Dr. Bryan M. Jack’s New Book, Southern History on Screen: Race & Rights, 1976-2016

“Film shapes so much of what we know about history.”–Dr. Bryan M. Jack 

Associate Professor of Historical Studies, Dr. Bryan M. Jack, whose area of specialty encompasses African American history and the American South, recently edited and published a book entitled, Southern History on Screen: Race and Rights, 1976-2016. The book is the first of its kind, using race as a primary lens for viewing critical perspectives on Hollywood’s relationships between historical films, Southern history, identity, and the portrayal of Jim Crow–era segregation.

Published in 2018, the book consists of ten essays written by experts from around the world and focuses on how the South and African Americans have been depicted throughout popular culture. “Film shapes so much of what we know about history. Before graduate school, pretty much everything I learned about the South came from movies.” commented Jack. The book started off as a solo project, but after attending a conference in England funded by the College of Arts and Sciences, Jack’s idea for the project shifted. “I met a wide range of scholars at the conference in England who are experts on Southern history so I decided to change the book to include a roster of international contributors. I really enjoyed editing the collection and being able to learn from each contributor’s chapter and perspective.”

The book is an eclectic collection of topics with each chapter standing alone but also forming a chronological volume. Some chapters are personal and told through a familial experience while others take on more of an academic approach. Along with editing the collection, Jack also contributed a chapter on Civil War films that do not depict slavery. “The absence of slavery in these films really says something,” said Jack.

Civil War scholar, Dr. Erik B. Alexander in the Department of Historical Studies also contributed a chapter on the topic of reconstruction. “Bryan allowed us the freedom to write about what we wanted. My essay focuses on the movie, Free State of Jones. I am really interested in how the period of reconstruction is depicted through film and to date, that film demonstrates it best,” Alexander commented. Before writing the essay, Alexander held a screening of the film through the Faculty Fellows program on campus. “A lot of ideas came from that screening and the exchange I had with the students. Teaching informs our scholarship in a lot of unexpected ways.”

Southern History on Screen: Race and Rights, 1976-2016 was published by University Press of Kentucky (Jan. 2019) and is a fantastic collection for those interested in film, history, and Southern identity, but even more, pedagogically, it serves as a great volume applicable in the classroom setting. “Bryan did a really great job editing the volume and keeping it on schedule for publication–the book would not have been released as quickly as it was if it were not for him” (Alexander). More information about the book can be found here: https://www.kentuckypress.com/live/title_detail.php?titleid=5383

On Apr. 25 at 4:00 p.m., Jack and Alexander will be at the Cougar Store in the Morris University Center to talk about the book.

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