Skip to main content

Old South's Old Testament

I just picked up an old copy of Roark Bradford's Ol' Man Adam an' All His Chillun (1928) and found the chapter illustrations to be delightful.  Bradford grew up in Tennessee and served in World War I, and although his major stories and novels came out in the 1920s and 1930s he is most certainly overshadowed by other Lost Generation writers, especially William Faulkner.  He later served in WWII and taught literature at Tulane.



Bradford's collection makes use of southern black dialect and Jim Crow minstrelsy stereotypes to retell Old Testament fables reset in the Old South; I suppose the black child narrator serves a sort of Scheherazade like conceit, introducing each of the Biblical tales together for his audience.  The collection became the basis of a prize winning, popular drama about the South, Green Pastures (1929) and many of the nostalgic themes would of course appear in Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind (1936).  Green Pastures on stage and television provided a not uncontroversial vehicle for many African-American actors in the 1930s to the 1960s.



The greatest part of the book, however, remain the whimsical illustrations which recast the familar Old Testament into the world of the Plantation South replete with steamboats, top hats, whiskers, and belles.  Enjoy.










































Comments

Popular posts from this blog

14th Amendment

Today is the anniversary of the passage of the 14th Amendment in 1868 which guarantees birthright citizenship in the United States.


Passed in both houses of Congress by June 1866 it took more than two years to be ratified by the states.  Every former Confederate state opposed its ratification until Congress made it a condition for readmission to the Union and the seating of southern Congressmen.  Citizenship for freedmen and women in the South opened the possibility of African American men voting and holding office, something anticipated eagerly by the Republican party, depicted here on the cover of Harper's Weekly as the amendment gained support throughout 1867.

Not everyone, of course, welcomed African American votes, particularly California Democrats who would soon push for the closure of Asian immigration to the state out of fear that the 14th Amendment would make citizens of the children of immigrants.  Below is a typical anti-Republican cartoon trading on anxieties about the 1…

Weekend Reading? Trump as Jackson Think Pieces Galore

The Countess, Clara Bow, and Women Boxers of the 1920s

I've long admired the Depression era reporting of Joseph Mitchell, as well as his later essays for the New Yorker.  The book to read, I suppose, is his Up in the Old Hotel.  I have been working my way through a late 1930s collection of pieces entitled My Ears Are Bent which collects his various- probably many unprinted- reports on Prohibition era NYC's underworld.

In a section on sports, Mitchell's clear admiration and affection for the plucky 1920s women boxers is matched only perhaps by his discussion of the performance pushed into burlesque as vaudeville audiences declined during the depression.

In an endearing profile he describes the 1930s career of The Countess, Jeanne Vina La Marr, the first woman in America licensed to fight in New Jersey in the mid1920s.  Unable to fight contests without a license in NYC, she instead did exhibition in the city, often fighting other women and men, usually in some vaguely legal connection with the burlesque shows and speakeasies.