Interview: Fiona Ritchie and Doug Orr on the Music of Appalachia

In Scotland, Ulster and Appalachia, the songs have always been viewed as more important than any one individual singer. The anonymous authorship of much of the repertoire meant that no one questioned the fact that people often had their own family versions of ballads, or that they varied in different geographical areas. The tradition of singing and passing songs on has had an unbroken momentum across time and place. In fact, the urge to make music and share it has been even more vital than the repertoire itself. Like any good story, a good song (and the ballads are all stories after all) will live on. It’s the same with strong melodies: they also often have independent lives and may be paired up with many songs and different dances. No one owns this stuff. It belongs to everyone.

Interview: Marcie Cohen Ferris on The Edible South

Southern cuisine was a key component in historic preservation efforts in the early twentieth century to promote and sell the South and its racial mores to both tourists and locals. Through constructed memories of southern food from the plantation to the mountain South, sophisticated campaigns were launched to promote the “taste” of the Old South in Williamsburg, Virginia, the Lowcountry flavors of Savannah and Charleston, the fashionable Creole cuisine of New Orleans, and the “authentic” “hillbilly” and “Highlands” foods of the mountain South.

Meet the Families Represented in ‘Tobe': A 75th Anniversary Event

To celebrate Tobe’s seventy-fifth anniversary, historian Benjamin Filene, director of public history at UNC Greensboro, will moderate a panel called “Voices of Tobe,” featuring special guest appearances by several individuals from Tobe, their descendants, and members of their community.

Fiona Ritchie: Living Is Collecting

When NPR first partnered with me in presenting The Thistle & Shamrock®, we talked about using my radio show to open a doorway into a world of evolving Celtic music traditions for public radio listeners. I could never have imagined how far that door would swing open my way, too, helping inspire my search for the depth of connection that underpins our migration story in Wayfaring Strangers.

Luther Adams: Claiming the South as Home: African Americans and Southern Identity

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Claiming the South as Home was and still is a call to action and for reparations, but it is also an expression of black southern identity.

Excerpt: Talkin’ Tar Heel, by Walt Wolfram and Jeffrey Reaser

A worker in the Bank of America Corporate Center in Charlotte who asks you to “mash the button” for the elevator or to “he’p him tote the computer right yonder” would get a quizzical look or a patronizing chuckle for “talking country” in the towering edifice representing the second-largest financial center in the United States. But those who react in condescension may not realize that this way of speaking was the dialect norm in the city just a couple of generations ago—and probably in the residential home that once stood on this site. As one elderly Charlotte resident, born in 1919, recalled: “I remember when Discovery Place was just a little neighborhood store.”

Excerpt: The Indicted South, by Angie Maxwell

Many white southerners were particularly concerned with the way history would present their side of the sectional conflict and how it would judge their advocates, such as Bryan. Thus controlling, in some way, what children were taught in schools actually carried a significant sub-agenda.

Excerpt: Baptized in PCBs, by Ellen Griffith Spears

Monsanto officials shared with industrial customers (at least those who made inquiries) precisely the same knowledge that they pointedly denied in statements to the local news media.

The William R. Ferris Reader: An Omnibus E-book

We celebrate Southern Cultures’ 20th anniversary with a special omnibus ebook, The William R. Ferris Reader. Collected here for the first time are all 20 of Bill Ferris’s essays and interviews as they have appeared in the journal’s pages between 1995 and 2013, as well as an introduction to the collection by Ferris.

K. Stephen Prince: On Carpetbagging; or, Regional Biography and Southern History

The idea that the South is (or can be, or should be) of interest solely to southerners is, I believe, a deeply problematic notion, one that perpetuates reductive and harmful ideas about the region.

Excerpt: Stories of the South: Race and the Construction of Southern Identity, 1865-1915, by K. Stephen Prince

When it was published in 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s abolitionist novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin quickly became the most inflammatory, explosive, and politically significant literary text of the antebellum period. Adapted to the stage shortly thereafter, Uncle Tom’s Cabin’s moral fervor, emotional power, and iconic characters soon made it a theatrical institution.

Give the Gift of Music: Listen and Support Wayfaring Strangers

Help us make a great book even better! We need your support to insert a CD of music in every copy of a forthcoming book about Scots-Irish music in Appalachia. Listen to a sample to hear what’s in store.

Zandria F. Robinson: OutKast Reunion Tour: After Twenty Years, the South Still Got Something to Say

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I grew up watching OutKast videos on the now-defunct Video Jukebox Network, affectionately known as “The Box.” Although OutKast received some play on MTV and BET in the early 1990s, it was on The Box, which featured a range of underground southern hip-hop artists, where I could be sure to see André “André 3000” Benjamin, Antwan “Big Boi” Patton, and other southern rappers in regular rotation. Although initially record labels largely ignored southern artists, through homegrown ingenuity, southern rappers soon emerged as a formidable force in the global music industry. By 2005, top spots on music charts were regularly held by southern hip-hop artists, southern R&B singers, or hits produced by southern artists. As Memphis rapper Project Pat noted in 2006: “Now y’all was thinkin’ Dirty South was like, ‘hee-haw, hee-haw’/Is you worth over a hundred mil? We are, we are.” Indeed, the South had something to say.

K. Stephen Prince: Thinking about Reconstruction at 150 Years

Reconstruction remains one of the most widely misunderstood eras in United States history. Though historians have largely discredited the white supremacist interpretations of William A. Dunning and his students, the Dunning School lives on in the public at large. Otherwise informed and well-meaning individuals unthinkingly parrot early-twentieth-century critiques of Reconstruction, casually dismissing it as an era of federal overreach, northern cruelty, and cynical corruption. My own experience bears out this observation: a friend who claims that Reconstruction failed because it was “too harsh,” or a student who labels the period a “tragedy” without being able to provide a single reason for this characterization. I expect other scholars of the period have had similar experiences. It seems that on an instinctive, knee-jerk level, many Americans respond negatively to Reconstruction, though most could not explain why. The 150th anniversary of Reconstruction offers a perfect opportunity to set the record straight, or at least to give the public a fair accounting of the period’s challenges, its successes, and its failures.

Interview: Blain Roberts on the Intersection of Beauty and Race in the South

The image of the beautiful southern belle/lady was, by definition, racially exclusive, and many black women would have keenly felt its discriminatory power. There were occasions, however, when individuals and institutions attempted to claim the image for black women, to challenge its underlying racial assumptions and reframe its meaning. An interesting example is a photo spread that ran in Ebony magazine in 1971 entitled “Belles of the South” that featured young women from southern historically black colleges. The magazine said very explicitly that it wanted to prove that not all southern beauties were white—that black women were belles of the South, too.