A True Southern Story Of Bravery And Betrayal

May 21, 2019

Author and historian Jacquelyn Dowd Hall conducts an oral history interview with Katharine Lumpkin DuPre Lumpkin.
Credit Courtesy of Jacquelyn Dowd Hall

Growing up in turn-of-the-century Georgia, the Lumpkin children were steeped in a culture of white supremacy. The older girls performed in rallies for “The Lost Cause,” while their father took a direct role in the Ku Klux Klan. But the two youngest Lumpkin sisters, Grace and Katharine, veered well off the path their family had set for them. They became activists and authors who railed against racial and economic oppression.

Grace’s book about the 1929 Gastonia textile strike was heralded as a radical chef d’oeuvre that shed light on the plight of working class Southern women. Katharine became an activist and scholar who wrote the notable autobiography “The Making of a Southerner,” which showed the South as a place scarred by history but still resonant with progressive struggle. Though they traveled far from their roots, both geographically and philosophically, the sisters never renounced their Southern identities.

The stories of three of the Lumpkin sisters are chronicled in “Sisters and Rebels: A Struggle for the Soul of America” (W. W. Norton and Co./2019). Host Frank Stasio talks with author Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, a professor emerita at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, about how the two youngest Lumpkin sisters sought to transform both themselves and the troubled region they eventually both returned to. 

Dowd Hall will discuss the book at an event at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill at 7 p.m. on June 6.