Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. in Southern Studies

First Advisor

Andrew Harper

Second Advisor

Catarina Passidomo

Third Advisor

Ted Ownby

Relational Format



This written thesis serves as a companion piece to What Remains, a six-part audio podcast telling the story of Irene Taylor, a 19-year-old sharecropper’s daughter who was murdered in Altheimer, Arkansas, in 1939. The investigation of the murder, which garnered national press attention, ended with the conviction and execution of Sylvester Williams, a 22-year-old Black man also from Altheimer. This paper expands on the contextual research done in support of the podcast, including close readings of newspaper coverage and fictionalized magazine reports of the case; an examination of the Delta environment’s racialized history and its impact on the lives of 1930s Arkansans; and an investigation of the state-sponsored racial violence evidenced in Sylvester Williams’ trial and execution. In addition, this thesis reflects on the creative process of documenting the Irene Taylor story as a member of her extended family, including meditating on issues of documentary form, narrative authority, and family trauma and memory.



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