Walter Edgar's Journal

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Walter Edgar's Journal delves into the arts, culture, history of South Carolina and the American South. (A production of South Carolina Public Radio.)

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed on Walter Edgar's Journal are not necessarily those of South Carolina Public Radio.

Detail from a poster showing a Red Cross nurse with an American flag and the Red Cross symbol. (Artist: Howard Chandler Christie)
Library of Congress

Dr. Amy McCandless, professor emerita of history at the College of Charleston, joins Dr. Edgar for a public conversation on S.C. Women during World War I.

The first black U.S. senator and first black House members were elected by Southern states during Reconstruction.
Library of Congress

Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., has said, "Reconstruction is one of the most important and consequential chapters in American history. It is also among the most overlooked, misunderstood and misrepresented." 

Emancipation Day Celebration, June 19, 1900, Texas
Austin History Center, Austin Public Library

On June 19th, 1865, Union general Gordon Granger read federal orders in Galveston, Texas, that all previously enslaved people in Texas were free. The news of Emancipation had finally come to the state. Today, this day is celebrated as Juneteenth.

What did it mean to these newly freed people to "be free"? What power, or "agency" did freedom bring? What agency had the enslaved managed to create before Emancipation?

Engraving depicting the death of British Major Patrick Ferguson at the Battle of Kings Mountain during the American Revolutionary War, October 7, 1780.
Chappel, Alonzo, 1828-1887 (artist), Jeens, Charles Henry, 1827-1879 (engraver), Anne S. K. Brown Collection at Brown University

General U.S. history courses in many high schools depict the American Revolutionary War as a series of battles in the Northeast--Lexington, Concord, Bunker Hill, etc.--that lead inexorably to British General Charles Cornwallis's surrender of 8,000 British soldiers and seamen to a French and American force at Yorktown, Virginia, October 19, 1781.

The truth is much more complicated, of course. And a major component of the war, one that paved the way to Yorktown, was the fighting that took place in 1780 - 81 in the South.

In essence, according to Dr. Jack Warren and Dr. Walter Edgar, the war was won in the South.

Early map of Virginia and the Carolinas
North Carolina State Archives

​In his book, Carolina in Crisis: Cherokees, Colonists, and Slaves in the American Southeast, 1756 - 1763, (2015, UNC Press) Dr. Daniel J. Tortora, assistant professor of history at Colby College, explores how the Anglo-Cherokee War reshaped the political and cultural landscape of the colonial South. Tortora joins Walter Edgar for a discussion of these events in one of a a series of public conversations, “Conversations on Colonial and Revolutionary South Carolina.”

Okra for sale at the North Charleston Farmers' Market.
Ryan Johnson [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Flickr

The American South has experienced remarkable change over the past half century. Black voter registration has increased, the region’s politics have shifted, and in-migration has increased its population many fold. At the same time, many outward signs of regional distinctiveness have faded. But two professors of political science write that these changes have allowed for new types of Southern identity to emerge.

Tarawa, Kiribati - U.S. Marines storm Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands. The battle (November 20-23, 1943) was one of the bloodiest of WWII.
(U.S. Marine Corps Courtesy Photo by Warrant Officer Obie Newcomb, Jr.)

In November 1943, Marine 1st Lt. Alexander Bonnyman, Jr. was mortally wounded while leading a successful assault on a critical Japanese fortification on the Pacific atoll of Tarawa, and posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military honor. The brutal, bloody 76-hour battle would ultimately claim the lives of more than 1,100 Marines and 5,000 Japanese forces.

Walter Edgar's Journal
SC Public Radio

In They Stole Him Out of Jail (2019, USC Press), William B. Gravely presents the most comprehensive account of the Willie Earle's lynching ever written, exploring it from background to aftermath and from multiple perspectives. Gravely meticulously re-creates the case’s details, analyzing the flaws in the investigation and prosecution that led in part to the acquittals. Vivid portraits emerge of key figures in the story, including both Earle and cab driver T. W. Brown, Solicitor Robert T. Ashmore, Governor Strom Thurmond, and Rebecca West, the well-known British writer who covered the trial for the New Yorker magazine.

Stereograph showing an exterior view of Libby Prison, a Confederate military prison, Richmond, VA.
Civil War Photograph Collection (Library of Congress)

From battlefields, boxcars, and forgotten warehouses to notorious prison camps like Andersonville and Elmira, prisoners seemed to be everywhere during the American Civil War. Yet there is much we do not know about the soldiers and civilians whose very lives were in the hands of their enemies. On this week’s Journal, Dr. Edgar talks with Dr. Evan Kutzler about Living by Inches (2019. UNC Press), the first book to examine how imprisoned men in the Civil War perceived captivity through the basic building blocks of human experience--their five senses.

Ted Lee and Matt Lee
Ovation

This week on Walter Edgar's Journal, Mat Lee and Ted Lee drop in to talk about their new book, Hotbox: Inside Catering, the Food World’s Riskiest Business (2019, Henry Holt). In Hotbox, the Lee brothers take on the competitive, wild world of high-end catering, exposing the secrets of a food business few home cooks or restaurant chefs ever experience. Known for their modern take on Southern cooking, the Lee brothers steeped themselves in the catering business for four years, learning the culture from the inside-out.

Destruction at the Walled City (Intramuros district) of old Manila in May 1945, after the Battle of Manila.
Office of the Surgeon general, Dept. of the Army via Wikimedia Commons

75 years ago, when Gen. Douglas MacArthur prepared to liberate the capital city of the Phillipines in 1945, he believed that the occupying Japanese forces would retreat. Instead, determined to fight to the death, Japanese marines barricaded intersections, converted buildings into fortresses, and booby-trapped stores, graveyards, and even dead bodies.

Whitfield Brooks's most notorious son: "Preston S. Brooks. Representative in Congress of the U.S. from South Carolina." Circa 1857
LIbrary of Congress/Walter, Adam B., 1820-1875, engraver

In his thoroughly researched and meticulously foot-noted publication, An Edgefield Planter and His World: The 1840s Journals of Whitfield Brooks (2019, Mercer University Press) Dr. James O. Farmer, Jr.,  opens a window on the life of an elite family and its circle in a now iconic place, during a crystalizing decade of the Antebellum era. By the time he began a new diary volume in 1840, Brooks (1790-1851) was among the richest men in a South Carolina district known for its cotton-and-slave-generated wealth.

Balcony seating originally designed for enslaved persons attending services at Trinity
Bill Fitzpatrick

For almost 30 years, Preservation South Carolina has been dedicated to preserving and protecting the historic and irreplaceable architectural heritage of South Carolina. Executive Director Michael Bedenbaugh and board member join Walter Edgar to talk about some of their projects, including efforts to preserve Endangered Sacred Spaces, which includes the restoration of Abbeville’s Trinity Episcopal Church.

- Originally broadcast 10/18/19 - 

In his new novel, The Last At-Bat of Shoeless Joe (2019, Chickadee Prince), Granville Wyche Burgess  imagines Shoeless Joe Jackson, the outfielder disgraced in the 1919 “Black Sox” scandal, living in Greenville, South Carolina, and finding that sports history has one more twist in store for him.

Southern Women

Mar 23, 2020
Walter Edgar's Journal
SC Public Radio

The Southern woman has long been synonymous with the Southern belle, a “moonlight and magnolias” myth that gets nowhere close to describing the strong, richly diverse women who have thrived because of—and in some cases, despite—the South.

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