Yuletide in Dixie: The Forgotten Story of Enslaved Christmas Experiences before the Civil War

Wednesday, December 14, 2022 - 6:00pm
Join us for Dr. Robert May's presentation related to his recent book, Yuletide in Dixie: Slavery, Christmas, and Southern Memory. About this Event: On Christmas Eve in 1811, Louisiana's territorial governor alerted a plantation owner of rumors that enslaved people on the Mississippi River's German Coast above New Orleans were organizing a rebellion for freedom. Governor William C. C. Claiborne's warning hardly squares with stereotypes in American fiction, history books, and pictures that the South's enslaved people spent their entire holiday seasons joyfully dancing, feasting, and drinking during extended work vacations provided by the generosity of the white people who claimed to own them. In his talk, Robert E. May, drawing from documents he uncovered in writing Yuletide in Dixie: Slavery, Christmas, and Southern Memory, will not only provide a far more disturbing picture of enslaved Christmas experiences in New Orleans and other Southern cities as well as on plantations than most Americans have been exposed to, but also show how misleading myths and simplifications about holidays during enslavement have exacerbated U.S. racial divisions for 150 years. To talk about Christmas gifts to enslaved people, without compensating allusions to Christmas abuses of their bodies and spirits, he will argue, is not to understand the holiday's meaning at all before the Civil War. Professor Emeritus of History Robert E. May taught Southern history and the Civil War during a forty-six-year Purdue University career and is known internationally for his books about Southern attempts to expand slavery into Latin America before the Civil War, especially the William Walker invasions of Nicaragua, some of which were based largely in New Orleans. His book John A. Quitman: Old South Crusader earned the book prize of the Mississippi Historical Society and his book Slavery, Race, and Conquest in the Tropics: Lincoln, Douglas, and the Future of Latin America was a finalist selection for the Lincoln book prize. Yuletide in Dixie was first published in 2019. He and his wife Jill now live in Olympia WA.

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