Teaching with Confederate Music

Today’s guest post is by Billy Coleman, a postdoctoral fellow in the history department at the University of British Columbia. His article, “Confederate Music and the Politics of Treason and Disloyalty in the American Civil War,” appears in the February 2020 issue of the Journal.

The first Confederate song I played in a classroom was “Goober Peas.” I was teaching a course on Civil War America, and I knew Confederate soldiers had sung the song to complain about their lack of provisions, to avoid boredom, and to distract themselves from the horrors of the battlefield. But given the gravity of their situation, I also knew the song’s peppy jingle-like melody can sound oddly out of place to twenty-first-century ears. So, I doubled down by playing not just any version of “Goober Peas” but a self-consciously old-timey one, performed long after the war was over, by Burl Ives and Johnny Cash.

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SHA Marks Seventy Years of Integration

As always, those attending the upcoming meeting of the Southern Historical Association in Louisville can look forward to a lively and engaging program. It’s fair to say, however, that they are unlikely to witness anything quite so momentous as what transpired exactly seventy years ago, when the SHA convened in Williamsburg, VA.

No apparent thought had been given to the possibility of black membership, let alone attendance at the annual meeting, when the Southern Historical Association was formed in 1934. Bethany L. Johnson notes that SHA president Benjamin Kendrick was unaware that there were any black members in 1941, when he received a letter from one of them asking to what extent he and his colleagues would be allowed to participate in the organization's meeting at Atlanta's Biltmore Hotel. Kendrick had essentially created a defacto policy when he responded that black members enjoyed "all the rights and privileges of any other member, subject only to local city ordinances, state laws, or practices of the hotel in which the meeting is held."

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When Archaeology and History Meet

Today’s guest post is by Alejandra Dubcovsky, University of California, Riverside. Her article, "When Archaeology and History Meet: Shipwrecks, Indians, and the Contours of the Early-Eighteenth-Century South" appears in the February 2018 issue of the Journal.

This article started because I was trying to prove someone wrong. I was at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History selecting artifacts for a special lecture for an undergraduate class. Admiring the museum’s diverse and impressive collection, I bemoaned its lack of materials on Spanish Florida—my area of expertise. The curator insisted that they did in fact have some artifacts and directed me to a set of drawers. I opened the first drawer dismissively saying, “I bet all you have is shells.” I was right. To prove my point, I repeated this exercise over again, quickly opening and shutting drawers with the pronouncement “shells,” as if to say, “See, there is nothing worthwhile here.”

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Turning a Master’s Thesis into an Article

Today’s guest post is by Christopher D. E. Willoughby, a fellow at the Lapidus Center for the Historical Analysis of Transatlantic Slavery at the Schomburg Center, New York Public Library. His article, “Running Away from Drapetomania: Samuel A. Cartwright, Medicine, and Race in the Antebellum South,” appears in the August 2018 issue of the Journal.

In August 2018 the Journal of Southern History published my 2012 Tulane University master’s thesis on Dr. Samuel A. Cartwright. As a thesis it was titled, somewhat generically, “Infecting the Black Body: Slavery and Medicine in Samuel Cartwright’s South,” but only the core research from the original thesis closely resembles the article. The structure, prose, and many of the arguments have evolved dramatically over the last six years. As a result of how much I had to change my thesis, I see the article paradoxically as both a cautionary and an encouraging tale for those wishing to publish their master’s thesis. Encouraging, in that you don’t have to waste the research you have done for these projects, but cautionary in the amount of revisions necessary, for me at least. Technically, my article started as a paper for a Comparative Slavery seminar at Tulane University before becoming my master’s thesis. Moreover, I have saved in the cloud more than ten drafts of this essay, only the last four or five related to revisions that I made after first submitting the article manuscript to the Journal of Southern History. Thus, I cannot say strongly enough that you should not submit an unrevised thesis for publication. If you wish to go down the road of publishing your master’s thesis as an article, here are three tips that I wish I had been told:

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Student Activism to Understand the Past and Future

Today’s guest post is by Jon N. Hale, an associate professor in the Department of Educational Studies at the University of South Carolina. His article, “Future Foot Soldiers or Budding Criminals?: The Dynamics of High School Student Activism in the Southern Black Freedom Struggle,” appears in the August 2018 issue of the Journal.

The research on which my August 2018 article in the Journal of Southern History is based began as I prepared my first monograph, The Freedom Schools: Student Activists in the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement (Columbia University Press). In writing this book, I was keenly aware of the pervasiveness of high school activism. Yet I was struck that young people in the southern black freedom struggle were routinely overlooked by scholars and students of the movement, as well as many history teachers in our public schools.

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Teaching the Unique and Concrete

Today’s guest post is by Jay Precht, associate professor of history at Penn State Fayette. His article, “Coushatta Homesteading in Southwest Louisiana and the Development of the Community at Bayou Blue,” appears in the February 2018 issue of the Journal.

I agree with historians Michael J. Salevouris and Conal Furay that “a basic defining characteristic of history is its continuing preoccupation with the unique and concrete situations at a given point in time” (The Methods and Skills of History: A Practical Guide [4th ed.; Malden, Mass., 2015], 20). Nevertheless, I am guilty of covering topics in my American history survey courses through broad generalizations supported by examples that fit my classroom narrative. Certainly, when I cover material related to my research, my analysis becomes more nuanced. It requires effort, however, to achieve similar results when discussing topics unrelated to my work outside the classroom. Pressed for time, I sometimes rely too heavily on the textbook and consequently move away from the unique and concrete. In my experience, journal articles provide one of the best antidotes for this problem.

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Black History Month resources

Editor's note: This post was originally published in February 2018 but has been updated to include links to the most recent Journal content.

Researchers and educators can add to their reading and teaching material on black history in the U.S. South using two different bibliographical resources from the Journal:

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