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History Professor Johnson's Book Among Writer's Top 10 Books on Texas

History Professor Johnson

Photo by Myles Ostrowski

 

History Professor Johnson's Book Among Writer's Top 10 Books on Texas 

The work of Loyola History Professor Benjamin Johnson ranks among the favorites of author John Phillip Santos in a recent article for Texas Monthly.  Santos listed Johnson's monograph, Revolution in Texas: How a Forgotten Rebellion and Its Bloody Suppression Turned Mexicans into Americans (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), among books that function "Against the Canon”.  Acclaim for Dr. Johnson's work has also come from the scholarly community, and his volume was a finalist for the Caroline Bancroft Western History Prize in 2004. 

We recently caught up with Dr. Johnson and asked him a few questions about Revolution in Texas and his current book project.

How did you come to this fascinating subject of your research, and how did this book came about?

I read about this defeated uprising of ethnic Mexicans in 1915-6 while in graduate school in my twenties, and could not believe that I had never heard of it.  It unleashed one of the most virulent episodes of racial violence in U.S. history, yet was little-known among professional historians and Texans alike.  I decided that I had to write about it when I found out that some of the people victimized later founded the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), arguably the first Latino civil rights organization.

Why do you think Revolution in Texas has been so well received? 

The charisma of its author, of course!  Seriously, it was a good time for a book that explored both the mistreatment of Mexican Americans and how many came to make the United States a decent home for themselves.  And the events themselves were gripping enough to make a compelling narrative, but one that would allow me to smuggle in serious arguments about Latino history and statelessness.  And say what you will about Texas, but its residents have a strong sense of place and investment in their (our) history, so unveiling a fraught and largely buried chapter of that past can carry a lot of resonance, and not just in scholarly venues.

What's next?  

I continued to write about border topics after Revolution in Texas, most notably in Bordertown:  Odyssey of an American Place (Yale, 2008), a collaboration with a photographer that tried to capture the harmony and rootedness of a particular border community.  Most of my research and writing time in recent years has gone into a book on Progressive-era environmental politics, but I’d like to go back to exploring the ties between the United States and Mexico.  So, soon I will start looking at the ways that Mexicans and Mexican Americans perceived the U.S. Civil War, and the ways that Americans thought about Mexico’s civil wars in the same decade.

Interested readers can check out excerpts from his book and see reviews at the publisher's site from Yale University Press