During the first half of the twentieth century, degradation, poverty, and hopelessness were commonplace for African Americans who lived in the South’s countryside, either on farms or in rural communities. Many southern blacks sought relief from these conditions by migrating to urban centers. Many others, however, continued to live in rural areas. Scholars of African American rural history in the South have been concerned primarily with the experience of blacks as sharecroppers, tenant farmers, textile workers, and miners. Less attention has been given to other aspects of the rural African American experience during the early twentieth century.
African American Life in the Rural South, 1900–1950 provides important new information about African American culture, social life, and religion, as well as economics, federal policy, migration, and civil rights. The essays particularly emphasize the efforts of African Americans to negotiate the white world in the southern countryside.
Filling a void in southern studies, this outstanding collection provides a substantive overview of the subject. Scholars, students, and teachers of African American, southern, agricultural, and rural history will find this work invaluable.
Much acclaimed upon its initial publication in 1992, this book was the first extensive survey of African American gardening traditions in the rural South. For this reprinting, author Richard Westmacott has written a new preface in which he describes the traveling exhibit based on the book and compares his original research with his recent observations of gardening practices in the Cayman Islands.
The book remains a valuable and richly illustrated resource for those interested in African American material culture and the history of vernacular gardens. It includes measured drawings and physical inventories of African American gardens in three geographic areas: the low country of South Carolina, the southern piedmont of Georgia, and the black belt of Alabama. The descriptions are enhanced by the author's personal interviews with the gardeners, in which he documents the aesthetic qualities, designs, and purposes of their yards and gardens.
Westmacott traces the evolution of African American yards and gardens and over the last two hundred years and discusses the possible African origins of certain traditions, such as the swept yard. He also notes similarities in attitude between rural southern blacks and whites regarding the importance of the agrarian lifestyle, self-reliance, and private ownership. Despite such similarities, he shows, the patterns and practices in which those beliefs are manifested among African Americans are uniquely their own.
The Author: Richard Westmacott is a professor of environmental design at the University of Georgia and lives in rural Georgia.
Agrarian Revolt in a Mexican Village deals with a Taráscan Indian village in southwestern Mexico which, between 1920 and 1926, played a precedent-setting role in agrarian reform. As he describes forty years in the history of this small pueblo, Paul Friedrich raises general questions about local politics and agrarian reform that are basic to our understanding of radical change in peasant societies around the world. Of particular interest is his detailed study of the colorful, violent, and psychologically complex leader, Primo Tapia, whose biography bears on the theoretical issues of the "political middleman" and the relation between individual motivation and socioeconomic change. Friedrich's evidence includes massive interviewing, personal letters, observations as an anthropological participant (e.g., in fiesta ritual), analysis of the politics and other village culture during 1955-56, comparison with other Taráscan villages, historical and prehistoric background materials, and research in legal and government agrarian archives.
Born into a relatively privileged family, Geraldyne Pierce Zimmerman earned a reputation as a maverick in her life-long home of Orangeburg, South Carolina, a semi-rural community where race and class were very much governed by the Jim Crow laws. Educated at Nashville’s Fisk University, Zimmerman returned to Orangeburg to teach school, serve her community, and champion equal rights for African Americans and women. She was a woman far ahead of her time.
Kibibi V. Mack-Shelton offers a vivid portrayal of the kind of black family seldom recognized for its role in the development of the African American community after the Civil War. At a time when “separate-but-equal” usually meant suffering and injustice for the black community, South Carolina families such as the Tatnalls, Pierces, and Zimmermans achieved a level of financial and social success rivaling that of many white families.
Drawing heavily on the oral accounts of Geraldyne Pierce Zimmerman, Mack-Shelton draws the reader into the lives of the African American elite of the early twentieth century. Her captivating narrative style brings to life many complicated topics: how skin color affected interracial interactions and class distinctions within the black community itself, the role of education for women and for African Americans in general, and the ways in which cultural ideas about family and community are simultaneously preserved and transformed over the span of generations.
Refreshing and engaging, <i>Ahead of Her Time in Yesteryear</i> is an important contribution to African American and women’s studies, as well as a fascinating biography for any reader interested in a new perspective on small town black culture in the Jim Crow South.
Kibibi V. Mack-Shelton held the former Tyler and Alice Haynes Endowed Chair of American Studies at the University of Richmond. She currently teaches at the University of Maryland Baltimore County and is author and editor of numerous scholarly publications, including <i>Parlor Ladies and Ebony Drudges: African American Women, Class, and Work in a South Carolina Community and History And Women, Culture And Faith: Selected Writings Of Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, Volume 2</i>.
"Starting around 1950, people stopped raising chickens, milking cows, and raising hogs. They just buy it at the store, ready to eat. A lot buy a steer and have it processed in Dongola and put it in their freezer. What a difference! Girls have got it so easy now. They don't even know what it was like to start out. And I guess my mother's life, when she started out, was as hard again as mine, because they had to make everything by hand. I don't know if it could get any easier for these girls. But they don't know what it was like, and they never will. Everything is packaged. All you do is go to the store and buy you a package and cook it. Automatic washers and dryers. I'm glad they don't have to work like I did. Very glad."
Edith Bradley Rendleman's story of her life in southern Illinois is remarkable in many ways. Recalling the first half of the twentieth century in great detail, she vividly cites vignettes from her childhood as her family moved from farm to farm until settling in 1909 in the Mississippi bottoms of Wolf Lake. She recounts the lives and times of her family and neighbors during an era gone forever.
Remarkable for the vivid details that evoke the past, Rendleman's account is rare in another respect: memoirs of the time—usually written by people from elite or urban families—often reek of nostalgia. But Rendleman's memoir differs from the norm. Born poor in rural southern Illinois, she tells an unvarnished tale of what it was really like growing up on a tenant farm early this century.
Beardstown and Monmouth, Illinois, two rural Midwestern towns, have been transformed by immigration in the last three decades. This book examines how Mexican immigrants who have made these towns their homes have integrated legally, culturally, and institutionally. What accounts for the massive growth in the Mexican immigrant populations in these two small towns, and what does the future hold for them?
Based on 260 surveys and 47 in-depth interviews, this study combines quantitative and qualitative research to explore the level and characteristics of immigrant incorporation in Beardstown and Monmouth. It assesses the advancement of immigrants in the immigration/ residency/citizenship process, the immigrants’ level of cultural integration (via language, their connectedness with other members of society, and their relationships with neighbors), the degree and characteristics of discrimination against immigrants in these two towns, and the extent to which immigrants participate in different social and political activities and trust government institutions.
Immigrants in new destinations are likely to be poorer, to be less educated, and to have weaker English-language skills than immigrants in traditional destinations. Studying how this population negotiates the obstacles to and opportunities for incorporation is crucial.