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Boll Weevil Blues
Cotton, Myth, and Power in the American South
James C. Giesen
University of Chicago Press, 2011

Between the 1890s and the early 1920s, the boll weevil slowly ate its way across the Cotton South from Texas to the Atlantic Ocean. At the turn of the century, some Texas counties were reporting crop losses of over 70 percent, as were areas of Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi. By the time the boll weevil reached the limits of the cotton belt, it had destroyed much of the region’s chief cash crop—tens of billions of pounds of cotton, worth nearly a trillion dollars. 

As staggering as these numbers may seem, James C. Giesen demonstrates that it was the very idea of the boll weevil and the struggle over its meanings that most profoundly changed the South—as different groups, from policymakers to blues singers, projected onto this natural disaster the consequences they feared and the outcomes they sought. Giesen asks how the myth of the boll weevil’s lasting impact helped obscure the real problems of the region—those caused not by insects, but by landowning patterns, antiquated credit systems, white supremacist ideology, and declining soil fertility. Boll Weevil Blues brings together these cultural, environmental, and agricultural narratives in a novel and important way that allows us to reconsider the making of the modern American South.


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Building a New Educational State
Foundations, Schools, and the American South
Joan Malczewski
University of Chicago Press, 2016
Building a New Educational State examines the dynamic process of black education reform during the Jim Crow era in North Carolina and Mississippi. Through extensive archival research, Joan Malczewski explores the initiatives of foundations and reformers at the top, the impact of their work at the state and local level, and the agency of southerners—including those in rural black communities—to demonstrate the importance of schooling to political development in the South. Along the way, Malczewski challenges us to reevaluate the relationships among political actors involved in education reform.
            Malczewski presents foundation leaders as self-conscious state builders and policy entrepreneurs who aimed to promote national ideals through a public system of education—efforts they believed were especially critical in the South. Black education was an important component of this national agenda. Through extensive efforts to create a more centralized and standard system of public education aimed at bringing isolated and rural black schools into the public system, schools became important places for expanding the capacity of state and local governance. Schooling provided opportunities to reorganize local communities and augment black agency in the process. When foundations realized they could not unilaterally impose their educational vision on the South, particularly in black communities, they began to collaborate with locals, thereby opening political opportunity in rural areas. Unfortunately, while foundations were effective at developing the institutional configurations necessary for education reform, they were less successful at implementing local programs consistently due to each state’s distinctive political and institutional context.

front cover of Christianity and Race in the American South
Christianity and Race in the American South
A History
Paul Harvey
University of Chicago Press, 2016
The history of race and religion in the American South is infused with tragedy, survival, and water—from St. Augustine on the shores of Florida’s Atlantic Coast to the swampy mire of Jamestown to the floodwaters that nearly destroyed New Orleans. Determination, resistance, survival, even transcendence, shape the story of race and southern Christianities. In Christianity and Race in the American South, Paul Harvey gives us a narrative history of the South as it integrates into the story of religious history, fundamentally transforming our understanding of the importance of American Christianity and religious identity.

Harvey chronicles the diversity and complexity in the intertwined histories of race and religion in the South, dating back to the first days of European settlement. He presents a history rife with strange alliances, unlikely parallels, and far too many tragedies, along the way illustrating that ideas about the role of churches in the South were critically shaped by conflicts over slavery and race that defined southern life more broadly. Race, violence, religion, and southern identity remain a volatile brew, and this book is the persuasive historical examination that is essential to making sense of it.

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Divided Mastery
Slave Hiring in the American South
Jonathan D. Martin
Harvard University Press, 2004

Divided Mastery explores a curiously neglected aspect of the history of American slavery: the rental of slaves. Though few slaves escaped being rented out at some point in their lives, this is the first book to describe the practice, and its effects on both slaves and the peculiar institution.

Martin reveals how the unique triangularity of slave hiring created slaves with two masters, thus transforming the customary polarity of master-slave relationships. Drawing upon slaveholders' letters, slave narratives, interviews with former slaves, legislative petitions, and court records, Divided Mastery ultimately reveals that slave hiring's significance was paradoxical.

The practice bolstered the system of slavery by facilitating its spread into the western territories, by democratizing access to slave labor, and by promoting both production and speculation with slave capital. But at the same time, slaves used hiring to their advantage, finding in it crucial opportunities to shape their work and family lives, to bring owners and hirers into conflict with each other, and to destabilize the system of bondage. Martin illuminates the importance of the capitalist market as a tool for analyzing slavery and its extended relationships. Through its fresh and complex perspective, Divided Mastery demonstrates that slave hiring is critical to understanding the fundamental nature of American slavery, and its social, political, and economic place in the Old South.


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Dixie's Great War
World War I and the American South
Edited by John M. Giggie and Andrew J. Huebner
University of Alabama Press, 2021
Examining the First World War through the lens of the American South
How did World War I affect the American South? Did southerners experience the war in a particular way? How did regional considerations and, more generally, southern values and culture impact the wider war effort? Was there a distinctive southern experience of WWI?
Scholars considered these questions during “Dixie’s Great War,” a symposium held at the University of Alabama in October 2017 to commemorate the centenary of the American intervention in the war. With the explicit intent of exploring iterations of the Great War as experienced in the American South and by its people, organizers John M. Giggie and Andrew J. Huebner also sought to use historical discourse as a form of civic engagement designed to facilitate a community conversation about the meanings of the war.
Giggie and Huebner structured the panels thematically around military, social, and political approaches to the war to encourage discussion and exchanges between panelists and the public alike. Drawn from transcriptions of the day’s discussions and lightly edited to preserve the conversational tone and mix of professional and public voices, Dixie’s Great War: World War I and the American South captures the process of historians at work with the public, pushing and probing general understandings of the past, uncovering and reflecting on the deeper truths and lessons of the Great War—this time, through the lens of the South.
This volume also includes an introduction featuring a survey of recent literature dealing with regional aspects of WWI and a discussion of the centenary commemorations of the war. An afterword by noted historian Jay Winter places “Dixie’s Great War”—the symposium and this book—within the larger framework of commemoration, emphasizing the vital role such forums perform in creating space and opportunity for scholars and the public alike to assess and understand the shifting ground between cultural memory and the historical record.

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The Fire Spreads
Holiness and Pentecostalism in the American South
Randall J. Stephens
Harvard University Press, 2008

Today pentecostalism claims nearly 500 million followers worldwide. An early stronghold was the American South, where believers spoke in unknown tongues, worshipped in free-form churches, and broke down social barriers that had long divided traditional Protestants. Thriving denominations made their headquarters in the region and gathered white and black converts from the Texas plains to the Carolina low country.

Pentecostalism was, in fact, a religious import. It came to the South following the post-Civil War holiness revival, a northern-born crusade that emphasized sinlessness and religious empowerment. Adherents formed new churches in the Jim Crow South and held unconventional beliefs about authority, power, race, and gender. Such views set them at odds with other Christians in the region. By 1900 nearly all southern holiness folk abandoned mainline churches and adopted a pessimistic, apocalyptic theology. Signs of the last days, they thought, were all around them.

The faith first took root among anonymous religious zealots. It later claimed southern celebrities and innovators like televangelists Oral Roberts, Jimmy Swaggart, T. D. Jakes, and John Hagee; rock-and-roll icons Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Little Richard; and, more recently, conservative political leaders such as John Ashcroft.

With the growth of southern pentecostal denominations and the rise of new, affluent congregants, the movement moved cautiously into the evangelical mainstream. By the 1980s the once-apolitical faith looked entirely different. Many still watched and waited for spectacular signs of the end. Yet a growing number did so as active political conservatives.


front cover of Global Perspectives on Industrial Transformation in the American South
Global Perspectives on Industrial Transformation in the American South
Edited by Susanna Delfino & Michele Gillespie
University of Missouri Press, 2005
Covering the late colonial age to World War I and beyond, this collection of essays places the economic history of the American South in an international light by establishing useful comparisons with the larger Atlantic and world economy. In an attempt to dispel long-lasting myths about the South, the essays analyze the economic evolution of the South since the slave era. From this perspective, the conception of a backward, wholly agricultural antebellum South occupied only by wealthy planters, poor whites, and contented slaves has finally given way to one of economic and social dynamism as well as regional prosperity.
In a coherent and cohesive progression of subjects, these essays show that the South had been deeply enmeshed in the Atlantic economy since the colonial period and, after the Civil War, retained distinctive needs that caused increasing departure from the course northerners adopted on matters of political economy. This comparative approach also helps explain the motivations behind the political choices made by the South as an eminently export-oriented region.

This book shows that the South was not slower to develop with respect to industrialization than either the majority of the northern states, especially in the West, or the countries of Western Europe. In fact, the apparently disappointing performance of the New South’s economy appears to be the result of more pervasive and largely uncontrollable trends that affected the national as well as the international economy. Global Perspectives on Industrial Transformation in the American South makes an important contribution to the economic history of the South and to recent efforts to place American history in a more international context.


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King of Hearts
Drag Kings in the American South
Baker A. Rogers
Rutgers University Press, 2022
While drag subcultures have gained mainstream media attention in recent years, the main focus has been on female impersonators. Equally lively, however, is the community of drag kings: cis women, trans men, and non-binary people who perform exaggerated masculine personas onstage under such names as Adonis Black, Papi Chulo, and Oliver Clothesoff.  
King of Hearts shows how drag king performers are thriving in an unlikely location: Southern Bible Belt states like Tennessee, Georgia, and South Carolina. Based on observations and interviews with sixty Southern drag kings, this study reveals how they are challenging the region’s gender norms while creating a unique community with its own distinctive Southern flair. Reflecting the region’s racial diversity, it profiles not only white drag kings, but also those who are African American, multiracial, and Hispanic. 
Queer scholar Baker A. Rogers—who has also performed as drag king Macon Love—takes you on an insider’s tour of Southern drag king culture, exploring its history, the communal bonds that unite it, and the controversies that have divided it. King of Hearts offers a groundbreaking look at a subculture that presents a subversion of gender norms while also providing a vital lifeline for non-gender-conforming Southerners.

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Murphy Station
A Memoir from the American South
David Donovan
University of Tennessee Press, 2010

“Murphy Station is a well-told coming-of-age story. It conveys a deep sense of place, and articulates the everyday ways in which the etiquette of Jim Crow was learned and enacted, and eventually questioned and even challenged.”
—Jason Sokol, author of There Goes My Everything: White Southerners in the Age of Civil Rights, 1945–1975

In the southern Georgia of 1950, Murphy Station is a community marked only by two country stores, two Baptist churches, and a graveyard. Farming is the way of life, and segregation is in full force. Welcome to Deep Dixie.

David Donovan is a young white boy growing up in Murphy Station where even the best farmers are cash poor, and those who work for them, usually blacks, are poorer still. In adult conversation, the main topics are weather, crops, and politics. Within the last category, it’s agreed that the main threats facing America are two: communism and integration. So far as young Dave knows, this isn’t unusual, but already there are changes afoot. In this richly detailed memoir, laced with both humor and tragedy, we see how those changes affect Dave in subtle but ultimately profound ways.
Coming of age in a world with the axiom “no boy a chicken, no man a coward,” Dave has the sorts of boyhood adventures common to the rural South: exploits with firearms, encounters with angry animals, challenges from friends, and a growing interest in girls. As he has these adventures, he also works in the field alongside black farmhands, some of whom teach him vital lessons about the realities of their lives—lessons that begin to challenge the prejudices and preconceptions of his time and place.

By the late 1950s the civil rights movement has become a major force in the South; yet, as David enters high school in 1960 the customs of segregation still hold sway, persisting even when he leaves for college. In his first year away from home, he witnesses the national trauma of the Kennedy assassination, which blunts the promises of Camelot. In Vietnam a few years later, he sees those promises collapse entirely. Returning in 1970 to a Murphy Station much changed from what it was twenty years earlier, David Donovan finds himself transformed as well.

David Donovan is the pseudonym of Terry Turner, professor emeritus of urology at the University of Virginia. He is the author of more than 120 basic science articles on male reproductive biology and of a previous book, Once a Warrior King: Memoirs of an Officer in Vietnam.


front cover of Party Organization and Activism in the American South
Party Organization and Activism in the American South
Robert P. Steed
University of Alabama Press, 1998

Maps the ways political parties remain vital components in the American political system, especially in the eleven states in the South

As Tocqueville noted more than 100 years ago, “No countries need associations more . . . than those with a democratic social state.” Although some contemporary observers see a decline in associations, especially in the political sphere, the contributors in this volume argue not only that political parties remain an essential component of the American political system but also that grassroots political groups have revitalized the political process, especially in the South.

Using data gathered from local party officials in the eleven southern states, the authors examine such key issues as: Who becomes involved in local party organizations and why? How do parties recruit and retain workers? What are the ideological and issue orientations of these activists? How does intraparty factionalism affect local party organizations? What is the connection between the party organization and its external environment?

The large regional database provides these contributors with the opportunity to extend the study of local party organization and activists, thus addressing some of the significant gaps in previous research. The additional data enable them to clarify the nature of local party organizations and, in a larger sense, the role of the parties in the contemporary American political system.


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Road Sides
An Illustrated Companion to Dining and Driving in the American South
By Emily Wallace
University of Texas Press, 2019

An illustrated glovebox essential, Road Sides explores the fundamentals of a well-fed road trip through the American South, from A to Z. There are detours and destinations, accompanied by detailed histories and more than one hundred original illustrations that document how we get where we’re going and what to eat and do along the way.

Learn the backstory of food-shaped buildings, including the folks behind Hills of Snow, a giant snow cone stand in Smithfield, North Carolina, that resembles the icy treats it sells. Find out how kudzu was used to support a burgeoning highway system, and get to know Edith Edwards—the self-proclaimed Kudzu Queen—who turns the obnoxious vine into delicious teas and jellies. Discover the roots of kitschy roadside attractions, and have lunch with the state-employed mermaids of Weeki Wachee Springs in Florida.

Road Sides is for everyone—the driver in search of supper or superlatives (the biggest, best, and even worst), the person who cannot resist a local plaque or snack and pulls over for every historical marker and road stand, and the kid who just wants to gawk at a peach-shaped water tower.


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Roots of Disorder
Race and Criminal Justice in the American South, 1817-80
Christopher Waldrep
University of Illinois Press, 1998
Every white southerner understoodwhat keeping African Americans "down" meant and what it did not mean. It did not mean going to court; it did not mean relying on the law. It meant vigilante violence and lynching. Looking at Vicksburg, Mississippi,Roots of Disorder traces the origins of these terrible attitudes to the day-to-day operations of local courts. In Vicksburg, white exploitation of black labor through slavery evolved into efforts to use the law todefine blacks' place in society, setting the stage for widespread tolerance of brutal vigilantism. Fed by racism and economics, whites' violence grew in a hothouse of more general hostility toward law and courts. Roots of Disorder shows how the criminal justice system itself plays a role in shaping the attitudes that encourage vigilantism.

"Delivers what no other study has yet attempted. . . . Waldrep's book is one of the first systematically to use local trial data to explore questions of society and culture." -- Vernon Burton, author of "A Gentleman and an Officer": A Social and Military History of James B. Griffin's Civil War

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Sacrifice and Survival
Identity, Mission, and Jesuit Higher Education in the American South
R. Eric Platt
University of Alabama Press, 2014
Recounts the history and development of Jesuit higher education in the American South

R. Eric Platt examines in Sacrifice and Survival the history and evolution of Jesuit higher education in the American South and hypothesizes that the identity and mission of southern Jesuit colleges and universities may have functioned as catalytic concepts that affected the “town and gown” relationships between the institutions and their host communities in ways that influenced whether they failed or adapted to survive.

The Catholic religious order known as the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) manages a global network of colleges and universities with a distinct Catholic identity and mission. Despite this immense educational system, several Jesuit institutions have closed throughout the course of the order’s existence. Societal pressures, external perceptions or misperceptions, unbalanced curricular structures rooted in liberal arts, and administrators’ slow acceptance of courses related to practical job seeking may all influence religious-affiliated educational institutions. The religious identity and mission of these colleges and universities are fundamentals that influence their interaction with external environs and contribute to their survival or failure.

Platt traces the roots of Jesuit education from the rise of Ignatius Loyola in the mid-sixteenth century through the European development of the Society of Jesus, Jesuit educational identity and mission, the migration of Jesuits to colonial New Orleans, the expulsion of Jesuits by Papal mandate, the reorganization of Jesuit education, their attempt to establish a network of educational institutions across the South, and the final closure of all but two southern Jesuit colleges and a set of high schools.

Sacrifice and Survival explores the implications of the Galveston Hurricane of 1900, yellow fever, Georgia floods, devastating fires, the Civil War, the expansion of New Orleans due to the 1884 Cotton Centennial Exposition, and ties between town and gown, as well as anti-Catholic/anti-Jesuit sentiment as the Society of Jesus pushed forward to create a system of southern institutions. Ultimately, institutional identity and mission critically impacted the survival of Jesuit education in the American South.

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Safe in a Midwife's Hands
Birthing Traditions from Africa to the American South
Linda Janet Holmes
The Ohio State University Press, 2023
Ms. Magazine “Most Anticipated Feminist Book of 2023”

After a less-than-positive experience giving birth as a Black woman in the 1970s, Linda Janet Holmes launched a lifetime of work as an activist dedicated to learning about and honoring alternative birth traditions and the Black women behind them. Safe in a Midwife’s Hands brings together what Holmes has gleaned from the countless midwives who have shared with her their experiences, at a time when their knowledge and holistic approaches are essential counterbalances to a medical system that routinely fails Black mothers and babies. Building on work she began in the 1980s, when she interviewed traditional Black midwives in Alabama and Virginia, Holmes traveled to Ghana, Ethiopia, and Kenya to visit midwives there. In detailing their work, from massage to the uses of medicinal plants to naming ceremonies, she links their voices to those of midwives and doulas in the US. She thus illuminates parallels between birthing traditions that have survived hundreds of years of colonialism, enslavement, Jim Crow, and ongoing medical racism to persist as vital cultural practices that promote healthy outcomes for mothers and babies during pregnancy, birth, and beyond.

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Sharing the Prize
The Economics of the Civil Rights Revolution in the American South
Gavin Wright
Harvard University Press, 2013

Winner of the Alice Hanson Jones Prize, Economic History Association
A Choice Outstanding Academic Title of the Year

The civil rights movement was also a struggle for economic justice, one that until now has not had its own history. Sharing the Prize demonstrates the significant material gains black southerners made—in improved job opportunities, quality of education, and health care—from the 1960s to the 1970s and beyond. Because black advances did not come at the expense of southern whites, Gavin Wright argues, the civil rights struggle was that rarest of social revolutions: one that benefits both sides.

“Wright argues that government action spurred by the civil-rights movement corrected a misfiring market, generating large economic gains that private companies had been unable to seize on their own.”
The Economist

“Written…with the care and imagination [Wright] displayed in his superb work on slavery and the southern economy since the Civil War, this excellent economic history offers the best empirical account to date of the effects the civil rights revolution had on southern labor markets, schools, and other important institutions…With much of the nation persuaded that a post-racial age has begun, Wright’s analytical history…takes on fresh urgency.”
—Ira Katznelson, New York Review of Books


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Teaching in Black and White
The Sisters of St. Joseph in the American South
Barbara E. Mattick
Catholic University of America Press, 2022
Teaching in Black and White: The Sisters of St. Joseph in the American South discusses the work of the Sisters of St. Joseph of (the city of) St. Augustine, who came to Florida from France in 1866 to teach newly freed blacks after the Civil War, and remain to this day. It also tells the story of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Georgia, who sprang from the motherhouse in St. Augustine. A significant part of the book is a comparison of the Sisters of St. Josephs’ work against that of their major rivals, missionaries from the Protestant American Missionary Association. Using letters the Sisters wrote back to their motherhouse in France, the book provides rare glimpses into the personal and professional (pun intended) lives of these women religious in St. Augustine and other parts of Florida and Georgia, from the mid-nineteenth century through the era of anti-Catholicism in the early twentieth century South. It carries the story through 1922, the end of the pioneer years of the Sisters of St. Josephs’ work in Florida, and the end of Sisters of St. Joseph of Georgia’s existence as a distinct order. Through the lenses of Catholicism, Florida and Southern history, gender, and race, the book addresses the Protestant concept of domesticity and how it was reinforced in Catholic terms by women who seemingly defied the ideal. It also relates the Sisters’ contributions in shaping life in the South during Reconstruction as they established elite academies and free schools, created orphanages, ministered to all during severe yellow fever epidemics, and fought the specter of anti-Catholicism as it crept across the rural regions of the country. To date, little has been written about Catholics in the South, much less the women religious who served there. This book helps to fill that gap. Teaching in Black and White provides rare glimpses into the personal and professional lives of women religious in Florida and Georgia, from the mid-nineteenth to early twentieth-century.

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Why Parties Matter
Political Competition and Democracy in the American South
John H. Aldrich and John D. Griffin
University of Chicago Press, 2017
Since the founding of the American Republic, the North and South have followed remarkably different paths of political development. Among the factors that have led to their divergence throughout much of history are differences in the levels of competition among the political parties. While the North has generally enjoyed a well-defined two-party system, the South has tended to have only weakly developed political parties—and at times no system of parties to speak of.

With Why Parties Matter, John H. Aldrich and John D. Griffin make a compelling case that competition between political parties is an essential component of a democracy that is responsive to its citizens and thus able to address their concerns. Tracing the history of the parties through four eras—the Democratic-Whig party era that preceded the Civil War; the post-Reconstruction period; the Jim Crow era, when competition between the parties virtually disappeared; and the modern era—Aldrich and Griffin show how and when competition emerged between the parties and the conditions under which it succeeded and failed. In the modern era, as party competition in the South has come to be widely regarded as matching that of the North, the authors conclude by exploring the question of whether the South is poised to become a one-party system once again with the Republican party now dominant.

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