Renewing Black Intellectual History: The Ideological and Material Foundations of African American Thought

By Adolph Reed Jr.; Kenneth W. Warren et al. | Go to book overview

3
How Black “Folk” Survived
in the Modern South
INDUSTRIALIZATION, POPULAR CULTURE, AND
THE TRANSFORMATION OF BLACK WORKING-
CLASS LEISURE IN THE JIM CROW SOUTH

William P. Jones

Much is forever being made of the deleterious effects of slavery on the generations of
black Americans that followed. But for some curious reason, nothing at all is ever
made of the possibility that the legacy left by the enslaved ancestors of blues-oriented
contemporary U.S. Negroes includes a disposition to confront the most unpromising
circumstances and make the most of what little there is to go on, regardless of the
odds—and not without finding delight in the process or forgetting mortality at the
height of ecstasy. Still, there is a lot of admittedly infectious exuberance, elegance
and nonsense to be accounted for
.

—Albert Murray, Stomping the Blues1

When anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston arrived in Loughman, Florida, in 1927, she discovered a society in transition. Loughman was owned by the Everglades Cypress Lumber Company, one of more than 150 firms that operated at least 300 industrial sawmills along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts of the southern United States.2 Having leveled more than 150 million acres of southern forestland during the wasteful “cut-out-and-get-out” era between 1880 and 1920, Everglades and other firms were

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