Sitting in Darkness:  New South Fiction, Education,

And the Rise of Jim Crow Colonialism, 1865-1920

by Peter Schmidt

Complete Notes and Discussion for the Introduction

Supplementing the print edition of this book


[Note: These note numbers correspond to those of the printed edition of Sitting in Darkness.  These notes contain all the text in the printed edition, plus additional citations and analysis relevant to the overall argument and scholarly apparatus.  –Peter Schmidt]


1.  Credit for the Tuskegee photograph: Johnston, Frances Benjamin. "[History class, Tuskegee Institute, Tuskegee, Alabama]." 1902. African American Odyssey, Library of Congress., accessed October 23, 2006.  This photograph is in the public domain.  For the Kamehameha School archives site, go to [.]  The Boys School was established in 1887; the Girls School in 1894.  Photo reproduced with the permission of the Kamehameha School.  “The views described in Sitting in Darkness are the views of the author and do not represent the views or opinions of Kamehameha Schools, nor is there any approval or authorization of this material, express or implied, by the Kamehameha Schools.”

2.  Cartoon reproduced from The Literary Digest, XVIII.7 (February 18, 1899): 180—part of an article on “The Third Battle of Manila,” 179-81.

3.  Cartoon, color lithograph by Louis Dalrymple; digital reproduction by Peter Schmidt. [New York], Puck 44.1142, 25 January 1899, n.p.  I first discovered this cartoon in the fine website set up by the Hawai'i State Archives, where it is dated incorrectly as 1898.  Kahn Collection 37:39.  From “POLITICAL CARICATURES OF THE HAWAIIAN KINGDOM, Circa 1875-1905.”  Kapi’olani Community College Library collection and website, Hawaii., accessed November 4, 2006.  For background on Puck, see Marschall.  Thanks to the helpful staff of the Literature Department of the main branch of the Philadelphia Free Public Library, especially Karen Lightner and David Ninemire, plus Will Brown, photographer, for assistance in viewing and reproducing this Dalrymple cartoon.

            The phrase “consent of some of the governed,” including italics, was Senator Orville Platt’s, spoken in Senate debate in 1898.  Replying to Senator Hoar’s question whether “governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed,” Mr. Platt answered, “from the consent of some of the governed.”  Platt then made his key point:  “I admit that whenever we stipulate in the acquisition of territory with the country from which we acquire it that we will admit it as a State or States into the Union, we are in honor bound, in the performance of that contract, to do everything we can in a preliminary way to fit that Territory and its people for admission as a State.  But when that clause is wanting in the treaty [as with Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Philippines], I deny that there is any constitutional or moral obligation to fit the Territory for statehood.”  Literary Digest 18.2 (Jan. 14, 1899): 34; italics and brackets mine.  Such reasoning nevertheless asserted Congress’ legislative authority over the new colonies.  For fuller analysis of debates about colonialism, education, citizenship, and “consent,” see especially Chapters One and Six.

4.  For a brief analysis of the design and ideological contradictions of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, see Vienne. 

5.  For recent historians’ accounts of the Wilmington riots in a broad historical context, including some consideration of the role played by pro-colonial rhetoric, see Prather; and Cecelski and Tyson.

6.  Historians focusing on the postwar U.S. South who are recognized as paradigm-makers for its social history include W. E. B. Du Bois, C. Vann Woodward, John Hope Franklin, Eric Foner, Joel Williamson, Edward L. Ayers, Nina Silber, David Blight, Nell Irvin Painter, Sadiya Hartman, and Steven Hahn—and many others obviously could be named. 

7.  For just several of many recent examples of the “transnational” in U.S. studies, see Smith and Cohn’s anthology Look Away!: The U.S. South in New World Studies (2004) or Wai-Chee Dimock’s Through Other Continents: American Literature Across Deep Time (2006); or any of a number of recent  issues of American Quarterly, the primary journal for the American Studies Association.  See also the December 2006 special issue of American Literature, “Global Contexts, Local Literatures: The New Southern Studies,” guest edited by Kathryn McKee and Annette Trefzer.  Many of the papers included in that issue were presented at two conferences in México and Mississippi co-sponsored by the American Literature Association and the Society for the Study of Southern Literature.  For an anthology of the new “global South” that emphasizes economic and social changes since World War II, see Peacock et al.

7.  Despite certain strengths, including a fine discussion of the relevance of Yeats’ essay on oral culture, Brooks’ contribution overall now reads as a rather mournful jeremiad, a plea both agitated yet exhausted to keep a vision of the South that is singular, integral, and understood by all of “us” who really know the South at its best.  The piece proved a very different, and sadder, valedictory performance than Holman’s.  Regrettably, Brooks also tried to enlist Eudora Welty to his cause of defending a transcendental South, via an oversimplified reading of the conflict between Fay and Laurel in The Optimist’s Daughter (1972).  For different readings of Welty’s novel, see Schmidt, “On Optimists’s Sons and Daughters”; and Nissen.

8.  Woodrow Wilson, Public Papers, v. 1.  The claim that the U.S. invented and perfected the short story, made no doubt with the Southerner Edgar Allan Poe in mind, deserves a historical critique I have no room for here.  But it is a particularly egregious example of the New South’s tendency to link nationalism and literary history.  For an effusive reference to Page’s “Marse Chan” as an example of a modern short story that helped in the rebuilding of the postwar nation, see Alderman, “Introduction” (I: xxii).  For a later discussion of Woodrow Wilson’s conceptions of university training and citizenship, see Chapter Six, especially notes 8-9.

9.  The influential German model for a modern university was organized in Berlin according to the schema proposed by Wilhelm von Humboldt, but was relevant for other German cities as well, particularly Jena.  See von Humbolt’s “Theory of Bildung” and historical commentary in Westbury et al, Teaching as Reflective Practice, especially 55-107.  For an analysis of Germany within a larger history of Western developments, including nationalism, see Cheah and Readings.  For studies exploring the links between English literary study and colonial education, especially in British India, see Viswanathan and Whitehead.  For more on the history of literature professors and departments, including in the U.S., see Graff, Guillory, and Scholes. 

Regarding the rise of English literature courses at universities in the U.S., some data provide perspective on how relatively few English literature professorships were available at the turn to the twentieth century.  In 1896-97, for instance, the University of the South at Sewanee had 20 instructors, most in medicine and law.  There were 2 professors of ancient languages and Classics, one for Modern Languages, and one (William P. Trent) in English and History.  Johns Hopkins in 1896-97 had 86 instructors, of whom just 3 taught English literature and philology.  Vanderbilt had 70 instructors, the vast majority teaching subjects such as medicine and dentistry (there was even a professor of “Dental Jurisprudence”!), science, or law.  Of Vanderbilt professors teaching the humanities, 3 focused on literature in English or elocution.  The University of North Carolina had 35 instructors, 1 in English, 1 in English and Psychology, and 1 teaching composition; the University of Virginia had 46 instructors, only 2 teaching English literature.  See Emerson, College Year-Book, 1896-97: 378-79, 158-60, 392-94, 357-59, and 381-84, respectively.  For two contemporary accounts of English literature studies in the South at the turn to the twentieth century, see Trent, “Introduction”;  and Henneman.  Given these low numbers of literature professors, the importance assigned to Humanities instruction by promoters of university education is astonishing—until we study the influence of German educational theory on the U.S.

10.  For the full list of Reading Courses, topics, and organizational schema, see Alderman, Harris, and Kent, eds., The Library of Southern Literature, Vol. 16, Section 2, 1-226.

11.  Ironically, since “critical realism” was perhaps the crucial measure of cultural importance for Pattee, Twain’s anti-imperial writings should have been elevated in importance in his assessment rather than mostly elided.  But Pattee’s survey was published in 1915, at the height of a new certainty that the U.S. needed to project imperial power in a dangerous age.  Such views of course were best embodied in the Jim Crow Colonialist policies of the Southerner who was the new U.S. President, Woodrow Wilson.

12. Parrington’s paring of essential New South writers down to just a few was widely influential.  Witness Granville Hicks in 1933, in The Great Tradition: An Interpretation of American Literature Since the Civil War, arguing that the careers of even the best Southern writers like Twain followed a downward curve into decadence, cliché, and mere entertainment because they were too willing to retreat into the past rather than confront the contradictions of the present.  Or watch Van Wyck Brooks in 1952, as he casts the entire New South into an Orientalist netherworld awaiting the light of genius:  “In the opening decade of the twentieth century the light and air of a larger world were filtering through the once closed shutters of the old solid South and within a generation the time was coming when William Faulkner and various others were to make this in a way the most luminous of American regions.  Where did this movement of mind begin?” (The Confident Years 337). 

Jay B. Hubbell is an exception to my generalization about how anthologies from the 1930s through the 1950s and beyond followed Parrington and negatively treated almost all New South literature.  Michael Kreyling rightly says that Hubbell “had probably done more than the pre-World War I anthologists to keep alive the literature of the South and fold it into the emerging mainstream of American literature,” via his two-volume American Life in Literature of 1936 (Inventing Southern Literature 59).  After World War II Hubbell published The South in American Literature, which became the standard history for a generation of scholars and readers.  Hubbell’s work, however, was not wholly out of line with earlier New South projects of canon formation, particularly Alderman’s, Harris’, and Kent’s Library of Southern Literature.  Key scholars of Southern literature from the 1950s and 1960s and later whom Kreyling studies, such as Louis B. Rubin, Jr., have important roots in Hubbell’s example (and in Hubbell’s antecedents), despite methodological differences.