Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Riché Richardson, Quilter

Riché Richardson leads a busy academic career. Educated at Spelman College and Duke University, Richardson focused her early work on African American literature, American literature, and southern studies and went on to teach for ten years at UC Davis. She is now an associate professor at the Africana Studies & Research Center at Cornell University.

Her ties to UGA Press began when she became coeditor of The New Southern Studies, a book series that re-examines the central ideas of the last twenty years of critical theory in southern studies: objecthood, identity, space, nation, region, abjection, the body, and empire. In 2007 the Press published her book BLACK MASCULINITY AND THE U.S. SOUTH, which the eminent scholar Houston A. Baker called "a brilliantly sophisticated recasting of black southerners (especially black males), white hegemony, race, gender, and sexuality in the United States."

But Richardson, who is a native of Montgomery, Alabama, isn't content to merely study southern culture as an academic. As an accomplished quilter, she actively participates in one of the South's most celebrated traditions. And like her academic work, her quilting has received accolades. This past summer Richardson's quilts were included in an exhibition at the Rosa Parks Library and Museum. A short film about her work, A Portrait of the Artist, has been produced by the filmmakers Geraldine Chouard and Anne Crémieux. And, she is profiled in the book Crafted Lives by Patricia Turner.

Now Richardson has been asked to be a cultural envoy, as an artist and quilter, for the U.S. Embassy in Paris. During her trip to Paris she will present a talk at the Ambassador's Residence on January 14 and will give numerous lectures to American studies scholars. Richardson is using the trip as an opportunity to unveil her current work-in-progress, a quilt that will mark the inauguration of Barack Obama.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Democrats Win in North Carolina: What's the Deal?

In one of the biggest surprises of the 2008 election, Barack Obama carried North Carolina--the first time Democrats have won a presidential contest in the state since 1976. Democrats prevailed as well in North Carolina's senate race, with Kay Hagan unseating Republican Elizabeth Dole.

Is North Carolina now blue, or at least purple? If so, how do we explain the shift?

Devin Fergus's forthcoming LIBERALISM, BLACK POWER, AND THE MAKING OF AMERICAN POLITICS, 1965-1980 is a good place to start. Fergus uncovers an intriguing alliance between North Carolina's liberals and black nationalists during the post-civil rights era--one that was manifested in experiments like Malcolm X University and Soul City; in the coalition to defend Joan Little, a black prisoner who killed a guard she accused of raping her; and in the electoral success of the Winston-Salem Black Panthers, who over the past forty years have occupied some of the city's most prominent offices.

Fergus's book is about the degree to which radical black politics and "mainstream" liberalism have been intertwined in recent history. And it shows that this productive interaction has, to a surprising degree, emerged from cosmopolitan pockets of the American South like Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and the Research Triangle.