Book acknowledgments, though written last, recognize what came first. In finishing this book, I owe my first debt to a long line of public school teachers throughout the South who encouraged me to think that I could become a scholar and write a book. An eighth-grade history teacher in Booneville, Arkansas, a tenth-grade creative writing teacher in Calhoun, Georgia, and a summer adjunct teaching the American history survey at Texas A&M University (their faces are vivid, but their names I cannot remember) prodded me to think that what has happened in the past has influence on what is happening now, and that my life, and the lives of those I love, are part of American history. Otherwise, the study of history would have passed me by, and would have seemed like a subdiscipline of accounting.
My fellow students, comrades, and troublemakers were no less important in shaping my thinking and writing. I met Chris Powell in the first grade in Lockesburg, Arkansas, and he is still my standard-bearer for a passionate commitment to the absurdities that make a meaningful life possi