Wednesday, October 17, 2012

New Books Added to Arkansas Room Collection

Publication Date: December 5, 2011
Series: Making the Modern South

In Delta Empire Jeannie Whayne employs the fascinating history of a powerful plantation owner in the Arkansas delta to recount the evolution of southern agriculture from the late nineteenth century through World War II.

After his father's death in 1870, Robert E. ''Lee'' Wilson inherited 400 acres of land in Mississippi County, Arkansas. Over his lifetime, he transformed that inheritance into a 50,000-acre lumber operation and cotton plantation. Early on, Wilson saw an opportunity in the swampy local terrain, which sold for as little as fifty cents an acre, to satisfy an expanding national market for Arkansas forest reserves. He also led the fundamental transformation of the landscape, involving the drainage of tens of thousands of acres of land, in order to create the vast agricultural empire he envisioned.

A consummate manager, Wilson employed the tenancy and sharecropping system to his advantage while earning a reputation for fair treatment of laborers, a reputation--Whayne suggests--not entirely deserved. He cultivated a cadre of relatives and employees from whom he expected absolute devotion. Leveraging every asset during his life and often deeply in debt, Wilson saved his company from bankruptcy several times, leaving it to the next generation to successfully steer the business through the challenges of the 1930s and World War II.

Delta Empire: Lee Wilson and the Transformation of Agriculture in the New South traces the transition from the labor-intensive sharecropping and tenancy system to the capital-intensive plantations of the post-World War II era. Through Wilson's story Whayne provides a compelling case study of strategic innovation and the changing economy of the South in the late nineteenth century.  

February 1, 2012
Things You Need to Hear gathers memories of Arkansans from all over the state with widely different backgrounds. In their own words, these people tell of the things they did growing up in the early twentieth century to get an education, what they ate, how they managed to get by during difficult times, how they amused themselves and earned a living, and much more.

Some of Margaret Bolsterli's "informants," as she calls them, are famous (Johnny Cash, Maya Angelou, Levon Helm, Joycelyn Elders), but many more are not. Their vivid personal stories have been taken from published works and from original interviews conducted by Bolsterli. All together, these tales preserve memories of ways of life that are compelling, entertaining, and certainly well worth remembering.

Publication Date: March 1, 2012

A man squanders his family fortune until he is penniless, loses every time he runs for public office, and yet is so admired by the people of Arkansas that the General Assembly names a county in his honor. A renowned writer makes her home in the basement of a museum until she is sued by some of the most prominent women of the state regarding the use of the rooms upstairs. A brilliant inventor who nearly built the first airplane is also vilified for his eccentricity and possible madness.

Author Steven Teske rummages through Arkansas's colorful past to find--and "unvarnish"--some of the state's most controversial and fascinating figures. The nine people featured in this collection are not the most celebrated products of Arkansas. More than half of them were not even born in Arkansas, although all of them lived in Arkansas and contributed to its history and culture. But each of them has achieved a certain stature in local folklore, if not in the story of the state as a whole.

May 1, 2012
For twenty-one years, Judge Isaac C. Parker ruled in the federal court at Fort Smith, Arkansas, the gateway to the wild and lawless Western frontier. Parker, however, was not the "hangin' judge" that casual legend portrays. In most cases, the guilt or innocence of those tried in his court really was not in question once their stories were told. These horrible crimes would have screamed out for justice in any circumstance. Author Jerry Akins has finally arrived at the real story about Parker and his court by comparing newspaper accounts of the trials and executions to what has been written and popularized in other books.