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February 2, 2021 @ 7pm

Eli Hill

A Novel of Reconstruction

written by Katherine Du Pre Lumpkin &
edited by Bruce Baker & Jacquelyn Dowd Hall

Katharine Du Pre Lumpkin’s 1946 autobiography The Making of a Southerner is a classic account of a white southerner’s commitment to racial justice. Lumpkin’s unpublished novel Eli Hill, which was discovered in her papers after her death, contributes to the same struggle by imaginatively re-creating a historical figure and a moment in the violent white resistance to Reconstruction.

Born to enslaved parents in York County, South Carolina, Elias Hill (1819–1872) learned to read and write and became an influential Baptist minister and political leader. Despite being severely disabled, Hill was one of many victims of a series of vicious attacks by the Ku Klux Klan. After testifying before a congressional committee, Hill led 135 other formerly enslaved people who emigrated to Liberia.

Lumpkin had trained as a sociologist and historian to use archival sources in arguing for socioeconomic change. In her autobiography, she uses the lens of an individual life, her own, to understand how racism was inculcated in white children and how they could free themselves from its grip. With Eli Hill, she turned to imagination, informed by research, to put an African American man at the center of a story about Reconstruction. In curating this important work for use in the classroom, Bruce E. Baker and Jacquelyn Dowd Hall have included the full text of the original manuscript and an introduction that contextualizes both the historical setting and the creation of an antiracist novel by one of the South’s keenest critics.

KATHARINE DU PRE LUMPKIN (1897-1988) was a sociologist and activist who studied, taught, and did research at a number of schools, including Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, Mills College, and Wells College. Although she is best known for The Making of a Southerner, Lumpkin published a number of other books: The Family: A Study of Member RolesShutdowns in the Connecticut Valley: A Study of Worker Displacement in the Small Industrial CommunityChild Workers in America (with Dorothy W. Douglas); The South in Progress; and The Emancipation of Angelina Grimke. She is an inductee to the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame.

BRUCE BAKER is a Reader in American history at Newcastle University and has also taught at Royal Holloway, University of London. Raised in South Carolina, he earned his Ph.D. at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and his first book was What Reconstruction Means: Historical Memory in the American South. He also coedited After Slavery: Race, Labor, and Citizenship in the Reconstruction South and Remembering Reconstruction: Struggles Over the Meaning of America’s Most Turbulent Era. In addition to Reconstruction, Baker has written about lynching, labor history, and the history of New Orleans, including co-authoring The Cotton Kings: Capitalism and Corruption in Turn-of-the-Century New York and New Orleans.

JACQUELYN DOWD HALL is Julia Cherry Spruill Professor Emeritus at UNC-Chapel Hill and founding director of UNC’s Southern Oral History Program. She is past president of the Organization of American Historians and the Southern Historical Association and founding president of the Labor and Working Class History Association.

Her books and articles include Revolt Against Chivalry: Jessie Daniel Ames and the Women’s Campaign Against Lynching (1979, 1993); Like a Family: The Making of a Southern Cotton Mill World (co-authored,1987, 2000); “The Long Civil Rights Movement and the Political Uses of the Past,” Journal of American History (2005); and Sisters and Rebels: A Struggle for the Soul of America (2019).

Most recently, she joined Bruce E. Baker in editing and publishing Katharine Du Pre Lumpkin’s Eli Hill: A Novel of Reconstruction.

In 1999, she was awarded a National Humanities Medal for her efforts to deepen the nation’s engagement with the humanities by “recording history through the lives of ordinary people, and, in so doing, for making history.” She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2011. Awards for Sisters and Rebels, her book about Katharine Du Pre Lumpkin and her sisters, include the 2020 PEN America/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography; the Summersell Prize; and the Bell Award from the Georgia Historical Society. She was also co-winner of the Charles S. Sydnor Award from the Southern Historical Association, the Julia Cherry Spruill Prize, and the Willie Lee Rose Prize, both from the Southern Association of Women Historians.

Georgia Writers Museum invites you to Meet the Author. On the second Tuesday of each month, award-winning authors join us to share their stories, inspiration, and writing process. Guest writers speak about their latest and best-known works, followed by Q&A and lively discussion with the audience. 

Books are available for purchase at the event directly from the author and signings are available upon request.

Meet the Authors: Rona Simmons & Sue VerHoef

November 2020’s Meet the Author series honored veterans through the newly published book The Other Veterans of World War II: Stories from Behind the Front Lines. Check out our 2-part book discussion to learn more about the veterans that Rona interviewed in her work and the research that Sue conducts in partnership with the Veteran’s History Project.

If you would like to share your story or that of a veteran you know, contact:

Rona Simmons, rona_simmons(at)bellsouth.net or 404.606.8911

Sue VerHoef, reference(at)atlantahistorycenter.com or 404.814.4040

Check out our past featured authors!

Bruce Gamble, WWII Author & Historian

Bruce Gentry, Flannery O’Connor Review

Evelyn C. White, Alice Walker: A Life

James C. Cobb, Georgia Odyssey

Judson Mitcham, Georgia Poet Laureate

Julie Hedgepeth Williams, Three Not-So-Ordinary Joes

Kathryn Smith, The Gatekeeper

Loran Smith, 50 Great Memories in Georgia Football History

Sandra Deal, Memories of the Mansion: The Story of Georgia’s Governor’s Mansion

Vince Dooley, The Legion’s Fighting Bulldog

Qualifications for featured authors:

Georgia Writers Museum is a premier resource for readers and writers throughout the state of Georgia. Therefore, all authors should have published works through a professional publishing firm, in addition to receiving one or more of the following accolades:

  1. have been selected as a member of the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame,
  2. have presented at recognized literary and/or book festivals in Georgia,
  3. have received awards recognized by accredited literary agencies, universities, or non-profits, 
  4. are writers who have been recognized by their peers as authors of merit.