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Nature and People in the Louisiana Bayou Country

Kelby Ouchley

Louisiana’s bayous and their watersheds teem with cypress trees, alligators, crawfish, and many other life forms. From Bayou Tigre to Half Moon Bayou, these sluggish streams meander through lowlands, marshes, and even uplands to dominate the state’s landscape. In Bayou-Diversity, conservationist Kelby Ouchley reveals the bayou’s intricate web of flora and fauna. Through a collection of essays about Louisiana’s natural history, Ouchley details an amazing array of plants and animals found in the Bayou State. Baldcypress, orchids, feral hogs, eels, black bears, bald eagles, and cottonmouth snakes live in the well over a hundred bayous of the region. Collectively, Ouchley’s vignettes portray vibrant and complex habitats. But human interaction with the bayou and our role in its survival, Ouchley argues, will determine the future of these intricate ecosystems. Bayou-Diversity narrates the story of the bayou one flower, one creature at a time, in turn illustrating the bigger picture of this treasured and troubled Louisiana landscape.

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Bearing Witness

Memories of Arkansas Slavery Narratives from the 1930s WPA Collections

These oral histories were first published in the 1970s in a thirty-nine-volume series organized by state, and they transformed America's understanding of slavery. They have offered crucial evidence on a variety of other topics as well: the Civil War, Reconstruction, agricultural practices, everyday life, and oral history itself.

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Beast in Florida

A History of Anti-Black Violence

Marvin Dunn

A symbolic embodiment of racial violence and hatred, "The Beast" openly prowled the nation between the Civil War and the civil rights movement. The reasons it appeared varied, with psychological, political, and economic dynamics all playing a part, but the outcome was always brutal--if not deadly.

From the bombing of Harriette and Harry T. Moore's home on Christmas Day to Willie James Howard's murder, from the Rosewood massacre to the Newberry Six lynchings, Marvin Dunn offers an encyclopedic catalogue of The Beast's rampages in Florida. Instead of simply taking snapshots of incidents, Dunn provides context for a century's worth of racial violence by examining communities over time. Crucial insights from interviews with descendants of both perpetrators and victims shape this study of Florida’s grim racial history. Rather than pointing fingers and placing blame, The Beast in Florida allows voices and facts to speak for themselves, facilitating a conversation on the ways in which racial violence changed both black and white lives forever.

With this comprehensive and balanced look at racially motivated events, Dunn reveals the Sunshine State's too-often forgotten--or intentionally hidden--past. The result is a panorama of compelling human stories: its emergent dialogue challenges conceptions of what created and maintained The Beast.

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Becoming Bourgeois

Merchant Culture in the South, 1820-1865

Frank Byrne

Becoming Bourgeois is the first study to focus on what historians have come to call the “middling sort,” the group falling between the mass of yeoman farmers and the planter class that dominated the political economy of the antebellum South. Historian Frank J. Byrne investigates the experiences of urban merchants, village storekeepers, small-scale manufacturers, and their families, as well as the contributions made by this merchant class to the South’s economy, culture, and politics in the decades before, and the years of, the Civil War. These merchant families embraced the South but were not of the South. At a time when Southerners rarely traveled far from their homes, merchants annually ventured forth on buying junkets to northern cities. Whereas the majority of Southerners enjoyed only limited formal instruction, merchant families often achieved a level of education rivaled only by the upper class—planters. The southern merchant community also promoted the kind of aggressive business practices that New South proponents would claim as their own in the Reconstruction era and beyond. Along with discussion of these modern approaches to liberal capitalism, Byrne also reveals the peculiar strains of conservative thought that permeated the culture of southern merchants. While maintaining close commercial ties to the North, southern merchants embraced the religious and racial mores of the South. Though they did not rely directly upon slavery for their success, antebellum merchants functioned well within the slave-labor system. When the Civil War erupted, southern merchants simultaneously joined Confederate ranks and prepared to capitalize on the war’s business opportunities, regardless of the outcome of the conflict. Throughout Becoming Bourgeois, Byrne highlights the tension between these competing elements of southern merchant culture. By exploring the values and pursuits of this emerging class, Byrne not only offers new insight into southern history but also deepens our understanding of the mutable ties between regional identity and the marketplace in nineteenth-century America.

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Becoming Melungeon

Making an Ethnic Identity in the Appalachian South

Melissa Schrift

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.

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Becoming Southern Writers

Essays in Honor of Charles Joyner

Orville Vernon Burton

Edited by southern historians Orville Vernon Burton and Eldred E. Prince, Jr., Becoming Southern Writers pays tribute to South Carolinian Charles Joyner’s fifty year career as a southern historian, folklorist, and social activist. Exceptional writers of fact, fiction, and poetry, the contributors to the volume are among Joyner’s many friends, admirers, and colleagues as well as those to whom Joyner has served as a mentor. The contributors describe how they came to write about the South and how they came to write about it in the way they do while reflecting on the humanistic tradition of scholarship as lived experience. The contributors constitute a Who’s Who of southern writers—from award-winning literary artists to historians. Freed from constraints of their disciplines by Joyner’s example, they enthusiastically describe family reunions, involvement in the civil rights movement, research projects, and mentors. While not all contributors are native to the South or the United States and a few write about the South only occasionally, all the essayists root their work in southern history, and all have made distinguished contributions to southern writing. Diverse in theme and style, these writings represent each author’s personal reflections on experiences living in and writing about the South while touching on topics that surfaced in Joyner’s own works, such as race, family, culture, and place. Whether based on personal or historical events, each one speaks to Joyner’s theme that “all history is local history, somewhere.”

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Berea College

An Illustrated History

Shannon Wilson

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.

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Beside the Troubled Waters

A Black Doctor Remembers Life, Medicine, and Civil Rights in an Alabama Town

Sonnie Wellington Hereford III and Jack D. Ellis


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.

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Beyond Integration

The Black Freedom Struggle in Escambia County, Florida, 1960-1980

J. Michael Butler

In 1975, Florida's Escambia County and the city of Pensacola experienced a pernicious chain of events. A sheriff's deputy killed a young black man at point-blank range. Months of protests against police brutality followed, culminating in the arrest and conviction of the Reverend H. K. Matthews, the leading civil rights organizer in the county. Viewing the events of Escambia County within the context of the broader civil rights movement, J. Michael Butler demonstrates that while activism of the previous decade destroyed most visible and dramatic signs of racial segregation, institutionalized forms of cultural racism still persisted. In Florida, white leaders insisted that because blacks obtained legislative victories in the 1960s, African Americans could no longer claim that racism existed, even while public schools displayed Confederate imagery and allegations of police brutality against black citizens multiplied.

Offering a new perspective on the literature of the black freedom struggle, Beyond Integration reveals how with each legal step taken toward racial equality, notions of black inferiority became more entrenched, reminding us just how deeply racism remained--and still remains--in our society.

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