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Reviews381 personality, his approach to literary composition, and his interest in the Catholic church (which began long before his famous deathbed confirmation, a point to which Keenan devotes considerable space). One theme Keenan fails to mention is race. Given the focus of much of Harris's writings, this neglect is a surprise, especially in light of Wayne Mixon's essay in The Journal ofSouthern History (August 1990). "Throughout his life Harris's mind was filled with questions about the status of the black man," wrote Mixon, concluding that "race was, to Harris at his best, meaningless." Mixon mainly examined Harris's published works; with Keenan's collection we can begin to trace this important theme through his private writings as weU. Harris seldom wrote explicitly or at length about racial matters in his letters to his children, but there is enough material here to warrant mention. (For example, Chloe Henderson, the family's black maid and cook, shows up more often than anyone else outside the family.) Keenan's introduction suggests several ways in which these letters will add to our understanding ofJoel Chandler Harris, and scholars will no doubt find other ways as well. The real point of the book, though, is the letters themselves, a collection that R. Bruce BickleyJr., Harris's most recent biographer, terms in the foreword "a substantial contribution to Harris studies." Keenan and the University of Georgia Press should be commended for making them accessible. Yellow Fever and Public Health in the New South. By John H. Ellis. University Press of Kentucky, 1992. 248 pp. Cloth, $28.00. Reviewed by Allan D. Charles, professor of history at the Union Campus of the University of South Carolina. John H. Ellis has written an excellent study of yellow fever and public health in the postbellum South, using as case studies the three largest cities of the late nineteenth-century South: New Orleans, Memphis, and Atlanta. His story is two-fold. He highlights the history of epidemics in New Orleans and Memphis to illustrate the panic of at-risk urban populations . Then he focuses on yellow fever as the catalyst for improved public health, even in Atlanta, which could not be certain of its own invulnerability to the disease. By documenting the progress made in these cities, Ellis leads the reader to conclude that at least some improvements must have been made in smaller communities across the region. Nineteenth-century authorities generally believed that filth, garbage, and other unhygienic practices propagated the disease; actually, an insect vector, the Aedes egypti mosquito, transferred it to humans. Of course, without the stagnant pools of water in which these nonnative mosquitoes could breed, the disease would not have spread. Ellis mentions that Atlanta, a better-drained city with an elevation of one thousand feet, received numerous refugees in the epidemic of 1878 but had only two yellow fever deaths—and both of those among refugees. Ellis documents that the yellow fever epidemic of 1878 was one of the greatest medical disasters in American history, but he does not speculate as to why the event has been largely overlooked by general historians. One possible explanation is that yellow fever became endemic in the lower Mississippi Valley in the 1870s. Ellis himself hints at 382Southern Cultures that development when he mentions that Confederate General John Bell Hood and two members of his family were among nineteen people in Memphis who died of yellow fever in 1879, a year of no general outbreak or epidemic. Interestingly, Ellis furnishes figures to illustrate that stricken blacks had a much greater survival rate than did infected whites, yet he neglects to elaborate on the phenomenon . It is a well known fact that the sickle ceU trait protects Africans from this disease while those of European descent are at greater risk. Doubtlessly aware of this, Ellis nonetheless misses another opportunity to amplify the significance of the events he describes. The scourge prompted public health measures such as garbage removal, the construction of sewer systems, and the provision of clean drinking water. These actions did nothing to wipe out yeUow fever, although they were exceUent preventives for numerous other diseases such as typhoid and cholera. The book especiaUy...


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pp. 381-382
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