Frank Lawrence Owsley

Frank Lawrence Owsley

Frank Lawrence Owsley (January 20, 1890October 21, 1955) was a American historian and member of the Nashville Agrarians.

Life and career

Born in rural Alabama, he attended Auburn University and received his Ph.D. in history at the University of Chicago in 1924 under the tutelage of William E. Dodd. Owsley specialized in Southern history, especially the antebellum and Civil War eras.

He argued in his dissertation, "State Rights and the Confederacy" (1925), that the Confederacy "died of states' rights." Owsley held that, during the Civil War key Southern governors resisted the appeals of the Confederacy for soldiers. His book, "King Cotton Diplomacy" (1931) is a study of Confederate diplomacy.

As an active member of the Southern Agrarians group based in Nashville, Owsley contributed "The Irrepressible Conflict," to the manifesto "I'll Take My Stand" (1930). He lashed out at the North for what he alleged were attempts to dominate the South spiritually and economically. In "Scottsboro, the Third Crusade: The Sequel to Abolition and Reconstruction," (in the "American Review" [1933] : 257–85), he criticized northern race reformers as the "grandchildren of abolitionists and reconstructionists" and announced that the South was white man's country and that African-Americans must accommodate that reality. Serving as president of the Southern Historical Association in 1940, Owsley castigated the North for what he claimed was the assumption that the North represented the entire nation and for violating what he called "the comity of section."

After 1940, Owsley and his wife Harriet pioneered what came to be called the "new social history."Fact|date=October 2007 They studied the historical demography of the South and social mobility. Owsley's "Plain Folk of the Old South," says Vernon Burton,Fact|date=October 2007 is "one of the most influential works on Southern history ever written." The Owsleys culled data from federal census returns, tax and trial records, and local government documents and wills. "Plain Folk" argued that Southern society was not dominated by planter aristocrats, but that yeoman farmers played a significant role. The religion, language, and culture of white common people created a democratic "plain folk" society, Owsley argued.

CriticsFact|date=October 2007 say he overemphasized the size of the Southern landholding middle class, while excluding the large class of poor white southerners who owned neither land nor African American slaves. Further, theyFact|date=October 2007 believed Owsley assumed too much in thinking that shared economic interests united Southern farmers. He didn't fully consider the vast difference between the planters' commercial agriculture and the yeomen's subsistence farming.Fact|date=October 2007

At Vanderbilt University (1920–49), Owsley directed nearly 40 Ph.D. dissertations and was a popular teacher of undergraduates.Fact|date=October 2007 In 1949 he went to the University of Alabama to build its history program.

Reacting to attacks by critics upon Southern segregation and its denial of civil rights and suffrage for African Americans, Owsley tried to refute what he saw as their misunderstanding of the true South. He regarded the future of American civilization as dependent on the survival of southern regionalism.

Owsley's work "Plain Folk of the Old South" (1949) was an answer to opponents' emphasis on the dominance of the planter class' social and political control of the South.Fact|date=October 2007 Owsley instead depicted a complex social structure in the South, one that featured a large middle class of yeoman farmers and not just wealthy planters and poor whites. He argued that the South was devoted to republican values generally and was not locked into race and slavery. Owsley believed the Civil War's causes were rooted in both North and South.Fact|date=October 2007

CriticsFact|date=October 2007 reacted by suggesting he was an absolute racist and reactionary defender of the Confederacy. They said he was attempting to rewrite the past to preserve white Southern culture. [Wood (2003)]

Owsley rejected the Lost Cause of the Confederacy and the New South school's romantic legends. Owsley sought to uncover a "real" South, the plain folk, [Wood 2003] in depicting Southern society as a broad class of yeoman farmers who were between poor African Americans, who were held in bondage and not paid for their labor, and poor whites at one end and large plantation owners at the opposite end of the economic spectrum. Owsley asserted that the real South was liberal, American, and Jeffersonian, not radical or reactionary.

Agrarianism in the 20th century was a response to the industrialism and modernism that had begun to influence the South. According to Owsley, the position of the South vis-à-vis the North was created not by slavery, cotton, or states' rights, but by the two regions' misunderstanding of each other. [Wood 1995]


* Hyde, Samuel C., Jr. "Plain Folk Reconsidered: Historiographical Ambiguity in Search of Definition." "Journal of Southern History" 2005 71(4): 803–830. ISSN 0022-4642 Fulltext online in Ebsco. Uses newer statistical techniques and basically agrees with Owsley.
* Fred Arthur Bailey, "Plain Folk and Apology: Frank L. Owsley's Defense of the South," "Perspectives on the American South: An Annual Review of Society, Politics, and Culture", a hostile view from the left.
* Mcwhiney, Grady. "Historians as Southerners." "Continuity" (1984) (9): 1–31. ISSN 0277-1446
* Orville Vernon Burton. "Owsley, Frank Lawrence"; [ American National Biography Online 2000] .
* Swierenga, Robert P. "Quantitative Methods in Rural Landholding." "Journal of Interdisciplinary History" 1983 13(4): 787–808. ISSN 0022-1953 Fulltext in Jstor, explains Owsley's methodological innovations
* Wood, W. Kirk. "The Misinterpretation of Frank L. Owsley: Thomas J. Pressly and the Myth of a Neo-confederate Revival, 1930–1962." "Southern Studies" (2003) 10(3–4): 39–67. ISSN 0735-8342
* Wood, Walter Kirk. "Before Republicanism: Frank Lawrence Owsley and the Search for Southern Identity, 1865–1965." "Southern Studies" (1995) 6(4): 65–77. ISSN 0735-8342

Primary sources

* Owsley, Harriet Chappell and Owsley, Frank Lawrence. "Frank Lawrence Owsley, Historian of the Old South. A Memoir with Letters and Writings of Frank Owsley" (1990).

Books and articles by Owsley

* "Local Defense and the Downfall of the Confederacy," "Mississippi Valley Historical Review" 11 (Mar. 1925): 492–525, in JSTOR
* "The Confederacy and King Cotton: A Study in Economic Coercion," North Carolina Historical Review 6 (Oct. 1929): 371–97;
* with Harriet C. Owsley, "The Economic Basis of Society in the Late Ante-Bellum South," "Journal of Southern History" 6 (Feb. 1940): 24–25, in JSTOR
* with Harriet C. Owsley, "The Pattern of Migration and Settlement on the Southern Frontier," "Journal of Southern History" 11 (May 1945): 147–76 in JSTOR.

ee also

* Plain Folk of the Old South
* Southern Agrarians

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Поможем написать курсовую

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Owsley — may refer to: Owsley Stanley (1935–2011), also known as Owsley or Bear, underground LSD chemist and early Grateful Dead soundman Owsley (musician), the stage name of Will Owsley, American singer songwriter and guitarist Owsley (album), the 1999… …   Wikipedia

  • Francis Lawrence (disambiguation) — Francis Lawrence may refer to:*Francis Lawrence *Francis Lawrence of Saint Lawrence *Francis L. Lawrenceee also*Frances Lawrence *Frank Lawrence Lucas (1894 1967) was an English literary critic, essayist, poet, and Fellow of King s College,… …   Wikipedia

  • Plain Folk of the Old South — The Plain Folk of the Old South, often called yeomen, were the middling white United States Southerners of the 19th century who owned few slaves or none. Historical perspectives Historians have long debated the social, economic and political… …   Wikipedia

  • Confederate States of America — This article is about the historical state. For the 2004 mockumentary, see C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America. Confederate States of America Unrecognized state[1][2] …   Wikipedia

  • Republicanism in the United States — Republicanism is the value system of governance that has been a major part of American civic thought since the American Revolution. It stresses liberty and rights as central values, makes the people as a whole sovereign, rejects inherited… …   Wikipedia

  • Social class in American history — Social class has been an important theme for historians of the United States for over 100 years. Colonial periodHistorians in recent decades have explored in microscopic detail the process of settling the new country and creating the social… …   Wikipedia

  • Old Right (United States) — Part of a series on Conservatism in the United States …   Wikipedia

  • Estados Confederados de América — Confederate States of America Estado …   Wikipedia Español

  • Southern Agrarians — The Southern Agrarians (also known as the Twelve Southerners, the Vanderbilt Agrarians, the Nashville Agrarians, the Tennessee Agrarians, or the Fugitive Agrarians) were a group of twelve American writers, poets, essayists, and novelists, all… …   Wikipedia

  • List of Guggenheim Fellowships awarded in 1927 — 1927 U.S. and Canadian Fellows= * Edward Frederick Adolph, Deceased. Biochemistry: 1927. * William Ruthrauff Amberson, Deceased. Physiology: 1927. * Nicholas G. Ballanta, Deceased. Music Research: 1927, 1928. * Marion Elizabeth Blake, Deceased.… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”