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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.
The Legacy of the Public Works Administration
Robert D. Leighninger, Jr., believes there may be a model for municipal building projects everywhere in the ambitious and artful structures erected in Louisiana by the Public Works Administration. In the 1930s, the PWA built a tremendous amount of infrastructure in a very short time. Most of the edifices are still in use, yet few people recognize how these schools, courthouses, and other great structures came about. Building Louisiana documents the projects one New Deal agency erected in one southern state and places these in social and political context. Based on extensive research in the National Archives and substantial field work within the state, Leighninger has gathered the story of the establishment of the PWA and the feverish building activity that ensued. He also recounts early tussles with Huey Long and the scandals involving public works discovered during the late New Deal. The book includes looks at individual projects of particular interest--"Big Charity" hospital, the Carville leprosy center, the Shreveport incinerator, and the LSU sugar plant. A concluding chapter draws lessons from the PWA's history that might be applied to current political concerns. Also included is an annotated inventory of every PWA project in the state. Finally, this composite picture honors those workers and policymakers who, in a time of despair, expressed hope for the future with this enduring investment. Robert D. Leighninger, Jr., is faculty associate in the School of Social Work at Arizona State University. He is the author of Long Range Public Investment: The Forgotten Legacy of the New Deal.
Philadelphia’s Interracial Civil Rights Organizations and Race Relations, 1930–1970
Inspired by Quakerism, Progressivism, the Social Gospel movement, and the theories of scholars such as W. E. B. Du Bois, Charles S. Johnson, Franz Boas, and Ruth Benedict, a determined group of Philadelphia activists sought to transform race relations. This book concentrates on these organizations: Fellowship House, the Philadelphia Housing Association, and the Fellowship Commission. While they initially focused on community-level relations, these activists became increasingly involved in building coalitions for the passage of civil rights legislation on the local, state, and national level. This historical account examines their efforts in three distinct, yet closely related areas, education, housing, and labor.
Perhaps the most important aspect of this movement was its utilization of education as a weapon in the struggle against racism. Martin Luther King credited Fellowship House with introducing him to the passive resistance principle of satygraha through a Sunday afternoon forum. Philadelphia's activists influenced the southern civil rights movement through ideas and tactics. Borrowing from Philadelphia, similar organizations would rise in cities from Kansas City to Knoxville. Their impact would have long lasting implications; the methods they pioneered would help shape contemporary multicultural education programs.
Building the Beloved Community places this innovative northern civil rights struggle into a broader historical context. Through interviews, photographs, and rarely utilized primary sources, the author critically evaluates the contributions and shortcomings of this innovative approach to race relations.
Never before published, A Business Career is the story of Stella Merwin, a white woman entering the working-class world to discover the truth behind her upper-class father's financial failure. A "New Woman" of the 1890s, Stella joins a stenographer's office and uncovers a life-altering secret that allows her to regain her status and wealth.
When Charles W. Chesnutt died in 1932, he left behind six manuscripts unpublished, A Business Career among them. Along with novels of Paul Laurence Dunbar, it is one of the first written by an African American who crosses the color line to write about the white world. It is also one of only two Chesnutt novels with a female protagonist.
Rejecting the novel for publication, Houghton Mifflin editor Walter Hines Page encouraged Chesnutt to try to get the book in print. "You will doubtless be able to find a publisher, and my advice to you is decidedly to keep trying till you do find one," he wrote. Page clearly saw that in A Business Career Chesnutt had written a successful popular novel grounded in realism but one that exploits elements of romance.
Charles W. Chesnutt (1858-1932) was an innovative and influential African American writer of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His novels include The House Behind the Cedars, The Marrow of Tradition, The Colonel's Dream, as well as the posthumously published novel Paul Marchand, F.M.C. from University Press of Mississippi.
Modern Pleasures in a Postmodern World
Queen Ida. Danny Poullard. Documentary filmmaker Les Blank. Chris Strachwitz and Arhoolie Records. These are names that are familiar to many fans of Cajun music and zydeco, and they have one other thing in common--longtime residence in the San Francisco Bay Area. They are all part of a vibrant scene of dancing and live Louisiana-French music that has evolved over several decades. Cajun and Zydeco Dance Music in Northern California traces how this region of California has been able to develop and sustain dances several times a week with more than a dozen bands. Description of this active regional scene opens into a discussion of several historical trends that have affected life and music in Louisiana and the nation. The book portrays the diversity of people who have come together to adopt Cajun and Creole dance music as a way to cope with a globalized, media-saturated world. Ethnomusicologist Mark F. DeWitt innovatively weaves together interviews with musicians and dancers (some from Louisiana, some not), analysis of popular media, participant observation as a musician and dancer, and historical perspectives from wartime black migration patterns, the civil rights movement, American folk and blues revivals, California counterculture, and the rise of cultural tourism in "Cajun Country." In so doing, he reveals the multifaceted appeal of celebrating life on the dance floor, Louisiana-French style.
Cajun food has become a popular "ethnic" food throughout America during the last decade. This fascinating book explores the significance of Cajun cookery on its home turf in south Louisiana, a region marked by startling juxtapositions of the new and the old, the nationally standard and the locally unique.
Neither a cookbook nor a restaurant guide, Cajun Foodways gives interpretation to the meaning of traditional Cajun food from the perspective of folklife studies and cultural anthropology. The author takes into account the modern regional popular culture in examining traditional foodways of the Cajuns.
Cajuns' attention to their own traditional foodways is more than merely nostalgia or a clever marketing ploy to lure tourists and sell local products. The symbolic power of Cajun food is deeply rooted in Cajuns' ethnic identity, especially their attachments to their natural environment and their love of being with people.
Foodways are an effective symbol for what it means to be a Cajun today. The reader interested in food and in cooking will find much appeal in this book, for it illustrates a new way to think about how and why people eat as they do.
Americanization of a People
History -- Southern Studies--> The past sixty years have shaped and reshaped the group of French-speaking Louisiana people known as the Cajuns. During this period they have become much like other Americans and yet have remained strikingly distinct. The Cajuns: Americanization of a People explores these six decades and analyzes the forces that had an impact on Louisiana's Acadiana. In the 1940s, when America entered World War II, so too did the isolated Cajuns. Cajun soldiers fought alongside troops from Brooklyn and Berkeley and absorbed aspects of new cultures. In the 1950s as rock 'n' roll and television crackled across Louisiana airwaves, Cajun music makers responded with their own distinct versions. In the 1960s, empowerment and liberation movements turned the South upside down. During the 1980s, as things Cajun became an absorbing national fad, "Cajun" became a kind of brand identity used for selling everything from swamp tours to boxed rice dinners. At the dawn of the twenty-first century, the advent of a new information age launched "Cyber-Cajuns" onto a worldwide web. All these forces have pushed and pulled at the fabric of Cajun life but have not destroyed it. A Cajun himself, the author of this book has an intense personal fascination in his people. By linking seemingly local events in the Cajuns' once isolated south Louisiana homeland to national and even global events, Bernard demonstrates that by the middle of the twentieth century the Cajuns for the first time in their ethnic story were engulfed in the currents of mainstream American life and yet continued to make outstandingly distinct contributions. Shane K. Bernard serves as historian and curator to McIlhenny Company, maker of Tabasco brand products since 1868, and Avery Island, Inc. He is the author of Swamp Pop: Cajun and Creole Rhythm and Blues (University Press of Mississippi). His work has been published in such periodicals as Louisiana History, Louisiana Folklife, Louisiana Cultural Vistas, and the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
The Stono Slave Rebellion and the Universal Struggle for Human Rights
On Sunday, September 9, 1739, twenty Kongolese slaves armed themselves by breaking into a storehouse near the Stono River south of Charleston, South Carolina. They killed twenty-three white colonists, joined forces with other slaves, and marched toward Spanish Florida. There they expected to find freedom. One report claims the rebels were overheard shouting, "Liberty!" Before the day ended, however, the rebellion was crushed, and afterwards many surviving rebels were executed. South Carolina rapidly responded with a comprehensive slave code. The Negro Act reinforced white power through laws meant to control the ability of slaves to communicate and congregate. It was an important model for many slaveholding colonies and states, and its tenets greatly inhibited African American access to the public sphere for years to come. The Stono Rebellion serves as a touchstone for Calling Out Liberty, an exploration of human rights in early America. Expanding upon historical analyses of this rebellion, Jack Shuler suggests a relationship between the Stono rebels and human rights discourse in early American literature. Though human rights scholars and policy makers usually offer the European Enlightenment as the source of contemporary ideas about human rights, this book repositions the sources of these important and often challenged American ideals.
Folklore from the Old-Time College to the Modern Mega-University
From their beginnings, campuses emerged as hotbeds of traditions and folklore. American college students inhabit a culture with its own slang, stories, humor, beliefs, rituals, and pranks. Simon J. Bronner takes a long, engaging look at American campus life and how it is shaped by students and at the same time shapes the values of all who pass through it. The archetypes of absent-minded profs, fumbling jocks, and curve-setting dweebs are the stuff of legend and humor, along with the all-nighters, tailgating parties, and initiations that mark campus tradition--and student identities. Undergraduates in their hallowed halls embrace distinctive traditions because the experience of higher education precariously spans childhood and adulthood, parental and societal authority, home and corporation, play and work.Bronner traces historical changes in these traditions. The predominant context has shifted from what he calls the "old-time college," small in size and strong in its sense of community, to mass society's "mega-university," a behemoth that extends beyond any campus to multiple branches and offshoots throughout a state, region, and sometimes the globe. One might assume that the mega-university has dissolved collegiate traditions and displaced the old-time college, but Bronner finds the opposite. Student needs for social belonging in large universities and a fear of losing personal control have given rise to distinctive forms of lore and a striving for retaining the pastoral "campus feel" of the old-time college. The folkloric material students spout, and sprout, in response to these needs is varied but it is tied together by its invocation of tradition and social purpose. Beneath the veil of play, students work through tough issues of their age and environment. They use their lore to suggest ramifications, if not resolution, of these issues for themselves and for their institutions. In the process, campus traditions are keys to the development of American culture.
A Black Family's Letters
Ann Petry (1908-1997) achieved prominence during a period in which few black women were published with regularity in America. Her novels Country Place (1947) and The Narrows (1988), along with various short stories and nonfiction, poignantly described the struggles and triumphs of middle-class blacks living in primarily white communities. Petry's ancestors, the James family, served as in-spiration for much of her fiction. This collection of more than four hundred family letters, edited by the daughter of Ann Petry, is an engaging portrait of black family life from the 1890s to the early twentieth century, a period not often documented by African American voices. Ann Petry's maternal grandfather, Willis Samuel James, was a slave taught by his children to read and write. He believed "the best place for the negro is as near the white man as he can get." He followed that "truth," working as coachman for a Connecticut governor and buying a house in a white neighborhood in Hartford. Willis had sixteen children by three wives. The letters in this collection are from him and his second wife, Anna E. Houston James, and five of Anna's children, of whom novelist Ann Petry's mother, Bertha James Lane, was the oldest. History is made and remade by the availability of new documents, sources, and interpretations. Can Anything Beat White? contributes a great deal to this process. The experiences of the James family as documented in their letters challenge both representations of black people at the turn of the century as well as our contemporary sense of black Americans. Elisabeth Petry is a freelance writer with a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. She lives in Middletown, Connecticut. Her work has appeared in Northeast (the magazine of the Hartford Courant) and Work-Boat magazine.