Southern Masculinity: Perspectives on Manhood in the South since Reconstruction

Southern Masculinity: Perspectives on Manhood in the South since Reconstruction

Southern Masculinity: Perspectives on Manhood in the South since Reconstruction

Southern Masculinity: Perspectives on Manhood in the South since Reconstruction

Synopsis

The follow-up to the critically acclaimed collection Southern Manhood: Perspectives on Masculinity in the Old South (Georgia, 2004), Southern Masculinity explores the contours of southern male identity from Reconstruction to the present. Twelve case studies document the changing definitions of southern masculine identity as understood in conjunction with identities based on race, gender, age, sexuality, and geography.

After the Civil War, southern men crafted notions of manhood in opposition to northern ideals of masculinity and as counterpoint to southern womanhood. At the same time, manliness in the South--as understood by individuals and within communities--retained and transformed antebellum conceptions of honor and mastery. This collection examines masculinity with respect to Reconstruction, the New South, racism, southern womanhood, the Sunbelt, gay rights, and the rise of the Christian Right. Familiar figures such as Arthur Ashe are investigated from fresh angles, while other essays plumb new areas such as the womanless wedding and Cherokee masculinity.

Excerpt

Karen Taylor

If Tunis G. Campbell looked for friends and supporters among the people who witnessed his progress along the streets of Savannah, Georgia, or glared into the faces of enemies, he left no record of it. It was 12 January 1876, and Savannah’s populace was as divided over issues of race as it was about most everything else. Even many African American Savannahns found men like Campbell embarrassing, if not frightening. Although he attracted as many people as he frightened, there Campbell was, at age sixty-three, on his way to Colonel Jack Smith’s Washington County plantation, where men were measured by their abilities to “keep up or die.” His crimes were the arrest of white men and the arrogance to think that black people deserved equal rights. Campbell’s “progress”—in chains—personified the defeat of that democratic ideal and screamed warning to other “uppity” black men.

This is the story of Campbell and three other men—Richard D. Arnold, Henry M. Turner, and John E. Bryant—whose experiences in Savannah between 1865 and 1876 suggest that southern Reconstruction merged two competing masculine ideals, resulting in a bifurcated masculinity that required all men to espouse self-restraint and democratic equality but to act with aggressive selfinterest. That confluence had profound consequences for American domestic and foreign policy—and for masculinity itself.

The stories of these four men also represent the intersection of two historiographies: that of Reconstruction and that of nineteenth-century masculinity. Most historians agree that Reconstruction was a failure, or in Eric Foner’s words, an “unfinished revolution.” There are two prominent interpretations of that failure. One is that racism so saturated American culture that white people . . .

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