About The Radical South
On February 24, 2016, Governor Phil Bryant declared April “Confederate History Month.” He chose the month, he explained, not only because April is when “the Confederate states began and ended a five-year struggle,” and because April 25 “is set aside as Confederate Memorial Day to honor those who served in the Confederacy,” but because “it is important for Americans to reflect on our nation’s past, to gain insight from our mistakes and successes, and to come to a full understanding that the lessons learned yesterday and today will carry us through tomorrow if we carefully and earnestly strive to understand and appreciate our heritage and our opportunities which lie before us.”
For many at The University of Mississippi, this equation of the Confederacy with “our heritage” was the latest in a series of reductive approaches to Southern history that equate “Southern” with “Confederate.” Coupled with a refusal to bring bills to a vote that encouraged replacing the Confederate emblem on Mississippi’s state flag, this proclamation indicated a ‘defense’ of Southern heritage that makes the Confederacy ground zero of Southerness.
Governor Bryant’s announcement prompted in-depth conversations among university partners who have interrogated these questions. Faculty members from History, English, Southern studies, sociology, and many other departments and centers joined in conversation with representatives of centers on Southern foodways, Southern culture, racial reconciliation, and gender and sexuality studies to consider how to broaden our cultural understanding of the South to include the full complexity of the region—past, present, and future—and to stop using Confederate as a short-hand for “Southern.” Our answer to that question was a month-long series of conversations on the theme “The Radical South”.
The Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies and the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, in collaboration with other departments and centers at The University of Mississippi, are co-sponsoring a series of lectures, roundtables, and presentations in April 2017 under the umbrella “The Radical South.” The month-long series seeks to complicate conventional narratives about the South, Southern identity, race, and romanticized notions of the region.
The month is organized into four main themes–cultural movements, racial justice, economic justice, and gender/sexual equity–and features speakers from the University of Mississippi and around the nation.