There’s this belief that all Southerners love guns. Guns are an ubiquitous part of the mythology of the South, offering as prevalent a set of images as our food, churches, front porches, and small towns. Yet, that narrative of an all-encompassing gun culture isn’t completely accurate.

Really, it’s only about half of us (or a bit more) who have guns. A recent CBS News story ranking states by the percentage of adults that own a gun had mostly Western states populating the top spots, but the South was hanging in there. Arkansas was the highest-ranking Southern state at number six…

The Myth and Southern History series jumped right out at me when I was looking for books to read for this project, and it was Volume 2: The New South that seemed most relevant. This second edition, published in 1988, meant that all of my reading so far has been from the 1980s and ‘90s.

I have to say first: it’s hard to write succinctly about a multi-author essay collection. The first two books I wrote about for this project were single-author collections — by Wilson and Kirby — so there was the cohesion of responding to one thinker. The…

Among the many stereotypes and assumptions about rural Southerners, one tries to perpetuate the myth that all of them are naturally capable in agriculture pursuits: managing plants, fixing things, tending animals. In this brief essay, Claude Clayton Smith describes one rural Southerner whose bright idea to incorporate an undomesticated farm animal into his family’s (and neighbors’) domesticated lives shows us that those myths are not universally true.

The Gallaghers’ Goat
by Claude Clayton Smith

Rich Gallagher, our southwest Virginia country neighbor in the late 1970s, was an artist, a serious oil painter who was always winning awards. …

Who is “Southern”? It depends on who you ask, and while Southerners may consider ourselves de facto authorities on this mythic subject, people outside of the South have their ideas, too. In this essay, a Seattleite uses her marital connection to the South as an example of narrative about Southerners that come from without, rather than within, the region.

Damn Yankee
by Lynn Magill

In the general hierarchy of things, I was born in Iowa and raised in Seattle from the time I was a toddler. However, Seattle people don’t consider you really from Seattle unless you’ve been here since…

The South’s cultural dependence on history is mythic, and narratives about the past have often superseded facts. While the historical facts provide a clear portrayal of grim and regrettable realities, knowing what to do with and about that history in modern times is less clear. In this essay, McMillan grapples with the nuances of commingling fact with narrative and connects those issues to what sociologists call “material culture.”

Two Chairs
by Norman McMillan

From the 1940s down to the present day, I have always been aware of them: a pair of ladder-back straight chairs constructed of white oak. They have…

Historian James C. Cobb called Mississippi The Most Southern Place on Earth, and its name alone evokes imagery and sentiments that form the basis of folklore about the South. In this essay, Mississippi writer Randall Weeks dives into what may be the most Southern of Southern mythic symbols: the Confederate flag, whose use, meaning, and relevance has evolved over time.

Made in Mississippi: The Idolatry of Symbols of the Confederacy
by Randall S. Weeks

“Homo sapiens are the species that invents symbols in which to invest passion and authority, then forgets that symbols are inventions.” Joyce Carol Oates


The grandfather is one of the South’s most appealing myths. Appearing in works ranging from novels to country songs, grandfathers appear often as kindly protectors, sources of wisdom, and after they’ve passed, figures who are missed greatly. In this essay, Ray crafts a narrative of her grandfather, giving glimpses into the man he had been, and savoring her role in his life- and his role in hers.

Watch the Throne
by Jasmyne Ray

Had someone told her as a child that she and my granddad would end up together, my grandma says she wouldn’t have believed them. …

In recent years, some Southerners have returned to practices that were once common among earlier generations. As “backyard homesteading” and “urban agriculture” grow in popularity, Southern suburbanites who choose to raise crops and animals find what older Southerners knew: there are mythic lessons to be learned from nature. In this essay, an Atlanta rabbi muses on insights that he gained from his encounter with an “illegal” bird and connects them to narratives from sources outside the South.

The Rooster
by Rabbi Spike Anderson

Perhaps the turkey would think it ironic that on its most American celebration day, I would be…

I’ve written previously about how the whole red-state/blue-state paradigm gets on my nerves, and it’s in that spirit (and out of a belief in a more complex understanding) that I’m writing about Alexander P. Lamis’ 1984 book The Two-Party South. Originally from Charleston, South Carolina, Lamis was a political science professor at Case Western in Ohio, and the book won him a VO Key Award. Its general focus is Southern politics in the middle twentieth century, but truly it’s about the years between the “Democratic Rupture over Civil Rights” and the early 1980s.

Though I’ve typically gone through previous books…

The infinite variety of Southern mythology could be catalogued and analyzed endlessly. A suggestive list would include the Proslavery South; the Confederate South; the Demagogic South; the States Rights South; the Fighting South; the Lazy South; the Folklore South; the South of jazz and the blues; the Booster South; the Rapacious South running away with Northern industries; the Liberal South of the interracial movement; the White Supremacy South of racial segregation, which seems to be for some the all-encompassing “Southern way of life;” the Anglo-Saxon (or was it the Scots-Irish?) …

Foster Dickson

writer, editor, & award-winning teacher in Montgomery, AL | editor of “Nobody’s Home” | proud Gen X |

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