So says James Oakes in The Ruling Race: A History of American Slaveholders (1982) where he dismantles Eugene Genovese’s argument in Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made (1974) that the slaveholding class in the American South was a monolithic, paternalist group of upper-class white men. Owners of enslaved Africans were very economically and socially diverse, and the New York Times recently uncovered this awesome map based on an 1860 slave Census that illustrates this diversity.
Thanks again to Sociological Images for this fascinating map.
Documenting the American South, http://docsouth.unc.edu/index.html. Created and maintained by the University Library of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Reviewed March 30-31, 2010.
Documenting the American South is a web resource featuring a collection of “primary resources for the study of Southern history, literature, and culture.” The primary goal of the website is to provide access to primary source material that offer a Southern perspective on the American past. The website consists of fourteen collections that are arranged thematically. While many of these collections pertain specifically to North Carolina history (“North Carolinians and the Great War,” “True and Candid Compositions: The Lives and Writings of Antebellum Students at the University of North Carolina,” “North Carolina Maps“), others speak more broadly to the experiences of Southern life in general. The thematic collections range in subject matter from spirituality (“The Church in the Southern Black Community“) to education (“The First Century of the First State University“) to the performing and literary arts (“Going to the Show,” “Library of Southern Literature“), and make an effort to include a variety of perspectives, including “slaves, laborers, women, aristocrats, soldiers, and officers” in the “First-Person Narratives of the American South” collection, and enslaved persons in the “North American Slave Narratives” collection.
Hallie Q. Brown (Hallie Quinn), 1859-1949, compiled and edited by Homespun Heroines and Other Women of Distinction. Xenia, Ohio: Aldine Pub. Co., 1926.
Perhaps the site’s biggest strength, however, comes from the “Oral Histories of the American South” collection, which contains 500 oral history interviews gathered by historians from the Southern Oral History Program. Since 1973, the SOHP has conducted over 4,000 oral history interviews with a variety of Southern people, “from mill workers to civil rights leaders to future presidents of the United States.” These oral histories are organized into six categories, each holding hundreds of hours of first-person narratives about their relative topic. The Charlotte collection contains a number of interviews dealing with the integration of West Charlotte High School from a traditionally black school to an integrated one. For researchers interested in civil rights history, the Civil Rights series provides additional primary resources on African American employment and the integration at Lincoln High School in Chapel Hill. The interviewees in the Southern Women collection reflect on women’s employment, activist and life experiences, while the Southern Politics series includes “many interviews with prominent politicians from across the political spectrum. Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, and Andrew Young appear in this collection along with Lester Maddox, George Wallace, and Jesse Helms.”
Dan Sayre Groesbeck "Shall We Be More Tender with Our Dollars Than with the Lives of Our Sons". Chicago: Illinois Litho. Co., [1917.
As this site is a collection of primary source materials, there’s not much in the way of historical interpretation happening. Which for most historians and researchers serves its purpose well – the vast breadth and depth of the collections allow the researcher to find a ton of information from a variety of perspectives without being mediated through additional interpretive lenses of others. When dealing the Southern history – as with any contested histories – it’s refreshing to have this diverse set of resource materials available without feeling like the collection is missing vital voices.
The website, though dense with information and material, is incredibly easy to navigate. It encourages visitors to search for specific topics or categories, or to browse at leisure within a specific subject area. The design of the site includes a number of links from the home page that visitors can start their search from, including Highlights, Collections, Titles, Subjects, and New Additions. The site also includes a page of Classroom Resources that includes lesson plans in NC, US, and Afro-American histories.
Georgia Fifty-Dollar Note Dated "January 15th, 1862."
The Documenting the American South website would be a great resource for most visitors, though the site seems most suited for scholars, researchers, and educators. Although the breadth of the primary source material would be suitable for scholars researching specific topics or perspectives relating to Southern life, the site is very user-friendly in its construction. In addition to providing subject guides for browsers (the people, not the computer kind) can peruse (my favorites include Explore Women’s History in North Carolina and The diary of a female plantation owner in South Carolina), the site includes guides to visitors who don’t possess advanced researching skills, such as a Guide to Using the Subject Index.
: Woman\’s American Baptist Home Mission Society, c1919.”]
Mary McLeod Bethune, Women of Achievement: Written for the Fireside Schools Under the Auspices of the Woman's American Baptist Home Mission Society. [Chicago, Ill.
Documenting the American South has taken great strides in the use of new media, starting with the digitization of hundreds of oral histories. The quality of the audio files range from moderate to excellent, which is fairly impressive when you consider the oral history project started in the early 1970s and may not have been conducted with the highest-end of equipment. Many of the Highlights include audio podcasts that allow the visitor to listen along while browsing through documents, and visitors can subscribe to the RSS feeds to be alerted when new podcasts become available.
Along with the oral history audio recordings, many of the images of scanned documents are of a relatively high quality, as is the written descriptions that accompany the artifacts. Finally, Documenting the American South includes a link to a 23-page .pdf file of comments readers have shared with the site’s creators, opening the door to an interactive conversation between collections manager and researcher. Documenting the American South is a fantastic resource for researchers of all levels to engage with the past in the South, and they are sure to come away from the site having found something unique and unexpected.
Emmett J. Scott (Emmett Jay), 1873-1957 and Lyman Beecher Stowe, 1880-1963 Booker T. Washington, Builder of a Civilization. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1916.
The Paleontology Hall (or Dinosaur Hall) in the National Museum of Natural History, ca. 1932. At the time of this picture the exhibit was called the “Hall of Extinct Monsters.”
One of the Smithsonian Institution’s most popular museums opened on March 17, 1910, becoming the second-largest Washington building at the time (the first, of course, being the U.S. Capital). Happy birthday!
Taxidermist/modeller John Widener works on the cast model of the giant whale featured in the Life in the Sea exhibit in the National Museum of Natural History, ca. 1950’s.
(Doesn’t this picture make you want to watch Bringing Up Baby?)
Hey DC-ers (and future visitors to the District) -
I went to President Lincoln’s Cottage last night with some of my classmates, and it was pretty great! They’ve done a great job utilizing multimedia into a 19th century historic site. Apparently, the statue of Lincoln with his horse is considered to best capture his likeness than any other piece of art. And the house serves as a neat example of historic restoration – in one room you can see the original floorboards; in another the lines on the wall where there once hung shelves.
It’s off the beaten path, and tour groups are limited to 20. Be sure to check out the intro video in the visitor center before you take the tour!
For more info, click here.