Notes on the 20th Century

by Michael H. Burchett

Number 38:  Spring 2006

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"The Origins of American Racial and Ethnic Slurs:"  the most popular pages in the Notes On the 20th Century Series

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Notes on America

No.2:  Health Care in the Antebellum South

No. 1:  The Unforced Force Bill


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Terraplane Publications: specialized titles, historical fiction

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Mike's Reading List: an ever-expanding bibliography

Health Care, 1965- 1994

History of Sexuality



37: Slurs Revisited; "Normalcy" is NOT a Word!

36: The Old, Weird America, Part II

35:  The Old, Weird America

34:  Technological Milestones of the 20th Century

33:  Prices of the Past

32:  Health care in the American South:  Minorities and the Elderly

31:  More 80s -- Infomercials

30:  America Becomes a Fast Food Nation

29:  Televangelism:  An American Phenomenon

28:  Melungeons:  Anatomy of a Myth

27:  '80s Nuggets, Part IV (Political Gaffes)

26:  Racial & Ethnic Slurs VII:  Reflections

25:  Origins of American Racial and Ethnic Slurs, Part VI

24:  Origins of American Racial and Ethnic Slurs, Part V:  Derogatory Names for Southern Whites

23:  '80s Nuggets, Part III (Live Aid)

22:  The FBI's Plan to Destroy Martin Luther King

21:  The School Prayer Debate

20:  A Brief History of Tobacco Regulation 

19:  A Niggardly Debate

18:  More Nuggets of Absurdity From the 1980s

17:  Origins of American Racial and Ethnic Slurs, Part IV

16:  Origins of American Racial and Ethnic Slurs, Part III

15:  Nuggets of Absurdity from the 1980s

14: A Bad Month for Gerald Ford

13: Origins of American Racial and Ethnic Slurs, Part II

12: History of Black Radio Broadcasting

11: "The "Progressive" Origins of the War on Drugs, Part II

10: Origins of American Racial and Ethnic Slurs

 9: Technology -- the Inventors

8: Postwar Prosperity and the Birth of Mass Culture, Part II

7: Pop Culture Quiz, Postwar Prosperity & the Birth of Mass Culture, Part I

6: Black History Quiz, Message from the Publisher

5: Pearl Harbor

4: "The "Progressive" Origins of the War on Drugs, Part I

3: "The Vietnam Conflict: Facts and Figures"

2: "The Celebration of Independence Day: A Southern Perspective"

1: "The Birth of FM Radio"


Finding Your African American Ancestors: A Beginner Guide

Southern Music: An Annotated Bibliography

Ayers, Edward L. The Promise of the New South : Life after Reconstruction (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993). This is one of the best all-around histories of the transition between the old and new souths, and contains a lengthy chapter, entitled "Voices," on southern music, which includes detailed profiles of the lives and careers of several key figures, including the enigmatic jazz pioneer Buddy Bolden.

Bowman, Rob.Soulsville U.S.A: The Story of Stax Records (Schirmer Books, 2003). Written by an ethnomusicology professor, this book is academic in tone and full of detailed researched, but tells a good story of a unique record label and its contribution to southern and American popular culture.

Carlin, Bob and Richard. Southern Exposure: The Story of Southern Music in Pictures and Words (Billboard Books, 2000).   This book by a pair of noted folklorists contains some textual inaccuracies, but is a useful source containing numerous unpublished photographs.

Hemphill, Paul. Lovesick Blues : The Life of Hank Williams (Viking Adult, 2005). Paul Hemphill is a compelling writer who specializes in lean but powerful portrayals of historical figures and events. This biography of Hank Williams, like most of his works, contains an element of the personal as well as a judicious analysis of his subject.

Herzhaft, Gerard, et al. Encyclopedia of the Blues (University of Arkansas Press, 1997). This reference work is geared toward the library market, but is an affordable purchase for individual scholars and aficionados. Good bio sketches and information on blues styles and instrumentation.

Joyner, Charles. "A Region in Harmony: Southern Music and the Sound Track of Freedom," in The Journal of Southern History 72; 1 (February 2006), 3-38. An incredibly detailed and well-written tour-de-force from one of southern history's foremost scholars, this comprehensive analysis of the influence of the south upon all genres of American music deals with characters often overlooked in similar analyses, such as jazz guitarist Freddie Green, banjoist Don Reno, and Myles Horton, founder of the Highlander Folk School and patron of some of the nation's most popular protest music.

Malone, Bill C. And Stricklin, David. Southern Music/American Music (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 2003. A comprehensive history of southern music from its Anglo-Celtic and African roots to the early twenty-first century.

Marcus, Greil. Mystery Train : Images of America in Rock-n-Roll; Fourth Edition (New York: Plume, 1997). In this classic work, one of the most renowned rock critics uses case studies of various artists to illustrate the role of black and white folk music in shaping the development of rock and roll.

Murray, David Bruce.Murray's Encyclopedia of Southern Gospel Music  (BookSurge Publishing, 2006). To my knowledge, this is the only available reference work devoted exclusively to southern gospel music.

Palmer, Robert. Deep Blues : A Musical and Cultural History of the Mississippi Delta (New York: Penguin Books, 1981). The definitive history of American blues contains an exhaustive analysis of southern music's African roots and a discussion of the ongoing exchange between black and white musicians from which modern American popular music emerged.

Roscigno, Vincent J. and Danaher, William F. The Voice of Southern Labor: Radio, Music, and Textile Strikes, 1929-1934 (Social Movements, Protest, and Contention, V. 19) (University of Minnesota Press, 2004). Discusses the impact of radio and music upon textile labor movements in the Depression-era south.

Santelli, Robert. The Big Book of Blues : The Fully Revised and Updated Biographical Encyclopedia  (Penguin, 2001). This collection of biographical sketches is not definitive, and the discographies are a bit outdated; yet it is well worth its relatively low price for a blues encyclopedia.

Tosches, Nick. Country: The Twisted Roots of Rock 'N' Roll (Da Capo Press, 1996). I had never heard of this book before, but the description intrigued me so much that I placed in my shopping cart and will probably order it when I have the time to read it. Advertised as a look at the "seedy underbelly" of country music and early rock-and-roll, it apparently contains some little-know tidbits, such as Roy Acuff's early work with a bawdy outfit called the Bang Boys. Sounds interesting.

Wolfe, Charles K. The Bristol Sessions: Writings About the Big Bang of Country Music (Contributions to Southern Appalachian Studies) (Contributions to Southern Appalachian Studies) (McFarland and Company, 2005). Dr. Charles K. Wolfe is the foremost authority on the legendary 1927 recording sessions in Bristol, Virginia that introduced the nation to such legendary country music performers as The Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers. This book is a collection of essays on the Bristol sessions and their musical and cultural significance.


ELMA FARNSWORTH (1908-2006); Television pioneer; wife of Philo T. Farnsworth.

JOHN KENNETH GALBRAITH (1908-2006); Economist

E.L "BUCK" HENSON (1925-2006): Historian

BILLY PRESTON (1946-2006); Musician

Suggested Readings:

The New York Public Library American History Desk Reference (New York:  Macmillan, 1997).

View the entire "Origins of American Racial and Ethnic Slurs" series

Copyright 2006 Michael H. Burchett.  All rights reserved.