“Pack Mule for the New School,” est. 2010

Last April marked seven years that I had been writing my blog, Pack Mule for the New School. The blog, whose subtitle has long been “Deep Southern, Diversified,” is getting something of a makeover . . . which is really more of an effort to get focused than anything else. Where Pack Mule for the New School has been the place where I’ve let my mind wander about anything from the ups and downs of Auburn football to thoughts on reading the Great Works of Western literature, the blog will now feature posts only on the culture of the Deep South, the arts & humanities, education, and social justice (particularly voting rights, racial justice, food equity, and access to information)— a wide enough berth, I hope, but also focused enough to keep me reined in.

Since May, Pack Mule for the New School had featured one (somewhat) new series of recurring posts called “the #newschool.” Posts in that series are published on the first and third Sundays of each month. Although the Deep South is notoriously conservative, “the #newschool” suggests some ideas for how we can make some progress. Subjects so far have included taking bipartisan action on climate change, thinking critically to combat “fake news,” having solution-oriented perspectives, learning about civics, looking forward with a respect for the past, opening our minds to opposing viewpoints, and honoring our laborers.

Moving into the next who-knows-how-many years with Pack Mule for the New School, I’ve added one more component to the subtitle: “Deep Southern, Diversified & Re-Imagined.” I’ve learned over the years that pointing out the negative accomplishes almost nothing. “Raising awareness,’ as people call it, does little more than that: OK, I’m aware of it . . . Now what? Actually taking positive action to change bad situations is what. Re-imagining Pack Mule for the New School is about just that: moving beyond the awareness of what’s wrong and asking what we all can do to improve it.

Children of the Changing South

Foster Dickson’s edited collection Children of the Changing South: Accounts of Growing Up During and After Integration is available from McFarland & Co., Publisher in a paperback edition for $19.99. The collection contains memoirs by eighteen writers and historians who recall their formative experiences in the South. The earliest memoirs are set during the turbulent Civil Rights era, and later memoirs examine Southern culture during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Foster Dickson is available for book signings and talks on the subjects covered in the collection, including the post-Civil Rights era South, changing roles for Southern women, and school integration.

Contributors include Jim Grimsley (How I Shed My Skin), Ravi Howard (Driving the King), and Kathleen Rooney (Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk).

From the publisher’s description:

Although much attention has been paid to the adults who led, participated in, or witnessed the civil rights movement, much less attention has been given to those who were children during that era. Especially in the South, these children of the 1950s and afterward came of age in the midst of major societal shifts regarding race, gender, social class, and industry as the South re-branded itself the “Sun Belt.” In this collection of memoirs, writers, teachers, scholars and historians recall growing up in the South from the late 1950s to the early 1990s, revealing how the region changed over time, as well as how a Southern childhood varied across time, race, gender, socio-economic status, and geography. By viewing these remembrances through the lens of multiculturalism, this collection offers anuanced understanding of how the pre-civil rights movement South evolved into the South of the 21st century.