The Myth of Southern Exceptionalism

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More than one-third of the population of the United States now lives in the South, a region where politics, race relations, and the economy have changed dramatically since World War II. Yet historians and journalists continue to disagree over whether the modern South is dominating, deviating from, or converging with the rest of the nation. Has the time come to declare the end of southern history? And how do the stories of American history change if the South is no longer seen as a region apart—as the conservative counterpoint to a liberal national ideal?

The Myth of Southern Exceptionalism challenges the idea of southern distinctiveness in order to offer a new way of thinking about modern American history. For too long, the belief in an exceptional South has encouraged distortions and generalizations about the nation's otherwise liberal traditions, especially by compartmentalizing themes of racism, segregation, and political conservatism in one section of the country. This volume dismantles popular binaries—of de facto versus de jure segregation, red state conservatism versus blue state liberalism, the "South" versus the "North"—to rewrite the history of region and nation alike.

Matthew Lassiter and Joseph Crespino present thirteen essays—framed by their provocative introduction—that reinterpret major topics such as the civil rights movement in the South and the North, the relationship between conservative backlash and liberal reform throughout the country, the rise of the Religious Right as a national phenomenon, the emergence of the metropolitan Sunbelt, and increasing suburban diversity in a multiracial New South. By writing American history across regional borders, this volume spends as much time outside as inside the traditional boundaries of the South, moving from Mississippi to New York City, from Southern California to South Carolina, from Mexico to Atlanta, from Hollywood to the Newport Folk Festival, and from the Pentagon to the Attica prison rebellion.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This is an interesting book...The volume is well crafted and well worth reading and considering seriously." —he Journal of Southern History
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195384758
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 11/19/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 360
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Matthew D. Lassiter is Associate Professor of History at the University of Michigan, and author of The Silent Majority: Suburban Politics in the Sunbelt South (Princeton University Press, 2006).

Joseph Crespino is Associate Professor of History at Emory University, and author of Author in Search of Another Country: Mississippi and the Conservative Counterrevolution (Princeton University Press, 2007). of History, Emory University. Author of In Search of Another Country: Mississippi and the Conservative Counterrevolution (Princeton UP, 2007)

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Table of Contents

Introduction: The End of Southern History, Matthew D. Lassiter and Joseph Crespino
Part One: The Northern Mystique
1. De Jure/De Facto Segregation: The Long Shadow of a National Myth, Matthew D. Lassiter
2. Hidden in Plain Sight: The Civil Rights Movement outside the South, Jeanne Theoharis, Brooklyn College, CUNY
3. Blinded by a "Barbaric" South: Prison Horrors, Inmate Abuse, and the Ironic History of American Penal Reform, Heather Ann Thompson, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Part Two: Imagining the South
4. Mississippi as Metaphor: Civil Rights, the South, and the Nation in the Historical Imagination, Joseph Crespino
5. Black as Folk: The Southern Civil Rights Movement and the Folk Music Revival, Grace Elizabeth Hale, University of Virginia
6. Red Necks, White Sheets, and Blue States: The Persistence of Regionalism in the Politics of Hollywood, Allison Graham, University of Memphis
Part Three: Border Crossings
7. A Nation in Motion: Norfolk, the Pentagon, and the Nationalization of the Metropolitan South, 1941-1953, James T. Sparrow, University of Chicago
8. The Cold War at the Grassroots: Militarization and Modernization in South Carolina, Kari Frederickson, University of Alabama
9. African-American Suburbanization and Regionalism in the Modern South, Andrew Wiese, San Diego State University
10. Latin American Immigration and the New Multiethnic South, Mary E. Odem, Emory University
Part Four: Political Realignment
11. Into the Political Thicket: Reapportionment and the Rise of Suburban Power, Douglas Smith, Occidental College
12. Beyond the Southern Cross: The National Origins of the Religious Right, Kevin M. Kruse, Princeton University
13. Neo-Confederacy against the New Deal: The Regional Utopia of the Modern American Right, Nancy MacLean, Northwestern University

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