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  • Front Porch
  • Marcie Cohen Ferris, editor

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Mt. Zion at Sunset, Rodney, Mississippi, 2018, by Ashleigh Coleman.

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THIS SPECIAL ISSUE marks the closing of a year-long celebration of the twenty-fifth year of publication for Southern Cultures. Over that year, we turned to the themes that have animated the study of the South—Backward/Forward, Inside/Outside, Left/Right, and, for this issue, Here/Away—and the talent of four distinguished guest editors and scholars—Charles Reagan Wilson, William Sturkey, Joseph Crespino, and Karida L. Brown—to help us contemplate the complex South(s) this journal has pondered for a quarter of a century. Southerners have long grappled with the realities and struggles of their many experiences of being here, as well as the pull, pressures, and promises of going away. Generations of southerners have considered whether to stay, go, escape, flee, hold fast, resist, embrace, remember, lionize, celebrate, denigrate, document, memorialize, even destroy the American South. Moments of tension between the experience of being here and away are often critical turning points in southerners' lives. Much of the region's prized spoken and written word, art, music, film, and foodways grow from a turbulent intersection of paths. To stay or to go? Or to claim an in-between space?

Sociologist Karida L. Brown has lived this theme and discusses the challenges and promises of staying and going in her introductory essay for this issue, "A Traveler's Tale." Raised in California, her people hale from Harlan County, Kentucky, a place and history she explores in Gone Home: Race and Roots through Appalachia (unc Press, 2018). When we first invited Karida to be our guest editor, she was "far, far away" in South Africa, part of a year of extensive travel and research as she investigated her next project: a global history of racially segregated education. She writes, "I learned during my time away that I had traveled so far in search of deeper meaning in myself and my scholarship, only to find that everything I needed was right here. I had traversed the world only to realize that all roads lead back to the South."

What follows is a lively collection of work from scholars, artists, and cultural producers whose work examines the Here/Away theme from Wales to Mexico and Brazil, through the lenses of labor, photography, jazz, Indigenous voices and histories, ex-pat experience, modernity and design, heritage cuisine, and murder (Southern Gothic–style). Burgin Mathews examines Birmingham, Alabama's jazz heritage and the superb music programs in black public high schools founded by John T. "Fess" (for "professor") Whatley. His rigorous classes and professional-quality student bands trained many of America's best jazz musicians and leaders, who performed "here"—throughout the South and the nation—and "away"—in all corners of the world. Olivia Ware Terenzio dives deep into the racial history and identity-signifying powers of two related dishes in two distant Souths—the rice-and-bean-laden feijoada from Brazil and the South Carolina Lowcountry's Hoppin' John.

Several of our authors use visual and material culture to explore the expressive resonance of the South in both hyper-local spaces and in transatlantic communities and diasporas. Jamaal [End Page 2] Barber shares images from the recent art exhibit 400: A Collective Flight of Memory, a collection of collaboratively created works by black artists. The exhibit spins outward from the four hundredth anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in Virginia in 1619 to the future of a black child born in America today. Peter Stevenson, too, derives inspiration from the South's diasporic history. In a visual storytelling piece that links Welsh and Appalachian migrations, memories, dreams, and histories, he draws from the "Curers, Charms, and Curses / Meddygon, Swynion, a Melltithion" exhibition of Welsh folk art that he curated at the Monongalia Arts Centre, Morgantown, West Virginia, in May 2019.

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Brackish, 2016, by Ashleigh Coleman.

Southern visual cultures also inspire Mary A. Knighton, who investigates the "illustrated South" of expatriate artist E. McKnight Kauffer. Kauffer's modernist designs for William Faulkner's book jackets...


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