WWII scrap drives, Cather's immigrants, racial violence in GP Quarterly

Released on 05/16/2007, at 2:00 AM
Office of University Communications
University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Lincoln, Neb., May 16th, 2007 —

In the spring issue of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Great Plains Quarterly, researchers wrote about the development and promotion of WWII scrap drives, Willa Cather's view of immigrants in "O Pioneers!", and the Afro-American Council's struggle against racial violence in the late 19th to early 20th centuries.

In his article, "The Militarization of the Prairie: Scrap Drives, Metaphors, and the Omaha World-Herald's 1942 'Nebraska Plan'," Seton Hall University professor James J. Kimble wrote about the WWII scrap drive in Nebraska as envisioned by Henry Doorly, publisher of the World-Herald. Doorly turned the project into an enormous contest with publicity and prizes, in which the state's 93 counties competed against each other. The success of the "Nebraska Plan" prompted a national competition among states. "Doorly's innovative plan appears to have been influential in establishing a major role for newspapers in the government's attempts to shape public morale," wrote Kimble.

Hastings College history professor Renee M. Laegreid focused on how Willa Cather portrayed three groups of immigrants in "O Pioneers!" Laegreid wrote, "Cather's novel illuminates assumptions about these immigrants and their ability to acculturate not only to society in the Great Plains but to American society at large. Unlike current trends, which place all western-bound immigrants under the singular heading 'Euro-American,' newcomers to the United States in the 18th and early 19th centuries were judged according to racial origins."

In his article, "Vengeance without Justice, Injustice without Retribution: The Afro-American Council's Struggle against Racial Violence," Shawn Leigh Alexander hauntingly recreates the story of a 1901 Leavenworth, Kan., lynch mob dragging African-American murder suspect Fred Alexander from the county jail. Despite Alexander's claim that he was innocent, members of the mob poured kerosene over Alexander and burned him to death. Responding to the violent act, supporters of the Afro-American Council and its predecessor, the Afro-American League, called upon the Kansas governor and legislature to apprehend and punish the perpetrators.

In his conclusion, Alexander wrote, "The activities of the League and Council demonstrate that there was agitation in the age of accommodation, which paved the road for many of the activities developed by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People over the past century, especially their 'go into the courts and fight it out' mentality." Alexander, who is the Cassius Marcellus Clay fellow at Yale University, will join the African and African American Studies Department at the University of Kansas this fall.

Great Plains Quarterly is published by the Center for Great Plains Studies at UNL. The journal may be purchased in the Great Plains Art Museum gift shop at 1155 Q St., or by calling the center at (402) 472-3082. Order forms are available online at www.unl.edu/plains.

CONTACT: Charles Braithwaite, Editor, Great Plains Quarterly, (402) 472-6178