University of South Carolina Press

Southern Classics

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I Came Out of the Eighteenth Century

John Andrew Rice

John Andrew Rice’s autobiography, first published to critical acclaim in 1942, is a remarkable tour through late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century America. When the book was suppressed by the publisher soon after its appearance because of legal threats by a college president described in the book, the nation lost a rich first-person historical account of race and class relations during a critical period—not only during the days of Rice’s youth, but at the dawn of the civil rights movement. I Came Out of the Eighteenth Century begins with Rice’s childhood on a South Carolina plantation during the post-Reconstruction era. Later Rice moved to Great Britain when he won a Rhodes scholarship, then to the University of Nebraska to accept a professorship. In 1933 he founded Black Mountain College, a legendary progressive college in North Carolina that uniquely combined creative arts, liberal education, self-government, and a work program. Rice’s observations of social and working conditions in the Jim Crow South, his chronicle of his own fading southern aristocratic family, including its famous politicians, and his acerbic portraits of education bureaucrats are memorable and make this book a resource for scholars and a pleasure for lay readers. Historical facts are leavened with wit and insight; black-white relations are recounted with relentless and unsentimental discernment. Rice combines a sociologist’s eye with a dramatist’s flair in a unique voice. This Southern Classics edition includes a new introduction by Mark Bauerlein and an afterword by Rice’s grandson William Craig Rice, exposing a new generation of readers to John Andrew Rice’s incisive commentaries on the American South before the 1960s and to the work of a powerful prose stylist.

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The Plantation

Edgar Tristram Thompson

A rare classic in American social science, Edgar Thompson's 1932 University of Chicago dissertation, "The Plantation," broke new analytic ground in the study of the southern plantation system. Thompson refuted long-espoused climatic theories of the origins of plantation societies and offered instead a richly nuanced understanding of the links between plantation culture, the global history of capitalism, and the political and economic contexts of hierarchical social classification. This first complete publication of Thompson's study makes available to modern readers one of the earliest attempts to reinterpret the history of the American South as an integral part of global processes. In this Southern Classics edition, editors Sidney W. Minz and George Baca provide a thorough introduction explicating Thompson's guiding principles and grounding his germinal work in its historical context. Thompson viewed the plantation as a political institution in which the quasi-industrial production of agricultural staples abroad through race-making labor systems solidified and advanced European state power. His interpretation marks a turning point in the scientific study of an ancient agricultural institution, in which the plantation is seen as a pioneering instrument for the expansion of the global economy. Further, his awareness of the far-reaching history of economic globalization and of the conception of race as socially constructed predicts viewpoints that have since become standard. As such, this overlooked gem in American intellectual history is still deeply relevant for ongoing research and debate in social, economic, and political history.

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The South at Work

Observations from 1904

William Garrott Brown

In 1904 William Garrott Brown traveled the American South, investigating the region’s political, economic, and social conditions. Using the pen name “Stanton,” Brown published twenty epistles in the Boston Evening Transcript detailing his observations. The South at Work is a compilation of these newspaper articles, providing a valuable snapshot of the South as it was simultaneously emerging from post–Civil War economic depression and imposing on African Americans the panoply of Jim Crow laws and customs that sought to exclude them from all but the lowest rungs of southern society. A Harvard-educated historian and journalist originally from Alabama, Brown had been commissioned by the Evening Transcript to visit a wide range of locations and to chronicle the region with a greater depth than that of typical travelers’ accounts. Some articles featured familiar topics such as a tobacco warehouse in Durham, North Carolina; a textile mill in Columbia, South Carolina; and the vast steel mills at Birmingham. However, Brown also covered atypical enterprises such as citrus farming in Florida, the King Ranch in Texas, and the New Orleans Cotton Exchange. To add perspective, he talked to businessmen and politicians, as well as everyday workers. In addition to describing the importance of diversifying the South’s agricultural economy beyond cotton, Brown addressed race relations and the role of politicians such as James K. Vardaman of Mississippi, the growth of African American communities such as Hayti in Durham, and the role universities played in changing the intellectual climate of the South. The editor, Bruce E. Baker, has written an introduction and provided thorough annotations for each of Brown’s letters. Baker demonstrates the value of the collection as it touches on racism, moderate progressivism, and accommodation with the political status quo in the South. Baker and Brown’s combined work makes The South at Work one of the most detailed and interesting portraits of the region at the beginning of the twentieth century. Publication in book form makes The South at Work conveniently available to students and scholars of modern southern and American history.

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