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Caroline and Joe: a press release

It’s not unusual for a husband and wife to be in the same line of work. It is unusual, however, that singer-songwriter Caroline Herring and her husband Joe Crespino, a historian at Emory University, do the same kind of work from such different angles.

Caroline and Joe both are set to release new works—for Caroline, her album Camilla on Aug. 28; for Joe, his book Strom Thurmond’s America on Sept. 4—that bring to life the struggles of civil rights-era America and challenge listeners and readers alike to reconsider the legacies of that divisive period. As the nation approaches what is sure to be a heated, partisan election, these two artists remind us of the power of music and history to enlighten and enrich our understanding of our country and ourselves.

“It’s tricky writing about iconic events in 3 and a half minute songs,” Caroline observes. “I’ve tried to tell a few more intimate stories of those days that, though small, can capture turning points in the lives of individuals that, when you think about it, become the turning points in the lives of so many of us.”


One track on Camilla addresses a famous event—the Freedom Rides of 1961—by focusing on a chance encounter on an Alabama roadside. Another explores lesser-known showdowns from the civil rights era, such as the beating Marion King suffered in 1962 in the tiny Georgia town for which Herring named her album. And Herring connects such histories to today with her unforgettable account of one mother’s pilgrimage with her 4-year old daughter to Barack Obama’s inauguration.


Joe wrestles with similar issues by re-examining one of the most familiar and controversial figures from the era, longtime U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina. Best remembered as the segregationist who fathered a black daughter, Crespino shows the paradox at the heart of Thurmond's career: he was one of the last of the Jim Crow South’s demagogues, while at the same time one of the first of the Sunbelt conservatives who led the rightward march of the modern Republican Party. Crespino argues convincingly that whether you’re on the right or the left, Thurmond is a figure that has to be taken seriously to understand American politics today.

The Grammy Award-winning Mary Chapin Carpenter says that Caroline’s album Camilla presents “an artist who is unafraid and uncompromising in her work. As a witness, a historian, a truth teller, a gypsy, a mother, a sister, a lover, Herring takes the listener on a journey with her head and her heart, and there is no more enlightening experience one could have.”

Not to be outdone, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Doris Kearns Goodwin calls Joe’s book “a thoroughly terrific and important work, for it makes clear the continuing impact of Thurmond’s legacy on our politics today.”

Both Mississippi natives now living in Atlanta, Caroline and Joe remind us that history is not reserved simply for the historians, nor is lyricism merely possible for the lyricists. In the works of this unusual couple, music and words, the past and the present, come together in lovely and surprising ways. Don’t miss them.

For more information about Joseph and Strom Thurmond's America, please visitwww.macmillan.com/StromThurmondsAmerica.Joseph Crespino is the author of In Search of Another Country: Mississippi and the Conservative Counterrevolution and the co-editor of The Myth of Southern Exceptionalism. He holds a Ph.D. in American History from Stanford University and his writings have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Politico.

Caroline Herring has released five critically acclaimed albums and has been featured on national radio programs such as NPR’s Weekend Edition and A Prairie Home Companionwith Garrison Keillor. Herring was the only American member of the Cecil Sharp Project, a collection of musicians commissioned to compose songs based on the famous song catcher. Herring will embark on a North American tour to support Camilla beginning Sept. 7 in Atlanta. For more information, please visit www.carolineherring.com.

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