Session I: A Southern Peace? History, Literary Studies, and the New Southern Studies (roundtable)


Trudier Harris
Trudier Harris, formerly J. Carlyle Sitterson Distinguished Professor of English at UNC Chapel Hill, is currently University Distinguished Research Professor at the University of Alabama.  Among her many authored and edited books are The Scary Mason-Dixon Line: African American Writers and the South (2009), which won the College Language Association’s Creative Scholarship Award for 2010, and Martin Luther King Jr., Heroism, and African American Literature (2014).  She just completed her second collection of nonfiction essays, which is entitled Unspeakable: Difficult Times and Difficult Topics.  In 2014, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill established the “Trudier Harris Distinguished Professorship” in her honor.


David Moltke-Hansen
David Moltke-Hansen began graduate work in southern studies at the University of South Carolina in 1975 and subsequently helped found and conduct a variety of southern studies initiatives and organizations during thirty years developing historical collections and programs at the South Carolina Historical Society, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.  In 2007, he turned to full-time editing and writing, is editor or co-editor of nine volumes and three university press series, and is author of more than fifty scholarly and professional articles.  He currently is finishing, for Johns Hopkins, a book on the generational impact of the Civil War in the South and has under contract a book on the rise and ebb of southern identities.

Keith Cartwright
Keith Cartwright is Professor of English at the University of North Florida. His books include Reading Africa into American Literature (Kentucky, 2002) and Sacral Grooves, Limbo Gateways: Travels in Deep Southern Time, Circum-Caribbean Space, Afro-creole Authority (Georgia, 2013), which won the 2014 C. Hugh Holman Award for best book in southern literary studies. He has published in interdisciplinary volumes such as The American South and the Atlantic World (Florida, 2013) and Reinterpreting the Haitian Revolution (U of the West Indies, 2006), as well as in the initial launch of Yinna: Journal of the Bahamas Association of Cultural Studies (2000). He is co-writing with Dolores Flores-Silva (Roanoke College) a book titled “Cornbread, Quimbombo y Barbacoa: Mexico & the Gulf Shores of Our Souths.”

Scott Romine
Scott Romine is Professor of English and Department Head at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he teaches American literature and southern studies.  He is the author of The Narrative Forms of Southern Community (LSU, 1999) and The Real South: Southern Narrative in the Age of Cultural Reproduction (LSU, 2008), the latter of which won the 2009 C. Hugh Holman Award for best work of scholarship in southern literary studies.   He has published numerous essays on authors ranging from William Faulkner to Thomas Dixon, Jr. and on subjects ranging from frontier humor to contemporary southern foodways.  He currently edits the Southern Literary Studies series at LSU Press, succeeding Fred Hobson and Louis D. Rubin, Jr. in that role.  He is currently at work on a book on the literature of Reconstruction.

Susan V. Donaldson
Susan V. Donaldson is the National Endowment for the Humanities Professor of English and American Studies at the College of William and Mary, where she has taught since 1985.  She is the author of Competing Voices:  The American Novel, 1865-1914 (1998), which won a Choice “Outstanding Academic Book” award, and over fifty journal essays and book chapters, including, most recently, contributions to a special issue of Southern Cultures on The Help and Harriet Pollack’s collection on Eudora Welty, Whiteness, and Race.  Donaldson is also co-editor with Anne Goodwyn Jones of Haunted Bodies:  Gender and Southern Texts (1997).  In addition, she has edited and co-edited several special issues of Mississippi Quarterly and The Faulkner Journal and is currently working on two books, one on the politics of storytelling, race, and visual culture in the U.S. South and the other on Mississippi writers and the demise of Jim Crow.

Douglas Thompson
Douglas Thompson is Associate Professor of History and Southern Studies at Mercer University (Macon), where he teaches American history as well as courses in the southern studies major. In 2014 he co-authored with Sarah Gardner a successful $500,000 grant application through the NEH Challenge Grant program to create a $2 million endowment for the first undergraduate-only Center for Southern Studies at Mercer. In 2013-2014 he began duties as Editor at the Journal of Southern Religion ( and moved the online-only journal into a rolling release format in 2015. HIs writing interests vary greatly. He is currently working on two different subjects. Recently green lighted through the peer review process, his first monograph, Richmond’s Priests and Prophets: The Struggle Over Racial Change in the 1950s, looks at responses from clergy and laity in Richmond, Virginia, to the evolving desegregation struggle and its implications for churches. A second interest includes how southerners embraced the automobile and worked to develop it into their own image. The rapid introduction of the technology created long-term consequences for the region.

Session II: Essaying the South: Shaping Influences in Southern Studies


Alexander Moore
Alexander Moore is acquisitions editor for the University of South Carolina Press.  His lists include all aspects of southern and American history, including topics from legal to culinary history, exploration and discovery to the modern era.  He also manages acquisitions for the Carolina and Atlantic World, Studies in Maritime History, and Women’s Diaries and Letters of the South publication series.   He earned a bachelor’s degree in history from the College of Charleston and masters and doctoral degrees from the University of South Carolina.  While in graduate school he was an associate editor of The Papers of John C. Calhoun.  He has published books and articles on southeastern Native Americans, exploration and discovery, antebellum politics, and southern art history.   His latest book is The Fabric of Liberty:  A History of the Society of Cincinnati of the State of South Carolina (2013).

Raymond Arsenault
Raymond Arsenault is the John Hope Franklin Professor of Southern History and Chairman of the Department of History and Politics at the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg, where he has taught since 1980.   A specialist in the political, social, environmental, and civil rights history of the American South, he has also taught at the University of Minnesota, Brandeis University, the University of Chicago, the Florida State University Study Abroad Center in London, and the Universite d’Angers, in France, where he was a Fulbright Lecturer in 1984-85. A native of Cape Cod, he was educated at Princeton University and Brandeis University, where he received his Ph.D. in 1981.

Active in international education, Arsenault served as Associate Director of the Fulbright Commission Summer Institute in American Studies (held at the University of Minnesota) from 1980 to 1988, and he has lectured on American history and culture in a number of countries, including France, Great Britain, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Norway, Iceland, Russia, Turkey, Tunisia, and Jordan. A long-time community activist and public historian, he has consulted for a number of national and regional historical museums and organizations, including St. Petersburg’s own Carter G. Woodson African-American History Museum, which he helped to found; St. Petersburg Preservation, Inc,; the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Florida Humanities Council; the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History; the Lincoln Bicentennial Commission; the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; the Rosa Parks Museum; the National Civil Rights Museum; the International Civil Rights Museum in Greensboro, North Carolina; the National Park Service; and PBS’s American Experience. Since 2004 he has served as an Organization of American Historians Distinguished Lecturer, and he also recently served on the jury for the Pulitzer Prize in History.

  • Dixie Redux: Recapturing and Honoring the Life and Career of Sheldon Hackney
    I plan to talk about the benefits and challenges related to organizing, editing, and writing a festschrift dedicated to Sheldon Hackney, a historian who spent much of his life working as a university administrator and public intellectual, most notably as the president of two universities, Tulane and the University of Pennsylvania, and as chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities from 1993 to 1997.  The challenge of summarizing and assessing his contributions to Southern history and to a national conversation on democracy and identity will receive special attention.

Orville Vernon Burton
Orville Vernon Burton is Creativity Professor of Humanities, Professor of History, Sociology, and Computer Science at Clemson University, and the Director of the Clemson CyberInstitute. From 2008-2010, he was the Burroughs Distinguished Professor of Southern History and Culture at Coastal Carolina University. He was the founding Director of the Institute for Computing in Humanities, Arts, and Social Science (I‑CHASS) at the University of Illinois, where he is emeritus University Distinguished Teacher/Scholar, University Scholar, and Professor of History, African American Studies, and Sociology. At the University of Illinois, he continues to chair the I-CHASS advisory board and is also a Senior Research Scientist at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) where he served as Associate Director for Humanities and Social Sciences from 2002-2010. Burton serves as vice-chair of the Board of Directors of the Congressional National Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation. In 2007 the Illinois State legislature honored him with a special resolution for his contributions as a scholar, teacher, and citizen of Illinois. A recognized expert on race relations and the American South, and a leader in Digital Humanities, Burton is often invited to present lectures, conduct workshops, and consult with colleges, universities, and granting agencies.

Burton is a prolific author and scholar (twenty authored or edited books and more than two hundred articles); and author or director of numerous digital humanities projects. The Age of Lincoln (2007) won the Chicago Tribune Heartland Literary Award for Nonfiction and was selected for Book of the Month Club, History Book Club, and Military Book Club. One reviewer proclaimed, “If the Civil War era was America’s ‘Iliad,’ then historian Orville Vernon Burton is our latest Homer.” The book was featured at sessions of the annual meetings of African American History and Life Association, the Social Science History Association, the Southern Intellectual History Circle, and the latter was the basis for a forum published in The Journal of the Historical Society. His In My Father’s House Are Many Mansions: Family and Community in Edgefield, South Carolina (1985) was featured at sessions of the Southern Historical Association and the Social Science History Association annual meetings. The Age of Lincoln and In My Fathers’ House were nominated for Pulitzers. His most recent book, is Penn Center: A History Preserved (2014)

Recognized for his teaching, Burton was selected nationwide as the 1999 U.S. Research and Doctoral University Professor of the Year (presented by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education). In 2004 he received the American Historical Association’s Eugene Asher Distinguished Teaching Prize. At the University of Illinois he won teaching awards at the department, school, college, and campus levels. He was the recipient of the 2001-2002 Graduate College Outstanding Mentor Award and received the 2006 Campus Award for Excellence in Public Engagement from the University of Illinois. He was appointed an Organization of American Historians Distinguished Lecturer for 2004-16.

Burton’s research and teaching interests include the American South, especially race relations and community, and the intersection of humanities and social sciences. He has served as president of the Southern Historical Association and of the Agricultural History Society. He was elected to honorary life membership in BrANCH (British American Nineteenth-Century Historians). Among his honors are fellowships and grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Pew Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the National Humanities Center, the U.S. Department of Education, National Park Service, and the Carnegie Foundation. He was a Pew National Fellow Carnegie Scholar for 2000-2001. He was elected to the Society of American Historians and was one of ten historians selected to contribute to the Presidential Inaugural Portfolio (January 21, 2013) by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies.

  • Chaz Joyner
    I am editing a festschrift, Becoming Southern Writers: Essays in Honor of Charles Joyner (USC Press, 2016). The book consists of autobiographical essays by writers of fact, fiction, and poetry describing how they came to write about the South (whether often or exclusively) and how they came to write about it in the way they do. The articles are personal. As authors began raking the leaves of their writings and careers into a single pile, they themselves often discovered things about themselves that they had not observed before.Festschrifts are not all the same. This is my third and very different from the other two. One was for my Ph.D. advisor, James M. McPherson —The Struggle for Equality: Essays on Sectional Conflict, the Civil War and the Long Reconstruction — With a conversation with James McPherson (UVA press, 2011), and his students were the contributors. The second was for F. Sheldon Hackney – Dixie Redux: Essays in Honor of F. Sheldon Hackney (New South Books, 2013), and the contributors were mainly fellow historians. My friend and co-editor Ray Arsenault will be speaking in detail about our experiences with Dixie Redux, and I will mention the Hackney and McPherson festschrift experiences only as comparison and context to the Joyner festschrift experience.     For years Charles Joyner and I roomed together at historical conferences’ annual meetings, especially the Southern Historical Association and the Social Science History Association, and I well know how much he deserves this collaboration in his honor. I followed in Chaz’s footsteps as the Burroughs Distinguished Professor of Southern History and Culture at Coastal, and there I planned a conference and obtained a grant from the South Carolina Humanities Council. “Writing the South in Fact, Fiction and Poetry” brought together an amazing group of writers, people Chaz suggested, to present papers at the conference.The purpose of the festschrift, Becoming Southern Writers, is to pay tribute to Charles Joyner, Ph.D. in History and Ph.D. in folklore, and best known for the classic Down by the Riverside and for his influential essays Shared Traditions. Before becoming the Burroughs chair at Coastal Carolina University, Joyner taught at several colleges and universities, including visiting professor at Berkeley and Ole Miss.  He has lectured at Harvard Divinity School, at Oxford and Cambridge, Bergen and Lucorea, Lutherstadt-Wittenburg, Sydney and Melbourne, Beijing, Aukland and Otago in New Zealand, and Queen’s University, Belfast.The contributors to the volume were selected by Chaz, and they constitute a Who’s Who of southern writers. Contributors include a former chair of the NEH; the president of Corpus Christi College, Oxford; three Pulitzer Prize winners, various other prize winners, several Fellows of the Society of American Historians (FSAH), former presidents of the OAH and SHA, etc. (They are listed in the Introduction which I have provided.) Not all of them were born in the South, or live in the South, or even in the United States.  Some write almost always about the South, some only occasionally. Some are literary artists; some are journalists. One contributor is an anthropologist, and one a folklorist.  All of them root their work in southern history, and all have made distinguished contributions to southern writing. Their essays are a joy to read, and offer us much to learn.

John Mayfield
John Mayfield is Professor of History at Samford University in Birmingham, where he teaches early American history and a two-semester study of Western thought from Homer to Gomer. He has authored three monographs, the most recent of which is Counterfeit Gentlemen: Manhood and Humor in the Old South, published by the University Press of Florida and now available on Kindle and Nook. Additionally, he has co-edited Cultural Perspectives, a two-volume edition of primary readings on the Western intellectual tradition. With Todd Hagstette he is editing a new volume of essays on Southern honor to be published by the University of South Carolina Press in 2016. He is also at work on a study of Southern radicalism, tentatively titled States of Mind. He will cheerfully become a grandfather in December.

Regina D. Sullivan
Regina D. Sullivan is Dean of Global Education and adjunct associate professor of history at Carson-Newman University.  She is co-editor of Varieties of Southern Religious History: Essays in Honor of Donald G. Mathews (2015), co-author of the introductory essay, “A Historian of ‘Humble Access,’” and author of Lottie Moon: A Southern Baptist Missionary to China in History and Legend (2011).  Her articles have appeared in Historically Speaking (2012), Entering the Fray: Gender, Politics, and Culture in the New South (2010), and Women in the American Civil War: An Encyclopedia (2007).

  • A Historian of ‘Humble Access’
     Introduction from Varieties of Southern Religious History: Essays in Honor of Donald G. Mathews, by Regina D. Sullivan and Monte Harrell Hampton.  This essay, “A Historian of ‘Humble Access,’” focuses on the intellectual and personal influences that informed Donald G. Mathews’ scholarship.  Written with my co-editor, Monte Harrell Hampton, our goal was to trace the complex intertwining of theological, sociological, and historical interests that shaped Mathews’ work and informed his problematique.  It was Mathews’ deep interest in theology and sociological theory along with his immersion in the historical source materials that provided the foundation for his most acclaimed work, Religion in the Old South.  The volume is still recognized as a masterpiece and is found regularly on lists of books not to be overlooked by current scholars.Mathews’ focus on evangelicalism as lived experience led to his insistence that “black Christianity created a mode of survival and sense of victory that was much closer to the original message of Evangelicalism.”  With this argument, he shifted the basic understanding of the antebellum evangelical cosmos.  He wrote, “The full model of southern Evangelicalism was the creation of the blacks themselves; it was they who made southern religion different.”  The question we pose in our introduction is this:  “Why does Mathews privilege this version of evangelicalism when it was he who pioneered an understanding of its ‘slippery, ever-changing nature?’”  He answered this question in his autobiographical essay, published in 2001, when he explained how racially motivated violence nearly destroyed his own family and revealed the continuing impact that this trauma had as it reverberated through generations.  For Mathews, the truest spirit of evangelicalism was that which considered the suffering of victims.  He wrote that all moral claims “must be understood before the Cross—that is, in such suffering as that of the God of victims.”  For Mathews “‘doing history’ and ‘doing religion’” were interchangeable.  This is because “he perceived an ‘inversion of value and the valuable that lay within both history and religion.’”  Monte and I conclude that “[e]xploring the dimensions of this inversion [has been and remains] the unrelenting burden of much of his work.”

Session III: Southern Environments


Mark Kinzer
Mark Kinzer, session chair, is an environmental protection specialist with the National Park Service Southeast Regional Office in Atlanta, Georgia. A graduate of Davidson College and the University of Georgia School of Law, he practiced environmental law for 13 years before joining the Park Service in 2002 in a non-legal capacity. His interests include Southern history and the legacy of past human activities on contemporary landscapes. His book Old-growth and Old Fields: A Land Use History of Congaree National Park has been accepted for publication by the University of South Carolina Press.


Erin Maudlin
Erin Mauldin is an Assistant Professor of History at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, where she teaches courses in U.S. and environmental history, field geography, and writing. She earned her Ph.D. from Georgetown University. She is the co-editor of the Companion to Global Environmental History (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), the author of several book chapters, and has published book reviews in journals ranging from Civil War History to the Journal of Southern History. She is currently working on her manuscript project, “Unredeemed Land: Confronting the Ecological Legacies of the Civil War,” which is an environmental history of Reconstruction in the rural cotton South.

  • The Right to Move: Labor Contract Disputes and Ecological Change in the Postbellum South
     At the close of the Civil War, thousands of freed slaves swelled the class of landless southerners who bounced from farm to farm, seeking higher wages, larger shares, or more opportunities to purchase land. Recent scholarship on the post-emancipation “free labor” system in the South shows how ex-slaves’ newfound mobility served as leverage in negotiations with planters as they drew up contracts for agricultural labor. What this scholarship has not yet considered, however, is the ecology of contract-based labor, and how the ability of freed slaves to leave a plantation or work situation if they wished constituted not only a social and political upheaval within the South, but also an environmental one. This paper analyzes labor contract disputes between ex-slaves and landlords in the cotton South over the decade after the Civil War. It argues that the decentralization of the labor force on southern cotton farms—a response to freed slaves’ contract demands and use of mobility as a negotiating tool—had environmental consequences that actually served to undermine ex-slaves’ long-term economic security by eliminating common lands, reducing available livestock, and creating stricter environmental limits on agricultural outputs. Revisiting the evolution of the free labor system in the cotton South through an environmental lens reveals that ecological constraints reinforced social and racial barriers to freed slaves’ economic independence, contributing to the subsequent migration of rural blacks from farm to farm, and, increasingly, from farm to city.

Drew Swanson
Drew Swanson is Assistant Professor of History at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. His research examines the intersections of nature and culture in the American South.  He is the author of a number of journal articles and book chapters, as well as two books: A Golden Weed: Tobacco and Environment in the Piedmont South (Yale University Press, 2014) and Remaking Wormsloe Plantation: The Environmental History of a Lowcountry Landscape (University of Georgia Press, 2012).  He is currently working on two books, one on the environmental history of Appalachia, the other focusing on the agrarian roots of Reconstruction violence.  Swanson’s research has won a number of awards, including most recently the 2015 Theodore Saloutos Memorial Award from the Agricultural History Society for the year’s best book.

  • A Fire in the Night: The Rhetoric and Reality of Ecoterrorism during Reconstruction
    During Reconstruction southern white conservatives–Ku Klux Klansmen among them–frequently accused Union League members of barn burning. These charges often came before the more infamous accusations against freedpeople of sexual impropriety across racial lines and political assertiveness. The Dunning historiographical school, especially J. G. D. Hamilton, seized upon conservative claims and portrayed the Union Leagues as the initial, and most violent, of the era’s secret societies, in part as an apology for white supremacy organizations. Revisionist historians scrapped the importance of arson along with their rejection of much of the Dunning school’s theses. This paper revisits the barn burning rhetoric of Reconstruction, exploring the material realities of southern agriculture on the ground, and speculating as to why barn burning might have been an appealing action for Union League members, and why it proved so frightening to white conservatives. I argue that barn burning was real, and widespread, and was a particularly effective form of direct action in the struggle for control of political and social power in rural Reconstruction. It was a form of ecoterrorism in a place where and a time when political ecology and political economy were nearly inseparable.

Tom Okie
Tom Okie is an assistant professor of history and history education at Kennesaw State University in Georgia, where he teaches courses in secondary social studies methods, modern U.S. history, and food history. He earned his PhD at the University of Georgia in 2012. His book, “The Georgia Peach: Culture, Agriculture and Environment in the American South,” is scheduled to appear with Cambridge University Press’ Studies on the American South in 2016. The dissertation on which the book is based won dissertation awards from the the Southern Historical Association, the Agricultural History Society, and the the Society of American Historians. The present paper is taken from his next project, an environmental history of nineteenth-century horticulture in the Atlantic world.

  • Orcharding Georgia: Taste, Culture and the Agrarian Imagination in the Nineteenth-Century South
     In this essay, I examine the nineteenth-century horticultural reform movement in the U.S. South, when a group of middle-to-upper class gardeners and orchardists proposed a new agrarian landscape as an alternative to the social and environmental degradation of cotton monoculture. This new South, they said, would be a place of gardens, vineyards, orchards and lawns, and would inculcate the virtues of aesthetic sensibility, temperance, and kindness; horticulture would establish a settled and cultured civilization in a place ruined by greed and ignorance. In addition to crafting rhetorical appeals, horticulturists also actively transformed the biota of the region, both at the level of the landscape and at the level of the plant. I argue that the horticulturists’ notions of “taste” and “culture” were not just ways of reinforcing racial and class difference but also marked sophisticated and virtuous ways of understanding and being in the world.

Bradford Prize

Keri Leigh Merritt
Keri Leigh Merritt examines the intersection of class, race, labor, and law in the nineteenth century United States. She received her B.A. from Emory University and her Master’s and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Georgia. She has been the recipient of multiple awards for her research, including the James C. Bonner Master’s Thesis Award, a Dean’s Award from UGA, and an Award for Excellence from the Georgia Historical Records Advisory Board.Keri Leigh served as a teaching assistant during her early years of graduate school and subsequently taught classes as an Instructor at UGA. She currently lives in Atlanta and consults with politicians, educators, and non-profits on historical topics while finishing her manuscript, entitled “Masterless Men: Poor Whites, Slavery, and Emancipation in the Deep South.” Her specialties include African American History, the Civil War and Reconstruction, the American South, Labor History, and the History of Capitalism.

  • A Second Degree of Slavery: How Black Emancipation Freed The Deep South’s Poor Whites
    Because antebellum southern history has been interpreted primarily through studies of slaves and planters, poor whites remain understudied. Generally defined as owning neither land nor slaves, poor whites comprised between 30 and 50 percent of the South’s white population on the eve of secession. By the 1840s and 50s, slavery had notably reduced the demand for white laborers, creating a large underclass of impoverished whites who spent long periods of time unemployed or underemployed. Poor whites could not compete – for jobs or living wages – with profitable slave labor. Their rampant poverty sometimes led to the familiar accompanying psychological and social ills of alcoholism, domestic violence, and criminal activity. Preferring to live outside of society and sometimes outside of the law, poor whites made inviting targets for a southern legal system dominated by slaveholders, who generally incarcerated them for behavioral, non-violent “crimes” like trading, drinking, and other social interactions with slaves and free blacks.Poor whites’ discontent had reached a critical point in the few years before secession, as they began forming labor unions and demanding freedom from competition with blacks, at times even threatening to withdraw their acceptance of slavery. Ultimately, this divisive socio-economic inequality between whites helped to push planters to the brink of Civil War. Although many poor whites objected to the Confederate cause, slaveholders used threats of imprisonment or vigilante violence to impress them into service. During Reconstruction, poor white workers were finally able to compete in a free labor economy. And while freedmen waited in vain for forty acres and a mule, poor whites were granted land from the Homestead Acts. Black freedom also brought an end to the high rates of incarceration for poor whites who had threatened the stability of slavery. Instead, African Americans became the primary targets of the southern legal system, but their punishments were much more extreme and vicious than they ever had been for poor whites. Black emancipation, therefore, heralded many new freedoms for poor whites, while African Americans realized they now occupied poor whites’ former place at the bottom of “free” society.


Brooks Forum

Cara Rogers
Cara Rogers is a doctoral candidate at Rice University, specializing in the intellectual history of 18th and 19th century America and the Atlantic World. Her dissertation, “Jefferson’s Sons: Notes on the State of Virginia and American Antislavery, 1769–1832,” is being directed by Dr. John Boles; it deals with the composition, reception history, and antislavery influence of Thomas Jefferson’s only published book. A winner of Rice’s Barbara Field Kennedy Prize in American History (2015), she has worked as an editorial assistant at both The Papers of Jefferson Davis and The Journal of Southern History.

  • Jefferson and the “Solitary Voice”: Slavery, the Notes on the State of Virginia, and Education, 1769–1789
    This essay, which will be developed into two chapters of my dissertation, deals with Thomas Jefferson’s early career and the issue of slavery. Because the revision and publication history of Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia has not been examined closely until recently, I argue, scholars have in large part overlooked Jefferson’s antislavery intentions for this book. Although today the Notes is best known for its sections promoting a racist hierarchy, Jefferson altered significant portions of the manuscript when a friend pointed out that they could be construed as supporting slavery. He also quietly targeted students at the College of William and Mary—the future leaders of Virginia—with private copies of the manuscript, in the hopes it would influence them toward antislavery ideals. This paper places Jefferson’s revision and private distribution of the Notes within the broader context of his philosophy on the role of education in a republic, while examining the ways in which several younger men praised, and criticized, the older statesman’s actions and failures regarding slavery.

Ashley Towle
Ashley Towle is a doctoral candidate at the University of Maryland, College Park. Her research interests include 19th century United States history, southern history, and the history of slavery and emancipation. Currently, Ashley is at work on her dissertation, entitled “’I Dies Free’: African Americans, Death, and the New Birth of Freedom,” which examines the ways in which African Americans in the post-Civil War South used death to stake claims to suffrage, citizenship, and equality. She served as the graduate assistant at the Freedmen and Southern Society Project for close to four years, and more recently was a research assistant for the “O Say Can You See” Early Washington, DC Law and Family Project through the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities. Presently, Ashley is the Lewis P. Jones Research Fellow at the South Caroliniana Library at the University of South Carolina.

  • Jefferson and the “Solitary Voice”: Slavery, the Notes on the State of Virginia, and Education, 1769–1789
    This essay, which is the first chapter of my dissertation, looks at the participation of African Americans in the erection of national cemeteries in the South following the Civil War. It argues that the creation of national cemeteries in the South perpetuated racial inequality between white and black soldiers, while simultaneously providing African Americans with opportunities to advance their goals of freedom. Firstly, it studies the actions of African American soldiers, laborers, and freedpeople in creating these cemeteries, arguing that African Americans took on an important role as caretakers of the Union dead as they were the primary labor force used not only in exhuming and reinterring bodies in national cemeteries, but also in maintaining these cemeteries. Next, this chapter turns its attention to analyzing where black soldiers were buried in these hallowed spaces. Finally, this chapter investigates how African Americans in the South interacted with these spaces of death by examining freedpeople’s protests for the inclusion of black soldiers in national cemeteries, the removal of freedpeople’s graves from within the walls of national cemeteries, and African American celebrations during Decoration Day ceremonies. Ultimately, this chapter contends that African Americans claimed national cemeteries in the South as their own political spaces to make meaning out of the Civil War and emancipation.

Concluding Keynote

David S. Shields
David S. Shields is the Carolina Distinguished Professor at the University of South Carolina and the Chair of the Carolina Gold Rice Foundation.  He publishes monographs in the fields of early American literature and culture, the history of photography, and Food Studies.  From 1998 to 2008 he edited the journal Early American Literature. His Library of America volume American Poetry: the 18th and 19th Centuries is considered the standard anthology of early American verse.  His monographs Oracles of Empire (1990) and Civil Tongues and Polite Letters (1997) were ground breaking studies of the cultural work of literary communication in the period 1680 to 1765, the least known era of American letters.  His photographic history Still: American Silent Motion Picture Photography won the Ray and Pat Browe Award for “Best Single Work in American Popular Culture” from the American Culture Association-American Culture Association for 2013.  In 2015 the University of Chicago Press issued Southern Provisions: the Creation and Revival of a Cuisineof which Chef Sean Brock said, “People are always asking me what the most important book written  about southern food is. You are holding it in your hands.” In 2016 the University of Chicago Press will publish his collection of 200 biographies, Culinarians: American Chefs, Caterers, and Restaurateurs 1794-1919.  Besides his scholarly work in food studies, Shields is responsible for the repatriation of a dozen classic ingredients to the regions fields and gardens, most recently the Carolina African Runner Peanut and Purple Ribbon Sugar Cane.  He heads Slow Food’s Ark of Taste Biodiversity Committee for the Southern Region.