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Walter Edgar's Journal

  • Margaret Seidler thought she knew her family’s history. Then, a genealogical search on-line led her to connect with a cousin who, unlike Margaret, was Black. Determined to find as much as she could about her lineage, Margaret soon came face to face with more than just an expanded family tree. And what she found led her to devote years to historical research and many difficult conversations about the centrality of the institution of slavery in Charleston, and the part some of her ancestors played in helping it flourish. This week we talk with Margaret Seidler about how this journey into history challenged her and about her new book, Payne-ful Business: Charleston’s Journey to Truth (2024, Evening Post Books).In the book, Seidler has written about the realities of Charleston’s racial history while highlighting the historians, journalists, and community members who work to reconcile those truths. And the enslaved individuals whom she found advertised for sale in ante bellum newspapers are brought to vivid life by artist John W. Jones. He truly uncovers the humanity hidden beneath those detached advertisements.
  • In 1976, the Cowpens, SC, Bicentennial Committee decided that the next town festival would be called the Mighty Moo Festival in honor of former crewmen of the USS Cowpens WWII aircraft carrier. Over the years since, many veterans who served on the ship during the war have attended the festival along with their families. Today, the town continues to celebrate the service of the carrier each father's day.In his book, The Mighty Moo: The USS Cowpens and Her Epic World War II Journey from Jinx Ship to the Navy’s First Carrier into Tokyo Bay, Nathan Canestaro tells the story of the ship and its untested crew who earned a distinguished combat record and beat incredible odds to earn 12 battle stars in the Pacific.Nathan joins us this week to talk about The Might Moo.
  • This week we're talking with Joseph McGill and Herb Frazier, authors of Sleeping with the Ancestors: How I Followed the Footprints of Slavery (2023, Hachette).Since founding the Slave Dwelling Project in 2010, Joseph McGill has been spending the night in slave dwellings throughout the South, but also the in North and in the West, where people are often surprised to learn that such structures exist. Events and gatherings arranged around these overnight stays have provided a unique way to understand the complex history of slavery. McGill and Frazier talk with us about how the project got started and about the sometimes obscured or ignored aspects of the history in the United States.
  • This week we'll be talking with Richard Hatcher, author of the book, Thunder in the Harbor: Fort Sumter and the Civil War. Construction of Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor began after British forces captured and occupied Washington during the War of 1812 via a naval attack. The fort was still incomplete in 1861 when the Battle of Fort Sumter occurred, sparking the American Civil War.In writing Thunder in the Harbor, Rick Hatcher conducted the first modern study to document the fort from its origins up to its transfer to the National Park Service in 1948.
  • This week, we'll be talking with author Kevin Duffus about his book, The 1768 Charleston Lighthouse : Finding the Light in the Fog of History.Charleston’s first lighthouse was established on Middle Bay Island in 1768. The history of the lighthouse, however, has been lost in a fog of misinformation. Kevin Duffus conducted extensive research for his book and has been able to reconstruct the history of America’s seventh – and tallest at the time – lighthouse. Kevin will tell us about the structure's distinctive architecture inspired by Charleston's St. Michael's Church, the ingenious Irishman who designed and built it, its variety of lighting systems, its involvement in three wars, and is tragic end.
  • In his book, The Garretts of Columbia: A Black South Carolina Family from Slavery to the Dawn of Integration, David Nicholson tells the story of his great-grandparents, Casper George Garrett and his wife, Anna Maria, and their family.A multigenerational story of hope and resilience, The Garretts of Columbia is an American history of Black struggle, sacrifice, and achievement - a family history as American history, rich with pivotal events viewed through the lens of the Garretts's lives.
  • On the Journal this week we will be talking with Robert James Fichter about his book, Tea: Consumption, Politics, and Revolution, 1773–1776.Fitcher says that despite the so-called Boston Tea Party in 1773, two large shipments of tea from the East India Company survived and were ultimately drunk in North America. Their survival shaped the politics of the years ahead, impeded efforts to reimburse the company for the tea lost in Boston Harbor, and hinted at the enduring potency of consumerism in revolutionary politics.
  • This week we talk with Claudia Smith Brinson about her new book, Injustice in Focus: The Civil Rights Photography of Cecil Williams (2023, USC Press). Claudia's rich research, interviews, and prose, offer a firsthand account of South Carolina's fight for civil rights and tells the story of Cecil Williams's life behind the camera. The book also features eighty of William’s photographs.Cecil Williams is one of the few Southern Black photojournalists of the civil rights movement. Born and raised in Orangeburg, South Carolina, Williams worked at the center of emerging twentieth-century civil rights activism in the state, and his assignments often exposed him to violence perpetrated by White law officials and ordinary citizens. Williams's story is the story of the civil rights era.
  • This week we have a fun conversation with author George Singleton about his new book Asides: Occasional Essays on Dogs, Food, Restaurants, Bars, Hangovers, Jobs, Music, Family Trees, Robbery, Relationships, Being Brought Up Questionably, Et Cetera. It's a collection of fascinating and curious essays, in which Singleton explains how he came to be a writer (he blames barbecue), why he still writes his first draft by hand (someone stole his typewriter), and what motivated him to run marathons (his father gave him beer). In eccentric world-according-to-George fashion, Laugh-In’s Henry Gibson is to blame for Singleton’s literary education, and Aristotle would’ve been a failed philosopher had he grown up in South Carolina.
  • Founded in 1749, Charleston, South Carolina's (KKBE) is one of the oldest congregations in America, and is known as the birthplace of American Reform Judaism. Their sanctuary is the oldest in continuous use for Jewish worship in America. The congregation's president, Naomi Gorstein, and Harlan Greene, historian, join us to trace the history of Jewish life in Charleston, which goes right back to the founding of the city. We'll also talk about the evolution of the KKBE congregation and their plans to celebrate the 275th anniversary of its founding in 2024.