The South of the Mind

American Imaginings of White Southernness, 1960–1980

Title Details

Pages: 232

Trim size: 6.000in x 9.000in



Pub Date: 09/15/2018

ISBN: 9-780-8203-5390-6

List Price: $28.95


Pub Date: 09/15/2018

ISBN: 9-780-8203-5371-5

List Price: $99.95

The South of the Mind

American Imaginings of White Southernness, 1960–1980

How ideas about the South and whiteness have influenced notions of national identity

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With the nation reeling from the cultural and political upheavals of the 1960s era, imaginings of the white South as a place of stability represented a bulwark against unsettling problems, from suburban blandness and empty consumerism to race riots and governmental deceit. A variety of individuals during and after the civil rights era, including writers, journalists, filmmakers, musicians, and politicians, envisioned white southernness as a manly, tradition-loving, communal, authentic-and often rural or small-town-notion that both symbolized a refuge from modern ills and contained the tools for combating them. The South of the Mind tells this story of how many Americans looked to the country's most maligned region to save them during the 1960s and 1970s.

In this interdisciplinary work, Zachary J. Lechner bridges the fields of southern studies, southern history, and post-World War II American cultural and popular culture history in an effort to discern how conceptions of a tradition-bound, "timeless" South shaped Americans' views of themselves and their society's political and cultural fragmentations. Wide-ranging chapters detail the iconography of the white South during the civil rights movement; hippies' fascination with white southern life; the Masculine South of George Wallace, Walking Tall, and Deliverance; the differing southern rock stylings of the Allman Brothers Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd; and the healing southernness of Jimmy Carter. The South of the Mind demonstrates that we cannot hope to understand recent U.S. history without exploring how people have conceived the South, as well as what those conceptualizations have omitted.

In The South of the Mind, Zachary J. Lechner expands our discussion of an imagined South chronologically, into the tumultuous 1960s and 1970s, as well as topically. Through an analysis of film, music, and politics, Lechner demonstrates how white Americans sought to distinguish themselves from the violence and racism of white southerness while also being drawn to the region's pastoral image as an escape from vicissitudes of modernity. The South of the Mind is a must-read in our ongoing understanding of the South in the American imagination.

—Karen L. Cox, author of Dreaming of Dixie: How the South Was Created in American Popular Culture

Lechner nails how conflicted racial and regional identity can be, especially in the 1970s when it was not altogether clear exactly what such interrelated identities would mean once the cultural and political ground of Jim Crow gave way. In capturing the historical contingency and inconsistency of the white Souths imagined, Lechner's book is a model of scholarly interpretation and cultural analysis. The South of the Mind is based in solid research and a thought-provoking, entertaining narrative.

—Darren E. Grem, Study the South

The South of the Mind is a delight to read and organized with meticulous care. It is a must-read for those interested in the postwar South.

—Kaylynn Washnock, Journal of Southern History

For Lechner, the "South of the Mind" is a discursive construction built from political rhetoric, popular music, cinema, and journalism-a forum through which white Americans worked to reconcile the cognitive dissonance stimulated by modernity. The South simultaneously signified the embodiment of the nation's social and racial ills, while serving as an alternative model of community-one rooted in traditional values, racism not withstanding, and an enduring sense of peoplehood. . . . The South of the Mind will appeal to cultural historians, southern music scholars, and academics invested in cultural studies. While Lechner reanimates debates around whiteness, masculinity, and their roles in twentieth-century American culture, his intervention lies in new framing tools for understanding white regional and national culture between 1960 and 1980.

—Ryan André Brasseux, American Historical Review

Lechner's study is . . . grounded in rich historical detail that fascinatingly contextualizes the music, film, and politics of the era. It certainly will be useful to scholars working on images of the South in late twentieth-century popular culture and on representations of race during and after the civil rights era. And though he probably did not anticipate this, his work will also be useful precedent for future studies of our current moment.

—Susan Marren, Arkansas Historical Quarterly

The imagined Souths that Lechner identifies functioned as both an anchor in a sea of unrest and a cudgel in a battle over who and what defined the real America....The South of the Mind provides a concise and illuminating cultural history of the region as a mythmaking mirror, reflecting back what audiences believed themselves to be and what they wanted to become.

—Joseph M. Thompson, Project Muse


Best First Book Award, Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society

About the Author/Editor

ZACHARY J. LECHNER is an assistant professor of history at Thomas Nelson Community College.