Monthly Archive for May, 2011

Paul Ortiz on the Freedom Rides

Not long ago our friend Paul Ortiz, director of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program at the University of Florida, spoke to Florida’s WUFT FM (the area’s NPR affiliate) on the impact of the Freedom Rides on the civil rights movement. Listen here.

The Beating of James Zwerg

James Zwerg was a young white man, a Christian, who was among a group of Freedom Riders who rode a Greyhound bus into Montgomery, Alabama, in 1961. A mob of men were waiting with bats and chains. In a chilling act of foresight not unlike of the kind of planning executed by civil rights organizers, the mob had blocked streets leading to the bus station and chased away photographers. They didn’t want anyone to see what they were about to do.

What they were about to do was severely beat Zwerg and his fellow Freedom Riders. The beating had real ramifications, as later the nation saw Zwerg’s battered, bloodied face. From his hospital bed, his eyes swollen shut, Zwerg told a camera crew that he and his fellow activists were not afraid to die. The movement would go on. It was a remarkable message–and one delivered by a man so injured that he doesn’t even remember delivering it.

Zwerg didn’t feel like a hero. He was haunted by its memory and by the effect his activism had on his relationship with his parents. He felt guilty that he received so much attention, believing that were he black he would have been ignored.

This article, and the documentary from which this story is drawn (“Freedom Riders” on PBS) are powerful reminders not only of the savagery of resistance to the movement but also of the multifaceted, complex personal legacies of civil rights activism.

“I Knew How to Talk Southern”

Margaret Herring was sent by SNCC into the lion’s den of Selma law enforcement because she could pass as a sympathetic white southerner. Watch:

“I Knew How to Talk Southern” from Southern Oral History Program on Vimeo.

Going Dark Tomorrow

Dear Readers,

Tomorrow from 2:30am to 12:30pm, this blog and the Long Civil Rights Movement Publishing Project’s Voice will be unavailable due to a “critical equipment upgrade” at the University Library. If during this dark time your thoughts being to take a malevolent tilt, please watch this heartwarming video:


The LCRM Team

Southern Cultures on the Civil War

Southern Cultures, the journal published by the Center for the Study of the American South, has gathered the many articles it’s published on the Civil War over the years in one place: take a look. Highlights for long civil rights movement scholars will likely include Trudier Harris’s review of the Confederate State of America; Franklin Forts’s “Living with Confederate Symbols”; and John Shelton Reed’s “Lay My Burden of Southern History Down.”

Congratulations to Southern Cultures–this special section of their website has been selected for preservation by the Library of Congress.

Performing Oral History

Guest post by UNC junior Elizabeth McCain.

At home they call it front-porch disease. It’s an affliction to which all Southerners with covered verandas, small stoops, or wrap-around porches are susceptible. Front porch disease is a condition where time slows; one forgets about one’s list, sips something cold, swats at mosquitoes, and pauses long enough to have a real conversation. You end up talking much longer than you intended or had time for, but the discussion is worth it.

The last two Wednesdays of this semester conversation on the porch of the Love House was of the best caliber. Students, community members, faculty, and professors gathered to reflect on the long struggle for civil rights and talk about what we still remains on the agenda.

Community leader and interviewee David Caldwell with Sarah Ransohoff

The gathering and discourse was prompted by presentations from Jacquelyn Hall’s History 670 class. I was fortunate to be a part of this course, which focuses on capturing and magnifying voices not usually heard in dominant civil rights narratives. We, both graduate and undergraduate students, interviewed people across the nation from Illinois to Florida to Mississippi to Chapel Hill. Through their words and recollections, we learned about the struggle for the black cultural center on campus, the tobacco buyout, the Rogers Road Landfill, Mexican-American deportation during Second World War, the current leadership philosophies of the Wake County School Board, and many other events.
Continue reading ‘Performing Oral History’

OT: Crook’s Corner

The cameo by Center for the Study of the American South’s Senior Associate Director (and noted folklorist and documentarian) Bill Ferris will be our excuse to brag on local favorite Crook’s Corner, featured here in a video from the James Beard Foundation.

Michael Kreyling on the Politics of Memory

From the Center for the Study of the American South: Michael Kreyling, Professor of English at Vanderbilt University, explores the cultural politics of memory in representations of the South through an examination of re-enacted memory in latter-day versions of the Civil War. Professor Kreyling’s talk is part of the Center’s Hutchins Lecture series.

Michael Kreyling – Who Needs Ceremonies of Memory?: The 150th Anniversary from CSAS on Vimeo.

Marci Campbell on Health and Poverty

From the Center for the Study of the American South: Marci Campbell, a member of the Society for Behavioral Medicine and a program leader for prevention and control at the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, speaks about her work in eastern NC with recognizing and intervening creatively to address root causes of poor health.

Marci Campbell – Health and Wealth: Addressing Root Causes of Poor Health in Eastern NC Through Assets Development from CSAS on Vimeo.

Barbara Ellen Smith: “The Politics of Place”

From the Center for the Study of the American South: Barbara Ellen Smith, professor of Sociology and the Director of Women’s & Gender Studies at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, engages the politics of place to explore place-attachment in the contemporary American South and to illuminate the theoretical meanings of place as a political resource. Her talk was part of the Center’s Hutchins Lecture series.

Barbara Ellen Smith – The Politics of Place from CSAS on Vimeo.