WCU hosts first Social History in the Mountains Conference

Western Carolina University’s first “Social History in the Mountains Conference” will spark discussions on topics from black apprentices and orphans after the Civil War to “dying traditions,” figuratively and literally. Evolving grave-digging practices in Tennessee is the subject of one research project to be presented, while others explore vanishing aspects of society and the way people live.

The social history conference, which is free and open to the public, will be held in the McKee Building from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, March 18. Western’s history department and Graduate School designed the event not only to explore social history but also strengthen ties among history faculty and graduate students in the region.

“As history faculty, we tend to be connected to people within our particular fields,” said Laura Cruz, assistant professor of history at Western and conference organizer. “This event will help us connect also with history faculty and graduate students at nearby colleges and learn what they are doing.”

The conference’s focus is social history – a field that, in itself, is evolving, Cruz said. Research in the name of “social history” has ranged from studies of conjoined twins to medical practices to pineapples. Cruz said some describe it as the history of society, social groups or social rules. “Social history is a wide-open field – an exciting type of history to study,” she said.

Michael Morris, an assistant professor of history from Dalton State College in Dalton, Ga., tells his students social history is the history of the way people live, from how they pick mates to how they raise their children. Morris will share at the conference his findings about the “Pocahontas Problem.”

Pocahontas, the 14-year-old girl who defied her father to help feed the Jamestown colony, illustrates the influence and impact women had but do not often get credit or, he said. Morris examined how Southeast U.S. Indians became addicted to Great Britain’s trade items such as metal tools, cotton or mirrors, and the roles of women in their culture. “I found the two were linked together,” Morris said. “The men who would trade took common-law wives from Indians, who became their teachers, diplomats and bargaining tools. The women wound up having a lot of power.”

The subjects Western faculty and graduate students will present at the conference include informal bookselling networks in the early modern Netherlands; women and white supremacy; social capital and activism in the New Urban South; service learning and The Keener Cemetery; and land disputes in the Little Tennessee River Valley. Presentations will be followed with time for discussion.

Michael Paul, visiting assistant professor of history and a conference organizer, said the event is a way to help bring together the university faculty, students and community residents with an interest in local history, particularly the history of “everyday people.”

For more information, contact Laura Cruz at (828) 227-3909 or lcruz@wcu.edu .

Western Carolina University Presenters:

–Laura Cruz, assistant professor of history, “Ruiled Up: Informal Bookselling Networks in the Early Modern Netherlands”

–Elizabeth McRae, assistant professor of history, “Women and White Supremacy”

–Joseph Hurley, graduate student, “A Vision of Progress: Social Capital and Social Activism in the New Urban South”

–Amanda Epperson, visiting assistant professor of history, “The Keener Cemetery: History and Service Learning”

–Robert Gilmer, graduate student, “Conflicting Claims on the Land: Cultural Resource Disputes in the Little Tennessee River Valley”

Conference Schedule

Saturday, March 18

Coffee and Opening Remarks. 8 a.m. (McKee)

Session 1: Social Networks. (209 McKee)

Chair: Curtis Wood

8:30-10 a.m.

-C. Nathan Bartlett (Horry-Georgetown Technical College) “Crime and Crisis: The Disciplinary Revolution in Early Modern Leiden”

-Paul A. Custer (Lenoir-Rhyne College) “A Mutual Desire to Please: The Discourse of Bankruptcy in England”

-Laura Cruz (Western) “Ruiled Up: Informal Bookselling Networks in the Early Modern Netherlands”

Session 2: Native American Society (209 McKee)

Chair: William Anderson

10:15-11:45 a.m.

-Stephen Martin, (Univ. of Oklahoma) “The Concept of ‘Civilization’ in Pre-Removal Cherokee Rhetoric, 1828-1832”

-Michael Morris (Dalton State College) “The Pocahontas Problem: The Difficulties in Hearing Indian Women’s Voices in Traditional Curriculum”

-Christopher Arris Oakley (East Carolina University) “Henry Bear, Strike at the Wind, and the Lumbee Indians of Robeson County”

Lunch 12 p.m. McKee

Session 3: Southern Society (209 McKee)

Chair: Gibbs Knotts

1:15-2:45 p.m.

-Troy Kickler, (North Carolina History Project) “Separated From the Family: Black Apprentices and Orphans in Reconstruction Tennessee, 1865-1869”

-Elizabeth McRae (Western) “Women and White Supremacy”

-Joseph Hurley (Western) “A Vision of Progress: Social Capital and Social Activism in the New Urban South”

Session 4: Social Space (209 McKee)

Chair: George Frizzell

4:45-6:15 p.m.

-Dustin Higgins, (East Tennessee State University) “A Dying Tradition: Changing Gravedigging Practices in Unicoi County”

-Amanda Epperson, (Western) “The Keener Cemetery: History and Service Learning”

-Robert Gilmer (Western) “Conflicting Claims on the Land: Cultural Resource Disputes in the Little Tennessee River Valley”