Jack Davis Wins 2017 Kirkus Prize

Cover picture of GULF by Jack.E.DavisThe History Department is proud to recognize that Dr. Jack Davis has won the 2017 Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction for his book, The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea.  Here is their original review in its entirety:
A sweeping environmental history of the Gulf of Mexico that duly considers the ravages of nature and man.
In light of the 2010 devastation of the BP oil spill, environmental historian Davis (History and Sustainability Studies/Univ. of Florida; An Everglades Providence: Marjory Stoneman Douglas and the American Environmental Century, 2009, etc.) presents an engaging, truly relevant new study of the Gulf as a powerful agent in the American story, one that has become “lost in the pages of American history.” Once the habitat of the highly developed, self-sustaining Calusa indigenous people, the rich estuary of the Gulf is the 10th largest body of water in the world, and it forms the sheltered basin that creates the warm, powerful Gulf Stream, which allowed the first explorers, such as Ponce de León, to make their ways back to the Old World. Davis meanders through the early history of this fascinating sea, which became a kind of graveyard to many early marooned explorers due to shipwrecks and run-ins with natives. Yet the conquistadors took little note of the abundant marine life inhabiting the waters and, unaccountably, starved. A more familiar economy was established at the delta of the muddy, sediment-rich Mississippi River, discovered by the French. The author focuses on the 19th century as the era when the Gulf finally asserted its place in the great move toward Manifest Destiny; it would “significantly enlarge the water communication of national commerce and shift the boundary of the country from vulnerable land to protective sea.” The Gulf states would also become a mecca of tourism and fishing and, with the discovery of oil, enter a dire period of the “commercialization of national endowments.” The story of this magnificent body of water and its wildlife grows tragic at this point—e.g., the “killing juggernaut” of Gulf wading birds to obtain fashionable feathers. Still, it remains an improbable, valiant survival tale in the face of the BP oil spill and ongoing climate change.
An elegant narrative braced by a fierce, sobering environmental conviction.
You can find the press page, which includes more blurbs and information, for The Gulf by following this link.

Pozzetta Lecture on Bicycle Racing in South Africa

The History Department is pleased to announce it’s first Pozzetta Lecture of the 2017-18 academic year. On Wednesday, 18 October 2017 at 3 p.m., Dr. Todd Leedy of UF’s Center for African Studies will present, “But Did They Really Race? The Early History of Black Competitive Cycling in Johannesburg.” This talk will occur in the History Department’s Conference Room (005 Keene-Flint) and it is free and open to the public.
The talk is a preliminary portion of Dr. Leedy’s larger project on the history of bicycle racing amongst urban black South Africans through the 1960s. Despite the fact that bicycles became ubiquitous across the colonial landscape fairly early in the 20th century, they have not featured very prominently in either economic or social histories of the period. Cycling as leisure or sport remains completely neglected. At present, there exists no published academic literature focused on the history of black bicycle racing in South Africa, or for that matter, on the continent more broadly. In South Africa individuals and communities created vibrant social spaces around this sport during decades of intensifying segregation and apartheid. Of course, racing was not “hidden” from the hundreds of participants and the many thousands of spectators who cheered them. But due to the divisions in South African society, the early township scene remains virtually unknown today.
We hope to see you there!

Labor History Prize in Honor of Dr. Robert Zieger

The Southern Labor Studies Association is currently accepting submissions for the Robert H. Zieger Prize for Southern Labor Studies. SLSA awards the Zieger Prize at the biennial Southern Labor Studies Conference for the best unpublished essay in southern labor studies written by a graduate student or early career scholar, journalist, or activist. The Zieger Prize includes a $500 award.
The Robert H. Zieger Prize was established in 2013 with the cooperation of the Zieger family and members of SLSA. The prize is named in honor of the late Robert H. Zieger—teacher, scholar, and tireless union activist at the University of Florida. Zieger was a prolific, award-winning writer whose books include For Jobs and Freedom: Race and Labor in America since 1865 and The CIO, 1935-1955, and three field-defining edited volumes on southern labor history. Zieger served as an officer in the North Central Florida Central Labor Council and an organizer for the United Faculty of Florida. Along with his wife of fifty years, Gay Zieger, an English professor at Santa Fe College, he maintained a strong commitment to social justice his entire life. Many of his former students went on to become labor organizers. SLSA hopes that the spirit of Zieger’s combination of rigorous scholarship and his dedicated commitment to improving the lives of working-class people will live on in this prize.


Graduate students and scholars, activists, and journalists who are no more than five years beyond the author’s highest degree are eligible to apply. Essays must be in English and should be primarily concerned with southern labor and working-class history broadly conceived. Applicants are not required to be members of SLSA at the time of the submission.
To be considered for the 2017 Robert H. Zieger Prize, applicants must submit their essays by October 15, 2016, to the prize committee chairperson:
Prof. Paul Ortiz
Department of History
University of Florida
P.O. Box 117320
Gainesville, FL 32611-7320
Email: portiz@ufl.edu

Honoring a Legend in Florida History

A picture of Dr. Michael GannonThis April, the History Department was sad to learn of the passing of our former colleague, Dr. Michael Gannon. In recognition of his long career and his many contributions to the field of Florida history and to the University of Florida, the Department will hold a memorial service at the Baughman Center on the campus of the University of Florida at 5 p.m. on Friday, 25 August 2017.  There will be several speakers who will talk about Dr. Gannon’s work and his impact on both the scholarly community, his students, and the public.  This service is open to the general public and there is parking available near the Administration Building adjacent to the Baughman Center.

Dr. Heather Vrana Joins UF History

The History Department is pleased to welcome Dr. Heather Vrana, formerly of Southern Connecticut State University, as an assistant professor beginning in Fall 2017.  Dr. Vrana received her Ph.D from Indiana University in 2013 and is the author of This City Belongs to You: A History of Student Activism in Guatemala, 1944-1996 (University of California Press, 2017), Anti-Colonial Texts from Central American Student Movements, 1929-1983 (Edinburgh University Press, 2017), and numerous articles and reviews. She is a member of the Tepoztlán Collective and co-director of Revisiting the Guatemalan Revolution, an edited volume and multi-media digital history and memory project. She continues to collaborate with youth social justice movements in Guatemala.
Her new research, The Idea of Disability and the Making of Modern Central America, is a history of disability across the twentieth century, from the expansion of the asylum system at the turn of the century to the reframing of disability as a human rights concern in the 1980s. Tracking these changes reveals how a range of governmental and civil bodies understood the disabled body as a touchstone for modernization. This history is adjacent to, but largely neglected within, the analytical frames of the histories of medicine, public health, science, and human rights. It is imperative to understand the disability histories of Guatemala, Nicaragua, and El Salvador because of their distinct histories of race; shared history of dictatorship, neocolonialism, and revolution; and divergent histories of civil war and post-war politics.
In general, Dr. Vrana’s research interests include student and social movements, Central America, social class, race, disability and history of medicine, nationalisms, youth politics and culture, and popular culture. Dr. Vrana learned Spanish in a Northern Virginia high school from a Puerto Rican nationalist and three children of refugees from internal conflicts in Central America and Peru. These language lessons came with a political education.

Why Did You Become a Historian?

Dr. Lily Guerra (pictured here as a youngster) provides a compelling answer to this question in the most recent edition of the American Historical Association’s Perspectives.  Dr. Guerra responds to an earlier article by AHA President Mary Beth Norton entitled “Why Are You a Historian?”  After a meeting with UF’s chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, the history honor society, Dr. Guerra was inspired to write about her own experiences growing up in Kansas as the child of Cuban expatriates and how that influenced her decision to practice history.

You can read Dr. Guerra’s article in its entirety by clicking here.