Archive for July, 2020

NewSouth author, pastor Alan Cross, reckons with Christian response to racism and coronavirus in national media

Tuesday, July 21st, 2020 by Suzanne La Rosa

Call it tough love. Alan Cross, a Southern Baptist pastor and NewSouth author, wants to hold accountable Christians who fail to follow the teachings of the Bible in times of social change and strife. Cross had this to say when 1603063501speaking with NPR recently about how Christians have responded to the killing of George Floyd: “The way that we live and work in the world, how we care for our communities, how we care for our neighbors. Those are all things that the Bible speaks really clearly about.” There is no Biblical or theological justification for not decrying police brutality of African Americans or the great social injustices they still experience.

In his book When Heaven and Earth Collide, Cross critically examines the role Southern churches historically played in the civil rights movement, when many actively supported segregation and racial violence. He claims that the Christian reluctance to denounce racism comes from the religion’s habit “to use God as a means to an end” to avoid uncomfortable conflict. As a Christian, he says, “you should see the pain of people around you and say ‘What can I do?’”

Cross has also recently become outspoken about the response of churches to coronavirus. As churches around the country ignore state and federal regulations and continue to hold worship services despite the risk of COVID infection, Cross argues that our focus must be on safely conducting ourselves before reopening prematurely. “Whether we fight this virus in such a way as to marshal all of our resources to save every life we can should not be open for discussion.” Pastors must balance the dual responsibilities of gathering for worship and putting others’ interests before their own—both Biblical tenets, our author asserts.

Learn more about Cross and his opinions at The New York Times, The Bulwark, NPR, and WBHM. When Heaven and Earth Collide is available for purchase from NewSouth Books and your favorite physical and online booksellers.

Sidney Lanier’s legacy in question with school renaming

Wednesday, July 15th, 2020 by Suzanne La Rosa

The controversy surrounding schools bearing Confederate names brings into question how figures like Sidney Lanier deserve to be recognized. Vanished in the Unknown Shade, a biography of Lanier, was a small local project for us at NewSouth Books, the 9781603062619-Perfectchance to work again with the talented and irrepressible Helen Blackshear, former poet laureate of Alabama, in the year before she died. Her short study of Sidney Lanier interested us, in part because so little about the poet had been written.

Lanier fought as a young man on the side of the Confederacy in the Civil War. Shortly thereafter, he lived in Montgomery, working as a desk clerk at a local hotel and as an organist at a church in nearby Prattville; a city high school took his name. Lanier was a talented musician and later became a faculty member at Johns Hopkins University. He wrote poetry for much of his life. His verse captured the agricultural landscape of his home, romanticized the Old South, and was often written in dialect or archaic English. Thus he was dubbed “poet of the Confederacy.”

Now, at a time of great social unrest, when we as citizens of this great country have fresh reasons to want taken down monuments to those who  Sidney_Lanier_-_Project_Gutenberg_eText_16622were blind to the sins of slavery and segregation or, worse yet, who actively participated in these systems of oppression, we must ask ourselves how we can frame balanced judgment about such people. Sidney Lanier’s name will be removed from the high school that sought to honor him in its taking, as reported by WSFA. NewSouth believes this is necessary and just. Still, there is value in Lanier’s literary legacy, which we commend you not to forget.

NewSouth mourns the passing of Constance Curry

Monday, July 13th, 2020 by Suzanne La Rosa

We mourn the recent loss of Constance “Connie” Curry, eighty-six, a friend of NewSouth Books and a chronicler of those who made a progressive difference in the civil rights era. An activist with a long history at the Student Nonviolent Coordinating connieCommittee and other civil rights organizations, Curry was on the right side of history; better yet, she has recorded and preserved history, some of which she experienced first-hand. A summa cum laude graduate of Agnes Scott and a Fulbright scholar, at the young age of twenty-three Curry was selected to be an adult advisor in SNCC, a position of great import considering the organization’s impact on the movement. Through her reports on sit-ins to friendly media and other outlets, Curry can be credited with spurring on a positive outlook on peaceful resistance. She was also a white volunteer in Freedom Summer in Mississippi in 1964. Beginning that year, Curry worked eleven years for the American Friends Service Committee, promoting school desegregation in Alabama and Mississippi. Connie would later become an author. In her Lillian Smith Award-winning work of nonfiction, Silver Rights, and in other works she has midwifed or co-written—Bob Zellner’s The Wrong Side of Murder Creek, now a classic about the movement, and Deep in Our Hearts among them—she ensured that the remarkable stories of activists like Julian Bond, Zellner, Bob Moses, Charles Morgan, and many others would survive for future generations. The staff at NewSouth Books enjoyed a long personal relationship with Connie. Co-founders Suzanne La Rosa and Randall Williams fondly remember her fearless intelligence and independent spirit, and her love of good talk, good times, and good people, all reflective of her Irish spirit (she was the daughter of Irish immigrants). We miss her. More information about Connie can be found at the SNCC Digital Gateway website.