This anthology is the only collection of speeches by southerners on the major themes that have shaped the history and culture of the South in the 20th century. Selections illustrate the evolution of the South from a land of defensiveness, poverty, and segregation at the beginning of the century to a region that prides itself, justifiably, on the fact that it has overcome these conditions and has taken its place as an equal partner in eyes of the nation. Introductory comments and biographical sketches of the speakers assist the reader in putting the speeches into historical context.
In the 19th century, many southerners spoke glowingly about the New South. Unfortunately, their rhetorical images were inaccurate and misleading. As the new century dawned, little in the South had changed. Demagogues, speakers who raised the race issue at every opportunity, ruled the political scene across the South and offered little hope for blacks, who were mired at the bottom of the economic and social ladder. After World War II, however, Southern blacks began to take matters into their own hands. They mobilized black support, along with some white advocates, and began to chip away at the citadels of segregation. Their campaign was aided by a small, but growing, handful of white southerners who believed that racial justice was the right thing to do. They believed that they had to take a stand for racial freedom, and they did so, often at high cost. Now, for the first time in more than 100 years, southern politicians can run for office without raising the issue of race.
About the Author:
W. STUART TOWNS is Department Chair of Communication Arts at The University of West Florida, where he has taught since 1968. From 1975 through 1995 he was a member of the Consulting Faculty at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. He has written numerous articles on southern oratory and communications within the military, and is the author of Oratory and Rhetoric in the Nineteenth-Century South (Praeger, 1998), a companion to this volume.