Golden Arches and White Spaces: Race in Early Fast Food Places
By the late twentieth century, fast food restaurants became a common feature of American life. Although this innovation, which brought food production into the factory age, was not a product of the South, many of its key attributes complemented the southern environment. The region’s temperate weather, automobile culture, and suburban migration contributed to an atmosphere in which fast food thrived. Professor Angela Jill Cooley questions how early fast food places, which spread across the region during the final death throes of Jim Crow, treated the issue of race and civil rights. In theory, fast food establishments epitomized democracy. They offered cheap, quick, standardized fare at walk up windows. Customers took food back to their cars where they could eat with their windows rolled down as they enjoyed the more moderate southern climate. In reality, however, early fast food service in the South envisioned their customer base as white, middle-class, and Protestant. They cultivated this image through advertising, restaurant placement, and discriminatory practices. In this way, early fast food chains built white supremacy into their business model. Examining this little known history, Cooley asserts, helps us to better understand the tenacity of segregation culture and the intransigence of some white southerners who added segregated dining rooms to fast food places even as civil rights activists were sitting in at lunch counters. At the same time, the popularity of fast food in the region also helps us to better understand the larger socio-economic and cultural environment that contributed to successful federal civil rights legislation.
Angela Jill Cooley is Assistant Professor of History at Minnesota State University, Mankato, where she teaches classes on civil rights and constitutional history. She received a JD from George Washington University Law School and a PhD from the University of Alabama, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi. Her most recent chapter is “Freedom’s Farms: Activism and Sustenance in Rural Mississippi” in Dethroning the Deceitful Pork Chop: Rethinking African American Foodways from Slavery to Obama (University of Arkansas Press, 2015). This lecture will draw on Cooley’s recent book To Live and Dine in Dixie: The Evolution of Urban Food Culture in the Jim Crow South (University of Georgia Press, 2015).
The Cherokee Diaspora: An Indigenous History of Migration, Resettlement, and Identity – Pleasants Family Room, Wilson Library, UNC
The Cherokee are one of the largest Native American tribes in the United States, with more than three hundred thousand people across the country claiming tribal membership and nearly one million people internationally professing to have at least one Cherokee Indian ancestor. In this revealing history of Cherokee migration and resettlement, Professor Gregory Smithers uncovers the origins of the Cherokee diaspora and explores how communities and individuals have negotiated their Cherokee identities, even when geographically removed from the Cherokee Nation headquartered in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Beginning in the eighteenth century, the author transports the reader back in time to tell the poignant story of the Cherokee people migrating throughout North America, including their forced exile along the infamous Trail of Tears (1838–39). Smithers tells a remarkable story of courage, cultural innovation, and resilience, exploring the importance of migration and removal, land and tradition, culture and language in defining what it has meant to be Cherokee for a widely scattered people.
Gregory D. Smithers is an Associate Professor of Native American History at Virginia Commonwealth University. He is the author of The Cherokee Diaspora (Yale University Press, 2015) and Slave Breeding: Sex, Violence, and Memory in African American History (University Press of Florida, 2013), and the co-editor (with Brooke N. Newman) of Native Diasporas (University of Nebraska Press, 2014).
“I Got What I Got The Hard Way”: Memphis, Muscle Shoals, and the Racial Politics of Southern Music
The music of the South has long been a central metaphor for the region’s tumultuous racial history. Genres like country and soul remain symbols for the real and perceived borders between black and white, while the long history of interracial collaboration in southern music offers a defiant counter-narrative to the South’s troubled history. In this alternative story, there are few more celebrated moments than the integrated recording studios of Memphis and Muscle Shoals in the 1960s and 1970s. To this day, studios like Stax or FAME are held up as sites of Civil Rights-era progress or even utopias where skin color didn’t matter. This narrative of racial harmony has become central to both scholarly and popular understandings of the South’s cultural and political history. But, as historian Charles L. Hughes will discuss, this mythology obscures a more complex story of racial collaboration and conflict. In this lecture, drawn from his acclaimed book Country Soul: Making Music and Making Race in the American South, Hughes will discuss the ways that this mythology has distorted our understanding of the music, its makers, and the contexts from which it emerged. This lecture will be held in the Hitchcock Room at the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History.
Dr. Charles L. Hughes is the Director of the Memphis Center at Rhodes College. Country Soul was published by the University of North Carolina Press in 2015. He has spoken and published widely on race, music and the South. This event is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served.
“The promise and failure,” “the rise and retreat,” the “failed social experiment”—these are terms used by scholars and pundits to characterize the lost battle for school desegregation in the South and across the nation. But, drawing on nearly 100 oral history interviews, Tracy K’Meyer uncovers an alternative story of black and white allies fighting for and defending the integration of the Louisville and Jefferson County public schools as part of a broader struggle for racial equality. By attending to the way local people remember both what went wrong in desegregation and the resulting damage especially to black students, and also what went right and the benefits to individuals and the community, K’Meyer argues, we can better understand contemporary debates over racial equality and diversity in the schools.
K’Meyer is Professor of History and Chair of the Department of History at the University of Louisville, where she also serves as Co-Director of the Oral History Center. Her research focuses on the history of modern U.S. social movements, most recently on the struggles for equality in education and housing. She is currently working on a book on the American Friends Service Committee. K’Meyer’s lecture, titled “Remembering School Desegregation: Oral History and the Long Struggle for Equality in Education in Louisville, KY, 1954-2015,” will be held in the University Room in Hyde Hall.
This event is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served.
Dr. Sam W. Haynes presented a lecture on “Unbecoming Southern: The Roots of Texas Exceptionalism.”
Many Texas historians have argued that the bitter experience of the Civil War prompted white Texans in later years to downplay their southern roots. In an effort to disassociate the state from the trauma of the Lost Cause, they tailored their historical memory to give greater emphasis to the region’s frontier heritage. In so doing, they laid claim to an artificial brand of exceptionalism, constructing an elaborate and ennobling mythology around the exploits of Anglo-Texans in their conflicts with Mexicans and Native Americans. However, Anglo-Texan men and women sought to craft a new identity for the state in strikingly different ways. This lecture will examine efforts to rebrand Texas in the early twentieth century, emphasizing the gendered dimensions of a process in which women’s organizations, such as the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, and male business leaders offered their own distinct interpretations of the state’s past.
Sam W. Haynes is a professor of History and director of the Center for Greater Southwestern Studies at UT-Arlington. Specializing in Jacksonian America, 19th century Texas, and the American Southwest, he is the author of three books, including Unfinished Revolution: The Early American Republic in a British World, a study of nineteenth century American attitudes toward Great Britain, and James K. Polk and the Expansionist Impulse. He is the editor of an anthology of essays, Contested Empire: Rethinking the Texas Revolution, which was published last month by Texas A&M University Press. His current book project examines Anglo, Mexican, and Native American conflict in Texas during the early nineteenth century.
This lecture is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served.