When and how did you first become involved in AJHA?
I first became involved in AJHA during this year's Memphis conference. My paper, "Wielding the Blade: J. Anthony Josey, the Wisconsin-Enterprise Blade and the Construction of a Contemporary Black Political Identity", won the Robert Lance Memorial Award for Best Student Paper at this year's conference. And I'm hoping to be involved for years to come.
How did you become interested in Milwaukee’s English-language ethnic press during the New Deal era?
I became interested in Milwaukee's English-language ethnic press during the New Deal era by way of Wisconsin's labor movement history. Milwaukee has had such a diverse population throughout the 20th century and its connection to organized labor is well-documented. However, less has been discussed relating to the city's ethnic populations (aside from its significant German influence). By the 1930s, many within these ethnic populations were 2nd and 3rd generation members of the community. They were not only predominantly speaking English and reading English-language newspapers, they were occupied significant positions within the labor force and, significantly, could now vote. And alongside the popularization of many elements of the New Deal as a means to counter the influence of the Great Depression, Milwaukee experienced sweeping support for the New Deal, throwing its political support behind President Franklin Roosevelt in large numbers. Understanding this shift and the role of the city's English-language ethnic press in its realization tells us so much about the significance of the New Deal in Milwaukee.
How did these newspapers help construct identity?
Typical of communities throughout the United States, many of Milwaukee's ethnic communities were hit particularly hard by the Great Depression. And FDR's New Deal promised much-needed economic rejuvenation. Significantly, these communities' newspapers typically viewed the New Deal in positive terms, highlighting its significant elements and framing them in relation to their reading audiences. Aside from outright praise for FDR and the New Deal Democrats' legislative efforts, even in cases where the newspaper publisher favored Republican politics, evidence shows a construction of identity orienting a sense of self cohered around labor and financial interests. Members of these papers' audiences frequently began to embrace a brand of 'New Deal liberalism' that reshaped the city's electorate for much of the 1930s, leading to widespread support for FDR and the New Deal program.
How did those identities intersect with the social movements of the era, such as the Labor Movement?
Labor issues were paramount for ethnic communities throughout Milwaukee during the period. Members of these communities often worked in blue-collar positions and many found representation within trade unions. The labor movement itself was immensely popular within Milwaukee during the period. Coupled with a 'sewer socialist' disposition sympathetic to the labor cause, New Deal-era legislation like the National Industrial Recovery Act and later the Wagner Act codified labor rights to organize. And Milwaukee's ethnic communities, particularly those of German-American and Jewish descent, with strong ties to organized labor, found themselves within union organizations, better positioned than ever to strike and bargain for better working conditions, increased wages and few work hours.
What are some of your interests and hobbies outside of academia?
Outside the academic world, I love playing music, going to concerts, enjoying nights out playing pool in Madison, WI with friends and watching the Philadelphia Eagles.