The Jewish Diaspora in the American South: Southern Jews and the Cotton Economy
Tuesday, March 26, 2024 at 7PM
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While Part One of The Lehman Trilogy tracks the rise of an exceptionally successful Jewish business family from their arrival in Montgomery, Alabama, through their relocation to New York City, thousands of other southern Jewish stories mirror aspects of the Lehmans’ experiences. This talk combines the history of cotton production in the U.S. South with southern Jewish histories to explore how Jewish migrants found their way to emerging market hubs, became active in various aspects of cotton production and processing, and (in many cases) came to occupy prominent positions in social and civic life. Along the way, we will consider how this history illuminates Jewish relationships to race and racism in the United States, and we will observe how changes in cotton production (and fluctuations in its profitability) have shaped and reshaped Jewish communities in much of the rural South.
Dr. Josh Parshall is the director of history at the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life (ISJL), where he edits the online Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Communities, delivers public lectures, co-manages internships in public history, and conducts original research. He holds a Ph.D. from the Department of American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and his academic interests include Jewish American culture and politics, Yiddish language and culture, and southern studies. Dr. Parshall is also the current President of the Southern Jewish Historical Society.