Dr. James E. Southerland, Brenau University's longest-serving professor, has a soon-to-be-published book, "Sharecropper’s Son: A Journey of Teaching and Learning," in which he chronicles his life from his childhood in south Alabama through his youth in Columbus, Georgia, to his college years and decades of service to Brenau.
Southerland retired from his professorship at Brenau in 2013 after 44 years of teaching history as well as serving as as provost and vice president of academic affairs – essentially the university’s top academic officer.
His time at Brenau was “really the only job that I had in my professional career and the only place I ever worked in that time,” Southerland wrote. However, for the young history professor, the small school provided an excellent vantage point for better understanding the history of the world as well as his own history.
Southerland came to Brenau in the fall of 1969 as he neared completion of a doctorate in history from the University of Georgia. He actually started work as a Brenau faculty member before he completed his dissertation – the last remaining requirement for a Ph.D.
As described in the synopsis of the book: “His classroom became metaphorically his shared field where he provided fruits of his teaching to the students he served while sustaining his own spirit and intellect with lifelong learning.”
Much of Southerland’s story reflects on southern life in the mid-20th century, including how his family was impacted in the aftermath of World War II, the social and political shifts during the 1960s civil rights movement and the evolution of Brenau from a traditional women’s college to a more “complex entity.”
He also states how the death of his father, Arthur Southerland – the titular sharecropper – in 2010 motivated him to write his memoirs. He started reflecting on his personal life and professional career and knew how many of his own stories were intertwined with those he both taught and worked with at Brenau.
“I thought that those individuals who love the university might wish to read my stories told through a chronicle of the university’s evolution from a small and somewhat provincial women’s college into Brenau University. The institution is based where that school has always been, on what we have come to call ‘the historic campus’ in Gainesville, Georgia, where I began and concluded my academic career,” Southerland writes.
The book is scheduled for publication by early 2018. To pre-order, visit brenau.edu/sharecroppers-son.