- Introduction from the Editorial Team
Issue 61.2 marks our sixth issue as an editorial team and is slated for production at the time when we are celebrating Black History Month, February 2021. The editorial team recognizes Black Americans’ range of identities, and their significant role in US history, and acknowledges the systemic inequality and everyday challenges Black Americans continue to experience. We acknowledge their struggles and celebrate their resilience this month and every month. The significance of this month is interwoven throughout this issue, which includes a cover-art essay, four articles, and a book review. The cover art and its associated essay are contributed by Caleb Smith, one recipient of Southeastern Geographer 2020 Cover Art Award. The cover art, which shows an empty Mississippi state flagpole next to an American flag at the Jones County Courthouse in Ellisville, Mississippi, represents a historical moment of the removal of the Confederate Battle Flag canton. Since 1861, this flag persisted as an enduring symbol of racism against Black Americans in the guise of Southern heritage in Mississippi and beyond.
Historically, plantation museums have been used to romanticize planter culture and the antebellum South, often by omitting slavery from the narrative altogether. Doron and Jansson’s article argues that effectively transitioning from erasing slavery from the narrative to incorporating it meaningfully requires reflection and reflexive epistemic positionality. Without that critical reflection and self-awareness, there is a risk that the narrative will be changed, but the same tropes will be propagated in the new narrative. “Epistemic positionality” here is understood to mean how knowledge is shaped by a subject’s position in relation to systems of power. The authors focus on the Oak Alley plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana as their case study of a museum currently undergoing the transition and juxtapose that briefly with Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello plantation in Charlottesville, Virginia, which has successfully undergone this transition. Oak Alley has evolved from the “annihilation” of slavery from its narrative, to a segregated knowledge regime, to attempting to be more inclusive and integrate slavery in the narrative – a “balancing act” that appreciates the beauty of the place while acknowledging its ugly past. However, these efforts may ultimately be limited by the fact that visitors’ comfort is still prioritized over meaningful engagement with history and how that continues to manifest in the present – including through harmful narratives illustrated by plantation museums. While Monticello experienced the same transition, part of their success has come from acknowledging positionality and embracing the discomfort rather than trying to avoid it. [End Page 107]
Lovelace uses Black Feminist Hauntology to investigate why Nat Turner’s freedom trail has been denied memorialization. Black Feminist Hauntology has been posited as “a theory that the memory of violence and trauma can haunt.” Lovelace underpins Black Feminist Hauntology with rememory and re-membering. “Rememory” can be thought of as “a place where images of the past can be stored,” while “re-membering” refers to “the act of using memory to reassemble that which has been broken apart.” Nat Turner’s Rebellion took place in 1831, and despite it being the largest slave rebellion to take place in the US, no official sites exist to commemorate it. Those sites that have been restored or maintained present a specific and white-centric narrative. Particularly disturbing are the normalizing and centralizing of whiteness and intentional exclusion and othering of Black people in the memory of this rebellion, which in turn shape its geography. Historical markers, Blackhead Signpost Road, and the Rebecca Vaughan House support these findings. Lovelace’s journey through Southampton County, Virginia to various sites affiliated with the rebellion reveals a “freedom trail” buried by unequal memorializations and traditional memory. These work in tandem to erase Black people from the geographies they helped to create and present a narrative of white innocence despite the inherent cruelty and brutality of chattel slavery. To combat this false narrative, these places are instead resituated through rememory and re-membering. They center Blackness and emphasize how Black spatial acts have shaped the landscapes in and beyond Southampton County.
Schuch et al. investigate the concept of Latino receptivity from the...