While preparing excerpts from Booker T. Washington’s Up From Slavery for my spring US history classes, I was struck by a detail from Washington’s depiction of his family’s plantation cabin–his description of the apparently-ubiquitous “cat-hole”:
“In addition to [“windows” and a door] there was, in the lower right-hand corner of the room, the “cat-hole,” – a contrivance which almost every mansion or cabin in Virginia possessed during the ante-bellum period. The “cat-hole” was a square opening, about seven by eight inches, provided for the purpose of letting the cat pass in and out of the house at will during the night. In the case of our particular cabin I could never understand the necessity for this convenience, since there were at least a half-dozen other places in the cabin that would have accommodated the cats.”
Of course, this is simply a variation on the familiar doggy-door. I just hadn’t come across the term “cat-hole” before. Now, it apparently means something quite different.
For those who are interested, I recently reviewed Christine Leigh Heyrman’s American Apostles: When Evangelicals Entered the World of Islam (NY: Hill and Wang, 2015) for Reading Religion, which is the American Academy of Religion’s new book review site. The book explores the first American Protestant mission to the Middle East in examining the early American encounter with Islam. Those of you who took “How the Holy Land Became Holy” or “Americans and the Holy Land” with me will likely be interested in it, as it focuses on the mission of Pliny Fisk and Levi Parsons, both of whom we studied in class! If I find the time, I might write a future blog post laying out some of my thoughts on the work that couldn’t fit in the word-limited review. Until then, head over to Reading Religion, which itself is very cool and useful.
For those interested, the article on which my Just Lunch talk was based, “American Cyrus? Harry Truman, the Bible, and the Palestine Question,” was just published with the Journal of Church and State. Check it out here!
Archival research is often tedious. Every so often, though, something unusual pops out at you. While trying to clean up some of my dissertation’s footnotes on materials from the Truman Library’s online holdings, I came across a bizarre little ditty that Truman had written out on a scrap of paper. He doodled on the other side.