An interdisciplinary journal about regions, places, and cultures of the US South and their global connections
Posted on August 6, 2013
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Christopher Lirette, Emory University

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The Bulletin compiles news from in and around the US South. We hope these posts will provide space for lively discussion and debate regarding issues of importance to those living in and intellectually engaging with the US South.

  • The Equality of Opportunity project, a research initiative led by four economists from Harvard and Berkeley, released a working paper detailing the variation in income-mobility across the US States's "commuting zones." Unsurprisingly, parts of the US South did not make a good showing in terms of upward mobility. The study proposes that a lack of upward mobility is correlated to the presence commuter zones that have sprawling neighborhoods segregated by race and income, lower quality K–12 education, and a higher proportion of single-parent families. If you live in Atlanta, where Southern Spaces is based, then these descriptions are probably feeling familiar. Research agrees: Atlanta, which ranked the fifth worst of the one hundred largest commuter zones in the study (worst here meaning the least likely for children born to low-income families to ever rise out of poverty), was used by The New York Times and Atlanta Magazine to illustrate these correlations. Nevertheless, this study only identified elements correlated to a lack of upward mobility without regard for causation. So if you'd like to know why a sprawling metropole ranks so low while other such commuter zones (such as Houston) rank higher, you might want to consider using this project's data to launch a study of your own.
  • Following up on Shelby County v. Holder, the case that struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965, the US Attorney General Eric Holder and the Obama administration set in process actions that would reinstate the voting law preclearance in Texas, bringing a case to a federal court in Texas that would invoke Section 3(c) of the VRA, a section that gives the federal government authority to add districts to the preclearance list if there is substantial evidence of discriminatory voting practices. Using Section 3(c) would give the federal government full rights to enforce Section 5, the part of the VRA that actually calls for preclearance but is now moot due to the Supreme Court overruling Section 4(b), the provision that populated the list of jurisdictions that required preclearance. If Holder's strategy succeeds in Texas, the reinstatement of blocked voting laws in states with a history of racial discrimination might be short-lived.
  • Though sodomy laws were declared unconstitutional in 2003 by the Supreme Court, an East Baton Rouge Sheriff's department has busted upwards of twelve men since 2011 with Louisiana's outdated sodomy law. According to the Baton Rouge Advocate, the department sent male undercover officers to cruise for men in Manchac park, wired for surveillance. After engaging in flirty banter with a target, the undercover agent would suggest they take the conversation to his apartment for "some drinks and some fun." The agent would then suggest they practice safe sex using condoms, before arresting the unsuspecting target. The charge? Attempting a crime against nature. The Sheriff's department offered an explanation on Facebook: "To our knowledge, the Sheriff's office was never contacted or told that the law was not enforceable or prosecutable." None of the last twelve case actually made it to court, since District Attorney Hillar Moore III found no evidence of any crimes committed. Louisiana is not alone in having anti-sodomy laws still on the books: it is "illegal" to engage in oral or anal sex in fourteen states and Michigan was caught doing special "sting" operations targeting gay men in 2011.
  • In other sodomy news, Virginia Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli has launched a campaign to bring back Virginia's anti-sodomy law.1 He argues that without an anti-sodomy law (here defined again as oral or anal sex) prosecutors have no way to convict sexual predators who would target children, despite the cornucopia of both state and federal laws that are still in effect.2 In 2009, Cuccinelli argued, "homosexual acts are . . . intrinsically wrong. And I think in a natural law based country, it's appropriate to have policies that reflect that." Though the Supreme Court struck down sodomy laws in 2003, they remain in the Virginia Code. A federal appeals court specifically struck down this statute this March in the course of a case where an adult male solicited oral sex from a seventeen year old on the basis that the prosecution used the crimes against nature statue upon which to base its case.
  • 1. The first proposed law on sodomy in the newly formed United States of America was introduced by a committiee including none other than Thomas Jefferson. This revision of the contemporary Virginia law carried a penalty of castration for men and "cutting thro' the cartilage of her nose a hole of one half inch diameter at the least" for women for committing rape, polygamy, or sodomy. This proposal, which included revisions for several other crimes, was rejected, retaining the death penalty in case of sodomy.
  • 2. 18.2-48(ii)(iii), 13.2-61, 13.2-63, 18.2-67.3, 18.2-67.4, 18.2-370, and 18.2-374 (respectively Abduction for Immoral Purpose, Rape, Carnal Knowledge of Minor where the perpetrator is more than five years older than the victim, Aggravated Sexual Battery or Sexual Contact with the victim being under thirteen, Sexual battery where the perpetrator is over eighteen but the victim is under six, Taking Indecent Liberties with a Minor, and Child Pornography).
Posted on August 1, 2013
by

Sarah Melton, Emory University

in
Advertisement announcing reward for runaway slave, Wilmington Advertiser, May 24, 1839. Courtesy of the North Carolina Runaway Slave Advertisements database.
Advertisement announcing reward for runaway slave, Wilmington Advertiser, May 24, 1839. Courtesy of the North Carolina Runaway Slave Advertisements database.

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (NC A&T) have launched the North Carolina Runaway Slave Advertisements project, a database of all known runaway slave ads in North Carolina newspapers between 1751 and 1840. With its comprehensive focus, the project is a useful resource for scholars and students interested in the history of slavery and resistance. In addition to scanned advertisements, the database includes transcripts and rich metadata for easy querying of the approximately 2400 ads. Additonally, project staff have provided some brief historical context for researchers. Samantha Winer, a digitization and transcription assistant, writes that this project offers, "insight not only into conditions and lifestyles experienced by the slaves but also into the plantation economy."1

Advertisement for a runaway slave, North Carolina Gazette, May 5, 1775. Courtesy of the North Carolina Runaway Slave Advertisements database.
Advertisement for a runaway slave, North Carolina Gazette, May 5, 1775. Courtesy of the North Carolina Runaway Slave Advertisements database.

While the structure of most ads is uniform, some offer deeper insight into the global system of slavery. This 1775 ad from Wilmington, for example, details the escape of a slave named Quamino with two indentured servants. In addition to the typical physical description ("about 30 Years of Age, has a Scar above his right Eye . . ."), the slaveholder has noted that Quamino is "marked with his Country Marks," or patterns of facial scarification that served as markers of ethnicity and identification.2 Clicking through the hyperlinked term "country marks" reveals that the phrase is in circulation in the eighteenth century, but its last appearance is in 1807a year before the United States prohibited the importation of slaves. This shift in the visuality of slavery might be of interest to scholars who want to study the changing nature of the US slave economy.

Screenshot from North Carolina Runaway Slave database.
Screenshot from North Carolina Runaway Slave database.

This database is one of the latest additions to digital resources about runaway slaves. While most databases do not yet provide features like transcripts, there are a number of useful tools available for researchers and students. UNCG has created the Digital Library on American Slavery, a database of nearly 3,000 legislative petitions, 14,500 county court petitions, as well as personal documents like wills and bills of sale. Professor Thomas Costa at the University of Virgina has compiled runaway slave advertisements from 18th-century Virginia newspapers. One of the most comprehensive sources of information about runaway slaves and their journeys comes from the Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture. Their Runaway Journeys project contains maps, images, documents, and lesson plans. This comprehensive resource covers the history of slavery, routes of runaway slaves, the Civil War, and its aftermath. The North Carolina Runaway Slave Advertisements project's comprehensive coverage, rich metadata, and searchable transcripts make the database a highly useful contribution to these existing tools.

  • 1. Samantha Winer, "A brief history of slavery in North Carolina," North Carolina Runaway Slave Advertisements, 1751–1840, http://libcdm1.uncg.edu/cdm/history/collection/RAS.
  • 2. Of course, physical markings cannot necessarily be correlated with ethnicity or geographic origin. As Michael Gomez notes in Exhanging Our Country Marks (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1998), it is notoriously difficult to track the geographical origins of enslaved peoples, as owners would often ascribe places of birth that are difficult to verify.
Posted on July 10, 2013
by

Alan G. Pike, Emory University

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Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., June 7, 2009. Photograph by Mark Fischer. Courtesy of Mark Fischer.
Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., June 7, 2009. Photograph by Mark Fischer. Courtesy of Mark Fischer.

As our bulletins have previously reported, legislatures in a number of southern states have attempted to implement substantial and often controversial changes to their election rules in the last few years. Some of these legislative actions have been blocked by federal courts under section five of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). For example, The US District Court for the District of Columbia denied preclearance to a redistricting plan and voter ID law passed in Texas in 2011 and 2012 because the state failed to prove that these laws did not "have the purpose or effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group under section five of the Voting Rights Act." However, the Supreme Court's recent ruling in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder held that section four of the VRA—which defined a formula to identify areas of the country (many of which were in southern states) that required changes to voting laws be precleared by the Department of Justice or federal courts based on historic voting rights violations—was unconstitutional. As a result, the capacity of the federal government to challenge changes to states' voting laws and protect minority voters is substantially diminished. 

As Steve Suitts argued in a recent Southern Spaces piece ("Voting Rights, the Supreme Court, and the Persistence of Southern History"), changes to voting laws in southern states have been employed by legislators to deny African Americans and other minorities the franchise across the US South. Suitts's piece describes what was at stake in the Shelby County case and how it fit within both federal and sectional histories of voting rights oversight and restrictions.

In the wake of the decision, southern states moved to enact or resurrect restrictive voter ID laws. A few hours after the court's ruling, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott declared that the state's previously-blocked voter ID law and redistricting plans would go into effect immediately without approval from the federal government. In a similar move, South Carolina's Attorney General Alan Wilson declared that the state's new voter ID law—which was blocked by the Justice Department in 2011 before being precleared by a federal court in 2012—could now be enacted without asking permission or "being required to jump through the extraordinary hoops demanded by federal bureaucracy." A 2011 voter ID law passed in Alabama, but not yet precleared by the Justice Department, will presumably move forward now that a key barrier to its implementation has been removed. Virginia's pending voter ID law now is also free of preclearance requirements and will likely be implemented as well. Mississippi's voter ID law—put on hold by the Justice department in 2011 because the state failed to prove that its implementation would not hinder minority voting—will also move forward.

The impact of the court's ruling is especially apparent in North Carolina where the state's Republican-led legislature is moving to reshape voting laws, triggering protests and criticism in the media. A new voter ID law which passed the North Carolina House earlier this year but was held up in the Senate to wait for the Supreme Court ruling will now move forward. Another pending bill would likely curb college-age voting by preventing parents from claiming college students as dependents on their state income tax returns if their child registers to vote at their college address. Republican lawmakers in the state also plan to introduce an "omnibus voting bill" in the next few weeks that would decrease the number of early voting days and eliminate Sunday voting and same-day voter registration. Civil and voting rights groups in the state have already filed suit against the state's 2010 redistricting plan, characterizing it as "a cynical strategy to disenfranchise blacks," and vowing to fight any further changes to the state's election laws in the wake of the Shelby County decision. North Carolinians have been protesting outside the General Assembly since April in a series of "Moral Monday" demonstrations over a variety of Republican-led legislative actions, from changes in election rules to drastic cuts in unemployment benefits, education, and other programs. Yesterday, The New York Times editorial board lamented in an editorial entitled "The Decline of North Carolina" that a state "once considered a beacon of farsightedness in the South, an exception in a region of poor education, intolerance and tightfistedness" has had its reputation tarnished by the legislative agenda of its first majority-Republican legislature since 1870.

Opponents of these changes suggest that new voting rules like voter ID laws, redistricting, and limited early voting are designed to increase the influence of southern white conservative voters in a section of the country undergoing dramatic demographic change. According to the US Census Bureau, of eleven states whose Hispanic populations doubled between 2000 and 2011, nine were in the South. Hispanic voters, retirees, and transplants from other sections of the country are transforming the southern electorate, and the latest wave of changes to voting rules has many commentators wondering if the Republican Party can maintain its majorities while continuing to disfranchise southern voters. In the meantime, with federal preclearance effectively gutted, civil and voting rights groups will have to rely on lawsuits from private citizens to challenge changes to election procedures until Congress re-writes the section four rules invalidated by the Supreme Court. 

Posted on July 2, 2013
by

Christopher Lirette, Emory University

in

The Bulletin compiles news from in and around the US South. We hope these posts will provide space for lively discussion and debate regarding issues of importance to those living in and intellectually engaging with the US South.

  • 1. Incidentally, Gregg was never executed because he escaped from Georgia State Prison the night before his scheduled execution in 1980, only to be beaten to death in a bar fight in North Carolina. Texas executed the nation's first post-moratorium prisoner in 1982, Charles Brooks, the first person to be executed by lethal injection and the first African American executed since 1967.
Posted on June 19, 2013
by

Sarah Melton, Emory University

in

The Bulletin compiles news from in and around the US South. We hope these posts will provide space for lively discussion and debate regarding issues of importance to those living in and intellectually engaging with the US South.

Posted on May 23, 2013
by

Alan G. Pike, Emory University

in

The doctrine of "fair use" is an increasingly important concept for scholars, libraries, and universities as digital technologies continue to change the ways that we research, publish, and teach in higher education. The United States Copyright Office outlines its "fair use" policy in Section 107 of Title 17 of the United States Code, enumerating "various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered fair, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research." The limits of fair use doctrine continue to spark controversy as academic publishers, university libraries, and scholars debate the issue in federal court

While Southern Spaces does not have a specific "fair use" policy, we sometimes make fair use claims when justifying our occasional use of copyrighted material. As Sarah Melton discussed in a May 2012 blog post, we often wrestle with questions of fair use when finding media for our blog, our featured images posts, and the works of our authors. In March, we published a talk by Erich Nunn entitled "Hillbilly Records, Zulu Yodels, and the Sounds of a Global South" which uses the copyrighted work of Jimmie Rodgers, Hugh Tracey, and the Columbia Pictures Corporation. When we feel it is necessary to justify our fair use of such material, we record our "fair use" justifications and permissions information in the template associated with the piece. 

Screenshot of Southern Spaces "Edit" page showing the "Permissions and fair use" field.
Screenshot of Southern Spaces "Edit" page showing the "Permissions and fair use" field.

These justifications vary with each piece and are not public information. Rather, we include this step in our publication process to be sure that we pay special attention to issues of fair use and have an archive to turn to if copyright holders decide to challenge our use of their work. How do other online scholarly publications justify fair use of copyrighted materials?

Just for fun, I strongly recommend viewing A Fair(y) Use Tale, a brief video essay on fair use by Eric Faden, an Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies at Bucknell University.

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Posted on May 8, 2013
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Christopher Lirette, Emory University

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The Bulletin compiles news from in and around the US South. We hope these posts will provide space for lively discussion and debate regarding issues of importance to those living in and intellectually engaging with the US South.

  • Brood II, a billions-strong legion of cicadas, is expected to emerge later this summer and overrun the East Coast from North Carolina to Connecticut. Despite the scary name, this bug muster is no cause for alarm as magicicadas, the particular type of cyclical cicadas Brood II belongs to, have no mechanism for chewing (meaning they cannot bite you), instead sucking nutrients from plant sap. To attract female cicadas, the males of the species congregate in trees to form a deafening chorus that can reach up to 100 decibels—roughly as loud as a Ducati Monster 796. After a two-week shore leave in cities such as Washington, DC and New York City, the brood spawned by Brood II will tunnel underground and remain there for the next seventeen years. Then, Brood II will rise again.
  • Last year, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal and the Louisiana State Legislature instituted a voucher system that would give parents the choice to use money the state had allocated to pay for their child's public education to pay private school tuition. Tuesday, May 7, 2013, the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled that using this money outside the public school system is unconstitutional. Louisiana Justices also noted that the funding mechanism for the voucher system was not really valid anyway, since it only received fifty-one rather than the required fifty-three votes in the House and was filed late. It is unclear now where the money for the vouchers will come from, though the state committed to funding the private education of almost 8000 students through the voucher program just last week.
  • Also on Tuesday, South Carolina's first congressional district voted to elect former Governor Mark Sanford to fill Congressman Tim Scott's seat in the House of Representatives. Last December, Governor Nikki Haley appointed Congressman Scott to replace Senator Jim DeMint's seat in the Senate after the former senator stepped down to serve as president of The Heritage Foundation. This left a vacant seat in the House. Former Congressman Sanford, despite causing a great scandal in 2009 by covering up a romantic affair in Argentina with a story about hiking the Appalachian Trail, ran against Elizabeth Colbert Busch, the Director of Business Development at Clemson University and, incidentally, sister of faux-Republican comedian Stephen Colbert. Although this district has not elected a Democrat to Congress since conservative Democrat Mendel Jackson Davis retired from office in 1981, the race was too close to call coming into election day. Congressman Sanford will be up for reelection in 2014.