Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Packing Away the Old South's Icons the Citadel Forsakes 'Dixie,' but Experts See a Resurgence of Region's Rich Cultural History

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Packing Away the Old South's Icons the Citadel Forsakes 'Dixie,' but Experts See a Resurgence of Region's Rich Cultural History

Article excerpt

In Oxford, Miss., the Old South is reborn every time the University of Mississippi football team scores a touchdown. Rebel flags wave and peals of "Dixie" rise up through the thick, humid air.

But hundreds of miles away in Charleston, S.C., a military academy older than the Confederacy itself is playing a different tune. In the shadow of Fort Sumter - where the first shots of the Civil War were fired - The Citadel has forsaken that former staple of its repertoire, saying "Dixie" no longer fits the image the school wants to project.

In between lies the South, a region struggling with how to honor a centuries-old heritage that, to some, is a symbol of oppression and backwardness. From "Dixie" to Aunt Jemima, many symbols of the South's history have become divisive as outsiders flock to the booming region and others across the US glimpse it on radio, television, and film. The idea of the Old South remains strong among those who live here. Yet as the region tries to move into the 21st century while keeping one foot firmly planted in the past, the divisions are deepening. And in coming years, battles like the one over "Dixie" will determine what parts of the South's legacy survive its changing cultural landscape. Political correctness? In South Carolina, The Citadel's decision has not gone unnoticed. Two state senators have asked Citadel President Maj. Gen. John Grinalds to clarify the school's position. The lawmakers, known for their interest in Southern history - and defense of the Confederate flag - accused General Grinalds of using political correctness to phase out "Dixie." Not so, says a Citadel spokesman. "It's not so much about being politically correct, but a social consciousness," says Cmdr. Bruce Williams. "Some people feel uncomfortable when it is played. We will still play the song when it is appropriate, say, when the Daughters of the Confederacy are meeting on campus." More than that, other school officials say there is a need to prepare cadets for the broader world that exists beyond traditions and beyond the Mason-Dixon Line. "One must have appropriate respect for the past, but ... we are training our students to address the issues of 2000 and beyond," says Frank Mood, chairman of The Citadel Board of Visitors. "At this time in the life of our state, the college, and the nation ... we cannot appear provincial or reactionary. We need to be a progressive, forward-looking institution mindful of where we are going." Indeed, a hush of heightened sensitivity is falling on many aspects of the South's past. In some places, the Confederate flag is already off limits, because of its ties to slavery and to the anti- civil-rights activists who used it to protest integration in the 1940s, '50s, and '60s. Hiding the lawn jockeys Other changes are more subtle. …

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