A bold reconceptualization of how settler expansion and narratives of victimhood, honor, and revenge drove the conquest and erasure of the Native South and fed the emergence of a distinct white southern identity
In 1823, Tennessee historian John Haywood encapsulated a foundational sentiment among the white citizenry of Tennessee when he wrote of a “long continued course of aggression and sufferings” between whites and Native Americans. According to F. Evan Nooe, “aggression” and “sufferings” are broad categories that can be used to represent the framework of factors contributing to the coalescence of the white South.
Traditionally, the concept of coalescence is an anthropological model used to examine the transformation of Indigenous communities in the Eastern Woodlands from chieftaincies to Native tribes, confederacies, and nations in response to colonialism. Applying this concept to white southerners, Nooe argues that through the experiences and selective memory of settlers in the antebellum South, white southerners incorporated their aggression against and suffering at the hands of the Indigenous peoples of the Southeast in the coalescence of a regional identity built upon the violent dispossession of the Native South. This, in turn, formed a precursor to Confederate identity and its later iterations in the long nineteenth century.
Geographically, Aggression and Sufferings prioritizes events in South Carolina, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama. Nooe considers how divergent systems of violence and justice between Native Americans and white settlers (such as blood revenge and concepts of honor) functioned in the region and examines the involved societies’ conflicting standards on how to equitably resolve interpersonal violence. Finally, Nooe explores how white southerners constructed, propagated, and perpetuated harrowing tales of colonizers as both victims and heroes in the violent expulsion of the region’s Native peoples from their homelands. This constructed sense of regional history and identity continued to flower into the antebellum period, during western expansion, and well through the twentieth century.
F. Evan Nooe is assistant professor of history and historian for the Native American Studies Center at the University of South Carolina Lancaster. He has published numerous journal articles and essays on Native American history, southern history, and violence in the South. His work has appeared in academic journals such as Ethnohistory, The Southern Quarterly, and Native South.
“The author details how violent encounters with Indians—and consistently one-sided white interpretations of these events—helped fuel Southern white identity and facilitate Indian Removal. Further, Nooe ‘connects the dots’ of white Southern attitudes about race, citizenship, and land rights. Why are some Americans so attached to Confederate iconography? Nooe demonstrates that the emotional/psychological connection began long before 1865. Aggression and Sufferings skillfully weaves all of these themes together.” —Robert M. Owens, author of “Indian Wars” and the Struggle for Eastern North America, 1763–1842
"In this powerful and unflinching study, F. Evan Nooe analyzes how white southern identity coalesced around a culture of violence. Building on classic works by John Hope Franklin and Bertram Wyatt-Brown, Nooe also pushes scholarship in a new direction by foregrounding settler colonialism and the violent dispossession of Native nations." —Christina Snyder, Penn State University
"Evan Nooe has written a powerful book. In focusing on how people gave meaning to violence, and used violence as a language in the Native South, Nooe gives us something new. He presents us with the clearest understanding yet of how Indigenous bodies (both real and imagined) figured in making a white and Southern identity. In fact, Nooe's careful reading of public commemorations, written memories, and a range of archival sources enables him to reveal how whiteness was constructed in the South through the brutalization of Indigenous bodies." —Gregory D. Smithers author of Reclaiming Two-Spirits: Sexuality, Spiritual Renewal, and Sovereignty in Native America; Native Southerners: Indigenous History from Origins to Removal; and Indigenous Histories of the American South during the Long Nineteenth Century