Number 56 (2012)

The South in the Age of Obama

Edited by Alfred Hornung


Forty years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the charismatic leader of the civil rights movement, Barack H. Obama was elected the first African American president of the United States of America in 2008. Although U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy had predicted in 1961 that a black person could be president like his brother "in the next thirty or forty years," nobody really expected this kind of victory to come true.

Continue reading

Before and After: The 2008 Election and the Second “Solid South”

When the general election campaign began in the fall of 2008, few expected Barack Obama to make much of a showing in the overwhelmingly republican South. Yet as the first African American to head a major party ticket, Obama did strikingly well in a region not particularly known for its recent sympathies for white Democrats, much less black ones. The South somewhat surprising role in the 2008 presidential election can best be appreciated in the context of a regional political tradition which, since the end of Reconstruction, has been marked less by true two-party competition than sustained periods of domination by each.

Continue reading

Will the South Rise Again? Monochromatic Politics and Political Clout in the Modern South

In this paper I make the argument that the South runs the very real risk of becoming irrelevant to American national politics, the consequences of which can be devastating to what is one of the poorest regions in the country. Some of our most vulnerable citizens live in the South, in what are low tax, low service states. Without the intervention of the Federal government, the South runs the risk of becoming a country within a country, a third world state with dramatic disparities in the standard of living for the rich and the poor, nonexistent consumer protection, a crumbling infrastructure, and inadequate public schools and health care.

Continue reading

Barack Obama, John Lewis, and the Legacy of the Civil Rights Struggle

The watershed election in 2008 of Barack Obama as the first President of the United States to have African ancestry resulted from the life work of such civil rights activists as U.S. Congressman John Lewis. Born on a sharecropper’s farm in 1940, the African American Lewis grew up in segregated Alabama. As a college student in Nashville, he joined the sit-in protests and volunteered for the original Freedom Ride in 1961. He was elected chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, becoming the youngest speaker at the March on Washington in 1963. The radical shift to Black ultimately forced Lewis out of SNCC. Consequently Lewis capitalized on the Voting Rights Act of 1965, turned his attentions to voter registration campaigns, and continued working within the system. In 1986 he won election to the U.S. House of Representatives to represent Atlanta’s Fifth Congressional District, a seat he continues to hold today.

Continue reading

The American South: From Civil Rights Struggle to Civil Rights Tourism

In recent years the American South has become the platform for an authenticity seeking tourism industry. Former sites of civil rights action have been revived and transformed into tourist attractions. The following paper introduces the notion of so-called civil rights tourism and presents a critical analysis of current sites of civil rights commemoration throughout the American South.

Continue reading

From David Walker to President Obama: Tropes of the Founding Fathers in African American Discourses of Democracy, or The Legacy of Ishmael

More than a century after the Emancipation Proclamation, in a society that still others blackness, we continue to hold to the mythical humanizing power of literacy. In our own time this has been poignantly evinced in the public reception of the current President of the United States, Barack Obama. He has been internationally hailed for his written and oral eloquence, and many Americans expected that Obama’s evident intellectual prowess would reverse prevailing stereotypes of black inferiority. Obama’s rhetorical success is rooted in the longstanding literary practice of invoking the mythical founding fathers to validate text and subject. In this regard, David Walker’s  Appeal (1829) represents the emergence of a long tradition of black voices invoking America’s most sacred patriarchs and their rhetoric of Americanness.

Continue reading

Race, Rights, and Resistance in Southern Literature in the Age of Obama

“Where Is the Voice Coming From?” (Eudora Welty), “Nineteen Fifty-Five” (Alice Walker), “Everything that Rises Must Converge” (Flannery O’Connor), and “Negro Progress” (Tony Grooms) are fictional evocations of realistic places, people, and events in Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, that are especially appropriate in the Age of Obama for discussion of the roles of the public artist and the private human regarding race, rights, and resistance.

Continue reading

Raymond Andrews as Griot: Privileging Southern Black Communities through Oral Storytelling and Cultural History

Raymond Andrews’ novels celebrate rural Black life by focusing on the customs and traditions of Southern African American communities. Critical to this celebration are the rhetorical strategies Andrews uses that privilege oral over literary storytelling. Using Geneva Smitherman’s discussion of the griot and Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s concept of the speakerly text in the context of John Miles Foley’s work on comparative oral traditions, this essay explores the possibility and implications of describing Andrews’ written work as a form of oral storytelling.

Continue reading

South Carolina’s Edgefield District: An Early International Crossroads of Clay

This paper examines the antebellum stoneware of Edgefield District, South Carolina as an example of creolization, in which ceramic ideas from three different Old World sources came together to create a distinctly regional pottery tradition still being practiced in Georgia. For those interested in the history of the American South, a promising research pursuit is the formation of a distinctly regional culture and the role in that development played by creolization—the mix of ideas from different groups to create new features.

Continue reading