Podcast: Jefferson Cowie in Eufaula, Alabama

“They appeared out of second-story windows, they appeared out of first-story windows, they came pouring out of doors, and they opened fire on Black voters in the streets. Voters were lucky to make it out alive. Many did not.”

On Election Day in November 1874 in Eufaula, Alabama, whites shot at Black voters, killing and injuring many people while leaving others to run for their lives. The impact of this massacre? As 2023 History winner Jefferson Cowie explains, it “brought about the collapse of Black voting in Barbour County.”

In this episode of the Pulitzer on the Road Podcast, Cowie takes us to Eufaula to talk through his Pulitzer-winning book, Freedom’s Dominion: A Saga of White Resistance to Federal Power. He visits some of the city's key sites – its Confederate monument, its Carnegie library, and one of its antebellum mansions, once the residence of a wealthy cotton plantation and now a historical museum celebrating the ways of the “old South.” He tells the story of a place defined by its resistance to federal power and by a desire to return to “traditions” dependent on the enslavement, torture, and domination of Black Americans. Cowie explains that this freedom being fought for always included the freedom to dominate others.

“What are people talking about when they say freedom?” Cowie says in conversation with Pulitzer Board member Kelly Lytle Hernández, a professor of history, African American studies & urban studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. “Too often if people are crying freedom in an abstract way… I’m hearing ‘I want power.’”

A full transcript of this episode is available here.

Liner notes with details on the original music found in this week’s episode can be found here.

The Pulitzer on the Road Podcast is a production of the Pulitzer Prize Board at Columbia University, in collaboration with the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, and produced by Central Sound at Arizona PBS. The producers are Anna Williams and Alex Kosiorek from Arizona PBS and Nicole Carroll. Pulitzer Administrator Marjorie Miller is the executive producer. 

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To learn more about the Pulitzer on the Road Podcast, and to find links to other episodes in this series, click here.