Stan’s guest this week is Dr. Jim Cobb of the University of Georgia, talking about his new biography of historian C. Vann Woodward, one of the most distinguished and important historians of the 20th century.
We received word here at GHS this week of the death of our dear friend Ed Jackson on Tuesday, January 10, 2023, age 79.
The Kingsport, Tennessee, native grew up in Texas, but it was the people of Georgia and their history that he made his life’s work.
Ed went to the University of Mississippi in the early 1960s and received his B.A. in History and an M.A. in political science. He put both of those to good use when, in 1970, he arrived in Athens at the University of Georgia and began a long and distinguished career at the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, retiring as Senior Public Service Associate 40 years later, in 2010.
During those 40 years Ed became the acknowledged expert, the man to ask about Georgia history and government. He trained governors, legislators, state employees, mayors, civic organizations, teachers, students, authored textbooks, spoke extensively, published widely, compiled databases, created over fifteen websites, photographed every corner of our state, and collected anything and everything that he could get his hands on about Georgia history, from postcards, to photographs, maps, artifacts of all kinds, campaign signs, and everything beyond and between that could tell the story of Georgia and her people.
Here’s what I said about Ed in the GHS’s Headlines newsletter yesterday: “Ed Jackson’s knowledge of Georgia’s people and history was unparalleled. He was Georgia’s unofficial state historian, and all of us beat a path to his door to dip into that deep reservoir of learning. There was no subject related to Georgia that he didn’t know something about, and that he would gladly and freely share. Every conversation with him left you wiser. He was also a great friend to this institution, through his membership, his time and resources, and the knowledge that he shared through his writing and research. The Georgia Historical Society is honored to be the repository of the Edwin Jackson Collection, ensuring that his documentary legacy will live on and that his vast collection of Georgia materials will continue to inspire and teach future generations. Though not born here, Ed Jackson was one of Georgia’s great treasures, and the people of this state that he served so long and so well are richer for all he taught us.”
When the Georgia flag-change controversy was at its height in the early part of this century, Ed was the go-to expert. He lectured on the history of our state’s flags for GHS in Athens and Savannah and published an article about it in the Georgia Historical Quarterly. And who else do you know that was awarded the “Vexillonnaire Award” by the North American Vexillological Association? Ed was, in 2004, for his work with the Georgia General Assembly’s efforts to redesign Georgia’s state flag. (Vexillogy is the study of flags, and no, I didn’t know that either.)
Ed had an extensive stamp collection (he was a founding member of the Georgia Federation of Stamp Clubs, now called the Southeast Federation of Stamp Clubs), and he once lectured here in our Research Center during the Georgia History Festival on Georgia history as told through stamps.
When the online New Georgia Encyclopedia needed an authority to write the entry for Georgia’s founder himself, James Edward Oglethorpe, they chose Ed. That forbidding subject would have daunted most historians, but not him. (That’s Ed in the center of the picture to the right, taking a photograph at Oglethorpe’s tomb in England.) For good measure, he also wrote seven other entries for the NGE, including for Georgia’s Historic Capitals, the Dixie Highway, Georgia’s State Flags, the current Georgia State Capitol, and the Legislative Process. He also served as a section editor for the NGE.
Every time I called Ed and needed help, he was always happy to assist, whether it was asking him to write an article for GHS’s Georgia History Today popular history magazine (where he wrote about the Dixie Highway, FDR in Georgia, and any number of his other passions), querying him about a fact on a proposed historical marker, or to answer one of my many arcane questions about Georgia history. He was never too busy, he never said no, and he never took a dime for all he did for GHS. If he could help further the mission of Georgia history, he would.
It’s no exaggeration to say that we would not have been able to do “Today in Georgia History” in conjunction with Georgia Public Broadcasting without Ed Jackson. It was his website, “GeorgiaInfo,” created for the Vinson Institute, that provided a roadmap for all the subjects we’d cover day to day over the course of the year. Naturally, he made it all available to us—and to everyone else—without any desire for personal credit. He only wanted to teach Georgia history, and if his website helped GHS and GPB do that, then he was glad to help.
GHS honored Ed in 2002 with the John MacPherson Berrien Award for Lifetime Achievement in Georgia history (pictured here), and in 2012 with the Sarah Nichols Pinckney Volunteer Award.
Ed donated his vast and extraordinary collection of materials related to Georgia history to the GHS just a couple of years ago. The Edwin Jackson Collection at the Georgia Historical Society is now being processed, and when completed and opened for research it will be a treasure trove of riches that will be mined for decades to come.
Thank you, Ed, for all your years of self-less service to others, in the finest tradition of Non Sibi, Sed Aliis, Not for Self, But for Others, harkening back to the original Georgia Trustees. Thank you for your years of friendship to the Georgia Historical Society, to the University of Georgia, to the State of Georgia and her people—including all those yet unborn. They too are in your debt. Thanks to you, the path forward will be brighter for all those who look to the past to help light the way.
Georgia never had a better friend than this adopted son, and he will be deeply missed. He is quite irreplaceable.
We salute you, and farewell.
In this episode Stan interviews Dr. Johann Neem, historian and author, whose research focuses on the history of American democracy. They discuss history in the public realm, why history has become so controversial in recent years, and where it’s all headed.
Off the Deaton Path would like to introduce our readers to some of the scholars researching in the Georgia Historical Society’s newly expanded and renovated Research Center. This week we’ll spotlight Dr. J.E. Morgan, an NEH-ARP Postdoctoral Fellow at the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture in Williamsburg, Virginia, and, beginning this fall, a Visiting Assistant Professor at Emory University.
Tell Us About Yourself: I’m originally from Georgia and completed a B.A. at Georgia State, an M.A. in English at the University of Missouri, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in history at Emory. This spring, I wrapped up a year of teaching at the University of Florida as a Visiting Assistant Professor, and I’m currently an NEH-ARP Postdoctoral Fellow at the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture in Williamsburg, Virginia. At Emory and UF, I’ve taught courses on U.S. history from the colonial period to Reconstruction; histories of race and gender history in the Atlantic World and Revolutionary era; and, last spring, an undergraduate research seminar on the archive of slavery. In the fall, I will return to Emory as a Visiting Assistant Professor and am looking forward to teaching a course on the era of the American Revolution and another on women’s history in the colonial era through 1800.
Tell Us About Your Current Project: Currently, I’m working on my manuscript, entitled American Concubines: Gender, Race, Law, and Power. This project examines the shaping of southern society and culture around a practice that has long been called “concubinage.” This term shows up in manuscripts and print materials from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, in historiographical sources, and in many other sources on slavery in the Atlantic world. Because this term appears in so many contexts and can be ambiguous in terms of its usage, an important part of my project is investigating the definitions of “concubinage.” I also examine the development of concubinage as a practice stemming from and reinforcing the power imbalance that informed sexual relations between White men and enslaved women in British slave societies. Many sources reveal that enslaved women often contested this imbalance in various ways and that it was occasionally upset by their actions. Conversely, enslavers used instances of contestation to strengthen their power over enslaved people and impose more stringent measures to ensure that enslaved women and their children by White men would be excluded from protections granted to White women and their children.
What Are you Finding at GHS? I’ve been researching at GHS since beginning my doctoral work, and it has been great to return year after year to work in the archive. During this time, I have collected information from documents connecting the development of slavery in Georgia to slavery in earlier British colonies. These include legal and state documents relating to slavery in early Georgia and family papers that include personal letters, diaries, and financial records that trace the development of a system of slavery in Georgia that drew upon plantation slavery in Carolina and the British Caribbean. Also valuable in many of these collections are correspondence and other materials that reveal specific cultural attitudes of eighteenth-century British Caribbean colonies regarding race and gender that influenced the development of laws regarding slavery in early Georgia. Some of these collections include Georgia and South Carolina Court Declarations; judicial records of various Georgia counties just after the American Revolution; and individual and family papers such as the Stanford Brown Collection (GHS 2564); the Joseph Vallence Bevan Papers (GHS 0071); the Couper and Wylly family papers (GHS 1872), the Jones family papers (GHS 0440), and the Sheftall family collection (GHS 1414).
Together, these kinds of sources can show us how laws were being written and interpreted in ways that both reflected and shaped the culture of early Georgia. They reveal the development of a system of slavery that drew upon those of Jamaica, Barbados, and Carolina. They also complicate understandings of how enslaved women in particular navigated their precarious positions within such brutal systems where security and safety were as elusive as freedom itself.
I’m grateful to everyone at the Research Center during my time there and look forward to future research trips!
Off the Deaton Path would like to introduce our readers to some of the scholars researching in the Georgia Historical Society’s newly expanded and renovated Research Center. This week we’ll spotlight Dr. Carl Herzog, Public Historian at the USS Constitution Museum in Boston, Massachusetts.
Tell Us About Yourself: I came to a career in history a little later in life, so my career path has been a bit different. I’m originally from South Florida, did my undergraduate in journalism at the University of Florida, and started life as a newspaper reporter. Then I ran away to sea on a tall ship. I ended up spending a long career working as an instructor and deck officer on traditional sailing ships conducting college semesters-at-sea and other educational programs. I taught traditional seamanship, celestial navigation, and maritime history. I really enjoyed the history aspects of that work and eventually decided to go back to school. I earned a master’s from the University of Rhode Island and a doctorate from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. For the last five years, I’ve been the public historian for the USS Constitution Museum in Boston, a position that combines a lot of my previous sailing-ship knowledge and skills with public history and historical research.
Tell Us About Your Current Project: USS Constitution’s framing is made of southern live oak timbers that originally came from St. Simons Island. To supplement the workforce of New England timbermen, the Navy initially hired enslaved people from the plantation owners whose property the trees were coming from. So, some of the timbers that still make up the ship today were made possible by enslaved people. One of the missions of the USS Constitution Museum is using the ship as a lens to explore broader topics of maritime history and the American experience. We wanted to explore this story in more detail, learning what life on the coastal islands was like for enslaved people at the time, and learn more about the property owners who provided this enslaved labor as well as the trees to the fledgling U.S. Navy. A grant from the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities funded my travel to come to Savannah and a couple other archives as well as visiting the St. Simons properties where the timber was cut. The immediate result of this round of research will be a report that helps inform our future programming and exhibits on this topic.
What Are you Finding at GHS? GHS is home to a diverse range of collections and assets that have been profoundly helpful with this work. The collections of St Simons property owners, Leake, Hamilton, and Couper have all provided insight into the nature of life during a pivotal time of transition on St Simons Island. The property owners were eager to clear live oaks off their land in order to begin planting sea island cotton, a cash crop that quickly came to dominate the island and led to a boom in its enslaved population for the first half of the 19th century. The plantation journal of Richard Leake (MS 0485), in particular, helped me confirm his personal engagement with the Navy captains sent to Georgia to oversee the timber work. In addition, a number of early secondary sources and GHS’s collections of research papers of those authors have provided context and details on others involved in the Navy’s work. It also provided an interesting window into the growth of local pride and legends surrounding the region’s role in contributing to the construction of Constitution. As a result, my work at GHS has been able to greatly inform my visits to St Simons as well as initiating new threads of ongoing research at the National Archives.