Recently (if you haven’t picked up on this already) I’ve been thinking a lot about the South as a moral geography*, or as a place that is made up of cultural and political practices instead of a physical borders. What are the stuffs that the South is made of beyond what I imagine it to be and what it looks like on a topographical map? What are the political practices that both shape the South and are read as southern political practices?
While pondering these questions, a friend sent me the following link. The long of the short is this: in December 2013, local archivists in Franklin County, NC uncovered a variety of documents in the Franklin County courthouse dating back to 1840. As they began the arduous process of sorting through the papers, the North Carolina Archives became involved and halted their work. The next thing they knew, someone had come in and burned all of the documents. There are lots of ways to speculate about what these documents could have been, what they could have meant. Some people reason that these documents contained records relating to the brief moment of property distribution to former slaves just after the Civil War. Since most of that land was subsequently reclaimed by whites, these documents could have proven some land in North Carolina to be owned illegally today. We won’t know what they meant besides the that they contained information important enough to be destroyed.
The story here is complicated and unclear, but it is just one example of the practices that censor the political and physical landscape of the South today. Who owns and does not southern lands now did not arise out of nothing. It arose from the cultural and political practices of today and the cultural and political practices that make up the South’s history.
To read more about this story, click here.