Mason Author Series: Jennifer Ritterhouse

Join the University Libraries for the book launch of Discovering the South: One Man’s Travels Through a Changing America in the 1930s on Wednesday, April 26 at 3 p.m. in the Fenwick Library Main Reading Room.

During the Great Depression, the American South was not merely “the nation’s number one economic problem,” as President Franklin Roosevelt declared. It was also a battlefield on which forces for and against social change were starting to form. For a white southern liberal like Jonathan Daniels, editor of the Raleigh News and Observer, it was a fascinating moment to explore. Attuned to culture as well as politics, Daniels knew the true South lay somewhere between Erskine Caldwell’s Tobacco Road and Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind. On May 5, 1937, he set out to find it, driving thousands of miles in his trusty Plymouth and ultimately interviewing even Mitchell herself.

In Discovering the South, historian Jennifer Ritterhouse pieces together Daniels’s unpublished notes from his tour along with his published writings and a wealth of archival evidence to put this one man’s journey through a South in transition into a larger context. Daniels’s well chosen itinerary brought him face to face with the full range of political and cultural possibilities in the South of the 1930s, from New Deal liberalism and social planning in the Tennessee Valley Authority, to Communist agitation in the Scottsboro case, to planters’ and industrialists’ reactionary worldview and repressive violence. The result is a lively narrative of black and white southerners fighting for and against democratic social change at the start of the nation’s long civil rights era.

Visit the author’s website for more about the project.

Jennifer Ritterhouse is associate professor of history at George Mason University. She is the author of Growing Up Jim Crow: How Black and White Southern Children Learned Race and several articles; editor of a reprint edition of Sarah Patton Boyle’s autobiography, The Desegregated Heart: A Virginian’s Stand in Time of Transition; and co-editor of Remembering Jim Crow: African Americans Tell About Life in the Segregated South. She teaches classes on the 20th-century US, the South, cultural history, and research methods.

The University Libraries’ Mason Author Series features Mason faculty and alumni authors throughout the year, and is generously sponsored by the University Bookstore. Upcoming readings include Distinguished Visiting Professor Michael Hayden on May 4.

For more information about the Mason Author Series, please contact John Warren, Head, Mason Publishing, publishing.gmu.edu

 

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