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History > U.S. History > Local and Regional > South
Across more than six generations -- beginning before the Revolutionary War -- the Breckinridge family has produced a series of notable leaders. These often controversial men and women included a presidential candidate, a U.S. vice president, cabinet members, generals, women's rights advocates, congressmen, editors, reformers, authors, and church leaders. Along with success, the Breckinridges, like other Americans, faced hardship and war, contended with race, lived through difficult family situations -- including a sex scandal -- and encountered personal and political failure. An articulate, opinionated, and frank family, the Breckinridges have left a detailed record that allows us a vivid recreation of the range of American history and society.
Agriculture and Sectional Antagonism in North America
Drawing on the history of the British gentry to explain the contrasting sentiments of American small farmers and plantation owners, James L. Huston's expansive analysis offers a new understanding of the socioeconomic factors that fueled sectionalism and ignited the American Civil War. This groundbreaking study of agriculture's role in the war defies long-held notions that northern industrialization and urbanization led to clashes between North and South. Rather, Huston argues that the ideological chasm between plantation owners in the South and family farmers in the North led to the political eruption of 1854-56 and the birth of a sectionalized party system.
Huston shows that over 70 percent of the northern population-by far the dominant economic and social element-had close ties to agriculture. More invested in egalitarianism and personal competency than in capitalism, small farmers in the North operated under a free labor ideology that emphasized the ideals of independence and mastery over oneself. The ideology of the plantation, by contrast, reflected the conservative ethos of the British aristocracy, which was the product of immense landed inequality and the assertion of mastery over others.
By examining the dominant populations in northern and southern congressional districts, Huston reveals that economic interests pitted the plantation South against the small-farm North. The northern shift toward Republicanism depended on farmers, not industrialists: While Democrats won the majority of northern farm congressional districts from 1842 to 1853, they suffered a major defection of these districts from 1854 to 1856, to the antislavery organizations that would soon coalesce into the Republican Party. Utilizing extensive historical research and close examination of the voting patterns in congressional districts across the country, James Huston provides a remarkable new context for the origins of the Civil War.
Illegal Sex in Antebellum New Orleans
Winner of the 2009 Gulf South Historical Association Book Award When a priest suggested to one of the first governors of Louisiana that he banish all disreputable women to raise the colony’s moral tone, the governor responded, “If I send away all the loose females, there will be no women left here at all.” Primitive, mosquito infested, and disease ridden, early French colonial New Orleans offered few attractions to entice respectable women as residents. King Louis XIV of France solved the population problem in 1721 by emptying Paris’s La Salpêtrière prison of many of its most notorious prostitutes and convicts and sending them to Louisiana. Many of these women continued to ply their trade in New Orleans. In Brothels, Depravity, and Abandoned Women, Judith Kelleher Schafer examines case histories from the First District Court of New Orleans and tells the engrossing story of prostitution in the city prior to the Civil War. Louisiana law did not criminalize the selling of sex until the Progressive Era, although the law forbade keeping a brothel. Police arrested individual public women on vague charges, for being “lewd and abandoned” or vagrants. The city’s wealthy and influential landlords, some of whom made huge profits by renting their property as brothels, wanted their tenants back on the streets as soon as possible, and they often hired the best criminal attorneys to help release the women from jail. The courts, in turn, often treated these “public women” leniently, exacting small fines or sending them to the city’s workhouse for a few months. As a result, prosecutors dropped almost all prostitution cases before trial. Relying on previously unexamined court records and newly available newspaper articles, Schafer ably details the brutal and often harrowing lives of the women and young girls who engaged in prostitution. Some watched as gangs of rowdy men smashed their furniture; some endured beatings by their customers or other public women enraged by fits of jealousy; others were murdered. Schafer discusses the sexual exploitation of children, sex across the color line, violence among and against public women, and the city’s feeble attempts to suppress the trade. She also profiles several infamous New Orleans sex workers, including Delia Swift, alias Bridget Fury, a flaming redhead with a fondness for stabbing men, and Emily Eubanks and her daughter Elisabeth, free women of color known for assaulting white women. Although scholars have written much about prostitution in New Orleans’ Storyville era, few historical studies on prostitution in antebellum New Orleans exist. Schafer’s rich analysis fills this gap and offers insight into an intriguing period in the history of the “oldest profession” in the Crescent City.
Students, Segregationists, and the Struggle for Justice in Prince Edward County, Virginia
In 1959, Prince Edward County, Virginia, abolished its public school system in opposition to the landmark decision against school segregation, Brown v. Board of Education. It took five years and another Supreme Court decision for the county to reopen public school doors. Titus explores the background of the crisis, the period in which the schools were closed, and the repercussions of this educational tragedy. She focuses on the years between 1951 (when black students walked out of the decrepit Moton High School) and 1969 (when black students staged a second strike), but also carries the story up to the present to demonstrate the consequences of the county's years of massive resistance to desegregation. Titus show that the Prince Edward County story is a vital chapter of America's civil rights story. While there have been journalistic, autobiographical, and fictional stories about the educational crisis, there has been no scholarly treatment of the subject. In 1965 the Press published journalist Bob Smith's They Closed Their Schools: Prince Edward County, Virginia, 1951-1964. However, Titus has a wealth of new archival material to draw upon and takes a broader perspective.
Merchants, Capital, and the Remaking of Natchez, 1865–1914
Builders of a New South describes how, between 1865 and 1914, ten Natchez mercantile families emerged as leading purveyors in the wholesale plantation supply and cotton handling business, and soon became a dominant force in the social and economic Reconstruction of the Natchez District. They were able to take advantage of postwar conditions in Natchez to gain mercantile prominence by supplying planters and black sharecroppers in the plantation supply and cotton buying business. They parlayed this initial success into cotton plantation ownership and became important local businessmen in Natchez, participating in many civic improvements and politics that shaped the district into the twentieth century.This book digs deep in countless records (including census, tax, property, and probate, as well as thousands of chattel mortgage contracts) to explore how these traders functioned as entrepreneurs in the aftermath of the Civil War, examining closely their role as furnishing merchants and land speculators, as well as their relations with the area's planters and freed black population. Their use of favorable laws protecting them as creditors, along with a solid community base that was civic-minded and culturally intact, greatly assisted them in their success. These families prospered partly because of their good business practices, and partly because local whites and blacks embraced them as useful agents in the emerging new marketplace. The situation created by the aftermath of the war and emancipation provided an ideal circumstance for the merchant families, and in the end, they played a key role in the district's economic survival and were the prime modernizers of Natchez.
Shrimpers Face the Rising Tide of Globalization
Over the past several decades, shrimp has transformed from a luxury food to a kitchen staple. While shrimp-loving consumers have benefited from the lower cost of shrimp, domestic shrimp fishers have suffered, particularly in Louisiana. Most of the shrimp that we eat today is imported from shrimp farms in China, Vietnam, and Thailand. The flood of imported shrimp has sent dockside prices plummeting, and rising fuel costs have destroyed the profit margin for shrimp fishing as a domestic industry.
In Buoyancy on the Bayou, Jill Ann Harrison portrays the struggles that Louisiana shrimp fishers endure to remain afloat in an industry beset by globalization. Her in-depth interviews with more than fifty individuals working in or associated with shrimp fishing in a small town in Louisiana offer a portrait of shrimp fishers' lives just before the BP oil spill in 2010, which helps us better understand what has happened since the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
Harrison shows that shrimp fishers go through a careful calculation of noneconomic costs and benefits as they grapple to figure out what their next move will be. Many willingly forgo opportunities in other industries to fulfill what they perceive as their cultural calling. Others reluctantly leave fishing behind for more lucrative work, but they mourn the loss of a livelihood upon which community and family structures are built. In this gripping account of the struggle to survive amid the waves of globalization, Harrison focuses her analysis at the intersection of livelihood, family, and community and casts a bright light upon the cultural importance of the work that we do.
C. Vann Woodward's The Burden of Southern History remains one of the essential history texts of our time. In it Woodward brilliantly addresses the interrelated themes of southern identity, southern distinctiveness, and the strains of irony that characterize much of the South's historical experience. First published in 1960, the book quickly became a touchstone for generations of students. This updated third edition contains a chapter, "Look Away, Look Away," in which Woodward finds a plethora of additional ironies in the South's experience. It also includes previously uncollected appreciations of Robert Penn Warren, to whom the book was originally dedicated, and William Faulkner. This edition also features a new foreword by historian William E. Leuchtenburg in which he recounts the events that led up to Woodward's writing The Burden of Southern History, and reflects on the book's—and Woodward's—place in the study of southern history. The Burden of Southern History is quintessential Woodward—wise, witty, ruminative, daring, and as alive in the twenty-first century as when it was written.
Kentucky Tobacco in a New Century
Once iconic American symbols, tobacco farms are gradually disappearing. It is difficult for many people to lament the loss of a crop that has come to symbolize addiction, disease, and corporate deception; yet, in Kentucky, the plant has played an important role in economic development and prosperity. Burley tobacco -- a light, air-cured variety used in cigarette production -- has long been the Commonwealth's largest cash crop and an important aspect of regional identity, along with bourbon, bluegrass music, and Thoroughbred horses.
In Burley: Kentucky Tobacco in a New Century, Ann K. Ferrell investigates the rapidly transforming process of raising and selling tobacco by chronicling her conversations with the farmers who know the crop best. She demonstrates that although the 2004 "buyout" ending the federal tobacco program is commonly perceived to be the most significant change that growers have had to negotiate, it is, in reality, only one new factor among many. Burley reveals the tangible and intangible challenges tobacco farmers face today, from the logistics of cultivation to the growing stigma against the crop.
Ferrell uses ethnography, archival research, and rhetorical analysis to tell the complex story of burley tobacco production in twenty-first-century Kentucky. Not only does she give a voice to the farmers who persevere in this embattled industry, but she also sheds light on their futures, contesting the widely held assumption that they can easily replace the crop by diversifying their opera-tions with alternative crops. As tobacco fades from both the physical and economic landscapes, this nuanced volume documents and explores the culture and practices of burley production today.
Dunboyne Plantation in the 1800s
In 1833, Edward G. W. and Frances Parke Butler moved to their newly constructed plantation house, Dunboyne, on the banks of the Mississippi River near the village of Bayou Goula. Their experiences at Dunboyne over the next forty years demonstrated the transformations that many land-owning southerners faced in the nineteenth century, from the evolution of agricultural practices and commerce, to the destruction wrought by the Civil War and the transition from slave to free labor, and finally to the social, political, and economic upheavals of Reconstruction. In this comprehensive biography of the Butlers, David D. Plater explores the remarkable lives of a Louisiana family during one of the most tumultuous periods in American history.
Born in Tennessee to a celebrated veteran of the American Revolution, Edward Butler pursued a military career under the mentorship of his guardian, Andrew Jackson, and, during a posting in Washington, D.C., met and married a grand-niece of George Washington, Frances Parke Lewis. In 1831, he resigned his commission and relocated Frances and their young son to Iberville Parish, where the couple began a sugar cane plantation. As their land holdings grew, they amassed more enslaved laborers and improved their social prominence in Louisiana’s antebellum society.
A staunch opponent of abolition, Butler voted in favor of Louisiana’s withdrawal from the Union at the state’s Secession Convention. But his actions proved costly when the war cut off agricultural markets and all but destroyed the state’s plantation economy, leaving the Butlers in financial ruin. In 1870, with their plantation and finances in disarray, the Butlers sold Dunboyne and resettled in Pass Christian, Mississippi, where they resided in a rental cottage with the financial support of Edward J. Gay, a wealthy Iberville planter and their daughter-in-law’s father. After Frances died in 1875, Edward Butler moved in with his son’s family in St. Louis, where he remained until his death in 1888. Based on voluminous primary source material, The Butlers of Iberville Parish, Louisiana offers an intimate picture of a wealthy nineteenth-century family and the turmoil they faced as a system based on the enslavement of others unraveled.