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BOOK REVIEWS
EDUCATING IMPERIAL CITIZENS: NEW
PERSPECTIVES OF RACE, NATION, EMPIRE, AND
AMERICAN PUBLIC SCHOOLS
FEAR-SEGAL, JACQUELINE and SUSAN D. ROSE, eds. Carlisle Indian Industrial School: Indigenous
Histories, Memories, and Reclamations. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2016. 414
pp. $70.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-08032-789-12.
GRAM, JOHN R. Education at the Edge of Empire: Negotiating Pueblo Identity in New Mexico’s
Indian Boarding Schools. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2015. 260 pp. $45.00
(cloth), ISBN 978-02959-947-72.
STRATTON, CLIF. Education for Empire: American Schools, Race, and the Paths of Good Citizenship. Oakland: University of California Press, 2016. 288 pp. $29.95 (paper), ISBN 97805202-856-75.
REVIEWED BY HILARY N. GREEN, The University of Alabama
doi:10.1017/S1537781417000111
Scholars have turned their gaze to the role of education as a means to advance notions of American
identity, race, nation, and empire in the late nineteenth century and first decades of the twentieth
century. With this new attention, the overlapping intersections of race, citizenship, and public
school education at the turn-of-the-twentieth-century United States become clearer. Clif Stratton’s
Education for Empire: American Schools, Race, and the Paths of Good Citizenship, John Gram’s
Education at the Edge of Empire (2015), and Jacqueline Fear-Segal and Susan D. Rose’s Carlisle
Indian Industrial School (2016) demonstrate the role of public schools to advance both the nation
and its position in the world in specific and racially significant ways. Specifically, the works under
review reveal how the United States educated its national and imperial citizens in a manner that
normalized inequality, promoted civic belonging, and effectively neutralized opposition by individuals labeled as other.
Of the three works, Stratton’s is the clearest to demonstrate the breadth and multifaceted nature
of American public schools to create multiple paths to citizenship based on racial identities, subordination, and exclusion in the nation and its overseas empire. He does not see a distinction
between the national and imperial projects. Rather, he proposes a new temporal and geographic
framework for the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. Public schools functioned as a tool of both
empire and nation building. Schools served, according to Stratton, as “domestic colonial institutions, espoused narratives that projected American power onto both foreign and domestic geographies and populations, and created distinctive paths to citizenship that many native-born and indeed
many naturalized whites hoped would strengthen the boundaries of race and nation” (3). From textbooks and curricula to postgraduate employment expectations, public schooling defined the norms,
behaviors, and roles of all citizens residing in the United States and its burgeoning overseas empire,
racially, socially, politically, and economically.
© Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era
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https://doi.org/10.1017/S1537781417000111
The Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era 16 (2017), 368–382
369
Stratton organizes his argument with a discussion of textbooks and curricula developed to
advance national and imperial aims before launching into the effects of public schools on white
and racialized citizens. Like the United Daughters of the Confederacy’s well-documented campaign, textbooks and the creation of civic courses had an essential role in defining the paths to
unequal citizenship. He convincingly demonstrates the ways in which history, civics, and geography textbooks not only promoted narratives of American exceptionalism and mapped racial divisions onto the world, but also outlined the participation of all citizens, even those legally lacking the
ability to participate in electoral politics. Classroom rituals and pageants reinforced these texts of
American patriotism, loyalty, and sense of belonging. Therefore, textbooks and classroom activities created and reinforced a landscape in which the United States and Europe operated at the
expense of nonwhite others (17).
Following this crucial chapter, Stratton uses case studies from the continental United States and
its empire in the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean and different racial groups beyond the traditional
black/white binary to make his larger argument. He juxtaposes the visions of a white California
with Hawaiian cosmopolitan haole (whites born in Hawaii) to demonstrate the role of schools in
accepting, rejecting, and/or modifying new notions of race, nation, and empire. National origin
and ethnicity served as a major determinant to the path of good citizenship and the development
of a system of schools for native Hawaiians, Japanese, Chinese, and other nonwhite citizens that
were eerily similar to the Hampton-Tuskegee model implemented for black Southerners. Industrial
training and English-only schools stripped power from parents and facilitated the growth of a population whose schooling reinforced their limited socioeconomic possibilities in both San Francisco
and Hawaii. When marginalized communities resisted the language restrictions, the federal courts
proved as unsympathetic to Japanese, Chinese, and Hawaiians as it was to black Southerners on the
eve of Jim Crow. Stratton reinforces the connection between national origins and race with his discussion of Atlanta and its schools for black children as a source for New South laborers. While
Atlanta’s situation was comparable in some regards to California and Hawaii, Stratton astutely
notes how black Atlantans challenged the restrictive educational reforms and the predicament of
black faculty and civic organizations to find an appropriate protest strategy. They saw industrial
and liberal arts education as mutually providing a well-rounded education, but the funding shifts
toward industrial-only education forced them to choose between the two options. In the final chapters, Stratton turns to questions of whiteness among European immigrants and the imposition of
new racial understandings on Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans.
Overall, Stratton successfully demonstrates the role of public schools in defining notions of race,
nation, and empire and shows that a multitiered education system was not exclusive to black education (or even Native American education, which was notably absent from the text). More specificity in the linkages between the case studies, as well as addressing the real consequences on their
actual schooling and postgraduation lives of the children who found themselves caught in the
middle of these larger debates, was necessary. Gram takes up these concerns, addressing them
through an examination of two Native American boarding schools in New Mexico.
Gram focuses on the Albuquerque Indian School and Santa Fe Indian Schools for the interactions between Pueblo communities, school personnel, and government officials as well as the
real consequences of the institutions and debates on the enrolled students. While Pueblo expectations were similar to those of Native American and other marginalized nonwhite communities of
the period, these schools located at the edge of American empire were unique in “how, why,
and to what extent they were able to modify and redirect the assimilative force of two federal
board schools built in their own backyard” (7). In other words, the Pueblos had agency. Neither
school administrators nor federal officials had absolute power. The area’s borderland nature
created new opportunities and possibilities for Pueblo empowerment and respectability. Gram
argues: “The United States might have hoped that incorporation and assimilation would destroy
the world of Pueblos, but in reality the Pueblos preserved that world in part by incorporating
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https://doi.org/10.1017/S1537781417000111
Book Reviews
Book Reviews
Western education and the economic resources that the schools represented into preexisting Pueblo
patterns of subsistence and methods of interacting with outsiders” (11).
From their inception, school administrators and federal officials needed local support in order to
sustain financial solvency for continuing operations and to advance assimilation plans. The schools
could not operate without desperately-needed student tuition dollars and local support. Unlike it was
at the Carlisle Indian School, school administrators’ power was not absolute. Moreover, the schools
fiercely competed with an entrenched Catholic school system and other state boarding schools for
Native American students, tuition dollars, and additional federal allocations. This economic and educational reality gave both parents and students leverage in negotiating summer vacations, lax enforcement of assimilation policies, and other concessions. Hence, Pueblo community leaders, parents, and
students had and wielded power that was typically not possible in Native American boarding schools.
In turn, the Pueblo community embraced both schools for the value and utility afforded.
Despite Pueblo agency, the schools still inflicted trauma associated with other Native American
boarding schools. Gram carefully tries not to diminish the psychological effects on students who
straddled multiple worlds of Pueblo, the Southwest, and American policy. Students had to grapple
with conflicted messages on what their education meant and their post-schooling lives. Like other
Native Americans, students at both schools endured low-wage workforce training in the outing
system, coped with epidemics, and struggled with constant hunger because of inadequate funding.
Ultimately, the majority of students never fully realized the rewards of the education in terms of
employment and social mobility. Ultimately, the schools produced both measured success and “shattered lives” (169). While the schools failed to impose a state monopoly over education, the Pueblos
appropriated “the very instruments of assimilation for their own purposes” (175).
Fear-Segal’s and Rose’s edited anthology on the Carlisle Indian School offers another perspective on the role of public schools to advance notions of race, nation, and empire. Whereas Stratton’s
proposed framework excluded Native Americans, the anthology reveals that the same processes
influenced the infamous Native American boarding school while accentuating the uniqueness of
Gram’s New Mexican schools. Thus, the Carlisle Indian School is inseparable from other American
projects of nation building and empire building at the turn of the century. Yet, the Carlisle Indian
School goes further than the other two works by showing the real consequences of diaspora, dislocation, and rupture on the students who attended, returned to their communities, and for some,
died. Emerging from a 2012 symposium held at Dickinson College, this book reveals a legacy
of the processes and the school itself more pronounced than originally envisioned. Fear-Segal
and Rose argue that the “Indian School initiated a large-scale diaspora of Native children, and
that geo-spatial cultural dislocation they experienced as part of settler colonialism was grounded
in a new and foreign place-name that would soon became infamous in all Native communities
as a major site of cultural genocide: Carlisle” (4).
Indigenous voices are at the center of the work. Part One provides the necessary historical context
of Native American policy, history in the region, and popular American understandings of indigenous
peoples in the state and nation. Parts Two and Three: examine the Carlisle program, its effects on
students, and individuals interred in both marked and unmarked graves in the Carlisle Indian
School cemetery. Parts Four and Five explore how the story of the Carlisle Indian School has
been interpreted in tourism, texts, and popular culture, and consider possible ways to disseminate
a more accurate interpretation of the school to wider public. Part Six highlights indigenous responses
to both the school and the 2012 symposium. In addition, the editors intersperse a traditional welcome,
poetry, and songs between the essays. These indigenous voices connecting past and present reinforce
the editors’ larger effort to historicize, reclaim, and commemorate the Carlisle Indian School.
As stated in the Kiowa elegy opening in Part One, “Carlisle is a storied place” (49). The essays of
Parts One and Two show the town of Carlisle and the Susquehanna Valley as a contested place
before the inception of the school. The region was and represented Indian country but European
colonization, and settlement encouraged the development of narratives advancing both the
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370
371
conquest and disappearance of Native peoples. Since Pennsylvania lacks both reservations and federally recognized tribes, the creation and tenure of the school was viewed as providing civilization
to Western tribes. The school did not eliminate local racism, insularity, and popular understandings.
Rather, the essays of Part Two explain how local understandings allowed for marginalization of the
students, except for cheap laborers during the outing season and objects of public spectacle in pageants or sports arena. Rejected by the Carlisle community, students endured another form of rejection when they returned home. They fit in neither their Native nor American communities. In this
regard, the school failed to achieve its assimilation mission.
Of all the sections, the third section, devoted to the Carlisle Indian School cemetery, is among the
strongest. The cemetery serves as one place to get the names of students who died and never returned
(153). However, it reveals the racism involved in the process leading to its creation, the new identities
created for students, and politics of death for individuals labeled as others. Piecing together information from surviving records and headstones, Jacqueline Fear-Segal convincingly argues, “Shrouded
from public view, the history of the Carlisle Indian School cemetery is central to understanding the
wider history of the school, the national campaign for Indian assimilation it spearheaded, and the racialization of Native people to which it contributed” (153). The second essay of this section discusses
the meticulous effort to reclaim the names of the “unknown” individuals interred. Scouring the official records, obituaries, databases, and other multitude of sources, Barbara Landis was able to identify
all but a handful of the unknown men and women.
The work of this section flows directly into remaining sections on how to remember this painful
past through tourism, digital humanities projects, secondary education curriculum for aspiring
teachers, and the healing process necessary for the descendants and communities whose involvement with the school resulted from U.S. military violence and the federal imperial education
project. These sections remind readers of the importance of scholarly work for communities
who are still grappling with this painful history. This work matters even though it might be difficult
to read about the nation’s dark history. Through telling the story, compassion, healing, and reconciliation remain possible.
Collectively, the works under review demonstrate with precision the role of public schools in
advancing notions of American identity, race, nation, and empire at the turn of the twentieth
century. These institutions functioned as one of the primary vehicles for reformers, elites, and government officials to educate its national and imperial citizens into accepting a world that normalized
inequality while simultaneously encouraged civic belonging by all. This legacy still looms over
current schools, educational policy, and the communities served by the institutions in the United States.
WESTWARD (AND SOUTHWARD AND FAR
WESTWARD) THE STAR OF EMPIRE MAKES ITS WAY
HAHN, STEVEN. A Nation Without Borders: The United States and Its World in an Age of Civil Wars,
1830–1910. New York: Viking, 2016. 604 pp. $35.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-06700-246-81.
REVIEWED BY MARK WAHLGREN SUMMERS, University of Kentucky
doi:10.1017/S1537781417000123
Trying to compress the broad sweep of four score years into a survey is such a daunting task in itself
that it would be churlish to ask for an effervescent style. It might even be foolish. All too often, the
most brilliant books have been like a fireworks display: a sudden, dazzling light, followed swiftly
by a darkness that seems deeper than before. All the more, then, readers should appreciate Steven
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https://doi.org/10.1017/S1537781417000111
Book Reviews
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