Jefferson Cowie will be spending his fellowship year working on a book titled “The Dark Note of Freedom” (Basic Books), which explores how racialized anti-statism became a core pillar in the ideology of American freedom. The book unfolds through four dramatic episodes of federal intervention in one rural Alabama county: Indian removal (1830s), Reconstruction (1860-1870s), the Age of Reform (1901-1945), and the civil rights era (1954-1970). In each episode, local resistance to federal authority reveals an enduring but ever-shifting American anti-statism, the racial dimensions of American democracy, and the ways in which American “freedom” contains a form of belligerence: a militant defense of the right to do as one likes to others without restraint.
This project departs from Cowie’s major research stream in postwar US labor and working class history. His previous publications include: Stayin’ Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class (The New Press, 2010), The Great Exception: The New Deal and the Limits of American Politics (Princeton University Press, 2016), and Capital Moves: RCA’s Seventy-Year Quest for Cheap Labor (The New Press, 2000).
Cowie holds the James G. Stahlman Chair in American History at Vanderbilt University, where he also directs the Economics and History major. More at: www.jeffersoncowie.info