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Posts from the ‘Tell About the South’ Category

Tell About the South: Frank R. Baumgartner, Tuesday, October 7 at 12:30 pm

BaumgartnerPlease join us at the Center for a lunchtime discussion with Frank R. Baumgartner, the Richard J. Richardson Distinguished Professor of Political Science at UNC-Chapel Hill.  Baumgartner is co-author of The Decline of the Death Penalty and the Discovery of Innocence, and since coming to Carolina he has researched the death penalty’s demise nationally as well as in North Carolina.  With colleagues Isaac Unah (Political Science) and Seth Kotch (American Studies), he is working on a book tentatively titled A Deadly Symbol: Race and Capital Punishment in North Carolina. Baumgartner also teaches a course on Race, Innocence, and the End of the Death Penalty (POLI 203) which currently has 240 students enrolled.  Associated with that is a speakers series on the death penalty with eight speakers including the family of Troy Davis, several exonerated inmates from North Carolina and their attorneys, and others; these events are open to the public throughout the fall semester.

Baumgartner will speak about the racial aspects of North Carolina’s death penalty and the relevance of the Racial Justice Act’s passage (2009), revision (2011) and demise (2013).  These events make clear that the politics of race, innocence, and the death penalty remain fundamental in our state.  At the same time, use of the punishment has never been very common and in recent years has declined so much that it has become almost entirely symbolic (no one has been executed since 2006, and only 1 death sentence has been handed down, state-wide, since 2011).  But what a powerful symbol it is.

Light refreshments will be served. Please RSVP to

Tell About the South: Bernie Herman, Wednesday, March 26 at 12:30 pm

Please join us at the Center for a discussion with Bernie Herman, who will share his comments on the art of Ronald Lockett, titled “Once Something Has Lived It Can Never Really Die.” Lunch will be provided.

Civil Rights Marchers, by Ronald Lockett

Civil Rights Marchers (1988)
Image courtesy of Souls Grown Deep Foundation

Ronald Lockett stands at the center of one of the most provocative and least understood American art movements. Defined neither by manifesto nor patronage or institution, Lockett’s art emanates from a cohesive, coherent movement united by creative practice and critical conversation articulated through the art itself. Words fail this movement, and historically words have limited and even endangered its presence and progress in contemporary artworlds. The creative practice that connects the art and artists of this movement takes shape in the appropriation and manipulation of “found”–often discarded or surplus–materials; its critical conversations unfold in deeply coded works produced in the long histories of struggle against systematic racial, economic, political, and institutional discrimination.


Ronald Lockett with April 19th (1995)
Image courtesy of Souls Grown Deep Foundation

It is an art that has achieved its greatest, most intense florescence in the heart of the historically oppressive landscapes of the American South, but appears everywhere in the flows of the larger Southern diaspora of the twentieth century. The art of Ronald Lockett, largely unrecognized in conversations of the Contemporary, epitomizes what might be recognized as the Birmingham-Bessemer Movement in the visual and performing arts. In a movement manifest in a broader artistic practice, Lockett is joined by Thornton Dial, Lonnie Holley, Joe Minter, Mary Lee Bendolph, and others who make objects that range from monumental sculptures to patchwork quilts. Lockett’s art, too often marginalized through the language of folk, self-taught, and vernacular, transcends limiting artworld ideologies, speaking with affective and instructive power to themes of everyday life, spiritual concern, and the sweep of historical events.

Bernie Herman is the George B. Tindall Distinguished Professor of American Studies and Folklore at the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill, where he also serves on the Art History faculty. His books include Thornton Dial: Thoughts on Paper (2011), Town House: Architecture and Material Life in the Early American City, 1780-1830 (2005) and The Stolen House (1992). In 2011 he held a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship for a collection of essays, Troublesome Things in the Borderlands of Contemporary Art. His blog, Meditations on the Worlds of Things, reflects on ways of thinking about the textures of everyday life.

Tell About the South: Anne Mitchell Whisnant, Wednesday, February 26 at 12:30

Please join us at the Center for a discussion with Anne Mitchell Whisnant, who will share her work, “Taking Another Look: Digital Views of the Blue Ridge Parkway.” Lunch will be provided.

Unbuilt BRP

Sample Student Project from the Digital Innovation Lab

Dr. Whisnant will discuss how her research on America’s most visited national park has evolved over the twenty-three years since she started studying the road back in 1991.  In particular, she will share ways in which the digital revolution has recast what began as a conventional, single-scholar project, culminating in her book Super-Scenic Motorway: A Blue Ridge Parkway History (UNC Press, 2006). Drawing upon her recent experience as the scholarly advisor to Driving Through Time: The Digital Blue Ridge Parkway, an online portal to Parkway history, she will demonstrate how digital tools enable us to better visualize the ways conflicts over land purchases, routing, and Parkway access and use have shaped (and continue to buffet) the park.  Speaking briefly about using these digital tools in her teaching, Whisnant will also suggest how a digital approach can help students understand that rather than being inevitable, the past was contingent—always unfolding in unexpected ways as people make difficult decisions among many viable options.  A digitized Blue Ridge Parkway can allow exploration of these decision points, a process that can empower us as actors in the present who can mold the future.

Anne WhisnantAnne Mitchell Whisnant is Deputy Secretary of the Faculty and Adjunct Associate Professor of History and American Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill. Her teaching, research, consulting, and writing focus on public history, digital history, and the history of the U.S. National Parks. She has served as co-principal historian on several National Park Service projects, including an administrative history of De Soto National Memorial and a Historic Resource Study of Cape Lookout National Seashore. Most recently, she chaired a task force commissioned by the Organization of American Historians and the National Park Service to study the state of historical practice within the Park Service. Its report, Imperiled Promise: The State of History in the National Park Service, was published in 2012.

On Air!

ONAIRJoey Fink recently visited our “Tell About the South” series to discuss “How Millhands, Feminists, Preachers, and Nuns Built a Workers’ Rights Coalition in the 1970s.” And Jennifer Ho shared her work on “Asian Americans in Dixie.”

Hear both scholars discuss their work with Frank Stasio on WUNC’s “The State of Things,” as well as Negin Farsad, co-director of The Muslims Are Coming!


1/22/14: “The Struggle for Workers’ Rights in the 1970s South” with Joey Fink

1/27/14: “Asian Americans in Dixie” with Jennifer Ho

2/6/14: “Hug a Muslim” with Negin Farsad


Tell About the South: Jennifer Ho, Thursday, February 6 at 12:30 pm

Asian Americans in DixieThe first book length work of Asian American and southern studies, Asian Americans in Dixie: Race and Migration in the South  (University of Illinois Press, 2013) brings together scholars working in a variety of disciplines, all of whom are invested in analyzing the place of Asian Americans in the U.S. South. Jennifer Ho’s contribution, “Southern Eruptions in Asian American Literature,” focuses specifically on the intersections of Asian American and southern writing. Please join us at the Center for a discussion of Jennifer’s work; lunch will be provided.

Jennifer HoAsian American literature has historically been set on either the East or West coasts, following the trajectory of most Asian American immigration and settlement.  Yet as Asian Americans increasingly populate the South, stories about Asians in America begin to reflect this demographic shift.  From novels like Susan Choi’s The Foreign Student to Mira Nair’s feature-length film Mississippi Masala, the South takes center stage, reorienting Asian American narratives away from West Coast Chinatowns or East Coast suburban subdivisions and reminding audiences of the global and transnational composition of southern communities.  Used as setting, character, and symbol, the South erupts within Asian American literature as a force of violence, shame, and the redemption inherent in change.  In addition to talking about her essay, Ho will discuss the genesis of Asian Americans in Dixie and what it’s like teaching a class devoted to Asian American southern writing (ENGL 371: The Place of Asian Americans in the U.S. South).

Jennifer Ho is an Associate Professor in the Department of English & Comparative Literature at UNC Chapel Hill, where she also serves as the director of graduate studies (English) and teaches courses in Asian American literature, mulitethnic American literature, and Contemporary American literature. Her current book manuscript, Racial Ambiguity in Asian American Culture (under contract with Rutgers University Press), considers various forms of racially ambiguous subjects (such as transnational/transracial Asian adoptees, multiracial Asian American authors/texts, and Tiger Woods). Additionally, she is broadly interested in critical race theory and anti-racist activism.