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Making an Ethnic Identity in the Appalachian South
Appalachian legend describes a mysterious, multiethnic population of exotic, dark-skinned rogues called Melungeons who rejected the outside world and lived in the remote, rugged mountains in the farthest corner of northeast Tennessee. The allegedly unknown origins of these Melungeons are part of what drove this legend and generated myriad exotic origin theories. Though nobody self-identified as Melungeon before the 1960s, by the 1990s “Melungeonness” had become a full-fledged cultural phenomenon, resulting in a zealous online community and annual meetings where self-identified Melungeons gathered to discuss shared genealogy and history. Although today Melungeons are commonly identified as the descendants of underclass whites, freed African Americans, and Native Americans, this ethnic identity is still largely a social construction based on local tradition, myth, and media.
In Becoming Melungeon, Melissa Schrift examines the ways in which the Melungeon ethnic identity has been socially constructed over time by various regional and national media, plays, and other forms of popular culture. Schrift explores how the social construction of this legend evolved into a fervent movement of a self-identified ethnicity in the 1990s. This illuminating and insightful work examines these shifting social constructions of race, ethnicity, and identity both in the local context of the Melungeons and more broadly in an attempt to understand the formation of ethnic groups and identity in the modern world.
An Illustrated History
The motto of Berea College is “God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth,” a phrase underlying Berea’s 150-year commitment to egalitarian education. The first interracial and coeducational undergraduate institution in the South, Berea College is well known for its mission to provide students the opportunity to work in exchange for a tuition-free quality education. The founders believed that participation in manual labor blurred distinctions of class; combined with study and leisure, it helped develop independent, industrious, and innovative graduates committed to serving their communities. These values still hold today as Berea continues its legendary commitment to equality, diversity, and cultural preservation and, at the same time, expands its mission to include twenty-first-century concerns, such as ecological sustainability. In Berea College: An Illustrated History, Shannon H. Wilson unfolds the saga of one of Kentucky’s most distinguished institutions of higher education, centering his narrative on the eight presidents who have served Berea. The college’s founder, John G. Fee, was a staunch abolitionist and believer in Christian egalitarianism who sought to build a college that “would be to Kentucky what Oberlin was to Ohio, antislavery, anti-caste, anti-rum, anti-sin.” Indeed, the connection to Oberlin is evident in the college’s abolitionist roots and commitment to training African American teachers, preachers, and industrial leaders. Black and white students lived, worked, and studied together in interracial dorms and classrooms; the extent of Berea’s reformist commitment is most evident in an 1872 policy allowing interracial dating and intermarriage among its student body. Although the ratio of black to white students was nearly equal in the college’s first twenty years, this early commitment to the education of African Americans was shattered in 1904, when the Day Law prohibited the races from attending school together. Berea fought the law until it lost in the U.S. Supreme Court in 1908 but later returned to its commitment to interracial education in 1950, when it became the first undergraduate college in Kentucky to admit African Americans. Berea’s third president, William Goodell Frost, shifted attention toward “Appalachian America” during the interim, and this mission to reach out to Appalachians continues today. Wilson also chronicles the creation of Berea’s many unique programs designed to serve men and women in Kentucky and beyond. A university extension program carried Berea’s educational opportunities into mountain communities. Later, the New Opportunity School for Women was set up to help adult women return to the job market by offering them career workshops, job experience on campus, and educational and cultural enrichment opportunities. More recently, the college developed the Black Mountain Youth Leadership Program, designed to reduce the isolation of African Americans in Appalachia and encourage cultural literacy, academic achievement, and community service. Berea College explores the culture and history of one of America’s most unique institutions of higher learning. Complemented by more than 180 historic photographs, Wilson’s narrative documents Berea’s majestic and inspiring story.
A Black Doctor Remembers Life, Medicine, and Civil Rights in an Alabama Town
Beside the Troubled Waters is a memoir by an African American physician in Alabama whose story in many ways typifies the lives and careers of black doctors in the south during the segregationist era while also illustrating the diversity of the black experience in the medical profession. Based on interviews conducted with Hereford over ten years, the account includes his childhood and youth as the son of a black sharecropper and Primitive Baptist minister in Madison County, Alabama, during the Depression; his education at Huntsville’s all-black Councill School and medical training at Meharry Medical College in Nashville; his medical practice in Huntsville’s black community beginning in 1956; his efforts to overcome the racism he met in the white medical community; his participation in the civil rights movement in Huntsville; and his later problems with the Medicaid program and state medical authorities, which eventually led to the loss of his license.
Hereford’s memoir stands out because of its medical and civil rights themes, and also because of its compelling account of the professional ruin Hereford encountered after 37 years of practice, as the end of segregation and the federal role in medical care placed black doctors in competition with white ones for the first time.
A History of the Episcopal Church in Alabama
A Political History of African Americans in Atlanta
Atlanta stands out among southern cities for many reasons, not least of which is the role African Americans have played in local politics. Black Power in Dixie offers the first comprehensive study of black politics in the city.
From Reconstruction to recent times, the middle-class black leadership in Atlanta, while often subordinating class and gender differences to forge a continuous campaign for equality, successfully maintained its mantle of racial leadership for more than a century through a deft combination of racial advocacy and collaboration with local white business and political elites.
Alton Hornsby provides an analysis of how one of the most important southern cities managed, adapted, and coped with the struggle for racial justice, examining both traditional electoral politics as well as the roles of non-elected individuals influential in the community. Highlighting the terms of Maynard Jackson and Andrew Young, the city's first two black mayors, Hornsby concludes by raising important questions about the success of black political power and whether it has translated into measurable economic power for the African American community.
Police Brutality and African American Activism from World War II to Hurricane Katrina
In Black Rage in New Orleans, Leonard N. Moore traces the shocking history of police corruption in the Crescent City from World War II to Hurricane Katrina and the concurrent rise of a large and energized black opposition to it. In New Orleans, crime, drug abuse, and murder were commonplace, and an underpaid, inadequately staffed, and poorly trained police force frequently resorted to brutality against African Americans. Endemic corruption among police officers increased as the city’s crime rate soared, generating anger and frustration among New Orleans’s black community. Rather than remain passive, African Americans in the city formed antibrutality organizations, staged marches, held sit-ins, waged boycotts, vocalized their concerns at city council meetings, and demanded equitable treatment. Moore explores a staggering array of NOPD abuses—police homicides, sexual violence against women, racial profiling, and complicity in drug deals, prostitution rings, burglaries, protection schemes, and gun smuggling—and the increasingly vociferous calls for reform by the city’s black community. Documenting the police harassment of civil rights workers in the 1950s and 1960s, Moore then examines the aggressive policing techniques of the 1970s, and the attempts of Ernest “Dutch” Morial—the first black mayor of New Orleans—to reform the force in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Even when the department hired more African American officers as part of that reform effort, Moore reveals, the corruption and brutality continued unabated in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Dramatic changes in departmental leadership, together with aid from federal grants, finally helped professionalize the force and achieved long-sought improvements within the New Orleans Police Department. Community policing practices, increased training, better pay, and a raft of other reform measures for a time seemed to signal real change in the department. The book’s epilogue, “Policing Katrina,” however, looks at how the NOPD’s ineffectiveness compromised its ability to handle the greatest natural disaster in American history, suggesting that the fruits of reform may have been more temporary than lasting. The first book-length study of police brutality and African American protest in a major American city, Black Rage in New Orleans will prove essential for anyone interested in race relations in America’s urban centers.
Race Relations and Southern Culture, 1940 to the Present
In "Black, White, and Southern," David R. Goldfield shows how the struggles of black southerners to lift the barriers that had historically separated them from their white counterparts not only brought about the demise of white supremacy but did so without destroying the South's unique culture. Indeed, it is Goldfield's contention that the civil rights crusade has strengthened the South's cultural heritage, making it possible for black southeners to embrace their region unfettered by fear and frustration and for whites to leave behind decades of guilt and condemnation. In support of his analysis Goldfield presents a sweeping examination of the evolution of southern race relations over the past fifty years. He provides moving accounts of the major moments of the civil rights era, and he looks at more recent efforts by blacks to achieve economic and class parity. This history of the crusade for black equality is in the end they story of the South itself and of the powerful forces of redemption that Goldfield attests are still working to shape the future of the region.
The Constitutional Conventions of Radical Reconstruction
After the Civil War, Congress required ten former Confederate states to rewrite their constitutions before they could be readmitted to the Union. An electorate composed of newly enfranchised former slaves, native southern whites (minus significant numbers of disenfranchised former Confederate officials), and a small contingent of "carpetbaggers," or outside whites, sent delegates to ten constitutional conventions. Derogatorily labeled "black and tan" by their detractors, these assemblies wrote constitutions and submitted them to Congress and to the voters in their respective states for approval. Blacks, Carpetbaggers, and Scalawags offers a quantitative study of these decisive but little-understood assemblies—the first elected bodies in the United States to include a significant number of blacks.
Richard L. Hume and Jerry B. Gough scoured manuscript census returns to determine the age, occupation, property holdings, literacy, and slaveholdings of 839 of the conventions' 1,018 delegates. Carefully analyzing convention voting records on certain issues—including race, suffrage, and government structure—they correlate delegates' voting patterns with their racial and socioeconomic status. The authors then assign a "Republican support score" to each delegate who voted often enough to count, establishing the degree to which each delegate adhered to the Republican leaders' program at his convention. Using these scores, they divide the delegates into three groups—radicals, swing voters, and conservatives—and incorporate their quantitative findings into the narrative histories of each convention, providing, for the first time, a detailed analysis of these long-overlooked assemblies.
Hume and Gough's comprehensive study offers an objective look at the accomplishments and shortcomings of the conventions and humanizes the delegates who have until now been understood largely as stereotypes. Blacks, Carpetbaggers, and Scalawags provides an essential reference guide for anyone seeking a better understanding of the Reconstruction era.
A History of Violence in Appalachia
To many antebellum Americans, Appalachia was a frightening wilderness of lawlessness, peril, robbers, and hidden dangers. The extensive media coverage of horse stealing and scalping raids profiled the region’s residents as intrinsically violent. After the Civil War, this characterization continued to permeate perceptions of the area and news of the conflict between the Hatfields and the McCoys, as well as the bloodshed associated with the coal labor strikes, cemented Appalachia’s violent reputation. Blood in the Hills: A History of Violence in Appalachia provides an in-depth historical analysis of hostility in the region from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth century. Editor Bruce E. Stewart discusses aspects of the Appalachian violence culture, examining skirmishes with the native population, conflicts resulting from the region’s rapid modernization, and violence as a function of social control. The contributors also address geographical isolation and ethnicity, kinship, gender, class, and race with the purpose of shedding light on an often-stereotyped regional past. Blood in the Hills does not attempt to apologize for the region but uses detailed research and analysis to explain it, delving into the social and political factors that have defined Appalachia throughout its violent history.