Memory and the South

Reprinted with permission from the University of Virginia Library.

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Memory and the South

by Edward L. Ayers
Southern Cultures, Vol. 2, No. 1: Fall 1995

"Our sudden interest in memory has something to do with the democratization of history, with our interest in how literally everyone saw themselves."

I would like to admit right off the bat that I didn’t have a thing to do with organizing this extremely well-organized conference, though I did consult on the T-shirts and mugs. I was therefore flattered when the people behind this enterprise asked me to say a few words about memory in general. The Dome Room is a good place for that, since it is testimony to the power of self-consciously shaped memory. The Rotunda and Monticello, idealized memories of a distant classical past, incongruously and somewhat improbably set down in the middle of a rustic slave state, are now what many people think of when they think of Virginia or Charlottesville.