis best reflects the focus of your work. And please visit the WHA virtual conference and stop by our virtual booth to learn more about new releases in western history, view series flyers, and access other information.

2020 WHA Award Winners

We are excited to share the news that two of our recent books have received awards from the Western History Association this year:

Becoming Mary Sully: Toward an American Indian Abstract by Philip J. Deloria has been selected for the 2020 Donald L. Fixico Award for best book on American Indian and Canadian First Nations history that centers on Indigenous epistemologies and perspectives.

Reclaiming the Reservation: Histories of Indian Sovereignty Suppressed and Renewed by Alexandra Harmon has been selected for the 2020 Robert G. Athearn Award for best book on the twentieth-century American West.

The awards will be formally announced during the Virtual Awards Ceremony on Friday, October 16, at 2:00 p.m. (CDT).

UW Press Eagerly Awaits Tri-West Virtual Book Exhibit with a Round-Up of New Regional Titles

We are eager to connect with our regional book buying community during the Tri-West Virtual Book Exhibit, a combined event for three regional booksellers associations. Please visit our virtual booth here.

For those interested in booking an appointment with one of our sales representatives during the virtual exhibit, we are represented in the following territories by:

Kurtis Lowe
kurtis@booktravelerswest.com
Pacific Northwest (AK, ID, MT, OR, WA)

William Gawronski
wgawronski@earthlink.net
West (AZ, CA, NM, NV)

Kevin Kurtz
kk2841@columbia.edu
Midwest (CO, KS, NE, OK, SD)

We have many exciting regional titles that we are looking forward to sharing with local bookstores. Here is a collection that highlights some of these important new books:

Emerald Street: A History of Hip Hop in Seattle

By Daudi Abe

Foreword by Sir Mix-A-Lot

“A vital and long overdue survey of how this great city in the Pacific Northwest sampled and remixed an art form born on the East Coast and made it their own. Abe has crafted a work that not only presents hip hop in Seattle, but also is the biography of a community that learned how to win on its own terms.”—Kevin Powell, author of When We Free the World and a forthcoming biography of Tupac Shakur

The Grizzly in the Driveway: The Return of Bears to a Crowded American West

By Rob Chaney

“Chaney writes with pith and pizzazz, and goes deep into understanding nature’s difficult relationship with people. This book is an incisive and motivating look into the future. It asks whether these brown bruins can be tolerated at levels reflecting their biological needs, meeting shifting ecological landscapes and our diverse American cultural pathways.”—Joel Berger, author of Extreme Conservation: Life at the Edges of the World

Edible and Medicinal Flora of the West Coast: The Pacific Northwest and British Columbia

By Collin Varner

Published with Heritage House

A concise regional guide to more than 200 plants with nutritional and medicinal uses. Practical and user-friendly, Edible and Medicinal Flora of the West Coast is an indispensable guide for beginning and experienced foragers alike.

Birds of the Pacific Northwest: A Photographic Guide, 2nd Edition

By Tom Aversa, Richard Cannings, and Hal Opperman

Published with Heritage House

“An essential reference for birders west of the Continental Divide , particularly for intermediate and advanced observers.”—Western Birds: The Quarterly Journal of Western Field Ornithologists

After the Blast: The Ecological Recovery of Mount St. Helens

By Eric Wagner

“This is a superb look at scientists and science at work.”—Publishers Weekly

“Like the seeds of lupine, Mount St. Helens is fortunate that such a writer landed on its soil, turning desolation into fertile ground.”—Natural History Magazine

Sailor Song: The Shanties and Ballads of the High Seas

By Gerry Smyth

Illustrated by Jonny Hannah

Published with the British Library

Reintroduces the traditional sea shanty for a new generation. Recently released films such as Fisherman’s Friend and Blow the Man Down demonstrate a reinvigorated interest in this long-standing maritime tradition, and Gerry Smyth is well-positioned to present this compilation of sea shanties, their backgrounds, and their accompanying musical notation.

The Great Quake Debate: The Crusader, the Skeptic, and the Rise of Modern Seismology

By Susan Hough

“Hough is the ideal author for this story, being a seismologist herself, steeped in the history of her trade, and a masterful raconteur. Whether it’s how to reopen the economy after a pandemic or what to do about climate change, the great quake debate was a precursor to modern tussles between science and policy.”—Callan Bentley, geologist, Northern Virginia Community College

The Port of Missing Men: Billy Gohl, Labor, and Brutal Times in the Pacific Northwest

By Aaron Goings

“Persuasively challenges a century-long belief: did the maritime labor activist at the largest lumber port in the world really deserve an enduring reputation as a monstrous serial killer? Goings provides the defense that Billy Gohl never got in court. What a welcome labor history lesson from the Pacific Northwest!”—Karen Blair, editor of Women in Pacific Northwest History

The River That Made Seattle: A Human and Natural History of the Duwamish

By BJ Cummings

“An amazing historical reflection on the Duwamish River and surrounding lands, which also addresses the pollution that affected both Natives and settlers.”—Cecile A. Hansen, chairperson of the Duwamish Tribe

“Cummings brings the river and its history to life in a chronicle of colonization, neglect, and rebirth. A must-read for anyone who wants to know the story flowing through Seattle.”—David R. Montgomery, author of King of Fish and The Rocks Don’t Lie

Walking the High Desert: Encounters with Rural America along the Oregon Desert Trail

By Ellen Waterston

“Readers of Oregon’s local history, advocates of the environment, and high desert dwellers on the left and right side of the aisle will connect with this book. In Waterston’s classic voice that imparts her immense research while speaking to readers like a friend, Walking the High Desert is an important addition to Oregon’s literature about place.”—Bend Magazine

Anticipating Future Environments: Climate Change, Adaptive Restoration, and the Columbia River Basin

By Shana Lee Hirsch

“An important early intervention in our understanding of how climate change affects restoration practice and environmental management globally.”—Rebecca Lave, Indiana University

The Whale and the Cupcake: Stories of Subsistence, Longing, and Community in Alaska

By Julia O’Malley

Foreword by Kim Severson

Published with the Anchorage Museum

“Through this book, [O’Malley] doesn’t merely introduce us to Alaskan foods, she discovers the soul of Alaska itself.”—Anchorage Daily News

Grays Harbor Workers: Aaron Goings on “The Port of Missing Men”

History has not been kind to the Washington coast’s working class. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries thousands of the region’s workers toiled long hours in logging camps and lumber mills and in maritime trades—some of the country’s most dangerous industries. Those who acted collectively to improve their working and living conditions were targets of persecution, physically attacked by employers and their allies in the local, state, and federal governments. Vigilante businessmen beat, shot, and kidnapped activists, and deported them from towns, while police jailed them and raided their halls. Indeed, many of the most famous financially successful men in the history of the Olympic Peninsula and southwest Washington defended their wealth through a combination of violent anti-labor activism and support for anti-union legislation. Stories of vigilantes and cops brutalizing working-class women, men, and children fill early twentieth-century newspaper columns—providing potent reminders that the scenes playing out across the United States in 2020 are part of a long history of violent reactions against workers’ movements.

In the past forty years, many of the region’s workers have faced a fresh round of horrors: layoffs and mill closures, as parts of southwest Washington and the Olympic Peninsula began to resemble a Pacific Northwest “Rust Belt.” A recent gut punch came in June 2018 when the Aberdeen Museum of History burned. The fire destroyed priceless labor history collections—virtually the entire archive of Grays Harbor’s rich working-class history is now lost to posterity.

The archive told the important history of collective action in the heart of lumber country. Highlights included huge collections from the International Woodworkers of America and locals of the Cooks and Waiters’ Union—the latter an important source of women’s working-class activism before women won the right to vote. The fire also turned to ashes a collection of records from maritime unions—groups of workers that persistently fought for the types of work-life improvements Americans celebrate on Labor Day.

One of the most important (and certainly the most famous) labor activists from Washington’s coast was William “Billy” Gohl, subject of my new book from the University of Washington Press, The Port of Missing Men: Billy Gohl, Labor, and Brutal Times in the Pacific Northwest. Gohl served as agent for the Aberdeen branch of the Sailors’ Union of the Pacific between 1903 and 1910, when Grays Harbor ranked as both the world’s most prolific lumber port and Washington State’s most densely unionized area.

Gohl was the best-known and most effective union activist in Grays Harbor. His fellow unionists twice elected him president of the local labor council, and he led efforts to force ship captains to follow union contracts and workplace safety laws. Gohl’s activism extended well beyond the shop floor: he was also a community activist committed to improving the lives of maritime workers and making the local waterfront safer.

Not surprisingly for anyone who has done much reading in US labor history, Gohl’s lasting fame has nothing to do with his community activism. Instead, Gohl’s life has long interested journalists and true-crime junkies, because “Billy” is widely known as the “Ghoul of Grays Harbor.” Dozens of true-crime tales—and popular memory—blame Gohl for the deaths of dozens of working men whose corpses were found floating in the Chehalis and Wishkah Rivers. Journalist and popular historian Murray Morgan wrote, “These anonymous dead men, culled from the hordes of migrant laborers who had flocked to Grays Harbor to cut trees, came to be known as the Floater Fleet. Billy Gohl was credited with launching most of them. If he was responsible for even half of the floaters found in the harbor during his day, Gohl was America’s most prolific murderer. Over a ten-year period the fleet numbered 124.”

Arrested and charged with murder in early 1910, Gohl became the subject of a massive campaign by local employers and their allies in the mainstream press to pin the region’s entire history of violent crimes on him and “his gang.” On the day of his arrest the Aberdeen Daily World blamed Gohl “for many of the members of the ‘floater fleet,’ comprising more than 40 bodies.” Three months after his arrest, Gohl was convicted of one murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Gohl was not the only convicted murderer in early Grays Harbor history, and the jury had difficulty coming to a decision about his guilt. Yet by the time the jury convicted him of a single murder Gohl already had been convicted in the public mind of being a cold-blooded killer who spent seven years ravaging Grays Harbor. The case against him appeared to be “the dream of some dime store novel writer,” said Gohl, as employers and the state conspired to remove Gohl from his place in the labor movement. Media accounts of Gohl’s “crimes”—like subsequent stories about Gohl—omit the important historical context that shows employers acting collectively and often brutally to eliminate labor activists in Grays Harbor and throughout the United States.

The Port of Missing Men bears little resemblance to earlier writings about Gohl. I strove to avoid portraying him as a caricature, instead placing Gohl in his historical context. Unfortunately, like Billy the Kid, Gohl has reached the status of a legend. He is now a part of Wild West mythology that often casts imagined “monsters” like him—rather than larger forms of structural oppression—as responsible for violence.

The myth of Billy Gohl the mass murderer has proved remarkably resilient, and rare indeed is the person who, when asked about their knowledge of Billy Gohl, fails to mention the term “serial killer.” But Gohl was a militant labor leader and local bosses saw him as a dangerously effective enemy who needed to be silenced. My new book returns Gohl—the labor and community activist—to the center of a region’s working-class history, a history that, like the materials lost in the Aberdeen museum fire, often ends up in the dustbin.

 

Aaron Goings is associate professor of history and chair of the History and Political Science Department at Saint Martin’s University. He is coauthor of The Red Coast: Radicalism and Anti-radicalism in Southwest Washington and Community in Conflict: A Working-Class History of the 1913–14 Michigan Copper Strike and the Italian Hall Tragedy. His latest book, The Port of Missing Men: Billy Gohl, Labor, and Brutal Times in the Pacific Northwest, is available now.

A Newcomer to the Big Empty: Sam Waterston on Ellen Waterston’s “Walking the High Desert”

We’ve all noticed how sharp our sensations, perceptions and observations are when visiting a place for the first time, from the Grand Canyon to the manmade canyons of New York City. We take in the sounds, smells, and sensations more acutely, more vividly, before familiarity moves in on our guilelessness, bringing its partner, contempt, along with it, the deadening “taking for granted” of the inherent and unique beauty of a place.

My brother Sam has visited me at various locations in the high desert: when I was ranching on the Crooked River; in Bend, at the foot of the Cascades mountains where I run a literary nonprofit; and in the wilds of Oregon’s Outback, during my research for Walking the High Desert. His below comments illustrate his capacity for experiencing this grand space each time as if for the first time. He brings, as he does to all he does, a fresh eye, an open mind and heart, and then extrapolates to a bigger invitation, tuning in to the plea of the place or the circumstance. Covid-19 has upped our appreciation game as everything seems more precious, fleeting. The pandemic has reminded us to appreciate what is right in front of us, what, perhaps, we have heretofore taken for granted; and, as Sam’s generous comments advocate, to take action to protect what is “fierce, fragile, beautiful,” the high desert and the earth itself.

Ellen Waterston


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Ellen Waterston and her brother Sam Waterston in Washington, D.C. in a Fire Drill Friday rally in support of legislation that protects the environment. January 2020

The high desert is like the ocean or the mountains of the moon: by itself, the name calls up space, the vast sky, the nearby stars, the one-hundred-mile gaze, the place where things and people stand out. It’s amazing. Many born and raised in it know this and never lose their awareness. After a lifetime of living in it, some still have the cowboys’ long horizons in their eyes. Some others, working to make it yield and bend to their needs, temporarily or permanently lose their amazement . . . Even an amazing place can become commonplace, merely where you do what you do; even here, a person can forget where they are. And isn’t that the way of it for most of us, wherever we live?

Most visitors do feel the wonder of the high desert at first, like babes in the woods, and that astonishment can last and last. It has with me. I first came out here to see my sister Ellen, who wrote Walking the High Desert. There aren’t so very many places where a hay field is measured by the thousand acres, where your front yard is fifty acres of wild iris, and the view is of the moon.

My sister was a newcomer to the Big Empty once. Because of the life she led and the person she is, her amazement at the wonder of the place she had come to never left her…and she went deep, looked deep. She is a poet and a journalist. She spent a lot of her time out in the desert, recorded what she witnessed, and brought the place to second life in words. This book is one fine example. She has a lot to say about the high desert. The high desert has a lot to tell. Almost inevitably, the long walks Ellen Waterston took out there over all those years landed her on the Oregon High Desert Trail—and she brought out for us the gold, the story of the place, entwined in her own story.

The earth is like the high desert, a fierce, fragile, beautiful, amazing place. We can’t afford to take it for granted anymore. There are as many opinions about what to do with it and for it now as there are interested parties . . . and we are all interested parties where the fate of the earth is involved. At least, we need to be. There is no place left for bystanders now. We all have to put our heads into this. My sister’s book will get you in the right state of mind.


Sam Waterston is an American actor, producer, and director. Waterston is known for his work in theater, television and film as well as his environmental activism.

Ellen Waterston is author of Where the Crooked Desert Rises: A High Desert Home, a memoir, and four poetry collections including a verse novel. She is the founder and president of the Waterston Desert Writing Prize and the founder of the Writing Ranch in Bend, Oregon. Her latest book, Walking the High Desert: Encounters with Rural America along the Oregon Desert Trail, is available now.

Walking the Waterfront: UW Press’s Audrey Truitt on “Art in Seattle’s Public Spaces”

One beautiful aspect about Seattle is that there are truly endless ways to explore the city. There are many museums, famous monuments, tours, and restaurants to visit. However, if you are looking for something unique to do, Art in Seattle’s Public Spaces by James Rupp offers tours of public art for each of Seattle’s many popular areas. He offers a unique way for you to learn some of Seattle’s history through its artworks. Katie Felton and I, marketing assistants of UW Press, were lucky enough to tour the waterfront for its public spaces, and we discovered some striking art.

In the beginning of our tour, we visited the memorial of Ivar Hagland. The sculpture shows Hagland in a captain’s hat and seamen’s jacket feeding seagulls french fries, which was one of his favorite pastimes. He’s a perfect companion to sit next to as you watch people pass by or enjoy a nice lunch of fish and chips from Ivar’s Fish Bar. Ivar Hagland (1905–1985) was known to be a restaurant owner and entrepreneur who advocated for the city and its people. He was very well liked by the Seattle community. After his death in 1985, many of his friends pooled together the funds to build a statue in his name because he was so beloved by them. Since 1912, this is the first memorial of a Seattle citizen placed in a public space. Richard Beyer sculpted the memorial out of aluminum and bronze and helped leave Ivar Hagland’s legacy behind.

Waterfront Fountain will not fail to leave an impression of awe on the sightseer. Made from a combination of cubic structures, with water cascading off the tall bronze artwork, it is a piece to appreciate. Waterfront Fountain is the last fountain that James Fitzgerald made for Seattle. He designed it with his wife, painter Margaret Tomkins, in October 1973. Sculptor Terry Copple and welder Art Sjodin collaborated with the couple on the piece, due to their past work with Fitzgerald. This work was given to Seattle in memory of Edward M. and Margaret J. Harrington. The Harringtons came to Seattle in 1921 and, like Ivar Hagland, had an undying love and devotion for the city.

2.3 Waterfront Fountain, James FitzGerald and Margaret Tomkins

Waterfront Fountain

As Katie and I approached one of our last artworks, we were delighted to see a colorful mosaic at the bottom of the staircase at the Bell Harbor International Conference Center. Called Danza del Cerchio, Seattle artist Ann Gardner created this piece using glass mosaics and ancient Byzantine techniques. The mural is 48 feet long, with bright, multicolored disks in every color of the rainbow. Ann Gardener first drafted this design on paper, then transferred it to the mosaic form. This piece put us both in a better mood by the time we left it; it is a piece that can brighten up anybody’s day.

Many people often think to go to the waterfront because there are a number of fun things to do there. However, not many notice the art that lives within the area. Katie and I were both grateful to go on this tour for that very reason. Katie has lived in Seattle for several years, and I have lived here my whole life, but neither of us had noticed this hidden world of art. It was synonymous to going on a treasure hunt—no doubt! We realized that many precious pieces of the past go unnoticed and unappreciated. Every day, people pass by these artworks—but how many recognize the piece, appreciate its presence, and know why it’s there? Most likely, not many. What James Rupp has compiled for us is a gift to explore the greater depths and personalities that reside and resided in Seattle. It gives us a way to see how artists expressed themselves through their artwork, or how and why individuals were remembered. It’s more than just seeing art, but a glimpse into why things are the way they are.

 

The tours offered by James Rupp in Art in Seattle’s Public Spaces present something unique to both the out-of-town tourist and lifetime Seattleite. If you are a tourist, you can explore the city’s art history in depth by seeing how interwoven the art is within the streets of Seattle. As an old-time Seattleite, art lovers can appreciate the hidden gems that cover the entire city in open spaces and hidden crevices. The waterfront tour takes about an hour to complete, with seven destinations along the many piers of the waterfront. However, there are many tours that you can take that span from seven to more than thirty public art pieces. Depending on your curiosity and adventure levels, you can break up the day with a short art tour while sightseeing the rest of the city, or devote an entire afternoon to exploring the art in Seattle’s public spaces.


Perfect for art and architecture lovers, as well as visitors and newcomers to the city of Seattle, Art in Seattle’s Public Spaces by James Rupp showcases the wealth of urban art to be freely enjoyed by all.

The Changes that Led to Taiwan’s “Global Moment”: Ryan Dunch and Ashley Esarey on “Taiwan in Dynamic Transition”

The Covid-19 death toll in the United States exceeds 148,000; in Taiwan this statistic is seven. Taiwan has done a better job of fighting the pandemic than South Korea, Japan, or New Zealand. Taiwan adjusted the teaching protocol for schools but never closed them. Restaurants lost business but largely remained open. Taiwan’s economy has continued to grow, as other nations face the sinking prospect of a recession.

Taiwan is having its global moment, but few can tell the tale of how this island country arrived where it is. This is unfortunate but unsurprising: Taiwan is seldom mentioned in global media reports beyond articles about its disputed sovereignty, or histrionic outbursts from Chinese diplomats seeking to bar Taiwan from observer status in the World Health Organization and other international bodies.

During five decades of Japanese colonial rule (1895–1945), Taiwan began to experience what we call the “twin transformations” of nation building and democratization. Nation building commenced during Japanese rule, when Taiwanese were united by their common culture yet marginalized as second-class citizens in their homeland. Democratization, including early forays into local electoral politics under Japan, gradually introduced new rights and freedoms for Taiwanese to campaign in local and national elections.

Nation building and democratization became interrelated concerns as Taiwan emerged in the 1980s from four decades of one-party rule under martial law. The pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, founded in 1986 in defiance of a ban on opposition parties, would eventually become one of two main political parties that have alternated in power since the first direct presidential election in 1996. Nation building and democratization changed the way Taiwanese saw their society, leading to overwhelming support for democratic life and broad recognition that their nation was Taiwan, not China.

One important reason for Taiwan’s resilience during the current pandemic is that Taiwan’s twin transformations did not occur in isolation. They proceeded alongside a public hunger for broader reforms in a range of related areas, including women’s rights, freedom of speech and association, indigenous rights, environmental justice, animal rights, abolition of the death penalty, and gay marriage, to mention but a few examples.

All of these movements involved increasingly sophisticated activism amid growing trust in government as a willing and capable partner in reshaping the country’s course. This was in part due to the pivotal leadership of recently deceased President Lee Teng-hui, who pardoned political prisoners and worked to forge consensus over reforms that converted a political system designed to rule China in the 1940s into a democratic system suited to govern Taiwan.

Over time, Taiwanese society experienced what might be called a “normalization” of non-violent contestation that touched nearly every corner of society. Consider, for example, the 2014 occupation of parliament by students opposing a Taiwan-China free trade pact. The movement won widespread public support, prompted the tabling of the agreement, and elevated the fortunes of the Democratic Progressive Party, which had supported the demonstration. In Hong Kong, by comparison, pro-democracy demonstrators have been treated as criminals, traitors, and repressed by the police. Taiwanese “Sunflower activists” were cleared of criminal charges after occupying the national legislature for over three weeks. In her May 2020 inaugural address, President Tsai Ing-wen underscored the role of Taiwan’s “mobilization culture”: She noted that “people’s dissatisfaction provides motivation for reform” and that Taiwan’s ability to overcome its many challenges wasn’t because of “one or two heroes” but because of “nameless heroes” who together “turned the great wheel of history.”

Ironically, such views of Taiwanese society seem entirely foreign in China. Politicians and military figures in Beijing ignore Tsai Ing-wen’s soaring approval ratings and belittle her political record: they have accused her government of “unilaterally” destabilizing relations by failing to express commitment to unification; urged Taiwanese to refrain from commenting on national security legislation for Hong Kong; and warned that Taiwan independence is “a road of death.”

Our book Taiwan in Dynamic Transition: Nation Building and Democratization traces how this remarkable country emerged as a resilient democratic nation, despite the absence of widespread agreement on sovereignty or democratic norms after World War II and within a political system designed to govern a different place (China). The contributors to the volume, many of them Taiwan-based academics, consider several dimensions of Taiwan’s experience of nation building and democratization, including constitutional reform, grassroots elections and social movements, and defense spending and national security.

Speaking to her compatriots at her inauguration in 2020, President Tsai argued that Taiwan’s story “pertains to everyone and requires everyone.” Taiwan in Dynamic Transition helps readers to understand the background to Taiwan’s extraordinary success during the COVID-19 pandemic. But the future security of Taiwan is uncertain, not due to internal failings but the threat of a Chinese invasion. During these uncertain and dangerous times, perhaps Tsai’s words are also true for all who respect freedom and human dignity and wish to see them flourish?


Ryan Dunch is professor of history at the University of Alberta. Ashley Esarey is assistant professor of political science at the University of Alberta. Their book Taiwan in Dynamic Transition: Nation Building and Democratization is available now.