South to a New Place: Imani Perry and Adolph Reed Jr. on Racial Reckoning and the South (on Imani Perry’s South to America: A Journey below the Mason–Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation and Adolph Reed Jr.’s The South: Jim Crow and Its Afterlives)

There was a time when I hated the South and my white roots. That is, I felt ashamed of myself and my people. After moving away and returning, I now call the South home again, or home perhaps for the first time. My conception of this region is not the same one that I grew up with. As I work toward a fuller understanding of the South, two recent studies prove illuminating: Imani Perry’s National Book Award–winning South to America: A Journey below the Mason–Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation and Adolph Reed Jr.’s The South: Jim Crow and Its Afterlives.

Narrating a recent tour through the South, self-consciously in the style of Albert Murray’s 1971 travel memoir South to a Very Old Place, Perry emphasizes connections with slavery. Reed, looking back on his Southern childhood, spotlights the legacy of Jim Crow. Both scholars have distinctive methods and materials, but their very different books offer brilliant case studies on racial reckoning that contest and ultimately complement one another, pointing toward the potential of what the Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II has called “the third Reconstruction.” Whereas the first Reconstruction following the Civil War was largely reversed, and the second Reconstruction of the 1960s was often limited to legal changes, the third Reconstruction, which, Barber argues, has now begun, is an occasion for deep moral change that would transform American politics.

Perry and Reed agree that there’s no such thing as the South, but rather multiple Souths that need to be understood in context and lived experience: as Perry writes, “there are ‘Souths,’ plural as much as singular”; “the South is extremely diverse and complex. It is multilingual, speaks different dialects, and has different histories.” Reed emphasizes the differences between various cities in the South, showing how the experiences of Jim Crow varied in each location. In particular, he highlights the flexible way in which Jim Crow adapted to the more integrated context of the New Orleans that he knew, showing how white and Black people coped with the regime, often while not identifying with it. What unites the two books is an emphasis on African American experience, a corrective to the stereotypical identification of the South with conservative white people.

Both Perry and Reed incorporate nuanced class and regional analysis to the current racial reckoning in the U.S. ignited by the protests following George Floyd’s murder in 2020. Both authors advise of the need to go beyond changes to symbols, images, and speech, and engage in deep material change to work through racial trauma, rectify inequalities, and reimagine the path of our democracy. While Perry’s book is structured as a travelogue, and Reed’s book is based on his own memories of the Jim Crow South, both books are primarily a meditation on Southern history. Since Southern history lies at the root of the trauma of racism, the authors suggest, it is urgent that we return our attention to the South: not to assign blame, but to attend to that “region in our minds,” paraphrasing James Baldwin’s evocative term for the cognitive dissonance of race, which perpetuates color lines, forecloses dialogue, and stymies collective action.

Perry writes that “I can’t begin at the beginning because there isn’t one beginning to the United States. But it did begin in the South.” By this she means the major moments of transformation in colonialism, slavery, and the construction of race were tied closely to the South. Perry suggests that the South can point to the beginnings of how current institutions of race, class, power, and wealth were constructed. Systems present in the South reveal the contradictions of the American dream and how it could possibly be transformed. 

Perry comments on the misidentification of the South with whiteness; this assumption that the South is essentially white, conservative, and racist is perhaps a vestige of Jim Crow, the period that excluded Black people from the full rights of citizenship. More pointedly, she writes that the South “totes the water” for the country’s racism: the South is often portrayed as the uniquely racist place in America, and the South has always done the dirty work of racial hierarchy. Perry’s argument here is a corrective not just to a popular stereotype but also to an influential strand of scholarship that attempts to locate racist and white supremacist ideology primarily in the South. 

As she turns readers’ attention to the neglected Blackness of the South, Perry focuses also on the region’s “scandalous” whiteness. She notes that whites of rural Appalachia have been seen as “repositories for shameful whiteness—virulently racist, backwards, and unsophisticated.” In one anecdote she reflects on her distance from—and her relative class power and prestige in relation to—the white male vending machine stocker with bad teeth she encounters in a Southern airport. She confesses: “For all the smug assessments of how poor white Southerners vote against their own interests, how rare it is that we attend to their stories.” If we heeded Perry’s words here, perhaps we would better understand the appeal, however bogus, of Trumpism to many working-class whites. Across the gulf she feels with regard to them, Perry pays respect and empathy, as when she writes of the poor white people who regularly shop at dollar stores: “they’re often the white people who other white people put down or mock. They have twangs or drawls or heavy local idiosyncrasies in their speech that remind you that white folks do indeed have a lot of culture when they don’t run away from it for the faceless bounty of being simply ‘white.’ ” These scandalous white people are the excluded or repressed shadow of respectable and affluent whites, embodying the shame and wounded pride that many white Southerners feel—and the racism and resentment that they, out of all whites, particularly specialize in. These moments of social critique and self-reflection exemplify the deeply personal, vulnerable, yet scholarly style employed in works such as Perry’s 2018 biography Looking for Lorraine. Reed’s voice is no less vulnerable and brave, offering his own memories of childhood, youth, and early career as counterexamples to scholarly and popular commonplaces. 

Perry insists on slavery as a powerfully determining influence today, while Reed insists on the key significance of Jim Crow, to see what has changed and what remains the same since the end of de jure segregation in the 1960s. This different emphasis results in part from different methods. Perry draws deep parallels between the social organization and conflicts of the pre–Civil War past and today, while Reed looks at the surface of everyday practices, past and present, and highlights differences of how power and hegemony are maintained in specific cases. Reed, who is a political scientist, argues that it was an ideology in the service of an economic ruling class, noting that, as the political and economic power brokers of certain Southern cities become more integrated today, their embrace of neoliberalism ensures a continuity with the old Jim Crow system: the maintenance of unequal wealth, which continues to disproportionately harm Black people. While he affirms the necessity of removing the Confederate monuments from New Orleans, he points out that this is “ultimately a rearguard undertaking and one entirely compatible with the dominant neoliberal ideal of social and racial justice as celebration of ‘rich multicultural heritage’ and genuine upward mobility for individuals without regard to race, gender, sexual orientation, and so on within a social order that is sharply unequal for most.” Commenting on the same trend of gentrification that Reed finds intensifying in post-Katrina New Orleans, Perry despairs: “What is this symbolic republic?” What do changes of representation matter, when land, homeownership, wealth remain the privilege of a few? 

For Reed, white supremacy under Jim Crow was a tool of the wealthy: “The core of the Jim Crow order was a class system rooted in employment and production relations that were imposed, stabilized, regulated, and naturalized through a regime of white supremacist law, practice, custom, rhetoric, and ideology.” Although he acknowledges the importance of the Civil Rights Movement’s ending of the legal structure of Jim Crow, “the victory left the undergirding class system untouched and in practical terms affirmed it.” Reed calls for greater attention to Jim Crow than to slavery, for he argues that it’s the system of oppression that most powerfully determines contemporary attitudes to race. 

Reed does not deny that connections between slavery and the present—e.g., between slavery and mass incarceration of Black men—can be made (see Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow). However, he calls this mode of analysis “allegory,” which “might be rhetorically powerful, but . . . is not adequate as analysis or explanation.” Reed doubts allegory, a parallel or apparent repetition of an event or pattern noted across historical periods. Similarly, he doubts appeals to unconscious or secretly harbored racism; these appeals “don’t help us understand anything.” The similarity between Reed’s rejection of allegory and closet racism is telling. Whatever its empirical purchase or lack of it, allegory perhaps captures an imaginary relationship to history; fantasies of racism, too, are imaginary in this way, but Perry offers allegory as an antidote to racism. Still, Reed’s flat rejection of the relevance of personal racism reflects his view of how inequalities persist: not through thought but through material structures determining wealth and power. On his account the discourse of contemporary antiracism fails to reckon with these massive structures of inequality, instead framing justice in “narrow moralistic terms of having overcome racial exclusion and bigotry to realize inclusion and diversity.” What Reed means is that searching one’s conscience, or unconscious, for the ghost of racism and exorcising it will not, on its own, change the deadly material realities of racism in this society. This is where the matter of antiracism becomes deeply personal, however. Not everyone struggles with racism, or struggles with it in the same way. As Resmaa Menakem has suggested in his book My Grandmother’s Hands, the healing work may be different for white people than for people of color (each of which group is internally diverse). In my own experience, unlearning and healing from racism is a precondition for relating to others across color lines, and thus working together to address the political challenges. As Angela Hasan, a professor of education and my mother-in-law, stressed to me: antiracism means more than changing how one speaks. There is a great need to get involved in fighting the obvious material manifestations of racism: the abandonment of schools that Black children attend, for instance.

Reed observes that today we may be more well-versed in the explicit laws and prohibitions of segregation—and the spectacular and terrible violence resulting from the infractions against the color line—than we are with Jim Crow’s quotidian aspects, the body of “unspoken rules and codes that most immediately governed everyone’s behavior, beliefs, life chances, and views of others.” Continuing his critique of contemporary antiracist rhetoric, Reed distrusts broad-brush characterizations of power structures and contends that “we live and daily reproduce our social systems subtly, in small, apparently superficial acts.” 

Reed evokes this rich historical memory of Jim Crow at a time when political slogans tend to stand in for knowledge of the past. As in Perry’s book, personal memory and historical context stand side by side, sometimes in tension. Reed sometimes uses his own memories to correct or offer exceptions to historical commonplaces, yet this juxtaposition of memory and history reminds me that the primary texts invoked by historians are often diaries and private correspondences. 

More broadly, Reed contributes to an understanding of ideology, or what Antonio Gramsci called hegemony: not the enforcement of social codes by court, police, or vigilante, but the way in which order is sustained through consent, compromise, and everyday negotiation. This includes the exceptions to the rules—Black-only religious, recreational, and private spaces; “instrumental” passing to buy beignets at the once-segregated Café du Monde; degrees of kindness and compassion across the color line from white grocers; the occasional respectful white cop or personable bureaucrat; and other hints that white supremacy rested on the uneasy, conflicted consciences of white people.

Reed’s analysis focuses particularly on the cities of the South, noting that “every city or town enforced ‘separate but equal’ in slightly different ways.” This emphasis allows Reed to focus acutely on the shifting culture of New Orleans, characterizing its relatively “minimal standards of racial distance” and its degrees of white commitment to white supremacy: “most white people were . . . confronted with the challenge of devising appropriate ways of being within a social order they didn’t create and that came to them as the world’s unquestioned and unquestionable facts of life,” with severe consequences even for whites who flouted the color line. Thus Reed can challenge the image of the Jim Crow South as being a “nightmare of unremitting degradation”—not in order to diminish its inhumanity or injustice, but in order to help readers understand, perhaps, how structures of oppression can be flexible and resilient, and appreciate the fact that “people make daily life under any conditions.” His analysis is a testament to the resilience and resourcefulness of African Americans under the Jim Crow system, which “could disappear momentarily across the horizon of consciousness in a lodge meeting, church service, an informal social gathering, or a hobby.” 

In accordance with his urban focus and his skepticism about the relevance of appeals to hidden racism, Reed homes in on “public accommodations and routine commercial activity” where “blacks and whites confront each other on equal terms as workers and consumers.” In this public context, Reed emphasizes the cordiality of white bureaucrats with whom he worked during the period in the 1970s when the South was starting to reconcile itself to minimal standards of integration. He reports that “they responded to me as a peer.” Public bureaucrats tend to be both more liberal and less alienated from what conservative whites call “big government” (yet for an argument that “big government” is racially coded, see Heather McGhee’s The Sum of Us). Reed’s example is limited, in that arguably anti-Black racism, especially stereotypes, flourish in just those situations where Black people are not part of the community. This isolation is quite common among suburban and rural white people—an isolation that marked my first three decades. In the case of rural whites, there is a useful second sense of “integration” that’s relevant here: social integration, in the sense that philosopher Axel Honneth has developed it, of having a stake, and a sense of prestige, in the democratic process and its institutions. Since the end of Jim Crow, many whites, especially rural whites, have doubled down on a voluntary segregation, and exempted themselves from the sense of having a stake in multiracial democracy. Such white people are profoundly disaffected with the state and its democratic functions. 

As Kenneth Johnson and Daniel Lichter report, the 2020 census has actually confirmed a national trend toward greater racial diversity in rural or non-metropolitan areas; this is largely due to a decrease of white (and Black) people and an increase of Hispanic people in rural places. In many rural areas across the nation, including some parts of the South, Black people are a small minority: according to the 2020 census, they made up a little less than 8 percent of a rural population that is still 76 percent white; Hispanics made up 9 percent. But the picture of Black as urban and white as rural isn’t always the case in the South, at least. According to the Rural Health Information Hub, in some states, including Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Mississippi, and Louisiana, the proportion of Black people is about the same or even greater in rural than in urban areas.

As both Perry and Reed emphasize, it is hard to make generalizations that hold true across the South. But if a reversal of the Great Migration is happening (as scholars such as Reniqua Allen have discussed), Black people are returning more to the cities than the country in the South. African Americans evacuated rural land en masse during the Great Migration, so the enduring legacy of Jim Crow is definitely “separate” for many white people; it is perhaps easier to remain segregated in the wide spaces beyond the city than within it. This is a legacy as much of white flight from the cities as it is of restrictive covenants, prohibitive home loan policies, and the older history of Black farmers leaving the land during the Great Migration, as well as the white reappropriation of land during Reconstruction. However, segregation is not a special feature of Southern society. According to the Othering and Belonging Institute at University of California Berkeley, the South is one of the more integrated regions today. Some of the coastal bastions of what is considered progressivism, such as New York and Los Angeles, are more sharply segregated than cities like Atlanta and New Orleans, though segregation and its gentler twin, gentrification, tend to show up everywhere, and both Perry and Reed remark on the latter phenomenon in the South. In any case, both authors criticize the problem of purely symbolic change, where we learn the proper words and gestures to make regarding racism, but we aren’t ready to actually live, love, and, in McGhee’s words, prosper together.  

Looking back on my youth in Tennessee, I realized that my soul—my ability to love—was tangled up in the shame, guilt, fear, and assumptions of being white and male. I did not see, more generally, how white people and people of color, particularly Black people, are largely insulated from one another, and the latter are quarantined not just with physical distance but a cordon sanitaire of stereotype and assumption. Stereotype is a segregating stand-in for knowledge, for community, for compassion, and it underwrote the relative indifference with which I held most people other than my white community. It is a segregation that means no harm, seldom speaks ill of the other, draws its strength from its innocence: yet it’s this innocence, as James Baldwin wrote to his nephew, “which constitutes the crime.” For the first time I really saw the racism of the South, and the racism within me, as a radical limitation of love. Fred Hobson famously wrote of the Southern loquaciousness, our “rage to explain.” But in my experience, the South keeps its lips sealed until the color line is crossed.

Perry’s journey is punctuated by brilliant metaphors that recall Ralph Ellison’s essays. Of Charleston, she writes that it “is like a topsy-turvy doll from the plantation South, one head Black, one head white; below the torso they are conjoined twins, but you rarely see them together because the skirt always covers one head or the other.” The appeal to slavery allows her to make this capacious observation about America today: “We haven’t outrun or outlived the plantation, although it looks a little bit different. Now the fugitives are from Central America, and the unfree laborers are in prison.” Similarly, she writes of Hurricane Katrina that it demonstrated a continuity with slavery, in that Black bodies were often treated as anonymous, and valueless when no longer animated: “Death is where the chattel part of chattel slavery remains. . . . It is in the treatment of the Black person as fungible.” There does seem a disturbing repetition here, and the repetition flies in the face of the promises of the Declaration of Independence. And so Perry asks, “Can [the nation] ever be remade in the image of the Declaration of Independence? Or will the founders’ racist sins taunt us always?” Allegory may not be a way of plumbing material reality, but it does snap us back to consideration of what our ideals are, what our souls are about. 

Further, Perry’s book is a challenge to dream, collectively, using all the power of the imagination. She displays the gaps in her own knowledge, the mystery, in her mind, of what a Confederate reenactor or a vending-machine employee may really be thinking of her. And the gap dramatizes not a judgment but a distance, meant to be closed up and healed, between two human beings that our Constitution promises to be equals, neighbors, potential friends or lovers. Knowledge is productive, but so is a question, a gap or a void, for Perry, such that she can look at the question marks, the missing names, in a plantation ledger and say: “the hidden virtue of an unsure genealogy is a vast archive of ways of being learned from birth.” Speculation on the past, she suggests, “is part of the tradition of imagined freedom.” This allows for speculation on the future, too. In this sense, the gaps in past knowledge provide allegorical basis for imagining unprecedented futures. 

Perry’s method is less a matter of establishing causal connections than of observing disconnections between past and present. Perry’s exploration of the South also shows the vast disjunction between the promises of the past and what has happened in the present. Discussing the Sea Islands she recalls the failure of the most basic claim of freedpeople in Reconstruction, the right to their land: “The resorts and golf courses and budget luxury . . . creeped upon Sea Island after Sea Island. This is where the forty acres and a mule were promised. And where, after emancipation, the formerly enslaved tried out a collective mode of ownership, something that we clunkily call ‘socialism,’ before the land was snatched back.” 

Perry alludes to the most exciting, most promising, and most short-lived of developments during Reconstruction. In the corrective work of W. E. B. Du Bois (not fully acknowledged until the 1980s, in the work of Eric Foner and others), Reconstruction not only restored the union and strengthened the role of the federal government, it also extended civil rights, public education, and access to public goods and political participation to freedpeople, particularly freedmen. If we want to know the possibilities of the American dream, Reconstruction, which Foner considers a “second founding,” sheds more light on our present potential and dilemmas than the original American revolution does. Reconstruction, which depended on a coalition of freedpeople and loyal whites, started the first system of public education in the South. In some places like South Carolina, Reconstruction attempted a redistribution, however fitful and partial, of land to formerly enslaved people, who had a greater claim than anyone to their own property. 

Reed also mines the past for lost possibilities and “real choices,” particularly the possibilities of interracial labor organizing. It is significant that he locates some of those possibilities around the same time, during Reconstruction and the twenty years or so following it, before white supremacy had been fully enforced in the South. He reminds us of a successful general strike in New Orleans of dock workers, Black and white, carried out the same year that Homer Plessy rode on a Jim Crow car. He also produces examples from populism—its first iteration of the 1890s, when race did not always divide Southern workers—to show that Jim Crow laws and customs were a ruling class strategy to subjugate white workers as well as Black. Reed states that white supremacy was “a myth installed at gunpoint,” forced on poor and working-class whites: “Mass disfranchisement, not only of nearly all blacks . . . but also many poor whites, was a key element of that program.” Reed emphasizes the failed promise of interracial organizing, outside the major political parties, in both populism and the labor movement. 

Taken together, the two books point us back not merely to slavery, nor to Jim Crow, but to that period between slavery and Jim Crow, the period of Reconstruction, and even the strange, aleatory period of Redemption when white supremacy was not yet accepted by all white people; when integrated life and interracial community and organizing were actually attempted here and there. Remarkably, despite their very different outlooks on race and the South, both authors direct us to think again about Reconstruction, or what Foner called “America’s unfinished revolution.” 

The current period of racial reckoning has significantly been called the third Reconstruction, the second being the Civil Rights Movement. It’s significant that both of the previous moments originated in, and happened primarily in, the South. Both were unfinished. Their achievements were important, but they were radically inadequate. Perhaps the reason for this is that previous Reconstructions were so carefully limited, so anxious to extend the hegemony of a ruthless economic system, and the two-party system that keeps it in place. Perry and Reed point us back to Reconstruction, and Reed points us to the glimmering of the interracial labor movement and populist movement, because these were moments of lost possibility that continue to crop up. Trumpism has but a slim resemblance to the populist movement of the 1870s through 1890s, which deserved the name of populism. Despite its eventual capitulation to the major parties, populism of that era had a coherent purpose: defending the interests of small landholders against propertied elites. We would do well to return to the lessons, including cautionary tales, we can derive from this earlier populist movement. Together, Perry and Reed insist that a racial reckoning that stops short at a critique of symbols and signifiers is only a semblance of real reparation, truth, and healing. 

The South, the cradle of slavery, is also the origin of great movements of liberation in U.S. history, which, by necessity, have often been carried out by Black people: abolition, the rebellions and flight of enslaved people, including what Du Bois called the “general strike” of those who left plantations as the Union army advanced south; parts of the populist movement, described by historians such as Deborah Beckel; the Great Migration, which Isabel Wilkerson has called a “mass act of independence”; the most radical of labor organizing in the Great Depression, such as that related by Robin D. G. Kelley in Hammer and Hoe (1990); the New Negro Renaissance, Harlem Renaissance, and Chicago Renaissance, which had their roots in New Orleans and cultures of the Deep South, as told by scholars such as Claudrena N. Harold and Mark Andrew Huddle; the Civil Rights Movement that birthed Black Power, which Perry calls a deeply Southern movement.

Perry is severely critical of a self-satisfied American exceptionalism that covered the atrocities of slavery and Native genocide, and justified Vietnam and a host of other imperialist jaunts. Still, a certain hope for the promise of American democracy remains, what political scientist Lucy Williams has called “aspirational exceptionalism” in the thought of Frederick Douglass. Douglass, speaking in Boston during Reconstruction, recognized what is still true about the U.S.: that it is “the most conspicuous example of composite nationality in the world”; yet this diversity demands recognition of “the principle of absolute equality.” Likewise, Perry returns to the unrealized promise of equality in the Declaration of Independence. From this perspective, the U.S.—and the South in particular—still has the chance to show the world what a multiracial democracy looks like. 

This possibility of making good on the Declaration of Independence was the perennial theme of Douglass’s oratory, before and after emancipation, and it was the central dream of Martin Luther King Jr.’s work. The line of “I Have a Dream” that resonates most deeply with me is this: “I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.” I am a son descended from slave owners, married to a daughter descended from enslaved people. Our son’s ancestors were enslavers and enslaved, yet I want him to be free to dream of a world in which the violence of history is repaired; free to live his best life. In my home in Georgia, where we moved shortly before his birth, this dream is real in day-to-day ways. 

There is no single-shot solution to America’s ills, rooted as they are in the secret places of our souls as well as in the halls of power and wealth. Self-examination and shouting in the streets, restructuring our economy and praying for redemption, not to mention talking with one another, and many other things are needed—as many new things as there are people in the United States or the world. Historian David Blight writes of the dual demands of healing and justice, and how, in a flight from the traumatic demands of justice after the Civil War, white Americans, Republicans and Democrats, settled on the ideal of “reunion” and “reconciliation” rather than the necessities of reparation, of land, of truth. Aborting Reconstruction and embracing the myth that all of us are going to be fine, white Americans chose neither justice nor healing. Both are imperative, and we haven’t a notion yet what both together would look like. We need to dream collectively. 

Perry returns to the American dream, alluding to Donald Trump’s infamous line, “The American dream is dead.” “Dreaming isn’t dead,” she contends. “We can do it anew. Me and you. Both of us are required.” She addresses a complacent, and presumably white audience, although white people have no monopoly on the anti-Black racism she criticizes: “When will you finally be repulsed enough to throw a wrench in the works? When will you allow curiosity and integrity to tip over into urgency? I’m asking you. I’m asking myself to dig deep enough for the truth to flood in.” This self-reflexivity is essential to Perry’s writing: she interrogates herself at the end. Reed is severely critical of the neoliberal American dream of equality of opportunity—merely removing barriers to success but offering no social investments in it. Yet he attends to the minute contingencies of history, down even to individual actions, and finally reminds us of how swiftly and unexpectedly Jim Crow was ended: “that’s a good lesson for us all to keep in mind in this most perilous time in this country and the world.” Reed’s and Perry’s books do not propose a different “freedom dream” (to borrow Robin D. G. Kelley’s phrase) than the American dream with which we are familiar, but they do clear a space for it by pointing out times and places when an alternative was possible. And perhaps in today’s third Reconstruction, such an alternative is imaginable.


*An essay-review of

South to America: A Journey below the Mason–Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation. By Imani Perry. New York: Ecco, 2022. 410 pp. $19.99, paper.

The South: Jim Crow and Its Afterlives
. By Adolph Reed Jr. New York: Verso Books, 2022. 176
pp. $24.95.


Author’s note: I would like to thank two editors of The Georgia Review: Soham Patel for helping me develop this essay, and C. J. Bartunek for providing incisive edits. I would also like to thank Christopher Palazzolo of Emory Library for expert assistance tracking down statistics, and Matthew J. Clavin, whose nuanced discussion, and footnotes, about American exceptionalism in his book Symbols of Freedom: Slavery and Resistance before the Civil War inspired my discussion in this essay. I want to thank Fran Sutton-Williams for her profound and frank conversations with me on racial healing.


Robert Birdwell teaches and tutors in the Emory University Writing Program. His first book is The Radical Novel and the Classless Society (Lexington Books, 2018); he is now writing a book about African American literature and the American dream.