Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Just finished reading - Southern Manhood: Perspectives on Masculinity in the Old South by editors Craig Thompson Friend & Lorri Glover

Often when I really enjoy reading a book I will search for other titles that scholar has authored. That was the situation a few weeks ago after reading Lorri Glover's Southern Sons: Becoming Men in the New Nation. I found a used copy of Southern Manhood at a good price so I bought it, not knowing exactly what I would get.

Unfortunately, Glover only wrote one article in this book of essays, and it covered mainly what she examined in Southern Sons. But, I was pleased to find eight other essays - a couple from scholars that I am familiar with - dealing with diverse aspects of the Southern manhood topic.

One usually subconsciously thinks of white men when the topic of Southern manhood comes up, but editors Friend and Glover went to lengths to show that other cultures were represented in the Old South too, and thankfully they are covered in Southern Manhood as well.

Of special interest was "Trying to Look Like Men: Changing Notions of Masculinity among Choctaw Elites in the Early Republic." In this essay author Greg O'Brien explains that southeast Indians such as the Choctaws had to rework their understanding of manhood when they were conquered by whites. Whites encouraged the Choctaw men to become agriculturists, which had always been female work in their culture. The expansion of slavery into their former territory also challenged long held customs and practices.

"Refuge of Manhood: Masculinity and the Militia Experience in Kentucky," by Harry S. Laver was another thought provoking article that I enjoyed. Laver contends that the militia offered Kentucky men opportunities to display their masculinity by unifying the white community, excluding other races, displaying the marital spirit though weapons and uniforms, and continuing the hard-won legacies of the Revolutionary War and War of 1812.

Two of the essays focused on African American manhood. "The Absent Subject: African American Masculinity and Forced Migration to the Antebellum Plantation Frontier," by Edward E. Baptist looks at male slaves' lack of self decision and the severing of familial ties as they were both sold and moved to the cotton fields of the newly emerging states of Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, and Texas. And, Heather Andrea Williams shows in " 'Commenced to Think Like a Man': Literacy and Manhood in African American Civil War Regiments," that some black men gained a new sense of manhood by escaping slavery's confines by joining USCT regiments and taking advantage of opportunities for educating themselves while in the Union service.

This great selection of essays makes a solid contribution to scholarship on manhood in the Old South. I recommend it to anyone wanting to lean more about the diverse men that called the South home before the Civil War.


  1. Have you ever considered speaking about the Civil War for conventions, reenactor groups or schools? You know so much about the war that you could put together a few different talks and offer to speak for a fee. If you don't like the idea of selling your services, you could probably find someone to market you for a percentage of your fee.
    I don't know how confortable you are speaking in front of a group, but Toastmasters has helped me a lot.
    I have a friend of mine who sometimes performs a one man show as Mark Twain at local community theaters.
    I was working in my yard this afternoon when your blog and this idea popped into my head. I'm not sure why it did, but I thought I would share this with you.

  2. John,
    My previous position allowed me the opportunity to speak quite often - not only for work related gatherings, but also outside occasions. And I have always enjoyed that aspect of education.

    I really am quite comfortable speaking in front of people when it is something I am familiar with and have prepared for. Unfortunately, I haven't had much time to search for outside opportunites since moving to KY to speak to groups. I hope that after I get some research done on a few topics that I am interested in that those opportunites will present themselves.

    Thanks so much for the comments and suggestions.