Debating Southern History: Ideas and Action in the Twentieth Century

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Overview

In this century, no region of the country has experienced greater social upheaval or undergone a more dramatic political transformation than the South. Now there is a textbook that critically examines the magnitude of these changes, the individuals who made them happen, and their influence on the rest of the nation. Noted historians Bruce Clayton and John Salmond explore the mind of the "new South," from the pivotal 1920s to the tempestuous '60s. Clayton's focus is on the intellectual and artistic achievements of the period—a time of immense creativity, when southern literary giants like William Faulkner, Zora Neale Hurston, and Robert Penn Warren rose to international prominence. Crucial to his analysis are the key intellectuals of the day—among them W. J. Cash, Julia Peterkin, DuBose Heyward, and the Fugitive-Agrarians—who formed a second component of the "southern renaissance." Clayton does not neglect the thought of regionalists, like Howard Odum and Arthur Raper; and he devotes special attention to the writings of civil rights leaders from Lillian Smith and Richard Wright to Martin Luther King, Jr. Salmond's essay focuses not on ideas but actions, his primary concern is the activists and organizations that created the ambitious agenda formulated by the great thinkers of the day. He pays particular attention to the legacy of southern labor organizers, especially in the textile industry, who led a series of critical strikes between the 1920s and 1940s that reshaped the region's manufacturing landscape. He also addresses the social reform movements that played a major role in transforming the everyday lives of whites and blacks across the South: the Southern Conference on Human Welfare, the Southern Regional Council, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Following the essays are an overview of the subject, with reference to the current state of historical analysis, and a selection of relevant documents that allow students to draw their own conclusions about this complex period in American

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Editorial Reviews

H-Net: Humanities and Social Science Reviews Online
This book is another marvelous contribution from Rowman and Littlefield's 'Debating 20th Century America' series. The two essays complement one another in interesting and revealing ways. On the whole, then, this is a fine little book. It deserves to be used in advanced undergraduate and graduate classrooms. The essays are very well crafted, readable, thorough, and sophisticated. There is a wonderful discussion going on in Debating Southern History and it deserves to be widely read.
The North Carolina Historical Review
The pairing of ideas with action is intriguing, the individual essays well explicated and complementary without being redundant, and the sources are both relevant and enjoyable reading.
H-Net: Humanities and Social Science Reviews Online
This book is another marvelous contribution from Rowman and Littlefield's 'Debating 20th Century America' series. The two essays complement one another in interesting and revealing ways. On the whole, then, this is a fine little book. It deserves to be used in advanced undergraduate and graduate classrooms. The essays are very well crafted, readable, thorough, and sophisticated. There is a wonderful discussion going on in Debating Southern History and it deserves to be widely read.
John C. Inscoe
This rich array of documents and insightful essays by two esteemed southern historians make this a lively introduction to the multiple minds and voices of the South that paved the way for the dramatic transformation of the region in the post-World War II era. A valuable classroom resource that students should find as engaging as their instructors.
Frederick Hobson
Clayton and Salmond have written extensive essays—clear, insightful, sweeping—that capture much of the pain and promise (particularly in the area of race) of twentieth century southern life.
Bertram Wyatt-Brown
Bruce Clayton and John Salmond's essays in Debating Southern History compellingly reveal the intellectual and reform currents of a briskly changing twentieth-century South. The authors convincingly show how modernist trends inspired creativity, dissent, and renewal among both white and black writers and activists—some of them quite famous like William Faulkner and Martin Luther King and others undeservedly obscure. Skillfully the essays explore the subtle interplay between African-American and white, liberal thought and action. Debating Southern History deserves a widespread and long-sustained popular readership.
Robert Durden
With Bruce Clayton focusing on the intellectual and literary ferment in the South from the 1920s through the 1960s and John Salmond taking as his subject the labor, political, and racial components of the same era, this volume offers a fascinating examination of the most important period of 20th century southern history. Carefully selected documents following each essay enrich the volume.
John David Smith
Debating Southern History underscores the vital nexus between ideology and social and political change in the modern South. With insightful analysis and illustrative documents, Clayton and Salmond chart the South's slow and circuitous path to political and social justice. Ideal for students at all levels.
Charles Joyner
In their often eloquent and vividly detailed essays, Bruce Clayton and John Salmond present astute and intellectually provocative analyses of the South from the depression through the civil rights movement. The accompanying documents are well-chosen—some for their manifest significance, others for their rare insights into historical events. Debating Southern History makes an original, thoughtful, and convincing contribution to the understanding of the region and its meaning for American history in the twentieth century.
Richard L. Watson
Bruce Clayton and John Salmond have produced two beautifully written essays accompanied by carefully selected documents. Clayton weaves together the ideas of well-known and of comparatively little-known writers to form the most comprehensive analysis of the thought of the 20th Century South that I have ever read. Salmond matches Clayton's analysis with a thoughtful and well written essay on the South in the Depression and Post-depresssion years. He shows how "southern activists" involved in the labor movement and the struggle for civil rights challenged the "southern caste system." A unique and informative book.
North Carolina Historical Review
The pairing of ideas with action is intriguing, the individual essays well explicated and complementary without being redundant, and the sources are both relevant and enjoyable reading.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780847694136
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/28/1999
  • Series: Debating Twentieth-Century America Series
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Bruce Clayton is professor of history at Allegheny College, Meadville, Pennsylvania. John Salmond is professor of history at LaTrobe University, Melbourne, Australia.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Introduction Part 2 Southern Intellectuals Chapter 3 "Saving Souls" by Gerald W. Johnson (1924) Chapter 4 "Ode to the Confederate Dead" by Allen Tate (1926-1936) Chapter 5 William Faulkner's Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech (Dec. 10, 1950) Chapter 6 Letter from Lillian Smith to Martin Luther King, Jr. (Mar. 10, 1956) Chapter 7 Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Letter from Birmingham City Jail (Apr. 16, 1963) Part 8 The South in the Depression Decades Chapter 9 Report from Martha Gelhorn to Harry L. Hopkins, Director of the Federal Emergency Relief Agency, on Economic Conditions in South Carolina Folling the 1934 Textile Strike (Nov. 5, 1934) Chapter 10 The Unanimous Opinion of the Supreme Court in Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas (1954) Chapter 11 The Declaration of Ninety-Six Southern Congressmen against the Brown Decision (Mar. 12, 1956) Chapter 12 Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" Speech, Given at the Conclusion of the March on Washington (Aug. 28, 1963)

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