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Why Southern Identity Still Matters

Okra for sale at the North Charleston Farmers' Market.
Ryan Johnson
Okra for sale at the North Charleston Farmers' Market.

The American South has experienced remarkable change over the past half century. Black voter registration has increased, the region’s politics have shifted, and in-migration has increased its population many fold. At the same time, many outward signs of regional distinctiveness have faded. But two professors of political science write that these changes have allowed for new types of Southern identity to emerge.

In their new book, The Resilience of Southern Identity: Why the South Still Matters in the Minds of Its People (2017, UNC Press), Western Carolina University's Chris Cooper and the College of Charleston's Gibbs Knotts  argue that, for some, identification with the South has become more about a connection to the region’s folkways or to place than about policy or ideology. For others, the contemporary South is all of those things at once—a place where many modern-day southerners navigate the region’s confusing and omnipresent history.

- Originally broadcast 11/23/19 -

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Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar received his B.A. degree from Davidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.