The South and America since World War II

The South and America since World War II

The South and America since World War II

The South and America since World War II

Synopsis

In The South and America Since World War II, James C. Cobb provides the first truly comprehensive history of the South since World War II, brilliantly capturing an era of dramatic change, both in the South and in its relationship with the rest of the nation. This all-inclusive history flows seamlessly from the Dixiecrats to the "southern strategy" and the South's domination of today's GOP, from the national ascendance of southern culture and music to a globalized Dixie's allure for foreign factories and immigrants, from the typecast roles of women to an increasingly visible gay population in contemporary southern life. At the heart of the book lies the struggle for Civil Rights. Jim Crow still towered over the South in 1945, but Cobb shows that Pearl Harbor loosened forces that would bring about its ultimate demise. Mounting black political clout outside the South, in addition to the contradiction of fighting racist totalitarianism abroad while tolerating it at home, set thestage for returning black veterans to spearhead the NAACP's postwar assault on the South's racial system. This assault sparked not only vocal white resistance but increasing violence that culminated in the murder of young Emmett Till in 1955. Energized rather than intimidated, however, blacks in Montgomery staged the famous bus boycott, bringing the Rev. Martin Luther King to the fore and paving the way for the dramatic protests and confrontations that finally brought racial change and two-party politics to the South. As in the prize-winning The Most Southern Place on Earth and Away Down South, Cobb writes with wit and grace, revealing a thorough grasp of his native region. Brimming with original insight, The South and America Since World War II is the definitive history of the postwar South and its changing role in national life.

Excerpt

Summing up his impressions after spending six years in Alabama, New Yorker Carl Carmer confirmed many a Yankee’s perception of the South in 1934 when he observed, “The Congo is not more different from Massachusetts or Kansas or California.” Therefore, Carmer explained, he was writing of Alabama “not as a state which is part of a nation; but as a strange country in which I once lived but from which I have now returned.” a year later, Alabama native Clarence Cason was forced to admit that the entire South was actually “self-conscious enough and sufficiently insulated from the rest of the country to be thought of as a separate province.” Meanwhile, up in North Carolina, as he grew increasingly obsessed with the threat of Nazism in Europe, W. J. Cash struggled to pull together his sweeping analysis of the enduring peculiarity of a southern white “mind.” the most dangerous characteristic of this mind, Cash contended, was a “savage ideal” of communally enforced conformity of thought mandating intense hostility to any suggestion of change or criticism of the South. Such was the dominance of the savage ideal, Cash believed, that conditions in his native region invited comparisons with “Fascist Italy … Nazi Germany [or] … Soviet Russia.” Thus it was hardly surprising that, when it appeared some ten months before Pearl Harbor, The Mind of the South seemed to echo Clarence Cason, as Cash pointed to the “profound conviction” shared by northerners and southerners alike at that point that “the South is another land,” so sharply “differentiated” from the rest of America as to constitute “not quite a nation within a nation, but the next thing to it.”

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