On Being Southern - perspectives from all over
 
Presented by Arete Designs


As a 'child of the South' for over 60 years, I thought that the place of my birth and my upbringing alone put me in the best position to understand and appreciate my region's cultural heritage. Then I read Mind Of The South, by W.J. Cash, published in 1941 while he was a staff writer at the Charlotte Observer. His observations about our region can help to better understand its unique character.

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NE Cape Fear River

On Being Southern - W.J. Cash and The Mind Of The South, published in 1941
Time and Frontiers - from Chapter 1 in 'The Mind Of The South'
The Man At The Center - from Chapter 2 in 'The Mind Of The South'
Gilgamesh and Bubba - the Celtic 'wild man'
H. L. Mencken - W. J. Cash's editor at the American Mercury magazine
Perils of a Southern writer - Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), newspaper man
The Trail of Tears - get rid of the Indians, bring in the slaves
Ev'ry Man A King - Huey Long and the 'Share Our Wealth Society'
Politics In The Old South - what fun! Tom Watson and Eugene Talmadge
Lunch at Woolworths - four guys go to lunch and change history
Edmund Ruffin - geologist, hothead; swamp, first shot, last words; mint julep
Menhaden fishing - hard work off the NC coast for fertilizer
King Cotton, war, and Karl Marx - it's all about the tariff
Deadwood Dick - Nat Love; slave, cowboy, Pullman porter
Uncle Tom's Cabin - Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel fans the flames
Was it all about money? - relative worth of assets in old Dixie

Tragic legacy of secession - federal government as an agent of the states
Jehovah Of The Tarheels - from The American Mercury Magazine
Tarheels - who they are and how they got that way
Bartlett Yancey Malone - diary of one of General Pender's CSA Sergeants
The Devil's Bombs - service, capture in Wilmington, prison at Point Lookout
The Marshes of Glynn - from one of two books every Southerner ought to have
Varina Davis - First Lady of the Confederacy
Gibraltar of the South - Fort Fisher keeps South's supply lines open
Oyster War! - NC tongers vs Maryland's dredgers
Crassostrea - a song of despair and hope for our native oyster
When cotton was king - the mill in the South
Mr. Gregg's Cotton Mill - early philanthropic and profitable mill
Work in a textile mill - life stories about mill worker's lives
Child of Erwin Mill Village - life in a mill village in 1929
Cotton to wood chips - boom in cotton, boom in woodchips, BOOM!
Labor Unrest In The Mills - Gastonia Strike, death of Ella Mae Wiggins
The Grapes of Wrath - see the Great Depression on the wide screen
Hooverville - the Bonus marchers, Gen. Smedley Butler, plot against Roosevelt 
Goophered Grapevine - history in my neighborhood
The Sacred Grove - from an article in The American Mercury Magazine
Ole'time religion - popular bringers of salvation to the masses

Monkey Trial - Mr. Scopes, Mr. Bryan, Mr. Darrow, the Bible, Mr. Darwin
Class Warfare - the 'wobblies'  - the Industrial Workers of the World
Class struggle - in art and music, the 'haves' vs the 'have nots'
Mother Jones - tireless crusader for mine safety and child labor laws
Eugene V. Debs - ran for President in jail, got more votes than Nader
Sabots - the shoe in the gearworks - that'll slow things down
Everybody's Kin - everybody is kin to everybody else
Everyday stories - the things of daily living by plain folks
The Jack Acid Society - just the opposite of the conclusion drawn
Stupid White Man - Michael Moore knows why the South is different
Flannery O’Connor - growing up Catholic in the South
Clyde Edgerton - crying and laughing together
Walt Kelley and Pogo - Walt Kelly was so right, an appreciation  

* NOTE: This isn't a scholarly work. In most cases I have edited every selection to simplify understanding. I cut out whole levels of detail, changed some archaic words, eliminated lots of commas, semicolons and dependant clauses, and made the text easy for me to read. (see 'engaging narrator')

I was curious about many of the things Cash wrote about and wanted to learn more about some of the references he made. These pages serve as the exercise of discovery, the footnotes to understanding the whole, and some of the twists and turns and interrelations I found along the convoluted path to gaining understanding about 'The South' have been quite surprising, even startling!

Much of the stuff I thought I knew about the South simply because I was born and raised here, once I understood the background of time and events, turned out to be myth, and at the same time realize that much of the stuff commonly accepted as truth or imagined by people born and raised outside the region is equally fictitious.                           
                                      - updated March 31, 2006


The Mind Of The South, ** by W. J. Cash, published originally in 1941

Many of the photographs are from American Memory at the Library of Congress, especially the  Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Collection at the Library of Congress, and much more from Documenting The American South at the University of North Carolina.

On my use of  copyrighted material :  I looked up 'Fair Use' to be sure that I am within the bounds of what is generally accepted as OK by those who know about such things, and I found this Memo to the Stanford University Library. Note the author!

October 30, 1998
TO: Members of the Faculty, Hoover Institution Fellows, Academic Staff, and Library Directors
FROM: Condoleezza Rice

Fair Use for Teaching and Research

The "fair use" doctrine allows limited reproduction of copyrighted works for educational and research purposes. The relevant portion of the copyright statue provides that the "fair use" of a copyrighted work, including reproduction "for purposes such as criticism, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research" is not an infringement of copyright. The law lists the following factors as the ones to be evaluated in determining whether a particular use of a copyrighted work is a permitted "fair use," rather than an infringement of the copyright:

• the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
• the nature of the copyrighted work;
• the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole, and
• the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Although all of these factors will be considered, the last factor is the most important in determining whether a particular use is "fair." Where a work is available for purchase or license from the copyright owner in the medium or format desired, copying of all or a significant portion of the work in lieu of purchasing or licensing a sufficient number of "authorized" copies would be presumptively unfair. Where only a small portion of a work is to be copied and the work would not be used if purchase or licensing of a sufficient number of authorized copies were required, the intended use is more likely to be found to be fair.

** I've taken plenty of liberties with Mr. Cash's work because it is written in a style many readers may encounter for the first time. His wording follows the forensic tradition of Stephan Douglas and Abraham Lincoln, Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun, by  'qualifying their reach and by limiting their impact' and is described as 'the engaging narrator', who makes the point by building toward an identification between the imagined reader and the situation being described. I have changed some of the words and simplified the reading greatly when I could, without losing too much of the tone and cadence of the text.

W.J. Cash (1900-1941) was born in 1900 in Gaffney, South Carolina, a cotton-mill town where his father managed the Limestone Mills company store. He attended Wake Forest College beginning in 1920. Like many young white Southerners, Cash found the writings of H.L. Mencken (3) an attractive antidote to the romanticism and boosterism of the latest New South. Cash saw much as a journalist in Charlotte that confirmed his belief that the South's own people and the nation refused to see the region clearly. He worked on The Mind of the South throughout much of the 1920s and 1930s, developing a sweeping interpretation of the region's history. (1)

Cash argued that the region’s history was a continuous and internally logical progression straight from slavery to modern industrial capitalism. Old South and New, Cash contended, stood apart from the rest of the nation, warped by mistaken notions of progress and white supremacy and by the demagogues who represented them.

If they participated in politics at all, southern workers were easily distracted from their "real" class interests. By fanning the fears and insecurities of the South’s poor whites, the perennial Ben Tillmans, Huey Longs, and Eugene Talmadges of the South had co-opted working-class unrest and funneled racial antagonism into support for a white Democratic coalition that sustained one of the most rigid and oppressive social systems in American history. (2)

(1) University of Virginia History Department
(2) Michelle Brattain: The Politics of Whiteness

The 'engaging narrator'

What does Mr. Cash mean by using words in such a way as 'qualifying their reach and by limiting their impact'?

Here's an idea that starts out unqualified and then gets lost along the way:

  (1) It's hot today.

  (2) It's, like, you know, to anybody experiencing the heat and humidity of Southern summer, hot, unless and notwithstanding if, of course, you were born and raised in subtropical Africa of the jungles of South America, perhaps the Asian Continent - including that part of India and the Far East, Near East and Mid East commonly thought of as unbearably hot, - or if you've just come from an air-conditioned building, or other habitable and usually air conditioned entity; e.g. automobile, airplane, bus, train, etc, or any one of an endless variety of buildings, commercial and private, today - unless, of course, you are recalling from memory that it was very hot yesterday or some earlier time - perhaps you read it in a book, even - or think that it might be unseasonably warm tomorrow or at any future time prognosticated by our weather diviners.

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