A cotton plantation on the Mississippi, 1884, by Currier & Ives (Library Of Congress)
It has been said that we may not know where the American South is anymore, but we know when we are in it. Something about the South won’t let go of the American imagination. Historians are fascinated by the region, its people, its culture, and its influence on this country—from the Civil War to tensions and conflicts that resonate among Americans today.
Much new scholarship has surfaced in recent decades, and historian Stephen D. Engle reassesses why the idea of the South began, and what have been the effects on this country by surveying the region, the people, and the region’s cultural identity. In this thoughtful daylong program, he explores the South both as place and idea, and why its complexities remain in our modern culture.
9:30–10:45 a.m. The American South: Region, Culture, and Identity
Any knowledge of the South has much to do with an understanding of its environment, its plantation culture, and its political identity. Today’s South is far more urban and industrial, but much of its history was overwhelmingly rural and agricultural, which produced an agrarian way of life that left a cultural foundation steeped in tradition.
11 a.m.–12:15 p.m. The Confederate South, Southern Nationalism, and the Lost Cause
The Civil War was central to southerners and remains a turning point in American history. Events that led to the conflict and the southerners who embraced Confederate nationalism saw themselves as revolutionaries. In defeat, however, a “Lost Cause” narrative emerged that set the tone for the Reconstruction that followed.
12:15–1:30 p.m. Lunch (participants provide their own)
1:30–2:45 p.m. The New South and the Americanization of Dixie
Perhaps the most defining era of the American South followed the Civil War and Reconstruction period, an age where the promise of a New South emerged as southerners slowly embraced the populist and progressive tenets of reform by redrawing the boundaries of the new order.
3–4:15 p.m. The Enduring South: A Place, a People, and a Past
The sources of the enduring South are many and complex as the region remains distinctive in ways that lead Americans to view the southern past as somehow unique. But like the rest of the country, the South–and southerners–have a history that keeps changing.
Engle is a professor of history and director of the history symposium series at Florida Atlantic University.