09
Feb 18

Freedom’s Dance: Social, Aid and Pleasure Clubs in New Orleans

Writing is often a solitary and tedious process with innumerable hours tapping on a keyboard. But the journey to create Freedom’s Dance: Social, Aid and Pleasure Clubs in New Orleans was a joyous purpose. I was driven to tell the truth with Eric Waters (photographer) about an African-American ritual and that both of us loved and knew well. The energy of SAPC members kept us working for years as we pored over thousands of photos to capture the beauty and communal joy of a Second Line parade. We pursued culture-bearers for interviews so that their voices could be heard.

The work was necessary because people from across the U.S. and around the world have witnessed or participated in a Second Line but didn’t know the rich and stunning history.   A Second Line is so much more than Black residents dancing in New Orleans streets just for kicks but is a direct line back to Africa; tribal memory by generations of those who have endured enslavement in America. The color and movement through neighborhoods are about maintaining a cellular connection – communitas – that bolsters people enduring the ‘new Jim Crow’ through systemic oppression, low-paying jobs and mass incarceration. It might be only a few hours on a designated Sunday parading with fellow club members, but this cultural phenomenon feeds psyches to face another day. It is truly a dance that is freeing for SAPC members and the community.

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Here are seven books that will assist bibliophiles interested in gaining more insight on SAPCs in New Orleans, one of the most African-retentive cultures in the United States.

Congo Square: African Roots in New Orleans by Freddi Williams Evans (2011, University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press). This area just outside New Orleans’ famed French Quarter – now designated as a historic location – is where slaves would gather every Sunday to meet, dance and sell their wares. It is the place where the precursor to the Second Line occurred, a showcase for African tribal dances. Congo Square details the resilience of those who were enslaved, determined to maintain Africa’s rituals in a foreign land and keep a sense of ‘self.’ Evans is a featured essayist in Freedom’s Dance.

Black Skin, White Masks (Peau Noire, Masques Blancs) by Frantz Fanon (1967, Grove Press). I read this book when I was in junior high in the early 1970s. As a child of integration raised on the East Coast by Southern parents, Black Skin illuminated some of the racial issues I faced at a critical point in my development. I witnessed segregation traveling south in the 1960s and when I saw my first Second Line in the mid-1970s, there was an immediate sense of belonging and being ‘home.’

From Slavery to Freedom: A History of Negro Americans by John Hope Franklin (1970, Knopf). Franklin created this comprehensive, academic view of being Black in America. The book outlined what it took for a race of people to rise above being treated as less than human and battle to thrive in a country that needed their bodies for economic development. An eye-opener read in my freshman year of college.

Africans in Colonial Louisiana: The Development of Afro-Creole Culture in the Eighteenth Century by Gwendolyn Midlo Hall (1992, LSU Press). Hall detailed every aspect of an African’s life in the ‘New World’ but ensured that the enslaved weren’t nameless or faceless, toiling in a field picking cotton or cutting sugar cane. She offered a list of tribes, their origins in Africa, their tribal attributes and how that became the fabric of New Orleans and Louisiana.

Black Rage in New Orleans: Police Brutality and African American Activism from World War II to Hurricane Katrina by Leonard N. Moore (2010, LSU Press). Moore’s book shows the continuum of resistance that began in Congo Square and continued unabated into the disaster that nearly wiped out New Orleans. African Americans in the city were never collectively docile or accepting of mistreatment. The warrior spirit from African tribes lives on in the city’s Black citizens.

Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster by Michael Eric Dyson (2005, Basic Civitas-Perseus Books). Dyson was one of the first nationally recognized academics to look at the decimation of a predominately African-American city. He delved into issues of class, caste and culture, and these same issues are explored in Freedom’s Dance.

Roll With It: Brass Bands in the Streets of New Orleans by Matt Sakakeeny (2013, Duke University Press). Sakakeeny focused on a specific aspect of the Second Line culture – music delivered by brass bands. There cannot be an SAPC without the driving beat of a band comprised of – at minimum – a snare drum, trumpet, saxophone and tuba. It is a comprehensive look at a music culture that could only have been born and nurtured in New Orleans.

Freedom’s Dance offers a holistic view of a beloved ritual that screams ‘you are in New Orleans!’ The book honors a pure demonstration of dedication, pride and spirit.


Karen Celestan is executive writer and editor in University Advancement and adjunct professor of English at Texas Southern University in Houston. She is the co-author and editor of unfinished blues: Memories of New Orleans Music Man with Harold Battiste, Jr. (2010, Historic New Orleans Collection). unfinished received a BCALA Literary Award (Black Caucus of the American Library Association) for Contribution to Publishing. Celestan’s work has appeared in Carve Magazine, New Orleans Advocate, The Times-Picayune, Gambit Newsweekly and other publications.

Buy Freedom’s Dance today and don’t forget to follow LSU Press on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook!


22
Dec 17

Looking Across Vast American Spaces: Bryan Giemza and Maria Hebert-Leiter in Conversation

Recently, Bryan Giemza and Maria Hebert-Leiter shared with us what inspired them to write Images of Depression-Era Louisiana. Here is an excerpt of their conversation.


Bryan: The origin story of Images of Depression-Era Louisiana: The FSA Photographs of Ben Shahn, Russell Lee, and Marion Post Wolcott begins in another book, actually. I was writing a new introduction to E.P. O’Donnell’s Depression-era novel, The Great Big Doorstep. It’s a minor classic of humor writing, set in Plaquemines Parish, and Eudora Welty was very fond of it.  I wanted to show what the place looked like, and turned up a series of contemporaneous photos straight out of the novel’s world, right down to the Boothville orange groves that the author lived among!

I had to marvel at my luck. It’s unusual to land on such an exact match. The outer reaches of Plaquemines Parish weren’t exactly a densely populated area in the 1930s—O’Donnell writes about a flotsam-and-jetsam culture of cast-off people on the margins of nature, industry, and the waterways. It was sort of astonishing to find that they had been photographed at all at that time.  There was a variety about the subjects, places, and people that was unusually intimate and arresting.  Naturally I wondered, “Who took these? Where did they come from?”

I wondered if the photos were as striking to others as to me. It didn’t take me long to realize, from the reactions of others, that they were indeed something special.

Maria: I was also amazed when I first viewed the photographs. I was born and raised in Thibodaux, Louisiana, and as soon as I saw them I recognized the subjects captured on film. Even if I didn’t actually know their names, I had seen folks like them before. They are the people of Louisiana—then, now, and always.

So Bryan and I started to unravel the backstory and to literally map the byways and pathways that the photographers took. We had to untangle the Louisiana chapter from the bigger story, because some of the Farm Security Administration (FSA) photographers’ work is well known. For example, Walker Evans worked with James Agee on Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941), and Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother” is perhaps the most famous of the images in the FSA-OWI collection. Both of them took a few photos on their way through Louisiana, in fact.

But it’s easy to forget that Evans and Lange were just two of the photographers Roy E. Stryker sent across the nation to record the need for and, later, the results of the Resettlement Agency (RA) and the FSA programs between 1935 and 1943. Stryker brought together an amazing group of photographers who not only shot federal programs in action but also documented on film the folkways, traditions, and customs of the areas they visited.

We realized that the three principal photographers that worked Louisiana for the FSA needed to be examined as a set. Images of Depression-Era Louisiana specifically addresses the work of Ben Shahn, Russell Lee, and Marion Post Wolcott and the incredible photographs they took in the state. The local culture of Louisiana has a texture and variety set apart from other parts of the south and the country, and they had captured some part of it. A series of Russell Lee’s negatives of the 1938 Crowley Rice Festival are preserved, along with Marion Post Wolcott’s images of Spanish muskrat trappers and their families in St. Bernard Parish. And those are but two series among the 4,000 Louisiana negatives still protected by the Library of Congress.

Bryan: My question is, What is like the FSA project today?  Can we imagine similar projects that help us to really see one another, across the vastness of American spaces, divisions, and social classes? Public policy is fundamentally about making choices, and the only way to make informed choices is with good information. In our image-saturated world, we forget that a picture is worth a thousand words, and there were a lot fewer pictures in the 1930s. The FSA photographers rendered invisible people and places suddenly visible. The boldness and vision of it are still inspiring.


To appreciate more thoroughly the FSA-OWI collection, its unprecedented achievement, and the remarkable dedication and vision of Stryker and the photographers, we recommend the following books:

Carl Fleischhauer and Beverly W. Brannan, eds, Documenting America, 1935–1943 (University of California Press, 1988). This book includes a general history of photography at the time, along with suggestions regarding how to read the larger FSA-OWI file. The editors focus on each photographer by choosing significant series they took and discussing these series in more detail, along with including memorable photographs from it. For example, they describe and explain Russell Lee’s photographs of the forced relocation of Japanese Americans in 1942.

Gilles Mora and Beverly W. Brannan, eds. FSA: The American Vision (Abrams, 2006). This book will prove especially useful for readers who want a more general history of the RA, FSA, and OWI. It also includes brief histories of Stryker and the individual photographers, along with some of their memorable photos.

Jack Hurley, Portrait of a Decade: Roy Stryker and the Development of Documentary Photography in the Thirties (LSU Press, 1972). Hurley’s focus specifically on Stryker allows for a more thorough account of the photographers’ fearless leader and his motivations for creating this unprecedented photographic collection.

Howard Greenfeld, Ben Shahn: An Artist’s Life (Random House, 1998). Greenfeld records Shahn’s life from childhood, including his family’s immigration to America, through his RA and FSA years and beyond. This book explains why Shahn, a painter, took photographs that are included in the FSA-OWI collection.

Jack Hurley, Russell Lee, Photographer (Morgan and Morgan, 1978). Hurley provides a more comprehensive biography of Lee, who continued to work with Stryker even after the FSA years.

Paul Hendrickson, Looking for the Light: The Hidden Life and Art of Marion Post Wolcott. (Knopf, 1992). Hendrickson includes Wolcott’s responses to certain photos since he interviewed her decades after she took them. This book offers interesting insight into her personality and her experiences as a woman photographer at the time.

P. O’Donnell, The Great Big Doorstep, with an introduction by Bryan Giemza and an afterword by Eudora Welty (LSU Press, 2015). This Depression-era comic novel set in Louisiana inspired Images of Depression-Era Louisiana and our more in-depth inquiries into the photographers and the photographs they took of the state during this time.

John H. Scott with Cleo Scott Brown, Witness to the Truth: My Struggle for Human Rights in Louisiana (University of South Carolina Press, 2003). This book is a must read for those interested in how the federal projects affected the Louisiana people as it records an African American’s experience of Separate but Equal policies as they pertained to federal projects in the South during the FSA years.

Richard Wright, 12 Million Black Voices (1941; Basic Books, 2002).  Edwin Rosskam curated from across the FSA collections the photographs in this collection reflecting black experience in that time and place.  The accompanying text from famed African American writer Richard Wright makes the volume even more memorable.


Bryan Giemza is director of the Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina Libraries. He is the author of Irish Catholic Writers and the Invention of the American South.

Originally from Thibodaux, Louisiana, Maria Hebert-Leiter teaches at Lycoming College in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. She is the author of Becoming Cajun, Becoming American: The Acadian in American Literature from Longfellow to James Lee Burke.

Buy Images of Depression-Era Louisiana today and don’t forget to follow LSU Press on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook!


20
Feb 17

3 Things I Learned from The Photojournalism of Del Hall

One of the pleasures of working for a university press is the perpetual discovery of pockets of knowledge that I never knew existed before. The Photojournalism of Del Hall is a passion project for geographer Richard Campanella, who found himself entranced by Hall’s stories of growing up in New Orleans, the son of a Mexican immigrant, and ultimately becoming a pioneer in the world of photojournalism.

This February, take 30% off (plus free shipping) The Photojournalism of Del Hall and many more of LSU Press’s most beautiful books. Shop our CURATE sale today!

In addition to being an absolutely gorgeous collection of photos covering five decades of American history, The Photojournalism of Del Hall taught me plenty about

Civil Rights Protestors Weren’t the Only Ones Arrested in Sit-Ins

Woolworth’s and other major establishments were pressured into changing their segregationist policies by teams of black activists staging sit-ins. Arrests on charges of disturbing the peace were common. As Campanella reveals, one of the things that deeply worried the management at Woolworth’s was the presence of TV media. Del Hall and his fellow cameraman Roddy Mims were arrested at a 1961 sit-in that spanned several shops along Canal Street. They were charged with “disturbing the peace by creating a scene” and even blamed by one police officer for the protestors’ presence at the stores.

Neither Mims nor Del Hall was convicted. Participants in the sit-ins were, and often served jail time, as well as facing job loss, death threats, and other forms of retaliation from the community.

Del Hall Worked on a CBS Series Inspired by John Steinbeck

As a poodle owner myself, I’ve always been fond of John Steinbeck’s book Travels with Charley, which details a cross-country road trip Steinbeck took with his standard poodle, Charley. Charles Kuralt hired Del Hall for his famed CBS series On the Road, which was inspired by John Steinbeck’s travelogue.

Filming “On the Road” with Charles Kuralt. Del films from top of ladder while Kuralt walks by below. Del Hall Collection / CBS News

Del Hall’s work on On the Road would earn him an Emmy for Best Cinematography for News and Documentary Programming, in 1974.

Del Hall Low-Key Set Michael Jordan’s House on Fire

Okay, he didn’t set the house all the way on fire, but the lighting set-up was so hot that it melted parts of a plastic doorframe in Michael Jordan’s Chicago mansion. As you would probably expect, Michael Jordan was very cool about it.

Michael Jordan demonstrates a slam dunk for 60 Minutes’s Diane Sawyer. Del Hall Collection / Del Hall Video

Over the course of his career, Del filmed celebrities from the Beatles (he sat down at Ringo’s drumset!) to the Dalai Lama, but throughout his career he maintained a quiet presence and courtesy. When he stopped by the LSU Press office in the run-up to this book’s publication, he posed and photographed each of the staff members he met, although a lot of us are rather camera-shy. You’ll have to live without those photographs, though! Instead, buy this gorgeous book at 30% off at our website, and take home a piece of American history.


12
Aug 15

Around the Press in 80 Books: Accalia and the Swamp Monster

In celebration of LSUP’s 80th anniversary the staff selected 80 of our most memorable titles. Adding to our “Around the Press in 80 Books” blog series, Associate Financial Operations Manager Leslie Green writes about Accalia and the Swamp Monster.

Creepy. That’s what I thought the first time I saw some of Kelli Scott Kelley’s work from this series at a gallery. But cool, and surreal. Very surreal. And then, after hearing her talk about the work, I thought, yep, very creepy and brilliant!

Not only is this work open to interpretation, that’s the whole point. It invites interpretation. And once one goes down the rabbit-hole of consciously thinking about interpretation, one must come to grips with the realization that this artwork, better than many, forces a person to see how his or her own experiences color everything in daily life. The other brilliant part of this book is that the images are very accessible, easy to read yet full of depth: simple drawings and paintings embellished with intriguing textiles.

It was exciting when this book project was presented to us at LSU Press. I knew the artist and had seen some of this work in person. While LSU Press is better known for its history lists, many of the staff here are keenly interested in contemporary art. We go to galleries and museums, and some of us are visual artists in addition to being editors and designers. And we’re proud of our fellow Louisiana artist.

I wholeheartedly recommend losing yourself in the experience that is Accalia and the Swamp Monster.

Buy this book now for 20% off and get free shipping on all orders over $50; use code 0480FAV at checkout. 


15
May 15

Around the Press in 80 Books: New Roads and Old Rivers

In celebration of LSUP’s 80th anniversary the staff selected 80 of our most memorable titles. Adding to our “Around the Press in 80 Books” blog series, Senior Editor Catherine Kadair writes about New Roads and Old Rivers.

One of the least appreciated areas of Louisiana lies northwest of Baton Rouge, between the winding curves of the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers. This is Pointe Coupee, counted among the oldest settlements in the Mississippi Valley. For seven years I lived just across the parish line from Pointe Coupee. As my kids and I explored it by car and on foot, I became more and more impressed by its natural beauty, its significance in state history, and, perhaps most of all, by its warm, welcoming people. So I was delighted when I heard we were going to publish New Roads and Old Rivers, a journey by photo and word through Pointe Coupee Parish. Richard Sexton’s photographs are stunning, and Randy Harelson writes about so many different aspects of the parish—its long and interesting history; its vibrant, unique Creole culture; its longstanding Mardi Gras tradition; and much more. Harelson’s hand-drawn and delicately colored maps are a lovely bonus feature.

Some of my favorite photographs in New Roads and Old Rivers are those of the modest Creole cottages that dot the landscape, many of which I recognize from my drives through the area. The oak trees in this parish are truly ancient, some of them over 300 years old, and there are striking photos of several old-timers, including the Miss Jane Pittman Oak, the tree that inspired Ernest Gaines to write his most famous work. Most of the stately plantation houses in Pointe Coupee are still privately owned and lived in, rather than set off as museum pieces; and this book gives us an inside look at these beautiful homes not open to the public. There are photos of the oxbow lakes False River and Old River (“Pointe Coupee” means “cut-off point” in French); of the mounds built by Native Americans who lived in the area for millennia before Europeans arrived; of small-town main streets; of picturesque churches and cemeteries. Lovely images like those are balanced by photos of the people of Pointe Coupee—craftsmen planing cypress boards by hand according to local custom; workers packing homegrown pecans for shipping all over the world; women gathering weekly to sing and converse in Creole French. The traditions of Pointe Coupee are worth preserving, and as Harelson notes, the people who live those traditions are the most important preservationists of all. I’m proud that LSU Press is doing its part to preserve—and share—so many Louisiana traditions.

Buy this book now for 20% off and get free shipping on all orders over $50, use code 0480FAV at checkout.


05
Jun 12

“Clementine Hunter” Offers First Comprehensive Biography of Self-Taught Artist

Authors Reveal Louisiana Painter’s Impact on Modern Art World, Detail Decades-Long Forgery Operation

Baton Rouge, LA—Clementine Hunter (1887–1988) painted every day from the 1930s until several days before her death at age 101. As a cook and domestic servant at Louisiana’s Melrose Plantation, she painted on hundreds of objects available around her—glass snuff bottles, discarded roofing shingles, ironing boards—as well as on canvas. She produced between five and ten thousand paintings, including her most ambitious work, the African House Murals. Scenes of cotton planting and harvesting, washdays, weddings, baptisms, funerals, Saturday night revelry, and zinnias depict her experiences of everyday plantation life. More than a personal record of Hunter’s life, her paintings also reflect the social, material, and cultural aspects of the area’s larger African American community.

Continue reading →


04
Jun 12

Renowned Photographer Richard Sexton Captures Region’s Distinct Landscapes and Heritage

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 4, 2012

Contact: Erin Rolfs, LSU Press Book News
erolfs@lsu.edu/225.578.8282

New Roads and Old Rivers: Louisiana’s Historic Pointe Coupee Parish

Baton Rouge, LA—”New Roads and Old Rivers,” available in September 2012, reveals the natural and cultural vitality of Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana, as seen in the stunning photographs of Richard Sexton, with text by Randy Harelson and Brian Costello. Pointe Coupee is one of the oldest settlements in the Mississippi Valley, dating to the 1720s. French for “a place cut off,” the name refers to the area’s three oxbow lakes, separated from the Mississippi over centuries. Edged by the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers, Pointe Coupee remains a land rich in Creole heritage, distinct in geographical beauty, and abounding in historic homes and farms.

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10
Apr 08

Why Poetry Matters

Just in time for April’s observance of National Poetry Month, LSU Press author Danny Heitman has published an op-ed in The Christian Science Monitor arguing for the continued importance of poetry. “While I’m not a poet myself, I’ve really deepened my appreciation for poetry over the years by reading the exceptional, Pulitzer Prize-winning line of poetry published by LSU Press, and that, in no small part, is why I try to promote poetry through national commentaries such as this one,” Heitman said of the op-ed. Readers can check out the piece here.

Although Heitman isn’t a poet, his new LSU Press title, A Summer of Birds: John James Audubon at Oakley House, has been hailed for its poetic sensibility. Nationally renowned historian Neil Baldwin praised the book as “satisfying and artful: local history as poetic metaphor.”


01
Apr 08

Heitman in Kansas City Star

The Kansas City Star includes Danny Heitman’s A Summer of Birds in its list of recommended titles from "the kind of presses who get it all done with perhaps a dozen people instead of hundreds." Read the article here.


17
Jul 07

Best Painter in Baton Rouge

GaryapRhea Gary was named Best Painter in Baton Rouge in the 2nd Annual Best of 225 Awards. According to the readers’ nominations, ". . . Gary marries paint to canvas to capture the brilliance and splendor of Louisiana’s bayous and marshland." In 2005, Gary joined with nature photographer, C.C. Lockwood, to portray the beauty of Louisiana’s vanishing wetlands in the book, Marsh Mission.