In the Kingdom of Dreams and Madness: Clark Ashton’s Druid Hill

“Art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.” – Rainbow Rowell, Eleanor & Park

Clark Ashton remembers the first time he saw him. There was a man who wore the three-piece white suit; he would hang out on the street corner, swinging a gold chain. To a young Ashton, this man was fascinating. The man who fearlessly stood out in the small town of Augusta, Georgia. He was unique, inimitable.

For a new generation, Ashton has become a similar figure, “that strange man over on Druid Hills road.” Each year, for the past twenty-four years, he has sat on a throne in his front yard, waving at local school children who are trapped in morning traffic. He is trying to show kids that it is okay to be different, that people can prosper in alternative lifestyles. In his view, independent thought and action are increasingly important in a highly regimented society. Most people react favourably, but a few laugh or yell. It doesn’t bother him. Ashton believes in what he is doing. Continue reading “In the Kingdom of Dreams and Madness: Clark Ashton’s Druid Hill

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The Original ‘Cut & Paste:’ Scrapbooking’s Cultural History

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A scrapbook from the DeKalb Historical Society that relays the history of the county from the 1880’s – 1955 (Image courtesy of Samantha Mooney)

“My dad takes most of the pictures in our family, and he makes scrapbooks. This means he gets to figure out what’s important for us to remember… I guess my mom could make a scrapbook, but she doesn’t. And I could do it and so could my brothers… I know the scrapbooks we’d make would be different from Dad’s. But the person who does the work gets to write the history.” – Holly Sloan, Short

Scrapbooking seems geared to a mature audience. Younger generations rarely develop nostalgia because they live in the present. Age causes a greater cognizance that time is fleeting. This can cause a desire to capture special moments, either for those who will live beyond or as a hobby for the self, a genie-in-the-bottle cure-all to commemorate important things in daily life.

Early scrapbooking was a method to sift through and organize the onslaught of information. Beginning in the 19th century, reading proficiency grew exponentially. Newspapers became a cornerstone of society, creating a populist literary culture. Yet, people fretted about the transience of new literary forms such as magazines and newspapers. Colored ink became widely available, and people liked its rich aesthetic potential. In a culture that was changing, readers needed a way to capture the best parts so they pasted and collated them into the familiar form of a book. Interests ranged widely: housewives documented effective stain removers and home remedies while morbid newshounds made clippings of the most gruesome obituaries. Newspapers began featuring columns named “For the Scrapbook.” This was a “retweet” button before its time, a way to influence popular thought. Newspapers tried to anticipate what scrapbookers would be most interested in and competed to garner the widest circulation. 

Scrapbooking was a precursor to social media. It had the functions of Pinterest or Tumblr, a method organize the onslaught of information and preserve the most important for later access. A whole lexicon developed around practices. Like “pinning,” tweeting, and “posting,” scrapbookers preserved “gleanings.” Scrapbooking is perhaps the most like Tumblr, a curated way to display the things that people were most passionate about. Moving into the twentieth century, people began collecting items from their own life. People often ‘causally’ left their scrapbooks in high traffic areas such as the parlor table where people would just ‘happen’ to see them. This allowed for a curation of lifestyle akin to Instagram and Facebook.

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A design scrapbook featuring a sketch of a 1950’s dress and photo (Samantha Mooney)

Continue reading “The Original ‘Cut & Paste:’ Scrapbooking’s Cultural History”

America’s ‘Black Mecca:’ It’s Complicated

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The DeKalb History Center was honoured to have Dr. Maurice Hobson, an associate professor at Georgia State University, lecture at our July Lunch & Learn about his new book The Legend of Black Mecca. In his talk, Hobson argued that Atlanta’s status as a “Black Mecca’ is complex. Poor African-Americans were disenfranchised by the city’s political elite and were left outside of the city’s prosperity, problematizing common understandings of Atlanta’s racial dynamics.   

There is some truth to every legend, but at some point, the story gets embellished. It is only natural as human beings that we expand the truth, stretching it to be more entertaining, to be bolder, to be more than the sum of its parts. Such has been the case with Atlanta’s reputation as a Black Mecca: a place where African-Americans could achieve their economic, social and political goals. Dr. Hobson complicated this idea, stating while this experience has been true for some, it has not been the reality for all. Continue reading “America’s ‘Black Mecca:’ It’s Complicated”

Courting Your Lady-Love

 

“Well, I’m sure you’ll find someone somewhere who’ll have you.” 
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Often, I get asked, as a historian, how did people in the ‘olden times’ meet or date. Certainly, modern dating has fewer social limitations, but nonetheless, young men and women did mingle, often at community events. It is hard to give a definitive answer without direct evidence; luckily, when I was looking through archival files, I found an answer!

Apparently, Stone Mountain, the largest exposed mass of granite in the world, was a popular destination site. Men who took a fancy to a certain woman would take her out on a group excursion, to court her and, eventually if they were lucky, to see if she was amenable to marriage. This allowed courting to fit within permissible morality as women not alone in the presence of a man. Yet, as the excursions were on horseback, men and their ladyloves were paired side by side. Levi Willard, an early historian of Decatur history, says the following: “It was reported that matches were made on these little rides. It was easy to lag behind the company… [the woman’s] saddle was turning and must be girted tighter, or the blanket was slipping out of place, or some other excuse for the moment.”

Continue reading “Courting Your Lady-Love”