Overturning Brown sparks national media attention with timely critique about the discriminatory roots of “school choice”

Monday, March 2nd, 2020 by Matthew Byrne

1588384209 72As school choice sparks national conversation–from the State of the Union address, where Trump derided ‘failing government schools’ and touted legislation that would divert up to five billion dollars in federal funding to private schools, to the Democratic debate stage in South Carolina–Steve Suitts’s incisive, timely analysis, Overturning Brown: The Segregationist Legacy of the Modern School Choice Movement, is already gathering well-deserved attention and praise. Booklist called it “a masterful, highly readable account of an American tragedy,” and Publishers Weekly said: “Suitts presents a damning portrait of the historic motivations behind privatization. Teachers, policy makers, and progressive activists would do well to take heed.” In a Washington Post column, Jay Mathews deemed Overturning Brown “a provocative argument on segregation, school choice, and shared language.” Get a preview of some of the book’s key arguments in Steve’s recent op-ed in the Daily Beast, check out the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for an alarming history of the term “government schools,” and listen to Steve’s interview with the New Books NetworkOverturning Brown has also earned praise in Kirkus Reviews,  Forbes, and the ProgressiveAnd stay tuned: Georgia Public Broadcasting’s “On Second Thought” will air an interview with Steve on March 27, in advance of his Carter Center event with Shirley Franklin on March 31. In the weeks and months to come we expect we’ll hear a lot more about Overturning Brown and its compelling, essential call for genuine education equity.

Kathryn Tucker Windham Jeffrey story read aloud by daughter for Halloween

Thursday, October 31st, 2019 by Brian Seidman

For Halloween 2019, Dilcy Windham Hilley–daughter of legendary Southern folklorist Kathryn Tucker Windham–helped us arrange this treat for our readers: an abridged audio recording of “A Promise Kept,” one of Windham’s selections for Jeffrey’s Favorite 13 Ghost Stories. For Southerners, and many outside the South, Kathryn Tucker Windham’s beloved Jeffrey’s stories are practically synonymous with Halloween. These are the perfect blend of reality and imagination with a dash of spooky atmosphere, just true enough to scare more than your average tall tale. Enjoy this special audio recording and order your copy of the book for your pleasure next year at

Publication of Magic in Stone, new book on Sylacauga’s marble legacy, is celebrated with festive B. B. Comer Library event

Tuesday, October 15th, 2019 by Matthew Byrne

In celebration of the publication of Ruth Beaumont Cook’s new history of Sylacauga marble, Magic in Stone: The Sylacauga Marble Story, the B. B. Comer Memorial Library pulled out all the stops for a very special launch event that brought in some impressive company, 72300190_10157779298572009_1581670927077212160_o71805579_10157779312067009_2185124230281035776_n71768412_10157779312307009_2505295363385065472_oincluding library patrons and friends, the mayor of the city of Sylacauga, Jim Heigl, and special guests Craigger Browne, Marcello Giorgi, and Frank Murphy. The event was organized by Ted Spears of the Sylacauga Marble Festival and Shirley Spears and Tracey Thomas of the library. The hundred-plus attendees enjoyed a wonderful reception, followed by a presentation by Cook based on her book, which represents years of research on the internationally famous Sylacauga marble quarry, the first history on the subject ever. Truly this was an event worthy of the story Ruth Beaumont Cook has to tell!

Praise for Magic in Stone has come from many quarters already. See what historians Dr. Leah Atkins and Aileen Kilgore Henderson have to say about the book:

Magic in Stone is a story on a grand scale befitting its subject: marble, which formed with the first seashells that compacted underneath the continental shelf and resulted millions of years later in magnificent works of beauty by giants of talent and fame. The gifted Moretti, the loyal women in his life, and the emergence of an Alabama marble industry and quarry town. This history and much more is told by Ruth Cook in a memorable and richly detailed book. — Aileen Kilgore Henderson, author of Eugene Allen Smith’s Alabama: How a Geologist Shaped a State

From Ruth Cook comes an enjoyable and important work of history about Sylacauga marble — the artists who worked with it, the village that grew up around it, the industry that developed out of it. This excellent book tells the story comprehensively for the first time. It is rich in detail and full of surprising, delightful tidbits about a resource few of us in the state know much about. What a treasure for us as Alabama historians, as Alabama citizens! — Leah Rawls Atkins, Director Emerita, Caroline Marshall Draughon Center for the Arts & Humanities, Auburn University

Frye Gaillard wins Alabama Governor’s Arts Award for Distinction in Literature

Thursday, August 29th, 2019 by Suzanne La Rosa

Frye Gaillard is no stranger to praise with his large body of over thirty published books on diverse aspects of Southern culture. Among many distinctions, he is the winner of the Lillian Smith Book Award, the Eugene Current-Garcia Award for Distinction in Literary Scholarship, and the Clarence Cason Award. His recently published masterwork, A Hard Rain: America in the 1960s, has 344-AHR jacket front 72dpireceived excellent national reviews and has had him touring from Boston to Berkeley; the work was also named to NPR’s Best Books of 2018 list. Earlier this summer, Gaillard was also a recipient of the Alabama Governor’s Arts Award, which recognizes his impressive body of work. The Alabama State Council of the Arts presented the award to Gaillard at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival on May 22 in a celebration of talent which included fellow winners Yvonne Wells for her folk quilting artistry and legendary singer Martha Reeves. The winning of the Alabama Governor’s Art Award for excellence in Southern letters is a high point of Gaillard’s career as a journalist and author, no doubt, but we expect there will be other such accolades for FrontCoverhis forthcoming book, The Slave Who Went to Congress, an illustrated children’s book that tells the powerful true story of Benjamin Sterling Turner, the first African American from Alabama and only the second in our nation to enter Congress. Coauthored with Marti Rosner, the book is due out from NewSouth Books in January 2020.

NewSouth mourns the passing of Paul Gaston of Fairhope, esteemed Southern historian

Monday, July 29th, 2019 by Matthew Byrne

We are sorry to share news of the passing of Paul M. Gaston, civil rights activist and esteemed Southern historian, who died last month at the age of 91. NewSouth enjoyed a long friendship with Gaston, forged over many years and glasses of wine, which extended across the publication of a half dozen of his books. Our relationship with him began in the early days of NewSouth Books, when Gaston had already changed the lives of dozens of students through his astute observations on the 5d0c3a79353b5.imagetrue character of the South and in his activities at the University of Virginia. Gaston was both a superb writer and thinker. He leaves behind many influential works, among them The New South Creed: A Study in Southern Mythmaking, now considered a classic. This brilliant work tackles the ways in which socially constructed realities shape historical understanding. Other titles by Gaston include Coming of Age in Utopia, his memoir; Man and Mission: E.B. Gaston and the Origins of the Fairhope Single Tax Colony; and Women of Fair Hope. Historians in Service of a Better South, also published by NewSouth, is a collection of essays written in Gaston’s honor, to which such leading historians as Ed Ayers, Matthew Lassiter, Robert J. Norrell, and many others contributed. This UVA memoriam speaks powerfully to Gaston’s legacy:

American Founders sparks strong response with message about role of African-descended people in shaping our democracy

Monday, July 15th, 2019 by Suzanne La Rosa

The early praise for American Founders by Christina Proenza-Coles was, quite simply, outstanding. The book, which released from NewSouth Books in April, was blurbed by leading American historians who called the work “erudite and balanced, a feat of hemispheric synthesis and understanding” (Ben Vinson III, George Washington University, Dean of Columbian College of Arts and Sciences), and said that “it stands as a model of a new kind1588383318 of hemispheric history” (Joel Dinerstein, Tulane University, Clark Chair of American Civilization), and “gives us a stirring and sweeping history that shows how an appreciation of the freedom struggles of African-descended people changes the whole story of national histories” (David Roediger, University of Kansas, Foundation Professor of American Studies). A starred Publishers Weekly review and praise from Kirkus, Booklist, and others followed. Reviews for the book have been every bit as gratifying. Most recently, The Fayetteville Observer says the book “challenges readers to rethink our national narrative” and boldly states that “African founders helped make America great.” Author Christina Proenza-Coles has been a featured guest on radio across the country, including WOCA in Florida; KPFA in California; and WUNC in North Carolina. Lapham’s Quarterly ran a lengthy excerpt from the work, and the Journal for Blacks in Higher Education spotlighted it on a recent Books of Interest list. The Charlottesville Daily Progress published a special feature on the book and its connections to Virginia. Impeccably researched, this book that proposes a radical rethinking of the American story—suggesting that the narrative about African-descended Americans starts much earlier than is previously understood, even before the founding of our country—should continue to blaze interest and change minds. Amen to that. 

Magnificent new edition of Pickett's History of Alabama released to coincide with state Bicentennial

Monday, July 8th, 2019 by Matthew Byrne

Much that we know about the years leading up to and immediately after Alabama became a state, in 1819, we take from a single source, Pickett's History of Alabama, and Incidentally of Georgia and Mississippi, from the Earliest Period. The work by Albert J. Pickett, first published in 1851, is considered the very first history of the state. In recent years, Pickett’s History, as it is known for short, has been available chiefly in poor facsimile editions. Even so, the book has been an invaluable resource032-PH Jacket v300 300ppi for scholars studying and writing about Southeastern Indians and the expansion of the young United States into what was known as the “Old Southwest,” the present-day states of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. To celebrate Alabama’s bicentennial, NewSouth Books has published a superb new edition of the work, The Annotated Pickett’s History of Alabama. This magnificent volume is made possible by James P. Pate, a scholar in the field, who has devoted almost two decades to a painstaking annotation of Pickett’s original two-volume work. Dr. Pate verified Pickett’s sources; elaborated on the persons, events, and places described; and enriched the work with historical detail unknown when Pickett was writing. The work has also been fully indexed for the first time. The new edition, which carries an introduction by Dr. Pate, combines the two volumes in one and is presented in an attractive and readable wide format: Pickett’s original text and his own footnotes occupy the main part of the page, with annotations in boldface given in the margins. The result pays homage to a book that was described when it appeared nine years before the Civil War as “one of the prettiest specimens of book making ever done in America.” In an article from Alabama NewsCenter, Pate details the importance of republishing Pickett’s History: “For anyone writing about the state of Alabama — and especially the colonial, territorial, or the protohistoric record — Pickett is a very critical source that is not readily available.” ( Praise for the work has come from many quarters. Dr. Ed Bridges, the former director of Alabama Department of Archives and History, graciously calls The Annotated Pickett’s History of Alabama “its own historic event.” Dr. Pate is one of a dozen writers and historians selected by the Alabama Bicentennial Commission (AL200) to speak about topics related to our state history in this Bicentennial year (

Message of reconciliation in The Road to Healing reaches thinkers from Virginia to Paris

Friday, June 21st, 2019 by Matthew Byrne

The discussion on reparations for slavery and civil rights violations in America has perhaps never reached such a fever pitch as it is during the 2020 election cycle. Just this week, 2020 nominee Cory Booker and author Ta-Nehisi Coates testified before Congress on the necessary justice that reparations would bring to the African American community and the lasting legacy that slavery has in America today. Joining this roiling discussion is Ken Woodley, former editor of the Farmville Herald in Virginia and author of The Road to Healing: A Civil Rights Reparations Story in Prince Edward County, Virginia. Woodley campaigned for civil rights reparations in Prince Edward County after learning that the county closed their public schools in reaction to the Brown vs Board decision. Woodley’s crusade resulted in a state-wide scholarship program for those who had their right to education taken from them, a victory that Julian Bond called the first real civil rights reparations in the United States. Since the release of his book in April, Woodley’s account has brought him into the international conversation on reparations. Woodley’s perspective has been featured on Joshua Johnson’s 1A; the Community Watch program on D.C.’s WPFW; Detroit Today; The News & Advance in Lynchburg, Virginia; and The Richmond Times Dispatch. Woodley was also a guest of honor at a panel featuring former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder hosted by the Democratic Party of Virginia and held at the Black History Museum and Cultural Center in Richmond, Virginia. The panel is dedicated to Barbara Rose Johns, a community organizer in Prince Edward County and key figure in The Road to Healing. Woodley’s take on reparations was internationally considered in Le Monde alongside the likes of Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris. The passion for justice and reconciliation that Woodley holds should be viewed as a basic civil duty, and we commend Woodley for his dedication.

Barry Alexander Brown, Spike Lee team up on movie project based on Bob Zellner book

Monday, June 10th, 2019 by Matthew Byrne

Legendary civil rights activist Bob Zellner gained a loyal cadre of fans after the publication of his award-winning memoir The Wrong Side of Murder Creek in 2011, a book which was recently re-released in trade paperback, but the story will reach an entirely new audience with the production of Son of the South, a movie based on his book that is due out in fall 2019. Barry Alexander Brown and Spike Lee team up on 222-2 TWSMC fcover 300dpi project, with Brown directing and Lee signed on as executive producer; Brown has worked with Lee for more than 30 years, serving as editor on almost every film Lee has made. Brown met Bob Zellner twenty years ago and was fascinated by the civil rights activist’s story of redemption. He has adapted Zellner’s memoir into a biographical film, covering Zellner’s life from his time as a youth (he was born into a Klan family) to his becoming the first white field secretary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). The film features two rising stars in Lucas Till and Lucy Hale, both well-known for their roles in the hit TV shows MacGyver and Pretty Little Liars, respectively. Till plays Zellner with the passion and commitment to civil and human rights causes that the subject retains in his 80th year. To film one exciting scene, Brown and crew reenacted the tragic beating the Freedom Riders suffered in Montgomery outside of the actual Greyhound bus station where the historic event took place. Read more about Son of the South at the Hollywood Reporter and Variety (;, at, and also enjoy a special documentary interview with Barry Brown from Germantown High School’s student-led news program:

Frye Gaillard tours nationally with A Hard Rain

Wednesday, June 5th, 2019 by Matthew Byrne

There are many ways in which Frye Gaillard has been a great NewSouth Books author and friend, not the least of which has been his adventurous spirit and willingness to travel with his books. With six in all published by NewSouth (and two more forthcoming), he has had many reasons to be on the road, but interest and critical reviews for his masterwork on the 1960s, A Hard Rain, have brought him opportunities from coast to coast. He’s had wonderful events at such far-flung places as the Ford Hall Forum in Boston, Brown University in Providence, the 92nd Street Y in New York City, Newseum in Washington, DC, JimmyIMG_8606
Carter Presidential Library and Museum in Atlanta, and David Brower Center in Berkeley, California. And he’s made appearances at a long list of bookstores, including such favorites as Park Road Books, Malaprop’s, Prairie Lights, and Page and Palette, and some new ones too: in Portland, Oregon, he stopped at Rose City Book Pub, where his book talk was wonderfully received. Recently he had the great pleasure to participate in Greensboro Bound, a book festival in Greensboro, North Carolina, organized by Scuppernong Books. Coincidentally, Frye’s program was held at the International Civil Rights Center & Museum, which occupies the former Woolworth’s building, where the lunch-counter sit-ins discussed in the very first pages of A Hard Rain took place. Frye was moved to be in that hallowed space. And suddenly it seemed as if the miles had returned him to where he’d started with A Hard Rain. Metaphorically speaking, that is. What an amazing journey it has been.