The American South: Past, Present, and Future (review)

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The American South: Past, Present, and Future (review)

by Carla S. Huskey
Southern Cultures, Vol. 3, No. 3: Sports in the South

An exhibition curated by Andy Ambrose, on view at the Atlanta History Center through 28 September 1997.

In the 1830s, when Stephen Harriman Long visited the region now encompassed by the city of Atlanta, he commented that the area would “be a good location for one tavern, a blacksmith’s shop, a grocery store, and nothing else.” Atlanta’s humble beginnings and her tragic history have come to represent the story of the Old South. Nevertheless, to Atlantans, the city and the region are much more than the stereotypical, somewhat mythical, often mystical figures that helped to establish them. The New South has become a region characterized by abrupt change and dynamic progress, ever reverent of the past while anxiously looking toward the future. Metropolitan areas like Atlanta have become symbolic of the diversity and enthusiasm of the region, But if Atlanta is to become the exemplary city of the latest New South, then what, in fact, should the city represent? The Atlanta History Center (AHC) tackled that question in the recent exhibition The American South: Past, Present, and Future. The show utilized familiar images of the South to attract the curious visitor on the trail of Scarlett O’Hara, yet many of the stereotypical depictions fell away amid the well-crafted history lesson. Curator Andy Ambrose and his colleagues created an exhibition that honestly depicted a region characterized by adaptation, progress, preservation, and a resounding sense of reverence.