2018-06-08 / Front Page

Historian comes home to share published work

By Anita Baker


Dr. Alice Malavasic (l) and Heyward Bannister at the book signing for The F Street Mess. Dr. Alice Malavasic (l) and Heyward Bannister at the book signing for The F Street Mess. Dr. Alice Malavasic was raised in the low country of South Carolina. She earned her bachelor of arts from Columbia College with a concentration in American history and Holocaust studies. She went on to earn her master of arts in education and then her doctor of philosophy in history from the University of Albany, State University of New York.

She is currently an associate professor of history at Hudson Valley Community College.

Dr. Malavasic’s doctoral dissertation was a study of how a group of southern Senators, called the “F Street Mess,” used their political influence to rewrite the Kansas-Nebraska Act, causing a series of events that ultimately led to the Civil War.

The F Street Mess was published by University of North Carolina Press in 2017.

On May 22, 2018, Historic Columbia sponsored an event to bring Dr. Alice Malavasic back home to Columbia to celebrate her success and share her work.

Dr. Malavasic was welcomed by a warm crowd of friends and fans. She spent several years in Columbia after graduating from Columbia College. She was involved with the Young Democrats and volunteered with the first political campaign for former governor Dick Riley and with the campaign to elect Fritz Hollings to the United States Senate. She said coming back to the city of Columbia was like “having her life flash in front of her eyes.”

Dr. Malavasic’s research, The F Street Mess, focuses on the decade of the 1850s. She decided to research the role of four southern Senators who were called the “F Street Mess” because they all lived in a house on F Street in Washington, D.C.

Senator David Rice Atchison of Missouri, Senator Robert M.T. Hunter of Virginia, Senator James Murray Mason of Virginia, and Senator Andrew Pickens Butler of South Carolina were considered the most powerful Senate block in the 1850s was a member of the influential Butler family from Edgefield, S.C.

Senator Atchison was President Pro Tem of the Senate, the second in line to the President at that time.

Senator Hunter was Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. Senator Murray was Chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee. Senator Butler was Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. These southern Senators, the “F Street Mess,” supported slavery in the south and defended slave owners whose power was being threatened by the movement sweeping the nation against the institution of slavery.

During her talk at the Historic Columbia event, Dr. Malavasic provided additional information to the local audience about the two South Carolina leaders written about in her book, The F Street Mess. Senator John C. Calhoun served as a mentor to the four senators.

Dr. Malavasic concludes that her research in The F Street Mess teaches “not only a lesson of the use of power, but also is an allegory of the fragility of our democracy then as well as today.”

According to Dr. Malavasic, “We study history to learn from our past, to know where we came from and to know where we are going.”

A reception and book signing was sponsored by Historic Columbia and held at the Seibels House, considered to be the oldest house in Columbia.

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