The South: Continuity and Change

March 7, 1980

Report Outline
The New Mind of the South
Southern Economic Advances
Changing Southern Politics
Special Focus

The New Mind of the South

Region's Disappearing Sense of Isolation

Of books about the South there is no end,” V. O. Key wrote in the preface of his classic work, Southern Politics (1949). “Nor will there be as long as the South remains the region with the most distinctive character and tradition.” Key was right. Writers have never tired of examining the South and all its vices and virtues. Perhaps no other region of the country has been analyzed in such minute detail. But the unique characteristics and history of the region are no longer the principal preoccupations of Southern historians. In fact, many books and articles written about the South in recent years have shared a totally different theme: that the South has become in most matters virtually indistinguishable from other sections of the United States.

The theme of “the vanishing South” is not new. It was nearly 10 years ago that journalist Joseph B. Cumming Jr. declared: “The South is over.” Harry Ashmore, the Pulitzer Prize-winning editor of the Arkansas Gazette, wrote his Epitaph for Dixie in 1957. The latest round of discussions on the South's place in the Union began when Jimmy Carter was elected president in 1976. Carter was the first American president born and raised in the Deep South. His victory was said to symbolize the South's absorption and acceptance by “mainstream America.”

As the 1980 presidential campaign moves into high gear and the focus of the presidential selection process shifts from the snowy hills of New England to the southern primaries, Americans undoubtedly will notice that not all traces of Dixie have disappeared. But most observers agree that the South never again will be, as W. J. Cash described it nearly 40 years ago in The Mind of the South, “another land, sharply differentiated from the rest of the American nation….”

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
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Economic Development