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THE SOUTH IN MODERN AMERICA by Dewey W. Grantham

THE SOUTH IN MODERN AMERICA

A Region at Odds

By Dewey W. Grantham

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-06-016773-4
Publisher: HarperCollins

 In a perceptive look at the nation's most distinctive region, Grantham (History/Vanderbilt Univ.) examines the relationship between the South and the rest of the United States during the 20th century. He delineates this relationship in terms of several major themes, exploring the modern history of sectional conflict, the many areas of compromise among the regions, cultural convergence between the South and other areas of the country (with the consequent blurring of southern culture's special features), and the persistence, nonetheless, of southern distinctiveness in the nation's consciousness. Conflict was reflected both in the mutually unflattering perceptions and attitudes of Southerners and Northerners and in substantive differences between the regions on party alignment, civil rights, Prohibition, and federal regulation of utilities, tariffs, and banks. Although it often disagreed with the Northeast, Midwest, and West on these and other issues, the South in Grantham's view pervasively influenced American politics and society as a whole in many ways. Prior to WW II and the civil rights movement, the Democratic party was controlled by its southern wing, and southern Democrats, from Richard B. Russell to Huey Long, were a powerful force in Congress, one with which successive presidents had to reckon. In more recent years conservative southern factions have demonstrated similar influence in the Republican party. With what Grantham calls the ``Second Reconstruction'' of the 1960s and with the emergence of the Sunbelt South, the region has lost its traditional hallmark of backwardness, developing an increasingly urbanized economy and becoming in many ways more prosperous and progressive than the decaying, racially polarized North. Nonetheless, Grantham argues, the South retains some of its special cultural features, including a fervent religiosity, a ``subculture of violence,'' and a profusion of literary talent, from Barry Hannah to Bobbie Ann Mason. A rich, sympathetic, warts-and-all portrait of the South.