The New Southern History

By Boles, John B. | The Mississippi Quarterly, Fall 1992 | Go to article overview

The New Southern History

Boles, John B., The Mississippi Quarterly

Every reader has at hand several sets of contrasting mental images that suggest how different the present-day South is from that of 1945. The bold skylines of Atlanta, Dallas, and Houston completely hide the cityscape of fifty years ago - what few buildings of that era have not been torn down to make room for the office towers of today. Those shining skylines speak volumes about what pundits call the Sun Belt, a South far more prosperous than that of old, with per capita incomes and bank deposits nearing those of the national norm. Even more suggestive of the change that has occurred since 1945 is the recognition that many of the cities and towns of the modern South have black mayors, or police chiefs, or city councilmen. In fact, the South has far more black office-holders than any other region of the nation. Blacks are a political presence to be reckoned with, and most Southern white politicians seek to develop programs that will appeal to both white and black constituencies. Nothing so separates the South of 1992 from that of 1945 as does this revolution in race relations. One always needs to mention the truism that much more needs to be done before full racial equality is achieved in the region, but the biggest success story in recent American history is the racial progress accomplished in the South in little more than a generation.

These two major developments - economic and racial progress - have to a significant degree narrowed the surface differences between the South and the rest of the nation. A tourist today speeding along the interstate highways, bypassing the small towns and following the nationally uniform traffic signs, would find the South deceptively like the rest of the nation. One would purchase gasoline from national-brand stations, stay in motels indistinguishable from those elsewhere, eat in fast-food restaurants with identical menus nationwide. Not only has Dixie been Americanized, but in numerous ways the nation has been Southernized. Compared to a trip one might have taken in the late 1930s, the uniformity today of the nation North and South is striking. But these surface similarities are deceiving. In matters less susceptible to precise quantification - music, religion, food preferences, attitudes toward family and gender and place, a kind of regional ethos, a shared history - the South remains a different country. No longer is the region a byword for poverty and prejudice, and air conditioning has made the long hot summers far more inviting. More than ever before, the South of the 1990s is a state of mind as much as it is a geographical division of the United States, and though that distinction can sometimes seem minute, it makes for a felt difference that is palpable. All Southerners today experience a type of

two-ness, sensing themselves to be fully American yet indelibly Southern.

This essential two-ness of the Southerner's experience gives added poignance to the region's written history. Southerners themselves have especially seemed to value their region's history since the Civil War, for as C. Vann Woodward has written, history has happened to them in a way unlike that experienced by those living in the rest of the nation.(1) But national historians have long been fascinated with the history of the South too, in part because it has been different from the national story and by its very difference points up the unique characteristics of U. S. history vis a vis the rest of the world. That is to say, Americans have studied the history of the South both for its own sake and for what by comparison it suggests about the nation's history. This dual perspective offered by studying the South's history is one reason it has proven so endlessly fascinating to academic historians throughout the nation. The South's history, like its literature, has a national and even international dimension that has led it to transcend the provincialism of regional defensiveness. As much as the skyscrapers of the South's booming cities have replaced sharecropper shacks in the national image of the region, so too has the written history of the region undergone a vital transformation. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The New Southern History


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    New feature

    It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia, and in an effort to make Questia easier to use for those people, we have added a new choice of font to the Reader. That font is called OpenDyslexic, and has been designed to help with some of the symptoms of dyslexia. For more information on this font, please visit

    To use OpenDyslexic, choose it from the Typeface list in Font settings.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search


    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.