Recovering the Piedmont Past: Unexplored Moments in Nineteenth-Century Upcountry South Carolina History

Recovering the Piedmont Past: Unexplored Moments in Nineteenth-Century Upcountry South Carolina History

Recovering the Piedmont Past: Unexplored Moments in Nineteenth-Century Upcountry South Carolina History

Recovering the Piedmont Past: Unexplored Moments in Nineteenth-Century Upcountry South Carolina History

Synopsis

The history of South Carolina's lowcountry has been well documented by historians, but the upcountry--the region of the state north and west of Columbia and the geologic fall line--has only recently begun to receive extensive scholarly attention. The essays in this collection provide a window into the social and cultural life of the upstate during the nineteenth century. The contributors explore topics such as the history of education in the region, post-Civil War occupation by Union troops, upcountry tourism, Freedman's Bureau's efforts to educate African Americans, and the complex dynamics of lynch mobs in the late nineteenth century.
Recovering the Piedmont Past illustrates larger trends of social transformation occurring in the region at a time that shaped religion, education, race relations and the economy well into the twentieth century. The essays add depth and complexity to our understanding of nineteenth century southern history and challenge accepted narratives about a homogeneous South. Ultimately each of the eight essays explores little known facets of the history of upcountry South Carolina in the nineteenth century.
The collection includes a foreword by Orville Vernon Burton, professor of history and director of the Cyberinstitute at Clemson University.

Excerpt

The essays in this collection attest to the value of local history. Although many in the profession are moving to global and transnational studies, some fail to realize that these “higher” or “broader” levels are in fact intellectual constructs rather than concrete realities. It is also true that no history, properly understood, is merely local. On the local level, where the complexities of human endeavors transpire, is where we find the substantiation of national and international experience. Local historical study has the potential to illuminate behavior in a given community and to provide perspective for understanding behavior in other communities. Whether as a reflection or as a stark contrast, a study of a particular place illuminates U.S. history, and even world history. As Eudora Welty has suggested in The Eye of the Story, “One place comprehended can make us understand other places better. Sense of place gives equilibrium; extended, it is sense of direction.”

This collection of essays also corrects an imbalance. Too much of our nation’s history has been written from the northeastern urban historical perspective. in addition studies of Charleston, the earlier European-settled black-belt regions of the coast, and in the midlands state capital of Columbia, with its political maneuverings, have dominated the history of South Carolina. We need these histories of the South Carolina upcountry to get an evenhanded story of South Carolina and American history. These articles highlight the advantages of studying history in a particular place. Places have history and tradition. Local history deals with all the people in the community, with all their ambiguities and contradictions, all their negotiations across lines of race, class, gender, and power. Local history offers a way to explore Jon Gjerde’s idea of community (which he expressed in The Minds of the West) with its “curious amalgam of cultural retention and cultural change, tradition and modernity, authority and freedom.” Local history includes practicalities and metaphysics. It brings to the profession the capacity to challenge a historiography and methodology that now tends toward the study of ideas and ideologies, discourses and cultural stances. Moreover, local studies provide the evidence for historical generalization, sometimes verifying and sometimes challenging popular interpretation. It can examine a larger subject, such as the civil rights movement, viewing it in microcosm . . .

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