Southern Spaces is pairing with Emory University's Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library (MARBL) to publish short features on MARBL collections, events, and exhibits that tell the history of spaces and places in the US South. These posts investigate the geographical, historical, and cultural study of real and imagined southern spaces through the lens of archival sources and materials and are featured on both the Southern Spaces and MARBL blogs.
|Amos Paul Kennedy Jr. prints, Kennedy and Sons Collection, Emory University Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library.|
Printmaker Amos Paul Kennedy, Jr.'s posters and artists' books memorialize and celebrate African American history and culture. His work, housed in the Kennedy & Sons Collection in Emory's Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library (MARBL), tells complex, personal, and painful stories that contribute to a new vernacular in the depiction and description of African American experience in the United States. In describing his work, Kennedy writes, "I am a SOCIAL PRINTER! Whatever I print—because my work is dedicated to the documentation of Negro culture—whatever I print is political."1 Kennedy's posters, on which he literally spells out his messages, are the most blatant example of the political nature of his work. The two posters that bear the text "Equality is a Privilege Reserved for Blacks" and "Coffee Makes You Black" demonstrate that Kennedy's voice is both witty and insistent, challenging the viewer to reconsider perceptions of black culture, history, and art.
A self-described "humble negro printer," Kennedy creates many of his letterpress posters and postcards on commission. In the 2008 documentary Proceed and Be Bold!, which explores Kennedy's life and artistic output, Kennedy stated, "I don't believe in the thing called art . . . I think people just make stuff."2 Following this artistic vision, many of Kennedy's prints function as both advertisements and art, emerging from and responding to the idiosyncratic needs of the communities they illustrate and inhabit. As an artist, Kennedy has lived and worked in the rural towns of Gordo and York, Alabama, as well as the urban center of Detroit, Michigan, where he currently resides.
|Print from The Children Don't Count Exhibit, Amos Paul Kennedy Jr., Kennedy and Sons Collection, Emory University Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library.|
Kennedy relies less on traditional locales for exhibiting his art, such as galleries or museum spaces, and instead prefers more direct and democratic communication with the public. He sells prints online for $25 and in-person at local fairs. When he exhibits his work in museum spaces, Kennedy utilizes the space in both creative and political ways. For example, viewing the gallery exhibition of Kennedy's The Children Don't Count, a multiyear project dedicated to children killed in Chicago in the early 1990s, required visitors to walk over a series of prints bearing the name of a child and how his or her death occurred. Sample prints from the first instance of The Children Don't Count in MARBL's Kennedy & Sons collection remembers Chicago children who died in 1992.
The activist motivations that undergird much of Kennedy's work inflect his artist's book sculpture of a burned church included in MARBL's Kennedy and Sons collection. This piece takes its inspiration from the series of arsons of African American churches that swept the southern United States in the 1990s, echoing similar church burnings that took place during the civil rights movement. These incidents, which occurred at predominantly black rural churches from Arkansas to Virginia, targeted the very places that writer Amiri Baraka has described as the "social focal points" of black life.3 Kennedy's "Burnt Church" is part of a series he is creating to commemorate these recent burnings; "One . . . for every church," Kennedy writes about the project that is at once art, protest, and community rebuilding.4
|Burned church artist's book, exterior, Amos Paul Kennedy Jr., Kennedy and Sons Collection, Emory University Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library.||Burned church artist's book, interior, Amos Paul Kennedy Jr., Kennedy and Sons Collection, Emory University Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library.|
Kennedy's artists' books combine the written word he privileges in his posters with the provocative space of a church building decorated with long strips of bible pages that leap almost flame-like across the model building and onto its roof. The words of varying size and font wrap the building with flowing ribbons of text. While some of the text is legible, its function here is not to represent a literal, scriptural message, but rather to emphasize the power of the biblical words that survived the church burnings. The building itself, despite the ruin and decline suggested by the ashes scattered below it, emanates an otherworldly power. Upon close examination of the model building, it is apparent that the roof of the church can be lifted, revealing a charred Bible nestled in its core. The experience of opening the church sculpture is akin to that of opening a treasure chest: awe, disbelief and a certain reverence. In addition to highlighting the power of the violence that resulted in the series of fires the model church commemorates, Kennedy's sculpture emphasizes the imminent power of the communities and their sacred texts that have survived.
MARBL's collecting strength in black print culture also includes the papers of Carter G. Woodson and Kelly Miller, both notable African American artists and intellectuals. Kennedy's addition of this living memorial to MARBL joins the numerous collections in the archives documenting African American history and culture, all of which are available for further reexamination, interpretation, and study by researchers, scholars, and the general public.
About the Author
Claire Ittner graduated from Davidson College with a degree in English and Art History. She worked as a project researcher at MARBL until May 2014, and is now working in the Center for Jazz Studies at Columbia University.
- 1. Amos Paul Kennedy, Jr., "Social Book Binding," in Talking the Boundless Book: Art, Language, and the Book Arts, ed. Charles Alexander (Minneapolis: Minnesota Center for Book Arts, 1995), 47.
- 2. Proceed and be Bold!, directed by Laura Zinger (Chicago: Brown Finch Films, 2008), DVD.
- 3. LeRoi Jones, Blues People: Negro Music in White America (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1963), 40-41.
- 4. Amos Paul Kennedy, Jr., letter to author, March 14, 2014, Kennedy and Sons Collection, Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University Archives.
Call for Papers from The Southern Quarterly: Special Issue on "The Mississippi River and Southern Icons"
The Southern Quarterly has issued a call for papers for an upcoming special issue on the significance of the Mississippi River in works of creative expression. From The Southern Quarterly:
Editor: Philip Kolin, The University of Southern Mississippi
Publication Schedule: Volume 52, no. 3 (Spring 2015)
Call: The Southern Quarterly invites submissions for a special issue devoted to the lower Mississippi River as an icon for the twentieth-century South. We are looking for scholarly articles, archival documents, and interviews (but no poetry) on the symbolic importance of the river for and in Southern poetry and fiction, film, music, popular culture, and art. Interdisciplinary articles that focus on more than one of these areas are especially welcome. Manuscripts should run between twenty to twenty-five pages (double-spaced) and follow the MLA style of documentation. Please query Philip Kolin with any questions about your submission.
SoQ does not consider multiple submissions or work that has been approved elsewhere. Please follow the SoQ guidelines, which are available online. For consideration for this special issue, please submit original manuscripts by November 1, 2014.
Email submissions of Microsoft Word documents to SouthernQuarterly@gmail.com are preferred over postal delivery.
About the Journal: The Southern Quarterly is an internationally-known scholarly journal devoted to the interdisciplinary study of Southern arts and culture. For SoQ, "the arts" is defined broadly, and includes painting, sculpture, music, dance, poetry, photography, and popular culture. We also publish studies of Southern culture from such disciplines as literature, folklore, anthropology, and history. "The South" is defined as the region south of the Mason Dixon Line, including the Caribbean and Latin America. Regular features include reviews of books and films, periodic reviews of exhibitions and performances, as well as interviews with writers and artists.
Southern Spaces is pairing with Emory University's Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library (MARBL) to publish short features on MARBL collections, events, and exhibits that tell the history of spaces and places in the US South. These posts investigate the geographical, historical, and cultural study of real and imagined southern spaces through the lens of archival sources and materials and are featured on both the Southern Spaces and MARBL blogs.
|Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta, Georgia, December 14, 2006. Photograph by Brett Weinstein. Released under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license.|
Imagine you are facing north from the main quadrangle of Emory University in Atlanta. Rising from the foreground of Emory's gray-pink marble halls and terra cotta roofs, shimmering against a limpid Georgia sky, the glassy towers of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) hover into focus. Surrounded by fences and walls, the CDC campus appears impenetrable. Imposing security gates and high modern façades add a sense of permanence that belies the agency's earliest beginnings in rural South Georgia. Assimilating diverse research agendas, the CDC has worked to eradicate innumerable diseases in the postwar period and its mandate has assumed an international scope. But the CDC's broad mission and glimmering campus were preceded in the early twentieth century by a simple headquarters of wooden frame buildings and one highly localized disease endemic to the Lowland South: malaria.
|Mosquito collection, Emory University Field Station on Ichauway Plantation, Baker County, Georgia, ca. 1938–1945. Photograph by United States Public Health Services Office of Malaria Control in War Areas, Melvin H. Goodwin papers, Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University.|
Housed in Emory University's Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, the papers of epidemiologist, educator, and early CDC administrator Melvin Harris Goodwin (1917–2004) narrate the movement of malaria research from Georgia's southern hinterlands to its capital in Atlanta—and the eventual consolidation of that research under the auspices of a sprawling federal agency devoted to disease control and eradication.
Melvin Goodwin's career began in 1936 when he became the summertime assistant to Roy A. Hill, a South Georgia physician who specialized in the treatment of malaria. Hill contracted with regional drug companies that had begun synthesizing new antimalarials like Atabrine. Using these products alongside quinine—the centuries-old fever reducer now mainly recognized for the bitter taste it gives to tonic water—Hill canvassed the farmlands between Thomasville and Tallahassee providing medical care to malaria-carrying rural laborers. Chronic and ubiquitous, malaria not only affected the health of laborers, but sapped the region's production capacity as well. Goodwin would recall the staggering prevalence of malaria throughout the South in an interview nearly thirty years later:
. . . Every commercial and educational activity had to plan on living with malaria. For instance . . . the Brooks-Scanlon Lumber Company in Taylor County, Florida, where we worked in 1936–1937 employed about 700 people to maintain a working force of 300. More than half of the crew was ill with malaria at all times during the malaria season. The workers would actually plan to work in anticipation of their malarial attacks . . . This was expected as a way of life.1
Melvin Harris Goodwin, on left, at the Emory University Field Station, Baker County, Georgia. Photograph. Melvin H. Goodwin papers, Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University.
In the summer of 1938, Hill began administering treatments at Ichauway Plantation in Baker County, Georgia. It was here that the young Goodwin, still an undergraduate at Emory College, met Ichauway owner and Coca-Cola executive Robert W. Woodruff. Woodruff had attended Emory College prior to its relocation to Atlanta from the original Oxford campus and remained a loyal supporter of the university as it began developing graduate and professional programs, including a School of Medicine in 1915. Woodruff understood malaria as a major impediment to social and economic development in the southern states and suggested the creation of an epidemiological research center to be headquartered at Ichauway. In a meeting with Goodwin and several university administrators, Woodruff arranged institutional support for an Emory-run epidemiological research station to be overseen and staffed by Emory's medical school. With Goodwin as its assistant director, this research center was established as the Emory University Field Station in April 1939. Its first offices were located in a vacant polling station owned by the county, but its facilities expanded alongside research activity, with several new buildings being erected by the mid-1940s. Shaded by live oaks and Spanish moss, the field station's wooden frame laboratories dotted one corner of the vast rural estate.
|Women receive health services, Emory University Field Station on Ichauway Plantation, ca. 1938–1945, Baker County, Georgia. Photograph by United States Public Health Services Office of Malaria Control in War Areas, Melvin H. Goodwin papers, Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University.|
As the United States entered the Second World War, operations at the field station were temporarily suspended. More importantly, the declaration of war would transform the priorities and architecture of epidemiological research in America for decades to come. Just months before Pearl Harbor, Goodwin could still speak of malaria as a regional issue:
. . . it is proper to state that malaria has assumed an important role in the social and economic retardation of the South. To make the affected area attractive to the outside capitol [sic] necessary for industrial and agricultural exploitation, malaria must be controlled. To control malaria economically and efficiently, more fundamental knowledge about it is required. This is both the reason and the objective of malaria research.2
Almost immediately upon Congress's declarations of war in December 1941, however, malaria emerged as a paramount international health concern for the United States military. Deployment of American soldiers to the Pacific theater, where malarious conditions prevailed, made the disease a matter of national urgency. No longer could Americans ignore malaria as the peculiar scourge of rural southern laborers.
The exigencies of war demanded cooperation and consolidation in various industries; epidemiological research was no exception. Shortly after America's entry into the war, the United States Public Health Service (USPHS) absorbed the Emory University Field Station at Ichauway. A commissioned officer in the USPHS, Goodwin split time between the Field Station in Baker County and the recently established Office of Malaria Control in War Areas (MCWA) in Atlanta. Organized in 1942, the MCWA was the direct institutional predecessor to the modern CDC. Incorporating previously independent endeavors, it served as the umbrella organization for all research aimed at malaria treatment and prevention among American soldiers. If Goodwin's own résumé is representative, Emory University, the USPHS, and the MCWA shared staff unquestioningly.
|CDC Bulletin, July – September, 1946. Melvin H. Goodwin papers, Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University.|
Goodwin's papers in the Emory University Archives illumine his, and the Emory University Field Station's, centrality to the early project of disease control in America and cast light on the importance of malaria in the creation of a national disease control apparatus. They also conjure a deeply personal foundation of the CDC whose future, like its past, extends far beyond its glistening Atlanta laboratories. Like the war, however, the MCWA did not last forever. The long-awaited peace in 1945 required its own set of reorganizational efforts, leading to the dissolution of the MCWA the following year. Based in Atlanta, the CDC was born as its successor—first as the Communicable Disease Center and only later, in 1970, renamed the Center for Disease Control. As an early cover of the CDC Bulletin indicates, it is difficult to overestimate the centrality of malaria research, treatment, and eradication to the early history of the organization that became the CDC. Much like Goodwin—who would direct the CDC's satellite at Ichauway until 1957 before leaving to direct a new CDC facility in Arizona—the Emory University Field Station had been absorbed as a foundational component of an increasingly vast national agency. Both Goodwin and the Ichauway station would remain operational, at least temporarily. As the CDC began to consolidate itself, administratively and geographically, around a few central buildings in Atlanta, both the South Georgia station and its longtime director became increasingly peripheral to the operations of a burgeoning federal agency.
About the Author
Sean T. Suarez is a doctoral student in the Graduate Division of Religion at Emory University. His research explores transformations in science, technology, and religion in the nineteenth-century United States. He has studied religion at Yale University and the University of the South, and is a lifelong lover of maps.
- 1. Melvin H. Goodwin, Interview with Boisfeuillet Jones and Hunter Bell, August 10, 1966, Box 1, Folder 7, Melvin H. Goodwin papers, Manuscripts, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University.
- 2. Melvin H. Goodwin, Briefing Memorandum on Emory University Field Station, 1941, Box 1, Folder 7, Melvin H. Goodwin papers, Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University.
Reuse, Author Choice, and the Open Access Spectrum: New Creative Commons Licenses for Southern Spaces Authors
Southern Spaces is now offering authors the option of distributing new work published in the journal under a Creative Commons license. Beginning in 2014, in addition to retaining copyright of their work, authors may now elect to license their work under the following Creative Commons licenses.
|Creative Commons loves Open Access, 2014. A derivative work based on an illustration by Jan Ainali. Released under a CC BY SA license by Southern Spaces.|
- Using a CC BY (attribution) license, authors allow their work to be freely distributed, copied, and performed, as long as users give credit to the original work. A CC BY license also allows for derivative works. An author might choose this license if she wants to provide the greatest opportunity for reuse.
- Under a CC BY-ND (attribution, no derivatives) license, users are free to copy, display, distribute, or perform the original work with attribution. Users may not make derivative works, such as those "consisting of editorial revisions, annotations, elaborations, or other modifications which, as a whole, represent an original work of authorship."1 An author might choose this license if she wants to retain the exclusive right to make such modifications.
- A CC BY-NC (attribution, non-commercial) license allows for copies, distribution, display, or performances of a work by attribution, but only for non-commercial uses. This license also allows for derivative works. Authors might choose this license if they wish to prohibit commercial publishers from republishing their work without obtaining further explicit permission. Authors should be aware that since much academic publishing is commercial, this license may "discourag[e] or at least slow . . . down [commercial] re-use of [their] content by requiring that people ask . . . permission."2
- The CC BY-NC-ND (attribution, non-commercial, no derivatives) license is the most restrictive choice offered by Southern Spaces. Users may copy, distribute, display, or perform a work, but only for non-commercial purposes. No derivative works are permitted. Authors might choose this license if they wish to encourage greater distribution of their work without permission than would be possible if retaining copyright, but restrict commercial entities from republishing their scholarship, and prohibit all users from making modifications to their work without permission.
Our decision to offer these options is an example of our ongoing evaluation of how to manifest our journal's commitment to open access publishing. By providing greater reuse rights through adopting a Creative Commons license, authors gain the potential to increase the reach and future use of their scholarship.3
Creative Commons licenses also provide an attribution requirement, which is particularly relevant to scholarly publishing but is not included in US Copyright Law.4 Attribution through citations is an important component of scholarly integrity, providing readers with the means to follow a scholar's arguments. Citation counts are also used to assist tenure and promotion committees in assessing a scholar's impact and productivity.5
The publishers of the Public Library of Science (PLOS) have described open access as a spectrum, prompting a move "beyond the deceptively simple question of, 'Is It Open Access?' toward a more productive evaluation of 'HowOpenIsIt?'" Among PLOS's criteria for gauging where a publication lies on the open access spectrum are "reuse" and "copyright." For PLOS, "closed access" means "no reuse rights beyond fair use/limitations and exceptions to copyright (all rights reserved copyright)." PLOS ranks various Creative Commons licenses on its spectrum of openness, characterizing CC BY-ND licenses as midway between open and closed, CC BY-NC licenses as occupying a middle ground, and CC BY licenses as the gold standard for open access.6
Our decision to have authors retain their copyright and give authors the choice among four Creative Commons licenses is based on our desire to balance our commitment to open access with a desire to serve our authors' professional aspirations and respect their choices. Authors may wish to retain some say over who reuses their work, and under what conditions. Some publishers, for example, have stringent requirements about the licensing of previously published works. Retaining copyright can be important for authors who are working on book manuscripts or other projects that may incorporate pieces published elsewhere, especially those authors seeking tenure or promotion. While we encourage the free circulation of information, we believe it is unfair to impose reuse requirements on authors—particularly given the imperatives of "publish or perish" and instability in hiring in higher education.
This new author agreement represents the journal's parallel commitments to open access and to supporting authors of all academic ranks, including those outside the academy. We encourage interested authors to contact us with any questions about our new licensing options, and we look forward to participating in further conversations about open access and author's rights.
See and share the infographic below on Southern Spaces's new author agreement.
- 1. "17 US Code, Chapter 1, Section 101–Definitions," Legal Information Institute, Cornell University Law School, accessed February 10, 2014, http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/17/101.
- 2. Bethany Nowiskie, "Why, Oh Why, CC-BY?" nowviskie.org, May 11, 2011, accessed February 10, 2014, http://nowviskie.org/2011/why-oh-why-cc-by/.
- 3. At present, there have been no studies on the effects of Creative Commons licensing on future use of scholarship. However, scholars such as informatics professor Dr. Mathias Klang have reported that their Creative Commons–-licensed work has gained more exposure than other publications. See Mathias Klang, "The Advantages of Creative Commons in Academia," SpotOn, October 17, 2012, accessed February 18, 2014, http://www.nature.com/spoton/2012/10/the-advantages-of-creative-commons-in-academia/.
- 4. For more on attribution and US as well as European copyright law, see Christopher Jon Springman, Christopher J. Buccafusco, and Zachary C. Burns, "What's a Name Worth?: Experimental Tests of the Value of Attribution in Intellectual Property," Boston University Law Review 93 (2013): 101–147, http://scholarship.kentlaw.iit.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1732&context=fac_schol.
- 5. New citation analysis tools such as Google Scholar cast an unprecedentedly wide net in identifying sources in which to search for citations, perhaps making requiring attribution—already assumed in traditional scholarly publishing—more consequential. On the use of citation counts and related metrics in tenure and promotion decision-making, see, for example, Henk F. Moed, Citation Analysis in Research Evaluation (Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer, 2005). The merits of favoring citation counts in tenure and promotion decisions have long been debated, sometimes charmingly so, as in Eugene Garfield, "Citation Frequency as a Measure of Research Activity and Performance," in Essays of an Information Scientist, ed. Eugene Garfield (Philadelphia: ISI Press, 1977), 406–408.
- 6. "HowOpenIsIt?: Open Access Spectrum (OAS)," Public Library of Science, 2013, accessed February 3, 2014, http://www.plos.org/open-access/howopenisit/.
The Southern Quarterly recently published a special issue devoted to the work of Natasha Trethewey, US Poet Laureate and member of Southern Spaces's editorial board. As Southern Quarterly editor Philip C. Kolin notes, at forty-seven, Trethewey is "the youngest writer to have a special issue [of the journal] focused on her achievements."1 In an essay eulogizing the poet Seamus Heaney, Trethewey describes feeling a "calling to make sense of my South, with its terrible beauty, its violent and troubled past,"2 signaling how the southern and spatial contexts in which she grew up inform the themes she engages in her writing. Guest edited by Joan Wylie Hall, the Southern Quarterly special issue addresses themes of history, race, place, memory, and intertextuality through poems, an in-depth interview with Trethewey, and eight critical essays.
Southern Spaces is happy to have supported the Southern Quarterly by granting permission to include a number of images of Trethewey that have previously appeared in publications in our journal. This special issue complements scholarship published in Southern Spaces analyzing Trethewey's life and work, including Jake Adam York's 2010 interview with Trethewey, and Coleman Hutchison's presentation "Three Poems and a Critique of Postracialism," which charts how Trethewey and poets Elizabeth Alexander and C. S. Giscombe "conceive of, interrogate, and then steadfastly refuse the concept of the postracial in and for a post-emancipation society."3 Former Southern Spaces managing editor Katie Rawson compiled a bibliography of Trethewey's extensive contributions to our journal in a post congratulating Trethewey on her appointment as US Poet Laureate.
Copies of the special issue of the Southern Quarterly on Natasha Trethewey (volume 50, number 4) are available and may be ordered by following the instructions on the journal's "Order Back Issues" page. The journal has published the Natasha Trethewey issue's table of contents and introductions from the journal's editor and the special issue's guest editor on its website.
- 1. Philip C. Kolin, "Editor's Introduction: The Triple Crown," The Southern Quarterly 50, no. 4 (Summer 2013): 5, http://www.usm.edu/southern-quarterly-literary-magazine/intros/504edintro.pdf.
- 2. Natasha Trethewey, "How Seamus Heaney Influenced Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey," The Daily Beast, September 3, 2013, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/09/03/how-seamus-heaney-influenced-poet-laureate-natasha-trethewey.html, quoted in Joan Wylie Hall, "Guest Editor's Introduction: 'The Necessary Utterance'—Natasha Trethewey's Southern Poetics," The Southern Quarterly 50, no. 4 (Summer 2013): 7, http://www.usm.edu/southern-quarterly-literary-magazine/intros/504guestedintro.pdf.
- 3. Coleman Hutchison, "Three Poems and a Critique of Postracialism," Southern Spaces, December 25, 2012, http://southernspaces.org/2012/three-poems-and-critique-postracialism.
"I'm tired of these categories." —Patricia Yaeger1
In a recent New York Times opinion piece, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, who received a PhD in economics from Harvard University, asks, "How many American men are gay?" While this question is notoriously difficult to answer in any definitive way, and though he uses non-"ideal" sources such as "surveys, social networks, pornographic searches, and dating sites" to compile "evidence" on the "number of gay men" in this country, Stephens-Davidowitz still finds a "consistent story" that suggests at least 5 percent of American men are "predominately" attracted to other men. Millions of these "gay men," he goes on to say, still live in the closet, and many, the "evidence suggests," are married to women.2
The attempt to statistically classify and pinpoint the number of "gay" men "in our midst" is nothing new. Unveiling and unmasking our identities so that we can be categorized, numbered, and made intelligible forms part of what Michel Foucault, in his History of Sexuality: The Will to Knowledge, called the "deployment of sexuality."3 The "truth" of sex for Foucault is not found in individual identity; instead he insists that we must develop an "analytics" that views power as diffuse and capillary, refusing the perhaps too-easy notion that a power over sex can be wielded via a conquering "liberation" or dominating "affirmation" of one's own knowable, classifiable sexuality.4
|Participants march in the 2009 Memphis, Tennessee gay pride parade. Photograph by Debbie Ramone. Courtesy of Debbie Ramone.|
Stephens-Davidowitz's Times opinion piece (and the larger work it suggests) explicitly places sexuality within this framework of exposure, intelligibility, and liberation that Foucault problematized. Stephens-Davidowitz returns us to the closet so that we may link hands with those who experience a "secret suffering" that "can be directly attributed to intolerance of [their] homosexuality" and walk with them into more tolerant climes and locales.5 The majority of these "secret" sufferers live in intolerant states, which according to Nate Silver, nearly all fall neatly below the Mason-Dixon line. The bottom six states, the "least tolerant," in descending order, are South Carolina, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi. Of the twenty-three states listed as above the national average of "tolerance," not one is in the South.6 In more tolerant states, "the openly gay population is dramatically higher." Yet, these "less tolerant states" or "intolerant areas" prevent what Stephens-Davidowitz finds implicitly possible: a "perfectly tolerant world" in which a neat 5 percent of men could say they are "interested in men," which of course is different from saying they openly identify as "gay." Stephens-Davidowitz finds no reason to believe there are fewer gay-inclined men in less tolerant states, but there are "far fewer openly gay men," and therefore, "there is a clear relationship between tolerance and openness" about one's sexuality.7
Stephens-Davidowitz buys into a narrative with a history. Mississippi has long been described with an array of debasing superlatives, consistently occupying the proverbial bottom rung of the ladder in our national obsession with rankings. Writing in 1931, H. L. Mencken and Charles Angoff labeled Mississippi the "worst" American state; in 2014, Politico writer Margaret Slattery echoed this line of thought, implicitly labeling Mississippi both the "worst" and the "weakest" state in her ranking of the fifty US states from weakest to strongest. (Slattery even gives us a formula: "1 = Best.").8 The strongest state, Massachusetts, is ironically the most "fabulous" state, while Mississippi, most intolerant, is far from fabulous; it is, Slattery writes, a "failed" state. According to both Silver and Stephens-Davidowitz, Mississippi has failed the tolerance test; it is the most intolerant, the least fabulous, and therefore the most "closed." Despite a recent Daily Show segment, in which an incognito gay couple elicited surprisingly tolerant and enthusiastic (some might even say fabulous) reactions from some Alabama and Mississippi residents, Deep South states like Mississippi continue to be figured as containing the most occupied closets with doors shut.9
|Screenshot from The Daily Show segment "Last Gay Standing," 2013.|
Nowhere is this association of Mississippi with intolerance more problematic than the final turn of Stephens-Davidowitz's piece, when he "get[s] tired of looking at aggregate data" and talks with a real person, an unnamed retired Mississippi professor in his sixties who "has always known he was attracted to men" but has remained in a sexless marriage to a woman for forty years. This professor, however, did at least once sleep with a male student of his in his late twenties.10 The assumption Stephens-Davidowitz makes here is that this sixty-year-old man cannot live his life openly because he is trapped in a place of intolerance. Place becomes the diagnosed pathology. In his attempt to classify and order gay men, he fails to analyze the fact that place is only one factor in the power grid that determines what is tolerated and what is not: in his neat map of the United States's tolerance, where is an analysis or mention of gender dynamics, age and generational differences, race, class, educational and healthcare disparities, and, perhaps most glaringly, religious beliefs? Where is a discussion of intersectionality? Stephens-Davidowitz's final scene leaves one very strong desire unexamined: what of the student in his late twenties in Mississippi who slept with his older professor? Does he feel trapped in his Mississippi-closet?
To open our eyes to the realities of Mississippi beyond "aggregate data" and shed some light on that twenty-year-old gay man's reality, let us return to the University. On October 1, 2013, a University of Mississippi performance of Moisés Kaufman's The Laramie Project 11 garnered national attention when unidentified audience members uttered homophobic comments. Originally exposed in the university's Daily Mississippian, national media outlets picked up the story as another example of Mississippi's intolerance. As an alumnus of the university, I can attest that Meek Auditorium, where the performance took place, is a small and intimate space—seating only 150—in which hate-speech would reverberate loudly. The actions of those audience members are inexcusable, but are they indicative of Mississippi's peculiar intolerance of homosexuality or a microcosmic snapshot of our national discomfort in directly facing the harsh realities of hate? Does such an example make Mississippi the most backward, the absolute worst?
|Stop the Hate. Bedsheet Angels march in the 2013 Atlanta Gay Pride Parade. Photograph by Nick Mickolas. Courtesy of Nick Mickolas.|
Here, the University of Mississippi once again comes to serve as the testing site for our national struggle to understand the complexities of hate, the different shapes of violence, and the challenges we face as a nation continuously confronted with difference. On October 1, 1962, James Meredith became the first African American student at the University of Mississippi. Chaos ensued. On October 1, 2013, the Ole Miss Theatre company performed The Laramie Project. Chaos ensued. Although the physical violence and loss of life associated with James Meredith's integration of the university during the height of the civil rights movement and the verbal violence associated with the recent Laramie performance are not to be equated, both events provoke reflective questions we must ask ourselves: in fifty one years, to the day, what has changed at the University of Mississippi? And more importantly, what has changed in how we, as a nation, think about difference and the ugly truths a hatred of difference can manifest?12 (The recent defilement and attack of a campus statue memorializing James Meredith's legacy at the university demands that such questions be discussed. Here again, the University of Mississippi serves, according to a recent New York Times article, as a testing site for "confronting a challenge with deep and difficult roots.")13
The Laramie Project and the wider story of Matthew Shepard's murder are often seen as convenient stories, neat narratives, in the teaching of prejudice and tolerance. However, Shepard's is but one of the many stories of gruesome homophobic violence in this country. All of these stories—even Matthew Shepard's—contain "raw and inchoate stuff that resists easy telling" and lack "clear beginnings and resonant endings."14 In the US South alone—those states defined as the least tolerant—a number of horrific murders attributed to LGBTQ-related hate have occurred in the last thirty years.15 Lost in attempts to locate and label sexuality, thereby freeing people from their uncomfortable closets, many are unaware of stories like these, in which LGBTQ people led open lives in the South and succumbed to hate-violence. Yet, such violence and "intolerance" are far from exclusively southern, despite what Stephens-Davidowitz's non-"ideal" sources revealed. Stephens-Davidowitz admits that intolerance is a national problem with a higher prevalence in southern states, yet his overarching narrative is another link in the chain of pathologizing southern space via flawed statistical aggregation. If we tolerate the received narrative of southern space, we neither think critically nor do justice to the stories of real people outside of often biased and imperfect data.
|Stage set for Lafayette College's 2011 Production of The Laramie Project. Photograph by Chuck Zovko and Lafayette College. Courtesy of Chuck Zovko and Lafayette College.|
In 2012, according to a report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), the most at risk LGBTQ populations remained transgendered persons, people of color, and gay men. Stephens-Davidowitz confines his study to "gay men," without any mention of race or gender-identification. Gay cisgender men remain the most likely to report acts of violence they have survived. As such, a 2011 FBI report indicates that of the 20.8 percent of hate crimes based on sexual orientation, 57.8 percent of those reported were classified as anti-male homosexual bias.16 The NCAVP report reiterates the 2012 UCLA Williams Institute findings that "gay men experienced higher rates of hate motivated physical violence than lesbians, bisexuals, or other federally protected groups including Black people and Jewish people."17 According to the NCAVP report, of the twenty-five reported hate violence homicides related to LGBTQ identity in 2012, only one occurred in the "deep" South: Marquita Jones was murdered near Memphis, Tennessee, the tenth most intolerant state in the country according to Silver and Stephens-Davidowitz.
Shifting the narrative requires an understanding that for every Duck Dynasty, there is a Southern Poverty Law Center, a Rethink Mississippi; for every Phil Robertson, a Jesse Peel. Hate and intolerance are neither tied to place, rooted in the soil, unyielding and unchanging, nor are they manifested solely via physical violence. We must remain aware of the complexities of prejudice's functionality: how it "works not just through the viciousness of physical violence but also through the daily erosion of selfhood by the friction of widespread, casually expressed hatred."18 The casually uttered "faggot" or "queen" or "queer" in response to a dramatic production has consequences that resonate beyond the walls of Meek Auditorium at the University of Mississippi. In isolating Mississippi, and the larger US South, as the least tolerant, we put the South on stage to be disciplined and punished. How easy it was for the Mississippi audience to isolate Matthew Shepard on a stage and re-victimize him with a slur.
|ATL, Love, graffiti in Atlanta, Georgia's Krog Street Tunnel, February 17, 2014. Photograph by Eric Solomon. From Eric Solomon.|
How easy it must seem for scholars and thinkers to look at data and isolate the South as the land of intolerance: how easy it is to label the worst, the weakest, the most backward. The harder but necessary challenge is to understand and help prevent the diffuse and far-reaching consequences of homophobic violence and intolerance. The harder work is to take the lessons learned from The Laramie Project inside Meek Auditorium into Oxford, Mississippi and the world at large. To paraphrase a great man, the harder work is to understand that people aren't born hating and can learn to love.
- 1. Patricia Yaeger, Dirt and Desire: Reconstructing Southern Women's Writing, 1930–1990 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), ix.
- 2. Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, "How Many American Men are Gay?," The New York Times, December 7, 2013, accessed December 9, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/08/opinion/sunday/how-many-american-men-are-gay.html.
- 3. Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality: Volume One: An Introduction (New York: Pantheon Books, 1978), 78. The book's title is often translated as "Volume One: An Introduction."
- 4. Ibid., 8, 82–83.
- 5. Stephens-Davidowitz, "How Many American Men Are Gay?"
- 6. Nate Silver, "How Opinion on Same-Sex Marriage Is Changing, and What It Means," The New York Times: FiveThirtyEight blog, March 26, 2013, accessed December 9, 2013, http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/26/how-opinion-on-same-sex-marriage-is-changing-and-what-it-means.
- 7. Stephens-Davidowitz, "How Many American Men Are Gay?"
- 8. Margaret Slattery, "The States of Our Union ... Are Not All Strong: We Ranked All 50 from Fabulous to Failed," Politico Magazine, January 24, 2014, accessed February 3, 2014, http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/01/states-of-our-union-are-not-all-strong-102547.html.
- 9. Madison Underwood, "In Alabama-Mississippi 'Intolerance-off,' The Daily Show Tests Reactions to a Gay Couple, Gets Surprising Reaction (Video, Poll)," AL.com, October 30, 2013, accessed February 20, 2014, http://www.al.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2013/10/in_alabama-mississippi_intoler.html.
- 10. Stephens-Davidowitz, "How Many American Men Are Gay?"
- 11. Kaufman's play, written in collaboration with the Tectonic Theater Project, details reaction to Matthew Shepard's 1998 brutal murder in Laramie, Wyoming. Combining personal interviews with town residents, journals of the theater company's members as they engaged in these interviews, and media coverage, Laramie creates a complicated portrait of how a town responds to violence, hatred, and loss.
- 12. Legislatively, some things have changed while some remain the same. As Christopher Lirette noted in an August 6 bulletin on the Southern Spaces Blog, since 2011 Baton Rouge police have unlawfully arrested at least a dozen men based upon a still-on-the-books state level sodomy law that was ruled federally unconstitutional with 2003's Lawrence v. Texas. In 2003, eight of the fourteen US states with anti-sodomy laws still on the books were in the South. Baton Rouge reveals the everyday slipperiness of archaic sodomy laws. Similarly, although the 2009 Shepard-Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act became the first all-inclusive federal bill, most southern states still do not include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected identity categories in hate crime legislation.
- 13. Alan Blinder, "Racist Episodes Continue to Stir Ole Miss Campus," The New York Times, February 20, 2014, accessed February 22, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/21/us/racist-episodes-continue-to-stir-ole-miss-campus.html.
- 14. Beth Lofredda, Losing Matt Shepard: Life and Politics in the Aftermath of Anti-Gay Murder (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000), x.
- 15. Some of these deaths include the 1973 UpStairs Lounge attack; the bludgeoning of Billy Jack Gaither; Scotty Joe Weaver's partial decapitation; Sean W. Kennedy's beating; the murders of Marcel Tye, Duanna Johnson, Tiffany Berry, Ebony Whitaker, Brenting Dolliole, Githe Goines, and Marquita Jones; and lastly, the beating and burning of Marco McMillan in 2013. The stories of these murders, all occurring on southern soil, are indeed horrific, but they remain a few of the raw seams to a larger narrative of hate-based crimes in this country; they are painful examples, but far from representative of a particularly southern problem or the array of hate-based crimes that occur every year. For more information on hate crimes legislation, state by state, visit Lambda Legal, Human Rights Campaign, and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. For information on LGBT rights in the US South and Hate and Extremism nationwide, visit the Southern Poverty Law Center. In addition, visit Robert T. Gonzalez, "An Interactive Map of Racist, Homophobic and Ableist Tweets in America," io9, May 10, 2013, http://io9.com/an-interactive-map-of-racist-homophobic-and-ableist-tw-499908637 to view the 2013 "geography of hate" map, in which hate's spatiality seems divided along an East–West line rather than a North–South one.
- 16. "Hate Crimes Statistics 2011: Incidents and Offenses," FBI, 2011, http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/hate-crime/2011/narratives/incidents-and-offenses.
- 17. Shelby Chestnut, Ejeris Dixon, and Chai Jindasurat, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and HIV-Affected Hate Violence in 2012 (New York: National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, 2013), 51, http://www.avp.org/storage/documents/ncavp_2012_hvreport_final.pdf.
- 18. Lofredda, Losing Matt Shepard, x.
Southern Spaces is pairing with Emory University's Manuscript, Archives and Rare Books Library (MARBL) to publish short features on MARBL collections, events, and exhibits that tell the history of spaces and places in the US South. These posts investigate the geographical, historical, and cultural study of real and imagined southern spaces through the lens of archival sources and materials and are featured on both the Southern Spaces and MARBL blogs.
|Hope, Southern Voice, November 9, 1995. Sketch of the Hope monument. Jesse R. Peel Papers, LGBT Collections, MARBL, Emory University.|
"I fear it may be difficult to come up with another project which will be so full of meaning for me," gay rights activist Dr. Jesse Peel wrote in his journal The Camp Merton Chronicles in November 1995. Peel's project centered on the renovation of Atlanta's John Howell Park and a new statue to be installed in it. Titled Hope and designed by Felix de Weldon—the sculptor famous for designing the Marine Corps War Memorial in Washington DC—the planned sculpture depicted a man, woman, and child reaching for a matrix representing a cure for AIDS. The sculpture intended to memorialize those affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic that led to 573,800 reported AIDS cases in the United States between 1981 and 1996. Regarding the park renovations and the statue, Peel continued, "I have devoted heart and soul to JHP [John Howell Park] this last year and a half. We will complete the infrastructure work next spring and JHP will be ready to receive the world during the Olympics. Then in October the entire HIV/AIDS and Gay communities will come together to celebrate the installation of Hope."
In spite of the passionate efforts of Peel and his Build the Monument Foundation, the memorial never materialized due to a lack of private funding. Yet, while Atlanta has no official memorial to commemorate the struggles of the LGBT population in the wake of the AIDS pandemic, the Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Books Library (MARBL) at Emory University has pledged to collect historical materials that will raise awareness of the AIDS crisis and the larger history of LGBT Atlantans. One of the first acquisitions in this endeavor is Peel's manuscript collection. Originally from North Carolina, Peel moved to Atlanta in 1976 where, as a person with HIV, he experienced first-hand both the devastating effects of AIDS and the struggle of LGBT carriers to overcome persistent social stigma.
|Jesse Peel, MARBL Woodruff Room, Atlanta, Georgia, October 2012. Photograph by Bryan Meltz of Emory University Photo Video.|
The Jesse R. Peel Papers chronicle his activism among the Atlanta LGBT population through personal correspondence, date books, and audiovisual materials. The backbone of the collection is Peel's personal diary, The Camp Merton Chronicles. A multi-volume work self-published locally and named for his Atlanta home, Camp Merton, it depicts Peel's experiences from the 1970s to the 2000s. The Camp Merton Chronicles is on display in Emory's Manuscript and Rare Books Library until May 16, 2014 as a part of the "Building a Movement in the Southeast: LGBT Collections in MARBL" multimedia exhibit that includes stories and displays artifacts from the LGBT movement, including the AIDS crisis, in Atlanta.