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.

"The Reserve in Summer" from the series A Carolina Rice Plantation of the Fifties, ca. 1935, By Alice Ravenel Huger Smith (American, 1876 - 1958); Watercolor on paper;
Gift of the artist; 1937.009.0027027. Courtesy of the Gibbes Museum of Art

In the years after WWI, art, poetry, historic preservation, and literature flourished in Charleston, SC, and the Lowcountry during what has been called the Charleston Renaissance. Angela Mack, Executive Director & Chief Curator of the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, talks with Walter Edgar about the people and circumstances that came together to create this flowering of the beaux arts in the Holy City.

James F. Byrnes. During his ten years in the Senate, Byrnes championed President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal.
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information

This week on Walter Edgar's Journal, our third program on South Carolina Between the World Wars, features Dr. Vernon Burton of Clemson University, in conversation with Walter Edgar about the politics of the period. During this time, State politics remained a politics very much based on friends and neighbors – white friends and neighbors, at least.

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.

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.

S.C. State University logo
S.C. State

Since its founding in 1896, South Carolina State University has provided vocational, undergraduate, and graduate education for generations of African Americans. Now the state’s flagship historically black university, it achieved this recognition after decades of struggling against poverty, inadequate infrastructure and funding, and social and cultural isolation. In South Carolina State University: A Black Land-Grant College in Jim Crow America, William C.

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.

Nathanael Greene, Thomas Sumter
NY Public Library

As the newly appointed commander of the Southern Continental Army in December 1780, Nathanael Greene quickly realized victory would not only require defeating the British Army, but also subduing the region's brutal civil war. "The division among the people is much greater than I imagined, and the Whigs and the Tories persecute each other, with little less than savage fury,” wrote Greene.

"Return of a Foraging Party to Philippi, Virginia"
Illustration from Harper's Weekly, August 17, 1861/NY State Library

In War Stuff: The Struggle for Human and Environmental Resources in the American Civil War, her path-breaking work on the American Civil War, Joan E. Cashin explores the struggle between armies and civilians over the resources necessary to wage war.

Dawson's Fall

Nov 25, 2019
Roxana Robinson
Beowulf Sheehan/Post and Courier Books

In Dawson’s Fall (2019, MacMillan), a novel based on the lives of Roxana Robinson’s great-grandparents, the author tells a story of America at its most fragile, fraught, and malleable. Set in 1889, in Charleston, South Carolina, Robinson’s tale weaves her family’s journal entries and letters with a novelist’s narrative grace, and spans the life of her tragic hero, Frank Dawson, as he attempts to navigate the country’s new political, social, and moral landscape.

Andrew Jackson
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing,

Andrew Jackson returned to the Oval Office, so to speak, in 2017, when President Donald Trump hung the 7th President’s portrait there. Jackson remains one of the most studied and controversial figures in American history. 

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

Nov 4, 2019
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. 

Cassandra King Conroy on SCETV's "By The River"
SCETV

In her new book, Tell Me A Story: My Life With Pat Conroy (2019, William Morrow), bestselling author Cassandra King Conroy considers her life and the man she shared it with, paying tribute to her husband, Pat Conroy, the legendary figure of modern Southern literature.

 Charleston, SC, on Sunday morning, July 21, 2015.
Linda O'Bryon/SCETV

On June 17, 2015, twelve members of the historically black Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina welcomed a young white man to their evening Bible study. He arrived with a pistol, 88 bullets, and hopes of starting a race war. Dylann Roof’s massacre of nine innocents during their closing prayer horrified the nation. Two days later, some relatives of the dead stood at Roof’s hearing and said, “I forgive you.” That grace offered the country a hopeful ending to an awful story. But for the survivors and victims’ families, the journey had just begun.

Balcony seating originally designed for enslaved persons attending services at Trinity Episcopal Church, Abbeville, SC
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.

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