January 23, 2014
Joey Fink, a PhD candidate in History and current McColl Fellow at CSAS, will present some findings from her dissertation research titled “In Good Faith: How Millhands, Feminists, Preachers, and Nuns Built a Workers’ Rights Coalition in the 1970s South.” Lunch will be be provided.
In 1974, something extraordinary happened in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina. A majority of the 3000 workers at the J.P. Stevens textile mills voted for union representation. After a decade of unsuccessful organizing drives throughout the recently integrated southern mills, union activists had a small victory that they hoped would have a domino effect in the mostly unorganized southern textile industry. But Stevens stalled on negotiations over a contract in the following years, and the union faced a dilemma. A courtroom battle would be costly and prolonged; a strike was out of the question.
That’s when civil rights activists, unionists, working-class men and women, feminists, and religious leaders came together in a diverse coalition in support of the Stevens workers. The coalition preached from the pulpit, in the aisles of department stores, and at stockholder meetings that the struggle for a contract was a human rights struggle. The coalition mounted a successful public shaming campaign against Stevens, and their most powerful weapons were the stories of the women at the center of the struggle. From the Catholic nuns who went undercover as workers in the mills to the African American women who filed a class-action discrimination lawsuit against Stevens to the elderly white women who testified before Congress, the stories of these many “Norma Raes” united a diverse group of activists together, garnered enormous public support, and forced the nation’s second-largest textile corporation to negotiate with its workers in good faith.
January 30, 2014
Amrita Chakrabarti Myers, Associate Professor of History at Indiana University, will speak about “Making a Way out of No Way: Black Women in the Old South” in the Kresge Foundation Room, 039 Graham Memorial Hall.
Examining life, liberty, and ideas about civil rights from the perspective of those invested with the least formal power in the Old South, this lecture will show how black women in Charleston, South Carolina used all the resources at their disposal to enjoy a freedom of their own design. Drawing on family papers, legislative documents, probate records, parish registers, census data, tax lists and city directories, Myers considers black women as social, economic, and political actors in the antebellum South. She will also share her recent research on Richard Mentor Johnson, a Kentucky statesman who served as Vice President under Martin Van Buren, and Julia Chinn, a black woman who became Johnson’s common-law spouse for twenty years.
Amrita Chakrabarti Myers is a historian of the black female experience in the Old South. Her first book, Forging Freedom: Black Women and the Pursuit of Liberty in Antebellum Charleston, (UNC Press, 2011) has received numerous awards, including the 2012 Phillis Wheatley Book Prize from the Northeast Black Studies Association and the 2012 Julia Cherry Spruill Book Prize from the Southern Association of Women Historians. Myers’ work has been supported by a Scholarly Research Fellowship from the Kentucky Historical Society, a Mellon Fellowship from the Library Company of Philadelphia, and a Research Fellowship from the University of South Carolina.
February 18, 2014
Please join us as we celebrate Southern Cultures‘s 20th anniversary with issue-release parties throughout the 2013-14 academic year. All events are free and open to the public. Light refreshments served.
We welcome Suzanne Jones, Chair of the Department of English, University of Richmond, as our special guest at the reception for the Spring 2014 Issue. Professor Jones will read from and discuss her essay on the varied public and scholarly response to The Help.
The Spring 2014 issue takes a critical look at Kathryn Stockett’s bestseller The Help. A literary and film phenomenon, The Help has inspired ongoing debate, some controversy, and won many adoring fans. In essays, interviews, photography, and poetry, we explore what makes The Help so provocative and why its themes inspire both serious criticism and real affection.
Suzanne Jones is professor of English and chair of the department at the University of Richmond. Her articles on twentieth century southern fiction and on women novelists have appeared in a variety of journals and collections. She is the author of Race Mixing: Southern Fiction since the Sixties (2004) and the editor of three collections of essays: Poverty and Progress in the U.S. South since 1920 with Mark Newman (2006), South to a New Place: Region, Literature, Culture with Sharon Monteith (2002) and Writing the Woman Artist: Essays on Poetics, Politics, and Portraiture (1991); and two collections of stories, Crossing the Color Line: Readings in Black and White (2000) and Growing Up in the South (1991, 2003).