The University of Texas History Department is pleased to announce that Professor Victoria E. Bynum will deliver the annual 2012 Littlefield Lectures. On the afternoon of March 6, Professor Bynum will speak on “The Free State of Jones: Community, Race, and Kinship in Civil-War Mississippi.” The following day her topic will be “Communities at War: Men, Women, and the Legacies of Anti-Confederate Dissent.” Both talks, which are free and open to the public, will take place at 4 PM in the Avaya Auditorium (ACE 2.302).
Dr. Bynum, Professor Emerita of History at Texas State University, is a distinguished historian of the American South. She is the author of three books and numerous articles. Her books, all published by the University of North Carolina Press, include Unruly Women: The Politics of Social and Sexual Control in the Old South (1992); The Free State of Jones, Mississippi’s Longest Civil War (2002); and The Long Shadow of the Civil War: Southern Dissent and Its Legacies (2010). Her scholarship challenges the notion of a “solid South” by focusing on men and women of modest means who refused to conform to the political beliefs and social norms established by well-to-do whites. Deeply researched and accessible to non-scholars, these books illuminate significant themes not treated in traditional political accounts of the nineteenth-century South.
Unruly Women was a ground-breaking contribution to the history of southern women. In this book, Professor Bynum explores women in central North Carolina during the Civil-War era. She examines victims of domestic violence who pursued their grievances in court, women who engaged in illicit sexual behavior, and women who resisted the policies of the Confederacy. Professor Bynum remains sensitive to both the differences in legal status between, and similarities in material condition among, black and white women. In the process she highlights both the tensions and social bonds within communities of non-elite Southerners.
The Free State of Jones tells the dramatic story of a Mississippi Piney Woods Unionist stronghold during the Civil War. The war engulfed the lives of everyone in the region—male and female, black and white, rich and poor. Piecing together the story from a variety of sources, Professor Bynum explores the myths and legends that emerge from the “slave-poor county of Jones,” a community of mixed-race people who defied the South’s white-supremacist strictures. The Long Shadow of the Civil War returns to the “Free State of Jones” in Mississippi and also considers two other regions of dissent and disaffection during the war– Big Thicket in eastern Texas and the Quaker Belt in the North Carolina Piedmont. This study brings to life the notion of a “rich man’s war, poor man’s fight,” as non-slaveholding families in these isolated rural areas bore the brunt of a long and bloody conflict. In all three places, the Union victory in 1865 brought not respite from political strife, but the persistent vulnerability of men and women who had dared not only to defy specific Confederate policies such as military conscription, but who had also objected on principle to the Confederate cause, a slaveholders’ war.
Sponsored by the History Department, the annual Littlefield Lectures were endowed by George Washington Littlefield (1842-1920), a native of Mississippi and long-term resident of Texas. Littlefield served as a major in the Confederate army, and, after being wounded in service and discharged, returned to Texas and pursued a variety of businesses, including cattle ranching, banking, and insurance. He was appointed to the University of Texas Board of Regents in 1913, and over the next nine years of his life gave generously to the university. Among other gifts, he endowed the Littlefield Fund for Southern History, which continues to generate funds for books in southern history, as well as for the annual Littlefield lectures.
To learn more about Professor Bynum and her work, visit her website, Renegade South, or her blog, also called Renegade South.
Posted Friday, March 2, 2012