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Reviews415 In short, At the Falls is the best available synthesis of Richmond's history since the 1600s and should find a broad and appreciative audience. While this volume's role is to supply the narrative threads to the Valentine's reformulated city history exhibition, TylerMcGraw has produced a text that stands on its own scholarly feet and that will compel readers to think about Richmond from new perspectives. Serious scholars, local history enthusiasts, and those who may know Richmond only through its myriad of myths will not be disappointed by Tyler-McGraw's historical and literary achievement. The Fish Factory: Work and Meaning for Black and White Fishermen of the American Menhaden Industry. By Barbara J. Garrity-Blake. The University of Tennessee Press, 1994. 160 pp. Cloth, $30.00. Reviewed by Michael Luster, director of the North Carolina Coastal Folklife Project and of the Louisiana Folklife Festival. He was formerly folklife specialist for the North Carolina Maritime Museum. Hard against the Atlantic and Gulf shores of the American continent swim vast schools of menhaden, a rarely eaten fish but one of great economic and social value to those who depend upon it for their livelihood. The fish are rich in oil used for cosmetics, vitamins, and fine lubricants; besides the oil, the fish are dried and used to fertilize plants and feed animals. It is the same fish that, according to legend, Squanto taught the Pilgrims to plant with their corn. Menhaden were first caught commercially in New England in the early years of the nineteenth century. Northern soldiers discovered them in southern waters during the Civil War, and after the war a few of those soldiers returned to Virginia and North Carolina to pursue fish and fortune. Soon, a profitable industry emerged there that combined the skills of the waterman and the laborer. By and large, the members of the former group were predominantly white and found their way into the named roles of captain, mate, engineer, pilot; members of the latter group were predominantly black and found their role to be that of the common bunt-puller, the laborers who hauled the nets, synchronizing their toil with African American worksongs. Anthropologist Barbara Garrity-Blake has written an important study of how the two groups conceive of themselves and their work. While both groups are ultimately employees of factory management, they view their roles differently. White crew members view themselves as watermen, men of the sea whose very identity depends upon their ability to locate and bring in fish. Black crew members, on the other hand, view themselves as independent laborers able to offer or withhold their services in a particular industry without affecting their basic identity. The distinction is instructive but should be considered in light of the recognition that the region, especially coastal North Carolina, has a rich heritage of African American watermen who have historically taken great pride in their abilities. Many of those who went to work as laborers on the menhaden boats came from African American families with a heritage of such waterwork. Garrity-Blake makes excellent use of both written sources and the statements of workers to summarize the industry's history and to elucidate her thesis concerning the differing identities of captain and crew. She is especially good on the meaning of chanteys 416Southern Cultures in the context of worker identity. Unfortunately, the brevity of the book and the conventions of anthropology leave out any actual identity for the particular captains and crews who offered their statements. It would have been pleasant to meet the actual fishermen. Especially moving and wonderfully handled is her treatment of the role that fishermen , black and white, find themselves in as the coast becomes transformed from a place of work and daily life to a place of recreation and projection. Those who seek out the water's edge as a place of play and retirement resent and resist those who have historically made and presently must make their living there. Especially troubling is the co-opting of conservation by sport-fishing interests that seek to exploit coastal waters themselves in great numbers but wish to do away with the relatively slight presence of economic fishing...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 415-416
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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