Walter Edgar's Journal

All Stations: Fri, 12-1 pm | News & Talk Stations: 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.

Southern Women

Sep 21, 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.

Dr. Cleveland Sellers
sc.edu

(Originally broadcast 10/26/18) - In 1968 state troopers gunned down black students protesting the segregation of a South Carolina bowling alley, killing three and injuring 28. The Orangeburg Massacre was one of the most violent moments of the Southern civil rights movement, and only one person served prison time in its aftermath: a young black man by the name of Cleveland Sellers Jr. Many years later, the state would recognize that Sellers was a scapegoat in that college campus tragedy and would issue a full pardon.

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.

The Glories of Grits

Aug 31, 2020
A sepia-toned photo of a breakfast featuring grits.
shashafatcat [CC BY 2.0] via Flickr

Grits. If you grew up in the South, you have likely eaten them. If you buy yours from the grocery store, though, you may never have really tasted the goodness of stone ground grits. 

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

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 -

All Stations: Fri, Aug 28, 2020, 12 pm | News Stations: Sun, Aug 30, 4 pm

Lewis Hinter with his family on Lady's Island off Beaufort, South Carolina, 1936
Library of Congress. Photo by Carl Mydans, U.S. Farm Security Administration

Following World War I, South Carolina’s economy collapsed. The post-World-War-I drop in demand for textiles, the subsequent collapse in cotton prices, the exhaustion of farmland through poor farming practices, and the decimation of cotton crops by the boll weevil hit South Carolinians hard. Then came the stock market crash on Black Thursday in 1929 and the nation’s plunge into the Great Depression. People were starving, businesses were failing, farms were being repossessed, and sharecroppers were squeezed between the need to grow their own food and their landlords’ demands.

A mural entitled "Past and Present Agriculture and Industry of Colleton County" painted by Sheffield Kagy in 1938 as part of the Works Project Administration's public arts intitiative.
Jimmy Emerson [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0] via Flickr

When the stock market crashed in 1929, ushering in the Great Depression, South Carolina was already in dire financial straits. Cotton prices had plummeted, even before the boll weevil had decimated the crop. Years of non-sustainable practices in cotton farming had ruined thousands of acres of farmland. And, the textile industry had crashed.

Spinners and doffers in Lancaster Cotton Mills. Lancaster, S.C., circa 1912.
Library of Congress/Hine, Lewis Wickes

South Carolina in 1918 was still struggling with the changes to its economic and social systems brought about by the Civil War and Reconstruction. The United States’ entry into World War I affected the daily work life of South Carolinians and the state’s economy in a way that was unique to our state.

Written on print: "Spartanburg, S.C. Saxon Mills; 'Girl workers in the half-time mill school.'"
Library of Congress/Goldsberry Collection of open-air school photographs.

(Originally broadcast 03/02/18) - There were progressives in South Carolina in 1918. And the progressive movement in this state was different from the movement in the Northeast. However, the United States’ entrance into World War I provided an extra momentum to the movement that led to some fundamental changes the interaction between state and federal authority that lasted through the 20th century.

Unidentified African American soldier in uniform with marksmanship qualification badge and campaign hat, with cigarette holder in front of painted backdrop.
Library of Congress

Upon the United States' entrance into World War I, President Woodrow Wilson told the nation that the war was being fought to "make the world safe for democracy." For many African-American South Carolinians, the chance to fight in this war was a way to prove their citizenship, in hopes of changing things for the better at home.

With the United States’ entrance into World War I, three Army training bases were set up in South Carolina. The social and economic impact on a state still suffering from the devastation of the Civil War was dramatic. Three infantry divisions, including support personnel, swelled the Upstate and Midlands population by 90,000. On the coast, recruits flocked to Charleston’s Navy base. And some of those trainees were African Americans, which caused political turmoil and civil strife in a Jim Crow state.

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

Prior to that World War I, South Carolina was a predominantly rural state, with a Black majority populaltion. The typical S.C. woman in 1916 was Black, and, if she was employed, she was likely an agricultural worker or a domestic worker. If she was White, a working woman was likely on the farm or in a textile mill. There was a quite small middle class where working women might be employed as teachers or a nurses; a few were clerical workers. The United States' entry into World War I offered women, White and Black, new opportunities.

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.

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