A Co-Edited Collection by Lydia Plath and Sergio Lussana:
Black and White Masculinity in the American South, 1800-2000
(Cambridge Scholars Publishing: June 2009)
This book consists of a range of essays written by historians and literary critics which examine the historical construction of Southern masculinities,rich and poor, white and black, in a variety of contexts, from slavery in the antebellum period, through the struggle for Civil Rights, right up to the recent South. Building on the rich historiography of gender and culture in the South undertaken in recent years, this volume aims to highlight the important role Southern conceptions of masculinity have played in the lives of Southern men, and to reflect on how masculinity has intersected with class, race and power to structure the social relationships between blacks and whites throughout the history of the South. The volume highlights the multifaceted nature of Southern masculinities, demonstrating the changing ways black and white masculinities have been both imagined and practised over the years, while also emphasizing that conceptions of black and white masculinity in the American South rarely seem to be divorced from wider questions of class, race and power.
My essay, entitled "North Carolina and Nat Turner: Honour and Violence in a Slave Insurrection Scare," starts the collection by examining how Southern white men in antebellum North Carolina responded to the news of Nat Turner’s slave insurrection in the neighbouring state of Virginia. In the immediate aftermath of the rebellion which left around fifty-five whites dead, widespread unrest and rumours of further slave insurrections swept across the country. My essay examines how notions of white Southern masculinity, framed in terms of honour, shaped the extreme violence towards the free black and slave populations of North Carolina. With this violence, white Southern men were attempting to suppress the honour and manhood of rebellious slaves whilst simultaneously affirming a white masculine identity which extended across class boundaries to uphold a “herrenvolk democracy.”
In recent years, studies of masculinity have informed the scholarly discourse of southern history and literature. The ten essays in this collection illustrate the analytical vibrancy of this approach, chronicling the myriad ways in which black and white Southerners constructed masculine identities and gave shape to southern culture from the antebellum era to the late twentieth century. The many rising young scholars represented here chart exciting new directions for the study of the American South. -- Jeff Forret, Lamar University.
For more information or to purchase a copy, please visit Cambridge Scholars Publishing.