January 16, 2019

Books and Media

Our winter roundup of books and music created by alumni.

Murder on Shades Mountain: The Legal Lynching of Willie Peterson and the Struggle for Justice in Jim Crow Birmingham

By Melanie S. Morrison’71, Duke University Press, 2018

In the Jim Crow South, the judicial system fundamentally behaved as a lynch mob, Melanie S. Morrison explains in her new book Murder on Shades Mountain. The book is Morrison’s retelling of the 1931 murder of Willie Peterson, a black man who was accused of killing two young white women in Depression-era Birmingham, Ala. Aside from his race, Peterson did not match the original description of the murderer provided by Nell Williams, a white 18-year-old who was the only witness to the initial crime. Nonetheless, he bore the brunt of the violence brought upon Birmingham’s black community—beginning with the burning of black-owned businesses and a county-wide manhunt—after Williams first reported the murder of her sister and their friend. Peterson was sentenced to death by an all-white jury. Years later, the NAACP and the Communist Party endeavored to overturn his unjust conviction.

Morrison first heard the story of the lynching of Willie Peterson as a child from her own father, who as a teenager had dated Williams’ youngest sister. Decades later, Morrison has combed through archives and historical records in order to tell Peterson’s story in full for the first time. This is only the latest project in her decades-long legacy of social justice education and activism. Morrison is the founder and executive director of Allies for Change, an organization that provides anti-oppression training and education; as well as Doing Our Own Work, an intensive anti-racism program for white people. She holds a Master of Divinity degree from Yale Divinity School and a Ph.D. in theology from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.

True Grit: Classic Tales of Perseverance True Grit: Classic Tales of Perseverance by Theodore Pappas'83

By Theodore Pappas’83, G2 Entertainment Limited, 2018

“Grit,” writes Theodore Pappas’83, is “the dark underside of achievement:” a mixture of ardor and endurance in the face of many different kinds of adversity. Pappas writes that grit, and not talent, education, or privilege, is the trait that has distinguished “the great men and women who changed the world.”

His new book True Grit: Classic Tales of Perseverance retells the stories of 10 influential figures from the past two centuries—including Marie Curie, Abraham Lincoln, Joe Louis, and Barbie doll creator Ruth Handler—with a focus on the ways in which they responded to and rebounded from failure. Pappas writes that he hopes True Grit’s readers, taking inspiration from the stories of perseverance in the book, will come to believe in the power of their own determination.

Pappas is the executive editor and chief development officer at Encyclopædia Britannica in Chicago, Ill.

The Harrow Legacy

The Harrow Legacy by Dianne Kowal Kirtley'61 By Dianne Kowal Kirtley’61, Virtualbookworm.com, 2018

The Harrows are a contemporary family of wealth and privilege, and their multi-generational family business, Harrow Lumber, claims ties to the origin and preservation of two of western North Carolina’s most notable buildings: The Grove Park Inn and the Biltmore Estate, built by George Vanderbilt. It is here in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, as well as in Chicago and Paris, that Kirtley’s novel unspools the family’s secrets through the narratives of five of its members.

Kirtley taught English, journalism, and creative writing at Nazareth Academy, a college prep high school in LaGrange Park, Ill., for 25 years.

Probe the Ocean, Plow the Sea: A Destroyer Sailor’s Vietnam Era Odyssey Probe the Ocean, Plow the Sea: A Destroyer Sailor's Vietnam Era Odyssey by Paul W. Jewell'78

By Paul W. Jewell’78, Self-published in 2018

When Paul Jewell enrolled at Beloit with a plan to major in geology, it was on the heels of a two-year enlistment with the U.S. Navy as a sonar technician aboard the USS Richard B. Anderson, one of the Destroyer Squadron Fifteen ships stationed in Yokosuka, Japan, since 1971. Jewell kept a diary while onboard and wrote letters to his parents during that time, along with an outline for a memoir he drafted the year of his discharge from active duty. In 2018, with the help of these documents, he wrote this account of the earliest years of Destroyer Squadron Fifteen’s forward deployment. Today, Jewell is a professor in the department of geology and geophysics at the University of Utah.

The Dilemmas of Wonderland: Decisions in the Age of Innovation The Dilemmas of Wonderland: Decisions in the Age of Innovation by Yakov Ben-Haim'73

By Yakov Ben-Haim’73

Oxford University Press, 2018

Scholar Yakov Ben-Haim developed info-gap decision theory for modeling and managing severe uncertainty. In this book, he considers the opportunities and dilemmas presented by the latest innovations of our time. Each new discovery and invention brings with it uncertainty that can make an innovation a potentially worse option than those that already exist. Ben-Haim offers case studies and practical, conceptual tools for understanding and managing the dilemmas of innovation in a variety of fields. He is a professor of mechanical engineering at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel, where he holds the Yitzhak Moda’i Chair in Technology and Economics.

Americana Concert

Traditional Fiddle and Banjo Tunes from the Appalachians Americana Concert - Traditional Fiddle and Banjo Tunes from the AppalachiansBy Alan Jabbour and S...

Alan Jabbour and Stephen Wade’74

CD, Patuxent Music, 2018

Violinist Alan Jabbour and banjo player Stephen Wade’74 performed together from 1983 to 2012, sharing their musicianship and knowledge of traditional American folk music with audiences across the country. One of those performances, an Americana concert, featured traditional fiddle and banjo tunes from the Appalachians, and took place in the Library of Congress’ Coolidge Auditorium on May 29, 1998.

Less than a year after Jabbour died in 2017, Wade released that concert on CD. The songs are accompanied by Jabbour’s self-proclaimed “raps”—musings and background on the songs.

Wade is an acclaimed banjo player, roots music scholar, and author noted for his recordings and performances. In addition to producing two other albums with Jabbour, Wade has made a number of solo recordings, and in 2012, he wrote The Beautiful Music All Around Us: Field Recordings and the American Experience.

Also In This Issue

  • George H.W. Bush visits Beloit College in February 1978.

    Remembering George H.W. Bush

  • Jennifer Esperanza has mentored many Beloit students, including Dan Weyl’10, who took an unconventional path in his study of anthropology.

    A Two-Way Street

  • Vinyl record

    Old Records Never Die: One Man’s Quest for His Vinyl and His Past

  • Rankings That Matter


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