Walter Edgar's Journal

News & Music Stations: Fri, 12-1 pm; Sat, 7 - 8 am | News & Talk Stations: Fri, 12-1 pm; Sun, 4-5 pm

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.

The 369th Infantry Regiment served on the front lines for 191 days during World War I, longer than any other American unit. In that time, the Soldiers of the regiment, known as the "Harlem Hellfighters," never gave up any ground it captured.
Library of Congress

After World War I, Black South Carolinians, despite poverty and discrimination, began to organize and lay the basis for the civil rights movement that would occur after World War II. Dr. Bobby Donaldson of the University of South Carolina talks about the efforts by black South Carolinians to obtain justice and civil rights during a time of economic collapse and political change.

- Originally broadcast 01/31/20 -

News and Music Stations: Fri, Feb 26, 12 pm; Sat, Feb 27, 7 am
News & Talk Stations: Fri, Feb 26, 12 pm; Sun, Feb 28, 4 pm

A portrait of Judge J. Waities Waring hangs in the courthouse that bears his name.
Victoria Hansen/SC Public Radio

Four years before the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education, a federal judge in Charleston hatched his secret plan to end segregation in America. Julius Waties Waring was perhaps the most unlikely civil rights hero in history. An eighth-generation Charlestonian, the son of a Confederate veteran and scion of a family of slave owners, Waring was appointed to the federal bench in the early days of World War II.

Supporters and petitioners of Briggs v. Elliott sit outside Liberty Hill AME Church in Clarendon County, SC. The lawsuit led to Brown v. Board of Education, the US Supreme Court decisions in 1954 and 1955 that ended legal segregation in public schools.
Photo by E.C. Jones and Cecil J. Williams. Courtesy of Cecil J. Williams

In her new book, Stories of Struggle: The Clash over Civil Rights in South Carolina (2020, USC Press), journalist Claudia Smith Brinson details the lynchings, beatings, cross burnings, and venomous hatred that black South Carolinians endured—as well as the astonishing courage, dignity, and compassion of those who risked their lives for equality.

"The attack on Fort Moultrie, Sullivan's Island, South Carolina, on June 28, 1776." Charleston eventually fell to the British, oin May of 1780.
N.Y. Public Library (public domain); Artist: Chapin, John Reuben (1823-1894)

In the months following the May 1780 capture of Charleston, South Carolina, by combined British and loyalist forces, British soldiers arrested sixty-three paroled American prisoners and transported them to the borderland town of St. Augustine, East Florida—territory under British control since the French and Indian War.

Dr. J. Drew Lanham
Clemson University

“In me, there is the red of miry clay, the brown of spring floods, the gold of ripening tobacco. I am, in the deepest sense, colored.” From these fertile soils—of love, land, identity, family, and race—emerges The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man's Love Affair with Nature (2016, Milkweed Editions) a big-hearted, unforgettable memoir by ornithologist J. Drew Lanham.

Front page of an issue of the Lighthouse and Informer
USC/Thomas Cooper Library

In spite of a growing movement for journalistic neutrality in reporting the news of the 20th century, journalists enlisted on both sides of the mid-century struggle for civil rights. Indeed, against all odds, the seeds of social change found purchase in South Carolina with newspaperman John McCray and his allies at the Lighthouse and Informer, who challenged readers to "rebel and fight"--to reject the "slavery of thought and action" and become "progressive fighters" for equality.

Richard T. Greener, circa 1900; by J. H. Cunningham. In The Colored American, February 24, 1900.
The Colored American, February 24, 1900 / Library of Congress/Chronicling America

Richard Theodore Greener (1844–1922) was a renowned black activist and scholar. The first black graduate of Harvard College, he became the first black faculty member at the University of South Carolina, during Reconstruction. He was even the first black US diplomat to a predominately-white country, serving in Vladivostok, Russia. A notable speaker and writer for racial equality, he also served as a dean of the Howard University School of Law and as the administrative head of the Ulysses S. Grant Monument Association. Yet he died in obscurity, his name barely remembered.

Pat Conroy and Katherine Clark
Tamika Moore/Courtesy of the author

Pat Conroy’s memoirs and autobiographical novels contain a great deal about his life, but there is much he hasn’t revealed with readers until now. My Exaggerated Life (2018, University of South Carolina Press) is the product of a special collaboration between this great American author and oral biographer Katherine Clark, who recorded two hundred hours of conversations with Conroy before he passed away in 2016. In the spring and summer of 2014, the two spoke for an hour or more on the phone every day.

Soapstone Baptist Church sign, Liberia, S.C.
Soapstone Baptist Church via Facebook

In 2007, while researching mountain culture in upstate South Carolina, anthropologist John M. Coggeshall stumbled upon the small community of Liberia in the Blue Ridge foothills. There he met Mable Owens Clarke and her family, the remaining members of a small African American community still living on land obtained immediately after the Civil War. In his new book, Liberia, South Carolina: An African American Appalachian Community

St. Mary's Catholic Church, Charleston, SC
Courtesy of Fr. Gregory West

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Diocese of Charleston by Pope Pius VII. This makes it the seventh oldest Roman Catholic diocese in the United States. At that time, the diocese comprised the states of Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. In spite of a ban on Catholicism in the Colonial era, it arrived in Carolina much earlier than 1820 via both colonists and enslaved persons.

Brig. Gen. Daniel Morgan
The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library.

On January 17, 1781, at Cowpens, South Carolina, the notorious British cavalry officer Banastre Tarleton and his legion were destroyed along with the cream of Lord Cornwallis’s troops. The man who planned and executed this stunning American victory was Daniel Morgan. Once a barely literate backcountry laborer, Morgan now stood at the pinnacle of American martial success.

The South of the Mind

Dec 7, 2020
Porch, rocking chairs, coffee cups
Virginia State Parks [CC BY 2.0] via Flickr

How did conceptions of a tradition-bound, "timeless" South shape Americans' views of themselves and their society's political and cultural fragmentations, following the turbulent 1960s? In his book, The South of the Mind: American Imaginings of White Southerness, 1960–1980 (2018, UGA Press), Zachary J. Lechner bridges the fields of southern studies and southern history in an effort to answer that question. 

Image of Gen. Andrew Pickens, 1739 - 1817. A photo of an oil painting hung in Fort Hill in Clemson, South Carolina.
blahedo [CC BY-SA 2.5] via Wikimedia Commons

In his book, The Life and Times of General Andrew Pickens: Revolutionary War Hero, American Founder (2017, UNC Press), Dr. Rod Andrew, Jr., of Clemson University, explores the life of the hard-fighting South Carolina militia commander of the American Revolution, was the hero of many victories against British and Loyalist forces. In this book, Andrew offers an authoritative and comprehensive biography of Pickens the man, the general, the planter, and the diplomat.

Dr. J. Brent Morris
USC Beaufort

In Yes, Lord, I Know the Road: A Documentary History of African Americans in South Carolina, 1526 – 2008 (2017, USC Press) Dr. J. Brent Morris brings together a wide variety of annotated primary-source documents to highlight the significant people, events, social and political movements, and ideas that have shaped black life in South Carolina and beyond.

"The attack on Fort Moultrie, Sullivan's Island, South Carolina, on June 28, 1776." Charleston eventually fell to the British, oin May of 1780.
N.Y. Public Library (public domain); Artist: Chapin, John Reuben (1823-1894)

In the months following the May 1780 capture of Charleston, South Carolina, by combined British and loyalist forces, British soldiers arrested sixty-three paroled American prisoners and transported them to the borderland town of St. Augustine, East Florida—territory under British control since the French and Indian War.

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