by Shermika Dunner
Imagine being so afraid for your life that you can't leave your seat. Angry mobs await with tear gas, baseball bats and, even worse, guns. Racial epithets are hurled, and instead of state or governmental protection, you are at the mercy of the mob.
These images are not imaginary, but frightenly real. They occurred during May through November of 1961 all over the Deep South and were experienced by the Freedom Riders. The Freedom Riders were a group of Americans, black and white, from a myriad of backgrounds, who shared a common thread: the desire to effect change and have blacks treated as equals. The Freedom Riders rode integrated buses into the segregated South to challenge Boynton vs. Virginia, a Supreme Court decision that made it unlawful to have racial segregation in restaurants and bus stations.
Birmingham, Alabama, is synonyomous with the Civil Rights era, and mentions of the city often conjure memories of Bull Conner, Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and an endless array of faces that are unknown and unsung. In honor of the 50th anniversary of the brave Freedom Riders, the Birmingham History Center is showing a traveling exhibit that tells the story of the
An interview with Lisa Pulitzer and Cole Thompson about their new book chronicling the life of Joran Van der Sloot, his recent crime in Peru and the ongoing mystery of Alabama native Natalee Holloway.
by Erin Z. Bass
I've always been interested in missing persons cases, so when news of Birmingham, Alabama, teenager Natalee Holloway's disappearance in Aruba broke in 2005, I wondered along with the rest of America what had happened to her. Since then, I've followed news reports related to the case. I thought when Joran Van der Sloot confessed to reporter Peter de Vries in the car that time, he would finally be convicted. But it seems like Joran's lies always manage to save him, kind of like more recent criminal Casey Anthony. I can see how after six years, some people may be tired of hearing about the Holloway case, but I wonder how many of them realize Joran went on to kill another young girl in Peru named Stephany Flores (yes, I'm assuming he was responsible for Natalee's death here) and even though he's currently in jail, he hasn't been convicted of that crime yet either. So, for the naysayers who think they wouldn't be interested in
by Shermika Dunner
What's 13 and gets bigger, better and wiser with each year? Sidewalk Film Festival, heralded as one of the greatest independent film festivals in the Southeast, welcomed moviegoers to Birmingham's theater district August 26-28. I had the pleasure of attending and managed to see quite a few films that are either about the South or have a Southern connection.
“The Reconstruction of Asa Carter” is a documentary that profiles the life of Asa Carter, a KKK leader from Alabama who fibbed about being a Native American in a memoir he wrote. Utilizing the name Forrest Carter, he wrote "The Education of Little Tree," which chronicled his life as a Cherokee orphan. To date, the book has sold over a million copies and is regarded as one of the first books in the Native American literature genre. The documentary's subject matter is intriguing, considering Carter was the speechwriter for George Wallace, but lacks appeal and left many unanswered questions. The film did explore Carter’s life in the KKK but glossed over what happened after it was discovered he was not a Native American. I regret choosing this one over "Sahkanaga,” but that's always the dilemma at film festivals.
Next up, “Leaving
Last night's episode and the season finale of Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations" took place in Cajun Country. The show was just too good - and Bourdain's one-liners too plentiful - to watch just once, so we viewed it a second time and wrote down our Top 10 favorite lines. If you missed the episode, it airs again next Monday, September 5, at 8 p.m. E/P. And for a behind the scenes look at filming during the boucherie in Eunice, watch our video here. (A travel guide for Bourdain's Cajun Country is also in the works and will be up on our site soon!)
Top 10 Lines From "No Reservations" in Cajun Country (in order of appearance)
1. New Orleans still has a regional culture. In much of the rest of the country, you ask them what kind of food they eat, they say McDonald's or Burger King. You ask them what kind of music they listen to, whatever's Top 40. New Orleans, you get emblematic food, emblematic music, emblematic architecture, and we are an example for the rest of the country to rediscover those things about themselves. - Lolis Eric Elie on New Orleans
2. Two hours drive from New Orleans, and
Printed in recognition of the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
by Lydia Ondrusek
Break, water on
stones lifting from the sea,
earth’s very arms, hands cupped;
and we, small birds, held safe.
Break, water, on.
Truth obeys no tide,
we cannot change it,
only try to understand -
only sit on truth, together,
looking out across the water.
Only sit on truth, our feet wet,
dreaming of the sky.
by Lydia Ondrusek
If I believed in reincarnation, she says,
I’d think I used to live in New Orleans
every cast iron railing
makes me think of home
my hand remembers flowers twisting,
muscle around bone
when I bite into a moment, she says
powdered sweetness drifts
hangs in the air,
sparkling like this rain
it settles on me
anoints me as a child of God
Listening to her
I hear a paddlewheel stirring water
and the clop of hooves
the car horns
become a jazz symphony
no one hears but me
and maybe her
She raises her umbrella as the light changes;
hips swaying like a dancer,
sashays to the other side
Lydia Ondrusek lives in Richardson, Texas, and often writes about Southern experiences and locations. She has had fiction and poetry published online and in print since 2008 in a diverse range of publications that include Flash Fiction Online and Falling Star Magazine. Her new story "Help Wanted" is included in Beast Within 2: Predator & Prey
by John Bowers
A frog in my playpen. It is my earliest memory. Between the bars, a fat Red Oak River marsh frog on the floor of my playpen, breathing bulbously and staring at me. I cried out in alarm. I hadn’t learned much language yet, and I cried out by echoing the words I had just heard on the TV. “Crest twenty feet!” I yelled. “Cwest twenny fee twenny fee twenny feeeeeet!”
My grandpa Farhad rushed into the room and stood looking at me. “You talk to the frog,” he breathed in amazement. He got down on the floor and picked up the frog and held it in his hand, waiting for more information. The Red Oak was flooding and all the property owners along its banks were worried about where it would crest. My successful forecast via the frog became family lore.
Mom and I visited Grandpa Farhad at the Talaville prairie home every summer. We lived 600 miles east in Louisville. Come late May we’d leave behind school buses, supermarkets, traffic lights, and urban vermin to make the grueling trip on two-lane roads. I would mentally shelve my latest resentments and crushes, brushing away a year’s worth of tests and
Joining Georgia museums Scarlett on the Square in Marietta, Road to Tara in Jonesboro and Scarlet's Secret in Sautee, and Scarlett O'Hardy's in Jefferson, Texas, is a new Gone With the Wind Museum in Branson, Missouri. Gone With the Wind: A Book and Film Museum held its grand opening this past weekend. Located on Main Street downtown, the museum showcases the collection of Dr. Novella Perrin, a retired dean from the University of Central Missouri. It all started with a Gone With the Wind snow globe for Dr. Perrin, and she's been collecting memorabilia, from original costumes to props and autographs, for more than 25 years. Visitors can see a pair of Clark Gable's pants and his top hat from the movie, a theater seat from the Atlanta premier and Aunt Pittypat's umbrella, in addition to a large display of dolls and movie posters.
Only about half of Dr. Perrin's collection is on display now, and a representative with the museum says they plan to rotate things out seasonally. A Christmas ornament display will be on view for the holidays, and special events will be held monthly. The museum is open Monday-Saturday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m., and admission is $10. Fan the
by Patricia Thomas
My mother was a gorgeous southern beauty queen, with long brown hair and big green eyes, and my father was a dashing blond who swept her off her feet. They met on a double date and married young, right out of high school. It was a shotgun wedding, as they say in the south, meaning my mother got pregnant and so they got married. That’s what people did in the 1950s. That is how I came to be. I don’t think my mother ever really adjusted to being married and giving up her carefree days of parties and dancing, and sadly for us both, she never seemed to enjoy being a mother. However, my grandmother, to my delight and good fortune, loved being a grandmother. When I was a little girl, I spent every other weekend at her house in a small town in southern Alabama called Elba. It was built around a square, with all the merchants in shops around the sides. The town square had park benches and picnic tables, lots of grass, and best of all, at Christmas, a giant Santa Claus with a little train that tooted and blew real smoke. My grandmother knew
As many of you know, we've been working on a Southern Literary Trail app for a while now. Due out on iTunes this fall, it includes literary sites across the South, from writer's homes to museums, gravesites, restaurants and bars and statues. So, a tweet on Sunday night that said "Br'er Rabbit statue stolen in Eatonton" caught our attention.
Brer Rabbit is a character created by writer Joel Chandler Harris, who was born in Eatonton, Georgia, and has several sites there dedicated to him (as well as a house museum in Atlanta). One of those is the Uncle Remus Museum, named after the fictional narrator of Harris's stories. A site on our app, the museum is constructed of three Putnam County slave cabins and features a statue of the rabbit out front, with mementos, first editions of Harris's works and photos from Disney's movie version of Harris's stories, "Song of the South," on view inside.
The 3-foot-tall, 250-pound statue of Brer Rabbit was reported stolen on Aug. 7. On Monday, the rabbit was found in the woods about 5 miles east of town. His pipe and left ear had been broken off, but otherwise he was in pretty good shape. The sheriff's
10 films that dive into the beauty and terror of Southern life.
By Jake Cole
"Gone With the Wind" may be the film that dominates the conversation when it comes to the South, but it's hardly the only great movie about the region. The South may not grace the screen regularly enough, or at least not as something more than a cultural punching bag, but there are movies that capture both its reality and cultural spirit. From a silent masterpiece to modern works of poetry and progressiveness, these 10 films should be on every Southerners' to-watch list.
The General (Buster Keaton, 1926) The Civil War was at the heart of American cinematic innovation in the medium's first few decades, from D.W. Griffith's medium-changing "The Birth of a Nation" to a little film about a woman named Scarlett. The conflict even made for seminal comedy, as seen in this movie Orson Welles called "the greatest comedy ever made, the greatest Civil War film ever made, and perhaps the greatest film ever made." Keaton's rebel engineer moves through a world as realistic as the still photographs to come from the conflict — and as absurd as anything the great clown could come up with. Epic in