Sign up for our free newsletter

Free D.C. news, delivered to your inbox daily.

WEDNESDAY

There’s a South of the ’50s that’s fixed in our collective consciousness, mostly via the newsreels of the time, and the titanic earthquakes of race (Little Rock) and rock ‘n’ roll (Elvis) that occurred along the uniquely American fault lines of the day. That our larger view of the period is a negative one is somewhat inevitable; the winners, after all, do write history. Yet when a book such as Pete Daniel’s Lost Revolutions: The South in the 1950s comes along, it is a timely reminder that such histories are far more nuanced than they appear on the surface. Of course, the author can’t avoid essaying race and rock, and these topics take up many of the book’s 378 pages. Daniel does, however, go deeper than Graceland, picking up nicely where Robert Gordon’s brilliant—but more narrowly focused—1996 book on the roots of musical revolution on the Mississippi, It Came From Memphis, left off. In Lost Revolutions, we meet not only musicians but also characters such as wrestler Sputnik Monroe, who helped desegregate pro matches, and agrarian segregationist and Vanderbilt professor Donald Davidson, who was hectored for his racist views by Robert Frost at the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference. Daniel even tackles the birth and growth of the NASCAR racing circuit—a tale that, to my mind, includes some chilling parallels to English soccer hooliganism. Daniel will read and discuss his Organization of American Historians Elliott Rudwick Prize-winning book at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 27, at the Martin Luther King Memorial Library’s 3rd Floor conference room, 901 G St. NW. Free. (202) 727-1180. (Richard Byrne)