Emily Suzanne Clark: I Don’t Believe in No Ghosts: America and Spirits

A Luminous Brotherhood, by Emily Suzanne Clark, cover imageIn the midst of a nineteenth-century boom in spiritual experimentation, the Cercle Harmonique, a remarkable group of African-descended men, practiced Spiritualism in heavily Catholic New Orleans from just before the Civil War to the end of Reconstruction. In A Luminous Brotherhood: Afro-Creole Spiritualism in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans, the first comprehensive history of the Cercle, Emily Suzanne Clark illuminates how highly diverse religious practices wind in significant ways through American life, culture, and history. Clark shows that the beliefs and practices of Spiritualism helped Afro-Creoles mediate the political and social changes in New Orleans, as free blacks suffered increasingly restrictive laws and then met with violent resistance to suffrage and racial equality.

In today’s guest post, Clark recounts the history of spiritualism and reminds us that many Americans still believe in ghosts.

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Summer 2016 saw the remake of a classic American film: Ghostbusters. The remake prompted a number of conversations about gender and misogyny but not many about ghosts. Belief in ghosts and the supernatural is not uncommon in the United States. According to a 2013 Harris Poll, 42% of Americans believe in ghosts. The same year, polling data in the UK indicated that a similar percentage of the population believed that interaction with the spirits of the dead is possible. In 2009 the Pew Research Center released data indicating that 29% of the U.S. population “have felt in touch with someone who has already died.” Just last year the Pew Research Center found that 18% of Americans believe that they have seen a ghost. Belief in the supernatural was even more common a few centuries ago. The 1692 witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts, attest to that, and many historians have written about the enchanted world that surrounded the Puritans. The creative and humid religious atmosphere of the early nineteenth century led historian Jon Butler to term it the “antebellum spiritual hothouse.” Some scientists thought the Enlightenment, scientific revolution, and secularism would lead to the end of supernatural belief, but these recent polling numbers indicate otherwise. Despite what Ray Parker sang back in 1984, many Americans believe in ghosts.

Whether or not you reading this post believe in them, ghosts fascinate Americans. A century and a half before the popularity of ghost-hunter shows on the SyFy Network and NBC’s award-winning show “Medium,” belief in spirit communication was serious and widespread in the United States. Spiritualism swept across the United States in the mid-nineteenth century and remained popular into the twentieth century. Put simply, a Spiritualist is one who believes that communication with the spirits of the dead is not only possible but also desirable. Popularized by the Fox Sisters and their “Rochester rappings,” Spiritualism interested Americans young and old, white and black, male and female, rich and poor. Much of this appeal came from Spiritualism’s ability to bridge the world of the living and the world of the dead.

Continue reading ‘Emily Suzanne Clark: I Don’t Believe in No Ghosts: America and Spirits’ »

Lon Kurashige: What Would Teddy Roosevelt Do?

Two Faces of Exclusion: The Untold History of Anti-Asian Racism in the United States, by Lon KurashigeWe welcome a guest post today from Lon Kurashige, author of Two Faces of Exclusion: The Untold History of Anti-Asian Racism in the United States. From the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to the Immigration Act of 1924 to Japanese American internment during World War II, the United States has a long history of anti-Asian policies. But Kurashige demonstrates that despite widespread racism, Asian exclusion was not the product of an ongoing national consensus; it was a subject of fierce debate. This book complicates the exclusion story by examining the organized and well-funded opposition to discrimination that involved some of the most powerful public figures in American politics, business, religion, and academia.

In his post today, Kurashige explores the immigration agenda of Teddy Roosevelt and considers how his approach might be applied to immigration debates today.

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A little over one hundred years ago, much like today, immigration fears fueled heated political debates in the United States as the nation confronted the effects of (at the time) its largest wave of newcomers. These debates were part and parcel to widespread concerns that the United States had lost its way, derailed by a combination of greedy capitalists, corrupt politicians, radical labor movements, violent anarchists, and, of course, the damaging influence of largely southern and eastern European immigrants whose foreign tongues, customs, religions, and ideologies seemed to undermine the nation’s democratic tradition rooted in a White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant foundation. In September 1901 an American-born anarchist of Polish descent assassinated President William McKinley. This act thrust Theodore Roosevelt into the White House, where he served until 1909.

What did Teddy Roosevelt do about immigration?

It is important to recall Roosevelt’s positions on immigration because of the similarities between his day and our own. Immigration fears are a regular feature in today’s headlines as the United States (not mention the U.K. and European countries) wrestles with how much and in what ways to close its borders to newcomers. The same was true when Roosevelt became president. Three months after McKinley’s murder, Roosevelt urged Congress to “take into consideration the coming to this country of anarchists or persons professing principles hostile to all government. . . . They and those like them should be kept out of this country, and if found here they should be promptly deported to the country whence they came.”

Roosevelt also recommended the creation of a literacy test for immigrants. While admitting that this would not keep out intelligent criminals bent on harming the United States, he asserted that it would “decrease the sum of ignorance, so potent in producing the envy, suspicion, malignant passion, and hatred of order, out of which anarchistic sentiment inevitably springs.” Added to the list of excluded classes were prostitutes and other “persons who are of low moral tendency and unsavory reputation.” Finally, Roosevelt sought to strengthen barriers against immigrants who were likely to compete as unfair “cheap labor” against American workers. Thus the overarching themes guiding the new president’s immigration priorities were homeland security, selective screening based on education and morality, and protections for American labor.

Congress enacted most of Roosevelt’s agenda via the Immigration Act of 1903. The great exception here was the screening for education, the pet project of the president’s good friend and political ally Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, who eventually prevailed in 1918 with the enactment of a literacy test for immigrant admission.

Roosevelt’s other immigration priorities focused on Asian immigrants. The president continued the policy of Chinese restriction that since 1882 had hardened into near exclusion. He sided with U.S. labor unions that cast Chinese laborers as a pernicious and unlimited source of “cheap labor” injurious to American workers. With the president’s support, Congress in 1904 removed Chinese exclusion from its trial basis (subject to renewal every ten years), an action that further insulted a Chinese public already humiliated by America’s long-standing discrimination against Chinese immigrants. A series of boycotts of U.S. goods broke out in China to protest the latest indignity. Worried about U.S.-China trade and for the safety of U.S. missionaries and businesspersons in China, Roosevelt made gestures that showed uncharacteristic sympathy for protecting the treaty and civil rights of Chinese immigrants. But these proved temporary and ended when the boycotts ceased in 1906.

Roosevelt responded differently to Japanese immigrants, who U.S. labor unions saw as no less a threat than the Chinese. Continue reading ‘Lon Kurashige: What Would Teddy Roosevelt Do?’ »

Lorien Foote: Adding Prisoners of War to ‘Free State of Jones’

The Yankee Plague: Escaped Union Prisoners and the Collapse of the Confederacy, by Lorien FooteWe welcome a guest post today from Lorien Foote, author of The Yankee Plague: Escaped Union Prisoners and the Collapse of the ConfederacyDuring the winter of 1864, more than 3,000 Federal prisoners of war escaped from Confederate prison camps into South Carolina and North Carolina, often with the aid of local slaves. Their flight created, in the words of contemporary observers, a “Yankee plague,” heralding a grim end to the Confederate cause. In a fascinating look at Union soldiers’ flight for freedom in the last months of the Civil War, Lorien Foote reveals new connections between the collapse of the Confederate prison system, the large-scale escape of Union soldiers, and the full unraveling of the Confederate States of America.

In today’s post, Foote imagines the film Free State of Jones if it had been set in the Carolinas—with thousands of escaped prisoners of war.

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When Free State of Jones becomes available on DVD today, potential viewers who visit www.rottentomatoes.com will discover that movie critics generally panned it while the theater audiences generally liked it. The film is based on the true story of Newton Knight, a Confederate deserter who led an inter-racial rebellion against Confederate authority in Jones County, Mississippi. Reviewers criticized the movie for being both simplistic and convoluted; they were dissatisfied with its crude portrayal of race relations and its attempt to cram together the Civil War, Reconstruction, and a 1948 miscegenation trial. Director Gary Ross had a fascinating and complicated story to tell, and if he had difficulty weaving the parts together for a two-hour movie, his problems would have been compounded had he tried to tell the story of the deserters in rebellion against the Confederacy in the Carolinas. Imagine Free State of Jones with nearly 3,000 escaped prisoners of war thrown into the mix.

In September 1864, after Sherman captured Atlanta, the Confederate government sought to move its Yankee prisoners of war out of prisons in Andersonville and Macon, Georgia, in order to keep the Union army from liberating the captives. There was no official in charge of coordinating the movement of prisoners and the Confederacy was suffering from bureaucratic breakdowns across the board as their war effort collapsed. No one notified the military commander in Charleston, South Carolina, that thousands of prisoners were on the way to his department. When they arrived, he sent them to Florence and Columbia and turned them out into open fields without buildings or fences. The result was the escape of more than 900 prisoners in September and October. When the Confederates tried to move the prisoners again in February, another 1900 escaped.

The Yankees fled into a landscape where thousands of deserters ruled the swamps and mountains in many counties of North and South Carolina. Continue reading ‘Lorien Foote: Adding Prisoners of War to ‘Free State of Jones’’ »

Video: Randy Johnson talks Grandfather Mountain on Bookwatch

Randy Johnson, author of Grandfather Mountain: The History and Guide to an Appalachian Icon, gives an interview on NC Bookwatch.

In the following video, Johnson tells the story of Grandfather Mountain as well as his own story of researching and writing this book.

Randy Johnson is an accomplished travel editor and writer. He founded Grandfather Mountain’s modern trail management program in 1978, was backcountry manager until 1990, and serves on Grandfather Mountain State Park’s Advisory Committee. His book, Grandfather Mountain: The History and Guide to an Appalachian Icon, is now available.

Recipe: Summer Anytime Bourbon Peach Chicken Thighs

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graubart_chickenEvery Tuesday for the past 19 weeks we’ve featured a new recipe on the blog from one of our Savor the South® cookbooks. Each little cookbook in our Savor the South® cookbook collection is a big celebration of a beloved food or tradition of the American South. From buttermilk to bourbon, pecans to peaches, bacon to catfish, one by one each volume will stock a kitchen shelf with the flavors and culinary wisdom of this popular American regional cuisine. Written by well-known cooks and food lovers, each book brims with personality, the informative and often surprising culinary and natural history of southern foodways, and a treasure of some fifty recipes—from delicious southern classics to sparkling international renditions that open up worlds of taste for cooks everywhere. You’ll want to collect them all.

We conclude our series today with a recipe from Cynthia Graubart’s Chicken. Cynthia Graubart is coauthor, with Nathalie Dupree, of Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking, which won a James Beard Book Award for American Cooking. Among Graubart’s other books is Slow Cooking for Two.  Follow Cynthia on Twitter @CynthiaGraubart.  Here’s a simple, delicious recipe that will let you enjoy the flavors of summer all year.

Don’t forget to “like” the Savor the South® book page on Facebook for more news and recipes. See all the recipes in the sampler at  Savor the South® Sampler and keep an eye out this spring for two new Savor the South® cookbooks!

Continue reading ‘Recipe: Summer Anytime Bourbon Peach Chicken Thighs’ »

Robert Alan McNutt, MD: What’s Wrong with Medical Care?

Your Health, Your Decisions: Hot to Work with Your Doctor to Become a Knowledge-Powered Patient, by Robert Alan McNutt, M.D.We welcome a guest post today from Robert Alan McNutt, M.D., author of Your Health, Your Decisions: How to Work with Your Doctor to Become a Knowledge-Powered PatientIn nearly every medical-decision-making encounter, the physician is at the center of the discussion, with the patient the recipient of the physician’s decisions. Dr. McNutt starts from a very different premise: the patient should be at the center. McNutt challenges the physician-directed, medical-expertise model of making decisions, presenting a practical approach augmented by formal exercises designed to give patients the tools and confidence to compare and contrast their health-care options so they can make their own choices.

In today’s guest post, Dr. McNutt argues that sick patients can be very wise patients.

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What is wrong with medical care? Physicians, rather than patients, make decisions.

I have practiced medicine for over 40 years. I have yet to find a physician without a chronic disease who is smarter than a person with that chronic disease. I have been impressed that a patient’s numeric insights and intuitions when they are ill surpass their skills when they were not ill. All a patient needs is information, in all its glory and messiness, to know if the information is worth anything to them when they face a medical decision. Patients, in my view, are the best information managers and evidence experts I have ever seen, and I know a bunch of evidence experts to draw upon for the comparison. I have been doing shared consults with patients for twenty-plus years and I have learned that patients are smart. Consider the following:

  • The man had been advised to have surgery. The man and his wife stared in stunned silence at the data on prostate cancer treatment outcomes with surgery. The study was described in detail, including a description of the people who were studied. The wife finally spoke, “You mean to tell us you want my husband to have surgery when so few have been studied! You mean to tell us that not a single person of our cultural heritage has been tested in the study?” I responded and reminded, “I am not asking you to have surgery. We are going over information of potential benefit and harm that you must balance for your choice.” They were kind in response, refused to consider surgery or further discussion, and, instead, chose to enter a clinical study.

Continue reading ‘Robert Alan McNutt, MD: What’s Wrong with Medical Care?’ »

Recipe: Salted Caramel Bacon Brownies

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Bacon: A Savor the South Cookbook, by Fred ThompsonEvery Tuesday this summer we’re featuring a new recipe on the blog from one of our Savor the South® cookbooks. Each little cookbook in our Savor the South® cookbook collection is a big celebration of a beloved food or tradition of the American South. From buttermilk to bourbon, pecans to peaches, bacon to catfish, one by one each volume will stock a kitchen shelf with the flavors and culinary wisdom of this popular American regional cuisine. Written by well-known cooks and food lovers, each book brims with personality, the informative and often surprising culinary and natural history of southern foodways, and a treasure of some fifty recipes—from delicious southern classics to sparkling international renditions that open up worlds of taste for cooks everywhere. You’ll want to collect them all.

Today’s recipe is from Fred Thompson’s Bacon. Thompson is a well known cookbook author and food writer, the editor of Edible Piedmont magazine, and the author of Fred Thompson’s Southern Sides: 250 Dishes That Really Make the Plate, among other books

Don’t forget to “like” the Savor the South® book page on Facebook for more news and recipes. Also, check back here next Tuesday for another Savor the South® Sampler recipe!

Continue reading ‘Recipe: Salted Caramel Bacon Brownies’ »

Excerpt: Bonds of Union, by Bridget Ford

Bonds of Union cover imageThis vivid history of the Civil War era reveals how unexpected bonds of union forged among diverse peoples in the Ohio-Kentucky borderlands furthered emancipation through a period of spiraling chaos between 1830 and 1865.  Moving beyond familiar arguments about Lincoln’s deft politics or regional commercial ties, Bridget Ford recovers the potent religious, racial, and political attachments holding the country together at one of its most likely breaking points, the Ohio River.

In the following excerpt from Bonds of Union: Religion, Race, and Politics in a Civil War Borderland (pp. 124-130), Ford reveals the lives of black service workers in Cincinnati and Louisville, featuring the story of hairdresser Eliza Potter.

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Refinement

It was one thing to read an advice book but quite another to implement its vision of modish appearances and conduct, however much fashion magazines like Godey’s Lady’s Book promoted “simple and unobtrusive” styles reflecting a woman’s inner worth and justifying her claims to respectability.[1] Although far less fussy than romantic dress and hair of the 1830s, women’s fashions popular during the next two decades—labeled “Victorian” or “sentimental” today—remained sophisticated, expensive, and time consuming to construct.[2] In Cincinnati and Louisville, African American hairdressers and dressmakers employed by white elite women, as well as barbers catering to a white male clientele, created prosperous businesses with the steady demand for their services after 1840. While “working class,” these skilled black laborers enjoyed substantial prestige among other African Americans and became arbiters of style among whites. Even more, they coached, and sometimes admonished, white clients who failed to put together the whole package of genteel appearance and morally upright behavior suitable to their class aspirations.[3]

In Cincinnati and Louisville, the height of black dominance in personal services for a white clientele appears to have been around 1850, before skilled workers from Ireland, Germany, and other European countries began to compete in the dressmaking and barbering trades. At midcentury, fully 55 percent of all barbers in Louisville were African American, and it was the second most frequently listed occupation in the 1850 census after “laborer.”[4] By 1860, the percentage of barbers who were black had dropped to 34 percent, but as a class they controlled far more wealth in real and personal property than any other occupational category among African Americans.[5] In 1860, census takers drew a finer picture of women’s occupations; as a consequence, two hairdressers, both African American, appeared in Louisville’s census for the first time, as did two dressmakers and a number of seamstresses.[6] In Cincinnati, 136 black men worked as barbers, a larger number than in any other occupation. The number of black barbers dropped to 118 by 1860 but was surpassed only by the number of African American steamboat workers. As in Louisville, the livelihoods to be made from skilled dressmaking and hairdressing drew Cincinnati’s entrepreneurial black women into these occupational niches. Two black dressmakers appeared in the 1850 census, while nineteen African American women reported doing such work in 1860, along with close to one hundred skilled or semiskilled seamstresses. That same census year, four black women claimed the profession of hairdresser.

Clearly, this kind of skilled work remained exceptional for black women who were otherwise relegated to menial and physically demanding labor, such as “washerwoman,” but the 1840s and 1850s did mark a departure for African Americans who now could claim their own kind of elite status based on successful enterprises catering to a white bourgeois and middle-class clientele.[7] This stands in marked contrast to Daniel Aaron’s depiction of the place of black laborers prior to 1840: “At the bottom” of the economic scale, Aaron wrote, “forming a kind of lowest helot class and exploited by all, are the hated, disfranchised blacks.”[8] Aaron’s bleak assessment, as Nikki Taylor has argued, does not reflect the deep sense of accomplishment many of Cincinnati’s African Americans expressed after 1841, when they made a concerted “decision to stand and fight” for homes, schools, churches, and fledgling businesses, which they believed offered some reasonable hope of individual upward mobility and community well-being.[9]

After 1840, the most successful of Cincinnati’s and Louisville’s black businesses, and the source of charitable underwriting for churches and schools, were barbershops serving white male customers. Despite the service nature of the work, barbering, along with women’s hairdressing and dressmaking, potentially offered African Americans steady incomes, as well as a measure of respectability.[10] In the two decades before the Civil War, Louisville’s barbers were consistently among the top black wage earners, with two barbers alone owning the greatest property holdings in 1860, amounting to a combined value of $36,450.[11] In 1850, twenty-one black barbers in Cincinnati reported real estate worth over $50,000, and in 1860, a larger number of forty-three barbers still held onto real and personal property worth some $48,000, despite new competition from European immigrants.[12] Dressmakers and hairdressers were among the city’s wealthiest African American women, with one dressmaker owning $2,000 in property and Eliza Potter, the city’s most well-known hairdresser by virtue of her skill and the publication of a revealing professional autobiography, had an estate valued at $2,400. These service occupations were by no means guarantees of wealth, and a number of African American barbers, hairdressers, and dressmakers all earned considerably less than their highest-paid peers, but until the 1860s, African Americans maintained a professional monopoly in these fields. Those black Americans working in personal services fared much better economically than their unskilled compatriots and ultimately formed a middle-class nucleus for Cincinnati’s and Louisville’s African American communities.[13]

For the urban Ohio River valley, the richest source of evidence about African Americans’ personal service work derives from Eliza Potter’s singular autobiography, A Hairdresser’s Experience in High Life, published in Cincinnati in 1859. Born in New York, Potter moved to Cincinnati as a young woman in 1834. She worked as a child’s nurse in several wealthy white households and accompanied one family to Paris in 1841. After a dispute over wages, Potter left the family to learn the art of hairdressing. Returning to the United States after traveling and working in both France and England, she built a successful career dressing wealthy clients whom she dubbed “our aristocracy.”[14] While maintaining a home in Cincinnati, Potter traveled widely—to Saratoga, New Orleans, Memphis, and New York City—earning her living. She eventually settled in Cincinnati in the 1840s, where she contributed to humanitarian projects, including the building and running of an orphanage for black children.[15]

Continue reading ‘Excerpt: Bonds of Union, by Bridget Ford’ »

  1. [1] Halttunen, Confidence Men and Painted Women, 89.
  2. [2] On the artisanship involved in women’s clothing, see Amneus, Separate Sphere.
  3. [3] Santamarina, “Introduction,” in Potter, Hairdresser’s Experience, xix–xxii.
  4. [4] Burckin, appendix 7 and appendix 2 in “Formation and Growth of an Urban Middle Class,” 641–42, 634.
  5. [5] Burckin, appendix 12 in ibid., 650–52.
  6. [6] Aubespin et al., Two Centuries of Black Louisville, 58.
  7. [7] Taylor, Frontiers of Freedom, 132–34, appendix 5, 209.
  8. [8] Aaron, Cincinnati, Queen City, 55.
  9. [9] Taylor, Frontiers of Freedom, 117.
  10. [10] Ibid., 103–4.
  11. [11] Burckin, appendix 12 in “Formation and Growth of an Urban Middle Class,” 650.
  12. [12] Taylor, Frontiers of Freedom, 133–35, appendix 18, 221.
  13. [13] On the regional dimensions of barbering, and the somewhat more hospitable environment of the upper South for black barbers, see Bristol, Knights of the Razor, 71–79, 105–6.
  14. [14] Santamarina, “Introduction,” in Potter, Hairdresser’s Experience, xiv–xvii; Potter, Hairdresser’s Experience, 55.
  15. [15] For evidence of her work in social reform circles, see Managers of the Colored Orphan Asylum, Eleventh Annual Report. This report listed Eliza Potter as both a manager and a solicitor for the asylum.

Recipe: Crab & Shrimp Calas

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Cover image for Crabs and OystersEvery Tuesday this summer we’re featuring a new recipe on the blog from one of our Savor the South® cookbooks. Each little cookbook in our Savor the South® cookbook collection is a big celebration of a beloved food or tradition of the American South. From buttermilk to bourbon, pecans to peaches, bacon to catfish, one by one each volume will stock a kitchen shelf with the flavors and culinary wisdom of this popular American regional cuisine. Written by well-known cooks and food lovers, each book brims with personality, the informative and often surprising culinary and natural history of southern foodways, and a treasure of some fifty recipes—from delicious southern classics to sparkling international renditions that open up worlds of taste for cooks everywhere. You’ll want to collect them all.

Today’s recipe is from Bill Smith’s Crabs and Oysters. Bill Smith is the chef at Crook’s Corner Restaurant in Chapel Hill, N.C., and author of Seasoned in the South: Recipes and Stories from Crook’s Corner and Home, a New York Times notable cookbook and Food & Wine Best-of-the-Best cookbook. You can follow him on Twitter @Chulegre. Whether you made it to the beach this summer or not, you can still enjoy this tasty seafood dish!

Don’t forget to “like” the Savor the South® book page on Facebook for more news and recipes. Also, check back here next Tuesday for another Savor the South® Sampler recipe!

Continue reading ‘Recipe: Crab & Shrimp Calas’ »

Excerpt: Not Straight, Not White, by Kevin J. Mumford

Cover image of Not Straight, Not WhiteThis compelling book recounts the history of black gay men from the 1950s to the 1990s, tracing how the major movements of the times—from civil rights to black power to gay liberation to AIDS activism—helped shape the cultural stigmas that surrounded race and homosexuality. In locating the rise of black gay identities in historical context, Kevin Mumford explores how activists, performers, and writers rebutted negative stereotypes and refused sexual objectification. Examining the lives of both famous and little-known black gay activists—from James Baldwin and Bayard Rustin to Joseph Beam and Brother Grant-Michael Fitzgerald—Mumford analyzes the ways in which movements for social change both inspired and marginalized black gay men.

In the following excerpt from Not Straight, Not White: Black Gay Men from the March on Washington to the AIDS Crisis (pp. 11-13), Mumford describes a meeting between Bobby Kennedy and Lorraine Hansberry, James Baldwin, and Jerome Smith that he considers the beginning of modern black gay activism.

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Lorraine Hansberry, James Baldwin, and Bayard Rustin—each belongs to African American gay history while contributing to a turning point in the civil rights movement in the summer of 1963. Their queer intervention concerned, first, the federal government’s role in protecting southern demonstrators, during an important meeting between Baldwin, Hansberry, and an assortment of other celebrities with Attorney General Robert Kennedy in his Manhattan home, and, second, Rustin’s disputed role in the iconic mass demonstration the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. By this time Baldwin had published The Fire Next Time, the best-selling “disturbing examination of the consequences of racial injustice,” and Hansberry had distinguished herself as the youngest and first black woman to win the New York Drama Desk award for the Broadway sensation A Raisin in the Sun. The two writers were introduced during the workshop production of Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room, based on his controversial 1956 gay novel, and met again at the premiere of Hansberry’s play in Philadelphia. Though a box-office success, a few had criticized the drama for its apparent celebration of the American dream of upward mobility, but in a brief 1961 review Baldwin instead compared Hansberry to the radical novelist and essayist Richard Wright, emphasizing their shared critical vision of an American dystopia.[1]

Their meeting with Kennedy on May 24, 1963 was prompted in part by Baldwin’s essay “Letter from a Region in My Mind,” which appeared during the increasingly violent spring of police-demonstrator confrontations in Birmingham and other southern cities.[2] Published in the New Yorker, the long piece meditated on American racism, seeing white prejudice as arising from the reality that the “white man’s masculinity depends on a denial of the masculinity of the blacks” and that therefore the nation subjected the “Negro” to many “horrors.” After reading the essay, Kennedy had reportedly contacted Baldwin and sought the meeting because he wished to hear “fresh” ideas on “coping with civil rights problems.” If he had invited only the older and more moderate celebrities, such as Lena Horne or Harry Belafonte, it seems unlikely that the meeting would have ended as it did, in frank disagreement and an acrimonious exit. But the presence of Jerome Smith, a participant in the southern Freedom Rides that continued to press for the desegregation of buses and stations, had raised the stakes. Baldwin referred to Smith as a “tremendous man,” recalling his police beating with brass knuckles in demonstrations in New Orleans. Smith’s presence attested to the need for stronger federal protection of demonstrators. Along with Smith, Baldwin and Hansberry became the most notable participants in the secret meeting, with photographs of the two published the day after, dubbed by the New York Times as the “ ‘angry young Negroes,’ ” which presented the public with a compelling combination of rebellion, celebrity, and creative genius.[3]

Continue reading ‘Excerpt: Not Straight, Not White, by Kevin J. Mumford’ »

  1. [1] Black and White Men Together Newsletter (BWMT ) New York 2, no. 7 (1982): 1, BWMT Ephemera Collection, John J. Wilcox Library, William Way Community Center, Philadelphia, Pa. (WW); James S. Tinney, “James Baldwin ‘Comes Out’ at Gay Forum,” Blacklight 3, no. 5 (1982): 1.
  2. [2] “BWMT Celebrates Fifth Anniversary, March 7–13, 1986,” Philadelphia Gay News; “Ad Hoc Planning Report,” January 19, 1986, BWMT Ephemera Collection, WW; “BWMT—PHILA, 5th,” BWMT Ephemera Collection, WW.
  3. [3] D’Emilio, Sexual Politics; Bérubé, Coming Out under Fire; Chauncey, Gay New York; Stein, City of Sisterly and Brotherly Loves; Houlbrook, Queer London; N. Boyd, Wide-Open Town; White, Pre-Gay L.A.; Avicolli, Smash the Church; Faderman and Timmons, Gay L.A.; Howard, Men Like That; Hoag, Same-Sex Affairs; Marcus, Making Gay History; Beemyn, Creating a Place for Ourselves; Stryker and Van Buskirk, Gay by the Bay.

Recipe: Pecan Pimento Cheese

Savor the South header

Cover image for PecansEvery Tuesday this summer we’re featuring a new recipe on the blog from one of our Savor the South® cookbooks. Each little cookbook in our Savor the South® cookbook collection is a big celebration of a beloved food or tradition of the American South. From buttermilk to bourbon, pecans to peaches, bacon to catfish, one by one each volume will stock a kitchen shelf with the flavors and culinary wisdom of this popular American regional cuisine. Written by well-known cooks and food lovers, each book brims with personality, the informative and often surprising culinary and natural history of southern foodways, and a treasure of some fifty recipes—from delicious southern classics to sparkling international renditions that open up worlds of taste for cooks everywhere. You’ll want to collect them all.

Today’s recipe is from Kathleen Purvis’s Pecans. Purvis is the food editor of the Charlotte Observer, a well known food writer, and a long-time member of the Southern Foodways Alliance. She is also the author of Bourbon. Follow her on Twitter @kathleenpurvis. Her recipe for pecan pimento cheese makes for an easy and delicious snack.

Don’t forget to “like” the Savor the South® book page on Facebook for more news and recipes. Also, check back here next Tuesday for another Savor the South® Sampler recipe!

Continue reading ‘Recipe: Pecan Pimento Cheese’ »

Excerpt: The Voyage of the Slave Ship Hare, by Sean M. Kelley

Cover of The Voyage of the Slave Ship HareFrom 1754 to 1755, the slave ship Hare completed a journey from Newport, Rhode Island, to Sierra Leone and back to the United States—a journey that transformed more than seventy Africans into commodities, condemning some to death and the rest to a life of bondage in North America. In this engaging narrative, Sean Kelley painstakingly reconstructs this tumultuous voyage, detailing everything from the identities of the captain and crew to their wild encounters with inclement weather, slave traders, and near-mutiny. But most importantly, Kelley tracks the cohort of slaves aboard the Hare from their purchase in Africa to their sale in South Carolina. In tracing their complete journey, Kelley provides rare insight into the communal lives of slaves and sheds new light on the African diaspora and its influence on the formation of African American culture.

In the following excerpt from The Voyage of the Slave Ship Hare: A Journey into Captivity from Sierra Leone to South Carolina (pp. 159-162), Kelley describes how slaves formed communities in America.

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Whether on rice and indigo plantations, in Charles Town, or on the isolated savannahs of the backcountry, slavery imposed severe limitations on the Hare captives’ lives in the New World. Yet enslavement did not determine all aspects of existence, and the contours of everyday life were largely in the hands of the Africans and Creoles of the Low Country’s many communities. These communities, or neighborhoods, varied widely as a result of many factors: the particular crop regime or economic activity; the temperament and plantation practices of local whites; the geographic location; the density of the population; the proximity of other polities, such as the Spanish or native groups; and the state of development of the locality. But from the perspective of the Hare captives, no issue loomed larger than the presence of those who spoke the same language and who shared an understanding of the world. The proximity of “countrymen,” in the terminology of the era, was a potential source of comfort at a time of extreme fear and uncertainty. In the first months of New World captivity, a more experienced countryman or countrywoman could explain plantation routines and perhaps even save a new arrival from punishment. A countryman could help with the all-important process of language acquisition. Lastly, someone of a similar background could help introduce the newcomer to the plantation community and to the wider neighborhood. For the newly arrived Hare captives, a great deal depended on the presence of people of similar backgrounds.

It is hard to know exactly how many of the Hare captives lived in clusters that permitted them contact with their countrymen and countrywomen. To start, we do know that forty-four of the fifty-six were purchased along with at least one other Hare captive, while eleven were purchased singly, but even being purchased together did not necessarily mean the captives would stay together. Africans throughout the Americas placed a special importance on the shipmate relationship. Shipmates treated one another as kin, and recognition of the bond might continue into subsequent generations. However, being purchased in company with another Hare captive did not guarantee an enduring, close shipmate relationship. As we have already seen, several purchasers owned multiple properties, and the possibility of separation onto different estates was certainly present, whether immediately or in later years. Horry and Lessesne, for example, bought seven captives between them but never operated a plantation together, which means they probably divided the captives between themselves or resold them immediately.

Continue reading ‘Excerpt: The Voyage of the Slave Ship Hare, by Sean M. Kelley’ »

Recipe: Ginger-Peach Soda

Savor the South header

Southern Holidays: a Savor the South® cookbook, by Debbie MooseEvery Tuesday this summer we’re featuring a new recipe on the blog from one of our Savor the South® cookbooks. Each little cookbook in our Savor the South® cookbook collection is a big celebration of a beloved food or tradition of the American South. From buttermilk to bourbon, pecans to peaches, bacon to catfish, one by one each volume will stock a kitchen shelf with the flavors and culinary wisdom of this popular American regional cuisine. Written by well-known cooks and food lovers, each book brims with personality, the informative and often surprising culinary and natural history of southern foodways, and a treasure of some fifty recipes—from delicious southern classics to sparkling international renditions that open up worlds of taste for cooks everywhere. You’ll want to collect them all.

Today’s recipe is from Debbie Moose’s Southern Holidays. Moose is an award-winning food writer and author of many cookbooks, including Buttermilk: A Savor the South® Cookbook. Follow her on Twitter @DebbieMoose. The following recipe for Ginger-Peach Soda uses fresh ginger and peaches—a refreshing companion for those warm summer evenings on the porch.

Don’t forget to “like” the Savor the South® book page on Facebook for more news and recipes. Also, check back here next Tuesday for another Savor the South® Sampler recipe!

Continue reading ‘Recipe: Ginger-Peach Soda’ »

Video: Learn Southern Cooking with Jennifer Brulé

Learn to Cook 25 Southern Classics 3 Ways, by Jennifer Brule, cover imageChef and food writer Jennifer Brulé talks about her forthcoming book, Learn to Cook 25 Southern Classics 3 Ways: Traditional, Contemporary, International, and demonstrates a simple recipe for tomato pie.

For Brulé, like for many southerners, food and stories go hand in hand. Enjoy a little of both!

Learn to Cook 25 Southern Classics 3 Ways will be published next month, but you can pre-order your copy now.

Recipe: Oven-Fried Okra

Savor the South header

Okra: a Savor the South® cookbook, by Virginia WillisEvery Tuesday this summer we’re featuring a new recipe on the blog from one of our Savor the South® cookbooks. Each little cookbook in our Savor the South® cookbook collection is a big celebration of a beloved food or tradition of the American South. From buttermilk to bourbon, pecans to peaches, bacon to catfish, one by one each volume will stock a kitchen shelf with the flavors and culinary wisdom of this popular American regional cuisine. Written by well-known cooks and food lovers, each book brims with personality, the informative and often surprising culinary and natural history of southern foodways, and a treasure of some fifty recipes—from delicious southern classics to sparkling international renditions that open up worlds of taste for cooks everywhere. You’ll want to collect them all.

Today’s recipe is from Virginia Willis’s Okra. Chef and food writer Virginia Willis hails from Atlanta and is the author of Bon Appétit, Y’all, Basic to Brilliant, Y’all, and the James Beard Award-winning Lighten Up, Y’all. Willis sure knows her okra, too. Fried okra is a Southern favorite, and Willis prepares hers in the oven instead of a deep fryer. Oven-fried okra pairs perfectly with barbecue, or on its own as a delectable snack!

Don’t forget to “like” the Savor the South® book page on Facebook for more news and recipes. Also, check back here next Tuesday for another Savor the South® Sampler recipe!

Continue reading ‘Recipe: Oven-Fried Okra’ »

J. Michael Butler: Wendel Blackwell, Philando Castile, and the Continuing Black American Freedom Struggle

Beyond Integration: The Black Freedom Struggle in Escambia County, Florida, 1960-1980, by J. Michael ButlerWe welcome to the blog a guest post from J. Michael Butler, author of Beyond Integration: The Black Freedom Struggle in Escambia County, Florida, 1960-1980In 1975, Florida’s Escambia County and the city of Pensacola experienced a pernicious chain of events. A sheriff’s deputy killed a young black man at point-blank range. Months of protests against police brutality followed, culminating in the arrest and conviction of the Reverend H. K. Matthews, the leading civil rights organizer in the county.

Viewing the events of Escambia County within the context of the broader civil rights movement, J. Michael Butler demonstrates that while activism of the previous decade destroyed most visible and dramatic signs of racial segregation, institutionalized forms of cultural racism still persisted.

In today’s post, Butler relates how one Florida community’s experience indicates that recent murders of black people by law enforcement officers embody a much larger–and longer–national fight for racial justice.

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Why Pensacola? The question inevitably surfaces every time I discuss my latest publication with those who express interest. The answer can be long and meandering, as historians often are, but the most important reason is because Pensacola’s story is not its own. The story of racial power, privilege, change, and continuity in the years beyond integration is one that is familiar across America. Look no further that the recent murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

The Sterling and Castile shootings have revived the national debate over the role race occupies when white police officers use deadly force against African American men. Yet often lost in the response to the subsequent anger and protests is the historical context that surrounds the justifiable black mistrust of law enforcement policies and practices. From Groveland, Florida, to Philadelphia, Mississippi, to Detroit, Michigan–and numerous places in between both geographically and chronologically–white law enforcement officers at the local and state levels have murdered black men with impunity and often escaped punishment for their actions.

The perception that police departments were the most formidable bastions of white supremacy became an entrenched reality for African Americans during the 1960s civil rights movement and continued thereafter. My research into the Pensacola, Florida, black freedom struggle demonstrates that the Sterling and Castile deaths embody a much larger–and longer–national fight for racial justice than many realize.

The mistrust of local police has a long history in Escambia County, but it became linked to the area freedom struggle during the 1961 Pensacola sit-ins when officers placed items in the pockets of young demonstrators and arrested them for shoplifting. Ten years later, the county sheriff’s department settled a discrimination lawsuit with an African American male that revealed, among other things, the agency refused black prisoners access to medicine, food, showers, clothing, and attorney visits, and maintained six open-roof confinement cells that segregated prisoners by race.

In 1969 the Pensacola NAACP’s Youth Council listed “police brutality” as one of their two primary concerns for the coming decade, and numerous incidents supported their claim into the 1970s. When five black men from Atlanta disappeared during a 1974 fishing expedition under mysterious circumstances, suspicions that the Escambia County Sheriff’s Department hid their racially motivated murders attracted national attention. The national SCLC discovered only circumstantial evidence that a crime occurred, but cited the acrimonious history between local blacks and the department as proof of its complicity in “one of the biggest mass murders this state has ever seen.” The explosive allegation heightened the acrimony that existed between African Americans and law enforcement in Northwest Florida for decades and established the volatile foundations for communal unrest when a white deputy killed a black motorist the following month.

On December 20, 1974, Deputy Doug Raines shot Wendel Blackwell in the head from a three-foot distance when he exited his vehicle after a high-speed chase through Pensacola. Witness statements from present deputies and their white passengers did not all support that Blackwell was killed in self-defense, but the county sheriff took no disciplinary action against Raines and remained unwavering in his support of the deputy. Continue reading ‘J. Michael Butler: Wendel Blackwell, Philando Castile, and the Continuing Black American Freedom Struggle’ »

Excerpt: Sea Breeze activity from Lessons from the Sand

cover image of Lessons from the SandEver wonder where sand comes from? Or why shells are colored differently? Or how to estimate the size of a wave? Featuring more than forty fun hands-on activities for families with children, Lessons from the Sand: Family-Friendly Science Activities You Can Do on a Carolina Beach, reveals the science behind the amazing natural wonders found on the beaches of North Carolina and South Carolina. Easy-to-do experiments will help parents and kids discover the ways water, wind, sand, plants, animals, and people interact to shape the constantly changing beaches we love to visit.

See our previous post in which a twelve-year-old budding naturalist reports on his experiments using the book on the Outer Banks. In the following excerpt (pp. 38-42), authors Charles O. Pilkey and Orrin H. Pilkey explain how the sea breeze shapes the beach. Families can observe this phenomenon for themselves through this fun sea breeze activity.

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Activity 7

Sea Breeze

You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.
                                   —Bob Dylan (American singer and songwriter)

Mother and daughter stood together on an empty beach, watching the waves come thundering in.
“How are beaches formed?” asked the daughter.
“Waves make beaches,” answered the mother, “by pushing sand around.”
“So what makes the waves?”
“The wind, of course.”
“Why does the wind blow?”
“Heat from the sun,” said the mother, “causes the air to move around.”
“How come the sun is hot?”
“Hydrogen atoms fuse together, giving off light and heat. It’s kind of like a nuclear bomb,” explained the mother.
“Why do the atoms fuse together?”
“Gravity.”
“Oh, so the sun’s gravity makes beaches. What makes gravity?”
“You ask a lot of questions,” said the mother. “Let’s go for a swim.”

Everything in nature is connected by an intricate chain of cause and effect, though we don’t always see all the links in the chain. It’s easy to stand on a beach, for example, and watch waves moving sand around, but we tend to forget it’s the wind that makes the waves. In that sense, wind is the fundamental cause of major changes on a beach.

illustration of girl feeling the sea breeze

Illustration © Charles O. Pilkey.

Sea Breeze

When the breeze blows from sea to land, it’s called an onshore wind or, simply, a sea breeze. When the wind blows from land to sea, it’s known as an offshore wind or land breeze. During conditions of fair weather, sea and land breezes are nearly always present at the beach. What’s interesting is how these breezes predictably change every day.

Continue reading ‘Excerpt: Sea Breeze activity from Lessons from the Sand’ »

Recipe: Bourbon Benedict

Savor the South Sampler header image

Bourbon cover photo

Every Tuesday this summer we’re featuring a new recipe on the blog from one of our Savor the South® cookbooks. Each little cookbook in our Savor the South® cookbook collection is a big celebration of a beloved food or tradition of the American South. From buttermilk to bourbon, pecans to peaches, bacon to catfish, one by one each volume will stock a kitchen shelf with the flavors and culinary wisdom of this popular American regional cuisine. Written by well-known cooks and food lovers, each book brims with personality, the informative and often surprising culinary and natural history of southern foodways, and a treasure of some fifty recipes—from delicious southern classics to sparkling international renditions that open up worlds of taste for cooks everywhere. You’ll want to collect them all.

Today’s recipe is from Kathleen Purvis’s Bourbon Purvis is the food editor of the Charlotte Observer, a well-known food writer, and a long-time member of the Southern Foodways Alliance. After Pecans, this is her second book. Her recipe is great for those mornings when you feel like making something a little more special than your run-of-the-mill bacon and eggs.

Don’t forget to “like” the Savor the South® book page on Facebook for more news and recipes. Also, check back here next Tuesday for another Savor the South® Sampler recipe!

Continue reading ‘Recipe: Bourbon Benedict’ »

Emily Suzanne Clark: 150 Years After the Mechanics’ Institute Riot

A Luminous Brotherhood, by Emily Suzanne Clark, cover imageIn the midst of a nineteenth-century boom in spiritual experimentation, the Cercle Harmonique, a remarkable group of African-descended men, practiced Spiritualism in heavily Catholic New Orleans from just before the Civil War to the end of Reconstruction. In A Luminous Brotherhood: Afro-Creole Spiritualism in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans, the first comprehensive history of the Cercle, Emily Suzanne Clark illuminates how highly diverse religious practices wind in significant ways through American life, culture, and history. Clark shows that the beliefs and practices of Spiritualism helped Afro-Creoles mediate the political and social changes in New Orleans, as free blacks suffered increasingly restrictive laws and then met with violent resistance to suffrage and racial equality.

In today’s guest post, Clark discusses white-on-black violence in the South and commemorates one of the Reconstruction period’s most notorious massacres.

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July 30, 2016, marks the 150-year anniversary of the Mechanics’ Institute Riot in New Orleans, Louisiana—though this event should be officially renamed a massacre. What became one of the bloodiest days in the post–Civil War U.S. began as a political convention to discuss black suffrage. The local Republican Party planned the convention at the Mechanics’ Institute and their intention was to work towards amending the 1864 Louisiana Constitution. The meeting was well attended by black Republicans in the city, along with a few white allies, but many whites in New Orleans were opposed to the idea of black suffrage and angry about the proposed convention. Thus on July 30 as a group of supporters paraded towards the Mechanics’ Institute with drum and fife, they were followed by a white mob. That mob was then joined by local police and members of the fire department who helped storm the Mechanics’ Institute and allowed the mob access to the convention-goers, most of whom were unarmed. By the end of the day over forty black Republicans lay dead, along with three white Republican allies and one white rioter. Many of the slain African American men were Union veterans. The violence spread beyond the Mechanics’ Institute as blacks across the city were attacked and their property vandalized. According to the U.S. House Select Committee on the riot, “Scores of colored citizens bear frightful scars more numerous than many soldiers of a dozen well-fought fields can show.”

Image of the Mechanics' Institute Riot

Image from Harper’s Weekly detailing the violence of the Mechanics’ Institute Riot

This white-on-black Reconstruction violence was common in the South. Less than three months before the Mechanics’ Institute Riot in New Orleans was the Memphis Massacre—three days of terror during which white mobs, aided by the police, attacked black men, women, and children. At the end of the Memphis Massacre, 46 African Americans were dead and another 75 injured. The violence in Louisiana would continue long past 1866. Historian Eric Foner identifies the Colfax Massacre of 1873 as “the bloodiest single instance of racial carnage in the Reconstruction era.” That Easter Sunday a white mob overtook and slaughtered much of the Louisiana town’s black militia and residents. The following year in New Orleans a white supremacist group, the White League, forcibly took over the city, disposed the rightful Republican government, and set up their own rogue government. White locals termed this the Battle of Liberty Place, which claimed the lives of members of the White League, the local interracial police force and state militia that fought back, and local blacks targeted by the White League in the aftermath. Continue reading ‘Emily Suzanne Clark: 150 Years After the Mechanics’ Institute Riot’ »

Video: Randy Johnson on the best ways to explore Grandfather Mountain

Headed for an Appalachian vacation this summer? Randy Johnson, author of Grandfather Mountain: The History and Guide to an Appalachian Icon, talks to Charlotte Today about the best ways to explore Grandfather Mountain.

Randy Johnson is an accomplished travel editor and writer. He founded Grandfather Mountain’s modern trail management program in 1978, was backcountry manager until 1990, and serves on Grandfather Mountain State Park’s Advisory Committee. His book, Grandfather Mountain: The History and Guide to an Appalachian Icon, is now available.