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The South in Modern America: A Region at Odds (review)
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REVIEWS147 The South in Modern America: A Region at Odds. Dewey W Grantham. The University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville, AR 2001. 406 pp., tables, maps, graphs, illustrations, bibliographical note, index. $19.95 paper (ISBN 0-0609-2208-7). Christa A. Smith The South in Modern America, written by historian Dewey W. Grantham, is a lucid and well-organized synthesis of American southern history since Reconstruction . Grantham's analysis focuses on the enduring regional differences between the North and South throughout the 20th century. Grantham maintains that "in the twentieth century, as in the nineteenth, the South has been the region most sharply at odds with the rest of the nation" (p. xv), and that the South remains the country's most identifiable region. The author persuasively argues that the postReconstruction South never completely achieved regional reconciliation with the North due to divergent political, economic, cultural, and geographic conditions. While Grantham does concede that sectionalism was less severe in the 20th century than in the 19th, he maintains sectionalism was nevertheless a palpable force during this period, and that the interaction and negotiation between the North and the South ultimately shaped modern southern and national history. This text is a compilation of an enormous body of scholarly literature on the American South. Grantham aptly fuses research from historians, political scientist, sociologists, journalists, and geographers . Meticulously researched, this 13-chapter volume contains an impressive 1,026 footnotes, 68 illustrations, 28 tables and graphs, and 16 maps. Throughout the book, Grantham successfully weaves the four main themes: sectional conflict, compromise and accommodation, regional convergence and southern uniqueness. Grantham begins by detailing the substantial sectional differences in the immediate post-Reconstruction era. The last two decades of the 19th century revealed sharp economic, political, and cultural contrasts between the North and the South, which were exacerbated by the depression of the 1890s. The northern mental map of the South was one of an overwhelmingly rural, poverty-stricken region; meanwhile Southerners felt marginalized by their peripheral status in the economic and political national framework. The rise of Populism during this period threatened to derail southern cohesiveness, but ultimately resulted in the solidarity ofthe southern "White male" and the creation of a single-party Democratic system. Despite the undeniable sectionalism, there were hints of cooperation and reconciliation between the North and the South at the end of the 1 9th century. Southern boosters showed willingness to create a new and improved South modeled after the more prosperous North, and openly welcomed capital investment from their northern counterparts. Dr. Smith is an Assistant Professor ofGeography at Clernson University, Clemson , SC 29634. E-mail: casmith@clemson.edu. 148REVIEWS By the dawn of the 20th century a national economic boom, patriotic fervor over the Spanish-American War, and northern acquiescence to southern control over race relations further softened sectional differences. Northern sympathy for the South was increasingly evident, and gave rise to unparalleled interregional cooperation in the name of social and economic progress. Lingering sectional differences over religion, prohibition, and the Klan in the 1920s quickly eroded during the national crises of the Great Depression and World War II. Southern leaders had full political participation in Washington during this time, and the South greatly benefited from New Deal programs ofthe 1930s and the wartime spending during World War II. Despite clear evidence of cooperation during these national crises, Grantham maintains there were still persistent signs of sectionalism. Southern politicians began to view New Deal programs with a jaundiced eye, and resented the loss of state's rights and the intrusion ofreformers from the North. The post-World War II South witnessed a period of extraordinary economic growth. The image of a modernized "Sunbelt South" signaled the region's full inclusion into the national economic mainstream. Further, the election of President Nixon in 1968 ended Democratic hegemony in the South. However one last sectional clash remained: the battle over Civil Rights. Once the issue of race was resolved, many claimed that total economic and political convergence between the North and the South had been achieved. Grantham concludes by arguing that this convergence has not occurred. Southern distinctiveness, while diluted, remains detectable by its customs and culture. This book is a...