Publication Date

March 4, 2024

Perspectives Section

Letters to the Editor

To the Editor:

As is typical of all In Memoriam essays, I greatly enjoyed the Long Overdue contribution by Barbara D. Savage on Merze Tate (December 2023).

I do, however, want to push back against the observation that “Tate’s life work was all but erased from the narratives of our discipline and the fields for which she wrote.” In The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant (32 vols., Southern Illinois Univ. Press, 1967–2012), where I worked as an editor from 1992 to 2006, cross-references to Tate’s Hawaii: Reciprocity or Annexation (Michigan State Univ. Press, 1968) appear in volume 24, page 73, where it supports documents related to the deaths and ascensions of Hawaiian kings, as well as growing interest among US officials in formal diplomatic and economic relations, and again in volume 26, page 43, where it expands on documents related to the completion of a commercial reciprocity treaty.

These instances represent the norm for documentary editors, who value and strive to use all sound scholarship to assist their efforts.


Both of these things are true: Tate’s work was recognized during her life, though never to the extent that it or she deserved, and she and her scholarship were all but erased from the narratives of the disciplines in which she worked as well as broader fields of American, African American, and diplomatic history. There are many more examples like the one you offer; the pathbreaking quality and significance of her work demanded that attention, a demand I hope I’ve met in my new book, Merze Tate: The Global Odyssey of a Black Woman Scholar (Yale Univ. Press, 2023).

William M. Ferraro
The Washington Papers, University of Virginia

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