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Two Books Put GWTW Sequel in Context

THOSE wishing to cut through the hype surrounding the release of the sequel to "Gone With the Wind" would be well advised to dip into "Gone With the Wind: As Book and Film," edited by Richard Harwell and published by University of South Carolina Press (1983).Whatever one's judgment of the literary worth of Margaret Mitchell's fiction, the story exists as one of the great epics in the American imagination. Mr. Harwell's collection of the most significant writings on the book, film, and author helps put it in historical and cultural context. Also just out by the University of South Carolina Press is: "When I Can Read My Title Clear: Literacy, Slavery, and Religion in the Antebellum South," by Janet Duitsman Cornelius, (215 pp., $29.95). The debasing stereotypes and historical inaccuracies for blacks in "Gone With the Wind" perniciously persist in some quarters today. Given that the sequel to "Gone With the Wind" fails to deal with the black experience in Reconstruction at all, this is a timely publication. The setting is far removed from the sentimentalized and demeaning portrayal of "darkies" by Margaret Mitchell. The book's meticulous research adds to the large body of evidence of the multidimensional role the pulpit played in the black struggle for freedom. Whatever the intention of Northern abolitionist or Southern slave-holder in placing a Bible in the shackled hands of blacks, the spiritual stirrings of Old and New Testament stories stoked the fires of hope and freedom in the hearts of human beings who otherwise would have been denied all external signs of dignity.

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