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frontporch Most Faulkner lovers remember two bracketing passages fromAbsalom, Absalom! with special clarity. In the first, Shreve McCannon, a Canadian freshman at Harvard , asks his Mississippian roommate, Quentin Compson, to explain his homeland . "Tell about the South" he demands. " What's it like there. What do they do there. Why do they live there. Why do they live at all." In reply, Quentin tells Shreve the tragic , convoluted saga of the Sutpen family, scarred by hubris, violence, brutality, racial oppression, miscegenation, and misplaced honor. It's not a pretty story, but when it's finally told, Shreve asks Quentin something else. " Why do you hate the South?'" he wonders, and evokes a famous answer. " ? dont hate it,' Quentin said, quickly, at once, immediately; ? dont hate it,' he said. Idonthate //he thought, panting in the cold air, the iron New England dark: Idont. Idont!Idonthate it!Idont hate it!" It's a curious question and a curious answer. If Shreve believes that Quentin hates the South, there ought not to be any mystery about why: his lurid tale ofsin and destruction would be enough to make lots of young people hate their birthplaces . But if Quentin doesn't hate the South in spite of everything, why is he so defensive about saying so, not only to his roommate, but also to himself, thinking and panting in "the iron New England dark"? Every reader will ponder Shreve's questions individually, but lots ofus are familiar with Quentin's reaction. Let's face it: the story of the South is full of hate and hateful things. Why the place should nevertheless inspire such fierce love from its critics has puzzled a lot ofus, especially the lovers themselves. Whatever our own answers, the fact remains that love and hatred are deeply mingled in the feelings ofmany South-watchers, and southern traditions have supplied plenty of justifications for both at once. The essays in this issue of Southern Cultures provide ample fodder for love and criticism at the very least, and perhaps for something stronger. The grimmest news comes first. This fall marks the one-hundredth anniversary of the "Wilmington Race Riot," a bloody uprisingin the leading port city ofNorth Carolina. The episode led to at least fourteen deaths, the overthrow of a biracial city government , and the exile of dozens of talented leaders from the local black community . Even more than many other examples ofracial violence, the disturbances in Wilmington were overtly political, growing out ofa so-called "white supremacy campaign" deliberately incited by North Carolina's white political leadership in order to win support for literacy tests, the "grandfather clause," and legalized segregation . The campaign was not an isolated incident, moreover, but part ofa successful movement throughout the South at the turn of the century to strip black men ofthe right to vote and make the previously sporadic restrictions oftheJim Crow system uniform and ironclad. State historians have never quite ignored this episode, and novelists have explored it as well, especially in Charles W. Chesnutt's haunting exploration of racial identity at the turn of the century, The Marrow of Tradition. Even so, it's probably safe to say that the Wilmington Race Riot and the "white supremacy campaign" are better known by scholarly specialists than by the general public, though commemorative exercises this fall may correct that situation a bit. Andrea M. Kirshenbaum contributes to the process of remembrance by exploring a neglected aspect of the tragedy. In common with their counterparts across the South, white male leaders in North Carolina not only appealed to racial prejudices in their effort to win support for disfranchisement, but they also drew on specific ideas about the nature ofmen and women. Replying to a defiant black journalist who had defended black men against accusations of rape, white politicians and newspaper editors insisted that black men were voracious sexual predators whose propensity to rape white women was inflamed by the taste of equality represented by the right to vote and hold office. By contrast, white women were the innocent and defenseless victims of bestial black men, and it was the natural duty ofwhite men to protect their women by keeping them indoors, committing violence against "uppity...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 1-5
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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