Archive for the 'politics' Category

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.

Inspiring story of Benjamin Sterling Turner shared in new children’s book embraced by Congresswoman Terri Sewell

Monday, March 16th, 2020 by Matthew Byrne

Neither Congresswoman Terri Sewell nor Benjamin Sterling Turner were born in Dallas County, Alabama, but both came to IMG_1175represent the 7th District of Alabama with fervor and dedication. Turner was born a slave and rose to be Alabama’s first African American representative in Congress. 140 years after Turner took office, Terri Sewell was put in charge of the 7th district, the first African American woman to do so. After the recent publication of The Slave Who Went to Congress—an illustrated children’s book detailing Turner’s early life and political career—Congresswoman Sewell visited Clark Elementary in Selma with authors Frye Gaillard and Marti Rosner and gifted students there fifty copies of the book. Sewell movingly told the schoolchildren attending her program that she “stands on the shoulders of Benjamin Sterling Turner,” who paved the way for her civil service with his bold
FrontCover choice to run for office. This incredible intersection of history reminds us of how important historymakers like Turner and Sewell are; the effects of their leadership can be felt in Dallas County today. The Slave Who Went to Congress—which the Midwest Book Review calls “a choice pick for personal, school, and library collections”—is a powerful account of an impactful life and, importantly, introduces Turner’s remarkable story of bravery and leadership to children around the world.

Steve Flowers wins unanimous vote of Grove Hill Book Club

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016 by Lisa Harrison

Of Goats and Governors: Six Decades of Colorful Alabama Political Stories by Steve Flowers

Of Goats & Governors: Six Decades of Colorful Alabama Political Stories author Steve Flowers “accomplished something phenomenal” when he spoke to the Grove Hill, AL Book Club on June 24, says Annell Gordon, who coordinated his visit. “He took the sensitive topic of politics and made it a fun conversation — a real rarity in these divisive times.”

While visiting Grove Hill, Flowers chatted with radio talk show host Deborah Rankins (The Rankins Files), who said, “I applaud him for preserving Alabama’s colorful political history with such great humor. Generations to come will enjoy his stories.” Added Gordon, “Several of our book club members have said they wished Steve would run for governor. Two or three have even offered to help him campaign.” Now there’s an idea!

Steve Flowers signing Of Goats & Governors for Deborah Rankins

Steve Flowers signing Of Goats & Governors for Deborah Rankins

Annell Gordon, Deborah Rankins, Jim Herod (Book Club President), Steve Flowers, Jim Cox (Editor, Clarke County Democrat), and Linda Vice (Director of Tourism for Rural Southwest Alabama)

Annell Gordon, Deborah Rankins, Jim Herod (Book Club President), Steve Flowers,
Jim Cox (Editor, Clarke County Democrat), and Linda Vice (Director of Tourism for Rural Southwest Alabama)

Of Goats & Governors is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Steve Suitts sees irony in Southern response to immigration reform

Monday, October 12th, 2015 by Randall Williams

As Confederate symbolism, hostility to immigration reform, voting rights, and Donald Trump mania roil the waters of Deep South politics in the run-up to the 2016 elections, Steve Suitts reveals the irony in a Southern Spaces blog post that white ex-Confederates were early beneficiaries of U.S. amnesty for illegal aliens.


In his blog post, Suitts points out, “Many white southerners today are citizens, even though their ancestors took up arms against the United States and by their own reckoning gave up US citizenship to become part of a rebel nation. These same white southerners are US citizens today only because their ancestors benefited from a general, generous amnesty (far more than any group in this nation ever has) and from the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, which Trump and his supporters, in effect, want to annul.”

Suitts, author of Hugo Black of Alabama: How His Roots and Early Career Shaped the Great Champion of the Constitution, is an adjunct lecturer at Emory University, senior fellow at the Southern Education Foundation, and the former director of the Southern Regional Council. He is a native of Winston County, Alabama.

Hugo Black of Alabama is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Steve Flowers’s new book, Of Goats & Governors, finds enthusiastic reception by political and business leaders

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015 by Lisa Harrison

Of Goats & Governors by Steve FlowersTalking politics is a favorite Alabama pastime. At long last, a generation’s worth of tales “you couldn’t make up if you tried” has been collected and delightfully recounted by Alabama’s leading political commentator, Steve Flowers.

Of Goats & Governors: Six Decades of Colorful Alabama Political Stories, just published by NewSouth Books, is off to a stellar launch with Governor Robert Bentley among its first readers. Steve Flowers is being featured in newspapers and radio and television interviews as he travels to book events across the state, where he share stories from his rich collection of tall tales and small tales about famous and lesser known Alabama politicians of the twentieth century, including the likes of Howell Heflin, Big Jim Folsom, and others. There is nobody better to relate this history than Flowers.

Alabama governor Robert Bentley enjoys Steve Flowers's new book Of Goats & Governors

Alabama governor Robert Bentley enjoys
Steve Flowers’s new book Of Goats & Governors

The Troy Messenger recently profiled Flowers on the occasion of the book’s publication. Flowers told the paper, “Few states have as fascinating a political history as Alabama. I was fortunate to have rubbed elbows with some of the most interesting figures in 20th-century American government and politics.” The article recounts Flowers’s career in Alabama politics from legislature page through representative through his current occupation as the state’s leading political commentator. Flowers’s book talks have been featured in papers including the Cullman Times, Trussville Tribune, and the Daily Mountain Eagle.

Flowers launched the Of Goats & Governors book tour in Cullman with a visit to the Cullman Times, a talk to regional realtors, and a signing at Deb’s Bookstore. Flowers stopped at the Haleyville Library next and went on to Jasper with a visit to the Daily Mountain Eagle and a presentation at the Walker County Republican annual summer meeting. Through the fall, Flowers will present at over 40 other venues including the Alabama Department of Archives and History in Montgomery (October 6) — Governor Robert Bentley will attend the reception — the Birmingham Library (October 22), and the Auburn University Library and East Alabama Museum in Opelika (November 12).

Of Goats & Governors is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Weekly Standard, NC Bookwatch look at making of a Southern liberal in Ayers’s In Love with Defeat

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013 by Brian Seidman

In Love with Defeat by H. Brandt AyersAnniston Star publisher H. Brandt Ayers’s explores “the making of a Southern liberal” in his new memoir, In Love with Defeat. To some, a “Southern liberal” might be an oxymoron, something Ayers discusses in his book and that two new reviews of In Love with Defeat have picked up on.

In a review that aired on North Carolina Bookwatch, D.G. Martin points out that Ayers’s “progressive views set him apart from many of his fellow Southerners, whose culture and basic values he respects and shares. At the same time, this attachment to his Southern heritage sets him apart from non-Southerners who share his basic political views but cannot understand his attachment to the positive features of Southern culture.”

It is this dichotomy that Edwin Yoder also notes in a Weekly Standard review, that “as the great historian C. Vann Woodward taught us, the South is incurably peculiar’un-American’ in the sense that its scarred history often negates the nations positive myths of victory and optimism. Its collective identity is marked by atypical experiences of poverty, defeat, and racial evil. … What Ayers means by a love of defeat is that his political and cultural tribe of Southern liberals (impatient with Jim Crow and bent on overthrowing its evils) were born to incompleteness.”

As an example, Yoder cites the formation of the L. Q. C Lamar Society by Ayers and others, intending to preserve the South’s cultural legacy while attracting new business opportunities to the South. They were ultimately overwhelmed, as Ayers describes in In Love with Defeat, by progress that eroded Southern culture; Ayers compares the thoroughly modern Atlanta to Charleston and Savannah that still preserve the Southern aesthetic.

Martin spotlights the end of Ayers’s book, in which the author “is still caught between his liberal leanings and his identification with Southerners who do not share those views. … Maybe it is a tough puzzle to understand, but [as] former Mississippi Gov. William Winter says, Ayers comes ‘as close to explaining who we Southerners are and why we act as we do,'” even if that explanation comes in the form of recognizing the contradictions inherit in the Southern identity.

Writes Yoder, “Brandt Ayers is one of those notable heirs of the knight of La Mancha, resolved to better his world, heedless of cynicism. If this was in some ways an impossible dream, he stuck to his mission, and Anniston, Alabama, the South, and the nation are the better for it.”

Read D.G. Martin’s review, archived in the Charlotte Observer, and Edwin Yoder’s review from the Weekly Standard.

In Love with Defeat: The Making of a Southern Liberal by H. Brandt Ayers, is available in hardcover and ebook from NewSouth Books, Amazon, or your favorite bookstore.

Oxford American’s Hal Crowther reviews H. Brandt Ayers memoir In Love with Defeat

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013 by Brian Seidman

Fire AntsHal Crowther of Oxford American has reviewed two new books about “the Southern mind,” including Anniston Star publisher H. Brandt Ayers’s In Love with Defeat: The Making of a Southern Liberal.

Crowther notes that even as In Love with Defeat presents itself as a “standard autobiography — an aging Alabama newspaperman reflects on his journey,” Ayers’s book distinguishes itself by the history Ayers witnessed and the people he met. “If you know another Southerner who can reminisce about serious private conversations with Robert Kennedy, George Wallace, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton (among many others), I’d like to meet your friend,” Crowther writes. “‘Brandy’ Ayers, editor and publisher of The Anniston Star, derided as “The Red Star” by Alabama racists, was an actual player in some of the dramas that created the modern South, for better or worse. And he played for the right team.”

Crowther continues,

In Love With Defeat is a book that thoughtful Southerners — and ignorant outlanders — would do well to read and ponder. During the civil rights struggles that began in the ’60s, most whites in the Deep South were faced with the same choices that faced Ayers. Unique to him, as the owner of a small-city daily, were his leverage, access, grave responsibility, and direct exposure to the consequences of his decisions. Every Klansman knew what he thought and where he lived. … Those like Ayers … knew that a bullet through the window or a bomb in the garage were everyday possibilities.

But In Love with Defeat, as Crowther notes, is more than “just” a memoir. Ayers chronicles the rise of the “New South” movement, including Ayers’s early presidency of the biracial, progressive L.Q.C. Lamar Society, and how the group disbanded amidst the growing Republican majority in the South. Ayers explores the mindset of “the adamantly unenlightened who cling to the South’s lost cause and all the grim failures that followed from it,” and devotes much of the end of In Love with Defeat to considering politics and the South — what influences currently act on the South, and what expectations Ayers has for the future.

Read Hal Crowther’s “The Mind Revisited” at the Oxford American website.

In Love with Defeat: The Making of a Southern Liberal by H. Brandt Ayers is available from NewSouth Books, Amazon, or your favorite bookstore.

Senator Lister Hill biography praised for civil description of politics

Monday, March 19th, 2012 by Brian Seidman

A Senator's Wife RemembersPolitics is never simple, but as the current race for the White House continues to heat up, it’s nice to recall a simpler — or at least friendlier — time.

It’s for these elements that Professor Michael Thomason praises Henrietta McCormick Hill’s A Senator’s Wife Remembers: From the Great Depression to the Great Society, in a new article in the Mobile Press-Register. Hill was the wife of Alabama senator Lister Hill, and her book is compiled from diaries and letters written during her husband’s political career, collected by the Hills’ daughter.

“[Mrs. Hill’s] acquaintances were from all across the political spectrum, from the very conservative to Eleanor Roosevelt,” Thomason writes. “Her description of entertaining the first lady and accompanying her on a whirlwind tour of central Alabama is one of the high points of A Senator’s Wife Remembers. She liked people, and it was their personalities and manner that impressed her, perhaps more than their politics.”

Thomason notes that Mrs. Hill’s “life was hardly frivolous; it was real work. For example, she tried to help the mentally ill (at the horribly named Home for the Incurables).”

As modern political battles grow ever more bitter, Thomason points out that Mrs. Hill “is always very complimentary about the people she talks about and is quite proper in what she writes and how she describes her world. This may be the book’s strong suit. It is an honest and clearly-stated view of the world she lived in.” Thomason suggests that the book will be of interest both to general readers and those with an interest in Alabama or American political life, as well as to those studying gender or the role of women in politics.

Read the full article from the Mobile Press-Register.

A Senator’s Wife Remembers is available direct from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite bookseller.