We are saddened to learn that Eli N. Evans, member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, alumnus of University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and Yale Law School, and author of The Provincials: A Personal History of the Jewish South, died on July 26th at 85 years of age.
Pat Conroy proclaimed The Provincials “the seminal indispensable book about the Jewish experience in the South. . . . One of a kind, a masterpiece.”
Evans’s obituary recalls the following in regard to The Provincials:
For young Eli the love of family and commitment to social justice were intertwined. In The Provincials he alternated lyrical recollection in chapters like “Growing Up in the Family Store” with topics like “Anti-Semitism in the South.” Threading his personal story through discussions of the founding of Israel, the Civil Rights Movement, and Jewish-Christian relations, he made the formerly
peripheral study–Jews in the Dixie diaspora–central to the American experience. “Jews were not aliens in the Promised Land,” he wrote, “but a blood-and-bones part of the South.”
That mingled identity drove his literary quest: “I am not certain what it means to be both a Jew and a Southerner–to have inherited the Jewish longing for a homeland while being raised with the Southerner’s sense of home.”