Wounds of Returning: Race, Memory, and Property on the Postslavery Plantation

By Jessica Adams | Go to book overview

4. Southern Frontiers

To ignore the frontier and time in setting up a conception of the
social state of the Old South is to abandon reality. For the history
of this South throughout a very great part of the period from the
opening of the nineteenth century to the Civil War (in the South
beyond the Mississippi until long after that war) is mainly the history
of the roll of frontier upon frontier—and on to the frontier beyond.
W. J. Cash

In the preface to his 1896 collection of short stories Red Men and White, Owen Wister introduces his tales of the West with a commentary on the post-Reconstruction South as a lacuna where atavistic barbarism can thrive. Pondering the imminent historicity of his own subject matter, Wister considers how pockets of the past exist within a context of progress: “These eight stories are made from our Western Frontier as it was in a past as near as yesterday and almost as by-gone as the Revolution,” he writes, “so swiftly do we proceed.” And yet, “While portions of New York, Chicago, and San Francisco are of this nineteenth century, we have many ancient periods surviving among us.” Wister’s examples of this premodern survival lie in Appalachia, among “the Kentucky and Tennessee mountaineers,” and in Texas, where,

not long ago, an African was led upon a platform in a public
place for people to see, and tortured slowly to death with knives
and fire. To witness this scene young men and women came
in crowds. It is said that the railroad ran a special train for
spectators from a distance. How might that audience of Paris,

-108-

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Wounds of Returning: Race, Memory, and Property on the Postslavery Plantation
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Prologue xi
  • Introduction 1
  • 1- Sex and Segregation 21
  • 2- Plantations without Slaves 54
  • 3- Roadside Attractions 86
  • 4- Southern Frontiers 108
  • 5- Stars and Stripes 135
  • Epilogue 159
  • Notes 161
  • Bibliography 195
  • Index 217
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