Folklore Project: A Collection of Personal Essays from the American South


Atlanta, Georgia

Where I Found Wisdom

By Pam Gresham Pomar

Pam Pomar is a school nurse in Atlanta. She grew up in North Georgia during the Civil Rights Movement. Her contribution to our Folklore Project, written right after the presidential election, reminds us that what we grow up with doesn’t have to be what we keep.

Read More


Waverly, Alabama

The Geographical Lines of Friendship

By Meredith Frye

Some of us leave the red clay of Alabama and yearn to come home. Others dig their toes into it because it’s a place to begin anew. From little Waverly, Alabama, comes this story of the friendship that blossomed between one woman of each kind.

Read More


Washington D.C.

The Fruitcake Revival Project

By Robert Thead

Robert Thead cares a lot about holiday traditions — particularly the fruitcake. He did long research in the hope of finding a practical recipe that would provide everybody with just enough, but never too much, fruitcake. We’re happy he shared the “fruits” of his research — nudge nudge, wink wink — with our Folklore Project.  

Read More


Folklore_Cronkite_profile.jpg

Apalachicola, Florida

Blood Kin

By Sue Riddle Cronkite

When Sue Cronkite sent us this essay from the Florida Panhandle, her cover letter began, “I love the words that reflect our place of origin, local and historical idioms. Who we once were and what we hold most dear shadows our language, giving it a certain flavor.” So, Sue set about to capture that language in a simple way — by turning on a tape recorder at a church potluck dinner, then turning what she’d captured into delightful prose. Many Bitter Southerners will know these voices.

Read More

Selmer, Tennessee

 

Dialect Stalkers

By Shawn Pitts

What do you do when strangers find your Southern drawl so charming that they literally follow you around, just to hear you talk? When Shawn Pitts sent us this delightful essay, he subtitled it, “Yet Another Reflection on the Endless Fascination With the Southern Accent.” Quite frankly, we believe our Folklore Project could never have too many of those.

Read More


Carrboro, North Carolina

Just an Old House

By Art Menius

We were delighted to see an essay from Art Menius appear in the Folklore Project in-box, who for more than a decade was one of the driving forces behind one of the South’s finest music festivals — Merlefest in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. His essay today is about how the stories that go missing from a family’s history can haunt you.

Read More


Waterford, Virginia

Southerness

By Melanie Vangsnes

Melanie Vangsnes’ current hometown of Waterford — in northernmost Virginia — was founded by Quakers in 1733 and was one of the few villages in Virginia to side with the Union during the Civil War. It’s so far away from her childhood home in Alabama’s Black Belt that it’s hard to feel any Southerness in the place. But Alabama lives on in the stories and memories that have built her life.

Read More


Atlanta, Georgia

Peace Be With Y'all

By Ruwa Romman

When Ruwa Romman walks into a room wearing the traditional Muslim headscarf, it can be a little disconcerting to hear her say, “Hey, y’all,” in a distinctly Southern accent. The problem, of course, is that this shouldn’t be disconcerting at all in an ever more multicultural, multireligious South. But perhaps the problem is that people of different backgrounds don’t understand each other. We don’t talk to each other enough. We welcome Ruwa to our Folklore Project today, in the hopes of starting the conversations we need to have anyway.  

Read More


Birmingham, Alabama

This Old House

By Lanier Isom

Lanier Isom has the same phone number she had when she was 6 years old. We welcome her to our Folklore Project with her beautiful essay about the streams of mystery and memory that surrounds those who inhabit the Old Family Home.

Read More


Roane County, Tennessee

The South Is a Neolithic Fort of the Forgotten

By Brian Miller

Brian Miller is a farmer in East Tennessee. And from a farmer’s perspective, the agrarian South of the past is, to paraphrase William Faulkner, not even past.

Read More


Glenwood Springs, Colorado

Scotty and Pamela Sue

By Caitlin Causey

Caitlin Causey grew up in Hogansville, Georgia. When she was 12, a neighbor girl down the street was murdered. In her diary, she declared the offender worthy of the death penalty. Now, she wonders if she was right.

Read More


Seattle, Washington

My Night in Redneck Heaven

By Julia Cook

Two privileged young women, fresh out of college, alone on a 500-mile cycling trip through Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee. And in this story, all the things you’d think could go wrong do not. In fact, quite the opposite.

Read More


Dinner Bucket

By Sarah Burroway Diamond

Sarah Burroway sent us two different stories for our Folklore Project — a mother/father pair of sorts. Two weeks ago, we ran Sarah’s beautiful “Morning Milk,” in which she inhabited the voice of her mother. This week, we’re proud to bring you the “father” part of that pair — a story in which she conjures a hard-working family’s memories from her daddy’s lunch pail.   

Read More


Warsaw, Poland

A Story About a Mountain

By Kelly Bembry Midura

Fans of Southern literature might hear the phrase “good country people” and recall Flannery O’Connor’s story of the same name, with its no-account, artificial-leg-stealing antagonist, Manley Pointer. But sometimes, good country people are just good country people, like Freud’s cigars. Today, Kelly Bembry Midura, a Tennessean now living in Poland, brings us a memory of a weekend with good country people on Clinch Mountain.

Read More


Flatwoods, Kentucky

Morning Milk

By Sarah Diamond Burroway

Sarah Diamond Burroway’s parents married young in Kentucky — when her mother was 16 and her father 17. But times were tough for them, and her father had to leave the family and head into Ohio to find work. In this moving story, Burroway inhabits the voice of her mother to tell stories about how she survived with little money or food to feed three young girls. “Morning Milk” shows the struggles that were all too common among rural Southerners of the middle of the 20th century.

Read More


Scarsdale, New York

The Lunch Menu For Today

By Sharon G. Forman

Ask any Southern kid about elementary school, and at some point, a lunch-lady story will come up. Today’s story is from a suburban New York rabbi who grew up in Virginia and learned that nourishment of all kinds can come from a Southern school lunchroom, even if you keep kosher.

Read On


Liberty, South Carolina

The Nightmare of Sunday Shoes

By Chris Carbaugh

Few things strike more fear in the hearts of children than the prospect of breaking in a new pair of stiff “Sunday shoes.” Chris Carbaugh today remembers a childhood shoe-shopping story — and recalls that making do with what you have sometimes brings much greater joy than scoring something new.

Read On


Sydney, Australia

My Last Fight

By George Lancaster

George Lancaster, a Southerner by birth and now a longtime resident of Australia, recalls his first and only schoolboy fight in a newly integrated public school in Decatur, Georgia — and what that fight taught him, forever, about race and about friendship.

Read On


Johnstown, Pennsylvania

Southern Accents and That Nashville Sound

By Shelley Johannson

Shelley Johannson, a Tennessee native now off in Pennsylvania, returns to our Folklore Project with a trenchant look at how her Southern accent has been perceived outside our region — and dives into the forces that drive those perceptions. “Accents,” Shelley writes, "are much more interesting to listen to than so-called Standard American English."

Read On


 
 

A growing collection of stories and other items we hope will tell a bigger story about what Southerners are really like in the 21st century. The Folklore Project will grow only if you share your stories, family memories, recipes and photographs. Just click here to submit.