Georganne Eubanks Saving the Wild South December 8, 2021 | 12:00pm ET NC DEQ in partnership with NC Museum of Natural Sciences: Chris Smith, Daily Planet Curator, “Saving the Wild South: Escapades of the Early Botanists” (Virtual)
Last month, the U.S. National Archives hosted a talk with Jonathan W. White where he discussed his latest book, To Address You As My Friend: African Americans’ Letters to Abraham Lincoln. Many African Americans of the Civil War era felt a personal connection to Abraham Lincoln. For the first time in their lives, an occupant of the White House seemed concerned about the welfare of their race. Indeed, despite the tremendous injustice and discrimination that they faced, African Americans now had confidence to write to the president and to seek redress of their grievances. Their letters express the dilemmas, doubts, and dreams of both recently enslaved and free people in the throes of dramatic change. For many, writing Lincoln was a last resort. Yet their letters were often full of determination, making explicit claims to the rights of U.S. citizenship in a wide range of circumstances.
This compelling collection presents more than 120 letters from African Americans to Lincoln, most of which have never before been published.
Jonathan W. White is associate professor of American studies at Christopher Newport University and author or editor of several previous books, including Midnight in America: Darkness, Sleep, and Dreams during the Civil War.
The following is a guest blog post by Gene R. Nichol, author of The Faces of Poverty in North Carolina: Stories from Our Invisible Citizens. More than 1.5 million North Carolinians today live in poverty. More than one in five are children. Behind these sobering statistics are the faces of our fellow citizens. This book tells their stories. Since 2012, Gene R. Nichol has traveled the length of North Carolina, conducting hundreds of interviews with poor people and those working to alleviate the worst of their circumstances.
We get used to things we should never get used to.
North Carolina countenances shockingly high levels of child poverty. About 1 in 5 of our kids are impoverished (19.5%). Child poverty is also potently racialized. Kids of color are three times as likely as white kids to be poor. And all children, regardless of ethnicity, are notably more likely to be poor than adults are.
We continue to compare unfavorably with other states. In 2019 (pre-COVID), North Carolina’s child poverty rate was 10th highest in the nation. This is familiar terrain. We had the 11th highest state child poverty rate 50 years ago in 1969.
But a scan of the past half century shows modest successes, as well as defining failures. We have seemingly decided, in the last dozen or so years, that it’s OK to let a huge percentage of our youngest, most vulnerable members endure wrenching hardship.
In 1969, almost 1 in 4 of our kids who lived with a parent was poor. Ten years later, the rate had been reduced by 5%. By 1989, it was cut further still to 16.9% and, impressively, came in below the national average. In 1999, 15.7% of Tar Heel kids were poor, again better than the rest of the country.
But the 2008-12 Census Bureau survey, showing in part the impact of recession, revealed soaring state child poverty figures (23.5%) — over 3 points higher than the national numbers. And the 2015-2019 census results were largely unchanged (20.8%), again well above national markers — but, this time, during a period of
Altered results, over time, show up geographically as well. In 1969, almost half of N.C. counties had child poverty rates over 30%. Seventeen (mainly eastern) counties had rates over 40%. But by 1999, only five counties had rates of 30%, and none exceeded 40%, an impressive reduction. Again though, a decade later, 32 counties surpassed 30% and six came in over 40%.
In the last decade, high rates have apparently calcified, reclaiming much of eastern North Carolina and including western counties like McDowell, Cleveland, Allegheny, Wilkes and Yadkin, where child poverty had earlier been in retreat. All children in North Carolina, regardless of locale or ethnicity, experience higher rates of poverty now than two decades ago.
Has a returned, solidified, debilitating and extraordinary child poverty rate become an issue of primary focus for the N.C. General Assembly? Not in the slightest.
Having one of the developed world’s highest child poverty rates is apparently, for us, un-worrisome. We explore no meaningful, majority-sponsored state anti-poverty initiatives.
In fact, the last decade, instead, has produced brutal cuts to already meager social safety net protections. More broadly, we behave as if having deplorable child poverty levels is as natural as the morning sun. Who cares if we treat our kids worse than almost everyone else?
We, apparently, have bigger challenges on our minds. Like the bold threat of critical race theory submerging our public schools. Or the surpassing danger of transgender kids unfairly dominating our sports programs. Or the haunting specter of various folks showing up in our bathrooms. Or the daunting risk of publishing data about the ocean’s rise. Or the pesky peril posed by agricultural whistle-blowers. We’ve got real emergencies to deal with. We can’t be bothered with the likes of poor and hungry babies.
Thomas Paine wrote in Common Sense that “a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it the superficial appearance of being right.” As ever, here’s to brother Paine.
Gene R. Nichol is the Boyd Tinsley Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
December 1st, 1955, marks the day civil rights activist Rosa Parks rejected a bus driver’s order, in Montgomery, Alabama, to give up her seat in the “colored” section of the bus to a white passenger, after the whites-only section had already been filled. She was then arrested and convicted of violating the laws of segregation. However, Rosa Parks was able to appeal her conviction, and she formally challenged the legality of segregation laws in the process. Throughout the following years, this incident would become a symbol of the Civil Rights Movement.
In celebration of Rosa Parks’ act of resistance, we’ve chosen to share a recommended reading list of biographical books revolving around other black civil rights activists. While we celebrate the work of Parks and these other amazing individuals, we must understand there’s still a lot more work to do.
Tyson has written, with compelling prose and great insight, an excellent biography as well as a definitive history of armed self-defense doctrines in the civil rights movement. He has produced a fascinating book that is a welcome antidote to the historical pap being spooned out in popular documentaries these days.
A gifted grassroots organizer, Baker shunned the spotlight in favor of vital behind-the-scenes work that helped power the black freedom struggle. She was a national officer and key figure in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, one of the founders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and a prime mover in the creation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Baker made a place for herself in predominantly male political circles that included W. E. B. Du Bois, Thurgood Marshall, and Martin Luther King Jr., all the while maintaining relationships with a vibrant group of women, students, and activists both black and white.
In this deeply researched biography, Barbara Ransby chronicles Baker’s long and rich political career as an organizer, an intellectual, and a teacher, from her early experiences in depression-era Harlem to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Ransby shows Baker to be a complex figure whose radical, democratic worldview, commitment to empowering the black poor, and emphasis on group-centered, grassroots leadership set her apart from most of her political contemporaries. Beyond documenting an extraordinary life, the book paints a vivid picture of the African American fight for justice and its intersections with other progressive struggles worldwide across the twentieth century.
This first biography of Chambers captur[es] his personality, character, and self-effacing determination. . . . Though books on legal topics are hardly known for their readability, this one is an exception. More than a simple biography of a lawyer, this account chronicles an entire law firm and how civil rights are achieved in the real world. Verdict: Essential.
Often photographed in a cowboy hat with her middle finger held defiantly in the air, Florynce “Flo” Kennedy (1916–2000) left a vibrant legacy as a leader of the Black Power and feminist movements. In the first biography of Kennedy, Sherie M. Randolph traces the life and political influence of this strikingly bold and controversial radical activist. Rather than simply reacting to the predominantly white feminist movement, Kennedy brought the lessons of Black Power to white feminism and built bridges in the struggles against racism and sexism. Randolph narrates Kennedy’s progressive upbringing, her pathbreaking graduation from Columbia Law School, and her long career as a media-savvy activist, showing how Kennedy rose to founding roles in organizations such as the National Black Feminist Organization and the National Organization for Women, allying herself with both white and black activists such as Adam Clayton Powell, H. Rap Brown, Betty Friedan, and Shirley Chisholm.
Making use of an extensive and previously uncollected archive, Randolph demonstrates profound connections within the histories of the new left, civil rights, Black Power, and feminism, showing that black feminism was pivotal in shaping postwar U.S. liberation movements.
This is a fine-grained portrait of the life of Louis Austin, the brilliant, fiery, indefatigable African American editor of the Carolina Times, North Carolina’s most important black newspaper. It will make an essential and absorbing contribution to the story of the black press, the African American freedom struggle in the South, and the history of North Carolina.
Timothy B. Tyson, author of Blood Done Sign My Name and Radio Free Dixie, Second Edition
The following is an excerpt from Courtney Lewis’ “Sovereign Entrepreneurs: Cherokee Small-Business Owners and the Making of Economic Sovereignty“. By 2009, reverberations of economic crisis spread from the United States around the globe. As corporations across the United States folded, however, small businesses on the Qualla Boundary of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) continued to thrive. In this rich ethnographic study, Courtney Lewis reveals the critical roles small businesses such as these play for Indigenous nations. The EBCI has an especially long history of incorporated, citizen-owned businesses located on their lands. When many people think of Indigenous-owned businesses, they stop with prominent casino gaming operations or natural-resource intensive enterprises. But on the Qualla Boundary today, Indigenous entrepreneurship and economic independence extends to art galleries, restaurants, a bookstore, a funeral parlor, and more.
Cherokee has been well known as a primary tourist destination in western North Carolina for nearly one hundred years. A short drive through the main streets of this town reveals strips of small back-to-back buildings and stores that seem to be dedicated to the tourist market. Behind these dominant facades, however, lies a rich world of small businesses. In fact, as reported by the EBCI’s Office of Budget and Finance’s Revenue Office, less than half of the businesses on the Qualla Boundary are strictly tourist oriented. There are many construction and landscaping businesses (some of which have won small-business awards, such as those given at the yearly National Minority Enterprise Development Week Conference), as well as other community-oriented businesses—including a funeral home, mechanics, craft-supply stores (wood, beads, leather), a cab service, accounting services, hair salons, office supplies, legal services, hardware supplies, website services, pest control, video-production, photography services, day care, a children’s clothing shop, signmaking, local convenience stores, painting services, and DJ services—with more emerging every year. This overall small-business diversity is crucial in serving the local community, tourists, and the EBCI’s national economic sovereignty.
The physical spaces of these businesses vary: some have their own offices or building storefronts, while others are run from a vehicle (the Sound of Music DJ service’s van uses only biodiesel that the owner produces in-house)—and then there are those that operate out of the owner’s home or out of a building on the owner’s family’s land. Many of the local-oriented businesses would be quite challenging to find if you did not know the area well as they may have little to no web presence for promotion or mapping. In fact, for some homes with small farms tucked into the back roads of the mountains, the practice of leaving produce or cornmeal out in the front yard with the expectation that payment will be left in return is common. As I was told, you “just know” that they will have it, so you drive by to check to see if they have any ready for sale. Getting more coveted produce, such as the delicious and difficult-to-find wishi mushroom (wild-harvested in the fall), requires knowing how to contact the owner to get on a waiting list.
Sorting out this diversity of small businesses and small-business practices begins with two seemingly simple but central questions: Who owns these businesses, and what markets do they serve? To delve into these questions, we must begin by examining the contextual distinctiveness of American Indians’ economic identities and their related experiences. Addressing these constructions helps refine our theoretical understandings of what has been termed indigenous entrepreneurship by following how the external shaping of indigenous economic identity has hindered its representation as well as its expression.
The Absent Indigenous Entrepreneurs
These are the dying breed stories that we try to capture whenever we are on the road with our cameras.
—The Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods on Eastern Band citizen Johnnie Sue Myers’s cooking (emphasis added)
As I sat down in the crowded little diner in the midst of the Great Smoky Mountains, the waitress asked me, “Siyo, doiyusdi tsaditasdi tsaduli?” (ᏏᏲ, Ꮩ ᎢᏳᏍᏗ ᏣᏗᏔᏍᏗ ᏣᏚᎵ? “Hi, what would you like to drink?”). Still skimming the menu, I answered, “Siyo, kowi agwaduli” (ᏏᏲ, ᎧᏫ ᎠᏆᏚᎵᎭ; “Hi, I’d like a coffee”). I had learned from Bo Taylor’s summer language-immersion course (taken at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, well before I started my fieldwork) that this was one of a handful of restaurants you could go to on the Qualla Boundary where, if the wait staff recognized you, you could speak Cherokee. During this language course, we would eat lunch every day at a different restaurant. Some, like the Little Princess restaurant (which features “Indian dinner” nights, including items such as bean bread and grease, as does Paul’s Diner and the Newfound Restaurant), have a few staff members who spoke Cherokee. The servers at other restaurants, such as a local Chinese buffet, now speak remedial Cherokee as a result of Bo’s persistent attempts to teach them a bit of the language each time he goes in (making this, quite possibly, the only place where you can enjoy lo mein while ordering hot green tea in the Cherokee language). For me, these restaurants—ranging from local to tourist oriented, franchise to home cooking, and buffet to diner—reflect the diversity and community of small businesses on the Qualla Boundary.
Considering this diversity, watching the above-mentioned episode of Bizarre Foods reinforced the absurdity of the non-Native world’s continued perception of American Indians as a “dying breed.” This claim was made even as the show creators were watching American Indians writing cookbooks about “Cherokee feasts,” providing guided tours of reservation waterways, serving meals, and promoting local American Indian artists, all in front of a television crew. Even when people like Andrew Zimmern are surrounded by Cherokee people and their many businesses all day, they still see them as “vanishing.” Philip Deloria began to trace this contradiction by examining how indigenous anomalies, as interpreted through the settler-colonial gaze, were necessarily rendered invisible in order to continue settler-colonial agendas (e.g., land procurement). One of these anomalies discussed by Daniel Usner is the “Indian work” that settler-colonial society deems inauthentic for American Indians (conveyed in media and pop culture but also given legitimacy through academic and government officials). The tactic—and necessity—of applied invisibility by settler-colonial society continues today.
Throughout their histories, American Indians have practiced what has been termed entrepreneurialism. Indigenous peoples throughout the Americas had extensive trade routes established well before Europeans arrived. Following European arrival, American Indians were the driving force supporting international business networks and trade, supplying European countries with goods that eventually contributed to the development of (by European standards) a “native elite,” in addition to the wealth created for European businesses and individuals. According to Cherokee Nation citizen Gary “Litefoot” Davis, president and CEO of the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development, former rapper, and self-described entrepreneur, “I think that business and being entrepreneurs is probably one of the most traditional things that Native people have ever done. For me, being an entrepreneur is a very traditional activity.”
Courtney Lewis (Cherokee Nation) is assistant professor of anthropology at the University of South Carolina–Columbia.
To browse these titles and more, please be sure to visit our Middle East Studies Association virtual booth. Use promo code 01DAH40 at checkout to receive a 40% discount. And if you order totals over $75, domestic U.S. shipping is FREE.
The following is an excerpt from Jenny Tone-Pah-Hote’s“Crafting an Indigenous Nation: Kiowa Expressive Culture in the Progressive Era”. In this in-depth interdisciplinary study, Jenny Tone-Pah-Hote reveals how Kiowa people drew on the tribe’s rich history of expressive culture to assert its identity at a time of profound challenge. Examining traditional forms such as beadwork, metalwork, painting, and dance, Tone-Pah-Hote argues that their creation and exchange were as significant to the expression of Indigenous identity and sovereignty as formal political engagement and policymaking. These cultural forms, she argues, were sites of contestation as well as affirmation, as Kiowa people used them to confront external pressures, express national identity, and wrestle with changing gender roles and representations.
Figure 2 shows a man and a women riding together with a pack animal saddled with a parfleche container. Though subtly rendered, this image focuses on warfare, a subject frequently depicted by Kiowa men in the late nineteenth century. Details within the drawing itself illustrate that warfare touched the lives of both men and women. At times, women traveled with their husbands on military expeditions. Sometimes a woman left to go on a war party with a paramour to escape a heated situation at home, especially if she was married, a scenario that commonly caused discord among individuals and families. Yet, Michael Paul Jordan, an anthropologist, found that other women joined war parties “to avenge a relative who died at the hands of the enemy.” The figures in the drawing are prepared for combat. The man is armed with a bow quiver made of cloth or a dark hide with the fur side showing. The woman carries a gun tucked into the girth of her saddle. Women had good reason to be armed on such excursions because they could be casualties or captives taken in war.
The goods and objects the artist renders in this drawing emphasize the fruits of warfare and exchange, men’s prerogatives in nineteenth-century Kiowa society. During the nineteenth century, as Candace Greene has pointed out, a Kiowa man’s “only route to status and success was the war path.” Military expeditions were the way that men generated the wealth and horses to facilitate trade and exchange. Warfare certainly had economic elements, but it possessed greater significance as well. During the nineteenth century, Kiowa people lived in a region that was an ever-changing landscape of political and military alliances that shifted over the course of the century. They fought to protect their families as well as the herds of horses they raised, traded, and raided for. In the words of the historian Brian DeLay, in the 1830s and 1840s, both Comanche and Kiowas “were fighting to win honor, avenge fallen comrades, and grow rich.”
The woman depicted in figure 2 mirrors the man’s style and pose in the saddle, and her clothing provides important clues for her social standing and context in this image. She wears a red-sleeved dress, which marks her high social position. Cloth dresses became all the rage before the 1870s, and her dress reflects the ability of her family to acquire the cloth she wears. The red and black contrast with the white edge of her sleeves. She wears boots painted in yellow, red, and green pigments that Kiowa women often featured in their regalia before and after the reservation era. Her fine clothing is another indication that this drawing focuses on warfare. As Jordan found, women wore their best clothes for war. The pack animal follows the couple bearing a parfleche bag, which would have been painted by a woman who began to cultivate her talent for abstract painting as a young person, learning from an expert teacher how to make and paint parfleche.
They are a well-dressed couple, suggesting their wealth and power in Kiowa society. Kiowas participated in trade networks that stretched the breadth of the continent—networks that encompassed many Native and non-Native peoples. The drawing also offers us a glimpse into a material world derived from a state of achievement and plenty, prior to the reservation era. Both horses wear German silver bridles that emphasize the riders’ status. The riders use Western-style saddles, indicating the vast number of Western objects that Kiowas circulated and incorporated into their lives by the 1870s. He wears painted leggings, with blue tabs and lines suggesting the maroon mescal beans that often adorned buckskin clothing in the nineteenth century. These leggings display the skill of the woman who possessed the knowledge and ability to sew, paint, and outfit him in this grand manner. He wears a bone breastplate, common in men’s dress. A hair ornament and feathers complete his outfit.
The man who made this drawing emphasizes women’s skills even as the content of the drawing relates to warfare. The artist renders the prerogatives and paths to prestige in Kiowa society, which were complementary. The drawing illustrates and is evidence of gendered art production. A woman painted the parfleche bag and completed the beadwork that both wear. Women tanned and sewed hides from animals that men hunted. For women, “industrial skill,” including the arts, was a source of respect. Drawings on hide or paper, however, reflected the events and accomplishments of Kiowa warriors. Men made representational drawings that rendered their own stories on hides, and later on paper. The narratives of a man’s exploits in war and love belonged to him alone, though he might choose another with a fine hand to render a drawing of his accomplishments. Painting and drawing of representational images belonged in the domain of Kiowa men, who shared their exploits with brothers, friends, and others in public spaces and in the more private domains of military society gatherings.
Jenny Tone-Pah-Hote (Kiowa) is assistant professor of American studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Last Week, UNC Press author of White Philanthropy Maribel Morey had a conversation with Wesleyan University’s Khalil Anthony Johnson, Jr. and Stanford PACS’ Rob Reich and Lucy Bernholz. In this conversation hosted by Stanford’s Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, they discuss the many intersections of philanthropy and power in U.S. history and the Present.
Since its publication in 1944, many Americans have described Gunnar Myrdal’s An American Dilemma as a defining text on U.S. race relations. Here, Maribel Morey confirms with historical evidence what many critics of the book have suspected: An American Dilemma was not commissioned, funded, or written with the goal of challenging white supremacy. Instead, Morey reveals it was commissioned by Carnegie Corporation president Frederick Keppel, and researched and written by Myrdal, with the intent of solidifying white rule over Black people in the United States.
Maribel Morey is founding executive director of the Miami Institute for the Social Sciences.
The following is an excerpt from Malinda Maynor Lowery’s Lumbee Indians in the Jim Crow South: Race, Identity, and the Making of a Nation. With more than 50,000 enrolled members, North Carolina’s Lumbee Indians are the largest Native American tribe east of the Mississippi River. Malinda Maynor Lowery, a Lumbee herself, describes how, between Reconstruction and the 1950s, the Lumbee crafted and maintained a distinct identity in an era defined by racial segregation in the South and paternalistic policies for Indians throughout the nation. They did so against the backdrop of some of the central issues in American history, including race, class, politics, and citizenship.
My family photographs ring with layers of belonging; we have one of the Pembroke “graded school,” or elementary school, that features my dad’s sister Faye (Figure 2). She is on the left end of the front row, and my great-uncle Theodore Maynor is the teacher (third row, left end). Aunt Faye was in the first grade, but some of those children on the top row don’t look like first graders—they’re preteens but most likely in their first year in school. Each child in this picture came from an Indian household; they had two Indian parents and lived within a few miles of Pembroke, close enough that they could walk to school. Few Indian children had access to a school bus, but the Pembroke graded school did have a sturdy brick building, evincing their modest prosperity compared to more isolated communities. I can imagine my grandmother Lucy mending the special collar she had sewn for Faye’s dress the morning this picture was taken; I can picture Faye practicing an appropriately serious expression in front of her mother’s dresser mirror—the only mirror in their five-room house, which was large for that time and place. My grandfather Wayne, a schoolteacher like his brother Theodore, was probably in the yard feeding the hogs; or maybe he was plating a few biscuits with molasses for my dad, Waltz, then only five years old. In a few years, Waltz, Faye, and their siblings would rise before dawn to pick cotton so they could go to school that day.
But this scene is just a fiction to me; my grandmother died before I was born and my grandfather died when I was three, so I don’t recall their voices or personalities or the atmosphere in their home. In fact, just trying to access 1938 is difficult. I didn’t go to a segregated school, but the faces in my class pictures looked just as varied as these do. This photo poses some questions: How did the segregation era, marked by a supposedly iron-sided wall between the races, evidence so much variety? What were the contours and boundaries of racial segregation for Native American southerners? How did their identities function, and how did the concept of race become institutionalized out of an identity based on kinship and settlement?
These are questions that historians now ask, knowing that race and color became definitive categories in American society in the twentieth century. But at that time, Indians asked another question, one that had little to do with their position in the racial hierarchy and everything to do with their identity as a People: how do we maintain our autonomy while promoting opportunity and prosperity among our people? Faced with the challenge of an emerging color line and whites’ defense of it, the answer was no less ambiguous than the social and political air they breathed.
By 1910 white supremacy dictated the separation of racial groups in urban public facilities—schools, churches, restrooms, drinking fountains, movie theaters, buses, streetcars, hospitals, and other places. In Robeson County, that separation was threefold in the county seat of Lumberton. There were different facilities for whites, blacks, and Indians. In the county courthouse, each group had its water fountains and restrooms, while the Lumberton movie theater boasted a balcony divided by wooden partitions for the Indian and black patrons. In the county’s private places and in rural areas and small towns, however, the picture is less divided and more like the one of my aunt’s school class: variegated, but with a certain logic once one looks below the surface. White supremacy was at once arbitrary and systematic.
Indians took step-by-step advantage of the post-Civil War racial environment to add another layer to their strategies for maintaining identity. Segregated schools and churches, along with the growing obsession with a hierarchy of color and ancestry, fostered a racial identity and helped Indians affirm their identity as fundamentally different from whites and blacks. However, adopting segregation to preserve distinctiveness proved to be a double-edged sword: excluding blacks and whites from their community assured Indians control over some of their own affairs, but it also conceded whites’ power to govern race relations. Indians operated within the constraints of white attitudes about the racial hierarchy and, to a certain extent, had to determine their social boundaries according to what whites were willing to accept. Even so, they employed their own values in monitoring social contact with both whites and blacks.
Malinda Maynor Lowery (Lumbee) is Cahoon Family Professor in American History at Emory College. She is the author of The Lumbee Indians: An American Struggle.
The following is a guest blog post by Anima Adjepong, author of Afropolitan Projects: Redefining Blackness, Sexualities, and Culture from Houston to Accra. Beyond simplistic binaries of “the dark continent” or “Africa rising,” Africans at home and abroad articulate their identities through their quotidian practices and cultural politics. Amongst the privileged classes, these articulations can be characterized as Afropolitan projects–cultural, political, and aesthetic expressions of global belonging rooted in African ideals. This ethnographic study examines the Afropolitan projects of Ghanaians living in two cosmopolitan cities: Houston, Texas, and Accra, Ghana. Anima Adjepong’s focus shifts between the cities, exploring contests around national and pan-African cultural politics, race, class, sexuality, and religion.
Currently, Ghana’s parliament is debating an odious bill to further suppress its queer population and silence advocacy around LGBTQI rights and organizing. One of the primary justifications from supporters of this bill is that “the majority of Ghanaians” agree with its terms. This claim cannot be supported because the climate of terror in Ghana makes it difficult to express dissenting views. To publicly hold the perspective that queer Ghanaian lives matter is to speak out against the status quo and thus expose oneself to censure and violence. This violence comes from an emboldened cohort supported by the church, state, and conservative media. A few recent examples of outrage against allies who have dared to speak out illuminate my point that the dominant discourse about queer life in Ghana is characterized by the fear of sanction.
In March 2021, renowned Ghanaian footballer Michael Essien posted an Instagram message of support for LGBTQI Ghanaians. The message followed on the heels of a letter signed by other Black celebrities in the United Kingdom and Europe in solidarity with queer Ghanaians after police closed down their community center. In Ghana, footballers are held in high regard and such a message of support seemed like a very big deal. Yet, within only a few hours of the Instagram post going live, Essien was roundly abused by fans to the extent that he backed down, removing the post and affirming his heterosexuality a few days later. Despite being a highly respected person in Ghanaian cultural politics, in the face of severe backlash, he could not stand by a simple statement of solidarity. He retreated and changed his public stance from one of support to silence and distancing.
In August 2021, Mrs. Araba Forson, made a video speaking out against the sustained violence that queer and trans Ghanaians face. Forson framed her message to “all mothers who have children like [her daughter, Angel Maxine].” Maxine is a transgender woman who uses her platform as a musician to speak out in support of queer and trans Ghanaians. Forson’s message was rare in Ghana – a mother making a very public statement of support for her queer daughter. I sent this video to my mother, interested to hear her reaction. Despite agreeing with Forson, my mother also shared concerns about what speaking out in this fashion might mean. As she put it, they will beat us and then afterwards, they will banish us. Because she was speaking in Twi, my mother had to explain banished to me. She described people being taken out to the edge of a forest and abandoned there, expelled from the community. Who would do this, I asked? “Our same church people,” was her response. In other words, my mother articulated a silence shaped by the fear of rejection from those she considered her community. Despite holding a dissenting view on this topic, her public response would likely be silence or acquiescence to the perspective of the church and state, for fear of retribution.
In October 2021, a group of lawyers and professors wrote a memo rejecting the anti-LGBTQI bill in Ghana’s parliament. In response, they have been roundly criticized in the media, and their knowledge and expertise questioned. The drafters of this memo include longstanding scholars and activists who have experience expressing and advocating unpopular opinions including feminism and anti-neocolonialism. As such, they were well prepared for the attacks against them when they spoke out. Yet under the conditions described, who is brave enough to risk being banished? Who can withstand the vitriolic levels of harassment that outspoken individuals and collectives face?
Most Ghanaians do not have a long history of advocacy, the social privilege to brush off public censure, or the courage to advocate dissenting views. The fear of violence (that they will be beaten) and social rejection (banishment) acts as a powerful form of social control. This fear leaves many people too afraid to challenge the church, the state, or the media. Without a safe space to freely express how they feel about their queer kin and compatriots, Ghanaians will remain trapped by claims about what the majority think. In this way, Ghanaians are coerced into complicity with the church and state to enact violence on their compatriots, regardless of how they might actually feel.
In Afropolitan Projects, I show a disconnect between a dominant homophobic discourse and more generous private expressions of support and community. This disconnect contradicts claims about what the majority of Ghanaians think and instead demonstrates the force of social control and silencing. Within this contradiction is an opportunity for collective organizing and political education, which can challenge the repressive climate. For all those who fear being beaten and banished from the national, religious, or cultural community, recognizing our collectivity means recognizing a shared power in fighting back. Recognizing our collectivity also means embracing avenues for creating alternative community, even in banishment.
Anima Adjepong is assistant professor of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at the University of Cincinnati.
A note from Elaine Maisner, executive editor for religious studies
Religion scholars and writers at all levels, welcome to UNC Press, celebrating its centennial in 2022. I invite you to check out UNC Press’s religious studies lists—thrilled for you to see our newest publications, as well as those from earlier seasons.
Join me in my zoom room during #AARSBL2021 on Nov. 19, 22, or 23 to talk about your projects. Early on in your process is fine. To set up a chat with me, just DM @elainemaisner or email email@example.com.
Attend: Wondering how to get published? Join our virtual AAR panel (AV22-104), Steps to Publishing Your Book: From Pitch to Production, Monday, Nov. 22, 10 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. EST. My fellow editors and I look forward to seeing you. First book or beyond.
Adrian Miller is a certified Kansas City Barbecue Society judge and recipient of a James Beard Foundation Book Award for Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time. A consultant on Netflix’s Chef’s Table BBQ, Miller’s most recent book is The President’s Kitchen Cabinet: The Story of the African Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families, from the Washingtons to the Obamas.
John Shelton Reed and Dale Volberg Reed live in Chapel Hill, NC. Both are members of the Southern Foodways Alliance. John Shelton Reed is author of Barbecue: A Savor the South Cookbook, and he is co-founder of The Campaign for Real Barbecue (http://www.truecue.org) and one of the moving spirits of the Carolina Barbecue Society
The following is an excerpt from Christopher B. Teuton’s Cherokee Stories of the Turtle Island Liars’ Club. Cherokee Stories of the Turtle Island Liars’ Club paints a vivid, fascinating portrait of a community deeply grounded in tradition and dynamically engaged in the present. A collection of forty interwoven stories, conversations, and teachings about Western Cherokee life, beliefs, and the art of storytelling, the book orchestrates a multilayered conversation between a group of honored Cherokee elders, storytellers, and knowledge-keepers and the communities their stories touch. Collaborating with Hastings Shade, Sammy Still, Sequoyah Guess, and Woody Hansen, Cherokee scholar Christopher B. Teuton has assembled the first collection of traditional and contemporary Western Cherokee stories published in over forty years.
I’m sitting in my rental car with Hastings Shade outside of the chapel at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, Oklahoma. It’s early December, and late autumn seems to place us both in a contemplative mood. Autumn is my favorite time of year, and especially autumn in northeastern Oklahoma. The deep heart-heat of the Oklahoma summer slowly gives way to brisk fall winds that shake the leaves from the trees. The copperheads seek their burrows; the blue of the sky lightens; and the air on the Ozark Plateau loses some of its moisture. The Cherokee New Year arrives with the first new moon in October, when the Earth, moon, and sun align so that the moon is directly between the Earth and sun. Cherokee life realigns in autumn. Crops are harvested and families ready themselves for the coming winter. At this time when nature turns inward it is fitting we reflect on Cherokee life by telling stories.
This Sunday morning is cold, gray, and quiet on the Heritage Center’s acres of level, forested grounds. For three years I’ve been working with Hastings and three other Cherokee elders and traditionalists to gather the stories of the Turtle Island Liars’ Club. Today will be our last recording session. This afternoon I’ll head back home to begin writing a book, partly mine and partly theirs, that will weave together the stories, teachings, experiences, and memories they shared with me. As we wait for Sequoyah Guess and Woody Hansen to meet us after services at Tiyo Baptist Church, Hastings talks me through a collection of teachings and writings he has given me to incorporate into the book.
Hastings Shade expresses a gentle strength beyond his physical presence. In his late sixties, he is of medium height and build, with straight black hair parted on the side, a moustache and goatee. There is an urgency in Hastings’s manner today. His dark eyes flash under his amber-colored glasses as he reflects upon the meaning of one particular Cherokee symbol, the looped square. I’ve seen this symbol in books and read what archaeologists and anthropologists think it means. They say it symbolizes the four cords that suspend the earth from Galvladi—the Sky World—the Cherokee name for the world above the sky. The symbol is a square with corners that loop, never coming to ninety-degree angles, flowing from one side to the next.
“See, they never fully come together,” Hastings says as he points to the corners.
“That’s a symbol of Elohi?” I say, using the Cherokee word for Earth.
“And that’s the cords?” I say, pointing to the corners.
“That’s the cords, yeah.”
“But it also symbolizes a kind of movement? Towards maturity?”
“Yeah, well, it symbolizes your life cycle,” Hastings says. “You’re born. You mature. You age. And then you die.”
“And where does it start?”
“There’s no starting and there’s no beginning,” Hastings says quickly, emphatically. “Just like conception. You know, there’s no set time for conception. It’s just when it happens. There’s no set time for death. Just when it happens.”
“The Cherokee conception of death,” I think out loud. “You just keep on going.”
“Yeah. Yeah,” Hastings agrees. “There’s no . . . it don’t end, you know? It just one more step in who we are. It just like, an old man gave me a good example one time. He said, ‘In your life, your daily life, you should walk, you should take each step just like the next step you take you’re going to be standing in front of the Creator.’ Just like my next step, I’m going to be standing in front of him. Our life should be to a point where we shouldn’t dread that next step. If our life is pure or good as we can live it, then the next step is just another step in life.”
“Is there an end?”
“There’s no end. This is the journey that the Cherokees followed as a tribe and as individuals,” he said pointing to the looped square. “As a tribe, north, tsuyvtlv, from their ancestral homeland. East, dikalvgv, to a land that was only temporary. South, tsuganawv, to warmth that lasted fourteen generations, about 700 years, until contact with Europeans. Then west, wudeligv, to suffering and death.”
Christopher B. Teuton (Cherokee Nation) is professor and chair of the Department of American Indian Studies at the University of Washington and author of Deep Waters: The Textual Continuum in American Indian Literature.
Over the past months, many of you followed the situation with our board membership. In May, the UNC System Board of Governors declined to consider the reappointment of our board chair Professor Eric Muller. For a time—and because of the unique nature of the Press’s bylaws—it was unclear to many of us whether Professor Muller’s nomination was still under consideration, making the situation even more opaque. To eliminate this confusion, in early August Professor Muller resigned from the board to help us all find a way forward.
We want to take this moment to thank Professor Muller for his many years of service to the Press, and in particular for his tireless and exemplary leadership as board chair for the past six years. We’ve heard from a number of members of our community that share this sentiment. We are grateful for the many expressions in support of Professor Muller’s service to the Press.
Interim board chair Professor Lisa Levenstein noted, “Eric’s chairmanship taught me about how to lead with integrity and passion. I am grateful for his work in helping to diversify the board and for his tremendous commitment to the well-being of everyone associated with the Press.”
John Sherer, the Spangler Family Director of the Press, said, “Eric’s thoughtful and generous style of leadership has been invaluable to me as the Press grapples with the myriad challenges and opportunities facing scholarly publishers. He was a steady and reliable resource for many of us at the Press, and I know I speak for the entire staff when I thank him for these enormous contributions to our success.”
Charles Broadwell, the chair of the Press’s Advancement Council, added, “Eric’s passion for the Press was obvious in his presentations to us. He always welcomed our questions and gave us valuable perspective on the issues and challenges facing the Press. He certainly left his mark as a leader for the board, and we very much appreciate his work with our Council over the years.”
Since 1990, November has been nationally celebrated as Native American Heritage Month. We take this month to honor the cultures, histories and contributions that Native people have made throughout the years. To help celebrate, we’ve curated a reading list of books from all Native American authors touching on different aspects of Native American life.
We would also like to highlight the 2021 Native Cinema Showcase going on until the 18th of this month. The National Museum of the American Indian’s Native Cinema Showcase is an annual celebration of the best in Native film. This year’s showcase focuses on Native people boldly asserting themselves through language, healing, building community, and a continued relationship with the land. Activism lies at the heart of all these stories. The showcase provides a unique forum for engagement with Native filmmakers from Indigenous communities throughout the Western Hemisphere and Arctic. Click here to learn more about the films being shown at the showcase.
Lowery argues that “Indian” is a dynamic identity that, for outsiders, sometimes hinged on the presence of “Indian blood” (for federal New Deal policy makers) and sometimes on the absence of “black blood” (for southern white segregationists). Lumbee people themselves have constructed their identity in layers that tie together kin and place, race and class, tribe and nation; however, Indians have not always agreed on how to weave this fabric into a whole. Using photographs, letters, genealogy, federal and state records, and first-person family history, Lowery narrates this compelling conversation between insiders and outsiders, demonstrating how the Lumbee People challenged the boundaries of Indian, southern, and American identities.
Drawing from a rich array of source material and blending personal experience with analytical skill, Jenny Tone-Pah-Hote explores carefully how, from the 1870s to the 1930s, the Kiowa created an expressive culture in pursuit of many important goals. In the face of powerful forces of assimilation and appropriation—vividly captured in this compact book—Kiowa people purposely mobilized dress, adornment, artwork, and dance to maintain bonds of kinship and community, represent change in religious identity, create new intertribal spaces, contribute to markets, preserve ties to territory, and exercise sovereignty.
Cherokee Stories of the Turtle Island Liars’ Club paints a vivid, fascinating portrait of a community deeply grounded in tradition and dynamically engaged in the present. A collection of forty interwoven stories, conversations, and teachings about Western Cherokee life, beliefs, and the art of storytelling, the book orchestrates a multilayered conversation between a group of honored Cherokee elders, storytellers, and knowledge-keepers and the communities their stories touch. Collaborating with Hastings Shade, Sammy Still, Sequoyah Guess, and Woody Hansen, Cherokee scholar Christopher B. Teuton has assembled the first collection of traditional and contemporary Western Cherokee stories published in over forty years.
This book is Maynor Lowery’s ode to the Lumbee people and her reconciliation of what it means to be American and Lumbee concurrently. She contends that the two do not exist in contradistinction to each other, nor do they exist copacetically. She writes in a way that is accessible to the reader, palatable for non-Natives, and her book is a decidedly and incontrovertibly Lumbee work by and for Lumbee people.
By 2009, reverberations of economic crisis spread from the United States around the globe. As corporations across the United States folded, however, small businesses on the Qualla Boundary of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) continued to thrive. In this rich ethnographic study, Courtney Lewis reveals the critical roles small businesses such as these play for Indigenous nations. The EBCI has an especially long history of incorporated, citizen-owned businesses located on their lands. When many people think of Indigenous-owned businesses, they stop with prominent casino gaming operations or natural-resource intensive enterprises. But on the Qualla Boundary today, Indigenous entrepreneurship and economic independence extends to art galleries, restaurants, a bookstore, a funeral parlor, and more.
The following is an excerpt from Ashley D. Farmer’s Remaking Black Power: How Black Women Transformed an Era. In this comprehensive history, Ashley D. Farmer examines black women’s political, social, and cultural engagement with Black Power ideals and organizations. Complicating the assumption that sexism relegated black women to the margins of the movement, Farmer demonstrates how female activists fought for more inclusive understandings of Black Power and social justice by developing new ideas about black womanhood. This compelling book shows how the new tropes of womanhood that they created–the “Militant Black Domestic,” the “Revolutionary Black Woman,” and the “Third World Woman,” for instance–spurred debate among activists over the importance of women and gender to Black Power organizing, causing many of the era’s organizations and leaders to critique patriarchy and support gender equality.
Farmer is also a recipient of the 2021 Whiting Creative Nonfiction Grant. The Whiting Creative Nonfiction Grant of $40,000 is awarded to writers in the process of completing a book of deeply researched and imaginatively composed nonfiction. Below the excerpt, you’ll see Farmer discuss how the grant will help continue the research behind her upcoming UNC Press book Queen Mother Audley Moore: Mother of Black Nationalism.
“The revolution is on, and it isn’t just tonight,” seventy-year-old radical activist Audley Moore told a group of protesters and schoolteachers in 1968. “I want you to know that it isn’t just this week. This revolution has been going on for the last fifty years, because when I came into the movement, I came in only because it was revolutionary. This is something for you to think about, so don’t just think that because Carmichael said ‘Black Power’ that all of sudden people today are thinking in terms of their freedom.” These New York City–based activists and educators had invited Moore to the “Priorities in Urban Education Conference” to help garner support for their campaign for community control of Brooklyn public schools. As one of the movement’s midwives, Moore had been fighting for black self-determination longer than most of her audience members had been alive. She used the speaking invitation to proffer an alternative genealogy of the Black Power era, one in which 1960s protests were the continuation rather than the origin of the movement.
Moore counted herself among a cadre of activists who were instrumental in developing the ideological frameworks of the Black Power era and in formulating gendered expressions of its central principles. Although the story of the movement typically begins in 1966, with Stokely Carmichael’s speech in Greenwood, Mississippi, Black Power was much larger than the slogan he introduced into the popular and political discourse. A lifelong black nationalist, Moore consistently argued that black women radicals developed and sustained radical emancipation projects well before the 1960s. She also credited these women with creating the new definitions of black “self-identity” that Carmichael and others would later argue were at the core of Black Power projects.
Moore located the origins of the Black Power movement in the intellectualism and activism of postwar women radicals. Coming of age in the 1920s and 1930s, many of these women were politicized by Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), a global black nationalist organization that advocated for black self-determination, African repatriation, and separate black cultural and political institutions. As the Depression hit and the UNIA dissipated in the 1930s, many of these women joined the Communist Party (CP). Employed almost exclusively as maids and cooks in white households, they found the CP attractive because it combined Garveyite nationalist frameworks with sophisticated critiques of domestic workers’ class oppression. As CP members, they espoused a black nationalist, working-class, women-centered political agenda and organized around their unique experiences with racism, sexism, and capitalism.
In the first half of the twentieth century, black nationalists and Communists often theorized black liberation through the lens of the working class. Moreover, these activists and organizations framed the struggle for black self-determination and liberation as the fight to regain black manhood. Popular and political perceptions of black womanhood, on the other hand, often focused on the domestic worker as a symbol of black working-class womanhood. Although leftist organizations identified black women’s “special” race, class, and gender oppression, they did not always articulate a gender-inclusive emancipatory vision. Instead, leading activists and groups often marginalized the domestic worker and the plight of black women more broadly, reinforcing popular perceptions of black women that were steeped in the ideal of the “docile” mammy figure and entrenched in the legacy of slavery.
From the 1940s to the 1960s, black women radicals both centered and reimagined the political identity of the black domestic worker. Drawing on Garveyite frameworks, they maintained that black Americans constituted a distinct cultural and political group entitled to separation and self-determination. These activists’ communist-inspired analyses of their intersecting race, class, and gender oppression also led them to view black working-class women as the vanguard of black Americans’ self-deterministic pursuits. Combining these positions, they collectively constructed the idea of a Militant Negro Domestic, a political identity that framed the domestic worker as a political activist who advocated for community control, black self-determination, self-defense, and separate black cultural and political institutions. By reimagining this dominant symbol of black womanhood, black women activists reshaped contemporary masculinist conceptions of the black working-class political subject. They also linked the ideologies and symbols of early twentieth-century black nationalism to the burgeoning Black Power movement of the early 1960s, making both black women and womanhood foundational to Black Power–era thought.
Ashley D. Farmer is assistant professor of history and African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas-Austin
To celebrate the tenth anniversary of University Press Week, we’ve decided to cover the theme of Forward-thinking. Here at UNC Press, we have many reasons why our press would be something to #KeepUP with in the next 10 years, but today we’ll touch on a couple major ones. We’ve even got an interview series with some of our favorite indie bookstores in the works, but we’ll properly introduce that content series when the time is right. Read on below as we discuss two of our new series and the celebration of our own 100th anniversary!
The Boundless South seeks to harness a new energy surrounding the discipline of history and calls on historians to provide narrative-based books that meld scholarship with writing for the broader public. As historians of the American South who understand the importance of reaching a broader public, we seek to bring together like-minded historians and writers to examine the region in ways that stretch beyond the current historiographical, geographical, and chronological boundaries, while also challenging ideas about what the South is and where southern culture can be found. BoSo, as a series, intends to gather books of history that also tell stories of people, places, and culture.
Karen L. Cox, University of North Carolina, Charlotte Françoise N. Hamlin, Brown University
As a leading publisher of American and Latin American history, UNC Press is delighted to announce the launch of Latinx Histories, a book series premised on the view that understanding Latinx history is essential to a more complete and complex understanding of the history of the United States, the Americas, and the world. The series editors and advisory board welcome book proposals that examine and offer a historical framework for the experiences of Latinx people ranging from earliest indigenous settlement in what is now known as the United States through the present-day transnational U.S. and beyond, resulting in a collection of innovative historical works that push the boundaries of race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, migration, and nationalism within and around Latinx communities.
Lori Flores, Stony Brook University Michael Innis-Jiménez, University of Alabama
EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD
Llana Barber, SUNY Old Westbury Adrian Burgos, University of Illinois Geraldo Cadava, Northwestern University Julio Capó, Jr., Florida International University Miroslava Chavez-Garcia, University of California, Santa Barbara María Cristina García, Cornell University Ramón Gutierréz, University of Chicago Paul Oritz, University of Florida
Next year marks a century of publishing distinguished scholarship and superb general interest books for UNC Press! The cover for our Spring/Summer 2022 catalog, shown above, commemorates that hundred year journey. We’ve got some great content in store to honor the legacy of UNC Press and this amazing feat. Stay updated via our blog, social media and website for further information on how we’ll be celebrating our centennial!
On the eve of the Civil War, most people of color in the United States toiled in bondage. Yet nearly half a million of these individuals, including over 250,000 in the South, were free. In Beyond Slavery’s Shadow, Warren Eugene Milteer Jr. draws from a wide array of sources to demonstrate that from the colonial period through the Civil War, the growing influence of white supremacy and proslavery extremism created serious challenges for free persons categorized as “negroes,” “mulattoes,” “mustees,” “Indians,” or simply “free people of color” in the South. Segregation, exclusion, disfranchisement, and discriminatory punishment were ingrained in their collective experiences. Nevertheless, in the face of attempts to deny them the most basic privileges and rights, free people of color defended their families and established organizations and businesses.
Warren E. Milteer Jr. is assistant professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and the author of North Carolina’s Free People of Color, 1715–1885.
The following is an excerpt from Georgann Eubanks’ Saving The Wild South: The Fight for Native Plants on the Brink of Extinction. The American South is famous for its astonishingly rich biodiversity. In this book, Georgann Eubanks takes a wondrous trek from Alabama to North Carolina to search out native plants that are endangered and wavering on the edge of erasure. Even as she reveals the intricate beauty and biology of the South’s plant life, she also shows how local development and global climate change are threatening many species, some of which have been graduated to the federal list of endangered species.
We begin the journey by following in the footsteps of two college students in their early twenties who forged a lifetime friendship while plant hunting in the wilds of the Blue Ridge Mountains in 1891. To examine their fieldwork in North Carolina before the turn of the twentieth century is to understand something about how botany has been practiced over the past two centuries. Among the plants that John Kunkel Small and Amos Arthur Heller found while hiking that long-ago summer was a never-before-seen goldenrod that was soon to be all but forgotten in botanical literature. When the goldenrod was rediscovered a century later, it was immediately named to the list of federally endangered species in the United States. The other showy bloomer, which Arthur Heller named for himself, is now confined to only eight locations on rocky summits in northwestern North Carolina. It was listed as threatened in 1987 and remains of special concern to the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
How strenuous it must have been for those first botanists who came to study the varied landscape of what is now the southeastern United States. As late as the end of the nineteenth century, the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina were remote, though some tourism was underway. The fabled vistas at the village of Blowing Rock had drawn enough visitors to justify the construction of the Green Park Inn—declared at its opening, in 1891, to be “the most luxurious hotel in the high country,” with billiards, bowling, and a large ballroom. Guests could also access a telegraph service and post office to communicate with the folks back home. Each elegant room featured indoor plumbing, and visitors were encouraged to enjoy the healthful waters from a mountain spring at the headwaters of the Yadkin River. Though the headwaters back then were protected under a wood-hewn springhouse with dipping privileges for all townspeople and guests, today the Green Park Inn, still in operation, has directed the spring through an underground culvert pipe. If you know to look, you can still see the chilly water flowing beneath a grate in the hotel’s massive asphalt parking lot.
From the many vistas that open up on the southeastern slope along US Highway 321 as it winds down from the peak at Blowing Rock, there’s an unobscured view of sunrise if you arrive early enough, and on a clear night, the sky shimmers with a bright canopy of stars in the velvet dark. Lights from farmsteads nowadays twinkle through Happy Valley far below. Many a traveler has meditated on the undulating blue ridges of the Yadkin Valley that reach southward for miles: “a whole vast sea of mountains,” as the young botanist John Kunkel Small described it in the summer of 1891.
Small, a native of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, was an avid plant collector working toward a bachelor’s degree from Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He and his classmate Arthur Heller, also a Pennsylvania native, had come south by train to the town of Salisbury in the Piedmont after classes ended for the school year. They then hired a horse-drawn hack to take them from Salisbury to Lenoir in the Blue Ridge foothills, where a wagon service would carry them through Happy Valley and up the ridge to Blowing Rock.
Small and Heller, young Victorian-era men from modest backgrounds, were ambitious and single-minded. Clearly, they felt their own sap rising as they prepared to identify and collect specimens of wild plants known and unknown in these parts. Dressed in the formal clothing of the era, the two would travel that summer for weeks—mostly on foot, sometimes by horseback or buggy, and once on a small-gauge train—to explore the high country. They scaled the summit and grassy balds of Roan Mountain at the Tennessee border. They hiked to and from Grandfather and Table Rock Mountains in North Carolina—destinations I have come to love deeply over thirty years of my own explorations along the Blue Ridge Parkway and the trails that fan out from it.
The great Ice Age glaciers that covered North America stopped just short of this region, accounting for its exceptional biodiversity. Small’s entertaining and sometimes tongue-in-cheek memoir of the 1891 expedition with Heller was published in the prestigious Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club of New York less than a year after their adventures. There Small elaborates on the hardships of plant hunting in the steep and sometimes impenetrable thickets of rhododendron and mountain laurel of the Blue Ridge. “It cannot be recorded here how many times we lost the way, how the horse gave out and walking had to be resorted to, the accident that happened to the rations, and other mishaps,” he wrote.
Georgann Eubanks is a writer and Emmy-winning documentarian. Her most recent book is The Month of Their Ripening: North Carolina Heritage Foods through the Year.
In celebration of today being the Book Birthday of Maribel Morey’s White Philanthropy: Carnegie Corporation’s An American Dilemma and the Making of a White World Order, we’re sharing a Q&A with the author. Since its publication in 1944, many Americans have described Gunnar Myrdal’s An American Dilemma as a defining text on U.S. race relations. Here, Maribel Morey confirms with historical evidence what many critics of the book have suspected: An American Dilemma was not commissioned, funded, or written with the goal of challenging white supremacy. Instead, Morey reveals it was commissioned by Carnegie Corporation president Frederick Keppel, and researched and written by Myrdal, with the intent of solidifying white rule over Black people in the United States.
Morey details the complex global origins of An American Dilemma, illustrating its links to Carnegie Corporation’s funding of social science research meant to help white policymakers in the Anglo-American world address perceived problems in their governance of Black people.
An American Dilemma has been heralded as recently as the 1990s. What is the lasting impact of this book?
An American Dilemma is a book that was written with the intention of making white Americans feel good about themselves on a topic that many call white Americans’ original sin: slavery and continued anti-Black violence and discrimination in the United States. This helps explain the book’s lasting impact, especially since white Americans—in their domination in various aspects of life—are still positioned to determine the relative impact of books and ideas. Also, Black Americans and other racialized groups in the U.S. have found the book useful as a tool for discussing racial equality with dominant white Americans, in terms that are pleasing to dominant white Americans. Within the academe, the book has long enjoyed a certain level of respect, not least because of its length, detail, and inclusion of mid-twentieth century research on white and Black Americans by Myrdal and his team of social scientists in the United States.
In many ways, White Philanthropyis a historian’s love letter to Du Bois. It is a way of providing archival proof to Du Bois that he was right all along about these actors’ anxieties and fears about him: evidence of their efforts to reinforce a white Anglo-American world order through their grant-making practices.
In your acknowledgments, you thank Carnegie Corporation’s Andrew Carnegie Fellowship Program for financial support. In what way did they support you?
With Carnegie Corporation’s financial support, I enjoyed a two-year research sabbatical from teaching. In that period, I completed archival research on this first book and commenced research for the second book, which tracks elite foundations’ reasons for supporting the U.S. civil rights movement in the second half of the twentieth century. On a more personal level, former Carnegie Corporation President Vartan Gregorian—who passed away earlier this year—encouraged me to write with courage. He whispered encouraging words to me even as many in his staff were only interested in the “positive parts” of my description of An American Dilemma’s impact in the United States. He did this twice: Once when I was attending an event at the office and we crossed paths in the hallway (I wrote about the event) and later when I came to the office to give a presentation of my research.
Today, at the dawn of the 21st Century, when you survey the global philanthropic landscape, what inspires hope for a more just and inclusive approach to philanthropy?
In the last 3–5 years, communities around the world have engaged more critically with the role of “big philanthropy” or rather, “elite giving.” That gives me hope for a more just and inclusive approach to philanthropy. A first and important step is—as many people increasingly are doing now—to follow the example of W.E.B. Du Bois and remain thoughtful and engaged watchdogs of these sizable funders’ grant-making practices which, as Du Bois long-stressed, have the power to shape every corner of the world around us without our consent.
You learned to speak Swedish during the decade of researching and writing this book. Why?
Yes, I learned Swedish in order to access Gunnar Myrdal’s texts in his native language before he accepted Carnegie Corporation’s invitation to direct its study of Black Americans.
Maribel Morey is the founding Executive Director of The Miami Institute for the Social Sciences, which centers the work of Global Majority scholars in the social sciences and neighboring fields.