A native of Georgia with humble roots and a love for music (including Johnny Cash), historian Keri Leigh Merrit has been busy. She is the author of Masterless Men: Poor Whites and Slavery in the Antebellum South (2017) and is the co-editor of Reconsidering Southern Labor History: Race, Class, and Power (2018). As she tells Colin, since she graduated with a Ph.D. from the University of Georgia in 2014, her scholarly path has not been a traditional one.
Throughout her life, Keri has been fascinated by questions of class and race in America, whether in discussion of the antebellum period, labor movements, or the southern prison system. Listen as she discusses how historians outside academia have to carve their own path and how very often, it involves doing things no one ever talked about in graduate school.
Thomas Bevilacqua is a California native who has spent a lot of time in the South. Earlier this year, he graduated with a Ph.D. in English at Florida State University, where he now teaches. He talks with Colin about his dissertation research, which is based on many years of studying Catholic writers such as Hemingway, Kerouac, Walker Percy, and Flannery O'Connor. Tom's writings on the church have also given him an appreciation for the literate, rich, and existentialist world of Mad Men.
Tom is also a huge basketball fan. Earlier this year, he published Golden Age: The Brilliance of the 2018 Champion Golden State Warriors. He is also a writer for the Warriors for the SB Nation website. Tom had a good year. Hear him talk about it with American Rambler!
Craig Belcher is the Arts and Entertainment Editor at Richmond Magazine. But as he tells Colin, he's been writing and working as a journalist for a long time. A native of the Richmond area, he has seen many changes happen in the print industry over the past few decades.
Craig also knows a lot about music. He worked for more than a decade as a writer, producer, and host of his own television show, where he interviewed such classic hip hop artists as Chuck D, M.C. Serch, and De La Soul. He also talks about his recent articles on Sister Rosetta Tharpe and the need for a Virginia Music Hall of Fame. It's a conversation that covers everything from Q-Tip to Link Wray and GWAR, with some good advice on the writing life thrown in.
Robert Kenzer is known for his community studies of North Carolina during the Civil War era. But as he discusses with Colin, his courses at the University of Richmond (where is a professor) have included a class on Abraham Lincoln and baseball. Bob talks about his career path as a historian, which began in California, shifted to Harvard (where he studied under David Donald), and years in Utah before landing in Richmond.
Originally from California and the daughter of a sculptor, Ana Edwards has found her niche in Richmond. She works at the American Civil War Museum downtown, but before joining the staff there, she made a name for herself as a radio personality and activist. A native of Los Angeles, she moved to Virginia with fears about just how Gothic the South was. That was thirty years ago. Going from the West to the East Coast has given her a lot to talk about.
Ana discusses her fascination with the South's people and past--something only intensified by research into her own African American ancestry. In Richmond, Ana has been busy navigating the waters of public history, which has included museum work, broadcasting, and reclamation projects. She also discusses her interest in the 1800 Gabriel revolt in Richmond and how that tells us much about Virginia and its long troubled (and complicated) race relations.
You may know Colonel Wilkerson from his appearances on Bill Maher's show Real Time. The colonel has made a name for himself as a straight-shooting Republican, who had a long career in the military, where he worked closely with Colin Powell during the second Bush administration. He sits down with American Rambler at the College of William and Mary, where the colonel is Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Government and Public Policy. He talks with Colin about being an Eisenhower Republican, his service in Vietnam, and how we are on a dangerous political course under Trump. It's an hour of political talk that covers everything from My Lai to the invasion of Iraq.
Put your history hat on, y'all! Colin talks with John C. Rodrigue, one of his professors at LSU (back when Colin was a lowly grad student). John now teaches at Stonehill College in Massachusetts, but he's a Jersey guy, who studied at Rutgers and Columbia. He also has roots in Louisiana's Cajun country going back to early 1900s.
John tells Colin about his academic road to studying Reconstruction, more specifically, examining the postwar years in the sugar parishes of Louisiana. John is the author of two books about the Reconstruction era. His latest, Lincoln and Reconstruction, was published in 2013. He talks with Colin not only about his own work, but his encounters with historians such as James Roark, Ira Berlin, and the infamous Eugene Genovese. He also discusses his new book project, which examines emancipation in the Mississippi Valley.
What does John think about Woodrow Wilson? How does William Shakespeare sum up the southern planter class? Listen and find out!
Singer, guitarist, and songwriter Adam Faucett grew up in the suburbs of Little Rock, where he spent a lot of time listening to Otis Redding, Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Neil Young, and Radiohead. He also had a love for horror movies. His influences have led him to blend light and dark themes in songs about love, loss, and growing up in Arkansas. He also makes historical references to things as varied as the southern mystic Edgar Cayce and the Mackay Bennett, the ship that picked up the human wreckage left in the wake of the Titanic sinking.
Adam has a new album out, It Took the Shape of a Bird. As on previous records, he has written songs that are powerful and unique. Adam sits down with Colin in Richmond to talk about life on the road, growing up in Arkansas, and what it's like to be a working musician.
Happy Halloween, y'all! Colin talks about the most recent marathon baseball playoff game, watching the original Phantom of the Opera, and reading about Bram Stoker. He also manages to combine two things--politics and Edgar Allan Poe--courtesy of the great writer E. L. Doctorow.
Colin has New York author, photographer, filmmaker, folklorist, and English professor Bruce Jackson on for a second talk. This time, the conversation covers everything from prison punks to Star Wars and the power of myth. Bruce discusses his literary influences (especially Faulkner) and how his background in literature has informed his teaching of film and television (as in his past college course on Breaking Bad). Bruce also examines the rarity of successful academic couples, close shaves on death row, and his friendship with French philosopher Michel Foucault.
Tom Camden is head of special collections at Washington and Lee University. His career has taken him from Virginia to New Hampshire to Georgia and back again. But Tom is a native Virginian and W&L graduate, who grew up in the historic community of Buffalo Forge, not far from Lexington.
As he tells Colin, working at W&L has opportunities as well as challenges. Going to Italy--as he recently did--courtesy of W&L is nice, but the university has a historical reckoning going on. That reckoning involves two large figures in American history: George Washington and Robert E. Lee. Whatever the daily news cycle, Tom's work shows that archivists can no longer be gatekeepers, but people dedicated to involving students, faculty, and the public in what they do. And for Tom and W&L, such an approach is working.
Gregg Kimball is the Director of Public Services and Outreach at the Library of Virginia. He is the author of American City, Southern Place: A Cultural History of Antebellum Richmond (University of Georgia Press, 2000). He has worked in Richmond a ling time, but he originally hails from New England. Gregg talks with Colin about growing up in New Hampshire, joining the army shortly after the Vietnam War, and going back to grad school to study with Ed Ayers at the University of Virginia.
Gregg's career underscores the challenges (and advantages) of finishing a degree when you already have a job and family. Since graduating, he has tried to connect museums with the public. Gregg is also an accomplished musician who plays with the Broad Street Ramblers and Southside Homewreckers. He talks with Colin about his early influences, American roots music, and some good bands in the Richmond area.
Steve Campbell is a California guy. A native of the Bay Area, he got his Ph.D. in history at UC-Santa Barbara and now teaches at Cal Poly in Pomona. He has a book coming out in January, The Bank War and the Partisan Press, published through University Press of Kansas. Was Andrew Jackson like Trump, as many people have said? Well, yes and no.
Steve and Colin talk about the perils and pleasures of being a historian, from the tenuous and lackluster (at best) job market and maintaining scholarly objectivity, to the ongoing battles between academics and popular historians, to the challenges of getting scholarship done with a heavy teaching load.
Should students become historians? Listen and find out, as Steve and Colin talk about everything from Steve Bannon and Shelby Foote to the Byrds's ill-fated shows in Nashville in the late 60s.
Jon Bachman returns for a record-tying third appearance on the podcast. The topics of discussion are typically light, covering Michael Moore's new movie on Trump, the American prison system, and the decline and fall of democratic empire. Is there hope for the future? Listen and find out!
Jay Leavitt has owned and operated Deep Groove Records in Richmond's Fan district for almost 10 years. He's originally from northern Alabama, where he met an older Sam Phillips (who discovered Elvis and Johnny Cash) and a young Patterson Hood (frontman and chief songwriter for the rock group Drive-By Truckers). Though he still calls Alabama home, in the mid-80s, Jay moved to Richmond. Since moving to the capital, he has sold lots of records, while also promoting cool music--especially the Truckers.
Colin talks with Jay about his early years in Alabama, blowing Patterson Hood's mind, opening a business in a tough financial time, and some recent music he's excited about. It's some straight talk from a Richmond fixture and a diehard music fan.
Hurricane Florence has spared Virginia, but Colin still got the day off. So, catch up with the Rambler as he talks about the sucky summer weather, the Red Sox clinching a playoff spot, and the recent Drive-By-Truckers show in Richmond. Also, Colin talks about September brain, the dark cousin of April brain.
Colin recently celebrated his 7th wedding anniversary in (where else?) Petersburg Virginia! He talks about the Old Towne and how Petersburg presents some great and not-so-great things about the urban South. Also, Colin weighs the merits of Led Zeppelin vs. Grand Funk Railroad.
Bruce Jackson has a had a long, varied, and brilliant career as a teacher, photographer, folklorist, writer, and filmmaker. Colin first encountered his work while researching the prisons in Arkansas. Bruce visited prisons in the 1960s and 70s, trips that produced photos for his books Killing Time, Cummins Wide, and Inside the Wire.
Bruce was born in New York City, joined the Marines as the Korean War was ending, and studied in New Jersey and Indiana before winding up in the English Department at the University of Buffalo, where he still teaches. He also tried his hand at engineering and took the law exam before winning a Guggenheim and a fellowship from Harvard, both of which allowed him to travel to Arkansas to do his prison research.
During his career, Bruce has met everybody from Johnny Cash to Michel Foucault. Recently, he's worked with the Wooster Group, which has been home to actors as varied as Spalding Gray and Willem Dafoe. As he tells Colin, he calls himself "lucky." Thankfully, his somewhat accidental creative process has produced original and revealing work.
William Freehling has been around. His first book, Prelude to Civil War, was published in the 1960s. Prelude won the coveted Bancroft Prize as well as the Nevins Prize for best dissertation that year. Since then, Bill has published other books about slavery, politics, and the Civil War. Now, he has a new book, Becoming Lincoln, which looks at the successes and many failures that characterized Lincoln's early life and career.
Bill lives in Virginia, but his career has taken him literally across the country, from Harvard (where he got his undergraduate degree and studied with Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.) to Berkeley, where he got his doctorate studying under Kenneth Stampp. He has taught in Michigan, Maryland, and Kentucky, but originally he is from Chicago.
Bill and Colin talk about how in many ways, the Civil War was a victory of Mid-Westerners conquering the South. What does Lincoln's role in the period tell us? For one, it says that our failures are very often more important learning experiences than our victories.
John Coski is the author of The Confederate Battle Flag: America's Most Embattled Emblem, which was published in 2006. A graduate of the doctoral program at the College of William and Mary in 1987, he has been at the Museum of the Confederacy--now officially part of the American Civil War Museum--in downtown Richmond for thirty years. Over a beer at Cafe Zata in South Side, John talks about his book and the more recent events concerning the flag: more specifically, how the Charleston massacre of a few years ago spurred new debates about what the Confederate flag means.
On a lighter note, Colin and John talk about the delights of the Byrd theatre and the James Bond franchise. John is also a Beatles fan, and he and Colin get to the heart of Fab Four fandom by asking: what songs would make for the best one disc version of the White Album?
Court Carney is a professor of history at Stephen F. Austin University, where he has taught for ten years. The author of Cuttin' Cup: How Early Jazz Got America's Ear, he's now working on a book on Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest and his legacy. Court and Colin were at LSU at the same time, and they reminisce about graduate school preparing you (and often not preparing you) for later life, why Gaines Foster is underrated, and how Robin Kelley's Race Rebels made a big impression.
Since Court is a music expert (and recovering bass player), Colin takes the opportunity to ask him about his early music influences (Beatles, Johnny Cash, and Bob Dyan); how his tastes have changed over time; and why he wanted to teach a class on Nobel Laureate Robert Zimmerman.
It's a talk that examines everything from 19th century Memphis and Shelby Foote to Jeff Tweedy, Rush, and INXS. Laissez les bons temps rouler, baby!
Get more inside the mind of American Rambler, with further bits from old comedy, movies, and interviews. What's in the Rambler's mind? Well, it starts with Benny Hill music, then goes from there. Also, you'll get more poems about famous people, including Omar Sharif, Descartes, Henry Miller, and Dizzy Gillespie. Plus, both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson get burned, Bukowski talks about Henry Miller, and the Fourth Doctor leads us into the great beyond. It's another foray into blatant copyright violation, y'all, with some original stuff thrown in!
Andrew Huebner has a new book out, Love and Death in the Great War. A professor at the University of Alabama, he talks with Colin about his latest project and how it relates to his previous book, The Warrior Image. They discuss how Americans perceived the First World War as a great moral crusade, and how venereal disease was at times seen as an even greater menace than combat.
What did the war mean to the Progressive Era? How did it change America and its values? Did the war make disillusioned modernists out of stuffy Victorians, or was it more complicated than that? Listen as Colin and Andrew talk about the first large scale war Americans fought in the 20th century.
Ever wonder what it's like to be inside the mind of American Rambler? Well, it might be something like this: a mishmash of TV and movie clips, comedy bits, and creative impulses. For the first time, you get to hear original American Rambler poetry! Yes, Colin reads two works about famous people, "I Rode on a Plane with Kierkegaard" and "I Had a Beer with Bukowski." So, get your Revolution 9 on, y'all. It's the most avant garde episode yet!
Kevin Levin is a veteran of the history wars. He is perhaps best known for his popular blog Civil War Memory. But he is also a teacher and published scholar, who has not backed down in the face of intimidation from the "heritage" crowd. A native of New Jersey, Kevin has degrees from the University of Maryland and the University of Richmond, where he wrote a thesis on the Civil War that became the basis for his first book, The Battle of the Crater: War as Murder.
At a cozy hotel in downtown Charlottesville, Colin and Kevin talk about doing history and how it often treads on uncomfortable political ground. Also, Kevin talks about his new book project, soon to be published by University of North Carolina Press, which addresses the myth of black Confederate soldiers. Can historians really make themselves heard above the political noise surrounding Confederate monuments and the Rebel flag? Do facts matter in an age of "fake news?" Listen and find out!