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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.