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Sites of Southern Memory

Sites of Southern Memory: The Autobiographies of Katharine Du Pre Lumpkin, Lillian Smith, and Pauli Murray

Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 189
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  • Book Info
    Sites of Southern Memory
    Book Description:

    In southern graveyards through the first decades of the twentieth century, the Confederate South was commemorated by tombstones and memorials, in Confederate flags, and in Memorial Day speeches and burial rituals. Cemeteries spoke the language of southern memory, and identity was displayed in ritualistic form-inscribed on tombs, in texts, and in bodily memories and messages. Katharine DuPre Lumpkin, Lillian Smith, and Pauli Murray wove sites of regional memory, particularly Confederate burial sites, into their autobiographies as a way of emphasizing how segregation divided more than just southern landscapes and people.

    Darlene O'Dell here considers the southern graveyard as one of three sites of memory-the other two being the southern body and southern memoir-upon which the region's catastrophic race relations are inscribed. O'Dell shows how Lumpkin, Smith, and Murray, all witnesses to commemorations of the Confederacy and efforts to maintain the social order of the New South, contended through their autobiographies against Lost Cause versions of southern identity. Sites of Southern Memory elucidates the ways in which these three writers joined in the dialogue on regional memory by placing the dead southern body as a site of memory within their texts.

    In this unique study of three women whose literary and personal lives were vitally concerned with southern race relations and the struggle for social justice, O'Dell provides a telling portrait of the troubled intellectual, literary, cultural, and social history of the American South.

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-2198-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  5. 1 IN MEMORY OF . . .
    (pp. 1-40)

    Even today the Old Maplewood Cemetery in Durham, North Carolina, remains a pertinent metaphor for the ways segregation divides the living and the dead. Pauli Murray recognized it as such in her 1956 family memoirProud Shoes: The Story of an American Familyand would spend her life—and her death—attempting to reconcile what many in her society desired to separate. She and the other two writers examined in this study—Katharine Du Pre Lumpkin and Lillian Smith—used sites of regional memory in their autobiographies, particularly Confederate burial sites, to discuss how segregation divided not only the southern...

    (pp. 41-79)

    Nowhere in her autobiography is Katharine Du Pre Lumpkin born. She is sometimes awakened, often uprooted, once baptized, but never born. Her baptism occurs at the 1903 Confederate Reunion held in Columbia, South Carolina, where sites of memory provided an altar for the worship of the Old South. Veterans united in memory of their lost cause marched in parades behind bands, floats, and flower girls. Confederate flags flew across the statehouse, down streets, out windows, and up poles. “Dixie,” played by musicians throughout the city, established a festive mood, interrupted only by a stream of orators glorifying Dixieland’s fallen soldiers...

    (pp. 80-103)

    Lillian Smith reviewedThe Making of a Southernerfor theNew York Herald Tribune,praising the book for its honest approach to white supremacy but noting it lacked an analysis of what she believed to be a central defining triangle in southern race relations: sex, sin, and segregation. Two years later, in 1949, Smith publishedKillers of the Dream,a work she called her autobiography as a southerner, a project using segregation as a defining metaphor for the southern condition.

    If Lumpkin layers the epic into her autobiography, Smith layers the gothic.Killers of the Dreamis a ghost story,...

    (pp. 104-143)

    On Thursday, 4 July 1985,The Washington Postran a series of articles and advertisements of the sort one might expect to find in most American newspapers over the holidays. Abigail Adams had been “granted the privilege of a commemorative stamp.” The Statue of Liberty, undergoing a restoration, assumed an almost southern image in “The Liberty Belle: Looking Forward to the Time When the Lady Will Shine Like New.” Advertisements found their place in the celebration, helping local and national businesses create and manipulate American identities in the marketplace. Safeway promoted itself as “America’s Favorite Food Store,” and Peoples Drugs,...

    (pp. 144-150)

    The ellipsis. From the Greekelleipsis,“to fall short of.” Autobiography resonates with elliptical moments, the nature of the genre unable to claim completeness or conclusion (Olney 25). We have observed the writers here unearth many of these elliptical moments in their texts, at times using the marks of omission, or even submission, to speak most forcefully about issues of race. But, sometimes, these hidden elements remain locked away from the reader. In one disturbingly significant way, in the realm of their sexuality, their autobiographies comply with that silence. But this complicity says as much about the beliefs and prejudices...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 151-160)
    (pp. 161-180)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 181-189)