Congratulations to Prof. Ken Wheeler on his paper delivered at the Annual Meeting of the Georgia Association of Historians this past weekend at Georgia Highlands College in Rome, entitled: “Racial Expulsion and a Myth of Whiteness: Why Reinhardt Normal College Abandoned the New South and Became a Mountain School.” This is based on an article forthcoming in the Appalachian Journal, which I have had the privilege to read, and which begins:
Founded in 1883 at the edge of southern Appalachia in northern Georgia, Reinhardt Normal College initially reflected a New South ideology of its German-American founders, who saw the school as part of a larger vision that included mining, business development, and transportation improvements. By 1900, however, a second generation articulated a different story of the college, in which they presented Reinhardt as a missionary outpost among an isolated and ignorant, though promising, population that required moral uplift. For the founding generation, the hilly, even mountainous, topography surrounding their school signified the waterpower that could be harnessed to power mills and factories, but for the second generation the landscape signified a geographically and culturally remote locale in which the school operated. What stayed constant was a racial outlook in which the first generation advocated ridding the area of people of African descent, and the second generation either echoed that aspiration or presented the school as though racial purification had already happened and Reinhardt existed in an all-white setting.
(Cf. VPAA Mark Roberts’s talk last fall, wherein he argued that the Appalachian “hillbilly” was the valued repository of an unsullied original “Anglo-Saxon” culture.)
Given this history, one can see why the admission of James T. Jordan was such a significant event, and worth remembering.
Congratulations are also due to Prof. Wheeler on being awarded a sabbatical leave next spring to work on his book, Creation and Destruction in the Cherokee Country: Georgia’s Etowah Valley 1829-1865.