Delta Hot Tamales Are Hotter Than Ever
Delta "hots" themselves perfectly exemplify the tamale's malleable properties. Made with cornmeal instead of the lime-treated masa used in Mexico, a Delta hot is simmered (rather than steamed) in a spiced broth—hence the name. Though the dish's precise origin remains elusive, it's said that at one point in the 1920s a few Mexican cotton pickers made their way up from the Rio Grande Valley, toting a recipe that was then transformed by local African-American cooks—possibly aided by southern Italians who'd settled in the area. Whatever. By 1936, tamales were so entrenched in Delta culture that Robert Johnson, who'd made his pact with the devil just up the road from Greenville, recorded a song about them called "They're Red Hot."[more inside]
In 1964, less than 7% of Mississippi’s African Americans were registered to vote, compared to between 50 and 70% in other southern states. In many rural counties, African Americans made up the majority of the population and the segregationist white establishment was prepared to use any means necessary to keep them away from the polls and out of elected office. As Mississippian William Winter recalls, “A lot of white people thought that African Americans in the South would literally take over and white people would have to move, would have to get out of the state.”This summer fifty years ago well over a thousand volunteers went to Mississippi to help register as many African-Americans as possible to vote, in the Freedom Summer, which would end with at least seven people murdered for their support for the campaign. For PBS's American Experience series, director Stanley Nelson has created a movie about the campaign, which you can watch online. A transcript, introduction and other resources are also available.
Southern Belles, Latchkey Kids, and Thrift-Store Crossdressers. Worth a click if only for the photos of a teenage RuPaul. [more inside]
In an ongoing revisionist history effort, Southern schools and churches in the United States still pretend the Civil War wasn't about slavery.
Earlier in the week, Slate posted an article on the massive Atlanta traffic jam. The article quoted a book about the Southern character that stated it was "Proud, brave, honorable by its lights, courteous, personally generous, loyal." Yet the same book also stated the South had the less admirable qualities of "suspicion toward new ideas, an incapacity for analysis, an inclination to act from feeling rather than from thought, an exaggerated individualism and a too-narrow sense of social responsibility." The book was 1941's "The Mind of the South" and its author was W. J. Cash. [more inside]
"I'm here because my family went through slavery" - Steve McQueen on 12 Years A Slave, the story of Solomon Northup. ‘12 Years a Slave,’ ‘Mother of George,’ and the aesthetic politics of filming black skin. Before Solomon Northup: Fighting Slave Catchers in New York. The final fate of Solpmon Northup remains unknown. (Previously)
Why “Libertarian” Defenses of the Confederacy and “States’ Rights” are Incoherent
There is a strain of libertarian contrarianism that holds that the Confederate States of America were within their “rights” to secede from the Union. Such contrarianism on this particular topic is detrimental to the larger cause of liberty because the logic of this argument relies upon relinquishing individual rights to the whim of the state. Indeed, as there is no legal or moral justification for supporting the Confederacy in the Civil War, it is impossible that there could be a libertarian one.[more inside]
John Cline writes book reviews for The Los Angeles Review of Books, and has co-edited two anthologies on grindhouse cinema. Last May he was awarded his PhD in American Studies and like so many others in the humanities was unable to find a job in his field. So he decided to go for a walk. Inspired by his hometown poet and drawing on his longtime interest in American music and history, John decided to follow the path of The Great Migration up the Mississippi, recording and blogging his experience. This would not be a test of endurance, but an sociological/anthropological immersion, a document about the land, history and people of the Mississippi River valley. With some help from Kickstarter John arranged to walk from New Orleans to Memphis, to work river boats from Memphis to St Louis and finally to travel by train the last leg to Chicago. Having started on Ash Wednesday, he has already visited Angola Prison, encountered a down on his luck former Rodeo Star and discovered the joys of walking fifteen plus miles with a fifty pound pack on his back. Most importantly he is sharing what he has learned of our modern lifestyle and the nature of human kindness.
Ta-Nehisi Coates, a senior editor at The Atlantic, recently touched on a couple of interesting aspects of the American Civil War. First, Racism Against White People briefly looked at how Southern intellectuals argued that Northern whites were of a different race. Then a subthread in the comments on that post spawned an investigation of American Exceptionalism in History and the notion of preserving democracy in the context of the American Civil War. After all, "if a government can be sundered simply because the minority doesn't like the results of an election, can it even call itself a government?" Definitely check out the comments of both posts.
There has been a string of recent crimes and other less positive events at Waffle House restaurants spread across the American south. "Another day, another Waffle House robbery" read a headline in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Waffle house has is its own museum, detractors, and supporters and opinions on all sides. (NYT)
Desperate Man Blues Edward Gillen's documentary about Joe Bussard, renowned collector of 25,000+ blues, folk and gospel 78rpm records from the 20s and 30s. It's about the hunt and the hunter, as much as what he found. One week only on Pitchfork TV [more inside]
"Gouge and Bite, Pull Hair and Scratch:" The Social Significance of Fighting in the Southern Backcountry [more inside]
The Union is Dissolved! Or, at least it will be, if these unusual allies have their way. While waiting for the results of the Second North American Separatist Convention, you can read up on the separatist groups who attended the first convention last fall.
Not Just Whistling Dixie: Is The South, Like The Past, A Different Country? An article by Jacob Levenson in the Columbia Journalism Review retraces the obligatory, almost stereotypical steps of the innocent, enlightened Yank lost and confused in the South. Is it the usual shtick or is there something genuinely befuddled and even "foreign" to it?
James Branch Cabell's Jurgen: A Comedy of Justice. One of the many treasures at Documenting the American South. Mike Keith's James Branch Cabell Page (Mike Keith has also performed and recorded an obscure symphony based on Jurgen). Owlcroft's overview of Cabell's work.
Don't bump into a Southerner Paul Robinson on the ancient code of insult and revenge that is still prevalent in the American South
The neo-Confederacy movement is a potent force in the Republican Party in today's South, as Trent Lott's comments about Strom Thurmond demonstrate. Trent Lott has neo-Confederate ties, as does John Ashcroft who praised Jefferson Davis in an interview with the Southern Partisan magazine. Associated with the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Sons of Confederate Veterans, adherents of the neo-Confederate movement can even buy T-shirts gloating transforming the Republican Party into Abraham Lincoln's worst nightmare.
Snow is falling throughout the WRAL-TV viewing area Southern snow. Better get milk and bread! It will be like going to the Kroger in Moscow, but you must have milk and bread. Wow, I love it when it snows hard in the South, what a magic time. Only once every 5 or 10 years do we see a foot of snow.