Dreaming of Dixie

Dreaming of Dixie: How the South Was Created in American Popular Culture

Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Dreaming of Dixie
    Book Description:

    From the late nineteenth century through World War II, popular culture portrayed the American South as a region ensconced in its antebellum past, draped in moonlight and magnolias, and represented by such southern icons as the mammy, the belle, the chivalrous planter, white-columned mansions, and even bolls of cotton.InDreaming of Dixie, Karen Cox shows that the chief purveyors of this constructed nostalgia for the Old South were outsiders of the region, especially advertising agencies, musicians, publishers, radio personalities, writers, and filmmakers playing to consumers' anxiety about modernity by marketing the South as a region still dedicated to America's pastoral traditions. Cox examines how southerners themselves embraced the imaginary romance of the region's past, particularly in the tourist trade as southern states and cities sought to capitalize on popular perceptions by showcasing their Old South heritage. Only when television emerged as the most influential medium of popular culture did views of the South begin to change, as news coverage of the civil rights movement brought images of violence, protest, and conflict in the South into people's living rooms. Until then, Cox argues, most Americans remained content with their romantic vision of Dixie.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0317-9
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    (pp. 1-8)

    Cultural anthropologist Ruth Landes wrote an essay in 1945 entitled “A Northerner Views the South,” which was at once a critique of the region and an honest assessment of how Dixie was perceived by nonsoutherners. “Of all the United States,” she wrote, “the South is most trapped by poverty and disease, illiteracy, political corruption, and deep want of ambition.” The Columbia-educated Landes, who was one of Gunnar Myrdal’s research assistants forAn American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy, condemned white southerners for their false sense of loyalty to “their negroes” and yet was clearly frustrated with how (her...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Dixie in Popular Song
    (pp. 9-33)

    Jack Yellen, a Jewish immigrant to the United States from Poland, was an unlikely person to write songs about the American South. His family immigrated to Buffalo, New York, in 1897 when Yellen was five years old. He went to college at the University of Michigan and returned to Buffalo to work as a journalist. He enjoyed writing songs on the side, and though he had never visited the South, he wrote lyrics to some of the most popular songs about the region to come out of New York’s Tin Pan Alley—the center of music publishing in the early...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Selling Dixie
    (pp. 34-57)

    “After several months of study, a package was finally designed that stands today as one of the most striking and powerful appeals in any line of grocery products. Not only has all unnecessary type matter been removed from the package, but the head of the Southern mammy has been changed from a mere trade mark to an irresistible suggestion of Southern hospitality and good cooking.” This interior report by Madison Avenue’s J. Walter Thompson Agency (JWT) was intended to showcase the value of package design in their advertising campaign for Aunt Jemima pancake flour. As the agency noted, prior to...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Dixie on Early Radio
    (pp. 58-80)

    Beginning in 1926, Chicago radio station wgn and its owner,the Chicago Tribune, introduced midwestern listeners toSam ’n’ Henry, a show developed by two blackface performers, Charles Correll and Freeman Gosden. The primary characters of the show were based on two black men who, according to the official story, had migrated to the Windy City, where they had construction jobs building skyscrapers. The two began their journey in Alabama on a mule-driven wagon, which took them to the train depot in “Bummin’ham,” where they caught the train that took them north. Once there, the pair got into all sorts...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Dixie on Film
    (pp. 81-105)

    “As all cinema observers knew, it was time for a cycle to come along. Another is here—the Deep South cycle, you might call it. Producers and writers alike have turned their attention to the aspects of Dixie, and there’s scarcely a studio in Hollywood that hasn’t a story of the South in production.” Thus began a 1936 editorial in theNew York Timesentitled “Sowing the South Forty.” Of course,Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell’s bestselling novel about the Civil War, was credited with starting the cycle. By the time of this December editorial the book had sold...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Dixie in Literature
    (pp. 106-129)

    Writing to her editor, Harold Latham, Margaret Mitchell recalled how she had once worried that the Macmillan Company “would be stuck with at least 5,000, if not more,” of the first edition ofGone with the Wind. She was now able to laugh about that, she told Latham, especially as the book had sold just more than 1 million copies. What was personally difficult for her, however, was the loss of privacy. Telegrams, special deliveries, and phone calls were a daily nuisance, and a constant stream of visitors came to her home. Even though her fellow Atlantans and local newspapers...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Welcome to Dixie
    (pp. 130-162)

    It was a crisp and cool afternoon in October 1881, as the little steamerGratitudemade its way up the James River to Richmond, Virginia. On board were 150 men, all from Trenton, New Jersey, who had chartered the boat on behalf of Post 23 of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). They slept as best they could on the straw mattresses that lined the deck of the boat, whose sparse accommodations meant that not even the general had a room. It had been sixteen years since the Civil War ended, and the New Jersey veterans were curious about...

    (pp. 163-166)

    In 1946, the same year that Disney releasedSong of the South, Helen Harmon, a student at Roosevelt College, applied for a job as a typist at the Pepsodent Company in Chicago. The personnel director interviewed Harmon by telephone and asked her to report for work, but when she arrived to begin her new job Harmon was turned away and was told that Pepsodent did not hire “Negro typists.” Milton Wenzler, spokesman for the company, fully admitted that this was corporate policy and also stated that if the company hired an African American, white oÙce workers would quit. “I am...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 167-184)
    (pp. 185-198)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 199-210)