We Did What?!: Offensive and Inappropriate Behavior in American History. Edited by Timothy B. Jay. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood, 2016. 458 pages. Acid free $89 (ISBN 978-1-4408-3772-2). E-book available (978-1-4408-3773-9), call for pricing.

We Did What?!: Offensive and Inappropriate Behavior in American History is a work that thoroughly covers topics in American history and culture that have at some point been a source of frustration or contention. Although there are only approximately 150 entries that are between 500 and 1,000 words, the entries are organized alphabetically, well researched, and provide balanced coverage of each topic. It is intended for use by a variety of researchers, but would be best suited as introduction for students in history or social sciences.

To use this volume, it is important to understand how the editors defined “offensive” and “inappropriate.” They essentially defined it using two standards. First it is anything that causes “anger, frustration, resentment, displeasure, or they affront us” (xiii), but for it to meet the criteria of this work, it must also defy the cultural standards of the period that it was considered offensive. Students from a variety of disciplines would consider this a valuable tool when beginning their research because Jay has done an excellent job of balancing the factual information with the more interesting analysis of how these behaviors and the response they elicited have shaped our modern behavior. An example of this treatment can be seen in the entry for Slavery. Jay begins the section by providing historical context of the beginnings of slavery in the United States and continues by outlining the path from the abolishment of slavery all the way to Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. He ends the section by discussing how we are still fighting to eliminate the symbols of slavery in the United States by discussing hate crimes and the decisions to remove confederate flags from state facilities.

Although this volume is interesting and provides objective and thoughtful entries, it is not the only volume that covers this type of topic. However, it is difficult to compare this volume to them because the tone of this volume is academic rather than comedic and the format is encyclopedic. Overall, this work is an easy to use reference resource that provides an interesting perspective on offensive incidents in history and provides discussion on how these events still influence the present. Because this volume is relatively inexpensive and the topic has not been heavily covered in recent publications, I would recommend this work for community colleges and smaller universities with relevant majors.—Marissa Ellermann, Head of Circulation Services Librarian, Morris Library, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Carbondale, Illinois


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