American Studies 430  
The South 
11:00-12:25, T-Th
Spring, 2001
Roger Williams University
Michael R. H. Swanson
Office:  CAS 111
Hours: 9:00-10:00 M, T, Th, F
or by appointment
Phone:  401 254 3230
Click to Download a printable version
Week of March 5, 2001

For Tuesday, March 2:                                              An old economy in New Clothes

As the faithful found out (including me), the video of Gone with the Wind was damaged or the projector was not working correctly. Consequently the film was not shown. The film assignment for this course will be modified accordingly, and, instead of being responsible for four of five films, everyone is now responsible for three of the four. The next film isn't until March 27, and hopefully all the AV materials will be sorted out well in advance of then.

READ:   in The South, a History.
Chapter 17: Economic Reconstruction. Pp. 401-424

in Major Problems in Southern History,
Chapter 3, Documents...
1. A Sharecropping Contract
2. A Crop lien
3. Nate Shaw's Story.
Pp. 58-65
From the Internet: Download and read: My Life and Travels by Levi Branham which you will locate at
As we have seen, the Civil War and its aftermath brought extreme dislocation to the emotional and social life of the South. It also created economic chaos, and out of that chaos new agricultural patterns revolving around the idea of sharecropping and tenant farming. This system absorbed the labor of both blacks and poor whites, and remained a fact of rural life most of the south until mechanization changed the face of southern agriculture. We will want to understand how the system worked and the types of abuse to which it was subject.

Levi Branham's autobiography is a fascinating document, not because it is high literature, but because it recounts a life of wide experience narrated in a matter of fact manner. You'll notice that it is not very linear in its organization. But read it to understand much about the life of the slave and the life of the freed man during the period when the white classes struggled to reassert their dominance.

Click to visit Farm Security Administration photographs
Click to visit the Cook Collection:  Through the Lens of Time
Above, a photograph of a white tenant farmer picking cotten, taken in the 1930s by Walker Evans.  Evans and many other famous photographers worked for the Farm Security Administration and the Office of War Administration.  Over 100,000 of the black and white photographs are available as part of the Library of Congress' American Memory project.  1,000 color photographs are also available.  Click on the image to visit the website.

To the Left, a photograph taken c. 1888 of ex-slaves taken at Bon Aire in Virginia.  This is part of a fascinating collection of photographs of Aftican Americans can be found at the Richmond History Center's Through the Lens of Time: Images of African Americans from the Cook Collection presented online by Virginia Commonwealth University. Click on the image to visit the collection.
For Thursday, March 7                                                                        No New Readings

As I wrote in the introduction to this course, I am requiring a project as part of the course responsibilities, and I want to discuss your ideas regarding the project before I finalize it. I would like to use this class period to do that. I will distribute a sheet of some of my ideas on Tuesday the 5th, and solicit your reactions and ideas of your own during this class. Here's your chance to shape your own future, so take advantage of it.


Due: Tuesday, March 12
Length: 6 pp. should cover it (typed, double spaced) I will read more, and I can deal with less if you are brilliantly concise.

Directions: Answer both parts.

Part One:

In the first section of the course we've investigated a number of factors which contribute to the uniqueness of the south as a region. What three do you think are most important and why? Consider among other possibilities geography, the agricultural system, the labor system, religion, intellectual ideas, free and slave social hierarchies, etc. etc. etc. As you explain your choices, impress me by references to the readings.

Part Two:

So far we've investigated three Southern "types", the Cavalier, the Yeoman, and the Cracker. Discuss and explain any two of them, illustrating them with examples from Birth of A Nation, the Diary of William Byrd, A. B. Longstreet's "The Fight" and G. W. Harris's "Sut Lovingood". (and from such other sources as you think appropriate).