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Vol. 21, No. 4: Winter 2015

  //  winter 2015

The past is never dead. On the anniversaries of Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, the release of The Birth of a Nation, and Ken Burns’s The Civil War, as well as in the Atlanta child murders of 197981 and a first-person account of school integration, we see historical tensions that resonate today. We also look at a disappearing tobacco culture in photos and poetry, investigate what’s really behind the nickname “Tar Heel,” and join antebellum southern travelers on their visits north.

Table of Contents

Front Porch: Winter 2015

by Harry L. Watson
“If the articles in this issue resonate with recent events, it’s less a choice or a coincidence than a sharp reminder that enduring themes in southern culture do not easily fade.” It’s a peculiarity of quarterly publishing that Southern Cultures is rarely of the moment. Every issue must be ready for the printer about four »

Remembering Appomattox

by Edward L. Ayers
“People see in the events at Appomattox what they want to see: testimony to Americans’ shared greatness or testimony to promises unfulfilled. Both of those things are real.” The meaning of the events at the McLean House on April 9, 1865, seem firmly embedded in our national story. In our country’s understanding, Appomattox is America »

Shelby Foote, Memphis, and the Civil War in American Memory

by Timothy S. Huebner, Madeleine M. McGrady
“[B]y emphasizing military conflict over political debate, by privileging valor over ideology, and by accentuating white heroism over black activism, the Foote–Burns interpretation of the Civil War gave PBS’s mainstream American audience something to feel good about.” This year marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of filmmaker Ken Burns’s PBS television series on the American Civil War. »

Why No One Is Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Feature Film

by Godfrey Cheshire
“What, finally, do we make of this holy monstrosity, this poisoned cornerstone of American cinema? And what do we do about it?” By one way of reckoning, the week of February 8, 2015, can be called the 100th birthday of the medium with which many of us have spent our lives enthralled: the feature film. »

Integrating Pine Forest High School, Fayetteville, North Carolina

by H. Louise Searles
“‘It was the beginning of my every day walk with death for nine months.’” Most folks know August 28, 1963, as the March on Washington, but for me, it has another very profound meaning. It was the beginning of my every day walk with death for nine months—the start of Public School Integration in Fayetteville, »

“The City Too Busy to Care”: The Atlanta Youth Murders and the Southern Past, 1979–81

by Paul Mokrzycki Renfro
“Cultivated not only by white architects of the New South creed but also civil rights activists across class and ideological strata, Atlanta’s image as the ‘city too busy to hate’ crumbled as its young Black residents were abducted and murdered.” On May 25, 1981, an estimated three thousand people convened at the Lincoln Memorial in »

“Pride in Tobacco”: Roycroft’s Warehouse, 1982

by John T. Jones
“[T]he sweaty, aromatic ‘Bull Durham’ of old . . . existed even as today’s ‘City of Medicine’ was emerging.” The old saying “f/8 and be there” applies to these photos. In the early to mid 1980s, I was doing street photography in downtown Durham. Especially compelling was the warehouse district, home of the muscular, oversized »

Why North Carolinians Are Tar Heels

by Bruce E. Baker
“[T]his more complex tale of the origins of ‘Tar Heel’ shows that it is rooted in hard work by poor people, work that dirtied the bodies of both enslaved Africans and poor whites in the Piney Woods.” A New Explanation North Carolinians have long called themselves Tar Heels, and “Tar Heel” is a badge of »

Their Norths: Antebellum Southern Travelers and Sectional Identity

by Kyle N. Osborn
“For American sectionalism was forged by the design of God, the North made into a ‘region of frost, ribbed with ice and granite,’ the South basking in the ‘generous bosom’ of the sun.” There was only “the North and the South,” William L. Yancey declared in 1855. Nullifying all geographical complexities and political nuances, the »


by Davis McCombs
“He played the barn vents at curing time like the stops of an instrument, and went on, cupping his hands around the life he’d inherited as if it were a flame.” He clucked his tongue, slapped the bull’s rump, and turneda herd of Angus, single file, through the narrow gapin the fence to the bar »

The Letters of C. Vann Woodward ed. by Michael O’Brien (Review)

by Stephen J. Whitfield
Yale University Press, 2013 In 1993, after a day spent at an academic conference in Oxford, Mississippi, a group of southern historians decided to go out for drinks at a funky, let-it-all-hang-out beer hall near the campus. One elderly and elegant member of the group, however, attracted the attention of the young waiter, who asked: »
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