Destination Dixie: Tourism and Southern History

Destination Dixie: Tourism and Southern History

Destination Dixie: Tourism and Southern History

Destination Dixie: Tourism and Southern History


Once upon a time, it was impossible to drive through the South without coming across signs to "See Rock City" or similar tourist attractions. From battlegrounds to birthplaces, and sites in between, heritage tourism has always been part of how the South attracts visitors--and defines itself--yet such sites are often understudied in the scholarly literature.

As the contributors to this volume make clear, the narrative of southern history told at these sites is often complicated by race, influenced by local politics, and shaped by competing memories. Included are essays on the meanings of New Orleans cemeteries; Stone Mountain, Georgia; historic Charleston, South Carolina; Yorktown National Battlefield; Selma, Alabama, as locus of the civil rights movement; and the homes of Mark Twain, Margaret Mitchell, and other notables.

Destination Dixie reveals that heritage tourism in the South is about more than just marketing destinations and filling hotel rooms; it cuts to the heart of how southerners seek to shape their identity and image for a broader touring public--now often made up of northerners and southerners alike.


Karen L. Cox

The American South, long perceived as the most primitive and exotic of regions in the United States, has been a destination for tourists since the country was founded. Since settlement, tourists have visited the region in an effort to better understand what set it apart from the rest of the country. Throughout the antebellum period, northerners made treks to the South not only to escape harsh winters but also to explore regional differences of the American landscape—taking home with them examples of the flora and fauna to share with friends back home. While the Civil War halted the flow of tourists temporarily, wealthy tourists resumed their visits to the region, especially to Florida, and Union veterans organized trips to revisit the sites of battle and to personally meet their former foes in more peaceful times. Railroads and steamboats brought more tourists to the region in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and by the second decade of the twentieth century the mass production of Henry Ford’s Model T meant that many middle-class Americans were able to make the trip South. As roads improved an intraregional tourism made it possible for southerners to visit sites in their home region. Throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, tourism to the American South developed into a bona fide regional industry.

For most of the last two centuries, one of the most valuable commodities the South has offered tourists has been its unique place in the history of the United States. Southern states and locales have made it their business to promote the region’s role in the founding of the nation, beginning with the very first house museum to be preserved in the United States—George Washington’s Mount Vernon in Virginia. America’s fascination with the Old South, especially during the first half of the twentieth century, meant that . . .

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