Ex Post Facto – student scholarship at its finest

Ex Post Facto continues to thrive in the History Department at SF State. Last year’s Managing Editors, Mike Hephner, David Hlusak, and Hannah Milstein, oversaw the production of another strong edition of the Journal of the History Students at SF State. Volume Twenty-six included nine essays, a record four of which were written by undergraduates. Participation in the journal was broad, with twenty-six students serving as associate and assistant editors who helped choose essays and provide feedback to all the those who submitted papers.

            As usual, the published essays demonstrated impressive range and reflected the wide interests of our students and faculty. Some focused on local stories: Chinese prostitution in early-twentieth-century San Francisco, the Ku Klux Klan in Fresno in the 1920s, and the 1859 murder and subsequent memorialization of California Senator David Broderick. Others examined geographically distant developments, such as the British women’s role in Antislavery advocacy in the nineteenth century or the practices of domestic servitude in apartheid South Africa.

            Taken together, the essays reflect our students’ interest in weighty moral problems and matters of social justice—slavery, prohibition, racial politics, war, labor struggles, and the meaning of freedom.  Several of the essays focus on women’s experiences, and all demonstrated sensitivity to the complexities of the past.

            Two students won the Joseph Mullins Prize in History, which recognizes the best essays in Ex Post Facto.  The undergraduate winner was Gerald Morlidge, a first-generation college student. Gerald’s essay, “Myth of a Martyr: David C. Broderick and the Making of an Anti-Slavery Hero,” skillfully traced how various speakers reconfigured the meaning of Republican Senator Broderick’s death in a duel against California Supreme Court Chief Justice David Terry.  In particular, California Republican Party leaders portrayed Broderick as an antislavery martyr, dying in a noble fight against a corrupt Democratic political machine—a portrayal more politically useful than factually accurate.

            The graduate winner of the Mullins Prize, Javier Etchegaray, used his expertise about his native Chile along with the insight and lessons he gained from his graduate courses here to write a thoughtful, clear essay entitled, “Towards a Historiography of the 1973 Nationalization of Chilean Copper.” Usually the Mullins prize committee favors research papers, but they were so impressed with the originality of Javier’s essay, which builds an historiographical account where none had existed before, that they unanimously chose it.

            Javier and second-year graduate student Danielle Dybbro are working together as Managing Editors for the upcoming volume of Ex Post Facto, which will be published in May. We are looking forward to another stimulating collection of student work!