Like the road to Katrina that I document in these pages, my road to this
book has been long and circuitous. I am indebted to the fellow travelers who
guided me past roadblocks; provided clear, useful directions; or offered me
a safe place to rest and recharge along the way.
I am grateful to my professors and advisers at Tulane University for laying
the foundation for this project. Rebecca Mark’s graduate English seminars,
independent study, and advising provided the first opportunities for me to
critically examine my experiences growing up black in post civil rights era
New Orleans, as part of the first generation since Reconstruction to attend
desegregated schools (and the first, since Plessy v. Ferguson, to witness their
gradual resegregation). She encouraged my interest in material culture, lit-
erary analysis, ethnography, and oral history and, though I didn’t appreci-
ate it at the time, took me on my first plantation tour. Joseph Roach made
incisive suggestions and posed important, challenging questions about my
work that continue to inform my research and writing.
I am also indebted to the many faculty and staff members in or affiliated
with the Graduate Institute of the Liberal Arts at Emory University who of-
fered guidance and support as I expanded the interdisciplinary scope of the
project. In the Department of English, Frances Smith- Foster taught me how
to interrogate nontraditional sources, trace the scholarly debates animating
the discipline of African American studies, and rethink the relationship be-
tween theory and practice. James Roark and Dan Carter in the Department
of History introduced me to a diverse body of scholarship and source ma-
terial on the old and new Souths and challenged me to appreciate the hor-
rors of slavery and racial oppression without losing sight of the humanity
and agency of the enslaved and oppressed. I am especially grateful to Mark
Sanders (African American Studies) and Dana White (Graduate Institute
of the Liberal Arts) who offered me insightful comments and patient guid-
ance in the early stages of conceptualization, research, and writing. Cindy
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