The AfroTraditonalist has been interested in starting a regular fireside chat with interesting people from the various political & cultural “spheres” I interact with on the internet.
Sam Burnham is a blogger and media personality from North Georgia with roots across the South, who’s purpose is “the celebration and preservation of Southern history, culture, and agrarian ideals.” He will be the first to pull up the chesterfield and have a chat.
He can be followed on Twitter @C_SamBurnham and be found writing at his website
AfroTrad: Hello, Sam I happy to have you as my first fireside chat. I have known you on Twitter for quite a while and have always enjoyed your tweets, disposition, and point of view.
Sam Burnham: Hello and thank you for graciously inviting me to be a part of this chat. I’m honored to be a part of it.
AfroTrad: You are a Southerner but not only in a geographical sense but it is a part of the foundation of your identity. I too consider myself a Southerner, but culturally as I’ve spent much of my life as part of the Black Southern diaspora.
How does your identity as a southerner inform how you approach the world?
Richard Weaver, a great Southerner & traditionalist, said:
“The man of culture finds the whole past relevant; the bourgeois and the barbarian find relevant only what has some pressing connection with their appetite.”
The chivalric, anti-industrial mores of the South’s past seem to be on the run in our current age. Places like Atlanta and Charlotte have been colonized by the most vulgar consumerist types, killing most of the character that one would associate with the old South, not only in the superficial sense but even spiritually. How can we use the South’s history and traditional culture; its folklore; literature; folkways; music and cuisine, the things that make the South a full culture, to fight this tide? Is it possible in your opinion?
But looking at what a Southerner is, we think about the Old South. So much of the “New South” movement is just a version of the ideology of the North using the word “y’all” and sipping sweet tea during breaks at a factory. It’s industrialized, it’s modernized, and its sanitized. The real South is none of that. Southerners care about the land they’re emotionally tied to, the traditions that live there, and they know there are skeletons in our closet. We know our history has ugly parts. But we also know that, without the whole picture, there’s just not a South, not as we know it.
I also think we need to be an example. We need to not only be Southerners, we need others to see what that means. We need people to know that a Southerner is more than a white guy in a ball cap driving a pickup truck in a Luke Bryan video. Because in so many ways, today’s modern culture has spilled over and mutated true Southern culture.
AfroTrad: The South is much more diverse than where I was raised, New England. The north has more immigrants so it is mistakenly thought of as having greater diversity. But I find the South forms of diversity to be far more interesting as it is mostly home developed. From unique cultures like Gullah of SC and Creoles of Louisiana; to interesting isolate groups like the various “smalls races”; not to mention the various cuisines and sub-cuisines popular far and wide. The South carries variety unmatched by the rest of the US.
If you were directing someone, completely ignorant of the South and its culture and history, to learn about the South what would you suggest to them? Where would you suggest they visit? What literature and poetry would you tell them contains the soul of the South?
Then places like Savannah, Chattanooga, and Charleston, all have their own history to offer. But I’d say if you want to understand the South, you have to risk getting a little of it on you. Get out of the cities. Go find the real South.
Look for forts, battlefields, agritourism, local restaurants, local musical performances, etc.
As far as literature, and of the 12 Southerners of I’ll Take My Stand renown. Faulkner, Civil War titles by Shelby Foote, Harper Lee, Flannery O’Connor. Read humorists like Lewis Grizzard and Bo Whaley. And remember, if a story isn’t about how rough life is, either laughing or crying about it, it’s probably not South
AfoFogey: Three of my four grandparents are from the rural South, I spent much of my youth around the waterways of coastal SC and on the country roads of Tuskegee, AL. Some of the best times of my life. My favorite thing to do then, and now for that matter, was to visit the small AME, and the occasional Apostolic(for the music), churches that dotted my grandparent’s environs. The rural South really does have a mystical otherworldly feel that one has to visit with an open mind to really get.
You mentioned food. Which is always one of my favorite topics. As one of Geechee heritage red rice, perlo, and other Gullah dishes are staple foods in my house. I also really enjoy the stereotypical, but sublime, foods associated with the South like fried chicken, grits, collard greens, biscuits etc. Of course, BBQ is good. I really enjoy whole hog BBQ, I am a fan of South Carolina style most.What are your favorite dishes? Was your region known for a particular style of cuisine or dish?
I think Southerners have a keen sense of the tragic that is well represented in its folklore and literature. Your comment “And remember, if a story isn’t about how rough life is, either laughing or crying about it, it’s probably not Southern.” reminded me of this Ralph Ellison quote “The blues speak to us simultaneously of the tragic and the comic aspects of the human condition and they express a profound sense of life shared by many Negro Americans precisely because their lives have combined these modes”, I think that’s one observation that could be said of the whole South.
I suppose we can not speak of the South without mentioning race. In regards to Blacks & Whites, The South is the most integrated area of the nation, to the surprise of many, they have always lived side by side here. Somethings that are thought to be black in other parts of the nation could be said to be general Southern things. Slavery, reconstruction, and Jim Crow obviously are points of contention among black and white southerners but in a cultural sense, they share many similarities.
How do you think the relationship between the two group will go in the future? Do you think the influence of liberal northerners and racists has severed any for unity that could be had beyond repair?
As far as home, I grew up in the Appalachian foothills of North Georgia. While my history is in the mountains, I feel at home anywhere in the Peach State or the rural areas of Florida. I attended college just over the line in Alabama. My blog, and all the media that accompanies it, is based mainly on the experiences in these states but also on my travels throughout the South.
Food is one of those most Southern of things. I think I was in college before I realized that there was something known as “black food”. So many of the items labeled “soul food” were commonplace on the tables of my mother and grandmothers. Any kind of beans or peas with a thick slice of cornbread. I’ve yet to meet a cut of pork that I did not like. Yes, the stereotypical BBQ. I don’t have a preference between Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, if it’s a pig and it’s been properly smoked, I’m going to eat it. I love fried chicken and any kind of greens. Obviously, I love biscuits and sausage gravy. And I think cheese grits are best served with fried fish and hush puppies. I remember several occasions thinking “That’s not ‘black food’ that’s my food!”
This chat has been great and I appreciate the invite. If there is anything else you’d like to ask, please feel free. I’d also be very open to having other chats in the future, should you wish to.
AF: Thank you for participating Mr. Burnham, I appreciate you.