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Faculty Publications and 2019-20 Events

Posted by: stahlal | September 9, 2020 | No Comment |

Researching the South: Publications by C of C Faculty

2019-2020

Matthew Cressler wrote & co-authored a series of articles called Beyond the Most Segregated Hour; Reparations, Restructuring and Relationships for Religion News Service.

Adam Domby published, and gave myriad interviews about, The False Cause: Fraud, Fabrication, and White Supremacy in Confederate Memory U of VA Press, and “Loyal Deserters and The Veterans Who Weren’t: Pension Fraud in Lost Cause [field_main_title]” in Brian Jordan and Evan C. Rothera (ed.) The War Went On: Reconsidering the Lives of Civil War Veterans (LSU Press, April 2020). He also published “Counterfeit Confederates,” Civil War Monitor, Vol. 10, No. 3, Fall 2020; “The Lost Cause Was A False Cause,” Charleston City Paper, February 19, 2020: “Nikki Haley Gets The History of the Confederate Flag Very Wrong,” Washington Post, December 8, 2019.

Shannon Eaves co-authored “Tell the Stories of Those Who Have Enriched Charleston’s History,” with Adam Domby and Cappy Yarborough, Charleston City Paper, on July 1, 2020.

Julia Eichelberger published “Remembering and Rewriting Gullah Narratives,” introductory essay for U of SC’s 2020 edition of John Bennett’s collection of Gullah-inspired tales, The Doctor to the Dead.

Mary Jo Fairchild, Aaisha Haykal, and Barrye Brown (former C of C / Avery colleague) co-authored “Between Accession and Secession: Political Mayhem and Archival Transparency in Charleston, South Carolina” in the edited collection Libraries Promoting Reflective Dialogue in a Time of Political Polarization.

Grant Gilmore was in the news for his work creating N95 masks using 3D printers and then organizing their distribution to hospitals. A project he worked on with preservationists, historians and the family of Esau Jenkins culminated in September 2019 with the display of Esau Jenkins’s restored VW bus on the National Mall as part of the “Cars on the Capitol” series.

Jenkins Backyard Daylight 01

Photo of the Jenkins VW volkswagen as part of the “Cars on the Capital” project. Article by Nick Williams.

Joanna Gilmore contributed to an op-ed with Ade Ofunniyin and The Gullah Society, “Mayor Tecklenburg’s Comments on Charleston Protestors Not Helpful,” Post and Courier June 18, 2020.

Harlan Greene, Julia Eichelberger, and Ron Menchaca created Discovering Our Past: College of Charleston Histories, a map-based website commemorating the history of the College of Charleston and the spaces that are now part of its campus. With local researcher Sarah Fick and graduate student Grayson Harris, they researched stories for 13 locations and established a venue where future research on C of C can be made available to the public.

Harlan Greene published an essay in a collection, “To Make Their Own Way in the World”: The Enduring Legacy of Zealy Daguerreotypes”.

Maureen Hays co-authored The Stono Preserve’s Changing Landscape, Lowcountry Digital History Initiative, 2020.

Melissa Hughes co-authored “Continuously choosy mates and seasonally faithful females: sex and season differences underlie size-assortative pairing,” Animal Behavior 2020, vol. 160.

Gary Jackson wrote the poem “Forward and Back: Commemorating the 250th Anniversary of the College of Charleston.

Adam Jordan writes a regular column, “Southern Schooling,” for The Bitter Southerner. All Y’all started a column as well; Adam’s 2020 posts (“Y’all Means All,” “Giving Voice to the Voiceless,” “Hillbilly Roll Call”) can be found here:  https://www.allyalledu.com/pastcolumns. (Adam would probably have used his column to report on the All Y’all Social Justice Collective educators’ conference scheduled to be held in Charleston in July 2020, but COVID-19 had other plans.)

Young and old turned out for Joe Biden in South Carolina.

Joe Biden rally in South Carolina as part of the article “Why South Carolina Was So Personal for Joe Biden” by Dr Joe Kelly. Photo by Damon Winter.

Joe Kelly wrote an op-ed for the New York Times, “Why South Carolina Was So Personal for Joe Biden,” March 1, 2020. He and Rich Bodek co-edited Maroons and the Marooned:  Runaways and Castaways in the Americas, University of Mississippi Press, 2020.  Kelly wrote the Introduction and Chapter 9,  “Maroons and the American Epic.”

Gibbs Knotts co-authored “Partisan Realignment and the Politics of Southern Memory,” forthcoming from LSE US Centre Daily Blog on American Politics and Policy, and “Switching Sides but Still Fighting the Civil War,” forthcoming from  Politics, Groups, and Identities. He published “Rethinking the Charleston Runoff Requirement” in Charleston City Paper, November 20, 2019.

Gibbs Knotts and Jordan Ragusa co-authored First In the South: Why South Carolina’s Presidential Primary Matters with U of SC Press, and made numerous appearances discussing the book during primary season in Winter 2020.  They also published “South Carolina Will Align the Democratic Calendar.” The Post and Courier, March 5, 2019, “Studying Politics in an Early State: Lessons from Being ‘First in the South.’”  Political Science Now, January 9, 2020, and co-authored with Karyn Amira “Exit Poll: Overdevelopment and Flooding Motivated Charleston Voters. The Post and Courier, November 8, 2019.

Brittany Lavelle Tulla co-authored “Croxton at Kings Mountain: Implementation and Elaboration of the National Park Service Aesthetic,” Arris: The Journal of the Southeast Chapter of Architectural Historians,  2019, vol 30.

Simon Lewis continued to edit the journal Illuminations, with issue 35 including artwork and an interview with Charleston artist Colin Quashie.

Mark Long and Mark Sloan’s exhibit Southbound: Photographs of and About the New South has been exhibited in museums in North Carolina and Tennessee and is now at  two museums in Meridian, MS. The Southbound catalog was honored with the Alice Award in 2019.

Kameelah Martin co-edited The Lemonade Reader: Beyonce, Black Feminism, and Spirituality, Routledge, 2019.  

Anthony McCutcheon as Sam Maybank, Mario Richardson as Young Kofi and Asha Simmons as Mrs. Huger rehearse a scene from “The Cigar Factory.” From the article “Author Michele Moore adapts her novel “The Cigar Factory” into stage play” by Adam Parker.

Michele Moore’s novel The Cigar Factory was presented as a staged reading which sold out all performances at the Queen Street Playhouse in February. (See photos of cast in Post & Courier)

Harriet Pollack published “Evolving Secrets: The Patterns of Eudora Welty’s Mysteries” in Detecting the South in Fiction, Film, and Television, eds. Deborah Barker and Theresa Stuckey, University Press of Mississippi and edited New Essays on Eudora Welty, Class, and Race,  December 2019, also with Mississippi. She edits a series for UP of Mississippi, Critical Perspectives on Eudora Welty.

Bernard Powers was interviewed for numerous articles including the City Paper’s August 12 2020 “Should We Be Talking About Reparations” and the Post and Courier’s podcast on the Calhoun Monument, which aired just as the monument was finally removed from its pedestal. His newest book, 101 African Americans Who Shaped South Carolina, will be out in October from USC Press.

The Office of Institutional Diversity created “If These Walls Could Talk,” a documentary about the creation of Randolph Hall and the College’s ties to slavery. English adjunct faculty member Michael Owens wrote the screenplay and OID’s Director of Diversity Education Charissa Owens was the producer of the documentary, which will be screened on campus this fall and features numerous C of C faculty sharing their expertise on enslaved workers and artisans in Charleston and at C of C.

The Pearlstine/Lipov Center for Southern Jewish Culture sponsored Research Fellows Daniel Gulotta, who studied archival materials on Isaac Harby and Andrew Jackson, and Jillian Hinderliter, who researched Southern Jewish Women & the Women’s Health Movement.

At 35 Chapel Street, current owner discusses renovation with students

At 35 Chapel Street, current owner discusses renovation with students of the first year seminar class “Studying Abroad in Our Hometown.” Photos provided by seminar professor Dale Rosengarten.

Dale Rosengarten created Studying Abroad in Our Hometown: A College of Charleston First-Year Seminar,” composed of students’ field trip logs from Spring Semester 2019 & published Sept 2019  as a downloadable PDF.

Hayden Ros Smith published Carolina’s Golden Fields: Inland Rice Cultivation in the South Carolina Lowcountry, 1670-1860, Cambridge UP, 2019. He was advisor for the upcoming International African American Museum exhibit, “Carolina Gold,” and environmental historian for the NSF grant in progress, “Collaborative Research: Emergence and Evolution of a Colonial Urban Economy” (award number: 1920835).

Barry Stiefel and Nathaniel Walker organized the symposium Architectures of Slavery: Ruins and Reconstruction, held on campus in October 2019.

Robert Stockton wrote “Commerce and Class: New Approaches to Charleston History” (review essay), Journal of Urban History, 2020, Vol. 46(4) 914–921.

Nathaniel Walker co-edited Suffragette City: Women, Politics, and the Built Environment, Routledge, 2020.Suffragette City : Women, Politics, and the Built Environment book cover

Brian Walter wrote “Nostalgia and Precarious Placemaking in Southern Poultry Worlds: Immigration, Race, and Community Building in Rural Northern Alabama,” in Journal of Rural Studies ,December 2019.

Allison Welch co-authored “Development Stage Affects the Consequences of Transient Salinity Exposure in Toad Tadpoles,” Integrative and Comparative Biology, Oct 2019, vol. 59 no. 4. She also co-authored (with Wendy Cory)“Naproxen and Its Phototransformation Products: Persistence and Ecotoxicity to Toad Tadpoles (Anayrus terrestris), Individually and in Mixtures,” Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 2019, Vol 28, no 9.

Marjory Wentworth wrote a poem, “A Confederate Dialogue Between John C. Calhoun and Dylann Storm Roof,”  in Charleston City Paper, June 18, 2020

Leah Worthington, Rachel Donaldson, and Kieran Taylor (Citadel), co-authored “Making Labor Visible in Historic Charleston,” Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas, March 2020, vol. 17, no. 1.

Event Highlights

2019

Between August 2019 and February 2020, the Bully Pulpit series, sponsored by the Department of Communication and moderated by Gibbs Knotts, hosted almost every Presidential candidate: Joe Biden, Michael Bennet, Elizabeth Warren, Andrew Yang, John Delaney, Cory Booker, Tulsi Gabbard, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, Julian Castro, Beto O’Rourke, and Pete Buttigieg

Art piece by Katrina Andry for her exhibit “Over There And Here Is Me and Me”

August 23 to December 7  the Halsey Institute exhibited New Orleans-based artist Katrina Andry and Charleston-basedartist Colin Quashie

October 25  Groundbreaking of the International African American Museum (Bernard Powers, interm CEO; C of C alum Carlos Guzman Gonzales, Development Assistant); Inauguration of Dr. Andrew Hsu as C of C President, with inaugural poem by Gary Jackson

Sept 9-11 Susanna Ashton, Clemson English professor and author of works on slave narratives and African American writers as well as an LDHI exhibit, was on campus English Department’s Visiting Scholar.

Sept 12  4-6 Pm AAST Film Screening, Traces of the Trade

Sept 25 Presentation by Eric Crawford/Brigitta Johnson (music/ethnomusicology scholars who will discuss music in relation to Race, Religion, Resistance)

October 2-6   Association for the Study of African American Life & History ASALAH Conference (Embassy Suites Hilton, N Chas)

October 3  Charleston Museum/Gullah Geechee Meal with Chef Kevin Mitchell

October 24-26 2019 Conference The Architectures of Slavery: Ruins and Reconstructions at C of C, hosted by ARTH/HPCP (Nathaniel Walker, Barry Stiefel)

Nov 12 AAST’S Consuela Francis Lecture: Alexis Wells-Oghoghomeh, speaking on religious culture, religious consciousness, and resistance among enslaved Black women in the South.  

 2020

Art piece by Butch Anthony Seale from his exhibit “Inside/Out”

January 17-Feb 29 Halsey Gallery exhibits Alabama artist Butch Anthony and quilting artist Coulter Fussell

January 30 2020 C of C Founder’s Day & celebration of College’s 250th anniversary. Events included presentation of Founder’s Day Medals (to the Hon. Lucille Whipper, J. Waties Waring (posthumous), and Spoleto USA), followed by State Historic Marker unveiling on George Street.

On January 30, 2020 The College of Charleston celebrated CofC Day with a full day of events.

February 19 Gibbes Museum program “She Persisted: Women of Letters and the American South” with Julia Eichelberger, Michele Moore, and Nikky Finney, in conjunction with exhibit “Central To Their Lives: Southern Women Artists in the Johnson Collection”

Feb 21 Southern Studies minors Tanner Crunelle, Grayson Flowers, Michael Lucero, Trevor Pearson, and Liz Whitworth present their SOST 400 Capstone research projects in Addlestone Library 220

[March 2020 College closes campus due to COVID-19; all faculty pivot to online instruction, and new approaches are developed to introduce students to archival research and experiential learning]

June 9  Southern Studies program issues its statement “Say Their Names”  in solidarity with and all those protesting against the murders George Floyd and other victims of racist violence

June 20 Bernard Powers and Robert Rosen propose a counter-monument honoring African American heroes as a response to the monument to the “Confederate Defenders of Fort Sumter”’

June 22 President Hsu convenes a Historical Review Task Force

June 24 Calhoun Monument is removed from Marion Square

July 13-17 LGBTQ Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon is organized by Special Collections

August 2020 Southern Studies minors Grayson Flowers, Tanner Crunelle, and Stella Rounsefell share their experiences in the minor, plans for the future, and current careers. 

under: Uncategorized

Loving the South Is Revolutionary: Tanner Crunelle ’20

Posted by: Julia Eichelberger | September 1, 2020 | No Comment |

Tanner Crunelle ’20

On Aug 14, 2020, we caught up with Tanner Crunelle ‘20, a few weeks before he sets off for Madrid where he will be teaching English. During his time at C of C Tanner was a powerful campus leader as well as the recipient of several awards. This College Today article discusses some of these honors and activities.  Last month we talked about what he learned from minoring in Southern Studies and why he’s determined to come back before too long. 

What drew you to Southern Studies? Why did you want to learn more about the South?

I consider myself a Southerner so it feels like a duty to learn about the place that I live . . . A lot of it has been wanting to make the South more livable and fairer. I guess I’d initially thought . . . the South is always made better by some outside force, but I came to realize that . . . change is also within the South, that it emerges from the South. . . What drew me to the minor was really a curiosity about what the South is . . coupled with this hope of wanting to make it better, and knowing that to make the South better would require a really complex view of who’s here, what’s happening, why, from a lot of different angles. A sort of — simple political answer hasn’t succeeded thus far.

True that. Any reflections on courses or projects you did while completing the minor?

I really loved learning about James Baldwin, who’s my favorite author and thinker. Reading his thoughts about the South, . . .  there’s a lot of hope in what he says, that the South is the first place that the country will be reborn. That’s one of the things that comes out of his writing, which is just beautiful and gives me so much hope. Similarly, Toni Morrison . . .is revisiting the South often in Beloved, in Home, many of her books . . . . I guess the literary-imaginative components of the South were what excited me most about the coursework. And I’ve gotten really interested in the local workings of politics. How movements happen, how change happens in a local setting.

I remember how you talked about that article our class read from Southern Cultures, “Theodore Peed’s Turtle Party,” about the guy who throws this party every year. It seems like that was kind of an emblem, for you, of what the South can be.

We never abandoned this idea of a community, of a beloved community. We couldn’t. That would be impossible in the South, to have a small town and not have a sense of community.  Now, with that community can come really nefarious things–sexism, racism, homophobia, lots of horrible things can come with that–but I guess the basic value is community. You don’t always get that with classical liberalism, which is emphasizing the individual, the individual’s conquest, and discounting the resilience, mutual interdependence, the love, the actual love that comes from community. That’s a much more available form [here] than in, say, Manhattan where you have so many people in their individual apartments and skyscrapers, everyone so separate, so sad oftentimes and lonely.

That article, thinking about just the ritual of sharing food outside. Sharing food that’s inexpensive, and everyone brings something. That is so beautiful to think about, a potluck in an outdoor space, celebrating being together.

Oh, I want to have a potluck!

Yeah! In the time of COVID, especially.

It sounds like you’re also saying that people think of the South as retrograde, something we should get away from or abolish, but maybe loving the South is a revolutionary act. Can be.

I think so, because what we’re seeing right now is that the South continues to be colonized. Industry moves in and destroys entire tracts of land, and that is not for the benefit of the people who live here. Whereas, if we understand that the South . .   is valuable, if we see it as producing something worthwhile, then it slows the process of environmental degradation, the encroachment of a late-capitalist sense of alienation, you know. Having an identity which doesn’t reject southernness can be empowering.

So with all that said, why are you going so far away? You’re about to go to Spain.

Well, this summer I’m working on the census, going around and doing interviews with people, and that gives people who make political decisions a sense of our region and how it’s changing, and that it’s probably under-counted, chronically under-counted.

              Tanner shows off the South     Carolina lighthouses adorning his shirt.

So that may give our region more of what it deserves.

Then I’ll be in Madrid, teaching English. And I’ll be able to teach some cultural lessons about the South . .   to hopefully complicate the “backwards” view of what Southerners are.

Well, we need you. I’m glad you haven’t given up on us.

I just need to get out for a bit.  A queer pilgrimage to a city, living an urban life, surrounded by a high volume of people who are in the gender and sexuality minority– I think that will produce some good things. . . . My home is Charleston and I have these really deep emotional ties to Charleston’s fate. If we don’t act soon it surely will be underwater. Having experience outside the South will give me a better sense of what the South is, so that I can point to the ways that we have to do better, and the things that we have to maintain, too.

under: Uncategorized

Guest Post by Brian Walter, Affiliate Faculty, C of C Program in Southern Studies and PhD Candidate in Anthropology, U of California-Santa Cruz.

Photo of Brian Walter on SC coast

Brian Walter’s ethnographic fieldwork is on flooding and sea-level rise

NOTE: Charleston County has announced the location for widening Highway 41 in Mt. Pleasant. The decision runs a 5-lane highway down the center of Phillips, a historic African American community founded in the 1870s on land purchased by ex-slaves. The best method to stop this project is to submit a public comment and contact your County Council Member. Contact information and suggestions for how to reply are below the post. Feel free to skip the rest of this and go do that!

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The historic African American Phillips community is facing a struggle that threatens its continued existence. Charleston County recently selected a plan to expand Highway 41, the road running through the center of the community. This expansion will bring 5-lanes of traffic through the area and dispossess 85 Phillips residents of portions of their property. Families will lose land worked and purchased by their formerly enslaved ancestors, to accommodate traffic caused by the outburst of suburban development surrounding their community. Why not redirect the highway through the very suburbs causing the traffic issue? That option was evaluated, but was dismissed because it costs more, damages 4 additional acres of wetlands, and might be less efficient. How much is a thriving historic Black community worth in this analysis and why does Phillips have to shoulder the burden of a problem they didn’t cause?

aerial map showing location of proposed project

Locations of  options for widening of Highway 41 

I have been lucky to get to know the Phillips Community over the past two years in my research on flooding and the politics of sea-level-rise in the Lowcountry. I was introduced to Phillips through Richard Habersham, president of the Community Association, who contacted me about their flooding issues. Habersham showed me how Phillips’ flooding issues were not natural, but caused by neglectful maintenance and harmful building practices. He also laid out a convincing pattern of how growth and development around Phillips had been built from resources extracted from the community—a pattern perpetuated by the Highway 41 expansion.

Formerly enslaved Africans founded Phillips in the 1870s, in marshy, wooded land alongside Horlbeck Creek. Many residents trace their history back to these original settlers. The land purchased from the South Carolina Land Commission between 1869 and 1890, was formerly part of the Laurel Hill Plantation. Residents I spoke with often emphasized their long lineage of land ownership, and connection to the struggles and successes of their enslaved ancestors. Because of its importance in postbellum African-American life (a legacy that continues to this day), Phillips was recommended for the National Register of Historic Places by the South Carolina State Historic Preservation Office.

Residents in Phillips contended with different mechanisms of land-dispossession over time. About half of Phillips’ parcels are Heirs’ property, which creates loopholes exploited by predatory developers, and adds difficulty applying for building permits, and receiving federal housing assistance. In part through purchasing Heir’s property, multiple large subdivisions cropped up around Phillips, causing a spike in property taxes, threatening already precarious residents with tax increases. These developments also impacted flooding and drainage, my area of research (a report I conducted with 3 excellent UCSC undergraduate researchers is here).

Community members note connections between increased inundation and suburban development around the low-lying Phillips Community. Homeowners in Phillips who didn’t have past flooding issues now watch water creep up to their foundations with every hard rain. Elderly residents worry about traversing flooded streets or even leaving their driveways. Charlestonians are familiar with the implications of fill and build construction, where new developments built at higher grades flood out lower, older neighborhoods. However, in this case, impacts of fill and build are distinctly racialized. As one resident described it, “All this water, where is it going? To the settlement that was here before–the water is going to take the path of least resistance and come to us.”

Phillips resident’s car next to a flooded garden

As with flooding, the Highway 41 expansion places burdens of continuous growth on the community least responsible for it. This highway project continues a pattern of takings from Black communities to facilitate the growth of largely white ones. As one community member implored in the public meeting discussing the expansion: “we’re not creating this issue, [traffic] is growing all around us, and you could eliminate it by going around us!” Yet, the County remains resolute in their decision to route traffic through the heart of the Phillips.  Despite a long pattern of racial dispossession, community members remain determined to keep their property, and bitterly oppose the partial buyouts suggested by County officials. They will continue to oppose this project until the very end.

As a group of students and scholars using diverse methods to examine that prickly cultural object “the South,” we are obligated to respond. Phillips’ residents have already made generous contributions to our scholarship on slavery, Reconstruction, and Black life in the Lowcountry (and of course my current work on flooding). A quick Google Scholar search reveals multitudes of work built off insights from Phillips residents, who have generously offered time and information to folks like us. Let’s make sure Phillips receives attention as a living community, not only as an intriguing object of cultural analysis or preservation. This is a choice opportunity to intervene in the enduring structures of white supremacy and settler colonialism we frequently analyze and critique. For now, opposition is easy—follow the instructions in this post, and tell as many people as possible to do the same. If the County moves forward with their current plan, seek out information about next steps and continuation of the struggle.

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photo of Brian Walter in Lowcountry marsh

Fieldwork in a Lowcountry marsh

HOW TO TAKE ACTION: The easiest way to stop this project is to get Charleston County Council to oppose it now, rather than wait for regulatory review. We are in the 30-day review process (ending September 11th) so any letters opposing the project are especially helpful. Letters can be short and to the point. They should simply communicate that you are a Charleston County taxpayer and do not support your tax dollars going to a road project that destroying a historic Black community. Feel free to use this as a sample:

“I am a Charleston County taxpayer and I do not want my tax dollars to be spent on Highway 41 alternative one. I will not contribute to the destruction of the historic Phillips Community, which was founded on land purchased by freedmen in the 1870s and persists to this day.”

Letters can be submitted here:

-Visiting   http://hwy41sc.com/getinvolved.html

-Emailing Hwy41SC@gmail.com

-Calling the Project Hotline at 843-972-4403

-Sending mail to Highway 41 Corridor Improvements, 4400 Leeds Avenue, Suite 450, North Charleston, SC 29405

Feel free to email and call your County Council Member as well and tell them how you feel about this project, you could use the sample provided here as a simple script.

  1. Elliott Summey(District 3)
    (843)958-4031 (O)
    esummey@charlestoncounty.org

Herbert Ravenel Sass, III (District 1)
(843)766-7500 (O)
(843)693-8305 (C)
hsass@charlestoncounty.org

  1. Victor Rawl(District 6)
    (843)766-7334 (H)
    vrawl@charlestoncounty.org

Dickie Schweers (District 2)
(843)513-9229 (C)
dickieschweers@tds.net

Henry E. Darby (District 4)
(843)901-6793 (C)
henrydarby@msn.com

Teddie E. Pryor, Sr. (District 5)
(843)958-4030 (O)
tpryor@charlestoncounty.org

  1. Brantley Moody(District 7)
    (843)270-2483 (C)
    bmoody@charlestoncounty.org

Anna B. Johnson (District 8)
(843)795-3970
ajohnson@charlestoncounty.org

Jenny Costa Honeycutt (District 9)
843-693-6447
jhoneycutt@charlestoncounty.org

County Council Maps

https://www.charlestoncounty.org/departments/county-council/map-index.php

 

under: Charleston, Charleston History, Racial Disparities, Research Projects, SC

Stella Rounsefell ’19 & other Southern Studies success stories

Posted by: Julia Eichelberger | August 19, 2020 | No Comment |

The Southern Studies program graduated its first students in 2019, and students are already putting their learning to good use, even in a season of COVID-19.

Stella Rounsefell wearing mask in classroom

Stella Rounsefell ’19, masked up and ready to teach

Stella Rounsefell ‘19, who majored in English and also minored in Religious Studies, is now teaching fourth grade at Butler Academy in Hartsville, SC. After graduation, Stella’s wide-ranging knowledge helped her land her first job at the reference desk of the Hartsville public library. This summer she began working as a fourth-grade teacher, where once again Southern Studies gave her a competitive edge as well as a passion for the work.

screenshot of phone

Shout-out for Stella from her new principal

Stella reports that applicants for her job had to submit online audio responses, with timed answers, including one question about the country’ educational achievement gap. Responding, Stella first said she could not answer that question in only three minutes, then went on to note, “The achievement gap started when this country was founded. It started with colonization. It started with slavery.” Her principal later called this the “Drop the Mic Award” and reminded all the staff that Stella’s “head-on approach is important because if we can’t name the problem, we can’t defeat it.” Of her time in the Southern Studies program, Stella recalls taking  “an insanely wide array of classes that melded perfectly with my major and other minors. I took Black Atlantic Religions, Charleston Writers, Evangelicalism, Art in the South, and many more.” Before these couses, Stella wrote, “I thought I knew all there was to know about the South. I was totally and utterly wrong! The histories, cultures, traditions, peoples, and foodways of the South are so much more expansive. . . Southern Studies is American Studies. We are a microcosm of our country. . .  It is important, now more than ever, to listen to the South’s people, books, and artifacts. They will tell us things we need to know. . .  If you want to understand more about the world, start with the people, places, objects, ideas, and traditions around you. Southern Studies teaches you to think critically–something that we will need in order to shape, change, and grow ourselves as a country moving forward.”  Stella is now excited to be working with  young scholars and contributing to the community in Hartsville.

Coursework and photo of Liz Whitworth

           Liz Whitworth’s Program of Study

Other students are pursuing their passions and interests. Patty Ploehn ‘19 is beginning the joint Clemson/C of C MS in HIstoric Preservation. Tanner Crunelle ‘20 will begin teaching English in Madrid, Spain. (Look for a full interview with Tanner in a future blog post.) Liz Whitworth ‘20 had expected to begin working as a substitute teacher upon graduation, but the pandemic has sidelined those plans with both her children attending school online and at home for at least the first nine weeks of the school year.  She told us, “I’ve been reading a good bit over the summer- catching up on some Southern fiction. The Book of Polly was a really fun one and I finally had time to read Swamplandia.

Michael Lucero, an English major with another minor in Geology, will finish our program this fall with a Geography course, “Reading the Lowcountry Landscape.”  The minor has let Michael “delve deeper into aspects of Southern culture and history I hadn’t considered before. . . . such as the white resistance to Reconstruction and the Black resistance to that resistance. My only regret is that I started the minor late into my time at Cof C. I would have liked to have taken Historic Preservation, more African American History, etc. The use I’ll make of it will be in thinking more deeply about the present and past of the South, and in incorporating some lesser-known aspects of the culture and history into my fiction writing.”

List of courses and photo of student

Michael Lucero’s Program of Study

When asked why she’d chosen the minor, Grayson Flowers ‘21 wrote, “When I discovered I could minor in Southern Studies, I was ecstatic!. . . . One of the best parts of the minor is the ability to tie in a wide variety of different courses to the research paper that becomes the focus of the capstone. No two papers were alike and it was so worthwhile to have a space in the College to analyze how and why as a Southerner I feel the way that I do about buildings, sites, and the history that has been passed down.” Grayson plans to use her remaining time at C of C “to learn as much as I can about everything I can.”

 

Images of courses taken for SOST minor

Program of Study for Grayson Flowers

under: C of C Program in Southern Studies, Racial Disparities, SC, Students

Grayson Flowers ’21, who recently completed a minor in Southern Studies, has been working to improve the public’s understanding of our past. A recent article in The College Today reported that Grayson was a researcher and writer for the Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon organized by Special Collections and the LGBTQ Life in the Lowcountry project. She has also worked for months on stories for the Charleston Justice Journey, an online interactive map of sites important to the struggle for equality in our city. Sponsored by the Preservation Society of Charleston, the Charleston Justice Journey map connects the history of these sites to the historic built environment.

Busy as she is, Grayson took the time to answer our questions about the CJJ project.

Home Page for Charleston Justice Journey websiteQ: What stories did you work on for Charleston Justice Journey?

A: I worked on many of the sites seen on the website, gaining publishing rights to images from archives, as I did for the Cannon Street All-Stars, and researching and drafting content for the Progressive Club and McLeod Plantation which are still in progress. It was a great opportunity to not only engage with history on an academic level but to go and see these sites in person and give context for what might seem to be just another parking lot or building.

Often when we talk about civil rights in the United States, we focus on the stories of John Lewis and Medgar Evers or the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but we can overlook the individuals who spent every day “fighting the good fight.” All of these stories and events make the history of the city so rich, and it’s incredible to have had the ability to help share just some of the many names. Of the sites currently found on the map, many people are familiar with Denmark Vesey or Judge Waites Waring, but perhaps not as familiar with the Cannon-Street All-Stars and their struggle to play baseball that caused the schism in the Little League Association that resulted in the Dixie Youth League.

Map with Cannon Street All-Stars site

It is essential, in my opinion, to bring this struggle to the forefront and understand these experiences in order to make any headway or substantial change in our country; the adage “nothing is new, it is just forgotten” is exceptionally true for those who do not know their past are doomed to repeat it.

Q: You’re a lifelong Charlestonian and a great lover of history and historic sites. Did you learn anything new from your research?

A: I set out in this internship as I do every day, with the goal of learning something new, and that goal was achieved many times over. Some figures like Denmark Vesey were ones I had encountered in my Charleston history courses at Ashley Hall, or Septima P. Clark, who has streets named in her honor. It was the places associated my own personal memories growing up that have really impacted me and highlighted how the built environment can be manipulated and sculpted to tell any narrative. Gadsden’s Wharf had long been filled with memories of rec league soccer (which I was most certainly not cut out for), and trips to the aquarium. It was a place of play and adventure . . .  Not until my Junior year at the College of Charleston did I fully understand how deep the history of the Wharf was. This internship and my professors at the College have taught me to always dig beneath the surface, for many of the greatest stories sit before us, invisible to the naked eye.

Q: You’re a Southern Studies minor as well as majoring in Historic Preservation and Community Planning and minoring in Women’s and Gender Studies. Can you tell us how those three things are connected, and how they all contributed to this project?

A: Ultimately all things are related and interconnected, which is what makes minors like Southern Studies so important. They teach us how to look at things as simple as food or as complex as gender and racial inequality from multiple angles. Reading about history has always been a safe haven for me. It explained so many questions I had when I was younger and that I still have today, so when deciding what and where I wanted to study, the Historic Preservation and Community Planning major was irresistible. It allowed history to come off the pages and take on a tangible life of its own. Southern Studies presented the opportunity to hone in on questions of identity and how my experiences shape who I am. This examination of self and why things are the way that they are, and a desire to do something about injustices and issues I saw, led me to the Women’s and Gender Studies minor. Preservation is so much more than just liking a building because it is pretty or because it is old. It is about how it makes us feel and how that love and understanding leads people to fight every day to protect them as part of our community. It is crucial to have a background in other fields and in people, to be able to take a step backward and see why there are such strong opinions about monuments like the Calhoun Monument that no longer towers over Marion Square. These three programs of study all blend together when working on a project like this, because knowing our history and how there are all of the intersectional forces in play at any given time, gives us the strength to address the bigger questions about what we do and do not preserve. The generations-long efforts to villainize some while honoring others is evident in the lack of physical structures that are still intact regarding the Civil Rights Movement and slavery, not only here in Charleston but across the United States.

It is easy to look back and say that I would have done this or I would have done that, but to have risked it all the way that the Grimke Sisters or Judge Waites Waring did and be shunned from the only home they have ever known, shows that these revolutionaries were willing to give up their lives for the sake of what is right. Recognizing these intersecting circumstances and context makes the stories and the history so much more powerful to me.

Q: What’s next? What projects do you hope to take on this coming year and after C of C?

A: Given the current state of things, I plan to spend this next semester continuing my studies here at the College and trying to make the most of the time I still have here. I hope to intern elsewhere in the country, whether it be preservation or civil rights related, in order to return to Charleston with a new and fresh perspective that will allow me to advocate more effectively for the issues of flooding, new developments, and collective history. I most intend to continue trying to learn as much as I can about everything that I can.

Thanks, Grayson. We’re very proud of your excellent work and your commitment to making our region better.

under: African American Studies, C of C Program in Southern Studies, Charleston, Charleston History, Historic Buildings, Markers, Monuments, Social Activism in the South, Students, Uncategorized

Sharing Lowcountry LGBTQ History

Posted by: Julia Eichelberger | July 21, 2020 | No Comment |

On July 13-17, C of C Special Collections hosted an LGBTQ Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon. Using sources made available on the project’s LibGuide, participants expanded Wikipedia articles on Linda Ketner, John Martin Taylor, Alliance for Full Acceptance, the Candlestick Murder, C of C’s own Book Basement, and more. Watch this video to find out about some of the materials that are being collected by the LGBTQ Life in the Lowcountry project, and take a video tour of the city with Harlan Greene, the director of the project (also a novelist, historian, and fantastic tour guide). In this video he takes viewers to some sites that are on a Special Collections online tour called The Real Rainbow Row: Charleston’s Queer History. We also get to hear from Rebecca Thayer, Catherine Stiers, and Brandon Reid about what they’re learning from the archival materials they are processing and interpreting.

Congratulations to Special Collections and all the participants in this project. All of us who study the history and culture of Charleston and the Lowcountry will benefit from having all this new material available. As Harlan said at the end of his video tour, “And you know what? There’ll be monuments to Charleston’s LGBTQ history on the streets yet.” Thanks for bringing us closer to that day!

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under: Uncategorized

Say Their Names

Posted by: Julia Eichelberger | June 9, 2020 | No Comment |

C of C’s Program in Southern Studies shares the outrage and sorrow that our community, nation, and world are now expressing in response to the murder of George Floyd and the systemic racism tragically highlighted by his death. We grieve with the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and a host of other victims of racist violence. We stand with all who protest these murders and who demand change in policing and law enforcement practices.

Black citizens and Southern studies scholars know that these recent crimes, along with the militarized repression of some protests, are nothing new. Systemic racism was a defining principle in the creation of South Carolina. Thousands of captive Africans who survived the Middle Passage were sold in the city of Charleston. After the Confederacy failed in its goal of maintaining slavery, its leaders designed a postbellum South that required and revered white supremacy. Against this backdrop of trauma and violence, African-descended people created communities, families, social structures, and cultural traditions that now define the region.

None of the things we cherish about the South–our landscapes, our literature, our built environments, our music, our foodways, our religious traditions, our proud history of civil disobedience–would exist without Black labor, creativity, ingenuity—without Black lives.

Within our lifetimes, this city built by slave labor and this College founded to perpetuate a white male elite have made important progress, but we have far more work to do. We are not yet the just and equitable community and the inclusive College that our citizens deserve.

As scholars, teachers, and citizens, we commit ourselves to saying the names of those who have been lost in recent days. We also honor the lives and stories of the many thousands gone, the ancestors whose guidance we need to repair our region. We will seek out and tell the full stories of the South’s complex history. We will call out white supremacy in its many forms, visible and invisible, so that we may begin to dismantle structural racism. If we hope to create true community, we must listen to Black voices and fight for Black lives.

Julia Eichelberger

Director, Program in Southern Studies

Crowd marching past Harmon Field with hands raised

Day 5 of nationwide protests. 2nd protest of day on June 3, 2020, in downtown Charleston.

 

Marchers on Jonathan Lucas Street

Demonstrators cross Medical University campus, filling sidewalk along Jonathan Lucas Street, 6/3/20.

 

Demonstrators sit at Colonial Lake

Period of silence at Colonial Lake before demonstration moves to Marion Square, 6/3/20.

 

under: C of C Program in Southern Studies, Charleston, Charleston History, Politics, Racial Disparities, SC, Social Activism in the South, Uncategorized
Hadshot of Jillian Hinderlier

Jillian Hinderliter

Guest Post by Jillian M. Hinderliter, Pearlstine/Lipov Center Research Fellow and PhD Candidate in History, University of South Carolina

In late October 1975, the Papmobile rolled into the parking lot of the Edisto and Orangeburg plants of Greenwood Mills. Female textile employees could take advantage of this “gynecologist’s office on wheels,” for pap smears and breast and pelvic examinations carried out by specially trained nurses. The Papmobile, emblazoned with the words “American Cancer Society” and “Medical University of South Carolina,” offered free pap tests and other screenings in an effort to reduce deaths from breast and uterine cancers.[1] Plant managers across eastern South Carolina could request the Papmobile visit their operations, as could churches and colleges.[2] In November, the Papmobile visited Francis Marion College and the Florence-Darlington Technical College. Newspaper articles heralding the arrival of the Papmobile stressed that no appointments were necessary, and all women could utilize its services.[3]

Newclipping from 1975 announcing Papmobile

Newspaper coverage of the Papmobile in Orangeburg, SC, 1975

By 1976, the board of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), Charleston Section recommended the purchase of a projector and educational film for the Papmobile that could teach women about breast self-examinations.[4] Although the NCJW Charleston does not often appear in histories of the women’s health movement, I believe that its support of local women’s health initiatives connects its members to broad networks of activists who called for feminist revisions to women’s health care in the late twentieth century. While the history of the women’s health movement often focuses on organizations with national reach or reputation such as the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective (authors of influential health manual Our Bodies, Ourselves), there is also a great deal of women’s health history to be discovered in the records of local and regional women’s organizations.[5]

Beginning in the 1960s, activists of the women’s health movement widely critiqued misogyny and sexism in American medicine. They worked to redefine the relationship between women and their doctors, their bodies, and their health policy makers. Activists called for accessible health information, feminist clinics, greater access to formal medical education for women, stronger standards for informed consent, and much more. The cause was also shaped by Jewish women, as they were remarkably prevalent among the founders of the women’s health movement and the women’s movement at large. Influential health journalist and activist Barbara Seaman wrote that eight of the twelve founders of the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective were Jewish, as were four of the five founders of the National Women’s Health Network, a women’s health advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.[6]

Yet, this is not only a story of Jewish women impacting women’s health reform through secular feminist avenues and organizations. I believe that long-established Jewish women’s organizations formed another access point for Jewish women to participate in the women’s health movement, often by adapting their women’s health messaging and approach to meet local needs. This past January, I had the opportunity to spend two weeks exploring Charleston’s robust history of Jewish women’s activism and I began to discover how Jewish women’s organizations complicate the history of women’s health activism on the local level in this period. Rather than showing the evolution of women’s health initiatives though secular organizations alone, the archival records I found in Charleston suggest that women’s health activism in the South was also advanced by Jewish women’s organizations shaped specifically by Jewish social justice values. For historians to create a fuller record of the women’s health movement in the United States, we must understand how activists could be compelled by a multitude of social justice traditions.

Hinderliter on front porch of KKBE

Hinderliter at Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, Hasell Street, Charleston, SC

As a Charleston Research Fellow supported by the Pearlstine/Lipov Center for Southern Jewish Culture, I turned to the records of organizations such as the NCJW Charleston Section, synagogue sisterhoods minutes, and personal papers for narratives of health organizing. Dr. Dale Rosengarten and the supremely helpful staff at Addlestone Library’s Special Collections also directed me towards family histories and oral history interviews which showed the diversity of health initiatives in Charleston. Though regional narratives are often overlooked in broader histories of women’s organizing, I am determined to include southern Jewish women in my doctoral dissertation, “Patients’ Rights, Patients’ Politics: Jewish Activists of the U.S. Women’s Health Movement, 1968–1988.”

Among the collections I accessed, I was particularly interested in the records of Charleston’s NCJW in the 1970s and 1980s, as some council chapters vocally supported reproductive rights and issues like the Equal Rights Amendment. Before visiting the archives, I learned that Janice Karesh represented the Charleston Section in 1969 during a subcommittee hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee in Columbia considering the liberalization of abortion laws in South Carolina. “I feel that no woman should be forced to bear a child at the expense of her own life or at the expense of the health of her other children,” Karesh said in her testimony. She added that a woman should not be forced to carry a child “conceived in hate – for that is what rape is.” The bill, introduced by state senators Hyman Rubin and Frank Owens, would extend abortion access on the grounds of “substantial risk” to the physical or mental health of the mother or child and permit abortion in cases of rape, if the assault was reported within seven days. A panel of three physicians would have to certify that an abortion was necessary.[7]

Though I am still working through my research from January, I see evidence that Jewish women’s organizations in the Charleston area like the NCJW took on women’s health as a key feature of their activism by the 1970s. While it can be difficult to identify the full extent of NCJW Charleston’s views on the issue of reproductive rights before Roe v. Wade, some members were publicly backing a more liberal abortion law in South Carolina. Based on the copies available in the archive, it seems that the NCJW Charleston Section’s newsletter, The Councillor, rarely used phrases common in the women’s health movement such a “taking our bodies back” or “demystifying” the body. Nonetheless, their continued investment in women’s health is evident in their support for a rape crisis center and the work of the “Papmobile.”

The women’s health services supported, at least in part, by the NCJW Charleston in the 1970s addressed issues central to the work of women’s health activists nationwide. The crisis center “People Against Rape” provided a number of services to women including counseling by center volunteers who were trained by a psychologist. The Councillor called for volunteer counselors and interested NCJW members to fill support roles for the rape crisis center.[8] The board’s recommendation to purchase an educational film on breast self-examinations for the Papmobile in 1976 suggests that the leadership of the NCJW Charleston supported women’s increased access to health information and a deeper understanding of their own bodies.[9] While breast cancer awareness is essential to this purchase, we should not overlook the importance of self-help in the revisioning of American medicine advanced by the women’s health movement.

In the twentieth century, the NCJW Charleston had a long history of supporting services for patients with health issues like tuberculosis and diabetes. They also organized events such as Tay-Sachs screening drives to help meet Jewish community health needs. Their support for women’s health programs in the 1970s is part of this extensive organizational tradition. The archival and oral history collections at the College of Charleston provide a vital link to this aspect of southern Jewish women’s history. My fellowship at the Pearlstine/Lipov Center for Southern Jewish Culture helped me connect with Charleston’s remarkable history of Jewish women’s activism. I look forward to including the NCJW Charleston and other Jewish women’s organizations in my dissertation and exploring how their southern stories nuance the history of women’s health in the United States.

 

[1] “Papmobile Offers Free Examinations,” The Times and Democrat (Orangeburg, SC), October 31, 1975.

[2]  Bonnie Pleasants Dumas, M. Clinton Miller III, Paul Underwood, Jr., et al., “The South Carolina Papmobile Program: A SAS Application,” SAS Conference Proceedings: SAS Users Group International ’79 (SUGI 1979),

January 29–31, 1979.

[3] “Papmobile to Visit Area,” Florence Morning News (Florence, SC), November 25, 1975.

[4] The Councillor Newsletter, February–March 1976, p. 7. National Council of Jewish Women Charleston Section records (Box 4, Folder 8), College of Charleston Libraries, Charleston, SC, USA.

[5] For an excellent study of Jewishness and the Jewish founders of the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, see Chapter 4 of Jewish Radical Feminism by Joyce Antler (New York: NYU Press, 2018).

[6] For these statistics, see Barbara Seaman, “Health Activism, American Feminist,” Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. March 20, 2009. Jewish Women’s Archive. https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/health-activism-american-feminist

[7] Al Lanier, “Abortion Law Change Pushed; Only One Witness Opposes S.C. Plan,” The Greenville News, March 13, 1969. Note: In the newspaper article, she is listed as “Mrs. Irwin Karesh.” I learned of Mrs. Karesh from Dr. Jennifer Gunter’s dissertation Sex and the State: Sexual Politics in South Carolina in the 1970s (University of South Carolina, 2017).

[8] The Councillor newsletter, July–August 1975, p. 5. National Council of Jewish Women Charleston Section records (Box 4, Folder 8), College of Charleston Libraries, Charleston, SC, USA.

[9] The Councillor newsletter, February–March 1976, p. 7. National Council of Jewish Women Charleston Section records (Box 4, Folder 8), College of Charleston Libraries, Charleston, SC, USA.

under: Charleston, Health Care, Research Projects, SC, Social Activism in the South, Southern Jewish History, Women's Organizations

In the surreal season of COVID-19, students are continuing to study the South from their computer screens and kitchens. When C of C sent everyone home in March, Honors Southern Studies students completed a short paper on Southern foodways. Instead of eating at a restaurant, most of them ate a take-out meal from a restaurant they considered Southern, or cooked their own Southern meal, using recipes from Charleston Receipts, a regional/local cookbook, or another demonstrably “Southern” source. It was up to them to demonstrate the “Southernness” of their meal, using articles we’d already studied in Southern Cultures.[1]

One student, Megan, actually made it into a Cracker Barrel before they closed, while another, Kathleen, described picking up her take-out from The Collonade in Atlanta “just before they closed their doors for the next few weeks. After walking into the restaurant, driving home, and setting up my meal, I felt like the smell of the fried chicken, mac and cheese, and green beans stuck to my clothes.” Kathleen and Megan both noticed Native American food traditions reflected in menus for their restaurants.

Megan and Kathleen, March 2019

Eating take-out BBQ in Charlotte gave another student a chance to reflect on Southern food in a region and country he’s only lived in for a few years. Alex wrote, “A characteristic about southern food that I have come to understand in my short time here, is the idea of family/ community and the concept of big group dinners. This was very apparent while I was looking through Bobbee O’s BBQ menu and realized that the options included large portions, mostly for sharing.” To fully experience this tradition, Alex had a meal with four meats (pulled pork, ribs, fried chicken, beef brisket), and four sides (fried pickles, macaroni and cheese, hushpuppies, and a cornbread muffin).

Alex contemplates his BBQ

Some of the chicken sandwich

Another student ordered a fried chicken sandwich from Boxcar Betty’s. Jacob made a case for this dish being traditionally Southern by describing in mouthwatering detail the “classic Southern flavors going on—some signature Southern heat in the mayo and pimento cheese, tempered by the sweetness of the peach slaw–amplified by the variety of textures: crispy chicken breading, creamy pimento cheese, crispy coleslaw. The sandwich is a good example of the holistic palette of Southern cuisine. While the South is often known for . . .  spiciness, sweetness, and unashamed butter usage. .  .a meal often contains a multitude of these different flavors at once.” This was “a new spin on Southern food” that “still retains the familiarity of quintessential Southern cuisine.”

 

Students like Margaret who cooked their meal drew upon family memories; she even had some help in the kitchen from both her parents. Her dad’s participation helped her explain a concept from one of our assigned readings: “The article defines locavorism as the belief that food from local producers is better than food from large corporations, and . . . what makes foods taste the way they do is the stories behind them.  When I was grocery shopping with my dad . . . he was visibly upset that we had to buy collard greens and black eyed peas from Harris Teeter instead of any of the nearby farmers markets, all of which were closed due to COVID-19.  Fortunately, we were able to find the grits we normally use . . . . which are produced at a family-owned mill in Edisto Island, and, as my dad says ‘are the only kind of grits worth cooking’ . . .The pot I used for the collard greens belonged to my great-grandmother, and the recipe I followed for the pecan pie was shared with my mother–along with dozens of other family recipes–by her mother on the day she graduated from college.”

Margaret stirs grits and shares a recipe from her mother’s collection.

Holden wrote that cooking his meal took him back to his childhood.  “I still have memories of sitting on the spiral staircase in my great-grandparents’ house, listening to my great-grandmothers in the kitchen cooking. Eventually I would hear my great-grandfather call ‘Rooster (that was my nickname), go help Mona and Mawmaw in the kitchen. Go on now, boy.’ I would run to the kitchen and was given the job of stirring the peas or the potatoes. The smells of the meal and the hustle and bustle from one thing to another in the kitchen brought back vivid memories, and I found myself smiling often.” Holden noted the dishes he prepared tasted “pretty good” but “nothing compared to how my great-grandmothers used to make it.”

Holden prepares cornbread.

Catherine explained that she chose to make peach cobbler because of “living in a suburb of Atlanta called Peachtree City and listening to my dad’s stories of highschool summers spent working in Edgefield’s peach packing sheds.” She often ate the dessert “at my Grandma’s house after long days spent playing with my cousins in the yard” and now was cooking it for herself. “I was nervous putting it in the oven because the recipe seemed to be calling for wildly too much butter, but it certainly turned out delicious because of it.” Catherine also made a batch of biscuits, “because my Great Grandmama Sanders’ biscuit recipe, taught to me by my Grandma, is extremely special to my family. . . .  I have never been to a Sunday dinner, Thanksgiving, lunch or breakfast at my grandma’s house that we didn’t have a side of biscuits.”

Catherine’s grandmother’s biscuits

Catherine’s meal

These Honors students really came through with their cooking and eating and writing skills, and they compelled me to get some takeout fried okra from Gillie’s Seafood on James’ Island. (Can’t recommend that highly enough.)

Please wash your hands now, then put a pot of beans and rice on the back burner. Maybe add a can of Ro-Tel or a chopped onion, and throw in something greasy–chef’s choice. Sure, those dried beans are going to take hours to cook, but right now, we’ve got that kind of time.

 

[1] If you’re interested, you can go online to read foodways articles on the Southern Cultures website. They’re all great reads, but I especially enjoyed Bruce Baker’s article on blackberries; Bruce used to work as our office admin in the English Department before he went off and became a famous historian, and I used to pick blackberries as a child the same way he did, and this is just a cool article, showcasing our region’s complex social history. My students were especially interested in Mother Corn and the Dixie Pig by Rayna Green and Theodore Peed’s Turtle Party by Bernard Herman.

 

under: C of C Program in Southern Studies, Courses, Foodways, Students

They Persist: Southern Women Writers and Artists Taking Up Space

Posted by: Julia Eichelberger | February 17, 2020 | No Comment |
Drawing by Minnie Evans

Untitled drawing by Minnie Evans, mid-20th century. The Johnson Collection.

On February 19, the Gibbes Museum presents “She Persisted: Women of Letters and the American South.” Authors Michele Moore and Nikky Finney will share with me some of their experiences as writers. This post contains a longer version of my remarks for this event, placing these writers’ work in a larger context of Southern women writers.

This event coincides with the exhibit now at the Gibbes, Central To Their Live: Southern Women Artists in the Johnson Collection. These works were created despite barriers many faced: lack of access to formal training; lack of opportunity to create; racism, sexism and other historical or biographical circumstances that took over the lives of so many Southern women. Nevertheless, these artists persisted.[1] They drew; they painted. They carved sculptures; they carved out time and space to hone their craft, to develop a personal artistic style. They found ways to preserve and exhibit their work, and many found ways to make a living as artists.

Watercolor painting

“Along the Beach,” Alice Ravenel Huger Smith. The Johnson Collection.

Women in this era ventured outside their homes, once considered the only proper place for women to create art, and painted in plein air, producing startling landscapes like “Along the Beach” by Alice Ravenel Huger Smith. They documented women doing non-domestic work, such as Wenonah Day Bell’s “Peach Packing” painting. Others produced monumental portraits of activists, such as the grand, four-foot-tall portrait of Madeline McDowell Breckenridge (a Kentuckian who advocated for women’s suffrage), by Ella Sophonisba Hergesheimer. Abstract art also commanded attention using form and color, such as Mary Alice Leath Thomas’s “Red, Gold and Black,” 4 feet tall. Other artists use detail to compel the viewer to look more closely, like Minnie Eva Jones Evans.  Some writers created smaller-scale portraits and sculptures that carried concentrated power: a factory worker (“War Worker”) by Elizabeth Catlett; a solemn young African American boy, “Gamin,” , by Augusta Christine Fells Savage; Anna Vaughn Hyatt Huntington’s powerful and relaxed “Yawning Tiger.”

Painting by Mary Thomas

“Red, Gold, and Black,” Mary Alice Leath Thomas. The Johnson Collection.

Painting of women sorting peaches

“Peach Packing, Spartanburg County,” Wenonah Day Bell. The Johnson Collection

This art takes up space,[2] and not just because the works are beautiful. Collectively, these artists challenge conventional notions of femininity and power. They reveal Southern experiences and landscapes that were being overlooked in the twentieth century. 21st-century women artists face their own challenges, but they can take inspiration from these artists who preceded them.

In the same era as these visual artists, Southern women writers critiqued conventional notions of Southern womanhood, social class and race. When considering Southern literature from this era, we may first think of William Faulkner, whose landmark modernism challenged conventional modes of storytelling and conventional stories about the South, dismantling the myth of an idyllic Old South. Faulkner’s work also interrogated his readers’ notions of manhood, womanhood, race and social class, suggesting that these are socially constructed rather than permanent and essential elements of a human being. In this regard, some earlier southern women writers like Kate Chopin were actually ahead of Faulkner, and women like Katherine Anne Porter and Zora Neale Hurston, writing at the same time as Faulkner, were offering their own critiques of social constructs that their characters sought to transcend.

Cover of The Awakening by Kate Chopin

First edition of The Awakening, 1899

Kate Chopin’s fiction won praise in the late 1800s for capturing daily life in northwestern Louisiana, but also drew criticism for her frank treatment of topics considered improper for polite society–interracial relationships, and women refusing traditional female roles. Chopin’s 1899 masterpiece, The Awakening, was called “sordid” and “vulgar” because its heroine valued sensual fulfilment found in an extramarital affair, and longed to express herself creatively even when that required abandoning her role as a wife and mother.

Katherine Anne Porter, who lacked the financial security that surrounded Chopin all her life, began publishing fiction in the 1920s. Her characters included a farm woman struggling to care for a mentally disabled son, a hardworking wife and mother whose long life was now slipping away, a young girl struggling to understand birth and mortality.  Porter’s stories challenge the toxic myth that white Southern women were asexual, fragile “ladies” that white Southern men must protect in order to maintain white supremacy.

Also during the 1920s, Zora Neale Hurston studied anthropology and began documenting African American lives, including the all-black town of Eatonville Florida.  Many of Hurston’s female characters lacked access to the education Hurston had managed to obtain, and are hindered by racism and by sexist assumptions that good women obey and defer to men. Hurston’s 1936 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God disproves this assumption through the journey of its protagonist, who ends the novel alone and at peace, commanding her landscape:

She pulled in her horizon like a great fish-net. Pulled it from around the waist of the world and draped it over her shoulder. So much of life in its meshes! She called in her soul to come and see.

photo of Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston

Photo of Eudora Welty

Eudora Welty, 1946

During the 1940s, Hurston’s fortunes began to decline, but another writer’s career was taking off. Eudora Welty wasn’t rich, but had enough financial security to write for years before earning any royalties. Many publishers initially rejected her short stories, and nevertheless, she persisted—as did her loyal and well-connected literary agent. Welty’s published fiction, ranging from humorous to lyric to tragic, was always stylistically innovative. The women in Welty’s works are often judged and acted upon according to conventional notions of womanhood, race, and social class. Often it’s women who impose these conventional limitations on one another, as in a story about a woman working ceaselessly in her flower garden while her neighbors look disapprovingly from their upstairs windows. She gardens

without any regard for ideas that her neighbors might elect in their clubs as to what constituted an appropriate vista, or an effect of restfulness, or even harmony of color. Just to what end [she] worked so strenuously in her garden, her neighbors could not see. . . .

A garden, for Welty, was a place of discovery, an emblem of the creative imagination; she and her mother loved the garden of their upper middle-class home in Jackson, Mississippi. Gardens were also important for women struggling just to make ends meet, as Georgia-born writer Alice Walker noted in an essay called “In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens.” She described her mother’s ability to grow flowers “as if by magic,” despite having to work in the fields and care for her family. Walker wrote,

It is only when my mother is working in her flowers that she is radiant, almost to the point of being invisible-except as Creator: hand and eye. She is involved in work her soul must have. Ordering the universe in the image of her personal conception of Beauty.

Painting of artist's studio

Theresa Pollak, “Art Studio.” The Johnson Collection.

In these writers’ works, Southern women often persist despite being hemmed in by poverty, racism, sexism, or loneliness. Women create their own gardens, like the studio depicted in Theresa Pollak’s painting–places where they can take up space and transform it.

At the Feb 19 event, we’ll hear from two Southern writers who are part of this larger landscape of women writers and artists.  Both Michele Moore and Nikky Finney have told stories about the South that, I believe, have not been told often enough. Some readers may assume that women writers explore familial and domestic situations, but Moore and Finney’s works demonstrate how much the political and the public can influence, and sometimes invade, the personal and the private.

Photo of Nikky Finney

Nikky Finney, John H. Bennett Chair in Creative Writing and Southern Letters, U of South Carolina

Cover of book, Love Child's Hotbed

Love Child’s Hotbed of Occasional Poetry

Nikky Finney’s prize-winning poetry shows us the constant interplay between the inner lives of her Black subjects and the public world that often menaces them, a society whose past crimes haunt and animate the present day. The speakers in Finney’s poems operate against a backdrop of relentless racism, sexism and homophobia that is both systemic and personal. Nevertheless, the speaker’s interior consciousness persists, not defined by those who would harm or exploit them. Finney’s poems create astonishing moments of quiet lyric space, a sanctuary that coexists with the sinister powers that threaten Black bodies. With care and great power, Finney’s work documents the collective histories of our region and the personal histories of Black family members who have survived and even thrived.

Cover of novel, The Cigar Factory

The Cigar Factory

Photo of Michele Moore

Michele Moore

Michele Moore’s 2016 novel The Cigar Factory demonstrates that Charleston has always contained more than wealthy white aristocrats and the very poor. The stories of Charleston’s middle class and working class residents have rarely been fully told, but in this novel we follow 40 years in the lives of families who work at the cigar factory. Both Catholic, but of two different races and separated at work, they don’t know each other for most of the novel. Not only does The Cigar Factory tell the story of the workers who formed an interracial alliance during the 1940s, but it also lets us hear their voices, so much alike at times that readers may wonder whether it’s the African American or Irish American characters who are talking.

May the persistent solidarity of these women move and inspire us, in our own time, to take up space together, forming alliances across races, classes, and sexual identities.

 

Portrait of Madeline Breckenridge

Portrait of Madeline McDowell Breckenridge by Ella Sophonisba Hergeshiemer. Breckenridge, from Kentucky, was a women’s suffrag advocate. The Johnson Collection

Central to their Lives will be at the Gibbes Museum through May 3. The Gibbes is free on Wednesdays 4-8 PM to students with a valid ID.

A play adapted from Michele Moore’s The Cigar Factory will be performed February 21 and 22.

Nikky Finney’s latest book, Love Child’s Hotbed of Occasional Poetry, will be released in April, but copies will also be available for purchase at the February 19 reading.

 

[1] Read about the origins of “Nevertheless, she persisted.”

[2] Read one woman’s comments on the way she claims her own space in a world where “women have not been socialized to take up space.”

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