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Southern Spaces

Dorothy Moye, Decatur, Georgia


In this online exhibition catalog, Dorothy Moye presents and comments upon the textile art of Gwendolyn Ann Magee (1943–2011). This catalog accompanies the exhibition at the Gatewood Gallery of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (September 11–November 8, 2014). Magee's extraordinary work includes a series of vivid, often harrowing, narrative quilts based on James Weldon Johnson's anthem "Lift Every Voice and Sing."

read more 2014/09/12 - 11:36

Joey Fink, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


This essay examines the campaign to organize southern workers in the J. P. Stevens textile plants in the 1970s, placing working-class women at the center of the story. While Crystal Lee Sutton, the "real Norma Rae," has been described and celebrated by historians and Hollywood, this essay demonstrates that the activism of many white and African American textile women was crucial to the success of the union's corporate campaign and boycott. The union and its allies used the women's stories to captivate audiences and motivate allies from religious organizations, feminists, and women's groups within and beyond the South. The working-class women carried leadership skills and lessons learned during the campaign into other political arenas and community struggles after the mills left the South.

read more 2014/07/16 - 08:53

Daniel A. Pollock, Atlanta, Georgia


The Battle of Atlanta figures prominently in the Union's conquest of the Confederacy in the final year of the Civil War and in Abraham Lincoln's re-election to the US presidency. "The Battle of Atlanta: History and Remembrance" chronicles this engagement while considering the war's larger meaning and legacy. This extensive essay combines a narrative of battlefield events, photographs, postcard views, images from the Atlanta cyclorama, original maps, and other visual and textual artifacts with a web-based mobile application ( will launch on June 18) that enables virtual touring of battlefield sites.
Well-preserved Civil War battle sites are among the most popular historical destinations in the United States, but they comprise a small fraction of the battlefields that can be explored. In the aftermath of the war, the Atlanta battlefield also served as a major site for commemorating the four-year conflict and expressing particular versions of the war's history. Urban development has largely altered the landscape on which the Battle of Atlanta was fought, yet, 150 years after the fierce fighting east of the city on July 22, 1864, many remnants of the battlefield remain visible and provide a rewarding encounter with the past.

read more 2014/05/31 - 21:10

Douglas Harrison, James Madison University


Examining the rise of the gospel singing trio The Martins and the deployment of their rural Arkansas roots to shape their popularity in Christian music entertainment, this essay reveals how an evocation of place functions in the practice of religious life within commercial southern (white) gospel music and fundamentalist Protestantism. The Martins's success draws upon an Arkansas imaginary that features a racially unconflicted working-class identity as well as a constellation of musical associations, cultural affinities, and attitudes grounded in piety, rusticity, and close harmony.

read more 2014/04/30 - 15:57

Simone Delerme, University of Mississippi


This article examines social interactions and conversations to reveal how language ideologies—ideas, perceptions, and beliefs about the nature and usage of language—affect racial categorizations and responses to Hispanic migration. Since the early 1980s, metropolitan Orlando, Florida, has experienced an influx of Hispanics, primarily Puerto Ricans, who are transforming its physical landscape, politics, as well as social and cultural life. This article describes the formation of a Puerto Rican enclave in what was once a rural place in Central Florida. Demographic changes and Latinization altered the soundscape as Spanish became increasingly present. Studying the discourses that circulate about language, Hispanic migrants, and Hispanic-concentrated spaces, this article reveals the tensions that arise in new migration destinations.

read more 2014/03/25 - 18:35

Justin Nystrom, Loyola University New Orleans


Justin Nystrom describes the labor history of the New Orleans longshoreman and presents the Loyola Documentary and Oral History Studio project On the Waterfront: Conversations with New Orleans Longshoremen.

read more 2014/03/06 - 23:47

Angela Stuesse, University of South Florida and Laura E. Helton, New York University


While the poultry processing industry in the southern United States has undergone a radical restructuring over the past few decades, its recruitment of immigrant workers has contributed to an unprecedented presence of Latin Americans. Running parallel to these changes is the ongoing struggle of African Americans for equal economic opportunity. This essay considers the implications of demographic and cultural shifts in central Mississippi, where poultry has become the dominant employer and where immigration helps shape rural life. Mississippi's history and demographic profile make it a significant site for investigation. Here, unlike in many other recent immigration destinations in the US South, Latin American migrants are joining workplaces and communities whose majority is often African American. Centered upon Scott County, home of Mississippi's poultry industry (where the "Hispanic" population increased by over 1,000 percent from 1990 to 2000), this essay situates the present moment within histories of industrial restructuring, political economies of race, and local labor movements.

read more 2014/02/20 - 11:55

Taylor Hagood, Florida Atlantic University


In this edited interview conducted on September 6, 2013 with members of the Southern Spaces staff, Taylor Hagood discusses the Digital Yoknapatawpha Project which is mapping the fiction of William Faulkner. Hagood describes the project (housed at the University of Virginia), the collaborative team developing it, and the challenges and possibilities of digital work.

read more 2014/01/23 - 11:34

Robert Morgan, Cornell University


Robert Morgan discusses the tension between specificity and universality in poetry, his relationship with his home geography in North Carolina, and the milieu of "backwater" poets at Cornell (including A. R. Ammons, Jake Adam York, and himself) in this interview with former student Christopher Lirette. Morgan also reads and comments on several of his poems.

read more 2013/12/13 - 06:27

Gwen Ottinger, University of Washington Bothell, Ellen Griffith Spears, University of Alabama, and Kate Orff, Columbia University


With an introduction by Christopher Lirette, Gwen Ottinger and Ellen Griffith Spears review Robert Misrach and Kate Orff's Petrochemical America (Aperture, 2012). Included is an excerpt from this work of research, photography, and infographics, which surveys the environmental impact of the petrochemical industry on the Louisiana Gulf Coast.

read more 2013/11/26 - 20:23

Pete Daniel, Washington, D.C.


Pete Daniel surveys the history of discrimination by the United States Department of Agriculture and the class action lawsuits by black farmers in pursuit of social justice.

read more 2013/11/01 - 14:12

Gerald Thurmond, Wofford College


Gerald Thurmond reviews Erik Reece and James J. Krupa's The Embattled Wilderness: The Natural and Human History of Robinson Forest and the Fight for Its Future (University of Georgia Press, 2013).

read more 2013/10/15 - 16:41

James E. Fickle, University of Memphis


James E. Fickle reviews Bill Finch, Beth Maynor Young, Rhett Johnson, and John C. Hall's book Longleaf, Far as the Eye Can See: A New Vision of North America's Richest Forest (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2012).

read more 2013/10/09 - 18:24

Tom Rankin, Duke University


In this illustrated talk at the Decatur (Georgia) Book Festival, August 31, 2013, Tom Rankin discusses his book One Place: Paul Kwilecki and Four Decades of Photographs from Decatur County, Georgia. Kwilecki (1928–2009), a self-taught artist who lived his whole life in Bainbridge, Georgia, took hundreds of masterful black-and-white images of his community over the course of forty years. "I know of no single body of images," comments Rankin, "with a reach and resonance to match what Paul accomplished in Decatur County."

read more 2013/10/01 - 23:39

Dan T. Carter, University of South Carolina


Dan Carter assesses the current tumult in North Carolina government and the "hijacking of the state's political system."

read more 2013/09/24 - 22:53

Steve Suitts, Atlanta, Georgia


Steve Suitts examines the states' rights rhetoric in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, in which the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the application of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. He revisits the tragic history, and takes note of the current resurgence, of southern white politicians' use of state sovereignty arguments.

read more 2013/08/30 - 09:11

Alexis S. Wells, Emory University


Alexis S. Wells reviews Ras Michael Brown's African-Atlantic Cultures and the South Carolina Lowcountry (Cambridge University Press, 2012).

read more 2013/08/27 - 18:28

Candace Waid, University of California, Santa Barbara


In this excerpt from The Signifying Eye: Seeing Faulkner's Art (University of Georgia Press, 2013) Candace Waid offers an understanding of southern literature that counters the resilient claim that the Southern Literary Renaissance is a white mystery. Building on a view of American literature that recognizes the importance of the oral and written traditions of the nineteenth-century slave narrative and slave novel, as well as the continued and profoundly related popularity of the captivity narrative, this selection precedes her discussion in chapter one of The Signifying Eye, which redefines southern literature as a reverse slave narrative in which protagonists (to borrow a phrase from Whitman) go "South" to "the living soul."

read more 2013/08/08 - 16:11

Noam Osband, University of Pennsylvania


In this short ethnographic film and accompanying essay, Noam Osband depicts the now-defunct livestock auction house in Searcy County, Arkansas.

read more 2013/07/30 - 18:10

Jon Smith, Simon Fraser University


In this excerpt from Finding Purple America: The South and the Future of American Cultural Studies (University of Georgia Press, 2013), and a newly written afterword, Jon Smith tells of his efforts to create a garden—small-scale art for the long haul—in Birmingham, Alabama.

read more 2013/07/18 - 06:08

Grace Elizabeth Hale, University of Virginia


Grace Elizabeth Hale reviews At War with the Obvious, an exhibition of William Eggleston's photographs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, New York, February 26–July 28, 2013.

read more 2013/06/27 - 20:52

Mary E. Frederickson, Miami Univeristy


Mary E. Frederickson reviews Anne Lewis and Mimi Pickering's documentary Anne Braden: Southern Patriot (Appalshop, 2012).

read more 2013/06/19 - 12:15

John Egerton, Nashville, Tennessee


John Egerton remembers civil rights activist Reverend Will D. Campbell (1924–2013).

read more 2013/06/07 - 18:49

Steve Suitts, Atlanta, Georgia


An Alabama redistricting case before the U.S. Supreme Court will have a monumental impact on the voting rights of African Americans and on the nation's faith in its democratic promise.

read more 2013/06/05 - 09:40

Amy M. Hay, University of Texas–Pan American


Amy M. Hay reviews John Mckiernan-González's Fevered Measures: Public Health and Race at the Texas-Mexico Border, 1848–1942 (Durham: Duke University Press, 2012).

read more 2013/05/24 - 12:08

Zephyr Frank, Stanford University


Director Zephyr Frank reviews the work of the Stanford Spatial History Project at the Atlanta Studies Symposium at Emory University on April 26, 2013. As he ponders the possibilities and challenges of spatial depictions using Historical Geographic Information Systems (HGIS), Frank offers examples of visualizations produced for research in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  

read more 2013/05/20 - 20:54

Edward A. Hatfield, Emory University


Edward Hatfield surveys the challenges of transportation planning in the Atlanta metro region by unraveling the complex history of the contentious T-SPLOST (Transportation Special-Purpose Local-Option Sales Tax) initiative that was defeated in a 2012 referendum. Contextualizing the fractious public debate that surrounded the planning process, Hatfield provides insight into the legacies of white flight and the region's shifting demographic makeup upon transportation policy. What emerges is a portrait of a metropolitan area at odds with itself and of a politics as immobile as its people.

read more 2013/04/30 - 01:11

Erich Nunn, Auburn University


In a talk at Emory University's Bill and Carol Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry on January 30, 2013, Erich Nunn discusses how Jimmie Rodgers' music and musical style traveled to Africa and were appropriated by South Africans and Kenyans in the 1930s and 1940s.

read more 2013/03/27 - 10:36

Peter McCandless, College of Charleston


Peter McCandless reviews Marli F. Weiner with Mazie Hough, Sex, Sickness, and Slavery: Illness in the Antebellum South (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2012).

read more 2013/03/05 - 12:20

Ellen Griffith Spears, University of Alabama


In this essay, Ellen Griffith Spears situates Southern Spaces' series "Landscapes and Ecologies of the U.S. South" in the field of eco-cultural history, describing how the pieces in the series challenge critical memory, both temporally and in space.

read more 2013/02/18 - 23:52

Patricia Yaeger, University of Michigan


Patricia Yaeger applies her passion for luminous trash to interpreting an epic film about toxic inequality, the southern imaginary, and the possibilities of mythmaking for the twenty-first century.

read more 2013/02/14 - 08:45

Barbara Ellen Smith, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University  
Stephen L. Fisher, Emory and Henry College


In this essay, excerpted from Transforming Places: Lessons from Appalachia (University of Illinois Press, 2012), Barbara Ellen Smith and Stephen L. Fisher make a case for how spatial theories of power, capital, and inequality can inform our understanding of Appalachia and offer avenues for progressive change.

read more 2013/02/01 - 14:01

Aaron Reynolds, University of Texas, Austin


Aaron Reynolds delves into the relationship between peonage and the Alabama forests, exploring the history of post-slavery labor, the harsh conditions of labor camps, and the efforts of journalists and Department of Justice investigators to end the peonage system in the early twentieth century.

read more 2013/01/22 - 21:48

Gyanendra Pandey, Emory University


In this essay, excerpted from A History of Prejudice: Race, Caste, and Difference in India and the United States (Cambridge University Press, 2013), Gyanendra Pandey proposes two levels of prejudice useful in comparing the long experiences of subordination and stigmatization of African Americans and Indian Dalits (formerly known as Untouchables).

read more 2013/01/09 - 05:06

Coleman Hutchison, University of Texas at Austin


Coleman Hutchison offers readings of poems by three contemporary African American poets who have surveyed the postracial over the past decade: Elizabeth Alexander, Natasha Trethewey, and C. S. Giscombe. Arguing broadly for the interpenetration of locality and racial consciousness, Hutchison charts how these poets conceive of, interrogate, and then steadfastly refuse the concept of the postracial in and for a post-emancipation society. While the postracial remains a powerful fantasy for these poets, local histories of specific places recurrently and productively interrupt their figurations of that fantasy.

read more 2012/12/27 - 03:57

Mark Auslander, Central Washington University


Mark Auslander examines evidence that enslaved persons were involved in the construction of the original Smithsonian Building in Washington, D.C. Many enslaved workers who labored at the Maryland quarry from which all the building's "freestone" or sandstone blocks were obtained had roots in enslaved families owned by Martha Custis Washington at Mt. Vernon.

read more 2012/12/14 - 00:47

Sarah H. Hill, Independent Scholar


Sarah H. Hill reviews An Empire of Small Places: Mapping the Southeastern Anglo-Indian Trade, 1732–1795 (University of Georgia Press, 2012) by Robert Paulett.

read more 2012/12/05 - 16:45