I see fromClara Altman at the legal history blog that Tracy Thompson's The New Mind of the South is getting some serious attention (like in the LA Times). I'm a fan of W.J. Cash's 1941 book The Mind of the South -- and of course of works on the mind of the south (err, the slave-owning south) in the pre-Civil War era. I do not yet have a copy of Thompson, so I'm not able to speak to the book -- but I will be writing about it soon. But two pieces of Steve Oney's LA Times review call out for comment. First, the South has obviously changed in huge, huge ways since the 1960s. But -- and this is why I go to Pittsboro for a haricut every month -- there are still huge gaps between southern culture and northern.
My favorite librarian says of Chapel Hill, the only problem with this place is there are too many Yankees around here. That's her way of saying that Chapel Hill is really northern. Much of the rest of North Carolina is southern, however. The crowd in the barber shop on main street in Pittsboro agree with my favorite librarian (and they'd add that President Obama is a socialist born in Kenya).
Second, Oney quote Thompson's conclusion that the South is "finally disentangling itself from the Confederacy." Of this I agree -- though I'd phrase it somewhat differently. I think the Civil War is finally over. And I'd say the sign of this is that back in December 2010 when the Sons of Confderate Veterans were sponsoring a ball to commemorate the 150th anniversay of South Carolina's secession in December 1860 one of their members was quoted as saying something along the lines of, sure slavery was a cause of the Civil War -- but there were other causes, too. While I agree much more heartily with the first part of that sentence than the second, I took that as the sign that everyone acknowledges that the war was about slavery and that we as a nation finally recognize the centrality of race to the war and the rest of our history. Ah, I thought as I read that, the extended battle over the memory of the war's causes is over.
A much more critical review in the Dallas Morning News begins, "One response to Tracy Thompson’s The New Mind of the South, the title of which was inspired by Wilbur Joseph Cash’s 1941 book The Mind of the South, might be, 'Enough already.'"
Update as of June 10: My colleague Karem Crayton has an extended review of The Mind of the New South in Democracy: A Journal of Ideas.