Recipe: Southern Reuben

Savor the South Sampler

Biscuits: a Savor the South® cookbook, by Belinda EllisEvery 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 Belinda Ellis’s Biscuits. Ellis is editor of Edible Piedmont, a North Carolina food magazine, and a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance. Her recipe is a southern take on a Reuben Sandwich, made with rye biscuits instead of traditional rye bread. This sandwich is scrumptious for lunch, dinner, and even breakfast!

Connect with Ellis on Twitter @belindaellis, and “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: Southern Reuben’ »

Jeff Porter: The Many Lives of Orson Welles

Lost Sound: The Forgotten Art of Radio Storytelling, by Jeff PorterWe welcome a guest post from Jeff Porter, author of Lost Sound: The Forgotten Art of Radio Storytelling. From Archibald MacLeish to David Sedaris, radio storytelling has long borrowed from the world of literature, yet the narrative radio work of well-known writers and others is a story that has not been told before. And when the literary aspects of specific programs such as The War of the Worlds or Sorry, Wrong Number were considered, scrutiny was superficial. In Lost Sound, Jeff Porter examines the vital interplay between acoustic techniques and modernist practices in the growth of radio. He identifies the ways radio challenged the conventional distinctions between highbrow and lowbrow cultural content to produce a dynamic popular culture.

In today’s post, Porter marks the 101st birthday of one of America’s most legendary radio storytelling voices: Orson Welles.


Orson Welles

Orson Welles. (Photo courtesy Indiana University Lilly Library.)

If he were still alive, Orson Welles (1915-1985) would be 101 years old today. Welles is remembered as one of America’s most important filmmakers, but before he became famous for his movies, Welles ruled the airwaves.

On radio, he read poetry on CBS’s Musical Reveries at $50 per poem; performed as both the president of Germany and the arms dealer Sir Basil Zaharoff for The March of Time; impersonated John D. Rockefeller in Du Pont’s Cavalcade of America; and was heard as Lamont Cranston in The Shadow, as a disdainful British actor (Rex Dakolar) in NBC’s Peter Absolute on the Erie Canal, as Hamlet on the Columbia Workshop’s Shakespeare for Radio, and as the narrator in his own adaptation of Les Misérables for the Mutual network. By the time the Martians arrived in New Jersey in his notorious broadcast of War of the Worlds, Welles was on the cover of Time magazine and about to become a nationally known celebrity. It was precisely at this moment (June 1938) that he signed on with CBS to host an hour-long radio series that would become Mercury Theatre on the Air, a program devoted to radio adaptations of literary classics. Between the Mercury Theatre’s first and last programs, listeners tuned in to over 100 broadcasts of sophisticated storytelling, from Dracula and Heart of Darkness to Rebecca and Jane Eyre. These were acoustic marvels whose innovations changed radio forever.

first edition of The Third Man, by Graham Greene.

The Third Man, by Graham Greene. (Photo Burnside Rare Books.)

When Welles left for Los Angeles after signing with RKO in 1939, it may have seemed that his radio days were winding down. But even during the filming of Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons, Welles continued to be heard on the air, wrapping up the Mercury broadcasts (now called Campbell’s Playhouse) in 1940 and directing and performing in Lucille Fletcher’s hit radio play The Hitchhiker in 1942. His attention may have been split between radio and film, but that never cramped Welles’s style.

In fact, his knack for moving across the media divide only enhanced his mastery of both. A striking case in point is the remake of the classic 1949 film noir The Third Man, adapted by Carol Reed from a story by Graham Greene. Orson Welles, who starred as the infamous villain Harry Lime in the movie, reprised his role for BBC radio in The Lives of Harry Lime in 1951. Continue reading ‘Jeff Porter: The Many Lives of Orson Welles’ »

John Shelton Reed: North Carolina Needs a New Holiday

Barbecue: a Savor the South® cookbook, by John Shelton ReedWe welcome to the blog a guest post by John Shelton Reed, author of Barbecue: a SAVOR THE SOUTH® cookbook. Reed’s Barbecue celebrates a southern culinary tradition forged in coals and smoke. Since colonial times Southerners have held barbecues to mark homecomings, reunions, and political campaigns; today barbecue signifies celebration as much as ever. In a lively and amusing style, Reed traces the history of Southern barbecue from its roots in the sixteenth-century Caribbean, showing how this technique of cooking meat established itself in the coastal South and spread inland from there. He discusses how choices of meat, sauce, and cooking methods came to vary from one place to another, reflecting local environments, farming practices, and history.

In previous posts, Reed has shared a surprising cocktail recipe and debunked a mysteriously popular barbecue myth. In today’s post, he calls for a memorial holiday to mark one historic North Carolina barbecue.


North Carolina Needs a New Holiday: Commemorating the Wilmington Barbecue of 1766

It was 250 years ago, in late February of 1766, that the Royal Governor of North Carolina, William Tryon, attempted to win the New Hanover militia’s good will by treating them to a barbecue. He did not succeed: citizens of Wilmington threw the barbecued ox in the river and poured out the beer. (This was not an early expression of North Carolinians’ preference for pork; they were upset about the Stamp Act.) Every schoolchild knows about the Boston Tea Party of 1773, when some rowdy New Englanders threw boxes of tea in Boston harbor to protest a British tax. Yet how many have heard of the Wilmington Barbecue?

Not only was it seven years earlier than the Tea Party, its story is much more colorful. Continue reading ‘John Shelton Reed: North Carolina Needs a New Holiday’ »

Recipe: Soft Refrigerator Honeysuckle Jelly

Savor the South Sampler

Pickles and Preserves: a Savor the South® cookbook by Andrea WeiglAs the summer heats up, cool down with fresh recipes from our Savor the South® Sampler series! Every Tuesday this summer we’ll be featuring a new recipe from one of our Savor the South® cookbooks. Rediscover some of your favorite summer dishes and ingredients with a southern twang, like catfish burgers, sweet potato hummus, or a new twist on Eggs Benedict (bourbon, anyone?).

Today’s recipe is from Andrea Weigl’s Pickles and Preserves: a Savor the South® cookbook. Weigl is the food writer for the Raleigh News & Observer and lives in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her recipe transforms a childhood favorite—honeysuckle flowers—into a unique jelly. Spread it on toast or enjoy over fresh fruit for a nostalgic treat.

Connect with Weigl on Twitter @andreaweigl, and “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: Soft Refrigerator Honeysuckle Jelly’ »

Interview: Charles O. Pilkey and Orrin H. Pilkey on Lessons from the Sand

Co-authors Charles O. Pilkey and Orrin H. Pilkey talk with Marisa Vitulli about their new book, Lessons from the Sand: Family-Friendly Science Activities You Can Do on a Carolina Beach.


Lessons from the Sand: Family-Friendly Science Activities You Can Do on a Carolina Beach, by Charles O. Pilkey and Orrin H. PilkeyQ: Who is the primary audience for this book?

Charles Pilkey: The book is intended for families with kids up to middle school age. We hope parents will do the activities together with their children.

Orrin Pilkey: We also think that the activities herein are a goldmine for high school students doing science projects. The activities could give older kids a start, and they can follow up and proceed into the wild blue yonder as far as their imagination will carry them.

Q: Orrin, in the past, you’ve worked on projects for adults. What inspired you to tailor this one for younger readers?

OP: There is so little written about the real science of beaches, and kids need to appreciate beaches beyond being places to play miniature golf. This book is unique in its scientific basis. I’ve led a number of field trips to the beach for children, and I love their curiosity and willingness to learn. I’d guess 90% of the activities are concerned with things most children will miss altogether. It’s easy to see why because a beach is such a fun place. I also have two 12 year-old grandchildren and a great grandchild (amazingly, all are above average in everything!). These are my inspirations.

Q: How does this book work for families with children of different ages?

CP: Some of the more advanced activities in chapter 8, which measure salinity, use microscopes, and involve Google Earth maps, might be more suitable for older kids. Middle school and high school students, with a little fine-tuning, could expand many activities into high school science projects.

Q: Speaking of family, Charles, you did the illustrations and wrote most of the activities for Lessons from the Sand, and, Orrin, you wrote the activities connected to barrier islands and beach features. What was it like working as a father-and-son team?

CP: I’ve worked with my father on other books but only as an illustrator. This is the first time we’ve collaborated as writers. A little over half the activities I wrote on my own. For most of the others, especially those in chapters 2 and 4, my father wrote a rough outline, which I then expanded into a full activity. When an activity was finished, he checked it for scientific accuracy. The system worked well.

Q: Lessons from the Sand is organized into sections of activities and science experiments instead of traditional explanatory chapters. Why did you choose this particular format, and how would you like the book to be read?

CP: Kids learn best by doing. We decided an activity approach with a minimum of lecturing would be more inspiring than traditional pedagogy. I like to think of the book as a door through which young minds can pass and discover on their own the beauty and scientific wonders of a Carolina beach. Lessons from the Sand was designed to be as much an aesthetic experience as an intellectual one (hence the illustrations and literary quotes). All too often, the beauty in nature tends to be overlooked by traditional science texts. As stated in the “How to Use This Book” chapter, the activities do not have to be done from start to finish in numerical order. Better the readers skip around, choosing those activities that are most interesting.

Q: Do families need to bring any special equipment with them to the beach in order to do these activities?

CP: Families need to bring the following special equipment to the beach: imagination, curiosity, patience, and eyes that can see the world in a fresh way. Of course, they will need a microscope to look at plankton and a hydrometer to measure salinity. For some activities, families can improvise if lacking the required items (as listed under “What You Need”). For example, if no orange or timepiece is on hand for Activity 4 “Longshore Currents,” you can get a rough idea of current velocity by observing how fast bubbles or driftwood move in the surf and compare that velocity to how fast or slow someone can walk.

Q: In the book, you talk about your own family outings by the sea. When you were designing and illustrating these activities, were there any vacation memories that led to certain experiments being included?

CP: “Plankton” (Activity 36) was inspired by a Cub Scout camping trip on the USS Yorktown (not recommended for claustrophobes!). The trip included an oceanography class in which the scouts examined plankton under a microscope. The opening story for “Fossils” (Activity 26) is based on what actually happened one afternoon on Myrtle Beach while my son and I were hunting for fossil sharks’ teeth. I got the idea for “Beach Tracker” (Activity 18) after finding bobcat tracks on Huntington Beach. “Night” (Activity 40) came from several unrelated experiences, all revelatory of some of the cool (but largely unknown) things you can see on a beach after sunset: green flashes glimpsed from a Hawaiian beach; ghost crabs huddled in their burrows, illuminated by a flashlight on Shackleford Banks; phosphorescence glowing in the waters off Atlantic Beach (NC); camping on a Costa Rican beach only to be rudely awakened by a pair of coatis, crawling over my sleeping bag in the dead of night.

Q: Do either of you have a favorite activity from the book?

CP: My favorite activity is “Murder Mystery” Continue reading ‘Interview: Charles O. Pilkey and Orrin H. Pilkey on Lessons from the Sand’ »

LaKisha Michelle Simmons: Landscapes, Memories, and History in Beyoncé’s Lemonade

Crescent City Girls: The Lives of Young Black Women in Segregated New Orleans, by LaKisha Michelle SimmonsWe welcome a guest post today from LaKisha Michelle Simmons, author of Crescent City Girls: The Lives of Young Black Women in Segregated New Orleans. What was it like to grow up black and female in the segregated South? In Crescent City Girls, Simmons blends social history and cultural studies, recreating children’s streets and neighborhoods within Jim Crow New Orleans and offering a rare look into black girls’ personal lives. Simmons argues that these children faced the difficult task of adhering to middle-class expectations of purity and respectability even as they encountered the daily realities of Jim Crow violence, which included interracial sexual aggression, street harassment, and presumptions of black girls’ impurity.

In today’s post, Simmons responds to Beyoncé’s recently released visual album Lemonade, exploring the historical significance of some of the settings and themes. Following the article is a bibliography and list of suggested further reading.


Landscapes, Memories, and History in Beyoncé’s Lemonade

The past and present merge to meet us here. What luck. What a fucking curse.

In Lemonade, Beyoncé recites these words against the backdrop of oak trees draped in moss. Black women sit in and among the trees. They gather on the porch of the cabins where enslaved people lived, worked, and loved. This is the scenery of the sugar plantations that snake along the Mississippi River, just outside of New Orleans.

Some writers have noted the presence of the “southern gothic” or the “southern porch” in Beyoncé Knowles-Carter’s visceral visual album Lemonade. But the landscapes are unambiguously part of the geography of Louisiana; the visual album is haunting because of its specificity to place. Barely visible, in the discussion thus far, is the history of slavery—and its remnants—all over the landscape of the album.

Beyoncé’s representation of madness, jealousy, anger, and hurt are intertwined with the madness and pain inherited from our antebellum past. What luck. What a fucking curse. The trees, with their moss, are surely crying for us.

model Winnie Harlow in still from Beyonce's visual album Lemonade
As black feminist Katherine McKittrick explains, “The various kinds of madness, the pathological geographies, the dismembered and displaced bodies, the impossible black places, the present-past time-space of cartographers, the topographies of ‘something lost, or barely visible, or seeing not there’—these material and metaphoric places begin to take us” inside of black women’s subjectivities.

Dismembered and displaced bodies are haunting the landscape of Lemonade‘s past and present. In 1811, a slave revolt in plantations along the Mississippi River began with the murder of plantation owner Manuel Andry’s son. Charles Deslondes, a Haitian-born enslaved slave-driver (he was responsible for punishing the other enslaved workers) led an army of enslaved men and women fighting for their freedom. The army marched to plantations downriver, trying to make their way to New Orleans, killing whites and freeing enslaved blacks along the way.

Lemonade was filmed at one of those plantations: Destrehan Plantation. At Destrehan, an army of plantation owners and white elites confronted the black rebel army. The plantation elites won the battle and captured the men responsible for the uprising. As punishment, and as a reminder to the enslaved to fear white power, they executed those responsible and cut off their heads. The plantation owners placed the severed heads of the revolutionaries on poles and lined them up for 40 miles along the river to New Orleans.

The planters recorded:

“[The Tribunal] decrees that the heads of the executed shall be cut off and placed atop a pole on the spot where all can see the punishment meted out for such crimes, also as a terrible example to all who would disturb the public tranquility in the future.

Done at the County of the Germans, St. Charles Parish, Mr. Destrehan’s plantation, January 15 1811, at 10 o’clock in the morning.”[1]

On the Madewood Plantation, the stage for interior scenes of Lemonade, lived Lionel Tapo Sr.’s mother-in-law. She told him of her time as an enslaved girl. She remembered beatings and a master so mean that he was close to the devil. Tapo remembered a story, that his mother-in-law “used to carry the whips [used] to whip the unruly slaves.”[2] And so, Serena Williams twerks in the very same place where an enslaved girl’s job was to carry the whip of torture. For Beyoncé’s Lemonade, the dance in this space is an act of defiance, of claiming self and freedom. Beyoncé’s throne is an “impossible black place.” Beyoncé Knowles-Carter’s and Serena Williams’s bodily freedom does not belong here, yet they have claimed it for themselves.

Beyonce and Serena Williams still from Lemonade

Continue reading ‘LaKisha Michelle Simmons: Landscapes, Memories, and History in Beyoncé’s Lemonade’ »

Benjamin René Jordan: “Free-Range Kids” and the Problem of Children’s Citizenship

Modern Manhood and the Boy Scouts of America: Citizenship, Race, and the Environment, 1910-1930, by Benjamin René JordanWe welcome to the blog a guest post by Benjamin René Jordan, author of Modern Manhood and the Boy Scouts of America: Citizenship, Race, and the Environment, 1910-1930. In this illuminating look at gender and Scouting in the United States, Jordan examines how in its founding and early rise, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) integrated traditional Victorian manhood with modern, corporate-industrial values and skills. While showing how the BSA Americanized the original British Scouting program, Jordan finds that the organization’s community-based activities signaled a shift in men’s social norms, away from rugged agricultural individualism or martial primitivism and toward productive employment in offices and factories, stressing scientific cooperation and a pragmatic approach to the responsibilities of citizenship.

In today’s post, Jordan calls for Americans to better educate youth in the responsibilities of adult civic life.


American parents and educators today, myself included, struggle with the proper amount and ways in which we should give adult responsibilities and opportunities to our children. At the family dinner table and in public forums, we fiercely debate news stories such as the mother who taught and allowed her nine-year-old son to ride the New York City subway alone, whether or how to regulate our children’s use of the internet and smart phones, and the appropriate geographical roaming range for children at play.

The Boy Scouts and other youth organizations emerged in the early twentieth century amongst a range of efforts to solve the separation of adolescent and adult worlds created by new laws restricting child labor and making schooling compulsory. Today’s disconnect, however, is even more severe. In recent decades, many children and even adolescents no longer play outside or down the street unsupervised. Children are rarely sent to the store independently to pick up a few groceries for the family or to attend a movie with friends. After-school programs, adult-supervised playdates, and heavily structured sport leagues fill in the gaps in young people’s regulated schedule and cocooned environments.

When one takes such developments into account alongside the growing American trend toward the “six-year-plan” of undergraduate college education, then a 1923 article written by Dr. George Fisher, assistant to the national director of the Boy Scouts of America, has become even more true and dire today. Fisher warned that allowing young men to “stumble into citizenship,” assuming it only begins at age twenty-one, leads them to believe that civic responsibility is primarily limited to voting or paying taxes: “A boy cannot live his boy life entirely separate from any sense of responsibility to society and then be expected as a man to live a full-orbed citizenship.”[1] Fisher’s statement suggests that our current social and educational structure in which adolescents are isolated from broader community interactions, mature responsibilities, and opportunities for personal growth endangers the very foundation of America’s democratic society by restricting young people’s awareness of the broader community and experience of citizenship. Continue reading ‘Benjamin René Jordan: “Free-Range Kids” and the Problem of Children’s Citizenship’ »

Steven E. Nash: Who Was Virgil Lusk?

Reconstruction's Ragged Edge: The Politics of Postwar Life in the Southern Mountains, by Steven E. NashWe welcome to the blog a guest post by Steven E. Nash, author of Reconstruction’s Ragged Edge: The Politics of Postwar Life in the Southern Mountains. In the book Nash chronicles the history of Reconstruction as it unfolded in the mountains of western North Carolina. He presents a complex story of the region’s grappling with the war’s aftermath, examining the persistent wartime loyalties that informed bitter power struggles between factions of white mountaineers determined to rule. For a brief period, an influx of federal governmental power enabled white anti-Confederates to ally with former slaves in order to lift the Republican Party to power locally and in the state as a whole. Republican success led to a violent response from a transformed class of elites, however, who claimed legitimacy from the antebellum period while pushing for greater integration into the market-oriented New South.

In a previous post, Nash addresses the vandalism of an Asheville, N.C. monument on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the context of the racial politics of Reconstruction-era Asheville. In today’s post, Nash tells the story of a former Confederate officer who took on a difficult task during the Reconstruction period.


It was a cold, rainy December afternoon when my wife finally asked the question: “Who was Virgil Lusk?” It was a fair question. After all, I had dragged her around Asheville’s historic Riverside Cemetery for well over an hour trying to locate his grave. With each grave adorned with a miniature Confederate battle flag, my frustration mounted. Lusk was a Confederate soldier. So why was my strategy of driving toward those flags not producing any results? Was his flag missing? Who was Virgil Lusk?

Let us start with the basic facts. Lusk was born in a section of Buncombe County later carved off to form part of Madison County. He was a lawyer, a Confederate cavalry officer, and a prisoner of war. So where was his battle flag? Maybe the answer lies after the war. Unlike many Confederate veterans, he surrendered both his sword and the cause in 1865. Lusk became a Republican. Nowadays, Republicans constitute a major part of the electorate in western North Carolina. During Reconstruction, however, many mountain whites viewed Republicans as akin to traitors. A sectional party built upon an adherence to a free labor ideology praising labor and middle class respectability, the “Party of Lincoln” carried the stain of defeat in the South. Tens of thousands of southerners—white and black—rallied to the Republican Party seeking a greater voice in local government after the war; those men like Lusk who did so after donning Confederate gray earned the enmity of their bitterly defeated former friends.

Lusk’s rise to prominence stemmed more from the oft-ignored Reconstruction period in the Carolina mountains. The state legislator appointed district solicitors in those days. The 12th District solicitor was David Coleman, a Confederate colonel with a not-so-secret drinking problem. His appointment dated from December 1865, and his short time in office was controversial. Although western North Carolina was predominantly pro-Confederate in its wartime sympathies, pockets of Unionism, growing wartime disaffection, and economic hardship strained mountaineers’ ties to the Confederacy. Coleman earned a reputation for unfairly prosecuting Unionists after the war, and the military removed him from office in 1868.

Lusk benefited from Coleman’s fall. Without a doubt, Lusk won no favor among the local Conservative Party leadership by taking the job. The historical record gives the distinct impression, however, that Lusk cared little about Conservatives’ feelings. The new solicitor used his office to fight against a growing Ku Klux Klan threat in his district. The Klan made its presence felt in western North Carolina in the spring of 1868. Threats against African Americans and federal agents announced its arrival as early as April. When Asheville erupted in violence on election day in November, at least one local observer blamed the Klan.

Prosecuting alleged Klansmen was no easy matter, but Lusk felt obligated to resist the lawlessness plaguing his community. It was an uphill battle. Continue reading ‘Steven E. Nash: Who Was Virgil Lusk?’ »

Catherine A. Stewart: Having an Honest Conversation about Slavery—Now and Then

Long Past Slavery: Representing Race in the Federal Writers' Project, by Catherine A. StewartWe welcome to the blog a guest post by Catherine A. Stewart, author of Long Past Slavery: Representing Race in the Federal Writers’ Project. From 1936 to 1939, the New Deal’s Federal Writers’ Project collected life stories from more than 2,300 former African American slaves. These narratives are now widely used as a source to understand the lived experience of those who made the transition from slavery to freedom. But in this examination of the project and its legacy, Stewart shows it was the product of competing visions of the past, as ex-slaves’ memories of bondage, emancipation, and life as freedpeople were used to craft arguments for and against full inclusion of African Americans in society. By shedding new light on a critically important episode in the history of race, remembrance, and the legacy of slavery in the United States, Stewart compels readers to rethink a prominent archive used to construct that history.

In today’s post, Stewart argues for the ongoing need for a much-avoided and uncomfortable conversation for many Americans today: the history of slavery in the United States.


Recent public conversations have revealed how ignorant most Americans remain about slavery, and also how resistant many are to hearing the truth about it. Reporting from the frontlines of this battle over Civil War memory are those doing public history: the educators, interpreters, and docents at historic sites, who engage a large number of visitors exhibiting a wide spectrum of assumptions and ideological perspectives—many of them mistaken—about the relationships of slaveholders and the enslaved.

Former tour guide Margaret Biser discusses the misconceptions that she encountered about slavery during her six years working at a historic site on Twitter as @AfAmHistFail. And, in the Web series “Ask a Slave,” which has become a cult phenomenon, actress Azie Dungey plays the role of a fictional house slave, Lizzie Mae, maid to first lady Martha Washington. Dungey created the series based on her own experiences portraying the life of Caroline Branham, one of the slaves owned by the Washingtons at Mount Vernon. The questions Lizzie Mae fields in the series are based on actual questions posed by tourists, and they suggest that the American public is largely clueless about the history and institution of slavery. As Dungey explains the show’s rationale, “I am not talking about slavery . . . I’m talking about modern racism, and I’m talking about modern ignorance.”

Yet despite Americans’ illiteracy about slavery, they clearly want to have a conversation about it, if the sold-out symposium this past September sponsored by Slate and GWU, “How to Talk Honestly About Slavery,” is any indication. Media attention to racial inequality and violence against black Americans and public awareness raised by Black Lives Matter and other social justice organizations have made race and the continuing legacy of slavery a topic of national conversation, one even political leaders have joined. In a much-discussed podcast interview in June 2015, President Obama observed that “the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination, in almost every institution of our lives . . . casts a long shadow and that is still part of our DNA that is passed on and we are not cured of it.”

But this current conversation is not the first time Americans and political leaders have attempted to talk honestly about slavery. In the 1930s, the federal government began an unprecedented and revolutionary discussion of slavery and its legacy by hiring unemployed writers to interview the last living generation of African Americans to have experienced slavery. The Federal Writers’ Ex-Slave Project sparked conversations between direct descendants of Confederate slaveholders and former slaves. This project, with its radical objective of recovering and reclaiming African Americans’ experiences with slavery and freedom, along with its failings and limitations, has much to tell us about why conversations about the past of slavery remain so difficult for Americans today.

The FWP’s Ex-Slave Project marks a historic moment in which the federal government both invited and enabled African Americans (as informants, interviewers, and in one case, as a federal director of the Project) to talk about black identity, but it also created a space in which they could address Jim Crow. The Ex-Slave Project set in motion a series of profoundly earthshaking and revelatory encounters as black and white Americans from different regions, educational backgrounds, and economic classes spoke to each other across the racial divide.

But the compromising circumstances of the color line in 1930s America made it almost impossible for blacks and whites to speak to one another freely about slavery. At all levels of the project, white employees’ varied assumptions about black identity and the historical legacy of slavery came into contact, and often conflict, with African American perspectives. Although the project did employ a number of African Americans as interviewers—most notably in the states of Virginia, Louisiana, and Florida, all of which established racially segregated Negro Writers’ Units—the majority of FWP interviewers involved in collecting these oral histories were southern whites.

There were many factors that shaped these conversations and their primary outcome, the ex-slave narratives, but one of the most surprising discoveries I made in my research was Confederate involvement in the project. Continue reading ‘Catherine A. Stewart: Having an Honest Conversation about Slavery—Now and Then’ »

Robert G. Parkinson: The Shot Heard Round the World Revisited

The Common Cause: Creating Race and Nation in the American Revolution, by Robert G. ParkinsonWe welcome to the blog a guest post by Robert G. Parkinson, author of The Common Cause: Creating Race and Nation in the American Revolutionwhich is being published in association with the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, Williamsburg, Virginia. When the Revolutionary War began, the odds of a united, continental effort to resist the British seemed nearly impossible. Few on either side of the Atlantic expected thirteen colonies to stick together in a war against their cultural cousins. In this pathbreaking book, Parkinson argues that to unify the patriot side, political and communications leaders linked British tyranny to colonial prejudices, stereotypes, and fears about insurrectionary slaves and violent Indians. Manipulating newspaper networks, Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, and their fellow agitators broadcast stories of British agents inciting African Americans and Indians to take up arms against the American rebellion. Using rhetoric like “domestic insurrectionists” and “merciless savages,” the founding fathers rallied the people around a common enemy and made racial prejudice a cornerstone of the new Republic. 

In today’s post, Parkinson sheds new light on one of the most legendary events in U.S. history, focusing on how “the shot heard round the world” affected the racial tensions in America.


Sixty years after the battle, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote a triumphant hymn to the “embattled farmers” of Concord, Massachusetts, who gathered at the “rude bridge that arched the flood” underneath “their flag to April’s breeze unfurled” and “fired the shot heard round the world.” Emerson solemnized the “spirit that made those heroes dare / to die, or leave their children free.” Emerson’s imagery added to the already thick layers of mythology surrounding the events of April 19, 1775, fusing together nature and nation to craft an American pastoral patriotism. Ever since, when Americans think about the start of the Revolution, it is Emerson’s chorus—of heroic white colonists fighting to preserve their liberty—that plays in the background of this nationalist legend.

But that wasn’t how some people thought about the events of that night. In fact, race played a role in how people reacted to the Lexington Alarm. Even in Massachusetts.

Josiah Temple, a native of Framingham, Massachusetts (about fifteen miles south of Concord), published a book in 1887 on the town’s history. His recounting of what people remembered about the night of the Alarm was so different from the legend that he found it impossible to believe.

For four generations, the local story of the night of April 19, 1775, was that, as soon as the town’s militia marched north toward Lexington Green, a “strange panic” spread through Framingham. But that’s not what surprised the town historian, nor should it us. But what they said next certainly seems odd: “The Negroes were coming to massacre them all!” Some in the town, Temple noted, “brought the axes and pitchforks and clubs into the house, and securely bolted the doors, and passed the day and night in anxious suspense.”

It wasn’t the redcoats that scared people in Framingham, apparently, but even more terrifying African Americans in their midst that were plotting to fall upon them. Temple himself dismissed this as impossible. But he was wrong. People in Framingham were afraid of what might happen to them with the astonishing news that they were at war with Britain.

How do we know? Continue reading ‘Robert G. Parkinson: The Shot Heard Round the World Revisited’ »

Stan Ulanski: Wanderers of the Pacific Ocean: Sea Turtles

The California Current: A Pacific Ecosystem and Its Fliers, Divers, and Swimmers, by Stan UlanskiWe welcome to the blog a guest post by Stan Ulanski, author of The California Current: A Pacific Ecosystem and Its Fliers, Divers, and Swimmers. The California Current—part of the large, swirling North Pacific gyre—flows slowly southward along the west coast of North America, stretching nearly 2,000 miles from southern British Columbia to the tip of Baja California in Mexico. To a casual observer standing on the shore, the vast current betrays no discernible signs, yet life abounds just over the horizon. Ulanski takes us into the water on a journey through this magnificent, unique marine ecosystem, illuminating the scientific and biological marvels and the astonishing array of flora and fauna streaming along our Pacific coast.

In today’s post, Ulanski shares a glimpse into the world of living dinosaurs of the sea: Pacific sea turtles. 


As I researched and studied the myriad organisms that swim in and fly over the California Current for my book on this unique ecosystem, none caught my attention more than Pacific sea turtles—living dinosaurs of the ocean. Theirs is an old story—one of long journeys and nesting rituals performed over the eons. The tale below chronicles the journey and trials of a determined sea turtle.

Travelling thousands of miles from her home waters in the California Current, a massive leatherback turtle weighing upwards of 400 pounds lumbers up a remote beach in the Indonesian archipelago. She is laser focused on only one goal: to lay her eggs in the soft beach sands—a ritual that has been played out over the ages by her ancestors. The probability is high that the beach she has chosen is the same one from which she was hatched more than thirty years ago.

Under the cover of darkness, she finds a suitable nesting site above the high tide line and diligently excavates a hole big enough to hold the dozens of eggs she will deposit. With the eggs carefully set in place, she begins the time-consuming task of covering them up, using her big flippers like paddles to shovel sand into the nest cavity. Satisfied that her nest is secure from predators, she returns to the sea, but only briefly. In ten days, she will return to the beach to deposit another clutch of eggs, a chore she may repeat as many as eleven times during the nesting season. But soon her instincts tell her it is time to leave and begin a long journey thousands of miles across the Pacific. Though a powerful, deliberate swimmer, she will take months to complete her arduous migration. She will most likely ride the great subtropical North Pacific gyre—a complex of ocean currents—to the California coast.

But her journey will not be without peril. She must survive a gauntlet of obstacles, primarily from commercial fisheries. She particularly runs the risk of Continue reading ‘Stan Ulanski: Wanderers of the Pacific Ocean: Sea Turtles’ »

Tamara Plakins Thornton: The Origins of Our “Numerical Neurosis”: Numbering Systems in American Life

Nathaniel Bowditch and the Power of Numbers: How a Nineteenth-Century Man of Business, Science, and the Sea Changed American Life, by Tamara Plakins ThorntonWe welcome to the blog a guest post by Tamara Plakins Thornton, author of Nathaniel Bowditch and the Power of Numbers: How a Nineteenth-Century Man of Business, Science, and the Sea Changed American Life. In this engagingly written biography, Thornton delves into the life and work of Nathaniel Bowditch (1773-1838), a man Thomas Jefferson once called a “meteor in the hemisphere.” Bowditch was a mathematician, astronomer, navigator, seafarer, and business executive whose Enlightenment-inspired perspectives shaped nineteenth-century capitalism while transforming American life more broadly. By examining Bowditch’s pathbreaking approaches to institutions, as well as the political and social controversies they provoked, Thornton’s biography sheds new light on the rise of capitalism, American science, and social elites in the early republic.

In today’s post, Thornton recalls a world without Social Security numbers, ISBNs, and zip codes. Nathaniel Bowditch viewed this world and its existing organization systems as haphazard and offered a mathematician’s solution: numbers.


April 15: yet another occasion to provide your Social Security number. It’s just one of many numbers we use to identify ourselves, along with those found on our driver’s licenses, passports, and military ID’s. Being a number instead of a name has become a cliché, but the use of such numbers goes beyond reducing personal identity to a set of numerals. It’s part of a larger world of numbering systems that order people and things alike.

Take books. Since the late 1960s, every newly published volume has been assigned an International Standard Book Number. As it makes its way into libraries, the book is marked with a Library of Congress Classification or a Dewey Decimal System number, and placed on a correspondingly numbered shelf.

It wasn’t always so, and libraries are a good place to find traces of that lost world. Well into the nineteenth century, there were no card catalogs or call numbers. At Harvard, a bound volume listed holdings by author. Within the library, books were arranged by donor. It was all far too haphazard for Nathaniel Bowditch, the early republic’s premier mathematician, author of a best-selling navigation manual, and a Boston business executive known for his habits of “order, exactitude, and method.” Continue reading ‘Tamara Plakins Thornton: The Origins of Our “Numerical Neurosis”: Numbering Systems in American Life’ »

Elizabeth Hayes Alvarez: Muslims in the Classroom

The Valiant Woman: The Virgin Mary in Nineteenth-Century American Culture, by Elizabeth Hayes AlvarezWe welcome a guest blog post today from Elizabeth Hayes Alvarez, author of The Valiant Woman: The Virgin Mary in Nineteenth-Century American Culture. Nineteenth-century America was rife with Protestant-fueled anti-Catholicism. Elizabeth Hayes Alvarez reveals how Protestants nevertheless became surprisingly and deeply fascinated with the Virgin Mary, even as her role as a devotional figure who united Catholics grew. Documenting the vivid Marian imagery that suffused popular visual and literary culture, Alvarez argues that Mary became a potent, shared exemplar of Christian womanhood around which Christians of all stripes rallied during an era filled with anxiety about the emerging market economy and shifting gender roles.

In a previous post, Alvarez wrote about Pope Francis’s 2015 visit to Philadelphia. In today’s post, she responds to anti-Muslim rhetoric on the campaign trail with a look inside her multi-religious classroom. 


Donald Trump’s suggested ban on Muslims entering the United States and the creation of a Muslim “registry” has been widely (and wisely) condemned. But from my perspective in the classroom, I see how the ideas are already affecting young people. Amid the rows of Catholics, Jews, agnostics, and evangelicals in my religion courses sit dozens of students hailing from the Middle East and South Asia. Their presence is a very good thing. Like most of my students, they are open, curious, and eager to learn. And they are baffled and intimidated by Trump’s rhetoric.

This past year American universities hosted 975,000 foreign students, with approximately 60,000 coming from Saudi Arabia, 9,000 from Kuwait, and 11,000 from Iran. Studying in the United States is both an opportunity and a challenge for them. All young people who travel to other parts of the world to attend college are brave. They are away from home, often for the first time, learning in a non-native language at an institution with different academic and cultural conventions. American education institutions have reassured them that they will be welcomed and supported.

It’s a privilege to watch young adults find their voices, ask questions, share experiences, and reason together. In a climate of increasing violence and fear, moments of understanding and mutual recognition matter. Like my other students, some of my international Muslim students are not religious, others are; some don’t want to talk about their own faith, others do. But over the last few years, these students have sat down for conversations with Reform rabbis and Catholic priests, posed for photos in front of altars and bimahs, and reminded their classmates again and again that they are “people of the book” who honor the Hebrew prophets, Jesus, and his mother Mary. They make comparisons and try to build bridges of understanding. Maybe, they ask, Lent and Ramadan are both times of self-denial and penance? Maybe we all attend services for community support as well as to worship and pray? Continue reading ‘Elizabeth Hayes Alvarez: Muslims in the Classroom’ »

OAH Award-Winning History Books from UNC Press

logo- Annual Meeting of the Organization of American HistoriansOver the weekend at their annual meeting, the Organization of American Historians (OAH) honored seven of our authors with recognition of their outstanding books. Featured below are our five prize winners and two honorable mentions. We hope you’ll join us in celebrating these fine authors and the excellent historical work we have had the privilege to publish. Click the cover images or book titles to read a sample on the UNC Press website.

Darlene Clark Hine Award

Best book in African American women’s and gender history. See a list of previous Darlene Clark Hine Award winners.

2016 Winner! Chained in Silence: Black Women and Convict Labor in the New South, by Talitha L. LeFlouria

Chained in Silence: Black Women and Convict Labor in the New South, by Talitha L. LeFlouria

2016 Honorable Mention: Florynce “Flo” Kennedy: The Life of a Black Feminist Radical, by Sherie M. Randolph

Florynce “Flo” Kennedy: The Life of a Black Feminist Radical, by Sherie M. Randolph

Frederick Jackson Turner Award

For a first scholarly book dealing with some aspect of American history. See a list of previous Frederick Jackson Turner Award winners.

2016 Winner! Mark G. Hanna, author of Pirate Nests and the Rise of the British Empire, 1570-1740, Published for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, Williamsburg, Virginia

Pirate Nests and the Rise of the British Empire, 1570-1740, by Mark G. Hanna

2016 Honorable Mention: Seeds of Empire: Cotton, Slavery, and the Transformation of the Texas Borderlands, 1800-1850, by Andrew J. Torget

Seeds of Empire: Cotton, Slavery, and the Transformation of the Texas Borderlands, 1800-1850, by Andrew J. Torget

Liberty Legacy Foundation Award

Best book on the civil rights struggle from the beginnings of the nation to the present. See a list of previous Liberty Legacy Foundation Award winners.

2016 Winner! Liberated Threads: Black Women, Style, and the Global Politics of Soul, by Tanisha C. Ford

Liberated Threads: Black Women, Style, and the Global Politics of Soul, by Tanisha C. Ford

Merle Curti Award

Best book in American social history. See a list of previous Merle Curti Award winners.

2016 Winner! Corazón de Dixie: Mexicanos in the U.S. South since 1910, by Julie M. Weise

Corazón de Dixie: Mexicanos in the U.S. South since 1910, by Julie M. Weise

Richard W. Leopold Prize

Best book on foreign policy, military affairs, historical activities of the federal government, documentary histories, or biography written by a U.S. government historian or federal contract historian. See a list of previous Richard W. Leopold Prize winners.

2016 Winner! Bringing God to Men: American Military Chaplains and the Vietnam War, by Jacqueline E. Whitt

Bringing God to Men: American Military Chaplains and the Vietnam War, by Jacqueline E. Whitt

Congratulations again to all of our authors!

John Shelton Reed: Busting a Barbecue Myth

Barbecue: a Savor the South® cookbook, by John Shelton ReedWe welcome to the blog a guest post by John Shelton Reed, author of Barbecue: a SAVOR THE SOUTH® cookbook. Reed’s Barbecue celebrates a southern culinary tradition forged in coals and smoke. Since colonial times southerners have held barbecues to mark homecomings, reunions, and political campaigns; today barbecue signifies celebration as much as ever. In a lively and amusing style, Reed traces the history of southern barbecue from its roots in the sixteenth-century Caribbean, showing how this technique of cooking meat established itself in the coastal South and spread inland from there. He discusses how choices of meat, sauce, and cooking methods came to vary from one place to another, reflecting local environments, farming practices, and history.

In a previous post, Reed shares a surprising cocktail recipe reminiscent of a Southern backyard barbecue. In today’s post, Reed shares the most important ingredient in barbecue and the myths surrounding it.


In 2013 Dan Levine and I founded the Campaign for Real Barbecue, to promote the Southern tradition of wood-cooked barbecue. We have been working to identify and applaud those barbecue places that still cook in the old-school way, to encourage new “artisanal” wood-cooking barbecue establishments, and to persuade gas-cookers to return to the True Faith. Our website,, asserts, “Good barbecue can’t be cooked entirely with gas or electricity. Wood smoke is what makes Real Barbecue. And good barbecue cooked entirely with wood is the gold standard by which all others are judged.”

Unfortunately, many “barbecue” restaurants have stopped cooking with wood, or never did. This sorry condition seems to be especially advanced in North Carolina. Outsiders are starting to notice, and our state’s longstanding reputation for barbecue excellence has begun to suffer. Lolis Eric Elie, the author of Smokestack Lightning, remarked recently that “there are far more gas and electric pits [in the Carolinas] than in other parts of barbecue country,” and called it “a disturbing trend that needs to be reversed.” The late Bob Kantor, who cooked with wood on Haight Street in San Francisco at Memphis Minnie’s, professed himself “puzzled and deeply concerned at what appears to be a trend in North Carolina towards substituting gas and electric for wood.” And Jim Shahin, barbecue columnist for the Washington Post, has observed, “Gas has made many inroads into North Carolina barbecue and the authentic wood-only barbecue there is in some jeopardy.” I could go on.

It’s true that cooking with gas or electricity is cheaper and easier, and the product is more consistent (if not great). But when we ask gassers why they don’t cook with wood, they seldom mention those considerations. Instead, what we almost always hear is stuff like “The city won’t let us,” or “The inspector made us stop,” or “It’s against the Clean Air regulations.” In short, the government made them do it.

But this never comes with specifics. Continue reading ‘John Shelton Reed: Busting a Barbecue Myth’ »

UNC Press Receives Grant to Support System-Wide Publishing Initiatives

UNC Press News header

UNC Press contact: John McLeod, 919-962-8419,

UNC Press Receives Grant from the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust to Support System-Wide Publishing Initiatives

In August 2015, with grant funds provided by the office of University of North Carolina president Thomas W. Ross, the University of North Carolina Press launched the Office of Scholarly Publishing Services (OSPS) with the purpose of providing sustainable, mission-driven publishing models and solutions to the campuses of the UNC system. Today, the Press announces a $50,000 one-to-one challenge grant from the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust to support the work of the OSPS. Established in honor of President Ross for his vision and support of the OSPS, this eventual $100,000 expendable fund will provide small grants for publishing projects.

“This generous grant from the Kenan Trust will benefit institutions throughout the system as they begin to launch publishing initiatives with the OSPS,” commented Junius Gonzales, senior vice president for academic affairs for the University of North Carolina. “We are very appreciative of the opportunities this grant will provide.”

“Initial publishing costs are often barriers to institutions that want to publish the work of their faculty,” said John McLeod, director of the OSPS. “There are some exciting initiatives under way that just need a modest financial push to get off the ground, and we anticipate that these funds will really make an impact.”

The OSPS will issue a call for proposals early in the summer of 2016. Enabling the creation of Open Educational Resources and creating sustainable publishing initiatives that advance institutions’ missions will be two broad criteria that applicants will be asked to consider. Projects will be evaluated by a group composed of UNC Press staff, a representative from the University Library Advisory Council, and Matthew Rascoff, vice president for technology-based learning and innovation at the University of North Carolina.

“We are extremely grateful for the Kenan Trust’s support of this significant new effort,” said John Sherer, the Spangler Family Director of UNC Press. “It will allow the Press to create system-wide efficiencies and opportunities to lower costs to students, libraries, and other campus units.”

The OSPS offers an array of services in three broad areas: editorial, design, and production; sales, marketing, and distribution; and advising on copyright, publishing strategy, and business planning. By leveraging the expertise of UNC Press and its Longleaf Distribution Services platform, and by partnering with libraries, research centers, and other institutions, the OSPS seeks to offer high-level professional publishing support for people in the UNC System.

People interested in making a charitable gift in response to the Kenan Trust’s challenge should contact Joanna Ruth Marsland, director of development at UNC Press, at or 919-962-0924.


John Sherer: The Cost to Publish a Monograph Is Both Too Low and Too High

[This post was originally published at In the Open.]

Last Fall, consultants from Ithaka S&R visited the University of North Carolina Press to gather data they would use in writing a report on the costs of publishing a scholarly monograph. At the time, I couldn’t help but wonder whether the Press staff felt like they were being interviewed by the Bobs from “Office Space.” We were being asked how much time we spend on individual projects. How do we allocate our days? What work do we perform in-house versus outsourcing? And we were being told we would be given tools to measure our productivity and costs against our peers.

In February Ithaka released their study. No PC-Load Letter printers appear to have been harmed in the process.

Here’s what’s great about the report. It reveals in granular detail the amount of care and talent required to produce a high quality humanities monograph. And it isn’t cheap. The costs range from a baseline number of around $25,000 per book to figures three and four times that amount. By some estimates, American university presses produce upwards of several thousand monographs a year. A quick calculation suggests that UPs are covering a minimum of $50 million in expenses to make this scholarship available. I can make the argument it’s twice that amount.

But here’s what gives me pause about the report. Continue reading ‘John Sherer: The Cost to Publish a Monograph Is Both Too Low and Too High’ »

Obama Lands in Cuba

With his arrival in Cuba yesterday, President Barack Obama has become the first sitting U.S. president to visit the island nation since 1928. This three-day trip is just one step in the major shift under the Obama administration to begin to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba. For insightful historical perspective on what this trip means, we check in with some UNC Press authors who are providing helpful analysis.

William LeoGrande and Peter Kornbluh are co-authors of Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana. Kornbluh, who is on location in Havana, appeared on Democracy Now! today and discussed the handling of protesters and the political and economic strategy of Obama bringing with him on this trip CEOs and entrepreneurs from the U.S.:

Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana, Updated Edition, by William LeoGrande and Peter KornbluhLeoGrande writes at Huffington Post (in a piece originally published by the Cuban journal Revista Temas) that there are still hurdles yet ahead to fully normalizing relations between the countries. The first two hurdles:

The biggest hurdle to fully normal relations is the continuing U.S. economic embargo. In the 15 months since December 17, 2014, President Obama has licensed significant exceptions to the embargo, opening the door for more U.S. residents to travel to Cuba and more U.S. businesses to trade with Cuban enterprises. But the core of the embargo remains in place: Cuban state enterprises cannot export to the United States and most U.S. businesses cannot invest in Cuba or become joint enterprise partners with Cuban firms.

Since lifting the entire embargo requires that Congress repeal the 1996 Helms-Burton law (the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act), the embargo will not be lifted during Obama’s remaining time in office. In the middle of a heated presidential election campaign, Republicans controlling both the House of Representatives and the Senate will not take any action that makes Obama’s policy look like a success.

The second biggest obstacle to fully normal relations is the U.S. base at Guantánamo. The United States recognizes Guantánamo as sovereign Cuban territory, but it nevertheless refuses to return the base to Cuban control. For the foreseeable future, the top issue on the U.S. agenda regarding Guantánamo will not be how to return it to Cuba, but rather how to close the detention center that Obama pledged to close when he was elected. That has to come first.

Continue reading ‘Obama Lands in Cuba’ »

Excerpt: Chained in Silence, by Talitha L. LeFlouria

Chained in Silence: Black Women and Convict Labor in the New South, by Talitha L. LeFlouriaIn 1868, the state of Georgia began to make its rapidly growing population of prisoners available for hire. The resulting convict leasing system ensnared not only men but also African American women, who were forced to labor in camps and factories to make profits for private investors. In this vivid work of history, Talitha L. LeFlouria draws from a rich array of primary sources to piece together the stories of these women, recounting what they endured in Georgia’s prison system and what their labor accomplished.

In the following excerpt from Chained in Silence: Black Women and Convict Labor in the New South (pp. 85-88), LeFlouria investigates how black females imprisoned in Georgia during the late nineteenth century sought to resist disguised versions of postbellum “slavery.”  


Rawhide Whips and Resistance

For many Americans, Independence Day of 1884 was an occasion for merriment. Sunrise gun salutes, picnics, orations, wheelbarrow races, greased-pig-catching contests, and pulsating fireworks that blistered the sky were popular scenes implanted in America’s nineteenth-century viewfinder. But for fourteen-year-old Mollie White, July 4, 1884, signified the closing of her innocence and the suspension of her liberty and bodily sovereignty; it was the day that marked her dreadful passage into Georgia’s itinerant state penitentiary system. Convicted of larceny, White was leased to the B. G. Lockett brickyard to serve out a two-year sentence. Upon entry, her pubescent five-foot, 100-pound body was inspected by a camp authority who decided that, based on her frail physique, she would be most useful as a cook and gardener.

At the B. G. Lockett brickyard, Mollie White prepared meals, dished up prisoners’ feed, and cleaned the soiled shovels and buckets used to serve the nauseating fodder. One year into her sentence, she was moved from the Lockett camp to the Chattahoochee brick plant, where she served out the remainder of her term as a cook. Even supposing the youngster’s work assignments were less rigorous when compared with other female inmates’, youth or labor leniency had little effect on her susceptibility to violence. Mollie White recouped in the area of physical cruelty what she was spared in hard labor.

The Chattahoochee brickyard hosted a series of violent episodes starring “Captain” James T. Casey, overseer for the brick plant. The whipping boss excelled in his role as a disciplinarian and enforcer of white supremacy. He practiced his part by beating fifteen to twenty convicts, daily, often until they “begged and screamed,” fell dead on the ground, or toppled over from exhaustion, heatstroke, of the effects of fiendish brutality. Casey was loyal to the antebellum ethos of plantation management, and he replicated the processes of terror and brutality perfected by slave drivers who used excessive violence to intimidate black captives. He supplemented the old formula with fresh rage, exercising immense cruelty to extract as much labor as possible and to create a docile workforce.

When it came to black female convicts, the whip was Casey’s preferred instrument of torture. An assiduous note taker, the “boss” documented his volatile rage in a series of monthly “whipping reports.” On November 3, 1885, Kate Clarke and Susan Hill experienced one of Casey’s fits. Both women were given twenty-five lashes apiece for “fighting.”[1] Whether Clarke and Hill quarreled with one another or formed a joint attack against Casey is unspecified. Yet, given the collective nature of resistance that sometimes surfaced among female offenders, in addition to Casey’s heavy-handed response to these prisoners’ indiscipline, it is conceivable that this incident involved direct action against the temperamental whipping boss.

Like violence, resistance was a universal outcome of captivity. Continue reading ‘Excerpt: Chained in Silence, by Talitha L. LeFlouria’ »

  1. [1] “Whipping Report at Chattahoochee Camp,” 1885, GA.

Excerpt: The Ashley Cooper Plan, by Thomas D. Wilson

The Ashley Cooper Plan: The Founding of Carolina and the Origins of Southern Political Culture, by Thomas D. WilsonThomas D. Wilson offers surprising new insights into the origins of the political storms we witness today. Wilson connects the Ashley Cooper Plan—a seventeenth-century model for a well-ordered society imagined by Anthony Ashley Cooper (1st Earl of Shaftesbury) and his protégé John Locke—to current debates about views on climate change, sustainable development, urbanism, and professional expertise in general. In doing so, he examines the ways that the city design, political culture, ideology, and governing structures of the Province of Carolina have shaped political acts and public policy even in the present.

In the following excerpt from The Ashley Cooper Plan: The Founding of Carolina and the Origins of Southern Political Culture (pp. 184-186), Wilson describes the philosophy behind Cooper’s plan for cities in the American South and shows how the city planning model shifted after the Enlightenment.


Ashley Cooper’s Grand Model was the ultimate product of English colonial policy, political philosophy, and city planning prior to the Enlightenment. The Fundamental Constitutions and “instructions,” products of both Ashley Cooper and Locke, formed a body of law and policy written by two of the most astute minds of the time, tempered to be sure by the diverse opinions of the remaining seven Carolina proprietors. Within those documents, city planning (in the broad sense of the term used throughout) held an essential place in the overall design of the colony’s social structure, economy, and government.

Cities of Ashley Cooper’s time were necessary for government, commerce, and the cultural pursuits of aristocracy. City planning was essential to those purposes. But cities were not yet seen as great engines of prosperity and democracy, and they were not yet perceived as a medium capable of leveling class structure, providing education and upward mobility, or fostering creativity among the talented whether poor or wealthy. Urban democracy was still seen as mob rule, and it would continue to be seen that way until the Enlightenment, when the premise that all men are created equal became axiomatic.

When Carolina was founded in the predawn of the Enlightenment, an ordinary English citizen was expected to live in a village where life was well ordered and the lord of the manor or other person of authority looked after his people and represented them in London’s halls of power. It was a society descended from an ancient Gothic framework, one from which Ashley Cooper and Locke saw an opportunity to perfect the English ideals of balanced government, noblesse oblige, and class reciprocity on the blank slate of American wilderness.[1]

The new cities of America envisioned by the Grand Model were planned to be healthier, more efficient, and more civilized, yet reserved for the few who had some purpose to live there. Cities were to be located on rivers at points that would be healthful and central for regional development; they were to be designed with a geometry that would provide for efficient growth; they were to have public squares and river frontage set aside for civic and commercial uses; they were to have aesthetic merit; and they were to be laid out to ensure health and public safety, benefiting from the lessons of the Great Plague and the Great Fire of 1666. Cities were designed to serve a hinterland of estates and villages where most people would find fulfillment in life within their stratum in the social hierarchy. As the colony grew, it would proceed in an orderly and efficient manner, establishing economies of scale before extending into adjacent, newly formed jurisdictions; unplanned growth would not be permitted to leapfrog into new areas until services and infrastructure were in place. In today’s terminology, the model was consistent with principles of “sustainable development” and “smart growth.” Yet the plan was devised by Ashley Cooper and John Locke, fathers of republicanism and classical liberalism—the foundations of modern conservatism and libertarianism, traditions that have now turned against the planning model their idols invented.

James Oglethorpe’s plan for Georgia was a sequel to the Grand Model, consistent with it in many respects but updated with one great departure—the application of the premise that all men are created equal. The plan reveals how a new idea of the city emerged as the ideals of the Enlightenment supplanted those of Ashley Cooper’s age. The philosophy of the city that guided Oglethorpe remained fundamentally that of Ashley Cooper: it aimed to create well-designed places to support essential regional functions, but not places that would attract the multitudes and grow indefinitely. However, the now famous Oglethorpe Plan differed from the Ashley Cooper Plan in another fundamental way Continue reading ‘Excerpt: The Ashley Cooper Plan, by Thomas D. Wilson’ »

  1. [1] Campbell, Mildred. The English Yeoman under Elizabeth and the Early Stuarts. 1942. London: Merlin Press, 1983, pp. 315, 32. Mobility in the countryside was limited.