Black Confederates: Equal Pay?

I stumbled across this little doozy during some random Internet searching:

Listverse’s “10 Surprising Facts About the Confederacy” written by a Stephanie Roberts.

I was shocked to read Number 2, claiming that the Confederacy paid black and white soldiers equally long before the Union did the same.  There is no citation of sources in the article, and sure it’s just a “Top 10” list, but what surprised me most is that I had never even heard of this equal pay thing.  I’ve followed the battles between Confederate heritage-types and professional historians over Civil War memory, but even there I had never heard this argument.

If this is something that has been circulating out there for years and I hadn’t heard of it, color me a little embarrassed.  But then I did a quick google search and found out that it was not equal pay for black and white soldiers, as the list suggests, but equal pay for black laborers as white soldiers as found on this page regarding Black Confederates.  But even this doesn’t sit right with me.  Why would the Confederacy pay slaves to work?  Is this just another myth meant to show that the Confederates weren’t all bad?  Was this a legitimate law?  Or was their pay funneled to their masters?  I suspect the latter.  After all, if it was legislation that created “equal pay” it must have been supported by the elite planter class, right?  Which means they were probably scoring money from it.  

At any rate, I admit I don’t know enough about this, but figured I’d post about it and get the wheels turning. I’ll update when I get around to finding out more.


Oldest Hockey Footage

A video of film from a hockey game in 1898, supposedly the earliest known footage.

Old film is really interesting to me, and hockey is really interesting to me, so old film of hockey is REALLY interesting to me. Hockey never enjoyed the widespread popularity of football or baseball, so old footage is harder to come by. This is an Edison film apparently, found on Youtube from Lost Century of Sports.

Hockey’s come a long way, baby!

The Myth of Theodore Roosevelt and Health Care Reform

Obamacare.  Is there a word in the English language that splits Americans so fiercely?  Progressive, maybe.  In the 1990s, “liberal” was the derogatory word of choice, but now, thanks largely to Glenn Beck, “progressive” has joined the pantheon of “fascist,” “communist,” and “politician” as a dirty words.  And the grand-daddy of all progressives, Theodore Roosevelt, has been the particular focus of Beck’s wrath.  Once the darling of the Republican Party, Roosevelt’s reform-minded spirit now riles up the neo-populist base with which the Tea Party works.

To make matters worse for old TR, President Obama briefly flirted with comparing himself to the famous reformer during the 2012 Presidential Election.  Since 2009, Democrats have tried–unsuccessfully–to portray Obamacare as an old Progressive Party ideal promoted by Teddy Roosevelt himself. Political pundits and news makers felt that drawing this connection would add legitimacy to a deeply controversial proposal.  In fact, the idea goes back even further.  Dr. Beatrix Hoffman at the NIH wrote an article in 2003 entitled “Health Care Reform and Social Movements in the United States” which highlighted the Progressive Party’s (a.k.a. the Bull Moose Party) 1912 platform’s mention of some kind of insurance for protecting health and home.  President Obama has made the comparison several times in his speeches, too.  But it never became a mainstream part of his message.

The reality is somewhat fuzzier.  Roosevelt never called for health care reform in the sense of Obamacare.  The Progressive Party did, but not really until 1915, after Roosevelt had semi-retired from politics.  In 1912, the mention of healthcare insurance wasn’t really that at all, but instead a mention for federally-backed insurance for workers.  Here is the entire plank:

We favor the union of all the existing agencies of the Federal Government dealing with the public health into a single national health service without discrimination against or for any one set of therapeutic methods, school of medicine, or school of healing with such additional powers as may be necessary to enable it to perform efficiently such duties in the protection of the public from preventable diseases as may be properly undertaken by the Federal authorities, including the executing of existing laws regarding pure food, quarantine and cognate subjects, the promotion of vital statistics and the extension of the registration area of such statistics, and co-operation with the health activities of the various States and cities of the Nation.

That’s the Health plank.  It focuses on the unification under a single organization all of the health interests, but focuses primarily on regulation food safety and record-keeping.

The other plank that mentions health is this:

The protection of home life against the hazards of sickness, irregular employment and old age through the adoption of a system of social insurance adapted to American use;

That’s in the segment about labor safety.  Which means some kind of insurance program for those who work and might get sick or injured.  Sounds more like social security or disability than the Affordable Care Act.

On top of this, Obamacare is not an insurance program.  It is a set of reforms that change the way medical data is collected, how healthcare is delivered, but it has no cost controls, and so far it seems as if costs will be going up for almost everyone.  There is no insurance in the sense of unemployment or social security.  All it does is require most Americans to have insurance, paying out of their pocket with some degree of subsidy further down the line.

The issue here is not Obamacare, however, as I don’t want to get overly political one way or the other. My point is to highlight yet another example of how history is distorted for the purposes of politicians on the left and the right.  We can learn a lot from history, but there are limits.  Theodore Roosevelt lived in a very different world in some ways.  While I can’t say he would oppose Obamacare (that would be manipulating history, too) we also cannot say he would support it in its present form.

Similarly it’s ridiculous for critics like Glenn Beck to assail him.  Sure, Roosevelt had some “radical” ideas, but he abhorred socialists and others he deemed as rabble-rousers, he had very conservative ideas about the family and society.  Certainly Beck can find at least enough to agree with Teddy Roosevelt on as he does to disagree with.

All you history-lovers out there, you’re probably big politics junkies like me.  Which means you can get passionate and riled up about what you believe.  Just be careful not to misuse history in your pursuits.  We can always look upon historical events with new perspectives, new evidence and new interpretations, but be careful you are not carelessly misconstruing what you learn for your own political ends.

New American Historical Association Job Report

History students rejoice, the American Historical Association has just issued a report that gives the most solidly researched analysis of the professional history field.  If you’re wondering what to do with your history degree, but you’re tired of the generic and unhelpful sites cluttering the Internet, this could be a great tool for really focusing your mind on what you should study and how.

Entitled “The Many Careers of History PhDs: A Study of Job Outcomes, Spring 2013” and written by L. Maren Wood and Robert B. Townsend, the study takes a statistical look at the types of jobs (including specializations!) held by history PhDs.  The downside is that it focuses entirely on doctoral students and graduates.  Like most of the AHA’s services, it overlooks people who have Bachelor’s or Master’s degrees in history.  In fact, those with an M.A. in History (like myself) seem to be the red-headed stepchild. No college or organization wants to help us, and no employers want to pay us.  Yet getting a Ph.D. is a phenomenally risky business if you’re hoping to find work.

If you search online for help or advice, you will be inundated with misconceptions, biased comments from bitter (or lucky) historians, and other outdated or inaccurate information.  Reading this study really helped me see the whole field of history for the first time.  This is the first such study the AHA has done since 1995, and I found this one to be extremely helpful (if too late for me to use).

First, the big bad fact that hovers over everything in the report:  There are still no jobs for history Ph.Ds.  They find that roughly 70% of students graduating with a Ph.D went on to find work as professors.  Not as astronomically bad as we’ve been led to believe, but only 53% are full-time, full professors.  That means you have a coin-flip of a chance to land a full-time gig.

And those part-time gigs are really brutal considering they can drop you at any time and don’t even begin to pay back your large student loan debt.  Surprisingly, the 1995 study found that roughly the same amount of people found work.  But, the AHA noted, the 1995 study did not differentiate between the different kinds of professors and went on to note that many of the non-full time professors are also working second jobs.  Presumably, those jobs are not history related.  Among the non-professor gigs the top ranked option was “Academic Administration.”  That was a little over 3% of Ph.Ds, and before you consider that as a career path, let me point out that most likely those working administration jobs were previously professors who had been promoted or moved on.  It’s sort of like listing “President of the United States” as a career option for students.

Let me speed this up and hit a few of the interesting points:

If you go for a Ph.D, do it at a top ranked school, or at the very least a second tier school.  It seems that Asian historians do best when they come from top-tier schools.  American historians were less likely to find tenure-track positions, but more likely to find public history jobs in the United States.  So if you study American history, that might be something to consider, though the job market isn’t great for public history, either.  Most museums seem to hire only management (Directors) or non-history positions like IT or marketing.  About 10% of American historians hold these jobs.

More bad news: The ones who hold jobs earned their Ph.Ds before 2005 for the most part.  Which means the market is still flooded with recent grads and all of these stats might be useless for you currently in a program or considering one.

On top of this, the market is especially harsh on American historians.  Only 43% held full-time tenure-track professorships, compared to 65% for specialists in the rest of the world.  But remember, if you study Asian, African or Latin American history, do it at a top school, because they are more likely to find work than specialists from lesser schools according to this study.  This is sad especially considering that just over half of all Ph.Ds are in American History.  European specialists fare better, but still not as good as the other regions.

So I guess we can extrapolate that if you study American history, take some museum and public history courses to make yourself a better job candidate.  You’re far less likely to land a tenure-track professorship.  If you study Asian, African or Latin American history, you’ll be better off at a top level school and may find work as a tenure-track professor.  And, let’s not forget that mobility is key.  The study found–not surprsingly–that those who can relocate outside of their region fare best.  This is also something world history specialists do better than Americanists.

As an Americanist, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t wish I had studied another specialization.  I love American history and can relate to it, but it seems Asian, African and Latin American history specialists are in more demand.

But keep it all in context: 70% job placement is not great compared to other industries.  And then, only around 50% are in actual full-time jobs.  The odds are the same as a coin flip, but if you read the American Historical Assocation’s new job report maybe you’ll get some ideas on how to better position yourself for a real job.


Port Huron Museum Job Posting

One of the greatest battles I’ve had to fight in my search for jobs related to history is actually finding entry-level jobs.  There are very few helpful guides for historians seeking work who aren’t Ph.D holding applicants with ten years’ experience in a specific field.

So once in a while I will find a job opening that seems to be entry-level (or fairly entry-level) that might not show up on one of the more obvious historian job sites.  The American Historical Association is helpful for finding teaching gigs, but let’s face it, you’re not going to get a job as a professor in this climate.  If you want a job outside of academia, you can go to Virtual Ph.D or Beyond Academe, but those jobs all expect that you’re a post-doc or something.

What if you have a bachelor’s or a master’s degree and you’re looking for work?  All those museum job sites only seem to list Director or Vice President positions at museums.  This could be that most museums simply don’t have a large staff, but especially in big cities this just isn’t true.

I just recently stumbled across this job, so I thought I’d share it with you since I cannot apply for it at the moment.  Hopefully it helps you, and in turn helps the facility by helping them locate a great employee.

The Port Huron Museum in Port Huron, Michigan is looking for an Education Assistant/Program Coordinator.  The job posting deadline was November 29th, but I was kindly sent the job posting anyway a week after the date.  That tells me either they haven’t found a candidate or perhaps not enough people are applying.  So that presents an opening to you.

Port Huron is a relatively small town on Michigan’s east coast, with a bridge connecting the city of 30,000 with Canada.  Specifically, the city of Sarnia, which is much larger.  I’ve never been to this museum, and I’m not associated with it in anyway, but it seems pretty cool.  They operate a few facilities and the fact that they’re hiring tells me that there is some sort of community there that supports cultural things.  Unfortunately, most areas don’t have the discretionary spending to justify the existence of paid staff at museums beyond the leadership positions.

So take advantage of this.    It’s 20-30 hours a week, 3 to 4 days a week.  Naturally, it includes occasional weekends and evenings, but what job doesn’t these days?  It also requires an Associate’s Degree, which is refreshingly fair in a really unbalanced job market.

E-mail the museum for a PDF job posting.  They’re probably still looking for someone with a background in museum work or history.  Like I said earlier, I wanted to apply for this but it doesn’t look like it’s going to be possible for me to move.  But if you’re in the area or looking for adventure, it could be a great opportunity for a history graduate looking to break into the field.

Anyway, I hope this helps a struggling public historian.