People stereotype. It’s natural. I’ve never watched the Soprano’s, but I started watching the series on Amazon Prime a few weeks ago. It got me thinking about stereotyping.
Are all Italians in the mafia? Are all African-Americans in gangs? Are all muslims terrorists? Are all Southerners dumb, poor, not quite sophisticated with an underlying hatred toward African-Americans? Of course not!
I love history. I have enjoyed writing about the American Revolution. I feel strongly that we were in the right fighting for our independence. It is easy to write when you feel the emotions of the characters. Writing about the Civil War, Southern Legacy, has been much harder.
The Civil War is personal to me. Growing up in the deep South, even after over a hundred years, people still hung onto the defeat. Etched into my memory is my grandmother talking about carpetbaggers and the hardships seen by Southerners after the Civil War was over. The pain and hurt still lived in her voice.
My home in Mississippi!
My immediate family during the Civil War didn’t own slaves…never own a slave. They barely had enough money to take care of their own families. My great-great grandmother Annie Bolton wrote her autobiography. She was a young girl during the Civil War living on a small farm in Alabama. She talked of hearing the cannons during the Battle of Shiloh. Her father died fighting for the South. His death caused extreme hardships for her mother. Awfully poor, Annie ended up raising her younger siblings before she ended up marrying my great-great grandfather. It is a heartwarming story of the struggle and hardships of rebuilding after the war.
We Southerners take pride in our heritage. I wish I was half the woman who Annie Bolton was. In her writings, there was no animosity toward the North, only a deep felt love for her family and God. She placed her faith in God, hard work and the love she held for those around her.
Magnolia Plantation, Charleston, SC
Southern Legacy Serial is a love story. A romance—I’m not trying to defend history. Rather, I’m trying to write a possible scenario. Gone With the Wind is a classic because Margaret Mitchell wasn’t afraid of making sure she didn’t say or write something not socially acceptable. So many romance authors stay away from Antebellum South because of the stigma of what the war stood for.
Let me say—It is awfully hard. How do you write about the romance and glitter that the Antebellum South held without condoning the way they gain their fortunes…off the backs of slaves? So how do you write a simple romance during that period. You don’t. It’s not simple…it’s complicated.
I’m Southerner—born and bred. I am extremely proud of being from Marietta, Mississippi. My father was a high school basketball coach; my mother, a kindergarten teacher. Just because my view may not be yours, it doesn’t mean its wrong. I respect everyone’s opinion, but don’t tell me I don’t know the South. I do.
I have lived for years in the Boston area. My husband is from here and I have never regretted my decision to move up here. But it doesn’t mean I don’t miss the South. Let me tell you, I have missed the people terribly. There are no nicer…kinder souls than from Northeast Mississippi. My momma is turning 80 in May and my whole family is going down for the occasion. I can’t wait to go home. Not to mention that my husband and I fell in love with Charleston and plan to retire there.
Southern Legacy is a book I had to write. Why? When I moved up North, it became quite apparent that most of the people I met perceived Southerners including me as a backwards, stupid, and prejudiced. To be honest, I was taken back when I moved to Boston to see how prejudice this city was.
Boston seemed to be broken up into four parts: Irish, Italian, Jews and African-American. When I first arrived in Boston, I’ll never forget walking by a park where children were playing. There was a group of white children no more than four or five years old. As children do, one of the little boys threw a rock and hit one of the other children. Of course, the little one hit went running to his mother. As fate would have it, there was one little African-American boy sitting playing happily by himself. But suddenly the mother of the injured child swept down and accused the African-American boy of throwing the rock, yelling and screaming at him. The little boy’s mother tried to tell them he hadn’t done it. It was then I interrupted them and told them what I saw. The white child’s mother didn’t even apologize. Honestly, it was the first time in my life I had seen the discrepancy in treatment of whites and blacks.
I thought to myself—See it’s not the South. Why it’s worse up here in Boston! I felt justified in my conclusion until two things happened. One—I had children. I’ll never forget the day my child came home from school after watching the movie, Mississippi Burning. He asked had it really happened? I couldn’t lie. While the movie was fictional, it was based on the true story of the murder of three civil rights workers in Mississippi. I could argue that it was overly dramatic and filled with Hollywood’s perception, but I couldn’t dispute that three innocent people died. Second—a co-worker of mine. Cally, an African-American born in Mississippi, was one of eleven children born in a small town in the Delta. She grew up in the ’60s. When she was six or seven, the sheriff came out and arrested her momma. I don’t know where her father was at the time, but the sheriff took her momma away from her eleven young children, leaving them alone for three days. Her momma’s crime—she had missed one payment of $10 on her TV. That was the Mississippi that Cally took away from her youth.
On the other hand, I never experienced that Mississippi. The Mississippi I know and love is nothing like it has been portrayed in the press and media. Why the discrepancy? Just my opinion. I think we Mississippians are a stubborn lot. We don’t like to be told what to do. We put up a facade that if you don’t like us, we don’t care. But we do…or I do.
I’m proud to be a Mississippian. I am proud of my ancestors that fought in the Civil War. They were brave and true. It took a great deal of courage and fortitude to fight in the war. They fought for their homes and family. The issue with the Civil War—given the fact that less than 10% of the population owned slaves—is that the rich land owners were the politicians. Now, I know that it’s been said the Civil War was fought over state rights. I believe that to be true, more so than we fought for slavery. But don’t you believe that it was mostly the plantation owners fighting to preserve their way of life. The question becomes did our Southern leaders lead us blindly into a war to maintain their wealth, while we loyal soldiers fought under the guise of loyalty and duty?
In all of this, where were the voices of reason? Why didn’t anyone ever question our Southerner leaders? Wade Hamilton of South Carolina expressed concerns, but even being the well-respected citizen he was, no one listened to him and even mocked him for his opinion. Our military leader, Robert E. Lee, had his reservations, but chose to be loyal to his state.
So, you think that I’m saying this because it’s politically correct. No, I felt this way even as a youth. My sister confiscated a paper I wrote in the fifth grade thinking she held something over me…like I would be embarrassed by what I had written. It was a civil war essay contest. I came in second. The teachers told my mother I would have come in first place if I hadn’t said that the South was in the wrong. I said the South should have never fought the Civil War.
Even during the war, it was questioned in households. Here is the viewpoint of one Southern lady that lived during the Civil War.
I was never a Secessionist, for I quietly adopted father’s views on political subjects without meddling with them. But even father went over with his State, and when so many outrages were committed by the fanatical leaders of the North, though he regretted the Union, said, “Fight to the death for our liberty.” I say so, too. I want to fight until we win the cause so many have died for. I don’t believe in Secession, but I do in Liberty. I want the South to conquer, dictate its own terms, and go back to the Union, for I believe that, apart, inevitable ruin awaits both. It is a rope of sand, this Confederacy, founded on the doctrine of Secession, and will not last many years – not five. The North Cannot subdue us. We are too determined to be free. They have no right to confiscate our property to pay debts they themselves have incurred. Death as a nation, rather than Union on such terms. We will have our rights secured on so firm a basis that it can never be shaken. If by power of overwhelming numbers they conquer us, it will be a barren victory over a desolate land. ” Sarah Morgan Dawson
Confederate Girl’s Diary, p32.
Call number 973.78 D27c 1913 (Davis Library, UNC-CH)
One aspect of the Civil War that is not addressed often is that not all Southerners chose the Confederacy. Granted most did, but there were those that wanted the Union to stay unified. The first Admiral of the Navy, David Farragut, was Southern. He is the one the said “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” General George Henry Thomas was in command of the Union Army of Tennessee. Then there was also Percival Drayton from Charleston. He served in the US Navy and fought against his brother in the Battle of Port Royal. (Another time I will talk more about the Draytons.) There were many families split over the war. Brother fought against brother.
Should I feel disloyal for writing what I feel? No, everyone has a right to their opinion whether it’s popular or not. Besides, I don’t believe I’m the only Southerner who feels this way. What most Southerners might take offensive to is that it may feel like I’m being disloyal. I don’t think I am. I’m not an outsider making a judgment. I’m part of the South trying to come to grips with our Southern heritage.
I don’t believe that people are born with prejudice. Prejudice is taught. My daddy always taught me to judge a person by their actions. I’ll give you example. When I was going into first grade, the school I was going to, Booneville Elementary, was being integrated. Daddy chose to send my sister and I to Booneville. My sister and I could have gone to another school where there wouldn’t have been any African-Americans. He was coaching at a small country school, New Site. Daddy was a great basketball coach. He didn’t want us given special treatment because we were his daughters. So he sent us into Booneville. He had no misgivings about us going to school with African-Americans. You teach by example. Daddy did that.
Daddy taught me many things. My love for history comes from him. He instilled in me the importance of character. He took pride in his home. So do I.
The reason I wrote Southern Legacy is not to justify the Southern stance. If you consider the Civil War a statement for slavery, then there can be no justification. I wrote it not to reason, but to come to an acceptance. Embrace the good; learn from the mistakes so they won’t be repeated.
The Civil War does not define a Southerner, but it is a part of who we are.
Born To Be Brothers will be released on May 26th. The dramatic conclusion, The Sun Rises, will be released tentatively on August 25th.
Coming May 26th! Pre-order Available