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Walter Edgar's Journal
Walter Edgar's Journal
Posted weekly, usually on Mondays

From books to barbecue, and current events to Colonial history, historian and author Walter Edgar delves into the arts, culture, and history of South Carolina and the American South.

In 2021, Walter Edgar's Journal celebrates 21 years on South Carolina Public Radio. As part of the celebration, we delved into the archive to compile a selection of encores of notable episodes, curated by Dr. Edgar.

Click here to play Dr. Walter Edgar's South Carolina Quiz!

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  • Stephen Atkins Swails is a forgotten American hero. A free Black in the North before the Civil War began, Swails exhibited such exemplary service in the 54th Massachusetts Infantry that he became the first African American commissioned as a combat officer in the United States military. After the war, Swails remained in South Carolina, where he held important positions in the Freedmen’s Bureau, helped draft a progressive state constitution, served in the state senate, and secured legislation benefiting newly liberated Black citizens. Swails remained active in South Carolina politics after Reconstruction until violent Redeemers drove him from the state.Gordon C. Rhea tells Swails' story in his new biography, Stephen A. Swails: Black Freedom Fighter in the Civil War and Reconstruction (2021, LSU Press. Rhea talks with Walter Edgar about the saga of this indomitable human being who confronted deep-seated racial prejudice in various institutions but nevertheless reached significant milestones in the fight for racial equality.
  • Historic Columbia’s Boyd Foundation Horticultural Center, located on the grounds of the Hampton-Preston Mansion & Gardens on Blanding Street opened this year. Its greenhouse allows the historic site to serve as a hub for horticultural research and plant propagation, alongside ongoing interpretation, and programming. The greenhouse and gatehouse constructions are based on historic structures that once stood on the property. And, the greenhouse facility serves as a space to interpret the role that an extensive workforce of gardeners and horticulturists – Black, white, enslaved, and free – have played in shaping this site for over 200 years.John Sherrer, Director of Cultural Resources for Historic Columbia, and Keith Mearns, Director of Grounds, talk with Walter Edgar about planning and building the Horticultural Center and about the ways it enriches the mansion’s grounds.
  • George McDaniel served as the Executive Director of Drayton Hall, a mid-18th-century plantation located on the Ashley River near Charleston for more than 25 years. His new book, Drayton Hall Stories: A Place and Its People (2022, Evening Post Books) focuses on this historic site’s recent history, using interviews with descendants (both White and Black), board members, staff, donors, architects, historians, preservationists, tourism leaders, and more to create an engaging picture of this one place.McDaniel talks with Walter Edgar about the never-before-shared family moments, major decisions in preservation and site stewardship, and pioneering efforts to transform a Southern plantation into a site for racial conciliation.
  • America’s independence was secured in South Carolina, across its swamps, fields, woods and mountains. These events of 1779-1782 directly led to victory in the Revolutionary War.The Liberty Trail – developed through a partnership between the American Battlefield Trust and the South Carolina Battleground Trust – connects battlefields across South Carolina and tells the stories of this transformative chapter of American history.On this week’s episode of Walter Edgar’s Journal Dr. Edgar talks with Doug Bostick, Exec. Dir and CEO of the South Carolina Battleground Preservation Trust, and Catherine Noyes, Liberty Trail Program Director for the American Battlefield Trust, about their vision for The Liberty Trail: to permanently protect more than 2,500 acres of battlefield land and ultimately link nearly 80 sites.
  • In their book, Justice Deferred - Race and the Supreme Court (2021, Belknap Press), historian Orville Vernon Burton and civil rights lawyer Armand Derfner shine a powerful light on the Court’s race record—a legacy at times uplifting, but more often distressing and sometimes disgraceful. Justice Deferred is the first book that comprehensively charts the Court’s race jurisprudence.The Supreme Court is usually seen as protector of our liberties: it ended segregation, was a guarantor of fair trials, and safeguarded free speech and the vote. But this narrative derives mostly from a short period, from the 1930s to the early 1970s. Before then, the Court spent a century largely ignoring or suppressing basic rights, while the fifty years since 1970 have witnessed a mostly accelerating retreat from racial justice.
  • At once a literary crime novel and an intergenerational family drama, Roy Hoffman’s novel, The Promise of the Pelican (2022, Arcade Crimewise) is set in the multicultural South, where justice might depend on the color of your skin and your immigration status. Author Roy Hoffman joins Walter Edgar to talk about the novel, its resonance with the South of the past as well as the South of today, and about his career.