Southern Discomfort: More Research (#SFWApro)

I read OUR KIND OF PEOPLE: Inside America’s Black Upper Class by Lawrence Otis Graham when it came out in the 1990s, but it holds up well as it examines the various groups, cliques, sororities and schools popular with generations of well-to-do blacks (though some of those institutions were losing ground as integration and entry into the white world became more acceptable); whether they’re bastions of snobbery or simply like calling to like (“We’re selective because we associate with people we have something in common with.”); the movers and shakers in different cities around the country; and passing (confirming my view that Lovecraft Country botched that aspect). I reread it because one character, Liz Mitchell, comes from the Atlanta black upper class, and it forced me to revise my concept of her: women in the circles Graham writes about were expected to be more than just housewives so Liz having career ambitions wouldn’t be at all a shock to her family.

REMEMBERING JIM CROW: African Americans Tell About Life in the Segregated South by editors William Henry Chafe and Raymond Gavins collects dozens of stories from back in the days of segregation, courtesy of a Duke University project. These include little humiliations (walking miles past a neighborhood school because it was whites-only), terrifying threats and the institutional road blocks against improving things. What surprised me the most was the number of accounts where the tale-teller fought back against the system despite the risks. Refusing to enter the house by the back door. Saying no. Threatening violence if whites didn’t back off. Or simply negotiating for a brief pass across the color lines, like eating in a restaurant during a trip. I’m not sure quite how or if this affects my story (Pharisee County runs on different rules), but it’s good information to have. All rights to cover image remain with current holder.

SOUTHERN STORM: Sherman’s March to the Sea by Noah Andre Trudeau is even less relevant, as the Civil War history of Pharisee has faded a lot in this draft (I mentioned it more in the last one). However it does nudge me to get clearer on the geography of the county and its location, so that’s a win. In its own right a good look at the battles Sherman’s troops faced, the angry reactions of the Georgia residents faced with scavenging “bummers” (back then a name for soldiers who went out to scrounge) and the bummers efforts — if I was writing a story about an army living off the land, this would be an excellent resource for that.

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Filed under Reading, Southern Discomfort, Writing

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