Dive deep into Southern Studies

In addition to exploring the history and culture of the U.S. South, students who complete the major in Southern Studies learn to:

  • Find information
  • Think creatively
  • Write critically
  • Understand multifaceted problems.

Recent students who concentrated in Southern Studies have gone on to careers in journalism, law, medicine, and historic preservation and to graduate study at Columbia University, University of Mississippi, University of South Carolina, and University of North Carolina.

Recent Southern Studies theses

Catherine Roe (2011), “Staging Race: The Role of Porgy and Bess

Porgy and Bess opened on Broadway in 1935, and it challenged traditional conventions of American folk opera. George Gershwin adapted DuBose Heyward’s novella, Porgy, into musical form, and the deliberate choices behind the adaptations of Porgy from novella to play and then to folk opera and the messages conveyed between these modes of culture provide commentary on race and demonstrate the power of translating text word to the stage. These considerations of transitioning between art forms, differing reactions to those forms, and Charleston as the setting yield challenging and distinctive implications about race relations and the American South, as well as how their interactions can be interpreted.

Carl V. Lewis (2011), “Transcending the ‘Surface Froth’: Atlanta’s Newspaper Coverage of the 1960 Sit-ins”

Perhaps the single most important news event to take place in the Atlanta civil rights movement was the student sit-ins of downtown department store lunch-counters in the fall of 1960. Over the course a three-day period between October 19 and October 22, police arrested more than 120 students from Atlanta’s historically black colleges for staging protests against the city’s segregated dining conditions, among their ranks including prominent national leaders Martin Luther King, Jr. and Lonnie King. The arrests garnered national media attention, eventually leading Mayor William B. Hartsfield to reach a truce with students that he would personally ensure city-wide desegregation if they would immediately halt the demonstrations. This thesis analyzes coverage of the sit-ins in Atlanta’s two most widely-read broadsheets, the white-owned Atlanta Constitution and the black-owned Daily World, to demonstrate the Constitution’s significant failures in reporting the story in its news pages. While the Constitution and The Daily World adopted remarkably similar editorial stances opposing the sit-ins, the two newspapers departed dramatically in terms of how they covered the story as a breaking news event.

Jay Hood (2010), “The Modern Southern Chronotope and the End of the Southern Epic”

A civilization that has undergone a drastic fall, such as the post-Civil War South, often conceives of a past that belonged to mono-dimensionally perfect ancestors and envisions a future that rediscovers the lost values of this golden age or that rights the wrongs of the past. After the Civil War, the white southern conceptualization of time and space, the chronotope, mythologized the Lost Cause, and the black southern chronotope mythogized emancipation narratives. Octavia Butler’s Kindred and Walker Percy’s The Thanatos Syndrome deconstruct this chronotope, replacing it with a far more complex understanding of time, space, and the relationship of the individual to their chronotope.

Eleta Andrews (2009),”Lillian Smith: Strange Fruit and Spirituality”

Lillian Smith could not grapple with the glaring irony that most members of lynch mobs in the American South were practicing Protestants. While Smith was raised Protestant, she became agnostic in her young adult life. But she returned to Christianity in her mid-fifties on her own terms by understanding God and God’s place in the social strata. Smith’s novels, reviews, and interviews in the 1930s-1950s exhibit her quiet spirituality on the subjects of race, religion, and responsibility. Smith’s theology of communal responsibility is a strong theme in her famous novel, Strange Fruit. Her illustration of interracial love is a device for her novel’s greater Oxfordintention: to explore the many connections in the human experience by suggesting a relationship that defies social mores.

Eva Walton (2009), “‘Some Make You Want to Dance Your Way to Freedom’: Guy Carawan and the Development of Freedom Songs”

Freedom songs played an important role in the Civil Rights Movement, but they did not develop spontaneously. Guy Carawan, a white sociologist from California, introduced freedom songs to the movement, and it was through a cooperative relationship between him and civil rights leaders that the movement would come to “sing for freedom.” Guided by his experiences in the People’s Songs Movement of the 1940s and the legacy of “folk music [as] an important resource for democratic movements” that Zilphia Horton practiced at the Highlander Folk School, Carawan was able to serve as the catalyst that challenged the young leaders of the Nashville sit-ins, and later activists from across the South, to consider their folk songs differently—as agents for change in their own movement.

Class Research Projects

Southern Foodways: The course website for Dr. David A. Davis’s southern foodways class features student blogs, critical recipes, and oral histories.

Civil Rights Memory: An online student-generated museum developing exhibits on the grassroots Civil Rights Movement in the Middle Georgia area.

The Encyclopedia of Southern Literature and Culture: A student created reference on topics and scholarship in Southern Studies.

Academic Conferences

Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha: Annual conference of Faulkner scholars in Oxford, Mississippi, sponsored by the University of Mississippi.

Society for the Study of Southern Literature: An organization dedicated to scholarship on writings and writers of the American South hosts a biannual conference.

South Atlantic Modern Language Association: The South Atlantic Modern Language Association (SAMLA) is an organization of teachers, scholars, and graduate students dedicated to the advancement of teaching and literary and linguistic scholarship in the modern languages.

Southern Historical Association: The Southern Historical Association’s objectives are the promotion of interest and research in southern history, the collection and preservation of the South’s historical records, and the encouragement of state and local historical societies in the South. As a secondary purpose the Association fosters the teaching and study of all areas of history in the South.

Information Sources

African American Odyssey: This showcases the incomparable African American collections of the Library of Congress. Displaying more than 240 items including books, government documents, manuscripts, maps, musical scores, plays, films, and recordings, this is the largest black history exhibit ever held at the Library and the first exhibition of any kind to feature presentations in all three of the Library’s buildings.

Alan Lomax Collection: Contains approximately 650 linear feet of manuscripts, 6400 sound recordings, 5500 graphic images, and 6000 moving images of ethnographic material created and collected by Alan Lomax and others in their work documenting song, music, dance, and body movement from many cultures.

Civil Rights Cold Case Project: The Civil Rights Cold Case Project is an unprecedented collaboration bringing together the power of investigative reporting, narrative writing, documentary filmmaking, and interactive multimedia production to reveal the long-neglected truth behind unsolved civil rights murders, and to facilitate reconciliation and healing.

Civil Rights Digital Library: The Civil Rights Digital Library promotes an enhanced understanding of the Movement by helping users discover primary sources and other educational materials from libraries, archives, museums, public broadcasters, and others on a national scale.

Civil Rights Movement Veterans: This website is of, by, and for Veterans of the Southern Freedom Movement of the 1960s. It is where we tell it like it was, the way we lived it.

Civil Rights Resource Guide: The digital collections of the Library of Congress contain a wide variety of material related to civil rights, including photographs, documents, and sound recordings. This guide compiles links to civil-rights resources throughout the Library of Congress Web site. In addition, it provides links to external Web sites focusing on civil rights and a bibliography containing selections for both general and younger readers.

Civil War in the American South: A central portal to access digital collections from the Civil War Era (1850-1865) held by members of the Association of Southeastern Research Libraries (ASERL), whose members hold deep and extensive collections documenting the history and culture of the American South. Many of the special or unique manuscripts, photographs, books, newspapers, broadsides, and other materials have been digitized to provide broader access to these documents for scholars and students around the world.

Civil War Resource Guide: This guide is a compilation of many of the Civil War resources at the Library of Congress, along with links to selected resources outside the Library. The resources are organized by format. The purpose of this guide is to present researchers with selected sources through which they can begin and expand their scope of study of the American Civil War. It is not meant to serve as an exhaustive source for Civil War sources accessible through the Library of Congress.

Encyclopedia of Alabama: Encyclopedia of Alabama is a reliable resource covering Alabama’s history, culture, geography, and natural environment.

Encyclopedia of Arkansas: The Encyclopedia of Arkansas is a free, authoritative source of information about the rich history, geography, and culture of Arkansas. It is updated regularly to ensure the people of Arkansas have an accurate and accessible resource to explore our heritage.

Eudora Welty Foundation: In 1999 the Eudora Welty Foundation was established to assist the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) in achieving its goals of celebrating the legacy of Eudora Welty, enhancing appreciation of her work, and encouraging reading and the efforts of young writers.

Farm Security Administration Photographs: The black-and-white photographs of the Farm Security Administration-Office of War Information Collection are a landmark in the history of documentary photography. The images show Americans at home, at work, and at play with an emphasis on rural and small-town life and the adverse effects of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and increasing farm mechanization.

Faulkner Society: The William Faulkner Society is dedicated to fostering the study of Faulkner from all perspectives and to promoting research, scholarship, and criticism dealing with his writings and their place in literature.

Flannery O’Connor-Andalusia Foundation: Based at O’Connor’s home, Andalusia Farm in Milledgeville, Georgia, the foundation encourages and promotes an increased understanding of the life, time, surroundings, and accomplishments of Flannery O’Connor.

Documenting the American South: Enormous collection of electronic texts including North American slave narrative and southern literature to 1920.

Encyclopedia Virginia: Encyclopedia Virginia is a dynamic, authoritative, and globally accessible resource that explores the people, places, events, and institutions of the Commonwealth. Published by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, EV provides a platform for discovering and learning about Virginia.

H-Southern-Lit: A discussion network promoting the study and discussion of U.S. southern literature by scholars, teachers, researchers, and other interested parties.

H-Southern-Music: The primary purpose of H-Southern Music is to provide a forum for exploring and discussing the historical nature of the South’s musical contributions to national and world culture.

Jim Crow Museum: Collects, exhibits, and preserves objects and collections related to racial segregation, civil rights and anti-Black caricatures; and promote the scholarly examination of historical and contemporary expressions of racism.

Mississippi Writers Page: This multi-faceted Internet Resource is about writers in, from, or otherwise associated with the state of Mississippi. Presented by the Department of English at the University of Mississippi, it is designed both as an introduction to the diversity of literary talent in Mississippi and as a source of accurate and timely information for the serious literary scholar. Parts of this website are still under construction, but information continues to be added to the database.

National Civil Rights Museum: The National Civil Rights Museum, located at the Lorraine Motel, the assassination site of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., chronicles key episodes of the American civil rights movement and the legacy of this movement to inspire participation in civil and human rights efforts globally, through our collections, exhibitions, and educational programs.

New Georgia Encyclopedia: The New Georgia Encyclopedia is an authoritative source on the people, places, events, and institutions of Georgia. The site contains nearly 2,000 articles and more than 5,000 images and audio and video clips on the history, culture, and life of the state.

Not Even Past: Hosted by the University of Texas at Austin history department, Not Even Past provides current historical writing to a popular audience. For history buffs who want reading recommendations and short, interesting, digestible stories every day, the website offers a meaningful, dynamic, and ongoing conversation about History in the form of text, audio, and video histories on subjects that span the globe.

Oxford American: The Oxford American is a national magazine out of Conway, Arkansas, dedicated to featuring the very best in Southern writing while documenting the complexity and vitality of the American South.

Religion in American History: A group blog to foster discussion and share research, insights, reviews, observations, syllabi, links, new books, project information, grant opportunities, seminars, lectures, and thoughts about religion in American history, and American religious history.

Simms Initiatives: In the mid-19th-century, William Gilmore Simms did more than any other writer and editor to frame white southern self-identity, nationalism, and historical consciousness. He also did more to foster the South’s literary life and place in America’s imagination. With the Simms Initiatives one has growing access to this prolific author’s work.

Slave Narratives from the Federal Writer’s Project: Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1938 contains more than 2,300 first-person accounts of slavery and 500 black-and-white photographs of former slaves. These narratives were collected in the 1930s as part of the Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and assembled and microfilmed in 1941 as the seventeen-volume Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States from Interviews with Former Slaves.

Slavery Resource Guide: The digital collections of the Library of Congress contain a wide variety of material related to slavery including photographs, documents, and sound recordings. This guide compiles links to slavery resources throughout the Library of Congress website. In addition, it provides links to external websites focusing on slavery and a bibliography containing selections for both general and younger readers.

Southern Literary Trail: The southern literary trail is a collaboration of eighteen southern towns from Natchez to Savannah that celebrate internationally renowned writers and playwrights of the twentieth century who were inspired by their communities.

Southern Oral History Program: Since 1973, the SOHP has worked to preserve the voices of the southern past. UNC students and faculty have interviewed more than 4,000 men and women—from mill workers to civil rights leaders to future presidents of the United States. Made available through UNC’s renowned Southern Historical Collection and, increasingly, through the innovative use of web-based technologies, these interviews capture the vivid personalities, poignant personal stories, and behind-the-scenes decision-making that bring history to life.

Southern Poverty Law Center: The Southern Poverty Law Center was founded in 1971 as a small civil rights law firm. Today, SPLC is internationally known for its tolerance education programs, its legal victories against white supremacists, and its tracking of hate groups.

Southern Spaces: A peer-reviewed internet journal and scholarly forum that provides open access to essays, gateways, timescapes, events and conferences, interviews and performances, and annotated weblinks on real and imagined spaces and places of the American South.

Southern Sources: Long at the center of inquiry into the history and culture of the American South, the Southern Historical Collection (SHC) documents this region with its massive holdings of unique, primary source materials: letters, diaries, oral histories, photographs, sound recordings, financial records, literary manuscripts, and items in many other formats.

Tennessee Encyclopedia: a definitive and comprehensive reference work on the Volunteer State cosponsored by the University of Tennessee Press and the Tennessee Historical Society.

The Valley of the Shadow: The Valley Project details life in two American communities, one northern and one southern, from the time of John Brown’s raid through the era of Reconstruction. In this digital archive, you may explore thousands of original letters and diaries, newspapers and speeches, census and church records, left by men and women in Augusta County, Virginia, and Franklin County, Pennsylvania.

Vanishing Georgia: Comprises nearly 18,000 photographs. Ranging from daguerreotypes to Kodachrome prints, the images span over 100 years of Georgia history.

Yale Slavery and Abolition Portal: This site is designed to help researchers and Yale students find primary sources related to slavery, abolition, and resistance within the university’s many libraries and galleries.

University Institutes

Center for the Study of the American South: A center at the University of North Carolina that fosters outstanding scholarship exploring every aspect of the South’s rich though often painful past and supports the region’s democratic and progressive future.

Institute for Southern Studies: Academic center at the University of South Carolina, sponsoring research fellowships, conferences,  and awards.

Center for the Study of Southern Culture: A research institute at the University of Mississippi that emphasizes the interdisciplinary investigation and documentation of the South as a culturally, historically, geographically, and demographically complex region.

Center for the Study of the New South: The Center for the Study of the New South in UNC Charlotte’s College of Liberal Arts & Sciences promotes discourse and dialogue on a rich and diverse constellation of topics and ideas relating to the New South.

Marcus Cunliffe Centre for the Study of the American South: Based in the American Studies Department and the Department of History at the University of Sussex, the Marcus Cunliffe Centre offers a concentration of scholars of the history of the South unparalleled anywhere outside the United States.

Center for Appalachian Studies: The Center for Appalachian Studies at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, develops, coordinates, and facilitates curricula and programs which deal with the Appalachian region.

Center for Appalachian Studies and Services: East Tennessee State University’s Center for Appalachian Studies and Services documents and showcases Appalachia’s past, celebrates its cultural heritage, and promotes an understanding of the influences that shape its identity.

Summersell Center for the Study of the South: Capitalizing on the rich resources available at the University of Alabama and the surrounding region, the Summersell Center promotes understanding of the history and culture of the American South through research and public programming.