6. October 18 – October 25

In our last meeting, Professor Pinsker and I discussed possible chapter structures for the thesis – I offered the idea of organizing by gendered theme (womanhood pre-riot and manhood post-riot) while he floated a chronological approach. One of my tasks for this week has been trying to figure out this broader picture and the general argument that would unite the various episodes. I’m hoping that sketching the project as a whole will help me begin outlining my first presented chapter (which will likely end up as the second or third chapter) as well as understand the major gaps in my work so far. I thought it might be helpful to note a few of the major research questions for this section:

  • How do Du Bois and Washington interact with/ignore the issues of temperance/prohibition?
  • How are emerging black male leadership structures relating to their female reformer counterparts? How are they similar/different in message and strategy?
  • What do black female reformers have to say about prohibition/temperance in the 1890s? In what ways are their strategies and rhetoric revealing?
  • What are white female reformers saying about prohibition/temperance in the 1890s? How do they relate to their black reforming counterparts?
  • What does the issue of prohibition/temperance tell us about broader progressive reforms and black leadership in Atlanta and during this period?

As I begin the task of actually writing Chapter 3, however, I’m realizing the challenges inherent to starting smack dab in the middle. I worry that the whole point of Chapter 3 is that it is a contrast to Chapter 2 – and that it will be less meaningful to audiences unfamiliar with my intended narrative than to begin at the beginning. Given that I will use the intro and Chapter 2 to really set the scene and norms of Black and White Atlanta, and then later make reference to and describe change/continuity within that setting, I wonder what the utility is of beginning in the midst of that story. The most compelling reason is that this is where the bulk of my previous research has taken place; in addition, it is in some ways the most difficult part of the story to write because it gravitates less around an event (the Cotton exhibition might anchor it, but doesn’t have the same pull as the elections or the riot) and so might be best to get out of the way. Although it’s getting to the point time-wise that I might not have enough time to pivot, I think it’s something to consider.

This week, I also met with Professor Godshalk at Shippensburg about his research for Veiled Visions (2005), a book that has been absolutely central to the way I’m thinking about post-riot Atlanta and the figure of Proctor in particular. I’m very grateful for his helpful advice regarding possible new primary source leads as well as his insights on the potential pitfalls of my research. In particular, his caution to avoid a DuBois/Washington dichotomy and his discussion of non-elite black voices was a useful and needed reminder. Additionally, his suggestions for primary source collections in Atlanta have led me to reach out to the First Congregational Church directly as well as several other collections available in microform. I’m also hoping that the collection of Ray Stannard Baker at the Library of Congress could be a useful opportunity for further research over winter break when I’m back home. Further possibilities include the papers of William J. Northen at UGA as well as several other (possibly digitized?) newspapers Prof. Godshalk thought might be most helpful (Congregationalist and Christian World, Atlanta Evening News, the Georgian – especially editorials post-riot and columns depicting African American stereotypes re: liquor in the police courts under “Judge Broyles Court”). Overall, his advice was concrete, constructive and very useful – and I’m very glad to have made the trip!