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?) …
1986 was a quite a while ago. It was the era of floppy disks, landline telephones, VCRs, and cable TV when Stephen A. Smith published his communication-studies book Myth, Media, and the Southern Mind. Smith was then a professor at the University of Arkansas who had also done some some political consulting and advising. The book studied Southern culture through a “scholarly analysis of the symbols of popular culture in the mass media environment.”
Only spanning about 150 pages, Myth, Media, and the Southern Mind is definitely an academic book. Though Smith’s style is not burdened by heavy jargon or…
In this essay, Robin Helms Allen weaves her way through a discussion of the politics around the LGBTQ community, and in particular AIDS, in the late twentieth century in North Carolina. In Allen’s story, we get a glimpse into how the region’s mythic stance on the LGBTQ community is not monolithic. The title comes from a quote by African-American civil rights attorney Buck Colbert Franklin.
“Right is slow and tardy . . .”
by Robin Helms Allen
In 1973, when I entered graduate school at North Carolina State University to earn a Master’s in Education, Jesse Helms was serving in…
There are places that evoke immediate connotations for us, and Tuskegee, Alabama is one of those places. Whether those connotations relate to the now-mythic educator Booker T. Washington, to the landmark voting rights case Gomillion v. Lightfoot, or to the now-infamous Syphilis Study, this small town’s name carries with it multiple narratives about justice for African Americans. Here, professor Rhonda Collier examines the role of Tuskegee in her life, in her family, and in the wider world.
Home Sweet Home: The Blood that Binds Us
by Rhonda Collier
Lionel Richie, a classmate of my mother at Tuskegee Institute, notes on…
In “Ghost House,” Alabama writer Anita Miller Garner explores Southern beliefs about what is and what is not worth saving, especially as time has moved more and more people away from rural places. The essay also weaves through mythically Southern ideas about family and community, and includes commentary on narratives about environmental consciousness.
by Anita Miller Garner
When we pulled into the gravel driveway, the house I was born in loomed ahead of us like a wrecked ship run aground. The wing nearest to us sat at a slant, off its foundation.A tarp that six months ago had…
This essay takes an endearing look at a modern American phenomenon — adults with aging parents — while re-examining mythic Southern ideas about family and manhood through the lens of the traditional family dinner. Here, writer Lori Zavada shows us how some things change with inevitable passage of time, while other beliefs and narratives continue unchallenged.
by Lori Zavada
The night one of my parents accidentally butt-dialed me, they didn’t hear me repeating, “Hello, hello,” so in a flash, I made an odd decision. I’m not sure why, but I chose to invade their private lives. I listened in.
In this short essay, Alabama writer and musician Karren Pell uses a simple scenario — the neighborhood block party — to show us a few nuances about Southern beliefs. As the group enjoys the mythic Southern food, watermelon, on a summer day, the participants’ behavior depicts varying modern attitudes on entertaining company, church attendance, child rearing, and respect for one’s elders.
The Watermelon Party
by Karren Pell
My neighbor Chase threw a watermelon party for our block this summer. It was an outdoor affair on the front porch of the duplex he shares with 83-year-old Miss Sadie Mae. Since we…
The automobile changed the South indelibly, when the people of this rural farming culture were given mobility, and even speed— something Southerners have become known for through stock car racing and moonshiner movies. In this essay, Georgia writer William Nesbitt discusses his love of a classic muscle car and delves into the region’s mythic fascination with this now-ubiquitous form of transportation.
by William Nesbitt
Relatively isolated, Thomasville, Georgia sits in the southwest corner of Georgia close to the Florida state line.Prior to the automobile, your fastest method of travel would have been train.Even after the advent of…
The Devil is a mythic and often-mentioned character in the heavily Christian culture of the South. However, because this figure appears in so many forms and in so many ways, it can be hard to discern what some people mean by it. This essay comments on the Devil’s constant presence in Southern life, including aspects of the narrative that can be confusing and contradictory.
Big Sandy Confronts the Devil:
Remembering the Mount Zion Cemetery Craze of 1980
by Kevin T. Brewer
When I was a kid, growing up in rural West Tennessee in the ’60s and ’70s, the Devil was…