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What to Read and Watch before Venturing to America's Deep South

7th July 2021
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What to Read and Watch Before Venturing to the Deep South

With the launch of our new group tour Journey to America's Deep South, we've compiled a list of essential reading and what to watch to help you get inspired and in the know. Enjoy!

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

 

 

 

 

 

This historical Pulitzer prize-winning novel follows two slaves who escape from a Georgian cotton plantation in the Antebellum South in the 19th century. The underground railroad was an escape network for slaves on the run but is reimagined as a literal underground locomotive in Whitehead's moving novel. As 15-year-old Cora flees the plantation with a slave catcher in hot pursuit, she uncovers different worlds at each stage of her journey. It was adapted into an Amazon Prime series this year, too.

Scottsboro: A Novel by Ellen Feldman

 

 

 

 

 

Inspired by the shocking true story of nine African-American teens falsely accused of the rape of two white girls in Scottsboro in 1931. Recognised as one of the most notable miscarriages of justice in the US, the case lasted over 80 years and helped spur the Civil Rights Movement. In Ellen Feldman's story, a young journalist sets out to save the teens from the electric chair, redeem the girl who repents her lie and face her own past.

Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil by John Berendt

 

 

 

 

 

Set in the 1980s, this ‘non-fiction novel’ based on the real-life murder of a male prostitute reads like a work of fiction. It follows the story of a wealthy antique dealer who shoots his lover/employee and the murder case that follows. It paints a hugely engaging portrait of Savannah, Georgia and the eccentric characters of this Deep South society. It was also made into a film in 1997, directed by Clint Eastwood and starring John Cusack. 

A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn

 

 

 

 

 

Howard Zinn chronicles US history from the perspective and voices of those whose own experiences have largely been omitted from the official narrative taught in schools. This fascinating book fundamentally changed the way millions of people think about some of the most important events in US history, from Christopher Columbus' arrival through to President Clinton’s first term.

Deep South by Paul Theroux

 

 

 

 

 

Paul Theroux’s extensive travels have taken him to the furthest corners of the Earth, but in this novel, he turns his attention to his own home - the US. In particular, the Deep South, travelling through North and South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas. He reflects on the lives of the people he meets there and discovers a place of stark contradiction that sometimes reminds him more of remote Africa than the home he thought he knew. 

Selma

This historical drama centres on the epic 1965 marches from Selma to Montgomery, led by Martin Luther King Jr. to secure voting rights for black Americans. It gives us an insight into King’s life from when he received his Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, to persuading President Johnson to introduce the Voting Rights Act in 1965.

Forrest Gump

 

 

 

 

 

A heartwarming story about a slow-witted but extraordinarily kind man who grows up in Greenbow, Alabama (though we get plenty of beautifully shot scenes in Savannah, Georgia) We see his life play out in the most extraordinary of ways, meeting complex characters, falling in love and bearing witness to, and influencing, some of the most notable events in US history.

12 Years A Slave

 

 

 

 

 

Steve McQueen’s biographical period drama follows the true story of Solomon Northup, a born-free African American man who was kidnapped, sold into slavery and worked on a plantation in Louisiana for 12 years before his release. The film won three academy awards, including Best Picture, making McQueen the first black British director to win the award.

Mississippi Burning

 

 

 

 

 

In a small Mississippi town, two FBI agents investigating the disappearance of civil rights workers in the 60s come up against a wall of silence. In a place where racial tensions have townspeople unwilling to cooperate with the agents, they're forced to resort to unconventional tactics. Loosely based on a real murder investigation.

Beasts of the Southern Wild

 

 

 

 

 

Set in the backwaters of Louisiana, in a fictional Bayou community, six-year-old Hushpuppy and her father are preparing for the end of the world. Her father's poor health seems inextricably linked with nature, and as it declines, rising water levels threaten to displace them from their home. Meanwhile, melting ice caps release ancient beasts on their way to Hushpuppy, forcing her to seek out her lost mother.

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