Archive for May, 2015

Ellen Weiss discusses legacy of Robert R. Taylor with US Postal Service

Thursday, May 28th, 2015 by Kelhi DePace

Robert R. Taylor and Tuskegee: An African American Architect Designs for Booker T. Washington by Ellen WeissDr. Ellen Weiss, author of Robert R. Taylor and Tuskegee: An African American Architect Designs for Booker T. Washington (NewSouth Books, 2011), recently spoke with the US Postal Service in an interview about Robert R. Taylor. Taylor, the first academically-trained African American architect in the United States, designed buildings for Booker T. Washington at Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (now Tuskegee University). On February 12, the US Postal Service inducted Taylor into their Black Heritage stamp series.

In the interview, Weiss — Emerita Professor of the Tulane University School of Architecture — describes Taylor’s architectural style and legacy, which may be seen in the buildings he designed at Tuskegee as well as the industrial education programs he supervised, expanding opportunities for African American students. Weiss reveals that she first learned of Taylor when living near Tuskegee in the 1980s. When asked how Taylor might have reacted to seeing his face on a US postage stamp, Weiss says that Taylor “would have been surprised to learn that any black person was on a stamp.” Check out the USPS blog to read the interview.

Weiss’s Robert R. Taylor and Tuskegee details Taylor’s life and work with rich illustrations. As Taylor worked during the era of Jim Crow, Weiss considers his work as an expression of racial pride and progress. The book received the Award of Excellence from the Southeastern Society of Architectural Historians.

Robert R. Taylor and Tuskegee is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Vince Matthews event, CD release with Frye Gaillard at Country Music Hall of Fame

Friday, May 22nd, 2015 by Lisa Harrison

Watermelon Wine: Remembering the Golden Years of Country Music by Frye Gaillard

On Saturday, June 6, 2015, Frye Gaillard will read from his book, Watermelon Wine: Remembering the Golden Years of Country Music, at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville.

Gaillard will be part of a celebration of the life and legacy of the late Vince Matthews, a songwriter whose songs were recorded by Johnny Cash, Gordon Lightfoot, Crystal Gayle, Gene Watson, Charlie Pride, Waylon Jennings and others, and who once cut an album produced by Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Jack Clement, and Shel Silverstein. For an odd set of reasons, the album was never released . . . until now.

“Vince was a great and colorful human being, as well as a great songwriter,” said Gaillard, “and I had the honor of writing about him in Watermelon Wine, and again in the liner notes for the CD, ‘Kingston Springs Suite,’ which also features Vince’s co-writer, Jim Casey. The resurrection of this historic record was engineered by Nashville producer-musicologist, Mark Linn, and if there was ever a labor of love this was it. At the Hall of Fame I’ll get to share the stage with Mark, as well as Jim Casey and his fellow songwriting greats, Danny Flowers and Chris Gantry. What a thrill.”

Watermelon Wine is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Remembering Guy Carawan, civil rights activist and folk singer

Thursday, May 7th, 2015 by Lisa Harrison
Guy and Candie Carawan, authors of Sing for Freedom. (Courtesy Patheos)

Civil rights activist and folk singer Guy Carawan died on May 3 after a long illness. Guy and his wife Candie co-authored Sing For Freedom: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement Through Its Songs, published by NewSouth Books in 2007.

Carawan was perhaps best known for introducing the song “We Shall Overcome” to the civil rights movement. In a tribute to the musician, National Public Radio featured excerpts from an archived story on the song. Carawan recalled learning the piece from a musician who performed it with guitar accompaniment. But when Carawan performed it with guitar for student activists, they had another idea:

“And then at a certain point, those young singers who knew a lot of a cappella styles – they said, lay that guitar down, boy. We can do the song better [laughter]. And they put that sort of triplet to it and sang it a cappella with all those harmonies. It had a way of rendering it – a style that some very powerful young singers got behind spread.”

ABC News spoke with Candie Carawan, who told them, “Guy very peacefully slipped away. When you know somebody is on their way, it was really the best way to go, and I was very grateful that was how it was.”

Guy Carawan’s legacy will continue through the Highlander Research and Education Center with which he was closely associated, and the song that continues to be performed 55 years after he taught it to young activists.

Sing For Freedom is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Journey to the Wilderness by Frye Gaillard a beautiful “meditation” on how Civil War is remembered

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015 by Lisa Harrison

Journey to the Wilderness by Frye Gaillard

Journey to the Wilderness: War, Memory, and a Southern Family’s Civil War Letters, by award-winning author Frye Gaillard and newly published by NewSouth Books, has garnered strong early reviews. Readers praise the elegance of Gaillard’s prose and the insight of his commentary on a very personal topic: his ancestors’ Civil War experiences and his own changing view of the war from his typical Southern upbringing through his adult reflections on its effects and meaning.

Writing for the Tuscaloosa News, Don Noble notes that Gaillard “is now recognized as one of Alabama’s most prolific and most important non- fiction writers with books on Southern literature, civil rights, NASCAR, country music, Jimmy Carter and, generally, all things Southern.” Of Journey to the Wilderness, Noble says Gaillard “structures his own meditation on the past in a candid, informed, beautifully written commentary on a series of excerpts from a collection of Gaillard family Civil War letters.”

Historian Mike Bunn, who blogs at The Historian’s Manifesto, says, “Frye Gaillard features a carefully-selected and edited batch of correspondence that, combined with his own commentary, offers a sweeping look at how the Civil War was anticipated, endured, and remembered by the people who lived through and helped shape our collective memory of the conflict. Journey to the Wilderness is a provocative book.”

The Charlotte Observer declares, “Frye Gaillard has done a great service by publishing these heartbreaking letters from three men who recorded their thoughts on the battlefield and the many relatives who waited at home, sometimes in vain. He has helped us accept the fact that pain — both physical and mental — far exceeded the so-called glory of that horrible war.”

The Montgomery Advertiser calls Gaillard “a thoughtful writer” and notes, “It is very hard to stop reading this book. His insightful commentary and the letters he includes let readers see the emotional conflicts the war brought and left in its wake. In Journey to the Wilderness, Gaillard [finds] no magic wand to resolve the war’s legacy, but he does enable the reader to understand it better.”

Critics agree that Journey to the Wilderness is one of the best reads yet from one of the South’s most important writers.

Journey to the Wilderness is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.