Southerners had much riding on Carter’s presidency

“As a lifelong Southerner, I was pleased and proud… to see Jimmy Carter in the White House….But all the while I kept remembering a conversation I had in New York while Carter was accepting the nomination….An old friend whose roots were in in North Carolina had invited me for a drink to celebrate….As we talked, he gradually began to articulate a nagging worry that lay dark and unexpressed in my own breast. I think of his words now as prophetic….

” ‘If Carter pulls this off,’ he said, ‘he’ll go down in history as one of our greatest presidents, and the South will be back in the national fold at last, and on equal terms. But if he fails, Southerners up here won’t be able to find a rock big enough to hide behind, and the South will still be seen as a separate and unequal backwater region, a stepchild of the superior North.’ ”

– FromShades of Gray: Dispatches from the Modern South” by John Egerton (1991)


New Yorker rediscovers South according to W. J. Cash

“For a century after losing the Civil War, the South was America’s own colonial backwater — ‘not quite a nation within a nation, but the next thing to it,’ W.J. Cash wrote in his classic 1941 study, ‘The Mind of the South’….

“Cash has this description of ‘the South at its best’: ‘proud, brave, honorable by its lights, courteous, personally generous, loyal.’ These remain qualities that the rest of the country needs and often  calls on. The South’s vices — ‘violence, intolerance, aversion and suspicion toward new ideas’ — grow particularly acute during periods when it it is marginalized and left behind. An estrangement between the South and the rest of the country would bring out the worst in both — dangerous insularity in the first, smug self-deception in the second.”

— From “Southern Discomfort” by George Packer in The New Yorker (Jan. 21, 2013)