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FW: H-South Review: Martlett on Brundage, _Where These Memories Grow_

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  • A.J. Wright
    fyi..aj wright // ajwright@uab.edu ... From: H-South Review Editor Ian Binnington [mailto:binningt@uiuc.edu] Sent: Wednesday, February 14, 2001 7:26 AM To:
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      -----Original Message-----
      From: H-South Review Editor Ian Binnington [mailto:binningt@...]
      Sent: Wednesday, February 14, 2001 7:26 AM
      To: H-SOUTH@...
      Subject: H-South Review: Martlett on Brundage, _Where These Memories
      Grow_


      H-NET BOOK REVIEW
      Published by H-South@... (February, 2001)

      W. Fitzhugh Brundage, editor. _Where These Memories Grow: History,
      Memory, and Southern Identity_. Chapel Hill and London: University of
      North Carolina Press, 2000. xi + 366 pp. Photographs, maps, notes, and
      index. $49.95 (cloth), ISBN 0-8078-2572-7; $19.95 (paper), 0-8078-4886-7.

      Reviewed for H-South by Jeffrey Marlett, marlettj@...,
      Department of Religious Studies, College of Saint Rose.

      One South, and Many Memories Thereof

      The South bears, with either grace or clumsiness depending on one's view,
      the stereotype of being more "traditional" than other regions in the United
      States. Why? Even undergraduates at urban northeastern institutions think
      they know the answer: "They can't forget losing the War." Consequently,
      the old ways -- whether that pertains to morality, religion, politics, or
      even food --stick around longer "down there." While introducing _Where
      These Memories Grow_ W. Fitzhugh Brundage warns against the facile
      acceptance of such images. He comments that these "southern" memories came
      about because southerners themselves made them that way (2-3). _Where
      These Memories Grow_ therefore seeks to understand the various expressions
      of collective memory in the South. The resulting anthology successfully
      lays bare the motivation for, and construction of, many different Southern
      collective memories. In doing so the contributors acknowledge the unending
      competition over control of the public sphere. More than "just history,"
      _Where These Memories Grow_ squarely faces the ways in which southerners
      have made their particular histories public, whether in stone, newsprint,
      or community events.

      _Where These Memories Grow_ presents a stimulating multidimensional study
      of collective memory in the South. Eight of the twelve essays examine
      collective memory within a specific state. The focus seems to land on the
      Carolinas and Virginia. Texas, the upland South, southwestern Louisiana,
      and the Deep South all receive consideration as well. The different
      methodologies employed equals the diverse subject matter: treatments of
      race, class, and gender share space with ethnicity, sexual orientation,
      oral history, architecture, and religious studies.

      Four chronologically arranged sections address the different uses
      collective memory has served southerners: "Varieties of Memory in the Old
      South," "Finding Meaning in History during the Confederacy and
      Reconstruction," "The Past in the New South," and "Memory and Place in the
      Modern South." As the varieties of southern experience changed, so, too,
      did the memories of those experiences. The resulting expressions could,
      depending on the group and the situation, change significantly. In the
      conclusion David Blight remarks that the book's essays "demonstrate that a
      great deal can be at stake in conflicts over memory." Therefore, "those
      who can create the dominant historical narrative, those who can own the
      public memory, will achieve political and cultural power" (both from p.
      349).

      Brundage's introduction merits special mention, for it superbly delineates
      the importance of studying collective memory. "Historical memory . . .
      transmits selective knowledge about the past" (p. 5). This interpretative
      character prompts a dialectic "between the willfully recalled and the
      deliberately forgotten" (p. 6). To assure their recollections, southerners
      have memorialized their selected pasts in many forms. This joining of
      memory and public display contribute to "deliberate forgetting" by
      deflecting memories considered deviant or spurious. Collective memory
      involves both political and economic concerns. The study of southern
      collective memory, therefore, includes all those identifying themselves as
      "southerners". Brundage suggests this recognition might lead to "an
      inclusive civic culture in the South" (p. 16). Important questions remain,
      specifically whether or not competing memories could coexist in the same
      public arena. As southerners struggle with their own memories as well as
      with those of other southerners they provide an example for other regions
      facing the same conflicts and concerns (p. 21).

      "Varieties of Memory in the Old South" includes two such attempts. Michele
      Gillespie explains that artisans in Georgia used the memory of
      participation in the Revolution to create a unique class
      identity. Gillespie notices a crucial shift in this identity, as economic
      success enabled many artisans to join the burgeoning planter and merchant
      classes (p. 47-49). Gregg Kimball shows that the complexity of competing
      memories and attitudes only increases when considering the African-American
      antebellum experience. The Revolutionary War fostered images of freedom
      among black Virginians, just as it did among white Georgia artisans. This
      compounded their struggle to maintain memories of their African
      heritage. The difficulty of balancing these claims leads Kimball to
      conclude "that African-American remembrance was and is not
      monolithic; rather it is a complex and evolving web of experience,
      culture, and memory" (p. 74).

      The Confederacy and Reconstruction extended some collective memories while
      adding new ones. Anne Sarah Rubin supports this in her study of Southern
      claims to inherit the mantle of the nation's Revolutionary War
      spirit. Confederates repeatedly stressed those elements of America's
      Revolutionary heritage that emphasized southern uniqueness and
      sovereignty. Here the past legitimatized the present: Confederates "had
      no doubts the Founders would be with them" instead of the North (91). In
      contrast, the African-American Emancipation Day celebrations studied by
      Kathleen Clark faced the daunting task of creating a public black presence
      in the face of white ostracism. The celebrations still included gender
      distinctions. While black women "were engaged in many aspects of
      commemorative culture, men largely controlled the proceedings that occurred
      in church halls, on city streets, and in town squares" (p. 122).

      "The Past in the New South" certainly includes the most diverse essays in
      terms of content and method. Catherine Bishir discusses the creation of a
      particular architectural vision of North Carolina's past and
      future. Bishir focuses mostly on Wilmington and Raleigh, two cities which
      profited significantly from the North Carolina Monumental Association's
      claim that "a land without monuments is a land without memories" (p.
      143). Reminiscent of Anne Rubin's essay, this commemorative zeal perceived
      the Revolutionary War as a precursor to the Civil War. White supremacist
      concerns exerted a significant influence in determining which heroes were
      honored (p. 157).

      An African-American counterattack emerged in the "race histories" published
      by black authors in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Laurie
      Maffly-Kipp examines these conscious attempts to rework the American past
      in order to change present perceptions. Since many of the authors were
      born and educated in the North, though, their publications occasionally
      created more distance than intimacy with the black community they sought to
      serve (p. 174). Still, progressive confidence dominated the
      histories. Emancipation signaled the dawning of a new
      dispensation. African-Americans, as legitimate heirs of the Revolution's
      ideals, would initiate a reversal of race hierarchies (p. 180-1).

      John Howard's "The Talk of the County" breaks the silence surrounding gay
      and lesbian southerners in the 1890s as well as today. An 1895 murder in
      Brandon, Mississippi, stemming from accusations of "a low, mean, or
      disgraceful thing" serves as Howard's context for studying how such a
      highly public event could become so utterly erased in subsequent
      years. "How can we account for this social amnesia? Is it possible to
      speak of a queer collective memory? If so, how did it fail us? Or did
      it? And who are among the 'us' to which I refer? For whom are acts of
      reclamation important today?" (p. 197) The subjectivity of Howard's essay
      is palpable, as he interweaves his study of the murder with personal
      anecdotes (e.g., p. 198, 212). Nevertheless, his commitment to unearthing
      elements of southern life that others endeavored to suppress remains
      clear. "We historians are beholden to the communities that support us. We
      must be made to answer when we declare, 'I have no memory.'" (p. 215)

      Tourism figures prominently in the final section, "Memory and Place in the
      Modern South." The development of such different locations as Charleston,
      South Carolina, and Gatlinburg, Tennessee, as self-promoting tourist
      destinations reveals much about southern self-perception. Stephanie Yuhl
      reveals that, much like the monument builders in Bishir's essay,
      Anglo-Saxon white supremacy motivated white elite women in Charleston to
      create their particular collective memory of antebellum Charleston's
      appearance (p. 238-42). On the other hand, C. Brenden Martin indicates
      that the hillbilly culture of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, was to some extent the
      product of the citizens themselves. The mythical image of the rustic
      mountaineer quickly became the only image tourists markets wanted to
      see. This in turn prompted the local embrace of such overblown hillbilly
      stereotypes as Snuffy Smith and Dollywood. The native Cherokee found
      themselves forced into, and occasionally accepting, native American
      stereotypes based more on Plains people than their own culture (p. 262-6).

      Brundage's own contribution studies the emergence of the unique Cajun
      identity in southern Louisiana. This exemplified how collective memory
      created identity, for the Cajun revivalists stressed the tragic uniqueness
      of Louisiana's Francophone population. Doing so, though, involved as much
      creation as it did retrieval (p. 286-9). "Evangeline girls" became the
      preponderant image within Acadiana as well as what the Cajuns presented to
      the world as their identity. Holly Beachley Brear's study of the conflict
      surrounding the control of the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, studies a
      similar conflict over the narrative concerning a site important to
      different collective memories. The Daughters of the Republic of Texas, a
      predominantly white Anglo group, maintains tight control over the site,
      despite the city's growing Latino population and the subsequent interest in
      diversifying the Alamo's history. While ethnic animosity never lurks far
      away, the Daughters stand well aware of the gender politics present. One
      Daughter remarks, "Some of the men attacking us just resent what has been a
      successful female venture since 1905" (p. 306).

      The same issues surrounding the control of memory also affect Bruce Baker's
      study of memories of lynchings in Laurens County, South Carolina. The
      lynchings themselves "serve as a starting point to ask questions about
      which lynching are remembered and by whom, how and in what forms such
      events are remembered, and to what uses the various memories and silence of
      memory have been put" (p. 320). Even though the last lynching took place
      in 1913, differences between black and white memories of the event persist
      even today. However, private recollections now enjoy the ability to become
      public, bringing to light events which previously seemed forgotten.

      _Where These Memories Grow_ is a carefully balanced anthology. The few
      absences seem to indicate further avenues for study instead of actual
      oversight or exclusion. The environment appears only in androcentric
      concerns. The South's image -- partially self-created, partially foisted
      upon it -- as "the natural state" (to borrow the Arkansas license plate
      motto) remains an important aspect of southern collective memory. The
      region also possesses its own industrial heritage, and the suburban
      expansion of Atlanta, Nashville, Charlotte, and other cities testify to
      what Brundage claims in his introduction: that the South in many ways has
      become a full and equal partner in mainstream American culture. The
      South's long-standing, and now overturned, relationship with the Democratic
      Party figures prominently in many essays, but does not receive any focused
      attention. With the exception of Maffly-Kipp's fine contribution no essay
      directly examines the region's religious diversity. Few collective
      memories of the South suffer more from overexposure and misrepresentation
      than "southern religion."

      G. K. Chesterton once wrote that, "Tradition means giving votes to the most
      obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the
      dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of
      those who merely happen to be walking about." (1) In this sense, _Where
      These Memories Grow_ stands as a thoroughly democratic, and thus
      traditional, work. It indicates that many memories, heretofore considered
      forgotten, stand ready to exert their Chestertonian vote. The book
      recommends itself all sorts of audiences: general interest in southern
      history, graduate students, and researchers. Its broad accessibility does
      not detract from the serious issues surrounding the contested public
      character of collective memory. Brundage rightly deserves credit for
      mastering the difficult task of making intricate and provocative material
      accessible without sacrificing profundity.

      A recent, and quite extensive, thread on H-History-and-Theory has discussed
      "facticity" at great length. _Where These Memories Grow_ inaugurates a
      similar conversation over the "facts" of Southern history. Brundage
      acknowledges the possibility that the conversation might devolve into a
      shouting match. He and his contributors make it clear that the "facts"
      depend on whose memories one values. This will continue, Brundage notes,
      "so long as people imagine themselves as inheritors of a southern past" (p.
      221). As the South changes, these memories necessarily will as well.

      Notes

      1. G. K. Chesterton, _Orthodoxy_ (1908. Garden City, NY: Doubleday,
      Image, 1959), 48.

      Copyright (c) 2001 by H-Net, all rights reserved. This work may be copied
      for non-profit educational use if proper credit is given to the author and
      the list. For other permission, please contact h-net@....
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