Mobile, Alabama’s Joe Cain Procession

A Confederate Memorial or The People’s Parade?

Authors

  • Emily Ruth Allen
  • Isabel Machado

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.33823/jfs.2021.3.1.91

Keywords:

Carnival, Mardi Gras, Mobile Alabama, Confederate Monuments, Lost Cause, Joe Cain

Abstract

This article investigates the contradictions that characterize Mobile, Alabama’s Joe Cain Day celebration. We look at the official narratives that established Mobile’s Mardi Gras origin myths and the event’s tradition invention in 1967 with a People’s Parade centered around Cain’s redface character, Chief Slacabamorinico. Then we discuss the complicated and ever-evolving symbolism surrounding the character by discussing more recent iterations of this public performance. In its inception, the Joe Cain celebration was a clear example of Lost Cause nostalgia, yet it has been adopted, adapted, and embraced by historically marginalized people who use it as a way to claim their space in the festivities. Employing both historical and ethnographic research, we show that carnival can simultaneously be a space for defiance and reaffirmation of social hierarchies and exclusionary discourses. We discuss here some of the concrete material elements that lend this public performance its white supremacist subtext, but we also want to complicate the definition of “materiality” by claiming a procession as a Confederate monument/memorial.

Author Biographies

Emily Ruth Allen

Emily Ruth Allen is a musicologist at Florida State University writing a dissertation about Mobile’s Mardi Gras parade musics. Allen spent her high school and college years in Mobile.

Isabel Machado

Isabel Machado is a Brazilian historian who has lived in Mobile for four years. Her forthcoming book, Now You Do Whatcha Wanna: Marked Bodies and Invented Traditions in Mobile’s Mardi Gras (under contract with the University Press of Mississippi), investigates how African American and LGBTQ+ Mobilians used Mardi Gras as a vehicle to negotiate their space and place in Mobile’s society.

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Published

2021-12-31

How to Cite

Allen, Emily Ruth, and Isabel Machado. 2021. “Mobile, Alabama’s Joe Cain Procession: A Confederate Memorial or The People’s Parade?”. Journal of Festive Studies 3 (1):92-120. https://doi.org/10.33823/jfs.2021.3.1.91.