Woody Guthrie’s birthday

 

“Woody Guthrie’s childhood home as is appeared in 1979,” from Wikipedia:

source. Walter Smellings, Historic American Buildings Survey.

Man, you go to read Woody Guthrie’s wikipedia page, and next thing you know you’re looking at a photo of a 1911 lynching (warning: upsetting but are we obliged as citizens to look?)

Even the story of the photo of the lynching is haunting:

James Allen, an Atlanta antiques collector, spent years looking for postcards of lynchings for his Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America (2000). “Hundreds of flea markets later,” he wrote, “a trader pulled me aside and in conspiratorial tones offered to sell me a real photo postcard. It was Laura Nelson hanging from a bridge, caught so pitiful and tattered and beyond retrieving—like a paper kite sagged on a utility wire.”

The book accompanied an exhibition of 60 lynching postcards from 1880 to 1960, Witness: Photographs of Lynchings from the Collection of James Allen, which opened at the Roth Horowitz Gallery in New York in January 2000. Allen argued that lynching photographers were more than passive spectators. They positioned and lit the corpses as if they were game birds, he wrote, and the postcards became an important part of the act, emphasizing its political nature.

Allen’s publication of the images encountered a mixed reception. Julia Hotton, a black museum curator in New York, said that, with older blacks especially: “If they hear a white man with a Southern accent is collecting these photos, they get a little skittish.”

All kinds of wild questions considered in this 2000 LA Times / J. R. Moehringer profile of Allen:

The man’s story enhances the beauty of the shack, Allen believes, and its value. The man’s story makes the shack more than a work of folk art; it’s a sort of monument. When Allen sells the shack, along with some furniture and art done by the old man, the asking price will be just under $100,000.

How about Bryan Stevenson’s project?

How did I get here again?

Oh right.

Learning about Woody Guthrie.

 

 


July 2017

That was a good month of posts on Helytimes, if you’re one of those folks who likes poking around in the archives.

Bob Marley, John Adams, Bert Hölldobler, Deke Slayton, Amban, Ansel Adams.

Also feel I did fine work in July 2014.


Tom Wolfe observation

There are, of course, all sorts of gradations of status, of power, of wealth, influence and comfort, but it is impossible to break America down into classes in the old European sense. “But there is a … dividing line, and above that line are those who have bachelor degrees or better from a four-year college or university. Below that are the people who don’t. That line is becoming a gulf that grows wider and wider. “Like the rest of the West, we live in a highly bureaucratic world and it’s impossible today to advance to the heights of ambition without that bachelor’s degree, without being a part of what Vance Packard used to call ‘the diploma elite.'”

Had to go looking for the source of that one, it was in a 2005 Duke commencement speech.  How about this?:

For the last four years, you have been trained to be the leaders of an extraordinary nation. There has never been anything like it. … It is the only country I know of in which immigrants with a totally different culture, a totally different language, can in one-half of a generation, if they have the numbers and a modicum of organization, take over politically a metropolis as large as, say, Miami.

As a Tom Wolfe (Ph.d) superfan, kind of disappointed by the tributes and obituaries.  Most of them seemed pretty limp.  Maybe because so many journalists were so in awe of him, they seemed to sputter on about the same stuff and barely touch on the vastness of Wolfe’s interests and insights.

Best one imo was Louis Menand.  (Update: lol whoops hadn’t seen Friend of Helytimes’ Graeme Wood’s.)

Felt literary world scoffed at

but how many 74 year olds would take on a seven hundred page book about college, rap, hookup culture, basketball, and attempts to get in the head of (among others) a nineteen year old female virgin?  A little crazy but I thought it was cool!  Also came pretty close to predicting the Duke lacrosse scandal.

If you hunger for Wolfe at full Wolfeness might I recommend his 2006 Jefferson Lecture?:

According to Korean War lore, a Navy fighter pilot began shouting out over the combat radio network, “I’ve got a Mig at zero! A Mig at zero! I’ve got a Mig at zero!” A Mig at zero meant a Soviet supersonic fighter plane was squarely on his tail and could blow him out of the sky at any moment. Another voice, according to legend, broke in and said, “Shut up and die like an aviator.” Such “chatter,” such useless talk on the radio during combat, was forbidden. The term “aviator” was the final, exquisite touch of status sensitivity. Navy pilots always called themselves aviators. Marine and Air Force fliers were merely pilots. The reward for reaching the top of the ziggurat was not money, not power, not even military rank. The reward was status honor, the reputation of being a warrior with ultimate skill and courage–a word, by the way, strictly taboo among the pilots themselves. The same notion of status honor motivates virtually every police and fire fighting force in the world.

Wolfe wrote about what was amusing.  Even in say crime or war he found the amusement.  A serious writer who was also funny.  Not enough of those.

Gotta see if I can find this somewhere:


Mississippi Mound Trail

On one of the episodes of Theme Time Radio Hour Bob Dylan himself says that the actual highway 61 is boring now, nothing but ads for riverboat casinos.  That may be true south of Vicksburg but north of the Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum and the Catfish Row Art Park, I found the road compelling.

Mississippi Fred McDowell was born of course in Rossville, Tennessee.

It was Dave [David L. Cohn] in God Shakes Creation who said, “The Delta begins in the lobby of the Peabody Hotel and ends on Catfish Row in Vicksburg.” He was always welcome at the Peabody; they were glad to see him – he stayed there whenever he was in Memphis – but they never even gave him a cup of coffee, and he thought it was rather amusing that they had so little appreciation of this publicity.

So says Uncle Shelby, of Greenville and Memphis:

Since we’d been to Memphis we steered towards Oxford Miss to visit Faulkner’s house:

On Highway 61 lots of blues type sites, Muddy Waters’ birthplace for instance:

marked by signs for the Mississippi Blues Trail.  But many signs tell you you are also on the Mississippi Mound Trail.

Mounds make a thousand or more years ago by some lost culture, perhaps connected to the people who built Cahokia:

And where in the beginning the predecessors crept with their simple artifacts, and built the mounds and vanished, bequeathing only the mounds in which the succeeding recordable Muskhogean stock would leave the skulls of their warriors and chiefs and babies and slain bears, and the shards of pots, and hammer- and arrow-heads and now and then a heavy silver Spanish spur.

So says Faulkner in his essay Mississippi.  In Sanctuary he says:

The sunny air was filled with competitive radios and phonographs in the doors of drug- and music- stores.  Before these doors a throng stood all day, listening.  The pieces which moved them were ballads simple in melody and theme, of bereavement and retribution and repentance metallically sung, blurred, emphasised by static or needle – disembodied voices blaring from imitation wood cabinets or pebble-grain horn-mouths above the rapt faces, the gnarled slow hands long shaped to the imperious earth, lugubrious, harsh, and sad.

You can only listen to so much of that though; when I pulled over for Dunn Mounds I was listening to Maron interview Jennifer Lawrence.

The Raven map tells the story of the Delta.  Another flooding bottomland is the Nile delta:

where they also kept slaves, and built mounds.

great tour of the Blues Trail sites here on Wiki by Chillin662.


Cowpens

Believe me, it killed me to drive across South Carolina and not have time to stop and make a study of the battlefield at Cowpens.

Cowpens is an American story about local amateurs beating foreign professionals, with an A+ villain in Banastre Tarleton.

Tarleton painted by (who else?) Joshua Reynolds

How satisfying must it been to have kicked this guy’s ass?!  Tarleton, a rich boy dandy, was in command at age 25.  Very cocky.  At Cowpens he charged right into a trap.

The Americans:

 conducted a double envelopment of Tarleton’s force, and suffered casualties of only 12 killed and 61 wounded…  Morgan’s army took 712 prisoners, which included 200 wounded. Even worse for the British, the forces lost (especially the British Legion and the dragoons) constituted the cream of Cornwallis’ army. Additionally, 110 British soldiers were killed in action, and every artilleryman was either killed or incapacitated by wounds. Tarleton suffered an 86 percent casualty rate, and his brigade had been all but wiped out as a fighting force.

But don’t worry!

Tarleton was one of around 160 British troops to escape.

Tarleton went on, of course, to a career in politics.

He is especially noted for supporting the slave trade, which was highly important to the port of Liverpool. Its ships were deeply involved in slave trading. Tarleton was working to preserve the slavery business with his brothers Clayton and Thomas, and he became well known for his taunting and mockery of the abolitionists.

His romantic life?

For 15 years, he had a relationship with the actress and writer Mary Robinson (Perdita), whom he initially seduced on a bet.

LOL this guy.  What?  Mary Robinson was at the time a notorious babe and former mistress of the King:

Prior to [Tarleton], Robinson had been having an affair with a man named Lord Malden. According to one account, Malden and Tarleton were betting men, and Malden was so confident in Robinson’s loyalty to him, and believed that no man could ever take her from him. As such, he made a bet of a thousand guineas that none of the men in his circle could seduce her. Unfortunately for Malden, Tarleton accepted the bet and swooped in to not only seduce Robinson, but establish a relationship that would last the next 15 years.

Tarleton was famous for killing prisoners trying to surrender — “Tarleton’s Quarter” – after the Battle of Waxhaws.  In Tarleton’s version of the story this was because his guys were so upset that he was hurt:

Colonel Tarleton’s account, published in 1787, said that his horse had been shot from under him, and that his soldiers, thinking him dead, engaged in “a vindictive asperity not easily restrained”.

Then came Cowpens.

via Wikipedia via the US Military Academy history department

The charts and diagrams that are used to explain battles have always interested me but they have some real problems.  In a word they are bloodless.

What we’re talking about here didn’t look like a bunch of tidy arrows and lines.  It was violent chaos, a bunch of guys murdering each other in fire and smoke.

But a little more reading suggests Daniel Morgan, the Continental commander, with the benefit of some time to plan, made some good moves.

Daniel Morgan turned to his advantage the landscape of Cowpens, the varying reliability of his troops, his opponent’s expectations, and the time available before Tarleton’s arrival. He knew untrained militiamen, which composed a large portion of his force, were generally unreliable in battle, and in the past had routed at the first hint of defeat and abandoned the regulars. (The Battle of Camden had ended in disaster when the militia, which was half of the American force, broke and ran as soon as the shooting started.) To eliminate that possibility, he defied convention by placing his army between the Broad and Pacolet rivers, thus making escape impossible if the army was routed.

More:

Morgan asked the militia to fire two volleys, something they could achieve, and then withdraw to the left, to re-form in the rear

Tarleton meanwhile drove his foodless, sleepless men all night in a damn hurry to get another victory.

 

John Eager Howard quoted Maj. McArthur of the 71st Highlanders, now a prisoner of the Americans, as saying that “he was an officer before Tarleton was born; that the best troops in the service were put under ‘that boy’ to be sacrificed.”

This detail:

An American prisoner later told that when Tarleton reached Cornwallis and reported the disaster, Cornwallis placed his sword tip on the ground and leaned on it until the blade snapped.

 


April 19. Patriots Day.

Worth remembering that the American Revolution started when the federal government sent troops to take away people’s guns and ammunition.

More men from Needham died on April 19, 1775, I believe, than from any other town except Lexington:

The detail in that footnote!  What she remembers, the old blind woman: how many of the soldiers had thrown away their coats!  It was under the will of this venerable lady that he first received a legacy!

History gets so much more interesting when you get into how do we know this?  what is the source?  who claims this?  who saw it happen?

The Needham Public Library.

Amos Doolittle wasn’t there but he showed up a few weeks later:

My favorite book on this topic is:

Tourtellot is really kind of funny when he rips into his least favorite patriot, vain old John Hancock:

that illustration up top from:

a British book – is there a pro-Redcoat bias?


Alabama, Mississippi, slavery, and voting

Look at this voting map of Alabama for President, 2016:

And this one of Mississippi:

Those are from Politico, 2016 county by county election results.

Compare them to these amazing Raven Maps (I love Raven maps, buy a Raven map) that show elevation:

Look at the Mississippi Delta:

My hypothesis is that the legacy of slavery can be seen in a simple voting map: black people still live in bottomland — cotton country.

You might double check that by looking at racial percentages by county.

No doubt there are factors I haven’t considered.

Compare too to this 1861 Coast Survey slavery map:

This might demonstrate:

  • geography affects history
  • historical legacies can last a very long time
  • good maps are illuminating