Session I: Keynote
Session II: Postbellum Art in God’s South: Story Telling Artists
- On the Margins of Empire: Informal Diplomacy and Anglo-Confederate Relations in the BahamasAfter the outbreak of war and the establishment of the Union blockade in the spring and summer of 1861 the Bahamas quickly became the British territory most important to the Confederacy’s survival. Old commercial and familial ties between the South and the Bahamas, centered on Nassau, on the island of New Providence, transformed that town into a critical node in the Confederate foreign logistical and diplomatic network. Nassau shared ties of commerce and sentiment with the South, stemming from exisiting trade, geographical proximity, and the legacy of the thousands of Loyalists who fled the United States after the Revolution. The descendants of slave-owning Loyalist planters constituted the political and economic elite of the colony, and their Nassau mercantile establishments provided the base upon which Confederates built the edifice of their blockade running establishment. The relationship between Nassau and the new Confederacy was established with merchant houses such as John Fraser and Co. of Charleston and Henry Adderley and Co. of Nassau, both of which were controlled by some of the wealthiest men in their countries. This connection, reinforced by private and Confederate government representatives deployed to Nassau, provided the most important conduit for goods, people, and communications from the Confederacy to the outside world. By relying heavily on private individuals and firms to maintain this network, the Confederate government effectively subcontracted a substantial part of a critical function of government: conducting local diplomacy and regulating trade. In doing so, the Confederacy displayed adaptability in the face of necessity, but also fundamental bureaucratic weakness, and it ultimately proved unable to control the course of trade.This hands-off approach also empowered a variety of Confederate citizens and supporters to conduct freelance diplomatic and military activities, interacting with the colonial authorities, Royal Navy officers, and occasionally the British government without the sanction of the Confederate government, and often to the detriment of a coherent military and diplomatic policy. On the other hand, by using British colonial partners, the Confederacy’s ad hoc collection of minor officials, merchants, and shipowners, pressed claims on the British government, and through them the Union, in ways that their formal diplomats could not. In doing so, they created and protected the blockade running enterprise that sustained much of the Confederate war effort, and they provided the means for expatriates and foreign allies to materially aid the rebellion. This Confederate commercial-diplomatic network extended across British America, from Toronto to British Honduras, but it had its greatest success in Nassau.
- “Gold Refined”: Constitutional Uniformity in late Nineteenth-Century Constitution MakingOn the morning of July 14, 1874 delegates tasked with drafting a document to replace the 1868 Reconstruction Constitution assembled in the house chamber of the Arkansas State House. In the aftermath of the Brooks-Baxter War Republican dominance came to an end, leading to the election of a Democrat-Conservative majority. While opposition to the centralized governments led by Radical Republicans propelled much of this drive to draft new constitutions in southern states, more was at work here. In fact, the South was partaking in a larger pattern of constitution-making that can be found in both the North and the South. Conservatives sought to draft new constitutions following years of national Republican dominance. They drew upon a conservative ideology that remained a strong undercurrent throughout the Civil War and Reconstruction—an ideology that would take on new importance in the larger Anglo-American world made up of Canada, Great Britain, and the United States in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Southern constitution making, therefore, did not take place in a vacuum as many scholars have suggested. To the contrary, significant evidence exists demonstrating that southern constitutional convention delegates, as well as those from the North and West, partook of a shared constitutional language. In fact, many of these constitutions share common sections demonstrating that delegates to constitutional conventions were able to pull sections, specific language, and whole statutes from other states. For instance, sections of the 1875 Texas Constitution were taken from the earlier constitutions of Missouri and Pennsylvania. Similar sections appear in the constitutions of Wyoming, Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Montana. Digests of constitutional provisions were even available for constitution-makers in need of assistance. In fact, more than 70 different editions of these state constitutional digests appeared between 1781 and 1894. This trend appears to be so widespread that it created a degree of uniformity among state constitutions, southern and northern.
- The Newest South: New South Democrats and African Americans, 1970-1976My paper, “New South Democrats and African Americans, 1970-1976,” covers the ways in which Democrats in Georgia and South Carolina crafted appeals to African Americans in both those states. As the Democratic Party began to rely on African American voters to keep power in the South, governors Jimmy Carter of Georgia and John C. West of South Carolina both showed how it was possible to draw African Americans into a “New South” Democratic Party. At the same time, both governors also showed how it was possible to keep some white Southerners in the party, as the GOP in both states began to gain white votes.The example these two governors provided for forging a new political coalition in the South would have regional and national implications. As the Civil Rights Movement and Black Power both gave way to white backlash and black ambivalence about the future, Carter and West both used powerful appeals to memory and other symbolic political actions to draw African Americans to the Democratic Party. At the same time, both governors also provided white Southerners with a way to process the events of the previous twenty years, when the very identity of Southerners was re-made during and after the Civil Rights Movement.
Session III: The Catholic South in the Nineteenth Century
Session IV, Roundtable: Michael O’Brien, the South, and Transatlantic Thought
Postmodernism. His work has appeared in The African American Review,
The Faulkner Journal, The Mississippi Quarterly, and the Journal of
Session V: Agee’s South 75 Years after Let Us Now Praise Famous Men
- “By Book and by Film: James Agee Reviews the South (1927-1948)”“By Book and by Film: James Agee Reviews the South (1927-1948)” surveys all of the so far discovered book and film reviews that Agee wrote that concerned the South. These materials have previously received little attention. Before the ongoing publication of the scholarly edition of The Works of James Agee, none of the book reviews were easily available and only some of the film reviews. The premise of this investigation, therefore, is that by evaluating all of Agee’s “Southern” reviews over his entire career, it is possible to discern a sense of “his” South, or at least how he has constructed it from his experiences and memories, and to discern his vision of what constitutes its “accurate” depiction, a depiction extracted from the repeated themes and emphases in his reviews and from his often entertaining and always well-written responses to these books and films.
- “Introducing Knoxville: The Prologues of James Agee and Cormac McCarthy”Agee’s A Death in the Family (1957) and Cormac McCarthy’s Suttree (1979). These prologues treat Knoxville, Tennessee with such careful attention that we might consider the city a character in the novels. More specifically, I triangulate between Agee’s lyrical “Knoxville: Summer of 1915” (which was originally published as a prologue to the novel), his darker and more absurdist “Dream Sequence” (which research suggests Agee intended as the prologue), and McCarthy’s ominous prologue to Suttree to pinpoint the relationship between texts, the influence of Agee on McCarthy, and to explore both authors’ commitment to notions of “deep time” that undermine attempts to stabilize through history one’s contemporary moment.