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J. L. M. Curry (Jabez Lamar Monroe), 1825-1903
The South in the Olden Time
Harrisburg, Pa.: Harrisburg Publishing Company, 1901.


Jabez Lamar Monroe Curry (1825-1903) was born in Lincoln County, Georgia and moved with his family to Talladega, Alabama when he was thirteen. In 1839, he enrolled at Franklin College, which later became the University of Georgia. He graduated in 1843 and entered law school at Harvard the following academic year. In 1845 he graduated and returned to Alabama to join the bar. Two years later, he married Ann Alexander Bowie. He ran for and won a seat in the Alabama legislature in 1847 and fought to establish a state public school system. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1857 and reelected in 1859. He resigned from Congress in 1861 and was promptly elected to the Confederate Congress. When he did not win a second term as a Confederate congressman, he joined the Confederate army. In 1865, he was chosen as the president of Howard College in Marion, Alabama. That same year, his first wife died, and in 1867 he married Mary Wortham Thomas. The next year, he resigned from Howard and moved to Richmond, where he became a professor of history and literature at Richmond College. His support for public education continued throughout his teaching career, and he advocated free, albeit segregated, education for recently emancipated slaves as well as other citizens. He was selected as the general agent of the Peabody Fund for Education in the South. Curry was instrumental in establishing state normal schools and grade schools throughout the South. He died in Asheville, North Carolina in 1903.

The South in the Olden Time (1901) is a brief paper Curry wrote in his old age to address misconceptions about southern society. He argues that northern insistence on abolition forced southerners to be equally insistent that slavery continue. Curry contends, however, that southerners are now happy without slavery and have no desire to reestablish it. He describes southern society favorably and argues that the antebellum South emphasized hospitality and fellowship, had no stratified class structure, had no corruption in politics, and was led by educated slave owners. He insists that the pejorative concept of the "poor white" is false. Curry admits that racial tension in the South is a problem, but he maintains that the same tensions exist in the North. He believes that African Americans should not be allowed to vote, and that enfranchisement has been a significant problem. He sketches a Utopian view of the antebellum South, but offers little evidence to support his claims.

Work Consulted: Garraty, John A. and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Harris Henderson

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