This compelling collection of original documents and current scholarship sheds considerable light on the underside of the poor white experience in the antebellum South. In 1859, the Georgian Edward Isham, convicted in North Carolina of murdering a Piedmont farmer, dictated his life story to his court-appointed defense attorney. The autobiography left behind provides a rare look at the world of poor whites from the viewpoint of a member of this most elusive of the Old South's social groups. A selection of essays accompanying the autobiography examines the meaning of the document from a variety of perspectives: crime, frontier life, gender relations, labor, and the genre of nineteenth-century confessional literature.
Charles C. Bolton is professor and head of history at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Scott P. Culclasure is an international baccalaureate coordinator for the Guilford County, North Carolina schools.